Christmas Goodies Collection On Redbubble

I’ve been playing again. And having way too much fun with it.

I’ve designed a few new prints for Redbubble, this time with a Christmas goodies theme. There are 4 different background colors for the same pattern of Christmas trees, snowmen, santa and gingerbread men.

Part of the fun of these is that I also did the individual items so they can be mixed and matched or coordinated together.

Normally I stick mostly to the various products and rarely focus on the clothing options because the photos just don’t do as well on those. But with these designs, they all are mostly fun on EVERYTHING. I especially love the fact that you can do up a whole slightly cheesy, but still cute and fun outfit with the leggings.

And as always, there are masks!

So if you are looking for something a little different this holiday season, these might be just the thing you need. Or if you are looking for something different for gift ideas for others, check out all the other non-Christmasy items as well!

Oh, and Redbubble currently has a sale going on. Use the code DEALS2020 at check out to get 20% – 60% off your purchase.

Snowman On A Starry Winter Night: On Redbubble

I again didn’t have the energy to do much of anything yesterday, but I did feel up to playing a bit and this was the result. As with most of these, I have this up on Redbubble if anyone is interested.

I’m apparently ready for the holidays!

Snowman On A Starry Winter Night

Starry Winter Snowman Apron
Starry Winter Snowman Apron
Starry Winter Snowman Card
Starry Winter Snowman Card
Starry Winter Snowman Fitted Mask
Starry Winter Snowman Fitted Mask

New Fitted Mask Style On Redbubble

I’ve been waiting for these to officially launch! It looks like they are now finally available. I like the fitted design so much better than the flat as that is my preferred mask style, so when I saw they were going to be making these, I just got giddy.

These are adjustable, three layers of fabric and they have a nose wire for a more snug fit.

They ARE available in my TJ Fox Redbubble shop, but for some reason, they are still kind of hard to find and don’t show up under “masks” on the “Shop Products” side of things. You have to go through the “Explore Designs” section, click on the design you are interested in and the fitted mask option will show up for purchase.

Fitted Masks Example
Fitted Masks Example

The above is just a small sampling of the choices this mask is available in. This style does not work well with every design, but I do have it active on most.

As always, I’m open to custom work or if there is an image I’ve posted but isn’t out there, I’m more than willing to work with you. Just send me a note through my contact page!

Craft Room Project: First Router Attempt

While this so isn’t perfect, it absolutely blew apart my expectations for my first ever attempt at using not just a router, but bits that are apparently on the finicky side to use. I’m actually really happy with this little mess! (Sorry for the less than stellar photos, I just nabbed them quickly with my phone and didn’t realize how bad they were until I got them loaded!)

The first thing I attempted was cutting the tongue portion of what would become a tongue and groove join. This after more than an hour reading the directions and figuring out the basics of attaching the bit and adjusting depth and all the other VERY different nuances of using a router than any other power tool I’ve used so far.

First Attempt: Tongue Cut
First Attempt: Tongue Cut

As you can see, this is really wrong as that tongue isn’t supposed to be wedge shaped. I was working on figuring out how to keep the router flat on such a narrow piece of wood and obviously failed on that pass. I was still thrilled that it came even close to what I knew it was supposed to look like.

The second one of these came out much better, but was still not perfect.

Second Attempt: Tongue Cut
Second Attempt: Tongue Cut

It isn’t supposed to have that angled divot in it.

Second Attempt: Tongue Cut - Placement Goof
Second Attempt: Tongue Cut – Placement Goof

I’m totally okay with not perfect at this point. The tool is doing what it is supposed to do and the tongue piece itself came out wonderfully. The problems with this cut can be solved with a little practice and I’m good with playing some more.

The other part of this join, the groove, was surprisingly easy and came out mostly clean.

First Attempt: Groove for Tongue Joint
First Attempt: Groove for Tongue Joint

Part of why I’m surprised this came out as cleanly as it did was the fact that the router tended to hit in places and jerk a little. I think those were places where there were knots in the wood. This was probably close to a 3 foot long cut and it only had one noticeable wobble in the groove.

Wobble Oops on Tongue Groove
Wobble Oops on Tongue Groove

Considering this was the first time attempting this, I’m thrilled as this was the piece I was most concerned about being able to pull off.

The true test of how well this little play session was is seeing if those pieces actually fit together. And yes. Yes they did!

First Attempt: Joining Tongue & Groove
First Attempt: Joining Tongue & Groove

It was such a nice, snug fit, I wasn’t certain when I first tried it that it was going to work. Then it just snugged in perfectly.

