Monday, January 30, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 5: Napkin Decoupage

Remember napkin applique? Somewhere, I still have a bottle of Aleene's Paper Napkin Applique glue, but I never could find napkins I wanted to stick onto anything.

Meanwhile, hope springs eternal, and several years ago I bought a book that originally was published in South Africa, where they call napkins "serviettes." Serviette decoupage sounds much more classy than gluing napkins to stuff.

This week's book will allow me to play with some of the ideas I've had for years about this medium. I've always thought I could use more than just napkins to work some decoupage magic. I'm heading off to the thrift store this afternoon to see if I can find some fun things to work on. I even may stop at the party store to see if they have any wonderful napkin designs.

I'm still evaluating my fabulous fabric buy. Gold side or blue side. As soon as I figure it out, it's cutting and stapling time!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Shopping Road Trip: The grass is greener on the other side of the fence

The upholstery fabric issue has been solved!

On Friday, I absconded with my sister–in–law and nephew and we hit the road for a 36–hour kamikaze mission to visit Nana and Papa and to shop for fabric in OKC.

Saturday morning we fortified ourselves with burgers and entirely too much pop (soda if you're from Texas).

Why not buy weird pop when you can use your children as your excuse?

Then we hit the shops. My dad mapped out the route so we could hit just about every store in Oklahoma City that carries upholstery fabric.

Oh the dilemma! I went from no choice to entirely too many fabrics to choose from. I did have a plan, though. My perfect fabric had to be:

             • Small print
             • No stripes of any kind
             • Neutral
             • No matching required
             • Inexpensive

No tall order there!

At the last store of the day, we found this:


 Yes, 14.25 yards of upholstery fabric at $5/yard at a little hole–in–the–wall upholstery outlet store in Oklahoma City. Deep in the recesses of Fabric & Upholstery Outlet we found a fabric that fit all the criteria.  I can use either side. So far I have two votes for using the blue side and three for the gold side. I'll live with it for awhile before I choose to use the "wrong" side or the "right" side.

And then it was time to go back home. We had to stop at Garden Ridge first because the bargains just jump into your cart there. Add another book to the craft book challenge tally.

So, add perseverance to gumption if you're going to reupholster a chair. Any votes on which side fabric I should use?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

How not to dress a naked chair

I really wanted to get my chair redone this week. I could have IF I had the fabric.

I've been wanting to try the bleached drop cloth look so I bleached a drop cloth from Home Depot for 10 hours. It's lighter, but still grayish. While it would look lovely in another room, it looks like crap next to my new honey–colored couch. I actually bought a bottle of tan dye before I came to my senses.

So, back to the fabric store I go. I found a chocolate paisley that looked decent with my other fabric samples under the fluorescent lights. I swear it all looked good. The bolt held just enough fabric. No room for error, but worth the risk. Again, looked like crap under my lighting. Too green, too dark, too much.

I knew going into this project that it was ambitious to get done in one week. I'm actually planning a one–day trip into Oklahoma City to see if they have more than three fabric stores (I suspect they do.)

I'm not counting this challenge as a failure because I did get the chair stripped. I did get to bleach a drop cloth, even though I'm not completely thrilled with the results. I also bought new 4–in. bun feet to replace the 2–in. plastic feet the chair had before. I've been wanting that chair to be higher since the day I got it!

Until then, I'm going to start thinking about next week's book. I have an idea it will have nothing to do with fabric.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gumption and How to Strip a Chair

I'm venturing into You Can Upholster! this week, which is ambitious, I admit. I copied this quote from the book to keep me going:

"Most challenges tend
to shrink with gumption."
You Can Upholster! page 11

This chair will no longer be:
  • Too short
  • Too dark
  • Too dirty
  • Too lumpy

I've gotten the chair down to its bones, but oh my gosh! The dirt and crumbs! Completely gross. I kept telling myself that the grime was ours. I don't know if I could dig into a thrift store chair without wearing a hazmat suit.

The book suggested two methods for figuring out fabric amounts.
  1. Measure all areas of the chair and add 2 in.
  2. Strip it and measure.

I chose No. 2 because I don't have a 72–in. cloth tape measure, and I'm impatient. The book also suggests  using work gloves and a drop cloth along with countless tools to make the stripping job easier. Again, I'm impatient. I made do with two flat head screwdrivers, a hammer, and a needle–nose pliers.

The whole secret to stripping a chair is to start at the back of the chair, keep track of the order you take pieces off, and label everything. I used a piece of chalk to mark everything the moment it came off the chair.

I'm now dealing with the fabric issue. This chair is massive. It needs almost as much fabric as a couch. I do not want to fight with stripes of any kind, and I do not want to spend an arm and leg on fabric just to fret about cutting into it and screwing up. Upholstery fabric is really limited here, so I'm investigating drop cloths as my fabric. I have one in the bleach bath right now following Miss Mustard Seed's directions.

