This month is two years since I started my getcrafty column, and though I just took a few months off from posting so I could move and deal with a big stack of work projects, I’m so glad to be contributing to the site! Here’s my new column, cross-posted… or read it over there!
A few months ago I got the chance to hostess Pink Craftie (aka CRAFT: magazine‘s adorable traveling robot mascot, handcrafted by Heidi Kenney), which was so much fun. She was the perfect excuse to do all kinds of crafty stuff, and snap lots of pictures.
We went to the Craft and Hobby Association convention in Anaheim (where we hung out with Jennifer Perkins, Vickie Howell, Kathy Cano Murillo, and Martha Stewart herself!), visited Superbuzzy world headquarters, admired the gorgeous vintage fabric in All Buttoned Up‘s sewing room, hiked up to the Observatory in Griffith Park, had lunch at Clifton’s Cafeteria, learned to crochet with wire courtesy of Sister Diane, saw a sneak preview of the Institute For Figuring crocheted coral reefs show, went to Lisa Congdon‘s opening at ReForm School, shopped for fabric and beads in downtown LA, checked out the craft books at Powell’s, visited Cathie and Steve on the set of “Creative Juice,” and taught a Super Crafty workshop at the library.
Pink Craftie even got to hang out with Kayte’s house rabbit Potato!
My nephew Julian and I made some Pink Craftie-inspired shrink art…
Here she is relaxing pre-shrink, and also traveling on a rocketship post-shrink.
She seemed to have a good time at Grand Central Station — I think she enjoys trains. Like her cousin Gray Craftie, she likes spinning quickly in a circle.
All in all, I got to hang out with her for about a month and a half, and in that time we did some serious running around!
States visited: five
Train trips: four
Art openings: two
Martha Stewart speeches: one
Studio visits: four
Collaborative art projects: three
She recently hit San Diego to visit Mandy of Sappy Moose Tree, and an update of her latest adventures is over here on her blog. I miss her! I might have to talk to Heidi about getting a custom-order pink robot…
I adore craft magazines, and when Nancy, one of my editors at getcrafty, suggested that I write a spring round-up for my column this month, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun! So here are five of my personal favorites in alphabetical order.
Full disclosure: I write for several of these publications, so this isn’t exactly critical, scrupulously objective, hard-hitting journalism… but hey, that’s probably not what you read this blog for anyway, right? Right. On with the reviews!
Adorn: the crafty girl’s guide to embellishing life (quarterly)
Adorn is the most charming, colorful magazine, full of fun, pretty projects to make and ideas to try. I really appreciate the mix of start-from-scratch and add-a-little-something tutorials, and the trends and themes they spotlight (like Japanese craft books) are right up my alley. It’s also so cool that they include jewelry projects, gifts, and housewares along with embellishment and sewing ideas. Love the blog too (disclosure part 2: I regularly contribute to it, which you may have noticed!) and their current $9.99 subscription deal is killer.
My favorite section: “What inspires you?,” found on the back page of every issue. Guest crafters and artists share their creative ideas, with plenty of photos.
CRAFT: transforming traditional crafts (quarterly)
CRAFT is an instant classic — it looks and feels like a stylish book, with high-quality paper, few ads and lots of well-designed project, column, and feature pages to flip through. The range of techniques and genres is impressively diverse, and the time and complexity ratings on each project are much appreciated — who wants to start something thinking it will take an hour and realizing, once you’ve made a huge mess, that it’s more of a full weekend thing? Each issue is loosely themed, too: the current issue is “Creative Copies,” and they take that concept in many interesting directions. Don’t miss the blog for up-to-the-minute stuff to check out.
My favorite section: I love the regular columns, particularly Jean Railla‘s “Modern Crafting” take on DIY.
Cutting Edge: Sewing For Today (quarterly)
Cutting Edge covers all things sewing and fabric-related with an emphasis on the feminine. From party dresses to home decor, they show a range of styles, colors, and ideas to try. I loved the feature on Khaliah Ali and her new line of plus-sized patterns (many of which she models) in the current issue — it’s nice to see that the kind of handmade style sewers in smaller size ranges have always had access to is becoming more universal. And their site has a great “Stitcher’s Notebook” page with helpful links to techniques like making buttonholes or hemming.
My favorite section: “Buy Retail, Add Detail” is always full of good ideas, with a different theme each time (this issue, it’s “Picnic Chic”).
ReadyMade: Instructions for Everyday Life (bimonthly)
ReadyMade always makes me wish I lived in a big, spacious loft filled with power tools instead of a small 1950s garden apartment filled with craft supplies. Oh well, I love reading it anyway. From short, interesting tidbits on events and websites not to be missed to large-scale projects requiring at least one trip to the hardware store, I always get plenty of ideas to try… or just think about. I always like the features on designers’ homes and endeavors, like this issue’s “O Eco Pioneers!” (three sustainable urban projects and their creators). The blog has intriguing ideas, too — my favorite contributor there is Megan Reardon.
My favorite section: RECYCLE always offers a cool mix of green projects to make.
Sew Stylish: Basic Training to Unleash Your Creativity
Sew Stylish is a new sewing magazine spinning off from well-loved classic Threads, with a younger feel and a basics-meets-runway approach. I’m mostly self-taught as a seamstress, so I think it’s great that they cover the essentials clearly and thoroughly, but include lots of stylish ideas and details to keep it interesting. This first issue is an excellent 101, while future issues promise to include more advanced concepts, projects, and features. And their blog has lots of handy sewing tips and resouces to bookmark.