First Attempt: Joining Tongue & Groove - Close Fit
First Attempt: Joining Tongue & Groove – Close Fit

The above picture makes me excessively happy in that it not only fit together, but it LINED UP! The surfaces of both pieces hit at the same spot. Sure, the edge of the one is a little rough, but a little sandpaper or a file will fix that completely.

Being able to pull these cuts off is a critical piece to building the cabinet doors. If I couldn’t pull this off, then I was going to have to look into a much more expensive option of getting a table saw and special blades. I’m almost certain after this experiment that I’ll be good with that I currently have.

The cool thing about this is even if it isn’t perfect, I’m still probably going to be good. I’m going to paint the cabinets, so any small things can either be fixed with wood filler or I might even leave some of the imperfections and keep these looking a little more rustic. The wood I use on the cabinets is also going to be a much better quality than what I used here. It will probably cut more cleanly than these did because of that.

I still need to practice more and try and work out some of the kinks to make sure the cuts are cleaner than what I got today, but this was a promising start.

Next up to test out and play with will be the nail guns. I think that all the playing I need to do to get ready for the cabinets is going to be its own project. I have enough wood, I think I’m going to build a small storage box for outside. If it is ugly, that’s perfectly fine, but it will give me the practice with all the new tools that I need.

I’m so happy with how everything worked out today!

Now I just REALLY need to hear back from this last company on a bid. I sent an email yesterday, so hopefully that will get a response soon.

Halloween Ghosts And Jack O’Lanterns on Redbubble

I have a couple of new designs done for Halloween masks out on my Redbubble shop. The only difference is that I liked these designs for more than just the masks, so there all kinds of fun goodies to choose from.

Like travel mugs and aprons.

As always, I’m game for design or image requests if you are looking for something in particular. Just drop me a note through my contact page!

Contractor Search: First Bid – Sticker Shock

I have gotten my first rough estimate to finish my craft room space and… I’m kind of speechless.

Hubby and I did our research, so we had a kind of broad price range to expect this project to come in around, or at least a close ballpark figure. Remember, I’m supposed to be doing a large portion of the work myself, some of the big expense portions if you consider the cabinet work.

The number I was given today? It was 4 times higher than I’d really kind of hoped, but maybe only about 3 times higher than the top of what I expected. That wasn’t including the VERY high estimate I got from our HVAC people to take care of the ventilation portion of the project (again, wasn’t expecting that cost, though I will note part of their estimate included things I did not ask for, so this number isn’t completely accurate).

I’m so shocked and discouraged right now it isn’t even funny.

I know that a portion of this, the electrical, is going to be kind of a beast because we are going to have to expand our panel to accommodate the new load. I fully expect this piece to be on the bigger end, but… just wow! Not even CLOSE to what I was figuring.

What makes it even harder to swallow is the fact that this bid was from the only company that I have liked so far. Partly because the others haven’t even bothered to return calls. Or show up. What is left in my line up is Misogyny Guy and two other companies that haven’t returned calls to even set up appointments yet. I never heard a word from No Show Guy.

I have no clue what I’m going to do from here. One option is to have an electrician come in and take care of that part, but still do everything else myself. I’ve not done any framing before, but been around projects that have had it done, so I understand some basic (though probably not nearly enough). I’ve helped with drywall in the past, but not done it all by myself. What parts I did, I really disliked and is why I wanted to hire out that part.

I really need at least one other number before I can make any decisions, but there is a very real chance that this project, that I’ve already bought stuff for, may not get done. Or at least, not done in the way I want it. I may have to completely rethink my plans.

Not feeling overly happy today.

Only The Beginning

I spent the bulk of my day yesterday working out cabinet and shelf layouts for my craft room. I got probably one of the hardest spaces worked out, the one that ties all the sides together. It was kind of like trying to figure out an extremely difficult puzzle and the most obnoxious brain teaser combined, but managed to do it. I still have several sections to work out, but they aren’t as tricky or problematic.

Once that is done, I can finalize my lighting and electrical layouts, which means I can move forward with finding contractors to start the parts I can’t do myself. I still have the specific interiors and storage elements of those cabinets to do, but that can be done at any time and won’t impact any contract work.

I have all the tools I’m going to need either here or on their way and Hubby and I went ant picked up my counter tops the other day. I learned that this is so NOT going to be a one person job and that I just might die before it is all finished and I can enjoy it because those suckers are HEAVY!! I’m still feeling it a couple of days later. And that was with help hauling all 4 pieces to the basement.

It feels amazing to finally be making progress!

*There isn’t any context and the colors aren’t correct, but this is going to be the layout of my back wall.

Craft Room: Back Wall Design
Craft Room: Back Wall Design

Orderly And Logical… Yeah Right!

I think it is completely typical of me that I can’t do things in any kind of “normal way” and my craft room project looks to be right in line with MY normal.

