Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tutorial: Faux Druzy from Polymer Clay

So I'm pretty obsessed with druzy jewelry right now, but when I went to look at real druzy stones or cabochons, they are pricey!  Then I ran across this project on Faux Druzy Quartz Ring

I didn't make that particular project, but I took the idea of using tinfoil to get that distinctive druzy texture, and ran with it. So anyways, here is a pic of one of my finished pieces:


Polymer Clay in desired color (I used Sculpey III black for the above piece)
Polymer Clay with mica (metallic colors), or loose mica powder (I used Sculpey III silver for the above piece)
Extra Fine Glitter in desired colors (I used equal parts black and gunmetal, and then a little blue and purple to result in a mostly black but kind of peacock-y effect)
Wax Paper
Clay roller
Clay cutters in various shapes, or empty soda cans and some scissors and glue to make a cutter.
Various findings (eye pins, head pins, etc...)
Clear gloss (I used Varathane water-based finish)

Step 1: Decide what final product you are making!

I didn't do this the first go round... I just made a bunch of random druzy cabochons, and I regretted that because it was more complicated than necessary to make them into finished pieces. I had to use a lot of glued on bails and eyepins, and so the backs of these pieces don't look very finished. If you decide on your final piece ahead of time, you can incorporate any needed hardware/findings before baking the clay. 

Step 2: Condition your clay by hand kneading it or with a pasta machine. 

Step 3: Mix the colored clay with the metallic clay, or mix in the mica powder to the colored clay. Mix until the color is uniform. 

Step 4: Roll out your clay into a sheet a little thicker than you want your pendant/cabochon to be (it will lose a little thickness to the texturizing process). I put down wax paper on my work surface for this. 

Step 5: Wad up some tin foil into a ball

Step 6: Roll the tin foil around on the surface or your clay sheet until the whole sheet has a rough texture.

Step 7a: If you need to make your own cutters, cut out a strip around an old soda can, form the desired shape, and super glue in place. Put some duct tape at the top so you don't cut yourself when you use the cutter. 

Step 7b: Cut out desired shapes (Note: do NOT use saran wrap to get rounded edges... it will mess up the texture)

Step 7c: Re-knead and roll out clay, re-texturizing each time, until you have cut out as many pieces as you want. 

Step 8: Embed any desired hardware/findings into your pieces. For example, I inserted an eye pin vertically in the top of some teardrops, so I can make dangle earrings. For others, I inserted an eye pin horizontally so I can attach them together into a bib necklace. 

Step 9: Pour a generous amount of glitter over each piece. 

Step 10: LIGHTLY press the glitter into the pieces

Step 11: For each piece, shake off the excess glitter, and then go back over the surface with the tinfoil to add a bit more texture. At this stage I un-wadded and re-wadded my tinfoil several times until I got interesting crinkles, and was a little more purposeful about pressing a specific part of the tinfoil into each piece to get the look I wanted. 

Step 12: Bake the pieces according to manufacturer's directions.

Step 13: Once the pieces are cooled, coat the top surface only with a clear gloss. You want to take a light hand, and dab the gloss on, so as not to wipe off all the glitter. The Varathane water based works REALLY well... it is quite thin so it does not smooth out the jagged texture we have created, and it really keeps the glitter in place, so your pieces aren't shedding glitter every time you wear them. 

Step 14: Once the gloss is completely dried, wipe off any excess glitter from the side and back of your pieces

Step 15: Assemble into final product as desired. 

Here are some other pieces I have made in different colors:

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Butterick Fitting Pattern to Peplum Tank

I recently completed the process of fitting a basic bodice block using Butterick 5627. I definitely recommend doing this or drafting one from scratch if you are really ambitious. My motivation was having a pattern base to make a fitted peplum tank. Here are the shirts I took my inspiration from:

My fabric was a stripe in white, navy and turquoise, with a little extra pattern (not just a plain stripe). I knew I wanted at least the bodice part vertical, and in the end I chose to make the whole thing with the striped oriented vertically, and match the stripes in the center front. I drafted the upper bodice using my basic block as a base, and did somewhere between a 1/2 and 1/4 circle for the peplum (I knew I couldn't pull off a full circle from trying on RTW peplums). I have quite a high waist so RTW shirts and dresses that are meant to hit at the natural waist never fit me.

I tried two new techniques for this shirt. I installed my first invisible zipper, which wasn't too bad. I also fully lined the upper bodice, finishing the armholes and neckline without any hand sewing. There is an excellent tutorial here. It's one of those things that doesn't make a whole lotta sense until you just try it, but it's actually pretty easy, and it kinda seems like magic.

Anyways, here's the result, which I am quite proud of. I tried to take my time with this one and get the fit and finishing right.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sewing again, Photography

I've been taking advantage of summer to get some sewing projects done. I did a lot of mending that had been piling up, but that's not very exciting. Here's the good stuff: a (long) while back I pinned a few inspiration pieces for a dolman sleeve shirt with contrasting yoke:

Back while I was still pregnant, I found some lovely satin with a sort of watercolor muted print in grey, ivory and mauve, and some ivory lace. They were both on clearance at JoAnn's. I drafted a pattern to make a maternity shirt. I used the basic shoulder/sleeve shape from Simplicity 2560 for the yoke, and I made the rest of the shirt basically a generous rectangle. Well, I just got around to actually making the shirt, and I now have a 9 month old. So, I cut the pattern down to a slightly less generous rectangle to fit my current measurements. Here is the result:

I like how it turned out. It's a great feeling when a project comes out almost exactly how it looked in your head, and this shirt was like that. This it the first project I've used my serger on, and Oh, how I love having a serger! 