My favorite section: Beginner-friendly “Start Sewing Projects,” which include a style-y wide belt and a two-minute shrug this time.
A few other magazines I love that offer great crafty/design/creative projects and features in a more general mix are Blueprint, BUST, Domino, Dwell, Martha Stewart Living, Sunset, and Venus. And Nancy mentioned that she adores Selvedge, Burda, and Marie Claire Idees, too — I must check those out! What are some of your favorites?
When Andrew and I got married in the summer of 2005, after a solid year of planning the darn thing, I was so happy that we got to do the things that were important to us (handmade pretty much everything, daisies, food and wine, and cool photographs) and got to skip the things that weren’t (programs, favors, tuxedos, diamonds, and legal last name changes). But it was exhausting!
I felt like the last six months of the whole slog was dominated by my new unpaid full-time job: calling vendors, tracking down addresses, and keeping up a ridiculously detailed set of Excel spreadsheets all day on top of my normal workload, just to pull off a relatively informal and relaxed wedding and reception. Half the time it seemed like I was making it up as I went along — it’s not always the most intuitive thing to pull off a wedding that reflects the two of you, if you’re not the tuxedo-and-diamond type… and we definitely aren’t. Luckily for us, we had an amazing wedding officiant, Sister Diane of the Church of Craft, a batallion of awesome and energetic friends, and a Costco membership.
I met Ariel Meadow Stallings, a Seattle writer who shares both my wedding anniversary (August 7) and my thoughts on wedding planning, while she was researching her new book Offbeat Bride. She interviewed me and a couple dozen other brides and grooms about our planning, ceremonies, and beyond, and the resulting memoir-meets-anecdotal how-to has definitely widened the path for “women (and men) who want their weddings to be as independent and unconventional as they are.”
She’s also set up a website, offbeatbride.com, which she updates with new resources, interviews, and anecdotes on a daily basis, and she’s kicking off her West Coast book tour with a bachelorette-party-style signing in Seattle on February 7! I recently got to interview her about it all, and here are some of her thoughts on the state of indie matrimony in 2007 — thanks, Ariel!
What does the term “Offbeat Bride” mean to you?
“Offbeat” is a term of total relativity. I spoke to brides along the full spectrum of offbeat-ness, from women who had weddings in Catholic churches but wanted Europe’s “Final Countdown” played by the string quartet, all the way to couples who had underwater weddings, musical theater weddings, and full-out freakfests that made our hippie raver nuptials look downright traditional.
It’s this relativity that’s important. Being an offbeat bride, to me, means you’re working toward authenticity and faithfulness to your wedding vision, whatever it may be. That authenticity could take the form of a simple barefoot ceremony in the woods, or it could look like an elaborate Hindi-Jewish ceremony in a downtown loft. It totally depends on the couple.
What was your favorite offbeat moment at your own wedding?
One of my favorite moments was when we were quietly waiting “backstage” (on a patio behind some trees near the B&B) before the ceremony. We could hear our friends and family getting settled on the lawn in the gardens where the ceremony was happening, and it was so nice to have a few quiet minutes to collect myself with my almost husband, and the whole thing was made all that much more special when a tiny white spider appeared in the white lily that was at the center of my bouquet.
What’s the best piece of advice you got in the thick of the planning? Any one thing you’d recommend from your own experience?
Several level-headed women I respected told me to be gentle with myself … that weddings have a way of turning the most sane, low-key women into stress-cases. They were right, and their words reassured me that it wasn’t just me being a freak.
For brides who take on the bulk of the planning, there really needs to be an acknowledgment that you’re undertaking a huge bunch of project management. Treat your wedding like you’d treat any other project management — live by your budget and schedules. A little project management goes a long way with wedding planning.
What are some of your favorite online resources for cool and creative wedding planning?
•Indiebride.com‘s kvetch message boards were certainly my most valuable resource.
•As much as I hate the site, some of theknot.com‘s budgeting tools and calculators were helpful.
•I also spent a lot of time looking at other people’s wedsites and blogs for inspiration and ideas.
How have people responded to the book so far?
Very positively. I’ve gotten some really touching feedback from engaged women, one of whom said it was like having a big sister helping her out with her wedding. I’ve been surprised by the responses I’ve gotten from wedding industry folks, too — photographers and wedding planners who written to tell me how much they enjoyed the book, despite their jadedness with the whole wedding industry.
What book events do you have planned?
Tons of stuff in the Seattle area, and then I’ve just confirmed a reading and reception in NYC in early March. I’m working on Los Angeles and Washington DC, too. It’s hard, though — since my book was published by a small press, all my touring is out of pocket, so I’m limited to places where I have couches to sleep on. If anyone has a couch they want to open up to me, I’ll try to come to their city!
What other projects are you working on these days?
In a great stroke of divine luck, I was laid off from my dotcom job the week before the book came out, so I’ve been able to focus on not only my book, but all my other beloved side projects, like the Salon of Shame (a bimonthly diary-reading event), Mr. Bento Porn (a photo community of lunch obsessives), and my own freelancing and consulting. I recently set up shop as a social media consultant, too … I’ve been helping some of my fellow authors wrap their heads around using Web 2.0 social media like blogs and flickr and myspace to get the word out about their books. It’s been fun!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think I’m almost more excited about offbeatbride.com than I am about Offbeat Bride. The book was fun, but it’s essentially a monologue — me going on for 220 pages while the reader just sits and listens. I love that the site is more of a dialog, what with the photo galleries and comments and advice column. I’m such a web geek, and while I’m super excited to be an author, I’ll always be a blogger at heart.
