ForgetMeNot Art Gallery

December 16, 2012 § 2 Comments

It is a thrill for me to introduce a new venture,

the ForgetMeNot

ForgetMeNot_30x28

Art Gallery.

2012 has been the year when I’ve wholeheartedly pursued painting.  It has become my passion — a creative addiction.  Through my art, I want to represent what I see as good about life, and to tell stories.  And I actually feel a sense of urgency about sharing my art so that others may enjoy the images and thoughts they convey.  I hope that you will delight in seeing the overall designs, uses of line, color and texture, and moods in the art I am presenting, as much as I’ve relished creating it.

Brynn Carter, December 2012

(For information about sizes, the availability of originals, prints and/or cards, and costs, please contact me via email at bcarterfarm@peak.org .)

I am using the following series, “The children were nestled”… of 8 X 10 paintings for Christmas cards.  I wanted to be inclusive of all children, suggesting ethnic diversity and not specifying gender.

Untitled-5

Untitled-3

Untitled-6

Untitled-1

Untitled-4

Untitled-2

This next painting, “DeCATent” was inspired by a photo-shopped image of two cats on aluminum lawn chairs.  DeCATent is actually one of my first completed paintings.  I love it and will never part with the original.  (I think it’s a self portrait.)

DeCATent

DeCATent

“King Alfred” is one in a series of daffodil studies.

King Alfred

King Alfred

daffodils-10

Daffodils

chivalry -2-1

Chivalry

“Imagination” is the title of this next painting.  In the Victorian era, ladies and gentlemen assigned very specific meanings to blossoms and greenery, and arranged botanicals into little bouquets called “tussle mussies” that … through the language of flowers … communicated personal messages.  “Imagination” was the meaning given to pink tulips.

imagination

Imagination

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Graniteware

about to wane-9

About to Wane

tulips dance-1

Tulips Dance

This painting, “By the Garden Fence” is one in a series of iris studies.

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By the Garden Fence

I’ve always loved Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic”.  My homage painting, “Rabbit Gothic” is a bit less austere.

Rabbit Gothic

Rabbit Gothic

This next painting, “Dog Biscuits”, shows mother and child enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures.

Dog Biscuits

Dog Biscuits

In the spring, when love was everywhere evident, I wanted to paint something that captured that romantic momentum, and imagined this next painting, titled, “Puppet Proposal”.

Puppet Proposal_0185

Puppet Proposal

The spirit of love, of course, is not limited to puppets; along came an idea for “Pigs Under Mistletoe”.

Pigs under Mistletoe

Pigs Under Mistletoe

My adult son, a successful entrapenauer, has in recent years attended “Burning Man” festivities in the Nevada desert.  In 2011 he decided that a skunk costume would be fun attire for the event, and his costume-making mommy obliged.  Pictured below is my son, standing akimbo, as he often likes to do, at the Nevada desert, wearing a head-to-foot, black fleece costume.

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The photo served as initial inspiration for another painting; however living on a small farm where skunk are frequent visitors actually provoked it.  Here is, “Skunk Standing Akimbo, or A Lesson in Respecting Nature”.

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Skunk Standing Akimbo or A Lesson in Respecting Nature

This next painting is titled “A Woman’s Mind”.

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A Woman’s Mind

And next, a painting I’ve titled “Watch Cat”, was imagined in October.

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Watch Cat

My gallery will always include artwork for children.  The following series is done in a style I am calling “faux batik”, with layers of color and texture enhancing simplified animal images.

Cat (2)

Goat

Goose

Horse-1

Roosters

Cow

Sheep

Lion

Monkey

Tiger

Zebra

Thank you for looking through paintings in the ForgetMeNot ForgetMeNot_50x47Art Gallery.

New works will be added, so please visit again.

Brynn Carter

A Long Absence

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

“I’ve been so busy!” 

We all say it.  We get caught up in responsibilities and interests and something just falls off the plate.  For me, it was my 

blog.  What’s kept me so busy?  Well, baby shower gifts, writing and illustrating children’s books, county fair entries, crafts events, joining an art critique group, and now taking a painting class — all fun activities. And I’m ready to tell you about some of them.

CRAFTS FOR BABIES

A dear friend was expecting her fist baby in May — a boy — and I had the pleasure of hosting her shower.  In preparation, I asked what animal would be her favorite for the nursery.  It was a lamb.  And I knew her colors were turquoise blue and chocolate brown, because I’d already seen the crib and window items.  So I went springing over to the Hallmark store for invitations.  They had cute things available — but nothing with lambs.  I bought cards that were light green with an adorable giraffe image, but driving home I felt less and less satisfied with my purchase.  And then it occurred to me.  I could make my own invitations.  I Goggled for lamb images and used them to inspire a pen and ink drawing for my card.  (I could have saved this step and used an image I found on line, or asked a child to draw a lamb.)  And it was easy to find paper and envelopes that were the nursery colors.  The final touch was white ink for addressing the invitations; it looked terrific on the very brown envelopes. 

