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.

Signs

I try to be very tolerant of other people’s beliefs. I know they are very personal. Very important. I also try to not talk about religion or politics on here. If you know me, my personal opinions are easy to figure out. But this story does involve uptight religious people. Be warned.

 

My hometown is very religious. We have regular religious protesters on the biggest intersection in our downtown. They are always going on about judgement day and the apocalypse.

 

There used to be an old woman that sat outside all day and would stop us to tell us we were going to hell. Because all teenagers were going to hell. I can tell you that at that point in my life the worst thing I had ever done was ride my bike on the sidewalk (which is totally illegal in that town).

While it is really dangerous, I doubt it is the thing that would land me in hell.

I generally politely ignore these people unless they refuse to accept my polite ignoring. It happens. And then I just make a joke and keep on walking.

 

But there is a bead store in my hometown. Just one. And you guys should know that I am freaky into beads. Like, borderline hoarder.

My precious…

I was on a trip to my home town sometime last year with my brother, T, and friend, C. We were all itching to look at the pretties in the bead store. My father knew the woman that owned the bead store and he warned us that she was a “religious nut.”

 

I should also let you know, I was not on drugs that day. So I can’t even use that as an excuse, like this time.

 

So, we walked into this bead store and I saw an old woman behind the counter. I tried to make polite conversation with her. So I said “Hello.” And then asked “Is this your shop?”

 

I had never been into this bead store because it is closed my two days off per week.

 

The woman behind the counter said something that sounded like “My name is on the door but God owns it.”

 

I sort of thought I had misheard her. And anyway, I was being polite, remember?

 

We started talking about my father, who is a local character. She knew who he was based solely on my description of his appearance. But he also has a pretty popular nickname.

 

T and C weren’t saying much and I sort of wandered away from the owner to look at the stuff. I found a few things I liked and was talking about them with T and C. We walked around the whole store a few times and I had about 5 semi-precious stones in my hand.

 

We made our way back up to the front and I picked up something else I wanted. It was a green onyx heart. I actually had been looking for one for a little while. I turned to the shop owner and said, “I can’t believe you have this! I’ve been wanting one.”

I still don’t have one.

She looked at me sternly. “That is part of the display and not for sale!”

 

I shrugged and put it down.

 

But now I was on the shop owner’s radar. She came over to me. I towered at least a foot over her.

 

“Do you have items to purchase in your hand?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did you not read the signs?” She pointed and I saw at least 5 signs hung in various places that all items for purchase are to be placed in a basket.

 

I had not seen the signs. I swear. I said, “No. I didn’t. I’m sorry. I’ll put them in a basket now.”

 

I got a basket and put the 5 things that had been in my hand into a basket. “See? It’s fine. They’re in a basket.”

 

“How did you not see the signs?” She demanded.

“I ask myself that all the time. I am oblivious.” I joked.

 

She was not amused. “These baskets are to prevent theft.”

 

I looked at the basket and then at her. “But, it’s not like I couldn’t steal it out of this basket. I mean, I’m not stealing.”

Fail proof anti-theft devices.

“Excuse me? What did you say?” She yelled.

 

I didn’t realize how angry she actually was until that moment. And T and C, who had been talking in the corner, suddenly fell silent.

 

I looked over at them and they looked from me to this old lady. It was some sort of silent standoff. The seconds ticked by. I wondered if she was going to call the police on me.

 

Finally, T asked her a question about something and she went to help him. I didn’t say another word until we had left. But I heard her saying something about young people today and sin and hell. So, there’s that.

 

I am happy with what I bought, but it would not have been worth getting strip searched over.

Though maybe for these these spiny oyster beads I got.

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!

In which I take you on a tour of my apartment

So I have alluded to my apartment and decorations many times. I have been told it looks like a combination yoga retreat, gypsy caravan, mad scientist lab, and healing shaman hut. I am very pleased by that comparison. I hear, despite my freaky shit, my apartment is very calming to be in.

 

I thought since I just had my apartment re-done and am feeling particularly pleased with it, I would share some of my favorite things with you. It is obviously a work in progress. I still have X-Ray shadowbox nightlights to build. And I didn’t take pictures of the necklaces on every doorknob or the pictures of my sister. Or my craft tables (yes there are two, one just for jewelry making and one for everything else) as they are a bit of a mess. But I think I will be able to still paint an accurate picture of it.

180My transistor collection. I intend to get more and do some kind of art project.

 

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Glass head, shell collection, and wooden clogs.

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I bought this when I got my first place alone. It is driftwood, sea glass, crystals, all kinds of cool weird beach-y things.

 

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I call this my seance table. It is a soy candle, crystal, salt lamp, singing bowl, Buddha head, incense.  It just happens to look unintentionally creepy but then I liked it so I kept it that way. (No seances were done at this table. At least, not by me).

 

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I won this beauty at a gem show last year. It was the grand prize drawing. It is huge. Two feet long by almost a foot wide. It’s my coffee table center piece.

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Native American bone, turquoise and leather chest piece I made and shadowboxed (which is now a verb).

 

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Goat skull and poison ledger. This is on my TV stand.

