Upcycling Holiday Cards from friends and family into Gift Tags

Re y led Christmas cardsGreeting cards have all been sent and received.  Here’s one great way to repurpose Christmas cards from last year: make them into gift tags.

While most of your gifts must have been wrapped and given away by now, you can make a note to save the cards you get this year to work on after the holiday break.  You can even do this with your kids.  You can also watch out for those gift catalogues (like this year’s catalogue from Tiffany’s which came debossed and patterned in gorgeous snowflakes) and then use them before throwing away.  Make a mental note to save the bakers string or yarn that you come across for this very purpose, or watch out for the slimmer ribbons that will accompany the gifts you received.

You’d be surprised at how pretty these can be, more so after you personalize them with a scribbled greeting from one of the younger kids.
Re y led Christmas cards

Upcycling wire

One thing I’ve been trying to learn about and be good at is working with craft wire in various gauges.  The problem with wire, though, is that once you work with it, there’s no straightening it out to be reused in its original state. It also takes time to untangle and undo.

Over the weekend, I had started to reorganize my beads and found a stash of them “all wired up” but not quite in the way I would be happy with.  It took some reworking but I finally got them undone and the wire set aside for upcycling.

I sorted them by thickness and cut them in uniform lengths.  I’ve been experimenting with creating findings out of coiled flattened wire.  Pounding wire takes some practice because (1) you have to apply roughly the same pressure to the entire wire, more so if you’re trying to come up with multiples of the same size.  (2)  You have to work a wire from one end to the other on the same side, more so in the first pass when you are flattening a round wire.  This requires holding down the wire on the end you have already flattened to make sure it spreads out on the same side.

I have become comfortable with my hammer and tiny anvil and often work on a flat surface with the anvil on a magazine or some such support.  While we normally think that pounding wire actually thins it out and weakens it, working on wire this way actually hardens the wire because the action compresses it.  (This, of course, is a crafter’s explanation of what the process does..).

I start on one end and move slowly in multiples of 10.  (Pound one area 10x and then move a few millimeters out until I reach the end. ). Imagine yourself squeezing out the last bits of toothpaste from the tube and you’ll get what I’m trying to do.  I them flip the piece and do the same to the other side and I keep repeating this from end to end, both sides, until I achieve the thinness or width I want.  Again, remember to do it uniformly for all sides and all pieces.  Once done, I used my jumping pliers tool to create these coils.

Upcycling craft wire

It takes a while but it beats throwing away wire you’ve spent good money on.  They lend a rustic and handmade feel to my creations which I will be experimenting more with.  I really like the feel and look of the upcycled wire even against such elegant barrel faceted beads like the ones I have pictured here.  Some people produce the same effect with random wire wrapping on an ensemble like this as well. I just prefer the destructured feel it produces when you like them on with beads.

Upcycling craft wire

Crochet Pieces

Disclosure: The post below provides links to the products I am using in my project which will take you to Amazon’s website in case you are interested in looking up the product.  I have also provided suggested sites you can visit if you are interested to learn more about Crochetting or purchasing Crochet kits. Please note that clicking on the link might mean a commission for me if you do purchase it from the vendor.  

Crochet has been a new-found passion the last couple of months.  I have been working on smaller pieces I hope to eventually “stitch together” later into something wearable for the coming fall and winter.  I have actually been knitting and crocheting my scarves in recent years, that is why I only buy fabric scarves, but I haven’t really gone beyond that.

I think I’m finally ready to try and craft something from the bits and pieces I have gathered in various ziploc bags, but I am a bit wary of how it will come out.  I have grouped them into patterns based on color and type of yarn and hope to create a good mix of the many pieces instead of just pulling in similar ones for a project.  I bought a grey fleck (speckled?) yarn that I hope to piece the rounds together with against an all black background.  (I am hoping to post the work in progress after the weekend.)

Meanwhile, I have been intrigued by this Icelandic sweater crochet pullover I’ve been seeing online, but a pattern for which I cannot find.  I am hoping to mimic it for the sweater tunic I’m making out of the Bernat blanket yarn I am experimenting with.  I also stocked up on the Caron one pounder which went on sale over at Michael’s around two weekends ago.  That, plus an additional 25% off coupon, allowed me to buy it at half off the original price.

I try to stick with the cotton and acrylics so that I don’t have to worry about fabric care later on.  When working with yarn, it’s always a good idea to check fabric care before purchasing it so you know it’s I remember knitting with some fancy wool-blend yarn years ago and when it was washed, it became a rag. (I had given it as a gift to my mother-in-law.). Back then and even now, I worked with fancy threads and yarns for my knitting projects because I couldn’t do the complicated stitches.  I would work designs into the scarves by switching yarn or needles.  Crochet is a different matter altogether, because I had learned this firsthand in grade school.  I can even read patterns in both the word form and diagram.

