Thursday, May 28, 2009

thE crEaTiVe AbuNdaNCe of HomE

Weekend trips back home are relaxing and inspiring. Everyone is always doing something (which I know doesn't sound very relaxing, but with this kind of 'doing', it is), projects are always in the works, the laughs with family and friends are LOUD, and there are always interesting bits that make the return trip back to my own home, one that's filled with new materials, ideas and enthusiasm. During my last visit, we helped my dad install the new window boxes he welded for my mom....loved the little rebar trees he added to them! We got the area tilled up for our family/community garden that we're doing this year (which has since been planted, but more on that soon!) A bit concerned on the weeding efforts for one this size, but I guess that's where we'll see how the 'community' angle plays out!! :):) ha. I found some sweet log slices to haul home along with some other natural finds behind the cabin.

My aunt contributed to my wall of personality (AGAIN!) with one of the portraits she did in college..the hair is created out of image transfers that she did with magazines and lighter fluid...(gonna play around with the technique and will share the skinny on how to do it soon!) Just need to get it framed and will hang it proudly beside the others.

Captured some great snapshots of things that one only sees in small towns....gotta love a duck crossing!!

Witnessed my mom and dad's new kitchen coming together using a lot of life's leftovers....leftover flooring from one of our home projects, cabinets and countertops recycled from one of my brothers renovations, all creatively combined with the original cupboards. The construction team is doing a phenomenal job of making it all come together. Floor cupboards are now up high, some are turned on their side, some are being 'altered'....Nothing goes to waste! Very cool and I can't wait to see it all finished. My daughter Madeline thinks the visits are never long enough, and I'd have to agree....So much to see and do, it's hard to fit it all in over a two-day weekend! Having family only a few hours away is a wonderful thing!

Cheers to creative family fun!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CatChiN uP!

Good grief....WAY BEHIND on my blogging duties! Where to start, Where to's been a month filled with new discoveries, creative challenges and exciting opportunities. The room re-do we were asked to do a few weeks ago for Good Morning America was a combination of all three. When I launched Courage to Create several years ago, I did so because I wanted the freedom to be able to go in any how-to/creative direction; to be able to work creatively with anything and everything; to inspire others to do the same, and that's fortunately, exactly how we've been able to roll. Once in a while I get requests to do "catalog inspired" things, which ultimately means they want to show people how to create the exact same thing, a handmade, do it yourself copy for a fraction of the price. Initially, this approach usually bursts my creative bubble a little bit simply because I'm a big advocate of taking an idea and really making it your own, putting your own individual stamp on it, which these requests pretty much restrict. However, I'm always willing to play along and it usually turns out that I, myself, learn something and walk away from the challenge with a newfound appreciation for the project, the concept...whatever it may be.
What I learned from the catalog inspired room re-do was this..
Using a catalog layout makes an excellent step-out for people who have trouble deciding colors, what to put with what, how to arrange, etc. You know exactly what you need to get; to build; what goes where; the colors to grab...right from the get-go. It eliminates the unsure, indecisiveness some people have when approaching a room re-do. It also makes it easier for people to visualize creative substitutions, as needed. And those were my favorite parts of the room, where we had to work with things the family already had to create the same look. Old closet doors cut down into the desktop; their old dresser was disassembled and reconstructed into shelving, etc.....that's where the experimental fun came in! I don't know why...but whenever you're able to actually improvise and create things using only what you already have, it makes the end result that much more rewarding. The original version of the 'catalog room' was very cool (and cost around $8,000 to purchase), and in the end it was really a lot of fun to see 'the exact same thing' that we created ourselves (for around $900)! The family polished up all their DIY skills and the teenage girls who now reside in that room, LOVE it....and that's what it's all about!
You can check out the before, the after and the lowdown on all the room re-do projects and how to go about them, HERE.

Cheers to the Hatfield family...Eddie, Gail, Alex and Krystal!

Had an incredible time creatin' with you all!

