Monday, December 31, 2007

Patch Happy

Ta-da: My newest bag. It's on the large side, but I just let the fabric speak to me and this was the result!

Rake head, candle stick, wooden poles, old buttons, and a cellar door

I had the chance to spend a day in thrift, antique, and artisan shops in Columbia, Missouri. In a happy coincidence, Lisa Bartlet, the proprietor of Spare Parts Gallery turned out to be a fellow Etsian whom I had hearted. It was fun to meet someone passionate about art, upcycling, and Etsy. I urge anyone who drives I-70 to head to downtown Columbia and check out that store, as well as Poppy, where my friend bought some independently hand-crafted glasses.

Now, to boast about my purchases! Here is a rake head I picked up for a few bucks. I've hung my jewels from it, and plan to get others for my belts, headbands, and such.

These assorted wooden objects will become platforms for some quilted/stuffed decor items I'm inspired to make.
Buttons, buttons, vintage, wooden, bead, and glass. I thought it would be hard to part with them, but I've already adorned a newly made bag with one.

Hat rack, shabby chic variety. This was a steal and I'll use it to photograph purses and display them at craft shows. Isn't it adorable?

I also bought a beautifully weathered cellar door which I plan to transform into a headboard. No picture yet, as my friend with a truck (bless her) will be delivering it later in the week.

All in all, it was a blast to spend the day scouring shops well worth the time. The best part (aside from the laughs with my companions) was that I stayed within my slim cash budget, even including two indulgent meals, and purchases not catalogued here. Yay for me!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Three Day Quilt

Here modeling Dad's new race t-shirt quilt is our son. The quilt is five shirts across, by 8 shirts tall, with 3" of fabric framing each 12" square. Overall measurements are approximately 90 inches tall, 78 inches wide.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

T-Shirt Quilt

A few summers ago, I made myself a t-shirt quilt from 30 race tees, the fabric from a queen-size sheet set (matching Ralph Lauren set from Goodwill!), some interfacing, and batting. It took me over a month of time during my infant's naps.

My husband has wanted his own t-shirt quilt ever since, and I agreed to make him one for Christmas. It's amazing how much faster the project is going this time around. When I made mine, I hadn't sewn since my Molly Ringwald/Pretty in Pink-inspired high school days, and the process went slowly as I painstakingly figured out how to piece a quilt. Mr. GrayEyedScorpio's quilt will definitely be finished by Christmas, and I've only just begun. Stay tuned for pictures, but beware: t-shirt quilts are not attractive unless you were the one to earn each shirt and the accompanying memories.

I just ordered this great newsboy cap from TepperWear's Etsy shop. I'm hoping it will work with my favorite coat (blue corduroy Esprit, three years old) and scarf (new, from After going to see the holiday lights at the zoo last night, I knew a hat like this was a necessity, and I can't wait to wear it. TepperWear, by the way, has a fantastic selection of caps at reasonable prices with low shipping rates.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Custom Project

PLenox (of Lenox Knits at commissioned a bag from this cape. Since she's my sister-in-law (we're married to twins, how cool, eh?) she was able to be patient while I persisted with holiday inventory.
I've handled the fabric a good many times, trying to figure out how to mastermind the transformation, but walked away again and again. The problems had to do with the existing shape of the fabric and the odd sizing, since a cape features more fabric in the front panel than the rear panel, minus the v-neck. The other trick was to figure out how to work with the boxy pattern. It met the trim diagonally/crooked so I couldn't use the bottom of the cape as the top of the purse.
Tonight, I figured it out, though not without some unforeseen tassel issues and seam-ripping. I made it as large as the fabric allowed (17" across and 20" tall) with a couple of pockets inside and a magnet closure. I'm pleased with the bag, and I sure hope she likes it! I even named it.

Next project: a t-shirt quilt for my husband. Once that's done, I'm on to making art-quilt wall hangings and some scoodies, which I learned about from a Thread Heads video on YouTube, via the ThreadBanger website ( Please check it out--you'll be amazed at, and grateful for, the DIY power they wield!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Iced In, Thrifting, & a Promotion

That bird is not blurry; it's encased in ice!

These are some snapshots of my yard a few days after last week-end's ice storm. .