Shower Invitation

Then I had lots of fun designing a quilt from the invitation image, and a baby-safe, lamb stuffed animal made of cream-colored fleece.  If someone is interested, I’ll share step-by-step photos for making the quilt and stuffed animal. 

Lamb Quilt and Fleece Toy

Those projects were just the beginning of my new-baby creations.  Another dear couple was also expecting and they wanted their baby’s gender to be a surprise, so they created a cheerful green nursery with an animal theme.  Happily, at our locally-owned, Creative Crafts & Frames shop, I found what I thought was the perfect animal-print flannel (with images like the tiger below) and used it to make a soft comforter.

Imagine fabric with animal images like this very cute tiger.

And, it was easy to computer scan the fabric’s animal designs, and then use that tried-and-true, one-inch grid approach for enlarging images to fit on twelve-inch canvas boards.  Those simple designs were easy to paint, and now the colorful and light-weight images hang by baby’s crib.          

Animal Paintings Above Baby's Crib

This baby’s parents are very green in their lifestyle, and I wanted to do something special to celebrate that choice, so I decided to write and illustrate a book for them.

Writing a story is not as hard as one might think, once you have an idea.  I knew I wanted original characters and they had to be green.  And because this mommy and daddy both graduated from Oregon State University — home of the BEAVERS!!!! — and the baby’s paternal grandmother loves elephants, my made-up creatures had beaver tails, elephant ears and beautiful green fur.  The narrative for this picture book was easy.  A visitor came to see the newborn and dialogue was simply giving and accepting compliments about the baby.  I’m pretty sure the couple liked this personal gift.  Actually, so much, that I made copies for the grandparents, and a green-fleece, stuffed animal that matched for baby’s Christmas gift. 

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

While I’m on the subject of books, if you have ever wanted to author or illustrate a book — I encourage you to just do it!!!  I think you’ll be surprised by how easily a story or non-fiction work almost writes itself once you have an idea and let your creative energy go freely.  Yours may be a book about being a crafter, or one to share project ideas — whatever tickles your fancy — just tell yourself you can do it!  I’ve now completed four books.  It’s thrilling! 

Getting one published, however, is challenging. 

In anticipation of publishing my books, I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which is a national organization with units in most states.  The SCBWI provides quarterly periodicals and an annual Publication Guide, with information about publishers, what might be of interest to them, and submission guidelines.  Using the SCBWI Guide, I contacted 13 publishers, with letters and materials individualized according to their specifics.  After writing to publishers, I had some “not at this address” returned mail, along with thank-you-for-thinking-of-us-but, and we-appreciate-your-work / good luck-elsewhere responses. 

So I decided to self publish and after on-line research, I made my choice for the company I would use.  It claimed to be the largest self-publishing business in the US, and offered a range of publishing packages.  I bought their least expensive package, thinking that I could spend about the same amount taking a class to learn what’s necessary.  I can tell you that during my first publishing experience, I was pleased with every step of this company’s process.  And the final product — my first published book — looks just great!  (Let me know if you want more information about the self-publishing company I used.)

My published book is titled Songs for Bears – A Tale of Goldilocks, and it’s now available through AuthorHouse, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Image on the Cover of Songs for Bears - A Tale of Goldilocks

Actually, I was so pleased with the results of my first self-publishing attempt, that I’m now in the midst of working with this company to publish another book.  It’s The Puppet Explained, a humorous novel that I started to share through this Blog.

Cover Image for The Puppet Explained

An interesting thing about creating a book — and different from making a craft item — is that you write/illustrate a book once, and then sell copies.  Think about that!! 

Truly, if you have ever wanted to write or illustrate a book, I encourage you to do so!!!

ENTERING A COUNTY FAIR

Another thing that kept me busy was entering some of my work in the local county fair.  I’d noticed that people these days don’t seem to enter projects in their local fairs — at least not many people.  That means judges have only a few entries from which to choose, and if you enter, your item will be one of those few.  :-)  So I say, if you’ve ever thought about entering your work in a county fair — DO IT!!!!! 

This past summer I entered seven items in our county fair and won lots!!!  

And I must tell you — I’m a mature person, with all kinds of experiences, and I was totally thrilled by my success at the 2011 Benton County Fair!!!!!       

