Sunday, January 31, 2010

Currently Being Stabbed

Needlefelted Hare Head
Originally uploaded by Elly Zee
In process. I'm replacing the human features of a doll I have with hare features...

Keep Regretsy Pure

I had the good fortune of finally finding out about from my friend Kelly at the Stitch n Bitch the other week. It's kind of funny that I was such an early adopter of but so late to find out about this brilliant non-parody parody. If you haven't checked it out, it's worth an hour or two of your time just to hunt around and laugh out loud. Basically, the site finds those crafts listed on Etsy that are a little too clever (to the point of being ridiculous or stupid), or that look like they were made by your 4-year old--just the stuff you can't believe someone thinks they can get money for.

The thing that disappoints me, however, is that there seems to be this movement starting of "regretsy-inspired" items on Etsy. "Regretsy" is even becoming more of a common tag on Etsy. People are purposely putting up crap, because they think it's funny... as if Etsy isn't crowded enough without this going on. It's completely against the spirit of both sites, and I am disappointed at the crafters who would get on that ride.

If you are a skilled artisan and can make beautiful objects that people want, that's what you should do. If you are making crap and are self-aware enough to label it "regretsy-inspired," just stop. You're not doing anyone any favors. Leave Regretsy for the completely unaware--that's what will keep it funny, and that's what will keep Etsy honest.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Stephen Colbert Hates Bears

I bought this gigantic stuffed bear at Goodwill for $5, intending to reverse taxidermy it and use the fur for other projects. Fur fabric is 'spensive, for one, and for two, it's not green to keep fabricating new things from new materials--so I often purchase old stuffies on the cheap and use their hides.

But this guy grew on me. I let him ride around in the back seat of my car for a while, and I would eye him in the rearview mirror, picturing what I was going to do to his face with scissors and a sewing machine. I started to feel guilty. Now he's sitting in my bedroom looking all cute, and I wasn't sure I'd have the heart to cut him all up.

Then I saw (NSFW) this. And now I'm kind of uncomfortable having him in my bedroom...possibly thinking dirty thoughts. Thanks, Regretsy.

He's getting cut up.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Today is the 165th anniversary of the publication of "The Raven." That poem has been one of my greatest inspirations. Anyone who knows my writing knows I am a hardcore formalist, and I find the internal mechanics of The Raven to be astounding. The meter is precise. The rhyme scheme, both internal and end, is cyclical and haunting without being repetitive or grating.

I admit I probably heard it read out loud one too many times while I participated in Forensics in high school. But listening to Vincent Price read it brings the magic back.

There Must Be Something in the Water

All my baby birds keep hatching with two heads...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Feng Sew

New View of My Work Area
Originally uploaded by Elly Zee

I’ve never put much stock in the whole Feng Shui thing, but I am now a believer that the arrangement of your room can affect your energy. Since I moved into my apartment in August of 08, my bedroom has been arranged exactly the same way. Sometime in 2009 (probably around NaNoWriMo time), I bought myself a desk, so I could really hunker down on my writing.

The desk promptly became a dumping ground for all manner of mail, clothes, paperwork, and anything I needed to get out of the way. My cats also liked to lay on it, so it was usually covered in fur, too.

Meanwhile, my dining room table had my sewing machine on it. Every time I wanted to dine on the table, I had to take down the sewing machine and set up the placemats and settings. Every time I wanted to sew, I had to move all the dining accoutrement (usually onto the desk…). It was becoming annoying. I stopped sewing so much. I started eating at the coffee table.

One day a few weeks ago, right after I’d scheduled the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, I started thinking hard about how my apartment would look to a strange—especially to a stranger of the crafty mindset. And I realized it was set up all wrong for my needs.

The desk was in the darkest corner of my room, against a wall, with nothing pretty to look at. It was too close to the bedroom door, which could never fully open, and also too close to the front door, where I would enter looking to plop down my mail, laundry, or purchase on the nearest flat surface.

My bed was in the middle of the room, sticking out into the biggest space I have in the whole apartment, cutting it in half, and making either side of the room basically useless.

By the bedroom window, in the sunniest, prettiest area of the whole room, was a loveseat that I never sit on. It looks nice aesthetically (except when it’s covered in laundry), but I don’t sit around in my bedroom; I sit in my living room.

Because my desk was all but useless, my dining room table had become the only place to sit and sew or sit and type. But it, too, was in a dark area facing a wall. Nice for a romantic dinner; not pleasant for sewing curtains.

None of this made sense. Thankfully, the answers were all simple.

I moved the loveseat to the living room. It effectively “cuts off” my living room from my dining room. They are really the same room, but with the visual barrier of the loveseat, it’s like I now have a living room AND a dining room. It also gave me more seating for having lots of guests over (like the 11 people I was expecting for Stitch n Bitch).

I moved the desk to where the loveseat had been. Now I had the sun streaming in through the window and it immediately increased the energy level around the desk—as well as my desire to sit at it for long periods of time. I arranged a table behind it that could hold my printer when I was printing, or hold the new light box I had constructed for taking photographs. The light box needed to be near the window to catch the sunlight, and this was the perfect place. The desk was also now too far away to be a convenient place to stash any odds or ends. It now only holds crafting supplies and papers having to do with my creative writing.

Then, I moved my bed to where my desk used to be. The dark corner of a room is the best place for a bed—the place you want the darkest. I’m also loathe to stash anything on my bed, so it’s okay that it’s near the front door. It also leaves the middle of my room wide open. This makes me feel less cramped, but also provides a lot of floor space for laying out large pieces of material. I was also prompted to call my landlord and have her fix the light fixture in the middle of the room that had been broken for the better part of 2009—I suddenly needed it.

