Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire!

Very happy to announce that I've been accepted to show at the Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire for 2012!

I showed both The LittleBirds Project and the Interactive Rug Loom last year - a great time was had by all, and by the end of the Faire, the Interactive Rug Loom was completely full of woven strips of T-shirt goodness, and we were able to finish off the edges of a complete rug to donate to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.

This year, however... no fiber arts for me - which is completely breaking my norm!  I'll be unveiling a brand new project, called Paint Chip Pixelization!

The human brain can identify objects it has already been exposed to with minimal information provided.  Paint Chip Pixelization explores this ability by modifying famous paintings to carry only 10 colors, and be composed entirely of 1.25" squares.  This removes all subtlety of color and shading, texture and shape.  Images may or may not be readily identified "up close and personal," depending on prior exposure, but backing away from the image, squinting, and use of optics can all assist in image identification.

Rather than just paint these myself or construct them from paper or cloth, I've repurposed hardware store paint chips - an item that is normally just thrown away once colors change out for the season or a personal project is completed.  In a way, painting a masterpiece with cast-off materials.

I'm offering up a sneak peek here so you can get the brain juices flowing.  This is the .jpeg created with the process I've been using for my very first "painting".  Can you identify it?

If you're in the Pittsburgh area or don't mind travelling, we'd love to see you at the Faire!  All the details on tickets, travel, participants and more is available at the Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire website.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Some Thoughts on Mini Maker Faires

Happy to say that Mini MakerFaire Rhode Island was quite a success!  I really enjoyed spreading the good word of needlefelting to everyone that stopped by my booth, and if you were a lucky recipient of a felted heart, flower, flamingo, etc., please send me a pic of what you created with it, and I'll post!

Many and huge thanks to Matthew, Marty and Amy for helping me out, needlefelting alongside me for demos, watching the booth for snack breaks and providing support!!!  Also to Brian and Kip - without those two it's possible there would be no Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island.  They put their hearts and souls (and wallets!) into this event to make it happen, and they do an amazing job!

Now here's where the group hugs end and it gets ugly.

One of the visitors to my booth made a rather snide comment to me during the event, one that I must say flustered me a little (where was this coming from, anyway?) and one that initially made me extremely angry the more I thought about it.  Now that I've taken a couple days to get over my rage process it, I think maybe sending out a little education to those that may not be in the know is a better way to approach the situation.  Without getting into it, the nasty little comment was about "community events" and "charging admission".

1) Many Times, It Is Free:  Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island has been free (YES TOTALLY FREE!) for the four years it has been in existence.  Come out, walk around, meet cool people, see amazing things, have fun!  [Your comment to me, sir, has been invalidated with this point.  Enjoy.]

2) Bigger Crowds!:  This year, the Faire was indeed part of another festival.  It was part of another festival in its first years too.  I won't go into details here because this happens all the time - Mini Maker Faires have an awesome chance of getting better crowds (read: spreading the love) when combined with other festivals, museums, events, whathaveyou.  Sometimes those other events / museums / etc. charge admission.  Sometimes not.  This time, the *other* event was charging admission.  I won't apologize for that - none of my business.   Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island doesn't make any money from that.

3) Despite Popular Belief, Money Doesn't Grow On Trees:  Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island, like any other Maker Faire, or festival for that matter, *costs money* to put on, yet you as the event-goer are not being charged admission.  Process that one for a second.  Rented tables, electric bills, street closures, rented spaces/tents, insurance, the list goes on.  Where, exactly, does money come from to cover all of this?  For this event, it comes straight out of the pockets of the people who believe in the event (and making things!); from the people who want not only to see the event happen, but also want the world in general continue to make, learn, create and innovate.  Donations came in from believers who lived very far away and couldn't even attempt to make it in the day of the event.  So please, do enjoy for free what others have donated for, and try to be a little more grateful!

