Friday, January 11, 2019

Tales of Trial and Terror: DIY Mold Making For Dummies By A Dummy.

One of my many crafting pleasures is sculpting with polymer clay; I hand sculpt and paint all of the clay pieces I sell in my shop. It takes a fair amount of time to craft a single pendant and while I ultimately don't mind, I wondered if I could streamline the production for when I need to make huge batches as supplementary stock to my bigger ticket items at markets and fairs. Y'know, like make a master mold of some kind.

My pumpkin heart pendants turned out to be the second favorite "small purchase" from my shop/booth, aside from my Hallow-Felty pins which for obvious reasons won't work in this experiment, so I chose these pendants to be my test subject.

It glows in the dark, too!
I should note that I'm not completely unknowledgeable on mold making.
My good friend in Texas makes molds as a part of their business in prop making, and I really tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could because they're very good at what they do... but not a whole bunch stuck with me when I left, so while I am not technically starting at square one... it's still like the 2nd square at best with the vague remembrance of what we covered.
We didn't get to do a lot of mold making, to be fair.

This friend offered to help by making the molds for me and ship them up, but me being as stubborn and curious as I am, I want to be able to be part of the process and really get my grubby hands on this action.

Off in search of easy and inexpensive methods I went; I didn't get very far when another good friend, who is also a fellow artist and also really good at what they do, shared a video about making proto putty molds (King of Random) with a bit of silicone caulking and cornstarch...

BINGO! To the creative laboratory! (and the garage to find the box where I put the dang caulking gun in...)

Turns out this friend was also looking to do the same thing with their own creations.
Complete serendipity if you ask me, and to this friend I dedicate this endeavor to. I have to let them know how this turned out; hey, sharing is caring... and helpful! Never know who is on the same path as you. Check out their Etsy Myrcury's Toy box. The stuff they make is very cool (I own many pieces) and we go back a ways as internet buds, hehe.

Back to the nitty gritty at hand!

I sculpted a few pendants up just for the sake of this test because I didn't want to accidentally ruin any of the fully painted and sealed pendants I had prepped for my next shop update lol.
With my limited knowledge on mold making, I gathered the materials and a few extras to help:

  • 100% silicone caulking with caulking gun
  • Cornstarch
  • Cookie cutter that fits your items with plenty of space.
  • Really wide masking tape
  • Glue gun with glue gun mat

So the cookie cutter, the glue gun, and the tape are all extras because I wanted my mold to ultimately be something easy to handle and use my clay rolling pin on then just an impressed ball of rubber. You could just do exactly what the video does-- it doesn't make a difference. I went a little further just because I could.

I remember my friend from Texas gluing the item down into a cardboard mold receptacle (in this instance the cookie cutter), but I thought a layer of tape as the base would be easier to remove for smaller things like this. I saw this somewhere... but I honestly can't recall where I saw it-- book, video? Might not even have been specifically about mold making, most likely from something to do with fusible beads...

I still ended up gluing the edges (what I saw my Tex-friend do)-- the purpose of this was primarily to prevent any liquid mold making material from seeping out of cracks. For my purpose it was to ensure the tape stayed on the cookie cutter while I wrangled the putty into it.
Quick note here too, I ended up switching my bazooka of a glue gun (Surebonder brand) out for my smaller less strong (Artminds from Micheal's, but basically the same quality as one from a dollar store) when I noticed the former gun was burning the heck out of the tape.

Now to the hard part...

When they said it can be messy, they weren't fooling; hand to Gods I tried my very best to keep it clean but... it was impossible to know what you're dealing with if you've never handled it. I know it's like beating a dead horse, but there's still something to be said about how things look easier than done here somewhere...

The caulking was incredibly sticky and hard to work with. I think he grossly understated this by showing most of the process gloveless. Here I am, a dummy thinking 'well he isn't dead and I don't have them but let's do this!'.
WEAR THE GLOVES, any gloves-- kitchen gloves! Anything... just wear them and save yourself from impulsive behavior that leads to poor choices (of which I am utterly prone to).

I could not rub off the caulking leftover from my hands, and although peeling the chunks one by one would satisfy my 10 year old self, I had things I needed to do while the mold cured. Since this is not the first time I disregarded my poor hands well being I have a supply of Gojo in stock, or as I have come to call it hand mayo.

I gave it 30-40 mins to err on the safe side of demolding. I don't know whether or not that helped, but everything came out with very little effort and zero marring to the original sculpts.
However, the mold had some glaring defects; the biggest one being in the left edge, but they're pretty much all over.

Maybe I didn't knead it enough, maybe I didn't pack it in as tight, maybe I used way too much of one thing over the other. Could be a lot of reasons why the mold looks like it's crackling and not smooth... but I definitely couldn't wager a good guess.
It's not dry feeling, however-- it is flexible and sturdy feeling for now. I suspect eventually that big crack will be its Achilles heel.

Anyway! There's only one way to find out whether this mold is good or poo.
I used the mold at the "weak" edge to see how it held up. Not too shabby!
Heck with only the tiniest, infinitesimal bit of clean up work, the resulting pendant looks identical!
So was this foray a success? You bet your topper it was.

And so concludes this episode of:
Tales of Trial and Terror

P.S. While I don't feel like I should even have to say this, it's important to mention nevertheless: DO NOT use this to make copies of another artist's work to sell. Aside from being quite illegal with intellectual property rights and all that, it's also a very shitty thing to do. Ultimately, people will do what they please, but as long as you're not profiting off the backs of hard working peeps, you should be ok.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Spooky Basket: Crash Course In Industrial Sewing Machines By A Total Noob. (Long-ass Post)

There are innumerable amounts of blog posts, videos, articles-- ALL kinds of information on the best beginners household sewing machine, if I thought I had something different to contribute to that I might consider writing a post about that.
However, I thought I would talk about my experience in something I know very little about (lol): Industrial Sewing Machines.
Because there isn't enough conversation about them from folks who own them, and people who sell them are often unwilling to indulge newbies or most of the time assume you already know what you're getting yourself into.

