Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What kind of house doesn't have salt?

So, there's this show called Supernatural.
Perhaps you've heard of it?

I uh, have some *feelings* regarding this show and so when I saw that Incidental Twin not only had SPN themed polishes but one PARTICULARLY FREAKING COOL polish I had to have it.

Every time I pick up one of the Incidental Twin polishes I'm not sure how it's going to work out. They're somehow just different from other polishes I've ever used... but at this point I've been impressed with the results EVERY time so I just go with it. I actually have a custom order in the works right now!

I hatched a plan to do a particular manicure for the final episode of season 10 using the Incidental Twin polish, a Supernatural themed stamping plate from Apipila, and Snowed In - a white stamping polish from Hit The Bottle which I bought off of Beautometry.

Those tiny black flecks, that's real CHARCOAL.
The hazy cloudy voids in the design, that's not a camera issue, that's SALT.

If there was ever a mani that needed a macro
A deep translucent charcoal jelly sandwich of protective sigils in a suspension of salt, charcoal, hex glitter in two sizes, and micro glitter "embers".

When I started I was REALLY dubious. I was sure that somehow I was going to mess this up. I was convinced that the polish was not going to layer how I envisioned, and that the stamps would be smeared and too busy, but I stuck with it and I think it came out even more amazing than I had hoped.

It's been a bit of time since I did the pics but I believe the base was CnD Stickey base coat, two coats of Salt And Burn, and a coat each of American Classics Gelous and Poshe topcoat to smoothe it out for stamping. 
I stamped each finger, sealed with Poshe again, put a final layer of Salt and Burn over the top to add depth, and finally smoothed and sealed with the same Gelous-Poshe combination.

I found a neat trick to use hairspray to keep the stamp from smudging From Youtube user Denisejohn65 - Nail Ed which seemed to work great! I'm pretty sure if I had to take this off to fix smeary stamping there would be salt from crying in the mix as well.

I was worried the polish layers wouldn't stick on top of the hairspray but there were no issues with the technique as far as I could tell. I will absolutely be doing this every time I stamp.

A very Supernatural season ender manicure special
I've been sitting on this post for no reason for months but I figured the new season was as good a reason as any to get back on the horse!

Monday, September 7, 2015

What else am I up to?

Edit: this idea has been nixed, everything is all in one place now, Huzzah!

I've looked at what it would take to run a broader topic blog the way I'd like and it basically involves writing my own code. I'm going to stick with Blogger for the time being so this is how I'm breaking it up instead...

I've started up a blog specifically for crafty and more lifestyley stuff:

Click image above to check out the new blog
So that whole plan of having one multi topic space? Completely abandoned for the moment. :(

Maybe someday I'll combine into one lifestyle blog, sadly today is not that day.

This page will continue pretty much as usual: hair, makeup, skin, clothing, accessories.
Other topic pages are linked on that navigation bar on the top of my page.

Rebel Rebel

I've decided that not only am I doing the bat design with the stitches in different directions as previously discussed... I'm apparently now kind of obsessed with the idea of playing with texture and stitch direction in cross stitching.

While I agree doing things haphazardly in all different directions can look messy and detract from a pictorial piece that's no reason to abandon the idea of deliberately working with texture to create a desired effect.

One of the specific joys of many other types of embroidery is the play of light on directional stitching... so why is this such a taboo idea in cross stitching?

Historically, changes in texture are EXACTLY how we create visual interest in regular, single material objects. Jacquard, knitting, card weaving, pressed velvet, mosaic work, crop circles, magnetic nailpolish... texture play is everywhere!

I'm kind of obsessed with herringbone so I'll probably start there, but yeah, expect some experiments.

New Project - Na na na na na na na na Bat Square! (phase 1)

My next project - Bats by Tantes Zolder

My husband and I are very keen on bats so the minute I saw this design I knew it would be ALL over my home. I plan to do several versions of this in different coordinating tone-on-tone colourways to be framed up as coordinating pieces.
Phase 1 is all mounted up and gridded out in 18 ct oatmeal coloured Aida cloth to be stitched in a bronzey goldy olive green thread.

So far I also have a white on white and a black on black planned (and materials sourced) but I'd love to do some more contrasty versions too - cream thread on lilac fabric is one version I have in mind and I'd also love to do something on a natural or grey fabric with white polka dots.

I'm a leeeettle obsessed with that particular shade of green right now. I wish I could have found a closer fabric but there's not a lot of variation in Aida cloth 
The *only* thing holding me up from starting in at this point is a style question and I'm waiting for some other brains to chime in:

I know the prevailing cross stitch logic is to do the whole piece with the stitches in the same direction BUT since it is a reflected medallion sort of thing and very texture oriented I'm thinking it might look cool to stitch each repeat separately from the top down in the same direction so that each has its own sort of texture.

I think that makes sense, I hope that makes sense!

Is this just crazy enough to work... or just crazy?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

She chose down? - A thing I just learned about setting up new embroidery.

I've been dabbling with embroidery of various sorts since I was a kid but I recently got back into cross stitch after a looooong hiatus. I remembered most of the basics but I spent a lot of time poking around the internet to flesh out setup details and see how other people did things.

One of the things I specifically looked for was the best way to set up the fabric on a frame or hoop for stitching and in particular -

Why do some people set up their canvas "underneath" the frame/hoop - is there an advantage to this?

I couldn't find anything to suggest an advantage either way, and I found the most pics of people working "over" so I set up my recent pieces to match.

Now that I've found the answer to my question completely by random chance on a Facebook Cross Stiching page I'm switching up what I do with cross stitching and sharing the tip. Working underneath fixes a problem I find REALLY annoying and hopefully having this info handy will help others.

The main issue I find with working over the top is that when I get too close to the frame/hoop it's REALLY hard to maneuver the needle under threads horizontally. This isn't a problem for up and down stitching like in cross stitch, but it's a really big problem if you want to run the needle under previous stitches to finish off a thread and you are very close to the frame.

Ever hit up against this? Pulling that needle through would be SO ANNOYING!
You never work horizontally on the face of the embroidery when you are cross stitching so this will never be a problem if you work with the top of your piece in the ditch.
Y.M.M.V. if you're working a different style of needlework, but there are a couple of other advantages as well so unless I was doing a LOT of tight horizontal work (like in attaching Shisha mirrors for example) I would probably continue working this way.

The second BIG advantage is that the projecting frame will help keep your top hand up off of the face of canvas so it will help keep the top of the piece a lot cleaner. Also: if you drop your frame or your pet/spouse/child bumps against it - the fabric which is most exposed on the edge is the underside of your work instead of the top.

A third potential advantage is that the well created by the frame projecting upward could be handy to keep working items nearby. You can rest items like scissors or a pattern right on the piece with you, though I *personally* would be really careful with this. Given *my* luck my scissors would open up and cut threads, or the ink from the pattern would transfer onto the fabric, or something similarly Murphy's Law-ish. Even if I don't make active use of it I can't even express the number of times this could have saved me from stopping everything to move my work off of my lap so I could pick up a a needle or threader which just joyfully rolled off the working surface and on to the floor.

I have a large-ish piece (around 11x15 inches) I've been working on for a bit that I have on stretcher bars and after finding out about this I'm SERIOUSLY considering un-mounting the whole thing and re-mounting it underneath the bars.

(2 am edit: I did it after I got back from dinner and I regret nothing!)

Anyway, I hope having this info out and about helps someone because I know I'm TOTALLY taking advantage of it.

Bonus thing - How to tell the front from the back on a piece of woven fabric:
(as much for my future reference as for yours)
"Hold the fabric by opposite corners and pull gently. If the fabric forms a "valley" between two "hills", that is the right or front side. If it forms a single "hill", that is the back. The front side is smoother than the back. However, it really makes no difference which side you stitch on unless it is a printed fabric."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

So, what's with the name anyway?

I am one of those multi-tasker-types.
I'm also such a true-crime buff that I got a Masters degree in Forensic Psychology. I don't do anything with my degree professionally so the practical upshot of this is basically that I watch A LOT of true crime television.

image via

If I'm up and out of bed I require a minimum threshold of brain activity for sanity (bed is a magical fairy universe with different rules). Otherwise my mind comes up with its own things to poke at and that's not always fun. Pretty much the only time I don't bother with background noise is when I'm reading because I am an extremely focused, immersive reader.

I really wish this translated to being all caught up on the television I want to watch, but since I'm usually looking at the thing I'm doing and not the screen I don't feel comfortable watching shows with distracty things like drama and plot and visual interest.

I'm umpteen bajillion seasons behind in Dr Who, and have yet to even start watching Sherlock.
The single solitary show I am caught up on is Supernatural (expect Supernatural themed crafts - I already have patterns) but I have exhausted every single procedural true crime show on Netflix and Amazon Prime!

The "plot" on procedural true crime is pretty predictable so it's ideal background noise for what I'm doing:
Someone dies, they look for the killer, someone discusses nature vs nurture, and the biggest plot twist you ever get is "Other than the small animal torturing he seemed so normal!". Commercial break recaps also help catch me up if I "miss" anything.

Like a really gory game of Clue
I blew through everything on Netflix and had kind of a True Crime dry spell for a while, but luckily (?) I've now found the shady underworld of poorly ripped YouTube videos!

I barely ever look at the screen so the video quality doesn't matter much. I've seen more than enough crime scene photos for anyone's lifetime so unless it's related to an explanation of how they worked out some specific clue I don't feel the need to look at all the gory images. I think the biggest source of interest for me at the moment is comparing the way different countries conceptualize criminality.

I try to find other things to listen to while I'm crafting, but that always ends up with me just digging through Netflix for 45 minutes and settling on something true-crimey anyway.

I'm not sure how much I'll be talking about the true crime stuff here, I don't think it will be a focus but if people are interested let me know and I'll pipe up with whatever I happen to think about the stuff I'm watching.

In case you're curious: here are all of the true Crime documentary shows I half watched while cross stitching last Sunday - warning, for some reason you tube true crime channels seem obsessed with using extremely gory (and often not even related) promo shots for these shows.

Peter TobinFrancis Michael FaheySteven Kummerfield and Alexander TernowetskyEdmund Kemper The Co Ed ButcherDamon Bamberg and Sonya BambergOtis TooleMichael Ryan - Hungerford massacreDouglas Thames

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Improve your designs with Science! PLEASE!!!

