My Crafting Adventures: Basket Weaving

In my old position at my job, I used to go into people’s homes. Alone. The guys at work like to tell stories to each other about what kind of bizarre situations they get into. I rarely join in because my stories are generally even more out there than theirs and at some point it just seems like bragging.

 

For example: They tell about the time a woman answered the door in lingerie. Yeah, that’s happened to me too. But also I’ve had dozens of men answer completely naked. Or, even worse, I’ve had men “forget” I’m there and come back into the room naked when they didn’t start out that way.

 

Or maybe this one time a gay guy hit on one of my male co-workers. But I was hit on literally almost every day for the 5 years I was in that position. By both men and women. I was also groped by a gay man at that job. Being alone with people in their own home gives them a level of comfort that tends to not exist at say a bar or the grocery store. They are comfortable being gross or rude or creepy.

 

That’s not to say I don’t love my job. I do. But it has it’s own inherent dangers and weirdness. And someday, those stories are all going to get told. Unfortunately, I still work there and can’t tell them all now.

 

But I can tell this one.

 

Once, I was at this person’s home very early in my career. They lived in a trailer set deep in the woods that was acres away from any neighbors.

 

The woman was home while her husband was at work. She and I got to talking and I mentioned the decor in her house. There was a lot of Native American decorations. Flutes, paintings, jewelry, etc.

 

I also happened to notice these lovely woven baskets. They were everywhere.

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My first pine needle basket

During the course of our conversation I mentioned how cool I thought they were. The lady, suddenly excited, told me that her husband made them. He apparently was Native American and had learned the craft from his grandmother.

 

I started telling her about all the crafts I do and how interested I was in learning to make these baskets. I wound up staying for a long time talking to this lady. She was much older and very nice.

 

Finally, at some point her husband came home. We had a repeat of the basket weaving conversation all over again and he invited me to come back any time and learn.

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It came out so nice I kept it

I asked to come back that same night after work. Which they both were fine with.

 

So, after work I drove, alone, and in the dark out to this lonely trailer in the woods. I am shaking my head right now at the naivety of younger me. I cannot believe I was ever so trusting to do something like that.

 

At any rate, the man was there, his wife had gone out. That did give me pause, but he was very kind. And he did indeed show me how to weave a pine needle basket. He wasn’t creepy, he didn’t try to hit on me or touch me in any way.

 

I stayed for long enough to get the basket started and to learn how to finish it off. He even gave me the supplies to make more of them.

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And apparently risked my life to learn to make it

It was only in leaving this man’s house that I realized he could have murdered me.

 

I mean, I hadn’t told anyone where I was going. I did not have a cell phone at the time. I did not know these people at all. I had had one conversation with them ever. And I was alone in his house in the woods at night.
Thankfully it all, turned out fine. But I have never tried or made friends with someone I met on the job since then. Also, I will hopefully not put myself in such a dangerous position to learn how to craft something in the future either.

My Crafting Adventures: Rag Rug

So here’s what happened. Like 3 years ago I was fucking around on Etsy (a favorite past time). I could literally spend a million dollars on that site. And I saw a rug. The most beautiful rug in the world. It looked like shaggy, soft grass. I immediately needed to own it.

 

But it was expensive. So I started looking at other rugs in this similar style. They were all somewhere between $200 and $900. I clearly was not buying a rug.

 

I started thinking on it and I realized I could totally figure out how to make one of these rugs. I was clever and crafty. I read a few tutorials and went out and bought all the supplies I would need to make this rug. In the end it only cost me about $5 as I already had all the other supplies just lying around.

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You guys know you like seeing my gross old sheets.

I had some old white jersey sheets that I decided to save to use for the project. And the only other thing I needed was the latch hook backing, which I went out and bought that weekend.

 

And then I basically stuck it all in the no man’s land of my craft table and kind of sort of forgot about it.

 

Until Christmas eve when I finished my last project and wasn’t sure what I wanted to work on next. And then I remembered that I promised my brother a rug. And then I remembered the shag rug of my dreams.

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I promised him a rug like this one I also made. I totally love it. It’s a great pattern from Cocoknits.

