Posted in Sewing and crafting

DIY mermaid headdress in Art Nouveau style

Sharing the guinea pig cage behind-the-scenes tutorial that I had been writing for so long gave me the energy boost that I had been long missing in my blogging life, so the next day after its publication I got straight into editing photos for a new DIY post. I still have content waiting to get edited from many past years, but the mermaid headdress I made at the beginning of this year was too beautiful to put to the end of the line, so here we are.

Another motivator for posting this before many other procrastinated projects is that last year when I bought my very first mermaid tails ever, I also got into Finnish mermaiding community. I haven’t been so active there as I would have wanted to, but still having acquaintances there made me realize this could be a topic that would be helpful or at least inspirational to many.

I made this crown to compliment the tail of my dreams, Mertailor’s Bass Bliss, which is also one of the tails that I got – my vision of turning into a mermaid included being as realistic as a Nordic part-fish that I could get. For those interested I have a picture of the tail on my Instagram account (the one I’m speaking of is the one on the right, a green tail with multiple fins on hip area). Here in Finland we don’t have fish that are dazzlingly tropical or multicolored, but almost all are either blueish-grey or green or muddy brown, and that gave me the starting point to plan my mersona (a joint word of ‘mermaid’ and ‘persona’). I was lucky enough to find swimsuit top that matched the Bass Bliss tail in color and texture pattern, and after buying it the only thing missing was an appropriate head-wear. Now that I have everything gathered, I’m hoping that next summer I can have the whole costume photographed in a lakeside and look like that I had lived below the surface all my life :D.

Naturally I wanted my mermaid headpiece to match the concept of a “realistic Nordic part-fish” – it meant that the headpiece had to look like it was made from materials that one could find by a Finnish lakeside or in the waters. I struggled long with finding the appropriate fake flora, and only after a friend suggested trying out plastic aquarium plants I found the materials I needed. Art Nouveau is one of my all-time favorite art styles, so the headdress had to also include lots of pearls and fake flowers accordingly (which I luckily already owned). As a non-native English-speaker I had troubles with the terms ‘crown’ and ‘headdress’ and finally decided to settle for the latter as Art Nouveau crowns don’t usually look like traditional crowns but more like elaborate tiaras.

Like always when trying out something new, I used the techniques I had seen my idol Angela Clayton using in her blog and Youtube videos. So constructing-wise I own once more many thanks to her. The base of this mermaid headdress is made of bendable wire just like her many bonnets and other headpieces.

Below you can see some of the supplies used in the making of the piece – plastic aquarium plants, ribbon, pliers and wire cutters, strings of plastic pearls and a clam pendant.

The base is wire just as I stated before. The shape of the headdress was achieved by bending and trying on as many times as needed until I was satisfied. The ends of the wire were wrapped around the back-most arc to strengthen the shape. The wire that I had at hand was not the strongest, so I made the base with two rounds of it.

After the shape was good, I covered it with green and brown ribbon. I would have liked to use green all around, but sadly I didn’t have enough. The back arc got almost entirely covered by fake flora later on, so in the end it luckily didn’t matter that much. The ribbon was secured with the same hot glue that was used on the guinea pig cage, and this time around too, I again burned my fingers with working with it. Sometimes you just don’t learn.

I had two types of fake flowers that I could use for the ear parts – don’t ask me why, but headpieces in Art Nouveau almost all the time have something large to cover the ears. To keep the color scheme coherent I went for the yellow flowers that I had used earlier in my Moana Mickey ears. (Feels so good to link back to my old posts, there’s little need to buy new when you have so much materials already at hand.)

Speaking of weird ear parts, Art Nouveau headdresses also have frequently something across or down the forehead as well. The pink plastic pearls seen on the first picture were used for the purpose. I had had them lying around for a long time since the string was actually a broken handle from a toy jewelry box I had ~20 years ago. The miscellaneous gilded clam pendant was tied to the center of it to create a point of focus.

Gluing fake flowers and branches of plastic seaweed on the base of the headdress was so hectic that I don’t have any pictures from during but only after. I cut pieces of my fake flora and arranged them as flatteringly as possible on each side of the piece. Lots of glue was needed not only behind the flowers, but evenly throughout the whole lengths of the branches too. What I didn’t see coming but could have predicted, was the translucent plastic seaweed melting under the heat of the hot glue and because of that, it needed extra support for staying in place during cooling.

The little white flowers are leftover paper flowers with wire from some other crafting project. This headdress got so much recycled materials in it that I’m extra thrilled!

The fake flora was secured to the back arc, so the front got special embellishments of its own. The turquoise glass gemstone was a gift from my pen-pal (greetings to Elina if you’re reading this!), so it had a righteous place as the main eye-catcher of the piece. It was hot glued onto the center of the front arc and got more fake pearls to its both sides.

At this point the forehead string of pearls was wrung into its place as it had jump rings at its both ends. Next to the points were it was attached to, I glued on more fake pearls and glass stones.

As the clam pendant was only tied onto the string, I made it more durable by covering the knot in glue. Hence this weird spool under it in the picture below. Yes, I could have done it earlier when drying would have been easier, but rational thinking works sometimes slowly when you’re on a crafting roll.

I liked how the headdress looked so far, but it was still missing something. After playing around with materials I decided to make one more extra string of pearls go behind the back of head. This green string of pearls was also recycled from broken jewelry, but was by miracle all glass beads so it was perfect by its weight to cascade down the hair.

I cut pieces from the remains of my fake flora and arranged them into nice little eye-catching details unevenly onto the string of pearls. If this project taught me anything, it’s that even small number of materials can be turned into a large variety if they’re cut into small enough pieces.

You can guess how hard it was to create the “sea-weed flowers” seen below as they were from the translucent plastic seaweed that was too easily melted…

I also realized at this point that the ear flowers needed some sort of points of focus, so I cut more pieces from the excess of my fake flora and glued them to the centers. I had two types of plants so I made two types of centers for more visual interest!

