A continuation of mini-top hats and other fascinators

I love hair accessories, I always have.  Unfortunately up until recently I had always worn my hair short or slightly past short.  It was practical, easy to care for, easy to style, and the biggest factor was my hair just did not grow long.  Though with the shorter styles all I had to do was wash and go, being blessed with slight body and interesting coloring, it was easy-peasy.  During my pregnancy my hair grew, fast and thick, not uncommon for a gestating woman.  But it was incredibly uncommon for my hair to actually grow past my shoulders.  You see, no matter how I tried, no matter how long I waited, my hair would never go past my shoulders… it just stopped at that length.  It has been two years since the birth of my daughter, and I have only trimmed my hair twice.   It has managed to make it just level with my shoulder blades.   I don’t expect much more length, but that is fine. It is the perfect length for adornment!

Mini-top hats have come back with a vengeance, helped in part by the interest in Steampunk.    But, luckily, most people who take part in Steampunk are also incredibly intelligent and love to learn.  So not surprising mini-top hats are just one facet to all the fun hair accessories finding a revival.   A while back I posted a tutorial on how to make fun little mini-top hats, actually that tutorial comprises 70% of the hits on my site.

I love the fact that so many people have seen it, and many have implemented the techniques.  I have written this fun little post to encourage divergence and imagination.  Take what you learn from that fun little tutorial and transform it into something new and exciting!

Facinators can take many forms, from a flat round base decorated with feathers to a fun embroidery headband.  Heck I even have the sweetest crochet octopus with fun googly eyes.  You can even make them into mini-sculptures.  Let your imagination run, and find fun materials to make them with!

Recently I have been having some fun, and I just wanted to share some inspiration with you.  This amazing pillbox hat, has a unique design.  you would think it’s just the mini-top hat shortened with out a brim.  If you made it that way you would end up with a fez.  What makes this design sit perfectly round on top of the head?  It is an oval.  Simple as that, a human’s head is not round. It is misshapen, oblong, oval, and protruding.  The secret to a well fitting hat: expect the unexpected!

Now, onto some less structured inspiration.  Facinators do not have to stick out of the head. They do not need to provide shade or protection.  Their main function is to keep hair in place… either helping the hair to frame the face, or to pull it out of the way.  So to make this most utilitarian of functions more pleasurable we can add a bunch of sparkle and pizzazz.    Here is a fun example of a simple facinator adhered to a metal headband.

Simple, elegant, and incredibly useful!  Again making this fascinator uses the same basic steps as outlined in my tutorial.  There is a buckram base to help with stiffening the glitter fabric (yes. FABRIC not glitter foam from walmart), and giving a great base to build on.  Another example of a flat fascinator, but this time it is attached to a hair comb instead:

This piece has a couple layers to give it’s unique shape. Underneath the glitter fabric, but right above the buckram base is a couple lines of millinery wire. Strong , flexible, and yet incredibly resilient material.  This wire can be gently formed and re-formed without breaking.  It will hold any shape, for as long as it’s allowed.   And it is resistant to corroding.   Granted if you want to frame large top-hats or Bowlers, you will need to invest in some basic crimping tools. But for simple facinators, a sturdy wire cutter is sufficient.

I hope that these pieces can give you some inspiration in your projects!  The age of elegance is sorely needing a comeback.  Bring personality and style back into the world.  Just because everyone else has a certain piece, does not mean you have to have it too, join me in standing out in the crowd!  I’d love to see what everyone is up to.  Please feel free to post links to your projects below, find me on pinterest, or stop by my facebook page and drop a line.   Happy crafting!


Oh my goodness!

I am trying to keep up with my goal on blogging, but honestly sometimes it is hard to squeeze in the time!  So for now, I am off to make some almond butter and work with some amazing tye-dye ruffles!  Hopefully I will have a fun post to share about our visit to the Florida Zoo!

I just love this picture!  She decided it was much easier to pick the buggy up and carry it than push it around.   Cracks me up!

A girl could use some input!