A project like this should really have a nice linear kind of a process. Come up with a design plan. Research your resources like contractors or materials. Get any needed quotes and schedule work or start buying materials if you are doing it yourself. Begin working. Simple, right?

Yeah, that isn’t exactly how I’ve done things.

I have struggled so hard with the design for starters. I have SO many things that I do and I needed to take all of them into consideration when laying out my workspace that it was nearly overwhelming. That was just for a basic layout. I also had to figure out good lighting for all those different types of work.

If I do any silversmithing, I need the right kind of direct light for the little details, but I also need to make it dark enough for when I’m firing something to see the color changes in the metal. While that direct lighting would also be perfect for sewing, I’m not getting any fabric even close to my nasty jewelry bench. Not happening! They need to be very different spaces. But I also needed really good general lighting for the whole space.

In an effort to try and solve that problem, I bought a really nice main light fixture and installed it in my completely unfinished space just to see if it is going to work (it is, thank goodness). This alone has already messed up that linear process as I’m buying and installing stuff well before other needed things have been done.

I couldn’t plan out the rest of the lighting, which is needed to be able to get a quote from a contractor, until I figured out exactly how I was going to lay out the rest of the space. That meant I had to figure out how I was going to tie that nasty jeweler’s bench and firing station (two separate pieces) into the rest of the space. Both pieces are kind of just pieced together. My workbench is really just a top that I’ve got sitting on an old desk. It’s functional, but not even close to decent looking.

That made part of my decision making even harder. I really wanted to try and make use of what I had and keep my overall cost down to reasonable, but what I had wasn’t great for different reasons depending on what it is. The jeweler’s bench top, firing station, random cabinet that was designed as a microwave stand, a crappy folding table, an industrial looking but also crappy storage cabinet that originally lived in my garage, an old dresser, and a very nice, but not practical antique dining table that is in need of refinishing. None of which gave me any kind of real storage I desperately needed.

I’ve kind of just been sitting on a lot of this for a while now. Ever since I got the light fixture a couple of weeks ago, I hit a “no progress” wall that I couldn’t get past.

Then I saw a photo of a room, no clue what it was actually for, but it gave me the base inspiration for the finished look I really wanted for my space, something I hadn’t been able to come up with until then. And a look that is SO very different from anything else in my house, which is odd for me.

It gave me a real direction to go and I was able to start working on some real design plans. It helped to funnel me into a direction, but I was still scattered. I still had to work out how much I’m doing myself and how much I’m having done. I did manage to settle on doing all the cabinet, flooring and finish work myself (after hours researching tools and material costs), and having all ventilation, wiring, framing and drywall done for me.

Deciding that, I told Hubby to let me know when we got coupons from our home improvement store, so I could start buying the tools and get them at a discount. We got a coupon like two days later, so I already have tools on the way (even though I’m SO not ready for them yet!)

When looking into options to get my bench top to tie into the rest without being ugly, I was forced to consider a full on rebuild. I was already planning on building a base, but I was struggling to get it to work with my existing top. My options were, leave it as is and have it stand out like an ugly sore thumb, attempt to add a surface that would tie into any other surfaces I’d use in the space, or I could completely rebuild.

The first option was already out for me because I really need this to be a calm, cohesive space or I’m always going to feel out of sorts in it like I do now. That and the look I’ve settled on is awesome and I didn’t want to mess that up. The second option is the less expensive option, but it wouldn’t be exactly the same because I have to have a surface that can tolerate the heat of a torch, which limits my options. Those aren’t options I want for my other surfaces giving the space too may colors and textures even if they were similar. The final option would be so much better aesthetically, but would cost more and go against the whole trying to use what I had.

I spent the last week doing research on materials so I could decide on which option I was going to choose. I wasn’t liking my options for resurfacing my bench top, but I had a couple that might work. In the process of looking at full rebuild options, I ran across some butcher block kitchen counters that had an incredible deal going on right now. After spending the day attempting to work with the available sizing to see if I could even get it to work and then figure out how expensive it was going to be, I now have a basic counter/table/workbench layout set and counters on order because I’m going with the rebuild option.

So I am going to have tools and surfaces purchased and here, but I haven’t even begun to play with the actual electrical layout or the rest of the cabinet designs, let alone researched and gotten quotes from contractors. I have some vague ideas of finishing the design, but I’m nowhere near ready to even think about starting to build.

I’m so backwards sometimes!

As crazy and chaotic as I’m making this, I’m absolutely in love with how it is unfolding so far. I’m going to be able to stain and finish those counters to match want I want to do on the floor. I don’t have flooring picked out yet, but I have the general color and look I want.

