Feb 162010
 

In the real world, the combination of illness and baby means our house is a mess, my to-do list remains un-done, and life generally falls apart around my ears.

But in the fantasy world in my head, everything is clean, organized, and beautiful.  Down to the tiniest details, such as these cheerfully colorful binder clips:

Photo and tutorial from How About Orange.  Tutorial uses fabric scraps, but paper and ModPodge (yes, again with the ModPodge!) would be even easier.

Feb 022010
 

Long ago, before I became distracted with little details like weddings and babies, Two Wishes began as a craft blog.  The “little distractions” have killed my crafting time, but I regularly save wonderful tutorials that sit, growing cobwebs, in my bookmark folders.

Enter Tutorial Tuesdays.  Each week I will share a different tutorial in the hope that you can use it.  (And if you do, please do email or blog about your final results — we’d love to see them!)

For our first Tutorial Tuesday, it seems fitting to share my own small tutorial — for Magazine Bowls.  What follows is a Two Wishes re-post from June 2007:

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1.  First, gather lots of colorful magazine pages.  You’ll be folding the pages into strips, so you’re really only interested in the strip of color that shows — roughly two inches on the clean (as opposed to torn) edge of the page.

2.  Fold each page horizontally into roughly equal strips.  I usually fold the strips about 1 1/2” wide.  I use a glue stick to glue down the outside edge so that the strip is compact and easier to work with later in the process.  (This is either a brilliant development on my part or an enormous waste of time and energy; I haven’t figured that out.)  There’s variation in this process between different crafters.  Some roll diagonally.  Others cut their strips to equal widths rather than folding.  I believe folding horizontally is easiest, and I’m all about the easy.  Here’s a small stack of finished strips:

Bowls_slats

3.  When you’ve got dozens of finished strips, start rolling them into a coil.  I usually glue-stick the entire length of my first 4 or 5 strips for extra stability because you want them to stay in a tight, smooth roll.  (But, again, maybe I just need to justify my purchase of that 12-pack of glue sticks!)  After that, you’ll start in with the Scotch tape.  Use a piece of clear tape to attach the end of each strip to the next in one long “snake.”  It’s often easiest to make a long snake of 10-12 strips in your lap and then add them to the coil all at once, rather than adding each strip to the coil as you go.  Meanwhile I keep a rubber band around the coil to ensure it’s tightly rolled when I’m not working with it.  Your coil will end up looking like a big coaster or trivet:

Bowls_coil

4.  To make your big coil into a 3-dimensional bowl or pot, place your thumbs into the center of the coil and pull up on the sides with your fingers.  The sides will “telescope” upwards until you wind up with a pot shape.  This part is fun!  You can keep sliding the slats around until you find what works best for you.  Sometimes it helps to use an existing pot or bowl as a guide for shape.

Bowls_plant

Once you find the shape you like, pull out your ModPodge and give the pot a few coats to keep it intact and give it strength.  And you’re done!  Here’s my new pot, still held together with its rubber band, waiting for ModPodge.  It’s being kept company by a couple of completed pots destined as a gift for a friend.  The pots make great gifts because they’re natural containers for chocolate or cookies or beauty products, baby gifts, or whatnot.

Bowls_done

My favorite part of magazine bowls is always the view from the top:

Bowls_top

Have you ever made magazine bowls? Have you seen similar products in stores?

Jan 302010
 

I am crazy-in-love with luxurious fabrics, vintage clothing, Chinoiserie, and the color turquoise.  So the cover of The Well-Dressed Home stopped me dead in my tracks:

Apparently I missed this book when it made a tour of design blogs a few months ago, but on discovering it last week I wasted no time in breaking my vow to stop purchasing craft and home decor books.

The photos and inspiration boards in this book are absolutely swoon-worthy.  The lighting, the cropping, the colors, the choice of objects — everything about them struck me as perfection.

And, while I would have been perfectly happy with a book full gorgeous photos, The Well-Dressed Home is text-heavy for a decorating guide.  The book describes in detail why each element of each room was chosen — for example, a curvy coffee table to balance out straight lines, or mother-of-pearl picture frames to reflect soft light.  While I didn’t always agree with the actual decor choices, the text gave so much guidance that, for once, I understand the interior design process well enough that I could articulate what I’d change and why.

