Friday, October 31, 2008

cookies make it all better

Happy Halloween everybody!

Sorry, this is not a crafty post. And it doesn't even have a photo. My entire family has been felled by a nasty cold virus. 'Cold' doesn't seem a strong enough word. We are slowly digging our way out, but I am not up to a photoshoot at the moment. Any energy I have will be focused on making a ghost costume for a girl with a chest cough (yes, I'm making it today) and glamming up a snotty Cinderella.

How about some wonderful cookies? My good friends Tracy and Chris (ie Salt of the Earth), spent all day yesterday cooking and baking for the sick folks at our church. Tracy knocked on our door and braved Germ World long enough to drop off homemade chicken soup, bread, and these wonderful cookies. We even ate some cookies together with some fresh strong joe. Man, they were good cookies. When she told me the recipe, I had to share it. So simple even my addled brain can handle it right now.

Cake Mix Cookies

1 box cake mix, flavor of choice (in this case, butter pecan)
1 stick of butter, melted
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened

That's it folks. You know, low fat. Ha. Mix all that in a bowl, roll into balls, slap on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350 F for about 10-12 minutes. They are especially good if they are not overcooked. Mmmchewy. Like anyone needs anything else sweet to eat right now with all the Halloween calories in bowls everywhere.

I hope everyone is feeling healthy enough for trick or treating. If you aren't, maybe someone nice will bake you some of these cookies.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

oh. my. word.

Even just her blog banner has me mesmerized. Artist Elsa Mora is a new find for me (thanks for the link, Jhoanna) and her papercuts just bumfoozle my brain. Simply amazing craftsmanship combined with haunting imagery.

Images: Elsa Mora

You can find many more examples of her work in the new section on her blog devoted wholly to the art of papercutting, and she also has a shop.

Monday, October 27, 2008

my take on Emily's doll

I decided to tackle a tute that's been on my list for ages, Emily's cute little Black Apple doll. I have a friend who just gave birth to twin girls, and I thought a pair of dolls to sit on the nursery shelf would be just the thing.

So of course I can't do it exactly how it is supposed to be done. Impossible. I'd feel cheated somehow if I didn't run into a major snag caused by my own doofusness.

I thought it would be neat to add pigtails. Plus elongate and curve the bodies to make them lean into one another. While I was at it, I thought it would be nice to have sleeves, and then I thought it would be even nicer to make the sleeves already part of the body/dress pattern piece so they wouldn't have to be tucked inside the body when I sewed it.

I got both dolls cut out (thankfully remembering to reverse one) and sewed up the first one and it was not good. She looked like she had these tiny, shriveled T-rex arms. And they weren't even the same length, thanks to my hurried pattern drawing. I kept pitching it to myself as adorable handmade quirkiness, but I just couldn't swallow it. I could see no way around a radical double amputation. Poor dolly.

So then I had to remake the arms and attach them to the outside, and this time I used the same pattern size as for the legs to avoid Shrunkenappendageitus, and this worked fine. And then of course I had to make the other doll to match, so it would look intentional.

I think somewhere along the way I must've missed the fact that the Black Apple doll pattern does not include seam allowance? Mine looks skinnier than some others I've seen posted, and I was using like barely 1/8th" seam. But I still love them. I'll be making more in the future. Thanks, Emily!

Friday, October 24, 2008

make some pod beads

If you have a paper punch and glue handy, you can make these uber cool pod beads. Here's the tutorial from Folding Trees.

WAIT A MINUTE. (crafting wheels creaking, right brain emitting chooka chooka sounds) I think these would also make some cooooool ornaments if you had a punch in a larger size. Could be so good either on their own or wired together to make a star. Hmmm...I must mull that one over a bit.

If you make some beads, you are invited to post them to the flickr group.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a bit of sewing

I'm glad to say I managed to finish a couple of projects. Yay me on the follow through.

My husband was recently out of town (his delightful and thoughtful wife gave him tickets to a NASCAR race in Charlotte, NC), and I can't sleep when he is gone. I just keep thinking how an axe murderer is probably prowling around the house and watching me through the windows, waiting for me to turn off the lights to make his move.

So, I sewed my daughter a dress instead of sleeping. It's the one on the right. I had seen these adorable dresses, so I decided to wing it. I modified a pattern I already had for a shirt to create an A-line dress with a high waist. I used some fabric I scored at the recent sale.

I am also proud to say I knocked something off the depressing WIPs pile in my sewing room, my old green and white print babydoll shirt which I turned into a dress for my daughter (on the left). It was so easy, just sewed a new back seam to make it smaller and re-attached the straps. Voila. This, of course, would have been more appropriate had I finished it in the summer, when it was added to the pile, but it will still work for fall with a T-shirt and leggings.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

halloweeny drag n drop game

image credits: Jenny B. Harris of Allsorts

I know I just linked you to Allsorts the other day, but she just posted about this really really cute Halloween dress up game you can play with your chillins. Or you can just revert to childhood and play with it yourself, like I just did. I must still have a paper doll fixation in me somewhere.

