Saturday, June 22, 2013

Spare the Rod

Curtains are a surefire way to tie any room together, but they sure do fire up some deep-seated emotional issues for those of us who are unsure of how to purchase, hang, or even use a curtain rod. I completely understand. In fact, after a not-so-mild bout of depression brought on by major life changes that include having to find a full time job, receiving my first post-master's student loan bill, and re-decorating, I have sworn off curtain rods altogether. But I still swear by curtains.

So how do I manage to spare the rod without spoiling the curtain? Simply by nailing the curtain into the window frame. If you are a homeowner, decide if this is the right path for you, but as a renter it's pretty much expected that you will ruin things. I've learned this from many landlords over the years who have been convinced that leaking ceilings, bug infestations, and heatless radiators were part of a plague that I as a renter brought with me to their CHARMING VINTAGE SORRY NO PET GREAT LOCATOIN APT. that previous tenants have called "quite a good place."

I wasn't born knowing how to not hang curtains though. I learned from my former roommate and current best friend, Julia, who taught me about life, love, and other mysteries (nailing curtains into a window frame). It was through her that I learned techniques for window dressing that involved not measuring, not drilling, and not crying.

Here are some examples of curtain hanging techniques that I employ in my own apartment:

The draper.
To create this effect, I used two valences and starting nailing from the ends of the window frame and working my way in for a perfectly valenced effect.

The com-pleated window.
To create pleats in a curtain, nail both ends of the curtain/ piece of fabric to the window frame and fold over about 2 inches at any interval. This is a modern look, so make sure you've watched an episode of Mad Men from seasons 5 or 6 to determine if this is right for you.

The Rachel.
You just need a couple of face-framing pieces to really make the window pop. To achieve this look take two equally sized pieces of long fabric, bunch them up and then nail into the window frame until they stay in place. The resulting look will last for multiple seasons and be referenced for years to come.

Happy hanging, and remember that there's no wrong way to hang a curtain.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bow Not Cool

Back when work was fun in the 1960s, people used to have an afternoon drink to tide them over from their  mid morning martinis until they left work at 5:30 pm for cocktail hour. Today we have to suffer through work relatively sober, although luckily for the young, enthusiastic interns of today's fast-paced and exciting workplace, we do have Adderall. But for the most part we need a little something to get us through those long afternoons in our cubicles after the buzz of Buzzfeed has worn off and the rush of HuffPo has subsided like an aerosol crash. And I have found that the natural high from crafting can be just as potent.

During a recent bout of boredom in my workstall, I decided to craft away the rest of the day. With limited supplies and a short attention span I was still able to create something beautiful and unnecessary: a paper bow.  Using a picture from Pinterest I was able to reconstruct something not as similar as I would have liked but a bow nonetheless. This craft showed me that not all crafts are fun, but they are necessary. Here was a paper bow craft that I thought would be simple and fulfilling:

 Here's how I did it:

 I didn't have any square paper, so I made my own. This was the most innovation I generated during the course of the craft.

I folded the paper in half diagonally twice instead of drawing lines. Pretty smart.

I then drew this little box in the center like in the original image. It ended up not serving a purpose for me as I ignored this guideline in the next step.

The next step is to cut a triangle segment from the paper, like so. 

Then snip the lines directly above the cut out segment leaving the triangle shape attached. I did not achieve this on the first try as I ignored the little box I had drawn and cut the entire piece out. Don't do this.

Instead do this.

On the next try I did manage to leave the triangle portion attached. This is where the craft started to take a turn from a relaxing and fulfilling project to a craft that made me reexamine the darkest corners of myself.

Here's where things started heading downhill fast.

Compare this image to the original and it seems like it's on track to becoming a perfect paper bow, but ultimately there were terminal issues with paper size that could not be rectified with scissors.

I eventually made the agonizing decision to fold the bow.

