Category Archives: Crafternoon

Sparkly O’Clock

Five years ago, L and I accidentally studied abroad on the same program. Most people who knew us during our first two years at college would probably not believe this was an accident, as we were fairly inseparable. But indeed, we ended up picking the same program for exactly the opposite reasons and somehow landed ourselves together in Paris for nine months.

For the first time in two years, we were not living in the same room. This was an adjustment, but we were happy to be situated in neighboring arrondissements, her in the 15e, and me across the river in the 16e.

The mid-point between our two apartments was the Eiffel Tower, about ten minutes from either side. The Eiffel Tower became the meeting point for not just us, but for all our friends, and most evenings were passed on the Champ de Mars with a bottle of wine and a tranche of cheese, marking each hour with the lights on the Eiffel Tower going off, a time we dubbed “Sparkly O’Clock.”

Now, for the first time in a long time, L and I are no longer living together. She and her boyfriend moved in together in September. Like in Paris, she’s only in the next neighborhood over, but sometimes it feels like those few blocks stretch across an impassible, infinite distance.

Partly this is because I’m lazy. But mostly, it’s because our lives are diverging onto different paths, or maybe the same path, just at different speeds. It takes a lot more effort to spend time together now, and the dynamic is rarely the same as it once was.

Sometimes, I catch myself wishing things could go back to how things used to be, dancing around our dorm room or arguing over perfume ownership.

I know I don’t really want that. Both of us have grown so much since the first day of college, or those evenings on the Champs de Mars, or even the first couple years in DC. And I wouldn’t want to change any of that.

Mostly, it scares me knowing that someday, probably sooner rather than later, she’ll be more than a bottle of wine, a text message, and a ten minute walk away.

Happy Belated Christmas, LV. May we always have Sparkly O’Clock.

But at least for now, she is.

Eight is a lot of legs, David

Christmas this year should have been called Craftmas. I gave several homemade gifts, including but not limited to, etched beer glasses, screen-printed t-shirts, and the worlds ugliest-but-comfiest holiday sweater. But my biggest endeavor was my gift for my high school girlfriends’ annual gift exchange, which involved elaborate papercutting, multiple canvases, and very special paint.

This year was the 8th anniversary of one of my favorite holiday traditions, the Christmas Eve Eve party with my friends from high school. Each year, on the night before Christmas Eve, six of us gather together to exchange gifts and watch Love Actually. The event has evolved over the years; we quickly realized that our gift exchange would be a lot cheaper if we did Secret Santa, and where we all used to crowd into mine or A’s bedroom for a slumber party, old age has crippled our ability to have fun and everyone starts to crawl back home by the end of the night. I don’t think anyone has paid attention to Love Actually since about 2007. As we’ve gotten older and moved away–even gotten married in some cases–there are fewer and fewer of us home for Christmas each year. But the one thing that hasn’t changed: everyone knows that Christmas Eve Eve is sacred.

Come hell or high water, the six of us know we had better be near a computer with a web cam, a reliable internet connection, and a copy of Love Actually on the night of the 23rd. Technology is a glorious thing. There was even the year that I skyped in from an effing airplane.

Somewhere over Oklahoma

This year, only three of us were in Charleston, so we piled onto my bed and crowded around the computer. Gifts had to be mailed out in advance, so Secret Santa turned out to be not-so-secret. Happily, we’d decided to change up the gift swap and only give homemade gifts, so even if you knew ahead of time who your Santa was, there remained an element of surprise as to whether she had managed to make something not completely terrible.

To everyone’s amazement, all six gifts were pretty awesome! AS made F some coasters featuring photographs of her friends, family and fiancé, F made E sparkly champagne flutes with chalkboard paint on the base, E sewed B some thematic throw pillows in anticipation of her upcoming marriage, B, after failing to make the same coasters as AS, made a wooden wall-hanging for A, and A framed photographs she’d taken for me.

I had AS, and after much internal reflection, decided that I would paint her a picture of the Cooper River Bridge:

To do this, I first drew the bridge onto freezer paper using a really large carpentry square (the man at the hardware store was very intrigued by my project). Then, I spent about a million hours carefully cutting away all of the negative space with an Xacto knife (this part SUCKED). I then ironed the bridge onto three canvas panels. This… didn’t work very well. I think if in the next step, I’d used spray paint, it would have been ok. But because the cables of the bridge were so fine, they were easily disturbed by the brushes. It smudged pretty significantly, and I had to touch up the white, and as a result, the lines were not as crisp as I envisioned. Alas, it was a necessary evil for the special paint that I wanted to use:

That’s right, this GLOWS IN THE DARK, BITCHES! And really, a photograph cannot adequately capture how creepy cool it is to walk into a dark room and have this glowing at you. I was sad to give the painting away, but happy to know it is much appreciated in its new home:

Mocha the dog admires her new artwork.

I’ve got mail!

