Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Viper Girl Christmas

In previous posts, I've talked about my son, Tony, a student at Eastern Michigan University who is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and his efforts to write and publish stories for children.  Most of his energy has been focused on his Viper Girl series:  Viper Girl vs. The Poltergeist Pirate Opossum of Plundering Peril (Book 1) and Viper Girl's Cake and Cookie Catastrophe (Book 2).  Book 3 is in the works and is being professionally illustrated.  It will probably be out in March or April of 2013.

In the spirit of the holidays, Tony put together a very short story: A Viper Girl Christmas.  Since, I've talked so much about Tony's work and Viper Girl in this blog, I thought I would share the story here.  I hope you enjoy it!  Happy Holidays!

A Viper Girl Christmas
            It was just like any other Christmas.  My parents were in Florida continuing their reptile research, and their 10-year old daughter (aka “I”) was home alone, trying to decide on a good Christmas DVD to watch with my pet red fox puppy, Logan.  Yeah, believe it or not, this was completely normal for my life at this time of year.  On the bright side, there was always one thing I could count on around Christmas: All evil villains, monsters, and lawyers would be too busy with holiday stuff to cause any mayhem for me to clean up.
            I sipped my peppermint and gingerbread man milkshake as I poured through my DVD collection.  Logan flicked his tail back and forth as he flopped on top of my head.  I was torn between Santa vs. the Fruitcake of Fate, and Attila the Hun Saves Hanukkah.  Both were such classics.  I shifted my eyes up toward my fox friend.
            “Logan, are you more in the mood for messed-up irony, or Attila the Hun saving Hanukkah?”
            Logan pawed at his nose.
            “Good idea.  Nothing says we can’t just watch both!”
            I pulled the two movies off the shelf, and then plopped my pup and myself down in front of the living room TV for some good-old-fashioned, holly-jolly film festivities.
            A little over an hour later, right when the jolly fat guy was about to unleash the Fruitcake of Fate against Santa, there was a knock on the front door.  Now, I know it’s not smart for a little kid to open the door when they’re home alone (especially when that little kid has super-villain enemies), but you have to remember I’m usually home alone because of my neglectful parents.  So, I paused my movie and went to see who it was.  When I looked through the peep hole, it turned out nobody was there, anyway.  A package had just been dropped off.  I opened the door and took the package back to Logan in the living room, before checking to see who sent it.
            My milkshake almost went down the wrong pipe when I found the answer.  “Logan…it’s from Mom and Dad.”
            Logan jumped off the couch and walked over to my side as I set down the box and started tearing it open.  Sitting on top of the mound of packing peanuts was a letter:
Viper Girl,
Sorry we couldn’t be home for Christmas…again.  You know we care about you; it’s just that our work is very important and we need to make a living.  All the food and cookbooks we leave you with don’t buy themselves, you know.  Anyway, here’s your present for this year.  We hope it helps you to forgive us for not being there with you.  You should probably dig it out of the box before you keep reading.
            I set the letter on the floor beside me and reached into the box.  I couldn’t believe it!  My parents had sent me a Tofu Sprite Battle Plushy!  I picked the letter back up and kept reading.
It’s the green one.  Just like you wanted.  Merry Christmas.
-Mom and Dad

PS: There are also some chocolate-coated jelly beans in there.
I wiped a tear from my eye.  “Y’know, Logan, even our Mom and Dad have their cool moments.”
            Logan wagged his tail.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Just in Time for Christmas - Gossamer Tangles Sale

I mentioned in my last post that I was running a 20% off sale on all the items in the Christmas Holiday section of my Artifre shop.  I've now extended that sale to ALL of the merchandise in my Gossamer Tangles shop on Artfire.  All of the prices marked reflect 20% off the regular price.

I've been adding new items to the shop inventory and hope to keep doing so over the next few days.  Here are 4 new items I added today:


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

DIY Festive Christmas Tree Earrings - Crocheted with Wire!

Why not make your own custom, festive holiday earrings this season?  Below is my basic pattern for Christmas Tree earrings, along with some ideas for variations.  They are crocheted using wire and glass seed beads (which look like strings of lights on the tree).

If you've never crocheted with wire, you'll find that once you get the feel of it, it is almost the same as crocheting with fiber.  Just remember, wire is not as forgiving as yarn or thread.  If you make a mistake and rip out stitches, it will leave kinks in the wire.