In Fine Arts I entered:

  • a pen and ink drawing – 1st place
  • a mixed media piece – 1st place
  • a mixed media work in the “Fair Theme” category – 2nd place
  • and the first acrylic painting I’d done in 30+ years – 3rd place      

Mixed Media - "Exotic Love Birds"

In Floral, I entered a dried flower wreath – 1st place 

Wreath Made with Lavender, Rose Buds, Heather and Yarrow

 In Sewing, I entered a child’s apron – 1st place

From McCall's Pattern M6298

And in Hobbies & Crafts, I entered a “gardening angel” doll, adorned with garden-glove wings, and baking-clay lady bugs and bees – Best of Show. 

In addition to all those wonderful ribbons, I received a $25 gift certificate and $19 in cash prizes.  Wowie Zowie!!!!   

SELLING CRAFTS

Of course I still love making my crafts and participating in local sales.  It’s kind of an addictive hobby — and you crafters probably know what I mean.  :-) 

At this time, I’m still hosting six craft sales a year in the barn at our home, ForgetMeNot Farm, and I have my crafts for sale at two other events. 

One is coming up very soon — at The Gentle House in Monmouth, Oregon.  (Goggle it.)  That’s an historic building adjacent to the Western Oregon University campus.  The Gentle House Spring Sale will be March 2nd and 3rd from 10 am to 6 pm. The organizer, Amanda Davis, says there will be items for Easter, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, 4th of July, home decor and much more — lots of great gifts for every occasion!

The other crafts sale is an annual event held at the Independence, Oregon Airpark, the first weekend in November.  This sale showcases a fine assortment of crafts and it is very well supported by residents of the Airpark and others throughout the community. 

A ForgetMeNot Suggestion

At this point, I want to say for those of you new to selling crafts, please make time to visit as many craft sales as you can.  See which events have items with style similar to yours, introduce yourself to the event organizer(s), and consider how your aspirations might fit with their craft-sale parameters.  Some organizations can charge a participation fee and considerable (20-50%) commission on sales to offset their overhead costs.  After sales, you may be left with nothing but a lot of effort and up-front expense.  So, finding the right — and cost-effective venue — for selling your crafts is important and will require your attention and some time. 

Of course many crafters are having lots of success selling their products on line, although I personally am still working to reconcile the idea of handmade items being offered and sold via a massive technological system – the computer internet — but that’s old-fashioned me and I am tip toeing up to the possibility.          

This past year I met a talented crafter, Carla Lund, who has an on-line business.  Carla has two very different types of products.  As a main business, she makes high-end dog leashes and lanyards and sells them internationally through her web-based business (Oak Creek Kennel at http://www.leatherlanyards.com).  In addition, Carla is a teddy bear artist.  She makes delightful and exquisite bears and other cuddlies from imported mohair, vintage leather and fur, and other fine materials.  These “Meadow Friends” are available through Carla’s www.leatherlanyards.com site, and I am very pleased that she also has them available at ForgetMeNot Farm Craft sales.  

A Meadow Friend - Honeybear

CONNECTING WITH ARTISTS

In our area, a group of artists who work with diverse media — paint, clay, fiber, photography, pastels — long ago came together for information, support and enjoyment. 

I joined this group, the Corvallis Art Guild, last summer and it’s been a great connection for me.  (There’s probably a similar group where you live.)  Now I’m finding out about exhibits and workshops, and meeting other people who thrive on being creative.

As a Guild member, I’ve also chosen to be part of a small critique group for painters.  We meet monthly to share our recent paintings and talk about them, always being highly supportive and offering helpful feedback.  Others in our group are very talented and locally recognized artists, whereas I am a fledgling as a painter.  But far from being intimidated by the talent among our critique group members, I feel inspired.  They have graciously told about personal challenges while learning to use media, developing skills or trying new techniques.  These artists have made me feel hopeful, that I too, can learn to paint and develop a whole new set of creative skills. 

In fact, after hearing about community college courses that had been helpful for some others in our group, I decided to take a painting class.  I was so enthusiastic, that I enrolled the very next day.  And the class has been terrific.  I’ve learned more about mixing colors, and how colors reflect among objects, and most of all — that it’s very okay to experiment, and let the creative talents I’ve always had as a crafter find another outlet in painting.  Now I frequently remind myself of our instructor’s two mantras: 

  • Paint is no good in the tube.
  • It’s okay to have lots of “starts” and no finished paintings.     

So, I do — have lots of starts — and no finished paintings — yet.  I’d better get busy!!!

