Thursday, October 29, 2015

Have a Very Harry Christmas!

I've been keeping some of my newest projects a secret for a few weeks now.  At first it was because I didn't have all the pieces assembled yet, and later it was because I didn't want to get groans from the "It's too early for Christmas!" crowd.  But now that crafting is my full time job, I find that I'm crafting earlier and earlier for the holidays, both to fill my shop, and for my gifts for friends and family.

Harry Potter's Wand with deep red velvet ribbon.
It all started a few months ago, when I ordered some wand pendants to use in my jewelry crafting.  I had grand ideas about placing them on charm holders along with other beads and charms to represent each of those characters.  Then the "pendants" arrived, and I realized that I hadn't checked the size descriptions carefully enough.  Each wand was 4" long!  Far too big to be worn around the neck.  They sat around on my desk for a few days until I had a brain wave.  Christmas ornaments!

Hermione Granger's Wand with iridescent red & violet ribbon.
I added beautiful velvet and satin ribbons to correspond to each character's personality and am thrilled with how they came out.  Since I knew someone would ask, I've listed each one separately, as well as bundled together as a set if you're like me, and must have all four.  Seriously, someday I'm going to have a completely Harry Potter themed Christmas tree, separate from my regular tree.  Maybe it will live in my craft room to keep me cheerful during the stress of the holidays....

Dumbledore's Wand, otherwise known as the Elder Wand, with purple satin ribbon.
Voldemorte's Wand with emerald green velvet ribbon.
After finishing the wand ornaments, I started work on another set.  Horcruxes!  So far I have Ravenclaw's Diadem and Hufflepuff's Cup finished and listed in the shop.  I'm currently working on adding the other 5 Horcruxes, which will probably show up one at a time over the next few weeks.

Ravenclaw's Diadem, on royal blue glittered velvet ribbon.

Hufflepuff's Cup, on dark grey glittered velvet ribbon.
I actually posted these over on Craftster on Tuesday, before I got a chance to sit down and write a blog post.  In the mean time, they were made a Featured Project there!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Autumn Canning Adventures

I promised that this blog would include all my crafty endeavors, and yet I seem to have mostly posted just my jewelry projects lately.  Though I've been making lots of jewelry in preparation for the holidays, I took 2 days off last week to spend some time canning with my good friend Amber.  I love Amber for a lot of reasons, but our relationship is probably best summed up by the following card.

And while most of our time together involves a few drinks and hours of snarky conversation, we also always manage to get a whole lot of work done at the same time.  This past visit was no exception.  We made five canning recipes; 2 which were old favorites and 3 that were new to us.  I will admit right now that I didn't take any fancy staged photos of ingredients or the cooking process.  After all, I am not a food blogger, but rather a craft blogger.  I will however provide sources or links to all the recipes.

The first project was  a batch of Red Wine Jelly from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I really can't say enough good things about this book, and the recipes in it.  It contains 400 recipes, all of which sound delicious, and all of which have been tested repeatedly, so you know they work every time.  (One of the reasons that I love this particular recipe is that it calls for exactly one bottle of wine, while many others call for 1/2 cup from a second bottle.)  I used my current favorite wine, Apothic Dark, which has blackberry, blueberry, coffee and dark chocolate notes in it.  Remember that the flavor will become more concentrated and cerntainly much sweeter with the addition of sugar.  I've also done this with a Norton wine from local winery, Reid's Livery from Alvaton, KY, which might be my favorite jelly ever due to the strong and complex flavors of the wine.  

Our next recipe was Dilly Beans, from the blog Food In Jars.  These were requested by Amber's brothers.  We made them 2 years ago, and apparently the boys have been asking for more ever since then.  They are a great way to use up lots of green beans from your garden, and produce a bright and intense dill and garlic pickle.  Amber brought some of the beautiful green Heritage Collection Jars, and the bright green beans look extra pretty in them.

While we were working on the Dilly Beans, we set the basil to steep for a batch of Basil Jelly, from the blog Sweet Domesticity.  If you check out the recipe you will see that mine did not come out the bright green color that Maria's did.  As noted in the comments section of her post, it seems that the variety of basil you use, as well as how you prepare it, can vary the color.  As the recipe has a strong lemon flavor to it, I love the golden honey color of my finished jelly.  We procured our basil from Kroger, as my tiny patio garden didn't produce enough basil for this recipe.  Hopefully I'll have a bigger garden to pick from next summer. 

