Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Don't take the free ride in your own life."

I don't know why, exactly, but the Nickelback song written by Chad Kroeger, "If Today Was Your Last Day," really resonates for me. I don't live my life that way, but I wish I could. One line in particular, Don't take the free ride in your own life, is one of the most eloquent in the whole song. I wanted to make an art piece, something I could hang near my desk to remind me of that, to urge me to do more, to be more.

Originally, I thought I'd just do something on the computer, typographic sort of art. I had some canvas boards in the basement, and an old pill bottle full of fortunes from cookies I'd been saving for years. I wanted to use them together, since that phrase sort of sounds like something you'd get in a fortune cookie. I decided to make a smeary, abstract background with blues and greens on the canvas, glue the fortunes in an offset grid, and then use the typographic art I had already done and somehow marry the two. The problem was, one of the fonts I used (Zapfino) has really delicate trailing ascenders and descenders. How could I cut those out and raise them off the canvas without it looking stupid or tearing?

After sitting on my finished background for ages (I've been working on this since August 2012), I finally figured out how to make it all work: painted Plexiglass. I needed two layers, because I wanted the two different typefaces (Zapfino and Rockwell Extra Bold) to float away from the background and each other, and I wanted to use two different colors for them; black for Rockwell, and red for Zapfino. I had to use Plexi, because two sheets of glass, 14x18", would have been insanely heavy. Talking to a woman at Michael's in the framing department they could do it for me, but all they have is the conservation stuff that comes with UV coating. Each piece would have been well over $20. (Yikes.) I found Mat Board & More and they set me up. The pieces are thinner than I would have liked, but the finished piece will be even lighter for it, and maybe it will be easier to find a frame to accommodate it all.

This morning, with all the pieces in place, the kid back in school after a spring break that lasted approximately seven years, I got the painting done. I didn't aim for perfection, didn't make sure that the corners were perfect, or that brushstrokes were invisible. I just let it happen. (And I'm kinda proud of myself for that.)

Background layer
Closeup of background
My painting guide - checking to make sure I can see it well enough
Layer one, done!
Layer 2 needs a second coat
Stacked layers

I'm really pleased with how well it turned out, and so glad this work in progress is now a work completed.

By the way, if you're here to tell me "Nickelback sucks!" first of all, grow up. Secondly, this isn't about Nickelback, it's about music inspiring other media, and finding personal meaning in it. Any negative comments about the band will be deleted. Really; grow up. Not everyone likes the same things. Vive la différence!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Can you tell me where the "off" switch is?

So yeah... haven't done any significant work in the basement since January. And I keep getting Awesome Ideas that make me want to do things that are not, you know, work. It's really bugging me, but so much needs to get done that it's a little paralyzing. Just when I think I'm getting a handle on things, stuff comes up and... yeah... *sigh*

The UFOs that are always (always!) nagging at the back of my head, two of them finally kicked me hard enough to work on them. Our stairway has two walls covered with photos and art. One side is all family photos, and I have quite a few of my family up there, but not nearly as many of my husband's family. I finally dug around through all my files and found photos of his grandparents and wedding photos of his sisters. I'm going to surprise him, and get those framed and on the wall (tomorrow, while he's at work). The other project is one for me, with an affirmational sort of message that I had no idea how to make happen. I think I finally figured it out, though, so today when I go pick up the frames for the other project, I can get what I need for that one, too.

That empty wall to the left? That's where his family should be, and will be soon.
Getting things done usually provides some impetus to get more things done. I'm hoping that works again here, because seriously, the basement has become my nemesis...

We were watching Carvers on SfFy, and one of the guys said his partner had creative diarrhea. My husband commented that he wished he had creative diarrhea, then looked at me and said "you kind of do." First of all, that's horrible imagery. Secondly, it ain't all it's cracked up to be. (See: huge piles of unfinished projects, things I might want later, and current works in progress.) Case in point: I read an article about making miniature books in Easter eggs and my brain switched into hyperdrive. (I'll be posting pics of that project later...)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Divining with Candy: A Valentine's Day Game

A project that has been underway for years is finally done. Use conversation hearts to tell your romantic fortune! Available as an ebook at Amazon for $1.99.

Intended as humorous good fun. You probably can't tell your future with candy. Probably.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Stuff Is Winning

Waaaay back in August '12, I was determined to get the basement organized and the wall finally painted. I worked my tail off, and made significant headway. I got shelves up for the action figures (which eliminated a lot of boxes). And then... I never finished the job.

