Thursday, January 31, 2008

Grass is green

Remember grass? I miss the spring. These green items, available for sale at Burst of Happiness, cheer me up:


and speaking of green, I'm turning this heavenly alpaca/bamboo/silk batting into yarn, slowly but surely:


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sponge is my middle name

Don't wear it out.

I've been really into learning new stuff. Absorbing any little thing I can. And I'm not talking about history, or the like. I'm talking about doing stuff. A few years ago, I never would have imagined I could be so crafty -- uh, not like a fox, but like someone who makes things. I always thought I lacked any creativity whatsoever. I could care less about making things. I lamented the fact that I had no hobbies. I wanted hobbies, but nothing piqued my interest.

My mom had been crafty when I was growing up. Actually, I dislike the word "crafty." It sounds like I sit around making cheap, junky stuff that people want to find a nice home for in their kitchen trash -- like when you made your parents little ceramic things in elementary school. Oh, but thanks, Dad, for saving that stupid roadrunner I made in sixth-grade shop class.

A few years back I suddenly wanted to sew. I taught myself, and haven't been able to stop since. Then, I started studying fashion design, just so I'd know how to make a pattern. It's really hard and something that would take a lot of practice. During this time, I started an accessories business, Burst of Happiness. The business focused on bags, but then I wanted to learn to knit. About a year ago, I took that on and added scarves to my line of accessories. A few months ago, I gave crochet another try.

Oh, but it doesn't stop there. Buying yarn wasn't good enough. I wanted to make my own. And while I was messing around, why not learn to make felt? Or knit an item first and then felt it? A friend taught me to spin on a drop spindle, but now I want to do all these fancy things and I don't know how. I can learn! I will! Oh, and I also want to learn to dye yarn or roving. My mom and grandma signed me up for a class for my birthday at Village Wools. Yay!

I have friends who are artists and jewelers, and sometimes we try to learn from each other. If for nothing else, you can just see how something is done -- even if you have no intentions of doing it yourself. I've always been curious about how things are done. When I lived in Bakersfield, a drunken old lady knocked down the carport across from my apartment. I couldn't understand how they would straighten it up and fix it. I couldn't wait to see, so I watched every day to see if anyone was there to fix it. Suddenly, it was done, and I never got to watch. I am a curious girl.

The other day my friend asked, randomly, "oh, by the way, did you want to learn how to solder?" I thought, "what?!" But then I thought, "yeah! Might as well." Another friend is going to teach me beeswax collage.

I guess the downside is that I'll know just a little about a lot of things, which isn't very useful. I think I need to focus a little bit, but first I want to explore and figure out what I want most to focus on. I think part of it is the business. I can't seem to just make something for me, because every time I make something, I think that maybe someone in the world would love it and want to buy it. Then, if nobody does, I am so tired of it that I don't want to keep it.

I wish I could just take my time and make myself garments -- even design them. Or learn to knit something more complicated, just for me. But when I make items for me, I'm just not motivated. I want to share things with the world. I just wish the world wanted more of them!

Friday, January 25, 2008

My mom says I'm famous

I don't know if I'm quite there yet, but I was featured in the February edition of Albuquerque the Magazine. It turned out not to be in the actual magazine, but in a separate bridal magazine that is packaged with it.
Albuquerque the Magazine is a really nice, slick magazine about the Duke City area. It does a great job of featuring locals and letting residents know what's going on and who's who.
I posted earlier about how I was approached to do a project in which I would take an ugly bridesmaids dress and give it new life. I did one handbag and one apron, with my mom helping equally on the apron. It's on pages 14 and 17 if anyone has one handy.

I've scanned the pages, but either my scanner is awful or it's just much smarter than I am.


Oh, and I'm so glad I wore something that would thoroughly clash with both items I made.

I guess I should add, for anyone who stumbles upon this and screams "What TALENT!" upon seeing my creations, I do sell my items at Burst of Happiness, and my smiley, cheerful self is waiting over there for you to drop by.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lookie what I made

I made yarn. I bought this roving from Cavyshops on


Then I spun it on a drop spindle, and out came this:


I don't like so much how the colors spun together -- in some areas it's sort of muddied. And I do realize it's very lumpy. Much of that is because I'd never done it before, so I'm not spinning evenly yet. But because I like textured yarn, I actually did exaggerate it. I'm not sure what I'll make with it yet, since it only made 32 yards (not enough for a scarf).

Next up is this delectable alpaca/bamboo batting that I bought from Loop on

I hope to do a good job on this one, because it's so soft and beautiful. Maybe I'll take note of the process for a future blog item.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A few new things

I can't remember if I posted some of these, but I didn't see them below. I've been so busy.

I bought this fat/skinny "dandelion" yarn and made these two things:


I also started making more yoga mat bags:


I made this diaper bag for my sister-in-law, who is due to have a baby in weeks:


The top four items are available for sale at Burst of Happiness.