These past 2 years has afforded me a crash course in the owning and purchasing of a few industrial sewing machines, so this post is going to be a combination of what (little) I do know about them and reviews of the machines I purchased myself.
Sit down in your favorite sewing chair! We're putting the pedal to the metal!

When I lived in San Antonio, I made a really great friend who I keep in close contact with and has become one of the most important people in my life-- I don't say this lightly. This friend helped me get in contact with someone who gave me first hand experience in a professional designer/fashion environment as a volunteer intern for Fashion Consulting, Pattern and Samples Services.
But most importantly, this friend gave me my first industrial sewing machine.
I owe them a debt I probably can't repay.

Entrer Vintage Consew 220.

She was in rough shape when I first received her, and it became a side project for us to rehab her to get her sewing properly, and it took A LOT of work. It turned out to be a good thing though, because when we fixed her up together I learned the bulk of what I now know about these majestic beauties: the difference between clutch and servo motors, dispelling misconceptions about industrials in general, and even putting some of my previously known tidbits into practice.

Let's start with needles.
See, there's a very specific way an industrial needle needs to be inserted otherwise it messes with the stitch, and household machine needles are manufactured with an ease of use/insertion "flat side" so the user doesn't really need to think about the "anatomy of a needle". Plus the entire mechanism is laid out so that many households now have a drop down bobbin that makes the needle eye/hole face the user, and for some reason that makes it intuitive; it's completely dummy proof.

Even though I knew all this before, I still needed a refresher of what I am looking at when it comes to a needle.
In case you need a refresher too, here it is:

Credit: Sailrite

On all my industrials so far, the "scarf" needs to be oriented to the right and the "groove" to the left, perpendicular to the seam guides; it was also my understanding that the thread must always be thread through the needle from left to right, it makes sense then that the groove has to be on the left because the thread fits snugly into it, and that helped me to remember (after many failed stitch samples).

So why is it so important to know this?
Because it's tricky getting the right placement even when you know all the above since, unlike those household needles, the shank on these are round all the way, hence why knowing the actual needle is going to be your biggest help... A scarf facing too far front or too far back can also affect the quality of your stitch.
A needle inserter tool helps, though keep in mind they're made with a flat back groove and weren't intended for thick gauges... but it still helps when you have butter fingers.

I struggled for months fighting with this machine on certain projects, getting over the immense learning curve. I thought that once I knew about the needles it would be smooth sailing... I couldn't understand why I was still having trouble.
It wasn't until after the hundredth time researching for troubleshooting that I learned one very important but simple fact about industrial sewing machines:

There is no "all-in-one" industrial machine, which is the opposite said of household machines.

Industrial machines are quite literally made for a singular purpose and they do it as efficiently as a machine can be, so they can seem to go wonky when you deviate from that "purpose". That is why there are SO MANY different types of industrial machines: from blind hem, walking foots, cylinder beds, chain stitch to lock stitch. Even whether or not it is a zig-zag or straight stitch, or single or twin needle machine. Whereas on a household machine, it's simply a matter of changing the stitch from their plethora of stitches and swapping out for the appropriate foot.

Household sewing machines are made to be able to give a user a taste of the full range of sewing applications available, but that does not necessarily make them efficient at any one of those tasks: jack of all trades, master of none.

I also discovered a little factoid along the way that I myself didn't realize: did you know that the "industrial" in industrial sewing machine refers to the speed/stitches per minute? Because even a household machine can have a strong enough motor to sew heavy duty materials.
On average the fastest "household" will claim around 1500 SPM give or take, whereas many "industrial" machines could go all the way up to about 7000 SPM.

I was under the mistaken impression that I could sew my lightweight materials (they sewed quite nicely) as well as some very heavy duty canvas/vinyls/etc on the Consew 220 (they didn't) because I was/am able to on my household.
Even with the strongest and largest rated needle on the list of sizes it can use, the quality of the stitch was as mediocre as my household because the machine wasn't made to sew such heavy duty fabrics. Thus constant struggle.

Apart from the above, I think another reason I struggled with this machine was also due to the fact that it was powered via a clutch motor.
Industrial sewing machines can come with one of two motors: clutch or servo. An older industrial machine will most likely be equipped with a clutch motor, such was the case.

Clutch motors are very fast, kinda finicky, low control, and extra noisy beasts.

The benefits (allegedly) of a clutch motor are that it's more powerful, faster, and it forces you to develop better control habits at the machine itself. 

You switch on the motor and it constantly runs, consuming energy whether or not you engage for sewing... hence the noise. I can attest that yes it is very fast but you sacrifice maneuverability for that speed. The peddle is very sensitive (see finicky) so it takes a seasoned foot to be able to graduate speeds, feather footed I once heard it being called. Stopping isn't easy either-- you have to stop a few stitches before the end or you end up with a few extra stitches.
Maybe I just severely lacked the finesse and patience this machine required for its very steep learning curve, but I always felt like I was fighting it.

To top it all off, this machine lacked a good system to change the stitch length (I won't even try and explain how one goes about changing stitch length on this thing) and most importantly it did not have back stitch capacity; I had to manually turn the project (not always easy) and head back to "lock" the stitch in place, or tie the knots myself from the thread tails... a very cumbersome task when speed is supposed to be the point.

I tolerated all this since A) it was a gift and I wasn't sewing for business anyway and B) my households were good enough for my own purposes when the Consew and I had one of our frequent disagreements.

