Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Homage to My Sister

Today is my dear heart sister Sarah's 30th birthday. She is one of the strongest, most determined people I know. Thirty is one of those milestone birthdays where you are expected to stop and take stock of what you've accomplished. Sarah should be proud when she does that. And in honor of all her strengths, I've crafted the following things for her:

A knitting needle case. I modified the pattern and made this to fit circular needles, because Sarah needs a circular needle case. Once again, it looks completely crooked and the actual product is totally straight. I think the one side is curling up, causing it to look lopsided. It's not, I promise you!

A matching bag to hold balls of yarn and other knitting goods. I used fabric from my vintage stash (the flowered print) to make both the case and the bag.

My brother and I also made her a scrapbook called "Sarah: From 0 to 30 in Photos." Here is the exterior as well as the front page of our handiwork:

To close, a poem by Maya Angelou, honoring the fact that with a sister like Sarah in the world, I'll never be alone:


Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don't believe I'm wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can't use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They've got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I'll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
'Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Leos, Leos Everywhere

I know many people who have summer Leo birthdays. I've been preparing the birthday goods for my sister's 30th (which happens tomorrow) and this weekend I went to a BBQ for two other Leos I know, Angela and Kelly. Although they firmly stated, "No Presents!" on the invite, I checked with Angela, who said a handmade gift would be okay. Behold, necklaces for these Leo lovelies:

The boxes... from Martha Stewart's new line of craft supplies. I had a gift card, these matchboxes were 50% off, the rest is predictable. Here's a link to some other MS packaging ideas, since these particular boxes are not on the Michael's website.

I didn't have any tissue paper readily available, so I used pom-poms to fill the boxes. Turns out that Kelly's cat loves pom-poms, so I sort of gave her cat a gift too.

Voila, the necklaces themselves. Simple but cute, and a celebration of some wonderful Leo women.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Wonder Welders and Garden Walk

My friend Lara is working for IRC in a refugee camp in Kibondo, Tanzania for the next 6 months (or maybe more). You can check out her blog here if you want to know more about what she's doing there. Lara just posted about a really cool non-profit organization in Dar Es Salaam called Wonder Welders. It's kind of my dream to start an organization like this in Buffalo (I'm not sure that pursuing a PhD was really the best way to achieve that particular dream, but oh well.) Check out the great animal sculptures. I am sorely tempted to go visit Lara in Tanzania and bring back a Dik Dik for my garden.

Speaking of gardens, I went on the annual Buffalo Garden Walk this morning. Here are photos of things I thought were fun:

This is a moss table. Pretty to look at; dining enjoyment factor undetermined.

Funky garden art.

Huge ants. This garden was really beautiful; the owner actually embedded a stained glass window in his wooden fence.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Colorado Kaden

Sometimes it's hard to believe that almost 10 years have passed since I finished my Peace Corps Volunteer service in Erdenet, Mongolia. But life events like the birth of a new baby to a dear friend who also lived in Erdenet remind me that lots of time has indeed passed. Susan, congratulations on the birth of your son Kaden! I hope that he is a joyful addition to your family. If you ever feel cold in Colorado... well, just remember the weather in Erdenet in January and your perspective will quickly change. Wish Kaden a big sanbano for me.

This little sweater and hat are acrylic so they'll stand up to washing-- which is good, since I suppose off-white is a rather impractical color for a little one. Cute though, eh? I more or less used the 5 rectangle pattern that I talked about here for this sweater, though I crocheted it rather than knitted it.

On another note, I think I've got to get better at taking pictures of my crafts. Everything appears much more crooked in the pictures than it does in real life. Sigh. I guess that's why this blog isn't called Photography Buff.

Friday, July 27, 2007

It All Comes Together...

If you've read some of my recent posts, you'll recognize the kismet: Etsy seller sinkdaisy has put a sock monkey pincushion on the market! Let's think of it as acupuncture for the little bugger.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sock Monkeys, Part 400

Since I've been posting so much about sock monkeys, I thought I'd gather up some internet resources on the little critters and share them with you today.

1. Start here for an overview of sock monkeys.
2. This site has some discussion of the history of sock monkeys, but is particularly interesting because it talks about the differences between U.S. and Canadian sock monkeys.
3. Go here and you can learn how to make a sock monkey.
4. If you haven't read Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey comics, you're missing out.
5. For a book on the art, history and business of the American sock monkey, check out Everything's Coming Up Sock Monkeys!
6. Do NOT go on You Tube to look for sock monkey skits. They're all terrible and a huge waste of time.
7. If you want to buy Red Heel socks to make your own sock monkey, check here or, if you're in the Western New York area, I know you can get them at Vidler's Five and Dime.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Who Can Resist a Glow-in-the-Dark Beast Cross Stitch Kit?