Felt: it's something you can spend a lot of time making, or just go to Hobby Lobby and pay a few cents

Oh, I'm just kidding. Making felt is a fun and rewarding activity. I got these instructions from a Web site, but forget where. I'm happy to credit the person if I find out who it is (or remember).

Basically, you make wool felt from wool. No doy, right? The thing about wool, and the reason you can't just throw a wool sweater in the washer, is that it's scaly and likes to mat together. Therefore, when you take wool and add friction and hot water (or either temperature extreme), it mats up and turns from fluff to a compacted felt, which you can then make into any number of cute things.

OK, you're starting with wool. I have dyed wool roving here that I have pulled apart into tiny pieces of fluff, a few inches long and about an inch wide. I then place it in one direction on a little place mat made of sticks. You can get them at Pier One. I got mine at Target. One site recommended using a large one and doing this in your bathtub or a kiddie pool. I thought I was smart by doing it on a smaller scale in my sink. This works if you don't need much, but if you're going to use a lot of felt, this would be very time-consuming.
First layer on my mat:

Next, you drizzle or sprinkle some detergent of some sort -- liquid or powder. I used Woolite. Then top with another layer of wool, facing the other direction.

You'll repeat this, with a bit of soap between each layer and turning them different directions. I have divided my wool into colors, and some pieces will be one color on one side and another on the other. You could just do one massive sheet of the same color. I happened to have multi-colored roving and thought it may make a muddy mess if I didn't divide it up.

After you've built up around 4 to 6 layers, roll up your mat and immerse it in a few inches of super hot water. Gently roll the mat back and forth for 4 minutes. Wear gloves. I used rubber dish gloves. I designated a fresh pair for this. It also helps protect the hands from the hot water. You need really hot water -- hot as you can stand. I used some hot from the tap, but I also had a kettle going. I was at the kitchen sink, so this was handy. I'd add kettle water as needed.

You then take out the roll and open it up. You carefully turn the felt 90 degrees. Roll it up again and repeat this process 5 times. You might need to add more hot water. Here is is after the first time:

After the last time, your felt should be strong. Rinse it well, but with care. Allow to dry. Here is my felt, from each side:

So then what do you do with it? Well, lots of people make cute things like felt flowers. This is what I did. I made this flower, but I'm not too excited about it and feel like it kind of looks like a kid did it. I need to come up with a different pattern, but it was my first attempt. I attached a kilt pin to the back and will use it to complement a scarf I'm knitting from that turquoise wool you see in the pictures. I think that will be very cute, and I'll post the whole thing when it's ready.


Picture Perfect! (That one's for Amy -- the one-size-fits-all overline)

NOTE: I have since come to the realization (thanks to T-Shirt Face) that I probably should have the umbrellas turned the other way, with the light reflecting off of them. If that's the case, boy do I feel dumb.

I sell stuff online (here). One of the key issues with selling online is that you must have good pictures. Customers can't see your items in person. They can't feel them or examine them. You must entice them to consider your products through photos alone -- often a thumbnail, at that.

It's really hard to get good lighting and a good background indoors. You may think it's bright enough, but it's not. And your flash will just make shadows. You know when you visit a Web site and the items look like they're floating on a white background? Well, that's not easy to accomplish.

I usually photograph outdoors because the sun's light is very flattering and true to color. I also like the nature background. There are several problems, though, that come with photographing outside:
1. You're at the mercy of the weather. If it's rainy or snowy or windy or too overcast, you can't shoot.
2. The background gets drab in the winter. The vivid grass is a dull brown. The full trees are bare.
3. Where the sun is in the sky makes a difference. When it's directly overhead, it casts shadows. If it's too low, it can be too red and bright, glaring off the items.

From Thanksgiving through much of December it was unusually overcast for New Mexico. This made my photos dark. Then it got extremely cold - and windy. In the spring, it will warm up but we'll have the typical New Mexico spring winds for a while. This leaves me only about half of the year when I can depend on good weather.

Which brings me to the point of my post: how to shoot inside?
I decided to attempt a very low-cost photo studio. It would have to be something I can take down between uses and set up easily. It would have to involve a white background that would look smooth, yet fold up small and not crease for the next use. It would require good lighting, but not something that would make shadows. Most of all, it would have to be cheap. Really cheap.

First I considered a white vinyl shower curtain liner for my backdrop. I was a bit unsure how to hang it or where. I would want it to also drape down to serve as the bottom of the photo site. I bought one and opened it up, and of course it was full of creases. I steamed and steamed it, and some creases came out. But then I had a better idea: A window shade. They roll up -- no creases and compact! I bumped into a woman on etsy who was selling her two barely used photography umbrellas. They are tiny -- perfect size for me and $10 for both. Once upon a time, my dad gave me a clip on lamp with heat bulb for my pets, but I never used it. I got a regular bulb and another clip light. But how to attach the umbrellas?

