Magazine alphaThere are days when I catch myself just vegetating on the sofa, not doing anything in particular.  Maybe because it’s been a busy day.  I just stayed at home and put things away, trying to get rid of the things I don’t need anymore.

I can’t seem to throw away old magazines because I always see something which I feel I can use somehow, somewhere for a future project or layout.  But the old magazines have to go.  I used to zero in on words, but today I just focused on usable alphabets.  I picked brands, headers and titles in larger alpha, cut them close in a rectangle or square, picked a dark background to paste it on as a frame and then cut again.  What for?  I intend to use these for my art journal entries.

I’ve been watching TV.  Everyone else is asleep in the house.  I’ve put away what needs to be put away in the kitchen, and even if it’s midnight, I’m taking a quick hot shower before turning in for the night.

I get a break tomorrow.  No Religious Ed for the boy, so I get to sleep in.   It’s soooo cold, though.  Even with the heater on full blast, I’m feeling a little chilly in the living room.  The bedroom is comfortably warm, but father and son always want the electric fan on at the highest setting.

Time to hit the sack.


Projects in the works

So I’ve been putting together christmas gift tags,  cards and other paper goods to sell at another store I’ve put up.  The idea is to come up with tags that are economical and yet worth using to dress up your holiday gifts.  Why plaster a plain sticker onto the gifts you give away when you can actually put something creative that has character to add your personal touch?  (Okay, I’m trying to sell my stuff already..)

It’s a little tricky trying to come up with a two-fold card when you think you put a label on the backside on the right side of the paper, and when it comes to that time when you have to cut it up, you realize you misprinted something.  After using what I thought was the right template, I proceeded to create several pieces and just discovered that one such side was skewed, so I will have to discard one layout and luckily, the second of two can be salvaged.

I’m working on vintage images of Santa Claus that I converting into quaint gift tags.  (Why is Dinna going through all the trouble?  Because there are people who buy it on Etsy. )

Speaking of which, I’m in the process of creating another necklace using this enchanting antique brass curved leaf focal I’ve fallen in love with.  I just got two more from my supplier and am working on creating it using my chunky dark brown freshwater rice pearls which, as always, makes me want to keep it for myself.  (I like, I like!)   The Mocha Feather Sweetheart Freshwater Pearl Necklace is currently still on sale and will soon be joined by my Dark Copper Feather Sweetheart Freshwater Pearl Necklace.  It’s almost done save for the extender chain.  I’m still trying to make up my mind about what I will use for the third one.

But back to my paper projects for the moment, I’ll hopefully be able to upload a picture soon.  I’m handcutting around the images so it looks very vintage-y and yet the print is vibrant and stands out.

It’s me getting into the Christmas spirit and trying to get another business off the ground.  It never hurts to be ready for the holiday rush.

Autumn leaves

During my first autumn in New York in 2000, I had a lot of time to kill as I was still processing my papers to become a legal resident here.  I had taken to collecting freshly fallen leaves in different colors.  The only criteria was the leaf was clean and still fresh.

I am trying to do this again but have not been quite that diligent, more so in preserving the leaf.

I am remembering now that the leaf must be pressed in a book to flatten it immediately or within hours of picking, because doing so after it has been off the tree for more than a day would make the leaves brittle and not quite as pliable.  (And that was how my first batch of leaves turned out.)

I want to try and make my dried autumn leaves frame again, but this time experimenting with putting the leaves bertween a layer of resin on top and at the bottom to laminate it.  I want to see if laminating the leaves would preserve the color or if it would age as the unlaminated frame did.

I was tempted to stop and pick leaves this morning on my way to the bus stop, but I had to rush down lest I miss my bus.  Four trees lining one of the streets along the way had four different shades of fall.  I could have gotten quite a bag of leaves.  With rain in tomorrow’s forecast, I know the first casualty would be whatever leaves remain clinging to the branches.

Early Monday, Late Night Sunday

It IS officially Monday already as my computer clock reads 12:45am.  I really should be making sure the little tyke’s bookbag is all set and ready for school tomorrow and I have my various bead organizers on my feet for stacking in the closet.  (Time to call it a night!)  But a magazine caught my eye and I ended up browsing and here I am logged on, blogging.

