Archive for 2009

Project #266 – Dinosaur Family

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

This set of cake toppers was a disaster from the beginning. From the benign Barney the Dinosaur looks of my supposedly vicious T-Rex, to the total collapse of my Brontosaurs (which doesn’t even exist anymore), this was a failure of design.

I spent so long mix, mix, mixing the special sparkly color, that it’s a little disappointing that these are destined for disposal. I don’t know what to do with them, on the one hand it’s hard to toss anything with that much time and energy behind it. But on the other hand, what can you do with a dinosaur with a broken neck?

I’ll use the T-Rex as a package embellishment for Christmas, but the other one will just have to serve as a lesson in hubris. Oh, and a lesson learned that long necks need structural integrity.

Project #265 – Hourglass Jumper

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

I love reissued retro patterns. There is something about mid-20th century clothes that is so hard to find these days. Maybe it’s the solidness and shape of the clothes. It’s hard to replicate that using today’s construction technique and fabric-buying short cuts. There are a lot of darts and a lot of yardage in this dress and I just can’t image anyone taking the time.

Still, it’s a little like wearing armor. Wearing this kind of dress makes me want stand up and take charge of something. No one can push me around in a massive, tailored dress like this.

Project #264 – Fake Cake Tier

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

I’m trying to improve my presentation in my Etsy store, so I decided to redo some of the pictures of my cake toppers in order to make them look more cake topperish. They are already a little unconventional, so anything to put them in context would be a service.

My solution was to make it look like they are sitting on an actual cake. Real cake would just get old and get frosting all over them. Plus, I hate the idea of making a cake I can’t eat. So, instead I made a reusable fake cake, one that would last and showcase my wares in the best way.

I merely took a paper-mache box from the craft store, painted it white, and covered the top with a carefully blended mix of white and transparent polymer clay, a mix that would look just like fondant. The oven temperature needed to set the clay is much less than what would burn paper, so I was able to bake the whole thing without much trouble.

I am now ready for some commerce!

Project #263 – Genji Costume for Mary

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

My chicken Mary is special. Well, not “special”, but extraordinary. She’s not as big as her sisters and her feathers are a little more red than what is usual for a Rhode Island Red, but she also has a unique ability to tolerate having her picture taken. While Catherine and Elanor will peck and squawk when compelled to stay still, Mary takes it all in stride. Catherine and Elanor will walk immediately out of view range of my cacmera, but after being put back in place once or twice Mary will just stay and wait until you are done. She’s behaved this way ever since we adopted her as a wee chick.

I decided to press my luck today to see what we could accomplish with Mary’s unusual amount of patience. I decided to enter her in the New Yorker’s Critterati Contest, a competition to see whose pet makes the most convincing literary figure.

I swear that I’ve never dressed up a pet before; I’ve always felt bad for dogs in sweaters. Mary has never worn a hat before, at least not a real one. I don’t know, I felt…compelled to see if I could pull this off.

I decided to make a chicken-sized Genji Monogatari costume. There would only be two pieces needed to set the character and both were relatively easy to make. The hat took a few minutes to fashion out of felt and a rubber band. The robes were a cinch to make out of scrap fabric. The question would be whether they would fit and whether Mary would tolerate wearing them without freaking out.

I waited until nightfall; Mary is a lot more comfortable being handled after dark. Saralinda was on hand to assist and hold up the background. After some initial resistance, Mary acquiesced to wearing the costume.

She really knocked it out of the park. In fact, she did so well that I was kind of freaked out that she could stand still for that 5+ minutes while wearing something completely foreign to her. I took lots of shots while my friend Saralinda held a posterboard behind her.

We took a video just to show how still and regal she was. That, and to prove that we didn’t just Photoshop a hat onto a picture of a chicken. I ended up really apologetic because her stillness was just so eerie.

Of course, she was happy to toss off the costume herself the second we stopped taking pictures. She was compensated handsomely in the end.

*UPDATE* Mary was one of the winners chosen by the judges! Yay for Mary!

Project #262- Anti-Cold Corduroy Skirt

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

It’s time for another Make-A-Skirt Thursday! The weather has been turning chilly, so I’m switching to warmer fabrics, namely corduroy. It’s one of my favorite fabrics to work with. Despite its ability to keep out the winter chill, it’s also breathable and wearable in summer heat.

There are two things I love when it comes to skirts: A-line silhouettes and pockets. Simplicity 3754 has both, but the pleats under the pockets are a bit much for what I want, and I already have two skirts with that detail. So, I took the slim skirt and flared it out into the shape I had in mind.

I also plan to wear this skirt in conservative Egypt, so I lengthened the hemline a little. I edged the pockets in navy blue twill to give it a little character.


