Going the wrong way…+2, -4

OK, all of you crafty folks out there in blogland, I’m calling on you to tell me about your favorite arts and crafts websites. I can’t find them all by myself. It’s been one of those frustrating few days where I have to say goodbye to more old friends than hello to new ones.

SteamPunk & Lolita

Once again, whilst adding a great new crafting tips and site to Crafty Tips, I have to bid adieu to not one, not two, but three! old friends. Quite a hit on the Lolita & Steampunk Tips category but hopefully with your help it will be a short-term decline.

The new listing is for a great Israeli artist who specializes in Steampunk style jewelry. Check her out and tell her Michele over on Crafty Tips sent ya.

Craft Blogs

As much as it pains me to admit it, there’s tons of other great blogs about crafts. There’s quite a few of them featured on Crafty Tips.

Unfortunately, yesterday was one of those days for one step forward, two steps back. Another great listing was added to the Crafty Blogs category and another one bit the dust. Sigh.

The good news is Kelly’s blog is lots of fun and a great read.

So little time, so many great sites

I love looking for new sites, great crafting tips and new friends to share on Crafty Tips. Unfortunately, it is one of those things that seems to eat time. After all, I want to explore all of the crafty and artistic goodness on these sites. I find myself having to exercise restraint if I want to actually get anything done.

Oh cool look at the great embroidery project, I would so love to make that. Oooh, batik using candles. And loook at this, pretty poppies. So much inspiration it’s almost overwhelming. And, that’s even before I check out the latest pins on Pinterest.

Christmas in April?

A Christmas tradition in our house is the annual purchase of poinsettia plants. We enjoy them while they are blooming but unlike many folks we just can’t bring ourselves to throw them out simply because Christmas is over or they have stopped blooming. They usually get added to our unheated sun room and we enjoy them for their pretty leaves with their red brackets.

We’ve tried the whole locking them in a dark, cold closet to get them to rebloom. It’s never worked for us. If anything, all we ended up with was a dead plant.

For whatever reason, our sun room had the exact right conditions this spring. Lo and behold, we have not one, but two, blooming poinsettias right now. Granted they are not the showroom quality display of a Christmastime store-bought plant but we’re tickled pink that we have any flowers. While we’re totally enjoying this rare spring display, we have little doubt we did very little to cause it.

Bits of Things, Here and There

How Was Your Week?

Despite not posting much around here, I’ve been a busy gal this week.

I’m a Squid!

I recently started posting some articles on Squidoo.com…I’m webscribbler over there. (Be sure to check out my cool articles on Hummingbirds, Dandelions and Carolina anoles – cute little green lizards that run around in the Carolinas.)

It’s a friendly community of writers and bloggers. I had looked into the site several years ago and was disappointed by the types of articles that I primarily saw. Unfortunately, there’s still too many “sales lenses” there but overall, they are getting better. And, here lately they have been making many changes to get writers to up their game. Time will tell if the changes matter to Google.

Part of what attracts me about the site is that I can write about anything without worrying whether or not it matches the topic of one of my sites. So, one day I can write about dandelions, the next day I can write about lizards and another day I can write about web stuff.

I started writing over there again to gain some quality backlinks to a few of my sites. After all, if I was doing the writing of that content, I could ensure it was something worth being linked from. Sigh, shortly after I started posting they made all of the links there ‘nofollow’ as opposed to Dofollow. I’ve seen with other nofollowed links that Google does indeed count them so hopefully all of my efforts as a Squid aren’t for naught.

Of course, the community vibe over there is anyone writing for backlinks is a dirty spammer. Shhh, don’t tell them that I’m one of those. The assumption is that anything written for backlinks must be poorly written. Obviously, that’s not always true but the long-term members of Squidoo do have a point. Of course, much of that poorly written content could easily be dealt with by simply removing it – something their terms of service does allow for.

Additionally, Squidoo is a revenue-sharing site. It provides authors of the top 85,000 or so articles a portion of the proceeds of the site. It also offers people like me, who live in idiotic tax Nexus states that drove out Amazon and other affiliate sales programs out of their borders, a backdoor back into earning money as an affiliate – of course, that also entails sharing a chunk of those sales with Squidoo. But, it would seem a portion of a sale, paid via PayPal, is better than no sales. Haven’t made any sales yet, so time will tell if I have any more success on their platform than I did on my own.