I’ve seen some Art Nouveau headdresses have something hanging below the parts that cover ears, so more recycled jewelry went into the project : this time they were unused bead bracelets that were glued underneath the flowers.

In all its simpleness, that was everything that there was to its making! I’m really happy and proud of the headdress as I feel I’ve never before done anything as magical and ethereally beautiful before. I’ve already had a friend saying that I could have made a crown for her bridal ensemble if she had known me at the time of their wedding, and that is the highest amount of praise I can imagine!

What I’m excited about the most is how I got the piece to be at the same time symmetrical just like traditional Art Nouveau headdresses and still asymmetric and visually interesting. Definitely fit for a Finnish lake mermaid queen!

Now’s the time for worn photos as much as I dare to show my face!

A view from the left side. I was taking these pictures myself, so you can guess there weren’t that many successful shots to choose from. The right side view will have to wait until I have a proper photographer available.

And lastly here’s the back. I’ve fallen in love with this back string of pearls, I’m really happy that I came up with adding it in!

So “that’s all folks” as Bugs Bunny used to say. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this post popularity-wise as there are not that many Art Nouveau headdress tutorials online, at least according to Google. This could fill a needed gap in fellow crafters’ resources!

I’ll get back to blogging hopefully soon!


Posted in Sewing and crafting

How we built our table-top guinea pig cage with transparent walls

This blog post is a lesson for those of you who’d like to learn what things to consider when building a table-top guinea pig cage like ours, and to others it’s a tragic comedy about many things going horribly wrong when you’re unsure about what you’re doing (spoiler alert: all mistakes were somehow fixed, no matter how difficult). In other words I’m today sharing with you the behind-the-scenes of our new guinea pig cage that was built last June (i.e. almost 9 months ago). Considering how nerve-wrecking the process was, this will remain the only carpentry related post I’m ever going to write, and because of that it will go into the Sewing and crafting category even if it doesn’t actually belong there.

The story how me and ex-boyfriend decided to build a guinea pig cage ourselves goes back into the beginning of 2019, when Töyhtis injured one of her hind toes apparently while using the staircase their cage then had. Their cage at the time was a two storey plastic cage with metallic bars and a wooden ramp connecting the two levels. I had been happy with it, and I think the girls had loved it too, but Töyhtis’s on-off sneezing had already made us ponder a cage option with fleece bedding, so the accident was kind of a last straw that started the designing and building process. (Mind you, it was still the first time something leading to an injury ever happened, and keeping my piggies safe and protected is the most important thing to me in the whole world, so comments bashing any kinds of appropriate cages will be deleted, okay?) Many people out there use storage cubes to build a customized guinea pig cage, but those weren’t actually what we were aiming for aesthetically, so we decided to build one out of wood instead. The things we considered as a must for us were see-through walls and shelving underneath the piggie-loft (that’s what I actually think it is these days, a fancy loft :D). I had some help from my fellow IG piggie friends when sketching the design, and I think it would be wise to thank the lovely people behind finnpigs and parvapiggies for answering my dum questions and thus helping with the project. The mistakes we made were certainly not your fault!

Also before I begin going deeper into the construction, I want to state that I by no means am here to judge any pet owner who loves their animals and tends to them with all their heart. Plastic cages, storage cubes etc. cages are all fine when the one who’s taking care of guinea pigs (or any other rodent for that matter) has familiarized themselves with species-specific needs for a living environment (i.e. temperature, surface area, safe materials…) and sticks to them. Having said that I’d also like to advise you to get to know your native country’s regulation of animal welfare if you’re seriously planning on building a cage yourself one day.

(For Finnish-speaking people out there reading this, useful links for you are this (Suomen eläinsuojelulaki) and this (ideas for different styles of diy cages in Finnish). The post below will be written in Finnish once I get there, but it will take many months still.)

I remember putting the original blueprint we had made into recycling many months ago, thinking I didn’t need it anymore since it had been so many months since the cage itself had been finished. Looking back to it now, it would have been nice to include the sketch here, but what can you do… I already described the idea we had in the intro, but to recap it, we wanted to build a cage with transparent walls and shelves below the piggie area (and space underneath the shelves for easy vacuuming). What I didn’t already tell you, and was kind of important why we went for this model, was that we wanted to have the pigs living on our hip-level, so the cleaning would be more ergonomic on the long run. Also the finishing touches were something we pondered for a long while, since the finished cage is quite big and takes a lot of space in the living room.

When we get to the actual construction and its dilemmas, you might be reading it and thinking “why didn’t they make this easier for themselves by buying a table/drawer and simply attaching the walls to it?”. I need to answer you in advance that you could actually do so, but I’d advice you to pay attention to the finishing of the surface (potentially toxic chemicals to avoid, being waterproof is a plus) and sharpness of the edges. To get the walls right to the edge of the table the corners can’t be too rounded. Other than that it would be fine I think. But because we wanted certain height and two levels of open shelves, we thought we might just as well build the table too.

One thing I’d like say before we begin is that all this time I’ve referred to our piggie cage as having plexiglass walls, and only now as I’m writing this I’m finally doing my research to find out that plexiglass and polycarbonate sheets are two completely different things! So to correct my past self from IG, our cage has polycarbonate walls, not plexiglass. Polycarbonate is easier to manipulate than plexiglass and it doesn’t chip that easily when drilled (which were the reasons we used it by the way), but it’s also highly chemical resistant according Google. The things you learn!

Logically, the construction process began from building the table. If you’re more interested in attaching the polycarbonate walls, you will have to scroll ~20 pictures forward!

We got all our wood and other materials from a local hardware store. The boards and panels were all sawed to given measurements at the shop, which increased the price just a little, but saved us from a lot of trouble. The boards and panels were all Finnish pine, I remember my ex-bf explaining something about it’s qualities which were obviously good, but I just can’t remember exactly what they were.

After that massive wall of text of explaining what and why, we’re finally onto the first picture of the post! We started the construction with preparing the largest boards in summer 2019. Here’s the board that was turned into the table surface! It’s measurements are 60 cm x 160 cm and 2 cm for thickness.

