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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Interview by Stitch Silly

Oooh!  The interview from last week that Stitch Silly was kind enough to do with me is now up!!!  I'm so excited!  Not just because I'm flattered (although I am extremely flattered that she thought that my stuff was cute...because I think her stuff is even cuter!) and had so much fun doing the interview, but because her store is completely adorable to boot (as previously stated)! 

Check it out: Stitch Silly: Talk to me Tuesdays! - Little Asian Sweatshop

Friday, July 22, 2011

Psychobilly Luau (Brooklyn)

My awesome artist (and fellow artisan) BFF Paigey is vending this weekend at the 5th Annual Psychobilly Luau in Brooklyn...and she's been kind enough to also sell my poker flowers and other hair accessories at her table!

Be sure to stop on by, say hi and check out her fantastic artwork on adorable necklaces, bracelets, magnets and, of course, my hair flowers!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Apology to My 10th Grade Geometry Teacher

Dear Mr. D,

Remember me? I was in your 10th grade Geometry class  20-odd  a very long time ago. I was the snarky little Asian girl, second row from the back, who would sigh dramatically and saying things like: "but when will I ever need to know how to the figure out the diameter of a circle? I can just use a ruler and measure!" or "ugh, WHY would I never need to know how to make a perfect pentagon?!".

Although you kindly gave me an A (OK, I begged and pleaded my way into that A), I really never learned nor remembered the concepts...and now, years later...

You were right.  I do need to know this stuff.  I use it every day in the Sweatshop.  Or, I should say, I need to use it every day, but due to sleeping through your class, I have not a clue what I'm doing when it comes to figuring out the circumference of the design of the new messenger bag so I can be sure to buy enough trim.

If it wasn't for the kindness of Twitter followers and Facebook friends, I would still be trying to figure out how much to cut out to make the waist for a circle skirt.

And that whole debacle with making a perfect pentagon? Thank you YouTube!

In that overly warm, right after lunch, spring semester class, you stared me down and told me that one day, I would indeed need to know this information. At the time I scoffed, but you were right. I did need to learn this. 

So, I am taking this opportunity to apologize for ever doubting you. I eat my words every time I run into a problem that requires something that you tried to teach me. I wish I paid closer attention. Saying that I regret not being a better student doesn't really cover it.  Especially as I sit here, trying to remember how to figure out the angle of this corner without a compass or a protractor.

With every fiber of my, now wiser, heart, I apologize.



P.S. Do you offer remedial geometry classes for those of us who somehow passed college level Calculus, but still can't figure out how many yards fabric I will need to make an ottoman with a diameter of 18" and a depth of 14"?

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Monday Shout-out by "All Things LuciRae"

It was another blah Monday, when I get a message from LuciRae, a fellow Etsy seller with a fantastic vintage collection (and is just as obsessed with rosettes as I am), that she has featured my Bodice Ripping Romantic Novel Hair Clip on her blog today!  What a great little boost!  If only all Mondays could be so awesome!

So if you have a moment - please stop by her blog, wish her mom a happy birthday, and check out what's making me grin on an otherwise very Monday-ish Monday!

Check it out: All Things LuciRae

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Sweatshop Gives a "Friends" Themed Party

My sister-in-law was turning 40, and my mother-in-law and brother-in-law (her husband) asked me to throw a surprise birthday party for her.

Normally, I adore throwing parties, especially for big milestones, however, I wasn't expecting to be tasked with this so I hadn't budgeted for a big bash. However, determined to live up to my party-planning reputation, I dug deep within myself to come up with a way to throw a shindig on a shoestring budget.

While thinking about my sister in law's interests to get ideas for a "theme", I recalled that she is a *huge* fan of the old 90's show "Friends". In that single moment, everything clicked into place.

As the show has been off the air for quite a while, I knew that I would have a tough time finding "Friends" themed party gear (plates, cups, etc). Besides, I generally dislike (read: desperately hate) preprinted licensed stuff. It makes a gathering feel so commercial and less organic and thoughtful. I knew I would have to rely upon my creativity to set the tone.

You know you won't be able to get the theme song out of your head now...

