Thursday, January 31, 2008

All Start and No Finish

This has been a not-so-hot week for this crafty girl. Not that it hasn't been a fun week, it just hasn't been a super creative week! I did start a couple of new projects (the photo montage above was made using Paint, the saddest of all photo manipulating programs, so please don't judge critically... I tried... ), but so far they are just started projects and not really nearing the finish line. I thought I'd throw a post up anyways, because I hate to think that my poor readers have nothing to read about! And there's not much to say about this, especially as one is sortof a secret-ish kind of project. And the other, well... it's got a long way to go before it is used.
I'm off to New Orleans tomorrow and I hope to be so inspired by beads that I do something ridiculously crafty and useless with the stash of beads I'm sure to bring home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Calligraphy Class, Part One

That's it. My first shot at calligraphy. There's room for improvement, I'll give you that, but I'm really excited about the whole thing. The class was tons of fun and the instructor--what a hoot! I thoroughly enjoyed my first calligraphy class and am excited to learn more as the weeks go by.
As you can see, last night we learned some of the basic strokes of calligraphy as well as the most basic way of printing numerals. I think that the "4" is particularly enjoyable. You can tell that I really had some initial problems with the "5" -- what a doosey! But I picked it up after a bit. My best number (as in the one that looks the most like the model) is a "7" though there's not much to that number in the first place.
Up at the top are the basic strokes, which were really fun. I could spend all day working on those, of course, they aren't too pretty. After you work on them for a while, you start to notice that what may initially look straight, is actually not straight at all, but slanted or crooked. And all the "c" and backwards "c" shapes are my attempts at semi-circles. Wow. That's hard to do, and I'm serious. Getting a perfect semi-circle is near impossible for me, but obviously, these things take lots and lots of practice.
I'll keep y'all updated on my progress...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Yay! New Calendar Day!

My abacus calendar arrived from Maine! I had to celebrate and post a picture, because it makes me so happy to have a brand new collection of beautiful prints. And they remind me of my days Down East...
Sorry if all the hyperlinks are distracting. I just get carried away when I think about the Pine Tree State!

Cabinet Upgrade

I like my apartment, don't get me wrong. It's in the ideal neighborhood for me--quieter than Dallas' West Village or Uptown, but by no means boring. The building is small and quiet, I rarely hear my neighbors and that's great. And the layout is fairly ideal for me. But, I'm not a huge fan of the white walls (there's a very strict no paint clause) and beige carpets. It's so bland! And I'm such a fan of color, texture, patterns, eye-catching elements... That's why I insist on undertaking projects that, yeah, I could live without, but that bring extra colors and patterns into my home.

When I moved in to this apartment, I was thrilled that the bathroom has turquoise tiles (a lovely escape from the white-on-white scheme that rules the rest of the pad). But I was fairly depressed by the bathroom cabinets under the sink. The hardware couldn't have been more boring if they tried and, to make things worse, the cabinet doors didn't match up and close correctly, meaning my cleaning supplies were always visible!

If you've never ventured into the cabinet-hanging world, I urge you to avoid it at all costs. On a previous house redecorating kick, I took down about 14 cabinets, thinking it would be a breeze to re-hang them. Boy was I wrong! Apparently, it takes an engineering degree to get the doors to line up perfectly and also to shut correctly. Thankfully, in my apartment's bathroom, I only had one cabinet to re-hang and I got through the whole process without cursing or pulling out any hair.

And now for the fun part of this project...

I wanted the bathroom cabinets to have color and different handles. I'd been looking around for hardware at various stores (Elliot’s True Value, Restoration Hardware) and online. I found some great handles at Anthropologie's winter clearance sale and they were cheap, so I snapped 'em up. They are an ivory-colored bone-like material, in a very classic shape. I bought a roll of Caspari wrapping paper to cover the cabinet faces and added in the handles, and voila a very refined looking collection of bathroom cabinets. To cover cabinets with paper, you should use a high quality double-stick tape. Often in the scrapbooking section of a craft store you'll find the kind of tape I'm talking about. Make sure, though, that you don't use a "puffy" tape, or else you'll be able to see the tape when the project is finished. Cut the paper to fit the cabinets (whether you want a little to wrap around the sides or a small border of the cabinet underneath is your choice), carefully place the paper on the cabinet, flatten out any wrinkles, and then cover with clear contact paper, for a lacquered look.

