Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Bunny Did It!

Last spring my youthful assistants helped me plant some petunias near the patio. The are experienced gardeners and very helpful boys.

They completely took over watering the little plants. Fortunately, the kindergarten and the preschool class had both recently visited the fire station. So the boys knew exactly how to hold the hose. "Just like the firefighters hold the hose, " said the younger one.

The petunias bloomed prolifically, despite my neglect. They were filled with flowers all summer long.

But a few weeks ago, we saw a bunny hiding in the petunias. We love to watch the bunnies in our yard. But we thought that this was not a very good home for a little bunny. After a few days, we noticed that the bunny had taken care of all the petunias. Bad bunny! Please move to a different home!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

September 2.0, A Spirit Doll

I decided to make a Spirit Doll for a dear friend. This is my first attempt at a Spirit Doll, and I was a little uncertain about starting it. But the emotion driving the process helped to push aside any doubts. Regardless of the quality of the final product, my friend will understand the meaning.

The doll will be just under 6 inches tall and 4.25 inches at the widest point--the outstretched arms. As far as the shape goes, I just kept sketching until I came up with a shape that I liked. I folded the paper in half and cut out the pattern so that it would be symmetrical. Then in a moment of planning ahead brilliance that seldom occurs, I traced the pattern on to cardboard so that I could save it to use again.

I am using fabric basted to paper, as you can see below. I had trouble seeing my basting stitches on the front side of the fabric so I drew an outline with wash away fabric marker about 3/8 inch outside the basting stitches. You can see that outline in the top photo.
For the past few days, I've been waiting for inspiration about how to handle the "face." I don't want it to look like a face, or a pseudo-face, or a cyclops, or a gargoyle. I'd just like a bead pattern. I guess the only way is to get started and keep the scissors and seam ripper nearby.

This is the first time I've done a project this large on paper. Pushing the needle through the paper certainly is easier on the arthritic knuckles than pushing it through Stiff Stuff or interfacing. But I was surprised that weight of the beads caused the part of the beaded fabric and paper not in my hands to flop so much. (Excuse: It's been a long time since I took physics.) I found I had to adjust how I was holding the thing.

I don't think it will be finished by Tuesday, but I'll keep working on it till it's ready to give.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Big Birthday Bash!

It was the Big 0-1! And a fantabulous birthday celebration was held! James, the Birthday Boy, was in great form, enjoying all the people to play with, crawling after the balls, and pushing the new truck. Ah, to be one-year-old!

This is the Birthday Banner I made for James. It shows James wading in the lake during the All Together Week in July. Unlike his cousins, James loved the water. All he needed was someone to hold onto his hands, and off he went! Splash! Splash! Splash! It was pretty darn cute!

James has an unusual decoration in his room. The wall of painted onsies. These were made at the baby shower in the summer of 2007. His grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were the artists. The Jackson Pollock look-alike in the middle was done by his then three-and-a-half year old cousin.

The highlight of the party was the sour cream chocolate cake. We had been promised the "requisite frosting in the hair," but who knew it would be like this? After a first tentative fistful, James decided he liked chocolate. Really liked it. It was good enough that he didn't mind us taking pictures or laughing. He just kept eating. And then smearing. On the face. In the hair. In the ears.

This is the result--the boy with werewolf eyebrows. Don't worry, Mom! It all comes off in the bathtub.

Happy Birthday, James!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Wall Street Journal

Not the Bead Journal...

I was recently gifted with a subscription to the Wall Street Journal (Thanks, Bro!) in conjunction with my recent academic promotion. (Thanks, again!) It certainly has been an interesting few weeks to read this paper. A few observations follow:

1. I am not as dumb as I look. I am amazed at how much I can understand in the Wall Street Journal. And this is without ever having taken Econ 101! I take it as proof that the old brain is still functioning, very good news. How much of what I've read do I remember? That wasn't the question.

2. My new glasses really are that great! And I mean the bifocal part. The WSJ is printed in a considerably smaller font than our local paper and I am having no trouble reading it. I attribute the difference in font size to the difference in audience (draw your own conclusions) and the difference in amount of information each paper wants to share (again, draw your own conclusions). As far as the glasses go, I told my ophthalmologist that I did a lot of needlework, and since my arms were fairly short that I was holding it closer to my face than the average reading distance. He made the appropriate modification in my prescription. Now I can see!

3. There have been two WSJ articles recently about Bloomington, Indiana, where some of my favorite people live. The first was about the number of Eastern prep school students enrolling at IU. Apparently it can be a culture shock. I understand that. Bloomington is not Ann Arbor or Madison or even Northfield, Minnesota. But it's a very nice town. The second article was about Bloomington as a great retirement location. That sounds good, too, especially with some of my favorite people on the local entertainment committee. The article, however, did not mention the major drawback to Bloomington as a retirement location. That is the lack of a fabric store that sells good quality fashion fabric--the fabric you use to make clothing. Every town needs a store like that. Or two. And a really good bead store.