My brain is getting into holiday mode.  That’s one reason I’m feverishly trying to get as many items in the store as I can.  I successfully created two earrings which have left my finger tips a little sore but I’m happy with what I managed to produce.  I’m thinking of keeping at least one of the two pairs, though, so I don’t know how that computes for my Etsy store.  I did manage to work on some fabric and freshwater pearl flower brooches, but I need to sit down to finish them.  I even got to blog about it at the GothamChick blog next door, so my weekend wasn’t totally a blog blank.  And here I am now!

I was looking at all the tags and cards and wrapping suggestions from Ms. Martha Stewart and her Living magazine (can’t quite find the proper link except for the subscription page) so much so that I was hit by the idea to park her a minute and type away.

I’ve always loved paper and I thought I’d work on that little fancy of mine and start another store on Etsy (yet to be unveiled) to sell — you guessed it — paper goods.  The store’s set up but empty.)   I’ve even taken to looking at videos and websites in my research about paper making.  Everybody seems to make it sound soooo easy, but being a veteran crafter, I have tons of experience telling me it’s not as always as easy as the experts make it appear to be.  But paper making might have to wait until next summer —  one important lesson I’ve learned about working with paper is that the humidity and general clime affects the workability and quality of paper as a medium.  Still it hasn’t stopped me from rolling up some paper strips in the hopes of coming up with my woven kraft paper frames.  (More on that if and when I start working on it.)

More importantly, with the holidays here, I’m working on producing small quantity tags and gift cards.  (I see a ton of them on sale on Etsy — so why not?)

If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering where in the world will I find the time to do all this???!  My simple answer: why do you think am I blogging at 1am?  This is normal for me.  My “me” time usually doesn’t begin until 10pm, and with all the things I want to do, I have to “squeeze it in” between putting away the dishes from the rack and putting away leftovers from the night’s dinner.

I actually feel a little disappointed at what I’ve managed to produce over the weekend considering the time I managed to sit around holding my craft pliers in my hands.

I am trying to resist the urge to get any new supplies as I really want to “convert” what I have in store as supplies into stocks for sale.  I am thinking I should be good for the rest of the month.  I have bits and pieces of items now denominated as “work in progress” which I really want to convert into something to sell.  So far, I’ve been good at making progress in that department and hope to get more, more, more stuff online in this season of gift-giving.

Okay, the sandman beckons.  It IS Monday tomorrow — or today — and I’m looking forward to a productive one ahead.

Sewing buttons tonight

I love to raid the clearance racks at upscale boutiques and jump up and down for joy when I find a literal steal at 80-90% off.  I don’t know if that’s more of being “cheap” (!) or just being practical.  As the lotto prize has continued to elude me, I have to be a reasonable shopper.  (Or at least I try.)

Do you ever find yourself wading through tons of gorgeous outfits on the clearance floor, only to find out that you are running out of time because the hubby and the son have called to say they’re waiting for you outside?   (Sounding patient, but trying very hard to be.)  I had grabbed this gorgeous cardigan (again.. I told you it was a favorite..) only to realize later at home that it was lacking a button.  * SIGH *  Alas, it was one of those sweaters which had a fancy button the same color as the fancy yarn the knit was spooled from.  So I had to go looking for a suitable button to replace ALL THE BUTTONS with.  (Makes me miss Carolina’s in MegaMall which was my favorite “go-to” place for those buttons before.)  Couldn’t find the teal, but you can never go wrong with gold.

I did find a fancy set in, of all places, one of my bead suppliers here on Sixth Avenue.  (It is, after all, the fashion center.. supposedly.)  Tonight’s the night I’m putting those buttons on.  Tomorrow, I wear the cardigan!

Buttons have always had an appeal to me like candy in a candy store.  I always seem to gravitate towards the notions section of most dollar stores I visit — looking for fancy colored plastic buttons of the regular type.  I put them in a tiny ziploc bag in my sewing case, ever ready for that all important different colored button I cannot find the spare button for.

