Friday, 28 June 2013

My Creative Space - Pretty Storage Space

image kaisercraft medium storage drawers 9 drawer secret admirer

Those of you who remember this post about the Ikea cubbyhole shelving Mr Cheeky Monkeys bought for me, will probably also remember that it was purchased because I am rather messy and struggle with craft storage issues.  I love my shelving solution, but am still on the hunt for more smaller (and perferably subdivided) storage drawers and containers to put into each cubbyhole.

image kaisercraft medium storage drawers 9 drawer secret admirer

Now those of you who are fans of Kaisercraft products will know that they produce a multitude of little drawers and storage containers for avid papercrafters to assemble and decorate themselves.  I absolutely love them, but the cost can be a little prohibitive (especially if you have to buy pretty papers and embellishments too).

image kaisercraft medium storage drawers 9 drawer secret admirer

Soooo, I was pretty pleased to receive a large discount coupon for Spotlight last week and quickly rushed off to see what I could grab at a bargain!  I settled on this nine drawer set as I thought it would be a nice size for fitting into my Ikea shelves (now that I'm home, a 12 drawer set may have been better, but oh well).

image kaisercraft medium storage drawers 9 drawer secret admirer

I chose papers from the Kaisercraft "Secret Admirer" range, thinking they would go well with the paint colours I already had at home.  The gorgeous vintage buttons embellishing each drawer were a gift from a friend (who will probably be reading this so, THANK YOU, you know who you are and you're a legend).  I could probably add more embellishments, but I probably won't since these drawers will predominantly be sitting in my larger shelving unit.  Now I have no excuse not to store my craft materials neatly when there is a pretty set of drawers waiting to be used!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Literature Jewellery: Behind The Creative Process

Hopefully by the time you read this post I will be recovering nicely from my foot surgery.  While I take my little break from my usually hectic life, I thought I would give my readers a little peek into the creative process behind my (surprisingly) popular literature jewellery range.

I was a little surprised when I realised that I started creating this range of jewellery almost three years ago.  It all started when I stumbled across this battered copy of Pride and Prejudice at a local fete.  Not being a huge fan of Jane Austen's books myself (with the exception of Persuasion), I bought the old book on a whim.  And as it turned out, this whim got my creative juices flowing in a direction I had never imagined.

So what goes into making one of my literature jewellery pieces?  Firstly, there is the painstaking task of searching for a suitable snippet of text to use.  I like to try and take my text from particularly poignant or amusing passages of a book, if possible.  I also record which passage each jewellery piece is made from as many customers like the extra touch of knowing from which section of their favourite novel their brooch, bracelet or necklace is taken.

Once a snippet of text is chosen, it is carefully inset into my nascent jewellery creation.  Now I know this seems like a simple stage of the process, but it is actually the most time-consuming as there is a lot of time spent waiting for everything to dry and cure properly before I can move onto the next step.

Once the text is beautifully set into its designated cameo setting, then it's time for the fun part - putting together the final piece of jewellery!  I have a lot of fun trawling through my bead boxes to find the "perfect" bead or beads to embellish each piece, although I do have a stash of "go to" beads that I know are always popular with customers.

The last part of my creative process is to photograph and edit my photos for my online stores and for my literature "look book" (which comes in handy when customers request a bespoke creation).  And then each piece waits for its new owner to find them! 

Monday, 24 June 2013

My Right Foot...Take Two

Many of you will remember this photo from this post, well, I am about to head down this path again!  The plan is for me to have a ganglion cyst finally removed from my right foot some time tomorrow.  Which means that I will be spending the next two weeks bandaged up and unable to walk or drive again.  I'm not really looking forward to this, but it has to be done.  Both Domum Vindemia and Two Cheeky Monkeys will remain open, but please note that there will be delays in shipping times as Mr Cheeky Monkeys will have to play Mr Postman while I am out of action.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Literature Jewellery: Taking Over The World!

image charm bracelet pride and prejudice mr darcy bingley lizzy bennet jane austen two cheeky monkeys
Okay, so my title may be pure hyperbole, but with the world (and the UK in particular) celebrating the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, it's easy to get a little carried away.  I have been busy working on more literary-themed jewellery creations, and have added a new line of bracelets to the range.

image charm bracelet pride and prejudice mr darcy bingley lizzy Elizabeth bennet jane austen two cheeky monkeys
There are two new styles of bracelet, a charm bracelet and a toggle clasp bracelet.  Both styles feature little settings inset with the names of popular characters from the book.  I am also working on increasing my range of Jane Eyre creations, with the earrings below being the first in my expanded range of jewellery.  So what do you think?  Would you celebrate your favourite book by wearing it as a bracelet?  Or would you rather wear it as a necklace or earrings?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Everlasting Cacti

image crochet saguaro cactus
 I have a thing for saguaro and pestered my dad to let me photograph myself with one when we drove through Arizona on our all America trip years and years ago!