I just got to spend some time making stuff with my five-and-a-half-year-old nephew Julian, and wow! is he ever crafty! He loves drawing, making books, collaging, and (be still my heart) making his own jewelry. Right now he does his own beadstringing, and for the more complicated pieces, like this good-luck charm we made, we collaborate: he designs, I wire-wrap (aka “do the trick”). I’m sure soon he’ll be the one showing me how to do stuff soon, though!
If you’re looking for fun kid-friendly craft ideas, there are tons of projects, tutorials, and materials online. Here are a few of my favorites — I’ll be updating with lots more links this month, so please comment or e-mail me (susanstars at yahoo dot com) with your picks!
Kiddley, created and run by Claire Robertson, has tons of projects and ideas for kids to try. Check out the arts and crafts category for fun how-tos like multi-colored crayon cookies, bird finger puppets, and snowglobes. Meanwhile, the sister Kiddley Links site spotlights cool toys, kits and games.
One Hour Craft has some lovely ideas for kid-friendly projects, like paper dolls from momomimi, tiny polymer clay “food”, soaps, and button flowers. And don’t miss Maria’s recent How to Teach a Child to Sew tutorial.
StarWars.com has a huge craft project archive, featuring tutorials for SW-related projects like Envelopes from the Dark Side, Revenge of the Sith Poetry Magnets, a Chewie Tissue Box Cozy, and my favorite: Make This Yoda Doll, You Must.
•Sarah blogs about all the fun craft projects she does with her three-year-old son (a lover of buttons!) at The Misadventures of Mama and Jack.
Offline Resources to Check Out
•Our very own Super Crafty has more than a dozen kid-friendly projects, like Tattoo-Flash Patches and a Sparkling Magic Wand. Don’t forget to check out the Shrink-O-Rama chapter, which is full of fun and easy shrink art how-tos!
•One of my favorite craft books is the Make and Do volume of the Childcraft encyclopedia — I have the groovy 1976 edition, including how-tos for molding a clay head, braiding a belt, sewing doll clothes or creating your own Halloween costumes.
I keep seeing all these great handmade tutorials all over the place for making everything from cards and holiday decorations to presents for everyone on your list… so I’ve put together links to a bunch of free online how-to projects for you to check out, if you haven’t already spotted them. Happy DIYing!
*now updated with new projects at the top of the sections, with more to come!
The CRAFT blog has cool new tutorials for making paper stars, a video for stylishly wrapping presents with fabric, DIY gift tags, and fun-fur mini tabletop trees. And One Hour Craft is offering a gold star for the top of your Christmas tree how-to.
Crafty Chica created a new collage wrapping paper project that’s super-customizable! Kiddley has a ton of cool kid-friendly decorations to make: a gumdrop wreath, paper garlands, Christmas pinatas, a pom-pom garland, and a paper doll/ornament.
Natalie has posted some amazing new projects over at the CRAFT blog — a Santa peanut ornament, stenciled holiday cards, crocheted snowflakes, photo ornaments, Star Wars holiday collage cards, and a MAKE magazine podcast on making woodcut cards… wow!
Alicia of Posie Gets Cozy wrote up a beautifully photographed tutorial on making your own Santa Lucia dolls this week. And Cake + Pie has a very cute stockings how-to, including the finishing touches.
Hillary Lang has posted a Wee Wonderfuls Stitchette elf pattern on her site… so adorable. She’s also shown how to make adorable ornaments and decorations using cotton balls, of all things!
Kathy Cano Murillo, AKA Crafty Chica, has a gorgeous round-up of past holiday projects on her blog — everything from mini mirror garlands to glittered cards, ornaments, and boxes to make your holidays sparkle!
CRAFT magazine’s site has a projects page with free downloadable how-tos and patterns — the bird stencils would look great on cards or windows! You can even get their new patterns automatically delivered podcast-style via iTunes. Plus, the holiday projects section of their amazing blog has all kinds of ornament how-tos — I love the Star Wars dreidel and ornament especially!
And Sunset magazine has put together a lovely mix of articles on making wreaths and garlands, easy ornaments (I love the photo ones in particular), mod paper ornaments, centerpieces and table toppers, creating your own gift wrap, and making a modern menorah and advent calendar. Sunset is one of my favorite magazines — it’s very crafty!
One Hour Craft has a tutorial for making a quick, adjustable bracelet, and Vickie Howell added a new holiday-themed knitting needles roll to her site this week. And Christina Loff wrote up a great snow globes how-to using miniature figurines and baby-food jars.
Cutting Edge is offering a pattern for a fleece pocket scarf, appliqued with snowflakes. And Laural of thimble.ca has an inspiring project index, offering tutorials on some of her cutest projects, from a zippered pouch to a super-simple belt. Check out her recipes, too!
Sunset also has recipes up for cocoa in a jar — classic, Mexican, peppermint and mocha. Don’t miss their Gifts from the Kitchen section — spices, liqueurs, and delicious things to bake. And then there’s a fun soaps projects to make, too.
Check out the Craftster winter holidays forum for lots of ideas, too. And of course there are inspiring how-tos all over the boards — check out this row-counter bracelet tutorial by skutterat — the perfect gift for all the hard-core knitters in your life!
