Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Craft Fail

So here it is my newest obsession - Craft Fail. As crafters it is in our very nature to experiment with different mediums and try new projects. After all, we are a creative breed and creativity thrives on new. Like any scientist, a true artisan knows that with experimentation comes the potential for negative results - or just flat out disasters. And here's where Craft Fail comes in.

It's a community blog where fellow crafters from various niches go to post their not so successful crafting attempts and share their most entertaining "what was I thinking" moments - and we've all had those. The best part about Craft Fail is that each disaster is told with honesty and humor. Whether or not you can relate to the particulars of an unsuccessful attempt, I guarantee you, you will find yourself cringing along as you read all about a crafter's crazy project debacle.

Some posts will leave you in utter disbelief - did they really try that?! - while others will have you laughing so hard your sides will ache. Either way you'll find comfort in the fact that others out there have tried and failed right along with you. Do yourself a favor and check out Craft Fail. I promise you'll be entertained.

For you busy gals I've put together a little link list of some of my favorite craft fails:
1. "Bad Peeps!" A tragic tale of hope and loss and yes...peeps.
2. "Can You Make a Tie-Dye Shirt With Leftover Easter Egg Dye? Apparently Not." The story a mother desperate to do right by her son.
3. "The 'Bummer' Basket - Knitted & Felted Fail" A failed attempt to make a felted basket shaped like a bum. Why you would ever want an ass basket - I don't know, but she did and her failed result was very entertaining.
4. "A Bad Attempt to Use Fabric Scraps" I found myself quickly defending this craft fail. Its not that bad. While it may not have been what she intended, I think its kinda cute - in a lopsided way.
5. "Spam Soap Fail" A woeful tale of a batch of homemade soap that looked... like spam. Hey, at least she found a clever way to use it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mama's Got a Brand New Bag!

Okay, so its not exactly a new bag. Its a blog and I'm not exactly a mama - I'm more a doting aunt. But my point is, for you regulars out there, you've probably noticed that my blog has had a little work done. Okay, a lot of work done. This baby's had a facelift and then some.

Thanks to the ever creative and oh so intuitive Emily White, otherwise known as The Blog Fairy, not only is Birdcage Cards' blog all shinny and new but its organized too! Check out those adorable old school folder tabs that she made just for me! For those of you who don’t know I’m a little bit obsessed with organization and school supplies - or should I say office supplies now that I'm a grown-up?

Anyhow, when I started this blog for my small business a few months ago I knew I wanted this space of mine to feel like me; to be my own little retreat and outlet in this vast web. I just didn't know how to (and certainly didn't have the time to) spruce it up myself. Finding Emily was my lucky day. If you have any questions about what it was like to get a head-to-toe makeover from the Blog Fairy or just want to let me know your thoughts on the new look please send an email or leave a comment. I cannot recommend her highly enough.

P.S. - did I mention she does Etsy banners too!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Back to Basics

I think its so interesting how tastes evolve over the years due to what's available at the time, take for instance ink colors or printing machines. When the letterpress first came out it was the hip thing to lay the ink on the surface of the paper ever so lightly, called kissing. This made it look as smooth as possible. But today, in this digital age, everything looks smooth with ink sitting on top of the paper. Which is why letterpress printers now apply pressure when laying the ink resulting in a noticeable impression in the paper. It's their way of defining their craft and standing apart from a sea of laser printers.

For me, everything seems so mechanized and mass produced by one machine or another. Which is why I began to make one-of-a kind cards and custom invitations. When an invite is embellished with hand stamped images no two are ever exactly the same. I love that! I love experimenting with applied pressure when laying a stamp; just like today's letterpress printers do. I love applying pressure at one end of a stamp and lightening up on the other to leave a kind of faded or worn off look or I can add embossing powder to raise an image off the surface entirely. I mean really there are so many different ways to try things when you hand print them. I'm only limited by the range of my imagination and creativity. Which, thanks in part to the way my parents raised me is a pretty wide range.

