Creating The Perfect Craft Room

When the last of your children heads off to college, you may find yourself thinking that your house feels a little empty. No more teenagers blasting music or talking on the phone 24/7 or having friends over to raid your refrigerator. And while this is often a bittersweet time, one thing that many people look forward to when their kids go off to college is turning the newly empty bedroom into a craft room. This can be an easy, relatively inexpensive project that will leave you with an organized space to do your crafting.

The first step in transforming your bedroom into a craft room is to clear out all the furniture and clutter. Evaluate the furniture and decide what you want to keep and what should be donated or put in storage. Shelving units and bookcases can be used for extra storage in a craft room, but bigger pieces like a bedframe and armoire will just take up space. If the furniture pieces you are planning to reuse are looking a little run down, consider adding a fresh coat of paint to liven them up a little. Now is also a good time to decide what other furniture and storage items you need for your craft room. A large desk or table with drawers and plenty of room to spread things out is crucial. You’ll also want a comfortable chair and good lighting. Take the time to plan the layout of the room so that you end up with a comfortable, functional space.

Before you start moving furniture and craft supplies back into the room, give it a good deep cleaning and make any updates or repairs. Run a vacuum over the carpeting, dust the baseboards, and fill in any old nail holes. If the paint is looking dingy or you aren’t a fan of your child’s paint color choice, consider repainting the walls in a color you love. Once the room has been thoroughly cleaned and you are happy with the look of it, you can start moving your furniture back in.

When setting up your craft room, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the space as organized and efficient as possible. Store items that you use frequently such as scissors, markers, and glue in a handy place on top of your table, rather than tucked away in a drawer. Use clear plastic containers to hold loose items such as stickers, stamps, and ribbon so that they stay organized and don’t end up all over the place. Pull-out drawers are also the perfect place to keep paper and cardstock so that it can lay flat and not become wrinkled or creased. It’s also a good idea to label your storage containers so that you can easily find something when you are in the middle of a project.

With a little time and effort, you can turn your child’s old bedroom into the craft room of your dreams!

Guest blogger:  Rochelle Whitman is an avid crafter and decorator. She has written about interior design, home improvement, and DIY home renovation projects.

Yarn Typology

Photograph by Paul Esson (via Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0]

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing a yarn for your next knitting project. Do you go for a soft King Cole chunky merino blend or a hypoallergenic alpaca yarn? The answers to questions like these are often dictated by the type of project which you’re going to undertake or the texture and distinct properties that you want a kitted item to embody once completed. This short guide will have a brief look at some of the kinds of yarn available and in what areas each excels.

Merino

Merino is a common wool on the knitting market due to its incredibly high quality. This wool is so popular because of the soft textures offered by the microfibres and its distinct wicking properties. Wicking is the process of drawing moisture away from the surface of the skin when worn as a lower level. As a result of this breathability and the fact that when the wool does get wet it has the ability to retain warmth, Merino has become a huge success within the sports clothing market and is currently completely unmatched by any man-made alternatives.

Alpaca

Alpaca are a herd animal found in South America. For hundreds of years their wool has been a prized possession with the inhabitants of the continent. The unique qualities offered by alpaca yarn have made this yarn popular throughout the world, leading to a rise of alpaca farms across the world but especially in the USA and Europe. Alpaca could be the perfect yarn to use for a baby project as it is hypoallergenic, meaning the likelihood of the yarn causing any irritation or allergic reaction is minimal.

Alpaca yarn is warm and soft, softer than cashmere in most people’s opinions, making it an appealing choice for any knitted project going.

Cashmere

Cashmere is goats’ wool, from the Cashmere breed. This wool has been used for thousands of years by the peoples of Kashmir and Nepal and has since spread, being able to be found worldwide today. High quality luxury knitted or woven items are most likely to have Cashmere included either as the main material or as part of a blend. The desire for Cashmere is due to the light weight of the material, offering an excellent insulation to weight ratio. Another reason may be the time and effort that goes into gathering Cashmere as the Cashmere fibres need to be extracted from guard hair, as the Cashmere goat produces a double fleece with guard hair covering over the finer fibres that we associate with Cashmere as a material.