Monday, May 4, 2009

dEsIgnEr DiY

We had some fun with our friends at Hermes and Good Morning America Weekend this past Sunday and due to the influx of interest from viewers who also want to exert their handmade creative efforts on their own personal versions of designer inspired bags, I'm posting the tips, links, pics and other helpful tidbits here for easy retrieval.
I first want to say thanks to all the gracious, classy individuals at the Hermes store in New York for their genuine appreciation of the do it yourself approach we took with their highly acclaimed bag. The craftsmanship and history behind Hermes is inspiring and the exercise did nothing but invigorate my love for the art of leather working. And that, my friends was the important point behind this creative challenge that I hope was shared with every do it yourself enthusiast out there. I have dabbled in leather work before, but had never done anything as structured as this style of handbag and it was a rewarding challenge that can be enjoyed by anyone. Working with leather (even the least expensive varieties) is luxurious in and of itself. The act of saddle stitching is relaxing. The thought process into the construction is enlightening. After this exercise, you will be able to enjoy creating a number of leather goods for yourself.
Since you're playing with a pattern designed to create a paper version, you may have to do a little leg work on your own as I did, in regards to what works for you and how to go about certain steps, but that's part of the creative journey. Be resourceful. (A huge thanks to Byron at the Leather Factory here in Des Moines and Maker - Will Ghormley for their leather working expertise that helped answer a few of the questions I had when embarking upon this challenge!)
Be inspired by designer styles, but when you do things yourself, you have the empowering opportunity to inject your own individual style and ideas into the piece, as well! Take advantage of that and most importantly have fun with it. Stamp it with your own mark and tote it proudly!

For the Hermes purse pattern, click here.
For tips on other DIY methods to designer inspired bags, click here.

Tips when using the Hermes origami pattern for your own leather version (for individual use only) versus paper:

Enlarge this pattern to 3X its’ size to get the comparable dimensions of the Kelly Bag.

I recommend doing a sample/mock version first using vinyl or fabric or paper to insure your pieces go together properly and that you have a game plan before cutting into your actual leather. And feel free to improvise accordingly with your own ideas and versions.

The leather I used was an inexpensive alligator grain on cowhide that runs around $3/square foot. This is a stiffer leather (yet thin enough to be manageable and easy to work with) that holds its’ shape nicely when pieced together and is a good one to use for your first bag. Softer leathers stretch and will require more forethought, pattern revisions and leatherworking know-how.

Separate the side pieces from the pattern and cut separately (also remove the fold/glue portion of the pattern) it is not needed for the stitched leather variety.

Take the pattern strip for the handle and cut out (two) pieces, disregarding the ‘fold’ instructions. I also cut out two pieces of each of the straps and stitched together to give the inside of the straps a finished look. Can also just be satisfied with the raw side of the leather exposed on the inside of the strap and stitch around for decorative touch. I also rounded out the ends that get secured to the back side instead of keeping them square like in the pattern.

Use transfer paper to transfer all pattern markings to your leather so you know where to add hardware and make cuts.

Add the feet for your purse before adding lining. I used large dome rivets for one bag and pronged studs for another. Improvise accordingly. Use markings from pattern and bring them in slightly to give yourself enough room to stitch.

Cut out another piece of thin leather or fabric to line your bag. Use contact cement to secure to the inside of your bag pieces before marking holes and stitching.

To build up the handle, cut smaller strips (half the size of the pattern) and stack and glue (7 strips high) together with contact cement. Cover with larger strips, mark where to punch holes so you can stitch closely to the layered pieces for a snug handle. I used D rings to attach, and created my own leather tabs to secure to.

The base will need to be stiffened up by adding three layers of cardboard stiffener or stacked leather contact cemented together. Use base portion of the pattern as your guideline and cut your stiffener pieces to a dimension half an inch to three quarters of an inch smaller. This is to allow room for the fold and your stitches on the outside. You will add this to your base before covering with your liner.

You will also want to add a strip or two of stiffener to the top strip where the handle will get attached to prevent any sagging.

Use your body and side pattern to cut out another piece of thin leather or fabric to line your bag. Use contact cement to secure to the inside of your bag pieces before marking holes and stitching.

Use a straight edge or stitch groover to mark stitch lines. Use an overstitcher to mark where to punch holes or create your own template for evenly spaced stitch marks. Use 1/16” leather hole punch or awl to punch holes for stitching.

Hand stitch everything with a waxed linen thread using a saddle stitch.

Before stitching, piece together, lining up holes and temporarily tying in various places to make sure everything is lining up accordingly.

I created pockets and a zippered pouch separately using the same material as I used for the liner and secured using contact cement to attach to the inside of the bag. I attached these before I started stitching. Be sure to account for where you need to cut slits and such so that your pocket placements don't interfere with anything.

Resources: All supplies for this bag were acquired at Tandy Leather Factory. They carry all the necessary leatherworking supplies and leather.

The three part hardware I used for the closure is called a double plate turn lock that can be found online from a place called Ohio Travel Bag.

*****Please note that this project is meant for you to enjoy as an exercise in the fine art of leatherworking and to acquire a playful, do it yourself version of this exquisite handbag for your own personal, individual use. Use of this for any sort of financial gain or commercial endeavor could put you in illegal infringement of Hermes’ property rights.
Be respectful and simply enjoy this as a rewarding route to handmade, creative expression. You'll learn a lot about the art of leatherworking and gain an appreciation for this newfound skill. As with all handmade ventures, do it up in your own unique way. Experiment with fabric variations, as well!