a blog chronicling my days of unemployment and all the crafty things i'll do during it

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bachelorette Tiara

Last weekend was Eco Yogini's bachelorette party. In true Eco-Yogini style, every attempt was made to keep the party as environmentally friendly as possible. Without the typical bachelorette penis-paraphenalia (paper plates, balloons, cheesy games), it was a bit of a challenge to make it feel like a bachelorette party, and not just a girly-gathering. We decided to stick with one hallmark of the typical bachelorette party - the tiara.

However, we decided this should be no ordinary tiara, and we should avoid the cheap-plastic variety. Instead, I got to thinking about a hand-made wire/bead tiara. I have a big box of wire and beads from my jewelery-making hobby, and had a few ideas spinning in my head. Then I found this lovely tutorial which confirmed my suspicions that it was indeed possible to make a pretty tiara out of just beads and wire.

I carefully selected some pretty, earthy-coloured (green, blue, white & iridescent) beads from my stash. Within a couple hours of bending and twisting wire, the tiara emerged. I wrapped it up in a paper-bag, with some pretty black ribbon strung through holes at the top of the bag.

To attach it to her head, we threaded the same pretty black ribbon through the holes at the ends of the tiara and tied it on at the nape of the neck (like putting on a bandana, or a kerchief). We used a few bobby pins for good measure too. (Here's a picture of our bachelorette, all decked out and ready for the party)

And, since we had planned a wine-tasting - I also made a matching wineglass charm for the bachelorette's glass.

The whole evening was pretty fabulous. We had lots of local wines, and a great spread of food including local cheese, fruit, and bread, as well as home-made potato skins and fabulous jello-shooters (made inside of hollowed out fruit rinds instead of using plastic cups). Check out the evening at Eco Yogini's blog.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Saying goodbye to summer with a homemade peach pie

After a week or two of 30+ temperatures and humidity, Hurricane Earl swept through Halifax on labour day weekend, bringing autumn with it. Since the storm, I can feel the fall winds along the coastline of Point Pleasant Park while I'm out for a run.

With a bowl full of over-ripe sub-par peaches on my counter, I decided to bid summer farewell by baking one last summer dessert - peach pie. Something about home-made pie has always been elusive and daunting to me. I have always thought it would be too difficult to do, so I stuck with home-made cookies and cakes for dessert.

It wasn't until this year, that I made my first-ever pie from scratch. It was a gluten-free strawberry rhubarb pie to share with a celiac-friend during our ritual John Cusack movie night back in March. It turned out pretty well, a bit lopsided, and leaked all over the bottom of the oven, but it tasted okay. The gluten-free dough was difficult to work with though.

So, what better to do with a bunch of rotting peaches than try to make my second-ever pie from scratch! And, this time I challenged myself to a lattice crust on top. I browsed the internet for recipes, as usual, and found a nice looking recipe at one of my favourite food blogs, Dinner with Julie. But, I made some changes to that recipe. So, look below for my version of the ingredients, and follow her instructions if you'd like to use up some peaches in your own kitchen.

Jen's Peach Pie

Pastry for a double crust pie, chilled (I use the recipe from Dinner with Julie for Never Fail Pastry. I usually add a bit more sugar for a sweet pie, and leave out the sugar for a savoury pie or quiche)

- 10 ripe peaches
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger

After that, I pretty much just followed Julie's instructions, except that I blind-baked the bottom crust for 15min at 400°F before adding the fruit filling. The lattice crust on top really wasn't so difficult, and it sure looks fancy!

We'll be enjoying this pie all week, an excellent way to say goodbye to summer and welcome the fall.

Now, bring on apple and pumpkin pie season.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jewelery Display Board

I never used to wear jewelery. I bought it. I received it as gifts. I liked it. I just never WORE it. I'd usually forget that I owned most of it. I'd misplace it. I'd stuff it in a drawer or box. It was out of sight - out of mind. Really! I needed some way to display all my favourite pieces for daily wardrobe accessorizing.

One of my favourite spots to find funky jewelery in Halifax is the Black Market. While shopping for some new wooden earrings a couple years ago, I noticed that a lot of their jewelery was pinned up on boards on the wall. It was a pretty effective way to show their entire jewelery stash.

