Sunday, September 29, 2013


I generally try to keep this a positive blog, centered on the projects I make, but I need to take a moment to vent. And perhaps you, as fellow craftspersons, will find this useful.


It was never an enjoyable experience, their in-site search engine was (and still mostly is) crap-tacular. You could type in the exact name they used for a product in the store and it wouldn't show up in a search of their online store. You'd have to figure out which department is was and do a search that way.

Also, their shipping prices only get higher the more you spend. Now, most places will give you a deal for spending over a certain amount. Did I want that? It would be nice, but was not necessary. It did make me angry however, that I could order extremely expensive, small, lightweight craft items and have to pay more for shipping than on yardage of fabrics. For fabric-only webstores, it makes sense that the more you spend, the more the package will weigh, and the more it will cost to ship. But Jo-Ann Fabrics carries a wide variety of products, and their shipping calculator should be programmed to reflect this, and be oriented to weight, not cost.

But that was all forgivable.

This, this however was not...

I ordered for a commission some of their premier velvet. 5 yards to be exact. Apparently, they did not have the 5 yards of fabric, although their site is supposed to reflect their stock and not let you purchase more than they have. Whatever, that's fine. Well, it's fine if they behave like and contact you in a separate email informing you that the full yardage you ordered is unavailable, giving you the option of accepting what's available or cancelling your order. Because apparently, (and other online fabric stores) understand that yardages required for projects is not negotiable. Jo-Ann's online store, however, thinks it's okay to just ship what they have and alter your quantity to a lower number (which I did not notice was not the full amount I ordered), and then email you later with a notification that states they're cancelling your order (of the one yard they didn't send with the rest because they didn't have it but never let you know they didn't have it).

So, that's enough to make me a little bit angry. But hey, I ordered extra fabric, just to be safe, so maybe I can still squeeze the project out of 4 yards... I open up the fabric today to start cutting... and oh, look at that... IT'S IN F%#&-ING PIECES! If you don't sew, you might not understand this. When you don't have one continuous cut of fabric, when it's in a yard here and a yard there, that means your pieces (that are longer than a yard) don't fit anywhere. That means, that much of the fabric is USELESS for your project (if not ALLof it, if I can't squeeze the pieces out of it that I need) That means you just wasted a lot of money on this expensive fabric... basically, that means JOANN.COM ripped you off hard core.

I'm not maligning the store. I love the real stores. The service is good, and they will always give you your fabric in one continuous cut or ask you if you want the remnant pieces. But their online store... FORGET IT! I'M BOYCOTTING THEM. I'M NEVER GOING TO USE THEM AGAIN! THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!

I lodged a complaint online, tried to call (but they're customer service is closed on Sundays with no voice mail)... we'll see if they get back to me at all...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cakes in the Woods (for a party in the North Country)

Okay, so for the party I mentioned in the last post, in which there was tie-dying and much happiness, also known as Beanstock, my mom decided to make yule-log style cakes. She also decided that I (and my room mate/best friend/pseudo-sister) would decorate them to look like fallen logs in the woods...

Mom made the cakes, one chocolate, one yellow cake and used cream-cheese frosting for the filling (to glue it together better). It was cold enough outside that it wasn't even a concern. 

She also whipped up the chocolate frosting, which I used to decorate the one log with a rough bark effect. (They look a little glossy in the photos because the cakes had been refrigerated and then taken out for over an hour as we decorated and sweat a little bit... they firmed up nice and beautiful for the party the following day.

The birch log is covered with Marshmallow Fondant I made. It's super easy to make and tastes way better than regular fondant, but apparently doesn't have as long a shelf life. But this cake was massacred the following day, so no worries about expiring fondant. Here's the recipe I used: I rolled out the fondant into strips, cut the edges with a knife and curled them up for the birch bark effect. I scored the fondant surface for some texture and then painted with food coloring. Unfortunately, it's difficult to get a good pale beige color with the limited McCormick 4 Count food coloring palette for the under layer of the birch tree. It turned out too yellow. I probably could've just left the cake exposed in the parts where the 'bark was peeling off'.

My mom tried using a marzipan recipe from a cook book, but it sucked. So she went online and found an alternative one that worked (and was quite proud of her technological savvy, being of a generation not so inclined for internet usage in a region where they only have dial-up, entirely useless internet access).  (I would've linked to the recipe, but I didn't think to note where she got it.) This we made into mushrooms and tree fungi, as you can see. Also, my pseudo-sister made an adorable snail, inch worm and acorns. We also cut out leaves with small cookie cutters, and painted everything (but left the mushrooms marzipan off-white) with food coloring (the fancy icing colors/dyes were not at all useful... good old food coloring!).

The ground cover was leftover chocolate cake crumbled up and sprinkled with chocolate shavings for 'dirt'. And the green 'moss' is coconut died with food coloring and thrown in the oven at low temp to dry out until crumbly texture.

Cute Bear Family cake topper, and my Pseudo-sister expressing how delicious it looks...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Addicted to Love-ly New Tie-Dye Dress

I just had to share this dress, because it's my new favourite! I mean FAVOURITE piece of clothing. Soon, it won't be weather appropriate, but I'll enjoy it while I can... 