The book’s central concept involves approaching interior decorating styles the same way you approach your wardrobe.  This idea is both the book’s strength and its weakness.  I love the suggestion of using past clothing choices as a way of figuring out my decorating style.  And the book is full of usefully concrete examples of how to translate a beloved garment into a beloved room design.  On the other hand, the concept grew old when repeated over the space of two-hundred-plus pages.  By the end I was rolling my eyes at yet another mention of ThisDesigner or ThatFashionHouse.

Still, did I mention the gorgeous, light-filled, fashionably inspirational photos?  Just … sigh. This is one of those books that sparks new inspiration every time you open it, and I have a feeling it will remain a bookshelf favorite for many years to come.

(first and last photos borrowed from Wishing True; others from Brooke Giannetti)

Aug 132009
 

I am crazy for vintage design. For furniture, my favorite styles come from around the 1940s, when styles began to incorporate the smooth lines and honey colors of Mid-Century Modern but still retained a few decorative flourishes from the Art Deco days.

My pre-Mr T apartment sported a real dining room, and I decided it needed real dining room furniture. As usual, this meant searching Craigslist and Ebay for super-cheap versions of the vintage styles that I love. The sideboard and china cabinet came from a DC-area government scientist who talked my ear off about politics and science. The pieces had been in her family since they were first purchased in the 1940s. I know less about my dining table and chairs, which came from Boston via Ebay, dropped at my door by a curmudgeonly man with a trailer.

Here’s a tiny bit of my dining table legs (which isn’t terribly relevant to this post, but I can’t resist the puppy photo of Zoe):

And here’s a chair:

Cut to last week, when Mr T and I were finishing Season 2 of Mad Men. There was an episode where Don visited an old friend in California. He was shown fixing the leg of a wooden chair. And when he turned it over, we saw this:

I can’t tell you how bizarrely excited I was to see my chair on Mad Men! When the new season starts, you can bet I’ll be watching extra closely in case any of my other vintage possessions show up in the background.

Have you ever had a copy of your possessions turn up in a very unexpected place?

Jan 042009
 

Organic clothing for children is a hot item these days.  For good reason — cotton pesticides and chemicals added during manufacturing leave potentially harmful residues on fabrics.  These chemical residues often irritate babies’ extra-sensitive skin, and, in the long term, may harm a child’s respiratory and immune development.

For example, formaldehyde is one chemical commonly found in clothing.  Formaldehyde is valuable to manufacturers because it repels mildew and reduces stains and wrinkling during storage and shipping, but it raises health concerns for wearers.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), formaldehyde exposure in amounts greater than 20 parts per million can irritate skin, nose, and eyes and ultimately may lead to asthma and cancer.  The European Union bans the sale of children’s clothing with formaldehyde levels above 30 parts per million.  In contrast, despite acknowledging that formaldehyde is a “probable human carcinogen,” the US government has set no limit for the formaldehyde content of clothing.  In the absence of such limits, formaldehyde can range far above safe levels — one TV report in New Zealand found formaldehyde levels as high as 18,000 parts per million (900 times the WHO’s “safe level”) in Chinese-made clothing.  And the problem isn’t limited to low-priced off-brands: Victoria’s Secret currently faces a class-action lawsuit claiming formaldehyde-treated bras gave wearers serious skin rashes.


Unfortunately, organics can be expensive.  Luckily, there is at least one low-cost alternative:  Many chemical residues wash away after a handful of launderings, so parents can lessen chemical exposure by buying their children’s clothing secondhand.  (Preworn = prewashed.)  Because babies grow so quickly, secondhand baby clothing routinely appears in like-new condition.  It is also much less expensive than new items, and as an added bonus keeps useful items out of landfills.  Overall, a win-win situation.

That is, the situation was win-win….  Under a recent consumer-protection law, selling used children’s clothing and toys will become illegal on February 10.  (Yes, you read that right — selling used clothing and toys will be illegal.)  Barring last-minute regulatory changes, thrift stores and consignment shops must throw away their current stock of secondhand children’s items on that date** and stop offering children’s goods in the future.

The law in question — the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) — was enacted in the wake of recent scares involving lead-tainted children’s products from China.  The CPSIA includes many important changes, such as beefing up the government’s ability to regulate dangerous products.  And obviously no one wants children to be poisoned by lead-tainted products.  In fact, the CPSIA had near-unanimous support in both the House and the Senate.  Unfortunately, the lawmakers do not seem to have noticed that the Act’s requirements are applied in a disturbingly overbroad manner.  Specifically, beginning February 10, nothing intended for use by children under 12 can be sold unless it has undergone expensive testing to certify that it is lead-free.  Many items for children under 3 will require additional testing for plastic-softening chemicals called phthalates.