Guest blogger:  Thanks to our guest blogger, Nathan Stevens.  For a fabulous selection of king cole chunky yarns head to the wonderful online knitting world of Yarnfest.

From The Big Chair – Andy Warhol Had A Dark Side

The memento mori has a long history in art. For hundreds of years, artists have taken it upon themselves to remind people that no matter who you are in this life, whether you have youth, beauty or power, you will still die. It comes to us all.

Although respected as the progenitor of ‘pop art’ Andy Warhol is rarely considered a profound or even serious artist. He produced his work in The Factory, in a slightly callous mode of mass production.

He concerned himself largely with the iconography of celebrity, such as the famous silkscreen prints of snake hipped singer Elvis Presley and star of the silver screen Marilyn Monroe. These images have an apparent vacuity that if you were to confront Warhol about he would have typically answered with a spaced out ‘Gee, I guess’.

But Warhol cultivated this vacancy, and it was his answer to contemporary culture. His persona ran so deep that it was hard to see under the surface. But a deeper, darker, and more reflective Warhol is visible in his bleakest work of all, Electric Chair (1964). Four years after this, Andy Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas. This work pre-empted his brush with mortality, which perhaps inspired the repeated revisits to the motif.

The electric chair was used by Warhol partly to question the death penalty, which to many seemed a barbaric and unkindly final form of punishment with no room for repentance or positive change. It simply took a living person and annihilated them in the most coldly efficient way possible. The spectacle of the electric chair is a modern gladiator show where people line up to watch a death that in this instance is inescapable.

This element of performance would have fascinated Warhol, as would the morbidity. It is the thesis of this brief article that the image served a further function, acting in the aforementioned role as a memento mori, a timely reminder of death in a hedonistic age. Even the celebrities who live on through his iconic imagery are condemned to a similar fate, and many of them too soon.

Warhol’s businesslike approach to art shows a nihilistic lack of idealism with regard to art. It appears simply a vehicle to make money and gain notoriety. Whether this is the whole story it is hard to know, Warhol was a complex character. But for a Roman Catholic, he seemed to value surface over substance, the superficial over the profound, and the physical over the ineffable. He once stated famously that he wanted to be plastic. Warhol’s oxidised copper ‘piss-paintings’ added further disrespect to a traditionally valued endeavour.

Furthermore, his filmic work was often deliberately mundane and in its very banality seemed to celebrate absurdity and existential emptiness. His involvement in the Velvet Underground’s sex and sin laden first album is additional evidence for a dark side. The cover may be a humorously sexualised peelback banana with a pink inside, but the contents of the record are bleaker and more disturbing accounts of drug use, S&M and violence. It was a challenging record at the time, but Warhol was always at the razor’s edge.

Warhol was a rare creature in the art world, a character much more profound that he made out, and much more intelligent than he would have you believe. This reversal of the generic model of artistry in which the artist tends to exaggerate their own profundity for credibility lends him the honour of having more credibility, intrigue and pathos than any other artist. He was not just a visual pop star, and history will prove it so.

Guest blogger:  Art enthusiast Geoff writes for electricityprices.org.uk where you can compare the cheapest energy rates 

Knitted Jewelry, A Hot Fashion Piece for 2012

Knitted Necklaces from Independent Knitting News

Knitted Necklaces from Independent Knitting News

Knitting isn’t just about yarn anymore. Anything that can be wrapped around needles and used to make stitches can be used to knit with. Knitting has always been a form of arts and crafts to create sweaters and quilts. But, by using anything from licorice to grocery bags, you can create beautiful knitted jewelry that’s both fashionable and fun to make.

DIY knitted jewelry may sound like a summer camp experiment you did as a child. Well, it can be just as fun, that’s for sure. To begin, you need to decide what type of thread you’re going to use. Remember that knitting your own jewelry is an arts and crafts project. So, be creative. Things such as fine string, metallic thread, gold or silver wire, or any type of unique threadlike material will work.

Then, you need to add depth, texture and color to create your visual masterpiece. Beads are great for knitting jewelry. You simply slide various beads of your choice between the stitches. By using different shapes, sizes and colors for your bead choices, you can create DIY knitted jewelry in styles ranging from casual to dressy and funky to elegant.