I used my snow day to prepare and save listings for my Etsy store, and to run errands. Once we had electricity and clear roads, I took our change jar in to CoinStar and "earned" $44! A visit to the consignment shop yielded a bag of trade-in clothing for my son, and I found four awesome sheets and 9 yards of amazing orange fabric at a thrift store. It was a great day.

Via the awesome new tool on Etsy called "Pounce," I've discovered my all-time favorite Etsy store! Check it out at or under the name Can't Afford 'Em Buttons. Their work is humorous, political, responsible, and left-leaning; I adore it! Check out the photos of two tee shirts from their Etsy shop:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hoot 'n Holler Happy Dance

Dottles was kind enough to feature me in their blog today!

Scattered Thoughts

I haven't made the time to create anything new in more than a week. Between grading papers and attending holiday functions with my family, I'd have to sacrifice a lot of sleep to work on my crafts, and with all the viruses floating around at work, I know I need to sleep each night.

Fortunately, I have inventory galore from craft show prep, and can list one or two items a day for a while. Key fobs and pendants (like those pictured above) are now on my Etsy page,

I have a snow day (ice day, actually) today and am all caught up on grading, so if Booper naps this afternoon, I'll begin work on a custom purse order. My sister-in-law gave me a beautiful cape made of a woven suiting material that she wants transformed into a bag. I've been rolling ideas around in my brain for more than a month now and feel ready to begin. I am enthusiastic about it, though I generally dislike custom work. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, for I'm flattered by requests, but the constraints of an assignment take the fun out of the process--just like with reading. I love to read and will often finish a book in days, but if it's assigned reading I approach each page with reluctance.

Also, with a custom order, there is fear about "messing up". When I make my one-offs, I'm just playing around with fabric and seeing what happens, but when I'm working on something specific, there's pressure.

On an unrelated note, I recently discovered that seat belts are expensive. I had planned to integrate seat belts from wrecked cars into my designs as straps, handles, and embellishment, but a trip to a salvage yard demolished that plan. To cut one seat belt from a wrecked car was going to run me $30 or more. No thanks, I'll stick with my suppliers of nylon and cotton webbing. Seriously--$30!?

Sunday, December 2, 2007


I recently felt the need to pare down my favorites to one page. When I realized people may use the list to buy presents for me, it became important to narrow the list to only those things I truly desire, not merely admire. Although most have already sold (for me?!), I'd like to show them off here as well.

The first is by MindyKuen ( and the pendant expresses my exact perspective. My life is in my own hands, each day is what I make of it.

The wristband is so perfectly simple. I love the soft-looking ribbon and dainty wooden plaque. Very basic, elemental, and positive. Check it out at

The third sold fast, but it was on the front page, so what did I expect? As a tree-lover and leaf collector, I adore this bag. (PS, I also find corduroy irresistable.) It's by hippiestrips, and her shop is here:

Lastly, this necklace has been on my favorites list for months. I can't believe it hasn't sold! It's just beautiful. The colors, the textures, the components and shape--love 'em all! Find the shop on this link:

My Craft Fair Effort

There's my booth--the result of all the budgeting, scavenging, carpentry and re-furbishing I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I'm very happy with how it turned out (except for my banner, which ended up too big to use). It took me two full hours to load into the building and set up, but only 45 minutes to break down and load my car. The fair was big and busy, and most attendees carried shopping bags filled with holiday decorations and gifts. I offered items from $5 to $50: pendants, key fobs, headbands, aprons, and bags.

Many people stopped and admired my table, complimenting a variety of items. Some shoppers returned to look at my merchandise several times, but I made only four sales. It was a long, but educational day. My aprons were priced at more than double what other sellers were asking, but the fabrics used were quite different, as were the features (mine are reversible, with thick, decorators fabric). Several shoppers observed that my booth and my products didn't look like anyone else's, which I took as a great compliment, though it didn't yield sales.

I've decided that "typical" craft fairs are not my niche. Farmers' Markets that allow non-food items, or certain types of festivals may be more worth spending a whole weekend day away from my family. I'll be researching venues before devoting this much effort again. Fortunately, two of my good friends shared the neighboring booth, and that made the day more fun.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Today is one of those time-out, change-of-season days when I feel like purging my home of superfluous things. I want to open the closets and haul un-needed contents away to thrift or recycling centers. I want to re-organize and arrange drawers and cabinets. I am filled with zeal for the project, and in my former life I would have tackled it instantly.