Crafty Tips

There’s a certain irony when it comes to the number of listings on Crafty Tips. I seem stuck on 957. Granted 957 great sites and crafting tips in one place is awesome. But, no matter how many new submissions I receive or sites I add myself, there almost always seems to be an equal number of sites no longer active that have to be removed. As I write this post, I’m at 954. When I’m done here, I’ll be off to hunt more great sites and tips to share with everyone.

Yesterday, I found several new Altered Art Tips & Websites, Making Miniatures Tips & Websites and Amigurumi Tips & Websites to share with everyone.

You can visit the area that interests you most or keep up with all of the latest listings by checking out the Great New Craft Websites area where each new listing is featured.

New Flower Patterns

It’s been a little over a week, but I also recently added a new free crochet flower pattern over on The Crafty Tipster. Please let me know what you think.

And of course, there was the embroidered dandelion flower I shared here with everyone a couple of weeks ago.

Hobby Lobby Disappointment

The Hobby Lobby stores closest to our house are about an hour away in South Carolina. We don’t get to go to them all that often. It’s a treat exploring their stores and there’s just so much inspiration and crafty goodness there that we spend hours in them whenever we get the chance.

Knowing they had tons of cute decorative things, I thought it would be the perfect place to scout out a few things for my little fairy garden. (Note to anyone listening…Scotch moss grows in a ball and unlike the carpet-like mosses does not take kindly to being divided. And, apparently aphids like it too. sigh)

Sadly, there was very little stuff to pick from. I had found some cute little fencing, which was sadly too big for my little garden, the last time we were there but there was nothing like that on this last visit.

I did pick up these cute little flower pots from the dollhouse section but was disappointed about the lack of small artificial flowers. There was a few things in the model train section but they were fairly pricey and I didn’t think they would hold up well to being accidentally watered.

I had bumped into one of the staff several times while wandering the aisles and she ended up being my cashier. She asked if I had found everything and I replied yes and no. She asked about the no and I told her that I was disappointed about the limited selection of ‘fairy garden’ type things. She admitted that yes that was popular right now and strangely enough they didn’t carry very much. Shoot, I couldn’t even find those little fabric roses and stamens that are usually near the wedding flowers. She agreed that it seemed strange that they didn’t have any of those. I got the distinct impression it was not the first time she had that discussion.


So, what’s your last week or two been like? Get any good crafting time in? Find more cool stuff to add to your Pin Boards. I sure have…check them out at my page BlogAboutCrafts on Pinterest and my newest board…Fairy Garden Ideas.

See you around the web this week.

Embroidered Dandelion

I think dandelions are among the most under-appreciated flowers. They are actually quite pretty and the fluffy seed balls they produce are magical. Seemed like a great idea to make my own embroidered dandelion flowers.

Why dandelions? I recently wrote about Dandelion Folklore, History & Uses. (If you haven’t already done so, you should really check it out, those beautiful yellow flowers so many of us love to hate may just be part of your next vehicle purchase.)

Yes, this post is about embroidered dandelions and I am getting there, trust me.

I thought it would be fun to explore some new stitches as well as wrap my needle and thread around the dandelion – both in flower form and the fluff-ball seed form.

I tried my own idea for making fluffy goodness and while it doesn’t fall apart once the loops are cut, it is a bit of a mess. Enter turkey work! The stitch is crazy easy and yet locks the threads tight so that they can be cut and fluffed.

Here’s my test fabric.

You can see my knotted mess in the bottom corner as well as some attempts on doing some sort of couching over the fluffy stuff.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I almost always keep a scrap bit of felt or fabric nearby to play with my ideas. That way I don’t weaken my good fabric with excess holes and don’t risk cutting stitches I want to keep when cutting out attempts that failed.

I don’t generally follow patterns. I might sometimes use something I’ve seen as inspiration but I haven’t worked with a pre-printed pattern in years.

Problem with “winging it” is sometimes things don’t turn out how we envisioned them. As you can see by most of the stuff on my experimenting scrap.

