Midyear start

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Here I am, yet again, attempting to jumpstart the craft blogging.  I’ve managed to get things rolling on the personal blog, but getting to this particular corner just now.  So where have I been with the crafting?  Now that I’ve come back, I’ve made a resolution to finish pending projects first before beginning any new ones.  I’ve started with the jewelry repair (easy!) and have gathered a few unfinished pieces.

I arrived from Manila 2 weeks ago, and I’m very proud of how I resisted the urge to shop for more beads and other jewelry supplies — keeping my purchases to a minimum.  Just more headpins and eyepins, essentially, and a very limited inventory of gemstones and gold filled findings.  I am not even asking for more for Angelo to bring as he returns this weekend.

I started straightening and organizing the headpins and eyepins already using my nylon jaw craft pliers.  I am hoping to find my digital caliper soon so I can figure out the gauge of the findings.  I buy the headpins from Wellmanson’s in Quiapo, and while I love shopping there, they don’t identify their findings by gauge.  So you are pretty much left on your own to figure it out.  Still, how can you beat 1000 pcs of 1.5 or 1.75 or 2″ headpins for under $2?  OF course, the catch is that you will have to straighten out most of the wires, so I am grateful for these jaw pliers.

After month after month of closing out sales from my favorite bead stores here in Manhattan, I have quite the stash to sort out and put away.  I had started doing this before I left, and it’s just easier for me to stop crafting altogether to focus on the organizing.  I’ve tried to pull together the loose stones into bins by kind, and just putting all the freshwater pearls together.  The metal components are a little more difficult to properly organize because I usually buy them in very small quantities.  That’s where I can use these bead organizers.
I have actually taken to labeling them, but I still end up intermixing the different components in one bin.  There are also certain items that need bigger storage, and I usually look at the small parts organizers found in the do-it-yourself or home improvement stores.  So I don’t really have a uniform storage unit for my components, but I confine myself to stackable or flat surface containers.  You will usually see piles upon piles of them on one corner of the room — or in my storage closet which is bursting at the seams.

My sewing adventures have also been put on hold because of my trip home.  I would have hated to be left leaving with an unfinished project.  I might not remember all the things that I should and not be able to finish the piece.  I have more than enough fabric to work with, and I hope to complete some light coats before autumn is upon us.

Of course, the very point of writing here again is because I want to chronicle my crafting journey for the remainder of the year.  Again, more for my benefit than anything else.  I have time and again attempted to plot a crafting calendar with no success.  The calendar was done, but I failed to follow through.  This time, I will post as I go along, and I’m already thinking that would actually see more crafting accomplished.

August is upon us and before you know it, the so-called “BER” months will be here, beginning with September. For us Filipinos, that signals the beginning of yet another season, and yet a different set of crafts altogether.

Here’s to a more productive second half of the year in crafting.

So much for excitement

Well, I tried.

I know that’s not the best thing to write after three months of silence. But I’m hoping I’m back, more so since I’m creating again.

There were some sales in the shop which sparked renewed inspiration to create. I think I really should devote a day or part of a day in a regular rhythm — not necessarily weekly – to creating new pieces. Even just a few hours can yield several pieces like this weekend.

I normally find one or two patterns forming as I assemble a piece – variations coming eventually – and then I am off on a roll.

And there are projects cooking in my head which I have to avoid getting entangled in lest I lose focus. Right now, I’m trying to sew again for my own wardrobe. I have been working on some patterns, mostly free, which I got from Mood Sewciety of Mood Fabrics, the famed fabric store in NYC. As a novice sewist, this is a very good resource for someone like me who does it as a hobby and who needs more help in figuring out the sewing I want to do. It’s also a good reference for fashionistas in general out there, and an off kilter destination for tourists who are students of fashion or who are crafters. This deserves an entire blogpost altogether.

I have also discovered other free and pattern-for-sale resources which I will write about in a future post.

I’ve also been working on pressing some rose petals which are taking forever and a day to dry properly, but I am being patient with them because this is a special bunch. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s the general humidity or the phase at which I started drying the roses. I have many pressed rose petals to work with but I don’t want to let this bunch go to waste.

Pressing rose petals
There is so much crochet inspiration but I don’t want to pick up my crochet hook and leave the work hanging. There is a project forming in my head which would require many little pieces to be put together, so I am just trying to see (1) if it’s a project I really want to undertake because I don’t want to end up with many little pieces and not see it through, and (2), do I have the time..

Decisions, decisions.