Basic Crocheted Wire Christmas Tree Earrings

  • 28 or 30 gauge permanently colored green copper wire (I like to use Artistic Wire, which I purchase online from Fusion Beads) 
  • Glass seed beads in the color(s) of your choice - size 11 for smaller "lights", size 8 for larger "lights"
  • Ball post earring wires with loops to attach trees

  • Size 6 steel crochet hook (or one that produces the stitches at a size you like)
  • Wire cutters
  • Needle nose pliers

Special stitches:

  • Beaded Single Crochet (bsc) - This stitch is worked exactly like a regular single crochet, except that a bead is pulled up close to the stitch before pulling the final loop through to complete the stitch.  Insert hook from front to back into the designated stitch .  Wrap the yarn over the hook from front to back and draw through to the front of the stitch (2 loops on hook).   Pull a bead up against the base of the nearest loop, the bead will be close to and just below the hook. Wrap the yarn over the hook again and draw through both loops.  The bead should be part of the completed sc stitch, appearing on the side facing away from you.
  • Single Crochet Two Together (sc next 2 sts tog) - This stitch effectively decreases the number of single crochets in a row.  Insert the hook from front to back into the designated stitch.  Wrap the yarn over the hook and draw through to the front of the stitch (2 loops on hook).  Insert the hook into the next stitch and again wrap the yarn over the hook and draw through to the front of the stitch (3 loops on hook). Wrap the yarn over the hook and pull through all 3 loops to complete the stitch.
  • Single Crochet Three Together (sc next 3 sts tog) - This stitch is worked exactly like the one above, except it is worked over 3 stitches, so you will end up with 4 loops on the hook, after pulling up a loop in each of the 3 stitches.  Then wrap the yarn over the hook and pull through all 4 loops, creating a single stitch.
Instructions for tree (make 2):

Thread 25 beads onto the wire.

Using the wire, chain 10, leaving a 6 inch tail at the beginning.

Row 1: Sc in the second ch from the hook and in each ch across (9 sc total). Turn.

Row 2: Ch 1, bsc in each sc across to end of row (9 bsc total). Turn.

Row 3: Ch 1, sc next 2 sts tog, sc in next 5 scs, sc next 2 sts tog (total of 7 stitches). Turn.

Row 4: Ch 1, bsc in each sc across to end of row (7 bsc total). Turn.

Row 5: Ch 1, sc next 2 sts tog, sc in next 3 scs, sc next 2 sts tog (total of 5 stitches). Turn.

Row 6: Ch 1,  bsc in each sc across to end of row (5 bsc total). Turn.

Row 7: Ch 1, sc next 2 sts tog, sc in next sc, sc next 2 sts tog (total of 3 stitches). Turn.

Row 8: Ch 1,  bsc in each sc across to end of row (3 bsc total). Turn.

Row 9: Ch 1, sc next 3 sts tog (1 stitch total). Turn.

Row 10: Ch 1, work 1 bsc in single st of previous row.  Fasten off.  Leave a 6 inch tail.

Now attach the tree to your earring post by threading the wire through the loop on the post until the tree is at the distance you desire from the post (see photos).  Thread the wire through the top of the tree and then back through the loop on the post again, pulling again to the desired distance.  You can do this a third time if you wish.  Essentially, you are sewing the wire through the loop to attach the tree to the post.  On the wrong side of the tree, wrap the remaining tail of the wire through the stitches at the top of the tree a few times to secure.  Cut the wire close to the tree. Use the needle nose pliers to bend in any end of the wire that is still protruding.  

Work the wire at the base of the tree (from the beginning chain), into the chain stitches at the base of the tree to secure (just as you would work in a yarn end of using yarn).  Cut off the remaining wire and use the pliers to bend in any protruding wire.

Ideas for variations:

  • Want a smaller tree? Begin with a base of 7 sc instead of  9 sc, and change the stitches per row accordingly.
  • Combine the wire with a strand of thin metallic braid (I like Kreinik #4 very fine braid), working with a double strand of wire and thread.
  • Alternate large and small beads, by bead or by row to change the look of the "lights" on the tree.
  • Rather than a ball post, use a star or a tiny angel post.

Don't feel like making your own holiday earrings? You can buy various versions of these handmade Christmas Tree earrings, as well as other holiday jewelry, in my Artfire shop.  Through Christmas, I've marked down by 20% the prices of all the jewelry in the Christmas Holiday section of my shop.  The prices shown reflect the 20% decrease.   

Here are some photos of the Christmas Tree earrings in my Artfire shop:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shop Creatively, Shop Local

On December 1, 2012, I will be exhibiting and selling my creations at the Parcells Holiday Arts and Crafts Bazaar in Grosse Pointe.  This will be my first time in this particular market.  I have heard wonderful things about it.  It is the largest show I've ever done -- featuring 200+ artists, and it is the largest and oldest art show in Grosse Pointe.

I'm trying to work up some new designs for this show.  I've created a new crocheted flower necklace using shades of chartreuse, cerulean and raisin:

Since I sold out of my Christmas tree earrings at the First Presbyterian Church of Dearborn's Holiday Galleria, I've been working on creating some new ones, as well as some holiday wreath earrings.  Pictured here are some of the wreaths, in progress:

Using a beautiful acrylic wool blend with sequins that self-stripes in shades from black to gray to white and back again, I made this "checkerboard"-effect crocheted infinity scarf. It can be worn long, or doubled around the neck.