We already knew at this point that we would be covering the top surface with lots of puppy pads and bath mats, but we still wanted to be sure of it not absorbing any pee to itself, so just to be sure we varnished the board with waterproof oil-based indoor varnishing. The piggies would never be actually in touch with the board, but still we picked up a can that said “pet-friendly”. Knowing more about chemistry than I did, my ex-bf was to one to make the choice, and if he still was here, he could explain more about the varnish in question but with me, this is all the information you’re going to get.

Prior to varnishing the sharpest edges were rounded just the slightest with sanding paper and dust was carefully wiped away.

You can’t see it in here, but remember to use respiratory protection if needed for varnishing!

We had and extra piece of board that was used for testing out the varnish and also the screws that we used later on when putting the table together.

Varnishing took a few days in total because it could only be done one side at the time, and eventually my ex-bf did two coats per side, allowing it to dry at every phase. For daytime the board was okay drying on the porch, but for nights we lifted it in the hall. When done, the table surface got a beautiful mahogany color.

The top-most shelf was made from identical board than the top itself, but prior to painting little rectangles were sawed away from the corners to allow room for table legs. We did the sawing ourselves without proper working equipment (just a hand saw and a person to hold the board still), so the cut-outs were not exactly even and that caused us issues later on…

The shelf board too was obviously sanded and wiped clean, and then spray-painted white.

Because we were so frustrated with the waiting the varnish had caused us, the whole shelf board was spray-painted at one sitting, and because of that some newspaper got stuck to the wet paint… Talking of cutting the corners, here doing so resulted in more work because the paper needed to be sanded away and painted again.

We bought the wood for the rest of the table the same summer, and sanded and painted them too, but still the next pictures are from summer 2020, one year later than the pictures seen above. In the time gap that was left between the previous picture and the next, we among other things moved to a new place, so the motivation to continue building was temporarily diminished. If you had the time, you could build the whole cage in less than two weeks, but I’m known for prolonging projects unacceptably long 😀

Anyhow, despite the time that had passed, I’m still continuing to present the panel pieces like nothing had happened. Below are the table legs ready and waiting to be assembled. These measure each 3 cm x 4,5 cm x 90 cm. They were spray-painted white too, as you can hopefully tell from the picture.

We had planned the lower shelf to be more airy, so it consists of rims that go between the table legs and pieces of panel that will be screwed onto them. The rim pieces measure 4 cm x 1,5 cm by 54 cm for shorter ones and 151 cm for longer ones. The pieces of panel that form the shelving area are from 1,5 cm thick and 9 cm wide plank that was sawed to 60 cm pieces (in total there are eight of them). All these were left unpainted and unvarnished (but were carefully sanded, though).

Now, if you’re planning on reading this post all the way to the end, I recommend you take a break here: go to the toilet or drink some water while you still can, because from now on the things are going to get exponentially more chaotic by the phase.

Are your ready? For sure? Okay, but remember that there’s no turning back anymore. The spoiler from the intro warned that many things went wrong at some point, and by some point I mean the Great Construction day that begins by the next picture.

We start very mildly by looking at the screws and other last-hand goods we got the evening before the Great Construction. Before heading to the store we counted the exact amount of screws needed and added a couple more to be sure. The galvanized screws came in many different sizes, and I can’t remember anymore how many there were and which sizes, but if you’re planning on recreating this you can hopefully figure those out on your own.

We had decided to use angle irons for securing the large boards to the table legs, so we got a bunch of those. I wanted to go fancy, so we got a pair of larger ornamented ones for the front of the cage.

We also got a tube of some sort of sealing paste that we had decided to use for the polycarbonate, but because the attempt was what it was I decided not to have a picture here for not ruining the brands reputation. More of that after have the table ready for walls!

We started the construction process by screwing the angle irons to both sides of each table leg. I remember the angle irons were to give the table stability because there were so many, and now after 9 months of use I can tell you they have done their job amazingly well.

The ornamented angle irons were impossible to attach with a screwdriver, so to get the screws straight we drilled tiny little holes for them to guide their direction when they were screwed on by hand.

Ta-dah! Neat and even! Oh how my eyes rest on this symmetry!

All the table legs were attached in the same manner, and so we had a promising start. At this point it was still before noon and we hadn’t had any setbacks.

Attaching the shelf board was more complicated, but we managed somehow by stacking thick books underneath the board and marking the desired height on each leg. The gap between the boards is 14 cm, just perfect for food bowls and small toys.

The chaos level increased here by one, as the angle irons were slightly less than 90 degrees. But by working together we beat those evil angles and got the board just were we wanted.

And in the next phase we encountered our first actual problem: the cut-out corners of the white board were not completely even so having them screwed on, the table legs pointed outward just the slightest. It was actually so minor that you could hardly see it, so we decided move onward. Plus, we were not going to undo the screwing and get back to sawing…

Which led us to our second increase in the trouble count. Next up we had to screw on the rim pieces for lower shelf area, but because the legs kept pointing outward and we had no appropriate workshop tools to keep them still, we kept drilling pass the points where were needed the screws to be. At first we had (stupidly) thought that we could drill both the short rims and the longer rims through the legs, but these failed attempts made the legs too holey for that.

In the end the short rims had screws going thorough the legs and the longer ones were attached by more angle irons. Of which, by the way, we didn’t have any extras, so we had to make a quick visit back to the hardware store we had just visited the night before.

Do you notice the felt pads I so nicely stuck on each leg! So proud!

The panel pieces were fairly easy to get evenly across the frame we had made in the previous step.

By subtracting the width of eight panels from the total length of the longer rim and dividing the number by nine, we got the width of spaces between the boards. I measured them, and as the man of the house my ex got to screw them on. Each panel had one screw at each end.

I feel obliged to say here that we tested the hold of the screws on scrap pieces of wood before actually screwing them on – we wanted to make sure they didn’t go all the way through but still were secure enough.

