06 November 2014

CraftFail: When Homemade Goes Horribly Wrong

Whether you want to admit it or not, we’ve all been there. We’ve all seen a cute little craft project on Pinterest or a crafter’s blog and thought, “I can do that!” – only to find out 4 frustrating hours later (not that I was counting) that no you cannot.

I used to hide these craftfails deep, deep, deeeep in my trashcan. Away from myself. Away from my husband. Away from my son, who for some reason still thinks I’m pretty awesome. I also hid them from my mind. That yarn-wrapped balloon ball thing? Never happened. That yarn-wrap wire ornament? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

But somewhere along the way, I stumbled across CraftFail.com. It was like the angels were singing to me. Or the craft fairies. Someone was definitely singing.

Now that I think about it, I think it was me. I don’t suck! I’m not alone. Those directions were for sh*t.

The woman behind CraftFail.com, Heather Mann, just released an awesome collection of some of the best (worst?) craftfails known to crafterkind. Now available at your local bookstore, CraftFail: When HandmadeGoes Horribly Wrong is definitely worth a read.

Besides the failed yarn balls, I related to several of the other projects in the book, and I’m sure you will, too. But what scared me the most was the projects in the book that I have pinned to do! Craftfails just waiting to happen! Do I even bother trying them now? Knowing me, probably not. No microwaved soap fluff. No hula hoop-woven rug.

After reading the intro to Heather’s book and asking her a few questions, I think she’d be very disappointed in me. After all, she becomes excited when she fails. No, really. It’s true.

“I used to avoid trying anything that I thought I might not do well,” Heather said. “Since starting CraftFail, not only have I been more likely to try crafts that I might botch horribly, but I’ve become excited whenever I fail, or event when I see other people fail. I’m not excited because of someone’s misfortune, but more because of the opportunity for growth and learning.”

Oh. That makes a lot of sense.

Heather says in her book that unrealistic expectations are a major contributing factor in craftfails. In addition, being unprepared, including missing or wrong supplies, can be to blame.

After reading CraftFail: When Handmade Goes Horribly Wrong, I realized that, man, am I uptight. I’m supposed to be doing something I love, crafting, and instead I’m beating myself up because I’m not Martha Stewart. Heather said she got catharsis from sharing her failures, something I’m slowly starting to understand.

As I come to terms with the fact that craftfails are, sadly, a part of crafting, I take comfort in some advice Heather shared with me:

“Baby steps! You don’t have to be thrilled next time you fail, but give yourself a little bit more room to breathe. YOU aren’t a failure; you just made something that didn’t work. If it makes it easier, think of it as a prototype or a first draft.”

Good advice from the self-described “failure enthusiast”.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review; all opinions are my own.

24 October 2014

The Time has Come ... for Me to Watch Goonies

It's a widely known fact that I didn't watch a lot of "normal" movies growing up. No ET. No Harry and the Hendersons (that I remember). No The Christmas Story. With one TV in the house, we were often stuck watching what my dad was watching, which more often than not were war movies. And some action-adventure thrown in for good measure. Hamburger Hill. Platoon. Deliverance. Not exactly PG.

I didn't realize how odd this was until I got older and failed to recognize some pretty basic pop culture references. I don't have a favorite John Hughes movie, for example. And I don't know anything about ET, except that he likes Reese's Pieces.

Besides ET, I get picked on the most for not having seen Goonies and Stand By Me. Honestly, in my head, they are the same movie. They're both scary (right?). They both have a chubby kid, who I think is played by Jason Bateman. (Wait! Jerry O'Connell? One of them, I'm sure.)

I'm almost positive that most of Goonies takes place underground. (This I know from the Atari game we bought at a garage sale in 1987-ish.) And I think there's a train in Stand By Me. Maybe a big house on a hill in one or both of them? Someone does the truffle shuffle. I think it had something to do with mushrooms.

Oh, and the Coreys had to have been in them! (They were everywhere back then, including taped to my bedroom wall.)

I know I've gotten a lot, if not all, of the facts wrong, but tonight, I'll be halfway to normal. Tonight I'm going to watch Goonies. I know you'll all want to know what I thought. I might live Tweet my reactions. Yes, it's that big of deal.