I think picking the dang fabric has been more stressful than ripping apart the chair!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 4: Reupholstery

Ah, the week I've been anticipating! It's time to learn how to reupholster. Now, I've been to the rodeo before if you count reupholstering the flat seats on my dining room chairs. I would definitely start with a simple project like that just to get your feet wet. I suspect this project will be like getting my driver's license and then jumping into a big rig.

I picked up You Can Upholster! at the Friends of the Library book sale. I guess the exclamation point caught my eye and made me think, "Yeah! I can upholster!" Plus, $5 for a grocery bag of books? Sold!

I love older craft books. This one is copyright 1978. There's an awesome "hey you men, women can upholster too" vibe running throughout the instructions. However, the problem with older books is that you often do not have the fabulous photos to guide you step–by–step. I've already read through the book and made copious notes.

I've also called my mom and picked her brain. Her first upholstery project was a couch and a love seat. I watched her reupholster my sister–in–law's stuffed chair in two days. I think I'll be OK with a lot of Skyping for advice.

I have my chair picked out. I have my new couch to give me some inspiration. I have one week (well, I actually stripped the chair last week). Time to get going!

I'll post the before chair tomorrow. It's not pretty. ANYTHING I do will be an improvement.


Friday, January 20, 2012

More cards for my stash

We have two little girls coming into our family this spring. That means lots of pink, purple, and presents! Of course, I couldn't settle for just a pink card. I had to bust out the watercolors, punches, and brads to make my plain ol' paper into something baby–worthy. Matte medium swirled onto watercolored card stock makes a fabulous texture. It also makes card stock look like a million bucks.

Butterfly Baby
Book techniques:
Matte medium texture swirled
 on watercolored blue card stock

Basic Bargello
Book techniques used:
Handmade paper
(made in the fall during a home school botany lesson)

I discovered that my best cards are unplanned. I have to just play and then assemble. I really enjoyed this week. Next week, I'll be knee–deep in the upholstery project I put aside. Can't wait!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Playing with paper and making cards

I have a love–hate relationship with handmade cards. I find them really charming and creative... pieces of art.   However, when I make them, I get uptight. The fact that I usually make a card about five minutes before we have to leave for an event has absolutely nothing to do with my anxiety. Really! I do a lot of praying to the patron saint of glue too. Please dry, please dry.

This week, I decided to pick a few techniques from The encyclopedia of Greeting Card Tools & Techniques, and I just played with them. No self–imposed deadlines. No predetermined layouts. If it worked, it worked. If it didn't, oh well. I fought through a few anxious moments where my perfectionism tried to take over, and I remembered why I really don't care for rubber stamping, but I actually am pleased with my first set of cards.

I was determined to make Valentines for my children this year. Looks like they'll actually get something more than a box of candy.

For my college–age daughter:

You're my cup of tea, Valentine.
Book techniques used:
Embossing (I used my Cuttlebug)
Watercoloring (the stamp and the background)
Rubber Stamping (Rubber Stampede: Tea Time)
Silhouette cutting

For my high–school son:

You Shine, Valentine!
Book techniques used:
Serendipity paper placement for the background
(I used an old gold Christmas card)
Origami heart (aluminum foil)

I managed to get some baby shower cards made too! I'll post those tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 3: Greeting Cards

It wasn't too hard to pick this week's book after I mentally shelved the upholstery project. I've been thinking about cards instead. Valentine's Day is only one month away, and even though I own all manner of paper crafting supplies, I rarely get more than one paper heart cut out for both my kids to share.

In an attempt to improve my card–making skills, I requested The encyclopedia of Greeting Card Tools & Techniques for Christmas. I don't like to copy other people's projects; I like to be inspired by them. This book is full of ideas but no step–by–steps on how to recreate a card exactly. I figure I can get my Valentines and a few birthday cards done this week. I may even slip in a baby shower card or two for the new babies coming. Off to make a list!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hitting the trail and throwing the books aside

I had a craft book picked out for my craft book challenge; I really did. And then we went hiking at the "Grand Canyon of Texas" (a.k.a. Palo Duro Canyon). I was inside the cave at the time my husband snapped this picture. That's my daughter perched on top. She came up through the cave. I wasn't as brave. Aren't the colors gorgeous? The sky really is that impossible blue out there.

We came home filthy, hungry, and happy.

I had planned to get into an upholstery book and start recovering my worn–out oversized chair this week because I'm getting a new couch on Thursday. I've been shopping for this couch for five years! This is a big deal.

I read the upholstery book all the way through until I realized I can't pick out fabric for the chair until I get my couch. Well, duh.