In addition to selling my creations locally this holiday season, as well as in my Artfire studio on the internet (Black Friday and Cyber Monday free shipping special going on right now),  I am also focusing on buying local.  I've been trying to do that more throughout the year.  As American consumers, we are so focused on price and getting bargains, that we often forget to think about how our purchases affect the local economy and those who make the items that we buy.  Here in Michigan we are lucky.  Our State offers a plethora of locally grown, produced and manufactured products to give as gifts or to buy for personal use and consumption throughout the year.  An added bonus, at least for me, is the feeling of connection I have to the people and places from whom I make my purchases.  For example, it is a good feeling to be able to take a half-hour drive and see the cows that produce the milk I drink every day!

Some of the Michigan items that I love and purchase regularly include:

Meat and eggs from Creswick Farms
Cherry treats from Cherry Republic
Locally produced fruits, vegetables, baked goods, coffees, pastas and other items available at my local market, Trentwood Farms
Milk and other dairy products from Calder Dairy
Locally created arts and crafts from Downriver Council of the Arts' Holiday Boutique and the Artists Market at Leon & Lulu
Wine from Leelanau Cellars and Good Harbor Vineyards

I could go on and on.  I've made a commitment to try even harder this year to purchase Michigan-made items -- the quality and variety is amazing, and it is good for my family and my community.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Showing, Telling, and Selling in Dearborn, Michigan

Yesterday, Gossamer Tangles was showing, telling and selling at the Lindbergh Holiday Boutique.  This holiday-themed, juried arts and crafts fair is held annually as a fundraiser for Lindbergh Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan.  This was its 40th Anniversary!  Two of the artisans participating in the show had actually been there all 40 years!

Even though it didn't feel much like Christmas (with temperatures in the 60's), holiday spirit was high.  The children who acted as "angel" volunteers, getting food for artisans, helping them set up, helping them carry things to their cars, etc. were especially wonderful!

Here are a few photos from my display at the Lindbergh Boutique:

You can see more photos from the boutique on the their facebook page.

One of the artisans with space near mine was an amazing soap maker, local to Dearborn, Marcia Makowski.  She and her husband learned soap making at Greenfield Village.  They hand craft wonderful soaps, using pure, natural ingredients -- many of the herbs coming from their own garden.  The name of their business is Saponify Herbal Infused Soaps.  I bought a bar of their Chamomile soap, which also contains neroli essential oil, and used it this morning.  I love it!

Next Saturday, Gossamer Tangles will be at a very new show, the first annual Holiday Galleria at the First Presbyterian Church of Dearborn, 600 N. Brady.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Handmade for the Holidays

Last week I was so busy helping my son, Tony, get ready for the Books & Authors event at Leon & Lulu that I forgot to post ... and I didn't even realize it until Tuesday (I keep telling myself it was busyness ... I'm not getting old).  The least I can do is share a photo:

Tony enjoyed a fun day, promoting his two Viper Girl books: Viper Girl vs. The Poltergeist Pirate Opossum of Plundering Peril and Viper Girl's Killer Cake and Cookie Catastrophe.  The Books & Authors event benefits The Detroit Free Press' Gift of Reading campaign.

This week I've been trying to make some headway in creating some new items to offer at the holiday sales I have coming up in November and December, as well as in my Etsy and Artfire stores.  Next Saturday, November 10, I will be at the Lindbergh Holiday Boutique in Dearborn, Michigan.  This year is the Boutique's 40th Anniversary. The following week, November 17, I will be at a brand new show, The Holiday Galleria at the First Presbyterian Church of Dearborn.  They are going to have some great raffles featuring items donated by artisans and vendors participating in the event.

Here are photos of the new items I've created since my last post:
An infiinity scarf:

A long scarf featuring a wave stitch pattern:

Two flower brooches that use a velvety soft chenille yarn:

A pair of crocheted wire earrings:

For the next few weeks, most of my posts will probably be focused on showing new items as I am creating them for holiday sales ... but hopefully I will have time to take you on a  few detours along the way.

Friday, October 19, 2012

To Infinity (Scarf) and Beyond!

With my first holiday artisan's market only one month away (Lindbergh Holiday Boutique in Dearborn, MI on November 10), I am trying very hard to work on my inventory.  Infinity scarves seem to be a very popular item this season, so I made another one this week.  Quite a different style than the one featured in last week's blog.  While that one was gossamer light, this one was created with a warm, chunky weight yarn in a gorgeous shade of plummy purple.   The yarn is scattered with sequins in the same color, and they catch and reflect the light beautifully.

The other two pieces I finished this week are in traditional autumn tones.  This fringed triangle scarf is worked in a silky ribbon-style yarn the features shades of brown, bronze, peach and lavender.  The photos really do not do justice to the colors.

Finally, I made some additional acorn earrings.  This time I used earthy autumn-toned beads and antique gold metallic thread to create multiple loops cascading from the caps.  I did not paint the caps, but only gave them a light coat of a lacquer that has just a hint of sparkle.

Tonight, it's time to start a new project.  I like to have the television on while I work, but I can only watch things that I know well -- don't have to pay much attention to keep up.  Having grown up as the oldest of seven children, working in dead silence is impossible for me.  I need the comforting background noise.  So which will it be Leave it to Beaver re-runs or Star Trek Next Generation (I own the complete series of each).  Very different choices from very different times, I know ... I'll have to ponder on it.