Illustrator and typographic comic artist Ray Fenwick has designed a new glow-in-the-dark cross stitch kit for Subversive Cross Stitch. Coveting it made me remember my own adventure into the world of subversive cross stitch a while back... voila! I present to you "Monkey and Huge Leaf Hand Towel."

Here's the Fenwick kit, in case you're interested too:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How to be a Sock Monkey for Halloween

My sister-in-law Ginny (pictured on the far right, above) was a sock monkey at our Halloween/Day of the Dead wedding. She made her oh-so-cute 'n crafty costume. Here's a link to a sock monkey knitted hat pattern. Everyone should have at least one sock monkey involved in their wedding somehow, no?

(In case you're wondering, I later changed out of my eBay dress [pictured above] into a flowing linen shift with Code Pink sneakers and a cat tail and ears. Much more my style, but my husband and I got a kick out of first dressing in "bride" and "groom" costumes and surprising everyone.)

Monday, July 23, 2007


I'm always on the hunt for new guest slippers. Although we don't have an official "no shoes" policy, we always take our shoes off when we enter, and guests usually follow our lead. We have need, therefore, of many extra pairs of slippers (since it's not nice to encourage your guests to take off their shoes in the dead of Buffalo's winter and then not offer them something cozy to slip into).

Imagine my delight, then, when I found these never-worn handmade knitted slippers at a garage sale for 10 cents (there seems to be a 10 cent theme to my precious handmade garage sale finds). I think they're an adorable example of old-school knitting (which Debbie Stoller defines as "those who use only antiquated patterns, aluminum needles, and orange, green, and brown acrylics"-- a little too harsh, in my humble opinion), and I'm thinking about trying my hand at some as a result. I may choose to use a more updated pattern though, such as this one.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Baby Sweater Pattern

Today I wanted to share the link to the pattern for the Five-Rectangle Baby Sweater that I often make (or modify and make) for friends' and family members' babies. It's a really easy pattern, a quick knit, and the sweaters are super-cute in the end.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ode to Quilters Everywhere

I think quilting encapsulates some of what I like best about crafting: it often utilizes scraps or leftover fabrics; it has a long and storied tradition (for an example of this, see Faith Ringgold's great book, Tar Beach); and the end-product is a perfect blend of beauty and utility.

This is a trivet that I got at the same rummage sale I posted about elsewhere; like my pincushion, it was only 10 cents. Look at all the handiwork that went into this! I'm glad it found a home with me because I can really appreciate its true value.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Knitting/Crocheting Needle Case #3

Elsewhere I have written about the many crafting adventures I've gone on with my sisters-in-law, Ashlee and Ginny. I've also posted about making knitting needle/crochet hook cases. So today I present to you Ashlee's birthday gift (Happy Belated Birthday, Ashlee- I didn't want to post until after you'd received the present in the mail!) I used coordinating fabrics in pink, blue, green and brown for this case, unlike the green and blue cases I made before. I hope Ashlee likes it and makes good use of it. Note: it appears crooked in the photo below but it's not. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

O.P.P.: Other People's Pincushions

So, to continue with a discussion of my latest obsession, pincushions, I present to you yet another blog about OPP (yeah, you know me...): Other People's Pincushions. But I found a couple of other bloggers as interested in them as I am, so I feel justified in continuing to blather on about them.

The pincushion pictured above (and below) is one I found at a rummage sale and blogged about a few days ago. I have yet to figure out exactly how it was made (or how you would insert a measuring tape into the middle, as my mom says she learned to do in middle school), but I did find a really good online tutorial for making a bottlecap pincushion.

And for those of you who remember the 1991 Naughty by Nature hit, I give it to you in all its YouTube glory. Look for the Queen Latifah cameo about halfway through:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Business Card Holder

I bought a business card holder at a garage sale last week. It was nothing special when I got it-- had a black faux crocodile skin covering it that didn't really appeal to my sense of aesthetics. But a little fabric from my vintage fabric mother lode , some glue and some plastic covering made this into a holder worthy of my Craft Buff business cards. (Lest you worry about my sanity-- given that I do not craft for a living-- let me clarify that I got them free of charge and I mostly use them when I'm giving a handcrafted item to a friend or family member!)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ithaca: Baby Hat & Washcloth and Cat Toy

We went for a quick jaunt down to Ithaca, NY this weekend to visit two great friends.