In my current life, however, there are obligations. I promised my son we would go see Grandma today. And said son would cheerily, but destructively, examine and romp through any piles I made anyway. (Not that I'm complaining--my boy is the best!)

Perhaps this mood will strike again when I have a rare and blissful day alone. Yeah right! That's when I sew!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


I'm new to the craft show scene, and have miles to go before my booth will have the ambiance I desire. Spending money on the endeavor seems counter-productive at this point, since I'm merely feeling out the market, and whether it's spending time away from my family to sell on weekends.

That said, I did enjoy my first attempt, and want trial number two to feel even better. My goal for next time has been to improve my display quality without spending much. I'm almost ready!

Display #1: $0
I built this case with leftover lumber, paint, and clothesline. The back is covered with fabric I had.

Display #2: $22.oo
It's the picture that's crooked, not the board! I bought the peg board and pegs, then used the same paint as for display number one. The molding frame was re-purposed from an old shelving project in my house on which I'd used the wrong shade of stain.

Display #3: $0 (Not pictured here, but seen next to my sewing machine on an early post.)
This mini baker's rack held plants in my kitchen long ago. In recent years, it's held sewing supplies. I need to scrub it up with some steel wool, but it will serve as a nice unit to show purses. It's not too heavy, but it's bulky and will be a pain to transport.

Display #4: $1.00
A wide wooden dowel from a garage sale will be suspended between the baker's rack and headband case, or an old painter's ladder. On the dowel, I'll suspend wall-hangings and aprons for sale. There won't be room for this when I share a booth, but it will work if I go solo next summer.

I've also been assembling additional pieces from home and thrift stores, such as tablecloths, picture frames, baskets, and even a valance in a coordinating fabric that may become my banner if I find the time to applique my shop name to it. It's fun to work on, and certainly a challenge to do on a budget. Ideas abound for an expensive display, but thriftiness should assure me of a unique look.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Advice and Inspiration

Here's a shot of one of my new items--a reversible apron!

I have two links to share today. The first, is a concise guide to setting up a smashing craft show booth. I've referred to it often and you will, too.

The second is from an Etsy forum about studio space. I'm a total voyeur when it comes to workshops and crafting areas. I soak up every image shared on Flickr, Etsy, and anywhere else. From the chic to the shabby, the baren and the overflowing, this one stands out as Most Neat and Organized Area I've ever seen! It belongs to AngelKissesAlaska ( Check it out yourself:

I've been reading many-a-blog found on Blog Love forums on Etsy, and regardless of the art form and topic, inspiration is guaranteed.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Is the mail here yet?

I'm so eager to wear my new necklace from It's perfect for me: a modest carpentress and level-headed person!

Another store I recommend to everyone is Her merchandise is beautifully photographed, colorful, and lust-worthy.

Right now, I'm in factory mode. I'm logging my time to figure out how much time it takes to create an apron. Since I cut, iron, piece, pin, and sew in an assembly-line fashion for each step, I'll divide my total time by the nine aprons I'm making and post my results when they're finished (hopefully this weekend).

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shopping Spree

The Rowenta
Professional Ironing Board!

I had the chance to shop without my son at my side, and therefore spent far more than usual. I'm still a little giddy, and a little guilty, over the experience. Check out my haul!

The display model Rowenta ironing board was 50% off at Bed Bath and Beyond. I added my 20% off coupon to make it a super-steal, and now I don't hate to iron quite as much as I used to. It's the mother of all ironing boards! The top is extra wide, and the legs offer more stability than I knew was possible for an ironing board.

I can justify the purchase since I spend hours upon hours at my ironing board, steaming, piecing, and pinning fabric. And I will never need another in my life.

I also had a 25% off coupon for Michael's 'Nuff said! Picked up some felt and stamp pads, fabric paint, and brushes for future endeavors: felting, holiday card embellishments, and screen printing.
Thanks to an Etsy forum alert, I picked up a folding table from Target for just $39. It will be a great investment for selling at craft fairs, and it will offer more surface space in my crafting area.