What movies did you miss the first time around? What 80s movies do I need to watch? Is Goonies really going to be as good as everyone says? I guess I'll know tonight.

13 October 2014

Inspiration from a 20-year-old Confession

OK. I admit it. This post isn't going to be nearly as exciting as the title would indicate. I'm just having a bit of fun over-dramatizing this little project.

A year or so ago, my friend Tiffany reminded me that back in the day, 19-ish years ago, I used to point the Big Dipper out to her. I don't remember doing this, but it does sound like something I would do. She then admitted that all those times (I really hope it was, like, 3, otherwise I was a bigger dork back then than I thought), she only said she saw it, when really she didn't.

So, for her birthday this year, I whipped up this Big Dipper cross-stitch using some navy Aida and glow-in-the-dark thread. This way, she can't miss it.

I free-handed this project, something I have very little confidence in doing. Luckily, the Big Dipper isn't too complicated, and I guess I've been picking it out of the sky for years. I did pull up a clip art version of the stars online to reference while I was stitching.

Using the Aida was a bit frustrating, since I've been sticking mostly to linen lately (I forgot how stiff Aida could be), and the thread gave me troubles as well. I used all 6 strands on the big stars, but only 3 on the small stars and lines. The 3 lost its twist the second I separated it, so up close it's not as pretty as I would've liked. All in all though, it turned out pretty good (and, yes, it really does glow in the dark!).

This project reminded me why I craft. Making something meaningful for Tiffany, that has no meaning to anyone else, is an amazing feeling.

10 October 2014

I'm a Crafting and Creating Fool!

Just like with everything else - reading, crafting, work - sometimes I get behind on this blog. Usually that's a good thing because it means I'm reading, crafting, or, well, working. On the flip side, it means I'm not writing, which is truly one of my first loves. Today, though, I found some time to blog - and the best part is that I'm going to write about the crafts and creations I've been working on!

First up, an invitation for my friend Lynn's daughter's birthday party. Lynn "commissions" me to make invitations for her son and her daughter's birthdays every year, a job I love. Lynn is the world's best and worst client in that she is usually "happy with whatever" I want to do. That gives me creative freedom, but it also means I'm starting with a blank slate. Blank slates can be intimidating.

After multiple, multiple options, Lynn and Emily settled on this cute card, perfect for an 11-year-old:

Next up, my very first T-shirt design! It was really exciting to see a design of mine on fabric, instead of paper:

My favorite thing about this project is that amazing Nature font. Up close, it looks like grass on the bottom and a starry sky on top. Beautiful.

I've also been continuing my re-found love of cross-stitching, completing 3 projects last month!

The first gave me a little trouble, but was well worth it in the end. My coworker asked me to make her something with the phrase "But first, coffee." on it. The medium was up to me. I immediately knew I wanted to cross-stitch or embroider something, but I also wanted to keep her aesthetic, which is a little different than mine, in mind.

I got inspired by this adorable burlap fabric and got started:

It wasn't long before I hit my first snag: this fabric unraveled faster than I could figure out how to stop it! The orange border helped, but I still wasn't confident that it was going to hold together. The next snag came when my free-handed letters didn't line up. Luckily, a quick free-handed coffee mug fixed that right up! The last snag came when I couldn't figure out how to finish it. I tried a bunch of options, but none seemed right, until I remembered that I had some coffee bean fabric leftover from a previous project! I tore that into strips, wrapped a paper mache frame and viola:

The last project I can share today was for Wendy, a huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan, made following a free pattern from Capes & Crafts:

According to Wendy, I did OK! :-)

I have one more project to share, but the recipient doesn't get it until tomorrow, so I'll update then!

Happy crafting!

08 October 2014

So I'm a Straddler, Eh?

Every so often I read a book or hear a song or watch a show that makes me stop and think. In the case of Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams, it made me freak out a bit.

Never in my years as an avid reader have I come across a book that spoke to me so much. I'm afraid that in my effort to emphasis this point, I'll repeat myself, a lot. But I'm not kidding, this book spoke to me.

