Monday, November 25, 2013

Virginia 2nd Annual Christkindlmarket

We had wonderful time at the 2nd Annual Christkindlmarket at Travelers Rest Farm in Virginia. The market was set up in an old barn and had a very distinctive European feel. A traditional Christkindlmarket is basically a holiday market set up in a typical European village with its timber houses, decorated Christmas trees and snow. Virginia 2nd Annual Christkindlmarket was very much a traditional festive event. We didn't have snow this time around though.

The list of all the vendors can be located at Christkindlmarket Virginia 2nd Annual.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

DIY Cute Pumpkins for Halloween

We will felt a few cute pumpkins for Halloween. Our pumpkins could be great gifts for friends and family. They will look wonderful in your living room or your kitchen as signs of beautiful Autumn and approaching Halloween.

We will need some orange felting wool, a glass of water and a piece of soap, black thread and a needle. We will felt our pumpkins with water and soap so it makes sense to do it on surfaces that don't get damaged by water. A kitchen table should be a good place once it's covered with a water resistant tablecloth. You won't need too much space. The amount of water you will use is minimal.

Take a piece of orange wool and form a ball in your hands. Water your wool and add some soap to it. Now gently squeeze the piece of wool a few times. Start rolling it between your palms. Keep rolling for 5 to 10 minutes adding water and soap if needed.

Once your ball has become somewhat firm and solid rinse it well and let it dry. The goal is to make the ball not too firm so that you will be able to get a needle through it once it's dry.

Once your orange ball is dry it's time to turn it into a pumpkin. Take a black thread and a needle. Start in the middle of the orange ball adding loops around it. Six loops should be OK. At the end it makes sense to add an extra loop to serve as a hanging thread.

It's an easy DIY project that produces a great result. You will have bright and cute pumpkins made of natural materials. They could serve as small Halloween gifts for your friends.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sweet Cheeks sensitive skin natural products

I had a chance to interview Vanessa Mccauley of Sweet Cheeks who lives in Richmond, VA and makes unique all-natural skin care products for adults and children.

How did you start? Trial and error really. I found a recipe online to make body butter. It was okay but not great, so I tweaked it. Over time, I learned the balance. How to get the consistency of feel I wanted. I did it at home for years before I started selling it.

Why did you start? It started with my son. He had terrible eczema. I tried all the drug store lotions the doctor told me to try to no avail. Finally the doctor wanted to put him on steroidal cream. That scared me. So I came home and started researching. I found out mineral oil is horrible for eczema. Every single cream the doctor recommended had mineral oil. So I set out to make a lotion for my son that would help.

Where do you make your items? At home. However, our plan is to convert our detached garage into a workshop because Sweet Cheeks has taken over the house.

Where did you learn how to make your skin care products? Partially online partially by making a lot of mistakes. Sadly, often I had to find out lots of what did NOT work to get to what did. My solid lotion bar probably saw 10-15 fails before I ever got it close to what I wanted. Then it was just small tweaks. However, I suspect now, it is even easier to find recipes and instructional videos on the web.

Is it hard to find a good supplier of the ingredients? For the most part I have one supplier I use for most of my raw ingredients that I love. The quality of what I get is amazing, they are easy to work with, and have a good supply. The thing I have the biggest issue with is essential oil. The price can fluctuate greatly sometimes as can the quality. So I stick with a supplier that has a very consistent quality but that limits the oils I have access to. There are other oils I would love to work with but have not found a supplier that can give me a consistency that I need. I would love if there was a local shop that I could smell the oils that also allowed me to purchase in bulk.

Did you have to obtain any certificates? No and no. I vacillate on regulating the beauty industry. On one hand, what goes into products that go on your skin is so important. Companies have been allowed to put toxic things in products for too long. On the other hand I don't know if regulation will do more to protect consumers than what the FDA's organic labeling did. It is a cost prohibitive stamp that is impracticable for small farms and does little to really produce the cleaner farming practices consumers want. So I don't know what the answer is other then, know the company. What are the company values? Are they transparent in their practices. Look at ingredients. Contact them with questions. A good company should always be thrilled to tell you why they did what they do and how.

Where do you sell your products ? I sell on line and at local shops. My products are available at a few Local Richmond shops such as Nest Antiques, Re Funk It and Orange.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Christmas gift ideas

We will make a Christmas gift that is an easy and simple DIY project.

We will need a wooden bracelet, a few nail polishes and a roll of masking tape. The wooden bracelet should be plain wood. Such bracelets could be purchased on-line or in craft shops. I suggest you try it on before starting a project. It would be a disappointment if once you finish painting your bracelet won't fit.

Look at your nail polish collection and select a few nail polishes that match. We will use them as our paint. They are very durable and have a nice luster. Masking tape will help us paint the pattern we design.

To start apply masking tape to the bracelet. Make sure the tape is adhered well to the wooden bracelet. Otherwise you will have paint spills and the bracelet will look messy. I will paint a pattern of stripes on my bracelet, thus, I'll apply the tape so that there are stripes of untreated wood. I'll leave 4 or 5 untreated wood stripes on my bracelet. Now color wooden stripes with the same hue of nail polish.

