The Psychology of Pysanky

Hi again all!

Easter is almost upon us again, and the time has come when that traditional Easter Egg shape (or “Spring Sphere” shape, depending which circles you run in) just seems to be calling out for a decorative touch.

Whatever you call them, these blank little ovoids seem to be the perfect canvases for a wide variety of paint and dye techniques. One of the more homespun methods of decoration also happens to be one of the most intricate and spectacular.

Pysanky is a form of egg decoration that uses various dyes and a wax resist, like batik. It may be one of your Ukranian grandmother’s favorite hobbies, but it also lends itself to an almost unending series of reinventions.

A little while back, I was lucky enough to find a class in the area that taught this spectacular technique. I have to admit, it’s sort of impossible to get the awe-inspiring results seen below from only a 3 hour session, but it was a decent introduction to the process.

http://spindlesend.net/images2/Misc/P0001432.JPG

Essentially, you draw on your basic geometric breakdown lightly with a pencil, heat a very simple small metal funnel called a kitska over a flame, and use it to paint beeswax resist over an ever-darkening series of dye layers on your egg.

What this meant to my design above was that I painted beeswax where I wanted the white of the design to be. Then, I dyed the egg yellow. I painted the beeswax over the part of the egg where I wanted the yellow to be, and then tinted a section of my egg green. And so on and so forth until you end with your black dye. Then you melt all of your beeswax off with a candle.

As a perfectionist, this particular craft pursuit could easily have driven me to the point of a nervous breakdown, especially due to the 3 hour time constraint. And, note to all of you who may want to try pysanky in future, do NOT try to down a mug full of coffee before trying this for the first time…

But, no offense to the sudoku aficionados out there, I think this is a way more fun method of training your brain to think backwards and plan ahead.

So everyone out there with a Ukranian grandmother, go tell her she’s awesome, just because. And if you’d like to learn more about the art of pysanky, please see this generously free tutorial site.

Happy Easter everyone :-)

Diamonds are a girl’s best friend: adventures with brick stitch

Design copyright Veon Schunzel

A while back, my family and I started going to Native American pow-wows. These events are a great way to spend the weekend with your loved ones, and to experience some Native American crafts and culture.

At the Schemitzun in Connecticut, for example, 500 or so tribes are represented in a 3 day festival, hosted by the Mashantucket Pequot tribal nation. This wonderful 3-day event, which tends to take place in late August or early September, features tribal dance competitions, drumming and live music, and amazingly tasty food (don’t worry vegetarians, there are options for you! try the vegetarian fry-bread, like an open-faced bean taco). Best of all though, in my opinion, are the AMAZING handmade craft (and craft-supply) booths.

For you jewelry enthusiasts out there, events like the Schemitzun can simultaneously be the best – and worst – places for you. You will be absolutely bowled-over by the quantity and quality of handmade jewelry. Gorgeous inlaid stone pieces are always present in vast quantities, but my personal weakness is the beaded jewelry. I tend to fall in love with just about every item I see, and I usually can’t resist bringing home a few pieces. Being a crafter though,  my initial thought is often an average between “OMG pretty!!!” and “I want to MAKE that!!!!”

Luckily, these festivals often attract lots of glass-bead vendors just for people like me (and you!) who get inspired to make things at home. If you want to try your hand at something like the earrings I made above, you can join the hordes of enthusiastic beaders pawing through bins and bins of beautiful glass seed beads and hand-carved stone pendants at a pow-wow. Of course, these materials can also be purchased online, but not much beats the thrill of  “the chase” in finding your perfect colors in person. And you might even be able to haggle your way to some discounts at a festival…

If you’d like  to read more about the beaded earrings above, which were hand beaded using the brick (a.k.a. Cheyenne or Comanche) stitch, please follow the link below.

Happy beading everyone!

Continue reading ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend: adventures with brick stitch’

Pear and pear alike, or why I like Twinkies

I love food.

I know you have to eat to live, but I kind of live to eat. So, to get me through that long stretch between breakfast and midmorning snack, I can wear my food instead of just dreaming about it.

Enter: Twinkie Chan. She has published an awesome book that I am sad I didn’t publish first. It’s a whole book of awesome food-shaped scarves, hats, and tissue box covers that you can crochet yourself, and it’s called Twinkie Chan’s Crochet Goodies for Fashion Foodies: 20 Yummy Treats to Wear.