So, when I was still a student, I salvaged an old water-damaged bulletin board from a garbage pile, and brought it home with intentions of remaking it into a pretty jewelery display. It sat around for a while first. I tried hanging up just the board, but it was a pretty big eyesore on it's own (lots of water damage). So I wrapped the whole thing in blue fabric (frame and hooks and all) - an improvement, but not perfect.

This week, I finally decided to do it right. I took the frame off the board, with a slot-head screwdriver and a pair of needle-nose pliers. This involved removing a few long-skinny staples that were holding it all together. I covered it in some blue jersey fabric (scrap from a dress I made once), and staple-gunned it all into place.

I replaced the frame, using some finishing nails and wood-glue to keep it tightly together. I carefully placed t-pins into the board, measuring spaces between them for earrings, rings, bracelets and necklaces (since I had a lot to fit on there). The t-pins have a great shape for holding items on the board, as compared to regular straight-pins.

And now it hangs in my closet, right above my dresser - so I am reminded to accessorize when I get dressed in the mornings.

One small corner is conveniently reserved for broaches and pins. The majority is taken up by earrings and necklaces. But there's a small selection of bracelets and rings too.

Conveniently, it also encourages me to put my accessories away at the end of the day, so I don't misplace them.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

the long awaited couch reupholstery (part 2)

continued from part one.

on my evenings and weekends from work, i managed to complete the rest of the project.

new fabric: i laid out my fabric on my living room floor and placed all the old upholstery pieces on top. i pinned them into place, and cut around them, creating a duplicate piece out of my new fabric. i labeled the new pieces with the labels from the originals. some of the old fabric was so worn that it needed to be thrown away. but, some has been salvaged by a friend, who wants to use it to make pillows for her couch and to reupholster a couple seats on wooden chairs. i approve of this fabric in small doses such as these. i don't think it will be so hideous in these amounts.

piping: i'd never made piping before this project. so, i called my aunt to find out why it was important that piping be made with bias cut fabric. really, what i wanted her to say was that it wasn't important at all, and that i wouldn't have to cut 20 feet of 2-inch bias strips (pain-in-the-butt!). but, she informed me that it was important for durability (longevity), and for flexibility (going around corners). so, i used bias-cut strips, and the previously salvaged piping cord, and made enough piping for my cushions and the arm-facings.

padding: i hadn't planned to re-pad the couch. but, when i removed the original fabric, the padding looked so old and thin - it needed some love. i happened to have a bag of quilt batting in the closet, so i added a layer of that to the arms and to the back of the couch.

cushion covers: these were, by far, the most challenging portion of the project. my cushions are box-shaped, so they are easier than some couch cushions - but sewing around corners and through several layers of thick fabric (top/bottom, side & piping) is challenging, even with the necessary zipper foot attachment. in addition, box cushion covers have zippers, and i think this was only the second (and third) time i'd ever installed a zipper. i really just used the original cushion cover as a guide. they turned out a bit uneven, with a few puckers - but you can't really tell once they're filled with foam and in place on the couch.

reconstruction: piece by piece, the couch was finally reupholstered. i used a craft-sized staple gun, and followed the order pictured by my library book. it was nice to have and extra set of hands for this part of the project. chris was able to pull the fabric tight into place for stapling. i was pretty sure there would be staples showing when it was done, because i hadn't thought of a better way. but, at the last minute i raided our stash of thumb tacks and used them as makeshift upholstery tacks. we carefully hammered them in, and we broke a couple in the process, but we had spares. someday, i'll replace them with real upholstery tacks, but for now - these look much better than visible staples.

and that's it!

in summary, here are my tips for your amateur reupholstery project
1. check your local library for upholstery books and find one that has a similar project to what you're planning
2. take digital pictures along the way to help you reconstruct your furniture
3. buy a bit more fabric than you think you'll need
4. reuse as many materials as you can (piping cord, foam , etc - it's already the perfect size/shape for your piece of furniture)
5. have an extra set of hands to help with the actual upholstery stuff - pulling fabric to the right tension for stapling. the extra set of eyes is also helpful to let you know if it looks too tight or too loose.
6. have spare sewing machine needles, and make sure they are heavy-duty ones for upholstery fabrics. i broke 2 or 3 needles during this project and had to run out to buy more.