Speaking of knitting, why not try making Aunt Purl’s Easy Knitted Felted Bracelet Bag? It takes less than two hours, start to finish! Ansley of Bleu Arts has posted a Rolled Brim Boyfriend Hat pattern too, as well as a great lip balm tutorial. If you want to whip up some bath salts or salt scrub to go with it for a whole bath and beauty package, I just posted an easy tutorial for making two kinds — coffee-cinnamon and green tea-ginger.
One of my favorite sites for inspiration, CraftyPod, has amazing podcasts and projects, including plenty sorted by type: check out all the Holiday Crafts, Bead Crafts, and Paper Crafts Sister Diane has put together.
The wonderfully redesigned not martha site has a great things to make section, including projects like wineglass charms and party crackers. And for the sewers on your list, how about a darling little wrist pincushion from My Little Mochi?
Maria Binns’s One Hour Craft has an incredible array of quick projects to make — look through the categories (like the All Time Favourites and Great as Presents sections) for projects like Kanzashi cloth flowers and customized stamps.
I just added a few gift wrapping 101 ideas for recycled present packaging.
Adorn has some pretty handmade projects up from their print issues, too — crochet some little flowers or make some paper-covered boxes… perfect to add to your handmade gifts. Also, be sure to take a spin around Nice Package on flickr for tons of inventive ideas on wrapping and packaging all your presents this year.
I would love to update with more ideas so please e-mail me (susanstars at yahoo dot com) or comment and I’ll add your suggestions… happy handmade holidays!
As the nights get longer and the days get colder, a whole new round of crafty books are popping up — just in time for you to start thinking about all the cool holiday gifts you might want to concoct… or the cozy scarves you want to piece together… or the trash you’re ready to turn into treasure. Here are five of the best new books around, covering everything from stitching and wire-wrapping to repurposing secondhand debris into all kinds of stylishness.
I had a chance to ask all the writers about the process of creating such cool books, and their favorite projects — thanks so much to Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado, Hope Meng, Jenny Hart, Tsia Carson, Amy Butler, and Lindsay Cain.
Sew Subversive, by Melissa Rannels, Melissa Alvarado, and Hope Meng
This sewing book from the owners of San Francisco’s Stitch Lounge is perfect for the DIY fashionista-in-training, covering everything from which side of the fabric faces out (the party side, naturally — the business side hides all your boring seams and hems) to how to set up your sewing space and troubleshoot your stubborn tension issues. The emphasis here is on restyling your boring or too-big clothes into something super-personalized and cool, with plenty of advice and fun suggestions along the way, and lots of illustrations and photos to keep it easy.
Melissa, Melissa and Hope say: Our book is really a manifestation of what we’ve done with our business, Stitch Lounge: we teach curious creatives how to make their own fashion using some basic sewing techniques. When writing the book, we drew from actual experiences we had while learning, or that we’ve observed in our students. For instance, we see a lot of students get stuck when trying to remember how to load the bobbin into the sewing machine; we include a well-illustrated section in our book on the right way to do that. We also framed the lessons around real-life experiences like getting to work and having a button pop off! We work through the whole scenario from locking the bathroom stall to using a safety pin as a spacer to make sure you can get the button closed again. The language not only tells a story that readers can relate to, but it teaches the reader a useful skill as well.
Their favorite project: Not to sound too much like our moms, but we love all the projects for different reasons! For simplicity/ease, we love the leg warmer and tie wrist cuff projects. At Stitch Lounge, we have seen many potential new DIYers/seamsters completely intimidated by all the knobs and buttons and fancy sewing terms involved in traditional sewing. These two projects are ultra-easy yet ultra-fashionable ways of getting your feet wet in the vast world of clothing/accessory construction. For creativity, we love the pillowcase dress. We heart vintage prints and fabrics, and this project is a great way to incorporate a vintage look for less. Finally, for reuse, we love the sweater scarf project. It’s a great way to reinvent those old sweaters sitting unworn in the back of your closet!
My favorite project: I love the Cut It Out! shirt with asymmetrical stylized topstitched leaves–a nice update to a plain old t-shirt incorporating plenty of cool negative space.
Craftivity, by Tsia Carson
Tsia Carson, founding editor of Supernaturale.com, has gathered an array of 40 projects from contributors of all stripes. When I say array, I certainly mean it: they range from hand-knitting a hammock to creating graffiti using woodland moss as a medium, with plenty of other intriguing alt-housewares, accessories, and gifts along the way. The book is also unsurprisingly gorgeous in look and feel, reflecting Tsia’s background as a designer and maker extraordinaire.
Tsia says: There was so much madness in putting together this book because of all the contributors involved — some quite far flung. And I guess I am so proud that the book is so close to the original vision of a large multi-craft look at alt-DIY — rather than a single craft book. My favorite memories are that we had a series of craft-ons where many of these projects were tested and made for the book. The NY chapter of the Church of Craft came out in full effect along with many of the book contributors. We spent warm early fall days last year in the backyard eating and hanging out and making stuff. There are some nice photos in the back of the book of this.
Her favorite project: Gosh, there are so many projects I love in this book. It is so hard to choose! There are a few I am feeling currently because of the cooler fall weather. One of my favorites is the moth embroidered sweater by Jennifer Kabat. In this project you take a beloved sweater eaten by pesky moths and embroider the holes with a buttonhole stitch in a contrasting thread, thereby stablizing the hole and making a beautiful pattern across the sweater. But then I love Scott Bodenner’s Chandy which is on the cover, Lana Le’s Pom Pom rug and Jenny Hart’s embroidered screen door… There are also many “showcases” through out the book which just show some genius project that you might not want to do yourself. These are all jaw-droppers, and two of my favorites are Jesse Alexander’s ocean marbelized paper and Madelon Galland’s upholstered tree stumps… but I could go on and on and on.