Science! has indicated that symmetry is both more attractive and easier to process by the human brain.

With this in mind, why do pattern designers helpfully designate the center of the design and add a handy darker line for every ten stitches on the grid on to the pattern to make it easier to count but NOT LINE UP THESE GUIDELINES WITH THE CENTER OF THE PATTERN?!?!?!

I assure you it will be just as neat and satisfying IF NOT MORE SO to have even margins around the edge of the pattern as it is to start with a full ten by ten grid on the top left.

Your design could reap the benefits of sweet creamery cognitive neuroscience!

It's not even like you even start the design in square zero most of the time. If it really freaks you to not have a full grid on the edge just extend the empty part of the graph a little bit! Is it going to mess things up that much to start stitching on column six instead of column two?

I can't show you the grid for this because it is a copyrighted design from BlackBird Designs, but this is the first prep stuff I do for any new piece. I blanket stitch the edges for stability and lay out my pattern space using a counted running stitch every five stitches (aka ten threads since this is a 28ct linen and the design calls for over two stitching, like THAT won't make it more likely for me to mess up).

The white thread designates the dead center of the design while the blue thread designates the graph guidelines already laid over the design to help you count and they are WILDLY out of alignment to each other. The vertical line is off by six stitches (or four depending on your starting point, I guess) and the horizontal is off by five.

I can assure you (*cough* having done it before *cough*) that if I do not clearly mark the orientation of my fabric and separately designate both grids I WILL shift my design over at one point or another, typically early and devastatingly. Taking out an entire day or so of stitching is no fun.

I'm actually considering taking the center markers out entirely on this as soon as I get it on the stretchers to avoid any potential confusion.

Friday, August 28, 2015

I see your true colours shining through...

Jo-Anns Craft's 20% off coupon + 30% off sewing baskets + cute black cat pattern means of course that Papa's got a brand new ba... sket.

I've really needed something I could use as a project basket; I have a giant utility basket for materials/tools storage and a smaller essentials/travel kit in a Cadbury tin, but nothing I could functionally work a PROJECT out of while sitting on the couch or hanging at a Stitch and Bitch. It has a nice big open bottom and a plastic top tray with a little pincushion and pocket attached to the lid.
Also Black Cat, which is very important as I have one, and I luuuuuuuurve him.
Not that I don't also love my other two cats, but he's my heartcat.


Speaking of DMC floss, I got a practical lesson in dye lots today!
Thankfully one that didn't come to light in the middle of a piece as that's usually how it goes for me.

I w
ent looking for a pale silvery-grey colour to do a sort of tone on tone piece and grabbed a handful of this DMC 3024 Very Light Brown Gray (which is totally NOT what I'd name the colour).

I thought at first that someone had mixed colours together as one half of the skeins had a cooler shift and the other had a slightly greener shift but the skeins all had the same code on them. THEN I thought I was being kind of crazy about it until I checked the dye lots.

I separated them by the apparent colour and sure enough every single one of the cooler skeins had the # 6609036Q on it, while the rest of them were split between about three other numbers - leading me to believe that that Q lot was the off one.

Hopefully you can see the difference in the pics above. It was pretty subtle so I don't think it would be an issue on a multi-colour piece, but I wanted these specifically to do an all one colour piece so I'm REALLY glad I checked.

I also picked up some brass stretching tacks and an octopus needle minder at a local Needlepoint shop called Ladybug Stitches, so I'm all set to get a planned project going. I was hoping to find fabric but the shop isn't really stocked for cross stitch stuff. Jane the owner(? I think?) was however super nice and actually remembered me from the last time I was in, which had to have been at least six years prior.

I now have more needle minders than I could possibly ever use in my life (with one more on the way) and I'm perfectly okay with that because octopus and pumpkin and spider (and mystery thing TBA because I know some seriously cool crafters).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sinking cost - Iceburg straight ahead!

A fantastic post on pricing handmade items was running around Facebook today and I found myself commenting on in a few places, so I figured I'd bring it up here.

Click here for Sarah's shop

Crafty Peeps : Do not undersell yourself!

Here's a thought exercise:

Think about a price you REALLY think someone would be willing to pay for an object you can make.

Divide that price by your state's minimum wage - that number is how many hours you would have in order to complete it before you are making *less than minimum wage* at that price. Suddenly that "reasonable" price looks a bit low, doesn't it?

Now notice that you've just ignored materials cost, wear and tear on your equipment, studio fees, taxes, etc, etc, etc...

Yeah. Get the lifeboats.

There's also the whole other level of what you do to the rest of the craft industry when you undercut but that's a discussion best left to pros.

I don't do paid sewing work anymore for these reasons. 

I do occasionally enjoy a bit of barter because I have talented friends and thankfully I'm no longer an unemployed student so I'd just be using the extra money to buy neat things anyway, but nowadays my rule for free crafting for friends is they have to keep me company the whole time I'm working on it.

It's funny how peoples appreciation for "free" stuff raises exponentially when they have to schedule THEIR time around spending hour after hour (after hour) watching you work on it. 