Let me go back to working on posting the dozen or so pieces I created offer the weekend. Visit my Pinterest boards or better yet, please visit the shop and pick a piece.. or two…

Almost Friday!

Trying to get back to craft blogging

I haven’t really stopped crafting — I just haven’t been “here”.  So today I discovered (to my horror), that I haven’t posted since April.

Sad.

I know that I haven’t been able to devote as much time to crafting the last couple of months, but I never stopped.  The slow down was mostly vacation and family visiting and then vacation again.  Plus of course, there’s the daily distraction of work.  And motherhood.  And just life.

So what have I been up to?

FabricI’m still trying to sew.  I now have quite a fabric stash and have all these plans and patterns.  I’ve even taken to altering patterns and creating mock ups to ensure that they actually work on me.  Hopefully, the upcoming projects will help me to keep a sewing novice journal here.

I have immensely enjoyed learning.  (Thank you, YouTube!)  There are so many great teachers who so generously share their knowledge and skills in videos that can be anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour long.  And I have watched and watched.. when something stumps me, I google the topic and find myself watching the experts do it.

I have made Mood Sewciety an almost daily habit not just for the inspiration but for free patterns, and all those sewing tips and lectures.  One day soon, I’ll write about how Mood Fabrics here in Manhattan is my kind of sewing heaven — whether I need to do a quick drop in or when I spend an hour or so browsing and thinking and resisting the urge to splurge.

I have been working on keeping the shop going, and although I haven’t posted anything new in a while, I’ve noticed quite a bit of traffic with items or the shop being favorited by shoppers.  (I must be doing something right.)

Still, it’s been a while since my last sale.  My recent trip to Manila saw me shying away from more supplies shopping (for the first time!) — because I have been confronted by the reality that I have way too much at home that need to be converted to something wearable.  I did succumb to the urge during my short trip to Hong Kong — but I didn’t let myself get carried away.  I am proud of my restraint! LOL

I have started working earnestly to organize my supplies again.  While sorting through my bead organizers and supply bins, I’ve had a chance to reacquaint myself with stocks I had forgotten about.  At the same time, new ideas popped into my head about how I can utilize these supplies.  No goals for now.  I just want to get started with the crafting again.  Be it beads, or polymer clay, or maybe even fabric or notion based accessories — I’m itching to get creative again.

I’m recrafting a new home.  No, I didn’t move.  But yes, I’ve been changing things up at home to make it the home I am dreaming of for Angelo and I.  It’s been slow but things are changing.  Clutter from so many years ago have been cleared — and while half of that is up in the attic (where the piles have moved), I am happy with the way my world at home is changing visually.

I am hoping to create some photo art to bring our walls to life — and imbibe a sense of family around my son and I.  I want to reupholster our dining room chairs instead of buying new ones.  (Although maybe buying a new set might seem an easier “out”, I want to give this a shot and save some money along the way.)

I haven’t quite gotten to repainting.  I think that can wait for now.

With summer almost over, I can’t wait for the cooler climes of autumn when I can work on the attic as well.  Like I tell myself, one small corner at a time.

Sometimes we just need a little push to get our projects going again.  I’m hoping this one will get things rolling here, indeed.

Hello, 2018!

I always greet the new year with optimism, because it always brings in a new beginning.  In my mind, no matter how chaotic or tumultuous or completely bland the year that just ended was, there is that forever hope of things getting better, more so as we restart the clock so to speak.

So happy new year.

I’ve been ramping up my creative streak of late and can happily report that I have managed to finish a winter hat, a pair of hand warmers (only because I don’t have an existing pair of the ones I did last year!) and my embroidered scarf is almost “almost there”.

My new slouchie beanieYet another slouchy beanie.  I have spools and spools of yarn that are begging to be knitted or crocheted, and in the midst of tidying up, I actually came across a few skeins of pompom yarn that I had meant to work with as an embellishment to a white or black slouchy beanie.  Even if it took forever and a day to decide between using black or white for the actual beanie, the process of actually crocheting the hat was rather easy because I worked with an existing pattern.  Then there was the actual figuring out of (1) how to incorporate the pompoms, and (2) the placement between stitches — or how close or far I would put them together.  But voila!

New hand warmersPink hand warmers.  When fall came, I actually couldn’t remember where I put my leather gloves.  I did find my hand warmers, but only one of each pair.  I could pretend I was being funky and wear a different pink on the left and another on the right.  Besides, does anyone really pay attention?  (Yes, they do.  I know because I do.)  And again, maybe because of last year’s practice but I nailed this one despite the unstitching every now and then because I was working freeform using the fan stitch.  (Not quite sure that’s what you call it.)