And then I tore my craft supplies apart trying to find the materials I had set aside to make those two rugs. I’ve moved twice since then and been homeless for a while and I wasn’t even sure if I still had all that stuff. But I totally did.

 

So I gathered my materials and spent all day on Christmas working on my project. First I pulled all the seams out of the sheets and cut them into strips. By hand. It was tedious as fuck.

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So. Many. Strips.

Then I wanted to dye the sheets. I really wanted them to be a warm, yellow color. Like the color of turmeric (one of my favorite spices). I Googled dyes the color of turmeric and saw that I could dye my sheets with turmeric. Which would give them the color of turmeric.

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I love turmeric.

Also, can I just mention again how clever I am?

 

I had a bunch of old turmeric that had expired that I was going to toss. I combined it with some paprika and saffron to give it some depth of color.

In this process I also managed to dye my fingers a glorious shade of yellow. It was pretty noticeable at work on Friday.

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These are my actual man hands. Can you even tell they are yellow?

I treated the scraps with a vinegar bath first to help the dye set. And then I boiled the spices with some water to dissolve it properly. I only had to soak them in the dye for an hour and the color was perfect. So I washed and dried the sheets and started hand tying them to the rug backing.

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Dye bath in my kitchen sink.

I’ve been pretty obsessed with this rug for a few days. It’s all I’ve been able to think about which is a sure sign that I am probably completely insane. But I finished it tonight and it is basically my favorite thing ever right now. So I had to share it will all of you lovely readers.

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First three scraps, tied on.

It is so cuddly soft and cheerful. I put it beside my side of the bed so it will be the first thing I see in the morning. I feels great on my toes.

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Progress is slow.

Also, because I am weird as fuck, I really like digging my fingers into the fibers and feeling all the knots tied to the matting. It’s like picking at a scalp or something.

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The sweet color of success.

Then I went online and found some other hand made rugs. That I now need to own. Which means I will probably be doing another similar post about rugs again soon. Sorry.

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Texture and color up close. Like a mysterious forest.

My Crafting Adventures: Jewelry

I have written SIX crafting adventure pieces and still haven’t done one on my jewelry making. That all changes now. You guys know you love my shameless attempts at garnering compliments.

 

You guys might realize by this point that I am not a ‘girly’ girl. But I cannot leave my apartment without a necklace on. I feel weird and naked without one. I feel like everyone is looking at my neck. Even though I logically know they are not.

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This one is a fossilized buffalo tooth.

By this point I have hundreds of necklaces. I have bracelets and have recently been venturing into earrings. My etsy is full of my jewelry for sale.

 

But everything I am going to post on here is from my personal collection and not for sale. It’s not even all of my personal collection. These only get seen if you happen to be looking at my neck. That is the curse of being a crafter. You want to save all the best stuff for yourself.

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Jade dress robe weight that is several hundred years old.

My father has been collecting beads and making jewelry for over 50 years. His jewelry makes the things I am about to show you look like they were done by a child. A gifted child, but still. His work is fantastic.

 

Sometime when I was around 13 or 14, I asked him to teach me how to make jewelry. He and his first wife invented a form of micro macrame with beads and stones at Woodstock. They moved to California and gave away necklaces on the beach. I mentioned that he was a total hippie, right?

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Charoite center bead.

So he sat me down and very patiently showed me how to do it. I practiced for hours until my hands cramped and everything I was doing seemed meaningless. Like when you say a word to many times until it is just noises and nothing more. And then I said, fuck this shit. I’m never going to get it.

 

I tried again a few years later based off my memory and I managed to spend several hours making a beaded cylinder of what appeared to be a cat hairball studded with beads. I savagely attacked it with scissors and hid my unholy horror of a creation at the bottom of a trash bin.

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Turquoise of varying shades. I remade this one twice which is an incredible pain in the ass. But it was worth it.

When I was 17 and had moved away, I asked him to show me again. I was making simple jewelry now and figured I had developed enough hand/eye co-ordination to make it work.

 

My father sat me down again and showed me again how to do the weaving with the string and beads. And I again failed miserably. I could tell he was frustrated but I figured I was just too stupid to ever make it happen.

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Shark’s tooth. I remade this one twice too.