I don't know about you, but I have a bit of a thing for cacti.  I'm not sure if it's because I like a little danger every now and then (prickly plants and klutzy people really don't mix!), or if it's the weird and wonderful variety of shapes and colours they display, depending on the species.

image crochet cactus stalk cactus flower
Finding mini plant pots to fit my cacti proved difficult; I think I much prefer using tiny teacups and espresso cups instead.

Although I love cacti, I have a hard time keeping them alive (I didn't inherit my dad's green thumb).  This is due in part to the fact that it's hard keeping something which normally lives in the desert alive in Melbourne's cold, wet winters and all the places I have lived in recent times have had some sort of creature (I suspect possums) which find cacti to be a delicacy.

image crochet round cactus flower

So when I recently saw a photo of some absolutely adorable crocheted cacti in tiny little pots, I was determined to get some for myself.  My plan quickly hit a snag when I realised that the store stocking these cute faux succulents was nowhere near where I live and didn't offer shipping of products.  Undeterred, a quick Google search yielded a multitude of free crocheted cacti patterns.  The patterns I used to make these three sweeties can be found at Little Things Blogged and La Casa de Crafts.  I'm thinking that my kitchen window sill will look much cheerier with these three cacti lined up along it!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sew Darn Cute - Book Review

image sew darn cute book review sweet simple sewing projects jenny ryan

The final in my series of crafty book reviews before my next round of surgery is Jenny Ryan's fun book, Sew Darn Cute.  As the title suggests, this book is filled with sewing projects designed for those who love all things cute and sweet.  There are thirty, relatively simple, sewing projects for readers to tackle, with most projects being suitable for machine sewing rather than hand sewing.

image sew darn cute jenny ryan fabric bracelets book review

There are a wide range of projects included in Sew Darn Cute, including ptatterns for jewellery, clothes, children's items and homewares.  There is also a chapter which explains required tools, sewing techniques and tricks of the trade (including instructions on how to clean your sewing machine).  The photography is well done, but there are no step-by-step photos for those who like that kind of thing.  However, the instructions are easy to follow and fairly comprehensive.

image sew darn cute jenny ryan fabric collage tree apple book review

One plus for this book is that the projects are really quite straightforward and could be attempted by novice sewists with a little patience.  I was also impressed to see that many of the projects have suggestions for variations and/or "extras" at the end of the project.  My main gripe with Sew Darn Cute is that many of the projects were too simple for experienced sewists.

image sew darn cute jenny ryan fabric plushie softie bear book review

Overall, I think that Sew Darn Cute is a great book for those who have at least a little sewing experience and like cutesy projects.  It might make a good gift for a tween or teen who has learned to sew or for someone who loves to decorate their home and accessories with cute sewn additions.  If cute really isn't your thing or you're an experienced sewist who prefers to tackle more complex patterns, then this book is most probably not for you.  If you fall into this latter category, then you might want to look at this sewing book review here.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Literature-Themed Weddings

image two cheeky monkeys jane eyre brooch bouquet pin charlotte bronte pink

I don't know about you, but I really love weddings and have had a lot of fun attending the weddings of various friends and family members (and my own, of course).  And now that I sell my handmade creations, I am getting a lot of vicarious enjoyment from the many brides-to-be who purchase items from Two Cheeky Monkeys.  A recent trend I have noticed is for couples to theme their weddings based on classic literature.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, and it's certainly less campy than having, say, a Star Trek-themed wedding!

image mr darcy brooch bouquet pin bridal wedding two cheeky monkeys puprle pearl

And with the apparent rise in literature-themed weddings, I am finding more and more brides purchasing items from my literary range or enquiring about bespoke literature creations.  I've had brides purchase brooches (such as the Jane Eyre brooch above) to use as an embellishment for bridal bouquets.  The Mr Darcy brooch above was purchased by a bride who wanted to attach it to her simple pearl bracelet.

image alice in wonderland lewis carroll brooch bouquet pin bridal wedding drink me red two cheeky monkeys jewellery

The "drink me" brooch was purchased by a bride-to-be for her Alice in Wonderland-themed wedding (her wedding cake was iced with the words "cut me") and worn attached to the sash of her gorgeous wedding gown.  And other members of the family entered the literary spirit too with the mother of the groom sporting one of my Mr Darcy brooches!

image mr darcy brooch bouquet pin ivory glass pearl silver jane austen pride and prejudice

Most recently I had a bride-to-be, who is an English teacher, commission a brooch to use as a bouquet pin for her bridal bouquet (I still can't get over how common it is to adorn bouquets with brooches).  It was so lovely to send emails back and forth with her and hear a little about her story and her wedding plans; I just love being able to be a part of someone's special day!  So let me ask you, if you were to have a literary theme for your wedding (or if you did), which book would you pick?  Would you go for the classics, or are you more into modern literature?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Crochet Blankie Reveal!

image crochet blanket afghan rainbow twelve inch square two cheeky monkeys

Yes, yes, yes, after two solid weeks of crocheting (my hands are still a little stiff and sore!), I have finally finished my first ever crocheted blanket.  I'm not going to show you the up close photos of my wonky edges and seams, but I am feeling pretty pleased with myself for managing to get this finished before my next round of foot surgery!

image crochet blanket afghan rainbow twelve inch square

I love the eclectic, rainbow mix of colours I've chosen to use for this blanket, but felt that I needed a neutral border and seams to make my various squares feel like they belong together.  I made my life a little difficult by choosing to make my crochet squares using patterns (from a variety of sources) which weren't intended to go together and by choosing to make a double crochet (US terms) seam between each square, but I really enjoyed the whole process of picking patterns I liked and putting the whole blanket together.  So what do you think, do you like the clash of colours I've chosen, or do you need to have a proper colour scheme for your creations?

image crochet blanket afghan rainbow twelve inch square

Monday, 10 June 2013

Granny Chic - Book Review

image granny chic book tif fussell rachelle blondel

This week's book review is for those who love all things "granny chic", upcycled or retro.  Granny Chic, by Tif Fussell and Rachelle Blondel shares, tips, techniques and patterns for adding granny chic to your home.  There are ideas for upcycling or re-using vintage fabrics and supplies, patterns for crocheting tea cosies and granny blankets and even projects showing how to make retro-looking floor rugs and decorating your home with vintage wallpaper and crockery.

image granny chic book tif fussell rachelle blondel fabric covered jars

This book is packed with a veritable list of fun, retro projects, many of which are reminiscent of the creations often made by Western/caucasian "grannies" (let me point out that my very Chinese grandmas did not make crafts like this, though perhaps they made the Asian version...).  Besides a multitude of projects, Granny Chic also has a section with suggestions for finding suppliers and resources in the UK, USA and Australia, and blank, lined pages interspersed throughout for jotting down crafty notes to oneself.  I also enjoyed reading the quirky advice and tips dotted here and there giving advice on how to achieve granny chic both affordably and practically.  This is a very casually written book with a relaxed and friendly style akin to reading a blog or a letter from a friend.

image granny chic book tif fussell rachelle blondel crochet string bag tote

Granny Chic is a beautifully retro-looking book in both design and photography, and lovers of "old fashioned" handicrafts will be excited by the range of projects included and the relatively easy to understand pattern instructions.  Inexperienced crafters may need more patience in following the project instructions as there are no step-by-step photos to walk readers through each project and many projects assume at least a basic understanding of the techniques involved.  Of note, I found that, when the authors say that readers need a knowledge of crochet to tackle their crochet patterns, they really meant it!  I attempted several crochet projects and found that the patterns seemed to leave out small steps.  I did manage to fill in what I saw as gaps in the pattern instructions and am assuming that more experienced crocheters would not have had a problem with the instructions.  My other gripe about the book is that there were many gorgeous photos of beautiful, handmade items used in the styling of the book's photography which were not included as projects in the book.  This was a little frustrating when I saw something I really liked and then realised I had to work out how to make it myself.

image granny chic book tif fussell rachelle blondel embroidered doily vintage

So who do I think would love Granny Chic?  I think this book would be perfect for people who love, and are inspired by, the retro creativity of bygone days.  Although it is more suited to those with at least some knowledge of crafty techniques (especially sewing and crochet), patient beginners should be able to tackle a large number of the projects and experienced creators will find lots of inspiration for adding granny chic to their homes.

Friday, 7 June 2013

DIY Towel Hair Wrap Tutorial

image towel hair wrap tutorial diy two cheeky monkeys

Now that it is officially winter in Melbourne and the weather is often not conducive to running around with wet hair, I have been madly searching the stores for towel hair wraps for the cheeky monkeys to use after their swimming lessons.  I got one years ago in a craft store (of all unlikely places), but haven't been able to find any since, other than buying in bulk online.  So what's a girl to do but make her own?  The cheeky monkeys liked their hair wraps so much that I thought I would share a little DIY to help my readers make their own!

