Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Never Knew I Always Needed a Toast Grabber

In case you can't tell, this is 8.5 inches long.
Can you tell what this is?  Yesterday, after I gave a presentation a man came up to me and said "my mission in life is to keep fingers and silverware out of toasters."  He pulled several of his homemade toast grabbers out of a bag and offered them to me to take back to work.  I said thanks, feeling sort of confused, I mean I wasn't really aware this was a big issue for people. But when I asked him more about his mission he told me he estimates that he has made and given away over 3,000 of these in his lifetime.  Wow.  By those numbers he has definitely saved a few hundred people from burns through his generous craftiness.  So good for that guy.  I've also found that they work perfectly as oversize comical chopsticks for tiny clementines.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Milk Love

A Love Story… In Milk from Catsnake on Vimeo.

I love this video. Is there anything milk can't do?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Awesome Cross Stitch Patterns Roundup, Or How to Stitch Without an AARP Card

If it isn't obvious by now, I love making things.  Seriously, it is a compulsion, I can't stop.  But sometimes I want to make things without have to pay that much attention to what I'm doing.  That is where cross stitching comes in.  I mean, sure you have to pay some attention to what you're doing, but I love how it is so soothingly methodical.  You can just sit there and watch like 5 episodes of Archer while you stitch and stitch and end up with something cool.

Well, cool in theory.  Unfortunately if you try to buy your pattern at any of the big box craft retailers you're probably going to end up with a sampler of a kitten sleeping in a teacup or something.  That is where this guide comes in.  I scoured etsy for legitimately cool patterns. I love that these all come as pdfs because it is instant gratification, you can buy your supplies separately so you can swap out colors if you want (and probably save money over a marked up "kit"), and it is an inexpensive way to support independent artists. 

flamgirlant: This shop has really great animal silhouettes that you can stitch using cool patterns like chevron, polka dot, and wood grain.  Best of all, I can make a pattern for a plaid owl.  How perfect is that?

Fox & Feathers: While checking out this shop I really liked how beautifully all the patterns were designed.  Cross stitching has a tendency to look really boxy in my opinion, but many of her patterns have lovely curves, like my favorite, this pirate ship.

bombastitch: I first came across the awesome bombastitch at the renegade craft fair this summer and I was so impressed with the variety of patterns in her shop.  A little bit of pop culture, a little bit of vital organs, a little bit of binary code.  Basically something for every occasion. 

The Princess Bride

weelittlestitches: This shop is so neat.  I'm in love with the Pixel People, little cross stitch renderings of your favorite characters.  Sam has already requested the Dr. Who set, while I'm partial to Ghostbusters.  She'll also stitch up a custom Pixel People Portrait from your photos, which would make a great gift.

thetimeisnow: This shop technically only seems to be selling 2 patterns.  But they are Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. And I ask you, literary types, what more do you need?

Needles and Pins: I love everything in this shop.  Seriously.  It is definitely for adults only, but nothing makes me laugh more than Anchorman quotes and daintily embroidered curse words.  This is why I can't have children, because if I did I would put this stuff in their rooms and when I went to change their diapers I would just laugh and laugh and laugh. 

Pickle Lady Farm: Ok, I guess we have to end on a classy note.  This shop is an all around mvp.  Some fun nerdy things, more cool animal shapes, and some hip tattoo motifs for those of you who would rather plunge needles into your fabric than your skin.  Overall, this shop is a winner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Before and After, Minus the Before

Living in the city I find it amazing what you find in the trash.  My awesome bicycle was given new life after we pulled it out of a dumpster, my friend molly styled an abandoned van seat into a funky and universally coveted love seat for her apartment, and of course you can find tons of furniture to get creative with.

With that in mind, I wanted to share a little before and after for my first refinished piece of furniture.  Unfortunately I broke the cardinal rule of Before and Afters, I forgot to take a before picture.  What can I say, I was too excited.  So, while I can't show you the before I can tell you about its origins.  I got my hands on this little dresser when Sam was moving out of his old apartment.  It belonged to a roommate who had moved out long ago and considering the sorry condition, the guys decided to haul it the dumpster.  It sat there for a day until I rescued it, mainly because our bathroom lacks any storage and I knew we would need something to put our washcloths in.  I promised myself I would make it look great...then I piled some towels on top of it and let it sit for a year.

