Monday, April 2, 2012


John and I have been in colonial Williamsburg this past week on "vacation." Which is to say we've been working our posteriors off giving my parents' whole house a not-too-extreme make over. Painting, trim work, de-cluttering, new window treatments and art and fixtures - we're giving it the works.

It's been great fun, though, since my folks tend to give us carte blanche when it comes to their decor, so I've been gleefully filling the thrift-store pile with every doily, stuffy old tapestry pillow, dark burgundy drapery, and extraneous knick-knack I can find. My dad collects antique clocks, so those are the focal point of most of the downstairs - I can't wait to show you guys. Everything's a bit brighter and cozier. Oh, and we also managed to brow-beat them into buying some new furniture, since most of the stuff they have is nearly as old as I am - but not in a good way. More in a bad, saggy-green-leather-couch-from-the-80s kind of way.

So all that to say: sorry if posting has slowed somewhat this week. I promise I'm not neglecting you without cause, and I'll try to make up for it with a few "after" photos when we're done in a few more days. Deal?

And speaking of photos, yesterday we all took the afternoon off to walk around the historic district here and play with our cameras. Four adults, four cameras, and two tripods. We were a sight. But we had a blast, and since all the flowers are in bloom here, they nearly had to drag me away from the beds of tulips and poppies - SO PRETTY.

Don't believe me? Check this out:

Have I ever mentioned that poppies are my favorite flowers? I've loved 'em since I was a teen - any color, any variation. Of course, poppies can't grow in Florida, so the first time I ever saw a real one was on my honeymoon in DC. John and I stumbled across a giant bed FULL of bright red poppies somewhere downtown, and I walked up to it in a daze, gingerly touched the petals of one giant bloom, and then there MAY have been some laugh-crying, but if so you're not allowed to judge because you weren't there and those poppies were freaking beautiful.

And I'm sorry to keep going on and on about this, but you guys, LOOK WHAT MY NEW CAMERA CAN DO:


A few more shots from yesterday:

The guy on the left even posed for me. Very polite, those Brits.

At one point I spotted two little girls dressed in colonial costumes picking flowers in a field, and I nearly passed out from the cuteness. Fortunately I managed to stay conscious long enough to take these pics, though:

Seriously, is this not the cutest thing?! Parents, promise me now you'll dress all your children in bonnets and take their pictures in a flower field. Yes, even the boys. PROMISE ME.

Hey, how did another poppy picture get in here?


And finally, a few shots of Mr. Bee in a pretty Wisteria hedge:

I took the contrast down in this one because I like the almost watercolor-y look. What do you think? Good? Bad? Too busy?

Thanks for bearing with me through my "vacation" photos, guys! I'll have more project-based pics soon - and, fingers crossed, also a fun geeky Easter craft before Easter. :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Dew" It Yourself Jewelry Stand

Given that title and my penchant for puns, I'm guessing it will take you guys exactly 3.7 seconds to guess what my new jewelry stand is made from:

Aw, you only needed two seconds, didn't you?

I knew it.

Yep, this pretty green number is made from four plastic Mountain Dew bottles and exactly $3.72 worth of materials from the hardware store. Not too shabby. It also only took about two hours to make, so let's get to it!

First, collect your bottles. You'll need two 2 liter bottles, one 1 liter, and one 20 oz bottle.

If you happen to have a Diet 'Dew addict for a spouse like me, this will take less than three days.

I found it easiest to cut the bottoms off my bottles with a strong utility knife, and then trim them down further with scissors. Trim them as much or as little as you like: I like my trays pretty shallow, since that enhances the "flower" look.

Other than the bottles you will need:

One 12-inch length of threaded rod (no cutting necessary; they come this size in the hardware store) and one baggy each of a coordinating size nuts and washers. Again, these three items cost me less than $4 total.

Drill holes that are the same size as your threaded rod in the center of each tray:

If you want your lowest tray to double as a bracelet hanger, cut between the "petals" of the bottle bottom to separate them, like so:

Cut as far down into the plastic as you can with scissors, and then use a Dremel to smooth the jagged bottom edge. (PLEASE wear safety glasses: little bits of plastic can go flying!)

As you can see, the Dremel gives a nice rounded edge to the "v" between each "petal."

The Dremel will leave a lot of plastic "fuzz" around the edges. Use a metal file to smooth this out a bit:

Then use small nips (I used cuticle trimmers) to trim off any stubborn excess "fuzz:"

Now you're ready to assemble your stand!

Remember to sandwich each tray between two washers, between two nuts. If your drilled holes are the correct size, each tray will be tight enough that you'll need to screw it into place on your threaded rod. In fact, expect to spend a good five minutes spinning the middle tray into place. :)

It's not craft time without a cat or two sitting on my supplies.

Your second 2 liter bottle bottom will act as the stand's base; just flip it upside down:

And for a final finishing touch, glue a pretty glass bead to the top nut:

(I also snipped and glued a metal bead post into the bead itself to cover the hole.)