I should also note that the photos from Maria's blog looked to me like 4 oz jars, but the recipe states that it makes 5 half-pints (8 oz. jars).  Since I was a bit confused, I posted a question about it in the comments section, and Maria got right back to me to let me with an answer!  The jars in her photos were actually wide mouth 8 oz jars, that just happen to look like the 4 oz variety when there is no other frame of reference in the photos.  Thanks for your help Maria!  

The jelly is fantastic.  Bright from the lemon and a beautiful herby basil flavor that I adored.  Our batch came out just shy of 5 half-pints, so I kept the open jar for myself, and have enjoyed it on toast, as well as on some glazed salmon I made on Monday.  I was able to use up some of the leftover garlic, onions, and green beans in the Vegetable Risotto as well.  I will definitely be making this jelly again next year.

After lunch Amber and I did a batch of Pear & Ginger Jam, from the blog Savvy Eats.  According to the post, this recipe was adapted from the book Canning for a New Generation, so I've included a link to the book on Amazon as well.  This recipe made a thick and chunky jam, that was sweet from the pears, but has a nice kick of heat from the ginger.

Our final recipe during this crazy day of canning was for Sweet Onion & Maple Conserve.  The recipe comes from a single issue magazine I bought last summer called Better Homes and Gardens Canning+Preserving+Freezing+Drying.  Since it would be very hard to find I've linked to the recipe for it that I shared in the Harry Potter Craftalong over on Craftster.  This stuff is utterly fantastic, and I want to put it on everything.  The onions and maple syrup are very sweet, but are tempered by the butter and fresh thyme, which came from my herb garden.  The recipe states that it will make 5 4oz. jars, but our batch would have filled 6.  We filled and processed 5 jars, one of which apparently wasn't closed well enough and came open during canning, spewing onions all over my canner.  When we realized that we still had more of the golden goodness, we filled an extra jar to be used right away.  That jar is already gone.  How you ask?  Burgers, with aged sharp cheddar, bacon, and this conserve on toasted sourdough.  I regret nothing.

After all that canning, I somehow still was up for making one last batch of jam on Monday.  Since I had some leftover liquid pectin, and raspberries were on sale over the weekend, and my New England heart believes cranberries are a year round food, I did a batch of Cran Raspberry Preserves.  The recipe is also from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  This jam tastes like Thanksgiving in a jar.  The tart cranberries are softened by apples, honey, and the bright sweetness of raspberries.  I love traditional raspberry jam, but I don't like too many seeds.  (I'm complicated.)  I loved the consistency of these preserves.  Spreadable, with some chunks, bright red, and just the right amount of seeds.  Just for fun I used the red lids and bands from Ball that I found in Kroger.  They also had purple in store, and blue and green are available online, either from Ball or Amazon.

For now, I'm taking a bit of a break from canning to get back to crafting for my shop, and hopefully writing some more here, but I'm sure I'll be making a few more recipes for holiday gifts.  My mom has already asked for some of the Cranberry Mustard that I made for the last two years, and since clementines always start appearing in stores at this time of year, I'm contemplating Mandarin Oranges in Ginger Syrup.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

I'm afraid I've gotten a bit behind on my blogging.  My only excuse is that I've been crafting so many extra Harry Potter and Outlander bracelets to put away for the holiday rush. But I have managed to get around to a few new designs.  This first one is probably my favorite new design in a while.  It was inspired by my partner edelC in the Back to Hogwarts Swap on Craftster.  Hers was the prototype, but this is version 2.0

While witches and ghosts and ghouls in orange and black abound at Halloween, I wanted something a little sweeter, that could be worn all year long, so the beads are a mix of deep teal, purple velvet, jet black and crystal clear.  Most of the beads have an AB finish to lend the design some extra shimmer.

The charms include cauldrons, swirling stars, spell books, broomsticks, cats, magic wands, hearts, witch hats, and a fantastic witch on a broom from TierraCast charms.  I like how sleek and clean the lines of the charms are on this one, giving it a slightly modern feel.

I have some new wine charms to share soon, full of autumn and Halloween goodness.  Meanwhile, I can't wait for Halloween itself.  This is the first time we'll be home during Trick or Treating for the last several years, and I'm really hoping we get a good turnout of kids coming our way.  

How about you guys?  Are you all ready for Halloween?  Any fantastic costumes in the making?


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy Autumn!

Today is the Autumnal Equinox!  And even better still, it has finally started to cool off here in Tennessee.  While the high is 86 today, I needed a hoodie when I headed to the gym early this morning, so things are looking up.  In honor of the seasonal changes, I sat down yesterday afternoon, determined to come up with a new fall-inspired design.  My Autumn Days charm bracelet is the result.

