Archive for October, 2012

No costume yet? Check the links below for some nifty Halloween mask DIYs.

Sew up a bat mask, thanks to Living With Punks.

These bat masks would be fun for kids, or for wearing while you ride your bike to school. Just sayin’.

Beak mask from SmilingSilverSmith’s Gift Ideas.

This paper beak mask makes me think of old plague doctor masks. And, y’know, birds.

Tulle/Paint masquerade mask from Sprinkles in Springs.

What a fantastic masquerade mask! It’s done with tulle and fabric paints. Enterprising artists could design their own, and everyone else can download her handy template.

Storm Trooper mask from Filth Wizardry (winner of my “Best Blog Name Evar” award)

Nerds on a budget rejoice. This Storm Trooper mask is made from a pair of plastic milk jugs.

This last mask is more for my own reference than anything else– my son, now 11, wants to dress as a ninja about four times a year. Who can blame the kid? Ninjas > Zombies any day (he likes to dress as a zombie, too, though. And sometimes a zombie ninja).


Posted: October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Up there is one of my gnome hats. It’s the first thing I created from start to finish with pretty much zero help– no online tutorials, no patterns to follow. I had the idea, figured it out, and got… well, THAT.

I’ve been a fan of Brian Froud for a long while, and many of his illustrations of gnomes and faeries have the little dudes wearing pointy hats. They almost look like acorns. I loved them, and at the time I was writing a book on fairy-inspired crafts, so I decided to figure out how to make one.

I started with blurry memories of how I made hats in Home Ec in junior high. They were beret style floppy hats (this was 1994, after all), made from triangles and a band around the edge. I thought a while about why they didn’t stand up like little Hershey’s Kisses– it was all about the size of the triangle.

So I started sketching. I knew the shape I wanted. I took measurements– of my head, of the distance from my forehead to where I wanted the point to be and so on. I drew and drew until I had a testable pattern.

It failed. So, so hard. I had to make four trial versions before I had something that resembled the hat above. It was another three or four tries before I had something I was comfortable showing anyone else. And that, as a matter of fact, is how I got started selling on Etsy– I wound up with this PILE of gnome hats and I only have one head.

They were pretty popular. And why not? They were unique, the design was solid, and I paid attention to things like “What’s the average head size for women? Men? Kids?”

My point is that I had to keep going. I could have given up after the first pattern, or the second, or the fifth. But I wanted to hold the hat that I could see in my head.

I still haven’t figured out how to get a candle to balance on the end of one of my hats. But that’s a challenge for another time.

Don’t give up. Try things out. Make mistakes. Make BIG mistakes that make great stories later. I learned so much with those bazillion gnome hats. I learned the best way to cut and sew corduroy, and how to make my machine jump through hoops, and a lot about math that I figured I’d never use once I left high school.

And if you’d like to stick your tongue out while wearing a flannel batik gnome hat, you can scoop it up from my Etsy shop.

My daughter calls all animals “friends.” “Mom, lookit! A little squirrel friend!” So of course I use the same phrase. I decided I needed some spider friends for my bookcase, not least of all because my boyfriend is completely arachnophobic. You have not lived until you’ve seen a 6’2″ man jump a foot into the air, flailing his ball cap around him.

The pith helmet is required. We have big damn spiders.


You’ll need:
-Some polymer clay. I used a mix of translucent, neon green and glow-in-the-dark.
-Some wire. Mine was 20 gauge. That or slightly thicker (say, up to 16 gauge) will work, depending on what you’re after.
-A stamp or two. I used a flexible clear Halloween stamp from Joann.
-Pearl-Ex or other pigment powders (optional, but awesome)
-Acrylic craft paint to use as patina. You can use whatever color you like– black or brown will give a dirty look, red is more bloody, metallics can make your spiders look even more tech-y.

Step 1: Soften up your clay and roll two balls. One ball should be shaped into a sort of flattened teardrop. The other is just a ball. This is the spider’s body and head.

These can be any size you like, but keep the head smaller than the body.