I find people also greatly underestimate the amount of tweaking and finishing I do before I will hand something over as A THING I MADE. If my name is attached to it I want it to be as close to perfect as I can get it. Because I am human and things aren't always as perfect as I like I also generally provide whatever fixes I can over the life of the object. That's a LOT of completely invisible work, especially in today's ergonomically constructed, perfect out of the package world.

The other side of that underselling yourself coin:

There are many objects/materials I COULD make for myself that I buy instead because I recognize that my time is worth money. I ask myself if I would rather trade my time at my job or my time at my home for an item and spend accordingly.

A $20 cotton skirt a la Old Navy is not worth making myself,. The time it takes for me to SHOP for the fabric prices it out of home-made reasonableness.

A $400 carefully fitted wool skirt that's going to be a wardrobe staple for the next fifteen years however... now we're potentially talking value.

Then again I may decide that there's a neat detail on the pre-made item I have not mastered. Are the hours of work necessary to perfect that skill worth higher in value than just buying the freaking thing already? Heck, am I even going to bother or is this going to end up another "it would be nice but... busy" abandoned project?

These are the considerations that must immediately follow the knee-jerk "yeah but I could just MAKE that" dismissal.

I could certainly do a lot of things, but do I wanna AND am I gonna?

Monday, August 24, 2015

The first rule of True Crime and Craft Time is...

Okay so I'm REALLY sleep deprived and have been listening to Fight Club at work, our inaugural post is probably going to be a bit wonky.

I obsessively collect craft hobbies like other people collect creepy dolls but went on a sort of crafty hiatus for a while*. I've recently gotten back into crafting really hardcore and I wanted a place to talk in depth about whatever it is I'm doing at the moment.

The last time I had a collected grouping of my craft endeavours was on LiveJornal under the name Carapax. It's been a while but I STILL go back to check details from time to time. Now that I'm getting back into it I really want to have that same level of project reference.

Pretty psyched about this as it's already providing utility for me. I spent a good chunk of my drive to work trying to make sure I didn't forget about some ideas I had waiting at lights. I now have four separate project planning posts going (aaaaand I just thought of a fifth while typing this).

*not strictly true as I did a metric buttload of crafting for my wedding last year, but wedding crafts come from a different headspace and I couldn't share any of that until after it was done. 
I did however try to take lots of pics as I went along so that I could share in the future, so expect to see that stuff at some point.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Product fix: no more glistening like a pig!

Carmandized! via
I really enjoy the look of illuminators in real life. An ultra light dusting on the cheekbones, above the brow, on the nose, and on the chin truly does bring a glow to the face - just like Carmandy taught us! 

All the illuminators I had tried for years had a sort of super icy tone which was pretty workable in combination with my darker skin tone... in person.

But in photos? That icy ethereal Cate Blanchett elf look doesn't fly.
My cool, top-lit glow tragically translates into this sort of "mid August, waiting for the subway, all the humidity, should have worn shorts" sheen.

Thankfully I got a sample of "The Balm" Mary-Lou-Manizer in one of my very first Birchbox sets. This was the first illuminator that made me look gilded rather than just sweaty. I hesitate to call it warmer, but it is for sure neutral... er. *laughs*

Typically I go for the pale, champagne/honey toned Mary-Lou-manizer, but now that I have the cool white hair I like adding a bit of pink in to my face and have been leaning toward their subtly rosy/peachy Cindy Lou-Manizer.  

My hair and skin tone change all the time, but between the Mary/Betty/Cindy-Lou-Manizers and a couple of the new Nude Dude shades there are enough tones that I can use them in all of my different seasonal "coats". Also the packaging is adorable.

I liked the first sample so much that I snatched up a set of the full size illuminator and bronzer (i.e. Mary & Betty) when it went on sale at Kohls even though I don't have so much use for the bronzer and the pigment is milled so fine I'm STILL using up that first sample.

Not a recent pic, but it was actually hard to find one where I could tell for sure I was wearing illuminator! Which is exactly as it should be.
I'd show you a "before" but I didn't keep those.

I've gotten a number of shades as samples from different subscription boxes and so far I have been really impressed with their whole line. I always find a use for them and more often than not they become the go-to for that product type. 

They really brighten up a matte face full of make-up and add back in all the life and depth that a full coverage product can remove without making you look like you're gaining all that life and depth by running a marathon in the noonday sun.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lifestyles of The ItsyBitsy

I am a woman of many (many) interests and I'm finding this beauty specific space to be limiting, so I'm working on ways to shake things up.

Basically what I would like to do is set up a few separate topic pages here on The Itsy Bitsy so that I can post what I like when I like, and recast this as a broader lifestyle blog.

A weirder, craftier, fussier, Itsy-er, Bitsy-er, lifestyle blog.

My goal is to make it so that people who want to come look at the blog for a specific topic will be able to find it easily as it will all be archived by topic (beyond just by tagging, that is), but if they are interested in the other stuff I do they won't have to go far.

The beauty stuff will of course stay but I'm really trying to get back into fitness and crafting in a big way and I want to talk about those sides of me without having to maintain a whole passel of separate spaces.

I'll be playing around with page layouts in the coming days but I don't expect this to be terribly intrusive, more as I get things hammered out!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

And if you go chasing rabbits...

