Friday, June 27, 2008

Proof that crafters will MacGyver anything!

While discussing fiber arts in general in a forum last week, someone said that seeing as I knit, crochet and spin, the next step for me might be weaving. I told her not to curse me with yet another hobby that I have to find time for! Being me though, I found the concept intriguing and have a ton of mill end scrap yarns in the house that someone sent me that I've been wondering what to do with. I figured a while ago that weaving them would probably be perfect, but alas, I know not how to weave.

I don't know if it's because I grew up in England and learned more than your average kid might have about fiber arts, but I remember learning the basics of weaving and the different parts of the loom. So, while I'm sitting in my office on my lunch break with nothing much to do, I started surfing the web for tutorials on how to make a home made loom. Next thing you know I'm constructing a coaster with some cardboard, yarn (which I always have in my office anyway) and my letter opener, which conveniently has a hole in the end to secure the yarn with and use as a shuttle. I'm convinced that you can hand a crafter three completely random objects and tell them to make something and they'll find a way to MacGyver it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A spin on a fairy tale

I was reading an interesting thread on Ravelry today, which really struck me given my recent infatuation with spinning yarn. We're all pretty familiar with the tale of Sleeping Beauty, who pricked her finger on a spindle and fell into her infamous slumber. The question was posed - what part of the spinning wheel did Sleeping Beauty actually prick herself on? I don't have a spinning wheel myself (although my husband seems to be warming to the concept in the future) so I was quite intrigued by the answers people had. It would seem that this has been intriguing quite a few people for a while, including someone who has been making a concerted effort to prick her finger on a variety spinning wheels...for historical purposes of course!

It would seem that there are various possible answers, given that fairy tales form new meanings through time and with translation between languages.

Some say that in the original written versions of the story, Sleeping Beauty was cursed by a spindle (as in a drop spindle), because spinning wheels weren't yet invented at that time. It has also been said that she originally pricked her finger while sewing and the spinning wheel was brought into the story during Victorian times. There has also been some question as to whether it was the spindle itself that was cursed and the simple act of her touching it was what caused her to fall into her sleep, rather than the act of pricking her finger. Foreign versions of the story from the 1500's say that the prick to her finger actually came from a splinter in the flax being spun.

While the best known version of this story is most likely the tale that Disney has told, the accuracy of the spinning wheel causing Beauty to prick her finger can be questioned, as more modern spinning wheels do not really have anything particularly sharp on them that could cause that type of injury. However, wheels that are not quite so modern have quills that apparently can be quite sharp.

Granted, we will most likely never really know what exactly happened to poor Princess Aurora, but knowing that the king and queen burned all the spinning wheels in the land is enough to make any spinner cringe.

If any of you have insight into this fairy tale, I would be intrigued to hear what you know so please feel free to comment! Next I think I'll be doing some reading on Rumpelstiltskin.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Retail and nerves

I am currently working on the biggest purchase of my life until now. The hubby and I have officially started our house hunting. Prices in Los Angeles have dropped something like 27% in the last few years, to the point where what I thought might never be attainable finally is! Our realtor called me in somewhat of a frenzy this morning to tell me that he was standing in a place that we would probably love and how soon could we go see it. So, we have an appointment for 2 hours from now to go see a huge townhouse, not too far from where we live now that even has an extra room downstairs for Brian's DJing and my crafting. The second bedroom appears to be pink, but that's nothing that a coat of paint won't fix.

Anyway, our realtor's excitement has led to my nerves. After all, while I enjoy buying things and searching out great deals, it's scary to think that this might actually be happening - the biggest and best purchase of our lives!

Having spent some time looking at budgets and whatnot over the last few weeks, I have discovered that the extra expenditure won't cut too much into my monthly crafting budget. I will still be able to photograph, knit, crochet, sew, spin and probably add home improvements to my list of hobbies. I might have to shop my stash more and really make a push in my Etsy store, but it will be so worth it for us to have a place to call our own. Of course, the added benefit of being able to make my own draperies is not a bad one!

It might be my last hurrah for a while so in an attempt to calm myself before going to see this place today, I had to hit up the sale going on right now at Joann's. I got enough fabric to make a skirt, shirt, PJ pants (for Brian) and 3 little outfits for my nephew, plus some thread and 4 sewing patterns for $30. There's times when being a budget conscious and sale aware crafter comes in handy!!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Etsy Featured Shop - Designed With Glass

Whenever I am looking for a shop to feature on my blog, I always try to look for something unique. When I happened across the shop Designed With Glass, I was fascinated by the gorgeous things that the artist, Carrie Millen, has to offer and couldn't wait to share this with you all. How and when did you get your start making stained glass?
I got started making stained glass when my husband and I built a wine cellar and decided we wanted a piece for the window after moving to MA in 1995. I've been in the arts my whole life, and when I started inquiring about them, cost, how they're made etc., I decided to take some classes at Whitimore-Durgin in Rockland MA. I fell in love with the craft. I love working with tools, creating my own designs since I have a drawing background from the Toledo Museum of Art and Toledo University. I started creating window hangings, mirrors, sun catchers, lamps, probably in the hundreds and gave lots away to family and friends before I decided my work was good enough to start selling. Having done many local craft fairs and even organized my own with a very close friend, I decided it was time to focus on doing larger windows on commission. I continued to solely work on commission until my move from MA to Ohio in 2005. I'm now online on Etsy, and slowly building up a commissioned business again.

