Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Studio Table

Currently I have two studio tables. And both are messy.

Which is sort of the point of today's post. Seth Apter has challenged those of us that follow along after him to post their workspaces without the prim and proper tidying you see so often in the crafting world.

So here it is, the real deal, messy and all! Click to make larger.

See more at his post here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tutorial, Word game modification

So you have a word game. A famous one. With all the little numbered tiles. And it's great. You love it.

If only it were travel sized.

Oh they sell those right? Right. Except they're generally plastic and clumsy and BIG.

And you know all you really need is the little tile holders, the tiles in a bag and a board. That's really not much, right? You can skip the hourglass, who uses the hourglass?

The score card is harder to drop. There's something compelling about tallying the points, trying to outdo yourself (or your opponent of choice).

And then there's the fact that the board never changes. Ever. It's always the same. That one's always a triple letter score, the other one is always a double letter score... and so on.

Well I have a solution!

Take your existing home version and Make your own word game mod!

I wanted to make one for myself, and then figured I may as well take photos of the process and make a tutorial. Honestly when I get excited about something I find usually other people do too. And this got me excited!

So here it is.

Word Game Mod Tutorial

Existing Tabletop Famous Word Game tiles and tile holders
Big ole ruler
Fabric Scissors
Paper Scissors
Printer w/paper
Fine tip sharpie
Regular sized sharpie
Clear Contact Paper
Acrylic paints
Paint brush
Board fabric (thin is better so you can trace) 21"x 20" (or bigger)
Backing fabric 21"x 20" (or bigger)
Bag fabric x2 (still working through the kinks on sizing, original bag was 7" x 21")
12, Small buttons or something to act as counters
10+, 3.5" x 5" index cards cut in half
Stamps or other decorative elements
Velcro strips, roughly 6" long or big buttons
Big table

(Theoretically you can completely skip most of these steps if you are simply adapting a home version. Just paint over the squares and create your cards. The directions below are if you want to create a travel version.)

To start you'll need a way to figure out all those pesky squares and how to line them up to make your board. It's not easy. They're not square!

Thankfully someone has already done this rather hard step for us. Pop on over to The Quirky Artist Loft for a free printable board (if you like it consider sending the creator Alina some love at her Etsy shop here). Download the four sheets of paper, carefully cut them out and tape them together. I recommend you cover it with a layer of clear contact paper or give it a light coating (outside in an adequately ventilated space!) of clear coat spray paint. This will make sure it releases easier after painting (I skipped this step and spent a long while peeling paper off the back of my board).

Next you'll need some fabric. You'll want a soft, translucent fabric so when you slide the printed board under it you can easily see it. I used orange linen. Cut it to 21 by 20 inches (or larger if you want some slop area).

Center and pin the paper underneath your translucent fabric of choice so it doesn't shift (you could use glue but you'll be removing it later). Be aware one side is shorter than the other and line it up accordingly with the fabric.

Trace the board. I used a fine tip sharpie marker and a long metal ruler. Try to make sure it's not shifting around as you do.

There are the following breakdown of tiles on a traditional famous word game board:

24 double letter
12 triple letter
16 double word
8 triple word
1 Star

Pick four acrylic paint colors (one for each) and start filling in squares. I chose to use the usual spacing but switched around the colors.

There are 25 yellows, 12 oranges, 16 reds and 8 turquoise squares, but none of them are where they normally would go. It took a little figuring to make sure it was visually appealing.

After filling in all the colors let the paint dry and remove the paper backing.

The Quirky letter pages will print full size if you download them to your desktop and print them. If you try to print them directly from the web they'll print small. Print one small version of any square. Cut that into three rows of 9 and use as your score template, tracing the same set centered on the board four times over.

You can number however you like. I hand lettered with a regular sharpie. Outline each score 'card' in one of each of your chosen colors.

To use the score card put a counter on 1 and 30 to show your total is 31. Put a counter on 5 and 100 for a total of 105, and so on. You will need small counters. I used buttons. You could also use glass counters sold for game use or anything else small like pistachio shells or acorn tops.

You will end up using 1/2 sized 3.5x5 index cards (which we'll get to later) that will need to sit on the board in a colored box. Cut one in half and trace around it, lining it up with the invisible horizontal lines that extend from the edges of each score card. These will end up being the edges of your final board. On my test prototype I had 18.5" from corner to corner on one side and 19.5" on the other.

