Monday, November 28, 2011

My Little Craft Swap

Recently finished up a craft swap, so here's some things I couldn't post about until after I sent my package.

Since I didn't think my big item was really big in terms of time (which I lucked out in because if I'd had to do it without the help of pre-made appliques, I don't know how it might have turned out), I made a stationery set and a magnet.

Also, I feel like I'm one of the only ones who didn't get the memo that the 4 point swap (a big thing and a little thing, 4 little things) was going to turn into MAKE LOTS OF NICE THINGS.  So, I got neat stuff, and felt like a lazy jackass.  Still, the gingham stripe for Applejack?  I am awesome.

Here you can see a My Little Pony perler bead magnet near my karate class information and my sister's terrifying stationery.  Never again shall you gaze upon such a combination.

The pony's made using the perler bead horse (or possibly even pony) pegboard.  I thought about trying to adapt it to the large square for a better attempt at the butt symbol, but I thought it would look too blocky.  The mane took a few tries to get right.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday

My sister and I did Black Friday for a few years, but eventually we came to the conclusion that we were broke and hated 6 AM, and the deals were never really good enough to justify getting up before dawn.  My attitude towards Black Friday became one of curious apathy--I wasn't really interested, but I could probably be convinced to go if I saw something I wanted or if I just wanted to get out of the house.

This year I'm just pissed off by the news that Black Friday is starting at some point on Thursday, especially since it's coming with the news that some employees are being pressured to work 8+ shifts.  I'm aware that most retailers will pay time and a half on holidays, but there's a difference between volunteering to take the better rate and feeling like your job's at stake if you don't.  I'm also aware that many stores will fall over backwards to make sure those 8-10 hour shifts don't earn overtime or make their employees eligible for full time benefits.  If you've had the pleasure of working almost any hourly job that promises great benefits for full time employees, you'll know how carefully the schedule is tailored to make sure nobody goes over 39 hours.

I'm aware that my  boycott loses something when I don't really have a lot of money to spend anyway.  While I want you to admire my noble sacrifice, I know the Big Box retailers who're pulling this shit aren't even going to notice that Kate, Destitute Grad Student and Educator, is not buying any large TVs or [fad toy].  So, here are some alternatives for those of you who are also pissed off with Black Friday and huge sales on crap nobody needs.

If you're crafty or want to be, the Craftster boards contain tutorials, advice, and inspiration for pretty much everything.  It's also community policy that you can't use the boards to try to sell yourself or promote your blog, so shameless self-promotion is limited to links in users' signatures.

Pretty much every major yarn brand offers free knit, crochet, and craft patterns on their websites if you're willing to give them your email and create a password.  Some of them are also on Facebook and will occasionally post about sales and show examples of knit and crochet patterns.

If you'd like to give handmade gifts without having to make them yourself, try Etsy.  I've complained about Etsy before, and there's some crap out there, but there's crap in every store.  It helps if you have a certain item in mind when you search, and read the seller's feedback and profile.  Etsy will also keep you from having to say things like, "Are you allergic to cats?  I'm just curious.  I'm not asking because my cat took a nap on your present or anything."  Although to definitely avoid having to say that, read the seller's profile.  Most crafters will say if they have a pets or other allergens to avoid problems after the sale.  If anyone tries to tell you their cat never gets anywhere near their crafting supplies, they're either lying or delusional.

If everybody you know already has too much stuff, go for food and drink gifts.  People like eating and drinking, and food and booze eventually gets consumed.

You don't need to buy some overpriced gift basket--just find a good cookie recipe and abuse the hell out of it.  Hell, people even like lazy cookies.  When I bring in desserts, people get the most excited about place and bake cookies and candy covered Oreos.

Most winos have limited brand loyalty--if you buy them wine, they will drink it.  If possible, support your local wineries.  Yes, you're going to pay a bit more for wine from smaller, local wineries, but the Coppolas and the Mondavis and the Barefoots have enough damn money.  If you're the type who buys yourself something while Christmas shopping, visit a winery, taste a bunch of wines, then buy some bottles as gifts.  Sure, you were probably slightly drunk, but saying, "I tried this at a tasting and thought of you" sounds much more sophisticated than, "I got hammered at the mall."

Despite all this hippy bullcrap about rethinking gift buying and giving, I will say that handmade coupons are a pile of crap and you know it.  If you're over the age of ten, don't give coupons.  Coupons are always for things you're supposed to do anyway, and most of the time no one is able to actually redeem them.  Actual coupons for the grocery store would be a slightly better gift that "This entitles the bearer to one (1) free hug."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Making Christmas

I started thinking the Grinch had a point the first time I saw a Charlie Brown Christmas tree for sale.  You know, the crappy little tree that's probably supposed to remind us that there's more to Christmas than buying a bunch of crap?  (I was going to link you to some of these examples, but I figured that might undercut my point.)

So, here's a decoration you can make that will cost about ten bucks and will not send the message, "I fail to grasp the frequently repeated message of a cartoon that has been an important part of my culture for almost half a century."  