As some of you may remember I am slowly building up my new wardrobe with awesome retro inspired pieces.  After the birth of my absolutely adorable daughter, almost two years ago, I find that my “go to” outfits are still my favorite maternity shorts/skirts/t-shirts.  This has just got to change.  As I find pieces in retail stores I pick them up (you should see the bohemian flair pants I picked up), but I also enjoy having things hand made.   Last winter I commissioned a wonderful pull over hoodie, I love it, and I just recently added a long winter jacket (humboldt fog) to my stash.  So my winter outer gear is essentially set.

Currently on my work table is a 50’s inspired day dress, think Katherine Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe, complete with petticoat.  Beside that is a hand-dyed long mermaid skirt made from organic cotton knit, just waiting for the perfect caftan shirt to go with it.  But right now that’s where my inspiration stops and my need for input (from you my dear friends, fans, and family) comes in.

Currently I am an american size 14/16, hourglass.  So keep this in mind with your suggestions… but I would LOVE to hear from you ideas on what to make next.  What eras do you like?  What pieces from your own past were/are your favorites?  Please help!

Life time Student

My extended family is one of Life time students.  Going back to school, for any reason, has always been encouraged and supported.  Whether it was for a higher education degree or to just learn a fun new hobby.   Education was the best gift you can ever give yourself.  But taking classes and learning new skills does not necessarily mean needing to enroll at the nearest community college or University.  In every community there are hundreds of continuing education classes and programs offered by individual artisans and business owners.

In my quest to learn something new (and to cross it off my New years resolutions list!) I started taking photography classes.  Not because I want to become some world famous photographer, but because I wanted to take awesome pictures of my daughter playing at the park.  I was always a little disappointed with all my photos, it seemed that I was a pro at missing  “that perfect moment”… and just came away with a the back of a head, a blur, or worse a clip of a hand towards the side of the frame.  Putting together scrap books on Snapfish.com was disheartening.

sample pre-class photo. Still super cute… but not one to brag about.

Luckily a local photographer, and friend of mine, Amanda Star was putting together a fun year long class that she named Momtography.  This class is not designed for the budding professional photographer; but the mom on the sidelines of the game, in the audience of a dance recital, or just hanging around in the yard with a sprinkler.  This setting has made the whole experience a calm and comfortable one.  There are no silly questions, everyone there is happy to help work through problems, and we enjoy learning from each other.

Look it’s in focus! Centered! Great lighting! and it’s her FACE as I see it. First photo’s after the first class!

February 2012 marked the first class, and I decided to put together a fun little comparison of my photography skills pre-and-post.  Amanda started out the year by going through all the preset features in our wonderful point-and-click cameras.  We learned what each one was designed for, and how to incorporate them into everyday photos.  The best thing I learned:  do not feel silly taking “too”  many pictures.  The more you take the better! (Besides, there is a delete button for those you really don’t want seen.)

Full manual, you can even see the droplettes! It was fine as long as LJ was not moving

The second class she forced us all out of our comfort zone and turned the dial to MANUAL mode… yep full manual. Surprise: It was not as bad as I would have thought.  It has become my preferred shooting technique.

Since then everything has been a blast, from learning camera “tricks” to lighting to “Photoshop Elements”.  I am now posting, printing, and sharing pictures left and right.  The best part there are still 6 more classes!   Not only have I learned so much about photography, and how to use my camera.  All the extra research that I have done for the class has lead me down some wonderful venues that I can use in everyday life.

Learning composition, in an indoor setting, on manual

Picture on the move, can you believe that this was taken right after dusk?

Each time I pull out my camera I make sure to take way more pictures than I ever need, I try to do each of the techniques Amanda reviewed, and then sit back with a critical eye and wonder how I can make each shot better.  I have even been able to implement all these techniques into the photography used in my Sales listings, merging professional with personal.

I look forward to seeing the progression come January!  Now what will the next 6 classes bring?

You never know what’s next!