Switching yarns and needles is a little trickier for me in crochet, because I worry about how the finer and softer yarns would hold up against the tension or pull of the actual piecework.  It would be horrible to see parts of the final project fraying or hanging loose because it was carrying too much weight. But then again, I wouldn’t know until I finally pulled it together.  I am trying to confine the finer yarns as embellishments to the chunkier, hardier spools.  The set you see below will be part of a bigger crochet collage.

I will try to focus on getting a “draft” layout of the collage going this weekend, and trying to work piecing them together as I have envisioned it.  Sometimes planning one thing turns out another way when you actually execute it, and I want to see how it works on a small piece before going for the entire thing.  I guess my weekend is cut out for me.

If you’re interested in buying crochet kits, Craftsy has Crocheting kits around $10 or less, excluding shipping!. You can also visit their site below to look at available classes.
Craftsy

“Goldifying” Metal Accents

Disclosure:  The links provided will take you to a site where you can purchase them if you are interested in buying the item.  Please note that GothamChick is an Amazon Affiliate and will get a commission if you do make a purchase based on the link.

I have always been partial to gold as an accent, even when silver tone is what’s preferred for a certain stone or color scheme.  For one thing, gold tone accents age and fade better than silver-tone ones that tend to rust or oxidize into black.  I also love antique brass, but while it lends a rustic look to your creation, it doesn’t quite exude the same kind of elegance gold-tone accents give.  Thankfully, I’m getting comfortable mixing my metals — but I am still careful in pulling combinations.  There are times when you can get away with it, but there are also times when it just won’t work.
Gilders paste
Last year, I discovered Gilders Paste and I have a few shades handy to work into my metal accents.  I’ve experimented with using one shade and combining two different colors.  Depending on the effect you want to achieve, the applications of gilders paste to recolor your findings is endless!

This is most specially helpful when there are so many gorgeous filigree findings in antique brass and which aren’t readily available in gold.  I also like the different quality the gilders paste gives the metal it adheres to which makes the piece look personalized with the artist’s own patina.

Working with Gilders Paste

One thing you have to remember is that like polymer clay, the consistency of the paste differs from container to container.  It is important to keep the tin container sealed tight when you are not working with it.  The following are some tips to help you work better with the medium.

  • Choose an airy workspace because gilders paste gives off fumes which are chemical in nature.  It isn’t something you would choose or want to inhale directly.
  • Try to avoid touching the paste as much as possible. I use gloves when handling “wet” or “just painted” pieces to make sure I don’t get any on my hands, or that I don’t smudge my pieces with unsightly fingerprints.
  • Work on a disposable surface like a paper plate, a paper towel, or some cardboard you are looking to throw away like an old cereal box laid flat on the table, with the cardboard inside surface as your workboard.
  • Experiment on pieces similar if not the same metal as the one you are working on for your project.  Different surfaces react in varied ways — and the color of your gilders paste will come off differently depending again on what it is applied to.  Antique brass is very “receptive” to paste but it’s darker color tends to mute or darken the shade of gilders paste you are using.  Silver tone metals tend to be more difficult to apply on and doesn’t always “take” the gilders paste well.
  • Clean your piece with a dry piece of cloth or paper towel to make sure that you are applying the gilders paste to a clean surface.  If it has a coating of even just skin oil, it will affect the way your gilders paste adheres.
  • Use a disposable brush as cleaning the gilders paste off the bristles is a bit of a challenge and generally not worth the time.  I purchase these hard bristle brushes from the dollar store.  Make sure you choose the harder bristles because this will help you “push” bits of the gilders paste into the crevices of the smaller pieces you are applying the paste on, or on the finer details of the bigger items you are recoloring.
  • Dab the paste on, do not brush it.  Stipple the paste with the brush into rugged or recessed portions of the piece such as in smaller charms.  One thing I try to do is use the inside of the cover of the tin as a work surface for pieces that will fit in it, so that the bits of gilders paste that form into smaller balls or pebble-like granules can go back to the tin for future use.  (You will know what I’m talking about when you work with it.)  I would only do this, though, if you are only applying one shade.  In instances when you are trying to achieve a different tonal quality by combining two or more shades, I’d use a specific work surface for each color so they don’t mix.
  • Depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you may need to do two or three coatings.  Remember to let the first coating dry before applying the next coating.  In some instances, once is good enough if you are just staining or tinting the piece and not fully recoloring it from one tone to the other, like antique brass to gold.

These are my own methods for working with gilders paste.  There are other crafters with more experience in it who use sealants or thinners depending on the application.  Try it with one tub and see if you like the way it comes off of your project.  Some crafters like the antique greenish shade to show a faux antique effect on the metal.  It has a million potential uses to enhance your projects once you get the hang of it.