The Truth About Tiny Gingerbread Houses

January 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have personally witnessed construction of at least 48 tiny gingerbread houses, so I can speak with some authority.  For 24 houses, I was almost completely on my own — however, my husband Buster was on call.  Building the other 24 was a collaborative project with three mature lady-friends.  Between the four of us, we had at the very minimum 160 years cooking and baking experience.

The First Truth is that tiny gingerbread houses are not so easy to build.

Making dough is not difficult.  My friends and I used two different recipes and both were good consistency.

Rolling out dough is simple enough.  One friend rolled dough directly on the kitchen countertop, cut pieces, and carefully moved them with a spatula. 

I rolled dough on a sheet of parchment paper, pulled excess dough away from the cut-out shapes, and then just slid the whole paper onto a cookie sheet.

Baking pieces is a cinch!  Start with 8 minutes in the oven and bake a bit longer if necessary.  But baking the right number of house fronts, sides, backs and rooftops requires some math, and organizational skills are definitely helpful.

It’s when you get to construction that the tiny gingerbread house project becomes tricky, and because royal icing is used to hold the pieces together, everything in reach will quickly become sticky.

First of all, royal icing needs to be applied with a pastry bag of some sort.  Knives, toothpicks, etc., just don’t work.  An ordinary plastic bag will do; simply fill the bag with royal icing and snip off one corner.  The Second Truth: Filling a bag is challenging.  It’s definitely a two-person task.  And both people must be dressed appropriately, with an apron or smock, sleeves rolled up, and hair pulled away from the face such that no stray hair can get loose and tickle at just-the-wrong time.

If you are fortunate enough to have disposable decorating bags with different decorating nozzles,  be sure that only one nozzle is inserted into the tip of your disposable decorating bag.  We did not check, and unbeknownst to us, two decorating nozzles had snuggled one inside another, almost closing off the hole through which royal icing was to be dispensed.  My lady-friends worked very hard at squeezing the decorating bag, only to have a tiny amount of royal icing pushed through the double-nozzled opening.  Quite a bit of squeezing later, one of us decided that something must be wrong.  How we figured out the double-nozzle situation, I don’t recall, but to remedy the problem we needed to remove one nozzle.  That required transferring the royal icing into another disposable decorating bag.  Which leads to The Third Truth: transferring royal icing from one bag to another is problematic.  Seriously.  One should consider disposing of the first royal icing-filled bag and starting over.

The Fourth Truth is that tiny gingerbread houses implode if you fiddle with them — even a smidgen.  Once you’ve stuck pieces together with the royal icing, you really must exercise self discipline in order to overcome the natural and very strong urge to make the house better.  Fiddling will not make the house better.  In the following photo, my friend is smiling — even though a tiny gingerbread house that she just attempted to improve is in shambles…

But this is evidence of The Fifth Truth: Making tiny gingerbread houses is lots of fun!  Think about it.  How could you help but have fun doing something so frivolous as making a tiny gingerbread house to adorn a cup?

And that brings us to The Sixth Truth:  They really don’t fit on cups.  Maybe it’s because house walls are parallel and cups are curved, or due to the fact that placing door slits requires sophisticated understanding of geometry.  Or maybe it’s because walls are too thick, or door slits are too narrow, or houses are misshapen.  I just know that after being involved with construction of more than 48 tiny gingerbread houses, nary a one fit on a cup.

Which clearly brings us to The Seventh Truth: the tiny gingerbread houses I have seen in real life haven’t looked anything like the ones I saw on Google.  Real-life tiny gingerbread houses are messy.

Nevertheless, real-life tiny gingerbread houses are adorable.  NO question about it!

On the day my lady friends and I got together to make tiny gingerbread houses, we spent five, fun, sticky and laugh-filled hours working earnestly.  But we did not even have time to decorate the houses.  And when husbands started calling to find out what was taking so long, we divided up the yet-to-be-decorated houses and my friends went home.

Two of the ladies would soon be visited by grandchildren, who were sure to like the tiny gingerbread houses.  One friend said,  “The little girls had a ball frosting the little tiny houses.  They also seemed to frost their fingers, faces and hair.  They had trouble with a knife so some of them turned to their fingers to wipe on the frosting.  Too many germs [to eat], so we just looked at their cuteness.”  And that’s The Eighth Truth about tiny gingerbread houses: They have been handled a lot during construction.  Would anyone really want to eat them?

Ah, but that’s a wonderment with all gingerbread houses.  Are they made to be eaten?  Do any of you know what truly happens with a real gingerbread house?

Brynn

Tiny Gingerbread Houses

December 12, 2010 § 1 Comment

We’re having gingerbread holidays as a theme at our house this year, with gingerbread people on greeting cards and decorations, and of course, we’ll have gingerbread treats.

