Tuesday, December 23, 2008

*FREE* CRAFT Subscriptions for current subscriber renewals

Earlier today, I posted about fun ways to give the gift of a subscription to CRAFT magazine over on the Craftzine blog. I used ink jet shrink plastic to create a fun, glittery version of the downloadable gift cards you can give when you order a subscription for someone. It was really fun to make and would be even more fun to give!

I just got word from the CRAFT Subscription team that they are offering an awesome deal for current subscribers: renew your subscription now (for just $34.95) and you can get a gift subscription for F-R-E-E.

I'll give you a second to process that. (free, people! freeeeee)

OK - so go grab your latest issue of CRAFT and skedattle on over to the CRAFT web site where you'll put in your account number (found on the address portion of your magazine) and you can then renew your subscription and order another subscription - FOR FREE - for someone else. The CRAFT folks will even send the recipient an email about the gift if you aren't going to see them in person to give them one of the printable gift cards.

That's an a-m-a-z-i-n-g deal, and if you have a current sub to CRAFT, you are nutso cuckoo not to take advantage. Make your crafty friends and family all kinds of giddy! Go! Now! Do it!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Little Stitchy (geeky) Gift For Myself

Here's a little indulgence I allowed myself as an early Christmas gift. I spotted this Stitchopoly game at Hobby Lobby a couple of weeks ago. When it first caught my eye, I kinda thought, "Oh, ha! Lookie there - it's Monopoly but for stitchers. Cute."

Then I picked it up.

And I started noticing things like ... Lazy Daisy real estate and ....

the details on the packaging and ....

the unbelievably awesome game pieces that are teeny DMC goodies.

I immediately stashed it in my cart. It was the only one on the shelf, I'd never seen it before, and I figured I could at least walk around with it for a while before I decided if I would splurge and get it for myself. I thought about putting it back and dropping hints to my husband, but then I realized that a) he probably wouldn't get the hints or b) if he did get the hints, the game might not be there when he went back. I decided not to risk it and went ahead and brought it home.

Isn't it beyond rad? Now to just find some equally geek-a-liscious friends to play with me .... anyone? (more pictures over on Flickr)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Stitch me happy!

One of my best creative pals here in Austin is an amazing artist named Curlin Reed Sullivan. I first met Curlin several years ago through a mom-entrepreneur group here in Austin, and was instantly smitten. You know when you meet those folks who just spark your insides and you know in a second that you connect and you hope to find anyway you can to work together? That's how it was with Curlin. She just makes me smile.

After semi-stalking Curlin from a distance, I finally got to spend time with her back in Septemeber during Kat's Surface Design Crash Course. It was one of those random twists of events that landed us both in the class together, and it was a fabulous week of fun times that left us inspired and ready to make fun stuff.

Curlin's work is whimsical and fresh ... literally. Most of her work consists of using gorgeous botanicals combined with her simple illustrations. I've always loved her style, and top that with her hilarious, witty writing and you've got some seriously good stuff going on.

So when Curlin pulled her first screen print back in September of one of her illustrated ladies with a hat exploding with flowers, the first thing that came to mind was "I MUST EMBROIDER THAT!" We started talking about how great her designs would be for incorporating embroidery, and as you can imagine - with a room full of creative minds - a new collaborative project was born.

Laurie Wisbrun of Scarlet Fig, Leslie Bonnell of the Stich Lab, Kat McTee of Studio 1408 and myslef all contributed in some small way to Curlin's latest project: Hand Embroidery Kits! You can imagine how giddy this makes me. Of course, anything relating to embroidery makes me happy, but seeing so many great creative women sharing ideas to bring the project to fruition was the best part of all of it.

Curlin was the supreme force behind making all this happen. She was kind enough to let the rest of us join along in the fun. She created the images and lovingly hand screen printed them on to yummy linen blend fabric (in a gorgeous chartreuse color) and packaged them up with all the things someone would need to be able to sit down and get to stitchin'. She's got a glorious lady whose hat literally explodes with flowers, and a dapper gentleman whose flower hat is under a wee bit more control. They make a divine pair.

That's a 10" hoop there, folks!