4. What's with all the ads for fancy men's shoes? Or maybe I should say fancy shoes for men. Sneakers, Rockports, even Birkenstocks, these are manly shoes in the Midwest. Who buys Belgian shoes? Besides Belgians. Maybe I should check out the website.

5. There are no ads for high-heeled, peep-toe pumps. Is that a political statement? A feminist statement? A fashion statement? Or has the Wall Street Journal been taken over by a group of activist podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons? One wonders...

6. And in some of the latest news, well hidden on a back page, information that a hockey fan can subscribe to live streaming NHL action. $169 per season.

And now back to our regularly scheduled beading.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Renegade Militant Seamstresses

The Renegade Militant Seamstresses met yesterday to start on their raw edge collage sweatshirt jackets.
We'll finish at our October gathering.

This is a lively, enthusiastic group with lots of creative ideas they are willing to share.

Since we were at first to have only one session to work together, I prepared three pages of instructions and four pages of extremely artistic diagrams. Watch out, Leonardo!

Writing up the instructions was made easier with the magic of spell check which found all the places I had inadvertently typed "swearshirt." Freud is looking into this situation.

These are some pictures of the works in progress.

You can see the differences in fabrics and colors the Seamstresses chose.

Sometimes we just needed a little caffeine.

Not quite so classic black and white:

Everyone has a month of homework before we come back in October to finish the jackets.

To see the intended result, look at some of my earlier posts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

St. Gregory's Abbey

Yesterday I went to St. Gregory's Abbey with members of the GR sewing guild. Seven monks live at this Episcopal Benedictine Abbey near Three Rivers.

They have quite a collection of beautifully decorated vestments. The monk who is in charge of them was very generous in showing us the amazing items.

The first three pictures are of a stole from the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The embroidery is all done in various metallic threads. The intricacy of the stitching is unbelievable. The metallic threads have tarnished and dulled over time, and you can see that the silk fabric is quite frayed. Still it was quite something to see.

The other pieces we saw are much more modern--from the 20th century. Most of the elaborate embroidery was done by one person, Sister Scholastica, who is now deceased.

The photos are primarily from stoles and chasubles which are worn at different times in the church calendar.

Enjoy the pictures! And does anyone know the trick to getting the photos to be oriented in the right direction? I figured out that they always go with the longer way vertical and the shorter way horizontal. Is there a way to work with this?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Beaded Pin

To the long list of things I don't know how to do, add the way to get this picture horizontal. AARGH!

If you want to get a better look at the pin-in-progress, lie down with your head to the right and look at it sideways. Pretend the curve is on the top and the straight edge is on the bottom.

I've now finished the picot stitch all the way around the top, attaching the ultrasuede backing to the pin. Next I will add some beaded fringe to the bottom. Then I will sew the pin back on--and I will sew it on so that the pin hangs the right way!

In the photo, the beads look more blue than they do in reality. It actually is a very dark pin, with differences in sparkle and shape showing rather than differences in color. Although the blue is nice, too.

And I'm still working on the photography part. I have learned about the macro mode (Is it a mode?) on the camera and I've played with flash and no flash. Now if we had some sun, I could try that, too.

I'd like to sign the back of the pin, but I haven't found anything that doesn't seem to rub off ultrasuede. Any suggestions?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Project Progress

I'm making progress on the raw edge collage sweatshirt jacket. After preparing the sweatshirt and cutting the fabric pieces, I placed them randomly on the sweatshirt front and back. After a little bit of rearranging and removing most of the pieces with a lot of white, I pinned the patches on the sweatshirt.

That's where I got stuck. I had used all my straight pins on the front and the back and had none left to pin the patches on the sleeves. Now the other time I did this, I used glue stick to attach the patches to the sweatshirt. I didn't think that worked too well. The more I handled the sweatshirt, the more the patches came off. Glue stick doesn't hold up well to the stretching of the foundation fabric. So I resorted to pins. This time I started with pins, but I didn't have enough for the entire sweatshirt.

I decided to go ahead and zigzag around all the patches on the front and the back before starting on the sleeves. Zigzagging around these patches is not the most exciting part of the project. It took several hours to do the front and several more hours to do the back.

Then I pinned the patches on the sleeves and started sewing them on. It's a couple of hours per sleeve. I just have a little more to do on the second sleeve.

I'm pleased with the combination of fabrics. Many of them came from Northcott Fabric's Quest for the Cure collection for several different years. I'm glad I took the whiter patches off.

I just have to get this finished enough for Thursday's meeting of the Renegade Militant Seamstresses. I think I'm going to have to go to the fabric store to get some sweatshirt fabric to make some small step-by-step prototypes.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A New Project

I'm working on a new project, or maybe I should say another project. It's a replica of this raw edge collage sweatshirt jacket I made in 2004. I've had more comments on this jacket than on anything else I've made. I've even been stalked while wearing it! Ok, maybe stalking is too strong a word for someone following me around in a fabric store or a quilt show...