Once the polish is dry slowly remove the masking tape. You will see nice colored stripes on the bracelet. Now apply a new set of masking tape to color the bracelet with a new nail polish shade. Repeat as many times as nail polish colors you have. Make sure the nail polish is dry and the masking tape is adhered well.

I like to mix colors without any rule or pattern, thus, a dark red color may be followed by a golden hue and then by a dark purple one. Then I change the order. I change stripe sizes as well to make my bracelet look special and creative.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nail polish wooden beads necklace

We will make a necklace of nail polish colored wooden beads. If you have a few old and dusty nail polishes don't through them away yet. You will be able to use them to make a cool looking necklace.

You will need about 20 small wooden beads with holes and a few nail polishes of matching colors. To start place a wooden bead on a wooden barbecue stick. It will be easier to color your bead that way. Start applying polish on a bead layer by layer. Once you are done with one bead move to the next one. Once all your beads are colored let them dry.

It's time now to crochet a necklace. You will need a mercerized cotton thread of a matching color and a crocheting hook. First place all the beads on the cotton thread. It will be easier to crochet your necklace that way. Start crocheting a simple row adding bead as you progress. I usually count loops so that my beads are placed at equal intervals. Once you've crocheted the necklace make a large loop on one end of it. Add a large glass bead on another end of the necklace. It will serve as a clasp.

You can wear your necklace around your neck or as a bracelet on your wrist. You can tie it around your ankle or wear it as belt. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Crocheted dolls and toys by FancyKnittles

I've recently came across amazing and super cute crocheted dolls and toys by FancyKnittles. Each doll looks different and unique with every detail thought out and nicely crafted. I had a chance to talk to the artist behind FancyKnittles whose name is Irina.

Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Perm, Russia. I'm a professional architect and a very creative person by nature. A few years ago we moved to Sauthend on Sea in Great Britain. I started crocheting when my son was about two years old. He is 16 now.

Visiting one of the local Perm art shows many years ago I got fascinated by all the beautiful art pieces created by local artists. That was like a awakening for me. I realized I had an urge to start making my very own art. Crocheting looked like a relatively easy skill to learn. I figured out that I could keep crocheting and taking care of my little son at the same time. All one needs is a hook and a thread. Crocheting offers a relative flexibility as one can crochet and still play, draw or be on a playground with a child. Besides I was always much into dolls. Thus, my first crocheted dolls were born.

My first dolls were rather dull and plain I should admit. But within time I learned the skill and before I knew it people started buying my tiny crocheted creatures. I have a son and he never expressed much interest in my crocheted dolls which was probably a good thing. I could concentrate on making dolls for my customers and, thus, earn some money. Life in Russia back then was rather tough. I remember making whole "Doll houses" full of different doll personalities, furniture, etc. Once I started working I had less and less time to devote to crocheting and eventually I took a break from making my crocheted dolls. My break lasted for about 10 years.

These days I'm crocheting again. My dolls are somewhat similar to ones I used to crochet and yet a bit different. Everything changes! I'm continuing to be a mom of a big big family of crocheted creatures and all my "babies" have the same last name - FancyKnittles.

I wish I could tell you how I come up with a new design for a new doll. Honestly I don't know. I get inspired by a lot of things I see around me or events that occur in my life. All visual and sensual information turns into a new creation that has its own character, looks unique and different.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

DIY how to refresh an old necklace

I've recently bought an old necklace in a vintage store. It looked pretty dull and uninspiring but I somehow liked the beads and thought I could remake it into something fresh and new.

I first disassembled the necklace and separated all the beads into three piles. I washed all the beads thoroughly in a soapy water to remove all the dust. I dried the beads on a piece of paper.

I decided not to use red beads this time as I didn't really like the original combination of charcoal grey, golden and red. I put them aside for the next project. Instead I decided to go with gray and golden beads.

I threaded all the beads in a particular pattern with two gray beads followed by one golden bead. With a regular crocheting hook I crocheted beads one by one into a necklace.

The necklace is about 40 in. long and I can wear it as one or two strings depending on my mood and my dress:).

Since the necklace is rather long I can wear it as a bracelet or a head accessory. Its neutral colors go with pretty much any dress and it works ideal with a business casual or an office outfit.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Refunkit repurposed upcycled recycled gifts and goodies store in Ashland

I've been today to a totally great store with a fresh idea behind it. Refunkit ( sells upcycled, recycled and repurposed handmade items created by local artists. Each item in the store was created out of treasures found in thrift stores, neighbors' backyards, family attics and grannies' jewelry boxes. All of the beautiful jewelry art, home decor creations, furniture pieces and accessories are unique. Most of them look pretty funky, fresh and different! Such a lovely and inspirational place!

Cashmere pieces made of upcycled cashmere by Irina Baranova and felted scarf handmade of repurposed silk and merino wool by TonyaUtkina.

Flowers and plant arrangements.

Necklaces hand crocheted of reused wooden beads and stones.

Metal chandeliers and light fixtures.

Brooches hand felted of wool.

Wooden toys.

Scarves hand felted in nuno felting technique.

Hand crocheted mobiles.