I decided to give it a try by draping the shade from the entertainment center. I clipped the lamps nearby and set the umbrellas between them and the "set."

I had read not to use the flash of my camera, but here is what I got without it:

and here is with the flash:

So, obviously my lighting is insufficient. The bulbs aren't bright enough, the umbrellas are dimming them too much, and there are still shadows.

I ended up using my photo editing software to brighten the back, but it almost looks fake.


I'm afraid that my story doesn't have a happy ending. I am not sure what to do. I need MORE LIGHT. I need to know where to position the lights. If anyone has tips, please comment!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Map kid

Wow. That's all I can say. I'm dumber than a 1-year-old.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Here I am!

Miss me? No? Geez.

I've been super-busy lately, so let me recap on everything, even the unimportant stuff:

1. Our refrigerator was broken for 2 weeks. We finally got our new one Thursday and I've rarely appreciated anything so much. It's a shiny black side-by-side with ice and water in the door. I love it, mostly because it keeps my food cold and I don't have to go out on the front porch to get my soup out of the cooler.

2. Mark was out of town and then came back and got really, really sick with a terrible cold. My two work neighbors had had it and had been coughing like crazy for a week and a half, so I figured I was a goner. I tried to keep my hands really clean, and my home, too. Mark had a miraculous recovery after two days and I still have no signs of illness! Yay!

3. For reasons in number 2, our Christmas stuff has yet to be put away. Mark is going out of town again, and so our very large tree will stay up another week. Boo.

4. I am learning to spin yarns, literally. I have a friend who just retired from my workplace. She lives in San Ysidro on a little property with 2 sheep, 1 horse, 1 dog, 2 cats and a bunch of chickens. She invited me over for a lesson. I had a lovely time. She taught me a few spinning basics using a drop spindle. It's, um, really hard. It's an ancient technology, but it's something that must be mastered. It involves a stick that goes through the center of a circle of wood. You let it hang from the yarn that goes up into the wool roving and you give the spindle a whirl. As it spins, you try to pull the wool bit by bit and let the spin move up into it, making yarn. It's not easy. Every time I get it spinning and move my right hand up to help my left hand, the spindle tries to go the other way, thus untwisting what I have. Of course, having a spinning wheel makes it much easier. They are expensive and Mark said that since I'm not 90, I don't need one and I should find hobbies that aren't for old ladies. And I took care of him when he was sick!

5. I plan to also learn to dye wool roving and yarn.

6. I made felt from wool roving and am making a brooch from it. I will be posting to describe this exciting process after the brooch is finished.

That's a wrap up of my life! I've just been so busy that I haven't had time to sew much.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Kill 'em with cuteness

I've found something cute. It's so cute, I almost can't contain myself. Check out these needle felted creatures from -- OK, wait -- the name is so awesome: Motley Mutton!!!!!

Here are some examples. Click the pics to go to her shop. I don't really need to explain anything once you see them!


Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ring ring. "Is your refrigerator running?"

Why, no. No it isn't. It's been flat dead for a week and a half now. You don't realize what your fridge means to you till it's gone.

You don't appreciate the cold water at your fingertips until you have to put your glass of water outside to chill.


Go now, and tell your refrigerator you love it. Go!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hey! "First" rhymes with "worst"!

I came across these awful pictures of me at age 10 the other day. I was torn between burning them and keeping my awful little secret to myself and sharing them with the world to give everyone a good laugh at my expense.

I remember this hairdo. It was my first real hairdo -- the first one that I decided on myself and asked my mom to take me to the salon.


What's that? You want a closer look? Well, you asked for it.


We went to Fantastic Sams. I wanted feathered hair, like my friend Tamara's. We were and still are best friends. We had to get feathered hair at the same time (it was 1984, after all). In the end, hers looked much more "feathered." She pointed out that she didn't get a perm. I had gotten a perm. Doh! Thus, I looked like a 50-year-old woman in a fifth-grader's body. Tamara was always a step ahead of me (or a hundred steps) on the coolness scale because she had an older sister to learn from. I just had my mom, and she had this hair:


What's that? You want a closer look?


(This is a test to see if she reads my blog, in which case I may not be of this Earth much longer. So, just in case she sees this, I'd like to say that my mom has very nice hair now. Very stylish and pretty. She's the most beautiful lady.)

Snuggle wuggles

Making stuff, as usual. Here is a fringed scarf, knitted in a seed stitch with a removable crocheted flower brooch:

(available at Burst of Happiness)

This scarf and flower I made for my mom for Christmas out of a lovely alpaca/silk blend:


And here are a few bags offered up to the highest bidder. Or whoever will pay the regular price: