Sunday, January 25, 2009

Down to Chinatown

Yesterday it was a slow and sleepy Saturday in our corner of Los Angeles. Outside, clean and cool, steeped in the clarity and color that only comes after rain. I broke a lampshade last week. It was a glass one, part of the pendant lamp that was going to illuminate the inside of my "craft closet." I salvaged the bulb and cord, and went in search of a solution for reinventing it. I've always wanted a paper lantern. They remind me of summertime, of nights when the evening air is warm and remnants of daylight linger past bedtime. So we went to Chinatown to buy paper lanterns. And fans. And to ponder at length whether or not silk parasols are indispensable objects.
I didn't get a parasol; maybe next time. But I did come home with a small collection of lanterns, a pale pink one for the craft closet light and some accordion style ones I might pull out come summer. After traipsing down crowded sidewalks, past open store fronts and over puddles of muddied rainwater we came to a central square, where dusky light fell on intensely colored buildings spun together by a hanging web of lanterns and cafe lights. We stayed past sunset, to watch as they flickered on, strand by strand.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Dollhouse: Update

Here we are in January, and I've realized just how much I've neglected to share the dollhouse progress with you all! Throughout the last few months it's improved from a sad little stack of splintery pieces to something that looks like a house, sans the shingles. Once I get the roofing on, I'll photograph the whole house, but for now here are some details from the "construction."
Flooring: Creating miniature hardwood floors from Popsicle sticks is ridiculously time consuming, but I figured, if I'm going through the trouble to build this thing, I might as well go all out, right? So last August I sorted out warped sticks, trimmed and sanded all the rounded ends, arranged and glued, slat by slat. I debated for a while about how to finish them - stain seemed too dark and conventional, unfinished seemed boring, so I finally went with a "distressed white" finish which is a look I always envy in real life homes. Achieving this involved staining my mini floors with some leftover English chestnut wood stain, painting them white after letting them dry for a week and finally, persisting through some tedious sanding - fine grit sand paper, teeny little strokes along the edges of teeny little floorboards.
Windows, Walls and Trim: Preparing all the pieces to paint was my least favorite part. Sanding took forever, the wood was splintery, and since I used acrylic craft paint, which is a little on the watery side, it took numerous coats to get full coverage. But overall I'm happy with the finish (I added varnish - satin for siding/walls and glossy for trim). My dad helped me glue the frame of it together with his elaborate collection of clamps, and once the walls were up, it was time to start affixing window sashes, window frames and window panes which was the point where it really started to all come together visually. After a long hiatus through the fall school term, we finally got around to gluing on the roof in December, and today I added the last bits of gingerbread trim atop the gables. It's nearing completion! Though piecing hundreds of individual shingles seems quite daunting...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Storybook Embroidery: A Handmade Kit

The first official post of the new year! I must admit it's been a somewhat slow and unenthusiastic transition from the holiday break back to the normal routine of things, but on the upside I've got lots of projects planned for 2009. Today I wanted to share the embroidery kit I made as a Christmas present for Alice. The whole kit is based on a watercolor of a "Storybook girl" I did in late November {image 2}. This little lass is kind of a fusion of influences with her Heidi-inspired costume, a stylized Dutch bonnet and curly brown hair. I pulled a color scheme from the painting, and here's where it took me: I had so much fun putting this together. I picked up the unfinished cigar box at Michael's and designed and printed patterned paper to line the bottom of it. I also made a label {1} for the front and coordinating cards for the pattern {3}, instructions {4} and included supply list {2}. Oh, and the handiest part - two cards with illustrated how-tos for the chain stitch {6} and French knot. For the strawberry pincushion {5} I used the pattern at Martha Stewart and some scraps of Heather Bailey fabric, and on a family shopping trip I picked up some unbleached cotton at an out of the way hobby shop. Finally I painted an embroidery hoop cherry red and topped it all off with 6 skeins of embroidery thread, pins, a needle and some tracing paper. All ready for crafting in '09!