Now, you can buy some of Twinkie Chan’s awesome scarves ready-made for upwards of $60 (try Amazon.com for example), but Ms. Chan also generously offers some of her totally kitschy and awesome patterns right here in this book, which you can buy right from Amazon for under $10! So, for those of us hungry crafters with less disposable income, we can still rock some fabulous inedible treats, hand-fashioned by “ours” truly.

I know I’m fixin’ to make myself a cupcake hat next. ;)

And for those of you who really appreciate a finely honed sense of humor, check out Twinkie’s hilarious crochet-themed rap video below. I, for one, totally want to be one of her posse….

Enjoy all! And happy fooding/crafting!

The final countdown…

Ahh, the 11th hour…When thoughts of sewing turn to hot glue and hope…

This was me last night right before the Halloween party I went to: On the floor tacky gluing fabric to a cardboard triangle for my Lady Gaga costume. Thursday night, I had been up till all sorts of odd hours  spray painting the other part of my Gaga-wear. (The sort of flattened innertube thing you see around my waist above.)

I think the costume came out quite alright though! At least with the help of my $5 ( I know, right?!) blond wig from Jo-Ann Fabrics. And my sunglasses, which I can at least reuse again. I also got those gloves super cheap (under $5!) at my local Claire’s boutique (it sells jewelry, mostly to the pre-teen or teen set, but don’t judge me, they have really cool earrings in there!).

If you want a Lady Gaga costume like this on the cheap (i.e. not the $50-60 it costs sans wig in the store) try to get yourself:

  1. a black top (Charlotte Russe for me!)
  2. a black skirt (I had that already, you might too)
  3. Posterboard (if you can’t find black posterboard or large cardstock-type paper at your local arts/crafts store, go with regular old white posterboard; Just spray paint it black and leave to dry/air out for 24 hours)
  4. recycled cardboard or posterboard for the silver triangle; (Tip: if you’ve got some scrap cardboard that already has a right angle in it, you have to do even less measuring)
  5. silver sequin-y fabric (Jo-Ann’s; $7/yard and I needed maybe a half a yard with some left over)
  6. tacky glue
  7. black ribbon
  8. some fishnet stockings (I had those from a past Halloween also),
  9. a blonde wig (If you can’t find the super cheapo version as I did, it might go for about $20 or thereabouts)
  10. sunglasses ($10 or under should get you a decent Gaga-esque pair; just go as big as possible)
  11. shoes (use what you’ve got)
  12. gloves (optional**) you can’t eat party food with them on anyway

To start, cut a triangle from cardboard (height is from your hip to your bust line, width is 5-6″ on average). Place the cardboard on top of the wrong side of your sequin fabric and cut around it, leaving about half to 3/4″ allowance around it to glue the fabric down. You will want to cover the BACK side of your triangle first; then flip the triangle over and cover the FRONT side. That way all the excess fabric overlap will only show in the back.

Originally, I had wanted to velcro this piece onto my costume, but due to time constraints, I could not. I ended up cutting small slits in the back of the triangle, through the fabric, then stringing black ribbon through them and tying it around my waist. I safety-pinned the top part of the triangle to the bust of my shirt. Whether you use this method, or whether you go with some stick-on/sew-on velcro, at least you can remove the triangle when you want to. This will make the costume more comfortable, and it will make it washable also.

Translate the shape from the below template to a FULL sheet of regular sized posterboard with a pencil. I just eyeballed it. I am sure it was a little asymmetrical, but no one noticed…

Spray paint the board black on both sides (if your posterboard isn’t already that color.) Make sure you cut enough out of the middle to fit yourself in. Don’t worry if the board bends a bit when you try it on, this is what give it the curve you see. Punch holes in the front of this “skirt” and tie your black ribbon in a bow around yourself to keep this thing on.

That’s more or less the whole costume. Now slap on a wig and show everyone your Poker face :-). Happy Halloween!

Smokin’ hot

As you may recall from my previous post, I am kind of a big Lady Gaga fan. In fact, it seems I am about to join the Million Gaga March this weekend and become one of the thousands of others dressing up as the fashion-loving diva for Halloween. I was remarkably stubborn though about not purchasing one of the licensed Lady Gaga costumes that are popping up everywhere these days.