At first I thought 30 stitches for the actual cuff was too tight, but then again, crochet stitches actually stretch as you pull on it this way and that. It worked well enough because I meant for the warmers to reach up to just beyond my wrist, and not all the way up my arm. That’s another project maybe for another winter.

I know it’s February and I’m going to start drafting my next post the moment I hit send.. more, more, more!

Polymer Clay Love

The long weekend has been a crafting staycation for me, mostly with me getting back to polymer clay.  I have amassed enough clay to keep me kneading and conditioning for quite a bit, so I went back to work on unfinished projects.  I also started to collate the work I had done so far, and much of them will evolve into something new cooking up in my head.

I found molds I had created but which I had not used to mold clay with, and a striking ornate brass stamping of a lion head I have had for a while came to life in clay.
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I am a novice at this but I find it very rewarding with minimal frustration because you can turn it into whatever it is you might want it to be.  It can be fanciful and candy colored, or almost like faux metal or faux stone.  I have enjoyed working with it and creating things to wear that make people stop and wonder what the necklace or earrings are made of.  

I find great inspiration from Cynthia Tinnaple’s Polymer Clay Daily where artisans from all over the world are featured.  Just browsing the short blurbs and the gorgeous pictures are enough to get me thinking about how I want to work with my polyclay.  So many possibilities!

While I work mainly with gemstones and glass beads for my etsy shop, I have pieces which have incorporated handmade cabochons I fashioned from my own molds.  I find that polymer clay cabochons are actually more elegant and have a more subtle color range than the regular resin cabochons that are in the market.  I’ve bought one or two and made molds, but my best tool is a set of carved opal cabochons that I got as a gift from my late mother-in-law.  They were loose cabochons meant to be a set of three, but the intricacy and uniqueness of the carving was what made them standout.  I see them as peonies.

I have worked with both pour on (liquid) molds and the more common mold putty.  I can’t say I like one more than the other because I’ve found that one can be better depending on what type of mold you’re making.  For intricately designed originals with lots of crevices and detail, the pourbob mold is more suitable as you will see in the end product below.
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The pink and lavender cabs, I will use as is, but the beige ones will rendered with a hint of gold patina using gilders paste later.

Below you will find my raw polymer clay lion head cabochons fashioned from the brass stamping on the picture on the left.  I actually did two versions of this with two different clays.  The harder in consistency went under the brass stamping itself, and the softer beige one went into a putty mold I cast off of the stamping.  
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The brass stamping wasn’t all that expensive but was hollow and unwieldy to work with, needing attaching to a cloth or plastic base.  So I thought I’d try to create a solid cabochon instead of a hollow form, and experimented with a subtler patina that wouldn’t make the head too loud a part of a piece I had in mind.  Here you can see what I mean when I put the real brass with the faux metal polymer clay lion head.  It isn’t quite as shiny, but you can pass it off as metallic.

This second I worked on is more of a cost and weight work around.  I fell in love with the original casting the minute I saw it but the price was a bit of a splurge for a finding.  The slots were too big and uneven a size for me to find actual cabochons for, so I knew right there and then I’d have to make the cabochons myself.  The piece was also rather heavy and I worried that further embellishing it would make it too heavy on the neck.  

This one is a work in progress as I purposely left out the bail on the original piece, and I am thinking of creating a solid backing for the pendant to have the bail cling to.  But below you will see the original rendering, and the golden tint it took on after an application of gilders paste.

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Rendered this way, I can fill in the setting with my choice of metallic polymer clay, or do that and add gemstones or other embellishments around the cross form to create a larger statement piece.  It’s just trickier to get all the rope details around the frame, but the finished setting in polyclay worked quite well and turned out as I had expected it to.

I’m going to save the before and after of the flower cabochons I tinted into a dark gold hue for later when I have them set into Earrings.  

I just found a shoebox full of other polymer clay bead experiments which I need to turn into something workable.  That’s another post altogether.  I am also working with doing another form of polymer clay Earrings but I’m still thinking about how I can render it well.  Back to my polymer clay I go..

Craft experiments: Photo Transfer to Canvas

I love taking photographs.  Even before the age of smartphones and selfies, I would hold my point and shoot DSL-like camera and click it framing my son and I in a photo that looks like it was taken by someone in front of me.  Friends would often wonder how I did it.  I kept telling them, it’s plain and simple practice.