Then a year ago, I started Strange Coven and production time became kind of important as demand grew and grew, I also wanted my bags to be made with heavy duty materials because it meant long term wear and usage for them.
And so once again, I struggled with the Consew.

It was when I started noticing the bald spots on my head (from having pulled out so much hair) that I decided I needed some different machinery. I started researching industrial machines for heavy duty sewing: I knew I wanted to try a servo motor, have back stitch capacity, and a stitch length dial.
I should note that the 220 seems to be an anomaly in regards to back stitch capacity, most industrials even older ones have this ability... so it's just weird. Maybe an older Consew thing? I simply don't know.

Entrer The Fabricator by Sailrite.

The fabricator is a walking foot industrial sewing machine.
A walking foot is exactly what it sounds like: instead of squeezing material along a normal presser foot, the specialized foot/feet "walk along" the material (video example). This movement is key when feeding thick or lofty materials to sew as it eliminates the pulling and tugging that causes irregular or skipped stitches when dealing with such thicknesses.

The Fabricator is a recent addition to Sailrite's currently tiny repertoire of table topped machines. Sailrite wasn't a brand I was intimately acquainted with-- I first heard about them back when I lived in New Mexico when I was searching compact heavy duty machines for the shiggles, to which Sailrite boasted some of the best rated on the web; I remembered seeing the Fabricator in passing on their website, ooggled the fact that it was glorious to behold, but the price tag was far beyond my reach then.

It took quite a lot of agonizing to pull the trigger on it, as I tried to weigh it against what I was exposed to: Juki and Consew, brands I recognized and trusted (at least for the most part; I own a fantastic Juki serger)... But NO ONE was talking about their industrials in my circles, and the Fabricator was taunting me with its sleek black exterior that also no one was making much of a peep about...

EDIT: Ironically, I did end up finding a great youtube channel that I now follow and they have a video review/unboxing of the machine: here it is.

The deciding factor ultimately was the overwhelmingly positive reviews Sailrite has as a company; their customer service is incredibly helpful. Seriously, if you got a question they will answer it... but you probably won't have any because they cover so much on their website which is very intuitive and user friendly, and their Youtube channel is chock full of great quality and informative videos; they radiate quality.
Although Juki and Consew are pretty much household names (not to be confused with only manufacturing household machines), their customer service is less than stellar, but workable.
Plus I love a good underdog.

I have to take another moment here to continue fangirling over Sailrite because their packaging was so clean, so tidy and so secure. Everything felt packed with love!
Oh and in case their online help isn't quite enough, the manuals are printed in full glossy color glory with step by step photos on every process; from building the table, to setting it up, to maintenance, to troubleshooting.
It came with a package of schmetz industrial needles and a large spool of V-92 Bonded outdoor thread in white-- very nice bonuses!

So let's go back to motors again for moment:
Servo motors differ from clutch motors in that they offer variable/controlled speeds (don't need to be feather footed to be able to graduate speeds or stop on a dime), it only engages when you sew so it's hella smooth and best of all... it's much quieter.
Again, it comes down to what you prefer/are comfortable with; super fast speeds with limited control, or decently fast speeds with mucho control. You decide.
Credit: Sailrite
The workhorse servo motor is a Sailrite exclusive. I can't tell you how it differs from other servo motors because I simply don't have a good enough basis for comparison. It has a digital display for setting SPMs which I like but not uncommon. The only immediate difference I see is that the belt used to drive the balance wheel is cogged which prevents the belt from slipping on the wheel (also notched on their machines; don't know if that is an exclusive design) thus offering a little more driving power. It seems modular, on the website you can buy a small selection of attachments/belts that affect the strength of the drive. Not much to say in regards to the motor in terms of how it runs, I think the workhorse might actually be just a little stronger since I've sewn some hardcore thicknesses like they're nothing more than quilting cotton... but my judgement might be skewed by the previously mentioned factors. The top speed pales in comparison to the clutch motor however-- top speed for the Consew's motor was 5500 SPM while the Workhorse is a paltry 3600 SPM.

One of the "quirks" the Fabricator has that often lead me to make threading mistakes is that the bobbin feeds out of the casing in a clockwise fashion, which is the opposite of how it is most commonly distributed on other industrial machines.
Even all my household machines feed their bobbins counterclockwise.
I couldn't find a reason why this was... so I guess c'est la vie.

The downright negatives to the Sailrite Fabricator come in the form of the little things. The table it comes with is not as high quality as everything else. None of the placement holes came predrilled or even premarked; it's significantly lighter than the head so I question how stable it will remain even after almost a year of owning and using it. Plus the "ruler" on it isn't printed/painted on, it's instead a sticker that comes off super easy; I never use it granted but I liked the option of it being there as a permanent aesthetic... I have already taken it off because it came up around the edges within the first few days.
The pin of the bobbin winder seems a touch too big than the holes in the bobbins, so it's tough getting the bobbin on and it's a tug of war getting them off the winder. I hoped it would be easier with time, but no change as of writing this. The screw drivers it came with are super cheap, in fact they broke while we were setting everything up.
It also didn't come with a table mounted power switch, which during my time at the fashion haus and with the Consew I own, I assumed came standard with all machines and really liked it; again I haven't as of writing this done any research into whether or not this feature can even happen with a workhorse motor, so we'll see.
Overall nothing deal breaking.

The combination of machines was working well, and things were ok for a time.; every function I required was met with the Consew and the Fabricator.
Until the combination of all my complaints with the Consew had finally come to blows for the last time.

In the fashion haus, I had the privilege of working with a number of industrial Juki's closely. Since I knew I always wanted another Juki and I didn't end up getting a Juki walking foot (the one machine I didn't get to work on, ironically)... I decided, in September, that my next machine purchase was going to be the one I had worked the closest with.