Taking inspiration from one of my favorite episodes, the one where Monica dismissively assigned Phoebe the job of "cups and ice" and Phoebe vows that "Monica is gonna rue the day that she put me in charge of cups and ice", I bought a stack of the ubiquitous red plastic cups (which I needed for the party anyway), and embellished them with left over trim from the Sweatshop. I also found an old floral leis that I kept because I liked the colors, and tore up for this project. Using simple thin elastic strings (can be found in any craft or fabric store), I punched a hole in the sides of the cups and tied off the elastic string to create the straps to hold them on people's heads. (Cost: cups: $5.99 for 100; elastic string $2.99 per 3 yards, I needed around 9 yards, so $9.97; trims, flowers and glue: free)

Every good party needs party hats
Because my husband was such a good sport about how this "hat" making project had taken over our living room (random flowers and trim were oddly attracted to his socks), I made a special one, just for him.

Made the fez tassel by rolling together left over fringe
Funny husband!

Since food featured heavily on the show (between Joey's mania for sandwiches and Monica being a chef), I started off by listing foods that I remember seeing on the show. Like the aforementioned sandwiches. But then I started to remember more of the show, such as the (in)famous birthday flan! And Phoebe's grandmother's famous "Toulouse" cookies. And Rachel's "English Trifle" that was half trifle and half shepherd's pie. As I laughingly jotted these ideas down, my husband also started to remember things from the show (the episode where Monica bakes a dozen lasagnas...the "Joey Special" which is two pizzas, etc). By the time we were done, we had a menu that was several pages long, but incredibly simple (and inexpensive) to pull together! To make the theme of the menu easier to understand (there was a weird mix of foods), with the help of the interwebz, I made little tent cards with lines from the show about that dish. Then, to keep the "ice and cups" inspiration running, I cut little slits at the top of a few red plastic cups (I had a ton after all!) to create card holders for the tent cards. (Cost: around $175 for all the various dishes).

3 foot long sub - it would make Joey proud!
Look honey, I baked!

Made a quick trifle using whipped cream, strawberries, pudding and Nilla wafers.  No meat!

As my sister-in-law is a huge scrapbooker, I wanted a few mementos that she could use to create a scrapbook of her party. Taking a piece of black foam board and colored pencils, I created an inexpensive replica of the "Central Perk" daily specials for guests to "sign in" as a guest book. Although I thought this was a little corny (even for me), it turned out to be wildly popular! (Cost: $4.99 for the foam board; the colored pencils were free).
The colored pencils gave a "chalk" feel to the logo

 As I didn't have DVDs of the show, and I couldn't seem to find it on Netflix (yet, I can find weird screwball bad 80's movies like "Apple"...I love Netflix!), I took to the interwebz and was able to find mp3 and wav files of Phoebe's singing (including 5 different renditions of "Smelly Cat"). Embarrassingly, I also had a copy of the "Friends" album on CD...which was so old that it took iTunes nearly 45 minutes to read the disk. I put all of this on my iPod and plugged it to our stereo as music for the party. (Cost: free...unless you count the embarrassment of realizing that I had once bought the "Friends" album).

Final review - the party was hugely successful. My mother-in-law and brother-in-law were happy with the party (or at least, that's what they told me...haha), and my sister-in-law and all the guests had a great time. Although I was pretty stressed out trying to deal with all the last minute details by myself, I had a ton of fun making the hats if nothing else. Best part? I was able to throw a party for 30, for a little under $200 total!

And that is how the Sweatshop throws a party!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Sweatshop and the Long Weekend

With the exception of theater tickets on Saturday, for the first time in nearly six months, my husband and I found ourselves with a completely free weekend. Nay, not just any weekend. A completely free *long* weekend. Excitedly, we danced around in our underwear (to the chagrin of our neighbors, I assure you), and shouted out what we wanted to do for the weekend:

"Let's have crabs for dinner!"

"I want to invite AG over for sewing and wine!"

"Let's work on the house and yard and stuff!"

"I wanna stay up until 3am!"

"Let's make that green chili that you were talking about!"

Quickly, I jotted all of this down on a list:
I love making lists!