Embroidered Dandelion Flower #1

So, after playing around a bit, it was time to make my first attempt.

Note to self, and anyone who might be listening, felt can pucker terribly. Use an embroidery hoop; even when just experimenting because if you get something cool, it might not be usable for the puckering.

This embroidered dandelion didn’t turn out exactly how I had envisioned it. Making the cup underneath the flower head proved more elusive than I thought it would be.

While I think the overall look is cool, I think it looks a bit more like a thistle flower than a dandelion. Laying my flower on the scanner bed appears to have hidden some of the puckering but sadly it’s pretty bad.

In case you’re wondering the stem is made of a single line of chain stitch surrounded by a kind of running stitch.

The lovely fluffy yellow, flower part was made using turkey work.

The cup part of the flower is just a series of satin stitches. The trick with them was to keep the turkey work from bunching up.


Embroidered Dandelion Flower #2

I love the way this turned out.

Yeah, I know, I should have ironed out that wrinkle before I used the fabric. It was late and I just didn’t want to dig out the iron and ironing board. Don’t even try and tell me that you’ve never winged it and hoped for the best too. lol

For the stem, I made two long satin-like stitches and then made a third stitch where I coiled the thread around the first two stitches.

I also used a long French knot or pistil stitch on each of the seed heads. (Hopefully, tutorial coming soon.)

In one of those happy accidents, I ran out of thread when I only needed about one more of the long French knot or pistil stitches. Ahh, seemed like a bit of free inspiration. I knew that I had wanted to make some fly-away seeds and the gap provided the perfect place to put them.

I love how the tufts came out. I used a Turkey rug stitch or Ghiordes knot. I hope to get a tutorial up on The Crafty Tipster shortly. It uses no knots and yet you can use it to create fuzzy pile. As the name implies, it was originally used by Turkish rug makers.

If I get ambitious and there’s interest, I’ll also create a quick tutorial on how to make your own embroidered dandelion flower.

Whatcha’ think?

Doing Disney

I cringe every time I see it. The outcome is always the same. It’s just a matter of time. Someone opens a new Etsy shop and has these cute little whatevers. There are princesses, cuddly animals and monsters. The names of the pieces come immediately to mind…Cinderella, Piglet, Mickey, Donald…

While all of them are public figures, they are NOT in the public domain – their likenesses are often protected by trademark and copyright.

Start selling handmade items in the image of a famous character and you’re certain to attract attention…the sort of attention you don’t want to ever see. Legal attention.

Asking for Legal Trouble

A recent submitter to Crafty Tips had several items in her Etsy shop that were sure to get her noticed. Amongst things that stemmed from her own imagination were numerous Disney characters; trademarked Disney characters. The outcome was inevitable…she has to take them down. However, this young crafter is playing a very dangerous game. She posted on Facebook in early March that she knows she has to take them down, yet 7 recognizable and trademarked characters remain in her Etsy shop as of April 11th. I would hate to think if the lawyers at Disney got a hold of her…not only is she infringing on their trademark, she admits knowing that she is doing so.

Sure, it’s a great way to launch a new shop and learn your craft. Make things people will recognize and you will get buyers. While I doubt Disney or the other trademark holders can do much about someone owning a handmade version of their characters, they certainly can sue the pants off of anyone selling items made to look like their trademarked characters. It’s their invention and they can control who makes money from it.

Avoiding Being Sued for Trademark Infringement

The obvious solution to avoiding a lawsuit about trademark infringement is to create your own set of characters to brand and grow your business around.

But, it’s equally obvious that not everyone has the imagination to do that. In that case, with a bit of searching, I’m sure there’s plenty of designers who would agree to work with you or sell you the rights to reproduce their designs for sale. Or, why not just make generic animals. Get a collection of pictures of bears and create your own cuddly version. Or visit your local zoo and get inspired by the animals you see there. Just whatever you do, make sure you do not make something that the average person would compare to a licensed and trademarked character.