Here is a picture of one of the legs before.  The legs were in the best shape of the whole thing, the top had tons of scratches and water damage.

It also featured the worlds ugliest drawer pulls.

So finally last month I decided to get moving on this project.  I basically followed this tutorial from Young House Love for the painting, sanding and sealing.  And in addition I changed out the drawer pulls, used wood glue to fix the broken drawer track and filled a considerable amount of holes with wood filler.  Truth be told, this was kind of a pain, I think my neighbors hated listening to me sand furniture on our little porch for hours, and polyeurethaning in our living room was headache inducing for sure. But, in the end I think it was all worth it.  Nothing can replace making something look just the way you envisioned it in your head.

Isn't she pretty?

Here is the top, you can see the color of the stain a little better.

Another thing, this is why real wood furniture is amazing.  While I love stores like Target and IKEA, their furniture just does not hold up when compared to solid wood.  Invest in a great wood piece (of find one in the trash) and you can have it for decades.

Oh, and perhaps you noticed in the second picture that my little dresser is actually sitting on a milk crate.  Well, funny story, when I went to start working on the project I took the whole thing apart, set the legs aside and just sort of forgot them until it was time to reassemble.  So, while the dresser is totally done, the legs are waiting to be stained, and the milk carton is our temporary base.  Oooops.  So my advice to you is don't forget the legs.  Or to take a before picture.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

DIY Woven Cards *Updated*

Fact: 92% of people under the age of 35 don't know what a mailbox is.*  And those that are familiar with mail think it to be a terrible thing.  Mail has become the domain of the unsolicited credit card application and the Pottery Barn Catalog, a prelude to an afternoon with your shredder.  But it wasn't always this way, mail used to be awesome.  When you got something in the mail it meant something great, like it was your birthday or someone sent you something cool looking you could tack onto your fridge. Why did we ever let that go? Let's make it that way again people, together we can live the dream for only 44 cents a stamp.

*This statement may not be entirely factual.

hey there
In an effort to begin a mailing revolution, I've been making some woven greeting cards.  They are actually pretty simple.  You just need some cardstock (scraps work well) and some cutting instruments (like an exacto or a pen knife).

Start by making your strips.  I cut them to be 1/4 inch thick and you want them to be about as long as the length of your card (you can always trim the ends once you are done weaving). I'm not going to lie to you, this step is much easier if you have a paper cutter. If you don't then try cutting the strips with a straight edge and your exacto knife.  You want them to be nice and straight.

Next cut your card.  Cut out the template and tape it to your card, then cut through the card by exacto-ing the thick line. (Note, the images on the templates aren't always exactly in the center of the grid so be sure to position the paper so the image sits in the center of your card).  I cut on the back of an old magazine to protect my table.

Now once you have all your lines cut start weaving.  Go over and under with your strips, and once you have it all woven in, use your fingers to push the strip up to the top and move onto the next color.

You don't necessarily have to go "over, under" try 2x2 weave to break it up and make a cool pattern.
Your design will stand out the best if you choose high contrasting colors.  Bright yellow on gray worked a lot worked a lot better than dark purple. Also, for what it is worth, I used a lot of scrap paper to make my cards, and noticed the thicker the paper, the easier it was to weave.  Once you're done weaving, if you don't like the mess on the back, just trim the loose lengths of the strips and cut plain rectangle of paper and glue it to cover the back of your work.

Sam called this one the Nintendo Heart
The template also has a grid where you can design your own pattern, think of something cool, but simple shapes work best. And remember, only you can make mail awesome again.


So after some messing around I decided I think the bar in the "H" of the "HI" card was too long.  I debated with my coworker and she totally disagreed.  We had a little lady fight club over it, but in the end I think we can both be right. So here is the pattern for the version with the shorter "H" featured below, choose your favorite.

I also added a little sharpie border around it which I think finishes it nicely.