Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I usually don't purchase craft books because I like to make my own stuff uninfluenced by others. I don't even like to follow store-bought patterns because I want to figure things out on my own. I'm stubborn like that when it comes to crafts. But when I know the person, it's different. I like to see the projects that I've seen in person all nicely photographed, read their instructions and hear them speaking to me, and admire how they brought all their hard work together into book form.

Saturday night I made a special trip to Reform School in Silverlake to attend Christine Haynes book party (and I won a raffle too, Yay!). She wrote Chic and Simple Sewing:

And it's awesome. The photography, the helpful hints, the pocket-o-patterns - they all make for a beautiful book. Her clothes are simple yet classy, sleek, and flattering. Plus, she's got a great sense of style. I'm honored to say I weathered many a craft show with Christine, and am happy to see her hit the big time.

I really need to remember to bring a decent camera to these events.

It seems a lot of people I know have recently published books. Jenny Ryan from Felt Club and Home Ec. published Sew Darn Cute, full of projects based on items from her Sew Darn Cute line. I went to her book party at Reform School a few months back and got her Jenny Hancock on my copy.

The perfectness of her stitches amazes me and she chooses the best fabric for her projects. It has a nice conversational style too so it seems like she's right there with you talking you through each project.

Another book party I went to last month at Handmade Galleries was for Kathy Cano-Murillo (see my last outing with her here). Her book, Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing:

is practically a polar opposite of Jenny and Christine's books, but is awesome in it's own right. Her work is bright and wild and bold with a Latina flava, and her projects serve as inspiration for the reader to find his or her own funky style. Kathy also has a novel (set in the craft world) coming out next spring entitled Waking Up in the Land of Glitter. Oh, and she has a line of glitter and other craft products - the woman is a crafty powerhouse!

Stephanie Calvert, Stacy McQueen, Kathy Cano-Murillo, Cathy Calahan, Jenny Ryan,
and me (sporting some Crafty Chica earrings I won.)

The next craft book I'm going to buy is Button It Up by Susan Beal,


but I'm waiting to get it when she comes back for an L.A. visit and has a book party. You should get it though, because it looks lovely. I loooves me some buttons.

Other Crafty Books you will want on your bookshelf:

Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft, and Design by Faythe Levine.
The Naughty Secretary Club Working Girls Guide to Handmade Jewelry by Jennifer Perkins.
Tiny Yarn Animals: Amigurumi Friends to Make and Enjoy by Tamie Snow.
(more to come.)

All of these ladies are inspiring. For years I kept thinking that one-of-a-kinds were where it's at. I'm learning though, that while a one-of-a-kind is special and precious, showing someone how to make their own one-of-a-kind is empowering. I've been writing more tutorials and leading some crafty workshops for this reason, and have recently gotten a couple small publishing opportunities (which I won't discuss until I actually see them in print). Seeing your words printed for the masses is exciting! I've learned though, that the first rule of writing a book is don't tell anyone about the book you're writing, at least not until it's almost done. Therefore, I won't be discussing my book, but look for it on bookshelves in 10-20 years!

I've discovered through Facebook (am I talking about Facebook too much?) that I have other friends who've recently published books also. I haven't had the chance to pick them up yet so I can't give a proper review, but if they're anything like the people who wrote them, then I'm sure they're awesome.

My former Appalachian studies professor and friend, Dr. Tate, wrote Power in the Blood: A Family Narrative:

Power in the Blood: A Family Narrative

Which "traces Linda Tate’s journey to rediscover the Cherokee-Appalachian branch of her family and provides an unflinching examination of the poverty, discrimination, and family violence that marked their lives." It looks pretty fascinating. I hope that hundreds of years from now my great great grandchildren write a book about me.

And another Shepherdstown friend and Martinsburg Journal alum Seth Muller recently published a book for young adults entitled Keepers of the Windclaw Chronicles.