Things were going too smoothly to last, so to keep the trouble count going we decided to secure the structure of the table even more by screwing ones of the longer screws through the table board going down the middle of the legs. This didn’t obviously go well, and we ended up cracking one corner of the board, after which we gave up the idea completely. The crack was later on fixed when it was time to attach the polycarbonate walls.

And so the table was done and it looked quite stunning despite the little setbacks we had had and the aesthetical imperfections they had caused. What surprised us was that building a table is much more time-consuming than you would expect (at least when you’re not an expert). Even though we had started before noon it was around 6 p.m at this point, so we left attaching the walls for the next day.

If there are those of you who wanted to skip to the polycarbonate walls part, welcome back!

We had ordered the polycarbonate from a Finnish company online many months before the construction day. Funnily enough we happened to order ours at the same time as shops and the like in Finland had started to organize polycarbonate/plexiglass shields to protect their salespeople from covid, so the shipping took a little longer than it normally would have been. From the options available we chose a clear 5 mm thick polycarbonate sheet. We got four sheets in total, two for the longer sides and two for the shorter ones. The sheets measured 250 mm x 597 mm and 250 mm x 1588 mm (i.e. 25 cm for the height). We had planned the longer sheets would be supported by the shorter sheets, so one centimetre had to be removed from the longer ones for the sheets to overlap nicely. We also subtracted a few millimetres from the length of each sheet to insure they wouldn’t come past the table board.

So we started our second day of Great Construction by unboxing the polycarbonate sheets. I remember the day still as clearly as it had been yesterday, because the challenges that were to come would bypass the first day by every means possible… I’m not even exaggerating by saying it was one of the worst days of my life so far.

The sheets had protective plastic still on them as we started the work. Before attaching the sheets to the table, we needed to drill some holes for hanging water bottles/bowls and toys. Zip ties would later be threaded through to create usable loops, hence two drilled holes close to one another.

For the water bottle we had to drill diagonally into the sheet. We eventually got the hole to be on the same angle as the tip is on the water bottle, but this took many refining drills. The hole ended up being a little too low the the sheet, but we needed much space above it to get the handle attached too.

So far everything had gone quite smoothly, and it was only after we had peeled the protective plastic off and started to work on attaching them, that it went from a normal day to one from living hell.

You hopefully remember the sealing paste I mentioned when I went through the list of goods at the beginning of day one? That paste we had bought didn’t dry as quickly as we had hoped it would and was also a lot harder to remove than anything we had expected, so it increased the trouble count from 3 to 4. Or maybe to 100. You can decide for yourself after you have heard the whole story.

When I’m now looking back to it, I can see our first mistake in the attachment of the walls was that we didn’t have any external support for the sheets except our own hands and the paste. Secondly, we should have worn working gloves, but neither of us did. You can probably see where this is leading to, but pressing the paste onto the table and the sheets was really messy. The sealing paste was sticky but still drippy, and it wouldn’t hold the sheets in place no matter what. In the end we had to use our bare hands (yes you read correctly, BARE) to save the table from the dripping paste, which proved to be impossible to clean off. We had sticky fingerprints in the polycarbonate sheets that wouldn’t come off, which made us almost lose it, but the worst thing we came to find was that it didn’t wash away from our hands either :/ We tried everything we had available, and in the end rubbing alcohol and nail brush got the most of it off, but the cost of it was ugly edges of polycarbonate and dry-like-Sahara hands. In the following week the residues wore slowly off and we hid the ugliest edges behind our wooden guinea pig house, so nothing was permanently lost, but the memory is still very painful.

About few hours later when we had got our mental tranquility back, we made a new trip to the hardware store to find out another way to get the walls stick to the table. I can’t remember which of us got the idea, but we decided to go for hot glue next. At least it would settle fast! In addition of buying a kilo of hot glue sticks and a new, more powerful gun than our old crafting hot glue gun, we got also metal plates to have some external support for the sheets to stay upright.

Back at home we continued work by drilling the plates on at first. Short sides got one in the middle and longer ones had three spaced evenly.

Together the plates and the hot glue worked, and after a tedious hour or so we had proper walls to our cage. Obviously I couldn’t photograph while we were working on it, but the secret for a secure set-up was using lots of glue on inside and outside of each seam and pressing the glue even tighter against the surfaces while it was still very warm. It still makes me almost cry a little, thinking our poor paste-covered hands getting burned by the hot glue… 😦 This time we were wiser and wore gloves, but hot glue was quite hot still through the fabric.

I need to mention here that the crack that was formed in the board was coated with hot glue and thus fixed.

The holes in the plates approved to be quite handy! After gluing the bottom edge of the sheet to the table, we got the glue between the polycarbonate and the metal through them!

Even though it looked great at this point, we wanted to make the seams between polycarbonate sheets even more durable. Our girls have a tendency to lean against them to beg for snacks, so the more weight they would hold up, the better.

And talking of ugly sealing paste marks, here’s the part of the sheets that got the worst stain. This pic leaves me speechless in a bad way, but hopefully someone else too can learn from it…

We decided to secure the seams from outside by metal hinges. And to get them, surprisingly, we had to make one more trip to the hardware store… At this point we were a little embarrassed to keep coming back all the time, but the staff didn’t seem to mind.

Here are the hinges, two pairs per seam!

We hot glued the hinges on the same way we had done with the plates, i.e. through the holes in the metal. These were the last things we did construction-wise, so next it was time to clean those long ends that hot glue always leaves everywhere. We were especially careful to pick out everything we could form the inside of the seams to prevent the girls from eating it.

Then we lifted the new cage where the old one had been, and noticed that it wobbled horribly… Trouble count 5, isn’t it? We got the problem fixed by sticking a book under one of the legs, and it helped enormously.

Next it was time to decorate before we would let the girls explore their new home. Even if we used waterproof varnish on the table, we still wanted to protect it as well as we could from pee. (For those of you who do not know, guinea pigs can’t be potty trained. They go to the toilet mostly in the same place where they eat hay, so for that I have separate boxes filled with wood shavings and chips. Happily the most pee goes into the boxes!) To protect the board we have a layer of puppy pads, fleece blanket folded in half and 2 bath mats. The mats get changed every third day, and fleece and training pads whenever needed. So far we have had no pee accidents reach the table board!