Entrer the Juki DDL-8700

The Juki DDL-8700 is a single needle lockstitch machine.
A lockstitch is just a fancy and concise way of referencing the common/standard way a stitch is created on many sewing machines.

You may have seen this gif in one version or another:
That's a lockstitch. The Consew and the Fabricator also utilize a lockstick mechanism, and probably yours too!
Pretty riveting stuff... No really! It is when you really think about it. That movement is happening super fast on these machines. You really just sit in awe at the precision and calibration of sewing machines; mechanical wonders to entice the imagination.

The Juki came with all the trimmings: servo motor (), reverse stitch (), easy to use stitch length dial (), robust table with permanent ruler design (), table mounted power switch (), and a perfectly functioning bobbin winder (). It came with a decent dust cover as a bonus, but since I've been using the machine practically everyday since I received it, I don't use it.

I did try to sew some of the heavy duty material that sews like butter on the Fabricator, on this machine to see if there was a difference between the servo motors but the machine belt kept slipping on the wheel to drive the needle down into the thickness I was feeding it.
Since it isn't a walking foot either, the layers kept slipping around making the whole experience like reliving the frustration of the Consew.
So, that was a wash. I still can't tell a difference in power, and the SPM's on the Juki's motor is significantly faster with a top speed of 5500 (just like the clutch motor) but it's a dial instead of a digital display, nothing wrong with it technically... but also not easy to see whether or not its been changed when one of your fur babes decides to poke around... lol.

I think I have the least amount of complaints with the Juki overall, less than any of my machines in general, and I actually didn't purchase this Juki through a dealer. I decided to take a gamble and purchase the machine through Ebay, because it was hundreds of dollars cheaper due to the free shipping. It came out to just about $700 exact -- that's just a pinch more than many digital household sewing machines!

My only complaints with the Juki are that there isn't any help in terms of assembly instructions such as the building of the table that comes with it. The manual it does come with is basically a pamphlet filled with brief rudimentary instructions that cover only the essential but initial key points and a tiny handful of troubleshooting... all in a slightly convoluted format (several languages to explain one thing on a page). I ended up using the Fabricator's manual to supplement what I found around the web.
It too came with very cheap screwdrivers that broke almost immediately and sadly it wasn't packed up the best-- the legs suffered a little warping during shipment.
However, the table came pre drilled and that to me made up for whatever I had issue with.

So now that I've covered all the reviews and impressions, let's discuss something they all have in common: Maintenance.
It comes as little surprise that an industrial's maintenance schedule is farther out than a common household machine. That's due in part to the fact that the mechanisms and gears that drive the entire machine are constantly submerged in a pan of machine oil preventing friction, that causes heat, that inevitably causes wear and tear.
The oil used in these pans is no different than the oil used in any other sewing machine kit. There's just more of it that's readily available for the machine to siphon instead of relying on a fallible human to remember to oil it.

I haven't felt a need to take my machines in for a tune up yet.
Mostly, it's been just a matter of babysitting the oil levels and making sure that the reservoir is clear of lint and other debris. You don't need to replace the oil unless it looks dark colored like brown or gold or has too much debris to remove on your own.

Removing the lint from the machine is easy too. Just take a brush to the areas I marked with an arrow in the photo below: where the bobbin case is and the space/pan below it that catches most of the fallout from the feed dogs.

The needles also don't need to be changed out as often because they're more robustly manufactured and meant for long term high speed usage. Aside from the ones I broke (mea culpa, nothing to do with the machine), I haven't had to replace the last ones I inserted-- that was months and many, many hours of usage ago.

Last but not least: Cost.
Weighing the cost to usage seems to be the pervading concern with industrial sewing machines; is it even worth it to invest if all you're doing is sewing for home?
For me, I measure the value of time a little heavier so time saved = great savings, and honestly the single needle lock stitch is only marginally more spendy than any mid range digital household machine. I also factor in maintenance costs; I took in my households at least once to twice a year to get a tune up/re-timing (roughly $75 to $100 every time on digitally calibrated machines depending where I took them), but I also spent hours and hours doing some of that myself along with weekly time scheduled to clean and oil the households.
An industrial was a great investment for me, but then even before I started Strange Coven I was spending huge amounts of hours at my sewing machine to make it worth it.

I think that about covers my entire experience/knowledge on industrial sewing machines.
I know, it's a lot to take in and perhaps I should've broken up this post into several parts...

Nevertheless, I hope I helped to scratch the surface and maybe help a fellow sewist consider making the investment... because once you go industrial, it's tough to go back to anything else.

Feel free to ask me questions, I'll do my best to answer them!

Spook ya later, fiends!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: Sharpie Marker Jack O' Lanterns.

I've wanted to write for so long, even had a nostalgic conversation about our blogs with Mrs Insomniac during my latest visit home North. Sufficed to say, it's been a community that I (we) have missed dearly, and seeing the efforts of some of the Ladies in Black continue despite dwindling traffic, well it's inspired me greatly.

I would like to get back to writing, even if its on a much more limited basis, say like once a month! I think it's about time to re-break the ice that has been turning into ancient glaciers on this blog.
BWO will be temporarily disregarded as I thaw the frost from my brain, hehe. I encourage all my fellow bloggers, who like me stopped blogging, to pick up the keyboard and write-- even if it's a simple personal update that's no more than a paragraph... something to shift the ice!

To kick off, I have decided to recycle a mini DIY that I posted to my IG account a couple weeks ago...
Clearly I didn't/don't know what to write about, but it helps to get the juices flowing and since my life has been revolving around Strange Coven and getting it established enough to take off with, I decided not to write about that...
Not yet anyway...