I tried for about a year after that. Every once in a while I would sit down with a newfound determination to make it work. But it never worked. I don’t know where that well-spring of stubbornness and determination even comes from. But it appears to be ever-lasting.

 

Sometime when I was 20 I was trying for my fourth or fifth time to make this wretched thing work. It is so complicated and you have to hold your hands just so and it was one of those situations that felt so alien and awkward.

 

And then, for some reason, I did it backwards. I don’t know how I thought of it. Most likely, I had simply forgotten my father’s original instruction and just decided to make it up as I went (a common theme in my life). And it worked. I don’t know why, but it just worked.

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Tibetan silver and copal. I especially like this one as it has amber in it and kyanite and a sterling silver dime as a clasp.

I thought maybe my father had been telling me how to do it from his perspective which would have been backwards for me and therefore I had been doing it backwards all these years which is why it hadn’t worked. But no. Doing it backwards was what worked for me.

I started making necklaces. They have changed over time in a way that is so obvious it is like carbon dating the layers of sediment in stone. I can look at something I made and know exactly when it is from.

 

I eventually showed my brother the stitch. He does it backwards too.

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Here is a very simple one. Tibetan quartz and silver.

Even though the three of us use the same technique, same materials, same style. Our pieces are as distinctly different as our personalities.

My Crafting Adventures: Embroidery

Warning: I’m basically telling this story to show off my new obsessive  hobby. Sorry for the blatant self indulgence.

 

My sister, J, asked me to make her a beaded bib necklace. She wants something large and intricate and reminiscent of Alphonse Mucha. He is one of our favorite artists. And since you all know how much I love my sister, I was determined to learn how to make it for her.

She wants this chest piece, specifically.

But I realized I needed to learn to embroider to learn to embroider with beads. Embroidery was already on my list of crafts to learn anyway. I figured there was no better time.

 

I decided I wanted to embroider an anatomical human heart. I doubt that is surprising to anyone that reads this blog. I also didn’t put any thought into the level of difficulty involved in this project. As usual.

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My first embroidery!

You guys have already seen my cross stitch creations. Embroidery may look similar, but the techniques could not be more different. Embroidery was hard. And serious. And gorgeous.

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This is framed and hung over my toilet.

I was only learning embroidery at this point as a means to an end.  I had no intention of falling in love with it. And yet, I am completely obsessed. It is so satisfying to finish a piece. I love everything about it. It is soothing and rhythmic. And just mindless enough to do when I am emotionally exhausted.

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I made this for Debbie at More Than Sweet Potatoes. It’s a whale skeleton. Freaky.

Embroidery is like drawing with fabric and string. You can make anything. In fact, if you guys go to my Pinterest (link on the right) my crafts page is mainly full of incredible embroideries done by people far more skilled and clever than myself.

 

I have gotten around to making myself a beaded bib necklace, but that is a story for another post. I haven’t made hers yet. But I will, and once I do, I will share it with you all.

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This is a Nordic protection symbol. I have always loved it.

Almost every other craft I have ever learned had a learning curve. The first few times I tried it were awkward, uncomfortable, and the results were pretty disastrous. I’m not sure why embroidery wasn’t that way.

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Fetus in feto for my sister. What can I say? I like bones and diseases, she like furs and medical disorders.

I fell in love with the first thing I ever made. And have been mostly pleased with all my pieces since.

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Owl for my brother.

I can foresee me turning into a crazy embroidery lady with hoops on every wall, just littering my apartment with string and fabric pictures.

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Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Yes, it is all about me

In case you guys don’t know, Jana over at Stop Me if I Told You This is hilarious and sweet. She also claims to think I am incredibly interesting (that word is being bandied about a lot in my life lately).

 

And she was kind enough to ask me to answer some questions for some thing she is doing and also to ask  some other people to answer them too, if they want. Unlike Jana, I am totally bossy. But participation is voluntary for my nominees too.

 

So here it is:

 

What am I working on at the moment?

 

That really depends on what you mean. Nothing is ever easy with me. I am writing for this blog and my other blog. I am writing some weirdo poetry and a shit ton of science fiction.

 

In the non-writing world, I am crafting up a storm of dinosaur jellyfish skeletons, and jewelry and lord knows what else. I also make these comic book decoupage things and have recently commissioned them to a comic book store and a hipster coffee shop/record store. And I am really excited about it!

