Refilling a Vintage Compact

Dear Constant Reader,

I hope you’re all doing well.

Last month Christine McConnell released a video for her Patrons where she refilled vintage makeup containers with modern cosmetics. This inspired me to show off some of my vintage cosmetic items on Instagram. Someone asked if I was going to make any of them functional as well and I got thinking.

I found this compact at Streamline Antiques, a local shop specializing in Art Deco items. I loved that it had a compartment for lip rouge as well as one for powder and even had traces of the makeup inside! It’s an Elgin American, a popular compact manufacturer in the early 20th century, but other than that, I don’t know anything about its history.

First thing I needed to do was clean the old makeup out. That proved to be a challenge. The lip rouge was quite fossilized. I tried warming it up with a little boiling water poured into the compartment, but it stayed firm. Then I took my own advice and remembered that oil takes off lipstick. I poured a few drops vegetable oil into the compartment and sure enough, it started to soften. I used toothpicks to get into the crevices and get all the old gunk out.

To clean out the oil, I turned to my old friend Dawn. Soon the compartment was perfectly clean. I also washed out the powder compartment. It also needed a bit of an oil treatment, because there was residue from a sticker on the lid.

When everything was clean, I used a little precious isopropyl alcohol to disinfect the compact. Christine boiled many of her cases, but I didn’t want to harm the mirror or the enamel on the lid.

I didn’t want to sacrifice any of my Atomic Cosmetics lipsticks (since they’re not being made anymore) to this experiment, so I grabbed some classic Cherries in the Snow. I cut off a chunk and melted it in a spoon held over a candle. Yes, I know how that looks. Then I poured the melted lipstick into the compartment and let it harden. It wasn’t a perfect pour, so I tried to smooth out the surface with a hairdryer with limited success.

Then I took some setting powder and mixed it with a little isopropyl alcohol. I packed the resulting paste into the powder compartment and smoothed it with a butter knife. Then ended up using a cotton swab like a tiny rolling pin. Then I pressed a piece of lace onto the surface, weighted it with an Altoids tin, and left it to dry out. It did dry into a solid cake of powder, but you can’t really see the lace design.

There is a divot in the lid of the powder container, which I suspect held a powder puff. None of my powder puffs are the right size or shape, so I made a new one. I used a rectangle of cotton quilt batting and covered it with white satin. I wanted some white or pink velveteen for the puff part, but I didn’t have any. I took a drugstore powder puff and dismembered it for the velvety fabric. It was barely enough to cover my square of cotton. I ended up gluing some narrow ribbon over the edge to seal it. It’s not my best work, but we do what we can under the circumstances.

And voila!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 4 May 2020 at 1:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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In the Kitchen: Gingerbread from Hell

Dear Constant Reader,

Tomorrow is my birthday, so here’s a tasty treat for you.

At the beginning of January Christine McConnell held an all-day livestream where we could bake and decorate gingerbread cookies along with her. I gathered the supplies on her list (plus a Dremel, just in case) and got ready to break in my brand-new stand mixer.

I happily made the gingerbread dough and stashed it in the fridge, when I hit a major stumbling block. Christine started sketching the template for our cookie. I can’t draw. She had conceived of Gingerbread Man meets John Carpenter’s The Thing. There was no way I could draw that. What was I going to do? I couldn’t just give up. After all, I had all this cookie dough and several more hours of livestream.

Well, I told myself, surely you can draw a gingerbread man. Just make a classic cookie. And I discovered I could draw a gingerbread man outline. Then, how hard would it be to add in the splitting head or the rupturing chest. I can do that! Wait, I can definitely draw the snowman that one leg is morphing into. It’s just a couple of circles. And the other branching leg, yup. Okay, there’s no way I can make one arm into a rabid reindeer head. How about a tentacle…?

And with those little steps, I created my cookie template. I cut out and baked the cookie (and bunch of supplemental bits) and it didn’t look half bad! I especially like the 3-D way the chest is breaking open — one of Christine’s clever little tricks.