Finaly, Office Depot had an open box discount of 60% a great Memorex I-Pod docking station +AM/FM radio tuner.

Not bad for an hour and a half of shopping, eh? The rest of my day was dedicated to sewing and building a display out of peg board and moulding. (Now I just need to create the necklaces that will hang there for sale.)
The bottom line? Taking a personal day is cause for glee, but I couldn't afford this kind of time off on a regular basis.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Props to My Peeps

Today I'm spotlighting some outstanding Etsians I've discovered in the rural region where I live. I've only gotten to meet one in person, but I've convo-chatted with another, and purchased lovely work from a third.

CCDesigns lives in my zip code and I was lucky enough to meet her at the fall festival this past weekend. We were both pretty excited to meet another Etsy person. She's super nice and has an amazing range of eclectic earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. The neck ornament pictured above caught my eye at the show, and the price is unbelievably reasonable. Visit her shop at:

This great pendant is one item on my wish list from MissFickelMedia's shop: She's extremely successful on Etsy, is super friendly in convos, does custom work, is a mom (like me!) and lives in an even smaller town than mine. Check out her shop! Rebecca Weis is a meticulous jewelry maker and a sewing idol. There is not one single weak or unimpressive item in her lovely, ultra-professional shop. The earrings are an example of her creative beauties.

That's all for today, but if you live in or near Troy, MO and craft, let me know. I'd love to give more regional artists some positive exposure.

Here we are at our first craft fair-- The Pumpkin Festival. From left to right, you see Etsy devotee LHenke: jewelry designer and decoupage mistress of a soon-to-open shop, knitter extraordinairre Lenox of, and me, GrayEyedScorpio.
Our "booth". We decided to skip the borrowed tent, since few others were bothering with them, and because 20MPH winds were in the forecast. I painted a quick banner on some muslin from a swag that used to hang in my home. Not fancy, but it did the job.

The day was beautiful, but we'll be following Etsy and other blogger's advice by avoiding fairs with food and activities in the future. People simply were not there to shop, and the constant passersby who were smoking really bothered me. Also, I'm worried my merchandise may now carry a faint scent of BBQ smoke from the vendor next door.

All in all, it was good practice and we feel prepared and eager for an "all handmade" fair next time.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Today a student who had just called the principal gay (and not meaning homosexual, but dumb, he later assured me, as if that somehow made it okay) in my earshot, complained about my reaction.

Here's the script:

Student: How do you do that!?

Me: Do what?

Student: Make me feel like the worst person in the world just by looking at me that way.

Me: That's not me, it's your conscience.

Student: No, it's you. You get this look like you're totally crushed by our behavior, but you stay just as calm as always and it's horrible.

Me: Maybe you should only do things to make me proud then.
It's easy to forget what influence I have, since teens are loathe to let us know. Reminders like this are both flattering and sobering.

I also had a student thank me for correcting her assignments today. She said it was really helpful to have a teacher who graded for more than just completion. Pretty scary. I have faith in my colleagues, and in the system, but am aware of the need for improvements. Bright kids are woefully under-served by our schools, but average kids get what they need.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

At last!

This bag has been in-progress for nearly a month! My design is fairly simple, but the thickness of the fabric and interfacing layers were stubborn to get through. I'm happy with it overall. It's a bit sleek, yet relaxed, and stands on its own.

My goal for the upcoming week is to complete two dozen more headbands. I'd also like to finish a batch of key fobs, and begin some pendants that have been dancing around in my imagination, but time is too limited.

I've been intending to go to an auto junkyard for months. My mission: to cut seatbelts from the least-used seats in cars. I plan to launder them and re-purpose them as awesome straps for bags.

Another design I'm toying with is for a gym bag. As a birthday present to myself, I might take a day off work to make myself the perfect gym bag next month.

I love to read your comments, and check out your blogs, Etsy sites, and works in progress, so leave your mark and let me know where to find you, please.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Something Old AKA Something New

About 8 years ago, I inherited an old sewing machine. But no key to open the case. Recently, advised me how to jimmy the latch. Hiding inside is a beautiful, 1925 Singer machine, with old thread and scrap fabric for testing thread tension. It's as if Great Grandma Jake never knew she was putting the cover on for the final time. The original instruction manuals were inside as well, and I can't wait to learn how to use this sturdy relic from an ancestral quilter and clothesmaker.