After researching for ideas, I was especially eager to try making tiny gingerbread houses like this one I found on Goggle.

Other years I’ve made two-dimensional gingerbread treats using cookie cutters or by cutting around cardboard templates with a knife.  And last year I made edible wreaths by cutting holly-shaped leaves from gingerbread the consistency of leather-hard clay, and rounding little balls of dough for berries.  Those forms stuck together easily with just a bit of water, and stayed in place nicely because they were flat.

And some years I have made three-dimensional, wanta-be-gingerbread houses from graham crackers stuck to half-pint milk cartons with butter-cream icing.  But I’ve never, ever made a real gingerbread house, and I have just been tickled with the thought of a cute little gingerbread house perched on a cup.

My first step in preparation for making tiny gingerbread houses was designing a template.

Looking at a cup with a ruler as guide, it seemed that two-inch sides would work.  So I measured out a template on cardboard and taped it together.

But when I perched that first little cardboard house on the cup, it looked much too big.  Clearly time to adjust.  For my second attempt at a template, I decided that one-inch pieces might be too small for handling, and therefore settled on one- and one-half inch increments.

After making the second house model, I was surprised that one-half inch made so much difference,

but it did.  This tiny cardboard house looked just right.

My model shows a chimney.  That’s because a few days before beginning this project, I told one of my kids that I planned to make these tiny gingerbread houses.  He suggested using a drinking straw for the chimney, because with a really hot drink, that functional chimney could smoke.  I loved the idea and worked it into my tiny-house model.  (But when making my first batch of tiny houses, I forgot chimneys entirely.  Ooops.)

Once the template was finished, I had to decide on a gingerbread recipe.  I’ve used three in the past; one from a grandma in our family who was an excellent cook, but sometimes provided less-than clear measurements in her recipes.  The second was from Martha’s special issue on holiday cookies, but it included black pepper among ingredients, and gingerbread made from that recipe has been much too hot for my liking.  The third recipe has always been easy to follow, and results in dough with good texture and tasty cookies.  Here’s that recipe.

Blend 1/4 C butter and 1/2 C brown sugar until creamy.  Beat in 1/2 C dark molasses.  Sift together 3 1/2 C all-purpose flour, 2 t ginger, 1 t baking soda, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t cinnamon, 1/4 t cloves.  Alternately add sifted dry ingredients and 1/4 C water to the butter, brown sugar and molasses mixture until thoroughly combined.  After shaping cookies, bake in 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes or longer, depending upon thickness.    

This photo shows the batter before dry ingredients have been added, and my recently purchased gingerbread-person spatula with a girl on one side.

This shows addition of dry ingredients, because I thought you’d also like seeing the gingerbread boy on my spatula’s other side.  (I’m really being serious about having gingerbread holidays this year; I even bought a gingerbread-girl pancake turner!  Not shown.  Sorry.)

The dough was rolled on parchment paper, as evenly as possible, to about one-eighth inch thickness.  (One-fourth inch thickness made tiny-house parts that seemed too bulky.)  Using parchment paper, excess dough could be pulled away and cut shapes didn’t have to be handled.  I just slid the parchment paper with perfectly shaped cookies onto a baking sheet.  These are the templates that I used.

Simply enlarge them to one- and one-half inch squares and transfer onto light-weight cardboard.

You can see that templates were placed together closely, so little area was wasted.

And it was helpful to have scored and folded the template, because I could simply bend back portions as cutting out shapes was in progress.

Soon I had several trays of baked house parts,

and it seemed reasonable to organize them before beginning construction.  And of course something was needed to hold parts together.  So for mortar (and also snow) I used the following Royal Icing recipe.

Mix 1 pound confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 t cream of tartar and 3 egg whites until peaks form.  It took about five minutes with my hand-held mixer.

The hardest part of this whole tiny-house project was getting the royal icing into a plactic pastery bag.  I quickly realized that it was not a one-person task, and asked my husband, Buster for help.

Then, with a pastery bag full of royal icing, I was ready to begin construction.  Since building a real, three-dimensional gingerbread house was a new experience for me, I decided to try working on only one tiny house at first, rather than apply my typical assembly-line approach to craft projects.  (And actually, I built three houses before I got the hang of it.)  The house showing at left was my first attempt.  You may be able to tell from the photo that its walls were probably thicker than one-eighth inch, and it looked sort of chubby.  And even though I tried to be tidy when applying icing, my applying-icing skills did not improve significantly between the first, second and third houses.