Online Classrooms

I’d be the first to admit that I have learned much of what I do as a crafter online.  From researching on Flickr to Pinterest to just feeling lucky and hitting Google, I’ve managed to learn how to work headpins and wire, knit the right way (after learning from our encyclopedia decades ago using plastic chopsticks!) and discovered free-form crochet.

Nowadays, we’re lucky to come across crafting classes that run the gamut of crafts you may already know as an expert, or a new interest you’re looking to learn more about.  Below are some of the latest class offerings from Craftsy.  Check them out by clicking on the pics below.  Please note that GothamChick is a paid affiliate of Craftsy and will earn a commission should your click result in a purchase  (Yay!)

No matter how simple a task may be, there are many things we can learn from others who may be as good if not better than us.  When you are in the business of creating, whether it be for yourself or for sale to the public, you can never have enough new ideas to toy with or incorporate into your own work.  How may times have you had an “Aha!” moment where you suddenly realized there IS a better way than the one you’ve been accustomed to?

I have discovered this from the craft fairs and classes I’ve attended personally and the videos and websites I’ve visited for guidance.  You never know!  As I always say, I learn something new everyday.

Midnight thoughts

Its past midnight and this is one Friday I am particularly exhausted but feeling fabulously good.  I had awoken from a semi-sleep remembering I still had my make up on. I was so deep into slumber that it took me a good half hour to finally open my eyes and get moving on the freshening-up-before-bed routine.  

Finally done.

Yet again, I am so deeply disappointed that my space here has lain dormant.  And every time I find the time to stop by here and write, I make another promise to rouse this corner of the web from its deep slumber.  Still trying.

Perhaps this time will be different. 

I just came back from a two-week trip to Manila, and although I purposely took it easy and tried my darnedest not to stress out about “seeing the sights,” I think I managed to make productive use of my time.  I had come armed with an arsenal of my own creations to give away as gifts.  My only regret is that I didn’t get to take pictures of all the pieces I created before they found a new home.

Like before, I wore my own creations and was flattered pink by the comments that were thrown my way.  It only convinced me all the more that I should continue to create and hopefully start selling again.  Well, that’s the plan.

Busy with my crochet hooks

I may not have had the chance to post anything here all of June, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.  Sometimes crafting and blogging don’t go at the same pace and I end up doing more of one than the other.

I have been busy collecting crochet hooks, mostly from the dollar store, of all places!  It’s the same ones being sold in the craft stores, and I’ve been lucky that my store has a stock.  I had decided to stick with the G but I’ve lost two so far, and the store is all out.  I will probably have to just swallow the full cost and get it from one of the stores in the city, if not my always reliable Michael’s.  I don’t know why but hearing the metallic hooks jingling in my pencil case cum crochet hook case is just music to my ears.
Work in Progress; Freeform CrochetMy yarn stash has also been growing, mostly in shades of pink.  (And then some..). One of these days, I will show you where I get my yarn here in Manhattan and you’ll see the varied offerings.  I have also gone up to my attic to dig through my yarn box which I had pulled together mostly to knit into scarves.   Work in Progress; Freeform Crochet

I continue to experiment with new stitches and the more complicated ones are proving to be a challenge.  But I am enjoying learning them and trying to get better at doing them.  With everything that I’ve managed to stitch up so far, I haven’t quite decided yet what I am making first — a scarf, a pull over or a hat.  Decisions, decisions!
Work in Progress; Freeform Crochet

I’m thinking there’s still plenty of time before fall when I expect I would get to use all these things eventually.  And then there’s the trip to Manila where threads the threads are a whole lot cheaper than here.  While the variety in yarns is lacking  (the ones we have here are more colorful and artsy), the cotton threads available there are hard to find here at the same price.  I grew up with the cotton threads that became those fancy adornments in houses of old.  Now if only they didn’t weigh so much!

I like the way the hook pulls the thread and weaves each stitch and gets you into a certain rhythm that can be hypnotic sometimes.  It can be very relaxing once you know what it is you want to create.

I’ve started a Pinterest board for Crochet inspirations, and another for Crochet by me.  It helps me to be able to see others who have created these fabulous pieces, be they just bits of freeform crochet or swathes of intricate stitches that make an elegant stole or shrug.  There is inspiration aplenty.  Dreamy!

 

Freeform crochet, anyone?

#crochetProject: #tinywheels to be stitched together as part of my foray into #freeformCrochet .. Still trying to find the right shade of #Fiuschia #yarn #crochet #crafts #craftproject #pinkandpurple #stitchesI had started drafting this post more than a month ago and it has remained unposted due to difficulties uploading the graphics.  Well, I’m determined to do this today.

