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30-something mother, wife, lawyer, writer, design junkie, craftaholic, cook

likes: clever tools, snazzy colors, working for justice, kid wrangling, Meyer lemons

dislikes: inefficiency, civil discovery, most shades of purple, Tori Amos

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Entries in craft (7)


Holiday Nesting

© 2010 Cameron Blazer // Cottage Industrialist
Easter and Passover are nearly upon us, and I haven't dyed the first egg. But I don't feel bad because I have whipped up these sweet little birds' nests and filled them with candy eggs.

Continue reading Holiday Nesting . . .

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Making Stuff: Part 2

   Photo courtesy Clemson University Flying ClubIn 1928, seven students at Clemson University, along with their faculty advisor, set out to build an airplane. Though "Little 372," as it was known, had a brief and fitful flying career, it is thought to be the first airplane built by college students in America. It now hangs in the state museum of South Carolina as an emblem of ingenuity and determination.

To the seven members of the 1928 Clemson Aero club, their advisor was a teacher and mentor. To my family, he was known simply as "Boppy."

Boppy taught at Clemson and ran the woodshop there for decades. His specialty was furniture, and pieces of his handiwork are scattered across the eastern seaboard among the members of my mother's family. And among my mother and her sisters' fondest memories is flying from the trees in airplane swings fashioned by Boppy. Though he died the year I was born, his impact even in my life has been profound in ways I am only now coming to understand.

Continue Reading . . .

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Fire Drill

Photo © 2009 David Mandel // Ampersand IndustriesSo my brilliant plan last year to craft a Halloween costume that would get two years of wear was dashed this year when it became clear that the kiddo was determined to be a fireman for halloween. Grr.

My new job, coupled with a startling and uncharacteristic flash of clarity on the subject, meant there was no way I would be sewing a fireman costume from scratch this year. But. (There is always a "but.")

First, I caught a lucky break back in September when Target had fireman rain boots on sale for $10. This was a total score because he needed rain boots anyway. Or so I rationalized.

Then while my husband and I were on our first vacation in, like, EVER, the kiddo's grandparents took him to the local fire museum (who knew?) where they GAVE him a fire hat. Come. On.

So now I had to do something about the jacket, right? But, I will admit, I just wasn't inspired. I perused some web sites with handmade costumes, though, and got some ideas. And then I looked up and it was Friday. October 30th. And I had done nothing. Well, not nothing. I had shopped for a black sweatshirt and for yellow duct tape. I couldn't find the duct tape so I bought yellow vinyl used for walls (Wall Pops, I think they're called). But they'd lain totally ignored for days, and now the big day was nearly upon us.

Once again, I caught a lucky break, and got off a little early from work on Friday. I cut off the cuffs and hem of the sweatshirt and up the center of it. I added a yellow felt collar, and then I cut out strips of the vinyl to seal the edges and make stripes around the arms and jacket. It was a little dodgy to do because the vinyl is repositionable (nifty!), and so I was a little concerned about the jacket holding up through a full day of Halloween, but I thought it looked pretty good. When my son got home, he thought it looked pretty good. He was TOTALLY satisfied. And yet.

Yesterday morning we went out for coffee with my mom and a friend, and I let him wear his fireman jacket and hat, even though Halloween (which I am pretty sure he was convinced was a mythical place I was cruelly preventing him from visiting until dark) was hours away for all practical purposes.* Everyone said it was cute, and it held up surprisingly well during my son's constant squirming and wiggling at the coffee shop. It even survived his blueberry muffin. And yet.

It just needed something. While the kiddo napped, I ran out to the fabric store. Which is to say, I drove half-an-hour, because I live in the boonies. I wanted to pick up some cool fasteners and a patch or two. For which I was willing to spend an hour in the car (I drove the hybrid, I swear!). Now, my distaste for the Hancock Fabrics in Charleston, SC, is legendary (legendary distate? Believe it), but I gotta say that on this day, the Hancock was treating me right. I found these super-nifty metal fasteners for $2, and they had a very nice American flag patch. And then there, in the back of a poorly lit aisle, at the very bottom of the rack, nestled between the replacement bra hooks and the snap tape, I found the Halloween Fireman jackpot: yellow and black reflective ribbon, iron-on variety. You know, the kind that runners and bikers use to make their clothing reflective for when they run and ride at night? Yeah, me either. I have been known to run, but in the dark? Oh no no no. This stuff was a revelation to me.