I am always trying something new, there are so many wonderful things out there… how could I not want to?  Most of the time I am just curious about how something is done, made, designed, or constructed.  This also means that I usually end up with alot more respect for an item and artist, just because I now know how it’s done and all the time it takes!  This is one of those times.  There is an artist that I absolutely adore, from her house to her travels!  Katwise!  Take a look at her Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Katwise/320233446531

Incredibly AWESOME, huh?  Well if you take a look at her etsy site, you can see her stuff flies off the digital shelves.  Literally gone in 15 minutes, and she only posts sales once a month.  If you are lucky enough to catch the right day and you are quick at the “purchase now” button you MIGHT be able to snag one.  But just a forewarning:  Her large jackets go for $600+, her arm warmers $60+.   But in the end it’s not the price that attracts me, because frankly they are way out of my price range.   It’s the fact that she changes the most gawd-aweful sweaters into such amazing creations.  So last year Katwise decided to start selling her patterns.  In the first day, I had snagged my very own pattern.  Whoop Whoop.

Humboldt Fog

Now all I needed to do was find lots and lots of wool sweaters.  Well guess what? I live in Florida.  Not to many wool sweaters here… So I expanded my search to include 50% wool sweaters, it only took a year but I finally found the requisite amount needed for the jacket I wanted to make.  My mom even helped by donating some of her “moth” eaten ones…  I know there are some places online that sell reclaimed wool sweaters, but I wanted to do it the “long way” first.  If you want to let someone else do the sweater hunting for you, here is a great site: http://resweater.blogspot.com/ .  After all the sweaters were compiled, it was time to felt them down.  My greatest suggestion is to take them to the laundromat, let them deal with the smell… and the fuzz.  I did 2 super hot cycles, 1 cold rinse, and then dried them out thoroughly in the dryers.

Cutting out all the pieces was the easiest part, and kind of fun.  BUT then… came the sewing.  Granted all you are doing is surging the pieces together, but it took alot of muscle work and concentration.  I started at 8 am and finished at midnight.  Just to give you an idea, the finished jacket is between 5-7lbs.

Full Circle Skirt

Full Circle Skirt

I wanted mine to have a fun hemline, so I made it have a “train”.  The back is about 5″ longer than the front,  it has some fun flow and flounce as I am walking.  Make sure to follow the guidelines on the hood… 4′ is perfect.  My first one hit the ground and kept pulling the hood off my head. Also I do suggest you double stitch all areas with alot of pull- the waistlines, hood, and arm holes.  Otherwise the over-lock stitch is sufficient.  Another suggestion, make the body of the jacket out of the most comfortable sweater (not itchy or pokey), and end at the wrists with your softest fabric.  This hits skin directly.

Will I ever make these sweater jackets to sell?  Only on a custom basis, with lots of caveats.   Katwise is the master, and I bow down even farther after this experience.   Ultimately I think I will stick with my fun fleece pixie jackets… maybe even make a couple for us big pixies?

Ursula’s Mini-Pixie

Here is a direct link for some more fun pictures of the Mini-Pixie Cuteness! https://www.etsy.com/listing/91057894/pixie-jacket-polar-fleece-add-a-little

So Congratulations to Amanda Capps!  You guessed correctly in my little Facebook mini-giveaway.  I look forward to dropping off your sweet “little” prize! MUAH♥

♥ Family ♥

Because, some days all you need is a little plastic dump truck.  ♥

The True Price of Handmade.

The Price of Handmade.

When you say the word “handmade“, many of us think back to the days in our childhood, when our parents frantically stitched a halloween costume for us out of a table cloth and pulled out their expired make-up from the previous decade.   Or we think of those precious Christmas decorations made out of white pom-poms and pipe cleaners, somewhat resembling Frosty the snowman dueling Rudolph.   Do you remember the picture frames made out of homemade play-dough?  Oh my, I can still remember the smell.

Now, what do you think of when someone says it was “made by hand“?  First thing that pops into MY mind is the gorgeous quilt my grandmother spent months cutting out, patching together, and stitching delicate floral patterns with a tiny little needle and almost invisible thread.  Or the exquisite Easter dress that I only got to wear once, covered in bright flowers that my grandfather embroidered when he was spending time in a sanatorium recovering from TB.  Or the delicate hand painted porcelain dolls that my Aunt made me, but I could never play with.  All of these things I still have, and treasure above anything else in my house.  Even the memories bring tears to my eyes.

Heck I even think of the original Model T, which a neighbor down the road still owns and DRIVES weekly. Completely made by hand, restored by hand, and maintained by hand.