The handle of the water bottle was hot glued onto the outside of the polycarbonate. It holds still really well, but we have stopped filling the bottle as both the girls prefer drinking from bowls these days.

Our water bowls are stainless steel bowls that were actually meant to be used as food bowls for birds. They hang from a zip tie threaded through drilled holes on the polycarbonate.

Here’s a look on the cage straight after the first time decorating it on the day of construction! The shelves lack the toys and such in the pic, but it was still just the way we had imagined it!

The girls got to move in the same day, and they were so excited! They still popcorn every time after cleaning when they get to go back to their very own loft. The height of the walls has been perfect, the girls can stretch themselves to lift their paws on the wall, but they have never been in danger to popcorn or jump over it. I remember the first day they were a little perplexed about the new walls being transparent, but they overcame it quite quickly. We observed the girls throughout the first day and I even slept on the couch the first night, and because their zoomies made the cage wobble more, me propped the table with two leftover panels. They were meant to be a temporary solution, but as time went on and we broke up with my ex, they ended up staying permanently.

It was only after the move in December 2020 that I figured out how to fix the wobbly problem for good. These days the cage is rid of the supporting book and the panels, all because I was smart enough to push the table legs straight against the wall! The last thing that I added on my own two months ago was a self-adherent hook to hang the brush I clean the hay boxes with to one of the table legs.

Here’s the finished cage in all its glory!

Writing this behind-the-scenes post makes me even more proud than I have been to have built the cage all by ourselves. Sure it’s not the quality you get from the stores, but it’s original and suites my home perfectly.

The total cost of the cage was somewhere around 500 euros, which is definitely a lot but considering how much the girls have loved it and how easy it has been to clean, it’s still worth all the money, sweat, blood and tears that went into it (and even those sticky hands!). Now that I’ve explained everything construction-wise, I’ll give you readers room to ask questions if you happen to have any. Just please remember to keep the conversation nice and polite!

My last words here are the usual: thank you for your time and interest if you made it this far! Having someone actually read what I have to share means a lot to me!

Best wishes, Essi

Posted in General stuff

Opening day of my Finnish crafting blog!

Hi my dear readers!

This is the day! I’ve finally after long preparations published Finnish version of Dust and fabrics and am now a proud owner of two blogs! The new site can be found here if you’re interested to take a look. We’ll see in the long run how crazy running two sites will make me :D.

With excitement and party mood,

Essi V.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on
Posted in General stuff

Visual update to the blog!

Hello my readers and Happy new year!

As you can see, I have made it to the point where I have updated the layout of Dust and fabrics to match the new soon launching Finnish version. Hopefully in the few weeks to come the translated blog will be out there available to you Finnish-speaking online friends I have. Currently I’m editing new images to cheer up the new blog just as well this old one. The new blog will have a different navigation menu, which I hope to import here, too! What this means is there will probably be links that don’t work for a while, but I hope to deal with the chaos as soon as possible. I’m really excited to get this site visually more pleasing, for the last update I made for the layout was from fall 2016! About time to change things little, don’t you think?

For future nostalgia, here’s a screenshot of the old style. I almost forgot to take it the morning I changed the theme!

Apart from blogging, I want to say that the move went well and now there’s only one week left until the beginning of my Ph.D studies. The spring seems full of possibilities at the moment!


Posted in General stuff

Exciting announcement and plans for 2021!

I will be taking a small break from blogging over the holidays, as I’m once again moving. I have been moving twice in a row the past two Christmases, but this time however, I’m moving because I got into graduate school in Turku and will begin working there in January! I’m so happy to get back to the academic world, perhaps the research work will strengthen my creative aspirations that have been running low this past autumn.

Another big change that’s coming next year, is that I’m starting a parallel blog to this one! The new blog will have the same content as the one you’re currently reading, but only in Finnish. As I’m opening the new blog, Dust and fabrics is going to go through some updates in layout and graphics so that the new site and this one will match.

Photo by cottonbro on

As I’m feeling overwhelmed by the coming move, I’m not going to edit any photos for this announcement post, as fun as it would be. Instead I happened to find this pic in Pexels, so I’m using it as it perfectly describes my lack of energy and the abundance of cardboard boxes in my living room!

Have a safe Christmas and peaceful new year!


Posted in Sewing and crafting

Paw print ornaments with salt dough

Ever since I got my guinea pigs in 2017, I’ve been planning on crafting some sort of keepsake with their paw prints, as because all of you know pets won’t live forever. This autumn younger of my piggies, Töyhtis, got seriously ill, and booking the operation she went to made me realize I should make my plans into reality rather sooner than later. I searched online for ideas and came across salt dough paw print ornaments, which I ended up crafting, but none of the tutorials I found were made for piggie paw prints or any kind of rodent’s to that matter. Apparently cats and dogs still rule the pet fandom! Like with my last post, I figured the lack of rodent-friendly salt dough ornament tutorials was a need I could fulfill, so I ended up writing this post while I’m still working on that huge DIY article on our new guinea pig cage. I hope some of you find this topic useful or even interesting at the least!

So any further intros set aside, I’m today presenting you these paw print ornaments that I made back in September. Because they were so easy to make, I made a whole dozen of them to have plenty of extras in the case of future cracking or breaking. One ornament measures approximately 4 x 5 cm, so they’re just the perfect size to hang on a Christmas tree for example, but they could of course be used to decorate anything else, too. For the ornaments I googled a salt dough recipe, so I’m not going to include one here. I have a feeling the portions of salt and flour were equal with a little splash of warm water.

The texts already available online had instructions for taking a paw print of cats and dogs, but none on rodents. Luckily, as a guinea pig owner I could figure out answers on my own to questions that arose during the crafting. I think the biggest problem with rodents compared to larger mammals is that their little mouths are closer to dough during the printing process, so one needs to be more careful with not letting them taste it. Salt dough is not poisonous at least for humans, as you all most likely know, but for small animals even smaller portions of dough include relatively large amounts of salt, so it’s best not to let them have any.