Anyhoo, at this point, if you are a reasonable, rational being, you are thinking, "well, but you already have cool stripes for the jacket. Why spend another $6 for additional stripes?" Lucky for me, I am not encumbered by reason, though I am powerfully in command of the skill of rationalization. Did I mention that it is now 3PM? And I have a half-hour drive home? Yes. Well. I rationalized that I needed to get the reflective tape to ensure the kiddo's safety. Plus, I'd have thirty minutes in the car to figure out how to make it work.

When I got home, le kid was, amazingly, still quiet. I grabbed his fireman jacket and boldly started ripping off the vinyl hems and stripes. I had bought a package of black tape and another of yellow. I had not paid ANY attention to, you know, the critical detail of just how long this piece of ribbon was. As it turns out, each color came in one-yard lengths in three widths. And as it turns out, I am one lucky girl, because the circumference of a Hanes Youth Medium sweatshirt is almost exactly 36 inches. There was much quickening of breath before I realized that I had not just destroyed my son's costume with less than 2 hours till the parade we'd promised him he could attend. Oy. At any rate, this reflective tape is wonderful--it feels pretty stiff when you take it out of the package, but once you hit it with the iron, it softens right up, while still adding some body and heft to the sweatshirt. By the time I'd gotten all the hems re-sealed and stripes re-applied, it was time to head out to the parade. For once, the fact that we live 40 minutes from my mother's neighborhood (where the parade was being held) turned out to be a good thing: my husband drove while I sewed on the nifty fasteners. I finished up with about 5 minutes to spare, and the boy was on the job with no time to spare. The best part is that thanks to the iron-on tape he now has a nice, sturdy jacket to play in. I think it was worth the extra $6.

*Can I just say? I think that Saturday Halloween is a cruel joke on parents. I mean, your kid wakes up at 7:00 ready for Halloween. Because you told him that Halloween is today: so let's get this Halloween party started, mommy! Far better that real child professionals be on hand to deal with overcharged three-year-olds; Halloween was clearly meant to be on a school day, no?


Coral Necklace Tutorial

Of all my many craft loves, my love of jewelry making is my oldest and most enduring. I've been making jewelry for nearly 20 years (and, yes, that does make me feel old). From the first package of headpins and carefully chosen beads I brought home, I was hooked. As with all of my favorite craft forms, I love the idea that things we all too often take for granted as being manufactured in some far-off place by a machine or a nameless worker can be made athom with a little skills, a few supplies, and two willing hands.

This necklace, based on the one I wore to my sister's wedding last month, takes that idea a step further. As you are probably aware, the world's coral reefs are threatened by ocean warming and other man-made perils. So, while I love the color and movement of natural coral, I avoid it in my work. Instead, a simple technique, combined with beautifully colored beads, makes it possible to capture the spirit of that nature-made wonder with more eco-friendly materials.

If you've never made jewelry before, you may need to review some fabrication basics before starting. If you have questions, leave them in the comments section, and I'll try to answer them for everyone. This is a very simple technique--don't be afraid to change it up and make it your own--use different colors (opaque white coral? very chic!), make short branches of coral and connect them together using lengths of chain, make a multi-strand bracelet, or dangle a branch or two from earwires for a real statement.

1) MATERIALS. You will need the following:

  • chain-nose pliers
  • crimping pliers (optional -- you can use the chain-nose pliers to flatten the crimp beads, but the effect will not be as polished as if you use the crimping pliers)
  • flush wire cutter
  • 2 crimp beads
  • multi-strand beading wire (I used a high-quality product that is plated in 24K gold--you can also get this wire in silver-plate, stainless steel, and sterling silver varieties. Usually, the higher the number of the beading wire, the higher the quality)
  • clasp
  • jump ring or chain with large (1/8" or larger) links
  • Czech fire-polish beads (I used a color called "persimmon")
  • coral and/or red briolettes (I used two sizes for variety, but this is not necessary--any size briolette will work so long as you like it--see below for some suggested online sources)

2) Start by cutting a length of beading wire 4 inches longer than you want your necklace to be. Some of this length will be lost to the kinking caused by the briolettes, and the rest will be needed to pull the necklace taut. Thread a crimp bead onto your wire. Then pass the same end of the wire through your jump ring (or chain--if you want an adjustable necklace, pre-made chain works like a charm). Thread the wire back through your crimp bead, creating a loop around the jump ring. Push the crimp bead flush with the jump ring, and pull the beading wire taut, leaving about a 1.25" tail. Flatten the crimp bead in place with your crimping pliers.