My favorite project: I especially like Annette Kesterson’s sleek Button Cuff, which she aptly describes as “simple and wholesome but also elegant.”
Sublime Stitching, by Jenny Hart
Sublime Stitcher Jenny Hart has put together hundreds of new embroidery patterns in this charming book, and extra-nice touches like a lie-flat spiral binding and neat little inside-cover pockets for your patterns are the icing on the cupcake. Jenny demystifies the techniques and stitches of embroidery with humor and energy, while the inspiring photographs of her work give you all kinds of ideas for getting started — stitching guitars on ties? Well, why not?
Jenny says: This book was basically an answer to the demand for more, more, MORE! People wanted more patterns. And since the Stitch-It Kit has been such a huge success, we decided to make this a companion book to that- expanding the instructions, doing all new projects and of course, new patterns! There are over 90, so I hope that will hold people for a while. I had to figure out how many designs I’d have to create a day to meet the deadline (three a day).
I love working on the projects and combining the designs in such a way that is meant to inspire the reader. They are free to use the patterns just as they are, but I designed them really to be a starting point for their own creativity. I had fun stitching up the bag in the front of the book, with the Scottie dogs. I combined a cross-stitch with a hidden stitch along the top edge in black and white, which is so simple, but not usually done. I hope the reader will notice details like that and see the possibilities.
Her favorite project: I think my favorite is the baby blanket that says “Shhhh.” The patterns in this book are a little more traditional offerings, but I like that even in that realm you can do something very sweet and unexpected. I’ve never seen a baby blanket that reads “Shhhh” and it seemed like the perfect message to put in embroidery on the edge of the blanket, right under their little nose.
My favorite project: I just adore the pillowcases and sheet set that Jenny embellished with a mix of colorful hanging lanterns — that’s first on my list!
In Stitches, by Amy Butler
Amy Butler, renowned fabric and pattern designer, has created a new collection of “simple and stylish sewing projects” for the home in this beautiful spiral-bound hardback, including both everyday necessities like a CD holder and desktop organizer created out of coordinating fabrics and little luxuries like a comfortable-chic kimono. Paper patterns for many of the projects are tucked into a neat folder at the front of the book. Her Midwest Modern aesthetic flourishes throughout, and the results are equally inviting and inspiring.
Amy says:The feel of the book is very consistent with how I approach my sewing patterns and when it came to finalizing the content, it was natural for me to organize the projects by lifestyle, living spaces and personal style. It took me seven months to produce In Stitches with the help of some very talented seamstresses in my community. We had an elaborate writing/testing/editing process to get down to the final 25-plus projects. Some of the projects were doozies to test like the Decorative Patchwork Throw, just the measuring, and re-measuring to make sure all of my increments were correct took a great deal of extra time, but well worth the effort! It usually takes me 3-4 months to complete one pattern so to work through 25 projects so quickly sort of revolutionized my pattern development process. I learned so much, it was incredibly rewarding to turn in the final manuscript! I’m so proud of all the work everyone did to contribute to the end results.
One of my favorite qualities of the book is the range of projects, from simple to a bit more complex. The idea to have ” something for everyone ” at every level of sewing was important to me, and the ” voice” or instruction approach had to be easy to follow. I’ve had a lot of nice comments from folks who have purchased In Stitches but don’t sew yet! I can’t think of a better compliment.
Her favorite project: I love my Wide Leg Lounge Pants project because the pants are very simple to make, easy to customize and they transition easily from the couch to a dinner party! I have very long legs (I’m 6 feet tall) so being able to make my lounge pants as long as I need to is an extra bonus. The shape of the legs is dramatic and they make me feel quite elegant when I wear them. I also think they make the perfect gift! They make up beautifully in quilting fabrics or flannel.
My favorite project: I think the Big Dot Pillow is just the thing for my living room!
Get Your Sparkle On, by Lindsay Cain
This stylicious jewelry-making primer from the owner of the Femmegems boutiques offers 25 shiny designs for bohemians, party girls, brides, beach babes and rock stars alike. The common thread here is an easy and accessible, but high-fashion, feel, and the book is filled with light-hearted extras like “Great Moments in Bling” and a list of “Rock Songs” (like “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” and “Ruby Tuesday”) — call up your girlfriends up and plan a ladies’ night in to string your beads with one hand while pouring the next round of margaritas with the other.
Lindsay says: The book was really driven by the lack of a book like it in its category. No one had broken the mold of a conventional how-to jewelry manual and given it a spirited fashion slant. We included editor interviews, peeks inside real women’s jewelry boxes, flea market makeovers, etc. in order to do this and break up the monotony of the expected project-project-project lay out. The “gemstyles” (Park Avenue, Rock Star, Bohemian…) as an organizational approach to the book is what I think makes it such a fun read too, even for someone with no intention of making jewelry! The pop-quiz and timeline are both very humorous – I’ve gotten a lot of positive response to both of them.
Her favorite project: I love the Tassel Earrings project because it takes a decorative household item which is playful and beautiful but transforms so easily into a feisty pair of earrings. It could be great for an over-the-top New Year’s event, or preppy-chic with the simplest outfit and loafers. Either way they are sure to get noticed.