 

Check out my Etsy link on the side to see more of my stuff. You may be wondering when I sleep as I also work 50+ hours a week. The short answer is that I don’t. I also don’t have things that the rest of you have, like children, significant others, pets, friends, etc.

 

How does my work differ from others in this genre?

 

Hmm… Well, my experiences are truly unusual and my own. Other than that, I guess I am probably not much different. Maybe not as good? Check out my commenters for some very hilarious and interesting blogs.

 

Why do I write what I do?

 

I guess I just want to share the shame of my life with others. It does feel good to get these stories out of me. And I love knowing that I am entertaining total strangers all over the world. So, that’s pretty cool. No matter how many posts I write, my list of stories to write never seems to get any shorter.

 

How does my writing process work?

 

I know we are in a judgement free zone and I can be honest about that with you guys. I have a super nerdy lapdesk that I use with my laptop. I sit on my couch and always have something playing in the background. I do a Harry Potter movie marathon and a Lord of the Rings movie marathon about once a month.

 

Don’t judge. I love those movies, the soundtracks are amazing to write to, and I don’t have to pay close attention the way I would with something I’ve never seen. Lately I have been on a real Simon Pegg kick. By the way, writing anything to any movie soundtrack makes you feel fucking epic. Try it. I highly recommend John Williams. He’s the man behind Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Jaws, and Star Wars.

 

There’s no real other process. I write pretty much every day. Sometimes it is crap and I delete it. Sometimes it is crap and I save it to try to fix later. Sometimes it’s good enough for what I am trying to do. And sometimes, I am so pleased with something that I want to print it out on a t-shirt and wear it around for everyone to know what I wrote. Those are the best days.

I’m going to link to some bloggers that I think really just need to get more play. No matter how much they are getting; it is not enough. Check them out, comment all up in their business, love each other, whatever.

 

More than Sweet Potatoes

 

Just Plain Ol’ Vic

 

Transplanted to the South

 

Spankalicious

 

The Tattoo Tourist



If you guys want to answer the questions; inquiring minds want to know. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. I’ll still like you all.

My Crafting Adventures: The L Word Birthday Miracle

Let me just get this out of the way first. The time stamp on my WordPress is always all wonky. As I am writing this, I am two hours away from turning 30.

 

I should explain that the Birthday Miracle part of this is something I stole from my brother. He calls our birthdays “Birthday Miracles.” Last year for my birthday miracle he discovered the cache of dumpster shirts.

 

There were nearly 100 in all. He was walking through an industrial part of town and came across a dumpster full of shirts. He fished them out and they were awesome. We go back periodically for more and it’s mostly all I wear anymore.

 

Like that time I met Debbie? Dumpster shirt. Or when I was riding the giant brass piggy bank in Seattle? Dumpster shirt. They are secretly embedded everywhere on this blog.

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Dumpster tank top. Also, I look exhausted here.

 

Anyway, I decided I was going to make this craft project as a birthday present to myself. I always give myself gifts on the corresponding occasions. I am an amazing gift giver. And I always know exactly what I want.

 

If you read my Twitter, you may have already seen this craft project. But too bad. It’s my birthday and I do what I want.

 

A few months ago, I was watching The L Word. I really liked the first season but stopped somewhere in the third.

 

At some point during the The L Word marathon, there was an artist that made these things. They were delicate mobiles covered in ornaments and glass balls and crystals. The real artist is Julia Condon.

I am clearly not, and will never be, at this level.

They actually reminded me of a the skeleton of some strange creature. All shiny metal and sparkling glass. Like what a dinosaur jellyfish skeleton would look like in a dream.

 

They are amazing!

 

And I knew I had to make one for myself.

 

In typical me fashion, I put this project off until this week. I had already bought the ornaments and had plenty of crystals and beads lying around. Plus, I knew I had some copper wire. Somewhere.

 

I sat down last weekend and patted myself on the back. I was going to cobble this thing together with plenty of time to spare. After all, I am a crafting genius.

 

I started putting it all together, but shit wasn’t working. My copper wire was too flimsy. I needed something heavy duty enough to handle the crystals. This thing is pretty precariously balanced. It takes finesse, which I do not have.