The greatest thing about the prints is that they stitch beautifully, and there is room for all kinds of variation. You can stitch solid directly on all the designs, leave some unstitched, leave just the leaves/vines showing, or stitch extra bits in between the printed designs. The options are endless. Once you're done stitching, you can frame the piece or make it in to something gorgeous like a pillow or center piece to a quilt.

Curlin's pair, stitched by Laurie of Scarlet Fig and sewn into pillows!

I couldn't be more proud to have had just a teeny part in all this, and I hope that Curlin's work inspires you as much as it has inspired me. She's the kinda lady who just makes you happy hearing her name. :) Spread the love!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bouldin Creek Studio Tour

One of Austin's most eclectic and beloved neighborhoods, Bouldin Creek, is home to an incredible group of artists, designers, jewelry makers and crafters. This weekend, Austinites have the opportunity to visit the artists' studios during the Bouldin Creek Studio Tour.

I'll be with Leslie Bonnell of Glitzkrieg at the Stitch Lab Sewing Studio on Saturday from 1:00 - 3:00 PM doing free embroidery demos. Leslie will have all her awesome jewelry and sewing class information on hand. Also at the Stitch Lab will be designer, Jody Haller, of One-Eared Cat, showcasing her adorable appliqued kids clothes. The tour also includes studios ranging from letterpress art to photography to found object jewelry design. The Bouldin Creek neighborhood is a super-friendly, fun neighborhood, and well worth the visit.

And while you're there, be sure to stop by Thai Fresh - amazing, amazing, amazing Thai food and grocery. Y-U-M.

Check out the web site for more information and a handy map of all the artists' studios!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Fab Crafty Books & Awesome Sale

The lovely folks over at Chronicle Books have sent several craft book selections for me to review, and I thought this would be the perfect week to catch up on some of those reviews so you can take advantage of the Chronicle Friends and Family sale that is going on through Friday. All titles are a rockin' 35% off with FREE shipping. Huzzah!

I'm doing some quickie reviews of several of my favorites below, and I have an additional list of top picks (some that I've previously reviewed, so they are linked below) of ones to definitely check out.

Postcard - By FL@33
6-1/2 x 8-1/2 in; 224 pp ;
800 illustrations, pockets holding 20 postcards

This is a fantastic book for anyone with an appreciation for good design - especially in small spaces. Postcard showcases dozens of designers work in the small format of postcards, and the range of art is unbelievable. I've had this book on my nightstand and luxuriate in a few pages every night before bed. I'm blown away by the clever, brilliant, fun, beautiful, simple, complex designs. The bonus: it comes with 20 postcards that you can collect or mail to friends! If there is a design lover on your list, this is the book for them. The type geek in me especially loved the Helvetica postcard ...

Handmade Hellos
Fresh Greeting Card Projects from First-Rate Crafters By Eunice Moyle
and Sabrina Moyle
Photographs by Sheri Giblin
Illustrations by Sarah LaBieniec

8-3/4 x 8 in; 144 pp ; 30 color photographs, 100+ color illustrations, 5 pattern pages for 25 projects in an attached envelope

Handmade Hellos is a seriously dreamy book that evokes oohs and aahs with every page turn. There are correspondence projects from super easy to more complicated, and each one would be well-received. I love the simple silk screen technique they use (embroidery hoop/screen fabric/mod podge) on the Wood You Be Mine project, and I especially love the Sucker For You octopus valentine. Like several Chronicle books, Handmade Hellos comes complete with a fat stack of templates and patterns tucked into a handy back pocket in the (fabulously spiral-bound) book. It's a perfect catalyst for hopping off the computer and creating some truly memorable pieces of mail.

Stencil 101
Make Your Mark with 25 Reusable Stencils and Step-by-Step Instructions
By Ed Roth
8-3/4 x 8 in; 48 pp ; 25 reusable card-stock laminated stencils

Several months ago, my cousin sent an email asking if I knew of any "cool stencils" that she could use for decorating her new office furniture. She was frustrated, because everything she'd found in craft stores was along the lines of grape vines and curly letters. I started digging around on the Internet and found Ed Roth's Stencil 1 web site and instantly sent her the link. Shortly after that, I stumbled on his videos from the Martha Stewart show. And shortly after that, the Stencil 101 book arrived on my doorstep. Since then, I've been fully enthralled with all the cool applications of Ed Roth's stencils.