the long awaited couch reupholstery (part 1)

i had big plans to reupholster my couch when i started this blog during my last bout of unemployment. however, i didn't accurately estimate the time it would take me to complete the project, and all i really did during my unemployment was the preliminary stuff: fabric shopping and deconstructing the old couch. these preliminary tasks happened in a couple days toward the end of my unemployment, and i didn't take the time to document them properly here, until now. so, here's part one of my couch reupholstery adventure.

the original couch: when chris and i moved into this apartment, the previous tenants had left a little couch. it certainly wasn't pretty, and it wasn't super-comfortable; but it was free and it was something else to sit on. the upholstery pattern was hideous, and it was worn, ripped, and frayed in so many spots, that even if it wasn't so hideous, something would have to be done about it. my mom and i created a slip cover for the couch, to cover its ugly and fraying upholstery. but, i eventually grew tired of constantly rearranging and fixing the displaced slip cover. so, i decided to attempt amateur reupholstery.

preparation: i googled a lot about upholstering a couch, and i didn't find much - just one useful blog from someone who had previously undertaken the amateur upholstery adventure. i also picked up a book from my local public library. this was a very helpful resource. i had little-to-no reupholstery experience. the only thing i'd ever done before was reupholster a weight bench with some pleather as a birthday gift for chris. but, that was really just a rectangular cushion, not too tough!

fabric shopping: halifax has a very limited selection of fabric stores. in turn, these fabric stores have a very limited selection of fabrics. i managed to find a denim-ish upholstery fabric at Atlantic Fabrics. it was pretty much the only thing i even remotely liked at the fabric store - the only thing that didn't feel so plastic or synthetic. it was nicely priced at $9.95 per metre. i had calculated i would need 4 metres (after measuring each pieces as per the book's instructions), but i bought 5 metres, just to be safe. the store was having a sale, so i spent just over $50 on the fabric and two spools of thread.

de-upholstery: it probably took me a good 4-6 hours to really pull off all the old upholstery fabric. i could have done it faster if i was more destructive, but i was trying to save each piece to use as a template for my new fabric. i starting removing staples, taking the outside back piece of fabric off first, and then removing whatever whole piece i could get to next. each piece i removed, i marked with a piece of paper pinned onto it, so i could remember where it belonged later. i also took digital pictures to help me with the reupholstery process. i'm very glad i did this - since the couch sat naked/unupholstered in my office for over a month before i began really reupholstering it.

i didn't purchase any special tools. i used some small needle-nose pliers and a slot-head screwdriver that i had on hand. in hindsight, a pair of light work-gloves would have been handy too. i definitely scraped and poked my hands with staples and pliers while pulling out the staples and pulling off the fabric. this was a VERY dusty job, and i kept the cordless vacuum handy at all times. inside the couch, among the dust bunnies, i also found a quarter, a pen, and a crochet hook - nothing too exciting unfortunately.

i took apart all the piping on the couch, and saved the cord to re-use to make piping with my fabric. i took apart one of the cushion covers to use for as a template (x2) for the new cushion covers. i left one cushion cover together to use as a construction example.

and that's where it stopped, for over a month. the couch and all my fabric sat in the office until i found some evening and weekend time during the month of july. i completed part two completely in my spare time from work.

Monday, May 10, 2010

DIY by someone else?

as much of a DIYer that i am, i just can't do everything myself. it is not realistic for me to make all (or even most) of my own clothing/accessories. but, i can support handmade/small-run businesses (other DIYers), especially if they have eco-friendly practices; and find beautiful unique items to add to my closet.

fiveseed is having a lovely giveaway. it's for a very pretty scarf from foulard threads. i am embracing the world of bloggy-giveaways and posting this entry earns me an extra entry into pretty prize potential.

see here:

funemployment over, already?!

i've been neglecting the blog this past week, mostly because reupholstering a couch is a lot of work, and has been taking up all my project time. i've finally got all the old fabric off the couch, and am going to sit down to cut out new pieces from the upholstery fabric i bought.

i imagine it will take a while. especially since i go back to work today. i've got a contract to take me until june 25 (and potentially until august 13). so, my time for blogging will be less. but i'm gonna try to keep up one crafty project per week. there's still lots of things i'd like to do that didn't get done during my 5 weeks off.

stay tuned.