My favorite project: I was instantly drawn to the Chain, Chain, Chain Earrings — they’re a cascading mix of faceted beads in smooth, pretty colors.
What’s not to love about a magazine that shows you how to knit your own boots and crochet your own robot? Oh, and design your own custom-animated LED shirt, and create your own paint-by-numbers masterpiece while you’re at it! The brand-new CRAFT quarterly includes a broad sweep of super cool DIY projects and features, plus insightful columns like Jean Railla‘s Modern Crafting and Susie Bright‘s Home Ec. I got to talk to associate editor and craft-tech-style superstar Natalie Zee about the sparkling new Vol. 01 and beyond.
What’s your art and craft background, Natalie?
I started crafting as a kid, mainly sewing and knitting, which I learned from my mom. Since
my parents both worked, after school I’d go to the Girls Club and I took a machine sewing class and learned most of the basics that I still use today. I was probably about 10 when I made this series of puffy pillows of all the letters in my name. I was so frustrated because I had the longest name and had to sew 7 pillows, while the gal named Lisa made her pillows super fast. I also used to make and sew Barbie clothes out of my mom’s old dresses. I still sew, but these days my main love is knitting, and I have about 5 or 6 knitting projects going on right now. I also do needlepoint and embroidery. Pretty much all crafts interest me and I love learning new things.
What are some of the solo projects you’ve worked on as a designer or writer?
I started my own personal blog last summer called Coquette. It’s really a labor of love and merges all the things I’m into: mostly fashion, technology, and crafts. I love how these groups are now intersecting. It’s been fun because through my blog, I’ve met so many new and interesting women who are blogging, and it’s exciting to see this new blogging world emerge.
How did you get into magazine work?
My background is in interactive design and technology. I’ve written 4 books, 3 of them web design focused. O’Reilly, who publishes both CRAFT and MAKE magazines, also publishes web design titles and they’re famous for their technology/programming books. It’s a natural fit for my background to incorporate crafts, design/technology, and writing. In addition to writing for the magazine and CRAFT blog, I also design and help maintain the websites makezine.com and craftzine.com.
What are you most excited about in the first issue of CRAFT?
Can I say EVERYTHING? I think for all of us, it’s fun to finally see all the work we’ve done this year finally in print. It’s been such a team effort. What’s great about now is that we’ve got all the initial ramp-up stuff done, such as the magazine branding, layout, and website design so now we can really concentrate on finding great content to share. It’s really all about sharing in our crafts community.
Who are some of your favorite craft artists or sites?
I feel lucky in this job because I get to meet such amazing crafters all the time. It’s hard to have favorites, really, but the ones I adore have helped define this new kind of craft movement. I have admired these ladies for so long before I even started working in this field and crafters like Jenny Hart, Jill Bliss, Leah Kramer, Alicia Paulson, and Megan of Not Martha have been so helpful to me now that I’m a part of it!
Who or what inspires you most?
I love vintage and my favorite eras are the ’30s/’40s and ’50s/’60s. Vintage fabrics, books, magazines, cards — I love them all. I’m probably the biggest magazine addict. I absolutely love Japanese craft books and all things Japan. I told Carla (CRAFT’s Editor-in-Chief) that if I went to Japan I’d probably explode because of all the crafts, fashion, and technology — all in one place. I’m also really inspired by my grandmother, who was a fashion designer in Shanghai in the 1930s and my dad, who is an amazing artist and cartoonist. Even though we live in the same city, he sends me all kinds of funny cartoons he draws.
What’s next for you and CRAFT?
We are excited now because CRAFT is almost out on the newsstands, and this fall, we’ll be spreading the word about the new magazine. We will be at a bunch of craft fairs, such as Bazaar Bizarre, Felt Club, the SF Craft Mafia Holiday Sale, and more. Check craftzine.com for more up-to-date info. We also just started work on our next issue, Vol. 02, which is called “Creative Copies.” And for me personally, I’m getting married in a week! So a lot is going on!
How can people subscribe or find the magazine?
It’s very easy. You can subscribe to CRAFT by going to craftzine.com and clicking “subscribe” in the top navigation. Vol. 01 is even available on Amazon.com now! CRAFT will also be on newsstands on Oct 17th. Some places you can find it include your local Borders or Barnes and Nobles, select Michaels craft stores, and JoAnn Fabrics.
Susan Beal is really excited that she’s writing for CRAFT’s issues 02 and 03!
New Embroidery: Not Your Grandma’s Doily, a show of unconventional and modern feminist needlework, opens at Contemporary Crafts Museum in Portland, Oregon on September 22. Twenty-one artists will exhibit their work, and one community-created piece will be spotlighted in the North Window: Stitch-O-Rama, a vintage tablecloth that’s made the rounds at crafty events all summer long, giving dozens of Portlanders a chance to embroider and embellish it with their own designs. I got a chance to talk to Namita Gupta Wiggers, one of the curators of the show, Jenny Hart, one of the featured artists, and Jen Neitzel of DIY Lounge, who’s teaching embroidery and handcraft workshops all fall to celebrate the exhibit.
the tablecloth at Crafty Wonderland in July
Tell me about the tablecloth and its journey around the city!
Jen Neitzel: DIY Lounge and many other organizations like Crafty Wonderland, Church of Craft and PNCA have all hosted an embroidery session, where people from the community were invited to embroider on a tablecloth, which moved around town to various locations.
Diane Gilleland of Church of Craft embroidering a sugar bowl
Namita Gupta Wiggers: Some marvelous things happened along the way. Unfinished pieces in one session became transformed in others – such as a half-embroidered lobster that was put into a pot by another stitcher.