It is filled with a mix of pumpkins, gourds, leaves, trees, corn, and apple charms.  The beads are mix of Czech glass and semi precious stones that include carnelian, jade, jasper and goldstone, in shades of scarlet, amber, gold, pumpkin, coffee, bronze, deep forrest and shimmering leaf green.

In addition to today being the first day of Fall, it is also my 35th birthday.  I would like to be able to leave you with some sage words about life and the passage of time right now, but I just don't have anything truly profound to say.  I just know that in this last year I've found myself to be truly happy and peaceful, possibly for the first time.  I'm healthy, and the stress that once plagued me is gone.  I enjoy what I do every day, and I get to share my life with my best friends, Jim and Astrid.  Here's looking forward to the next wonderful 35 years.  Cheers friends.

Friday, September 11, 2015

New England: It's Wicked Cool

In the course of my 30+ years on the planet I have lived in many places.  I went to graduate school and met my husband in central Illinois.  I taught college students in south central Kentucky.  I currently live just outside Nashville.  But I was born and bred in New England.

During August I was fortunate enough to go home to visit my family in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, seeing aunts, uncles and cousins that I haven't seen in years.  In some cases it had been nearly two decades!  Whoever said you can't go home again, obviously wasn't from New England.  I was welcomed back with open arms and a cold Sam Adams.  (Always a good choice.)

Being home made me reflect on New England as a whole, and the many things I love about the region.  The lush forests that blanket the landscape.  Pristine mountains as far as the eye can see.  The sun shining on the waters of the Atlantic.  And the utter perfection of a good old fashioned clam bake.

I tried to include a little bit of the beauty and individuality of each state and its history in this bracelet, as well as some of the things the region as a whole is known for.  The charms include all six states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, as well as Boston with a tiny USS Constitution hanging from it, a lobster for its fantastic seafood and fishing industry, a leaf for foliage season, mountain for the White, Green, Longfellow & Appalachian ranges, moose, lighthouse, pilgrim from the early colonies, ships wheel for its maritime and sailing traditions, hiking boots & walking stick for the many national forests, snowflake, and two tiny skiers on a chair lift.

The beads are a mix of Czech glass and pressed glass shells in shades of frost, yankee red and colonial blue.  And even though I just got back a few weeks ago, just working on this made me homesick all over again.  I'd like to indulge in a lobster roll and a Boston Lager to make myself feel better, but sadly I don't trust lobster in Tennessee and I can't find a proper hotdog bun to serve it on down here.  Seriously, why hasn't the rest of the country caught on yet about the joy of grilled split-top buns?

Well I might not have a lobster roll handy, but I do have a beer.  So while I go enjoy that, please enjoy the hilarity that is the Boston Teens sketches from Saturday Night Live, featuring Jimmy Fallon, Rachel Dratch, and Ben Affleck.  You're welcome.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Movie Lover's Charm Bracelet

I've got several new designs planned out that I want to make this fall, and I've finished the first one!

Like so many of my designs, this one was inspired by a fantastically talented friend, and young film maker.  Her name is Kasey, and once you've met her, you'll never ever forget her.  From her bright eyes, to her adorable drawl, and on past the surface to the unfailingly generous and deeply intelligent, woman underneath, Kasey is a wonder.  When I first met her she was studying both theatre and film, and hopes someday to be a screenwriter and filmmaker.  

With her long blonde hair and infectious smile, she could be the picture of the All American Girl.  And if you only met her in passing you might think she'd make a phenomenal cheerleader.  But what Kasey really wants to do is make horror movies.  The bloodier and creepier the better.  I imagine her as a director someday showing up to a day of filming, with a pan of homemade brownies for the crew in one hand, and an extra five-gallon bucket of stage blood in the other, 'just in case'.  

While I always felt myself inspired by my students, Kasey was one of those rare people who can get complete strangers excited about a topic they would otherwise have no interest in.  And so, how could I not create a bracelet inspired by her love of film?  I'm really in love with several of the charms on this one.  The tiny popcorn you might remember from the Take Me Out to the Ballgame bracelet I did a few months back.  There's a couple on a date at the movies, a clapperboard, tiny theatre, soda, camera, directors chair, an Oscar, tickets, and a few film reels. 