My piggies were a little startled when I had them place their paws on the flattened dough, Sade as a good girl held still but Töyhtis was more of a trouble to get a good paw print of. Before taking the paw prints I made sure the skin on their paws was intact just in case, as salt could cause irritation, and afterwards I wiped their paws with damp cloth to remove any possible residues.

I found it easiest to take many paw prints on a sheet of dough further apart from each other, and only afterwards cutting them into smaller ornaments. Reasons for this were: one, it eliminated the problem to have the paw print placed on the center of a ready-cut piece of dough (piggies were not all the time quite co-operative), and two, it reduced the pressures to get a perfect print as failed attempts were discarded. For minimalistic style I cut the paw prints to squares and rectangles, and after cutting them out I pierced a hole for attaching the loops after baking.

I remember the baking took surprisingly long. At first I followed the instructions I had, but after 45 minutes the dough was still fairly soft (I had an excess piece in the oven that I could wring to test its durance), so I ended up leaving the ornaments in the oven for almost an hour and a half.

I marked initials to recognize which print was from which guinea pig!

I had leftover satin ribbons from my Amidala’s Tatooine poncho cosplay that I could use for creating hanging loops for the ornaments after they had cooled down. I liked the natural feel to them, so I left them as they were, but like many others have done before me, I could have decorated them with paint or finish them with a coating.

The ones I made will be used as Christmas tree ornaments this year. Also some of them will find their ways into Christmas gift boxes… Family and friends, be on the lookout!

I’m happy I have finally made these. Thank heavens Töyhtis survived the operation and we hopefully have many years left with both of the girls, but when the time comes, I have a copy of their paw prints also on somewhere else than my heart to keep <3.

That was all for today! Thanks for stopping by!


Posted in Art and thoughts

Easy way to help minimize ear lobe stretching with heavy jewelry

A fellow reader commented on my Tangle slime earring tutorial last year that I could easily prevent ear lobe stretching by sticking tape to the backs of my ears when wearing extremely heavy earrings. I was interested in the idea and tried it. To my surprise it worked out so well, that I wanted to share my experience online here with all of you! When I was pondering whether or not I should try it, I didn’t find any articles on the subject but only stores selling earring supports in the U.S.. If you live out of the United States like myself and don’t want to go ordering those items on international shipping or are just looking for an easy way to protect your ear lobes, keep on reading!

Beauty tips are not something I do on a regular basis, but as this information was lacking online, I decided to do an exception and write this little post on heavy earrings.

I remember a decade ago stretching earrings were a trend, but that seems to have passed by now. I never was into it because stretching of the lobes is permanent and the thought of that gave me chills. However I was, and I always have been into big colorful earrings, which could do the same damage over the course of continuing usage even though they are not meant for actual stretching. My granny has been wearing heavy stone earrings for almost all her life I think, and now her ear lobes seem lacy… I’m more than eager to do what I can that I won’t go the same way as her.

Below you can see me wearing one of my favorite earrings without tape, and the stretching they cause is clearly visible.

The friendly reader who pushed me into correct direction didn’t specify what kind of tape I should use, but as I wanted the maximum hold and minimum skin irritation, and opted for kinesiology tape (or elastic therapeutic tape as some sites refer to it as). The tape in question came as a roll of many meters, so it lasts for perhaps all of my life. Not bad for 7 euros! Kinesiology tapes come in many different colors, but naturally I chose the color closest to my skin, which was a good choice because in many cases the tape pieces are not completely hidden.

When I want to wear my heavy earrings, I cut two pieces about the size of my fingernail and stick them to the backs of my ear lobes. The difficult part is to get the tape in the correct spot: ideally the hook would go through the middle of the tape so the weight would spread evenly. Another challenge is to prevent hair from getting caught in the tape, but tying it on a pony during taping helps a lot!

Ah, the precision is perfect with this one…

I have found the earring hooks go through the tape extremely easy, and they never have left glue to them. When placed perfectly, the tapes are not seen, but sometimes they peek on the sides. If it happens so bad it bothers me, I have to replace the pieces completely as they don’t stick to skin again once they are removed.

Below you can see how invisible the tape is when placed perfectly, and how the tape affects the lobes.

For better comparison, here are before and after images next to each other. Looks promising, doesn’t it? The difference can be felt as well, but for that you have to count on me until you try it out yourself.

Even though the tape helps to prevent ear lobe stretching, I still never wear heavy earrings two days in a row. Letting the lobes rest does good, as does making sure the big earrings are not caught on anything when worn.

That’s all for this evening, I signing off and heading maybe to watch one more episode of Lilo and Stitch. Thank you for stopping by today!


Posted in General stuff

Thank you to my followers via bloglovin’!

I thought I’d take a moment to write a special thanks to my bloglovin’ followers, for there are quite many of you and it was only recently I realized you exist! The notifications had gone to a different folder in my email than I expected them to go, so you can realize how happy I was to found several dozens of you at once 😀 (virtual wave!)

It was around the same time I discovered you that I also found out some of my editing choices don’t show correctly on phone version. I feel like mentioning it, because I’ve come to find a writing style that suits me and I really wish the correct tone of voice could be heard through text no matter what device you readers use… Anyways, now you know if something makes less sense than it normally would, that might be the reason to it (for example, in my latest post there’s a missing cross outline).

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

I’ve come to end a secret project that I can’t talk about just yet, but what it means is that I have much more time to dedicate to photo editing and writing than what I’ve had since yearly spring 2020. The long awaited Cinderella bodice is a current WIP, so its making will hopefully also get the progress it deserves. The piggie cage set-up tutorial that I mentioned in the summer is still in the writing, but I’ll keep you updated on it! (Lastly, a special thanks to Johannes Plenio whose pic was royalty-free to use to cheer up this otherwise all-text-post. The view where I live is just like it, but I couldn’t just capture its beauty myself.)