Fun, yet productive. Well...productive if it wasn't for Fate's sense of humor, and our natural Sweatshop tendencies.

Friday night, I was able to get together with the aforementioned AG for an evening of sewing, crappy American-Chinese food, Hello Kitty First Aid, and totally embarrassing sewing-fail. After AG left, demoralized and in a semi-stupor from the gluttony of dinner, I sat on the couch and proceeded to watch horrifically mindless TV. Made more horrible when I realized that it was nearly 3am and I had just watched 4 hours of "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding".

Well, that's that! I thought, looking down at our "To Do" list.

Check and check.  Kinda.

Now, one would think that after crawling into bed at 3am, one would sleep like the dead until 1pm. Well, clearly, that person hadn't been on the go constantly for the past six months. My body has forgotten how to sleep in. I was up at 8, and after some tossing and turning, I "checked" to see if J was awake (by "checked" I clearly mean, I repeatedly poked him until he was up).

After the post office run, J's mood brightened considerable and took me to our favorite Sunday breakfast spot...even though it was a Saturday.

                                Before the devastation                               After the devastation

 As we  ate  gorged, we decided to run some errands and pick up brick pavers so that we can get started working on the yard. I'm not going to lie...our epic 4 hour home improvement shopping trip quickly devolved into 3.5 hours of buying crafting/sewing/Sweatshop stuff. Oops!

When we got home, we felt that it was too hot to do the manly-yard work that we had originally instead we headed inside...where J worked on ottomans, and I worked on making fascinators.

The key to any good list, is the ability to adapt!

By the time evening rolled around, we were both deeply engrossed in our projects and had to quickly change to make our dinner reservations before watching the Shakespeare Theater Company's performance of "The Merchant of Venice" which was *brilliant*. home improvement work actually happened on Saturday. *BUT* we did purchase the brick pavers that we we counted that as a partial win. Right?

                                                   It's been 7 days and the pavers are still there. 
                                                But at least it's in the yard...that's progress, right?

Sunday morning, we blithely awoke and decided to run to the market to pick up crabs for dinner. Naturally, I dragged J to an Asian market, where they had Dungeness, Crystal and Stone crabs as well as the ubiquitous Maryland Blue Crabs. J's eyes nearly popped out of his head, and we walked away with all four types of crabs for an evening of feasting!
Crystal Crab                         Maryland Blue Crab

Dungeness Crabs                        Stone Crab
Again, it was really hot out (or at least, that's what we kept saying to each other), so, again, we retreated into the nice AC climate of the house to continue working on ottomans, fascinators and other Sweatshoppy projects. Just as we were starting to give the crabs the hungry eye, my parents called to invite us over for an evening of gorging (as all my family events tend to be). We hadn't been over for dinner in a few weeks, so we quietly put the crabs into a cooler filled with ice, and headed to my parents' home for an evening of steaks and ribs.

Monday morning, we woke up and determined to knock *something* off our "to do" list, we both vowed to work on our projects and once we were done, we would head outdoors and work on the yard.

Now, if you think this story is going to end with "and we finished all of our projects and made our yard the star of the neighborhood", you clearly don't understand our love of crafting and sewing and furniture making! We ended up spending the rest of the day (even skipping lunch) to work on the Sweatshop. By 5, when the weather started to cool off, we were ravenous and went to the fridge to cook us up some crabs.

Sadly...the Dungeness crabs did not survive the night. For a while, I thought that J would also lose his will to live, as he simply *adores* Dungeness. The last time I saw him this sad, was when my I ate the last bite of his hazelnut chocolate gelato (I thought he handed it to me to finish...I didn't realize I was to just hold it for him). However, the rest of the crabs survived and they were *delicious*!

Get in my belly!

As the crabs were cooking, J started the green chili. Alas, as he was preparing it, he realized that there wouldn't be enough time to finish it off for dinner that night. And then, I was sad too.

After we finished decimating the crabs and feeling pity for ourselves while the green chili bubbled away, we sat on the couch and we confusedly looked at our "To Do" list and wonder how we accomplished so much, yet nothing on our list.