Large manufacturers can absorb these testing costs, but the rule spells doomsday for home-based crafters and other small businesses.  (Ironically, some of the companies that will be driven out of business produce organic goods and other healthy products; they simply can’t afford the testing to prove it.)  The CPSIA contains no exception for previously-sold products, and a secondhand seller could never afford to test each individual item before resale — hence the dire consequences for the secondhand industry.  Technically, it will be illegal even to donate children’s goods to charity because anything without a testing certificate is deemed “dangerous” under law.  Thus the CPSIA’s unintended consequence is that, even for poor families, the only option may be to buy new goods from large companies.

Worse still, despite these draconian effects, the CPSIA barely addresses the problem of chemicals in fabric.  Lead does appear in a few dyes, and more commonly in appliques, rhinestones, or charms.  One toddler tragically died after ingesting a lead charm off his shoes.  But on the whole, lead is not as widespread or serious a problem as substances like formaldehyde.  And by taking away my access to well-washed secondhand goods, the CPSIA reduces my ability as a parent to fight the chemicals that worry me most!


A few discussions of the CPSIA have popped up around the Blogosphere in the past month — I remember reading posts on The Consumerist and BoingBoing, as well as a handful of parent blogs.  But the early focus was on toymakers, and, while I feel bad for small-business owners, frankly I didn’t care enough about toys to feel compelled to action.  But this clothing issue is a whole different story!  I planned to buy the majority of Wallaby’s baby and toddler clothing secondhand or from small sellers at places like Etsy, but in practical terms those options are now gone.  Turns out, this law affects me as a consumer in ways I never imagined.  And this time, I plan to take action.

Would you like to learn more about the CPSIA, or to take action?  Please see the links below.

Images in this post are baby items that will not survive implementation of the CPSIA.  (Flikr sources for one, two, three, & four.)  I previously coveted the blanket in Image One on Etsy, though of course I had no idea its purchase would condemn Wallaby to certain death!

** Don’t even get me started on throwing away useful items — a topic for another post.  Suffice it to say that most landfills don’t offer ideal conditions for biodegradability, and even food and paper often last years beyond their normal life expectancy.  Thrown-away clothing will serve no purpose other than further clogging our landfills for decades to come.

For More Information

The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website summarizing CPSIA regulatory developments

The Handmade Toy Alliance is a wealth of information and advocacy for small businesses

An LA Times article about the CPSIA’s impact on used clothing sales, and California Apparel News on the law’s effect on clothing manufacturers

SafBaby.com, which has called the US “a dumping ground for toxic toys”, believes the CPSIA is not the answer

Excellent summary of how the law affects small businesses at SmartMama; and asmall clothing manufacturer and a small toy manufacturer on the costs of testing

An Etsy discussion forum on current political developments, and lots more seller-based information at National Bankruptcy Day.com

How to Take Action

CoolMomPicks’ “Save Handmade” page

Sample letter to your Senator or Representative, from the Handmade Toy Alliance (plus contact information for specific Senators or Representatives)

 

Jul 092008
 

I am slightly obsessed with the process of donating items I don’t want to charity. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with boxing everything up and dropping it at The Salvation Army, Goodwill, or another thrift store. But bonus points if you can get your unwanted goods directly into the hands of someone who needs them.

Add the fact that Mr T and I combined households post-wedding and now have duplicates of everything in our very crowded condo, and it shouldn’t be hard to guess what’s on my mind these days!

IMG_2288
(No, this photo is not from the Clutterers Anonymous website: This is our office, after the contents of my 1200-sf apartment were crammed into Mr T’s 670-sf place.)

So, for those of you moving in together for the first time, expecting to replace a few things through your wedding registry, or otherwise just hoping to weed out some clutter, here’s a (sort of) brief guide to getting rid of the excess:

Everything:

Craigslist offers free online classifieds for most metropolitan areas. Listing is free and easy, and the site is heavily used — most free or well-priced items receive multiple takers within a few hours of listing. One downside is that Craigslist users are sometimes flaky — it helps to have a “back-up” in case the original taker doesn’t show.

Freecycle is a national network of message boards through which people offer and request free items of all sorts. Its costs and benefits are similar to Craigslist. There are also lesser-known groups, many of which are listed at Sharing is Giving and Freesharing.org.