Ironically though, this DIY was done because I started vending this year for the first time in over a decade and during my search for things to use for display and decorations, I stumbled upon these plain ceramic pumpkin photo holders on clearance for 85 cents a piece.
I figured they'd hold my signs just dandy but they weren't "spooky" enough to fit perfectly into my booth display. So in true fashion... I spookified them.

Ceramic Pumpkin Photo Holders Updo

You'll need:
  • Ceramic photo holder-- pumpkins in my case
  • Normal sharpie pen
  • Oil based sharpie pen
  • Convection oven

When I saw them, I remembered the DIY project trending a year or so ago on Pinterest: sharpie mug art-- this would be the culprit that sealed this little deal for me.
I took an ordinary sharpie (the same color as your oil based one or the colors begin to mix) and free-handed a couple of my favorite jack o' lantern faces; I went over with a plain sharpie first because it's easy to rub off mistakes that might've happened with some rubbing alcohol. The oil based takes a bit of scrubbing but can and does come off with rubbing alcohol in any case.

Once I was happy with all the lines, I simply went over and filled with an oil based sharpie.
Put them on a pan, baked in a convection oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 mins constantly checking to see that it didn't scorch/bubble the marker paint and/or crack the ceramic.
Let cool and viola!
You would need a little stronger solvent to remove the drawings from this point.

Things to note: imagine my disappointment when discovering that an oil based pen is a push-nib reservoir kind of pen, these are notorious for over flowing the felt nibs and creating puddles everywhere... which it did for me because it wasn't flowing out for the first several pumps and I was really unaware of the low viscosity of the actual paint/ink. These types of pens were probably invented by the anti-craft himself.

Since I don't need to display signs anymore, I use them now to display some of my favorite die-cuts from Micheal's I got this past Halloween, as seen in the first photo.
But be warned, this is awful addictive once you realize you don't need to zentangle to doodle on ceramics and glass objects with sharpies.

Spooky ya later, ghouls!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: It's A Strange New World

Lot'a cobwebs in here... Miss me?

No? Darn.

The month's kind of got away from me; Instagram and Facebook have been my short and sweet links to the world; condensed socialization at the click of a button!
Not very personal, true... but without which I would be as invisible and clueless as I am in actuality. Well... who am I kidding, I'm not exactly bursting with popularity on any platform, heh!

Ok, we got off on a morose start...

It's the rain. Washington has been cold and constantly wet.
...I can just hear the 'duh's.

You know when you hear something you think is ludicrous so you choose not to believe it, and then you're left really unprepared for reality? That's it, that's what happened right here. I just didn't think it was going to be this much rain.
It's almost too much for me, and I would say I like the rain.
Not being able to wear my beautiful velvet coats, and cloaks or fancy shoes stings a little having looked so forward to cold weather to take them out of storage where they were when I lived in heat of the South... here I am with temperatures where I should be able to, but the wetness and mud keeps me in galoshes and a raincoat-- oh the irony.
Ok, I didn't really expect to wear summer dresses...
But you get the point.

One thing's for sure... with clouds this thick it makes midday light look a little like dusk for nearly weeks on end, it sure makes you appreciate a partially cloudy day.

Weather aside, everything else is darn near perfect. I am still rather gobsmacked we were able to afford to buy a decent home in this horrendous housing market... thank the gods for qualifying for a USDA home loan. Another thing I discovered not to be an exaggeration... people want gold prices for what is essentially 'fools gold' around these parts.
Of course there's still things that need to be updated and kept an eye on in our home... but not nearly as bad as outright foundation issues that plagued nearly every other home on our rather short list.
Foundation problems caused by... you guessed it, the constant rain (lol!).

I got a part time gig by sheer luck at an antique mall right in town and within walking distance owned by an introverted older gentleman and his extroverted 80+ year old foster father. I have one other colleague, an older lady whom is this insurmountable wealth of knowledge on niche and popular antiques; she is quite old fashioned as to be a bit shocking in this day and age... but I find to be quite pleasant.
My boss' foster father has given me the nick-name 'The Lady in Black' and will greet me as such each day. On occasion the boss buys us lunch and will often make sure that I and my colleague are comfortable and happy. I am getting feelings that remind me of my time in New Mexico, that I'm part of a family here-- I'm relied on, needed, and wanted. I didn't think I would be lucky enough to have this kind of work situation again after New Mexico. I feel blessed.

As one might have guessed, in the same manner that working a fabric store is dangerous for me... so is a vintage & antique store. I am tempted daily by a plethora of neat and pretty things; these are a few of the treasures I couldn't 'live without'... but so many are left behind!

So regardless of the ails of the weather, Washington has been (so far) a nice place to call home.

In other lesser but still mention-worthy happenings, a small back injury I suffered inspired my husband to finally replace my nearly 6 year old and very crooked computer desk and chair with a DXRacer in orange and black, and duo trayless widetop desks. I very nearly asked for the purple and black chair... but these days, I'm becoming more and more fond of orange as my compliment color.

We now live the typical 'gaming couple' setup, and as disgustingly cute as that sounds... it is.
I love it, haha.
In gaming related news, I finally got around to playing and finishing Divinity: Original Sin 2, a review may or may not come. It's not usual for me to review games... I really should. It's such a huge part of my life. It took so long from release for me to play it due to moving and other unrelated drama; sufficed to say, it's an incredible game totally worth every penny spent on it... and I went ahead and backed this on Kickstarter and got the collectors backing tier with a Fane statue and art books and maps. The first one easily became one of my 10 all time favorite games, the 2nd one just reinforced the series' status in my most loved gaming experiences.

Finally, the last bit of update I have...

I now sell on etsy through the name Strange Coven. It took me a while to get a name and brand going for my handmade shop: I really wanted something simple, easy to remember/lookup, but was still reflective of the 'sometimes spooky, sometimes spoopy' nature of my style. Two to three syllables is apparently what the human brain can remember with ease-- rule of thumb if you're trying to think of a shop name by chance.