The back came together really well. The pointed yoke has been a pain in the past, but this is my third time with this pattern and I managed to get it right on the first try.

I put this skirt on as soon as I finished. It’s been cold in the house during the day, but we can save money on heat if I dress warmly. I think this skirt will probably pay for itself a few times over in gas bill savings.

Project #261 – Fall Leaf Paintings

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I fully recognize that I’m not talented when it comes to drawing and painting. I spend a lot of time doing both because I enjoy them, but I usually end up drawing cartoons because I’m terrible at drawing things from real life.

Still, I’ve learned some shortcuts so that I can make nice things without getting mad at myself for my inability to translate real things to paper. My favorite technique for making me look like I have more talent than I actually do is to make watercolor leaf paintings.

The sneaky trick is to find a bunch of really pretty fall leaves and then trace them. Once that’s done it’s really easy to draw in the network of veins and suddenly I have a decent drawing from nature.

I usually draw on in plain white index cards. They’re the perfect size to give away as thank you cards and the limited size keeps this project short and sweet.

Next I put down an initial wash of color. It’s okay to color outside of the lines because it’s nature and nature is messy. For real, yo!

Next, but on a second coat of contrasting fall color. It will look weird at first, but through the magic of watercolors the washes will blend and dry in a way similar to leaf coloring.

Put on subsequent washes of color over smaller and smaller areas to give the leaf depth. With practice it’s easy to do a bunch at a time and spend less than ten minutes on each.

Project #260 – Canned Effin’ Peaches

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Deadwood is my favorite show of all time. I think I’ve seen each foul-mouthed episode at least five times over. While Deadwood was never a place known fine cuisine, but it did have its moments. For example, Al Swearengen’s take on hospitality whenever hosting a meeting of the important men of the camp. “Open the f***ing canned peaches!”

Now that the domestic peach crop is coming to a close for the year it’s time for me to make my own f***ing canned peaches in the true old-timey tradition.

So, my mother was one of 18 children, and I feel like a lot of information that was held by my grandparent’s generation didn’t have a chance to get passed to the people in my mother’s generation, and, in turn, didn’t make it to my generation. I don’t blame anyone for that, and I feel lucky that my grandmother’s intense sewing skills made it down to me, but I still wonder how much information was lost because my grandparents were so busy raising baby after baby that there was no time to teach the older ones the kind of skills that go from parent to child.

In summary, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve never canned anything before, and I’ve never even seen anyone can anything. Luckily, I have the internet to make up for this gap in domestic knowledge. I have resources to learn this new skill and hopefully I’ll have the wherewithal to pass it on to the people will come after me. Still, mistakes will be made, lots of them.

Ingredients:

    Ripe Peaches (more than four, as I found out)

  • 1 part sugar
  • 1 part water
  • 1 canning jar

First, I removed the skins from the peaches. I placed each in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds and then placed them in ice water. The skins popped right off. I had no idea how many would fill a jar, so I skinned four large, ripe ones.

Next, I made a simple syrup solution of half sugar and half water, heating until the sugar completely dissolved, not letting the liquid boil.

I then cooked my peaches in the sugar syrup for about five minutes, still keeping the solution from boiling.

I then put spooned my peaches into a canning jar and used a funnel to fill it up to the top with syrup. My peaches only filled half of the jar, so next time I’ll need to cut up more than four.

Finally, I boiled the jar to seal it. I learned a few hours later from a friend that the water should be over the lid of the jar or the jar should be boiled upside down. Still, it sealed and seemed intact. I guess I’ll find out whether I really screwed up in a week.

**Update** I let the peaches sit in the cupboard for a week before trying them. They were super tender tasty! I think I’ll cut down on the sugar in the syrup next time because it was way to sweet, but I’ll probably use the leftover liquid to make peach sweet tea.

Project #259 – Oven Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Well, I had about three big salad bowls of pumpkin guts leftover from yesterday and it’s a shame to let that all go to waste. I spent a good chunk of my day slimed up to my elbows pulling out the seeds one-by-one. It’s not my favorite activity, but my frugal nature dictates that if there is something good to eat somewhere in a bucket of goo, I should find some way to get that good thing out and edible.

So after straining pulp for about 45 minutes I ended up with wrinkly hands and a strainer full of seeds. I rinsed all of the remaining guts off and spread as many as I could on a greased cookie sheet in one layer. They’re really sticky after rinsing, so be prepared to have a few cling to your hands no matter what you do. Luckily, they come right off in the sink.

Using this recipe I baked them at 375 for 25 minutes. I shook the baking sheet about 15 into baking to keep the seeds from cooking together.

I ended up with more roasted seeds than we could ever eat. Luckily, pumpkin seeds are good for chickens. They’re supposed to be a natural de-wormer.