This stand is surprisingly steady - if it rocks, trim your bottom edge to make sure it's level - and the trays can hold a ton of jewelry without flexing a bit:

And now, a few more beauty shots.

Because I am really loving my new camera. :)

Can you believe I took these shots at night? The extra high ISOs of the 7D are my new best friend.

See all my bracelets hanging on the bottom? There's also room in each petal to fit a matching ring or pin - and again, the plastic is so strong it doesn't flex a bit.

Ok, last one:

Oh, and you can do this with any kind of soda bottle, of course, so long as you have three different sizes to work with. I'm currently wondering if Orange Crush bottles are actually orange, for obvious reasons. [eyebrow waggle] It'd also be fun to mix colors, although I can't think of any other brands that might have colored bottles. Let me know in the comments if you know of any, won't you?

Happy crafting, and as always, please send pics if you guys try this out yourself!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday Steam 3/24/12: More Sparklies!

It may sound like a contradiction when I say I like my steampunk either covered in rust and rivets or blinding me with sparkly gems, but to quote the Dowager Countess, "I'm a woman. I can be as contrary as I choose."

Now, on to the sparklies!

Spotted by Julia S.; Seahorse Earrings, $36 (but already sold! Boo!) by Hedgerow Rose

I realize these have no gears or cogs or watch bits on them, but they still have a Victorian vibe with those large gems. And I could totally see Captain Nemo giving them to a lady friend. But mostly I just reeeeally love seahorses.

Ok, here's something more on the gears-and-rivets side:

"Wind Up My Heart" $145 by Lost Wax

The little hatch opens! And the heart is filled with a wind spring and gears! Ack! SO COOL.

Another design from the same company:

"Mechanical Heart," $145

I'm really digging that copper patina with the tiny brass rivets; it's perfect for adding a little steam to your casual everyday wear. I think I'd rock this with a white tank top and jeans. And a leather corset.

(Just kidding.)
(It's WAY to hot for leather right now.)
One last piece from Lost Wax, because I could only narrow my favorites down to three:

"Heart Flight," $60

Rivets and keyholes and winged hearts, oh my!

Last month "Nararabbit" (if that's her real name) designed this custom gear ring for her husband for Valentine's day:

That's the CAD design on the left, and the actual ring on the right, which was made with rose gold. Pretty sweet, right? Here's a close-up:
You can get all the specs and more details on the thread here. (And thx to Abbey for the link!)

Jyl A. found a reproduction Victorian locket that is surprisingly cool:

Rotating Locket Trio Necklace, $29
It has three separate lockets! And it rotates!
I'd say the "nifty gizmo" factor alone is worth about thirty bucks, amirite?

Amanda U. sent me a link to Red Peacock Designs, which has lots of nice watch movement jewelry like this:

But they also do some neat things with vintage wristwatch cases:

(Not their steamiest design, obviously, but omigosh so cute!)

I recently snagged a few small wristwatches for $2 each from an antique fair to try something like this. I'd love to fill them with resin and tiny charms or gems or even watch gears, like Red Peacock does, but I think I'd hang them sideways to take advantage of the watch band brackets already there.

Anyway, the moral is: never throw away your old watches!

This next one isn't exactly steampunk. So sue me. :)

His and her anniversary pendants - together they form a heart!

I just love the shiny copper and silver together, and that stylized wing design is fabulous.

Made by DeviantArt member kry1, who has a jewelry store here. (Sadly these aren't available, though, since this was a commission piece.)

I think this next one is my favorite of everything in today's post:

Hot Air Balloon Earrings, $20 at ElainaLouiseStudios
(More colors at her store, & thx to Liz S. for the link!)

Glass hot air balloon earrings! Aren't they AMAZING?! Whimsical and steamy and fun and elegant all at the same time.

Plus, the same shop has these:

Orange and Copper, $14

Mmmm, steamy orange goodness.

She also has a hot air balloon necklace for the sad people like me who don't have pierced ears. [sad face] Although those orange earrings are so awesome I'm tempted to get them anyway and convert them to clip-ons. If only I could find copper clip-on bases...

Well, that's it for today, 'punkers! As always, if you spot a steamy sparkly somewhere, please, send me the link!

[UPDATE: Lisa from Elaina Louise Studios just e-mailed to tell me she can convert almost any of her earrings to clip-ons! She uses these fabulous bases:

They're screw-back, which I've found to be the most comfortable option, and the added spring clip is just genius. Huzzah! My bank account is in so much trouble right now.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

And the Winner is...

Amanda R. of the blog Spartan Abroad, come on down! You've just won the Dan Aykroyd Word-Art print!

Actually, you can stay there. Just e-mail me your mailing address. And congrats!

And for those of you who didn't win, if you e-mail me I'll send over the full-sized file so you can print your own. Deal?

