My reviews are based on my personal experience with a product or event. I am not a professional product tester nor do I get paid for any of my blog posts.

The items that I post reviews on, have either been purchased on the internet or through a local vendor. Additionally I will review items that I got on sale, as a gift or as a sample from either the manufacurer or some other source.

Note: always read the manufacturers directions on how to properly use a product and craft carefully. Additionally, I am an Amazon Associate and may earn a few cents (literally) from your clicking on my Amazon links. Since they raised the minimum payout from earnings to $10 I haven't seen a credit for a while but eventually I will get one.

Every penny counts when trying to set a budget to get supplies to use for my reviews, tutorials and hauls. However, you do not have to use my links. You can use your favorite search engine to find the best price for your budget.

Think Green by Participating in the "Recycle and/or Upcycle Clothing Swap"

In my continuous effort to be environmentally conscious, I attended a very cool recycling clothing swap in Santa Monica.  This annual clothing swap takes place in various locations around Los Angeles County.  The folks who run the swap send out an informative email that informs you about the time and location of the next swap.  This is a new way to recycle and/or upcycle, while keeping things out of the landfills by finding new homes for your old clothing.

The idea of swapping clothing is getting more and more popular.  It is a fun way to add to your wardrobe and to delete from your wardrobe as well. 
This is no ordinary swap, if you are not ready to swap out your old clothing then you are in luck. The organizers of this event offer the opportunity to upcycle your old wardrobe pieces with some new ( to you...) techniques that are demonstrated at this event.  They have sewing demonstrations, screen printing, re-construction, and much more.  At this event you can take either your new or old clothing and begin reconstructing them on the spot. 
The swap had a bunch of work stations where visitors could de-construct and re-make their new clothing finds.   
The event planners had a row of sewing machines set.  Along with all types of lace, ribbons, patches, button, etc. to accent an article of clothing.  This was rather fabulous, because I got to try out some very nice sewing machines that I would normally never have used.  I plan to purchase one in the future and this gave me some insight into the differences between sewing machines.
It was also handy to be around some great sewing coaches who were on hand to lend an opinion or two.  Some even taught attendees some great techniques to reconstructing their garments into toys, dresses, etc.  One of my favorites was a demonstration of how to take an item of clothing and turn it into a tote bag. 
There was someone on hand to teach folks how to deconstruct their old t-shirts and turn them into really cute corset tops.
This was a very popular workstation and an amazingly easy project to complete in less than an hour.

The next station was a "Pimp Your T-shirt" workstation where you could learn how to take your T-Shirt to a whole new level by cutting and pasting other shirts and embellishments together to create a whole new final project.

There was also a felt workstation, where visitors learned how to felt right onto the item of clothing to create something unique and fun.  It was really fun to felt onto jean material and create some fun accents.

Another personal favorite was the screen printing stations.    For those who may have been wanting to learn this skill, it is so fun.  The versatility of the screen and ability to create whatever image I wanted and then be able to print it onto my clothing was so cool.

You could use one of the preprinted patterns or draw your own and make a screen print to use on the screen-printing machines available on site.  Participants were able to print on their jeans, t-shirts, totes, dresses, and more.  They even brought in dryers so folks could have instant gratification.  

Above is a picture of some the ribbons, buttons, etc. that were donated for folks to use to fix up their new clothing designs.  Basically, any sewing or crafting supplies could be used to create something fun and new.

This show was top notch!  The final designs were fabulous.

At the end of the day the organization took held any left over clothing and donated it to a local charity.  

If you do not have anything like this going on in your area then you may want to look into:  or start one in your area and open some new possibilities for folks in your home town.  

How to make a Mini Serenity Sand Garden

I really like the variety of different sand gardens that I keep seeing at the different craft shows I visit.  Sand Gardens are containers that have sand, a rake and some stones.  Additionally, these sand gardens can have a variety of different little curios added to them to create an individual look.

What is the point of the sand gardens?  Well, the salesperson at one craft show told me that it is the process of raking the sand, that is supposed to be relaxing in times of stress.  I am not sure how true that really is.  Personally, I have spent many an afternoon raking my yard without reaching a zen moment.

That being said, I still like them and decided I would like to have small desktop one.  I went to the local mall where there was a variety of different "Sand Gardens" in all types of containers. They were lovely but took up a lot of space which I do not have available. So I decided to make a smaller version that would suit my personal needs.

I stopped by the local "JoAnn Craft" store and picked up some sand. Then went to "Little Saigon" in Westminster, California. I found some cute mini statues, a mini rake, and a cute container that was the perfect size. I added a very small tea light candle holder.  I spent under $12 for this project.