I also discovered that my existing bench top will work perfectly in our garage for a true tool workbench. I need to modify it and my firing station a bit, but the materials will be used. Right now I have plans for nearly all of the stuff in my current space, even if it isn’t in that space, so that is also a huge bonus.

I’m giddy that I’m finally making progress.

Redbubble Halloween Masks

I have been toying with this idea almost since I set up my Redbubble store and I saw they did masks. I mean, come on! If you have to wear a face mask, especially around Halloween, you’ve GOT to have fun with it!

TJ Fox’s Halloween Masks on Redbubble

Skull Mask
Skull Mask

The skull mask came from the idea of doing the concept in face paint. That was my initial goal when I started working on it, but I ended up with something a little different, but still fun. I’m still considering a couple of designs based on different face paint concepts, but am trying to figure out how to pull them off.

Smirky Jack O' Lantern Mask
Smirky Jack O’ Lantern Mask

The jack O’ lantern faces were one of the first designs I planned to work on. This is one that I may still do up a couple of different concepts besides the two I have so far. They combine one of my favorite fall activities, pumpkin carving, with the fun of playing in Photoshop.

Goofy Jack O' Lantern Mask
Goofy Jack O’ Lantern Mask

And my deepest apologies to those that hate clowns. I just could not resist! Maybe since it isn’t a full face, it isn’t so bad?

Clown Mask
Clown Mask

As always, if there is a design you’d like me to work on, feel free to let me know! I’m always open to doing something custom.

Twilight Lighthouse on Redbubble

I had so much fun with the Night Sky Silhouette piece I did a while back, I wanted to play some more. Sadly, it took me way too long to carve out the time to sit down and work at my computer, but I finally managed it!

I’m SO thrilled by this one! Even more so for the fact that I didn’t have to try and drag it through three different programs to get the finished piece. I learned how to create my own brushes, which was so awesome and also such a pain (then I lost it when Photoshop crashed on me, so I really wasn’t happy that I lost over an hour’s worth of work.)

Of course I also now have this up on Redbubble with all kinds of fun options to choose from.

I love the concept of the stark silhouette against a vibrant background. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot more playing with this concept in the future.

Mask Up and Dance On: Redbubble Collection

My latest Redbubble addition is sort of a whole collection dedicated to dance called Mask Up and Dance On.

The main goal was mask design, but there are a lot of other product options for each design. I’m planning on adding other colors and maybe even another font or two, but this gave me a good starting point.

I loved doing these and learned that if I’m not careful, I’m going to have massive stack of masks because I really want one of every design!

Water, Sky & Flowers On Redbubble

I’ve managed to get a small handful of additional photos uploaded to my Redbubble shop today. This is a LONG work in progress as some take more adjustments than others to get them to look good on all the different products I’d like to see them on. I’m also working on trying to get these loaded in between all the other things I have on my massive to do list.

My goal is to keep chipping away at my list of back images so I can keep up with new ones, all while working on new art pieces to go along with the photos.

Don’t forget that pretty much everything comes in a mask (because of course I’m going to push for the masks)!

Purple Crocus Imperfections Mask
Purple Crocus Imperfections Mask

As always, if you see something along the way that isn’t in the shop but you’d like it to be, drop me a note and I’ll make it a priority. I’m also open to discuss custom projects if you have something in mind!

Night Sky Silhouette & Reflection

Adobe recently, and finally, released a new version of Fresco that I can now use on my laptop. Until now, it had only been available on iPad, which was hugely disappointing because it looked like an amazing hybrid tool that allows both pixel and vector based drawing.

Since I’ve gotten it, I’ve been playing around trying to understand all the various tools and brushes and familiarize myself with how it all works, what I can and can’t do. I do love it, though it has a few somewhat ugly limitations (no real blending/smudging tool). It had a lot of the features that I loved in the Adobe Sketch app I have on my tablet, so I played in there as well for comparison.

I was messing around and ended up with the start of something I really liked in Sketch, but I bumped into some of it’s limitations (or even more likely, my own lack of understanding and limitations). I really wanted to add a certain feature I couldn’t in there so, I decided to see how well I could move that piece to another program and do what I knew another program could.

By the time I was done, this had made it from Sketch into Fresco and finished out in Photoshop. It took a bit to figure out how to get it where I needed it, but now that I know, I’m so excited to play more.

For something that just started out as me messing around and attempting to learn, I’m extraordinarily pleased with how this turned out. Even more so when I uploaded it to my Redbubble shop to see if it would work on any of the products and realized that it looks amazing on pretty much everything.

I have a few tweaks I’ll need to make before I can get a couple of those products active, but it is available for most.

