block printed christmas wrap project

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This week, I don't know what happened, but I was seized by a fit of craftiness à la Martha Stewart. Maybe it was residual inspiration from my trip to Galbraith & Paul a couple of weeks ago. I corralled the kids and put them to work on making some Christmas wrap. I had a couple of rolls of kraft paper and some other supplies, it was raining, and I just didn't feel like going out to Target for the store bought stuff. The kids wound up having a blast with it, so it was a win-win. And I do think it adds a nice handmade touch to our gifts.
To do this project you will need:
-package of sticky-back foam sheets
-washable kids' paint such as Crayola
-paint brushes
-plastic plates to use as palettes
-small foam rollers (optional)
-wood scraps such as from a 1x4 board
-roll of kraft paper
The foam self-stick sheets we picked up at Michael's were on the thin side, so we doubled them up before cutting our shapes. Thicker is better for clear prints. Simple shapes work best (the bell/toilet plunger shape didn't make the cut). The most complicated shape was the Santa had because it requires 2 colors of paint.
We didn't have any rollers on hand so we used the spread & dunk method. Spread the paint fairly thin with a brush on the plate and dunk the stamp in it.
Coverage should look about like this- not too goopy. If you have rollers, roll on the paint and it will give a similar effect, more even to tell the truth, but we let go of our perfectionist tendencies for this. Or you can use a paintbrush to apply the paint thinly to the stamp.
Then stamp away, reloading between each stamping.
Hours of fun for the kiddos, especially if you have your Charlie Brown Christmas cd playing in the background and Christmasy junk food to nosh on.

in the christmas spirit at terrain

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It was a good day to get out of the studio. It was the first sunny day in a while, and a call from a friend to go meet for coffee at the Cafe at Terrain in Glen Mills, PA was all the enticing I needed.
I always liked the old Styers, the nursery that Anthropologie bought to transform into their flagship lifestyle garden store, but it was more of a nuts & bolts kind of place. It didn't have a cafe, much of a gift shop, or quite the panache that Terrain has. I miss the plant selection though.
The seasonal displays here are always so irresistible. (Go here to see fall's displays) This winter's theme: rustic & cozy.
A little tartan.
A little woodland.
Time to start some paperwhites and amaryllis.
Winterberries. Yes it's finally December. All we need now is a picturesque dusting of snow!

hand block printed textiles by galbraith & paul

Monday, December 5, 2011

We couldn't stay away. Beth & I made the trek again into Manayunk, PA for Galbraith and Paul's annual sample sale on Saturday. I swore I'd never come back to Manayunk after getting 2 parking tickets in one day last time, but I was so bummed-out that my camera didn't work then, that I was able to be persuaded. I just am so heartened to see a handmade business thriving right here in the USA and on this scale. People fly in for this sale. The fabric is highly sought-after. I'm sure they've felt the pressure to get the price down by taking production off-shore, but so far the fabrics are all made here.
It was the usual feeding frenzy with the piles of pillows and the "by the pound" scrap table seeing a lot of action. I was tempted to start a new decorating project, but I only just finished the padded headboard  using the smokebush printed linen I bought here last year.
Originally, Galbraith & Paul were known for their handmade paper lampshades. Now the lampshades are fabric. Room and Board carries the pillows & lampshades. They have also ventured into rugs and wallpaper.
 So mod- so fab!
A complicated pattern like this takes either multiple blocks and/or requires hand painting more than one color on a block. It requires skilled artisans to execute.
These are some of the "blocks".
The ink is applied with these little rollers.
Just like at the paint store!

My friend Beth's new best friend: Liz Galbraith. Mr Paul was working the register. Even Liz's little boys were helping customers.
A glimpse of future designs on the pin-up board in Liz's studio. The loveliness continues...

a pleasant hike along the delaware river

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We opted to skip the Black Friday sales last weekend. The cousins were in town and the weather was warm, so we decided to do a mini-hike in Old New Castle, DE along the Delaware River instead. To get to the start of the hike, you enter the town via rt 273/Delaware Street and take it past Jessop's Tavern and all the way to the end where there is a small parking lot and dock. Old New Castle itself is a historic 17th century town that is quaint to go exploring in, but today we chose to walk along the water through Battery Park and the paved trail that makes a short, doable 3 mile round trip.
click to enlarge map
The kids whined a little at the idea of a hike, but this is a great one for kids. Being close to the mouth of the river and the bay, the shore is sandy and covered with beachy stuff. There is a lot of driftwood to pick through, some shells, and a good amount of sea glass to find.
It's a picturesque walk despite the power plants visible across the way. 