- 80cm x 60cm terry towelling fabric (or an old towel or cheap new towel)
- 1.5m bias binding (minimum 25mm width)
- 10cm thin elastic
- thread
- scissors
- pins

image tutorial diy towel hair wrap pattern

1.  Enlarge and print out the pattern so that the length between points A and B on the bottom edge is 65cm.  If you have a physiologically large head (and I'm not talking about egos here!) or very long hair, you might want to purchase more fabric and enlarge the pattern a little more to give a better fit.  Note that the pattern DOES NOT include a seam allowance.

image towel hair wrap tutorial diy two cheeky monkeys trace pattern onto fabric

2. Fold your fabric in half and trace the pattern using your template, making sure to mark the spot for attaching the elastic tab.  If you are using a towel (as I did), you should be able to make at least two hair wraps.  Pin your fabric together and cut out your pieces, adding a seam allowance around the top, curved edge of the shape but cutting along the line at the bottom edge of your shape (points A to B on the pattern - see picture below).

image towel hair wrap tutorial diy two cheeky monkeys overlock or zigzag stitch raw edges

3. Unpin and separate your pieces and neaten the raw edges with your overlocker or a zigzag stitch.  Fold the thin elastic in half and place it between the fabric pieces at the marked spot.  Make sure that the loop is pointing towards the outside of the hair wrap and the cut edges of elastic are aligned with the overlocked edges of the fabric.  Re-pin your pieces together and sew along the top, curved edge of the pieces, leaving the bottom (straight edge) open.

image towel hair wrap tutorial diy two cheeky monkeys turn hair wrap right side out and attach bias tape

4. Turn your hair wrap right side out.  Check the elastic to make sure that it is firmly attached.  If it feels a little loose, turn your wrap inside out again and stitch over the elastic a few more times to secure it.  Pin the bias tape along the raw edge of the hair wrap (on the wrong side) and sew the first edge of the tape in place.  Turn the hair wrap right side out.  Fold the bias tape over the raw edge of the hair wrap and top stitch along the entire bottom edge to finish.

5. Now go and swim laps at your local swimming pool and wear your hair wrap with pride afterwards knowing that a) you got some exercise, and b) you don't have a cold, wet back from your dripping hair!  If you aren't sure how to use a towel hair wrap, then check out this link for a handy "how to" diagram.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

My Creative Space - Jane Austen Bracelets

image jane austen bracelet pride and prejudice elizabeth bennet jane mary kitty lydia bennet sisters two cheeky monkeys

Things have been a little quiet in my online stores of late due to my obsession with finishing my crocheted blanket!  But since I am pretty much finished with the blanket now (just a few loose ends to weave in and hide), I have begun working on some new Pride and Prejudice creations for my Two Cheeky Monkeys stores.  The first new design is a charm bracelet where each charm or dangle features the name of a character from the book.

image pride and prejudice bracelet jane austen mr darcy elizabeth bennet two cheeky monkeys

The second new bracelet design consists of a row of settings which will either have a word in each to form characters' names and titles or be a string of characters' names or surnames.  I am quite partial to the charm bracelet design because I have a long standing love for charm bracelets.  Which design do you prefer?

Monday, 3 June 2013

Handmade Home - Book Review

image book handmade home mark bailey sally bailey living with art and craft

This is the fourth in my series of handmade book reviews, and today's book is a little different from all the others I am reviewing.  Handmade Home, by Mark and Sally Bailey, is not a "craft book" full of patterns and designs, but is a book written to inspire and show readers how to decorate your home with art and handmade beauties (be they purchased from artisans or made yourself).

image book handmade home mark bailey sally bailey living with art and craft

This book is filled with beautiful photographs giving readers a peek into the homes of various creative and artistic individuals and couples living around the world.  The text highlights innovative, intriguing and well-balanced ways in which these "handmade homes" have been decorated or laid out.  And there are also helpful chapters which outline how to incorporate artistic elements such as colour, texture, textiles and beautiful handmade items into one's home decor.  Its aim is not just to explain how others have created delightful "handmade" homes, but to give readers insight into how they can do this in their own homes.

image book handmade home mark bailey sally bailey living with art and craft

Handmade Home is wonderfully written and filled with beautiful photography, fantastic for inspiring ideas for furnishing and decorating one's home.  However, as someone who has small children and lives in a constant chaos of toys, dirty laundry and food messes, browsing through a book like this can lead to unrealistic expectations and comparisons, and be a bit depressing!  The homes featured in this book belong to uber creative types, many of which work in the fields of design or art, and many of them are also transformed or re-invented farmhouses or vintage buildings, meaning that many "ordinary" readers, like myself, may be left feeling that there is no way they could recreate their living space in such a way.

image book handmade home mark bailey sally bailey living with art and craft

Having said all of that, I still do believe that this is a beautiful book and delightfully written.  Those who have a love of refurbished old homes or interior decorating may find this to be a gorgeous book for their coffee table.  Others may find this book a good place to find inspiration, large or small, and dream and wishfully think about "one day".