4) How I Get Paid:  Plain and simple fact of the matter is, as an exhibitor, I get paid in satisfaction, smiles and fun.  Satisfaction - in that I'm helping to spread the word about a little-known craft, and hoping to bring new needlefelters into the fold.  Smiles - as I get to watch visitors to my booth light up in their eyes and faces as they really *look* at my project.  Fun - because these events are just a great time and the perfect chance to meet tons of other like-minded folk.  Unless you're selling a product, service, etc. at one of these events, you don't make money.  You're not paid just to participate.  I don't sell my craft items anymore, I don't teach public paid classes on how to do this craft, and so I don't make money from it.  In fact, it costs *me* money to participate, as the craft supplies, giveaways and gas money to get there all come directly out of my pocket!

5) This Is Hard Work!:  I've happily spent massive hours completing projects and planning for booths, traveled hundreds of miles, donated and volunteered countless days of my "free" time, stood around sopping wet in the rain, hauled and lifted and scraped things three times my size, lost my voice, skipped meals, and winced off sunburns and dehydration with my shoes melting into the blacktop in 100 degree + heat - all in the name of making and participating in an event for the greater good.  On top of a full-time (and then some) job, and taking care of my family.

So in summary, I ask of you only one thing:  Please keep these things in mind the next time you feel like making a nasty comment directly to a participant about having to pay a small admission fee.  I didn't get to pay that nominal admission fee for a day-long festival absolutely packed with amazingness and awesome people, and enjoy another free event on top of that, and walk around all day relaxed and enjoying a beer.  Instead, I chose to donate my entire Saturday (that's right - 9am through 11pm for this particular one) and help educate anyone who would listen.

There's blood, sweat and oftentimes tears in a Maker Faire of any kind.  Please appreciate, don't heckle, the makers.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island!

The LittleBirds have been accepted to Mini Maker Faire Rhode Island!  The hubby and I have both volunteered for and attended this festival in the past, and I must say I'm honored to be showing this year!

I'll have the LittleBirds "shrub" for cuteness and bird identification fun, and will have lots to show: fiber examples, needlefelting tools, and process explanation.

This year, Mini Maker Faire RI is in conjunction with AS220's Foo Fest, and admission to the Faire is free with your paid admission to Foo Fest, so no excuses!

More info:

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Crafty Girl Reboot

Well hello there!  Long time no... post?

Truly life did get turned slightly upside down with packing up hubby, two furbabies and contents of a 3 bedroom townhouse and moving from Pittsburgh to the new place we call home in Rhode Island!

Now that the dust has settled a bit, I'm hoping to be back with plenty more crafty posts to go around.  We've adopted a new furbaby, and you'll be seeing a lot of her as she has a major role to play with a lot of the crafty goodness that goes on around here.  Her name is Beatrix, and she's an English Angora rabbit.  Just a baby right now - she's just turned 3 months old - and is just beginning her first moult. (Did someone say needlefelting?  What about spinning?)

It's late, so I will leave you with introductions and then it's off to slumberland (for me more so than Beatrix, who tends to stay up late redecorating her hutch)...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The LittleBirds Project Goes Bigtime!

Those of those that know me personally know that I'm obsessed with fiber, and I'm obsessed with all things miniature.  Miniature food, miniature crafts, you name it.

My latest love has been the creation of tiny needlefelted birds, and I've been working feverishly on launching The LittleBirds Project for a few months.  I'm so happy to say we're finally there!

Check out our Etsy Store: The LittleBirds Project (we donate 10% of every LittleBird purchased to The National Audubon Society)

Follow us on Twitter: @The_LittleBirds  (we tweet about project events / milestones AND bird-related news, issues, etc.)

We were also accepted to Pittsburgh's First Mini Maker Faire, hosted at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on 10/23 - what a great day!  Pics of them in action just outside the Make Shop here, here and here.

For a little backstory... this project began life as a bit of a prank.  Several months ago, my husband had a *most resplendent* beard.  Sort of biker-esque.  I had been needlefelting for a little while, and I decided to make a tiny bird for his beard.  You know, a "beard bird"...

Well, it turned out so gosh-darn cute that I decided to make more.  And more, and more.  I started modeling them after actual North American Birds, using my National Audubon Society North American Birdfeeder Guide.

Once I had a whole flock, I needed someplace to put them!  Wanting them to "fly free", I built a potted shrub for them of willow branches and moss.