When I plugged it in, I got zapped with electricity, so I'm going to have to take it in to the friendly Quilter's Caboodle store in town (that's Troy, MO to you strangers). Enjoy the pics, and share any of your own Singer refurbishing stories.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


I've always been intrigued by tattoos. I love art, and see it as natural that I should want to be a canvas. Here is the curated tour of my pieces.

My most delicate: My wrist is circled by a design I found on a "fancy dress pin" in a MOMA catalog. Brad, owner of Iron Age in St. Louis did the work in 1997.

My most ambitious: The tree on my back represents the seasons of life. Its roots are in the power of literature, and truth via Shakespeare's words. The bit with the naked angel was my first tattoo (1994). I wanted it incorporated to avoid a patchwork look, but it doesn't blend as well as I'd like. Cat did a fantastic, painstaking job on this. Find her at the Pain Station in St. Louis.

My most recent: the Celtic knot (originally done by Gary at Goldenlands, 1995) represents an endless continuum. The Koi represents my husband (a pisces) and the water represents my son (an aquarius). Work by Adya at Living Canvas in Columbia, MO (2007). I love it, and if I had a different day job, I might work it into a 3/4 sleeve.

Being Green

Green lifestyles are in vogue right now, but there is a backlash as well. Regardless of either zeitgeist, my household does what we can to respect the earth.
Projects we wish we could afford:
  • re-insulating our attic
  • insulating our basement
  • graywater re-use system
  • solar panels
  • buy local eggs
We get bummed out because we can't do those things for a while, so to cheer ourselves up, we're listing what we already do/have done:
  • totes instead of shopping bags
  • mow infrequently, allowing grass to re-seed and mulch itself while using less fuel
  • we never water our lawn
  • Jetta TDI (since 1997) + a Subaru with decent milage
  • we wash our cars only after salt is on the road for ice
  • small house with responsible thermostat settings, windows open whenever possible
  • clothesline instead of dryer for certain loads
  • better light bulbs, and only necessary lights on
  • perrennial flowers = less watering
  • infrequently purchase carry-out/to go food (packaging & health)
  • efficient new appliances
  • buy used toys, clothing, furniture more often than new, packaged things
  • cook few convenience items
  • recycle (our trash can is never more than half full for once a week pick-up!)
  • re-use
  • avoid using plastic bags for lunches, use silverware, not plastic
  • minimize car trips
  • don't use gift-wrap--unless re-used bags

Miles to go, but we're on the road, and most of it is simple. We aren't even conscious of the effort for most of these habits, which is as it should be.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Room with a View

Time for more self-centered photos.

My crafting area is in our wide-open, unfinished basement. It's not pretty, but it's functional. Someday, we'll get around to finishing the basement and constructing actual rooms. I actually prefer large, spacious areas, and although can see all around me, from the laundry sorting to the fitness and play spots, my eyes pretty much stay focussed on what I'm doing.

The last pictures are of my craft tables, lightbox, and designated storage.
The others are photos of the murals surrounding the area. I want to build some shelving and hang dowels along the walls, but hate to cover up the paintings--the time capsule of a party we had back in 1996.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lightbox Love

There it is: my new, DIY lightbox. -->

I used instructions found on:

To create the box, I needed five standard-size white foamboard sheets (about $28 total). I assembled them with masking tape ($5.49), and added two clamp lights ($5.99 each) and two daylight-bright compact florescent bulbs (($6.50 each).

As you can see from the first picture, the result was a dull gray background, so I added two more clamp lights and daylight bulbs. That did the trick. Witness the photos of the black purse.

The "cheap" DIY lightbox ended up sucking more of my cash than I'd planned, but I ws impatient and didn't take the time to shop sales. It's a worthwhile investment since my merchandise photos will "pop" with clarity and contrast now. I'll still go outdoors for photos of bags in action/with a sense of scale as I carry them.

I need to work on improving my photography skills, now; no more lighting excuses!