All this for what was kind of a "throw away" project. I just wanted to figure out how these things were made so I went at it. And the collar, which seems to be of such interest, was made using the "Necessity is the Mother of Invention" method.

This is what the surface of the jacket looks like:

Anyway, I agreed to show the Renegade Militant Seamstresses how to make one, so I am making what will be a partially completed example.

The trick has been to remember how I made the first jacket it so I can put together a handout. I'm pleased to say that I am remembering more than I expected.

I'm making the new one in blue. Here are the fabrics:

You can see the blue color of the base sweatshirt on the lower center to right edge. I got it at 80% off in the men's department of a chain store. Must have been too girly a color to sell...

Now I'm arranging my patches on the sweatshirt. The first major decision point is what to do with the fabrics that have a lot of white. They look awfully white on the sweatshirt. At this point, I think I will take them off and substitute ones with more blue.

And then what to do with the already cut patches I won't use? Another project?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Shepherd's Rug

Letty Klein and Ann Brown, authors of The Shepherd's Rug, presented a workshop using the technique to make small mug rugs. At right are some of their larger rugs.

We braided wool roving and then sewed the braid with waxed linen thread into a circle to make the mug rug or hot pad. It was surprisingly easy. We have the option of felting these mug rugs or leaving them as is.

The roving we used was from many different kinds of sheep, as if I knew the difference...

The brown roving I used had a tendency to pull apart. Letty told me that was because it had some buffalo hair? fur? fleece? in it. And in case you're wondering, I do know that buffalo are not sheep.

Here is my mug rug:

Letty and Ann and their friend Janice were on their way to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. Letty and Ann were going to teach a two-day workshop on making a shepherd's rug that would be about two-feet by three-feet.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

September's Project Completed!

I finished September's BJP project. Starting early, working small, and using relatively large beads are some of the reasons I'm done so soon.

Technical details:
I used Lacy's Stiff Stuff as the foundation. Because I didn't want to work on white Stuff, I sprayed both sides of the Stiff Stuff with Memories Mist in yellow and brown. I found it on clearance in the scrapbooking department of one of the large chain craft stores. It is permanent when heat set, and, as far as I can tell, it doesn't change the hand of the fabric.

The size of the piece is 2.75" by 2.75".

The large beads are amber chips from a child's necklace I got in Vilnius, Lithuania, last September. The amber chips are 1/4 to 3/8 inch across. I hadn't worked with so many large beads before. They take up a lot of space fast! I didn't want any of the other beads to compete with the amber so most of the rest of the beads are 11/0 and 15/0. There are a few bugles and 8/0 beads.

What I Was Thinking:

I was thinking about our trip and about sand dunes. The dunes in Lithuania are a World Heritage Site. We have plenty of dunes on Lake Michigan so they are a familiar sight. I wanted to show the layers in the sand as it moves. (OK, so I was also thinking about how excited I was at being part of the BJP group.)

Issues That Came Up:
  • Did I choose a format that is too small? Should I do another beaded project for September? A larger one?
  • The Stiff Stuff drew in more than I expected as I added more and more beads, and some of the beaded rows buckled. How can I reduce the thread induced shrinkage? Or remember to leave a little breathing space between beads? Or at least remember not to pull the thread so tight?
  • Should I try a different stabilizer? Perhaps paper under fabric, which I liked a lot when I used it. My knuckles can get awfully sore from pushing the needle through anything heavy.
  • How can I improve my photography of shiny things?
Now I'm ready to start a new project, but I'm not sure if it will be September 2.0 or October or something unrelated.

Monday, September 1, 2008

September's Project

For my September BJP project, I thought back to this time last year when we were in Lithuania. Amber was everywhere--in the jewelry shops, in the souvenir stores, and in all the street stalls. It was beautiful.

But I wanted beads, not jewelry. I couldn't find any. We even found a bead store in Vilnius, and the clerks looked confused when I asked if they had any amber beads. (No, it wasn't a language problem.)

After several days in Vilnius, I was pretty determined that I was going to find some amber for bead embroidery. Amber beads would be a great memento of the trip, and easy to take back home because they were unbreakable and lightweight. But I didn't want very many beads and I didn't want to pay too much. I finally decided that a necklace of amber chips would do. I could deconstruct it without guilt.

I looked a little more closely at the necklaces and discovered that a 28-inch necklace has a lot of amber chips. Way too many! Then I found a small child's necklace. Just right for my purposes. The amber chips are quite small, 1/4 to 3/8 inch, all the better for embroidery.

These are the amber chips from the little necklace:

If you look closely, you can see the price tag still attached. 10 litas or about $4.00.

The other beads I am using with the amber are here:

This is the tray I work from, with it on my lap and my feet up on the footstool. Usually there aren't so many beads on it all at once.

I started early so my September project is nearly complete. Just another couple of days will do it.

And for those thinking of going to Lithuania or the other Baltic nations, it was a great trip.