Since I’ve done this rearrangement, I’ve done more sewing, crafting, marketing, writing, and work than I ever had. I’m not drawn to the couch because I don’t feel like cleaning off the desk. I’m drawn to the sunny, organized creative nook I’ve made for myself.

There are additional notes on Flickr.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Paper Work

This morning, I had an interesting run-in with Kamal, a cashier at my local 7-eleven. I was getting my coffee and doughnut (I know, bad Elly), and a gatorade to counteract the t00-much-wine last night, and he asked me, "Are you going to work?" Still wearing my heels and nylons from last night, yes, it probably looked as though I was going to work. I said, "I am working from home today." He laughed and said, "Free, right?"

This is where the conversation proceeded to break down. I thought "working from home" was self-evident. I work in an office, and one day a week (most weeks), I get to work from home. I have a long commute (26 miles each way), so working from home saves me a bit of money and saves the planet a tiny bit.

"Free, right?" Well, no, I'm not free. I have to work. So I say, "No, not today. I have to work."

"Work at home is free, right?"

"No, I get paid," I say cautiously...

"It's not free?"

"Well, freer than ususal"... meaning I get to wear my pajamas all day and can turn on a movie in the background--I'm not free to do that at the office. I still can't parse where he's going with this--what was probably meant to be lighthearded cashier banter.

Kamal gives me a strange look. "Two free days to work at home."

Ooooh, I get it. He means the weekend. I think? "No, I work in an office, but they let me work at home one day a week. They pay me, but I have to work."

He looks VERY confused, then says, "Paperwork?"

I'm not about to try to explain my job to him, so I just nod and say, "Yes, paperwork. I write." I thank him for the coffee and head home.

During the rest of my walk, I start to think about our conversation. This is not the first time I've had a conversation with Kamal during which we were both talking about different things. I finally concluded that when I said work at home, he must have thought I mean housework, which is, of course, unpaid.

When he said paperwork, I suppose that is how he differentiates labor work from office work. It's kind of funny (or pathetic) how so many of us folks with office jobs complain about the "work." It's not work, really. It's certainly not breaking rocks or digging ditches (which I spent 10 days doing over the summer...more on that later). It's not standing on your feet all day dealing with assholes at the 7-eleven. It's shuffling papers. It's paperwork.

It's thin, it's flimsy, it's light. It's paper work.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Return of the Two-Headed Chick

I spent Saturday morning finishing up this custom order, then spent Saturday afternoon dyeing wool to make a new version of one of my all-time favorite creations.

If you've never dyed your own wool, it's actually really fun and easy. I use Kool-Aid--it's fast, cheap, easy, clean, and I can get a variety of bright colors. (Please keep in mind, though, the dyeing I do is for artwork, not for wearables, so I don't know how Kool-Aid holds up in the laundry....)

I had plain white merino wool that I'd bought last year at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I love this wool. I recently used it to spin some beautiful thick-and-thin yarn. It's actually a little too soft and smooth to be a great felting wool, but thankfully, the dyeing process seems to "open" up the fiber shaft and, afterward, it felts like a dream.

To get the pale yellow I needed for the new chick, I chose lemonade. You need about one packet per ounce of wool per quart of water.

I put two packets of lemonade into a large pot of cold water and added the wool, gently pushing it down into the dye bath. Then I cranked up the heat and brought the mixture to a boil, letting it boil for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to agitate the wool during this point (like I did) or it will start to felt in the dye bath. This turned out to be okay for my purposes, but it would not be okay if I was planning to spin.

After the wool has "cooked," it will have sucked up all the dye, and the bath will be clear water. I placed the wool in a colander and rinsed with cold water. Because Kool-Aid is technically a food dye, it's okay to use kitchen utensils.

Last step is drying. I hung it in my shower, and it was dry and ready to use in a matter of hours.

This is the final product, currently for sale in my Etsy store. Last time I made a chick like this, I had the most trouble making the legs and getting it to stand upright with good structural integrity. This time, I circumvented that by having it sit right in an egg! I found these beautiful fake plastic eggs at JoAnn's that actually look like real eggs. The base is a dab of spackling squeezed through a pastry tip.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stitch 'n' Bitch

I hosted my first Stitch 'n' Bitch last night, and it was a total success! It all started when an old high school acquaintance asked me for a how-to-knit book recommendation. I realized that it's so much easier to learn from a person than a book, so I decided why not get some ladies together for a knitting circle type thing?

Turned out that a lot more friends than I knew were into "thread- and yarn-based arts." A total of 11 people RSVPed for the event (I was afraid I'd run out of chairs!), and 5 people showed up to my place last night. The coolest thing about it was that everyone was doing something different. Stef was cross-stitching, Meg was needlepointing, Kelly was crocheting, Jes was knitting, Jesse was pinning patterns, and I was sewing. To me, that means we all have a unique "specialty" so we have something to teach each other, and lots of people to learn from. I got to demonstrate needlefelting and spinning, as well as show off some of my final products.

To me, this was such a great event because I got to socialize (with wine!) with a bunch of great ladies--but also be productive at the same time. No wonder knitting circles and quilting bees are such a longstanding tradition!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Back in Action!

I spent nearly all of my autumn working on a major work project in Houston, TX. I'm just starting to recover from weeks on end of 14-hour days. What's proven to be the best medicine? Making. I have a sewing machine, a digital camera, free time in the evenings, and more motivation than ever. is back and open for business!