I learned how to crochet in fifth grade with the nuns.  Even back then, I already loved crafts and was drawn to the lure of wanting to create.  I have written about how I had once upon a time taught myself how to knit, using the how-to in our encyclopedia — way before the advent of the Internet.

While I can only knit and purl the regular way, I have been fortunate to be able to “read” crochet patterns and actual word instructions.

A former high school friend of mine whose Pinterest board I follow had started pinning crochet patterns and pieces which spurred a new interest.   I found myself  hooked! (Pardon the pun!). I stumbled into other like boards, and I was immediately curious about free form crochet.  It was, literally, an abstract creation of shapes, patterns and textures.  You just went and pulled together a patchwork of color, stitches and different yarns.

I went to YouTube and found various instructional videos and I was learning again!  One of the things I like about crafting is that it is a continuing journey of learning.  There are always new techniques to learn no matter how good you have become at a certain pursuit.  There were new stitches and techniques to begin the whole piece and bits and pieces to improve on tightening a look, or producing a certain shape and form.

I knew what I wanted to create and what colors I needed, so I hied off to grab some yarn.

Trying freed form crochet

Sine I started on this project, I have had a couple of trips to different stores, just eyeballing the various offerings and deciding right there and then when a color appealed to me.  I am still in search of the elusive right shade of fuschia pink, but I am not giving up.

In the meantime, I’ve created and experimented with bits and pieces, until I can get comfortable enough to piece them together.  Still trying..

Gift inspirations

I always find myself scrambling to create gifts when I head home to Manila, or when I take a trip to see friends or relatives.  This time around, I managed to scrounge up some last minute pieces which have actually inspired new designs I’m hoping to develop in the coming weeks.

#InspiredToCreate ; #SmokyQuartz and #mysticquartz  #formysister . #gothamchickEtsy #GothamChickinManila @handeagted #SpecialPiece #accesorjes #bracelet #handmadeI’ve had a fun time bringing together smooth smoky quartz nuggets and treated quartz chips together in a chunky bracelet that is simply strung together with eyepins in gold.

Another version has chunks of agate punctuated by treated quartz chips again.  It’s a contrast of plain color against metallic hues.  There’s something about larger and bulkier beads hanging from wrists that loosely instead of clinging onto the arm like they would if the beads were strung together that has me thinking of other combinations and possibilities.
#InspiredToCreate: #agate and #mysticquartz #bracelet #formysister #gothamchickEtsy #crafts #handmade
The shop has been dormant so I am actually seriously planning on starting to repost the expired listings.  Summer’s here and it’s actually the perfect time to work with materials that I cannot touch during the winter months for lack of pliability.  Polymer clay has started to appeal to me again, primarily because I have a ton of them in my supplies and they are dying to be transformed to something beyond the cubes of clay they are right now.

Well, this is a start.

I have actually created maybe 3-4 necklaces that I gave away but failed to photograph.  (My bad, I know.)  I have also managed to string up some rose quartz and then disassemble them later because the headpins had oxidized into the beads.  I so love rose quartz but find them very tricky to work with.  I am still trying to find a workable way to create pieces with them.

Updates soon, more so as BFF Donna is bugging me to send some pieces over down under with her birthday looming in the horizon.  Like I promised, soon.

Knitting away

Bliggraphics

I had taught myself to knit using chopsticks and the illustrations in our encyclopedia back in my early teens.  I am not even sure I am doing it right right but I do manage to knit and purl through a piece as I go along with even stitches now.

All bundled up: Scarf done!  A pop of color with my off white coat.  Just what I need to brighten up another cold winter day in New York. #Knitting #scarf #popcornyarn #handmade #popofcolor #allbundledup #finishedproject #handcrafted #madebyme #gothamchic

To make up for my lack of skills in doing stitches, I’ve taken to working with fancy yarns and a variety of larger needles.

BloggraphicIt takes a little imagination to “see” how a piece will come out after I finish knitting it, but I try to focus on the colors and texture.

Last chance to wear this newly-knitted fancy yarn scarf.. Second piece finished this winter, ready for wear next year! Feeling #productive! #handmade #knitting #fancyyarn #handicrafts #knitted #madebyme #madeforme #winterscarf #bundleup #gothamchick #pina

Mostly, I get lucky.  This winter has been very productive — two scarves done!  I’m also working on “fixing” two other previous pieces, and I’m looking forward to that.

I like knitting because it’s very relaxing for me, and I like receiving compliments from people who notice the unique colors and texture of the pieces I wear when I do.  My fallback piece is a native woven scarf from Baguio care of “Narda’s”, a famous native weaver in the Mountain province, and it’ll come in handy as it starts to get warmer.  Still need to bundle up, though.

Happy Friday!