At right is a "before and after" picture of the cabinets when I was half-way done with the project. It's such a typical before and after shot because it was taken in low lighting and doesn't look very good, kinda like those pictures of people before and after a diet or tooth whitening--in the before, they are wearing ugly clothes, without their hair done and frowning, and in the after they are totally glamour shots. I liked the way this turned out so well, I might just do every cabinet in the apartment this way!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

GUEST POST: East Coast Cupcakes

Note from Hilary: You wouldn't believe how thrilled I was when my dear friend Susan asked if she could write a guest column for a crafty sort of project she created over the weekend with friend Kate of Philadelphia. I'm so excited to present the first-ever guest piece on "All the Cool Kids Love to Craft!" And if you are reading this, I hope you are inspired to do something crafty, take a picture of it & send it to me, because I'd love to post all of my readers' crafty projects!

Hello all. You may have heard me mentioned in this blog before. I am DJ Jazz aka Susan and, aside from being a close personal friend of the craftmaster herself, Hilary, I am also this blog's Number One Fan. No, really. Hilary informed me that I visit this blog more than anyone else in the whole world. And it's true--I love nothing more after a long day's labour (yeah, I spelled it with a "u"--suck it) than to perch in my laundry room with my laptop, cross my fingers for a new posting, and visit coolkidscrafting. Being a very uncrafty person myself I thought I'd never have anything to add, but after a successful baking venture this weekend, Hilary told me I could.

My good friend Kate was in town, and, as both of us were feeling very domestic, we decided to roll up our sleeves and bake something. From scratch. Behold, cappucino chip cupcakes with mocha buttercream frosting. Not only did we have a blast, but girrrrrl, lemme just tell you...Betty Crocker does well in a pinch but these cupcakes fluffed up so big, that buttercream frosting was so melt-in-your-mouth delectable, I may never go back. And is there any better smell in the whole world than butter and sugar that's just been creamed in the mixer? On a side note, I found myself short of vegetable oil, so I used some olive oil too and you couldn't even tell.

Fortified by our success, Kate and I then made bran flax muffins, the recipe for which in on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal bag. I'm aware that sounded hurl-inducing, but they are my new faves. So moist, so easy, so so good. And did you know that you can substitute flax meal for shortening or cooking oil? Hence, said muffins had no added oil or butter. That's not to say I didn't slather them up with Land o' Lakes before shoveling them down my greedy gullet. If you're not on the flax meal wagon, hop on, homegirl. It's good for your heart and your palate.

Have fun baking!

Out of Reach for Use, And That's a Good Thing...

This is my decopaged bedpan. Most people have never used a bedpan, nor do they own a bedpan, much less a decorated bedpan. What can I say, I've got all the luck...
Most of my readers already know that I had a big ole' accident in Italy a couple of years ago and I broke both of my legs. And you need to be able to move your legs to walk yourself to the bathroom, and thus, the bedpan comes into play. And the story goes on (and gets less bodily-fluid centric, I must add), when I asked my friends if they'd just do me one little favor, to show their solidarity for my poor crippled condition. You know how when one child in an elementary school class has cancer and looses all his/her hair in chemotherapy, how the other kids in the class shave their heads to show their support? Well, I asked my friends to use a bedpan while I used one. So, that didn't really pan out, but they showed their love by founding a facebook group dedicated to me and bedpans; taking pictures of themselves with adult diapers and bedpans; and ultimately, making me this bedpan.
And I'm presenting it to you as a favorite craft ever, even though I didn't make said craft. The credit for all the cutting and pasting goes to my bud Emily, up in Chicago. If you look closely, you can see both Lucy of "The Effects of This Good Lesson " and Katie of "How to Survive in Subtropical Paradise" up at the top of the bedpan, even if the glare on Lucy's face makes her all but unrecognizable.
The big question when one receives a decopaged bedpan as a gift is, where should I put it? Well... the bathroom is an obvious spot for such a treasure, but even then, it needs to be somewhere safe. I wouldn't want toothpaste or harsh cleaners to get near this one-of-a-kind item (I venture to guess it may be the only decopaged bedpan in the whole world, though I'd love to be proved wrong and see pictures of other decorated ones). So I mounted this thing above my shower. And it looks good. And every day I look at it and smile because seriously, who has better friends than me? A decorated bedpan... the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jarring Pointillism