I read the book because it was a book club selection. Only the second non-fiction book we've ever read. Nothing I would've picked up on my own. I didn't even read the back before starting it. All I knew was the title, which I didn't think anything about.

I was exactly 24 words into the book when I had my first "what the?!" moment.

I am two people. I now live a middle-class life, working at a white-collar newspaperman's job, but I was born blue collar.


A couple pages into the book and I was literally shaking my head.

Many Straddlers surprised themselves with their own tears when I interviewed them. They never thought about their lives in terms of class before, and our conversations helped explain a lot - their inability to fit in at work among middle-class colleagues and bosses, for example, as well as the difficulty they've had talking with their parents about topics other than how Uncle Bob is doing since the operation.

Seriously? Had author Alfred Lubrano been stalking me?

Technically, my story begins in April 1977, but I'm going to start in March 2003. After 4 years of being a newspaper reporter, I got a job at a marketing communications firm on the 15th floor of a building in the downtown city we avoided growing up. I knew right away that something wasn't right. I didn't wear the right clothes. Or watch the right shows. Or listen to the right music. I didn't have the right hobbies. I didn't eat the right cheese. I didn't fit in. At all.

I believe I was, and still am, good at my job. I had the same education and similar work history as every one else. But on a personal level, I didn't belong.

For years, I didn't know what the problem was. I assumed it was because I was from the country. Or because I didn't go to a private high school. Or because I wasn't related to anyone important. I was partially right.

After reading Limbo, I completely believe it's because I'm a Straddler, someone who jumped a class (which has nothing to do with income or race).

Backing up a bit, I never felt like I fit in growing up either. I think I faked it OK, but I always felt like an outsider. It might have been because I wasn't related to anyone. Or because I didn't know everyone. Or because I liked to read (an interest shared by almost every Straddler interviewed for Limbo). Maybe it was all in my head. Whatever the reason, I knew I had to get away, at least for a bit. Maybe find somewhere where I did fit in.

So I went away to college. But I didn't live on campus. I went home most weekends. I didn't make a lot of new friends. I didn't find a lot of new interests. I never stopped listening to country music. I didn't try very hard. I guess I didn't see the point, since after a few years I'd be moving back home.

This, I should point out, happened to several people in the book. They didn't cut ties with home because they were either still there, commuting to college, or planning to go back. As a result, they, and I, didn't fully experience college, which in some ways made the transition to a white-collar job even harder.

Over time, I realized that my new life wasn't going to take me back home. So I had to adjust. I had to try hummus (which I actually like). I had to dress it up a bit (although I sometimes can get away with wearing my cowboy boots with a cute dress at work). I had to learn that people don't always say what they mean or mean what they say (something that would drive my dad batty). I had to learn that when people ask your opinion, they usually are doing so because it's polite, not because they actually want your opinion. I'm still learning. And trying to fit in. Only now I don't care so much if I don't know all the rules or fit in all the way.

I still call the place I grew up home. I still call the meal you eat in the evening supper. I still hate goat cheese. I still get ridiculously nostalgic when certain songs come on the radio or I spend a day back home. But I also don't think I completely fit in there either.

I wanted the people Lubrano interviewed for his book to have some sort of magic words of wisdom for Straddlers like myself. Some way to fit in in both worlds - back home where they don't understand my job and in my new home where they have no idea what an ATV poker run is. Unfortunately, there's no miracle cure for this situation. Some people still express discomfort with their situation. Others adjusted to the white-collar world smoothly. Others found a way to live in both worlds. I'm slowly joining this last group. Mostly because I'm caring less about impressing my coworkers and bosses. Mostly because despite my job, I see no reason to change who I am at the core.

I could comment on just about every point Lubrano made in his book. I have stories matching many of those the people he interviewed shared in his book. But this post is already getting pretty long. And you don't want to read about my adventures navigating a parking garage (something we didn't have back home) or trying to explain public relations to my dad. (Unless you're a Straddler, in which case you probably have similar stories.)

If you are from a blue-collar background and are working in a white-collar field, I strongly recommend you read this book. I promise you'll learn a lot about yourself in the process.