My next project for myself is going to be a peplum top. I'm not entirely sure whether I can pull it off; I've tried them on before and they never fit right, but I am hoping if I make it I can fit it correctly and it will look okay. I'm going to try this technique for lining and finishing the neck and arm holes. 

I've also been sewing for Henry (aforementioned 9 month old). So far I've made one outfit:

After making this I decided to stick with making shorts and pants, and embellishing plain white T-shirts or onesies to match, because tiny T-shirts with set in sleeves are hard to make. I think the next outfit I make for Henry will be Mizzou themed.

I've also been rediscovering my zoom lenses this week. I've been using my nifty fifty so much for indoor pictures, it was completely novel heading outside with the zoom.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Do you prefer "fashion victim" or "ensembly challenged"?

If you are even close to my age, and female, you probably remember watching Clueless, and thinking "OMG, if only I had Cher's closet!" Recently, I decided I was going to try and digitize my closet. The benefits I was looking to reap from this? One, I would know what I have and be able to access a list/pictures on a mobile device, so I can shop smarter (and be shamed into shopping less by realizing how much I have, lol). Second, I can plan outfits ahead, so that getting ready in the morning is easier. I began investigating my options.

First, I thought, "I'll just go on Polyvore and find items similar to things I have!" But alas, I couldn't find a lot of my items.

I discovered that there are many websites which allow you to upload pictures of your clothes and style outfits a la Polyvore. I tried out Clothia and Closet Couture.

Clothia is similar to Pinterest, in that you can install a button on your brower to "pin" items into your closet, in addition to uploading photos you take of your own items. This is nice because when you purchase a new item online, you can simply use the product image from the site where you purchased it. However, Clothia did not have categories (such as "tops", "pants", etc...) which ultimately made constructing outfits from a large wardrobe cumbersome.

Closet Couture allows you to sort your items into categories, and even remove the backgrounds of your images if you take them carefully against a white background. I had only marginal success with this feature, however. It worked well for dark colored items, but not light colored ones. The uploading was also quite slow, and the website in general loads slowly. My biggest gripe is that you have to reload the "Create Outfit" page every time you start a new outfit, or it only stores your new outfit as "related look" to the previous one you made. The best thing about Closet Couture is this: on the page to create an outfit, you really can select some pants (or a skirt) and have all your tops on a slider above it to see which ones go, exactly like in Clueless!

If you have a Mac, there is a desktop app called "Dress Assistant" which works off-line. I tried the demo version and it seemed pretty good. However, part of what I wanted was the ability to look and see what I have when I am out shopping, so I don't buy things similar to items I already have, and I can try to buy things that go with a lot of my current wardrobe.

Finally, here is what I ended up settling on, which surprised me with its simplicity:

Step 1: Take pictures of all your clothes, shoes, and accessories. This took a long time, but not as long as you might think. I cleaned out my closet while I was at it, and took a hefty amount to Plato's Closet (got $95!) and the rest to Goodwill.

Step 2: Crop out as much of the background as possible on your images, enhance them if desired.

Step 3: Create Folders: I made a large folder called "Virtual Closet" and inside this, folders for "Tops", "Jeans", "Pants", etc...

Step 4: Open Google Drive (formerly Google documents), and hit the upload button, and choose folder.

Step 5: Select your "Virtual Closet" Folder and go get a snack, or watch a movie, while it uploads (depending on the size of your wardrobe!)

Step 6: Give each item a descriptive name (this makes the mobile aspect possible, as the mobile display for google docs will not display the images except one at a time). You do this by right clicking the item and choosing "Rename." I found it faster to do this after uploading than before.

Now you have your virtual closet. Here's a sample of how mine looks:

I used the product image from Old Navy's website for a dress I purchased recently

But of course, the real fun is in making outfits:

Step 7: Make a new Folder in your Google Drive called "Outfits", and go to this folder.

Step 8: Click Create, and choose Drawing. 

Step 9: Add the images of the items you want in your outfit to the drawing...simple as that! It's not quite as pretty as Polyvore, because the backgrounds of the images are not transparent (unless you actually go through and use a photo editing software to make it so, which would take forever), but for me, it does what I want it to do: I know what I have, and I can plan outfits ahead to make getting ready in the morning easier. Here's a screenshot of my "Outfits" folder:

Pretty fun, right? I'm getting more and more convinced that Google Drive is the best set of apps ever, mostly just because I can access my Drive from anywhere on my phone. Other uses:

- Family Binder style planning tools (Budget tracker, bills spreadsheets) My favorite is a spreadsheet with all our bills listed out, so I can check off when I pay them each month. That way I don't forget any!
- I have one document that has meal plans and corresponding grocery lists, with links to recipes. So, if I decide on a whim "its time to grocery shop" I just pull up the document on my phone, pick which set of meals I want that week, and head to the store!