I found the perfect place to display my collection of assorted painted glass bottles--atop the glass shelf in my bathroom! To most of my readers, these glass bottles are not a new craft, I've been painting jars like this for years, but I decided I'd write about them anyway, just in case someone out there has never seen them. This is the greatest TV-watching craft I've got. Just rinse a glass jar (or buy one at the dollar store if you see a great shape) and start dabbing dots of paint all over the thing until it's thoroughly covered. The only tip--don't paint yourself into a proverbial corner, always make sure you can set the jar down if you need to. Walking around with a wet-paint-covered jar that you can't set down on any of its sides is truly annoying. As you can see, you can do themetic collections of dots or group dots by color or really play up the paint's textures by putting lots of paint per dot on the jar (as demonstrated by the pickle-jar piece). I love these jars, not only because they are so interesting to look at and are made from completely free materials, but also because they have the most wonderful texture to the touch.
Upon occasion someone will ask me to make them a jar and I'm more than happy so to do. For now, I think my apartment has its maximum saturation of painted jars.

Bathroom Bonanza!

Yeah, I just used the title "bathroom bonanza." And it describes this week's theme. I do realize that by posting this now, it will be at the bottom of the week's posts, so if you get to this point in the blog, look up, because that's where the new stuff is.

I promised I'd do my dining room this month, but things came together faster for my bathroom projects, so this is the room-o-the month, for now. I really don't have enough rooms in my home for there to be a room for every month, but I'll deal with that fact later.

My beloved Dj Jazzy is coming to visit me in March and I really wanted my place to look crafty and cute for her arrival. Natch (as Susan would say), I started with the bathroom, and that's because Susan and I have a long history of getting ill when we are around each other. And as long as she's going to fly to Dallas just to get sick, she might as well do it in a cute bathroom, right? So without further ado, I will reveal my bathroom's projects.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Last night on Channel 11 News, the lead story was about a small town a few hours west of Dallas where UFOs have been sighted, well at least supposedly sighted. They had a bunch of (very cliché if I may say so) country folk talking about lights zooming around the sky. I'm sure it won't be long before conspiracy theorists suggest it is anyone from the ghost of Abraham Lincoln to Dick Cheney's third cousin that is causing the supposed UFOs, and alas I digress.

My post is not supposed to be about the UFO sightings in Stephenville, Texas as that hardly fits the self-imposed limits of this blog. Generally, when I say UFO, I'm not talking about flying dishes from Mars--I'm talking about those projects which disrupt one's feng shui, sitting around for years rotting and waiting to be used, I'm talking about UnFinished Objects. And this weekend, I came across my ultimate UFO. I was fishing around the boxes on the top shelf of my closet and I saw this poor bundle of cloth, half sewn, half pinned together--a project I started the summer after my freshman year of college. As a reference point, shabby chic was brand new then, and I hadn't heard of Anthropologie yet. So I vowed to finish the thing. Ordinarily, if a sewing project of mine isn't completed within a year, it meets it's demise in the form of a date with the garbage can. But this project is special for a number of reasons. First, my mother thinks its the most beautiful thing she's ever seen and the best project I've ever done, with the exception of a painted piece of glass that (hopefully) I'll be blogging about next week. And my mother would be really sad if this project bit the dust. Second, looking back, I do think it's pretty impressive that I did the whole thing without a pattern. I just started free sewing and I created something that looks pretty good. And third, I really love it too. I don't know what caused me to put it down, but I would guess it was left in Texas when I went back to Virginia for my sophomore year of college.

And some details about the UFO: It's an apron, with a hand stitched "H" across the front in both pink and green (as can be seen at the top of this post). I hand sewed the ruffles without a pattern (at right, the fabric really looks good on film, you get quite a sense of the textures at play). I figured out a pretty cool way of creating ruffles evenly using my fingers as the markers for where the ruffles belong. It's not an exact science by any means, but I don't mind because it all fits in with the "shabby chic" mentality I had going on when I started this project. And at this point, I've all but finished the top half of the apron, and the bottom half is also done (but not pictured yet because it desperately needs to be ironed. Seven years at the bottom of a box did nothing to make the skirt part photogenic). All that's left is some spot hand sewing and for me to attach the top part to the skirt part (a process which will require a trip to the sewing store for some fresh navy blue thread, I'm all out at the moment). Hopefully the whole thing will be revealed here quite soon!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Did Try To Be Patient...

I've been trying for the past couple of weeks to be really patient about my upcoming calligraphy classes, but I can't take it anymore.

I am so excited! I've always liked to print. When there's a sign that needs to be printed, I always volunteer (my office's Halloween tombstones come to mind here, pictured below in not-so-high quality). The dawn of the cheap personal computer printer means that most people type everything. As I gripe about how much is typed versus how much is handwritten, I'm typing! But I love to print things by hand. I love to think about each letter, how the letters should fit together, how the letters should look when all joined up as one word, how each word should look when placed near other words to form a sentence, which words should be biggest and boldest for emphasis, which should be small but clear to lay the groundwork for the most important words.

