Monday, January 14, 2013

My DIY Vintage Skeleton Key Necklaces

Last week reader Sally B. sent me a great little bag of vintage keys, (WOOT!) which inspired me to start playing with some key jewelry designs. I think it will be be pretty self-explanatory how I did everything, so let's get right to the photos!


This key was still a nice shiny silver, so I used matching chains and a cheerful pinkish-red and purple for a bright, modern look. Most of what I used came from my jewelry stash, which is a mix of old jewelry I've taken apart plus bits and pieces that you guys have sent me over the years. The only parts I purchased are the tiny accent beads and crystals on my next two designs.

The one bit you can't see is how the flower is attached to the key, but that's pretty simple: I just bent the bead pin holding the two flower pieces together around the shaft of the key. Just make sure the pin is wrapped tight, to keep the flower from slipping down. (Although if you do have this problem, a dab of E-6000 or super glue on the back should hold it fine.)

Next up, you *know* I had to do one with teal and orange:

This is one of my favorite keys, and I've been saving it for ages now; I love the numbers stamped into the handle and on the end. I think it has just the right amount of grunge to give it a sense of age, too.

Since I didn't use a heavy chain on this one, I decided to jazz it up by adding those orangey-yellow accent beads into the chain. I'm still not great at bending the wire loops on each bead, but now that I have some round-nose pliers (like these ones) it's a little easier:

I also included a hanging bead at the clasp in back, just for fun. :)

(Btw, I wasted SO much time trying to get good pictures of these before giving up and buying a neck form. I'd love to have a more artistic setup, but at least this gets the job done!)

And finally, my last necklace is the only one that actually used one of Sally's keys, which has just the right amount of rust on it to work with this copper chain:

This one took the most amount of effort, because I only had copper chain and copper bead pins to work with - no O rings. So I used the bead pins to make all my O rings. The rings holding the key to the chain needed to be extra sturdy, so I twisted two pins together before bending them into rings, which both made them stronger and also look pretty nifty, don't you think? (You can see one of the twisty rings on the right side of the key.)

I also made the loops on those four orange Swarovski crystals to include in the chain:

It's really hard to choose, but I think this one is my favorite. The colors are just a bit more "me."

The flowers on the necklaces are all lightweight acrylic, and were in a stash of various beads and goodies from another reader. (You don't have to tell me; I already know I'm spoiled.) When I went to JoAnn's last night, though, I was thrilled to find more of the same style flowers - though not these colors - by the brand Laliberi. So definitely check those out if you want to make some key necklaces of your own! (And if you need keys, head to Ebay or your local junk/antique shop. Simple ones like these shouldn't cost more than a few dollars apiece.)

Oh, and if you're concerned about rust getting on your clothes, just spray your keys with a coat of flat clear spray lacquer. (Be sure to wash them first, to get the loose bits of rust off.) Make sure it's a flat clear coat, though; you don't want your rusty keys looking shiny!

Well, I hope this helps inspire more craftiness and key-hoarding out there! Frankly, I had so much fun making these that I can't wait to try more variations. (Wouldn't a rusty key look AMAZING with clock hands and/or gears dangling off it, instead of beads? Ooh, this could get dangerous...)

'Til then, I'll end with a few more close-ups for your pinning pleasure:

So which one's your favorite, guys? Tell me in the comments, so I know which ones to make more of!


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

I'm On Pinstrosity!

Well, ok, I'M not on Pinstrosity, but my penny desk is. And my desk is actually the inspiration for the real Pinstrosity, so really my entire post title is completely misleading. Sorry.


My penny desk:

 Hee! Be sure to read the rest of the post for all the gory details, or just for more craft confidence-boosting giggles.