Sorry I've been MIA lately, it's busy season at my job and I'm moving to a new apartment at the end of this month so I'm a TETCH overwhelmed lately. I have a BUNCH of backlogged pictures and posts I have about two thirds written out, but no time to get it all organized and pretty enough to post.

On the plus side in less than a month's time I'll be in a place with lots of natural light for pictures and the perfect opportunity to re-organize my stuff so that I can hopefully get more use out of all the neat things I've picked up (and subsequently lost in the various corners of my bathroom).

The big beauty news for me at the moment is that I finally went white!

I absolutely adore it and I'm planning to keep it up for as long as I possibly can.
clicky this picture for detail

It took about four lightenings (well, three and a half technically) a lot of toning experiments (which is where that half comes in), a cast iron scalp, and an exceedingly committed stylist to get here; but it's PERFECT.

I'm currently looking for a discussion board of some sort for people with dyed white hair because I want to make sure I can keep this in tip-top shape. If you have a link please drop it here.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Some quick maxi musings

My winter wardrobe has been lackluster (to put it mildly) and I'm feeling the itch to change things up. I love wearing dresses but am not feeling my usual sun dresses and 60s inspired sack dresses this spring, so I think this is the year that I will tackle the maxi.

Normally I feel too short to wear maxi's but I've seen it done and done well so I know it's possible. I still remember years ago seeing a woman casually walking around a big box store in a black maxi and flat sandals with her hair thrown up in a messy bun. She was so striking it took me several minutes to realize we were the same height!

As always the idea is to draw attention upward, and with my short waist a natural waist is not going to be my best direction.  I wear empire dresses, boat necks, and v-necks well so I think these are all good places to start.

Left - V Neck maxi via Chictopia
Right - high neck black maxi dress via Poshmark

I'm still pretty gaga over that recent David's Road collection so I am seriously considering buying a few cheap maxi dresses and doing dress surgery on them. I particularly like the "pickup harness" pieces they've been pairing with flowy maxis to change the silhouette. I'm not normally into pickups so this is a really cool way to get the shape and functionality without the permanence.

I'm not a fan of sewing jersey so I don't want to make them from scratch but I am not above altering the *heck* out of something I already have. That said I ADORE working with raw silk and have some thoughts about what I could do there.

Happily in the midst of some spring apartment sprucing my husband had a suggestion for where we can move my crafting stuff so that I can actually access it. Between the year and a half of wedding prep and two and a half years of tiny apartment living my sewing has gone by the wayside and frankly I miss it!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Round two, fight!

Incense Oud by Killian
Guatemala cardamom, pink pepper, Turkish rose, Egyptian geranium, methyl pamplemousse, Virginia cedarwood, Indonesian patchouli, Indian papyrus, Somalia incense (oil and absolute), sandalwood, Macedonian oakmoss, Spanish cistus labdanum, musks.

"...boasts no actual oud in its list of materials. If Incense Oud lives up to the second half of its name, it is through the interplay between the woodiness of cedar, patchouli and sandalwood and the ambery, leathery accents of cistus labdanum and oakmoss. The incense, which makes up 25% of the formula, reads as a dark presence, its citrus facets magnified by geranium, methyl pamplemousse (a grapefruit-smelling material) and cardamom – the latter perhaps a subtle quote of the cardamom coffee popular in Arabic countries, its anisic facets combining with pink pepper to refresh the scent. Turkish rose oil, though highly dosed, is seamlessly worked into the blend as a counterpoint to the dark woody facets; a cocktail of musks permeate the scent with their soft animalic notes. Exceptionally smooth, polished and full-bodied, Incense Oud may just be the most darkly sensuous interpretation of its starring notes."

Initially surprisingly soft and floral, strong sandalwood and a really sort of... clean scent? Surprisingly little spice at this point. If you could think of the Platonic ideal of warm clean laundry fresh from the dryer that would be it.

After a short time it developed to a sort of minty overtone with sort of a sweet hay undertone, not strong but somehow pretty intense. I also smelled something almost like very clean fresh sweat which oddly kind of made it for me! I couldn't stop sniffing it to figure out what that smell might be.

With extended wear the floral is pretty much gone and it feels quite sophisticated. Nothing really stands out particularly at this point, it's just warm and creamy and quite spicy. I normally find this sort of spicy "Oriental" style scent really overwhelming and unpleasant but I feel like this is what this style of scent is supposed to be.

This definitely grew on me all day but I am not sure if it's what I was looking for as a signature scent. I will definitely be giving this subsequent wears and I actually could see getting a very small bottle for special occasion wear, but it's not what I would wear day to day.

It also bears mentioning that it's a whipping $236 per ounce, just under $400 for a bottle!

Un Bois Sepia By Serge Lutens
sandalwood, cypress, vetiver, patchouli, opoponax

"The cool, spicy and green top notes of cypress and vetiver conjure the memories of classic English fragrances. We find that unexpected touch of retro incredibly charming. The heart of sandalwood, velvety, deep and sensual, is pure luxury. The theme of unabashed decadence is continued in the base, where patchouli and opoponax create a dark, subtly animalic atmosphere. The contrast of the chilly, aloof top notes and the warm, sensuous base is irresistible."

Initially very sweet and powdery becoming spicier on drydown, I guess what I'm smelling is the opoponax?