Not wanting the project to just find a place on a random shelf, I submitted them as part of HackPittsburgh's booth submission to Maker Faire Detroit 2011.  The LittleBirds Project was accepted and underway!  See pix of them in action (and other HackPittsburgh projects) at Maker Faire Detroit here.

Their second outing was solo,  at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, for Mini Maker Faire, as mentioned above.  Look for us at future Maker Faire events!

I'll post up soon how I create these little guys, and keep track of the HackPittsburgh calendar if you're in the surrounding area, as I occasionally teach needlefelting classes there.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Interactive Rug Loom

It's actually *not* closet cleaning season right now... but I have relevant news to share for this project done some time ago, so please allow me to introduce you to The Interactive Rug Loom!

The Interactive Rug Loom was recently featured just outside the Make Shop at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh during Pittsburgh's First Mini Maker Faire on Sunday October 23!  Check out a photo of the loom in action at the Faire here, and browse some of the other Faire action shots here, here and here.  A great time was had by all!

I must add to this post with a note that this is *not* originally my idea.  I saw one of these giant looms in action at Maker Faire Detroit in 2010, brought by the fabulous makers at GreenSheep!  They're true artists and pros at repurposing natural fibers!

I came home after Maker Faire Detroit, and proceeded to daydream for a while about having a giant loom of my very own.  A few months later and I was well underway, thanks to a little help and tool resources at HackPittsburgh!

Here's how I made mine, if you'd like to make one of your own!  This can, of course, be scaled down - a 6' x 4' loom isn't exactly the easiest thing to find a home for - but those measurements are on you :)

Here's what you need:
* Enough 1x3 board to cut two 6' lengths and two 4' lengths
* 4 "L" brackets and installation screws
* 224 #8x 2" construction screws, the kind with the top 1/2" smooth
* Drill
* Measuring tool (ruler, yardstick, etc.)
* Table saw or mitre box and handsaw

Here's what to do:
* Step 1: Cut your boards to the appropriate lengths.  In my case, I cut them down to two 6' and two 4' boards.
* Step 2: Cut your board ends at 45 degree angles using your table saw or mitre box and handsaw.  Remember that the two ends will be at opposite angles to create a frame.
* Step 3: Match up your corners, and attach your "L" brackets on the back of the corners to create the frame.
* Step 4: Measure and mark your screw placements.  I placed my screws 1" apart.
* Step 5: Drill pilot holes where you've marked.
* Step 6: Insert all screws in pilot holes and screw into place.

*** NOTE: These steps are outlined exactly as I put them together.  Since this was my first loom, and I didn't have any instructions (only a mental image), it may be easier for you to drill and place your screws before putting the frame together with "L" brackets.  Your choice.  
The finished loom!

Now, to weave on the loom.  Since this loom isn't exactly "small", you need a lot of material to fill it up.  My favorite materials to use are wool sweaters and t-shirts.  Simply cut your sweaters or t-shirts from the bottom up, horizontally, front and back at the same time, to create loops.  I usually stop at the arms and use the remains for other projects. 

Sweaters are a little trickier, but in general, if you purchase men's XL t-shirts, one loop stretched will cross the loom horizontally, and two loops together will cross the loom vertically.  I cut my strips (both sweater and t-shirt) in approximately 1" width.

The first rug created on this loom was 100% wool sweaters from Goodwill.  I will warn you - this loom requires an amazing amount of material to properly fill it.  By my estimate, the first sweater rug needed 45 sweaters to complete it.  If you have sweaters you're looking to get rid of, you're all set - but if you're shopping at Goodwill, please expect to pay ~$300 to finish your rug.  (Don't get me wrong, the finished product is really beautiful!)

T-shirts are a little easier on the wallet, and more readily available year-round.  It takes about 35 t-shirts to finish off a rug on this loom.  At about $2 / t-shirt, that's a much more wallet-friendly ~$70.  It will look great, of course, but not as luxurious as the wool version.

To weave, I find it's easiest to install the vertical strips first.  Simply loop one end over the top screw, pull down, and pull the bottom of the loop over the corresponding screw at the bottom of the frame.

Once all vertical loops are installed, it's time to weave!  Start by placing one end of your loop over the first screw.  Go over the first vertical strip, under the second, over the third, under the fourth, and so on!  Continue all the way to the right, looping the end onto the corresponding screw on the opposite side from where you started.  To start the next line, do exactly opposite of what you did on the first - under, over, under, over, etc. to the end.  Continue alternating all lines in same fashion.