When it comes to machines, I'm the only one at Birdcage Cards and I'd like to keep it that way, at least for now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Live Green Without Spending a Ton of Money

Well, as most of you know today is Earth Day. And in honor of such I want to share some of my favorite earth friendly products - things that can be used and re-used over and over again to limit our amount of waste to our planet and our wallets. They also happen to be some of my top pet peeves...

1. There is no reason to use a plastic bag when there are so many cute and storage friendly shopping totes and produce bags available to us. A traditional canvas bag is great and can be found in an array of styles but I prefer to use nylon totes that fold down to next to nothing and fit easily in my purse. That way I always have one handy. This one from ChicoBag is available in all sorts of fun colors and for $5.00 I think its a steal! Also, check out for great organic cotton produce bags.

2. No more disposable lunches. Just think about all the waste that goes into a packed lunch - plastic baggies, aluminium foil, juice boxes, straw wrappers, paper bags, water bottles. The list could go on forever and it really doesn't have to. You can always use a fabric lunch bag and get creative with plastic containers to find what works best for you. Just make sure that 2, 3 or 5 is on the bottom of your containers. This lets you know that its safe for food. Try this awesome lunch cube with separate compartments for snacks and sandwiches from the container store.

3. What's with you paper towel people? I don't get it. Why use something only once when a dishtowel or cloth napkin can do the same thing. Not only are you adding to our landfills each time you use a paper towel to wipe up a spill but you're throwing your money away! Do our planet and your wallet a favor and start using cloth napkins to wipe your sticky hands on. Besides aren't these cloth napkins from girls can tell way cuter than any flimsy paper napkin you could find? And, hey bike riding - now there's another earth friendly idea.

For the rest of today please just try and consider what happens to something after you're done with it. Can you use it again or does it go in the trash? If you find that you're disposing of a lot of items maybe its time to change the way you're doing things for the benefit of our planet and your bank account.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sometimes Simpler Really Is Better

I spent a long weekend in Canada at my sister's house with my niece and nephew. My niece, my love, my little goose had her 4th birthday party on Sunday. Just a small comfortable family affair with the first grilled hamburgers and corn on the cob of the season. We agreed on practical gifts for this birthday as my little goose Makenna owns a mountain of new toys from this Christmas and is currently growing out of her clothes faster than her parents can re-stock them.

So, Makenna received some new art supplies, a few books, a light brite, a new backpack for school, lots of new clothes for her and two new outfits for Barbie and Ken - which was my attempt to keep her excited about all the clothes she was getting. I'd say it worked rather well too. Anyhow, she was a total gem and while she did admit to noticing a pattern amidst her gifts (more clothes!) she was excited and said thank you and bashfully smiled while holding up her new dresses.

So it got me thinking, with the exception of the light brite all of Makenna's gifts were either simple or functional in their design. And I'm really beginning to think that simple is the way to go when gift giving for children. When I think of the best times I've had as a child they all involved creative play with a cardboard box and paints. Complicated toys with flashing lights and screaming sounds, while stimulating on some level, don't allow for truly imaginative play. And isn't that what we want for our children, to learn and grown from imaginative expression and experimentation? Sometimes, simpler really is better.

For some simple toy ideas check out littlealouette's beautiful wood carved toys on etsy. {Harper the Hippo rolling toy shown above.}

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Make a Wish

I have been working like a mad woman to get organized for my etsy store opening next month. Not only have I been feverishly finishing up some new invitation and stationery designs but I have had to make several sets of each design. Wait, does it sound like I have multiples of each already done - ‘cause I don’t. That’s still on my to-do list.

Its also probably not the best time to be experimenting with new packaging options either but that couldn’t be helped. The new stationery line required new boxes and hunting for just the right one was a bit of a time suck. But, fortunately for me they were found and while I await their arrival I have tons to do to keep me busy. Thought I might make a wish that I get everything ready in time and still maintain my sanity. So, I made a lovely new dandelion note card set to wish on…

Dandelion Stationery by Birdcage Cards

Set of 8 flat 4.25" x 5.5" note cards and 8 A2 envelopes.