Battery Park has some osage orange trees that have dropped their fruit. Although not an uncommon tree, we'd never noticed one or seen its distinctive fruit before. Not related to citrus trees at all, the osage orange is named so because of the pleasant citrusy smell of its fruit. They aren't edible are said to repel ants and look good in a bowl with gourds.
Once under way, we realized there must be some geocaches set up on the route. Sure enough, a check of the smartphone there were 3 to find which kept the kids going, even running, during the hike.
What kids doesn't like a treasure hunt?
Near the start of the hike was this old ticket booth from a now defunct railway line. We'll come back another time to tour the whole town and visit the Read House and the other historical sites. There is a garden tour in the summer that I haven't been to in years...

why i'm not having a cyber monday sale or any other sale anytime soon

Sunday, November 27, 2011

And so it begins. The turkey has barely had time to cool on the plate and the mega sale season has begun. I'm in awe of how many people are willing to camp out at stores, stay up all night, wait in lines, endure crowds in search of "deals". It all just makes me sad.

We pay for cheap merchandise in so many ways other than the purchase price. Quality of materials is the first to go. And it's no secret that the workers in these far away factories are not paid living wages or given benefits (I know, I used to work in the apparel industry). The the environment pays for the cheap prices by being over-harvested and polluted in the production process before the stuff gets shipped across the globe using fossil fuel. And finally, with fewer jobs to go around in our own country because labor is cheaper elsewhere, we go into debt as a nation to support the resulting jobless and bail out companies that make stupid decisions so we won't lose even more jobs. So we pay for all this cheap merchandise on the backs the downtrodden, our environment, and indirectly our own selves.

One thing, among others, that I will never buy is Chinese cashmere. The environmental devastation caused by the overgrazing of China's grasslands is just mind boggling. This article from the Seattle Times was published 8 years ago. It's a miracle that this resource hasn't been completely gobbled up yet (literally, the goats are eating each other because the grass is gone). There will be a point sometime soon when it won't be possible to make a lot of things.

Call me a curmudgeon, but this is what I think about when I see all the ads and sale signs. I'm sad to see my Etsy friends succumbing to the pressure to get buyers' attention by putting on sales that they can't really afford to do. I'm disappointed that the Etsy powers that be are encouraging this mentality in our handmade community. I feel this undermines artisans by cheapening the product in the eyes of the buyer rather than promoting what's wonderful about handmade items and why they are worth more than something mass-produced.

Sooooooo, this is why I have not done a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale or any other promotion except for a modest coupon for members of my Facebook page celebration my 100th Etsy sale. I'm not willing to use cheaper materials. I will continue to use my American Apparel onesies and tees which are made in the USA and are soft and thick. I can't compete on price, so I'm not going to try. If something costs me $10 in materials takes me 3 hours to make like my bird purses or my appliqued onesies, it's going to have to cost over $30. I hope my original designs have value to people, but if I can't sell the stuff for that, lowering the price won't help me in the long run. I'll give it all away to loved ones who will enjoy it if it comes to that.

It's impossible now to get through modern life without buying some mass produced things (although some brave souls have tried it). I just ask that you consider buying some portion of your holiday shopping from a small independent merchant (like me!) this season. There is plenty of cool stuff to be found if you're willing to browse on Etsy or one of the other handmade sites and your money will go to a person. The Etsy Kids Team blog has 10 reasons why you should buy handmade if I haven't already convinced you. And if you're still here at the end of this paragraph, thanks for listening to my rant!

into matryoshka dolls

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I don't know why, but I'm into Matryoshka dolls, also known as Russian nesting dolls, at the moment. I guess I should say I'm STILL into them since I wrote about them a while ago here.
They just seem so festive for the holidays to me. I found these great matryoshka doll items browsing around on Etsy:
Antique Russian nesting dolls from amberfilikins (oh darn, they're sold!)
Matryoshka doll letterpress birthday card from dutchdoor
Mother-daughter nesting doll pendant set from shoplolli
Matryoshka doll bobby pins from MelissaAbram
Kokka Japanese import matryoshka doll fabric from MoonaFabrics
Hand printed matryoshka doll kitchen towels from CuddleCanvas
Matryoshka doll baby quilt from SweetnCozy
Tiny needle felted matryoshka doll from CattaDolls

And I've been working on my own items for chirp & bloom.
I made an applique onesie and big sister tee in time for the last Clover Market of the season two weeks ago, and I think they came out pretty cute. People liked them at the show anyway, so now they are in the shop.
It was fun to finally use some of the floral ribbons from my trip to the NYC garment district and it was my first time using ink jet printable fabric sheets by Jaquard. I really wanted something realistic for the face, so I created the image in the computer and printed it out. I did a wash test and the ink ran some which wouldn't do at all. So I tried again, and heat setting it with the iron, then soaking it in salt water. That brought the color down a bit, but I like the more antique look and when washed  again, the ink didn't run. See? Even in a small business you have to do quality control testing. I'll add to that that I've tested the best way to finish the edge of ribbons and ric-rac. Between Fray-Check and singeing, singeing wins as long as the content is polyester. I use a Darice craft wood burning tool for the singeing and it works great.