Oh, and this is the perfect time to mention a big, big project John and I just started working on this past week. Here's a peek at my work surface:

I bet most of you will know what we're up to just by looking at this, but I think I'll keep the details a secret for now. Still, you should know I am SO EXCITED to FINALLY be starting a project we've been discussing for YEARS. Woo woo! We're doing it right, too: lots of research and sample boards and chemical tests are happening in the garage. And when we're done, you can bet there will be an extremely thorough tutorial. all that's left is about a zillion hours of tedious manual labor. Wish us luck!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Kalani's Victorian-Inspired Geektastic Wedding

I think my favorite part of writing Epbot is how nearly all of you write to me like we're already friends. True, most of you feel weird about it, and immediately start with an assurance that you're really NOT a stalker, honest, but after that you get down to chatting like an old school chum at a reunion. It's awesome.

Case in point: Kalani sent me a massive photo-report on her recent wedding, excitedly pointing out all the bits she made, drew, and created that she knew would be my favorites. In fact, there was WAY too much to include here in one post, but here are some highlights:

The full wedding party in all their regalia. And I SPY SPATS.
(Oh yeah, this is gonna be gooood.)

The bridesmaids wore black evening gowns with jewel-toned Victorian shawls, fascinators, and handmade (by Kalani!) silk handbags in place of bouquets. 

The groomsmen also each had a different accent color, reflected in their ascots and boutonnieres:

Kalani made all those boutonnieres, too, using dried flowers, ribbon, and feathers. Aren't they gorgeous?

Ah, but those aren't the only things Kalani made.


Baby got bustle.

What amazes me, too, is how Kalani downplays the whole MAKING HER OWN WEDDING DRESS thing by comparing it to just an eleborate cosplay that has to look good from a distance. Wow. I never thought about it that way before! But I'm no less impressed, Kalani.

Kalani also drew the artwork for their programs, a Mucha-inspired portrait of her and her new hubby filled with all kinds of geeky references and quotes ranging from Discworld to The Dresdon Files to Portal.
The programs also included a custom crossword puzzle based on the couple. LOVE that idea! 
(You can see a close-up of the art on Kalani's blog here.)

The groomsmen each recieved custom steampunk Nerf guns in these fab display boxes:
Do I need to point out that Kalani and Michael made all of these, too? 
No? Ok.

And for wedding favors, they made Legend of Zelda fairy jars!

The plaque is inscribed with their names and the wedding date.
Oh, and the fairies glow in the dark. Hee!

There is SO much more to see over on Kalani's new blog, from nerdy piano music to the dragon-topped cake to the groom's gear ring, so head over there to see the rest! (She actually just cut and pasted her entire e-mail to me in to the post, minus the chatty bits, so you can see what I mean about having too much material!)

But before I go, I'll leave you with the too-cute-for-words ring bearer:


I am now convinced that all little kids should wear knickerbockers, suspenders, and bowties. (The girls would also have pigtails.) You guys can make that happen, right? :D

Many thanks to Kalani (and Michael!) for sharing all the eye candy and fun! You know, even if they DIDN'T invite me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Geeky & Girly Etsy Wish List

(These posts are how I justify some of my late-night virtual window shopping. Humor me. :D)

You guys, this Hobbit Hole necklace is actually a tiny bottle:

...and inside the bottle is a teensy-weensy Bilbo figurine!

Hobbit Hole Necklace, $40 by GildedPixel 
(Sold out at the moment, but the seller also has some cool Hobbit door rings!) [Found via FashionablyGeek]

Excuse me while I faint from the cute.

And now I will squeal girlishly from the floor, because OMIGOSH HOT AIR BALLOON PURSE!!



I'd also like everything the model is wearing, please. That whole outfit. WANT. Then I'll just move somewhere it ISN'T 80 degrees in January so I can wear it all together.

Here's a geniusly geeky decorating touch: custom light switch covers!

How cool is that octopus? The seller offers these in a bunch of different colors and styles, so you're sure to find one that goes with your decor. As a crafter, I'm especially impressed that he carved the original designs himself and then made molds, so what you're buying is a resin version of his original sculpt. So clever!

And while we're decorating, how about some laser cut bookends?