Nansa, an amazing friend from Mongolia who is a transplant to Trumansburg, NY:

And Alicia, a fellow Oberlin grad who is an inspirational activist and excellent friend (she even gave us her bedroom and slept in the living room):

While in Ithaca, I picked up some cotton-blend yarn at Homespun Boutique to crochet a baby hat and washcloth for John's cousin Marc's impending arrival:

I made these both on the drive home, and I had a little bit of leftover yarn, so I decided to make Meowzle a birthday present. As it turns out, however, his sister Mochi is much more interested in the toy than he is (and yes, those are my toes in the photo-- it's hard to get a good cat action shot!):

Monday, July 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Meowzle

Today my infamous cat Meowzle turns three. He is infamous because he has been diagnosed with "human-directed aggression" towards some people (like my unfortunate sister). But I love him nonetheless, and want to share this photo of a needle-felted likeness that I made a while back:

And so that I don't seem cat-obsessed in this post, I'd also like to wish a very happy birthday to my wonderful step-mother-in-law Joan, who happens to share a birthday with Meowzle. :)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wedding Centerpieces and Table Coverings

This post is a 2-for-1 since I won't be able to post tomorrow. I wanted a picture of both the table coverings and the centerpieces we used for the tables at our wedding, and this shows them both.

I got this cool skull fabric for 90% off retail price at a fabric shop that was going out of business. I bought 15 yards of it at a whopping 50 cents per yard-- a total of $7.50 for enough skull fabric to make coverings for 15 tables. I also bought tons of fringe at the same store, which was a bit more expensive because I needed massive amounts, but at 90% off I still only wound up spending about $30 for all of it. I cut the fabric down to size and then simply sewed, and sewed, and sewed on fringe. For $2.50 each, I think they added a bit of spooky flair to the tables. This one looks a bit wrinkled on the table but I think it just got messed up as someone walked by because they generally laid flat.

I don't know exactly how I hit on the idea of candy bowl centerpieces, but I think it worked out really well! This actually wound up being more money than I thought it would, as I didn't really realize just how much candy we would need to fill 15 bowls. But people really liked them, because they were completely edible! Here's how the whole thing worked:

1. I went to garage sales, finding cool see-through glass bowls or big vases. I hit the jackpot at a garage sale of someone who'd recently planned her daughter's wedding, scoring 12 bowls for $2 each. They were basically new, as they'd only been used one night. The remaining bowls were ones I picked up for a dollar or less at various garage sales.
2. My mom and I hot-glued fringe (left over from the table coverings) to each of the bowls/vases.
3. My husband and I tried not to eat too much candy as we amassed amazing amounts (2 boxes full) for the centerpieces.
4. My husband insisted we had too much "filler" candy and not enough "good" candy a few days before the wedding and made a trip to the grocery store for lots of individually wrapped chocolate madness. We spent about $100 on candy, which was definitely more than I was expecting, but a steal compared to how much people usually spend on flowers, I guess.
5. We filled each bowl with candy and placed it in the middle of the table (on top of the skull fabric) on our wedding day.
6. As guests arrived for the wedding, our "greeters" (Mariah, Myagaa and Zoloo) gave each person a small candle holder with tealight inside (for our ceremony-- I got the candle holders from the same garage sale mentioned above) and told them to check the bottom. We put stickers on the bottoms of 15 candle holders, and if you got a candle holder with a sticker on it, you got to take a candy centerpiece home with you. This was a big hit with the guests.

So the centerpieces were about $10 each, in the end. The grand total for the table ornamentation on 15 tables was about $190 (not including the favors, which I've written about elsewhere-- those were 75 cents each including packaging, sucker sticks and the original purchase of the molds because we made them ourselves.) So if you factor in the favors, total per table was less than $20 for all decorative elements. The cheap fabric score really saved the budget, as did all the garage sale hunting.

Note guests in costume in the above photo. My little cousin Pam was a great vampire (on the right). She won a prize (yes, we had a costume contest) for best child's costume.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More Pincushions

My current obsession is with pincushions. I grew interested in them last week Saturday, when my mom and I went to a rummage sale at the church we went to while I was growing up. While rummaging through boxes of glass figurines and such, I found a small blue handmade pincushion. It was made from the metal rims of two canning jars, and my mom told me that she used to make them in school. The one I found was simply a pincushion, but apparently you could also put a tape measure in the middle for extra utility. I bought it for a whopping 10 cents, but am unable to show you a picture yet as I've lent out my camera.

So here, instead, are photos of some beautiful pincushions that others have made:

(The pincushion above is sort of an ode to a Texas Donut...)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

El Dia de los Muertos Altar

At our wedding, my sisters-in-law Ashlee and Ginny were in charge of constructing the altar (or ofrenda), a staple at any Day of the Dead celebration. In addition to sugar skulls and papel picado, the altar also included photos of our deceased ancestors, candles, marigolds (including some ones that Ginny and her dorm mates knitted), the engagement zombie sock monkeys, our skull pillow, and foods such as bread & fruits and some of our ancestors' favorites (apple pie, See's chocolates and coffee).