Gaga has so many notable and unique outfits that have become her signature style, but one of the officially weirdest outfit choices I’ve ever seen has to be the lit cigarette sunglasses that were featured in the “Telephone” video. I think I read somewhere that either Gaga or her co-star pictured above got burned somewhere in that equation…

So I decided to make a less dangerous, and more lung-friendly version, of the sunglasses. The cigarettes are actually made of paper that I printed and rolled myself, in a similar technique as I used to make the recycled magazine frame. I have attached a printable version of the cigarette papers I designed below, in case anyone wants to join me in walking perilously from room to room, bumping into things, this weekend. Please click the link to print: Cigarettes. Please note that I did try to leave some room for visibility between the cigarettes on the glasses. But do take caution and only wear these glasses in inside locations, and to take care when doing so.

I’d recommend printing out 2 sheets of the above images in order to have enough for your particular pair of glasses. Of course, this all depends on the original size of your glasses. I used a colored pencil as a form to roll all of the papers into cigarette-like shapes. Then I spread regular old Elmer’s School glue, nothing fancy, to keep the paper rolled up. After that, I used sticky tack (also known as museum putty) to stick the faux cigarettes onto the glasses and plan out a look. You may continue to use sticky tack to keep the cigarettes in place, but some kind of glue that works with paper and plastic will be more secure. Hot glue might work, but it also might melt the lenses or frames of your glasses. The adhesive you choose  depends on whether or not you will ever need to use these sunglasses as more than just a costume in future.

If you have any questions about this project or about anything else on this blog, please leave a comment on this post.  Thank you all and have a happy Friday!

Both candy and corny at the same time.

I really like things with happy faces on them. Especially food. Even food I don’t eat.

I don’t eat candy corn, but boy I’m going to love wearing it! And even more than that, I love how simple and quick this project was.

All you need is:

  • Shrink plastic (the regular old clear plastic Shrinky Dink kind is the standard, but there may be other brands available); You should be able to find this at your local craft store or online
  • Colored pencils or markers (I’d stick to the colored pencils; They seem to give the best results; I’d avoid Sharpie markers because the pigment is too saturated)
  • Candy corn template (please see below)
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch (A standard hole punch will work just fine, just make sure you punch your hole 1/8″ or so from the edge of your original-sized shrink plastic, before shrinking; If you leave less space than that, your hole may break open entirely as the item shrinks); However, I have found that a 1/8″ hole punch gives you a much smaller and more precise hole, and will still accommodate a standard-size jump ring or earwire after shrinking
  • Oven/tin foil/cookie sheet
  • Earwires and pliers for attaching the earwires to your candy corn
  • optional**: Acrylic sealer (It will help to prevent the color rubbing off your finished piece of jewelry)

  1. Print out the above candy corn templates; Notice that the two candy corns are mirror images of each other; If you like your earrings to be 100% identical, you can trace one image twice
  2. Trace the images lightly onto your shrink plastic. Please note that you will be drawing on the rough side of the shrink plastic, not the smooth side. Start by coloring in the white, orange, and yellow, then go back in to add the pink for the blushing cheeks, and the black for the eyes; If the colors do not seem vibrant enough to you, don’t worry; Colors will intensify during shrinking.
  3. Once all of the colors have been filled in to your satisfaction, trace around your image with black for a nice crisp outline; Note: If you want to conserve your shrink plastic, try to trace your images as close to the edges of the plastic as you can. Also, don’t leave wide spaces between the images you trace. The closer they are together (while still allowing you cutting room) the more finished projects you can get out of one sheet of plastic
  4. Carefully cut your pieces out, following the outlines/edges you drew for yourself
  5. Make sure to punch a hole at least 1/8″ away from the edge of your piece with your hole punch so that you can hang your image safely from an earwire
  6. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and place the cut-out pieces colored or rough side up onto the foil.
  7. Slide your cookie sheet into the oven, but do not leave the area; It will only take 1-5 mins for your item to shrink. For safety’s sake – and for fun – you should watch the entire process through the oven window. Please note that your piece will buckle and curl as it is baked, but don’t be too hasty in removing the piece from the oven while it is still in a curved shape. The curves should flatten out again on their own in a few moments
  8. Let your pieces cool; If you like, once pieces are fully cool, you can take an acrylic sealer and paint or spray on your design to seal in the color and prevent rub-off
  9. Now, using pliers, carefully open an earwire and slip 1 of your candy corns onto it; Repeat for the other earring
  10. That’s it!