At Art in the Pearl, we had an entire table full of elementary-school boys stitching on the tablecloth. At other places, the cloth had people from a range of generations and experiences working, creating the kind of exchange of ideas and experience we hoped would happen.
I also took the tablecloth camping with my family. We spend a week each year camping with 70-plus families who have all adopted through Holt International. During this year’s campout, I set up the tablecloth and people spent several hours each day stitching on the cloth. The conversations that arose were fantastic, and so many teenage boys and girls stopped to try their hand at embroidering.
Importantly, we asked our needleworkers to sign a book that will be on view in the museum. Recognizing all participants who chose to sign the book was a critical element of the work, as some feminist works from past decades do not acknowledge those who helped create the finished piece.
New Embroidery: Not Your Grandma’s Doily
How did the idea to create an embroidery show that references feminism and the new domesticity come about?
Namita: Manya Shapiro and Annin Barrett started the project just over two years ago after noticing an increase in the use of vintage and found linens in artwork shown in galleries. The imagery used by these younger artists is humorous, ironic – even subversive.
Associations with feminism are inevitable given that the materials being used are domestic textiles. But the fascinating thing about this exhibition, however, is how few of the artists feel engaged by feminism. In interviews, many acknowledged that the struggles of feminism and of women who were limited in means of visual expression in past decades is important, but the links to this past are not necessarily what is driving the concept behind the work. It is clear that artists working today are in a different place–professionally as artists, and culturally as women. This exhibition brings it out through a handcraft that links the past and present, art and craft.
The artists see feminism as something that opened doors, but the use of embroidery as a media is driven more by how it executes their concepts and ideas than a political statement in using these materials or this media.
What do you find exciting about this genre of modern craft?
Namita: This is a way for us to tell the story of how utilitarian textiles are being redefined through the hands of artists today. It shows a shift in imagery. The most recent work has a good deal of figurative imagery– but the figures are composed with heavy outlines that come more from appropriated styles and imagery from comics, scientific manuals and book illustrations than from “high art.”
Another critical angle to consider is the way in which utilitarian objects change meaning and value over time. Some artists specifically choose objects that are laden with nostalgia – family heirlooms, for example. These materials are handled quite differently than those found in thrift stores or the artists’ own closets, which are fragments or leftovers that have little to no value for use, but can be used as materials for art making.
The objects that are the “raw” materials in this exhibition were once embellished by anonymous women who used the materials to convey a particular self-image. Today, artists are using the same embroidered materials to convey a very different self-image, where humor prevails, women sport urban accessories, or the experiences of being a young boy are explored through the same medium.
How does embroidery link traditional handcraft to modern feminism and the new domesticity? Can you describe your piece specifically??
Jenny Hart: I think traditional handcrafts are being linked to modern feminism because feminist movement of the 60′s had to necessarily distance itself from those types of activities, which, creative as they may be, were viewed as domestic activities. Our generation (third-wave feminists) found itself in a place where these activities have now been absent for so long, we can re-embrace them and celebrate them.
My piece (“This Work Never Ends”) was never really meant for exhibition. I made it for myself and it hung on the back of the armchair that I sit in when embroidering. It was a little piece about how I felt about the stresses of my life, and also the enduring quality of embroidery. That it will go on forever, and so will my desire to create it.
What is DIY Lounge doing in conjunction with the show?
Jen Neitzel: DIY Lounge is collaborating with CCMG by offering embroidery lessons as part of the larger installation. Heidi Steeves and I will be teaching embroidery on vintage napkins and fabric scraps as a means to make the art exhibit interactive and involve the community. More information on workshops is here.
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Susan Beal loves embroidery and the Contemporary Crafts Museum–she married Andrew Dickson there in the Church of Craft last year! Here is the little cupcake she contributed to the Stitch-O-Rama tablecloth (at lightning speed, while vending at Crafty Wonderland):
Faythe Levine and Micaela O’Herlihy are filming crafters at fairs, shows, and events coast to coast for their Indie Craft Documentary project. I crossed paths with them when I was selling at Renegade Craft Fair Brooklyn with PDX Super Crafty and got to do a quick interview about our book and everything else we’ve been up to lately.
Faythe was kind enough to return the favor and let me interview her recently, and here’s what she had to say about her film and the state of the craft in 2006!
What’s your art, craft and film background, Faythe?
Some of my projects are:
I am also a fine artist working predominantly with felt and sequins in many shapes and forms as well as doing mixed-media painting and collage on found smashed cans.
What gave you the idea to document the indie craft community on film? Have you and Micaela worked together before?
While traveling around the country selling my goods under Flying Fish Design I became overwhelmed with the extent of the craft community nationally. Of course, a lot of the community is on-line and I found there there was a lack of off-line documentation. My motivations is stemmed from the same roots of why I opened my boutique and gallery and started Art vs. Craft, there are these feelings of admiration and inspiration for the people who are creating this huge out-flow of work while supporting people. It really comes down to community and people–there is so much out there that is “mega” and “mass” and any glimpse of true people-to-people creative interaction to me is a glimmer of hope that we can make this world livable. Whoa, that was a little out there, but seriously, I am motivated by the people who are doing things that I find healthy and inspiring.
I also had made invaluable connections with many many show organizers, designers and artists which has allowed me to easily contact the folks I am interested in interviewing.