Keepers of the Windclaw Chronicles

It's about a Navajo girl's experiences in the Animal World. I can't wait to get it and read it with Sage. Sage isn't all that interested in things like sports and video games, but he loves to read and lately has been flying through novels. Sometimes, as soon as he finishes a book, he goes back to the beginning and reads it again.

My friend Karen writes books too. She's a celebrity among Canadian teenagers and her books are even taught in schools. I especially love her Haley Andromeda series (I'm even included in the thank you section of one of them). Check out all the books she's written on her website karenrivers.com.

What about you? What book is inspiring you right now? Do you have a book? If so, leave a comment and tell me about it and I'll add a link to it in this post. If you took the time to read my lil ole blog then I'll gladly promote your literary labor of love.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A cape and an apron

Reconnecting with old friends on Facebook has nearly doubled my commission business since last year. Plus, since friends are sharing pictures of their kokoleo stuff, their friends are finding out about kokoleo too and sending more business my way. Yay for social networking! Are you a fan of kokoleo? Become one on Facebook and you'll get a Facebook Fan discount, see the new stuff I'm working on, and find out about secret sales. Plus! I'll love you forever.

Speaking of Facebook friend commissions, I made this cape for my Shepherdstown friend Liz's daughter Drew (a.k.a. Super Drew).

Here's McKenna modelling it:

I'm now offering them as an option in my Personalized shop. Thanks for the inspiration Liz!

Another Facebook friend (and former ice hockey rival from Wheeling) commissioned me to make this reversible apron for her stepmom:

Her stepmom Robyn was best friends with my good friend Stewart's mom, who passed away from breast cancer last fall. Jenny wanted me to make an apron inspired by their friendship - one side would be for Robyn who owns the famous fresh fruit and veggie Wheeling establishment Jebbia's Market, and the other side would be Janie inspired. Anyone who knew Janie knew that her favorite things (besides her family) were hearts, gourmet food, wine and chocolate. She was the quintessential hostess who loved being surrounded by family and friends.

It ended up being one of the harder commissions I've done (even these paragraphs have been hard to write) not because the sewing was difficult, but because it made me sad. I kept having to step away from it. It took me a while to find the right fabric combination but finally, after my mom sent me the heart and chocolate print (pocket) fabric from her stash, it came together and I felt like it was something Janie would have loved. So, in honor of Mrs. Altmeyer, no more tears. Cheers! To good food and good friends.

Some recent personalized stuff. . .

I always have a list of names written on a dry erase board in my studio. It never fails, as soon as I cross off one name, another one takes its place.

Sometimes it's even for the same name I just finished.

Or for names I've done before, but in very different color schemes.

These were all names I've never done before:

You want to know something terrible? I've made hundreds of these things for kids I've never met, but I've never made one for my own kids. I made Sage a personalized shirt once, and they have monsters and lots of kokoleo clothes, but no banners or pillows. I keep meaning to make them each one but I'm usually too busy making them for other kids. What's the saying? The cobblers kids wear no shoes. My kids aren't that bad off. They wear shoes at least.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thrift Thursday - a Gnome for our Home

Some days the thrift gods drop unexpected awesomeness in my path. Like this:

For $3.48! It's the kind of sweet deal that when you find it you hug it tight and make a beeline for the checkout before they have time to realize it should be more expensive. He's not your everyday stand-around gnome either, he's helpful! He's holding up a slice of tree trunk so we can use him as a table:

or stool:

And he does it all with a smile.

Welcome home happy gnome! We named him Mr. Awesome, Mossum for short.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How to make a Bunny (then a Kitty) Cake

One last Easter craft, brought to you by Sage.

I'm always surprised that there are some people who don't know how to make a bunny cake. I thought everyone did it at Easter time. I've been making them for as long as I can remember and now Sage is continuing the tradition. This year we used carrot cake (our great aunt Betty Crocker's recipe). Use the batter to make two round cakes and let them cool.

Then, cut one of the cakes like this:

And make those pieces the ears and the bow tie:

Then ice it and make a face with whatever you find in your cupboard. They come out different every time. Here's what Sage created this year:

We ate the bow tie and half of each ear first, then turned it into a Kitty Cake.