Hope you’re enjoying Halloween week to the fullest all!

Gone Batty


For this, our second installment of Halloweek, I thought it might be fun to make a fuzzy, batty little friend to hang in your window, or to keep you company on your desk.

You will need:

  • Brown, black, or gray yarn, or other color of your choice. There are no rules against a purple bat. Especially if you’re going to Prince’s house for Halloween. (I used worsted weight here, but it really doesn’t matter what thickness you have)
  • Scrap cardboard (poster board, cereal box, sturdy junk mail postcards, etc)
  • Templates for pom-pom maker, wings, and bow (see below) or you can eyeball this and do it freehand
  • 1 felt sheet (in the kids’ crafts section of the craft store) in a coordinating color to make the wings; If you don’t have felt, construction paper/cardstock/foam, or the like, ought to work too
  • Scissors
  • Googly eyes (or black and white paper or felt), or black beads so that our little blind creature can “see”
  • Glue (anything that works with fabric or fiber will work; Tacky glue’s a good all-purpose choice)
  • optional**: Red/pink/etc felt sheet (or paper) to make a bow (so that your bat can be a lady)
  • optional**: Metal bristle brush/pet slicker brush to make your pom-pom extra fuzzy

  1. If you like, print out the above templates. Cut 2 pom-pom templates from your scrap cardboard. You don’t really need a template to make a pom-pom maker, or any of the other bat components, but I wanted to offer the option of making a bat the same shape/size of everything as I did.
  2. Please watch this woman’s excellent tutorial on making a pom-pom, and using a metal-bristle brush to make it fuzzy. As you can see from her video, it is not essential that you have a pom-pom maker template
  3. NOTE: When you are tying the central yarn around your pom-pom to keep all of the strands together, make sure you’ve got a lot of excess yarn to work with, and don’t cut off the excess once you have tied your knots. This will be your hanging string so that you can display your friend more easily when you are finished
  4. If you like, brush the pom pom with a metal bristle brush to make the yarn extra fuzzy; The tutorial video shows a brush from a home improvement store, but a pet store will also have a “pet slicker” brush on the pet grooming aisle, if you don’t already have one in your home.
  5. Now, either using a freehand technique (or the above templates) cut out some wings for your bat friend, using either felt or paper
  6. Smear a little glue on either side of one of your wings, close to where it will connect to the body. Choose a spot near the top of your pom pom to attach your wing. Push a few strands of yarn out of the way, bury your wing into the yarn threads, and squeeze some yarn threads into the glue that you have placed on the wing. Hold for a few seconds to secure your wing to your bat’s body. Repeat on the other side
  7. Now choose where you would like to attach your eyes; I used googly eyes, but you may choose to use black and white felt or paper, whatever you have on hand; Place glue on the back of the eyes, wait until it gets slightly tacky, and then glue the eyes to the bat’s body. It helps if you press some threads of yarn into the glue on the back of the eye, and hold for a few seconds to secure.
  8. If you like, now you can make the bow. You can freehand this, or use the template provided above. Glue the bow to your bat in an appropriate and fashionable location, and there you go, all done!

Variations: 1) If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could probably reduce the size of this project, make 2 matching bats, and have a pair of earrings! You can always add little jingle bells to the bottom of the earrings too; 2) You could make a bat family, perhaps a Mommy bat and a few smaller baby bats. Each member of your family can have a little fuzzy equivalent of themselves to display in a favorite location; 3) Try adding hats or other accessories to your new little friend. Perhaps your bat needs a Trick or Treat bag to carry his or her Halloween goodies? 4) If your bat needs some bling, try giving him or her a necklace made of glitter glue; you could also use glitter glue to draw a nice bat-wing-y pattern on the bat’s wings; 5) There are all sorts of googly eyes on the market; Some glow in the dark, others even come with some false eyelashes painted on. Why not have a glamorous bat diva to celebrate Halloween with? 6) If you’d rather just buy your pom-pom ready-made and embellish it to make it “battified,” no harm in that! The craft stores may have variety packs of pom-poms in the kids’ section

Hope you’ve all been enjoying the week so far, and talk to you again soon!


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