Over the course of the next 16 months, Life happened. I got busy doing other things, had more inspiration, needed to devote time to more pressing projects. None of that stopped me from finding more stuff, however, it just meant that the piles got bigger.

I needed to finish a update for my book, and I did. I kept writing my ideas down in a sketchbook, and I finished some of them. I traveled. I gamed. I procrastinated... All the while, heading to the basement searching for things needed to complete whatever obsession was nagging me that minute. I've said it before, and I've meant it every single time, but this time I don't have any more excuses: It needs to get done. I'm tired of searching for things I know I have (and can't find). I'm tired of looking at the mess. I'm tired of not having that wall painted -- just one wall! I want my dance space. I want to be able to lay hands on the materials for a project I want to work on. I want to be able to go down there and relax over a movie*, without the mess distracting me.

I worked until my back hurt yesterday. I desperately want to work on it now (but the foul headache lurking behind my left eyebrow says uh-uh!) This may be a planning day, a couch day, because bending/lifting/sorting would make my head explode.

If I work on it a little bit, every day, I may be able to paint this summer. If I can get the wall painted, everything organized, and boxes and crates eliminated, I promised myself we could have a "geek tree" in the basement once it was all done. Plus once the space is free of all that clutter and stuff, I can actually decorate the space, like I've been planning.

I've got some pretty powerful motivation to get this done. Let's see if I have the strength of purpose to actually get it accomplished...

* I sort of have ulterior motives with that -- we have a hard time getting out for "date nights." So I'm thinking, if I can get the basement all done to my satisfaction, we can have "date night" in the basement, and not worry about needing a babysitter!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Year in Hats

I started making hats at the end of December. Then in January, this happened:
I had a crazy thought this morning, before the caffeine hit my bloodstream: Wouldn't it be awesome to make a hat a day? Then I realized how insane that would be; 365 hats?! Even if I gave a bunch away, what it the hell would I do with them all? OK, hat a week, then, my idiot brain says. No -- 52 hats is still unmanageable. Fine, how about one a month? Fine. Fine. OK! (Ahem... everyone has conversations with themselves, right..?)
This post is the chronicle of hats, with new and improved photos (for most of them) and links to the posts and/or tutorials where applicable.

The Prequel (Dec. '12)

Month One (Jan. '13)

Month Two (Feb. '13)

Month Three (Mar. '13)
  • (Not So) Quickie Beret (reversible)
  • March's Hat: Flowers (beret)
  • refinished old berets 
  • Recycled Sweater Beret (painful lesson learned: some hats look like dog toys to a dog)
  • Ombre Sweater Hat (beret, sort of)
  • DC pieced beret 
  • Wonder Woman berets (2)
  • oval "fur" pillbox (not satisfied with this one, and will be reworking it)
  • craft felt mini top hat (using a very modified version of this pattern)
  • recycled knit shirt berets (4)
  • felted wool sweater beret (unfinished)
  • dragon hat (pattern from Fleece Fun) -- sadly, I don't seem to have a photo of this, and I gave it away

Month Four (Apr. '13)

[cue crickets chirping]

Month Nine (Sept. '13)

Month Ten (Oct. '13) 

Thirteen months later, the number of hats made ended up being... 34! (I'm not counting the modifications I made to the berets already had. Those were made for me by my mother years ago, and really all I did was add a band to them.) I'm disappointed with myself that I was unable to do a "theme" hat every month, but so many things conspired against me, including my own inability to focus on anything for too long. Still, 34 hats over 13 months is pretty impressive...

Monday, December 30, 2013

That Time of Year Again...

End of the year, time to reflect and plan on the coming year, right? (Not to mention look back at everything you didn't get done in the current year.) I don't do resolutions. I never keep them. All I can do is try to get concrete things accomplished, and promise not to beat myself up too badly when I don't manage it.

So far, I'm making a preemptive strike on organizing my daughter's room. She has collections that need a little curating, and a whole lot of clothing that needs someplace to go. I think I have come up with a way to reorganize her closet and make better use of the space. Today has been all about laundry, weeding out things that don't fit and getting gifts washed and folded. Tonight maybe I'll go get the shelves I want to put in her closet, and then I can work on getting her better organized.

The basement is a huge mess. I managed to undo so much of the work I did last year, that I will practically be starting all over again. I really want to get that done this year, so I can get that wall painted.