It was about then that Buster came back into the room, to check my progress with this project.  He very nicely said, “The problem is they look kinda messy,” and stepped away.  Then, perhaps I thought that rearranging my tiny houses on the tray would help them to look more orderly and therefore less messy; I’m not sure.  But at any rate, I very carefully picked my third house up to move it over a smidgen, and its walls imploded.  So, of course I straightened the pieces and pushed them together.  “That’s one rickety-looking house,” said Buster.   The comment didn’t hurt my feelings, as Buster has an engineering background and spent most of his career as a quality control manager.  I knew he was just giving feedback.  And I still had roofs and eleven more houses to build.  No time to dwell on Buster comments.

For me, the second-hardest thing about this project was being patient while royal icing dried.  But after constucting the walls, I kept myself busy by getting ready things that would eventually decorate the tiny-house roofs, store-bought sugary sparkles and hand-crushed candy cane sprinkles.  Actually drying didn’t take long, and since I didn’t fiddle, the tiny house frames became quite strong.

Next came the roofs.  I said, “Oh, that’s adoreable,” out loud after putting a roof on the first house.  It really was cute!

Finishing the roofs actually took quite a bit of icing.  It wasn’t a matter of just smoothing on some icing; I wanted enough to look like a layer of heavy snow and to hold candy embellishments.  At about this point, there was icing nearly every where I’d been working, and of course, that’s when Buster came back into the room.  “You know,” he said, “I guess with something like this, the sloppier the better.  After all, it’s just a project.”  I took his comment as a compliment, and as soon as I’d finished and washed my hands, I wrote down what Buster had said so I could tell you his exact words.  “The sloppier the better.”

There they are, 14 tiny houses, like a sweet little village.

They were ready to be wrapped and this time I wanted to give them individually.  So I carefully moved each house onto a small paper plate.  Crinkle wrapping and a snug plastic baggy kept the houses from sliding on the plates.  Today I delived tiny houses to two friends, and both remarked that their house was the cutest thing they’d ever seen.

I can hardly wait to make another batch of tiny gingerbread houses.  I’m hoping to have a few friends join me in the messy, house-making fun.  And we will remember chimneys.

Brynn

Gingerbread Holidays

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Smiling gingerbread people

and intricate houses

delight children and even the most BAH-HUMBUG of grown ups, so a few weeks ago when I happened upon a darling gingerbread fabric in both glittery finish and flannel, and couldn’t resist buying four yards of each, I decided on a gingerbread theme for 2010’s winter holidays.  Since, I’ve made gingerbread placemats, potholders, kitchen towels, door decorations, and a flannel apron and napkins.  (Flannel feels ever-so-nice during winter months.)

These projects made me curious about what other crafters might be doing with a gingerbread theme, so I hope readers will post their gingerbread crafts as Comments!

In the meantime, I googled:   Images – Gingerbread.  And WOW!!!  Such fun!!! The variety and creativity in gingerbread houses was great!


From candy-trimmed cottages,

and houses with two stories,

and this cottage with its water wheel,


to one designed for use in a movie,


and a house covered with chocolate,

one illuminated by holiday lights,

a haunted house,

and ones for holiday table decor,

to a tiny and personalized gingerbread house,

and ones to adorn drinks in mugs

and a gingerbread replica of the Eiffel Tower

and the WORLD’S LARGEST GINGERBREAD HOUSE, the images available through Goggle were inspiring and stirred up fond memories!!!

When I was a teacher, one of the students’ favorite things to do during a holiday party was making wanta-be-gingerbread houses


that looked like this sweet cottage with m & ms.  Kids saved and rinsed their school-lunch milk cartons, and used store-bought icing to constuct houses from graham crackers and all sorts of candies.  I’m sure many of you have vivid house-making memories easily triggered by the smell of grahmn crackers and icing!

And I bet there are many teachers who’ve done the same activity (a good link for directions – www.kids-cooking-activities.com) and hopefully they’ll have photographs to share with us.  Phooey that I don’t have any.  But I googled milk carton gingerbread houses and that was another totally fun thing to do.


Look at this darling house made by a young child.  What mommy or daddy wouldn’t be tickled by the workmanship?

Building these houses is fun for kids of all ages, and imagine this — even the coolest of middle schoolers get into it.

During the years when I was a principal and we celebrated students who had school-appropriate behaviors with Self Manager parties, making holiday houses was one of the things kids most loved to do.  And parents were always willing to help with these holiday houses by donating crackers, icing and candies, or by joining the kids in sticky fun.


In my recent quest for gingerbread ideas, I also looked at Goggle’s images for gingerbread cookies,


and couldn’t help but smile seeing ones like these.  So now I can hardly wait to begin gingerbread holidays. 