Incidentally, I keep all my spare buttons and threads (from the sweaters) in a specific box to make it easier for me to find when the need arises.  One of these days I will make something different with those buttons I have — maybe a fancy headband or what not.  One of these days.

Digging through the Bead Sale

I often find myself losing track of time whenever I am in a bead store. It’s not because of the huge selections because despite the rows and rows of offerings, I have narrowed down the stores by specialization and as to where I can find something and where I can find that cheapest. (More on this later..) It takes me a long tome to browse because I’ve learned to curb the urge to just snatch up something without having a project in mind to work with. I have long ago realized that one of the pitfalls of a new hobby or passion is that you become susceptible to impulse buying. That wouldn’t be a problem with an unlimited budget which is not the case with me.

It would be so much easier if I could just buy whatever I fancy, but it’s precisely because I am careful about what I buy that I choose my purchases carefully. I have to keep my budget in mind, and more importantly, saleability. I drift towards the “Sale” and “Clearance” sections where I patiently weed through the mish-mash of mixed stones strung together and being sold at 50% off the tag price. And there are the “fill the bag” sale beads — where. I have learned to pack a tiny bag with as much as I can to maximize the base price.

You’d think those deals are probably worthless given the mound you see, but after purchasing one batch of crystals, I have come to learn that they can be quite a good deal!

The trick is to fill up your bag purposefully. My first bag was more of finding things that appealed to me and I tried to find things in pairs. I wasn’t really looking to create anything beyond earrings, so it was easy to pull together pairs in different colors. I filled “empty” spaces with the tinier crystals. And I alternated filling the tiny bag with the bigger beads and the smaller ones. My only intention with the first bag was to be able to create earrings, so I basically needed “pairs”. I tried to stick to certain color schemes as well because it is rare that I use only one bead in an earring piece.

I washed the beads in warm soapy water and let them dry, then sorted the beads by color. As I only had a small stash that I could fit into the 2″x3″ ziploc bag (which I had to be able to close to make the sale), there wasn’t much. I did manage to create at least 8 pairs of earrings which, if I can sell all, will help recoup the capital and then earn a profit.

A strand of thunder polish glass crystals would normally cost at least $8.00 and over $20 for the bigger beads, but unless you are making a regular beaded wire necklace with an accomplanying bracelet and maybe drop earrings, you will end up with more than you really need. The bead sale costs less than one strand, and you can actually create quite a rainbow of colors using odds and ends. It also enables you to purchase crystals in different shapes and sizes. The next time I chanced upon the mound saw me looking at a huge lot of teardrop crystals. The idea lightbulb lit up in my head and I thought “bracelets”.. I completed a set of of 15 for the focal, and at least 8s for smaller beads which I meant to assemble in sequence.

So now when I head for the sale bin, I look at it in terms of being able to use pieces for a design be it a bracelet or a necklace. Instead of just pouring the beads into the bag until I can close it snugly, I actually count the beads in pairs and seek out the right colors. When I told the store manager how I found their bin so useful as it enabled me to create pieces without buying full strands — giving me a chance to “experiment” and “try a design” without breaking the bank by buying strands of the material so to speak — she admitted it never occurred to them that that was a good use for the remnants they tossed into the bin. (“Remnants” being anywhere from 10-20 beads of the usual 27-50bead strands, and solos which would retail for so much more on the floor.) And of course I made the pitch that when the users found certain combinations or crytal cuts worked well together, they would then be encouraged to buy the full strand.

So next time you enter a bead store, try and look around for the “Fill-the-bag” bargain. I’ve found this in at least two bead stores on 6th avenue, one offering pearls and gemstones, and another offering dyed jade in one bin, and thunder polish glass crystals in another. Remember, it is best to know what you want and hope to create before dipping your hand into this magic cookie jar. It can be magical indeed when you succeed in finding those gems which you can use to create your next pieces.


Glass Crystal Cluster Bracelet Glass Crystal Cluster Bracelet

Two of my Glass Crystal Cluster Bracelets available at GothamChick

All ETSY'ed

I’ve been spending a lot of time on ETSY trying to put up a shop.  Ambitious, indeed!  So I’ve been here, there and everywhere — and trying to come up with something special which I hope to sell soon.  It’s just that quality control and experimenting with what I’m trying to produce is taking some time.  I’m getting there.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to make the most of what’s left of fall.  New York is still pretty much in yellow and orange.. there are patches of bare trees already, signalling the coming of winter.