Planning Your Knitted Jewelry

Decided the type of drape you want for your jewelry. Will you be creating a standalone, solid piece? Or, are you hoping for something that will lay against the skin, the way the strands of pearls do?

Also, choose your needle wisely. Smaller needs can make wire manipulating harder. Fine crochet hooks are great as jewelry knitting needles. Tip: The hook circumference should closely match the size of the needle. The hook helps you secure your loops, while drawing them through your stitches.

Here are four basic DIY jewelry knitting styles for you to choose from:

Firm

One of the best tools for producing rigid jewelry is wire. The rigidness of your piece can be altered by choosing between thinner or thicker wire. Thicker wires are more rigid. However, they can be a bit more difficult when it comes to manipulating them with needles. Fine wire has a more delicate charm, but they can bend out of shape more easily. Fine wire is great for pieces made for special occasions. For an everyday piece, it’s best to choose a wire with a bit of thickness.

Semi-Firm

For a semi-rigid piece, various types of nylon and metallic threads will work. Semi-firm knitted jewelry is a good choice for creating a draping piece, that’s rigid enough for everyday wear-ability.

Relaxed

To create a completely fluid jewelry piece, choose threading material that’s easy to manipulate. Things such as thin threads, even strong dental floss, are good choices. Fine crochet string will create the style you want, and is pretty easy to work with.

Choosing Knitted Jewelry Beads

Now, it’s time to decide on the visual style you want to create. This involves choosing beads and the right beads for your DIY jewelry project. There are so many types of jewelry beads to choose from. They come in hundreds of sizes, colors, shapes and styles.

Your choice can flaunt your favorite color, your elegance, your funky side, etc… But, while being creative, keep in mind the type of knitting thread you’ve chosen. Tiny beads may not hang properly if you’re using a thicker thread. If you choose a very fine, thin thread, it won’t hold up under the weight of very heavy beads. But, whatever you decide to use, have fun when you make your own knitted jewelry. Remember, knitting isn’t just for DIY quilt patterns anymore.

 Guest blogger: Liz is a blogger by profession and uses most of her spare time with needles! She does cross-stitching, knitting and quiltingwhenever she feels the need for writing inspiration.

Six Of The Most Popular Printing Techniques

In this age of modern convenience, we are privy to many different design choices that only twenty years ago would have been reserved for a select few. Digital printers can offer a wide selection of different styles that, if used correctly, can add a uniqueness and singularity to any presentation while appearing as if hand-made. From business cards to thank-you notes, never before have so many options been available. Let us examine six of the most popular techniques.

Silk Screening

This process has been quite popular for a number of years. Results are accomplished by using a woven fabric that supports a stencil. By pressing the mesh into the template, the areas of open ink can be transferred onto a medium. A roller is placed over the stencil and then applied with pressure evenly across, allowing the ink image to be transferred. This process can be mechanised but can be done by hand as well, depending on the quantity desired.

Offset Printing

This style has also existed for quite some time and may present itself as one of the more familiar types listed here. It is especially common for bulk orders and as the ink is used sparingly, it is a very cost-effective way of producing large quantities of a specific design. Initially, an image already formed in ink is transferred to a rubber substrate and thereafter transferred to the surface to be printed. Offset printing is commonly used in newspapers and magazines.

Silk Lamination

Often times, individuals wish their documents to be durable and water-resistant, specifically when referring to business cards or other such documents which will see repeated handling. A liquid or film (spray) is be applied which will thereafter dry and produce either a dull, glossy or satin effect.

Embossing

Another popular style is embossing, which is defined as having a paper or other malleable material pressed between two plates; one providing the necessary pressure and one containing the design. When the process is completed, a raised design will appear. Often times, materials will be digitally printed first and thereafter the pressure is applied to achieve the desired effect.

Debossing

This technique is obviously the opposite of embossing; that is, while embossing creates a raised impression using a stencil and a pressure plate, debossing creates depressions in the material, giving texture in these lowered areas. As with embossing, this method can give materials a unique feel. It is often used in specialty items such as wedding invitations or business cards.