I'm sure you can tell why this one caught my eye, too:

For something a bit more affordable, the shop also has some fantastic laser cut charms for jewelry or zipper pulls that start around $16. Owls and hedgehogs and cuteness, oh my!

I've been a fan of the artist PinkyToast for years, and I like how she's started making custom art dolls with fabric made from her paintings. This little Humpty Dumpty doll is the stuff of candy-coated Tim Burton dreams, don't you think?

Happy Humpty Dumpty Art Doll, $22 by PinkyToast

Am I the only one who shops for ridiculously opulent things like jeweled headpieces and giant feather-and-flower hair clips and crowns and whatnot, even though I never ever wear them? 


Oh, good, then maybe you'll like this:

Couture Yellow Peacock Headband, $14 by LittleLadyAccessory

Granted, this is actually the height of subtlety compared to the giant feather mohawks I was looking at last night, but it's still pretty glamorous, don't you think? Not to mention cheerful; I love that yellow with the peacock green!

The seller makes these pieces for use on a hair clip or a headband, for babies or adults. (It's not weird wearing a baby's headband, right? I mean, c'mon: babies DO get some of the best headwear these days.)

And finally, here's something I found while researching resin jewelry, and fell head-over-heels for:

 Lost Key Necklace, $28 by NaturalPrettyThings

I'm fascinated by the way the bits of moss are floating both behind and in front of the little key. It gives the pendant a much more 3D look than your average resin piece. Plus the free-form pebble shape makes it look like a drop of water floating in zero gravity, don't you think? Love. (Be sure to check out the rest of the shop, too, for some of the most stunning resin work I've seen.)

Ok, I think that's enough shopping for now! 'Til next time, guys, be sure to send me your own favorite finds - Etsy or no - via Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Manliest Thing John Has Ever Done

[Note: I promise I do know what day it is; I just wrote this last Friday night.]

John is spending his Friday night tonight fixing our friends' toilet. And not the "change out the flapper ball" kind of fixing, but rather the "remove the entire bowl and replace the wax ring and bolts" kind of fixing. He's handy like that.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting here in the quiet house, listening to the wall clock tick and debating just how bad of a person it would make me if I played DeathSpank: The Baconing while John's off slaving over a toilet repair that I *might* have volunteered him for.

Not that John didn't want to do it, of course. John loves helping people, which is one of the things I love most about him. He just also loves playing Borderlands 2, which I might have interrupted to remind him to go buy a new wax ring.

So, here I sit, and since I've decided playing a video game *would* make me a bad person, instead I'm going to tell you about The Manliest Thing John has ever done.

This actually came up a few months ago, when John - who is a closet Redditor - mentioned there was a thread going over there asking readers for their "manliest" feat. I'm sure the thread was full of survivalist tales of strength and testosterone, of which John has no short supply, so I wondered which he would choose. The time he single-handedly replumbed an entire house? The time he carried a giant leather couch up a U-haul ramp on his back? Or maybe one of his construction projects: roofing, wiring, pouring concrete slabs - really, he had his pick.

But instead:

"I think mine would be that thing I did for Ken," John mused. I looked at him for a second, remembering, and I nodded. "Yeah," I said, "Definitely that."

Here's the thing John did for Ken:

About seven years ago, John and I convinced our friends Ken and Sue to go on a Disney cruise with us. We were big cruise nuts back then - and still are, though we don't go as often - and liked to strong-arm our friends into going with us whenever possible.

Now, Ken is the kind of guy who leans forward when he's talking to you, and makes you feel like you're the most interesting person on the planet. He's one of the most open, kind-hearted, and instantly-likable guys you'll ever meet. And his wife, Sue, is as fun-loving and spontaneous as he is kind. So, naturally, they're the perfect cruise companions.

Ok, so, two things you need to know about Ken: 1) he loves to swim, and was eager to try snorkeling in the Caribbean, and 2) he has muscular dystrophy, and is in a wheelchair.

