Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mat Cutting: A really self-centered half-craft

Last week a fancy red tube emblazoned with gold lettering arrived in my mailbox. In it was my doctoral diploma, a sheet of paper representing many years (4 by the most conservative estimates, or about 24 years if you want to play the "terminal degree" card) of education and hard work.
When I finished college back in 2007 (gulp) my mom took me down to the frame shop to buy a custom frame and custom mat for my diploma. Then, it sat in my high school bedroom for 7 years largely ignored. But now, with my B.S., my M.A., and my Ph.D. in hand I drove into Janesville in search of frames to hang them all up in my office like the gloater that I am.

The custom frame counter offered to frame the set for me for about $270 (this was including a 70% discount-- sit with that for a moment). Obviously not interested in going that route, I made my way over to the off-the-shelf frame section and picked out some budget frames that would work just fine. I contemplated for quite some time just how large a frame it is socially acceptable to use for a diploma. The lady doing the custom framing suggested a 16x20 frame for any 11x14 document. If you have a tape nearby, eyeball how large 16x20 is. It's huge. Too big, I decided. So, in the "digital sizes" section I found a 14x18 frame that matched the smaller ones I'd picked out for my standard 8.5x11 diplomas.

I already had the mat for my bachelor's that my mom had picked out with me, but I wandered back to the frame counter to find out what it would cost to get a couple of mats cut. For 2 mats they wanted almost $90. What? It's mat board? You cut it. What? I give up Michael's.

So, after much contemplation I decided to take matters into my own hands. And by matters, I mean mats. I sifted out a 50% coupon, bought a $15 mat cutter, a $9 piece of mat board, and a $5 standard diploma mat. Then, I went home to do it myself.

I started with some cheap leftover white mat I had taken out of one of the frames I'd just bought, just for practice. Luckily, I found that my rotary mat and board (for quilting) worked perfectly for measuring and cutting.

First, going mostly on intuition, I cut an 8.5" x 11" mat to fit my slightly too large M.A. diploma (thanks for that, CGU). Then, I cut a larger (14x18) piece out of my charcoal colored piece of mat board and somehow managed to get the inside hole to the right size for my diploma. 
Once I had done that, I was on a roll. I stopped in at the goodwill and picked up an ugly, beat up white frame with a white mat and brought it home. I gave it quick coat of orange spray paint, cut the mat to size, and framed this darling dishtowel my sister in law gave me for Christmas (don't judge me, I need art).
I'm certainly no pro, and true, the mats didn't turn out perfect so maybe I'll replace them if I ever get any better at this. But for now, I'm pretty pleased to walk into my office and see this every day. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Wall art to make me feel better

A week ago I woke up and looked in the mirror to find the left half of my face entirely paralyzed. After a trip to the ER and a week of steroids my face is still sagging and shows no sign of improvement. Even better the (confidence inducing) doctors have literally no prognosis. It might be better tomorrow. It might never get better. Needless to say, I'm feeling a down. But, after a morning of sewing pillows, hanging light fixtures, and baking cookies, I found that was feeling a bit better despite my face.

I've had a plain white canvas sitting on the floor of the craft room since summer just waiting for inspiration and to be hung on the wall. I sifted through my pinterest boards looking for the right quote to image to hang up, but I just couldn't get inspired. All of the things I'd pinned in the past suddenly felt hokey or wordy and I couldn't find anything on my own boards worth replicating. Eventually I ended up looking through the board of a Georgia art teacher named Laurie (who I want to be friends with now, naturally) and found this image.
Obviously, this is too many words to hang on the wall, and the "you are probably an artist" had that hokey feel to it that I just can't deal with, but something about it really resonated with me. That's the message I need: not a cliche about creativity and courage, not an inspirational message about taking chances. Make something. You will feel better.

Aside from all of the words, I ran into a problem with the ugly factor of this piece. This is not something I want on my wall. So, with 6 days left on my InDesign license I tried my hand a little typography and came up with this:
So, I gave the canvas an intentionally rough coat of gold acrylic paint and, using my quilting rulers and a pencil, sketched out the words. I went back over it all with Sharpie, did a little touch up, and alas, felt better.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Glitzy Pillow from a Glitzy T-shirt

I'll admit there have been a few lonely days around my new house when I've wished that I, like everyone else over the age of 25 in Wisconsin, was married. My best defense to assuage those lonely thoughts has been decorating in ways that I absolutely could not get away with if a man were living here too. There is no one to tell me that I can't, so I've been girling this place up real good.

As if the craft room full of fabric and yarn and the pink master bedroom with a faux crystal chandelier weren't enough, one mopey day I decided to cheer myself up by adding sparkle to the (formerly somewhat gender neutral) guest room. I'd been using a lot of copper in the decor, and though a metallic copper sequin pillow would really pull it together.

I began my quest for copper sparkles at the fabric store. Scratch that, every fabric store. After a good deal of searching at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas, I had to succumb to the fact that there simply isn't any copper sequin fabric to be found in Wisconsin. I optimistically spent $15 on a yard of what appeared to be copper sequin fabric from etsy. Of course, when it arrived, it was orange. Now, I love orange, I love orange more than most people, but it just isn't what the room needs.

After many months (literally, months) of searching, I gave up. There is no copper sequin fabric for sale. Period. Fine. But then. on a trip to Goodwill in December (you can always count on December for some sparkles) I found this hot mess of a sequin crop top from Target. Not copper, I admit, but for $3, I decided, it would suffice.
It wasn't quite big enough to cover the 22" pillows I'd hoped to use, but luckily I had a smaller throw pillow kicking around the house already from some other pillow shamming project I've since outgrown.

I started by sewing up the awkward arm holes to make one a "tube" with an opening at the bottom and a neck hole at the top.
Then, I slit the shirt down the back, cut off the "shoulders" and trimmed the yoke into a straight line, trying to keep as much "length" as I could to the shirt. At this point, I had created a long strip of fabric, twice the "width" of the shirt by the length of the shirt. Usually, I would have hemmed the short ends at this point, but I knew that the tissue thin jersey was just going to end up a puckered mess. So, I cut it as straight as I could (well...freehand, it's a pillow) and just went with it.
Using my old pillow sham as a template, I folded and pinned the delicate fabric up into a pocket, using the same general strategy I've used for all of the pillows, I ran two quick lines of stitching down the each side (i.e., the top and bottom of the blouse).
I turned it right side out and shoved a pillow in it. That's better. A little glitz always helps.
Update: While I couldn't justify a whole new post just to show off my second ugly goodwill top turned throw pillow, I at least wanted to update. Keep the ugly sequin tops coming, Janesville.