3) Begin threading your fire-polish beads onto the wire, making sure to pass the first 3 beads over the tail you created in step 2.

4) Add a briolette. Then add three more beads. You will alternate three round beads, followed by a briolette for the entire necklace. Leave the remaining 1/2" or so of the tail exposed as you continue to bead.

5) Continue the pattern of three round beads, followed by one briolette, stopping occasionally to push the beads tightly against one another. This tension is necessary to create the kink that gives this necklace its organic feel.

6) When you have about 1.5-2" of beading wire remaining, thread your wire with a crimp bead, followed by your clasp. Loop the wire back through the crimp bead loosely, and then pass it through 3-5 more beads. Grasping the end of your wire with your chain nose pliers, pull the wire very taut. Flatten the crimp bead in place with your crimping pliers. Trim the exposed wires with your flush cutters, et voilà!

[SOURCES: I must confess I have not been able to find online briolettes identical to the ones I used here. But looking around on Etsy, I did find several that should do the trick just right: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. My finished necklace is about 22" long and required 37 briolettes. Unlike the briolettes, fire-polish beads are plentiful online and in most bead shops, though the persimmon color I used does not seem all that popular. It's always fun to go to a show or a shop and see the beads you're going to use close-up, but if that's not possible, I'd say any opaque red or orange faceted round should work just fine.]


Details, details

In an earlier post, I teased (read: threatened) that I would share more details of handmade triumphs from my sister's wedding. Well, finally, I have culled through the 8GB worth of pictures my husband took that weekend to try to highlight a few of those details here.

Handmaking was a family affair for this wedding. One aunt made the invitations (with a little help from me); another aunt arranged--nay, architected--the flowers, my sister's fiancé designed the entire menu (he's a fantabulous chef); and I whipped up earrings and fans, hemmed pants, and whip-stitched necklines at the very last minute. Our aunt contributed her Badgley Mischka (pause to breathe) wedding dress, and incredibly generously gave my sister the go-ahead to have it completely remade (by hand, of course) to suit her willowy frame. My best friend also contributed another handmade something borrowed--a beaded bag I made for her wedding 6 years ago. I hope you enjoy these snapshots of a few of my favorite details:


Invitation DetailThe Invitations

The wedding we held on the lawn at Garden Creek in Yonges Island, SC. Garden Creek is a tiny, private tidal creek below a bluff on which our aunt and our uncle each own homes, side-by-side. The water laps at the bluff and is dotted liberally with the vibrant green of the South Carolina salt marsh. So my sister wanted to evoke the gentle waves of the marsh grasses on her invitation. Our aunt designed a two-layered invitation--a vellum overlay with the invitation wording (handwritten by moi, then sliced, diced, and vectorized for printing) and an underlayment with swaying green grasses imprinted on it. They came out beautifully, I think.


Flowers (photo © 2009 David Mandel)The Flowers

It was a given that our other aunt, who is a landscape artist known all over town for her amazing plantings full of color and movement, would do the flowers for my sister's wedding. She had done them for mine, and they were, without a doubt, my favorite detail. She asked my sister for guidance. My sister, who has short, pixie-like hair said, "I want them to be really colorful. And I want them to look like my hair."

With fuchsia orchids, yellow freesia, blue delphinium, red gerbera daisies, coral snapdragons, swirling sweet peas, green hydrangeas, and tiny ranunculus, these flowers captured the essence of my sister's life-long love affair with color. And when a couple of the arrangements came home to live with me, they were so well made that they lasted for days and kept the memories of the day just as fresh.



