Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Just a Little Thank You


Blogger in their wisdom have decided to put Feedburner in maintenance mode on 1 July. This has caused me (and thousands of other bloggers) a huge headache. In a nutshell, it means that we are losing blog readers who follow us by email.

After extensive research, I decided that Follow.it is the best solution to the problem. Lots of work go into the back end of a blog or website to make it work, and as a result, moving my mailing list was not quick or easy. Just when I wanted to cover my face with my hands and cry, the helpfull support staff at Follow.it stepped in and helped me over the last few hurdles. Thanks to them, you will continue receiving your blog emails without an interruption. 

If there are any other bloggers out there still wondering what to do, I can recommend Follow.it.

Secondly, I want to say thank you to all my readers... so many followers by email... never mind all the other ways in which people keep track of this blog. I'm humbled and honoured.


Monday, June 28, 2021

Three Small Things

Do you remember when I told you about the The Tray in March? This weekend I closed my eyes, put out my hand, and grabbed something to finish. As luck would have it, the something had a brother so I figured it  might as well be two.


These little critters are called Ouch! and Carol Casey of CAZ bears designed them. Way back in 2006, as it turns out. She taught a workshop to make them here in the studio. The students had the option to accessorize their lizard/bird/bear hybrid animals with porcupine quills and Guinea fowl feathers to make a uniquely African creation. You can see from the templates that the original animal was significantly larger. Since I prefer miniatures, I reduced the pattern.


At the time, I tested the pattern and started making two little animals so that I could advise students if they needed help with their pre-sewing for the class. My Achilles heel is that once I have figured something out, I often lose interest and move on to the next thing without finishing it. I think here it might rather have been a lack of time. I know I was always very busy serving refreshments and assisting the teacher when there was a workshop on. Having a look at my mini-Ouchies, I decided that only three things were needed to finish them.

How can one breathe fire without a nose?


Unlike teddy bears, bunnies and dragons, as well as many other soft sculpture animals often look good with just an outline for a nose. Adding those few simple stitches gave these two a mischievous look and pranksters should not be flying around without fair warning.


I gave them each a collar with a bell. 

The third, and final, thing that remained to be done was to use coloured ink to add some shadows and definition to nose, toes, belly, and wings.

Aren't they two distinguished looking fellows? 


The Ouchies are available for adoption on my website.

Wishing you all a wonderful week!



Sunday, June 20, 2021

Colour Makes Me Happy


I cleared away the detritus of a few completed craft projects this week. I always seem to end up with some spare beads and one shiny-bob thingy that defies classification and easy storage in my stash.

Years ago, I read on a bead artist's blog that she makes 'bead soup' with her leftover beads. She said that by throwing random beads together in a bowl, ideas for new combinations will often insinuate themselves into your mind. 

For a long time, I had a jar in my studio for odds and ends. Flinging random beads and findings into the jar was a quick way to tidy up my workspace but my obsessive personality never really approved of the chaos jar and eventually, it became so full that it was impossible to search for something anyway. 

One day, I bit the bullet and started sorting the contents of the jar. Instead of trying to separate beads from other 'small stuff' and try to find a place for everything, I catalogued the whole lot according to colour.

You can now find expensive cloisonnĂ© next to a plastic teddy bear, and if you need anything from a crystal chandelier dangle to an ivory dice, you only need to know what colour you want, and you can easily find it. Bits of broken jewelry with butterfly wing, sea shells, a rhinestone, a fossil,  leftover beads of every shape and size, it's all there.

Like a good wine, this kind of cumulation takes years to develop and mature. If well organized, such a collection is precious. It has become a mainstay in my creative process and many a miniature project has been sparked when I came across a random doodad in my stash. 

How do you organize your creative supplies?

There isn't really any news here. For the last few weeks, I've been sorting and tidying away things that piled up in my studio over time. With Henning well on the mend after his surgeries, we have started exercising outdoors more often. It is mid-winter here now but the days are sunny and nighttime temperatures haven't dipped below freezing more than a few times.

As you might have surmised from my silence, I'm in a bit of a creative slump but rather than letting it get me down, I'm using the time for housekeeping and planning ahead.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

B is for her BOX


At the end of April I introduced you to Annabelle. The three essential ingredients for this project are the book which I've had for a long time, the doll (which I don't have yet), and a box. Since B is for Box and that is the container for everything else, I decided that it was the first thing I should make.


This is an outrageously long post but I wanted to get B for Box done in one go. You can just scroll through and look at the pictures if you like.


Most people who make doll chests choose a flowery style and a pastel color scheme. I'm not a roses and ribbons kind of person and right from the start I knew my box would be a rebel. I'm making it from reclaimed materials and whatever I can find in my stash. 

This is a tea box. It was intended to hold various flavors of tea bags and someone had stained it a violent green colour.

I wanted a varnished wooden box (not painted) so the first thing I did was to try to sand the exterior. 


The color was tenacious and after removing as much of the stain as I could, I used dark wood stain over the remaining green. It turned out much better than I expected. 


Next,  I broke out the dividers inside and made a new layout for the box. The book will fit into the lid, and there needs to be a compartment for the doll.

Alice Nexdor (yay, I named her!) made sure that the doll space was the right size and I realized that I could utilize the left-over gap in the lid, so I cut wood strips for three more compartments.