Thermography

Thermography is a procedure in which the printed ink is raised slightly higher than the paper or other material. In fact, this effect is very similar to engraving, however the labour and cost are significantly reduced due to the method by which this outcome is achieved. While engraving is the result of physical manipulation, thermography utilises a powder which is added to ink. After this ink is transferred by a digital printer, the paper is heated. The powder in the mixture dries and the print becomes raised.

These Techniques in Relation to the Digital Age

Of considerable importance here is the reality that these effects can also be accomplished using modern methods. In processes such as embossing and debossing, it is first necessary to print whatever graphical material is required on the material before completing the physical process. Likewise, to laminate an item with a certain finish requires any print to already exist on the surface before the coat can be applied.

Document options offer a range of large format digital printing services which can achieve the same effects as many of the traditional processes of silk screening and offset printing, more rapidly and for a fraction of the cost.

Guest blogger:  This article was written by guest blogger Adrian Harrison.

Secure Private Storage Facilities For Art Work

Whether you are looking for somewhere to store your furniture for a while, or simply want to keep precious pieces of art out of harm’s way, you will probably need to avail of private storage facilities. Good art can be quite expensive and can also go up in value over time, depending on the recognition that the artist gets. Collectors may want to find the best place to keep their art when they are not displaying it.

Safety First

The very first thing you need to look out for is safety. This means making sure that the private storage facilities you use are going to keep the art dry. When it comes to paintings, you do not water or damp to get into the chamber therefore the entire place needs to be sealed off. It is also necessary to take a look at the material from which the works are made, to make sure that it is stored at an agreeable temperature.

Pricing

The amount you pay is going to depend on a lot of factors. You will need to make sure that you look at everything, such as the security features that have been put in place and general maintenance. Rental can be quite expensive in some areas, so some collectors may choose to store their art in another part of the country.

You will also need to take a look at the amount of space your work is going to take up.

Benefits

By getting experts who regularly store works of art, you will know that your property is kept safe and will be maintained properly. Above all, storing precious art work away will usually mean that it is safe from the likes of fire and theft. Depending on the price, some people may decide to take out insurance as well.

If you choose to store several pieces in the same place, you can also get a discounted deal. By going with professional experts who specialize in storing art, you can end up paying a reasonable price. Of course, for collectors, some art is priceless and therefore any option will do.

Protection from the Elements and Security

Many of the places are fireproof, so there is no need to worry about fire damage. A lot of facilities will also make sure that there is no way for the rain to get in. Protection from the elements is what any collector will want for their pieces.

Twenty-four-hour security is often provided at such facilities as well. Many of them may already be located in somewhat isolated areas, so people generally do not have to worry about this. There will also be a security system put in place with alarm and cameras. Overall, collectors will know that they can rely on the facility they use.

Guest blogger: Leslet Gibson is a avid art blogger with a specialized interest in art appraisal.

The Story of Street Art in Buenos Aires

For most of us, graffiti or ‘tagging’ is considered an act of vandalism; the graphic representation of a bored and disaffected youth that feels it has no other outlet to express its societal discontent. In Britain, artists such as Banksy have raised graffiti-as-art into mainstream consciousness, introducing an unexpected element of commercialism if not respectability to the genre.

In Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires, street art enjoys an entirely different reception. Here, intricate, colourful, surreal and artistic graffitos and murals are virtually welcomed and celebrated, brightening city streets and buildings in a way that is inoffensive and accepted by city dwellers. In fact, the street art of Buenos Aires has gained commercial respect in its own right; many companies now offer guided tours of the finer examples to be found around the city.

The Political Origins of Buenos Aires Street art

As with much graffiti worldwide, the burgeoning culture of modern Buenos Aires street art had politically-motivated beginnings. In the political instability and economic depression immediately following the 1955 coup which deposed radical Argentinian President Juan Peron, competing political parties paid supportive activists to daub the capital city’s walls with political slogans. In retaliation, a counter-culture of purely aesthetic and non-political street art appeared at around the same time.

Further political upheavals in Argentina’s history inadvertently fuelled the fire of Buenos Aires’ street art scene. Following seven years of violent political protest and disorder which ultimately saw the disastrous re-election of the Peron family to Argentinian presidency, a military dictatorship was established in 1976 which saw all expressions of protest – including street art – declared illegal. A new era of democracy returned following public polls in 1983 and street art in Buenos Aires began to flourish once more.