 (Note: This is what my hair normally looks like...)
STORY: My aunt and uncle and cousins have a party every September (for several years now), a sort of Fall celebration. In the North Country (The Northern Part of New York State that you don't know exists unless you're from there, which my family is, and I am, and shall hopefully soon be returning to... eff! This Albany crap... just two more years... just two.), it's cold this time of year, but that doesn't dampen the fun. There's good food, my aunt's homemade salsa (with ingredients from their garden),  awesome baked goods, a roast pig, singer-songwriters and bands, homemade whiskey, great family and friends... and TIE-DYEING. This year was extra special, because my cousin and his girlfriend got married in a beautiful little ceremony right before the party, on the river beside the falls. Beautiful! Anyway, for tie-dyeing this year, I made this dress out of white organic cotton jersey (using a purple rayon hippie-style maxi dress my mom got me at a flea market a number of years ago for a guide). It's pretty simple. Front piece. Back piece. Ties sewn into the side seam at the waist or thereabouts. Obviously, my tie-dyeing skills are amateur at best (especially compared to the beautiful work my talented family members do!), but I still love the way it turned out.
(Note: The Quilt in the background is my bed quilt, freshly laundered and drying on the line. It was a high school graduation present from my mom. Ten years later, still as gorgeous as the day I got it. She's quite the talented quilter and is the person who taught me to sew... never learned in school.)
It's so comfy that I wear it around the house. I wore it to work. I wore it to walk to the store for milk today. It went through the wash later today and as soon as it was out, I put it back on. LOVE IT! Need more organic cotton jersey dresses (I also sort of live in the nightgown I made out of teal organic cotton jersey last year... or was it the year before?). Best fabric ever for cozy, lazy about the house-ness!

To be honest, this is something I've wanted for a long while, a pink tie-dye maxi dress. 
As Meghan would say, a 'dream outfit'. 


 Because of this...
Can't find photos of this dress on the internet, so screen shots are what you get.
Recognize the movie? 

Meg Ryan's character in Addicted to Love, Maggie was the first individual whose fashion sense actually caught my eye. I never cared much about clothes before, at the time, or for a long time after, either. I just knew I liked her Bohemian, eclectic, unique, squatter style.

Also, this...

Velvet Jacket, leopard print tank and goggles? Take that society!
 And this...

Belted Robe as daywear with Blue Boa. Heck, yeah!

Kraken! (A More Colorful Steampunk Outfit)

Haven't been around the blog-o-sphere much lately... been working on Halloween costume commissions, but managed to squeeze some artsy fun in this morning (hand decorating an umbrella with acrylic Painter's Pen) and some dress-up... it's been forever since I played with costuming and clothing!

In Steampunk, the tendency is for blacks (punk/goth influence?) or browns (the whole sepia-tone old timey thing, or maybe that it goes so well with brass?)... but punks like to stand out, and why shouldn't a steampunk wardrobe? I've trended towards the black and purple, as well as the browns, but this was a fun little variety. Since I was commissioned to make a (brown and brown) Mrs. Fitzsimmon's ensemble, it wasn't much more work to make two vests and two skirts at the same time, so I pulled this interesting sage-ish stripe upholstery fabric and this chinese print quilter's cotton from The Stash. The print on the skirt did end up busier than I thought it would be, but I sort of like it. 

Outfit Breakdown:
-Blouse: I made a few years ago out of an old bedsheet for a casual steampunk outfit
-Fingerless Gloves: made from quilter's cotton to go with my first steampunk outfit a number of years ago.
-Hat: from my Steampunk Birthday Party outfit, only trimmed out with red instead of purple.
-Neck Decoration: Strip of red lace.
-Skirt: Quilter's Cotton, my bustle skirt design
-Vest: Sage-ish stripe Upholestry fabric, brass buckles, laces up sides with ribbon through brass eyelets, my Mrs. Fitzsimmon's Supportive design
-Nylons: Dollar Tree! They of course, ripped the moment I put them on, but that's okay for steampunk style...
-Boots: Funtasma Victorian, costume-quality boot (my first... yes, I said first, as in I have three pairs of Victorian Style boots (one of which is a very nice leather pair) even though I don't yet have decent shoes to wear to work everyday for the winter...)
-Umbrella: I decorated this morning while taking a break from the sewing and house chores for an artsy moment. (I used to do more 'art' than 'craft', primarily drawing and painting, but now I definitely sew more than I delve into fine arts.) Black acrylic Painters' Pen (love these!), free-handed.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Overall Score: Plus 10 Points to Gryffindor...

...Okay, I totally would be in Ravenclaw, but you get the idea.

So first attempt at coloring gel wax (which was my brilliant... and then not-so-brilliant upon execution, idea for filling little 'potion vials' for necklaces), was a fail...

 When they say 'do not use food coloring' on various websites, they mean it. Just because the most popular (and therefore must be correct) tutorial to pop on a google search uses food coloring, doesn't mean that everyone else is wrong and just being pretentious with their fancy dyes (or are tools to the Corporate Man -in this case, producer of block dyes). Lesson Learned: Use the block dye. (Food coloring just caused melted gel wax to boil into a froth and snap-crackle-pop like bacon grease. Why? Because I chose not to pay attention to chemistry facts.  Minus 5 House Points.


Using proper ingredients yields better potion-mixing results... who would've thunk it? Hermione Granger, you say? Yeah, maybe. But she's just a boring by-the-book girl with a complete lack of imagination. Okay, I actually like her character, but let's face it. She's a stickler for the rules. I enjoy the Ms. Frizzle recommended method: 'Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!'

Fifteen potion vials, with annoyingly involved (match/fire-singed) labels, brewing five different batches of potions, filling tiny little glass vials, trying to get every last little glob of petulant stray gel wax off the vials, kitchen counter, cooking pot and hands, gluing in corks (scrubbing crazy glue off fingers with steel wool), and attaching copper necklace chains, later... success! Plus 15 House Points. 

 (And yes, if you look closely, you will see that 'Craft Herpes' -aka glitter- was employed in a couple of the potions. Proper safety measures were taken and I'm happy to say they were not spread beyond the crafting area and the outbreak was quickly dealt with and put down.)

Overall Project Score: 10 points. (Stick that in your vial drink it (?), Harry Potter!)