  1. I would look at the lens and make sure that the reflection I saw there was the framing I was hoping to achieve.
  2. Whether I was taking a blind selfie or not, or taking the photo of another subject, I already knew not to place the subject’s head in the middle of the frame.  (A common  mistake), and instead put it on the upper center of the photo.
  3. I also knew I had to look at the lens, not at my hand.

In truth, this was really one of the skills of motherhood.  Ever since I became a Mom, I took numerous snapshots of my then little baby on a daily basis, capturing every essence of his day.  My camera and I were inseparable.  This is the reason why I have always opted for a fancy point and shoot rather than an actual DSLR.

Through the years, I’ve also learned that taking a snapshot of an actual photograph can produce better results than an actual scan.  (This, of course, is just my humble opinion.)

I have always had a deeply sentimental nature when it came to photographs.  I brought home a ton of my pictures through the years through my various trips home to Manila, and what I couldn’t take  (or chose not to take), I took photos of.  Holding a photo and looking at it, whether or not it’s me in the photo or someone else, evokes a wave of emotions and memories that a simple thought cannot bring.  It is a magical experience all its own.

Then I fell in love with the idea of photographing jeepneys and the many scenes of New York.  From the flora of Bryant Park to the gorgeous foliage of Central Park, to the never-ordinary cityscape showing any of our iconic buildings like the Empire State Building — I have amassed quite a personal trove of photos.

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One thing that the digital age has robbed us of, I think, is the need to actually produce these pictures as hard copy mementos of the moments they captured.  We have become content with visually beholding them in our smart phones or on our computer screens.  We have stopped printing them or creating a physical copy.

I’ve always wanted to incorporate these photos in my artwork but have really not had the chance to try until recently.  Again, I’m a crafter more than an artist, so my creative process is about acquiring the skill rather than cultivating a talent.  I am so green with envy of the real artists out there who can grab a pencil or a brush and with a few strokes create something others can drool over.  I call my attempts, “Personal art”.

Scouring the internet, I’ve found several resources that give tutorials on photo transfers on canvas using a gel or glue medium.  Over the previous week, I tried using regular mod podge after having painted small canvas panels with acrylic beforehand.  I’ve had some practice doing this on Artist Trading Card backgrounds half a lifetime ago, so the backgrounds were the easy piece of the puzzle.

Since this was purely experimental, I decided to go with a 4×5 canvas panel.  Aim small, miss small, as they say.

I already had future projects in mind so I decided to experiment with (1) a full-photo transfer, and (2) a collage transfer, essentially focusing on a cut out.  Below is a macro shot of Angelo when he was maybe 4 or 5, laser printed as recommended.  I printed the photo slightly larger than the canvas panel but I didn’t intend to wrap the edge of the photo print out on the sides of the frame.  From the get-go, I meant to show some of the background by exposing the edges.  I wanted it to be a distressed transfer to give the photo more drama.

The background was a hodge podge of gold, copper and silver acrylic.

This second one was a cut out of the dancing girl figure, a picture of me when I was maybe 3-4 years old.

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Chalk it to my impatience — instead of waiting for the customary drying time of 24 hours, I wanted to see as quickly as possible if the ink would indeed be transferred by applying a generous amount of transfer medium to the print out and then pasting it onto the canvas panel.  (This was, after all, an experiment only, so I threw all caution to the wind.)

Cutting out the figure that I wanted, I pasted it onto the canvas but being careful not to let any glue get onto the backside of the picture.  Two or three tutorials I viewed warned against this because any part of the printout with glue on the backside (the reverse side) would not be rubbed out when you tried to get the transfer reveal.

I think my transfers went well for a first attempt, and as far as first attempts go.  I’ve already stocked up on regular canvas to work with bigger projects which I hope to showcase here in future posts.

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Learning how to sew

Once upon a time I was taught how to use a sewing machine.   This was in high school two lifetimes ago and I actually learned how to thread the manual ones — where you had to put your feet on top of a mono-pedal of sorts and power it.  I wasn’t quite as crafty back then, plus trying to sew jammies as a class project to be graded wasn’t all that interesting.

Fast forward to today.

In the last couple of years, crafting for me has essentially been jewelry and paper crafts.  I am a crafter, not an artist — and I say that with pride.  I like creating things and putting my personal stamp on it.  I actually can do almost professional hand sewing, to the point that I’ve stitched close and embroidered over holes in dress shirts, or successfully hemmed my pants and jacket cuffs.  For some reason, I’ve been drawn to making fabric clutches which I envision as canvases for gemstone and freshwater pearl embellishments, crafted by yours truly.