Paint a rectangle slightly larger than each 1/2 index card in each corner. Red next to red and so on. As you can see with a blank card, it will outline them when they lie on the board.

Let all paint dry.

Cut your backing fabric to 21 by 20 inches (trimming your main board fabric if you left yourself slop, being careful to keep it centered). Stitch both squares right side together leaving a gap to turn. I stitched as close as possible to the edge.

Turn inside out, pin raw edge and stitch all the way around to secure both sides together.

Take your 3.5 x 5 inch index cards, carefully measure and cut them in half. On the unlined side stamp or draw a design that is consistent so the cards aren't easy to tell apart.

On the lined side write down the new rules that will correspond with the painted tiles on your board. Decorate if you like.

Some examples include:
Get up and Dance
Use this word in a sentence
Make a French Word
Make a Spanish Word
Switch any two cards
Word has to be in a Song Title
Deliberately Misspell This
Remove one item of Clothing
Truth or Dare
Draw this word
Triple word score
Pick a new card and use immediately
-5 points
+5 points

There is endless room for creative modification here (see the end for more ideas on this based on our first play test).

I suggest making extra to leave blank so new players can design their own.

Alright. Now you're almost done. If you're making a travel version remove those tiles and tile holders from your home game. You'll need counters for score keeping. Either cobble something together any time you pull this out or find 12 counters now. I happen to have a lot of buttons, so I put 12 buttons aside.

If you're just adapting a home game you won't need the bag and can skip the next step.

For the travel version, you'll need a bag to hold everything (as noted it only fits board, this has not yet been fixed to hold everything):

Cut two long strips of your front and back fabric at 7 by 21 inches.

You can use any fabric you want, it doesn't matter. I wanted mine to be visually appealing so I took the same paint from the tiles and did a matching design for the background. As for styling, if there's one thing I always forget it's all those pesky two letter words. So I found a list and wrote them all out to reference during game play.

Stitch together leaving a gap to turn. Turn inside out, press and sew up gap. Now you'll have one long rectangle. Line it up so one end sticks out further than the other. This will end up being your closure flap. Stitch up sides leaving the top opening clear.

Either hand stitch or use a machine to add button holes. Sew on buttons. You can alternately use velcro instead.

And voila! A modded word game!

Who doesn't like to shake it up a little?

Thanks for looking! Please share if you make your own I'd love to see it!

**Notes post first play test**
Travel bag design needs work. If I work out the kinks I'll post it here. Right now it just fits cards and fabric board and not much else.

For the first playtest we used the cards as follows:
Shuffle and divide cards into four piles, one in each corner, leave face down.
Play as normal per your famous word game. First turn you automatically earn a 'yellow' card by playing on the central square. Tally points as usual.
Every time you land on a colored square as part of a word you pick a card before tallying points.
If your word lands on more than one colored square pick one from each pile.
Some cards leant themselves to immediate use (IE +5 points), some we ended up dubbing 'challenge cards'. If you draw a card that says 'Make a French Word' it makes no sense to do that now. What we decided is that if you get a challenge card you hold onto it. It goes into your 'hand', face up in front of you. When you're able to use it on a turn (and fulfill the challenge) you get +5 points. If you still have challenge cards in your 'hand' when the first person goes out, you get -5 points for each card.

After the first play test we realized that there need to be a LOT of cards to use them the way we did. Probably at least 40. Perhaps more. Consensus was that there needs to be a greater percentage of 'common' cards to 'unusual' cards. Lots of +5 points or -5 points and not as many unusual challenge cards.

Generally after using a card we cycled it back into the pile it came from, putting it at the bottom .

Some cards simply didn't work. Truth or Dare or Remove one article of clothing in particular just were strange. Perhaps if you design your own drinking version you can keep those, otherwise I don't recommend them.

Thank you G for our first play test!!!!

Inspiration and Info:
I got the inspiration for the bag and closure style from Georgina Giles's etsy shop, make sure to check it out. It's just two simple buttons and some button holes. Lovely design.

Did I mention how awesome that Quirky Artist Loft tutorial is? Make sure to look around.

And finally:
Many thanks to my online collaborators for their advice and suggestions! And of course all my enthusiastic play testers and their partners.

This is a free tutorial invented and written up by me. It is not for commercial resale. If you use this please credit me or link back here.

PS: I've only done one play test so far. If anyone else does one please tell me what works and doesn't work and I'll add notes.