I work hard to find great charms whenever I'm designing a new bracelet, but there always seems to be one charm that I just fall in love with as my favorite on each project.  This time it has to be the couple on a date.  They are leaning towards one another, with their sodas and popcorn, and his arm around her shoulder.  I like to imagine they are watching one of Kasey's favorite scary movies.  

The beads are my usual favorite Czech glass, in shades of black, white and grey as a nod to black and white film, and deep red, reminiscent of the velvet drapes at movie palaces from the 1930's and 1940's.  Overall I'm pretty darn happy with how this one turned out.  I've got three more new designs in the works at the moment that I hope to get shots of soon.  One inspired by my recent trip home to see my family, one by my longing for cooler weather, and one that's a bit of a departure from my usual style...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

One Awesome Harry Potter Thing Swap Package

A little over a month ago I showed you the rag rug that I created for noodle-bug in the One Awesome Harry Potter Thing Swap over on Craftster.  Sometimes I get so focused on, and worried about crafting for someone else, that I completely forget that I'm going to *receive* an awesome craft in return, and this was no exception. I received the most stunning swap package, and had to share it with you.  

Noodle-bug is known for knitting beautiful cowls that I've admired for ages.  But considering I live in Nashville where the average low temperature in January is 28 degrees, I never thought to have one of her thick woolen confections for myself.  Enter Noodle-Bug the Genius.  She did her research, even contacting a friend who lives in the States to ask about the weather here.  Her answer was to make a super soft, feather-light cowl knitted from silk & angora, that I can wear without overheating.  And see those flecks of gold in the yarn?  They're beads that show a map of the stars in the Equatorial band, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

I'm not sure how she did it, but she also managed to match the cowl to my winter hat.  I can't wait to wear them both as the weather cools down.  (I know everyone loves summer, but I'm really more of a fall & winter kinda girl.)

Noodle also created a beautiful hand-bound notebook, that also contains a star map, though this one is stamped in beautiful golden ink.  It's a seriously weighty tome, and I haven't yet decided what to dedicate it to, but for now it is on my desk, where I can marvel at it every day while I work.  Thank you noodle-bug!  Your work is always so awe-inspiring, that it warms my heart and makes my fingers itch to pick up a crochet hook or some pliers. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Sassy Stitcher Charm Bracelet

"I'm a material girl - want to see my fabric collection?" - Unknown

The Bracelet With No Name is done, and has finally been given an appellation of it's very own.  It was named by my very sassy stitcher friend and former student, Grace, who now works on film & television in Vancouver.

Over the years that I worked in costuming & theatre, I witnessed many people commenting on just how tough and badass the carpenters in the scene shop were.  No question, those folks work hard.  But I would like to point out that Sewing may just be one of the most badass of arts. Filled with blood, sweat, passion, hella-sharp blades, and of course, lots and lots of needles.

There's something intensely satisfying about walking out of your sewing room or costume shop, covered in bits of thread, sporting a burn from the iron, and some new calluses, knowing that you've finished that amazing dress, whipped up a new bag that will astound your friends, or quilted a new masterpiece for your bed.

I wanted this bracelet to represent all the incredible artists and technicians that I've had the joy of working with over the years.  Those completely badass women (a men), who put in the hours of backbreaking (and fingerbreaking) work to get the job done.  It contains 17 sewing charms, and is filled with Czech glass and hematite beads in shades of jet black, carbon grey, bright magenta and cool-under-pressure teal.  My hats off to all you sassy stitchers out there.  You've more than earned it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Home Again, Home Again, Travel is Done!

I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post!  Time has flown by.  At the beginning of August the husband, the Puggle and I visited his family for a rather large family reunion in Illinois.  After that I was home just a few days before jetting off again to see my family in New Hampshire for a much smaller reunion.  I hung out with a cousin I hadn't seen in 19 years, got hugs from aunts and uncles, and marveled at how much we've all grown up.  I spent lots of time with my beautiful nieces, having tea parties, visiting petting farms, and letting them cover me in makeup.  And I even got to stop in for a beer with an old friend at a brewery that is in both New Hampshire & Vermont.

Title: "Panorama taken on the deck of Whetstone Station Restaurant & Brewery, overlooking the Connecticut River."  Or "What Summer Should Be"
I'm back to work now, attempting to remake some sold out bracelets, and designing a few new ones for the upcoming holiday season.  I'm planning to make about 300 charm bracelets in the next 4 months.  Think I can do it???