This craft was a struggle. It did not turn out the way that Pinterest said it would. And like most things in life it needed to be cried over and then pinned to a bulletin board. I realized that this paper bow was a metaphor for something. I'm still not sure what that is, but I did learn that crafts can be dangerous and powerful tools for self-reflection. 
Ultimately crying over the shame of not being able to execute a proper paper bow was still more fun than work, so I can recommend this as a work craft.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

iPad you not

You can do everything with an iPad and you look great doing it. I know from experience because I own one and got tons of compliments from people at Apple who were selling it to me. After I bought the iPad I found out that it didn't come with a case. So instead of buying a case that would fit, serve as a stand, and protect the screen, I decided to make my own out of shelf liner and yarn.
Good idea? Great idea.  Not only did I save money, I also created something sustainable that can be reused for other iPad shaped items with iOS operating systems.
I'm sure you're wondering why I didn't just use an oven mitt as a case. That was my first thought too, but iPads are actually much bigger than enlarged hand mitts. My next thought was to use a decorative silk scarf to wrap around the iPad, but unfortunately I confused it with a pile of laundry. It looked like I was out of options.
Enter Google. This search engine generates millions of results for all kinds of questions and phrases - I've even used it to look up recipes. So I looked up how to make an iPad case and found that it could be done using grippy shelf liner and duct tape, but I added fabric for a softening effect that said "technology is cold and harsh on the inside, but warm and soft on the outside."
This design could possibly be modified to fit other tablets (leave any tips in the comments). Here's what you need to make your own iPad case:

The fabric I chose is meant to elicit computer. Note the iPad.

Measure the shelf liner/gripper to the shape of the iPad, plus some fold over. The end product will look like a clutch that you can carry for a night out at Panera Bread, or anywhere with free wi-fi (depending on the type of iPad you own you may not require wi-fi, but you'll want to consider the pastry options). 

Fold over

You will need to trim the sides so that the liner fits the iPad snugly. You want to snuggle your iPad and make it feel loved and appreciated. Also, it will fall out if the case isn't tight enough.
Next, stitch the sides together with yarn. You don't need to make your own holes as they have been provided for you. You are welcome.

Then, stitch fabric to the outside of the shell (the shelf liner). You will want to use thread for this as it is much easier than using yarn, but I understand if you like the look of yarn and insist on using it anyway. 

I made little x's to stitch the sides. This holds the fabric together nicely and looks really professional. Since you will be taking your iPad case to work, keep that in mind. 

You are almost done. The last thing to do is add a button for decoration, stitch some yarn to make it look functional and you'll feel better about it in no time. You don't really need the button, but in many ways you do. This finishes the case off nicely and tells the world that you care enough about your iPad to give it something extra.


You did great, but the real star here is your iPad. 

sent from my Dell desktop

Monday, February 25, 2013

Say it ain't sew

This weekend I sewed a skirt, it is essentially a Christmas tree skirt - but with a button that my grandma will add, it's a person skirt. What I learned about sewing is that it's mostly about cutting, pinning and pricking your finger, and then unpinning, pricking the same finger and sewing.  It's the final step in a succession of important pin-related steps. If you already know how to sew this post is not for you. This is a post for people like me who own sewing machines and use them out of guilt, boredom, and the desire to feel something. Not for people who want to create art or clothes that fit well.

So, first things first: visit your local Ikea for pre-cut fabric so you don't have to wait for an employee to cut it or make a decision about which fabric to buy. Now you have your fabric for a skirt.  Hopefully a yard is enough.  That's what I used because that's what Ikea employees pre-cut.

not the fabric I used

You will need a sewing machine - you can sew this by hand if you have a lot of time, I would recommend this option for the unemployed and the elderly, who are also unemployed - so just anyone without a job. You will also need thread, scissors, pins and a laptop or some sort of device to watch YouTube videos of sewing tutorials.

As I mentioned earlier, the skirt I made is essentially a tree skirt, which is essentially a circle with a hole in the middle.  I realized fairly far into the project that to make a circle you just need to fold the fabric into a square.   This was a sad realization since I had spent a lot of time trying to cut a giant circle and then having to rewind Breaking Bad, when I could have just folded the fabric in fourths and not missed any important meth-making scenes. So, fold the fabric into the largest square possible (since it's a yard it is in a rectangle so you will need to cut the excess off).  Then, round the edges so that when you unfold it you have a circle. But don't unfold it yet; or if you do, refold it.
here's a smart person's diagram that I didn't use

To cut the waist hole, just cut in a U-shape from the corner of the folded fabric where all of the material is gathered.  To measure your waist you can use a measuring tape, yarn, or take a guess. I did the latter and only needed to re-trim three times. Now unfold the material - you have a skirt.  You should feel good about this, but not too good.