Typically, because I’m an Oregon State University Beavers fan, I use my beaver cookie cutter and make lots of Beaversnaps.  Last year I also made gingerbread wreaths using a holly-shaped cookie cutter.   (Drat that I didn’t think to take photos. )  This year I’m eager to try some new ideas,
like these trees
and fancy cookies

and a gingerbread train
or two.

I hope that all you readers who are also eager to begin gingerbread holidays will remember to take photos of your fun creations!!!  And please share them with the rest of us through Comments.

And happy gingerbread holidays to one and all.

Brynn

Awesome Pumpkins

October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

The following link will take you to VillafaneStudios.com, where you can view the most awesome pumpkins ever carved.  Click on Gallery and then Pumpkins.

Brynn

A Doll for Halloween

October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Meet Cornelia, Candice, Curly Sue and Eartha

In the beginning I believed doll making was a serious endeavour to be done correctly.  Could one possibly make a doll without a pattern and following directions completely?  I thought not, used a pattern, bought more patterns for different types of dolls even when designs were similar, and tried to not deviate from what was shown.  But before long it was clear that being serious was not nearly as swell as getting somewhat silly when it comes to doll making.  Silly as in,  “It’s a doll.”  And dolls can be however you want them to be.

This more creative approach was reinforced when I started helping other adults and children to make their own dolls.  Original ideas always make better and more loveable dolls.

So, if you’ve never before made a doll and have wanted to, this is a really good time of year to get started by making a doll for Halloween.  A witch doll.  Your very own witch doll, who is sure to be wonderful because witch dolls can be however you want them to be.

And wouldn’t it be fun to read about the creative ideas other crafters have for making witch dolls?  I hope that you’ll share ideas and pictures in the comments section.

I’ll start it off by telling you about witch dolls that I’ve made.  The silliest thing about my first witch doll was her black lace panties.

They were so wonderful that I’ve made black lace panties for all my witch dolls.  (Oops.  Writing that sentence made me think, “Maybe I’m in a rut.”  But the first time I make a doll, it’s completely original.  Then, because I make things to sell, it’s more assembly-line with subsequent dolls.)

The bodies for these three dolls have been assembled and they’re ready to be dressed.  From this point each doll will take on a unique personality.

like Wilma the Warm-Hearted Witch on the left.  Her heart is flannel.  And Maddy the Broken-Hearted Witch.  No wonder she looks sad.

I’m happy to share a basic pattern with you…

Click for download to enlarge

…and explain the way I’ve gone about making witch dolls.

My Version of Doll Bodies 101

Bodies are made from muslin.  I trace patterns on the fabric, pin two layers of muslin together, and sew pieces with a 1/4-inch seam BEFORE cutting them out.  This saves the steps of carefully matching fabric edges and pinning pieces exactly in place.

After cutting, I turn pieces right-sides-out using a wonderful tool – the end of an old wooden paint brush; you know — the fat brushes kids in primary grades use when painting at an easel.

Starting with tips of the boots, legs are firmly stuffed up to the knees.  I actually pin the knees so they won’t have stuffing and are able to bend.  Then I plump the upper leg, but with really very little stuffing as that will make it easier for my doll to sit.  I then close the leg top with pins, and hand stitch where the leg seam was left open for stuffing.  Finally, coming from behind the knee, I hand sew several stitches to keep stuffing out of that joint so the knee can bend.  Sometimes I will use acrylics and paint on boots after the doll has been completely assembled and gone through a bath in tea.

Other times, like with dolls shown in this posting, fabric is pieced on at the boot line.

In this photo you can see the seam wasn’t perfectly matched, but it’s not a problem because…

…all shoes will eventually be embellished to complement each doll’s personality.

With the doll body turned right side out, think about alignment of body parts and pin legs into place.  Check to make sure that shoe toes will extend toward the body front, and heels match with the doll’s back.  Then using basting stitches, secure legs to the doll’s body.  Next, you’ll stuff the body — and pack firmly — head first, through the neck, and down the doll’s torso.  You’ll know when stuffing is complete as the body becomes full, and you need to tuck in ends of the doll’s legs.  Stop stuffing, tuck leg ends inside the body and close with hand sewing.

a line-up showing dress fabrics and footwear for fashionable witch doll

 Arms come next.

Stuff hands and arms firmly to the elbow.  Stop there and pin so that stuffing is not permitted at the elbow joint.  Then plump the upper arm with light stuffing and pin closed temporarily.  Finally, coming from inside the elbow, hand sew several stitches to keep stuffing out of that joint so your doll’s elbow can bend.  The last steps in constructing doll arms are to run loose, hand-gathering stitches around the arm’s top opening, 1/4-inch from the fabric’s edge, and pull gathering stitches slightly to bring in the fabric opening and conceal raw edges inside.  Then secure your doll’s arms to its shoulders, with 5 – 10 strong stitches.