The Caribbean is anything but ADA-compliant, but with our experience and connections John and I were fairly confident we could get Ken as far as the small snorkel boat in Grand Cayman while in his manual wheelchair. The seemingly insurmountable hurdle at that point, though, was getting Ken safely into and out of the water, since he wouldn't be able to lower or raise himself down the boat's metal ladder. Once in the water, though, he could manage just fine with a life jacket on.

John's solution was as simple as it was terrifying: he would carry Ken on his back into and out of the water.

And because Ken wasn't strong enough to hang on while John carried him, John would also fashion a back harness that Ken could ride in.

I've been looking for photographic evidence of this harness, but somehow have yet to find any. It was a simple affair, though, built around a special sling made of strong netting lent to us by another disabled friend. (The sling is the kind used for transferring people into and out of their chairs or beds.) John attached seatbelt strapping to this sling with industrial strength grommets, turning the sling into a kind of giant backpack that Ken could sit in. His legs would hang around John's waist, and he'd have his arms around John's neck. (There were also straps fitted around John's waist, for extra support.)

The hardest part of this plan was getting Ken up onto John's back initially. To do so, Ken would have to put the sling/harness on while still in his chair, and then John would have to lean backwards over Ken, slip on the shoulder straps and attach the waist buckle, and straighten up, hopefully lifting Ken with him and not toppling over backwards.

As I'm sure you can imagine, Sue found this entire prospect pretty alarming, but we tested the harness with me in it (which I don't mind telling you was ridiculously fun), and demonstrated that John really was strong enough to manage it. (STRONG LIKE BULL.) Of course, I'm not as heavy or tall as Ken, so we were all still pretty nervous. In fact, I think the only person who *wasn't* terrified was Ken. Ken had complete confidence in John, and it showed. For every harness test beforehand he was joking around and completely at ease while John walked him around their living room.

The day of the trip rolled around, and as expected, we made it out to the snorkel boat in Grand Cayman without a hitch. The guys on the boat were with a company John and I had used several times before, and they were amazing about helping lift Ken's chair onto the boat - and later they were extra attentive with Ken in the water, making sure he was Ok at all times.

When the time came for John to pick Ken up, we waited until most of the other passengers were already in the water, so we'd have less of an audience. Even so, everyone left onboard stood 'round and collectively held their breath as John, straining to keep his balance on the pitching deck, slowly raised Ken from his wheelchair. All that was missing was some dramatic music and a few slo-mo closeups; it was that tense. There was one terrifying instant where John slipped a little (and pulled a thigh muscle, though we didn't learn that 'til later), but then he was up! And there might have been a little applause - I honestly can't remember through the haze of suspense. (I wish I had a photo of this, but I think I was too busy clutching my face in terror at the time. Heh.)

From there it was the relatively simple matter (ha!) of John walking over the rocking deck and climbing down the side of the boat into the water.  Once they were most of the way in the water, John was able to unclip the harness and let Ken float, where Ken immediately set to snorkeling -  for his first time!

Roughly thirty minutes later, they reversed the process to get Ken back *in* the boat.

As I've written this all out, I can see with fresh eyes just how ridiculously insane we all were to try it, but at the same time, that snorkel trip remains one of my most cherished memories. There was something amazing about making that possible for our friends, and also about watching my husband, giddy with excitement, showing off his harness sling creation for the first time.

And that is the manliest thing John has ever done.

Oh, and here's the one presentable photo I have from that snorkel trip:

This is Ken and Sue on the trip out to the reef. Note the complete LACK of terror in their eyes. Now that's friendship, right there. :)

Many thanks to Ken and Sue for letting me share this. Let's get together again soon, guys!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

And The Winner Is...

Ok, guys, the final entry count for my art give-away hit 731, so according to my trusty random number generator the winner is...

[drum roll, please]

Toneea W. from Australia! 

Toneea, please e-mail me with your mailing address - and don't forget to tell me which art piece you'd like!

Also, I hope you guys don't mind, but I've decided to gift one of the original drawings - this Wonder Woman & Flash Piggie by Mike White:

- to a little girl named Reesey who is currently battling a brain tumor. Epbot reader Amanda S. is a family friend, and tells me Reesey is a big Wonder Woman fan and that the art would make her smile - which was really all I needed to hear. I am sorry, though, to any of you who might have had your heart set on this piece! (And go check out Mike's site if so; these are the two main characters, Chester & Gretchen, of his comic Amity Blamity.)  

Oh, and I've already found more art to add to the give-away board, so I'll have even more choices for you all by next month's drawing. So don't worry if you didn't win this time; I promise there will be plenty more chances!

Monday, January 7, 2013

How To Shrink-Wrap Your Christmas Tree For Fun & Profit!

When I posted my update before Christmas on how well our shrink-wrapped tree had fared its year in the garage, I had a surprising amount of requests for a tutorial. Which just goes to show that I've accumulated all the right sorts of readers here at Epbot, including the crazy, Christmas-tree-shrink-wrapping kind.

Now, I realize that you well-organized go-getters have already packed up all your Christmas decorations, so I guess that just means you guys are missing out this year. HA. That's one for the procrastinators!

And without further ado:  


(Well, not so much profit, per se, but if you enjoy getting dizzy then this will definitely be fun.)

Step 1: Strip your tree of its ornaments and garland (but not the lights!), until it looks fresh and naked as the day it was manufactured in China:


Then set it somewhere away from walls & furniture, so you'll have room to work.

(Note that you're leaving the lights on your tree because the whole point of shrink-wrapping it is to save you time and effort next year. [I have somewhere between 8 and 10 strands of light on this tree.] YAY LAZINESS!)

Step 2:  Procure a roll of cheap no-name brand cling wrap, which any nearby felines will find, like, totally irresistible:

 Trying to work here, Lily. 

Hey, Lily. 

Fine, can you at least stand still, then?

Thank you.

Step 3: Bend the top-most branch of your tree down, and use the end of your cling wrap to tie up the first few top branches into a big bunch:

Tie it tight!
If it helps, think of all those in-laws you won't have to see again for a whole 'nother year.

Step 4: Without cutting the cling wrap, start wrapping the top of your tree:

You'll want to have at least four or five layers of cling wrap, and be sure to loop one or two passes over the top of the tree, too, to seal it. Hermetically.

Step 5: Keep on wrapping, G-Dawg.

You may find it helps to throttle the tree, as John demonstrates here:

Step 6: After you've wrapped each section thoroughly, add in the next lower section of branches by bending them up:

It helps to have a second person there to steady the tree and help you get as tight of a wrap as possible. That person could also take pictures of you while you work and make squeaky little "HELP MEEEE!" voices on behalf of the tree, but I'm just spitballing here.

Optional Step 7: If at some point you need to take a break to rest and/or vomit from the constant walking in tiny circles, just tear off your end of cling wrap and pat it in place. If you've done your job properly, it should hold just fine:

Take this time to mock your tree with exclamations of how silly it looks.

Step 8: Back to work!

As you wrap lower on your tree you'll really need that second person to keep it from falling over while you yank on it. I found it also helped to give the tree a giant bear hug while John wrapped, both to hold the branches in place and to look extra superior when I asked John if HE had hugged a tree today.

Step 9: Only add in half of the lowest branches at a time:

The lowest branches are the biggest and heaviest, so adding them in two batches will help support the extra weight.

Step 10: Wrap all the way down the pole to seal the bottom of the tree:

Ta-da! TREE POP.

Step 11: Hang your shrink-wrapped tree upside down from the ceiling of your garage to freak out the neighbors. ("Shelob's Lair" sign optional.)

And that's it! When it comes time to unwrap the tree next year, just slice up the side of the cling wrap with a pair of scissors, fluff the branches back into shape, and have an extra cup of eggnog while you contemplate your intellectual superiority to all the poor tree-assembling schmoes out there. Easy-peasy!

Well guys, I hope you enjoyed this ridiculous tutorial as much as I enjoyed watching John do all the work. 'Til next time!


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!