You will need to have bought some stuff at some point, but mixed messages are an important part of the holiday season.  You can make it eco-friendly by using old magazines, comic books, and/or leftover wrapping paper instead of tissue paper.  

What You Need:

  • Paper mache reindeer
  • tissue paper
  • stamp and ink pad
  • Mod Podge
  • Optional: Paint, ribbon, bell
I haven't seen any reindeer at Ben Franklin this year, so mine's from Michaels.  Either wait for a sale or use a coupon because there's no way a fake reindeer is worth $9-$20 (I'm not even sure a real one is worth that much).  You'll get a better price with a coupon, but they'll probably be on sale for 30% off for awhile.

Other important information: the reindeer at Michaels are covered in gold foil.  It sheds all over everything and conflicts with my vision, so I also bought a thing of metallic finish white paint to try to get a better base shade.  

DecoArt's Metallic Finish White Pearl is bad, and it should feel bad.  Fortunately, some random white paint I found in my house has my back.  Now my reindeer has a nice base coat, and I've gotten to inhale twice the paint fumes.

For the decoupage, snowflake stamp on purple tissue paper.  I was originally thinking pale blue, but I couldn't find my last set of tissue paper, and I decided to do purple with a blue ribbon (and maybe a bell).

If I've learned anything from stamping tissue paper and gluing it onto a fake reindeer, it's that subtlety gets you nowhere.  What seems like an elegant and discreet pattern on a whole piece of tissue paper loses something once you start tearing it into pieces and gluing it on fake livestock.  If you're using stamps, aim for something between "well thought out pattern" and "smears of ink."

So, same stamp, same paper, black ink.

I've posed the semi-finished reindeer for display mostly because I thought you'd enjoy looking at something other than the newspapers strewn across my table.  For the face and ears, be prepared to do a lot of tearing and on the spot folding.  Once you're past the broad, mostly flat parts, you're going to get glue on your hands.

Sunday I picked up another reindeer and stamp since Michaels was having a sale, and I had a grant from the My Mom Foundation.  This one I decided to keep gold, which is changing the texture a bit.  I'm also trying to apply the glue and press the paper to it.  According to a Michaels project sheet, this is apparently called "the right way."  Unlike "painting" the paper on with glue, the right way involves getting your hands covered in glue, scraps of tissue paper, and ink.  But at least I didn't buy an overpriced ironic Christmas tree!

Other tips: don't have a cat.  Cats are instinctively drawn to sit on any piece of paper you're interested in, so they are not conducive to decoupage.  On a more positive note, Stampabilities Cheapest Piece of Crap Ink Pad ink dries quickly so it won't smear when your cat goes to sleep on recently stamped tissue paper!

Work is delayed until the glue dries and the cat sits somewhere else.

Monday, November 7, 2011

In the name of the moon, Merry Christmas

Holiday commission season has officially started!  And since a lot of what I'm working on is probably going to be for other people, consider Jupiter Star Power! on weekly posting.

Someone who favorited my Outer Senshi notecards asked about a Sailor Moon Christmas card.  Since nobody would want these if I was drawing them myself, that limited my options.  Solution: similar picture on either pastel Christmas colors or light blue with snowflakes.

 Fortunately I started trying to figure out a Glaceon card before I forgot how to enjoy things (don't ask--grad school and mental illness don't mix), so I already had two possible mock-ups.

The stamp was bought...a shameful amount of time ago for a project I totally forgot about until I decided to explain why I had a snowflake stamp.  Apparently you can do things with glitter and fancy inks, but I feel like that's not a good life choice since I'm already going to end up on Hoarders: Michaels Edition.

If some of the snowflakes appear lighter than the others, that's not photographic trickery.  It's also totally a deliberate effect and not because I forgot that stamps could be so damn complicated.

Here's what the final turned out to be.  I did think about using pink to match the outline around Sailor Moon, but it didn't say Christmas so much as "pre-infallible gender screening baby shower."  And now it's sort of wintery/Christmasy while still keeping Sailor Moon's colors.  That was also totally deliberate.

Since I knew the stripe would be slightly smaller than the snowflakes, I decided to turn the stamp rather than trying to line them up.

I also finally got around to adding an Inner Senshi stationery set to the gift shop.  I really like the way these turned out, although some of the cutting was a complete pain in the ass.  Especially since I lost my embroidery scissors (again, possibly for real).

These are made by using a little craft punch on a strip of paper.  Sailor Moon's is made with two strips--the solid red one, then the blue cut-outs.

As I was cutting out hearts in the crude semblance of a line, I contemplated my homemade confetti.  Perhaps there was some clever way to re-use it, like by adding a small detail to the inside of the cards.

Oh, except I used the card color on the inside of all the other cards.  Which means wasting more paper--but look!  Extra details!

If you'd like to enter the fabulous world of cutting up paper, but don't want to spend ridiculous amounts of money to cut little shapes and stamp things, look for the craft store impulse buy bins.  You can find lots of little craft punches.  Are they as good as the ones those decoupage fat cats charge big money for?  Who cares?  It's a dollar, and it makes shapes in paper.

Next lesson: buying the cheapest Aida fabric with a coupon.