Archive for craft

Classin’ up the Place

I will be a guest instructor at Rook and Brush’s arts seminar series to be held at Advanced Education in Lanoka Harbor NJ next month.


Beginner crochet class will include how to choose yarn, hook sizes and learning a basic stitch enabling you to complete a project scarf. $15/one hour class, materials provided.

Watch this space for more info, or contact the organizer at Rook & Brush – a fun time will be had by all!


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…a long way to go and a short time to get there…

Hard to believe I’ve been at this 7 years now. I turned to crochet-as-therapy as a way to deal with, well, some not so good things that were happening at the time. Looking back is bittersweet (when is it not?), but I’m glad to have a narrative thread, so to speak, to hang my milestones on.

WP.MAGICMAN.2.2013Many of you who crochet as a hobby can relate to the zenlike state you achieve once you find your rhythm on a project. An easily memorized repeat is probably on par with a low dose of prozac or xanax when it comes to calming the mind and shutting out intrusions. For me, my thoughts become more focused, more linear, and if i’m obsessing about anything, my inner analyst becomes more logical instead of magical, furrowing her brow to get to the answer instead of pulling rabbits from hats for applause.

While I do enjoy the end products and moreso the satisfaction when someone appreciates my work, I’m also all about learning new techniques and trying to master a new stitch or pattern. For this I know the bar is incredibly high and if I plug along diligently there will always be another step to climb, even after the longest plateau. (Sorry about all the metaphors and allegory, I’m feeling particularly wistful today.) Finishing can be hard if the process ends with, “whew that was tough” instead of “now I can give this to so-and-so”. Wholly evidenced by bags and boxes of half-started projects, unwoven ends and bits and pieces waiting to come together.

If I’m not making a particular item as a gift or (rarely) a commission, I have to summon an incredible amount of will to finish. I gravitate toward hats mostly because of they’re easy to finish and I don’t have time to a) get bored or b) lose interest because something else caught my eye (insert “ooh shiny” ADHD reference here). Conversely, I’ve been known to make trouble for myself by taking on a project at someone else’s behest, not enjoying it, and ferociously fighting even picking it up as the due date grows closer and the tension mounts. Charity donations seem easy by comparison.

Oh HaiSo, hats, scarves, baubles and one-offs. Easily finished and blocked, wrapped and sealed against the elements and into the box in the basement they go, waiting for their moment of glory. “You should sell those..!” ingenues cry, “That would be a good business!” I explain that there’s no real money in selling crochet, that the time in, plus materials, far outweigh any financial gain. There may be money in selling patterns, I reply, trying to make it better. “See, you know enough about the business to be aware of that…!” I really do adore my cheerleaders.

For me it’s enough to get out on a sunny weekend and be amongst other crafters at a bazaar or flea market. I could do without lugging a dozen boxes and a table across a dirt parking lot and sitting in the hot sun trying to smile and make small talk and not seem desperate to make a sale everytime someone chances to pick up an intricately cabled hat or a fluffy wool scarf. Then there’s the worrying – did I overprice it, or am I short selling myself? The payoff, material or otherwise just isn’t there for the amount of mental anguish I put myself through.

I’ve had an Etsy shop for years. Empty. As a prolific early adopter with dreams bigger than my means, I went through the motions after exhausting the funness of eBay when it got to the point you couldn’t “just find” interesting or great deals, and formula replaced abject honesty in writing auction ads. Figuring at the very least I could sell excess craft “supply” purchases if and when goings got tough, and with no fees unless you posted an item for sale, I let it sit; occasionally buying soaps or stitch markers or tickle-your-fancy impulse buys while keeping my feedback somewhat current. And the whole time watching the site grow and seeing it go from a quality crafter haven to a largely unchecked marketplace (Regretsy anyone?) Qualifying that, I have absolutely no beef with them, only with myself for falling for window dressing and overpaying for inferior product. Caveat emptor, baby.

So now I have a shop. With things in it. I made business cards ages ago and invariably at a fair when someone would take one and ask if I sold online, I would have to shake my head and give a sad “No, sorry” and reconsider how much of this I was taking seriously. When I had my last Big Idea™ and a web savvy friend suggested I “make a site and sell them” I don’t think she envisioned all the padding that goes along with such an endeavor for a combination procrastinator and perfectionist. Nice photos, good descriptions, and proper layouts all matter to me. I guess that’s Hobbying 2.0. I’m still a mom first and a creative second, being a businessperson is a bit further down the list. But I’ll continue taking artfully lit pictures of stuffed toy snakes and granny-square neck pouches, writing flowery prose rife with keywords and hoping someone somewhere gets as much joy out of what I make as I do.

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Crafty Time!

Just a quick note, I’m so happy to announce that I’ll be selling some of my crochet and candlework at the Lacey United Methodist Church flea market Saturday, July 21. I’m looking forward to a great day and to meeting some fun and interesting people.

Blog visitors who are looking for further information can contact me at jchinique@yahoo.com, thanks!

psst

“psst…tell a friend!”

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Kitchen Sink Soapmaking

I picked up a melt and pour soap kit at the thrift shop a while back; it’s been sitting on the floor of my bathroom closet waiting for me to become inspired. I made these while the kids were playing this morning after breakfast.