The 21st Century – A Turning Point for Buenos Aires Street Art

In 2001 a combination of circumstances including the linking of the Argentinian Peso with the American Dollar, a dramatic fall in tax revenues and the fallout from years of heavy government borrowing resulted in Argentina’s worst ever financial crisis. Mass unemployment and the imposition of restrictions on bank withdrawals led to large-scale rioting and the ultimate resignation of then president Fernando de la Rua.

Once more a turbulent political scene gave new motivation and emphasis to the street artists of Buenos Aires. They did not, however, turn to expressions of anger or protest at the devastating mismanagement of Argentina’s affairs by successive governments, but instead painted the city’s walls with scenes intended to lift the population’s spirits, combining humour and vibrant cartoon colours to combat the prevailing grey mood. This form of optimistic, aesthetic and non-confrontational street art became the norm, and continues to dominate the streets and neighbourhoods of Argentina’s capital city today.

Buenos Aires street Art Today

In contrast with the world’s other major cities, graffiti and street art has been effectively de-criminalised in Buenos Aires. Free from the risk of prosecution and with the endorsement of the populous, street artists can take their time to produce true works of art on the city’s walls and buildings. The results are often breathtaking, but always imaginative, colourful and fun. Beautiful abstract and surreal works sit cheek-by-jowl with expertly executed portraits, whilst cartoons in bright primary colours sit alongside intricately stencilled images. Far from an act of vandalism, Buenos Aires’ embrace of street art has transformed the city into the world’s largest, most diverse and greatest art gallery.

Guest blogger: Enid Hutt Gallery sells art by contemporary artists including Buenos Aires-born Fabian Perez prints

Crafty Christmas Creations – A Guide to Making Christmas Cards and Decoration

Year after year we all end up spending a lot of money on cards and decorations for Christmas, but they just never feel unique or special. So why not make them yourself using decorations and items that are personal to you?

This approach even costs less!  Here are some ideas of  on the things you can make:

  • Making your own edible Christmas decorations doesn’t guarantee they will last on the tree till Christmas, but the cookies in different shapes iced decoratively will look lovely!
  • Homemade sweets or chocolate wrapped in cellophane are a treat.
  • Instead of buying wreaths for the front door make one with natural materials and ribbons. Also you can make tree decorations that add a little sparkle to trees in tasteful and understated way.
  • Dry some oranges in the oven, then add cinnamon and cloves for that lovely Christmas fragrance throughout the house.
  • Collect pine cones and spray them with some gold or silver spray, then position them around the house for a nice little finishing touch.
  • Make your own Christmas crackers for the table.
  • Make your own Christmas stocking by decorating a knee length sock or by using felt and a sewing machine.

The first Christmas card was made in 1843. At first they were very expensive, but by the late Victorian period they became much more affordable and they have been a popular tradition ever since.

Taking up card making is easy and it does not have to expensive in the least. The first things you need are card, glue, scissors and some pencil crayons. Now you are all set to get making some simple and personal cards and the whole lot could cost you a fraction of what you might spend on branded cards in the shops.

If you fancy yourself as a bit of an artist and you enjoy spending the time on creative crafts, then you might want to take things further with extra bits of card activity — try a card making kit. However, for those who are not so keen on getting their hands dirty, there are also online methods of designing your own cards and then it’s just a case of getting them delivered.

The wordsmiths out there can even start to write their own poems for the inside of the cards in order to lend a more personal touch to the tradition of sending cards. Personalised messages and images help to make your cards more original and they give your seasonal greetings more character.

Guest blogger: Sarah Day shares her interest on the wide range of Craft site Craft Supplies available today.

Embossing Guide With Rubber Stamps

Heat embossing is a fun project that you can do with your kids. You can use these designs for your scrapbooks or personalized holiday cards. It’s very easy to do and requires minimal effort and tools.