Pictures soon.. and more on Etsy later.

Stories behind the Charms

One of the first things I attempted to create from odds and ends in my stash of findings and charms and broken accessories was this charm bracelet which I had set out to be a “DINNA” bracelet.  The primary inspiration being I wanted it to be representative of me and my world.  (Talk about being self-centered!)  It took me a while to pull all the charms I needed together although I’ve had half the bracelet in my box for quite a long time.  It was a way of pulling bits and pieces into one whole again after ages of non-use.

I started with this matte gold chain from Liz Claiborne which I had bought 80% off on the clearance rack a while back.  It had a coy (fish) attached to a studded ball and your usual branded toggle clasp.  (I’ve set this part aside for another project.)  The toggle clasp was a good size so it could be used as a pendant dangle instead of a neck closure.  What appealed to me when I saw it was the matte gold finish.  And at 80% off its original price, I calculated how much per foot the chain was costing me after I bought it for under $10.00, and it was definitely way below the actual cost of this type of double link chain.  The chain was originally around 22 inches so there was the possibility of creating at least a bracelet and a shorter necklace.  (Bracelets should at least be 7 inches long, and 8 1/2 inches for bigger wrists, or if you prefer the bracelet to dangle freely when your hand is down.)

The pearls I used came from a mother-of-pearl shell disc and pearl necklace I got from my trip to Manila in 2008 which had broken off its clasp and a shorter second strand.  The clasp and second strand are intact and I use it as a choker now, but I disassembled the part that had broken off and took some of the pearls as charm drops.  I had not yet learned much about wire wrapping this type of bead/pearl, so I made do with a simple string through and then created the head with the two ends of the wire together.

The charms itself have their own stories to tell.  Most notable of this is the heart locket which had been a present from a friend many years back — meant for my baby-to-be if it turned out to be a daughter.  I’ve had this for as long as I’ve been married but had never used it.  Finally, a chance to make it the centerpiece of my own personal charm.  I haven’t yet chosen the pictures I will put in it but I intend to get to that soon.  I didn’t get the charms in one trip.  They were acquired through weeks and weeks of trying to decide what I wanted in this “me” bracelet.  Some of the things I wanted, I couldn’t find, like a fleur de lis charm (the Paulinian in me) or a lighthouse (which I am enamored with, wherever we go.)

Clockwise from right, the charm bracelet begins with a round donut hole charm that I found engraved with “peace”, “smile”, “love” and “amour”.  I  liked it when I saw it because it conveyed such positive thoughts.  It was a good sized weighty charm and I needed an anchor for the toggle end and it had “Amour” which would relate to the next charm.  I picked up the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty charms to symbolize the two cities I love: Paris and New York.  (No charms for Manila — but I figured the pearls were representative of the so-called “Pearl of the Orient”).  Then I picked a good sized flower charm because I liked things feminine, like shoes and the bag (which is engraved with PARIS) charms that follow.  The heart is the center charm, followed by a “G Clef” which represents the musical side of me.  Then there’s an Angel hanging on a moon which is my little guy, and the sun which represents Alan who is “the light of my world.”  I found the horse charm by accident which I could relate to, having been born in the year of the horse.  The clown was a filler charm but which I felt drawn to because I have always liked knick knacks with a clown in it.  (I would’ve opted for a lighthouse but I couldn’t find one in the various trips digging through trays and trays of various charms.)

Made both of old things and new, and while these are gold-finished pewter charms, the most precious charm is the heart locket because of the story behind it and because it’s the only part of the bracelet which is genuine gold.  It’s most special, too, because it’s that part of the bracelet which was a gift.  It had “slept” in my jewelry box forever and it’s about time I wore it.  I have since lost touch with this friend and we haven’t spoken in years —  and while I feel that we have drifted into two separate worlds, there are the memories of the years before that that make this locket special to me. 