So, I haven't picked out this week's book yet because my mind is still stuck in upholstery mode. I may have to flip a coin, but I'll have one picked out by this afternoon. I only have more than 200 books and booklets to choose from.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thank goodness for Casual Copperplate!

I spent a few hours working on my Copperplate this week. Back in the day, everyone knew Copperplate, and they were all pretty good at it. They also were rapped on the knuckles regularly and did not have the Internet to distract them from their hours of practice. I'm here to tell you that Copperplate needs practice. My practice consisted of tracing the alphabet with a light board. Still, Modern Mark Making is the first calligraphy manual to tell you HOW to get the thicks and thins found in this hand. 

One page over from the oh–so–formal Copperplate, I spotted the playful Casual Copperplate. It makes Copperplate jump down off its high horse and have some fun.

I put on Netflix and cranked out two thank you cards for my parents and my inlaws for Christmas. I'd still like to learn formal Copperplate. Before I do, I have to get some fun colored inks because I am going to spend some quality time with this hand. Meanwhile, Casual Copperplate is more fun.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Epic Glue Batik Calligraphy Pillow

Glue Batik Calligraphy Pillow

When I was a kid, we said, "Hey, that's neat!" or "Super cool!" to express our appreciation for the finer things in life. Around here, I hear, "That's so epic!" from my daughter.

"Epic" is apparently better than just "awesome," which so trumps "cool."

My challenge this week was to make something using the book Modern Mark Making. But I didn't just want to make a cool mark, I wanted to make an epic mark! Author Lisa Engelbrecht includes an inspiring chapter on mixed media calligraphy. Epic.

As I mentioned in this post, I have taken a calligraphy class, and I am familiar with the standard hands. So, I've added only loose instructions on how I combined glue batik and calligraphy with fabric. Your mileage may vary.

Washable blue school glue (It must be the blue gel.)
Light-colored fabric
Acrylic paint
Wide flat paint brush
Narrow flat paint brush (for the brush lettering—I used size 6)
Container for water and glue mix
Container for paint wash

I used the leftover legs from a pair of my husband's khakis as my fabric. I wanted to match the greens in my daughter's room, so I randomly dabbed the fabric with pale yellow–green acrylic paints to get a camo–effect base color.

  • Draw your guidelines in chalk. I chose the Italic hand for my lettering, which is covered in the book. Chalk out the word.
  • Mix the blue glue drop by drop with water, stirring until no globs of gel remain. The gel will drag on the brush otherwise and cause ridges of glue.
  • Letter over the chalked word with the small flat brush and the thinned blue glue. Let dry.
  • Mix a wash of your top acrylic color and paint it over the dried glue. I used a metallic blue topaz acrylic paint. Let the wash layer dry.

Beginning the wash of thinned metallic blue topaz acrylic paint.

On the back of the fabric, you can see that the glue did resist the acrylic wash.

  • When the wash layer is dry, place the fabric in a sink of warm water for a minute or so. Gently begin to rub at the glue letters with your fingertips. The glue layer will dissolve easily, taking the top layer of paint with it. Let dry.
The letters magically appear!

Since I chose colors that blend together, I decided to embellish my letters with an ultra fine Sharpie just to help them stand out more.

By the time I got that far, I thought I'd better go ahead and make the whole pillow.

Oh yeah, epic!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 2: Calligraphy!

I've always loved letters. With a few extra strokes of the the pen they become artwork.

My book this week is a Christmas gift from my parents: Modern Mark Making by Lisa Engelbrecht. Lisa's lettering is gorgeous and innovative. I've only had a chance to page through the book so far.

I took a leisure studies calligraphy class about a year ago and loved it. My teacher encouraged us to try new techniques and applications. Everyone was deemed an artist... even the lady who opined she "just didn't get angles" during the first and every class thereafter.

So, this week I'm going to blow the dust off my ink pot and nib pens and dig into the ideas in Modern Mark Making. I need to make a Thank You card for my folks and their understanding of my love for craft books.

Dying a Silk Shirt with Food Coloring

One of the first chapters in my challenge book New from Old shows the happy accident the author had with a bottle of dye and a plain camisole. About a year ago, I picked up this plain, boxy silk shirt in a mother–of–the–bride ivory color with the intention of dying it. I've been dying my silk embroidery ribbon with Easter egg dye tablets and some ancient jars of Wilton food coloring that I inherited from my husband's mother. Silk is silk, right? I thought food coloring ought to work on revving up my shirt just as well as it works on the silk ribbon. If I made a big old mess, I wouldn't be out more than an afternoon.