So the dilemma was actually being able to create that base product.  I thought about the hard case minaudier frames that are available, but that would limit the shape and size of the clutch I would decorate.  (Still an option, though.)  I browsed online and loved the many different cloth clutches available.  How else can you make them besides sewing with a machine?  Of course, there is the option of doing everything by hand, but I’d like to think it would be faster and easier to actually be able to use a sewing machine, and it would guarantee better integrity for the product.  I had a sewing machine in the attic courtesy of my mother-in-law who actually made the bridal party dresses for her daughter more than two decades ago.  But I don’t know how to work that machine.

Then there was the pull of actually being able to sew clothes I could wear.  I am in between losing weight and trying to lose more weight — most of which has worked in my favor, but which has caused me to find myself iffy when it comes to apparel sizing.  At a 36D, I usually land in the Large or 12.  But my body is continuing to shrink even if it’s still flabby, so there are times when I can actually get away with a Medium, depending on the cut and the fabric.  I have enjoyed dressing in more form-fitting clothes — something I used to dread given my shape and size.  (I have to admit, I have great admiration for the plus size women who can carry their figure hugging outfits with such confidence!)

These days, though, I am slowly working my way to a healthier body.  I have actually been told time and again, I am not fat.  (It’s hard to pit that against the repeated subliminal message that I was from the one whose opinion used to matter the most to me.)  I do know I am not a supermodel.

I love to dress in feminine styles.  I have learned to highlight my best features (like the 36D and everything that comes with it! LOL), and to minimize the problem areas.  There is still a “thin bias” that’s very pronounced in the clothing lines that are commercially available, and I often catch myself returning something I had tried on because it looked good on me, but only up to the shoulders, then somehow spelled “not worth it” when it came to the lower portion.

Of late, I’ve been looking at simple pieces that came without sleeves but which could be altered to accommodate lace sleeves.  (Lace is all the rage this spring and summer!)  I’ve also been drawing up plans to create scarves to use as accessories.

My good friend, @ehawkinsillustion (on Instagram) actually encouraged me to learn how to sew.   A fashion illustrator by trade, but a student of fashion design as of this writing, I’ve always admired how she has pursued her passion after acquiring a kick-ass degree in Statistics from the most prestigious university back home in Manila.  (Okay, I’m trying to hold back the fan love here.)

She told me that Mood Fabrics was offering free sewing classes — and they are right in my neighborhood here in Midtown!  I registered, picking the Saturday classes which were the most convenient, and last Saturday was our first of six classes.

nybsaWhile the class is free, they do require you to purchase the sewing kit from their store on the first day of the 6-week class.  Mine came to $144.00 which came in a clear Mood U tote to carry it in.  The class is taught by Benjamin Mach, an Australian fashion designer based in New York and who is in charge of Mood University here in NYC.  He instantly made everyone at ease by introducing himself and having everyone else in class do the same.  (Why are you here?  I said I’m crafty but never really learned how to sew.)

There was a diverse mix of sewer-wannabes, some who are actually into fashion, and some who are into crafts like me — as well as a smattering of people brought in by friends.  (I had two in tow, but only one made it to the first class.)   There were people who wanted to get a refresher course on sewing after having worked with sewing machines while creating Barbie dresses back in their childhood.  We talked about the goodies in our sewing kit and were taught about fabrics that were suitable for the class project which was a fabric tote.  Towards the end of the class, we cut the pattern for our tote and were soon merrily on our way to find the fabrics required.

I was giddy happy — and very excited to be learning something new.  I have always been a student at heart — so much so that when all was said and done and there was no more studying to do, I actually missed the classroom. But this time, I was doubly excited about learning what was being taught because I had definite plans in mind about how I want to utilize the knowledge gained.  I’ll write more about the actual class in a separate post, not necessarily about the class content (well, partly), but more about the experience.

I’m happy to report that this puts me in sync with my craft calendar which I wrote about here, and I’m hoping to keep the rhythm going through the other to-dos on that list.

I’ve always believed that it is never too late to learn anything, because it contributes to our continuing growth.  We don’t stop growing only because we are physically matured — there is so much to learn about and see out there.  I’d take another university course if I had the luxury (and the funds) to do it, but I’ll settle for learning how to sew for now.