seashells on the seashore

the third eyepatch is a grouping of shell buttons and pearls. it was inspired by the artwork of nick cave. originally i had included the green crystal in it, but wasn't entirely won over; i like the piece more now, without the visual focuser of the blue green color. however, i maintained the hue in the backing fabric.

abalone and mother of pearl buttons are amongst my favorite; they're simple but lovely with the subtle rainbows which play across their surface.

gifts and gripes

christmas is a holiday which fills me with mixed emotions. i dislike the commercialism, the hokey songs, the male dominated themes of it (santa, scrooge, rudolph, charlie brown, tiny tim, the grinch, ralphie, frosty...), the cutthroat tactics of shoppers, the charity which only shows itself at this time of year (why not be kind all the time?), the fact that it starts in september now. but, i do like receiving gifts, creating handmade gifts, baking, spending time with family, listening to traditional music on performance today, and seeing the festive decorations. i could deal with all the dislikes if it was only for a short time, like say 25 days, rather than the three months christmas seems to be allotted now. in a way, it's really ruining a holiday which used to mean more. i'm tempted to throw the holiday out with the bathwater and just celebrate winter solstice.

well, putting the soapbox aside, my parents put a delicious gift under the tree for me, ippodo tea! a couple of new things i haven't tried before; individual sugared matcha packets, horai-no-mukashi matcha, and new year's bancha. then, an old favorite, karigane tea. how was your christmas, chanukah, kwanzaa, or winter solstice?



the next one in the series of eyepatches is about buttons. i love abalone shell buttons, they're so shimmery and opalescent. they're to be set against a pewter grey silk, with a grey green stripped silk lining. the green crystal is still up in the air, but i like the pearls spread throughout.

initially i wanted to use round buttons, but i came across these square and rectangular buttons at a knitting shop the other day and thought the effect could be interesting when paired with the few octagon and round buttons i already had.

dolls are for kids, silly rabbit

lately i've become quite enamored of a group of vinyl fashion dolls, called monster high, and have added 2.5 to my bookshelf. while exiting the wc at my local krogers i came upon a display of strange and whimsical dollboxes. they dolls are really quite creative, and have such fun shoes and outfits! as i'm quite confident of my self esteem, the whole size thing is charming; like little pixies really.

i overcame my fear of zombies by getting a doll named ghoulia yelps, daughter of zombies. i think it was the retro glasses and blue hair that won me over. the second one i collected is lagoona blue, daughter of the sea. she's just pretty, and in my favorite shades of blue and green. i haven't opened her box yet, as she's for under the tree.

now about that .5 doll. apparently there's a create-a-monster kit, and one of the add-on packs is a skeleton doll. she's awesome, the details are crazy! as i said to myself upon examining her limbs, "she really is model thin!". i didn't care for her face-up though, so after removing the paint with acetone, i painted a new sleeping face on. eventually i'll get her a torso and upper limbs, but for now she's content to sleep, a la hamlet on my shelf.


patches, patches, whose got the patches?

so, the story goes, i was at the eye doctor's and i thought i would have to wear an eyepatch; all because of a pesky tear duct. i looked at the ones available and my options were black, black, or black. blech. so, as a result of my findings, i decided i would make my own eyepatches and make a diverse range of them which i could theoretically choose from depending on how i was feeling. nobody really wants to look like a pirate day to day, or an extra from kill bill. some would say it was vanity, i will say it's a chance to create art where there is a void.

the first which i created is based on a peacock. i love the little feathers from the body of the bird, so green and shimmery, with hues of bronze and blue as it moves. the tail feathers are always associated with eyes, so it's only fitting that i embroider one for the center of the patch. i love this one. the bronze silk which was in the sneek peek photo was used as lining for the inside of the patch, it picks up on the bronze colors at the base of the feathers.

pussywillows fascinate me. i love to find softness in plants, it's the tactile quality of them; this one in particular is as fine as any silk velvet. this one evolved as i was laying it out. my sketch was of decreasing sizes of pussywillows, ending in the middle. but, as i was adding the third row, i saw the eye of an owl. so, i went with it. using the downy feathers i had snipped from the peacock feathers, i lined the eye, and created an iris from a swarovski crystal button i've been hoarding for nine years, and a blue tinted abalone shell button. the addition of the pink swarovksi crystal for the inner tear duct was the finishing touch. this eyepatch is lined in a pale blue dupioni silk, tacked down with light brown crystals, like a star studded dawn.