Available personalized with name printed on it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How To Make a Homegrown Tomato Pincushion

There are so many different ways to make a simple round pincushion that when I decided I needed my own I didn't know where to begin. So I did the only logical thing to do - I called up my grandma and asked her how she makes hers. Here's how to make a tomato pincushion of your own according to Ellie...with a few modifications.

First You'll Need:
- fabric scraps for the body of the pincushion
- green felt scraps for the tomato leaf
- 1 button (or 2 if you don't want to make a leaf)
- standard sewing needle
- embroidery needle
- cotton thread
- embroidery thread
- batting; if you don't have any laying around dismantle an old stuffed animal from the attic
- fabric glue; I recommend Crafter's Pick

How To:
1. Cut a circular piece of fabric 8" in diameter; this tends to make a decent sized pincushion not too large or small. A pot lid makes a great circle template.
2. Lay the fabric down wrong side up and sew a running stitch along the edge of the circle.
3. Break your batting into small tufts and place it in the middle of your circle. Pull the thread to cinch up the top a bit like a little pouch and continue to stuff with more batting until it's as firm as you'd like it.
4. Cinch the opening completely closed being mindful not to pull too hard and break the thread. Once the top is cinched in stitch it securely in place.
{Note: with this kind of tomato pincushion steps 5-7 can be skipped. For a more traditional look go to step 8 and add your felt leaf now.}
5. Thread your embroidery needle and triple knot the end. Be sure to cut an extra long piece; you'll have to wrap your pincushion with it 8 times.
6. Poke your needle through the center of your pincushion and pull the thread through. Bring your needle back up to the top and thread it through again at the same spot. Continue to do this 7 more times spacing out the thread accordingly and pulling it tight. Think of it like cutting an apple pie into 8 slices, everyone needs to get the same size piece and by pulling the thread tight each time everyone gets a plump slice too.
7. After you have separated your pincushion into 8 sections and tied it off, sew your button on to the bottom half to cover up where the embroidery thread exited from. You can use a tiny button in the same color as your fabric if you want it to blend in.
8. Take your felt and freehand cut a six pointed star. You can take some green thread and sew a small loop on to your leaf before you attach it. (I find this an unnecessary step.)Using your fabric glue attach the leaf to the top of your pincushion and viola you have made your very own tomato pincushion!
{Now, if you'd prefer you can sew a button on top rather than your felt leaf for a more modern twist on an older design.}
I sew so rarely these days that the one I made, Jr. as he prefers to be called, has become a thumbtack cushion for now. I just love the warm fuzzy feeling I get when I see it sitting there on my desk!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pincushions Have Personality!!!

My grandma, the lovely Eleanor - Ellie, taught me how to sew as a young girl. She made me an Amish doll when I was eight and taught me how to sew different dresses for it. She's also quite the accomplished quilter and has generously made one for all of her grandkids. Mine is red, white and blue as I was born on flag day.

As long as I can remember she has always used the same tomato pincushion. I know its an old idea that's been around for ages but I love it. I've always loved it. I'm obsessed with its tiny stuffed shape and big personality. Even as I write now I can picture my grandma's hands carrying it around the house as she takes her project from the sewing room, to the couch, to the dinning room table.

The other day I discovered a new blog (well new to me anyway) called Twig and Thistle. I love the author's, Kathleen, consistent tone of voice, artist spotlights, and all her neat projects. Upon digging through the archives I found a lovely little pin cushion project that reminds me of my grandma's tomato pincushion.