Stencil 101 is a great way to get started with stenciling. There are a handful of basic, but cool projects, and the bulk of the book is full of beautifully cut, cool stencil motifs. What I like about stenciling is how quick and easy it is. I took one of my son's t-shirts* and grabbed a stencil from the book and - using some Tulip fabric dye spray - transformed the tee in under 5 minutes! (the smudge in the bottom right corner was my fault, not the stencil's ;)

Here are some of my other top Chronicle Picks:

Sublime Stitching - Hundreds of Hip Embroidery Patterns and How-To
Sublime Stitching Craft Pad - you can read my review here
Lotta Prints - you can read my review here
Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts: Wooly Embroidery
Craft, Inc. - Turn Your Creative Hobby Into a Business
Softies - Instructions for 15 Plush Pals
The Guerrilla Art Kit

So get over to the Chronicle site TODAY or by tomorrow so you can take advantage of the super Friends and Family deal of $35% off and FREE shipping. Knock off all the gifts for your crafty friends, or go ahead and gift yourself all the titles you've been wanting.

*Of course, when I showed the t-shirt to my son, he asked, "What is that?" and I said, "A cassette tape!" and he said, "Uh ... what's a cassette tape?" Niiiice.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Count Down Calendar Craziness

Hoorah for count-down calendars! I don't know why I love them so much, and I don't know why I don't find a way to use them in every month of the year (or for any special occasion). Since we celebrate Christmas in our house, we do advent calendars, and I have to admit it's just about my favorite part of the holiday festivities.

(Diane's advent calendar, made by her mom. Pic from CraftyPod.com)

Last year, I was fully inspired by and in awe of Diane's post about the advent calendar her mother made for her when she was two years old. It's amazing - I mean, check out that giant gold ric-rac. Doesn't get much better than that, folks. Her mom has posted about the calendar on her own blog (yeah, Diane's mom has a blog. How cool is that!?) and it's so cool to see the original magazine clipping that inspired her calendar.

I was dead set to make our own advent calendar this year. We have several advent calendars in the house, but not one was handmade by me. Horrifying, I know. I wrote about my advent calendar class with the Future Craft Collective gals a few weeks ago, and I'm happy to report that I've just about finished up the project! Just in the nick of time!

I'm pretty happy with the results. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but given the fact that I had no real "plans" for the project and just dove in willy nilly, grabbing fabrics, sewing with whatever thread was on the machine I happened to sit down in front of, not really measuring or marking as I went, I don't think it turned out half bad! It was a very freeform project, and that's one of my very favorite kind.

In retrospect, I wish I'd paid attention to alignment just a little bit more, and I wish I'd factored in a little more time so I could make two rows of true pockets. What I ended up doing what just folding the length of felt, stitching all the pockets and then ripped the openings for the bottom row of pockets with some wee scissors. It was an idea we came up with in the class to save time (which it did) but I'm not sure I'm just in love with the results.

I was thinking I wouldn't add numbers to the pockets. The examples in the class didn't have numbers, and I actually liked that - so the kids can pick from any pocket and be surprised. Design-wise, though, I think it needs the numbers to balance out that biiiiiiiig space of green there at the bottom.

As for trinkets for the pockets, for this year, at least, we are going with buttons. most in white (for snowflakes) and some in yellow (for stars). I let my daughter pick those out from my giant bag o' buttons, and she had fun doing that.

All in all, it was a great project. But it has left me with even more ideas for future advent calendars. I have an idea for next year's that I think I'll need to start right now if I want to finish it....

There are also LOADS of crazy cool advent calendars making the rounds on the craft blogs right now. I recently featured this Recycle Bin Advent Calendar from Craftastica over on the Craftzine blog, and I've seen dozens more featured on other blogs. Be sure to check 'em out. And if you feel overwhelmed by the thought of trying to put together an advent calendar for this season, go - right now - and make a note on your calendar for October of 2009 to remind you to start thinking of making one. As you read blogs/magazines/books and see ideas you want to use, find a way to tag them or make note of them so you can revisit them next year. It will be here before you know it. (uh ... yikes.)

UPDATED to add - Kami (fellow classmate and all-around Austin parenting guru ;) posted her calendar on her blog, Get Your Mess On. She's the one with the He-Man bits! Go check it out!