Monday, October 20, 2008

sad little WIPs

I recently realized that the constant mental strain of having a bunch of unfinished projects laying around my craft room, all glaring at me accusingly (perhaps a delusion caused by the mental strain), is going to take actual years off my life.

I start projects and then run into some kind of snag, or just can't finish in one sitting, then they get shunted aside and the next moment I'm free I blithely start something else. And I spend a lot of time thinking up new projects instead of finishing the ones I've started. It's a sickness. Is it just me?

1) letters that spell 'create' that were going to help inspire me, gathering a thick layer of dust while waiting to be covered with fabric and hung from my wall above the sewing machine

2) embroidery hoops purchased months ago to emulate the look of this I saw on the purl bee

3) my husband's ancient and now frayed baby quilt, inherited by my daughter, and for which I bought a new binding weeks ago. I cringe when I hear a small, plaintive voice saying 'Mommy, is my quilt fixed yet?'

4) the saddest WIP of all. A dress I was so freakin' excited to make for myself, and I ran into snag. I canNOT seem to 'ease' the sleeves as instructed. 'Ease'. ha. Sounds deceptively like 'easy'. So I stopped sewing, and started researching sleeve cap ease. I found an article on how it isn't really needed if you know how to make a sleeve pattern the old fashioned way. After which I started to redraw the sleeve pattern for this dress. Laid down and shunted. This is the one that glares the hardest.

6) pointless unfinished fabric postcard that was supposed to be mailed months ago to a little elephant lover that is now going on four, not three.

5) not pictured. Unfinished Katy Kitty pattern. sigh.

You also now know my shameful secret, that my craft room and office is an absolute train wreck. I get stressed out viewing pictures of other's exemplary craft areas, all neatly organized (not to mention exquisitely decorated) with a place for everything and everything in its place. All in a cheerful and bright color. More years off my life. Does anyone else admit to having an armpit for a craft area?

Friday, October 17, 2008

make your own word garland

I made this good luck banner for a little going away party we had for a friend. It was fun and quick to do on my Mac and color printer. As I was looking at it, I remembered that the wonderful Jenny Harris of Allsorts made a cuter version of these same banner letters available for free download way back in 2006 for Halloween, seen below. I guess I reinvented the wheel.

image credit: Jenny B. Harris of Allsorts

I love the scalloped border she uses around the outside of the circles, and the ric rac! If you'd like to inject a little color you can print it out on colored cardstock, break out your markers, or use a photo program on your computer. She has generously made every letter available for you so you can customize what you want to say, for Halloween or any holiday. Thanks, Jenny!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I won, I won!

A couple Fridays ago I managed to remember to enter the Free Fabric Friday that Sew, Mama, Sew! posts each week. And I won! Yay! I received a charm pack of Recess by Sandy Klop of American Jane.

I love SMS's blog. So informative, and they are always posting series I'm interested in. They also have a great sewing forum if you have specific questions. And don't forget their shop.

Thanks for the free fabric, SMS!

Monday, October 13, 2008

remarkable self restraint.

I got an email from to tell me their warehouse was having its annual zip-bang-boom super duper clearance sale this past Saturday. And it is only an 45 minutes away from where I live. So, duh!

I think I practiced remarkable self restraint. I mean, they were selling fabric by the pound. Me and my friend Amanda got there within 10 minutes or so of the doors opening. We passed two women in the parking lot who warned us they took one look in the door, saw the melee, and left. Since openly scoffing them seemed impolite, we just thanked them and went in.

Already the entire warehouse was teeming with steely-eyed women elbow deep in the big fabric piles, feverishly filling the kind of industrial-sized canvas tubs you only see in prison laundry scenes.

I waded right in and really enjoyed it. There was this exciting feeling, like any moment you would uncover a huge stash of Tula Pink selling for $3 a pound. I didn't find anything like that, just a few very small pieces of Amy Butler's, but I did see other women protectively hording some designer fabrics. Apparently next year I need to be the first in the door.

I got a lot of fabric I love, and also fabric I wouldn't normally buy, like linen, fur, and knits, so I can experiment and learn. Knits scare me.

And then we couldn't just drive by the exit for Ikea* without going, so of course I had to buy some cool fabric there too. I absolutely positively resolve not to buy more fabric for a while.

*the Ikea fabrics are top photo, far left, and bottom photo, far left.