Later it became a smiley face. Right now it's Pac-Man.

Hope you had a happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

How To Decoupage Easter Eggs

I'm on an egg decorating kick right now. Today I completed these:

They're decoupaged with cut-outs from a vintage Ladies Home Journal. Here's how I did it:

First, punch holes in either end of the egg like this:

I found if you use a strong straight pin and punch small holes in a circle like that, you can remove the center and have a decent sized hole. Next, blow out the yolk. Better yet, get a kid to do it.

Rather than dump all those yolks down the drain, make yourself some quiches!* I added broccoli, ham, swiss cheese and ground pepper to some roll-out pie crust. So easy!

(*Quiches may contain traces of tiny eggshell bits and kidspit.)

Next, find some images that inspire you. I chose this:

and this:

Then cut out the parts you like. Here's how I made the miniature album covers egg. . .

First, coat the egg in Mod Podge (or your favorite decoupage), apply your paper cut-outs, then add more decoupage over top.

Keep layering it until it's covered. When the paper gets saturated it becomes more pliable. I used my fingers to smooth the rough edges.

Leave one of the holes open so you can add a hanging device. When it's dry, squirt some hot glue in the hole and insert a ribbon.

Tie the ends in a bow around the base and you're finished!

Here's how I made my shrunken egghead. . .

First, I painted an egg with nail polish and cut out Sofia Loren's lips and eyeballs:

Again, coat the egg in Mod Podge (or your favorite decoupage), apply your paper cut-outs, then add more decoupage over top and smooth down the rough edges when the paper becomes pliable.

Hot glue some hair on top and Viola!

Nothing says Happy Easter like a sexy shrunken egghead!

Easter Egg + Big fluffy orange pom pom =

D.J. Lance Rock from Yo Gabba Gabba!

I happened to have some orange and yellow and white and black craft foam too, so it just sort of evolved from there to this:

I think I'm going to put it in McKenna's Easter basket to surprise her. She'll probably want to carry it around like a baby doll. I hope not - it's fragile! She might break it down. For her first birthday we got her a Yo Gabba Gabba! guitar that's now a fixture in our house. A noisy fixture, but not in an annoying way like most noisy toys. Whenever she hears it play, she bobs her head and wiggles her hips in a Pavlovian boogie-down response.

I hope if Lance ever sees this he won't think of me as that weird lady who keeps making effigies of him. Last July I made this pillow that sits on the chair in my studio. They only sell the costumed characters from the show, so if you want a DJ Lance doll you have to make it yourself. You can even make one from an egg.

More decorated Easter eggs to come. . . I bought 3 dozen today! Plus the ingredients to make a bunny cake.

edited to add. . . Yay! This egg won the Gabbafriends Easter contest! Check it out!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The elusive googly-eyed puffball sticky-footed creature fad

Ever since I made (and then lost) this little guy at Kidspace last week:

I've been trying to find out more about the sticky-footed puffball creature fad of the late 70s and/or early 80s. Anyone remember these? They were little puffball creatures with feet that were stickers and people put them on the bills of their baseball hats or stuck them to their dashboards. They usually had googly eyeballs, sometimes they were animals, sometimes they wore hats, and they usually had a ribbon hanging off to the side with a happy little quote like "Have a nice day!" printed on it. I think they came from gumball machines or doctors' offices or maybe we won them at carnivals? Am I making this up? Was this just a West Virginia thing? I've scoured the internet Googling words like "puffball creature" and "pom-pom animal sticky feet" and "80s fad puffball animal on hat" and have yet to prove they really did exist.

So last week I went to Michael's and spent $30 on puffballs and sticky-backed craft foam and googly eyeballs and glue and brought it all home to make my own. Sage and I made these Easter-inspired bunnies and chicks:

Here his is with his friend Ava showing off their creations:

They're super-easy and fun to make and each one comes out a one-of-a-kind. I want to make a whole bunch and bring the fad back. That is, if it ever existed in the first place.


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