Here are the directions on to make a mini sand garden:

Using the sand tray of your choice (plate/tray/etc.). Choose a candle holder that is appropriate for your sand container.  Place the candle holder in the desired location, then gently pour the sand around it. Add the accessories into the sand tray. Keep it simple because you want to leave room to rake the sand. Then just add the tea light size candle. I recommend  those battery operated tea lights because they are look nice and are safer to use (they are available at most 99cent stores).  

Remember to "Never Leave a Lit Candle Unattended" especially around children and pets.

Arty Gras Event in Westminster, California

The weekend of March 18-20, my children and I attend a fun event at our favorite art supply store in Westminster, CA. The event is the annual “Arty Gras” celebration at the Art Supply Warehouse.  People of all ages look forward this fabulous event and all the interesting schedule of workshops and demonstrations that they present each year.
This is a free event put on by the store to educate, encourage, and expose members of the local community to widen their artistic horizons.  It is a lot of fun and folks come from as far as San Diego to attend this event.  This year they had a painting competition with some pretty amazing artists who created large wall murals in a limited amount of time.  
The Official Schedule of Events and Workshops

My children were amazed at the incredible things people were making with the simplest of tools.   Our first stop was the “Amazing Human Powered Art Machine” which is a bicycle that has been remade into a human powered spin art machine. 
Human Powered Spin Art Machine
The “Human Powered Art Machine” is a reproduction of the famous retro spin art machine from the seventies. 

It is powered by a person sitting on the bike and peddling to create a rpm of 5000 to 10000, which is enough to produce dazzling spirals and streaks as the paint is squirted onto the paper.

Squeeze bottles filled with paint.
The adults and children stood outside a safety shield. Then using squirt bottles filled with different colors of paint, they created their little pieces of spin art.  
Some of the Spin Art Results
They came out very different from one another.   As you can guess, it was a challenge to get my kids to leave this fun kids craft workshop.  

Lutradur Triptych Postcard
The second workshop was  learning to make a “Lutradur”  Triptych postcard with Peter Overpeck from C&T Publishing.   This is a fun process that uses a variety of papers (Ultra-Light Lutradur, Transfer Artist Paper, Fast 2 Fuse Interfacing), inks, paints, and a hot iron to create really cool effects. 

Ultra Light Lutradur, Transfer Artist Paper, Fast 2 Fuse papers
The trick to this project was using silicon release paper which keeps the different papers from sticking to the iron or the ironing surface.  
Silicone Release Paper
The project we worked on consisted of printed sheets that had been run through an ink jet printer like the sample below.
Ink Jet Printer Sample
Below are samples of the different results you can get by using a variety of materials and inks.  The one below was heat distressed using a hot iron and a heat gun.

Heat Distressed Sample
The next sample show how it works using an ink rubbing technique.  This is a great kids art project.  You simply put a leaf upside down on some wax paper and then put a bit of paint on the leaf veins.  Gently pick up the leaf without smearing the paint and press the painted area onto some paper.  If you did it right, you have a fun leaf imprint on your paper.
Leaf Ink Rubbing Sample
The kids thought this was a fun workshop and the final postcards were cute. These products would be great for card making, altered books, tote bags, recycling old clothing, and upcycled craft projects. For homeschooling projects and teaching guides, the C&T Publishing web site has some class plans and instructions for various techniques using their product line.

The next workshop we attended was the “Visual Journaling 101” technique class with Kari Foteff  (sponsored by Strathmore).  Once my kids spotted bottles of mod podge and gesso, they were very excited to try this project.
Strathmore Visual Journal
This workshop featured Strathmore’s newest heavy-duty mixed media journaling papers that are not supposed to bleed or buckle easily with the application of various media materials. 
Kari Foteff
The journals are made with heavy-duty paper that has a wire binding that makes it easier to have the journal lay flat when open.   First, my daughter used the Mod Podge to adhere different papers to the pages.

Using Mod Podge to adhere asst papers
A water color artist sitting next to her, showed my daughter how to use the Lyra Aqua colors on the page.  She loved that effect and will probably add those colors to her birthday wish list.
Lyra Aqua Colors
The papers were put to the test, using alcohol inks, water colors, mod podge, liquitext fluid medium, and a variety of ephemera to create a special page.
Some of the finished pages
The pages below are done with paint and ordinary ink pens:
Paint & Ink Sample
One thing that I really liked is that the ink did not bleed through to the back of the page when using Pitt Artist Pens (Faber-Castell).
Applying Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pen
This was a great project; all the altered pages came out great.  Since this was a fairly new product, there were a variety of different artists sitting in the workshop to test out these journals.  My children learned a lot of great tips from these folks on how to use the various supplies the store had laid out on the table to for everyone to use.  If you want to try your hand at altered art or just get some visual journaling ideas, Strathmore offers free online videos and instructions on their website.