Of course, looking at other people’s cookies later, I could have just done any cookie shape I wanted to. There were lots of creative variations on the cookie Christine designed and some completely original designs as well. I’m glad I took up the challenge of trying to recreate what she was doing because it pushed me and I discovered I can draw a little better than I thought.

It was starting to get close to the time I would have to leave for rehearsal, so I mixed up the royal icing (does she own stock in that?) and stashed it in the fridge until I could get back to the kitchen. At this point the livestream took a lengthy break to adjust the cameras, so the timing was perfect.

When I was able to get back to my cookie two days later, I had the advantage of being able to watch the last two hours of the livestream as a recording and make a plan of attack for decorating the cookie.

The very first thing to do was get the cookie to stand up. I’m delighted to say that it was a success! I expected it to be more challenging, but royal icing makes a great glue. It stood up on the first try and stayed standing! I let the icing dry for several hours before I started adding decorations.

This was my first time working with modeling chocolate, which is what the snowman is made from. It’s a lot like working with a stiff clay, which periodically needs to be refrigerated as it gets too soft from the heat of your hands. It adhered nicely to the gingerbread and is easily shaped with fingers, since I didn’t have any sculpting tools.

I’m not a great piper (icing — not music), not terrible, but I need some more practice to get clean, even lines. It’s a good thing you can erase mistakes with some quick brush work. I made a lot (which you can see on a close up view of the cookie). As you might imagine, it’s harder to pipe icing on a standing cookie than one lying flat. One of the smartest things I did was set the cookie up on a marble lazy-susan cheese board. I could easily turn the cookie and not have to worry about messing up anything.

Instead of the classic piping cones, I have these great OXO piping bottles. However, I only had two and we were working with four colors of icing. I mixed up one bottle full of gingerbread-colored icing and left one plain white. After I piped everything that was white, I added food coloring to make the light blue, piped that, and then added more color to get the dark blue for the very last bit.

I tried string work on the non-snowman leg and it was successful. Eventually. The brown icing was pretty thick due to the cocoa powder that was coloring it and the strings kept breaking. I gave up trying to outline the cookie with the brown icing. It kept falling off the cookie! It was much easier doing the crisscrossing blue strings behind the open chest, since that icing was a better consistency. And doing the scalloped edging on the base was so much fun!

After a couple of hours I was done. Ta da!

I also had Scratch take some pictures of me and my masterpiece. Yes, that’s exactly* how I looked while decorating my cookie: Sophia dress by Angie Pontani for Secrets in Lace, vintage poinsettia apron from Betty Blaize.

And just for fun, Scratch made the Gingerbread Thing look a little more hellish:

Photo session over, I made some hot chocolate and we dug in! I knew if I didn’t smash it up and eat it right away, the cookie would sit on my counter growing staler by the day while I admired it until I had to reluctantly throw it away. I’m pleased to say it tasted very good! The recipe for the cookie dough made twice as much as was needed, so the following weekend I let Scratch’s nieces loose in the kitchen with my Halloween cookie cutters.

I’m feeling emboldened after this adventure. I think there may be more decorating in my future. Maybe I’ll have another tea party soon….

Here’s a short video. I’m having fun creating these little things.

* In reality I was wearing leopard-print pajama pants & a black hoodie with my hair in a ponytail. But don’t I clean up nice?

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 18 February 2020 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coffin Gift Box

Dear Constant Reader,

One of my sources of inspiration and creativity this winter has been Christine McConnell. As a Patron of hers, I get access to exclusive content and in November that was how to make the coffin-shaped gift box she packaged her aprons in.

Betty Blaize, although she famously doesn’t enjoy cooking, has been spending more time in her kitchen, cooking healthy food, so an apron sounded like a way to encourage her culinary efforts. I ordered her a cute one, but then I got an email that the seller canceled the order (it’s complicated). I panicked a little as it was getting close to Christmas, but Scratch pointed out that I could whip up an apron in no time flat. I found some cute pink cotton with big white polka dots and made her a chef-style apron that could actually be worn and washed without fear (and has pockets). Of course, the cute apron wasn’t actually cancelled and arrived the next day, so she got both.