Night Sky Drawstring Bag
Night Sky Drawstring Bag

TJ Fox On Redbubble: Photo/Art Prints And Fun Products

One of my most recent and ongoing projects has been setting up a Redbubble store. The goal was to have a place to offer prints of many of the photos I post here, but there are so many other cool things you can get from them as well.

This is ongoing because I still have a ton of photos to get modified and uploaded, but I’ve gotten a small start. You can now find prints and more in the TJ Fox Redbubble Store. I plan to get some art and design style pieces mixed in along with the photos as well (only a couple at the moment), but those are going to take just a bit longer.

So yes, you can get photo prints in all the typical shapes, sizes and formats: art prints, framed prints, canvas, cards, etc. But you can also get other fun stuff as well.

And these are just a tiny sampling. There are SO many more items.

Oh and masks! Did you see the fun masks?!

Funky Flowers On Green Mask
Funky Flowers On Green Mask

Even though I ended up with all the trials and mistakes on the masks I made for everyone else and I already have a good size stash, I know I’m going to still have to get a couple of these. I love the fact that I can wear my personality and my art in such a way.

I think that was part of my issue with Fine Art America when I tried them. While they offered a lot of fun stuff, there weren’t a lot of things I’d actually want myself. I’m not finding that an issue on Redbubble, which is probably unfortunate.

There are even puzzles!! And yes, I’m evil enough to make that repeating pattern from the mask above into a puzzle.

End of an Iris Puzzle
End of an Iris Puzzle

And if there is ever something I’ve posted here on my blog that you’d like to see in the store and isn’t, please feel free to send me a note and I’ll do what I can to get it out there for you. I do currently have a long list of images I intend to upload, but I’ll bump any requests to the top of my to do list.

I’d also be willing to discuss any custom art or art for a specific product if you like the idea of something but aren’t finding a design or image you love.

Please take a few minutes to go browse all the other awesomeness that’s in the shop. Feel free to brag about that awesomeness to others and share the link until someone yells at you for spamming (or not, don’t want you to get into trouble).

All the love that is spread is greatly appreciated!

Elongation

I spent the majority of my day yesterday going through the 150+ photos I took of MC and making necessary edits. I’m still not quite ready to send them off for prints as I still have to go through them and decide which ones I’m getting for his final “package” of senior photos. I’m hoping to get that done today and crossed off my project list so I can start on getting a few others marked off as well.

I had played around with another project before I did his photo shoot. It’s started, but I still have a whole lot I want to get done, sooner rather than later, so that’s next up on my list.

Sadly, or maybe not, that project list is ever evolving and growing as it is my creative project list more than anything. I think I’ve taken it a bit to the extreme as I’ve set up an MS Excel workbook to keep track of it all. I have a sheet in there for my list and then additional sheets for the bigger, more detailed projects and all the ideas and pieces that go along with it.

It is kind of a hilarious example of how incredibly organized I can get and how utterly contradictory I can be at the exact same time because so many other things in my life are the antithesis of organized. Organized chaos is really the theme for my life.

Dance Masks

And… they are frickin’ DONE!

I absolutely love them, but they were a bear and a half. I broke/bent 5 of the 6 needles I had originally thought I’d had. Right before I started sewing yesterday I wanted to have the others on hand but couldn’t remember where I put them and ran across a couple more packages while I was hunting. It relieved a whole lot of stress when I did, but I still panicked when I managed to mangle two of them back to back early on.

Working with the sequins material was a pain because of the needle issue and I had to go so slow over the thicker areas making it take longer. These also produced a lot of fuzz  and dropped a ton of sequins making me stop and clean out the bobbin area a couple of times.

Between the issue with the needles, having to stop to coat the needle to try and prevent that issue and the stops to do a little cleaning, I think I was having to hit pause about every 5 masks.

I had expected a more solid sequins material when I ordered it, but it is really transparent and the cream lining shows through. While I still think it is an amazing look, I’m extremely lucky that it still works with the costumes or I’d have been up a creek.

When I went to bag these up, my heat sealer shorted out and died on me as well. I had to yet again get creative to solve the problem. I don’t think I’ve ever been so grateful to have an iron.

These will be getting handed off this afternoon with the full understanding that there is a very big chance that almost no dancer will actually choose to wear one on stage since it isn’t required. I’m okay with that. If by chance even one chooses to, then I’ve helped. If someone decides it is just really pretty and opts to wear it off stage or anywhere else, then I’ve helped.

It would be stunning if the entire group loved them so much they wanted to wear them on stage (they really would look amazing even if it is SO different), but this is reality and the chances of that are sitting down near zero.

BG really likes it and is strongly considering wearing hers on stage. I’m overjoyed that I’ve been able to give her something to make her feel better about making that decision if she does go that way.

