Making Furniture

After a long and fruitless search for the perfect end tables for my living room, I finally decided to make my own.

I had two sheets of plywood intricately cut into small pieces by a patient Home Depot employee:

(Some of the cuts were also for an couple extra shelves in the kitchen.)

Assembled, and half-done with the first coat of stain. I happened to have a purple-tinted stain I had found in a Home Depot oops-bin.

I made them with similar dimensions and shape as the yellow storage-chair. (A found item to which I had added those brown drapes tied back with green to cover a tear, and the line near the top of plum-colored gimp trim.) In all their glory:

You can see the purple shade a little better from the top.

There are various phases during this process at which points I probably should have sanded these. And a second coat of polyurethane would probably have made it a little better. But like I said in the post a handful of posts ago, I only want to want to make very nice furniture. So pretty nice and very simple furniture it is. Maybe I’ll sand and do the second coat of polyurethane at some future date. Or get someone else to.

Next project, the found barstools with the plain and grubby seats:

I removed the pads, stapled this fabric on them, then reattached. A little WD40 later and I discovered that these poor things also spin. Still not very fast, but then I haven’t been into speedy spinning since Jr. High.

I decided to paint the diamond and the little knobby things gold. I used up a whole bottle of Cover Girl nail polish that a friend had found somewhere (possibly even close to where he had found the chairs–and when I say found, I mean found–people throw away the darndest things). I figured the nail polish would be able to stick to the metal smoothly and I wouldn’t have to mess with polyurethane.



Don’t Kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Scissors

As part of my ongoing plan to turn my blank studio wall into Mondrian squares composed of images of my own designs, Ryan Gosling Hey Girl Seamstress Memes, and things related to scissors, I barely staved off in time throwing away a pair of trashed-out scissors, and decided to paint them gold instead. This may be my plan for the rest of my crap scissors as they tucker out, perhaps in other colors.

Neiman Marcus: Other Stuff

Here are the windows other folks in my crew worked on but that I didn’t have anything to do with:

Here is D. taking a picture of me taking a picture, along with some of the protruding crawl-through tube and the dripping icicle-lights:

Lit-up tube and the outside snowflakes:

I really wanted orange on this color-shifting ball, but my camera kept refocusing for close-up whenever that color rolled around, so I got a number of shots of the other shades as well:

Looking like a low-flying sun:

Last year, I got to meet the guy who makes these. I sat with him at lunch while he explained the process that goes into covering the frame with fabric and making it that taut and that round and that perfect, and I still couldn’t explain it to you. (Though, to be fair, I have slept since then.)

Here is the gallery of all the images of the finished windows:



Neiman Marcus: Carlos’s Candy

A lot of people’s talents went into creating these windows. The video from 2 years ago can give you an idea of what goes into popping the windows open, putting the crawl-through tubes together, and then sealing the whole thing back off again. But then there’s the planning, the lighting, the backdrops, the lettering on the windows (this year even the plastic covering the windows pre-unveiling had writing printed on it), the lettering inside the windows, and on and on. There are dozens of small motors set up throughout the windows that make the bees fly, the springs boing, the snowman shiver, fruits and silverware and wheels spin. You don’t even want to know how long it took to bring motion to the cascade of jewels.

And most of it’s a pretty thankless job of running around, futzing with wires, installing the not-so-interesting hardware to hang the interesting things from the ceiling, and so forth making the non-visible parts work. I’m not going to go into all of that, mostly because I wasn’t there for much of it. The parts I got to admire were when Carlos, along with his trusty assistant, Carlos, made crazy things come to life.


Here is a huge cookie:

When not on the cookie itself, the cookie part looked exactly like cat puke.

Here it is in the window:


The candy video monitors


In the window:


The enormous cake being squished by the tube and the n&m’s

It starts out looking like cheese:

The cake covered in plastic to protect it while the raspberry filling gets painted. To the left, the n&m’s and the chocolate frosting drying on the table. To the right, Carlos’s feet and elbow:

In the window:

This is how seriously cake-y this looks, even on close inspection:


Carlos also put together the infinitely-pouring bag-o-jewels. There’s an enormous, still pile in the front, then a spinning pile behind it designed to look like it’s an unending flow coming out of this huge, magic, velvet bag.

Carlos also blinged up a couple sets of paparazzi, made even more dramatic by the the folks in charge of the lighting:

Every year there’s a big event in the nearby park square in which Santa flies in from a nearby parking garage. This year, Carlos built a realistic-looking jetpack that included a chemical reaction designed to look like it really was shooting flames out the back. Alas, I didn’t get any pictures of that, as I witnessed the building of it during what was, for me, a 12-hour day that still had more non-Neiman’s sewing to do in the evening.


Neiman Marcus: Gingerbread Yummm!

The process by which a foam piece of M becomes a delicious gingerbread cookie:

First it begins as a thick foam cut-out with what appears to be styrene on both sides. That got sliced off with a heated-wire foam-slicing tool.

Then it gets sanded down by hand:

Some sanding and painting later:

What would be a more interesting book than the one on grey–50 Shades of Brown:

I made a lot of cording:

Glitter, the herpes of the crafting world (then again, so is fur-fuzz):

Here is where I ran out of cording. The Goddess of Adequate Yardage, despite being prayed to, did not provide.

Here it is finished except for that last foot of frosting cording. The floor is coated in glitter from the roomful of trees the other crew decorated:

Roomful of trees:

This isn’t even all of them. I have no idea what round this is, tree-wise, as I worked at home more than on location.