Untrained artists spend their lives developing a unique perspective when they approach their art. Formal classes don't detract from the skills of an untrained artist, they allow the artist to grow and develop a new perspective. I owe a lot of my crafting and home improvement know-how to the design courses I took in college and after college at the University of Maine at Augusta. These courses taught me to approach creative situations with various perspectives, instead of just my own.

And now, I'm getting ready to do this with my printing skills as well. The calligraphy course promises to teach the basics of roman and italic fonts (with serifs, I'm sure, to use some old copy editing jargon). I'm not exactly sure why I want to study calligraphy so badly. I will be honest and say, I've never dreamed of a career of addressing people's wedding invitations. And I think it will be very difficult for me to stay within the strict confines of the various fonts, to stay as close to the pattern as possible. I've always been one who prefers to color outside of the lines, and I'm hoping that, given the basic font types from my calligraphy class, I will be able to develop my own unique way of printing, with a classic backbone but with my creative influences woven into the print. Perhaps my unique font will be marketable, perhaps not. The important thing to me is that I'm trying to enhance one of my favorite skills. And isn't January the perfect month to try to grow?

I've decided to post a writing sample at the top of each of my calligraphy entries. Hopefully you'll see marked progress. And the class doesn't start until January 28. Everyone needs lessons in patience . . .

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

English Mount(ed)

In a time before I existed, my mother was a flight attendant for Braniff. That airline went out of business--quite dramatically, a few days before I was born. Call my mother if you want to hear the whole story. I digress though, because the point is my mother got to travel all over the world (and I'm a well-travelled fetus, too--making it to Europe, Nebraska, Brazil and Korea all pre-birth). Once when in London, she got a set of framed prints that were created to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977. I think that means that all of Great Britain was celebrating 25 years of QE2, but I'm not 100% on that fact. (On an unrelated note, my mother was always popping back and forth across the pond and got some really cool items celebrating the Charles/Diana wedding, though they are too valuable for any crafting updates...)
Unfortunately for my mother, the frames on the above prints were ugly and they languished in a closed drawer for the past three decades. The drab green frames really dated them as relics from the 1970s and didn't do anything to accentuate the colors in the prints, either. And olive green is hardly a royal color, nor is it suited my decorating tastes. So I splashed some super-metallic gold paint from Elliott's True Value Hardware all over those puppies and they are good to go! On Saturday, they broke their 31 year hiatus of living in various drawers and boxes and can now be spotted on the wall next to my desk.

Pictured above are two of the three prints. Getting a good photo of the "nook" area surrounding my desk was next to impossible, so I had to settle for just showing two of the frames. The print you are missing is of a boat sailing under London Bridge. The top print is the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben shown from across the Thames & the lower print is a royal procession approaching Buckingham Palace.

I love vintage finds, especially when you know the object's story and can relate to it personally. And seeing as these came straight from mom, how much more personal can I get?

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sassy Sewing

Sewing isn't really my bag, man. My mom spends many an hour with her foot on the sewing machine pedal, humming along patterns and putting together pillows. I dig the occasional chance to sew, though, and I thought I'd share something I didn't make -- I made it better.

I got this skirt at a legendary Dallas bargain store, called quite appropriately, The $6.88 Store. Everything in the store costs $6.88, including this skirt. It's Isaac Mizrahi for Target, which means it didn't start out at too much more than $6.88, but it was also to the mid-calf (AKA ugly).

I decided to invent a bubble hem and make it a sassy cocktail skirt. It looks great with heels or heeled boots, depending on the occasion and the weather. In Dallas right now, we're struggling to winter-ize our summer clothes, since the highs have been reaching the 80s! So heels it is with this skirt! I guess I should mention how I invented the bubble hem, so others could try the ridiculously easy method I came up with. It's a poofy skirt, meaning that the longer the skirt gets, the more fabric you have to work with, so there is no such thing as just "taking it up" by a few inches, because you'll end up with bunched fabric and some bad looking pleats. So, instead of sewing all the way around the skirt to take up the length, I just sewed a short (as in less than a quarter of an inch) section every three inches, so that the excess fabric length makes up the bubble of the skirt.

All in all, I think it works. I think the sewing method is particularly suited to the fabric of this skirt, which is some sort of nylon/silk blend.