Once your weaving is complete, it's time to remove your rug!  Starting on the left corner and moving down the left side, pull off the first loop.  Place that loop on the second screw down.  Pull the loop originally on the second screw through the first loop that you just placed in front of it.  Holding onto the second loop, pull both loops off of the screw.  Now, take that second loop (in your hand) and put it onto the third screw down.  Pull the loop already on that screw through the loop you just placed on the screw.  Holding onto that third loop, pull both loops off of the screw. 

Continue pulling loops off the loom in same fashion, all the way around, saving the top for last (so it has a place to hang).  When you get to the very last loop, pull tight, cut open, and weave into rug and tie off so it's secure.

You're done!  Enjoy your new rug!

If you're in the vicinity of Pittsburgh, have some free time and materials, and would like to make a rug of your own, please stop by HackPittsburgh.  The Interactive Rug Loom is installed there, and looking to help people make beautiful rugs!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reverse Applique Skirt

Hey kids!  It's time to dig that boring, sad, plain skirt out of the back of your closet, and make it into something fabulous for fall!

Today I've done some reverse applique on a skirt - but this very same technique can be used on any article of t-shirt type material.

Unfortunately I didn't think to take photos as I went along, so I'll try to give very detailed info.

What you'll need:
* Article of clothing you'd like to modify, made of cotton jersey or cotton interlock
* Fabric for design, ideally of the very same material as your garment, but different color for accent - I like to use scraps of old t-shirts
* Embroidery floss in an accent color
* Pins
* Scissors
* Large-eyed sewing needle
* Paper and markers or access to computer and printer for designing

Here's what to do:
Step 1: Make sure the fabrics you'll be using are clean.  Run them through the wash, especially if they're brand new, as they could shrink a bit.  You don't want shrinkage after you've completed the applique process, as it could stretch and warp.

Step 2: Decide on your design!  Simple works best - think more "silhouette" than elaborate designs.  For my skirt, I chose a simple leaf shape, in two different sizes.

Step 3: Draw your design with markers and paper, or find a suitable image online to print out.  Cut out your design, leaving a small edge as a place for the pins to land.  Cut out one or many - one strategically placed accent can have just as much impact as several in a group!

Step 4: Pin the paper pattern(s) you just cut out to your accent material.  Cut around the edges, unpin from the paper, and your pieces are ready to go!

Step 5: Turn your garment inside out.  Then, take your accent pieces and arrange them where you'd like them to be, and pin them in place.  Keep in mind that your garment is inside out right now!  If you can't imagine what it'll look like when turned right side out (I never can!) turn it right side out once you have them pinned, and you'll be able to see basically where everything is.

Step 6: Thread your large-eyed needle with your embroidery floss.  I used it whole for my project, as I wanted a distinct accented look, but you can always use fewer strands for a more delicate look.

Step 7: Sew away!  A simple running stitch / sashiko stitch works perfectly for this.  Sew with your garment inside out, so be sure your knots are on the "top" side (which will turn into the inside).  Stitch along the edge of your accent fabric pieces, but not so close to the edge that there is a danger of ripping out.  Make sure your running stitch goes all the way through the accent fabric *and* the garment you're attaching to!

Step 8: Once you have all of your accent pieces stitched on, turn your garment right side out, and take a look at your handiwork!  You should be able to see where all of your embroidery floss stitches are.

Step 9: Cut!  Cut along the edges of where your embroidery floss is, on the inside of the pattern.  Leave a little bit of space so it doesn't rip through if washed or stretched.  I find 1/4" is fine.

(Please ignore the computer workstations, crazy tables and random stuff in the photo... this creation was completed at HackPittsburgh, my home away from home!)

You're all set!  Wear your newly refashioned garment with pride, knowing it has a little bit more flair now!  I tend to hand wash anything I've appliqued after wearing - it's easier on the embroidery floss.

Please let me know if you tackle this project, and I'd love to see how you incorporate it into your outfits!  You can email me at mandy (dot) stultz (at) gmail.