At some point, I had the thought that the box needed tarnished metal trim to round it off. This line of thinking led me to a hugely satisfying day of snipping and hammering.

I made a paper template for a box label with a window in it, and a template for corners for the outside of the box. Then I rummaged in the recycling trash and cut up an old coffee can with my fantastic left-handed tin snips.


It was so much fun that I decided to make metal corners for the dividers inside the box as well. 


The only thing bothering me was that the metal looked too new and shiny. You can wait for time to tarnish it, or you can don a mask, gloves, and apron and dunk the metal in hydrochloric acid. Yeah, I'm the kind of person who keeps a handy supply of extremely hazardous chemicals under the kitchen sink. 


I did this outside, with the garden hose at the ready in case of a spill. At this point the stunt man usually says, 'Don't try this at home'.

By using extreme caution, there were no accidents while I was playing mad sientist. It only took a few moments for the acid to eat the shine off the metal, then I rinsed it with lots of water and dried it and I was in love with the grungy result.



For the label, I scanned and printed a smaller version of the book cover and put it behind a sheet of plastic. 


I nipped the edges of the metal with a pair of pliers to make sure there were no sharp edges, then hammered everything onto the box with tiny nails.


When it came to the interior of the box, my color scheme was going to revolve around an old piece of linen that was a curtain lining in its previous life. I found cream paint to match, and some pewter-colored paint to compliment the metal parts. I also needed wide and narrow ribbons. Does anyone have any idea why and when I bought 300 meters of 5mm cream satin ribbon? I certainly don't and I ended up not using it in this project.

The most difficult ingredient to find was going to be matching paper. Faded and floral was probably the best I could hope for. Imagine my surprise when I came across two sheets of scrapbook paper that look like vintage newsprint. I have no idea where that came from but I couldn't have asked for anything more perfect! 


(Here I want to pause for a moment and stick out my tongue at Marie Kondo. I bet she and all her cronies were going out of their minds with boredom in their empty apartments during the lockdown. It is a sensible apocalyptic survival strategy to have a stash of random crap stuffed in every available cupboard and drawer in your home).


To help to protect the book, I cut two strips of 12mm foam. They will be covered in linen and a ribbon will help to keep the book in place.


I used the paper to cover the bottom and inside of the lid of the box. The side walls are painted cream and the rims of the box and the lid are painted a pewter colour. 


The dividers are covered in authentic, stained and faded linen. 


People always complain about their cats interfering with their work but nothing beats a sudden, wet, dog nose bonking you under the elbow when your fingers are covered in glue.


Test fit. Now you can see where the metal corners fit inside the box.  


I attached the ribbon to the box lid. Now the book fits snug and secure. 


Anything you put in the three compartments below the book will fall out when you close the lid. For this reason, I padded the cells with thin foam and made them pretty with beads and sequins. This was made in a smiliar way to the mattress tutorial I wrote in January. I will put small items that can be pinned down in these compartments. 


I was going to put a removable tray only in the center large compartment but after thinking about all the things I want to put in the box and how best to display them, I realised that every compartment needs a tray. This caused heaps of extra work. First, I made suports for the trays with cardstock and glued them in place. 


Then I constructed the trays using mat board. I agonised for days over making some kind of handle to lift the trays out. I didn't want beads, and a traditional ribbon pull didn't appeal to me either. Then I came upon the idea of just adding an extra strip of card on two sides inside the tray. 

All you need is a little ledge for your fingers to grip the tray and lift it out. Genius! I loved it and turned it into a feature by painting the lifting strips with the pewter-coloured paint.


But now the remaining sides of the tray needed something more...

I found some narrow cotton lace in my stash that was perfect for the job. I know it is sacrilege to use vintage lace for a craft project but I have strong objections to yellow fabric. That colour only looks good on flowers. Out came the pewter paint and the result pleased me no end.



Here are some views of the finished box with all the trays. I even covered the bottom of the trays with scraps of the newspring scrapbook paper I had left over. I'm so happy with the way Annabelle's box turned out!




But wait, we're not finished... What is in the top left corner?


Ta-da de dum, it's a music box! The tune is 'Love Makes the World go Around'.

I glued the movement to the inside of the box before covering it with paper.


I drilled a hole for the key through the side of the box and moments later realised that it would interfere with the hinge of the lid. Yaargh! This was just one of many mistakes I made. Instead of trying to cover the hole, I decided to just leave it there. Future generations can wonder about its purpose.


I tidied up the edges of the holes with metal brads from my button box. I think they are parts of a press stud. The key is not pretty and it doesn't suit the style of the box. I might do something about that in future.


Making Annabelle's box was the most fun I had in a long while. It was marvelous to feel so inspired that I didn't want to stop working until it was finished. Now I have the vessel for her treasures, I can start making Annabelle and her accessories. I'm in no hurry though, other projects are also calling. I've created a post label, especially for Annabelle. Simply click on A is for Annabelle at the bottom of the post or in the sidebar at any time in the future to see all posts relating to Annabelle and the contents of her box.


Congratulations, you made it to the end of a very long post. As a reward, here are more pictures of Bonnie occupying the entire kitchen floor. She's the sweetest eight year old puppy around.