Ah, noses — if you want them.  I think a nose is an important witch feature.  It doesn’t need to be pretty — just pertinent.

Take a four-inch square of muslin, fold it in quarters and pin in place.  Using a one-inch radius, cut out a circle of muslin fabric.  Then make a loose gathering stitch around the circumference of that muslin circle.  Pull slightly to make the muslin become a cup and fill with four cotton balls.  Pull the gathering thread to enclose cotton and make a nose shape, which you can then sew in place on your doll’s face.

Spa Treatment

At this point, a doll body has been constructed.  Next thing to do is indulge dolls with a spa bath in strong tea; it adds color, skin texture and nice fragrance.  It may be a bit messy, but not enough to deter me from pursuing desired effects.  Simply make a dye from tea of your choice (i.e., 6 tea bags to 6 quarts of water), douse doll body briefly, and pop it into your clothes drier.  (This step could cause tea seepage if the doll is dense with liquid, and/or tea residue/build-up in your drier compartment.  Check under your drier for seepage.  Also look inside the drier cylinder for residue, and if you have any concerns, toss in a few damp rags for a short cycle before your next load of laundry.)  As I usually make several dolls at the same time, they share a tea bath and experience the drier together.

So, now there is a doll body — a witch doll body to be dressed — however you want it to be.

Black Lace Panties

Well, like I wrote earlier in this posting, the silly and [now] traditional thing that I give each witch doll is a pair of black lace panties.  I’ve purchased lace when it’s on sale.  Of course, it’d be ever so practical to recycle lace, if you can obtain a piece to fit something like the following dimensions — panty length 6 inches X width 12 inches.

I use the fancy lace edge for panty legs, and along the other 12-inch edge of lace, which will become the waist, use black thread to sew under a 1/2-inch hem.  Then the lace is folded with wrong-sides together so it’s more square, both sides are pinned in place and a 1/4-inch seam is made along these sides.  Now the panty has a hem at the waist, side seams, and lacy edges to flatter witch legs.

Last is sewing the crotch.  Determine the panty mid line and pin.  Then imagine you’re making three sides of a small rectangle, 1/2-inch wide by 1 1/2-inches around this mid line.  You will sew this three-sided rectangle from one leg opening of the panty for 1 1/2-inch, then across for 1/2-inch to make the crotch, and back to the other leg opening.  Finally, make a slit in this narrow rectangle — almost up to the crotch.

I like to reinforce the crotch and side seams with zig-zag-stitches, made with black thread which will look like part of the lace.  Once panties are turned right-side-out, they’re ready to wear.

A Very Basic Witch Dress

The wonderful thing about a witch doll is that she can be dressed however you’d like.  I’ll simply give you my basic design as a starting point.

I cut two 16 X 17-inch rectangles from fabric and pin them right-sides-together along one 16-inch edge.  Then sew a 3/8-inch seam along that edge, leaving about three inches in the center unsewn, as a neck opening.

To cut sleeves and dress sides, fold these pieces into an 8 X 17-inch rectangle, with the shoulder seam and neck opening at the top.  Then along the side that’s not folded, measure down 6 inches and with a fabric pencil or chalk, draw a rectangle that goes in three inches, and extends 11 inches, to what will be the bottom of the dress.  That rectangle shape will be cut away to become the underarm and side of the dress.

Hem both sleeves.  Then pin closed one underarm/side and sew a 3/8-inch seam.  (I usually finish all seams with a zig-zag-stitch.)  Next hem the dress.  Finally, pin the remaining underarm/side and finish that seam.

Turn this right-side-out, press, and you’ve got a basic witch dress.  And it’s only a beginning.

Every Witch Needs a Hat

Like a bride needs a veil and Santa needs a beard, every witch needs her hat.  With that said, your doll’s hat can be however you want it to be.

You can easily make a hat from one piece of felt, using the pattern I’ve shared.  The triangular piece will become the cone part of your witch’s hat.  There’s to be a fold at the long side of the right angle.  You will sew a 1/4-inch seam along the hypotenuse of that triangle to make a cone.  The pattern also gives a half donut shape.  Fold felt so you can cut a full donut.  Then pin the cone to the donut.  It should fit nicely, but don’t fret if there’s a tiny pucker, because you can embellish the hat however you want.

So that’s my basic guidance for making witch dolls and their garments.

Curly Sue reclines near Eartha

I’m totally sure that the variety of ideas to be shared among readers will be awesome.  Please do not be shy as we’re eager to know how you have made a doll for Halloween.

Brynn

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