Since reading the post I've gone on a mad pincushion picture search. What I've realized is that its not just my grandma's tomato cushion that I love, but pincushions in general. They are the grown-up's stuffed animal; soft and cuddly, made in different shapes and colors. Be it quirky or classic - pincushions, all pincushions, have some serious personality. Here's a look at some of the neat ones I've found by fellow etsy artisans...

twin chairs by rabbits moon, linen lace pincushion by namolio

lovely pear by Fluttersby and Flowers!, tomato by Country Accents by NJB

sunny side up egg by dottyral, yellow egg cup pincushion by The Sometimes Crafter

mini mushroom by Olga Almond, grey squirrel by Lucy's Locket, little monster from Jessica Kay

tiny bottlecap pincushions:
glub glub goldfish by ReFabulous, cherry blossom by Schmaltzy Craftsy

peppermint filled moss by Ottoman, rubix cube pincushion by pinpinn

Delicious pincushions:
cappuccino by Fuzzy Rose, cupcakes by Crazy Cakes, banana cream pie by Glittermoon

Pincushions are wonderful and great and full of so much creativity and personality. They are certainly worthy of our respect. Please take some time to explore each artisits' shop. They are full of so many little gems! And stayed tuned for my How to Make a Homegrown Tomato Pincushion post on Monday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

All Roads Lead to Yellow

I love a shot of yellow on a dreary day. And seeing how its grey and cold and just snowed yesterday, even though it is in fact spring, I felt a dose of yellow warmth was in order...

Adorable tall tumbler by Orla Kiely for Target.

I love these pale yellow flats from Cole Haan. They remind me of a pair of yellow gladiator wedges I recently bought.

Pantone selects a warm golden yellow, mimosa, as the color of the year for 2009. Stating that in these times of economic uncertainty yellow expresses hope and reassurance. Well, isn't it nice of them to repackage yellow and sell it to us all over again.

Is it true, does too much yellow make you tense? Maybe so, but as a born and raised Buffalonian I have to say that there is no such thing as too much sun. Now if only it would come out.

Monday, April 6, 2009

April Freebie

Here at Birdcage Cards I firmly believe that others out there love to read as much as I do. So in honor of one of my most beloved hobbies every order placed during the month of April will receive a free personalized bookmark! Shown above is my favorite, grey with yellow zinnias, but I want you to decide yours.

When you place an order with Birdcage Cards just let me know your favorite colors, if you'd like your name printed at the bottom and whether or not you'd like your bookmark to match your order. For instance buy a set of Plumage stationery and receive a matching bookmark with your name printed on it for free!

I know life can get a little hectic and sometimes its hard to find the time to sit down with a book. So, consider this a little reading incentive; something beautiful to tuck between the pages.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

All a Flutter

As promised here's another peak at a stationery set from the new line, called "All a Flutter". This butterfly stationery looks so soft and peaceful. The pictures really don't do it justice. I started using this set as note cards so as to not write across the delicate images, but of course, they come flat and unfolded for you to decide its use.

All a Flutter Stationery Set by Birdcage Cards.

Sets arrive unfolded and measure 5" x 7".

Currently stationery is packaged in sets of 8 but if you would like a set of 25 sheets and envelopes just let us know that can easily be arranged.

I really hope you all love this new set. Sometimes sharing a new design feels a bit like releasing your grown child into the world - you so hope it does well and people are kind to it.
For more details on any of our stationery sets feel free to send an email. I promise I won't bite.

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look. Leave a comment and let me know what you think...of anything really! Have a happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Paper Lanterns

It's that time of the year again, when stores bring out their warm weather merchandise. On their list this year at Target is my favorite form of party decorations - paper lanterns. Every time I see one in a store I picture myself in a field of trees tucked away on a vineyard somewhere. There, round tables with white linens sit under paper lanterns hanging from old trees. I won't bore you with every detail but trust me I've thought of it, right down to the mixing of vintage wooden chairs. So anyhow, in honor of one of my favorite daydreams I made this simple little card. Hope it brings out a few daydreams for you too.

Paper Lantern note card by Birdcage Cards

And what else was in my spring card goody box...
Butterflies and Tulips.
These tulips were all hand painted with watercolors, one in every color of the rainbow - well almost.

That's all for today folks. Wishing you warm daydreams on this wet rainy day.