Sunday, July 20, 2014


Inspiration comes in the most unlikely places.

From here, a reminder to seek your own art, not what others want from you. A snippet:

"It is an art - painting our truth, or what may not be 'popular'.  There are so many ways to stray from our own personal voice."- Jeane Myers

I suggest you read the full text. It's well written. 

This concept is particularly poignant for me right now. I recently tried to participate in an open call for artist's work. I was told my art is too 'artsy-fartsy'. An intriguing title for my style, and one I'm still not sure I'm comfortable with (I'd already drawn this cat for it, so I named it the 'Artsy-Fartsy Cat').

But I prefer to look on the bright side. It's good to be reminded that we don't need to please others to make work we love. That perhaps the work we love won't please others, and that's ok. And it doesn't make the other person cruel or wrong. They simply don't like it. 

And that's alright.

Easier said than done sometimes.

Of course, on the heels of the dismal email explaining my lack of professional, polished style came a fresh Etsy purchase (including the cat!) which has buoyed my spirits. I try not to let sales dictate how good I feel, but it was definitely a welcome plus to my day. 

In related news, I did recently receive a lovely new spread of Andrea Lauren's fabric from her cosmic voyage entry to one of the recent Spoonflower contests. 

Isn't it lovely!? Definitely inspiring.

You can buy your own swath of it here. I'm very excited to make something with it but have no plans just yet. 

I hope you're all finding inspiration somewhere, in something new, and learning to let yourself do the art you love, the stuff that comes from inside.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sock Bear

Something about texture draws me back to fabric sometimes.

I love socks. Everything about them. I regularly order from a company called Sockdreams. And whenever I manage to work holes into the toes I keep them aside for special projects.

I had some dead A-chevron socks from Sockdreams, which is my top favorite style of theirs*, and I stumbled on them while making my sock rug a while back. Poor things had holes in the toes. I blame myself. Something reminded me of them a few days ago, so last night I hunted them down and started making a new softie.

Meet Quista!

I knew I wanted button joints, and I knew the internet could remind me how. After a little googling I found a great little pattern for a piggie, plus nicely worded and illustrated directions on making button joints at the blog While She Naps which is written by Abigal Patner Glassenberg.

FYI: I bought the buttons for Quista and many other projects from this shop: VintageNecessities

More pictures and information on Quista at my etsy shop here!

*Not only are they comfortable and stylish, they're DIRT CHEAP! Only $5.00 a pair. I love these socks.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Gathering of Stars


I've gotten a number of stars for my Star Cloth project. I'd be delighted if you join in.

Yes you!

Whoever you are! Send me a star!

Here's a smattering of what I have so far. I'm very excited. As expected no star is like another! (That's definitely my favorite thing about this idea).

A gathering of Stars

Creators in order, left to right, 1: J. D'ambra, 2: J. Matthews, 3: E. Stand, 4: G. Stewart-Stand, 5: Seth Apter, 6: J. Furbush

Thanks to everyone who's sent them in so far.

Join me as I continue to collect stars. Send me one! Email, snail mail, stork, however you like!



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Spoonflower Swatch Fabric Envelope DIY

Ever since my friend Estyn told me about Spoonflower, i've been itching to try it. Several years down the line I designed a bunch of pretty pictures, uploaded them to their site and ordered samples!

There are several options open to designers who upload their own design. I opted for the 15 sample package, and after hemming and hawing over all the types I ended up picking Cotton Sateen for my first go. They are more expensive, but print crisply, and judging from the little swatch book I purchased (only $1.00) it would be soft and luxurious.

True to form it is very soft. I have yet to try washing them, but I will give the duplicate button swatch I ordered a go, and then compare it to the original soon.

Point being, I knew going in that I was planning on ordering swatches, and realized I would have a bunch of 8" pieces of my own fabric to play with. What to do? Design a pattern using it of course!

I fidgeted and played with paper and looked at my little color swatch for inspiration, and came up with a pattern that will give you two little fabric envelopes if you have two swatches (or any two pieces of fabric 8" x 8").

Swatch Template

Then I took that pattern and made a little jpg. You can download it from here to print at home.

So! If you want to make them follow along. Directions below.