Back to the box. I used the template pattern Christine provided Patrons at my level, which made things go much faster. I ended up using FOUR different kinds of glue on this project — spray adhesive, fabric glue, hot glue, and a glue stick. I’ll probably never work with spray adhesive again. I thought it would be easier and more accurate, but it was so messy. Since I wanted to keep the spray adhesive far away from Albert, I took everything into the basement and set up on top of the laundry machines. Not an ideal work environment, but needs must. Part way though I bemoaned the third-grade craft project look of the box and decided to give up. Scratch convinced me to see it through. And he was right. Once I starting decorating it, it began to look more polished.

I covered the outside of the box in pink satin and lined it with the same polka dot fabric I used for the apron. I had *just enough* of the polka dot fabric to line the box, but that meant I had to use a piece with a stain on it. I couldn’t gift it looking like that, so I glued a couple of white lace butterflies over the offending spot.

I trimmed it all with two styles of black lace, some black lace appliqués, and both pink and black ribbon. I had to buy the pink satin for the exterior and the narrow pink ribbon that covers the seams, but everything else came out of my stash. My only regret was that I couldn’t find the black silk roses I know are hiding somewhere in my atelier.

One of the finishing touches is to add a drop shadow behind the cut-out on the lid. I got a piece of black posterboard to make the shadow and discovered it was bright orange on the reverse! It was also too small to cut out the entire shadow, which serves to finish the inside of the lid. I glued the orange side to it a piece of larger white posterboard and cut the whole thing out as one. A little black Sharpie was needed to touch up one spot where I miscalculated the alignment, but you can’t even tell.

The final step was to add a window of thin acrylic, which makes the box more finished-looking and strengthens the lid. I could not find a piece of acrylic both thin enough and large enough at any store. I was starting to get concerned when I found a cheap poster frame lurking behind the door of the library at the Manor. Whatever purpose it was supposed to serve before, it was a coffin widow now. The edges were just a bit raggedy in places after I cut it (I probably should have changed blades in my utility knife at that point), so after I glued it in place, I went around the perimeter with cloth tape. It looks nicer and there’s no chance of damage (to the window or a person).

And voila! The final product!

You can get a closer look with this little video. I’m still learning iMovie, so I’m grateful to Scratch for editing help.

I’m very pleased with how it came out and I hope Betty is happy with it!

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 28 January 2020 at 6:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What’s in the Box?

Dear Constant Reader,

A huge, mysterious parcel arrived at The Manor. The contents were so special I thought I’d try an unboxing video.

How did I end up with this magnificent piece? Christine McConnell has a YouTube series, From the Mind of Christine McConnell. Each month she makes something fabulous and selects one of her supporters on Patreon to receive it. This month she asked a trivia question during a livestream and the first person to answer correctly would get the cage. And that person was me!

This was on October first. I had been having such a terrible September. Certain events made me full of doubt about myself and I had lost my desire to do anything creative. Winning the cage was a jolt of positivity and I’ve been much better this month. It could not have come at a more perfect time. Thank you so much, Christine!

The trivia question, by the way, was “In the movie Addams Family Values, what is the name of the baby?” (which is the name of the bat). I still can’t believe that out of the hundreds of people responding, I answered first.

I love everything about it! The Victorian birdcage is the perfect aesthetic for The Manor. There’s so many fabulous details, like the handmade spiders and the fairy lights. And of course the Bat himself and his glowing eyes. The purple accents are just marvelous — there’s even a chunk of amethyst (my birthstone!). I could just go on about how incredible this is! I don’t know where exactly in The Manor Pubert is going to live, but he’ll be the star of that room for sure.

To see more about the creation of the Bat-Cage, here’s the video:

Thanks to…
…Christine McConnell for making this whole experience possible.
…Georgia Dunn for permission to include a panel from her wonderful comic strip, Breaking Cat News in my video. See the rest of that particular strip here.
…Scratch for filming, video editing assistance, and helping to clean up packing peanuts. In case you were wondering, a “metric fuckton” of packing peanuts is five garbage bags full.

M2These writings and other creative projects are supported by my Patrons. Thank you so much! To become a Patron, go to my Patreon page. Or you can just tip me if you liked this.

Published in: on 23 October 2019 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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