"clear" glycerine soap block

I popped some chunks of the clear glycerine base into a glass measuring cup and microwaved it in short, 10 second bursts until it was liquid. First up on the menu was the lemon bar. I’d had lemon extract sitting in my spice cabinet since I bought it by mistake 6 years ago. I think I’ve used it twice since then. Very strong, with a pungent lemon scent. (Not at all Pledge-like.) The few drops of yellow food color I added next were a bit too much in retrospect (my boys and I came to the conclusion that the foamy yellow liquid looked a little too familiar, if you know what I mean…) A little zested rind of a lemon added just the right touch of visual interest.

Cinnamon toast was next – starting with some vanilla extract and ending up with two bars – I added additional product because the brown got very dark and I wanted to be able to see the bits of sugar and cinnamon through the clear soap. These took the longest to dry and distorted the plastic molds a bit when I neglected to let the hot mixture cool a bit before pouring it.

There was still a bit of vanilla-y brown left over so I tried something similar, this time with “exfoliating” coffee grounds and a bit of A&W root beer ice cream topping, because, why not? It’s my 10 year old’s favorite.

Cinnamon Toast, Lemon Zest and Orange Lychee

I did a quick search for some internet soap recipes and found that you can add baking soda as a skin softener. That coupled with some red made a a nice muted pink; and I was thinking of pulling some rosewater out of the upstairs vanity when I found peach fragrance oil packaged with the kit. Unfortunately, the baking soda precipitated to the bottom and caused cracking when I de-molded the soap. (The root beer stuck as well – I’ll definitely use some type or release agent – Pam? – next time.)

Peach Fizz and Root Beer

By now I’m just about done and the natives are getting restless, so I finish up the last bit of pink with some OJ from the fridge (no pulp!) and raid the spice rack again to find an appropriate match for it. No cardamom, and orange-clove smells too much like autumn for me. I guess I could have tried ginger, but I love the look of the black lychee tea leaves suspended inside the orange bar.

I’m definitely going to try some of these again. One of the molds was hexagon shaped and begging to be turned into a milk-honey-almond bath bar. Making soap was a lot easier than I thought, and the kids were able to help a bit too. These will be nice to go along with hand-crocheted washcloths and spa items for gifts or craft shows.

For now though, I’ve got a sink full of dishes to wash. And these delicious smells are making me hungry!

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Friday Favorites on a Tuesday Afternoon

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Halloween Craft Ideas for Kindergarteners

I agreed to do a craft for my youngest’s school party , and they were pretty much covered as far as juice boxes and munchkins (the theme is “Halloween Breakfast”.) It needs to be something quick and easy, plus not messy. So I dug through some supplies in my “studio” and found some large jingle bells.

I figure I can paint them orange at home and have the kids string them onto green or brown yarn/ribbon along with some felt or foam leaves. I probably need to do a test run with my 5 year old at home to see how easy it’s gonna be. Maybe they can crayon a face onto it if there’s time.

Idea two is to have them poke cloves into some clementines and make a nice “pumpkin face” sachet. I think it’s kinda cool because there’s a lot for the senses, the scent of oranges and having to manipulate the cloves. It’s all natural materials, which of course is a plus to me, but the messiness factor may be an ugh to the other moms.

It’s tomorrow morning – what would you do?

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Mapping the Future of Craft

craftster button If you’ve never visited Craftster before, you’re missing out on the awesome designs of a lot of very creative people who are on the cutting edge of DIY culture. The mostly young demographic creates hip, modern twists on traditional arts and crafts.

It’s not your grandmother’s craft site. The Craftster forum features topics such as Stitch and Botch, Crafting for Good not Evil, Vegan Cooking, and Reconstructed Clothing, as well as the standard fare of show-and tell boards, tool and supply discussions, listings of local fairs, and advice on starting a business. The tagline, “No Tea Cozies Without Irony” sums it up very well.

Each post includes a “this rocks” button which has a clever icon of the two fingered ‘devil sign’ often flashed at rock concerts. Pressing it enables you to vote on the work, the best make it to the Featured Projects section on the site’s front page. Where else could you find a felt espresso machine, soap the looks like a raw steak or a cross-stitched portrait of Queen frontman Freddy Mercury? Most purported hip, new trends on HGTV or the DIY network have their roots in sites like this one.

Leah Kramer started Craftster in 2003. It now has over 75,000 members and recently received a mention in the Time Magazine article “50 Coolest Websites of 2006”.

NJ Craftster Heatmap

There are many message boards on the site, including a regional-specific NJ one that I frequent (in search of nearby crochet groups – hello TRKnitters!) One of its members, bethiej78, generously provided a heatmap showing the locations of all the participating craftsters in the thread. The map received enhusiastic responses from as far away as San Diego (!); I suspect the author will add more locations if the need arises. I think that the time and effort it takes to create something like this may qualify it as a craft in its own right.

I often think about the increasing overlap of digital and traditional mediums (Crafster discussion here). Digital artist trading cards (ATC’s), knitting graphs produced in photoshop, and online color palette generators are blurring the whole line between technology and craft. We now have tools at our disposal to create a whole new genre (cue the herioc star-wars type music here), equal parts fiber and fiber optic – a bastard child of post-modern pop culture and time-honored folk artistry. It’s become easier to find a voice via “social networking” on the internet. For me especially, the prospect of positive feedback from my community is great inspiration, on all levels. As Sen. Clinton paraphrased the African proverb, it really does take a village. So think globally and craft locally. You’ll be glad you did.

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