There were quite a few homeschool parents attending the event. They were stocking up on art supplies and gathering new ideas for their own kids homeschool art projects.  It was a weekend filled with great opportunities for everyone to try new products and techniques, as well as stock up on much needed art supplies, crafting supplies and other related products.

A Sampling of Renaissance Faire Costumes

So it is that time of the year again, spring is in the air.  Local craft faires, special events,

  Sims Medieval Edition has been released, and the local renaissance faires are going on all around you.

With all this excitement in mind,  I thought I would take a moment and give you some insight on the

costuming used at the different renaissance fairs (ren faires)  to hopefully help you by giving you ideas

for creating your own renaissance period costume, accessories, and character.

Most of these pictures were taken at a renaissance faire that celebrates the Elizabethan era therefore the

costumes you will see will be Elizabethan costumes for peasants, middle class,

military, gentry and nobility.

Disclaimer:  I am not an expert.  I am just on observer with keen interest in the costuming of historical periods.  If you work at a faire then you need to check with your own costume director to find out what is appropriate for your show role.  What I write here is only my observations based on what I have seen or learned from the different actors at these events.  Many of the costumes from these faires do not match SCA guidelines, and you would have to check with them to find out their rules on costuming for their events.  For a more historically accurate view, I always recommend that you do your own search through the historical archives at your local library or online.  I also recommend going to the Lacis website to visit their costume museum to see actual antique accessories, and tools at their online store and museum.  They also carry hard to find costuming materials including different types of boning, books, and more.

Now look at the picture below, you probably can not guess the station in life that each actor below portrays through their renaissance costumes (and if you are ahead of the game).


Peasants are usually dressed in simple natural fabrics with natural colors.   Pay attention to the simple lines in the costume below.
They would not have much money and most of their clothing would have been handed down.

Above and Below are posters of drawings that were cut out from a book to help explain to visitors and

participants how to accessorize their costumes in appropriate gear for their station in life.
So, take a look at the posters above and then look at the female and male actors in the pictures below to
Male Peasant Costume
Male Tinker costume (note that he carries all of his goods for trade on his person).

Female Peasant Costume

see how the drawings from the poster can be translated into actual costumes.

As for peasant children, let's start with a cute example of an infant in a peasant costume.  I imagine that the knitted cap is not quite period but he does look adorable it in.  The shirt and pants are period.  The tippy cup just helped keep him hydrated (and more importantly....happy), so I could take this picture.
Peasant baby (minus the tippy cup)
The children of the peasants would have their hair covered with caps made from natural materials to protect them from the elements and other oddities.  Their clothing would be simple and allow room for growth.
Female Toddler 
The peasant female would have had her hair covered, as the lady does in the picture below.
Her clothing would be of natural colors (see sample color board that she is holding) and

natural fiber materials (such as cotton).  That would hold up well over the years.

Again, how does this translate?

Below is an example of two different female peasant outfits.  The one to the right would be in a higher station in life than the one on the left (based on accessories).  Why?  The one to the right is wearing a straw hat with a hat pin, a leather belt with matching bag, and several other valuable accessories....that would indicate that she had the financial means to afford such luxuries.

You can see in the photo below that the woman in the green and burgundy outfit is wearing both a hair net and hat.

Below is an example of two lower class male peasants (ignore the knit cap).  Peasants would carry their belongings on them to protect against theft.  The socks (if they could afford them or had a wife/mother to knit them) would protect them from bushes, bugs and other potentially alarming nuisances.
The female peasant would usually have their hair covered with a hat of some sort.  She would wear a chemise, skirts, and a bodice that tied in the front (as she could not afford a servant to dress her).   Her clothing would be of natural fibers, easy to maintain, yet sturdy enough to hold up to the daily grind of hard labor.

Below is an example of both females and males wearing a cap and a hat to protect their heads from the elements.

The Middle Class
The Middle Class is much more complicated than the peasant class costume.  Members of this class were merchants and such.

They wanted to be noticed by the gentry, so they would dress much fancier than the peasants. They could such luxuries as a piece of ribbon.  Below is

Below are some examples of the merchant class.

The female below is an example of middle class costume of someone who may be in service to the gentry or royal class.