Right now, I'm running a sale for 15% off all my ready-made items. On top of that, I'm running a giveaway for this little guy on the FB shop page.

I know they say that exposure is a poor thing for an artist to hope for... but the ground floor could use a little of that to get the ball rolling a little more, heh! Come show your support, and heck you may even get lucky.

That's it for now, fiends!
Spook ya later.


Outfit in first photo:
  • Dress: Handmade
  • Choker: Handmade
  • Pumpkin handbag: Handmade
  • Boots: Ironfist
  • Socks: Target
  • Hat: Gifted to me
Outfit in second photo:
  • Shirt: Walmart
  • Leggings: Walmart
  • Same handbag as first

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Mortem's Tricks or Treats: 'Tis Near Halloween!

Samhain, all hallow's eve, Hallowe'en... our day is nigh, fiends!
Oh the joy to see so many jack o' lanterns littering the neighborhood-- even some that have already been smashed! A time honored tradition for the trickster spirits about, heheh.

My entire year felt like its lead up to October, much like it does every year, and with the big day on Tuesday, I already feel the withdrawals for the spooky season since shop shelves do become rather sparse in their decoration pickins' so close to the day of.
There isn't much left for me to buy anymore-- I did my spending though, but so little of it was on actual decorations for my home. This year my Halloween haul has been predominately fabric and though fabric does excite and entice me immensely, I feel the FOMO bug biting at my brain in terms of Halloween decorations...

While visiting the Dollar Tree in the next town for unrelated reasons, I stumbled onto what was left of their Halloween section.
It was a rather depressing sight, but I did manage to scrounge a few items that I then took to my half-processed creative laboratory for a bit of spooky crafty fun.

Foam feathered crow - check.
Fully functioning (these things rarely are) foam glitter light-up pumpkin - check.
Scraps of felt, lace and a doily from Michael's dollar section - check, check.

I cut out a cute lil' witch hat, and then glued it on it's head.

Now it's a cute lil' witchy crow.
If you decide to follow along with this little craft, you can at this point add anything else to the hat, but since I can't find anything but my scraps just yet... it'll go a little bare... for now.

Next, I mounted the witchy crow using the little wire pegs on its feet, onto pumpkin in a stately manner. Tied on this little scrap of ribbon around its neck like a scarf, plop the whole thing on top of the doily (because black doilies make everything better)... and voilĂ ! A decoration fit for leaving out all year long.

A stately little crow upon a bust of Lantern Jack.
Quoth the little crow, 'Tis near Halloween!'

Spook ya later, fiends!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Mortem's Trick or Treats: To Be or Not To Be-- Craft-along + Giveaway!

Another home, another spooky sewing room to make my own!
One of my favorite things about moving is being able to rearrange and redecorate my creative living space.
Once again, I find myself with not just one but two rooms to house my hobbies-- one room for my machines and general craftery; the other room for my stash... because yeah, my stash really is that big.

The "store room" came in an ashy grey, and that is ok... for now.
Unfortunately, the machine room is where the paint job wasn't exactly a blank canvas.

The ceiling is painted in a high gloss black, 3 of the walls including the closet are painted a pastel purple, and the wall facing the rest was a deep pink accent wall.
I don't mind the purple, and I am keeping the black ceiling... but the pink had to go immediately.

I bought a gallon of Kilz, and luckily the previous owners had some leftover eggshell ultra pure white that I eliminated the pink with.

Unsurprising, it took almost the entire gallon of Kilz to neutralize that deep shade of not-my-favorite-color, but already the room became livable for me.
I dabbed the ceiling accidentally here and there, and weirdly it's the only mistakes among the plethora that can be seen on photo-- perhaps it's the white contrast on black... well the previous paint job is intensely sloppy. There are 2 colors on that edge... actually all edges even on the sills and frames that aren't turning up in the photo.
It's almost as if they decided to forgo painters tape... I have major amounts of retouching and scraping to do despite my own mistakes.

The wall remained an accent wall, but instead of being a solid color, I opted to stripe it-- black and white! How exciting that it should fit exactly into Bane's theme for this month's Craft-Along. I did make a submission for previous month's craft-along... but my move sort of prevented me from writing up a post for it; if you're following my IG account, you would have seen what I made and are perhaps waiting on that outfit and post. If I can only find the box they're all packed in...

Anyway, this was my first time painting a stripe wall... I think the concept of stripe walls was scarier than the doing, though to be fair, I did quite a lot of video research before I got to the doing. I bought a cheap laser level which made the process much much quicker and less messy. I also created a cardboard template, so that I could get nearly perfect spacing for my markings to set my laser on: I say nearly because I don't think each stripe is exactly 5.5 inches; there is very likely fractions of an inch differences to each, but it's very near the mark.

Since I was painting on a wall I only let cure for 24 hours, I went with delicate surface frog tape. I read that no matter what you buy or how much you try, some bleeding is inevitable; with that in mind, the best tip I read was prepping the inside of the stripe by painting a coat with your base paint just overlapping the inside and the tape to create a kind of bleed-barrier to prevent a lot of that; whatever bleeds heavily will be the same color as the base. You let that layer cure as per paint can instructions, and continue with your dark paint.

Another tip that everyone chimed in with is taking off the tape while the paint is still wet to get a cleaner finish. That said, my second coat went slower, as I worked 2 stripes at a time to move carefully around the wet paint.
All in all, I'm extremely happy with the result-- I didn't have any bad bleed spots on my stripes, many of them came out so clean I could have made one of those "satisfying" videos...

But like expected, some bleed did happen-- not very big, the biggest ones were no bigger than the head of a pin. I took a tiny dab of white base on an artists paint brush and it fixed them right up.