Can you explain how stained glass is made?
The process of making a stained glass piece varies due to the complexity and size of the window. Basically, I start with a design, drawn to the desired dimensions. I chose my glass based on what I feel will look the best and generally lay it out. The glass is cut using a specialized glass cutter, by hand or sometimes with a glass saw. The piece is ground to the right shape and to blunt the edges of any sharpness. It is then copper foiled and burnished. Care is taken as to not allow any uneven edges. The foiled pieces are then either taped together or held in place by hand, flux is applied with a brush and the pieces are soldered together using a soldering iron with temps of 700°. Care is also taken to achieve a smooth solder seam, this is where practice is imperative. After the piece is completely soldered on one side, it is turned over, and the process is repeated on the other side. It is then cleaned with a detergent to remove the flux. Sometimes, depending on the finish desired, a chemical is applied to the solder seams to turn the color to black or copper. The piece is then rinsed again, and polished with 100% carruba wax.

How do you create the shapes and designs to make within the glass?
The designs are created from inspiration by nature. I love the sea having lived on the East Coast for 9 years. I love incorporating sea glass, sea shells, agate, stones, and anything else that can tolerate the high temps of the soldering iron. I also love the Victorian Era and designs, Art Deco is fun too. I love working with clients who see my work and give me free reign to design something for them. Having developed that trust is really something special for me, a gift!

Where do you find the objects that you incorporate within the glass?
Most of my sea glass was found on the beach, some from the coast of France where my son brought back to me a lot of it. I comb the beaches while on vacation in Sanibel Island and various other beaches in FL and bring back a lot of shells. Some I purchase via the Philippines.

How long does it take to make a piece?
The time to make a piece varies by the complexity and size. If I had to guess, anywhere from 1 hour for a hanging star to 35 hrs for my most elaborate window so far.

Tell me a story about this piece? [Inset right]
This window was my most difficult and favorite creation so far. The couple built a magnificent summer home on the coast of MA and had purchased a window I had for sale at one of the local art boutiques. They had commissioned me to create this interior door to their indoor pool and sun room using sea shells the client had saved from her grandmother's collection. The clients also wanted to have me represent the 3 primary fish in the area, stripped bass, bluefish and flounder. They absolutely loved my original design, and I can truly say it's the piece I'm most proud of so far.

What inspires you as you create your designs?
I'm mostly inspired by nature and color. I love free form designs, those that look like what's below the sea. I love whimsical designs, and playful colors. I love creating "functional art" for the home too.

What other arts or crafts do you enjoy?
I still enjoy drawing and painting although I haven't devoted the time to either for quite a long time. I'm interested in getting back to figural drawing sometime soon.

What do you do to relax?
I love to garden, grow herbs and find lots of different ways to use them. I love to cook, read fitness and home magazines to relax. I love working out, walking and weight lifting, yoga and Pilates.

What do you listen to while you are working on your glass designs?
I listen to alternative, today's contemporary and classic rock. Sometimes the Food Network is playing on TV in the background. I mostly love it when my teenage kids come down to my studio while I'm working just to talk to me.

To view more pictures of Carrie's work, feel free to visit her Flickr page,

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I feel like a little kid!

While musing over the ridiculous gas prices and my close friend's motivations to be more environmentally friendly, I decided to spend the rest of my birthday money on a bike. I have the advantage of living only a couple of miles from my work and have decided it might be fun to cycle into work a couple of times a week. Of course, there's also the advantage of possibly losing a few pounds along the way.

So, yesterday I went out and made my purchase and I am now the proud owner of my first bike since I was 13 years old. A very nice man in the parking lot outside K-Mart helped me remove the front wheel so that I could get the darn thing in my car and then last night my husband bust out his hex wrenches and tweaked my brakes and seat so that everything is now in perfect working order. (I'm just really grateful that he even knows what he's doing because to be honest I have no clue). I then trotted off to Target to get a helmet, air pump and a lock. It has to be said, it was very hard to resist buying streamers, a little white basket with flowers on it and the bell that said "I love my bike" - I might have to put those on my "to buy later" list!

Tomorrow, I plan on making the trek into work looking like a total dork (bright red helmet and sweatpants should do it) but at the same time feeling like a little kid with a shiny new toy. =)