luckily, my eye healed and i didn't have to wear an eyepatch after all! but, i'm still pursuing the potential in them.



i'm up to something. so far i've created three pieces for my next series, and a dozen or so sketches. it's based on some thinking i had while at the doctor's office. worry gets me to thinking; it's a survival mechanism i think.

here's a peek at one of them while i was figuring out placement. i'm still working on finishing details, else i would show them all. it's really satisfying seeing a piece through from idea, to sketch, from choosing materials, to finished item. plus, i love gathering the supplies for each idea.

it's always neat evolving the idea as you go, to leave room for the piece to speak to you as it's taking form. sometimes the best art comes from listening to what the piece is telling you.


small works 2011

the five cushions i sewed last year (or maybe it was the year before that) are in a juried show/holiday sale, at my alma mater. i'm tremendously thrilled, and hoping some of them will sell. that would be cool. the exhibitions staff really placed them beautifully; apparently they built custom shelves for them, i like how they become almost wall art. it's interesting how the feel of them changes because they're at eye level.

i plan on participating in more shows next year. there's a new series i've started work on that's been gently simmering in my brain for a couple of weeks now, which i've sketched up drawings of. i'm really excited about it, and will be able to use a lot of the skills i've picked up.  


tussah discovered

not all silk labeled tussah is of unknown wild origins; sometimes it is from the ricini or muga silkmoths. muga silk is a champagne hued silk which can be spun from a lovely soft cloud of fiber into something shimmery with warm tones. the ricini silkmoth produces both red eri silk and white eri silk, the former producing a mushroom hued fiber with lots of sheen.

i happened across 100 grams of both the muga and red eri silk from a fiber seller at plying the arts, last august. i chose to spin them up on my jay spindle, then plied together. right now i'm allowing the fiber to rest in it's spun ball form for a couple of days before i skein and give it a bath to set the twist.

the feel is so soft, so delicate, and the sheen is alluring. i enjoy spinning silk by drop spindle and it is a good use of time when things are slow.


pj's are the ultimate comfort wear

entire days off spent at home are seldom this month; i seem to always have somewhere to be, and things to do in town. today, i remained at home in my pajamas and it was wonderful! i spun up some chunky alpaca, finished my drop spun muga, finally skeined some handspun wool which i made a couple of years ago, and watched a movie on tv (the musical nine-really awesome). ah, there's never enough time anymore. like my friend bonnie says,"you either have the time or the money, but never both."


a foodies holiday

thanksgiving is a three day holiday. wednesday is for grocery shopping and baking pies. thursday is a day of cooking, table setting, gathering family around, eating, and washing dishes. friday revolves around shopping and creative interpretation of leftovers.

for this holiday, i decided to change our tried-and-true menu up a little. here's my take on the traditional:

tropical fruit salad

cranberry puff pastries
cracked wheat and butterbread stuffing

steamed asparagus
smoked gouda brussel sprouts
mashed squash and golden potatoes

heirloom rice salad with apples & cranberries

broiled sole with shallot butter

pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream

it all cooked up amazingly well! the pumpkin pie is one of the best ones i've had; the recipe called for sweetened condensed milk, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. i semi-baked the crust, then poured in the filling. the only food which was only ok, was the cranberry puff pastry; it needed cheese, brie or havarti, something to cut the tart nature of fresh cranberries. 

i'm thinking an oyster stuffed fish could be interesting and tasty next year. know any good recipes?



wishes were fishes, and pigs could fly...


surrounding oneself

the new workplace needed some artwork for the walls. as one who knows a thing about creating art, i figured i could help out. so, as something bigger than what i normally do would fill the space better, i got a 20" x 20" stretched canvas, some balsa wood strips, and painted something in a turquoise and green color scheme (it is a spa, after all). as an aside, i have to say that the new utrecht store in town is crazy awesome for someone on a budget.

four brushes, a couple of hours, a limited palette, some spatula painting, hammering tiny nails, and this is what happened. i wanted something abstract; focusing on colors, a sense of water, calmness, and thinking a bit of mark rothko didn't hurt things either. i think i like painting in this scale. in the purely abstract method only, though. if it had been figurative and detailed, i would have done a triptych or a series to be hung together. me and detailed large scale are not friends (see miniature dollhouse if you don't agree).


dizzy spinning

being able to spin anywhere is a fantastic boredom buster. but there's only so much fine yarn you can spin before you want something heartier, chunkier, and more textural. maybe it's the cooler days, and darker evenings, but i'm yearning to spin thicker yarns.