I love the way this bracelet jingles and jangles when I wear it.  It has a whimsical tone to it which helps me put on a cheery countenance.  That worked well on a wet day like today when the mood was sombre and dark.  Sometimes all it takes is but a few reminders of the things that matter to us to get us past the downside.  Charmed, indeed.

Between stitches

I like the idea of staying home on weekends except that it means that “Dinna’s Diner” is open all day.  I remember how I used to loathe the thought of whipping up breakfast, cleaning up and then getting on with preparing lunch, cleaning up and putting everything away — then doing the whole cycle again for dinner.  I’m not complaining really — just that staying home is not as “simple” as just that.  This time, though, I’m doing rows between meals so it’s working out.

If anything, I’m glad that I’m continuing with my wrap cum scarf, and while I haven’t measured the actual length to determine if I’m anywhere near the literal finish line (or row as it is for knitting), I know I’m getting there.  I’ve stayed up late during the week just getting into the rhythm of working my needles together.  There was a minor setback when I had to repeat (yes, repeat) the whole project a third of the way or so through.  No regrets.  The second go at it actually made for more controlled stitching and I’m pretty happy with what I produced. I’m already thinking of what I am making out of two spools of multi-colored yarns I had picked up from a discount store a long while back that I can’t remember if it was last year or the year before. 

There’s the dilemma of going at it with the knitting needles or the crochet hook — the answer to which depends on what exactly I want to make with it.  I have enough material (I think) to make a nice cap-sleeved loose cardigan in tunic length, more so if I use the colored yarn only for one side and maybe use an all-black back.   I definitely have more than enough to do a crochetted scarf or a another wrap.  Hmmmm… 

Meanwhile, I’m trying to enjoy my Sunday afternoon and will shortly go back to knitting.. and maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll be wearing my latest creation around my shoulders next week.

Back to knitting

Around 3 years ago, I chanced upon this “fancy yarn” that was in the dollar bin in Target.  I always look at balls of yarn a different way, thinking of the possibility of what I can do with it given my limited knitting skills.  (No fancy stitches for me, and while I can read crochet patterns, I cannot do that for knitting which I learned first by using chopsticks reading the step-by-step illustrated instructions from our encyclopedia back home.)

When I saw this fancy yar, I purchased batches with the thought of creating a scarf or perhaps a wrap for a friend of mine in the Philippines (although she is now here in another part of the US.)  The yarns have been sitting in my attic all this time, and I have finally found the inclination to start making one for myself.  With fall here, I thought the gold would be the better pick over the pastel colored rainbow mix.

I like knitting because I can get into the rhythm of the stitches and be thinking of something else or be in the middle of watching television.  It has always been a good de-stresser for me, and I’ve always found it rewarding to wear something I made rather than something I bought.  It is a good exercise in patience as well as I often find myself repeating the project at the start when I realize the number of stitches I worked for the first row were either too little or too much — and there is redoing the work when you realize knitting wasn’t the best idea for the thread or yarn.

One small ball apparently comes out to approximately a square foot using my size 15 kneedles (10.0mm).  It’s not a warm and fuzzy scarf — it’s more of an accessory to add color particularly to an all black attire which is so me during the fall and winter months.  (Although I have tried to add more colorful turtlenecks to my wardrobe, I count several  black ones in shortsleeves, cap sleeves and long sleeves.  I can actually go through a whole week wearing some shape or form of a black turtleneck top.)  It can warm up your neck but only when bundled up.  To compensate for the flimsy material, I’m doing a wider width that bundles up to a nice bulk.  65 stitches from left to right. My estimate is that I will use approximately 8 balls of the yarn, making for $8.00 in material cost.  Even if I end up using 10, that’s still a good deal for what I’m making.

I’ll post a pic of the finished product here when done.  Meanwhile, let me go back to the project.

The sudden spurt to create something was brought about by the colorful fall scarves I saw in the stores when I went window shopping yesterday.  I looked, I touched, but I did not buy — I have too many yarns waiting to be knitted or crochetted into something to wrap around my neck that I have vowed NOT to spend on that fall and winter necessity.  So I’ve started knitting again.  I had started crochetting but then the design of the yarn doesn’t work well with patterned stitches, unless they are knits and purls.