almost a skirt

The pinning process begins simply enough - just fold all of the edges inwards (about a 1/4 inch) and pin. This sounds easy, and it is for most people, but the skirt is rounded so fold and pin accordingly unless you want it to be jagged and lopsided like I did. You will probably prick your finger(s) and judging from other sewing blogs and jokes on Pinterest, this is normal.

this is how you pin

Now you are ready to sew!  This is where you will want to YouTube how to sew if you don't already know. Here are some things I forgot to do that might help you: 1. Make sure that the needle picks up the thread from the bobbin - just use the handwheel and turn it once, good.  2. Make sure that you put the presser foot down. This is a big one, and if you forget to do it, don't post to a sewing forum about it, no one will like or respect you for your comment because it means you are not one of them. 3. Backstitch so that the seams don't come loose. This is another one not to post to a forum about, just YouTube it privately and don't make any comments.

just a tip

Ok, it looks like you have a skirt.  But you don't because there is nothing to clasp it around your waist.  This is where a grandma or other elderly person will come in handy.  You will need a button or two, and maybe a clasp.  This is no big deal for older women learned how to sew buttons instead of how to read as girls, so ask one of them to help you or to just do it for you, which is easier for everyone.

Now you really do have a skirt!  You can wear it to work, twirl around in it, or not wear it because you aren't sure how well the buttons were sewn on. But you can feel good about the fact that you created something. And it's beautiful.

still needs a button, but close enough

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Make Room for Fanny

Fanny packs have long been heralded as front butt purses for the matronly or those "vacationing" at Disney World.  While I understand this, I think it's a crime against fashion, humanity, and people with poor posture that purses should only hang from straps around one shoulder... or worse yet, in a seat belt fashion whereby cleavage chaffing becomes a sad, unnecessary reality.  So I welcome the fanny pack, and all of its cultural baggage.  I welcome the ability to run, jump, and sit at bars alone without having to worry about my purse.  Much like in a tampon commercial, with a fanny pack I can do everything and then some.

But what if you don't have a fanny pack?  I found myself in this situation over the holiday break at my parents' house and I knew I had to do something fast.  After countless nights of having to switch my purse from one shoulder to the other I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror of the local 4 a.m. bar, and thought "who are you?"  So I went through my sister's closet to find out.  I didn't find myself, but I did find a belt and a wallet; and so it began.

Fanny packs are really pretty simple, and the only supplies you need are a belt (preferably one that is meant to go around your waist, but if not, look forward to the next three hours of making belt holes with a steak knife, push pins and some band aids), a wallet or small clutch, scissors, and some pizza (if it's 4:15 in the morning and you have an urge to craft but don't want to be too hung over to debut your fanny pack the next night I suggest at least half a frozen pizza).

Supplies. This might be all you ever need in life.

The first step is to cut two slits in the back of the wallet where the belt will slide through.  Make sure that they slits are large enough for the belt to fit, yet not so large that your fanny pack items will fall out.  Also, if you have a wallet that you really like, I would not suggest using it as you will feel some regret after cutting it open.  This is normal.

Do this on both sides.

Then all you need to do is slip the belt through, with the nice side facing out.  Check to make sure that the holes are where you want them.  Maybe you want different levels of tightness for various outfits - tighter for dresses, looser for jeans, medium for pajamas.  Whatever you need to do to feel comfortable in your fanny, now is the time to do it.

Belt is going in.

And now you've got a brand new fanny pack! You can wear it everywhere and make all of your friends jealous... and then make them one (lots of people have January birthdays and are sad about it - a fanny pack would brighten anyone's spirits about an unfortunate birthday date and make a great gift).

There's a new fanny pack on the block!

Enjoy your new fanny pack and all of the shoulder-free fun you will have with it.  Just remember to take it off before you shower.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Mod Podge, Oh My Godge!

I recently was invited to a very prestigious crafting event at a good friend's apartment. A select group of 20-something white women from all walks of life - from the gainfully employed to grad students - all came together, putting differences in decorating sensibilities aside, and Mod Podged. We glued paper to canvas and created inspired canvases filled with paper. The crafting event was a time of building woman-to-woman relationships, discussing careers, and wondering when men of marriageable ages would return our texts. In short, it was Sex In the City meets Girls meets Oprah meets Oprah's Favorite Things meets Oprah's Book Club, with an emphasis on crafting.