Selling on eBay isn’t difficult, and it can bring in a good chunk of change. You can even sell for charity. But be warned — taking good pictures, forming a listing, answering buyer questions, and shipping the item takes more effort than you might expect.

Wedding Items:

Expect to have leftover food the day of your wedding? America’s Second Harvest will distribute it to shelters.

If you live in NYC or LA, Flower Power will take your flowers and give them to the elderly and seriously ill.

Brides Against Breast Cancer accepts modern (post-2000) wedding gowns in good condition. They’ll even dry-clean it for you (they request an optional donation of $12 to cover this cost).

The I Do Foundation, best known for its charity-friendly wedding registries, accepts wedding dress donations (clean, post-2005). The Foundation sells the dress through a consignment store and donates 20% of the sale to the charity of your choice, using the rest to support the Foundation itself.

In the DC area, St. Anthony’s Bridal accepts donations of most wedding-related items (wedding dresses and accessories, tuxes, decor, etc.) and loans them at no cost to other couples who are getting married. They also have a prom-dress program for bridesmaid gowns.

Clothing:

The Princess Project donates fancy party attire and accessories to girls headed to prom. Based in San Francisco, they accept mailed donations of recent (2002-present), dry-cleaned bridesmaid gowns and other party attire from January-April each year. The Glass Slipper Project is a similar charity in Chicago, which also takes shoes, evening bags, jewelry, and unused makeup.

If you’d prefer something local, check out the lists of dress-donation campaigns at DonateMyDress or The Glass Slipper Project.

Business-appropriate women’s clothing (suits, blouses, interview-appropriate shoes) can be donated to Dress for Success.

Household goods:

People who have just arrived in this country or are moving out of a shelter into their own home often desperately need furniture, dishes, small appliances, and other household items. Try an Internet search for homeless shelters and women’s shelters in your area or foundations that provide support to refugees. As an example, a Google search for “donate household items DC” turned up lists organized by charity and type of donation, a program run by DC Child and Family Services, the refugee support program of the International Rescue Committee, and a couple of local rescue missions.

The International Rescue Committe, which supports recently resettled refugees, has offices in 17 U.S. locations. Find your nearest location on their  home page under “Where We Work,” and then check the donation information on your local page.

In the NYC area, check out Project Hospitality, Partnership for the Homeless, or the Furniture Distribution Program of the Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, or there’s an excellent list of charities here.

In Toronto, check out The Furniture Bank. Or see this list of charities throughout Canada.

Most animal shelters accept towels and blankets for grooming and bedding (as well as pet-related items, of course).

Books, CDs, DVDs:

In most cases, your local public library would be happy to take books and media to add to its collections or to sell at a fundraiser. Not sure whether to donate something? Remember that a library donation isn’t gone forever — you can always check it out later!

AnySoldier.com helps people send care packages to soldiers in Iraq & Afghanistan who don’t normally get mail from home. Books, CDs, and DVDs are popular items for passing the time when not on duty.

If you’re in the right drop-off area or willing to mail your books, a number of charities accept book donations and re-distribute them in the US and abroad. These include Books for Africa (St. Paul, accepts mailed books); Got Books? (New England, accepts mailed books); Hands Across the Water (MA, CT, RI, St Louis, WA, GA); EcoEncore (Seattle, accepts mailed books; resells books/CDs/DVDs and donates profits to environmental charity); and the Prisoners’ Reading Encouragement Project (NYC, accepts mailed books as well as books on tape and VHS tapes). Textbooks can be difficult to donate, but check out Bridge to Asia, which sends them to universities in China (SF & Chicago, accepts mailed books).

If you’d prefer to make a few dollars (or at least some store credit) off your books, you can drop them off at a local used book store or ship them to Powell’s Books for store credit. Want to swap them out for something new? You can trade books through Paperback Swap or books, music, movies, and games through Swaptree.

Computers:

Most Goodwill locations accept computers, though Goodwill recommends checking with your local branch  before bringing them in. The Goodwill website offers helpful tips on donation, including links to services that will wipe your hard drive clean.

Share the Technology has a comprehensive list of where to donate or recycle both newer and older computers. Another good resource is World Computer Exchange, which has dozens of drop-off locations in the US and abroad for donations of computers (Pentium 3 or newer) and computer peripherals.

What else have I missed?  Has anyone used these resources, and do you have tips to share?