My cats all really liked it and sniffed the spot I applied it really obsessively, which was a little weird. My husband couldn't smell it at all and it almost completely flattened out to a pleasant but very old fashioned scent after half an hour.

I would expect to experience this scent ghosting off of the furs of a proud elderly New York socialite but it didn't really do anything for me.

Still to try
Gaiac No 1 By M. Micallef
bergamot, jasmine, cloves, gaiac, vetiver, vanilla
Cadjmere By Parfumerie Generale
myrtle branch, sap, red tangerine, rosewood, Kenyan cypress resin, coconut milk, sandalwood bark, ambrette seed, vanilla
Tam Dao (Eau de Parfum) By Diptyque
Lime, Coriander, ginger, sandalwood, cedarwood, musc, vanilla, amber wood

Monday, April 13, 2015

Two perfumes enter! One perfume leaves!

Hinoki By Comme des Garcons x Monocle
Cypress, turpentine, camphor, cedar, thyme, pine, Georgian wood, frankincense, moss and vetiver

"Hinoki is a dry, woody-fresh scent with an intangible 'something' that gives it a mystical edge and the ability, much like CdG’s Incense Series, to conjure the exact emotion and feel of the idea behind its creation and name."

At first vetiver and moss with a hit of the lemoncake sweetness of frankincense, a touch powdery but clean without being soapy, masculine but not unpleasantly so. I have been known to to wear straight vetiver so I actually found this pretty pleasing.

Drydown was more cedery and almost ozone, fading very quickly but leaving a neat sort of orange bell pepper and water scent for a few hours. My husband couldn't smell it on me at all after two hours and even to my nose it was GONE within four.

Final verdict: Not THE ONE, but I'd wear it. Might be neat as a summer scent.

L'Eau by Diptyque 
cinnamon, clove, geranium, sandalwood, rose

"This iconic fragrance is an infusion of spices and flowers, inspired by a Middle-Age recipe. As diptyque's first eau de toilette, it is slightly magical and deliciously enigmatic..."

The overwhelming impression I get of this is like kissing the freshly shaved cheek of a dapper elderly male relative. At first strongly cinnamon but on drydown it has a spicy sort of lily(?) character. Soapy to the extreme and masculine but in a "my off-the-boat very old school Italian Great Uncle" way.
Not a *bad* smell, but so not even remotely in character.

Final verdict: Nopers
Still to try

Gaiac No 1 By M. Micallef
bergamot, jasmine, cloves, gaiac, vetiver, vanilla
Cadjmere By Parfumerie Generale
myrtle branch, sap, red tangerine, rosewood, Kenyan cypress resin, coconut milk, sandalwood bark, ambrette seed, vanilla
Incense Oud By Kilian
Guatemala cardamom, pink pepper, Turkish rose, Egyptian geranium, methyl pamplemousse, Virginia cedarwood, Indonesian patchouli, Indian papyrus, Somalia incense (oil and absolute), sandalwood, Macedonian oakmoss, Spanish cistus labdanum, musks.
Un Bois Sepia By Serge Lutens
sandalwood, cypress, vetiver, patchouli, opoponax
Tam Dao (Eau de Parfum) By Diptyque
Lime, Coriander, ginger, sandalwood, cedarwood, musc, vanilla, amber wood

Monday, March 23, 2015

Smell is a word, perfume is literature.

"Smell is a word, perfume is literature".
-Hermes Perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena
I need a new signature scent.

I've been using the same perfume pretty exclusively for about three years now and I can't smell it at all anymore. I can't even smell it when I put it on, never mind throughout the day. That's no fun because I wear it because I like how it smells and also that's when you start putting on too much and asphyxiating people in elevators.

As much as I don't wanna, it's clearly time to diversify my scent portfolio.

PepĂ© Le Pew - Warner Bros
My signature scent is the Tam Dao which is a woody fragrance by the French perfumer Diptique I currently wear the Eau de Toilette version. They describe the notes as Sandalwood, Rosewood, Cypress, and Ambergris and it is widely considered to be the "holy grail" scent for sandalwood lovers. 

Tam Dao works for all seasons and situations, and other people tell me I smell good on a regular enough basis that I suspect they're probably not *all* making it up for the sake of pleasantry.  I actually feel kind of weird when I don't wear it. 

Added bonus: I *never* put on perfume when I know I will be visiting my father, he has has life threatening breathing problems due to COPD/Emphysema and perfume is an asthma trigger for him. However if I happen to drop by at random Tam Dao does not so far cause him any issues. 
(Obligatory PSA: Quit smoking now folks.)

I have always been fairly sensitive to smells, so of course one of my random superpowers is MAKE PERFUME SMELL REALLY STRONG. My chemistry is pretty weird too and I cannot wear most florals or musks or anything powdery. I turn pleasant florals into walking weaponized botanical gardens, musks become Play-Doh, and even slightly powdery things turn into an olfactory sensation akin to being socked in the face with a giant bottle of baby powder. Whenever possible I spray my perfume on my torso under my clothes so that you have to be very close to me to smell it. Even perfumes I really like can overwhelm me if I apply them to the classic pulse points at the wrists and neck.