Step 2: Press the head onto the body. If you like, use a pin to scuff up the places where the two bits will meet. After they’re pressed together, lightly press the entire thing onto the table to make it flat on the underside. Flip it over and use a tool (my version is a ball-headed pin stuck into a pencil eraser) to blend the seam.

This step is optional, but helps to keep the head attached.

Step 3: Chose a stamp. I used a clear stamp so I could see exactly where I was stamping. I decided not to use the acrylic block with mine, because it gave me greater control over how deeply I pressed the stamp, and allowed me to curl it along the edges.
Stamp the top of your spider. You can do the head AND body, or not. On one of my spiders, I did a separate stamping (of a miniature spider. Har har) on the head. If you’re using Pearl-Ex or another powder, you can add it now. I used a mix of Spring Green and Yellow.

Spiderweb stamp from Joann ($1)

Stamped spider.

Step 4: Cut 8 pieces of wire to be the spider’s legs. They can be any length you want, but it’s better to cut them a bit longer than you think you’ll need. You’ll lose some length during the process. Mine were about 3″ long.
Use one piece of wire to poke holes into the spider’s body where you want the legs to go. You’ll need four on each side. I like to do two in the front and two in back, but you can evenly space them if you prefer.

Step 5: Bake the spider according to the manufacturer’s instructions– usually about 30 minutes at 275 degrees.

Step 6: Apply your patina. I used black acrylic craft paint. I coated the entire spider in it, making sure to get it down into the crevices made by the stamp, and then wiped it off with a damp rag.

Patina applied.

Patina finished. This process can be repeated to get deeper colors, or to give different effects (I’d like to see a black spider with orange/green markings).

Step 7: Once the patina is completely dry, we’ll add the legs. I like to secure the legs with super glue. You can skip that bit, but the glue really helps keep the legs in (and pose-able).
Grab some superglue and put a dot on top of one of the leg holes. Insert one of your pieces of wire. Make sure it’s pushed in as far as it can go. Repeat this step with all the legs. Don’t glue your fingers to the spider like I did.

I poked my holes at the angle I wanted the legs to be.

Step 8: Once the glue is dry, bend all the legs up, toward the body.

This looks painful.

Grab a pair of pliers (needlenose work best) and bend each leg down, starting the bend a bit away from the body.

Use your pliers to curl the ends of the legs into tiny loops. This keeps the wires from being pokey ouchie.

You’re all done! Admire your spider friend. Name him, if you like.

Quick, everyone get to the branch! The flashing light monster is back!
(L-R: George, Raul, Sammy, Ginger)

Thrift Core: Learning to be frugal is awesome

I just happened upon this site. Vanessa (the creator/thriftatrix) writes about how to get the most from thrift shops, including shopping tips, how to decorate with found items, how to reuse things, and so on. Plus she posts pictures of her (often vintage) scores. I’m not a fan of most vintage, but her revamps (seriously, how did I miss the idea of painting ceramic owls bright pop colors? Sheesh) make me want to troll the aisles at the Bethesda Resale Shop.

Inspiration: Decorated Boots

Posted: October 9, 2012 in Inspiration
Tags: ,

Patches, belts, dangles, beads, spikes, flowers, keys….. Here’s some inspiration for found-item boots.

I wanted some extensions in the front of my hair. My head is mostly shaved, but the top is long, and I wanted it looonnnngggerrrr. I figured the easiest, most flexible way to accomplish this was to use human hair (because I could wash it, curl it, and otherwise treat it just like the rest of my hair, and it’d look quite natural) and attach bits singly using the Micro Links system. For this, I’d need what are called “I-Tips.”

These little strands of hair (that have tips on one end that look like the ends of shoelaces) are about $25 for 20. Jeeeeez, that’s a lotta money. It’s especially a lot for someone like me, who is depending on the extensions for bulk and not for a random streak here and there. Plus all the ones I found were at 18″ long– waaaaay too long for me, so I’d end up cutting half of them off.

Instead, I picked up some human hair weft. (I went to Sally Beauty Supply for mine, but it’s available online as well.) It’s 12″ long, and was about the same price as the I-tip extensions. Since it was blonde, I was able to color it however I liked. So I did, using a variety of Manic Panic dyes that I use on the rest of my hair.