For more information on how to construct an altar for el dia de los muertos, check here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cross My Heart, Hope to Die, Stick...

I have done some internet "research" today on eyeball pincushions, and managed to round up these fine specimens. I find them slightly disturbing, but in a very cute way. I'm not sure I could really use an eyeball pincushion for its intended purpose; I have a monkey one right now and it pains me to use it.

If you're not a sewer but think you know a sewer who would like one of these as a gift, check out Etsy. I'll keep you posted if I decide to make one.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


'What can I do?' - SiCKO

In honor of Michael Moore's new film "SiCKO" (which I urge you to go see if you haven't already), today's blog features a link to crafts you can do with a child on a sick day.

And if you haven't seen this Michael Moore interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's The Situation Room, you're missing out:

Monday, July 9, 2007


"Skeletal bride and groom" is a phrase that may conjure up negative images of women and men starving themselves in order to look great on their wedding day. As I've previously discussed, I've got no patience for a wedding industry that promotes such foolishness. But I'm all about a really tasty skeleton bride/groom white chocolate sucker, which is what we gave as favors at our wedding.

Once again, Mexican Sugar Skull was an awesome resource for the chocolate molds. I got the chocolate from Sanarak Paper & Popcorn Supply, a little wholesale shop in Buffalo that doesn't have a website. My mom and I made 150 of these suckers- it took several days, since we only had 3 molds and could therefore make a total of 6 suckers at a time. My mom was working on the fondant-decorated skulls simultaneously.

And though the title of this post invokes a song I detest ("Fergalicious"), I thought you might enjoy this Alanis Morissette parody of Fergie & The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps." The song was just screaming for a good satirical kick in the pants, anyway:

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sprinkes Versus Tiles: A Home Improvement No-Brainer

Artist Kristi Sword conducts "interventions" with everyday objects in order to alter our perceptions of those things. I like her replacement tiles (i.e., sprinkles) so much that I might have just discovered a new way to fix up our back hallway. Link via CRAFT.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

When Good Crafts Go Bad

I had every intention of making the pieces I crocheted a couple of weeks ago into a cute, fluffy, squishy bear. Well, I made a bear that is both fluffy and squishy alright, but I'm afraid it is far from cute. :(

This poor bear has arms that are completely out of proportion to its body, legs and head. I don't really know what happened- they emerged as monstrosities when I stuffed it. Another creation that probably would have been a lot better if I didn't have such disdain for patterns! Patternless crocheted bears 1, Me 0.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hitting the Crafting Mother Lode

This morning I stopped by an estate sale. As I've written elsewhere, garage and estate sale shopping is something I enjoy for reasons both personal and political. This morning there was a fabric extravaganza at the sale I went to! Check out the awesome vintage fabrics I picked up. Not only did I get a great deal on this fabric ($2 a cut), I also got a LOT of it. Each piece is between 1 and 4 yards... all for $20. I foresee a lot of retro fabric knitting cases in my future...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Tribute to My Crafting Foremothers

My maternal grandmother was a crafting whiz. As a kid she and my mom taught me much of what I know. I particularly remember her work with plastic canvas; this was in the 1980s when plastic canvas was all the rage with crafters. But she was an an amazing crocheter and tatter as well; when she died we had scores of doilies, handkerchiefs, napkins and tablecloths that she'd made.

So for Mother's Day this year, I decide to pay tribute to my grandmother with the table setting for the brunch I hosted at my house. She made all the doilies, placemats and napkins you see on the table! I also used a Polish stoneware pitcher (which I got for $1 at a rummage sale because a piece on the top cracked off and was glued back on-- it functions perfectly as a vase, however) as a centerpiece. It was filled with roses, bamboo and pussy willows which I'd had since Dyngus Day.

I've never tried my hand at tatting; it's such a delicate and intricate craft form that it intimidates me a bit. I'd love to hear from you if you've ever done it. Is it easier than it looks?

P.S. Extra points if you can spot our cat Mochi in this photo!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Knitting/Crocheting Needle Case #2

This weekend we had a knitting group meeting at my friend Amy's beautiful cabin on Rushford Lake. Rather than bringing food to the get-together, I brought her the second in my series of knitting/crocheting needle/hook cases. As you might notice, this one uses the same fabrics as the one I made for Diane, just in reverse. Amy can keep her Knit for Peace needles in here!