So now the question remains... what to do with the purple. Do I keep it? Or do I change it...

I'm assuming since the paint cans left are such, that I'm dealing with a Behr paint. This purple shade color wasn't in the pile left us. The color, I think, is either 'Foxglove' or 'Bohemianism' in semi-gloss.
Tough to tell... thinking more it's foxglove.

I do love purple, and I don't like doing this kind of painting (the act, not the result, heh!)... but I also really love the idea of a nice aged pumpkin orange to go with my vintage and retro decor that make up my signature spooky sewing room theme.

My two orange choices are 'Japanese Koi' or 'Mandarin'-- almost no difference, except mandarin is just slightly more pale.
I was going to go for a matte, but my husband convinced me eggshell would be more appropriate to go with the accent wall.

So, as of yesterday... I am completely undecided. I was so sure I was going to do the orange that I bought a couple sample tubs to play with on the wall... but gah, I went and overthought it.
I can't make the decision...

So I am going to leave it up to you, fiends!

And for your troubles, I shall offer a chance to win a little Halloween Treat Bag

With the spooky season still in full swing in my heart (regardless of those Christmas fanatics already revving up!), and having an October that also included a Friday the 13th, I'd say there's still lots of cheer to spread.
Help a fellow spook out, cast your vote and be entered to win this here surprise treat bag stuffed with all manner of spoopy, kitsch, and oh so delightfully Weeny goodness, including a handmade piece of spooky cute jewelry by yours truly and a couple knick knacks to entice a crafty spooky soul among the loot!

The Rules:
  1. You must be following my IG (@mari_mortem) and/or this blog.
  2. Comment on either post (via IG or on here) with your vote-- team purple or team orange. Receive an extra entry if you comment on both (please leave an identifier if you have different account names).

Winner drawn randomly on Oct. 31th, open world wide.
Good luck, fiends-- spook ya later!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fashioning My Cyber Microcosm: Adventures In The Life of a Nomad: A Trip Essay.

Hello fiends,

I am writing to you from un-sunny Washington state. My new home, and a new opportunity to spook the locals.

What an adventure to get here.
It started off on a really bad foot. 

My black kitty Khan got rather sick on a Friday; acute low liver function the vet said, and he needed at least two over-night stays on IV-- the vets were fully aware of our impending move and were as concerned as I was about it all... this was just two days before we scheduled to set sail. Luckily it was a 24 hour vet care, with very good people.
It was no question to delay the date and hope the vets were able to do something about it. I put on every piece of lucky jewelry I could find; the stress was overwhelming with everything else on top, and I needed every last drop of hope I could muster. The movers came and packed everything away on the Sunday and morning of Monday; I was able to spend some time with the only person I spent frequent amounts of time with in SA on Tuesday (aka friend), which helped to ease some of the stress-- he took me on a quest to find a Starbucks that offered a pumpkin spice chai tea latte, odd that it was so tough to find.
On the Wednesday the vet called early in the morning and told us Khan was well enough to travel, but still not out of the woods-- they would check us out in the afternoon. An unbelievable weight lifted when I saw my Khan peppier than he was just a few days ago-- I thought I was going to lose him. But my happiness was somewhat dampened with the medications I had to give him and the warning that they may not do anything due to the stress he had ahead of him.

We were given a prescription pheromone cat spray for the car to help ease the stress-- it had to be used one hour prior to travel. So we brought Khan back to the house where Poe his older brother was eagerly awaiting him. We packed our little dodge dart, gathered the kittles and their things, crossed our fingers... and an hour later we were on the road.

Not two hours out of San Antonio city limits, and we started hearing a thud, thud, thud.
Low at first, but it got progressively louder and louder, and the car also gradually shook-- until it was so loud and shaking, my husband was white-knuckling the steering wheel and I grabbed my seat and grit my teeth. Both of us hoping to make it to a town with a mechanic.
We made it as far as San Angelo, booked a room in a very dicey La Quinta right beside a Midas that had just closed-- no other mechanic close enough for us to risk continuing driving the vehicle. We didn't know the extent of damage or how long it would take to fix, and the hotel no matter how dicey and dated it was, was fully booked... but the lady at the front desk seemed very sympathetic of our plight and gave us the latest check out date they could feasibly do under such last-minute-over-booked circumstances.

First thing in the morning, my husband went off to Midas before they even opened, and I tasked myself with pilling Khan...
Pilling a cat that is stressed while you're very stressed yourself is the hardest thing you'll ever have to do. Khan refused EVERY. SINGLE. METHOD to pill him; not stuffing it in food, not syringing it into his mouth as a liquid, and just barely being able to open his mouth long enough to put the pill in the back of his throat; he was somehow able to bring it back front and spit it out several times-- he fought me with every ounce of zeal from a cat named Khan.
I was bitten and scratched and close to tears, having called my MIL who was a vet volunteer (once upon a time) for verbal help. One pill was successfully downed, and we decided he might have got enough of the pill he absolutely hated to equal the half dose he needed. So I gave up for the day.

On the car front, my husband phoned me with the news we had a tire bulge, and we were lucky we didn't get in a serious accident driving as long as we did doing highway miles. The good news was that it wasn't going to take long; we decided to just go ahead replace all four tires, so they would wear evenly... and for good measure, since we had several days left of the trip.
When we checked out, another lady at the counter was apprised of our situation and had prepared little care packages for our checkout. Water bottles for the kittles, and double chocolate cookies for us. They helped.
After the morning debacle, we stopped by a neighborhood Walmart since Khan would eat only tiny amounts of his kibbles-- I thought I would get a few varieties of wet cat foods to pique his appetite a little more. Out of the 8 choices I brought him, he scarfed down Purely Fancy Feast-- I wasn't too happy buying a Purina product, but I was desperate to get my babe eating normally again and these had very decent reviews and minimal ingredients and were very accessible along our long route.