 

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Antique French chemistry set. Also on my TV stand. For when I start making antique French meth.

 

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Antler necklace holder. I made it for overflow.

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Original driftwood necklace holder. I ran out of room on it. These are both covered in necklaces I have made. making your own jewelry has a ton of perks.

 

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Earring holder I made along with a shitload of earrings I mostly made.

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Collage of random shit. Two barometers, thermometer, brass mail slot, mother of pearl drawer pulls, cast iron seahorse, and a freaky wheat and dried grass crown my sister made for me.

 

I don’t want to make this too long and boring. But that gives you an idea of my space. My bookshelf is not featured, though I love it and it is overflowing with books and comics.  I didn’t include any of my actual artwork (or the crystals that are lying pretty much everywhere) as that would take another blog post. Though, I will make one with those if anyone is really interested.

What do you think? What freaky things do you keep in your apartment? Anyone want to see more of my shit?

 

 

My Crafting Adventures: Knitting

If you read this post then you know that I almost started a crafting blog instead of doing this blog. I have an insane amount of crafty hobbies and thought it would be fun to write about them. But things didn’t go that way.

 

I was thinking about it today and realized, there is no reason why I can’t talk about my crafting on here too. I had intended my crafting blog to be funny, inappropriate, and full of cursing. So it actually isn’t too different from what I am already writing.

 

So here is what I hope is only the first installment of my crafting adventures:

 

When I was 10 my older sister, W, tried to teach me to knit. She had very little patience and I had very little skill. It was a terrible, terrible disaster. She had given me this beautiful skein of ice blue fine mohair to practice with.

Almost exactly this.

The good thing about really fine mohair is that you can fuck it up pretty badly and still not be able to notice. After hours of exhaustive practice I managed to knit up a square about 5in by 5in. I gave this to her for her birthday as a thank you for attempting to teach me. (Reason number 857 to not have kids: pretending to like their bullshit homemade gifts).

Yeah, this is what my life was missing.

I promptly completely forgot about knitting and never attempted it again.

 

Until I was 23. My brother and I had been hanging out, watching a bit of an old Dr. Who episode. We were both intrigued by his crazy scarf. My brother commented that he might like to own a scarf like that.

This is all your fault, Tom!

I went online and saw how expensive they were. I idiotically decided that I could learn to knit and make him one for much cheaper. So I went out and bought the cheapest yarn and needles that I could find to learn on.

 

That was my first mistake. The yarn was synthetic which I am slightly allergic to and very rough. I watched a few YouTube videos, checked a ridiculous quantity of books out of the library and dove in.

 

I could cast on like a pro and I remembered it being the one thing I had been good at when I was 10. I attempted to knit my first row. But I couldn’t.

 

I literally could not get my hands to get into the positions I was seeing in all these damn books and videos. The movements were so awkward and alien to me. I have never been known for my co-ordination, quite the opposite in fact, but this experience was beginning to make me suspect I was not even using the hands I had been born with.

 

Maybe I had been in some horrible accident that I subsequently blocked out. As a result of sad accident I had gotten a double hand transplant. And the doctors had stitched the hands on incorrectly and now there were some crossed tendons in there causing these major disruptions to my desired goals. It was infuriating.

 

I tried for weeks to knit the first row. I tried until I got blisters, then tender sores, then callouses. I tried until the yarn began to disintegrate from sheer monotonous usage. And every time it was so fucking awkward!

Sorry, I couldn’t find any pics of people that looked like they didn’t know what the fuck they were doing.

I imagine this is how babies must feel right before they learn to talk. They know what the noises are that they need to make, they just can’t make them in the right order to be intelligible to anyone.

 

One day I sat down and picked up the needles and I felt sort of comfortable with them in my hands. I cautiously tried to knit. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much after weeks of crushing disappointment. To be honest, it wasn’t even about the scarf anymore. I was going to knit dammit! I didn’t care if it killed me. (What a way to die, in some yarn induced tragedy).

 

I knitted a row. And then another. And then another. I was a knitting fool!

 

I knitted back and forth, row after row, until I created what was undoubtedly the most sorry looking scarf ever created. But it was done. And then I had to learn to bind off.

 

I had been dreading this part so much. Knitting takes hours and hours of work. Dropping a single stitch can ruin the whole piece. But I knew I had to face my fears. I couldn’t call someone to help me every time I wanted to bind off a project. I had to face this on my own.

 

I actually did an okay job. I had finished my first knitting project. Next I tried out a new stitch and made myself a scarf. It looked exactly how I had intended it to. I was ready to knit my Tom Baker scarf for my brother, T.

 

I don’t want any of you to think I am some fabulous knitter at this point in my life. I enjoy knitting. It is very relaxing for me. Like meditating. I can knit for hours without scrutinizing every stitch.

 

But I also have never progressed beyond scarves, hats, cowls, purses, and bathmats. They are lovely gorgeous items. But you probably won’t see me giving away any socks or sweaters to my loved ones. Because if I invest that much time in something that complicated it will be for myself!

Plus, every knitter knows about the knitter curse. Never knit something for a friend or significant other. It will be the death knell of the relationship. (Hey, I don’t make the rules).