Friday, July 24, 2015

Scrappy Crocheted Rag Rug for Noodle's Nest

Now that it's arrived at its new home, I can finally share my completed rag rug with you all!  For those who might have missed the initial post, I recently organized Round 2 of the One Awesome Harry Potter Thing Swap over on Craftster.  I was lucky enough to partner with the utterly fantastic noodle-bug, who also just happens to be my Deputy Headmistress in the Harry Potter Craftalong over there.  While we were chatting about our mutual HP love, it became apparent that we both desperately want to live in the Burror, the home of the Weasley family.  

The Weasleys are kind, loving, welcoming, and poor.  Mrs. Weasley makes handmade gifts at the holidays and sends Harry wonderful knitted sweaters and homemade mince pies.  (We are clearly kindred spirits.)  I decided that I wanted to give noodle-bug a little bit of the Weasley's loving-if-threadbare home by creating a rag rug for her flat in London.  

The pattern is from ATERGcrochet on Etsy, and calls for tee shirt (or zpaghetti/fettucini yarn), which I thought would be fun to work with, and hopefully work up quickly.  Both of those things turned out to be true.  What didn't work so well was finding the yarn itself.  Tee shirt yarn seemed to be available everywhere a year or two ago, but it has since disappeared from store shelves.  I did some looking around online and found very few sources in the US, but one seller on Etsy called Ganxxet had a decent selection and fair prices.  (Some were charging and arm & a leg!)  Ganxxet was very helpful and great to work with.  She got back to me on a question right away, and I'd order from her again in a heartbeat.  I picked up a dusky pink, and this cool white print from her.

Sadly I couldn't afford to order all the yarn I'd need, so I decided to make some myself.  I made the navy and the black yarn from tube jersey that was on sale at Joann's for 50% off.  I bought 2.5 yards of black and 1 yard of navy for about $15.  There are tons of tutorials for making tee shirt yarn out of actual shirts, and using the tube jersey is exactly the same.  (Like this one.)  The only difference was that I used a rotary cutter & mat, rather than scissors as I had much more to cut.  It took most of the morning to slice it, stretch it out, and roll it into balls, but as I'm addicted to audio books, this really wasn't a problem for me.

After nearly completing it, I decided that while I liked the rug, I wasn't in love with it.  (This is probably putting it mildly.  I might have frantically messaged Shannon over at Flew the Coop, and telling her my project felt like a cluster-fuck.  She might have suggested a cocktail.)  I knew it needed more colors to feel really scrappy, but I didn't want to spend another $50 on more yarn, and I didn't want to take it apart and start over.  So I dug through the bag of clothes I have for Goodwill and pulled out a teal shirt and a violet shirt.  Sliced and diced both, and used them to do the slip stitch rows on top.  I really love how much brighter the rug is with the additional color.  You can see how it looked before in this process picture.  The overall color scheme was softer, and now it's definitely brighter and a bit more punk, like noodle-bug herself.

Here's a detail shot that noodle took, which really shows off the  teal and violet stitches.  It's so much brighter and scrappier now!

The entire rug was supposed to be 34 rounds and measure 4' across, but I didn't get quite that far.  By the time I was on round 17 it was clear that I was nearly out of all my yarns.  It was also becoming quite heavy and I had to ship it to the UK.  So I completed the 18th round, then did 2 rounds of single crochet to finish the edges.  When it was done it measured 38" across and weighted 5 pounds!  Here it is in its new home, noodle-bug's bay window in her London flat.

I will say that while I am normally all for recycling and upcycling, I did prefer working with the ready made yarn and the yarn that I made out of tube jersey, far more than I liked working with the balls I made from the actual tee shirts.  I hated trying to hide the shirt seams.  It's very thick and squish under your feet, and has a solid weight to it that feels comforting.  In the end I'm thrilled with how it came out, but I would like to try the pattern again some day, and actually complete all 34 rounds.  Perhaps when we get a house of our own next year.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Bracelet With No Name

I've been working on putting together a sewing themed bracelet for the last few weeks, inspired by the totally kick-ass costume stitchers I've worked with over the years.  I had already gathered the charms, and Friday afternoon I finally had time to start putting them together.  The charms include a bobbin, iron, tape measure, buttons, safety pins, sewing machines, shears, "I <3 Sewing", a spool of thread, ruler, embroidery snips and a bobbin.

After getting all the charms together, I started racking my brains trying to come up with the perfect color scheme.  After much puttering, I finally settled on bright magenta, deep teal, jet black and a dark grey hematite.

The only thing missing now?  A name!  I haven't been able to settle on something for it.  I think I might have to poll some of my stitcher friends for their opinions.  How about it?  Any ideas?