Tools of destruction. Kinda.

Once the dye had set (I usually let it sit overnight, just cuz) and been washed out, I let the hair dry and straightened it with a flat iron to work out any weird kinks.

Then I gather my supplies: A piece of freezer paper to cover my workspace, some E-6000 glue, little scissors, and the weft.

Before making I-tips, it’s a good idea to see a real one in person. The tips are shaped like shoelace tips, but are considerably smaller. Assuming you’re going to install these with metal links (more on that in another post), you’ll need the tips to be pretty small or they won’t fit. If you have the links already (click here to buy them from one of my favorite hair shops), set a few out to look at as you make the tips so you can compare the sizes.

Also, if you’re going to dye the weft, do it before making the tips. Since it’s not attached to your head yet, you can do all sorts of fun stuff– fades from one color to another, spots (hard, but possible), stripes (easy). I use Manic Panic dye on mine, but you can use your favorite dye. Make sure to rinse it really well and let it dry completely. Wet/dye-coated hair won’t glue well.

Okay! Make some I-tips!

1. Tape a piece of freezer paper, shiny-side-up, to your workspace. Sure, you can skip this step. I just figured you wouldn’t want glue and bits of hair all over your table.

2. Open up your E-6000. Now, to be fair, you don’t need to use E-6000 for this. Liquid Gold also works, and is usually what hairfreaks recommend. But I didn’t have any, so I used E-6000 and will describe my method with it. Also, you probably shouldn’t use your bare fingers like I did. Wear some gloves.

Anyhoo, squeeze out just a bit of the glue. It’s kinda tricky to do this while you’re holding loose hair in your hand, so do it in advance.

3. Grab a little section of hair on your weft. I used sections about 1/4-1/2″ wide. YMMV depending on the type of weft you have. Grab ahold of the hair a couple of inches below where it’s all stitched together. Carefully snip across the top of the hair, just under the stitching. Use your free hand to pull out all the tiny short hairs that will be on top of the section (weft is made with a shorter section at the top. We don’t want this in our tips– it’ll just mess things up).

Ignore the blackened fingers. I was rumbling with Voldemort.

4. Get a small dollop of glue on your finger (you’re wearing gloves, right? Of course you are). Use your thumb and forefinger to distribute the glue onto the top of the loose hair you’re holding. I did this by pinching my fingers together with the hair between them. Make sure all the strands are coated. Then start twisting the hair together into a tiny little rope. Keep twisting and twisting and twisting– the glue will start to set, which will keep the twist nice and tight.

Once the twist is set (watch to make sure it’s not unraveling), set the tipped hair aside to dry (on something the glue won’t stick to, like the shiny side of freezer paper. See? Aren’t you glad you did that?). Repeat the process for all the extensions you wanna make.

5. Once all the tips are dry, take your scissors and snip off the rough tip of the glued end. The tip– meaning, the bit with the glue on it– should be about 3/4 of an inch long. You don’t want it too big, or it’ll stick out funny once installed. You also don’t want it too small, or the hair will fall out. It takes a bit of practice. Again, it’s useful to have a “real” I-tip extension for comparison.

That’s it! I made mine and wore them for about two weeks. The tips stayed together just fine, and when I removed them I was able to save most of them for reuse (a few got too ratty because they were snarled around my dreads). Remember, using higher quality hair will mean your extensions last longer. My hair was pretty cheap, and though I didn’t mind the extensions looking a bit chewed up, they got that way FAST. Slightly more expensive hair will net you long-lasting, great-looking extensions that still save you a ton of dough.

Questions? Comment!


Posted: October 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

My computer is dead.
Operating right now on my boyfriend’s laptop, but am hesitant to put anything on it (pictures and so forth) because I’ll just have to transfer it all when I get/fix my own computer.

So yeah. For now, radio silence. BUT AS SOON AS I AM WITH COMPUTER, LOOK OUT. So far I’ve got two tutorials and a sad story about trying to bleach stripes into my pants.

Over and out. *crackle*