The more I began to think about the craft community and art and design, the more I found the lines blurring between them all. Another interesting point is that the community is mostly women, and there are very few art movements that I know of that are made up of a majority of women–I think that is incredible.
Micaela and I are what I would call “creative collaborators.” This is actually our first project working together, although at my previous gallery (Flying Fish Gallery–pre-Flying Fish Design) we did a show of her paintings. We are working on another film this summer that is an experimental film shot on 16mm all underwater called “The Snorkeler.” I am helping produce and doing some prop work. We do have future plans and projects too.
Where/who have you filmed so far?
Atlanta, GA: we shot at the Indie Craft Experience, Young Blood Gallery and Boutique, Beehive Collective. We also got to interview Garth from extreemcraft.com.
New York/Brooklyn: Renegade Craft Fair, Cog & Pearl, Sodafine, interviewed the ladies who edit Adorn Magazine, interviewed Dennis Stevens of redefiningcraft.com.
Milwaukee, WI:. We shot at my show Art vs. Craft, and we will also be doing interviews with the ladies of fasten clothing co-op.
Minneapolis/St. Paul: We shot at the Craftstravaganza.
Chicago: We shot at Depart-ment.
Check out the blog for more details and pictures.
What are your future travel/film plans for the movie?
We will be traveling to San Francisco, LA, Austin, Seattle, Portland and perhaps a few more cities.
What do you think is exciting about the indie craft community?
I probably hit on some of this previously but I can not stress enough how important I think it is to have a supportive art community that is approachable and accessible, and I think that the Indie Craft Community is both of these things.
I love seeing the work that flows out of people’s minds and I love the friends I’ve made.
What do you think will happen next, or in the future, with indie crafting?
This is a very pensive and sensitive topic that is very important at this point in the community. Mainstream marking has already co opted the visual aspect of handmade and now major corporations are moving in on the indie craft fairs. I hope that people stand firm and keep moving forward with the ethics that started it all– supporting independent artists, doing it yourself and not allowing mega corporations to take our community over. With that said, I understand the need to make a living and having the opportunity of the exposure that a large company offers can be very tempting. I am not sure where the community is going or if it can continue in the shape and form it has taken over the past few years–all I know is that I am thankful that I got to experience it first hand and I am working on giving back all that I got from it while working on this film.
How can people find out more info, or support the project?
First off, I would like to mention that at this point in production we are totally self-financing the film. So every amount of help makes a huge huge difference and adds up quickly to our growing costs (mostly travel expenses).
There are a number of ways folks can support the project. People can donate handmade items to our etsy shop (details under “support” on our site) or buy items from our etsy shop– there are also pins, totes and t-shirts there!!
Check out these sites for more info:
We are also taking cash donations via paypal at email@example.com or you can make a check out to Faythe Levine and send it to indie craft documentary, P.O. Box 134, Milwaukee, WI 53201-0134.
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Susan Beal loves movies, crafting, and especially movies about crafting!
Summer is the perfect time of year to throw a crafty party! Invite a few friends to bring their projects-in-progress over to your backyard (or meet at a neighborhood park), and serve something cool and delicious, picnic-style.
Here are a few of my favorite drink recipes and some suggestions for cool summer-friendly stuff to make. Just don’t forget the sunscreen…
photo by Charity of Pancakes and Noodles
lavender lemonade–two ways!
I love this lemonade–it’s so summery and delicious, and such a pretty color. You can also make it with limes instead of lemons, and make it sweeter or tangier to taste. Version #1 is homemade from scratch, version #2 is a quick way to doctor up the store-bought stuff.
1-make it from scratch
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar (or to taste)
12-16 stalks of fresh lavender, with blossoms
2 cups of lemon juice
1. Bring the sugar and 3 cups of the water to a boil, stirring until all the sugar dissolves. Add the lavender and let it simmer for a few minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and cover it. Let it sit for a few hours until it’s cool, then strain out the lavender stalks. (You can do this step ahead of time and set it aside in the refrigerator.)
2. When you’re ready to serve the lemonade, add the rest of the water and the lemon juice. Mix it well and serve in a pitcher with plenty of ice.
2-doctor store-bought lemonade
1 cup water
a little sugar (to taste)
24 lavender stalks with blossoms
1 gallon lemonade
a little fresh lemon juice
1. Bring a cup of water with a little sugar in it to a boil. Add the lavender, stirring so that all the blooms are submerged. Let it simmer for a few minutes and then take it off the heat and cover it. Set it aside until it cools. Strain out the lavender stalks.
2. Mix the lavender-syrup (and a little fresh lemon juice, if you have any) into the lemonade, stirring well. Serve it in a pitcher with plenty of ice.
All you’ll need is chilled champagne and pineapple juice!
Fill each glass about 2/3 full with champagne. Add pineapple juice to taste.
Or make it as a punch: pour a bottle of champagne into a large bowl, add pineapple juice to your liking, and garnish with fresh or frozen berries. Another lovely addition is a little pomegranate juice—it gives gorgeous color, too.
Skip the hot, heavy, wintery stuff and try something portable. Instead of stirring hot melt-and-pour soap or lip balms on the stove, how about mixing up
Instead of plugging away at the gorgeous (but thick and woolly) sweater you started months ago, how about trying…
•crocheting your own sandals? (note: the third icon on the page offers a free PDF download of the pattern)
And instead of dragging out your trusty sewing machine, try these lightweight stitching projects—everything you’ll need fits in a tote bag or purse!
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Susan Beal loves summer as long as she has plenty of SPF 30 on hand.