Friday, October 10, 2008

make a ruby doll

image credit: One Red Robin

Here's a free pattern for an adorable Ruby doll from the talented Jhoanna of One Red Robin. I'd love to make one soon, I have the pattern on my computer just waiting for the opportune time. It looks like she'll be adding more variations on Ruby's pattern in the future, so that has piqued my interest. If you make a Ruby, don't forget to add it to her flickr group.

I was also very excited to discover she also has a site called Softie Making with scads of helpful links and tutorials on making a vast array of stuffed cuties. Dive on in.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I've been tagged!

Thank you to beccasaurus for tagging me as one of your favorite blogs! I'm honored. I've fallen in love with the blog world. I especially enjoy peeking into the lives of wonderful folks I'd never meet in real life because they live in places I'd kill to visit, like Australia, Israel, Germany, Spain, Brazil, everywhere! I found a link to my blog on some site and I couldn't even figure out what language it was in. Totally stumped. That was pretty cool.

The rules, in case you've been tagged by me, are:
1. Choose seven (?) of your favorite blogs to nominate and link back to them
2. Link to the person from whom you received the award
3. Leave a message on the blogs that you've nominated
4. Post the award on your blog (optional)

So. Wow, it will be hard to narrow down to seven favorites. I never keep my blog roll updated with all the wonderfulness I find daily, and alas, some of the coolest blogs have been lost to me because I forgot to bookmark them. duh. Also these may have already been tagged to death because they are so awesome. But anyhow, here we go:

1) How About Orange (I love her self-deprecating humor, her strange power to find the mostest uber coolest things on the web, her style and her huge design talent)

2) Print and Pattern (I could absolutely stare at this blog for days)

3) Cakewrecks (I haven't laughed that hard in a while)

4) Little Birds Handmade (Sadly now defunct, but still so worth visiting, and she has a new shop blog here)

5) Matte Stephens (New obsession)

6) Free Design Goodies (The name says it all. What's not to love?)

7) Sweet Tidings (She makes everything sewn by hand. No sewing machine. Gah!)

Monday, October 6, 2008

in which I choose a winner randomly and ramble on about crafting

Ok. I wanted to GIVE YOU ALL a Katy Kitty. I wish that were possible. I found your comments so inspiring and encouraging, to say the least. THANK YOU, to everyone.

After using a random integer generator, the new Katy Custodian is: MommytoAva.

Congratulations! Green Katy is all packed and ready to go to her new home. Molly and Red Katy will miss her. Please contact me within a week with your email address so I can get her to you.

On the subject of 'What got you into crafting' I'd like to join in by saying I owe all my craftiness to the creative women in my family from a couple of generations ago until now; and I'm happy to say it is carrying on through my nieces and hopefully my own daughters. The urge to make things just runs in my veins. That certainly sums it up. So, you could stop reading here. (The rest is just me going endlessly on and on and on.)

My sister, Leigh, sporting the scrap-pieced house robe made by our Mema, circa 1977

One of Mama Graham's quilts and my Raggedy Ann doll, made circa 1980

My dad's mom, Mema, who had no money, would piece together bathrobes from scraps and crocheted endless hats for gifts. I remember my Mama Graham (my mom's mom) giving us grandkids handmade Christmas gifts, like this Raggedy Ann. Which I am utterly, completely ashamed to say I thought was so lame at the time. Okay, I just cannot admit that without pausing to mentally smack myself upside the head. *WHACK*

I now treasure those things and those memories, and appreciate the time and love it took to make them, as well as their desire to give a little of themselves to me. Mama Graham's scrap quilts are beautiful and all done by hand, and I'm lucky enough to have a couple. She passed on her sewing talent to her two daughters, Violet and Jackie.

My Aunt Violet started sewing at age 12, when baby sister Jackie arrived. She would go pick cotton in the fields, then use the money she earned to buy fabric in order to make dresses, bonnets and little outfits for my mom. At 84, Aunt Violet still sews handmade gifts like baby blankets and pillowcases, which we are so lucky to receive.

A few of the clothes sewn by my mom

My mom, Jackie, sewed gorgeous clothes for herself and all her little girls, of which I am the 5th. She also enjoyed making tablecloths for each season and holiday. She sewed in the evenings after we had gone to bed. I remember the beautiful purpleish-greyish velvet suit (wish I had a picture) she made my sister, Lita, for her high school senior portrait. I still can't believe I didn't seize the opportunity to learn to sew from her while I was still at home. *WHACK WHACK*

Of her five daughters, three of us were bitten hard by the crafting bug. The other two, Lita and Libby, not only avoided the bug, but actively tried to squish the bug with their shoe. But I know the crafting gene is in there somewhere, waiting until it is safe to come out. However, I must say despite not being crafters, they are all-around super swell and talented gals.

Just some of the numerous handmade necklaces my sister Lori has given me.