Spoonflower Swatch Fabric Envelope DIY

Supply List:
2 8"x8" pieces of fabric (probably better with a smaller pattern)
1 pair of paper scissors
1 pair of fabric scissors
1 needle
three small buttons
embroidery thread
small crochet hook
paper embellishments

Take your two swatches and your pattern. If you do not have two swatches, cut an 8" swatch from your liner fabric now. Cut out the paper pattern. For this particular pattern I'm suggesting that you only add a slim seam allowance. As you can see from the photo below, it's tiny, maybe 1/16" - 1/8" per piece. If you add a bigger seam allowance you will only get one envelope per 8" swatch (or white bits from the selvage on your finished envelopes).

Mark around the patterns using whatever you are most comfortable with. I used a regular pencil on the back, knowing it will get turned in later. Cut out your pieces.

Place your cut pieces right sides together. At this point you can pin them if you want, but I didn't bother, they were so small I didn't find I needed to pin.

Stitch approximately 1/8" all the way around the envelopes, leaving at least 1" open to turn them inside out. You can pull out your sewing machine for this step, but I preferred doing a neat hand stitched running stitch.

Make sure to cut some tiny slits where there are sharp corners. You'll need those for the fabric to turn over correctly.

Turn your envelope inside out. You can press it now if you like. I just used my fingertips, as I was looking for a little more of a handmade feel. Stitch the opening closed with a neat hand stitch.

This is where I decided to do some embellishing. I wanted my envelopes to look 'real', so I added a hand sewn 'stamp' made out of of a red rose teabag (supplied by my lovely neighbor G) and a 'to' and 'from' section made from hand torn paper bags. This step is much easier now than later, and serves to further bind the sides together.

Now you can glance back at your pattern and fold accordingly. I neatly hand stitched up the sides, but again you can do this by machine if you like.

Now it's the closure! I found some buttons in my stash and used those. For the 'memo' envelope I stitched on two buttons and then crocheted a little embroidery thread into a long thin 'string'. Then I stitched it to the bottom button so it will close if wrapped. For the 'regular' envelope I cut a tiny slit in the top and delicately stitched a little buttonhole. This is another step you could do by machine if you like.

Tada! Now you have two little adorable envelopes! Make one for a friend, or a loved one, or someone who needs cheering up. Or tuck into your bag to hold your business cards, or little ephemera. Maybe store your needles in one! It's all up to you.

Hope you have fun with my little tutorial. It's been kicking around in my brain for awhile now and it was time to share!

Main source of inspiration: Griffin and Sabine



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Doodling, Arting, Healing

I've been on an art rampage lately. Making stuff left to right. I have my star project ongoing, and there's the little denim book (detailed so far on my instagram). I'm about to get my first swatches back from Spoonflower, which is very exciting, and I'm thinking about designing a carmat for all the toddlers that are suddenly surrounding my friends and family!

Some new fun things in my Etsy shop!

A sketch for a car playmat with room for boats and trains. Currently going with the concept of all buildings inspired by 1980's horror and science fiction movies.

I'm excited about all the art I'm making, and I'm having a lot of fun instagramming and reading blogs and doing online things. We're almost into full fledged summer but I'm still feeling Sprung from Spring.

What about you? What has Spring brought into your life? Any new projects to report?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Buried Treasure 2014

Here is my contribution to this years Buried Treasure. As organized by Seth Apter over at The Altered Page. And here is the link to the TREASURE CHEST if you want to see all the other posts.

I picked this piece from September of 2010 (there aren't a lot of options when you've been off writing for the better part of three years!). Apparently according to blogger this is one of my most popular posts. Anyway, hope you all enjoy. I'll make the title link to the original.

Bird Goddess Mask Completed

So I tantalized you all with this picture over on flickr.

But now I finally have finished her. The second mask, the Bird Goddess Mask.

I'm really loving the organic flow of making these masks. I'm tapping into a spiritual part of myself to make these, and pulling from cultural and religious memes as I do it. For this project I was particularly inspired by a mask I had seen in the Tate Modern in London in 2005*. It was a piece made of two beautiful swan wings. They hooked onto a wire headdress, which you could wear, and they would open so you could invite someone over, and then close the wings around both of your heads, providing an intimate place for secrets to be discussed. It was in the surrealist section and I was greatly moved by it.

*(I just spent twenty minutes googling the piece and can't seem to find it)

It's also inspired by hands. Both sides of the mask were made initially with me tracing my hands onto the felt, and the underlying wire structure was also modelled on my hands.

So it's part bird, hands, mystical, ballroom. And of course I used dupioni silk again, which is a lovely material, really, if you're never used it, treat yourself to a yard. This one has black in it, so when you twist it it catches the light differently.