The female below could be upper middle class or even gentry, depending on her accessories, quality of the material and the cut of her gown.  The male in the picture is definitely not "middle class" but portrays his own version of a viking.  The picture does not show off his costume effectively, but I am sure you could find several examples by doing a google search of viking images.

Middle Class to Upper Class Female.  The male is not "Middle Class"

The first two ladies in the picture above are middle class.  The ladies in the fancier outfits are gentry.  This pictures shows you a side by side comparison in the difference in their accessories and costume.

Military and Gentry Examples

An example of military and gentry class costumes.
Middle Class costume are made from wool and cotton fibers.
For Military, compare the cut outs below with the picture above.  It translates fairly easily!  The details would change in accordance with the country or kingdom the military served.

Royal Class, Nobility and Gentry

Here is where the costumes become heavier and much more ornate.

Below is a great example of  Nobility.

Note the jewelry, the fibers, and ornate design of the costumes.  Brenda Stewart (who made the costumes featured below) is an amazing costume designer who makes period costumes for different venues.  The female is a countess and the gentleman is a knight.

Nobility couple a side view.

Nobility couple a back view.

A close up of the meticulous detail that goes onto the back of these costumes.  The designer of this piece put a lot of thought & effort into this.  This is a beautiful work of art.

The costumes of the gentry and nobility, would be trimmed with special details in accordance to their wealth.
Pay special attention to the blackwork on the front of the shirt and the sleeves.  In case you are not familiar with blackwork, it is form of embroidery that uses black thread.  It is similar to counted cross stitch but with different details.  It was traditionally done in silk.

Here is a close up of the detail blackwork that has been done on this shirt. I love blackwork and this was impressive to see in person.  If you are interested in black work, there are ladies doing blackwork demonstrations at this particular faire.
The royals would have jewels, pearls, and other expensive trinkets on their costumes.

Elizabethan ruffles were very popular during this time period for the queen.  Having seen this amazing costume up close, I have a lot of respect for the actress to be able to move around and perform with that giant collar and a very heavy costume in the 90° heat.

Another look at those ruffles.
The Queen and her court.  The nobility costumes are heavy but that is the price one pays to wear such amazing works of art.  Note the differences in not only the accessories but the materials and cut of each costume in accordance with that character's portrayed station in life.

Ladies of the court.

More examples of nobility costumes of the period, the detail work on these costumes are beautiful to see in person.  Even the hems have special details that you can not see in these pictures.

Below is an  example of one of the many French Gentry costumes.
The female baroness costume below had some very impressive details.  There are beads, pearls, and other gemstones that were hand sewn onto the sleeves and skirt.  I wish you could see the details on this dress. The baroness is wearing hoops to support the heavy skirt and a bum roll to give her hips more definition (this was a plus in that era). 
Additionally, the nobility would had have clothing made of more expensive materials such as silk.  The picture below is of a female gentry.   The color is a bit off (due to bad lighting issues) is not purple or red...but more of a deep wine when you see it in person.

A back view of the same dress.
Members of the nobility and gentry class would have had servants to help them dress.  The closures on the female gentry clothing were not normally found in the front of a dress but in the back or side as in the pictures above and below.  (Note:  There are always exception to every rule.)  Below are more samples of a baroness and knight costumes.

Misc. Costumes
The use of ribbons and trims would be in accordance to the wealth of the character.  The difficulty is that modern materials while affordable are not always accurately used in costuming.  If you look at the poster below, it is a good example of trim mistakes that can be avoided by sticking to the "approvable" side of the poster.

There really is not a classification for puritans as they could be members of different stations in life.  Note the differences in each costume in the picture below.

As for feathers......use them sparingly and wisely.  Some may look pretty and fluffy but at the end of the day when you are picking out tree crude from them....well you may wish you had chosen something less attractive to dust balls, dirt, and other items that can get caught in them.  Also, you may want to keep in mind that certain feathers were only worn by the gentry and could look out of place on the wrong costume.

Finally, now that you have seen a variety of examples, can you pick out the different stations in life the females in the picture below are depicting through their choice of costumes?
A view of children of the different classes.  Again,  how easily can you pick out their station in life through their attire?

P.S. if you are wondering why I would bother to put this blog post together, well it started as a request from some of the "Sims Medieval" fans who wanted to see real life examples of the different characters they are creating in the new game.  Hazzah to Sims and the many hours of pure entertainment the games provide!  

I would love to hear what other people have made and used for their costumes. Leave me a note and share your own experience.

All photographs on this blog are copyrighted.