So we did the only thing one could do in a situation like this...we threw away our To Do list and just basked in the glory of our Sweatshop...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sewing with One Half of AliciaSquared

AG is an uber talented photog and is also one half of AliciaSquared, a great blog about two friends (both named Alicia) who have decided to become roomies and from all evidence, cooks a mean meal (not that I've been invited over for a meal *AHEM*) and crafts at a level that only Martha Stewart and Sweatshops has so far been able to achieve (I dare say that they may out paper-craft the Sweatshop...we may need to have a "craft-off" to find out!).

About 2 and a half years ago AG started a t-shirt quilt. She had asked for my help to finish it as the last time she sewed anything was in 7th grade Home Ec class. So with the Sweatshop all setup, I invited AG over for an evening of sewing, food and wine.

AG also came over with a dress that needed repairing, and the aforementioned quilt that needed to be finished. We ordered some horribly fatty American-Chinese food (the kind that makes Panda Express look like haute cuisine) and proceeded to sew. Fixing the dress was easy and was completed before the food arrived.

Now, before I go further, I'm going to make a ton of excuses in a poor attempt to salvage my Sweatshop and master-seamstress reputation.

  1. As this quilt was AG's project, I had to fight against my natural inclination to just take over the project and sew it myself.
  2. Also, I will gladly admit that I am a *horrible* teacher. I talk faster then I type and I just *assume* that everyone has the same abilities that I do. I just need to rattle off a few super high level directions and I expect that everyone completely gets what is needed. I'm like IKEA directions, only not as clear.
  3. I was also working on a few sewing/crafting projects myself as I had gotten a few orders in that day and I wanted to have them shipped out first thing Saturday, as Monday was a holiday and I didn't want anyone to have to wait for their purchases.
  4. Wine may, or may not, have been involved in the evening's sewing.
drumk sewing!

So, please keep all of this in mind and don't judge me too harshly. Heh.

Since AG's quilt was made from old tshirts that had sentimental value, we wanted to be sure that the finished product was nice. But because she wanted to use this for picnics and parks, I didn't want her to spend too much money on this. So we started off by buying two yards of navy blue 1" diamond doubled faced quilt to use as the backing. By using a pre-quilted fabric, we saved several steps (and money!). I cut this fabric in half lengthwise and had AG stitch the fabric together along the width to make a backing that was large enough. Since this was to be used outdoors, I had her reinforce the seams so that it could withstand lots of wear and tear and multiple washings.

A potential future Sweatshop slave!

While AG was doing this, I was whipping out poker hair flowers, and working on the logistics of a few new products (to be released soon! Oooh! So excited!). When she was done, I had her lay out the backing on the floor, and we then laid the pieced together tshirts on top of the backing. I gave her a box of pins and had her pin the edges together before sewing.

I completely forgot to warn poor AG about pins and the necessity of always being aware of where all the pins are. I'm completely squeamish about other people's wounds (I don't mind blood, I just can't see the actual wound), but fortunately, my husband was on hand to administer first aid.

Hello Kitty is the official band aid of craft injuries

Normally, I hate sewing with n00bies (see above Excuse #2), but when one is sewing with a n00b who is a avid crafter, it's not so bad as they have a basic foundation of the importance of straight lines, keeping their workspace neat, and thinking through the steps of what needed to happen next.

HOWEVER, because they are still n00bs, they don't know to check on certain things that avid sewers would, and because they catch on so quickly, an experienced sewer (like me), wouldn't think to do the normal double checks, because they seem so competant.  Like, checking to make sure that both pieces of fabric are pinned on the wrong side.

After working on this quilt for nearly two hours...we were | *this* | close to completion...and I realized...I didn't check, so I had AG pin and sew the backing on the wrong side, so that the seam down the middle width of the quilt was exposed.

Complete #CraftFail

AG was a good sport and had a good laugh. But I was so mortified that I promised to fix and finish this up for her, which is actually a horrible punishment if you know me (the one thing I hate about sewing above all else...ripping out seams), and I proceeded to mope in front of the TV after AG left, deflated.

Which is good for my ego (it does tend to get a little cocky if I'm not careful) but my self-esteem took a beating. I wonder if there are Hello Kitty band aids for pride?