Sweet DIY Butterfly Mobile

Here's my latest project, made for the cherry blossom nursery we just painted for friends:

This is quite possibly the girliest thing I have ever made, but what can I say? I love me some Swarovski crystals.


This wasn't too hard to do, and other than the crystals, cost very little to make. If you substitute cheaper beads for the crystals, you should be able to make your own for $15 or less.

Here's how:

Julianne, the new mom-to-be, had an old but never used Winnie-the-Pooh mobile stashed in the closet, which gave us the perfect base to build on. It looked like this:

I've noticed a lot of mobiles are like this: plain plastic with stuffed animals hanging off the arms. Take the toys off, and you've got a perfect blank slate to work with. (And fortunately Julianne's two-year-old loves WtP, so the toys won't go to waste.)

Of course, you don't need a mobile at all: you can also hang this from the ceiling with ribbon. The wind-up mobile base just allows it to rotate and play music.

Oh, and remember how I said the mobile is old? Yeah, look what we found in the box:


That is all.

Ok, to start we need a grapevine wreath to fit on the mobile arms. Actual grapevine wreaths tend to be too thick and twiggy (you don't want branches cracking off and falling into the crib), so instead, get some brown wrapped floral wire (which looks exactly like branches, btw) and make your own:

I started by wrapping the wire around a five-gallon bucket (which was the perfect size for the mobile) four or five times, then had John help me hold it all together while I spiraled the wire around the ring once to secure it.

Next bend two long sprays of silk blossom branches into half circles, and wrap them in more wire to attach them to the wreath:


I was amazed by how quick and easy this was to do. Now I'm tempted to make some cute floral tiaras for our next Ren Fair! That big bundle of wire was only $3, the floral spray was $5, and between the two you could easily make at least four or five "crowns." Hmm....

Getting back to our mobile: Use more of that fabulous branch wire to attach the wreath to each of your four mobile arms:

It's hard to see, but I made my strip of wire into a "U," brought that up from under the white mobile arm, and then wrapped each edge around the wreath. It's completely secure; the wreath won't budge no matter how hard I try to wiggle it.

Ok, the base is done - now to the butterflies!

If you have a butterfly punch (or better yet, several in different styles), use those.

If you *don't* have a butterfly punch, do what I did: buy two sheets of laser-cut butterfly paper from the scrapbook aisle for a dollar each. (I found mine at JoAnn's, but sadly it's not on their website. Drat.)

My way will take a little more work, but it's also only $2 to get 5 different styles of butterflies. Not too shabby.

As far as I know these particular sheets only come in blue, so before cutting them, paint them in the high gloss spray paint of your choice:

The high-gloss gives the butterflies a thick, shiny coating that makes them look like enameled metal. Paint both sides to make the card stock super durable. (I'd advise painting your punched butterflies, too, but of course that's up to you.)

Now the hard part:

Cutting out each butterfly was harder than I expected since the design overlaps, forcing you to choose which butterflies you want to save and which to cut through to salvage the others. Tricksy. Just take your time & use a pencil to sketch out the harder areas.

Then use a ruler & the blunt edge of some scissors to make a crease and fold all the wings up.

When you're done, your work space should look something like this:

Next: Prepare for stringing.

Attach the mobile to a chair so you can gauge the height of your strings as you go. You don't want them too long, so aim for the length of the original hanging toys.

To string your butterflies, you'll need:

(Plus some small pliers.)

That's non-stretchy bead cord/mono-filament on the green roll. Make sure it's NON-stretchy. In the plastic tub are crystals and tiny crimp beads, which you'll need lots of. Fortunately they're cheap and easy to find in the bead section of your local craft store. (Buy the smallest size crimps, which I believe was 1.3mm.)

Balance each of your butterflies upside down on a needle to find the sweet spot where it hangs level, and then pierce the paper with the same needle. Keep the holes tiny.

Start each strand with a crimp bead (use small pliers to crimp them in place) then start layering from the bottom up with your butterflies and crystals or beads. Sandwich the butterflies tightly between two crimp beads to ensure they hang level.

Make as many strands as you like, keeping the arrangement somewhat random. I made sixteen, most of which had three butterflies and two crystals on them. The rest had two butterflies and one crystal.

You can hang each strand as you go or wait until you've made them all. Your choice. Knot each strand securely around a single "branch" of the wreath and top the knot with a dab of superglue, just to be safe. Then trim the strand edges, and stand back to admire your work!

I had a hard time photographing the finished product; most of my walls are too light to show the contrast very well. Here's a few more shots taken in my office:

And now a quick video of it in action, just to show the butterflies don't tangle up as it spins:

(Turn your sound down, unless you want to be blasted with Winnie-the-Pooh music box chimes.)

I hope you guys like it! I'll have more pics of the mobile in the nursery once it's completely finished, since I may have one or two more little projects for it, assuming Julianne will let me. (I'm not having kids, so I basically horn in on all of our friends when *they* do. So far none of them seem to mind too much. :D)