Archive for July, 2010

Kimonos: Peru to Japan

I finally got around to asking my friend to take a picture of the kimonos wall art I made for her! It isn’t the greatest, but it shows the final product, anyway, with the borders put on and framed. I really love the way this came out. And she loves it, which is the most important thing.

It was a real adventure in framing, though, I’ll say that much! If you decide to have quilt blocks framed, make sure you go to someone who is experienced at it! I had decided to get this framed and then take it on the flight to Florida where I would be meeting up with my friend, and give it to her there, instead of trying to mail it and wonder if it would get broken or lost or what have you. Of course, I began the whole “find a framer and get it done before your flight leaves” about a week or so before my departure. And the frame was to be ready two days before we left, on a Friday.

You see where this is going, right?

The framer had never done quilt blocks before, and ended up spray-mounting it to cardboard (the horror!!!) and putting about a thousand wrinkles in it that I had previously ironed out. I loved the mat and frame, but of course since he had made such a mess, the borders did not line up properly and the whole thing looked not only wonky but BAD. When I saw it, I sat in my car and cried for like half an hour. I couldn’t believe someone would be so careless about someone else’s artwork, you know? How could he let this go out of the door of his shop such a mess? Without so much as a call to say, here’s what’s going on, what do you want me to do? Without offering even a discount for his extremely poor workmanship? Yep. Cried.

My husband called the guy and reamed him up one side and down the other. That made me feel better. The guy said he would reframe it, and I said no way in hell would I let him touch it again, except to take it off the cardboard and give it back to me. It’s now the day before I’m leaving for Flordia, and I am hand washing the spray-mount out of the blocks and hanging it on the line to hopefully dry in time.

By the next morning, the blocks are finally dry, so I press the hell out of them and try my best to get them in that frame. I ended up using clear packing tape to tape the raw edges to the back of the mat, stretching only as much as necessary to not let it wrinkle, cursing the guy at the frame shop the whole time. Well, it came out better than the spray-mount! I had the four-foot something frame packed up in several flattened cardboard boxes and ready for my trip about a half hour before I had to catch a taxi to the airport. Then I measured it to see if it would meet the airline’s requirements for checked-in baggage (it was over by about 5 inches total and they really gave me a hassle on check-in, but the manager ended up letting me carry it on anyway). Talk about cutting it close!

Surprisingly, it went through security at both airports easily, and made it without a scratch. And she loved it. Whew.

Oh, I found the magazine this pattern was originally published in: Quilts with Style (not a surprise!), the May/June 2003 issue #40. Which is, of course, sold out on their website. But if you really wanted to find a copy, eBay is the way to go. I’ve gotten tons (literally!) of quilt mags from eBay over the years.

Homes for Toads

Today we (ok, *I* actually!) decided to make toad houses from old pots I had lying about. I had read about them ages ago, but wasn’t 100% sure how to do it. Because Google is awesome (lol!), I just searched for “how to make a toad house from a pot” and found more hits than I could shake a stick at. Most of them call for using terra cotta pots, but the plastic ones are used far more frequently here in Costa Rica (due to the weather, I suppose?), and those were what we had on hand, so we went with that.

Basically, it was a project in making something useful out of what you have on hand:

Step 1: Gather materials. We used three old plastic pots and rocks from our yard. For the roofs, we used different materials, like coconut fiber, old tiles, dried palm fronds, twigs and leaves. Besides that, all you really need is a glue gun (and several glue sticks if you plan to make several pots!). Wash the pots and rocks very well; I let the rocks dry for a few hours in the sun, otherwise the glue wouldn’t stick. If gathering rocks from your yard, collect about three times as many as you think you need, and then some more! I was surprised at how many rocks it actually took to cover one small pot.

Step 2: Cut a hole for the toad and start gluing down the rocks. The hole shouldn’t be too big or too small. I ended up cutting mine a little too big, so I tried to place the stones hanging over the cut edge to make it a little smaller.

Here is my son working on his toad house. Since we’re homeschooling, we turned this into a whole learning experience about toads — what they like to eat, where they live, why they need moist, dark homes, etc. Lots of fun! He added a bell to the side of his toad house (it used to be part of an old wind chime) and put marbles in some of the holes to make “stained glass windows.”

Step 3: Add the roof and put the toad house in the garden. Wait for toads to move in! I didn’t take a picture of us putting on the roofs, but it’s basically the same idea. This is my house, covered in volcanic stones with an old bathroom tile for a roof that I covered in leaves and coconut fiber. I put mine in the shade of the false vervain plants in our butterfly garden. Toads don’t eat butterflies, do they? 😉

This is my son’s toad house. We call it the hippie house! He used lots of old bathroom tiles, and then covered the top with twigs and palm fronds sticking out of the hole in the bottom of the pot (now top of the house). We located this one by the side fence under some bougainvilla.

My husband’s toad house. His is so chic! He used river rocks and put an old roof tile that moss had grown in for the roof. I told him that’s a very hip toad to have a house with a living roof! This one is under a banana tree next to a water spout from the roof. Toads really need to stay moist, so it’s good to have a water source or a dish of water nearby. Dengue can be a problem where we live, so we have to make sure any standing water is changed frequently (although we do keep a birdbath).

It was great fun for the whole family to make these toad houses, and I really love being able to make something not only useful but beautiful out of what would otherwise be junk. Here in Costa Rica, we have a lot of cane toads, which are poisonous to dogs if they grab them. My lovable, sweet black Lab Numi is, let’s say, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so we have to keep her away from toads. Therefore, we put all of the toad houses in the front yard, as she spends most of her time either in the backyard or in the house (the 75-pound goof thinks she’s a lapdog, but we love her!).

If you have made a toad house, please leave a comment and let me know how it went, or if you have any tips to share!