Yummm! in the window; that naughty ant messed up our kerning:

Neiman Marcus: Thanks Ants! Thants.

The project: dressing bugs for the winter

I made several sets of mittens for the ants:

All dressed up and looking for food; must be on a date. Just like people!

This ant is motorized so that he looks like he’s trying to get at the giant cake. Or possibly bowing to it. Well, can you blame him? That is some fabulous cake!

This guy’s mittens are a bit hard to see in this shot, what with the red-and-white tablecloth background. The raspberry is motorized to spin:

This ant had been put in before I made their mittens, so I had to climb out on the tube to mittenize him. I dripped hot glue everywhere and broke the giant candy cane’s support threads, but all was righted in the end:

The whole “Yummm!” window:

Those are neiman&marcus candy-coated chocolates, not m&m’s!


Over by the “Buzzzzzzz!” window, a naked ant has escaped and is about to carry off any unwary children:

Here is a motorized ant offering a present to a bee. I wrapped a lot more presents than that, but those blasted ants must have already carried the rest off to their hive:

I wired the scarves on the bees so they would look like they were fluttering (also, they’re wearing Santa hats, though it’s hard to see them in any of the pictures):

I got my annual late-night glue-gun burn from putting the pipecleaners around the flower:

The whole “Buzzzzzz!” window:

For a video, go here:

Neiman Marcus: Snowman

The project: A cold snowman

The original prototype center: we had planned on stuffing it. I tested it out with muslin and filled it with small pieces of fabric, as I don’t have however many pounds of stuffing on hand that it would take to fill a whole snowman:

Since it was going to be on a machine that would shake him to make him look like he was shivering, and since it was going to be constantly shaken for over a month, we decided it shouldn’t have as much possibility of shifting. Hence, foam:

Since the fur was so thick, I could mark the pieces on the back with impunity, including an arrow to keep the nap straight:

What with all the cutting and the serging and so forth, the flying fur dust became overwhelming. I finally tied some fabric scraps over my face:

I soon discovered the difficulties in covering something round with fabric that was not stretchy. My original pattern pieces, designed to make 6 panels per sphere, worked okay on the head, but came out looking really lumpy on the bottom snowball. I draped a piece of fabric over it and figured out the maximum possible width, which more than doubled the quantity of panels.

I still had to pull the fabric on really taut to keep it from looking like an albino pumpkin:

Pulling, scootching, and pinning; stitching, then somehow finding more fabric that could be pulled, scootched, pinned, and stitched. Repeat.

Then go through each seam with a pin and loosen every tucked-in fur fiber.

It actually looked better in person than I could get a picture of, but you can see in this shot that it’s significantly better than the original pumpkin.

Now to style the face. Carrot nose:

Here he is pre-eyebrows, with all his features pinned in place, and his eyes cheerfully sad:

Eyebrows made from velvet-covered wire:

Nearly finished:

You’d think it would be easy to put someone’s hands into a position that looks like they’re rubbing their little mittens together. Not so. If his thumbs don’t show in the front, it’ll just look like socks. If you put the palms together, it looks like he’s praying. It was hard to keep the bend only at his elbows and not partway down his forearm, which would have, aside from the horrific element that added, solved the hand problem.

The sticks are holding his hands in place while they dry:

Big Carlos used techniques he’d learned in Columbia to dust the whole snowman with glittery snow so that it wouldn’t shiver off.

Taking this shot through the glass, it was difficult to keep that blue light reflection from landing right on his face:

Also in Mr. Snowman’s window, giant blow-ups of crocheted snowflake ornaments, some of them on motors to make them spin:

I had tried out making them out of rope, but it took a whole thing of rope just to start one snowflake, and we determined that the time involved and the logistics of how to make it stiff enough to even hang, let alone to spin, just weren’t worth it:

The screens set up to show the kids running through the tubes look like they’re in miniature glaciers:

The whole Brrr window:

Neiman Marcus: leaves of grass

The Project: giant blades of grass


Foam tubes covered in more foam to make them thicker. The two foams had been glued together, then separated exactly one night before I went to cover them with the fabric:

The fabric socks, as previously pictured in a teaser blog entry:

Here’s the first end result–I had thought the ruching was for all the foam tubes, but it was not intended for the grass; just for the vine part. It was delightfully Dr. Seuss-y this way, but that wasn’t what we were going for.

I put pieces of pipe inside the foam to make it stiff, which made it easier to pull the fabric on. The vine:

Here they are in the window:


The Project: masks for a masquerade


I *transformed* a pair of Optimus Primes with some bling. Hot glue melts this plastic, so there’s a trick to it.

I found a broken mask at a thrift store with a lousy eye mask and the feathers falling off and gutted it for its iridescent feathers to add to a silver one for me:

The giant bag of mixed plastic gems I got for this project had about 10 large purple beads, 10 small purple beads, 10 large blue beads, and 40 each of nearly every other freaking color. We emptied the entire bag and flipped them all right side up to discover this. I had intended to make my mask with only purple gems, but it was not to be, and it wasn’t worth forcing it by going on a midnight search of craft stores. I still remember when these types of beads could be bought in separate packages of each color and size without having to send away.

I also blinged this butterfly mask for someone who wound up not able to make it to the event:


D. Didn’t want to set his mask on fire:

Masks on (the boys decided to rent tuxes to match their masks:

All the way on:

::Pointing:: I have a chin! Wait, at that angle, I have two! Yay!

I made that cape in college. It was the project I learned about nap on, the hard way. Bought the necklace broken and repaired it. The earrings are some pendants I put on some pierced-look clips.

Hair art: