Archive for April 2011

Obscure Book Review #1

     Today, I share one of my favorite books. Not many have heard of this book, but it is very popular. It was written in 1887 during the Victorian era for girls ages 8-18, and has been republished numerous times since then, and has had many different covers. The American Girls Handy Book: How to Amuse Yourself and Others, written by Lina and Adelia Beard, is full of crafts and activities, many beautifully illustrated. I constantly look to this book for inspiration, not only from the ideas shared but from the lovely way the sisters write. I was lucky to have found this book in a used book store. 

     The book is organized by the seasons, starting with spring. It covers every major holiday in each season, and sheds light on some obscure ones too. Each season has party ideas and decorations for a girly Victorian-era get-together. Activities that make the most of what each season has to offer are included, like how to preserve wild flowers in spring, or how to make and use a "home gymnasium" during the winter months. My personal favorite craft ideas are from the Fourth of July chapter. The book shows how to make paper "fireworks" like parachutes, thunderbolts, whirls, winged fancies, pinwheels, and bombs. These crafts are followed by party game ideas that were very refreshing from modern party game ideas I know of. There are ideas for fun little plays to perform. There is a very large instructional chapter in Autumn that teaches how to draw, paint with watercolors, paint with oil paints, model in clay and wax, make plaster casts, and china paint. Probably the oddest craft in the book is how to make a string telephone out of beef bladders. It is a very complicated process, but 

"when the instrument is carefully and properly made it will carry the voice three or four miles or more, giving every word and tone distinctly and clearly".

That's incredible! I really wish I knew where to get a cow bladder from a good source, i.e. not by killing a cow myself and stealing its bladder. Guess I'll just have to stick with my boring phone that can carry my voice around the world.

      This book can be compared to The Daring Book for Girls. It is much older and more genuine, and The Daring Book for Girls may have been inspired by the American Girls Handy Book: How to Amuse Yourself and Others. I felt I learned about an authentic Victorian girl's life and pastimes while reading it, while the Daring book shared ideas, however interesting, that were more modern and derived from authors trying to search into the past. 

     I highly recommend buying this book, as a crafter and a reader. And as a girl. It is too chocked-full of ideas to simply borrow from a library. It is timeless and you will never tire of it. And, it looks great on a bookshelf! 

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Past Creations

          Cuteness is abstract, subjective, and undefinable, but I love cute things. I don't know why. So, as I am always happiest when I am creating and contributing to the beauty of the world, I make cute things. Here are just some of my previous creations.


These are my Peas in a Pod. They are crocheted, 
and you can rearrange them or throw them at the unsuspecting.

                   These are made of Sculpey clay. The robot has a metal eye hook so you can chain him onto a necklace or some other stringy place. And if you didn't notice, the elephant has a heart on his butt :) 

        This owl is made of fused plastic. That is thin plastic (grocery bags in this case) ironed together to make a thicker plastic. I stuffed and sewed him together, and used felt for the wings and face. The cupcake is sewn and stuffed, and the cherry on top is made from Sculpey clay.
        These two PB&J guys are made from Sculpey clay too, and sprayed with an acrylic glossy coat. Sadly, they are the only ones of a big batch of cute things that survived being sprayed with the gloss. Somehow it reacted with the clay and became perpetually sticky. All the others are covered with dust and cat hair! Maybe some day I will try to salvage them.
         The cube you see in both pictures I made for no reason. It is painted with all my favorite colors, and features things I like to do (some more than others) on each side.

       These cupcakes I made to put on that Christmas tree one year. My mom and I would do different themes and make the ornaments for the tree each year. That year the theme was candy and cute treats. If you click on the tree picture you can see tissue paper candies, gingerbread men, cupcakes, a to-scale lollipop made from Sculpey, swirly "mints" (made from Scupley and pressed into a cake decorating embellishment mold), and lots of bright colors.
       I made the cupcakes out of small cupcake liners (a bunch still stuck together per cupcake), Sculpey clay cherries, and bright fun quilt square prints. I just used hot glue to bunch up the fabric and glue it to the inside of the liners, then I stuffed it, and I poked an unfolded paperclip in one edge and glued it for the ornament hook. 

     So, these are just the things I have on hand. I've made many more but they have either been given away, are packed where I can't find them, or left at my mom's house. Or my cat ate them.  Hope these inspired you and snuck joy into your heart! Come again soon!
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Jellyfish Amigurumi

I love amigurumi.

      For those who haven't yet discovered it, it is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll.  Amigurumi are typically animals, but can include artistic renderings or inanimate objects endowed with anthropomorphic features.

I've made many amigurumi things. Here's a list of my past creations, if I can remember them all:
peas in a pod
and... this jellyfish!
which I just made the other day.

He currently lives under a hanging candle holder, and occasionally likes to relocate to other available hanging places. 

I make these little creations because 
  1. They're adorable
  2. They're fast to make (I can tackle one in a day, or a couple hours)
  3. I can understand how they are constructed
  4. I can use someone else's pattern and still make it my own, whether it be by yarn type, embellishment choice, facial expression, or hook size
  5. I have a lifelong unexplainable draw toward miniature things
  6. Inanimate objects with tiny smiley faces make me smile
  7. Crocheted food is funny
  8. Yarn is cheap
  9. Yarn is soft
  10. and I get bored very quickly.

If you've never tried amigurumi and think it's too difficult, try starting with a simple small apple first. It's a great first time project and is rewarding too. You can make it into a key chain when you're done, too. Or a necklace. Or a cat toy. Or a rear view mirror dangly. Or gift. Or a cat toy necklace key chain gift. 

Coming Up Soon    I will be posting a collection of pictures featuring past projects I've done (with an explanation of their creation), in hopes to inspire you all to get crafty ASAP! Keep your eye out for this, it's kind of a big deal. :)

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