Yes, it was a whole lot of effort and stress for the end result, but every single tiny bit helps and I’m okay with that.

June: Month Of The DNF

Lately, I’ve been doing more of a month end followup with a listing of books I’d recommend from the month rather than packing the month with reviews. Not for June.

June kind of crystallized why I’ve been changing all of my book blogging and reviewing habits lately, including stepping down from the staff position at Envie! Magazine. Something is shifting for me.

Last month, I had 6 DNFs. That is more books in one month I didn’t finish than in the entirety of 2018 and almost half of my total for last year. In one month. And I’ve already added one to that so far in July and we are only on day 3.

What I did read and finish, I mostly wasn’t loving. They weren’t awful, but I just wasn’t as into them as I thought I’d be. Including books from authors I’d thoroughly enjoyed in the past. I found that new peeves are peaking their heads out and partying with my old peeves, making a nasty mess of an awful lot of books lately.

Apparently, I just need something different from my reading. Something I’m not getting and, at the moment, don’t even know what that something is. It is frustrating beyond belief. At the same time, I’m not looking at it as an entirely bad thing.

I know that a portion of that (only a small portion) is feeling a bit burned out at the “required” part of reading that I was starting to feel. Between having to have a review every month for the magazine (a positive review, mind you), the deadlines to get any NetGalley reviews completed and the personal push to post reviews on the majority of books I read, I over did it. And it’s not the first time. You’d have thought I learned the last time.

I needed the reminder and that is why I don’t see this weird state as so much a bad thing as it is an opportunity for me to shift my focus. I need to get back to why I was writing about books in the first place, writing about them because I felt like I actually had something to say, good or bad, and not just writing about a book because I read it.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is that as cool as it is to get books ahead of release day via NetGalley, I’d much rather have the official version rather than the not-always-clean ARC version. That peeve about not great editing or mistakes is amplified when you combine it with imperfect or non-existent formatting (definitely not all books from there are this way, but many have been). It makes it really hard to look past sometimes and just get to the story. And that is ultimately all I’m really after anyway, the story.

The other piece to this is when I get like this, not feeling all that satisfied with the books I’m reading, something else seems to spike in its place. It seems like this time it is going to be the drive to be really creative, in a number of ways. The photos are absolutely still a huge focus, but I want to try and dig a little deeper into them. I’ve also really been loving spending a lot of my time in my studio, whether it has been working on the masks or any number of smaller, “fix it” kind of projects.

Hubby and I have talked about actually finishing out that space. The lighting is atrocious. Any effort to rectify that will require a lot of other kinds of work, so might as well go all the way. With that in mind, I’ve been brainstorming what my ideal craft room/studio space would actually look like rather than a couple of random, crappy free standing cabinets on bare concrete floors and walls with an equally crappy folding table with probably a dozen storage bins in different locations across the basement holding all the various different bits of fabrics, yarn, and I’ve forgotten what all else that didn’t make it into said cabinets. The only really great thing I have in there is my workbench, which creates all kinds of other difficulties.

All that just means that I’m going through a shift. Where all the crafty, creative stuff has taken a backseat to the books the last few years, it may be going the other way for a while. I’m still not sure.

I want to spend some time trying to come up with a plan for my studio that is doable without being too much. Enough that I don’t feel like I have to put protective sheets over every surface to keep the cat hair, dust and pesky multi-legged creatures out of my space and make it more functional and appealing to spend time in. I want to spend more time there doing the creative bits and not the clearing things off so I can work bits, or the hunting down the materials bits.

I want to do that and still read, but I’m needing to rebalance my time. All those DNFs just managed to drive it home that it’s past time. I have a list of projects I want to work on or that I’ve considered. As soon as I get through recital next week, assuming I survive the stress, I’m going to start working on prioritizing and planning. And, hopefully, getting creative.

 

 

Yesterday’s Project: Laptop Bag

Apparently working on all those masks inspired me to keep sewing. Also apparently, making 35+ masks wasn’t ambitious or challenging enough, I had to find a project even more difficult and time consuming.

I had been thinking about getting a bag for the new laptop (which finally came!!) when I ordered it. My old computer was too big for any standard laptop bag and I didn’t bother trying to find one that would fit because it was rare I took it anywhere. Bigger does not always mean better and my old one was heavy and way too big for comfort even if the larger screen was awesome. My new one is smaller and so much more versatile, I knew I’d want to take it with me, especially for those times I’m having to sit at dance, so I needed something to carry it in.

I considered making something when one of my items showed up with some foam padding around it, but it turns out that was too small to work. The idea of doing one myself stuck with me though and I spent the rest of the time until it finally arrived working on trying to figure out how to make something that was also padded enough to give it some protection.