Things people often make to sell but don’t realize are off limits (this is by no means a complete list)…

1. Anything Disney.

2. Anything DreamWorks (Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, etc.

3. Anything Warner Brothers (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Roadrunner, etc.)

4. Anything from Big Idea Entertainment (VeggieTales)

5. Anything Cartoon Network (including the old Hanna-Barbara characters like Yogi the Bear, Scooby Doo, Smurfs etc.)

What it boils down to, if there is a name associated with the likeness you are incorporating into your hand-crafted item, it is most likely protected by trademarks and copyrights.

When it comes to doing Disney, Hello Kitty, DreamWorks or any of the other major animated characters, just don’t. It’s a lot safer that way and you won’t have to worry about anyone suing you.

Women Painters Are Less Talented?

who says woman can not paint?Why is it so many artists and other creative types feel the need to insult the work of others to somehow promote themselves? Some years ago I wrote about a local artist who seemed to think the best way to get people to buy his work was to call them shallow and generally attack anyone who liked realistic paintings of horses and trees…How Dumb Can He Be?.

While one German artist is making headlines for his comments about female painters not being able to paint very well and basing his opinion on historical auction prices, one of the world’s most beloved female Impressionist painters was making headlines of her own.

I’m not going to talk further about the German fellow or discuss his art other than to mention that one of his most famous works is a scary looking painting of little boy fondling himself. (I’ve seen it and it’s not anything I would ever display on one of my sites or even wish to view a second time.) Sorry, sir, but that is not my idea of art and perhaps provides a hint as to why you have such a low opinion of female artists and perhaps women in general.

Women can too paint!

At Christie’s London auction house, a painting by the French Impressionist Berthe Morisot, broke the record for the highest price ever paid for a work by a female artist. On February 6th, 2013, during their Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale, Après le déjeuner was sold for $10,980,813 (with the buyer’s premium). The highest price ever paid for a painting was $267 million for a work by Paul Cezanne.

Après le déjeunerBerthe Morisot is one of the artists that I have profiled on my other site The Famous Artists. Along with a biography of Morisot, I share a number of her works that I felt showed her range of subjects. Whether it’s because I have a good eye or just like pretty things, Après le déjeuner or After the Luncheon was one of the works I had chosen. (You can follow the links to see a larger version of the painting and learn a bit more about it and Morisot. Did you know that she was the sister-in-law of Edouard Manet?)

The Role of Women in Art History

If you think about world history and the roles women have held, it wasn’t really until Morisot’s time, the mid-to-late 1800s that it was acceptable for women to paint as a profession. While many women did paint wonderful works of art prior to the 1800s, their work was considered little more than a way for them to pass the time.

Generally speaking, there’s far fewer surviving works of woman artists than male artists simply because it was socially unacceptable for women to engage in trade. Additionally, woman artists were often restricted to painting children and flowers to preserve their femininity. Of course, that restriction has always made me question if the male artists of the day were indeed worried about their kingdom being taken over by equally talented female painters.

Art Scholars Perpetuate Gender-Based Stereotypes

Even modern-day art scholars try to limit the impact of female artists.

When I was researching Berthe Morisot for The Famous Artists, I found that many portrayed Morisot as something of a hanger-on within the circle of Impressionists of Paris. They seemed unwilling to acknowledge her success was attributable to her skill rather than her familial ties to Manet.

More open-minded scholars and the writings of Manet and other male artists of the time tell a far different tale. Morisot was instrumental in the Impressionist movement. Her work inspired Manet and is thought to have led him to adopting the Impressionist style. Bet you didn’t know that. Is it any wonder that the work of female artists garners lower auction prices when scholars in the field refuse to recognize the role women have held in the art world?

Is Art Educating Perpetuating the Gender Divide

My formal education, from which the visual arts were basically absent, introduced me to a number of historically important artists but they were primarily related to my own field of study – science and math.

Ask most folks about famous artists and they are going to name the big ones – DaVinci, Van Gogh, Picasso, etc. Sadly the list is often quite short. Sometimes you might get a mention of Morisot or Georgia O’Keeffe (particularly if you’ve ever lived in her home state of Texas, like I did for several years) but for the most part Americans are not taught about the contributions of female artists.

Before I began a site about the lives and works of famous artists, I’d never heard of Morisot. Heck, I’d barely heard of Manet, Cezanne and Pissarro for that matter. Even though I earned a liberal arts degree, my education did not include coverage of the visual arts. Though based on my research of Morisot, I’m not sure I missed all that much if many art scholars believe Morisot had no historical importance beyond who she married.

Why Do Female Painters Receive Less Recognition?

I wonder if the price disparity and general disrespect given to female painters is simply a numbers game. After all, if it wasn’t socially acceptable for women to pursue a career as a painter until the mid-to-late 1800s, there is a far smaller library of works to pull from. It’s kinda like comparing the history of space-craft to the history of the automobile or comparing the history of the United States to the history of Greece. All are historically important but for some the record is simply longer.

I’ll never agree with the German painter who has proclaimed that female painters are simply less-skilled. I suspect it’s more an issue of traditional gender roles. Just like we often assume a nurse is female, we’ve somehow been conditioned to think of top-echelon painters as being male. Both stereotypes are stupid. Sadly, both stereotypes are continually embraced.

According to Wikipedia even the 48th most expensive painting sold in history garnered over $50 million more than Morisot’s record-setting Après le déjeuner. (The list only goes to 48.)

I’m excited to see that the prices are rising for paintings by women. But, I think we have a long way to go before the established art world gives them the credit they are truly due.

Button Embroidery Ideas

In my previous post Embroidering with Shank Buttons, I talked about incorporating shank buttons into an embroidery by using seed beads to build a base for the button to rest upon. In this post, I’m going to hopefully get you thinking about different ways to make use of button holes.

You may remember my bead and button embroidery from the last post…

embroidered button art

Today, I’m going to talk about the largest buttons in the piece. They were given to me by Lots of Buttons in exchange for creating a tutorial using one or more of their lovely buttons. This is actually the second tutorial to come from this project. While my last button tutorial focused on their Joi shank button, this one is going to involve working with their Palma and Tama buttons and a bit of button embroidery.

As you can see, the Palma is a lovely greenish-blue button with eight holes. What may be a little harder to see from the picture is that is is shaped a bit like a bowl.

The dome-like shape of the Palma would dictate that you could only position it on clothing in one way. However, that same domed or bowl-like shape provides a number of wonderful embroidery opportunities.

palma from lots of buttonsThis one just might be my favorite from the entire embroidery. It uses straight stitches to attach the button to the fabric and two different types of beads to create a flower.

I started by placing the button up-side down which immediately provided some elevation.

The button is actually attached to the fabric by stitching over the face of the button rather than from hole to hole. In effect, I’m treating the button as part of the fabric and using it as a base for the embroidery.

When the embroidery was done, I thought the center was a bit plain. At that point I added the green adventurine beads. It worked out nicely that each bead fit within the points of the embroidered star or flower and that all eight of them laid flat on the face of the button.

Now with so many threads going in and out of the button’s holes, the middle of the button looked a bit messy. That was quickly fixed by the addition of the slightly larger crackle bead.

I thought the cup-like shape of the button would be perfect as a base for a flower. Since this embroidery was a Christmas present, it seemed only fitting to add a poinsettia to it. Each petal is made from wire and seed beads. The color isn’t totally accurate in this picture, but it’s the best one I took that shows the petals and how they were made.

To secure the petals to the button, I twisted the wires a bit around each other. As you can imagine, the wires added a bit of bulk to the button. To get it to lay flat, I snipped a bit of the felt away and stitched the button onto the backing fabric. (See my Felt Embroidery tutorial on The Crafty Tipster on using a backing fabric with felt applique.)

If there’s an interest, I’ll post a tutorial on making the flower petals. I’m hoping the close up photo shows enough detail for beaders to figure out the bead counts for each of the rows. (The row closest to the crackle bead has two beads in it; only the tips of the petals go down to one bead.)

In a third tutorial on button embroidery, I’m going to show you a little embroidery trick to keep the embroidery strands from splitting across the face of your buttons as shown in this example using one the Lots of Buttons’ Tamas.

BTW – The buttons I received from Lots of Buttons were some of the nicest I’ve seen in a long time. There are no mold seams and both the front and backs of the buttons were pretty enough to be used facing outward. It is true that I agreed to write a tutorial in exchange for a selection of buttons. That said, there was no discussion that I would include a review or more than one post or tutorial using their buttons.