Posted in General stuff

Happy 4th blogiversary to Dust and fabrics!

This year I’m finally on time, what an accomplishment! Yeeeeaa that obviously didn’t end up happening, once again. I started to write this summary post as early as in April, so I was convinced this year I would be all done before the big day on May 30th. Thinking about it now, it might not be that big of a day after all as I’ve gotten used to continuously write and edit something new. At first these look-back posts felt like the climax of my being here, but nowadays these blogiversary texts are probably interesting only to me as I blog so little. I guess I still will be continuing the tradition into the future. We’ll see.

So, welcome to my blog if you’re a new reader, and welcome back if you somehow already know about my idealistic dreams to run a successful crafting blog. To the new readers out there, these anniversary text posts sum up my projects from the just ended blogging year and contain some spoilers about what’s to come in the year to follow.

It’s been a tradition of mine to bake muffins for every anniversary this blog has had. This year I settled for ready-made muffins.


In the 3rd blogiversary post I wrote that I hopefully would be able to post regularly this year, and somehow I was able to live up to that, or at least on some degree. Three texts scattered evenly throughout the year is better than what I did during my third year here, but still it’s less than what I would like to achieve. This year I got out the Cinderella skirt post I had been long dreaming about, and also described the making processes of Tangle slime earrings and Golden snitch ornaments. For me it’s hard to pick a favorite out of the three.

During May 2019 -May 2020 I finished more projects than the one that made it here (earrings were the only one: skirt and ornaments were made long before I even started to blog). The crafts that weren’t included got little images of themselves to my Instagram account at essivashti. Among other things I sewed two t-shirts and a morning robe, baked Teemo cake and drew cards for few selected colleagues. I understand now better than ever why Instagram is so popular, for it’s easier and so much faster to share mainly visual content with minimal text, but at the same time it makes me sad how even the best posts are buried there so quickly under a wave of new material. I’m definitely not the only one suffering from it, but the algorithm loads huge pressures on oneself to post quality stuff often, and it sucks the fun out of updating quite effectively because good content takes time (hence the reason I’m still blogging and not completely on IG!). Also, having two IG accounts at the same time is not something I would recommend as it doubles the stress (the other one is for my guinea pig pics at twotinypiggies).


Before I started to blog myself, I noticed many of my favorite bloggers going silent or reducing drastically the rate of posting after a few years and I kept wondering why. It seems that I’ve gone the same route and now that I’m there myself, I can say the reason for it is probably that it’s very draining to blog actively (and sew/craft actively) whilst working full-time. One hypothesis I have, is that high quality bloggers are drawn to professions that include some kind of writing, and writing for work kills the motivation to write as a hobby. I don’t know for sure about that though, but gut feeling is strong! Someone could make a Gallup so we could find out the truth 😀

As these summary texts provide more space than usual for pondering the philosophical sides of creativity, have any of you ever felt the continuous flow of fresh ideas as a double-edged sword? As household chores and the said full-time work take up almost all of the week schedule, there just isn’t time to turn the ideas into reality. Then what follows, at least for me, is that the gathering pile of unfulfilled crafting dreams won’t leave my conscious mind alone until they have taken some kind of concrete form in this world. Usually I feel like I can’t do even that and then the crushing amount of ideas drains me of my motivation and I have even less energy for anything! It’s like a vicious cycle I can’t break and on the other hand don’t even want to because the ideas and creative thinking are what makes life worth living.

This spring I bought an ice cream maker and for while I dreamed of starting my own ice cream blog… It would have been called “Essin tölöt”, but I’m better off running only this one site 😀 The ice cream above is sea buck-thorn flavored.

The fifth year of Dust and fabrics has already begun, but nevertheless I’d like to share a little about what’s to come. My bf and I built a guinea pig cage at the beginning of June and I photographed the whole process, so writing a tutorial on that is my next go-to topic. I also already finished a knit sweater that I had been working on for the last 6,5 years, which really is something to be proud of even if that doesn’t get its own post! Like the previous years, I plan on sewing the Cinderella skirt a matching bodice and photographing the whole ensemble. Fingers crossed I’ll have time for it now and get it posted before next years anniversary. I also plan on sewing everyday wear such as regular tees and a couple of skirts, but considering the time and energy available some of those won’t be happening just now. I still dream of writing about my Padmé homestead poncho from Star wars II and sharing the technique with 3D crocus appliques, both of which I first mentioned many years ago and still haven’t done. Oh well!



I think that’s enough mismatched ramblings for today. I used to share some facts about my written articles in general as a part of these sum-ups, but I have nothing new to add to what I stated year ago. The DIY Bulbasaur jar tutorial still seems to bring people here, and I still haven’t written anything as massive as the Deadpool jumpsuit post. Those two will probably forever be my top achievements online.

Thank you very much for stopping by! Now I’m off to editing those pictures for a guinea pig cage tutorial!


Posted in Sewing and crafting

Two different kinds of Golden snitch ornaments from recycled materials (beginner’s DIY tutorial)

Today I’m taking you with me on a time travel to seven and a half years ago. That was when I made my first DIY tutorial that got posted online! I’m been thinking over and over again whether or not I want to publish this old Christmas-themed tutorial in my blog now that I have one, and last Christmas I finally decided to go for it but our moving to a new apartment made it so that I got time to write it only in January and then came all the hassle with corona virus and then it was suddenly April! I’m either very late or very early to post Christmas content but a creative mind has to do what inspires it, right?

The 2012 me didn’t know how to properly edit pictures, so some of these are not of the quality I’m proud of, but never mind. In my defense I have to say my cameras were quite low quality back then :’). I made these tutorials for a Christmas event on the Finnish Harry Potter fan forum Vuotis and it was so well received that a part of me believes there will be at least few readers who find it interesting now in 2020.

This tutorial shows two different kinds of golden snitch ornaments, a wet-felted one and a glittery one. The glittery one looks more festive, so I store with Christmas decorations and hang it only on our Christmas tree every year. The felted-one is more casual-looking, so it hangs from a doorknob to make our living room look more whimsical throughout the year.