enter the vera whorl and maple shaft lark spindle from jenkins woodworking, with the changeable jay rosewood shaft. yay! i first spun some bison down i had on hand (incredibly soft and springy), then some cricula silk. it's really a lovely spindle and smells amazing because of the vera wood, like frankincense and myrrh. i'm thinking of moving on to either some muga silk, or cashmere.

here is a photo of my ebony wood wrist distaff, alongside my kuchulu and jay spindles. the tools of labor and love.


hills and valleys

with name changes, comes the need for new business cards. i adore the pint sized moo cards, and the chance to show-off multiple images. i arranged them by color, and realized that i'm drawn to the natural shades, with accents of color, rather than full on color skeins. i think i had already come to this conclusion, but sometimes it's helpful to have such a clear indication. when my schedule becomes rote i shall start spinning in earnest again, as i really miss it.


sewing into madness

halloween is over for another year. boo. as in boo-hoo, i'm so sad!!!! i was sewing up to the last minute, only finishing the night before. as the low resolution, not-my-camera, photos show i went as the mad hatter from tim burton's alice in wonderland.

i quite enjoyed all of the details of this costume, and the chance to wear my favorite dress again. the accessories were really cool to work on, and luckily, i had most everything needed. the jacket is a cropped length with long tails, olive green silk with a bright yellow lining, sewn from a simplicity pattern. orange and black tights, grey spotted neckcloth, plaid mittens, white lace cuffs, multi-hued ribbons, purple peony handkerchief, and olive green shoes complete the look. i adored the thimble and spools which are part of the hatmaking trade. i wondered about previous versions of the mad hatter not quite fitting the name (other than the "mad" part).

if i'm not able, for one reason or another, to sew a yellow queen elizabeth the first costume, i shall go as the mad hatter again next year. only 364 days left. boo.


running around like a chicken with it's...

hectic could easily describe my week. between last minute costume sewing (and not just mine. thanks brother dear!), starting a new job, fighting an eye infection, and getting the four-legged children used to a new schedule, i find myself without the usual amount of spare time. but, next week will be better, with fantastic photos, and sparkling narrative.


feats of gene selection

the fiber compendium; for the pursuit of education and knowledge (f.c.p.e.k.) is coming along nicely. there are some gaps, but with more time and searching i can hopefully fill them. i'm really glad i decided to collect samples of so many fibers.

it's really remarkable how many types of silk there are, the different ways it's spun, and how all parts are used (waste, stem, pupae). there's definitely a "waste not, want not" mindset when it comes to this fiber. it reminds me of the way some of the native americans viewed animals; that by not throwing away any part of it, the death was not meaningless and the animals' sacrifice was respected. the life of the silkworm isn't wasted by it's death; oftentimes they are a food source, and the fact that the entire amount of silk it spun is used in some form or other is a great testament to how the people doing sericulture view and respect the silkmoth. peduncle thread, spun from the stems of the tropical tasar cocoon, along with ghicha, spun from the waste silk of muga and eri cocoons, were some of the more interesting spun silks i came across.

one of the things i had thought before starting this project was that there weren't too many cellulose fibers used for spinning and weaving cloth; only ramie, hemp, linen, cotton, and washi. but, i have more cellulose samples than animal fibers; baste fibers can be found in many plants, and the resourcefulness of humans is really inspiring! people have gone to great lengths to create cloth, from the attusi (elm tree inner bark) clothing of the ainu people of northern japan, to nettle fiber which has been used throughout europe for centuries.

with the animal fiber i've collected i found the different hair types within one animals' coat to be interesting; coarse to downy soft, strongly pigmented to lighter pigmentation, with a variety of uses for each type. browns, fawns, and creamy whites are the dominant colors in protein fibers. the brown hues lend the animal warmth from the sun in cold environs, and hiding ability amongst grasses and trees, whereas the white coloring, which is perfect for dyeing, seems to be a trait humans breed for (as albinism in the wild isn't really a common or safe trait).

the unique characteristics of the many natural fibers lend themselves to a myriad of uses, and i question why humans need to invent synthetics, when what is already there is so functional. with some better husbandry, more effective natural resource use, and respect for the organism which creates the fiber, many of these natural fibers can be just as viable as synthetics. some synthetic fiber inventions such as neoprene, are impressive, and needed, but to create a synthetic which does the same as a natural fiber just seems wasteful (and, like any copy, is never as good as the real thing, imho).