There is something extremely dreary about coming home from Christmas, something which is made a thousand times worse by coming home to a cold, empty house, knowing your friends and roommates are still away with their families, eating delicious home-cooked meals, whereas you have no food in the house and have to get up and go to work tomorrow. The sad reality of it all came crashing down a few minutes ago, when I picked up my take-out order of palak paneer from down the street. “Just get back in town?” Either he could read the post-vacation dejection on my face, or I need to lay off the palak paneer, as my six-day absence was noteworthy. Neither scenario is particularly good.

The only positive note in my return was checking the mail. Mail makes everything better! Well, not when it’s credit card offers, bills, and coupons for Ace Hardware, but today I am the happy recipient of not one but TWO real pieces of snail mail from Texas. First, a Christmas card for our house from a friend who recently moved to Dallas, and second, a letter from Houston. This letter is nothing special–just a few lines about an Ina Garten recipe and a champagne fountain–but it’s enough that my house doesn’t feel quite so empty on this sad, December night, alone with my styrofoam box of takeout.

I have gotten many such letters from Houston over the past several months, thanks to a blog called Forever Young Adult. One of the writers decided it would be a good idea to match up eager readers like myself with penpals, under the assumption that everyone likes mail. It was a really good idea. Penpal, seen here doing her best impression of Drunk Sober Kitchen, mails me stuff all the time! Not only do I regularly receive letters, but sometimes, I even get presents in the mail! And sometimes, she gets her minions in DC to creepily leave things on my doorstep that can’t be easily mailed, like a bottle of champagne. Or this:

Yes, I came home from a particularly heinous day at work (post-thanksgiving sadness) to find a giant, homemade advent calendar sitting on my front porch. Each of the 24 little baby socks had a note and a thoughtful gift, including but not limited to: a toy dinosaur, a magnifying glass, fifty cents in pennies, a set of belly-dancing zils, a pez dispenser, a dreidel, three mini-bottles of liquor, and some tiny Ewok figurines which I plan to eventually turn into earrings.

You might think that would be enough effort for one Christmas for a person she’s only communicated with in writing and met once. Au contraire! Look what Santa brought me from Texas:

For those of you that don’t know me: that is a giant painting of my face. I had my suspicions when she started making shady requests like “Could you please send me a front-facing photo of your face with no teeth-showing.” But never did I imagine something on such a vibrant and enormous scale! I am struggling to figure out where to hang it so that won’t look totally narcissistic (my bedroom) or be completely mortifying (K’s suggestion to mount it in the front hallway, like Eva Longoria in Desperate Housewives). The best idea I’ve come up with so far is to start painting a bunch of other canvases so that it’s not the only thing hanging on my wall.

It is hard work keeping up with such creative genius.

 

The Hanson Project: Part Two

If you’ll remember from part one, I was roped into going to a Hanson concert in New Haven this past Saturday. I’ll get around to telling you about the concert later this week, but before we get there, it’s time for a little craft lesson.

Since I was already going to the effort of traveling 400 miles and listening to 8 albums for a concert, I figured I might as well dress appropriately. Luckily, I’ve acquired some excellent costume-making skills over the years. One of my recent favorites–freezer paper stencils.
The process is fairly simple: cut a stencil out of freezer paper, iron it on a shirt, slap on some fabric paint, peel the stencil off. And the results look AWESOME.

Now, before you even suggest it, I will not be selling these shirts on Etsy. I understand that they are incredibly rad and that lots of people on the internet have more money than sense. But I could never sell these on the internet because then I would be the kind of person that sells Hanson shirts on the internet.
I can however, tell you how to make them yourself.
For this little endeavor, you will need:
Step 1: The Stencil
The most important part of this process is picking out something to put on a shirt. You can draw your own, or find lots of stencils online that you can print off. If you need ideas, just check out The Google. Of course, we already knew what we wanted: Hansons. So I put my excellent photoshop skills to work, and went from this:

 

To this:

 

Because there were three of us, we obviously each had to pick a brother. Seeing as E was the real fan, I offered her first pick:
Me: Since you are the reason we’re going to this concert, do you want to take Taylor?
E: DO NOT WANT TAYLOR ON MY SHIRT! I WANT ZAC!
Me: Isn’t Taylor the hot one?
E: I LOVE ZAC! ZAC AND I HAVE BEEN MARRIED SINCE WE WERE 12!
I was a little taken aback, but it turns out that E has always been an rabid Zac Hanson fan. When she was 12, she asked for a law text book for Christmas (???) and the first thing she did upon receiving it was open the book to the marriage section and check the age restrictions for marriage in South Carolina. Seeing that she conditionally passed, she then made her mother PROMISE that IF she met Zac Hanson and IF he then asked her to marry him, her mother would give her legal consent. Her mother wisely acquiesced.
So E took Zac, I dibsed The Hot One since I was putting in the effort to make the shirts, and we gave Isaac to F since she already has a tendency towards attraction to old men (j/k W!!!!).
Step 2: Cutting
Now that you have your stencil, tape it to a piece of cardboard thick enough to use an Xacto knife on without cutting through the bottom. Take a piece of freezer paper larger than the image you’re cutting out, and tape it plastic-side down on top of it.