Here’s what you need:

  • Rubber stamp
  • Heating gun
  • Brush
  • Scrap paper
  • Card stock
  • Embossing ink
  • Embossing powder

Follow these easy steps:

  1. Choose a rubber stamp. Press the rubber stamp onto the ink. Make sure that the rubber stamp is fully covered with the ink. Press the rubber stamp about three times on the ink pad.
  2. Press the stamp on the card stock or any paper that you are using to the desired position that you want.
  3. Place the card stock above the scrap paper. Sprinkle the design with the embossing powder. Make sure that you coat every part of the design. Be generous with the embossing powder.
  4. Place the card vertically over the scrap paper to remove the excess embossing powder. Tap gently.
  5. Get your brush and remove any other extra embossing powder around the image. Be careful not to brush over the design.
  6. Get your heating gun to set or melt the embossing powder. Hold it a short distance away from the image. Make sure that all sides are evenly heated by sweeping it back and forth over the design. Do this until you see that the powder has melted or has changed texture. Set aside.
  7. Put the excess embossing powder on the scrap paper back into the bottle for future use. To make this task easier, be sure to fold the scrap paper prior to dumping the excess embossing powder so that it will be easier to transfer the powder to the bottle. You’re done!

Tips on Embossing

  • There are a lot of kinds of embossing powder. You can choose from pearlized, metallic, glitter or even perfumed. You can also choose matte, shiny, distressed or antique.
  • There are three types of embossing powder – regular, extra fine and ultra thick. If you’re a beginner, regular embossing powder will do. You can use this in a wide variety of projects. Extra fine can be used to emboss very fine detail. The ultra thick one is used for really big and chunky rubber stamps.
  • The best colors to start with are black, red, silver and gold. You can use these colors in most of your craft projects.
  • Be careful when using your heat guns. There are different types of heat guns depending on the way they direct heat. Some heat guns can cause your paper to catch fire. Choose one that you are comfortable using.
  • As for the stamps, you can use any stamp that you have.

Embossing is a great way to liven up a project. It’s fast, easy and very affordable. Its something that you can teach your kids to do to develop their creativity.

Guest blogger:  This article has been written by compare franking machine, your best place for franking quotes.

Featured Artist: Nan Nevels

LinxWest.com is excited to introduce to you to our August 2012 Featured Artist – Nan Nevels from Southern Joy Artworks!

Nan is a paper clay artist, a craft she learned while living abroad in Japan.  Her style reflects her strong Southern roots, love for children and the beauty and joy she finds in every day life.

Nan’s Background

Nan’s love affair with art began when she was a toddler, as her mother’s old college textbooks, now “enhanced” with her bright Crayola drawings, will prove.  “I even remember when I got my first box of 64 Crayons with the built in sharpener…..oh the possibilities!” mused Nan when asked how she got started in art.

Nan went on to study art in both formal and informal settings; from college pottery and sculpting classes to Japanese sculpting classes at a small local community center in coastal Japan.  It was while she was in Japan that she learned to use paper clay.  “Paper clay is a great medium for relief sculptures because it is so light-weight, enjoys various types of paint, and it air dries,” says Nan.

What Inspires Her

When asked where her inspiration comes from, Nan replied “My inspiration for creating almost always comes from nature and children…two things that always show me God’s mighty hand, amazing grace, and possibilities all wrapped in color and FUN!!!  I treasure the evenings when I can sit on the beach and watch the children giggling as they run up and down the sandy shoreline; drinking in the colors of the ocean against the evening sky. For me, it’s like getting a massive hug from God!!!”

Nan hopes that her art appropriately expresses her love and thankfulness for her amazing life.  “My hope is that people who purchase my work will just walk by it from time to time and smile…even during their most difficult days.”

Where To Find Nan

Nan can be found as a Featured Seller on LinxWest.com.  Her pieces are part of the featured items rotating display on the home page and can also be found under the category “sculpture.”  You can contact Nan to place a custom order on our site or at facebook.com/southernjoyartworks.

Nan’s creations are charming and whimsical and will sure bring a smile to everyone who sees them. We are thrilled to have Nan and her amazing work of art as our August Featured Artist on LinxWest.com.  We are absolutely sure you’ll be touched by her colorful clay dolls and love them as much as we do! Stop by LinxWest.com http://linxwest.com/items/98/folk-art and grab yours now.