So many times, though typically by "too much" I mean "any".
On the up side I can wear patchouli and even die-hard patchouli haters say it smells nice. *shrugs*

It's pretty hard to find a feminine scent which is based on wood or herbal notes and excludes the no-no ingredients so I am not looking forward to the search to find a new one. I did go pretty heavy into the whole Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab experience for a while because they were so good about listing notes, but ultimately I found her tastes a bit too sweet and musk centered for me. 

My previous go-tos were either BPAL's Cathdral (a church incense inspired blend) or layering a very well aged patchouli and a very not-ambery amber (I'd say it was more of a spicy honey scent). On special occasions I would layer the same patchouli with BPAL's LE scent The Candy Butcher (Dark chocolate with a heavy cream undertone) and while these all smell nice and I would still wear them if the whim took me I don't think they fit me as well anymore.

I am going to start with the other non-floral scents in Diptyque's catalog and branch out from there but I'm not expecting this to be easy. It's hard enough to find one scent that is so perfectly you that you feel vaguely incomplete without it, now I'm going to try to find a second?

Do you have a signature scent? How did you find it?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spindle and Rod and Tablet and Thread

I've figured out the central theme in the clothing I've been drawn to lately.

I follow a designer on Facebook called David's Road and I found I was VERY drawn to a dress they recently posted on their Facebook so I clicked through to their page to look at their s/s 2015 women's collection.
Screenshot from

When I started looking through the collection it hit me:
I want to look like a figure from Greek or Roman mythology living in the modern world.

Most specifically, I want to look like one of the Fates (aka the MoiraiParcaeSudice or Norns, depending on where you're asking): the figures standing outside of the world who controlled the metaphorical thread of life of every mortal and immortal from birth to death.

There's an aloofness and an understanding that these are creatures of dreadful power wielded to great purpose. I dig it. I think it'd be pretty boring if everyone had the same flavor of inner goddess.
Listen Fates, who sit nearest of gods to the throne of Zeus, and weave with shuttles of adamant, inescapable devices for councels of every kind beyond counting,  
Aisa, Clotho and Lachesis, fine-armed daughters of Night, hearken to our prayers, all-terrible goddesses, of sky and earth. 
[from Pindar's Hymn to the Fates]
I have no idea why it took so long to work out because it's something I've been talking about a lot for the last few years, but I guess much like magic eye puzzles: you see it when you see it.

I made an Arachne costume for a Gods and Goddesses party a few years ago and fell in love with the simple drape of the chiton. That costume was made of flat sheets of 45" wide raw silk that draped from my shoulders to my feet and from elbow to elbow. The design is *basically* a giant tube with a few tweaks at each hem for fit, and yet it captured every curve of my body.

Simple, regal, incredibly sexy.

My husband saw this shot over my shoulder and without any knowledge of the post context he said he remembered thinking that the costume was exceedingly hot, even though the only part of me you saw was my shoulders, and added that it'd be cool if I wore stuff like this more often.
I have noticed a lot of elongated draped clothing around and about in the fashion world lately but something always seemed to be missing for me and I couldn't put my finger on what. This David's Road collection provided the missing key. It hits the silhouettes I seek perfectly and I would buy their stuff in a second if it were available in the US or (presumably) anything in a price range I could even hope to afford.

Last summer was fairly cool and I wore jeans a lot and generally felt like a schlump. I'm hoping this summer will be hot enough to switch back to dresses. Due to my height I typically look for knee length empire style dresses but I always feel they look very cutesey.

Perhaps it's time to get the sewing machine out to play-test a few long columnar draped pieces and let out my inner incarnation of destiny and life.

[post title from "The Fates" by Jane Yolen]

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Stampy McStamperson

finally started poking at nail stamping and haven't posted my last two manicures so I figured I should let you know what I've been up to.

I got a Konad Coraline type B stamping set on a whim a few years ago along with a couple of random Konad plates (M28 and M60) and later received the Pueen 2013 plate set for a holiday gift. They have been very safely tucked away in a little decorative box and shoved in the back of my nail polish tools ever since.

I follow some AMAZING artists on FB and Instagram so I've been researching stamping on and off for a while, but have been too chicken to try until this past Valentine's day when I did the manicure just below. I wasn't terribly unhappy with the final result but it was immediately apparent that I was going to need a few more tools to get the effects I wanted. 

Well, not to mention of course practice. A LOT of practice.

Valentine's mani in a berry coloured creme with sheer stamped hearts on the ring finger and rose gold glitter on the pinky. 

I kind of wish I had left off the rose gold as it was so much higher visual impact than the stamping. I know this pic isn't the greatest but it was VERY hard to get a shot where glare did not wash out the hearts.

The sheer, faintly holo pink is very pretty, but wasn't really the effect I was looking for. I assumed that since it was a Konad polish it would be more opaque, but that's what I get for assuming. I lined this finger up pretty well but the left was a few degrees off.

This was also the absolute limit of nail length I could stamp with those Pueen plates, as I confirmed doing my next mani. The 2013 Pueen plates have a concave curve-in at the bottom of each design which frankly makes NO sense since it cuts a good couple of millimeters off of the usable length of the designs. It does look like this has been fixed with later plates but that doesn't help me much with the ones I already have.

My next attempt at stamping was a crocodile mani inspired by a really deep leathery green Sally Hansen Insta Dri polish I had just picked up.