Mod Podge adheres more than just paper to canvas... it is the glue that holds friendships together, and cat hair to the floor. But you might be wondering, how do I Mod Podge a canvas, and can I do it alone? The answer is I'll tell you and yes, but it's sad.

The first thing you need for Mod Podge crafting is Mod Podge. It's a large container of glue that you can find in any craft store, Target, Walmart, or best friend's apartment. You will also need something to spread the glue with, this can be a paint brush or a foam brush or a napkin - but probably the first two.

Photo from a legitimate crafting blog

I normally use the Matte finish because it's easier to tell when it's dry, and being from the midwest I don't like too much shine. Additionally, you will need small canvases and magazines or different types of colorful paper.

Photos from Wikipedia and baby blog, Babies love paper.

So that's really all you need. And maybe some paint and scissors. And a couple bottles of wine. The next thing to do is find your inspiration. This can be found on TV, the Internet, books, and Starbucks. Once you have an inspired theme, go with it! Start cutting out photos in magazines... maybe you want celebrities posing with Muppets or food animals, I know I did.

Then go ahead and lay out your design BEFORE Mod Podging to the canvas. It is important to remember the before part. I've overestimated my crafting abilities in the past, only to be left with tearful voicemail trails to my mother that end in her telling me "an artist can always fix her mistakes." Can she really?

Once you've determined the layout of your canvas, remove the paper in segments and brush on Mod Podge. Then place the paper back on top of the Mod Podged area, and spread more over top of it to seal it in. You might also consider painting on your canvas and using three dimensional paper shapes for added flair. Be sure to allow enough time for drying (about one Lifetime movie). Here are some examples of what you can expect to create:

The flowers really pop, while adding words really forces people to look at your work. Nice.

This is a man board to remind straight women of what to hold out for. Note the wine in hand, this moves the creative process along nicely.

A smattering of artful canvases. You'll want to enlarge this photo for more detail.

You can hang your art in your home, your office, or gift them to friends and family who understand that handmade gifts are priceless (i.e. your mom or grandma). Happy crafting!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Christmas is a time of love (actually), family (stone), and little women (turns out most people don't really gain that much weight during the holidays, it's in the suicide-inducing weeks following Christmas that people tend to stress eat, so no worries there). One of the best ways to get in the holiday/ Christmas spirit besides watching original movies on the Hallmark Channel is to decorate. And one of the best ways to decorate is to flip through a December issue of Martha, pour yourself a mug of Trader Joe's holiday ale, text your college weed dealer, head back to Trader Joes for another bottle of ale because your college weed dealer has a real job now, set up a Twitter account for your grandma, and wake up the next morning feeling guilty. Now you're ready to decorate.

Guilt is an integral part of the Christmas season. Without guilt there would be no reason for church, without church, there would be no reason for Jesus, and without Jesus there would be no reason for the season. It's all a part of the Christmas cycle of life. I'm not sure how it works for other religious winter holidays, but I'm guessing it's similar.

Let's start with the decorations your mom mailed you. Anything with an embroidered rocking horse or jack-in-the-box should go up first, to remind you of what this season is all about. Next, place any warm cinnamon, fiery pine, or burnt cookie scented candles in the kitchen, bathroom, and living room so your home smells like a sweet, elf cookie-factory cabin in the middle of the forest that is about to go up in flames. People love that.

Gift wrapping is another issue that we all have to deal with, some of us handle it better than others. I fall into The Others camp (obviously Nicole Kidman plays me in this 2001 horror-film version of my life). Wrapping has always been a struggle for me, and at special holiday times I don't want people to see me struggle. So I use gift bags that I save throughout the year. The only thing to remember here is to remove the name tag, and/or rewrite the name on the tag so it looks like the new gift recipient's name. For example, you can change "Kelly" to "Keviy" quite easily, and in the process your boyfriend gets a new nickname! It's two gifts in one.

I hope these little tips help send you on your way this holiday season. And, in the wise words of Sufjan Stevens, "No one can save you from Christmases past... if drinking makes it easy, the music's kinda cheesy." This was taken out of context, but I think we all understand what he means.
Merry Christmas/ holidays!