Tuesday, December 31, 2013

design/spring's 2nd annual gingerbread competition

I missed out on participating again this year, but next year I'm totally entering some type of crazy gingerbread construction into Design/Spring's 3rd Annual Gingerbread Competition. The architecture runs the gamut from traditional to avant garde. Here are a few samples from the early hours of the competition this year, as the entries began to arrive.

Hershey bar solar array! Rice cake water cistern!

A trio from the family competition.

Nice piping on this one, from the dangling icicles to the trees and wreaths.

Fully iced lighthouse, complete with a photo of the inspiration structure.

Another lighthouse with gingerbread tourists and marine life.

There's even a gingerbread boy buried in the sugar sand in the lower right hand corner.

Graham crackers with licorice roof.

Love this gingerbread multi-story building with sugar glass shards on the roof and the dyed coconut/gumdrop flower/cookie stepping stone landscaping.

And to contrast it, a traditional village of tiny houses.

Despite missing the competition, I did sit down with my kiddo to decorate a gingerbread house of our own. We used a kit from Wilton so we could get right to the fun part (bonus: some stores start putting their Christmas items on clearance right before the holiday; we picked up this kit for $5).

If we do one of these next year, I'll try to remember that there are two colors of icing included, but only one decorating bag. We ended up with an interesting combination of "snow" and "grass", kinda like after the snow from that storm started to melt a few weeks back.

So, did your family get in on the gingerbread fun this year? Anyone have a preschooler who actually uses more candy to decorate than to eat? Tell me all about it.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 27, 2013

wine labels for home vintners (mean hermit edition)

My "spirited" family is full of home brewers and vintners, a hobby many seem to have inherited from my grandpa. Late in life he developed an interest in making his own alcoholic concoctions; if you knew him, you know this was just one of the quirky and amazing things about him from a field of thousands.

This year my aunt and uncle made both wine and beer, and phoned in to ask me to do a little run of wine labels like I did a while back. I riffed off of the "Mean Old Hermit" sign that has hung on the gate of their rural property since time immemorial. This is what I came up with (the names here have been redacted for privacy):

A Google search turned up an old 1920s (copyright free) image of an old bootlegger simultaneously smoking a pipe, brandishing weapons and holding a liquor bottle. Perfect. I wasn't there to see my aunt and uncle open the package, but they tell me there was much laughter.

To make the two-toned sketched image, I used a very fine-lined drawing tool in Illustrator and, with my pen/stylus and drawing tablet in a separate layer, I drew over the highlights. When I was done, I dropped in the black background and added typography (fonts are 1942 Report, Rustic Regular {from Dover}, and Cavalcade).

Once I'd printed them out on label paper using my ink jet (because the local print shop took five days to return my e-mail), I gilded the 2012 using a gold paint pen and sprayed the labels with Mod Podge acrylic spray. I let them dry and air out for a couple of days before cutting them apart and packaging them up.

A note: I've been told by my aunt that labeling is done according to the year of the grapes, so 2012, not 2013, is the correct vintage in this case. The wine aged for a year before being given out as gifts.

I call the wine "house red" on the labels because the grape vines grow on the front of their house. Not accurate by wine industry standards, but not an issue for their friends and family.

I hope if you're a beginning Adobe Illustrator user, you can make sense of the above description of my process (specifically the part where I sketched over the image highlights). If not, and you're interested in learning more, drop me a note and let me know if I can make things clearer. Please remember to respect my copyrighted work (anything on this blog), but feel free to use any methods as a springboard for your own designs.

And if you want wine or beer labels of your own but don't want to learn a new program to design some, I freelance! Just contact me and I can work you up some wine labels of your very own for a really reasonable rate. Better yet, after an initial design fee, I can even send you digital files for five years worth of dated labels to print from.

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

chevron wedding quilt (part one)

I'm a bit in over my depth here, having never completed a queen-sized quilt. But I'm making progress.

Here are the square patches, each stitched from to triangles of grey/yellow/black/white fabric.

Most of the fabric was used on the tables at my sister's wedding reception, with some filler from the fabric store in the same color range.

After I'd used up all of my fabric making blocks, I made a chart in Illustrator to work out the pattern. I counted my patches and made a simple replica of each one, grouping, copying, and pasting the right number of copies before arranging them in a simple chevron pattern.

Much easier than trying to find a wide, clean, preschooler-free space to lay everything out, believe it or not. I'm using shaded overlays to keep track of which areas I've already completed: the white shaded areas on the left are completed; the grey shaded area is stitched into short rows, waiting to be assembled to finish that section.

The blocks are coming together. Instead of long strips, I sewed the first 2/3 of the top in nine- or twelve-block sections and then sewed the sections together. The hope was that I'd keep the corners well-aligned this way, but you can tell from the photos that despite my careful ironing, trimming and sewing, there are still some "off" corners. I'm trying not to obsess over it, with limited success.

The good news is that with the prep work done, the the sewing is going quickly. The bad news is that I have no idea at all how to stitch all the layers together on something so large, and still keep the wrinkles at bay. We'll have to wait and see how that goes.

This careful measuring, ironing, trimming, etc. is very different from the way I usually work with my hands. This is more like graphic design, where I treasure rulers and rules. So it's a switch, but I'm enjoying it, I think.

Wish me luck with the finishing stages!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

7 diy gift tutorials from my blogs

With the holidays coming up, I wanted to put together a quick post for you all featuring links to seven of my most popular DIY gifts! Here they are, in no particular order, so you can spend less time and money at the mall this year, and give gifts that mean a lot to family and friends who mean a lot to you.

Originally made for my nephew, this has been popular on Pinterest this past year. Wanna put one together for someone special? Here's the link.

These were party favors for my kiddo's second birthday party, but if you make a mold using the silicone kit I link to, you could make a set for every kid on your gift list. They look awesome, but are really inexpensive and fun. Find the tutorial here.

If you like upcycling and repurposing (and you have a second-hand building supply store in your area) these make really nice gifts, and they're something you can put together pretty quickly. You can find instructions here.

Made of scraps of faux fur and felt, these monster pillows are one of my favorite projects to make for a quick birthday or Christmas present. With a single yard of faux fur, you can make four to six 12-inch pillows (depending on the width of the bolt of fabric). Make a few this holiday season using my quick tutorial.

There's still time to order some measuring tape growth chart fabric to put together one of these wall-hangings for someone you love! Spoonflower is about ten days out on orders, but that should still give you a bit of time for assembly if you get your order in soon. (I sell the fabric and finished charts through my Etsy store, too, but my supply is low right now due to holiday orders). Click here for the assembly instructions. Oh, and I have a metric version available, too! (One yard will make 2 1/2 charts, or order single panels directly from me.)

Custom screen printing with mesh fabric, embroidery hoops and latex paint? Yup. Make your own t-shirts this Christmas and knock a bunch of names of of your shopping list.

This is a great project for one-off prints. In this post, I present a dinosaur t-shirt, and links to other places in my blog where I feature a pretzel shirtviking t-shirt, and wood-grain flour sack tea towels. Infinitely customizable, without the time investment of making a silkscreen for each design. Find it here.

All right, readers! Go forth and craft like you've never crafted before! Let's do this!