As the title says this is a DIY tutorial, even more than the ones I’ve been writing for quite a while. What makes this more tutorial-y, is that the first picture shows all the materials together before the first step! One the right you can see materials for the first option, wet-felted snitch, and on the left for the second, the glittery one. Wet-felted snitch uses golf ball as its base. For felting you need wool, soap and water. Its wings were made from white felt, so needless to say, this option requires needle and thread for assembling.The glittery snitch requires hot glue, a plastic sheet (I used lid from a food package), acrylic paints, a brush, regular wood glue and glitter (d’ah!). The glitter snitch was made from that light hollow ball that they use on roll-on deodorants.

Oh and by the way, scissors are useful to have around when crafting either one, but you probably knew it without even mentioning!

Option 1: Wet-felted golden snitch

I might not be the best person to describe in fullest detail how wet felting works, but in short, tufts of wool are made to shrink and their fibers stick together by rubbing them together with warm water and soap. It’s possible to felt a ball from just wool, but I chose to felt my snitch on a golf ball so that the ready-made ornament would have a weight to it. Also it requires less wool that way!

So, the first step was to wrap a thin layer of wool around the ball, wetting it thoroughly and start rubbing it with soapy hands.


Because it’s quite hard to make the wool stay in place while you’re felting it, I cut the toe part off of a no-good-to-use-anymore panty hose, placed the ball into it and continued the process that way (the sock keeps the wool pressed firmly to the ball and makes felting faster). Every time each layer was good, I added a little more wool.


I continued adding more layers until the ball had grown few centimeters in every direction. For the last layer I added a very thin layer of light brown: it makes the yellow glow in a gilded way.

When the felting was all done, it was very important to rinse out all soap and let it dry completely before sewing the wings on. I can’t remember exactly, but the drying time was more than a full day, maybe 48 hours?

For size reference, here’s the felted ball next to a golf ball.

While the ball was drying, it was time for making the wings. I drew a wing shape by hand, traced it four times on a sturdy white felt and cut the pieces out.


The next step was sewing two pieces together to form one wing. You could do this by hand, but it’s faster and the end result is more even when done with machine, so I chose to go that way. Wide black satin stitch emphasizes the edges and gives a cartoony look, which I like, but you could of course use any other color or stitch width as well.


When the felt ball was all dry, the wings were sewn on by hand. I used the same thread as in the previous step, so the stitches became almost invisible.


The last thing to do was to create a loop from heavy-duty thread and sewing it on the snitch. I was able to hide the ends completely by tucking them under the knot – the photo below shows a neat trick on how to prevent the area under the knot from becoming a total mess: between every stitch I pulled the needle out from a distance and poked it back in from almost the same spot. In addition to distributing the stitches to a wider area it makes the attachment more durable by securing the loop to a larger amount of felt.


In all it’s glory that was everything that there was to make a wet-felted golden snitch. Simple, but effective! (For final look scroll to the end.)


Option 2: Glittery golden snitch

The glittery snitch is in its way more fun to make but also much messier. The wet-felted option ended with attaching the loop, but the glittery one begins with it. The loop comes in handy when we’re later dipping the ball to glitter!

So obviously, the first step with this option was making a loop from heavy-duty thread. I preferred tying the ends of a folded strand together with (three times knotted) overhand knot, but you could of course use any other types of knots as well.

The loop was by the way made in the same way for felted snitch as described in here!

The loop was then hot glued to the deodorant ball. I made sure to immerse the knot and the ends in glue so that the final result would be neater. The ends that you can see popping out below were cut off before the next step, which was preparing the glitter.


The glitters that I had were all plain one-colored powders, which looked really dull on their own and that really bugged me. I remember scrolling through the net for ideas and then I found a tip from somewhere that said combining many different colors of glitters is worth trying, so I did just that and at what result! 😮 If you’re ever using glitter, I highly recommend trying mixing a few! For the snitch I mixed gold, copper, yellow and white iridescent glitters into one and I think the color I got was just right!

For mixing the glitters I used a clean yogurt cup as you might have already noticed.

To coat the ball I first covered it with wood glue (also the hot glue part) and then carefully placed into the cup. Next I covered the top of the cup with the palm of my hand and gave it a shake! Such easy, much beautiful.


After I had hanged the ball to dry it was again time to make some wings. This time I drew the shape on a paper and then traced it twice on a lid of a used food package (if you’re recreating this, remember to cut right and left versions!). The wings were then cut out and the colored side was painted white with a hint of light blue on the edges. The interior of the wings were left unpainted.


When the paint on the wings and the glue on the ball had dried, they were hot glued together. (If you’re crafting this there on the other side of the screen, I suggest you try and watch how the ball hangs on its own before deciding the place for wings.)


With that the glittery golden snitch was also finished, so now it’s time for a final picture! The photo below is the original finished product photo from 2012, so I wanted to use it here as well, but it’s so yellowy that it makes me want to cringe quite bad!


To end this tutorial I’m doing something I’ve seldom done here: asking you some questions! 😀 What are your opinions on these crafted versions of golden snitches? Harry Potter fan pages are packed with tutorials like this so you’ve probably seen something similar before, but did I perhaps add any knowledge to your crafting methodology? Would you be interested in making these yourself one day?


It’s been so long since I made these ornaments that I can’t anymore remember where the inspiration came from. I’m still happy that I made them, and writing this made me want to pursue my plan with the rest of the wool I have lying around: wet-felted slippers in the style of Van Gough’s Starry night! I have all the materials needed but my energy levels are continually so low that I can’t start the work (also the long-planned Cinderella ball gown bodice is waiting to be sewn, but let’s not discuss that topic any further or I’ll start developing anxiety whether I ever finish it or not). I have also more those deodorant-balls that would be really cool to turn into glittery Mickey/Minnie Mouse ornaments! We’ll see when I manage to craft them, because one day I will.

Thanks for dropping by! We’ll get back to it hopefully soon!