Back to those printable fabric sheets- they are so cool, my daughter wanted to try them too, so we had a couple of friends over to do her craft idea here.

making a padded headboard

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The attic room is finally finished! This was a project I'd been contemplating since scoring some great block printed fabric at the Galbraith & Paul sample sale in Manayunk last December.
This year's sale is coming up on the 3rd, so it only took me 11 months to complete the project. I call my process "turtle mode". I'm excruciatingly slow, but I do eventually finish things.
We use the attic room as a guest room, and it's been slightly embarrassing to send guests up there with it being on the dingy side and not pulled together. Bad leaking in the window wells prompted me to get a contractor in there to fix the damage, but a few months later it's still leaking, I'm sorry to say. Third attempt in 9 years to fix it- oh well! That's an old house for you!
My boy helped me with a fresh coat of milky white paint. Those little rollers are great for kids. The shade wasn't hugely different than before, but it was enough brighter & cleaner to make all the difference.
I use the Martha Stewart method to place pictures and the new padded headboard. I trace the frames on kraft paper, marking where the nails need to go in for the hooks. Once the templates are arranged pleasingly, you nail the hooks in right through the paper, then just tear off the paper.
Anna See prints
I got these fabulous bird block prints from Anna See on Etsy. I framed them in floating frames like she suggested so you can see the deckled edges of the paper.
The padded headboard was fairly easy to make. We cut a piece of plywood to 21"x67" which we tested over our Ikea platform bed in kraft paper to make sure of the proportion. I left it there for a few days, ok a month and a half, before I felt totally secure with it. Then I cut some 2" foam to the same size with one of those electric meat cutters (cuts like butter!). If I were to do it again, I'd go thicker with the foam- maybe 3" or more. I cut the fabric & a layer of batting 5" bigger than plywood/foam all around to allow for wrapping around the edge. To reduce bulk, I trimmed the batting from the corner.
Am I a bad mom for letting my 5year-old use the staple gun? There was no stopping him so I supervised. it's kind of nice to have two sets of hands for this, so one person can hold the fabric taut while the other staples. To get even tension, you want to start in the middle and staple top & bottom across from each other, then repeat on the sides. Work you way around alternating like this, leaving the corners for last.
The corners are a little tricky. It's like doing origami to get a nice fold there. Patience. Experiment until it looks neat. We used two flush mount hangers from our local mom-and-pop hardware store to hang the headboard. Home Depot did not have them- the bums! Even with the Martha Stewart method, hanging the headboard was a bit of a comedy of errors. Being so wide, it was really obvious if it was a little off level. There are 30 holes or so behind it from us redrilling over and over to make it right.
after again
And here it is again in 3/4 view taken with my new wide angle lens! The final touches were switching out the rice paper lights for more more functional table lamps from Target and customizing a plain white duvet cover with a linen appliqué band (pain in the butt!). Guests, you may make your reservations now!

fun with ink jet printable cotton

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's a gorgeous time of year here in northern Delaware!
With all the leaves falling, my daughter was inspired to do a craft with her friends involving leaves.
I recently discovered these nifty ink jet printable fabric sheets by Jaquard at my local sewing store, Hayes Sewing Machine Co.
I used them to make the face on my new matryoshka doll onesie & tee. When my daughter saw me using it, she started thinking of things to scan and print out on the stuff.
Leaves work great. Once you've scanned them and printed them onto the sheets, which print just like paper, you peel off the backing and have a nice piece of fabric with your imagery on it.
We decided to make the leaves into iron-ons by applying another favorite product of mine, fusible web, to the back side. I really like Warm Company's Steam-a-Seam Lite 2. It has a waxy paper backing on both sides. Cut the web to the size of the fabric sheet, then peel off one side of the backing. Place tacky side down onto the back side of the printed sheet and iron until adhered. Now the leaves can be cut out. We left white around the edges, but you could trim right up to the edges of the leaf if you wanted to.
You could do just about anything with the iron-ons- decorate your jeans, apply to a tote bag, but we decided to make 12" x 12" pillows out of some corduroy from my stash. To make a 12" x 12" pillow we figured out we needed to cut a 25" x 13" rectangle to allow for the seam allowances and folding in half to make the front/back. To apply the iron-ons, peel off the 2nd layer of paper from the back and place on the background fabric. When arranged pleasingly, just iron.
Appliqué-aholic that I am, I had the girls stitch around the leaves as well which was good practice for pivoting and controlling the stitching. The web is great, but doesn't necessarily last forever, especially if you wash your item, so it's nice to sew them down. Speaking of washing, if you plan to wash your printed fabric, wait 24 hours, then soak it in some salt water, rinse, and allow to dry. It'll fade a little, but still be pretty and unlikely to run and fade dramatically with future washes.
After the appliquéing, sewing up the sides with 1/2" seam allowances, stuffing, and closing the last bit was a piece of cake. It was a totally doable project for 10 year-olds. I think they did a lovely job!