 

This is the part that takes a lot of patience and attention to detail, depending on the complexity of your stencil. Our Hansons definitely fall on the complex end of stenciling (Curse you, Taylor, and your girlie neck-scarves!). Since I obviously wasn’t going to cut out all the different textures of their hair and clothing that had come through in my somewhat hasty photoshop work, I had to figure out what to keep in each image. We chose to maintain most of the structural elements of their clothes (collar lines, pocket squares, etc) and a couple of details in the hair, but avoided lots of the facial hair and clothing patterns.
The other tricky thing to worry about is saving enclosed whitespace. Think about if you were stenciling the letter A:

 

If you just cut out along the black outline, you’d end up with a finished product of this:

 

Which looks dumb. So instead, you need to cut out the middle first, and save it for later:

 

In a long string of words or in a stencil like this, where there’s lots of little bits of enclosed whitespace, it can be difficult to keep track of all the pieces. If they are large enough, I number them before cutting out for ease of lining them back up. I also find it helpful to lock these away in a tupperware to keep them from blowing away.
It’s usually easiest to start from the inside and work your way out. So in the Hanson case, I started with their faces, then extra details like hair highlights, ears and neck scarves, then cut out the the whole outline of the head. When you finish, you’ll have a piece of freezer paper with a silhouette cut out, and a bunch of little freezer paper puzzle pieces you’ll have to put back together again.
Step 3: Ironing
Next, you’ll need your t-shirt. It should be pre-washed so it doesn’t shrink after you paint it. Lighter color shirts are easier to work with. You can use dark shirts, too, but you’ll need to use opaque fabric paint and more layers of it than with a light shirt, reducing flexibility. Since we were using gold paint, we thought we’d run with the dark shirts for contrast, even though it would be trickier. American Apparel makes great shirts for this purpose but has the severe detriment of a) forcing you go give money to American Apparel and b) forcing you to set foot in an American Apparel. You decide if it’s worth the cost.
Turn on your iron and get another piece of freezer paper, large enough to be bigger than your stencil, but small enough to fit inside your shirt. Lay it flat inside your shirt and iron it on (I used to turn the shirt inside out to do this, but it was too difficult to invert the shirt with the freezer paper on and works just as well this way). This keeps the paint from bleeding through so is very important.

Take the silhouette part of your stencil and place it on your shirt, plastic side down. Iron on flat, being careful not to create puckers in the fabric inside your stencil.

Begin lining up your tupperware of puzzle pieces. The parts of the stencil you cut away can be helpful in placing pieces in the corret part of the stencil. It’s most painstaking but also safest to iron these on one by one, since they are susceptible to flying away when you so much as breathe. Be careful to put the plastic side down, or you will end up with a ruined piece of stencil glued to the bottom of your iron.
Zac’s superfluous hair is a guide for placing his face
When you’re done, you will end up with the inverse of what you want your finished product to be:

 

Step 4: Painting

Yay painting! Get your foam brush and bottle of paint. After spending all that time carefully cutting and ironing stuff on, you will probably be eager to dip your brush in and slap on a lot of paint at once. Don’t do this! When you put too much paint on, the freezer paper stencil will start to warp and then your paint will bleed and then Taylor Hanson’s eyes will look really creepy up close. Instead, use a very little bit of paint on your brush at a time, dabbing paint slowly into tight corners and around edges, then smoothing everything out so there aren’t any thick spots.

Be extra careful with Isaac’s pocket square
If you need more that one coat of paint, wait until it’s mostly dry to add more. I know you probably want to be done and hurry through this part, but I promise it’s worth the wait.
Optional Step 4A: Glowing
Now because I’m awesome, I decided to make them glow-in-the-dark t-shirts. I didn’t find any suitable glow in the dark paint, so I ordered some glow powder off Amazon and mixed it with some colorless textile paint extender and water. Once the gold paint had mostly dried, I put a thin layer of this on top. It only slightly affected the color of the gold.
Unfortunately, it also only slightly affected the glowing properties of the shirt. The shirts do glow, but you have to actually be in the dark, and not in say, a music venue where they have green tube lighting everywhere for safety and décor purposes. I intend to try again with a different brand of glow powder, or else some glow paint I’ve since found online. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Step 5: Drying
Yeah, this part sucks, and I never take enough time. But you really want the shirts to be properly dry by the time you peel the stencil off . This means several hours of drying time, usually. I’ve been too impatient with this before and ripped off the mostly-dry paint with the stencil.
Step 6: Peeling

THIS IS THE MOST FUN STEP. When your shirt is finally dry, peel away your freezer paper. If you have lots of itty bits like in ours, you’ll have to get tweezers for the more intricate stuff.

 

Step 7: Ironing

The final step is heat-setting the pain. You must iron your shirt once more to ensure the paint doesn’t come off. After you do this, take the paper out of the inside, and voilà! Most epic concert shirt ever!

We also stenciled the Hanson logo on the back, which you can easily find with the help of google.