Something clicked and I remembered an old insulated bag I used to use when the kids were playing baseball years ago. It was one of those “potentially useful” things that I couldn’t force myself to get rid of even though I probably would never use it again. I’m glad I held on to it, because it was perfect!

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose

I had fun ripping this apart to get to all the pieces I needed. It also made it easier to wash everything before I used it because baseball grime was not the aesthetic I was aiming for in this project.

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts

At first, I thought I’d use almost all of what came out of the bag except the outer printed fabric. I ended up using the black fabric that had been the outer base of the bag, most of the foam insulating pieces, one of the strap webbing pieces and the zipper. The rest didn’t work for this project or was more than I needed.

I didn’t have a pattern, so I looked at some bags online that I liked and made a few modifications, then traced my laptop on craft paper. After adding room for the seam, a little extra and then tossing in another inch or so “just in case” (SO glad I did because things fit with just a tiny bit of extra room, so any less may have been too much less), I used that for the starting point and made a pattern of my own with the plan for the finished piece.

All of the fabric I used is fabric I had on hand. There wasn’t a single piece of this project that I had to buy. I even did the edging material on my own instead of going and getting bias tape.

Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point
Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point

All of the main layers are padded. The main outer pieces have the foam from the insulated bag, including the narrow sides. The main outside pockets (one on each side) and the inner divider have a layer of blanket batting. The only pockets that don’t have any padding at all are the two smaller outside pockets.

Laptop Bag: Finished Inside
Laptop Bag: Finished Inside

Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown
Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown

I have room in this for almost everything that I’d drag with me to sit at dance with the exception of my camera. I can easily fit my laptop, my tablet, my phone and any number of other things in here. Pockets are amazing! And I made sure to have plenty.

I have never done a project that was this complex. It really pushed my problem solving abilities to the max trying to figure out how to get all the pieces together and keep clean, finished seams on the inside in all places. Turns out, it is absolutely impossible to do that in its entirety on a sewing machine.

I had to do the last main seam by hand and it ran the outer edge from the zipper, along the base and sides and up to the other side of the zipper. By hand. I absolutely despise sewing by hand. There would be way more nudist colonies if we were still forced to sew our own clothes by hand. I’m absolutely certain of that fact.

Getting that zipper to curve over the corner and down the side was a massive challenge as well. So was trying to get ALL those layers sewn together and not have any slip and get missed. I think I pushed the max sewing depth on my machine with this project.

Laptop Bag: Finished Back
Laptop Bag: Finished Back

Even though this was a massive challenge and a pain… literally, my fingers feel beaten up and bruised today!! … I’m insanely pleased with how well this turned out. I’m kind of shocked at how well I managed to not only create a pattern that would work, but pulled off some of the kinds of details I did, like those “pleats” that give the small outer pockets extra depth. Not only did I figure out how to make it work, but I manage to actually get it to work. It is so rare that what is in my head comes out the way I expect or hope!

It took about two days start to finish. This is so not perfect and there are quite a few little goofs, but they are all so minor. Even my horrid hand stitching doesn’t look too horrid. I am so happy with this. I won’t EVER do one again, but… I’m so happy with this!

Laptop Bag: Finished
Laptop Bag: Finished

I learned a few things from this and the mask making project. One was a well needed reminder of how much I love sewing and I really miss doing it. I also learned that I have a decent handle on creating and/or modifying patterns, though this was really more of another reminder because it is rare that I do a sewing project and not modify the pattern at least a little.

Another? I WAY over buy fabric when I’m working on a sewing project. I have so much extra scrap fabric, and bigger pieces too, that it is ridiculous. I have one massive storage container full of extra fabric and a couple of smaller ones that have fabric in them as well.

Lastly? I still really, really HATE hand sewing. It hurts to type right now because the tips of the fingers I was using, or stabbed with a needle… there were lots of stabs… hurt to put even that much pressure on. Ow!

But hey! I have a cool new bag to haul all my goodies around in!

 

Mask Making

A couple of caveats:

  • This post is only for those that find wearing masks to be useful and isn’t intended to debate the merits or efficacy of masks.
  • These instructions are based on my personal trial and error and the design modifications are intended to work for me and my Hubby. They are based on the original design found here.
  • I take no responsibility for any efficacy or lack thereof of this design.

I had needed to make a couple of masks for Hubby a couple of weeks ago and did some digging around on the internet to find a pattern that I thought would work well. There are so many different ones floating around out there it is hard to weed through them all to find one that works best.

After making a couple of these for him, I decided that I needed to have one or two for myself as well as make a couple more for him so I wasn’t scrambling to get his washed and dried when he needed to run an errand.