When did these two terms, handmade and made by hand, become such vastly separate labels?  When did we start to associate handmade with garage sales, back of the closet/junk-drawer items, or cheap?

There have always been independent artists; designing, making, and selling their craft.  Each and every one of them loves what they do and takes pride in each item that leaves their hands.   My Great Grandmother raised and sold angora rabbits, tanned their fur, spun, knit, and even wove it.  She did this during WWII GERMANY, while raising 5 kids under Russian occupation.  Her craft put food on the table and beer in my Great Grandfathers belly.  My Grandmother sold little girls dresses, knit sweaters, and real fur teddy bears to make a little extra “spending cash”.  All the while she raised 4 kids, learned a new language,  was a sanatorium “widow” for years, went back to school (bypassing an 8th grade Nazi education) to become a RN-technical nurse.  My other Grandmother made hand painted porcelain dinnerware, while raising 2 boys, as a widow.   My Aunt makes dolls; lots and lots of dolls.  While she raised 3 kids, was a Vietnam wife and put herself through nursing school.   Homemade crafting is the life blood of my family, we have always done what we loved  and made money off of it to help support our families.    My family is not unique in this I know.

When I hear “Handmade”, I think of unique, well made, and priceless.

So why is it in today’s society Made by Hand items rank less than Dollar store stock?  Why is it that so many people ask: why should I buy this from you when I can go to the “insert big  box store name here” and get it for less?  How has it become standard that handmade items are the trappings of the economically challenged? dime store commodities? craft fair fodder?

I ask you, when was the last time you bought a shirt from Walmart that lasted more than 3 washes, let alone a whole season?  If you bought a TV in the last 5 years, is it still working as it did on day 1?  How about your car, have you reached 150K miles? on the same clutch?  How about that $60 bathing suit, does it still… have stretch?  We live in a throw away society, manufacturers make items the cheapest-they-can-to-make-it-to-get-it-off-the-shelves.  As consumers, we strive to spend the least amount of money, which has forced the materials used to be of poor quality, the techniques used for assembly the barest minimum, and we don’t care who makes it (children, slave labor, or overworked FOREIGN factory employees).

In our endeavors for that “blue light special”, we as consumers, have been the driving force in the throw away condition of our society.  In response to this the mass marketing has caused us to become conditioned by the stores around us, advertising, media, and (…well…) downright laziness on our part.  Capitalism has its perks, and also its down falls.  Capitalism is run by the all mighty dollar.

Unfortunately this is also starting to transition into the world of independent artists.  It is starting to become standard practice to make something that just works, just stay’s together, the materials are just good enough to get by.   Because guess what, NOBODY CARES HOW LONG IT WILL LAST.  They don’t give a rats-ass that the tent you make for their wedding will still be there for their grandchildren to use.  They could care less that when their 5 year old is 20, they will still wear those dress up wings as a Rave accessory.  Nobody gives a shit that the skirt they bought for this weekends party will be a standard wardrobe staple for decades.  They just DON’T CARE.  They know they can “pop” into Target and get a new bejeweled t-shirt for tonights movie, and then use it for a dust rag tomorrow. Who cares?- it was only $15.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Reality check~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Minimum wage is $8 (ish) an hour.

Average yearly wage for a family of 4 is $21,000.

Gas costs $3.50/gal

Milk costs $4/ gal

Movies for 4 cost $70 for 2 hours.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ monthly health insurance $400~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Just imagine, if people re-evaluated their stand on handmade items, the changes that can happen?  Can you imagine a WARDROBE full of items that fit you, are comfortable, make you feel like a million dollars, and you only needed to add 1-2 items a year to “spruce things up”.  Do you comprehend how much money you can save, just by spending a little more money in the beginning?  Or is this to much forethought for today’s society?   Do we all have to look like the Kardashians…. or have accessories like Posh Spice?

How about buying (or reinvesting in) toys that are made with sturdy pieces, will not fade, tear, or flake. What about ones that don’t need new batteries every day, or do not have screens to be stared at or shattered?  Toys that make your child play with them, to figure out what they can do… Can you see your first child playing with it?  How about your fifth child?  Your neighbors child?  How about your grandchildren?