Look at that hem! Never had one lesson! Yeah, I know you can't really see the details. What's your point?Last-Minute Details

My sister and her fiancé didn't want a big, fussy wedding, so they had no attendants. But they did want my little boy to help them when it came time for the rings. Because the groom, who is the idol of all children with whom he comes in contact, wore a beautiful, tailored chef's coat, rather than a tuxedo, my son wanted to wear one too. Of course, to get the look right, he also needed black pants. Do you know how hard it is to find black pants for a three-year-old? Hard. Luckily, the uniforms section at Target had them in a size 4. They fit beautifully (thanks to the invention of those adjustable elastic/button waist-bands--whoever came up with those is a genius!), except for the 5 extra inches in length. For the sake of verisimilitude, I overcame my fear of hemming, lopped off the excess and set to sewing. Which was working great until I ran out of black thread. On the morning of the wedding. With three hours till we needed to leave the house. And with my jewelry and 50 fans left to make.

Earrings and Necklace (and me). Photo © 2009 David MandelSomehow, though, the stars aligned. Thread was purchased and hems were sewn. Green paper was cut and punched and glued (while en route to the wedding--all hail the Martha Stewart ballpoint glue pen!) to giant popsicle sticks for fans. My sister hadn't asked for the fans, but I was worried about bugs, and, in the end, I think a lot of people were glad they were there--even if they weren't the extravagant papercut design of my dreams--during the buggy witching hour at dusk.

And, of course, I needed jewelry. Which, naturally, I had been planning in my head for weeks--fierce coral to contrast with my taupe dress and coordinate with my coral patent leather flats--with only one small problem. I had no fierce coral anything to work with. Lucky for me I was already out on a thread buying mission--I stopped in at the bead store and found exactly what I'd been imagining--tiny orange-y red glass beads and dyed quartz briolettes in shades ranging from cherry to chinese red to coral. I tend to design more heavily architected pieces than this, but I think the loose, organic zigzag was just right.


The Bag

The bag. Design and photo © Cameron Blazer 2003-2009.Truth be told, "the bag" (it is known amongst my family and friends simply as "the bag" for reasons that will shortly become apparent, I think) didn't really even make an entrance at this wedding. And even though I made it, and I carried it at my wedding, I am kind of at a loss as to why a person would need a foufy little handbag at a wedding. But, practicalities aside, my sister deeply appreciated that our friend had shared it with her; perhaps a tradition has been born--the bag can be passed from woman to woman with a wink and a nod, a warm presence during the surreal twilight hour before the actual wedding takes place, a reminder that others have been in this place before. It never really needs to be used.

The bag came about during a cold and lonely winter when I was living alone in Columbia, SC, while my then-boyfriend (now husband) was still in Los Angeles. I lived in a crummy apartment (no, I mean REALLY crummy--think fake wood paneled walls and brown molded shag carpet IN EVERY ROOM--even the woodwork was painted a high-gloss brown) whose miseries were mitigated only by the fact that I, through no effort on my part, had been the beneficiary of free cable since moving in. So with endless episodes of TLC shows at my disposal, I was totally up for a craft challenge. When my best friend showed me pictures of the bags she was pining for--$300 and $400 and $500 bags--I felt sure I could do something just as lovely and for next to no money.

Detail of The Bag © Cameron Blazer 2003-2009.4500 tiny white seed beads later, I had fashioned a fabric made entirely of beads, each sewn to four other beads. And I had gone slightly insane. By the time I was ready to line the bag and add the marabou I was about an hour late to catch my plane. Still, in the early morning hours of a post-bachelorette hangover, in the Koreatown Red Roof Inn on 32nd street in New York, I finished the bag. I had put a lot of love into that bag, and as much as each stitch had been made with my friend in mind, I felt a pretty powerful sense of ownership. So it is so gratifying to have had "the bag" make an appearance at my wedding and now my sister's, and hopefully more to come. (If my friend has her way, the next time the bag will be in service will be at the wedding of our two children. To which I say, "Down, girl!")

Whew! Thanks for indulging me in all this wedding-y stuff--back to the more general crafty bits next time. If you have questions about any of the projects we did, contact me or leave a comment--I'm always happy to offer advice, especially when asked. And if you are looking for an awesome destination wedding site, Garden Creek will soon be available--contact me for if you want more details!

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