One of the things that I liked about this pattern is that the design creates a “pocket” in the front that you can put some type of filter in to give you added protection. I’ve seen a variety of things suggested for this purpose including a folded paper towel or even a coffee filter. If you are interested in using this, I recommend doing your own research as to what it is the best practice to use for that. The same recommendation goes for fabric choices.

I just used scrap fabric that I already had on hand, which this project was ideal for using up some of those scraps. All are basic cottons often used in quilting. If you feel that the fabric you have or want to use is too thin, you can very easily just add another layer of the “Face” piece if needed.

Face Mask Project - Lining Layout
Face Mask Project – Lining Layout

You really only need the 3 pattern pieces if you layout your fabric in two layers, alternating right and wrong sides. You can use the same fabric for the front and inside or different ones. For these, I used different ones, but I’ve done some for Hubby in the same fabric.

Face Mask Project - Outside Layout
Face Mask Project – Outside Layout

Using Hubby’s original finished masks as a base, I had to cut this down a bit because it ended up covering my ears instead of resting on the side of my face in front of my ears. I cut off about a inch and a half from the ends of the original “Face” and “Cheek” pieces and slightly changed the top angle so that it narrowed to about the same width as the original.

I sewed the seams at what I consider “foot width” in that you line up the edge of your fabric with the point of the sewing foot. That works out to be about a 1/4″ seam. At this point, I’m following all the instructions on the original design up to the point where you are attaching the face piece to the mouth and cheek pieces. This is where I made a more drastic modification.

When I made the original ones for Hubby, we discovered has “floppy” ears that just folded over when he tried to get any elastic over them in the back like the original design calls for (and many other options and designs are similar) making it impossible for the mask to stay on. To fix the issue, I made 2 straps of elastic that ran across the back of the head and neck instead of the loops that go over the ears. To get it to fit him, the top piece was 10 1/4 inches and the bottom was 8. Putting together mine, I ended up with about a 1/4 of a inch more for both since the sides of my mask were shorter.

Face Mask Project - Attaching Elastic
Face Mask Project – Attaching Elastic

Unless you are really experienced in sewing, this may be the difficult or confusing place as the right sides of all pieces have to be pinned together in the correct order or your pocket doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. Once it is turned right side out, you want the central mouth piece to be the top layer on the inside (shown below when finished), but you need to pin the elastic in place first. You can either rely on pins, or you can run a seam along the elastic to hold it in place (as seen above).

Face Mask Project - Inside Pocket: Finished
Face Mask Project – Inside Pocket: Finished

I just pinned the outer edges of the face and cheek pieces with the elastic in between first, then gently folded them back so I could put the mouth piece in place, pinning the center seams before going and pinning the overlap (and I JUST realized that the below image is incorrect as this is the one I goofed on. That mouth piece should be pinned underneath the cheek pieces. See, I said it could get confusing!)

Face Mask Project - Pinning Front To Back With Elastic
Face Mask Project – Pinning Front To Back With Elastic

This part was a bit of a pain to get right because those elastic lengths are shorter than the face piece, so it wants to bunch up the fabric when you go to pin the pieces together. I had to be careful to make sure the pieces laid smoothly so I could pin the front seams together and then line up the sides in an overlap to create the pocket. You have to be careful as you sew to ensure that there is no bunching at the point you are sewing. There was a lot of shifting where it was trying to bunch so I could work in a smooth area.

Face Mask Project - Double Seam Elastic
Face Mask Project – Double Seam Elastic

Once I sewed the entire piece together, I went back and added a secondary line on each end to ensure the elastic was double secure since this is where the most stress is going to be put on the mask as it is worn. I then clipped any corners that were too large and would bulk up when turning.

The last thing is turning this right side out, which that lovely pocket makes incredibly easy as you have nothing to close up after you turn it. If you have any corners that didn’t fully turn, you can the eraser end of a pencil (anything narrow and not sharp) to push the corners the rest of the way out. You might need to finesse your seams a bit to get it to lay correctly, or if you prefer, iron it so the seams are crisp.

Face Mask Project - Finished
Face Mask Project – Finished

These aren’t completely perfect as I wasn’t going for any seamstress awards (even had to pull out at least one seam and redo it), but they are functional. As I said earlier, it is a great project to use up some scraps if you are already a sewer. If not, you can reuse old tea towels or articles of old clothing that would end up in the trash because of stains or holes in odd places if the fabric is the right type.

Face Mask Project - Final Result (My Masks))
Face Mask Project – Final Result (My Masks)

*I apologize for the crummy photos. I took them with my phone in less than ideal lighting down in my studio. Hopefully it is enough along with the original design and instructions for you to do your own if you are interested.