Deep forest green creme mani with croc skin stamping over a pale green with a glassfleck finish.

This design doesn't look half bad from normal viewing distance but up close it is NOT the effect I was going for. The dark green reads more black than I had hoped and it turns out that at that scale a croc skin pattern just looks... kind of messy.  I feel like I should have put some kind of lizard stamp on another nail as a "this is what you are looking at" key.

Again I expected the green to stamp more opaque. I did try out the polish on paper a few times both for colour and to make sure my stamper was primed properly, and it looked okay there but the glassfleck just overpowered the dark green. The level of contrast here just did not do anything justice. Even though the stamping is the same polish as the rest of my hand it looks completely different and doesn't look tied together at all. I think I would try this again with closer coloured base under the stamping, or possibly even with shiny stamping over a matte base.  Also the Insta Dri nail polish dried really fast all right, but I don't think that was so helpful in this particular design.

The pattern was definitely too short for my nails. It barely covered my ring and middle fingers and would not have covered my thumb. Because it was kind of abstract I was able to restamp in a couple of places to fill holes, but obviously this would not work with a more regular design.

So what now?
This is going to be a limited technique for me until I get a few more tools. Luckily(?) I'm tired of winter and am engaging in lots of retail therapy so a few of those tools are already on their way. In the last two weeks I bought three stampers and six plates. All of the plates were either larger scale designs or all over etched plates.

The main issue I have is due to the shape of my nails. I have a wicked double convex curve to my nails and for a firm stamper like the Konad one to work I have to either squish it so hard I will distort the design (also that's really uncomfortable), or roll the stamper around in a spiral pattern (yeah, that's not going to get messed up) to cover top to bottom and edge to edge.
I love the way my talons look most of the time, but this makes nail art SUCH a pain in the butt!
I have similar problems with all stencils, tapes, wraps, and charms... pretty much any thing which requires a flat surface of any sort to work is a no-go for me. Also really annoying for touch screens because when my nails get long as I have to use odd parts of my finger.

Based on the issues I had with the firm Konad stamper I decided I wanted a supersoft XL stamper. I'm also really interested in trying the reverse stamping (kind of DIY wrap) technique I first saw via this video from Instagram user Sveta_sanders so I want a really large stamping surface.

For a really fantastic video of this process I highly recommend this video from blogger / youtuber / instagrammer Cassis Peach.

The first purchase was a large round silicone Creative Shop stamper from Beautrometry. Since this is currently back ordered pending a restock shipment from the Ukraine I also ordered from AU retailer Messy Mansion and got two XL rectangular stampers on the squishy side (one purple, one white) and three plates  (MessyMansion22, MessyMansion44 and Leadlight Lacquer05). According to the tracking site these are currently in Georgia so I should have them within a few days. I like that all of those stampers have deep curves to them so I think it will be easier to get reverse stamps to sit well on my nails.

A couple of days after that I saw a Facebook post from Lacquer or Leave Her on MoYou London's duochrome stamping polishes and found out that they have a David Bowie themed stamping plate (Rockstar09), so I finally bit the bullet and bought it along with two more plates (Festive15 and Fashionista11).

Yeah, like I wasn't going to buy this.
I had wanted to buy some of their duochrome stamping polishes but fiscal responsibility finally prevailed. Polish texture obviously makes a difference so I do want to pick up some stamping specific polishes. Cassis Peach apparently swears by a Mexican stamping polish called Mundo de Unas so that's going to be the next on the shopping list. It's very reasonably priced, but I've declared wallet truce until all of the stuff above (and a polish order form Lucky13 Lacquor) comes in.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Random Acts of Manicure - Storm's End

A complicated deep bronze manicure accented with stormy teal blue.

This is the trailing edge of a sudden summertime storm - roiling backlit clouds on one side of the horizon, rainbows on the other.

Nail Nation 3000 custom artisan 5free polish sucked me in with the a dead sexy purple glitter holo and caught me tight with my love of pets (and flakies).

This particular polish is part of the Rainbow Bridge collection where each rainbow drenched colour is named after a different beloved pet. A brief story of each namesake is listed on the site, and well, I'm a sucker for that kind of thing.

Penny's Holo is a sort of bronzed coffee tone which is very clearly PACKED with rainbowy goodness. I've been really into bronzes lately and Spectraflair is my JAM, so I really couldn't resist. It was a little darker/browner than I had expected when all was said and done, but still a gorgeous colour. It does seem to photograph a bit toward the bronze/olive side here but the pics on the site are fairly true.

It chipped fairly fast but I didn't use the Gelous nail coat for this mani and frankly I think my topcoat is aging out. Everything I wear is chipping within two days right now so I'm reserving judgement on longevity for the moment. The formula was surprisingly dense and could have possibly even covered in one coat if I had laid it on thick.

The stormy teal is Fashionista, which is the Revlon dupe for Essie 782 Go Overboard I mentioned in my last post. I think the accent really perked up the cooler tones in the spectraflair. It went on a little thinner than the Essie but it covers beautifully in two coats and seemed to have reasonable longevity. I actually tend to find Essie polishes a bit odd to work with texturally but they finish beautifully and wear well.

Bonus: sometimes removing colours with Spectraflair in them is a bit of a fight but this came off nicely.