I'm not making a pattern or anything for these. They're happening as I pull and prod them into something. I know I will not duplicate them.

I had some gold thread left over from a class I taught, so I used it to make Masquerade Ball Mask style curliques with couching.

There is a third eye stitched in the middle of the forehead of the mask with chain stitch, which I also used to 'Kohl' the main mask eyes. If you look carefully at the image above, you will see that on each of the 'feathers/fingers' of the mask I added fuzzy red yarn to the edges of the couched gold thread, to further identify them as feathers.

Up next, the polar bear mask!

Oh, and yes, my hiatus from the internet is mostly over, and was mostly refreshing. I will be spending considerably less time online than I used to, and I think I will be the better for it. We'll see if I abandon my resolve when it gets cold again and I can't hang out on the porch with the dog.



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Star Cloth, a collaborative experiment in fabric design

I had an idea, inspired by various sources around the net, including Spirit Cloth and... I'm not quite sure. Perhaps Seth Apter, who is always inviting people to join him in his projects. Or that lovely mail project Meet Me At Mike's did a few years ago. Anyway.

I'd like to create a fabric at Spoonflower full of stars. I love stars. Star prints, star mugs, star things. I always have. And while it would be a challenge and fun to design my own star print fabric, how much more fun if it's collaborative? I miss theatre sometimes, and a lot of what I miss is the collaboration...

Would you like to help me design a starry sky full of individual, unique stars?

I'm going to spend a while (so far indeterminate) collecting stars. I'll take them by mail, by email, by flickr, by instagram by train or in a box or with a fox. The catch is I want them to be drawn by YOU. Yes even you, who say you can't draw. I don't care, draw me a star.

Draw me a star.

Sample star (of a very simplistic design, not meant to impose rules on you of course) 
next to a lovely merman card from this sumptuous deck by John Littleboy.

(Or you know, embroider a star, or paint it, or arrange sticks or something and take a photo, I'm not picky). And one day, I'll create a design for Spoonflower that anyone can buy (even you!) that has ALL the stars. A field of stars, as unique as each and every one of us.

Doesn't that sound nice? To surround yourself with stars from the hands of a multitude? The creative talents of people from (potentially) all over the world?

I was thinking of putting limits on it, but really I think the only limits should be that it has to be a star, and that it has to be made by YOU. You could add your name, or your initials, or your town or whatever you like to it. Or nothing. It could just be the star, all on its own.

I think it just sounds beautiful. A sky full of stars.

Help me build the night sky.

I feel good about it. I think we should do it.

What do you think? Want to help? Send me your stars.

Love and Hugs

OH! And just because things are always more fun when there are gifts involved, at the end of it all I'll draw one name from all the participants and send them something lovely to do with the project. Something starry and delicious. A surprise. Who doesn't like surprises?


Synopsis for those who like them/official rules blah blah
1. It has to be made by you
2. You really want more limits? Well... ideally I'd like if they were smaller than a playing card and in a decent enough resolution that it won't go all pixely when I have it printed. 150 dpi or more would be lovely.
3. Email me if you'd like my snail mail address to send me physical art, otherwise just email me the art or a link to where you have the art, instagram or whatever and I'll keep you posted here/contact you when the design is available for sale
4. It'd be nice if it was on a plain white background, but if you're really feeling the need to do something different and out of the box, who am I to judge? Go for it!
5. Should there be more rules here? I don't think we really need more.
6. Okay fine when it's all said and done the plan is to make a 36" x 54" design that is a very lovely size for say a picnic blanket or a quilt or something. Why that size? Because it's a good size.
8. You skipped rule 7.

PS fineprint nonsense: Blah blah blah if you submit a star to me you are giving me the right to post it to Spoonflower (which is a really groovy fabric/wallpaper/decal print on demand design company) and considering it's going to be a lot of work taking them all and arranging them in photoshop and hopefully I'm getting LOTS of stars I can't afford to share the commission (if any) I receive, but you'll be free to order it as wallpaper or gift wrap or something nice and silky to make into a quilt or picnic blanket or scarf and won't that just be lovely? Also once it's out there there's potential for other people to use it in their own work, but instead of seeing that as bad I think it's awesome. So what if someone makes baby swaddles and sells them at the craft market, to me that's just MORE awesome. How cool if someone else loved it enough to make something from it?