 

Yesterday, when I got off work, I headed over to Home Depot for some industrial strength copper wire. When I brought it home, I quickly realized it was way too thick for my intentions.

It felt like this.

 

I sighed. I was like fucking Goldilocks and the Three Copper Wires. Which I think is a way more realistic fairy tale. I mean, bears don’t even eat porridge. They eat little girls that fall asleep in their beds.

 

I found the right wire today and got down to business. And it turns out the thing was so much harder than I thought it would be. I hurt myself several times. But after four hours, I finally finished.

 

I felt so proud of it, I spammed everyone I know with pictures. Including Twitter.

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So proud.

 

This must be how new mothers feel. I wanted everyone to see what I had made. Except my thing wasn’t ever in my vagina.

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I did it! I made this thing!

 

And so, The L Word Birthday Miracle was created. It is currently hanging over my beading table. It has passed the first test of a successful project: It didn’t fall and break immediately.

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Birthday Miracle!


The second test is to make sure it doesn’t fall sometime in the night. That test is more important as it gives me a coronary and also makes me think I have poltergeists. So, we’ll see.

My Crafting Adventures: Chest Piece

I’ve never been much for bragging. I feel there is always someone smarter, prettier, funnier, cooler, more interesting, more athletic than myself. Plus, I am pretty modest. And in case you guys haven’t realized, this blog is 95% about what an idiot I am.

 

But there is one claim I will make that can be interpreted as bragging. I am a crafter savant. I may not be good at things like physical touching, or emotions, or socializing, or much of anything. But I am amazing at crafty things. At least I like to think so.

 

Trust me, I am an idiot.

 

A few years ago my sister, J, and I went into a pawn store. I love and hate pawn stores. In antique stores, I can pretend the people are all just dead and their families have sold their stuff. And in thrift stores, I pretend people just get tired of their crap and donate it.

 

 

Every pawn store in Florida.

 

But pawn stores are sad. I can sometimes feel the desperation of the people that had to sell something to pay a bill, or eat. It bothers me. It reminds me storage units, in the same way. Sad people putting everything they own in a metal box with the intention of coming back for it.

 

So depressing.

 

Anyway, we were in this pawn shop and I am kind of friendly with the owners. Friendly in the way I am friendly with most people I talk to more than once. People tend to remember me, even more so if I am out with my family. I hear we are like some cross between hippies and gypsies. I don’t mind.

 

I am not now, nor will I ever be this cool. But my family totally is.

 

The owner was telling us that her husband is Native American and some of the pieces they have on display are heirlooms from his family. Not for sale.

 

If any of you look at my Pinterest, you know, I am a sucker for Native American jewelry. So I was oohing and ahhing over these pieces she was pulling out from behind the counter.

 

*swoon*

 

Then I saw what looked like a manky old leather vest. It was old, and worn, and kind of haggard looking. Which is exactly what I love. So I asked the owner to see it.

 

It was an old bone and leather chest piece in a plastic display case. And I was fascinated. I wanted so badly to touch this thing. It was like an old bird that used to be beautiful but was now collapsed and broken. But I could still see it’s beauty.

 

Honestly, it kind of looked like this, all wound up in the case.

 

So I leaned in and asked if I can touch it. I doubted she’d let me. But I had to ask.

 

The owner looked around a bit. It was just the three of us in this store. Her husband was in the back and likely would have been very angry if he knew. She said that I could.

 

I think there was something in my eyes. She saw my reverence for this thing.

 

She opened the case and I reached in and touched the leather. It was once a rough and poor quality piece of leather. Age and wear had made it soft and smooth. Like heavy cream.

 

The bone was dark with a lovely patina. The chest piece was broken. Like I had thought. I wanted it so much. And so did J. But as I said, it wasn’t for sale.

 

It was similar to this, but crumpled and broken.

 

After we left the shop J and I talked about it. I knew I could make one for her. I only got to see it for a few minutes, but I am good at figuring out how things work. I just needed to get the supplies.

 

It took me a few months, but I soon had all the bone, beads, and leather to make her a chest piece for her birthday.

 

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This is the one I made my sister.


And enough to make myself one for no reason other than I wanted one.

 

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The one I made myself.