interesting reads:
an article about silk varieties, and degumming
the book, fibre facts, by bette hochberg
ebook, dictionary of textiles, by louis harmuth
"peace" silk, or the mythical perfection postulation


fall's sudden snow

fields of milk weed,
half open, puffy faced,
seeds floating in the wind
as if mimicking the coming snow. 

a fond memory from my childhood. in my search for fibers which are spinable, i remember the down-like fluff of the milkweed. sadly, they don't seem to grow as far south as me. though, happily, velma sent me a pod along with stem. both can be used, the pod fiber blended with other fibers for a spattering of shimmer, and the baste fiber of the stem can be spun similar to ramie, linen, and hemp. i am enjoying the search for fibers, and learning so much along the way. 


little hiccups

well, turns out anastasiahandmade isn't available on etsy (even though 0 results showed up in the search). i didn't really know that until last night when i went to make the change over. so, looking to the thesaurus, i came across handcrafted. anastasiahandcrafted, that sounds even better! and luckily, was still available on etsy. i would have liked everything to be the same (less confusion), but the thought of getting another blog name, redoing the header, moving everything, and deleting this blog, makes my head hurt. bleh. would it be worth it, though?


another year bites the dust

i love birthdays; especially when it's my own. i think the major allure of celebrating birthdays is the dessert, and presents. mmm, cake. i'm good with cupcakes as well, or ice cream cake, or many other desserts for that matter.

last year i was in kyoto, japan, for my birthday. i miss japan. so, for my birthday this year i received various green teas (ocha) from ippodo. i actually ordered a tea from each category, rather without realizing it. from gyokuro, the karigane (stems) ocha, from sencha, hosen ocha (a very good one i've had before), from matcha, an autumnal tsukikage ocha, and in the bancha, wakayanagi ocha (typically, i drink genmaicha, but i decided to try this instead). i've tried other companies ocha, but i've found ippodo to be the highest quality, reasonably priced, and as i've visited uji (where much of the matcha is grown), i enjoy drinking tea from that region.


pinks are lovely

i've been working on a set of headers, link buttons, and icons for the big switch. it's amazing what can be done with photos and preview. i really like the pink and natural tones. the odd guy out is the purple hued flickr profile picture (not in the photo montage), but that's fine. i like the odd duck or two.



this would be the new blog. quite similar to the old, actually. perhaps a softer, earthier color palette; inspiration arising from my spinning. my dollhouse feels like the palette from birds in chandeliers. i love that palette.

off to do some research.
ah, what joy.


i'm thinking of changing something. i've begun to feel that i should move away from the title "birds in chandeliers", to a more definite title "*anastasia.handmade". it describes what i do better, and that it is myself which does these things. the "birds in chandeliers" is somewhat vague.

i was warned of this, of course; several years ago when i first started selling what i made. i was told to choose a name which represents me and my creations. own them, as it were. but, i wanted something fun, non-descriptive, non-confining.

the snafu to changing things is that the title is the address. what about bookmarks, past business cards, links, comments left to others? blah, a headache.

this has all been brought on because etsy is giving you the option of changing your store name, and if you choose to do so, they will change all the links within etsy and hearts to the new address.

i want to change my etsy store name, but then i started thinking i should change my blog name as well. so, what do you, my readers (thank you for that, by the way), think of this move? any advice for staging a technical switch gracefully?


not too shabby

i ventured over to the georgia national fair yesterday. the exhibition of art pieces was really nice! it was fun hunting down all 23 of my pieces, taking photos as i came across them. the tally is: 4 first place, 6 second place, 3 third place, and 2 honorable mentions. not too bad at all for my first competition!

next year i want to go after one of the giant rosette ribbons, so i have to start planning. as well, i would like to enter some things in the fine art competition. here's to a successful 2012!


just what was needed

yay! the bathroom is now finished (or as finished as any room ever is). i've installed the bidet and toilet, along with a toilet paper stand. the toilet paper stand is a reclaimed fireplace tool holder, painted chrome, and now holding a roll of tp.

the only adjustments i needed to make was paint the bidet and toilet a warmer white. now they match well with the sink and bathtub. i keep thinking the space feels a little big, but if the roof were in place, it would be quite snug, so i won't drive myself kooky thinking about it.

the day was coming to an end, the skies loosing the light of the sun, so the photos are not as crisp as i like. i will take new ones tomorrow.

an army of miniature servants would be nice

i've been having a few late night dollhouse redecorating moments lately. the halloween decorating was just the beginning. now i've finally gotten around to ordering a toilet and bidet for the bathroom (won't that be a relief!), added a wardrobe to the master bedroom, and have an idea to create a fortuny dress for the lady of the house.

sometimes pieces of furniture you've had for awhile finally "click", and make a room feel finished and at the same time help to create a more sensible layout. i've placed a grandfather clock in the living room, adding height and warmth to a bare corner. a wardrobe i bought maybe two years ago, but is quite large and really can't go too many places without dwarfing the space, finally found a place which suites it in the master bedroom.

or, perhaps, the piece was in the wrong area this whole time and just needed to be moved into another room. in the upstairs hallway, i moved a master bedroom night stand to just under the window, creating nesting tables with the one that was there already.

i went with a nonconventional dining area; using a bench and three cork stools as seating, around a baroque marble table. i love mixing things up, and anyways, this provides easily movable seating for when the dollhouse people have company.

one thing which happens when a dollhouse is left dormant for some time, is dust. which takes just as long to remove as a full size house because you have to be incredibly careful handling pieces, there are multiple nooks and crannies, and things need to be put back where they were without knocking over other things. i find masking tape works well to remove most dust from the floor without leaving remnants of paper towels behind and a simple swipe of a tissue works fine for the furniture. as long as i don't take it into my head to start rearranging things, this housekeeping generally doesn't take the entire day.


more cowbell!

more halloween! i've created several decorations for the foyer and kitchen, going with purple, orange, and lime green colors. nods to witches, hovering bats, jack-o-lanterns, spiderwebs, spanish moss, eyeballs, candles, sweets, a vampire ducky, a black cat, candy corn, a candy apple dipped in caramel and chocolate, and a ghost. at this moment i may be finished, but you never know!


squishy but not squid

alpaca is really an incredibly lovely fiber. i find it so soft and a joy to spin. of the 16 colors available i've sampled 6; white, light fawn, dark fawn, dark rose grey, light grey, and dark grey. thus far the browns feel softer and loftier than the white and greys (but not really by all that much, at that).

i've been collecting undyed unspun fiber specimens the last few months so that i have samples on hand to touch and examine when choosing fiber for spinning and weaving projects. i've also come to discover they're an important tool to educating myself on different fibers when you're shopping, or have an unidentified fiber in front of you. i've become very familiar with the samples i have and so it's gotten quite easy to identify fibers based on feel, smell (yes they have distinct smells), length, thickness, and color.

there are two boxes with 25ml jars: one cellulose fibers, and one protein fibers. the protein collection is nearing a somewhat complete state, with a few missing (anyone have any byssus they're willing to part from?). the cellulose fiber box is a little empty, but i'll remedy that when i order another habu sample book this coming december and place the older sample sheet offerings in their labeled jars.

what i've discovered is that vicuna, cashmere, bison down, are the softest, followed by guanaco, camel down, and alpaca. i found mohair and qiviut to be the springiest and least soft. i'm still on the shelf about the qiviut as i'm not 100% sure of the authenticity of the sample i have. i'm in need of new zealand possum (the ones not killed by poison), angora, pygora, and yak samples (the one yak i have is a blend of yak/tussah).

the silks are in a category all their own, they're just amazing; so soft and such sheen! i have cricula coccoons, muga silk, red eri silk, eri silk, tussah silk, bombyx silk, and both tussah and bombyx noils.

in the cellulose box there are 14 shades of color grown cotton from peru, pima cotton, organic cotton, and flax. i'll be adding nettle, ramie, hemp, pineapple, kenaf, kuzu, pine, zenmai (fern cotton), milkweed, and washi paper as i come across them. the milkweed fiber from the pod might be an issue as they don't grow in the south. any cellulose fiber i may have missed? i've left out soy silk, milk protein, corn, and seacell as they require too much processing to manufacture, so i'm a little leery about their environmental impact (actually come to think of it, i'm not really fond of bamboo for pretty much the same reason).

why no wool, you may ask? well...one, there are way too many breeds that collecting samples of them all would be quite a task, and two, i really don't like spinning wool. not at this point in my life. especially when you have soft alpaca to spin; no felting, degreasing, or lanolin to deal with!

p.s. if anyone reading this can help me out with small samples of the fibers i'm missing, i would be incredibly thankful! it's always nice to come across other fiber fanatics like me!