My paste food coloring is so old that I've relegated it to the Craft Only pile. I wanted my shirt to be a pretty turquoise/aqua color. I chose to mix sky blue and moss green in about a 3–1 ratio. I had to muscle my way into the green because it would not open.

Color mixing with food coloring can be iffy. The "fixer" for food coloring is vinegar, which can change some colors, especially purple. You need about a cup of vinegar in the dye bath. I checked my color before I put it in the pot; however, you never know how much dye your fiber will take up. Heat is the final component needed to fix the color to the silk.

 The result after about an hour simmering in the blue/green/vinegar mix? Well, cruise–wear comes to mind. The silk loved the dye. Back to the dye pot!

I decided to try overdying with straight moss green and vinegar to tone it down. I also threw in about 20 3–yard cards of soft aqua silk ribbon that I have in my stash. Most garments are sewn with cotton/polyester thread, which does not take the food coloring dye. Only protein fibers can be dyed using this technique. I may use the ribbon to cover the white stitching.

After another hour soak and copious rinsing, my shirt became the soothing silvery aqua I was hoping for. The color in the pictures is close to reality even though I had to tweak the images in Picassa.

The overdyed silk ribbon is not an exact match, but it tones really well with the shirt. Once I change the buttons and take a few tucks in the shirt, I think I'll have a blouse I can wear out of the house.

I feel good that I got use out a book that I've had for awhile. I'm excited to get into my next book. I've chosen one that I got for Christmas. Can't wait!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Transforming a T-Shirt Neckline with Bias Tape

Source: New from Old, How to Transform and
Customize Your Clothes
 by Jayne Emerson

This is the project that got me to buy the book New from Old. I thought the bias tape around the neckline was quirky and cute. Plus, I have a pile of old boxy tees just waiting for a makeover. Correction... I had an old pile of tees. I got sick of stepping over the pile and sent them off to the thrift; however, I did have two plain boxy tees hiding in my dresser just waiting for their big makeover.

This is an easy yet fiddly project. I chose to make my bias tape. In fact, I used straight–cut fabric to edge my white shirt. I only had a few strips of an old skirt left, and I figured I had nothing to lose. One quick trip through my Simplicity Bias Tape Maker and I had pretty convincing "bias" tape.

The instructions are quite simple.

  1. Cut a new neckline. I stay stitched my edges to stabilize the stretch.
  2. Pin your bias tape around the neck. Fiddle with the bottom of the new neckline until the bias tape is arranged to your liking.
  3. Stitch the tape. I used a zig-zag stitch.

I cut up an old tie to get bias–cut fabric for my gray tee. True bias tape does conform to the curved edges of the neckline a little easier than the straight–cut fabric does. The final step was to nip in the sides of the shirts to make them more suitable for a woman.

Yay! Wearable progress!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Turtleneck Revamped

I like the concept of turtleneck sweaters. It's the wearing that gives me trouble. I feel like my head has been jammed into a funnel when I wear one. So, I buy a sweater, wear it for awhile, and then I come to my senses and get rid of it.

I picked up this turtleneck at the thrift store before Christmas. It had been awhile since I'd had a turtleneck, and I dug the color on this one. Apparently, I'd also forgotten that feeling of "funnel neck."

Enter my challenge and page 58 in this week's book, New from Old. The author took a sweater (she used cashmere, which mine is so not), cut down the neck, and stitched some beads up the edges.

Bam! Looks like a little '30s glam happenin' here. Easy, and no more funnel neck.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Craft Book Challenge Week 1: New from Old

Enter my first craft book of the year:

I can't remember when I got this or where. I know that I was taken with the t-shirt neck band project and just had to have the book.

I've already dug into my closet and pulled out some sad and tired items that need to be new for the New Year. Project 1 is already finished and ready for its debut. The neckband project I bought the book for will be Project 2. Onward!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: Year of the Craft

When I was 9, I wanted to be a librarian. Apparently there still is a librarian who desperately wants to craft hidden inside because I have amassed a crafty book collection that would give the local bookmobile a run for it's money.

And do I DO anything with those wonderful books but stroke their bindings and organize them by size and craft medium? Generally, no, which is really starting to bug me.

So this poor, forgotten blog gets a purpose. Once a week I will dip into my vast library and pick a project and I will do it. And I will post about it. And I will get over this requirement I have to making my pictures look like they came out of a magazine.

The Rules:
  • Once a week (at least) I will do a project from one of my many craft books.
  • I do not have to follow the directions exactly.
  • I must post about it even if it will be trashed the moment I'm done working on it.
  • Perfectionism is not allowed.
  • Any book that does not intrigue me enough to pick a project from will be sent to the Friends of the Library book sale (where I will probably buy it back).
  • I must use what supplies I have unless absolutely necessary.
So, ya hear me 2012? Challenge accepted!