The cat spray seemed to work by the second day of the trip-- the cats weren't nearly as fussy, and we were able to make a push to New Mexico, where we stopped for a night in Artesia and Carlsbad to visit with friends we made while we lived here. I miss New Mexico so much-- I believe it's the closest I felt at home since my momma's house back in Canada. If the move to San Antonio didn't happen, I can see myself growing roots in this state.

We stayed in yet another La Quinta, but this one far fancier.
We left New Mexico without a hitch. My hubby helped pill Khan in the morning, just slightly less of a struggle than before, but hey no scratches that time. His appetite visibly grew, he ate more kibble and again snarfed down the Fancy Feast.

By the third day, they seemed to already get used to spending a night in a strange room and spending long hours in the car. Each time, settling quicker and quicker into their "spots"; Khan in his little bed in the back seat, and Poe at my feet in his, napping till our next stop.

Arizona; where it all began for us.
Again we stopped in another of our old towns to visit with the friends we had while living here, in Holbrook.
We had breakfast for dinner at Denny's and spent the evening chatting and catching up; by moonlight, I visited an old secret I left out in the desert just months before moving from this town, the stick I used as a marker still stood, but a bush had begun growing over top of it.

The secret of what lies underneath is known only to myself, my husband and my good friend (and perhaps a couple more people, hah!)-- all who helped. One day, when the timing is right, it will be unearthed and revealed...

At the crack of dawn, it was back to the road again, bound for Utah.

From here on, it was all new territory for this family. The sights in Utah were incredible! It made me wish I lived in this beautiful state!

We passed beautiful red canyons, and vast rolling hills full of trees of all kinds of magnificent and brilliant colors. The views gave the Grand Canyon a run for its money! They took my very breath away.

Here we made our largest push test with the cats, and headed for Salt Lake City. Our start was a little rocky, I got a little car sick when we hit Winslow, Arizona, and the chilled air was a little hard on me in Page, Arizona-- we made a few stops and I bought a few sweaters and meds.
We reached the city by nightfall, and the cats were starting to get a little anxious, but overall seemed ok-- so in other words, success!

We stayed in yet another La Quinta (only place that was cheap and didn't ask for a pet deposit), but this time there must have been a dog show or something, because there were a lot of people on our floor with fancy dogs. The cats were on edge all night with all the borking and howling. Somehow, we slept through it all.

Next morning, we were Idaho bound.

At first the sights were something to behold, I had never seen so much gold and hills in my life... but by the second hour of nothing but, I started to feel panicked. Northern Utah and pretty much all of Idaho is nothing but rolling golden hills and open sky... with literally no real variation, and we cut through the entire state.

We were going to stay in Boise, but we decided to try and push it to Oregon, since we had a lot of "juice" in us from such a long boring trip. We stopped to refuel in Nampa, we spent a few moments in the gas station and as we were ready to leave... the car wouldn't start.
The battery had apparently died.
I guess if it was to happen, we were lucky it was at a gas station still relatively in town as opposed to being out in the open solitude of the country side...
We called our insurance and they sent people to jump our car an hour later, and again we were counting our lucky stars that there was an Auto Zone open nearby, so we could test and buy a new battery and be on our way.
At the Auto Zone, a woman came running up to us frantic; I didn't understand what she was crying and afraid of, but I let her use my phone. After she called someone several times, she returned my phone and before I could offer any more assistance she darted off in some kind of frenzy.
Some sketchy looking dudes came rolling up in an equally sketchy vehicle, and when they stepped out billows of smoke came out with them.
They eyed me up, and paced around the walkway near where we parked. I had my assisted-opening knife at the ready in my back pocket, and put on my bitchiest bitch face while my hubby installed the new battery.
I gave them a nod, and they left us alone... and soon we were on our way again.

So, Oregon. I don't know what to think of you now. I had always heard of your endless beauty... but I was greeted with loads and loads of roadside garbage. Just look at the stateline sign location, haha!
We decided to go as far as La Grande and call it a night. The town was actually very quaint, so it made up for it a little... except we had to stay in a very shabby looking Rodeway Inn. I was worried about the cleanliness, but it turned out ok. Sheets were awfully gaudy but the beds were clean. Good enough I suppose.

We were all quite pooped from the day. It didn't take long for all of us to fall asleep; this was our last stop till our new home! The Inn offered a continental breakfast surprisingly, which again I wasn't sure about-- they didn't have a dining room, you literally sat in metal chairs in the tiny room-sized lobby... but they had frosted flakes, and I was craving them so it made for a great breakfast, heheh.

Since we had driven to La Grande, it made our final push a small one, the state line came so fast I barely had time to snap a shot of it! Plus it was on a bridge and it was tiny to boot.
By the time we hit Seattle, we were all feeling antsy-- full of anticipation and excitement!
Up until a few days ago, I hadn't personally seen our new home! I entrusted my husband to find a house that would suit our needs. I realize now that I put a lot of trust in him, more than I really realized I did haha!

The house was perfect, though, in a town located Northeast of Mt. Vernon which is one hour North of Seattle.
I felt home, and that's a feeling I never really fully got while I lived in Texas.

It's certainly chilly here, I must say! My new creative laboratory boasts two windows-- our home being a nice corner lot and all. Perfect for sun-bathing, as Khan can be seen here enjoying! Perfect for sewing at all hours of daylight available. I get it all!
Khan and Poe are both doing very well still and settling in beautifully. We're busy busy unpacking and making our home look as much as a home as it feels!

Next post will be all about building my new creative laboratory!
Till then, my fiends,
Spook ya later!
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