Can you see yourself working in your garage, using the same tools that your grandfather used?  That one day your granddaughter will pick up?  How about working on a car- THAT DOES NOT NEED A COMPUTER TO RUN?  Do you remember the days when the main pulley belt on your VW bug broke and you fixed it with your girlfriends bobby-pin…  I do, but it was my hairpin that got me home.

We, society as a whole, need to STOP, take a breath, and realize that it is our drive for the cheapest bang for our buck is what is truly causing problems.  Everything from the litter on the side of the road to the lack of jobs in the USA.  I know you think this is a broad statement, and want to call me out on it.  But sit back and think about it, really think about it:

~~~You want to go fishing, first off you have to have a boat (where is it made…? not the USA).  How is it fueled (gas won by war, not bought in the USA, not manufactured in the USA).  Okay, now your pole and tackle (where was it made? Probably not the USA… if you are lucky India), how about your bait? (squid and shrimp from china? flies from india? how about worms- from Mexico?).  How about your clothing (made in India? China? Mexico?) How about your sunscreen… hat… sunglasses… fish finder… Beer?  How can we forget the Beer, that had to be made in america?  (That was probably made by an american company with a manufacturer in Vietnam). What about that styrofoam cooler… that had to be made in… wait, China.  Now the ice, the ice was made in America- you watched it come out of an ice machine down by the gas station, okay the ice was made in america by a machine manufactured in Russia. ~~~

That was just to go fishing, with american ice.

Now comes the crux of it all,  You may be asking how can I afford to buy everything handmade (specifically from locals… hopefully in your own country)? You can’t.  Hello, you can’t.  But you can choose to buy them when ever possible. You can choose to make the conscious decision that instead of 5 new pairs of jeans this year, you will buy one full outfit MADE TO FIT YOU, IN THE COLORS AND PATTERNS YOU LIKE.  Step by step you can make the decisions that will not only impact you, your household, your wallet, but also help your neighbors.

You also need to be a proactive consumer, if the item is not made well and of poor quality don’t accept it.  Work with it until it’s right.  BUT you also need to be reasonable.  If you pay $10 for a skirt, you will get $1.50 in material, $1.50 in notions/supplies, and 3/4 hour of work.  That’s it.  The least amount the government will allow an employer to pay an employee is $8 an hour, so why in the hell should an artist/craftsman get paid less?

AH-HA! We have another issue of made by hand-  Worth.  This is not the worth the artisan believes it is, or the worth of the materials to make it.  This is the GENERAL WORTH.   To make this simple, how much do you make an hour? even if you are salaried… you can figure this out.  So why would you expect ANYONE else to accept less?  Especially if they are doing something for you that you can not do?

Most artisans have 6+ years secondary education. 10-15 years of hands on experience.  In the real world this equates to MANAGEMENT LEVEL EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE.  When is the last time you saw a manager making $8 an hour. GET REAL, AND RESPECT THE ARTISAN.  Guess what? When you do respect the artisan, you will get more than you ever bargained for.

Now that you have a grasp on worth, guess what?  We have to add in materials and supplies.  And I can tell you, this is a BIG difference.  There is no way I get the same amount of cost discount that Hanes her way gets.  They are a HUGE company… they pay pennies on the dollar for their supplies.  Guess what the local artisan pays for their supplies? yep, the same amount you do. IF they are lucky they can get a 10-20% discount, like I said… IF.

Now add another fly into the ointment, how about supplies made in america? HAHHAHHAAAH.  What electronics are made in the USA?  Do you know of any textile manufacturer in the USA? How about paint?   If you want it made in America by American supplies you need to add the worth and cost of just the supplies into the equation.  Mind boggling isn’t it?  The rabbit hole has just begun to open my friends.

Not only do you need to respect the WORTH of a handmade product,  but also the basic costs. So that handmade skirt from hand-dyed fabric you are eyeing… that took 12 hours of WORK…  once  upon a time you probably balked at the $80 price tag,  NOW what you really need to do is tell the seller they are underselling them-selves and then order 2. (Because, after all this is a capitalistic society… and if they undersell them selves why not jump at the bargain?)

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