And speaking of painting... I still have to finish stripping and sanding a bookcase I plan to use for cookbooks. (They're currently on a baker's rack that is starting to show a little stress from the weight.) I want to paint it to look like the pattern on my grandmother's recipe box. I want to paint the kitchen cabinets too, but that's going to be an enormous job, and I don't know when that will happen. I'm making new everyday kitchen curtains, but that will only take me a day, max. (Huzzah for quick projects!)

There's dozens of little projects, but if I can get those three big things done (her room, the bookcase, and the basement) then I think my life will be greatly improved for the other things.

Friday, December 20, 2013

From Dr. Thad to Groovy Girls

So I finished Dr. Thad and the Medications, and decided to leave the other 9 dolls for another time. It felt pretty good not to have to rush and panic! Then, in a surprising twist, she starts asking about Groovy Girls dolls again...

I had sent Mom a list of what I thought was the last updated inventory of the dolls she had, and then discovered that it was not an updated list, and that there were duplications. Hubby and I did a new inventory, and I pulled out all the duplicate dolls that were also in identical outfits. (I had already gotten new outfits for other duplications years before.*) We had stopped at one of the few stores in our area that carry the dolls, and I got three new outfits. When they left to go to the mall on their weekly pilgrimage, I undressed the duplicates and started messing with mixing and matching and giving them new hairstyles. When I finished, I still had one doll who needed a new outfit, and the clothes I had didn't suit. Chrissy Christmas wears green elf shoes and peppermint striped tights. She was going to need something seasonal for her outfit.

I tried looking for clothes online, but there doesn't seem to be any holiday clothing sets (odd, huh?), so I started looking for sewing patterns, and found an A-line skirt pattern/tutorial, but precious little else. So I winged it, like I usually do.

I crocheted a tube with a little flare at one end (looks a bit like a peplum), and added a ribbon at the center front to tie around her neck as a halter. For the skirt, I used material from something else that my mother had given me, because I needed a small-scale print. The skirt is basically just 2 rectangles sewn together in a tube, with elastic sewn into a casing at the top.

The green top doesn't match, but I don't think she'll care.
The ribbon is just looped through in a half-hitch.

I didn't have any narrower elastic than 1/2" -- I'll need to get something smaller.

Please note, I eyeballed and estimated everything. I didn't count my stitches, or use a pattern. I just held things up to her as I was going and decided if it looked right. (I have an unfortunate habit of cooking the same way, so lots of things never quite taste the same way twice.)

I had fun making it, did it in an evening, and now my daughter has a "new" doll! I ordered a handful of "naked" dolls on ebay, and will give them all new names and new outfits and hairstyles, and give them to her for Valentine's Day.

I'd like to make a doll wearing a bowling shirt like she wears for the Special Olympics bowling team, and she's been asking about a cheerleader doll (naturally, the only one on ebay right now is part of a lot), so I thought I'd make a cheerleader uniform in her school colors. Maybe make an iron-on (miniaturized) of the school mascot...

There seems to be precious little in the way of patterns for these wonderful dolls. If you've got an American Girl or Barbie or Cabbage Patch Kid, you're set, but not so much for the sweet and fun Groovy Girls. (If I end up making any of my own, I'll share them here.)

Strappy top from Anne E. Weaver (who also did the A-line skirt)
Wrap skirt and Halter dress from Hobo Mama
No-Sew Doll Fashions from old socks, from TLC 

Beach Baby Dolls has patterns for sale that will fit Groovy Girls.

Simplicity had patterns called "Dizzie Dolls" by Carla Reiss (from 2002?) that included a pattern for a 14" soft doll, one for clothes, and another for pets for those dolls. They appear to be out of print, but available on ebay. Look for Simplicity #5742, 5745, 5682.

* Why not just remove the duplicates and give them away or sell them? Because she knows when dolls have been removed from the collection, and that upsets her. It's ok if they get new clothes, but taking them out of her collection completely is Bad. She got home from school before we finished the inventory. I took the duplicates in our bedroom and hid them. She went upstairs, and immediately noticed. I had to get Marc to hustle her out of the house so I could finish the inventory and recostume them. When they got back, she went upstairs first thing and then brought me one of them, saying "she looks fancy." (One of the new outfits was an evening/party dress.) I told her that she had a new outfit, and she was fine with that. So long as no one is missing, it's all ok.