Of the bitten, my sister Lori started crafting as a kid, and has a talent for drawing, painting, handmade jewelry and who knows what else. I have a vivid memory of when I was four and was propped against the table in our finished basement in Maryland, watching her draw a picture of a jungle girl. It was a Pivotal Moment. I suddenly thought to myself, "Cool. I want to do that."

My sister Leigh made these baby quilts for my two girls,
with scriptures written in the squares by my nieces and nephews

My sister Leigh is now a phenomenal and prolific quilter and sewer and crafter of all things (as well as quilting teacher), who never goes anywhere without a work bag. She's tried every craft known to man since she was a wee tot. As a kid I vaguely remember her decoupaging with recycled greeting cards, making mounds of potholders, cross stitching, knitting scarves, crocheting, and making pottery. She's been a huge influence on my adult crafting life.

Me and Libby drawing with clay chunks on our driveway.
When you don't have chalk, you improvise.

For myself, it all started when I was very little with a desire to draw the perfect horse. I went through stacks of used typewriter paper my dad brought home from work. Somehow the quest to draw the perfect horse became a desire to draw everything. Perfectly. Then came the desire to make toys from paper. And modeling clay animals and space aliens. And pointless spoof comics inspired by Star Wars.

All this made a horrible mess, and eventually I was banished to the garage with (my first crafting studio!) a square of leftover carpet, a table and shelves. I spent hours at a time there, making jointed dolls and animals from paper, thread, and yarn, and furnishing a doll house with paper and cardboard furniture, complete with tiny cereal boxes (promotional ads included on the backs) filled with even tinier paper cereal.

As a teen I took pride in giving my family hand-drawn cards, emblazoned with my logo on the back (Larissa Cards, Inc. "When their very best isn't quite good enough"). Also I added fake UPC codes and exorbitant prices.

After a few years of that, I went to college, purchased the requisite long, black trench coat and majored in graphic design. I was introduced to the Mac computer there. (I'm so old, the screen was maybe 6 inches square. And black and white. Seriously.) It was instant crazy love with that little thing.

After graduation, I worked as a graphic designer a few years in the field, then at home for myself. Then, two years ago I closed up my shop (mostly) in order to home school my girls. Somewhere in there I took up sewing. I am still compelled to create, and crafting is my creative outlet. I can't live without it. Or my Mac. Or coffee.

Then one day my bosom friend, Robyn, said, 'Hey, did you know there are a bunch of craft blogs online?'

Another one of those Pivotal Moments.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Yet another Molly Improvement

Ok, sorry. I promise this is the last time. Again with the legs. The whole pull-the-limbs-out-the-back method was indeed an improvement, however sewing the body together even while using this method can be difficult if the legs are stuffed tightly.

Sooooooo, another way to do it and keep your sanity is to NOT stuff the legs prior to sewing the body (suggested by a cool crafter who wishes to remain anonymous). You'll still be leaving an opening in the back, per the instructions. Also leave little openings in all the limbs (you can still stuff the tail before sewing) and wait to stuff them AFTER you turn the body. Simple! Then you stuff the limbs to the desired blimpiness and stitch your limb openings closed.

I hope this helps! Go forth and maketh more Mollys.

Friday, October 3, 2008

artists that amaze me: Jayme McGowan

(Comments are still open for the Katy Kitty giveaway. I'll post the winner on Oct. 6th. I'm LOVING all your crafting stories. Thanks for playing!)

Sigh. I am just lovestruck by the body of work produced by artist Jayme McGowan, of Roadside Projects. Her work was featured in the latest issue of Small Magazine. I have been obsessively clicking through her shop and blog just drinking in the little exquisite paper and mixed media dioramas she designs and handcrafts.

I am totally in deep art love and wishing I had an extra $350. Luckily, if you can't spare the $ for an original work, she also sells prints of her most popular pieces.

I was so lovesick, I had to try one of my own. I'll post about that soon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

6 monthiversary. time for a giveaway!

(Thank you, everybody. Comments are now closed!)

Are you my mommy?

Whoohoo! Here's part of the fun stuff aforementioned. Time to celebrate six months of mmmcrafts. Leave me one comment and you could be the new owner of this Katy Kitty that I made with my own two little bony hands. While you are at it, tell me what got you into crafting. If you are into crafting, that is. Which you don't have to be. So, Lita and Libby, if you are reading this, you too are eligible.

I will choose the new Katy Custodian by using a random number generator on October the 6th.

Looking forward to your comments, and to the next six months of mmmcrafts.

P.S. I've been asked by some of y'all when the Katy Kitty pattern will be available, and my answer is, er...soon! Sorry for the delay! Hopefully I'll dig out from under some urgent stuff and be able to tackle finishing that in a week or so, in plenty of time to get kitties underway for Christmas.