Saturday, January 30, 2010

A New Year--January 2010 Bead Journal Project

My January Bead Journal page has been completed. And, yes, I did edit my improvisation. If you look two posts below, you can see what the page looked like before I edited it. I'm pleased with the changes.

I had decided to do a page about the new year. I started with the assumption that I would use white beads--clean, fresh and pure. A new start. But then I realized that none of us start a new year without bringing our pasts along. The new year is colored and shaded and toned by the previous years, even before it starts. While we may not be able to erase those previous years, we can use our crayons and markers and paints to change the appearance of the past years.

What I mean exactly is that by the way we think about and talk to ourselves about the past, we can change the way we see it. We can change the way the past affects us. In fact, we can actually change our brains--physically--by the way we talk to ourselves.

And so if we can change our brains, it was fitting that I change or edit my improvisation.

Since I would be entering the new year with both the richness and the detritus of the past, white would not do. Ecru was my color of choice. Included with the ecru is a tiny bit of grey and some not-quite-pink. Not-quite-pink has a great deal of meaning for me. If you want to know more about it, read this post and this post, which contains the entire rant.

Technical Details:

The foundation is Lacy's Stiff Stuff painted with titian buff acrylic paint.

The beads are 6/0s, 8/0s, 11/0s and 15/0s. There are some drop beads, bugles, triangles, hexes, and three larger beads.

It's almost entirely sewn with the backstitch, but there some beads sewn on with the stop stitch. There are three rows of a twisty stitch, two tight and one taller. I don't know the name of this stitch, as I saw it in a Japanese beading book.

The beaded page is 2.5 inches high and 3.5 inches wide.

I'm not exactly sure what kind of thread I used. It looks and feels and sews like Nymo, but the tiny print on the bobbin says Belding Corticelli. I got several bobbins of it at The Dumpster Diving Place for 10 cents each. They were dirty, so I had to throw out the first layer of thread.

What I Was Thinking:

I found ecru to be a very pleasant color to work with. It's tranquil and relaxing, and there are a surprising number of variations. About halfway through the page, I found myself thinking, "This is pretty. 2010 will be a pretty year." I was a happy beader, and I could embrace and cherish the things that make my new year ecru instead of pure white.

And now for the editing business: First, thanks to everyone who offered feedback, encouragement, and suggestions in response to my question about editing improvisational work. As the page neared completion, I felt the diagonal lines on the left side weighing the page down. Weighing my year down. I decided I could take action to prevent that. So I edited my page the same way I try to remember to edit my thoughts. I didn't erase it; I edited it.

Issues that Came Up:

I had a terrible time deciding what size to make my pages this year, so I decided to go with a 2.75 inch square, the same as last year. I cut the Stiff Stuff, painted it, and basted the outline on the Stuff. When it came time to stitch, I couldn't do it. I needed a new size for a new year. A rectangle 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches fit on the already cut piece of Stuff. So that was it.

Every time I use acrylic paint on fabric or Stiff Stuff, I am reminded that it makes the fabric or Stiff Stuff harder to needle. You'd think I could remember that.

Thread Update:
According to this website, Belding Corticelli makes Nymo thread.

I'm excited about starting my February page next week. I've already picked out the colors, and this afternoon I'll paint the Stiff Stuff. But this time, I'll dilute the paint first.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Old Is This Zipper?

I have a lot of zippers. More than I need to last a lifetime. A fair number of those zippers are more than 30 years old.

From 1969 to 1978, we lived in Meadville, Pennsylvania. At that time the headquarters of Talon was in Meadville, and Meadville was known as "The Home of the Hookless Fastener." Talon was a (the?) major zipper producer in the US, and one of our neighbors was an engineer at Talon. At the factory, there apparently was a box of not-quite-perfect zippers, and employees were allowed to take what they needed. Our neighbors knew that I sewed, and the engineer would bring me reject zippers from time to time. These zippers were perfectly functional. There might be a misweave in the zipper tape or the zipper stop might be put on backwards. Occasionally the color of the teeth did not match the color of the tape. These zippers were not packaged. I have a pretty good group of unpackaged zippers.

I also have a nice collection of packaged zippers from the last millennium, and this zipper is one of them. Some of them were mine to start with, some came from my mother's stash, and some came from thrift stores. I don't know exactly how old this zipper is, but there are a few clues that a zipper detective could use to find out.

Look at the top picture. This zipper is priced at 50 cents. It's a bargain! Today a 12 inch zipper would cost more than three times as much. You wouldn't even need a zipper detective to determine when a 12 inch zipper cost 50 cents. All you would need would be an economist and/or a statistician and information about the rate of inflation. If you are one of those persons, go for it! When did this kind of zipper cost 50 cents?

Look at the next picture. The package says that the coils are two continuous nylon coils, and there is a warning printed on the zipper tape about using a hot iron. I don't remember ever seeing this warning on a zipper tape before, but I don't think that means the zipper is a new-fangled 21st century item. Today polyester is used instead of nylon in zippers. I know I shouldn't use a very hot iron on these zippers, but I don't pay much attention to my iron temperature. I've never melted a zipper.

The last picture explains that the zipper is "Magically Self-Healing." This was a new concept when the nylon coil zippers first came out. Anyone who has tried to repair a metal zipper and ended up using rude language understands the appeal of magical self-healing. Note also that the second numbered point says strong. This is also important. Some of the early nylon coil zippers were magically self-splitting.

So how old is this zipper? Late 60s or early 70s?

Want to know more about this history of the zipper (and who wouldn't)? Check out this American Heritage article by Robert Friedel. After you read it, you may qualify as a zipper detective.

This zipper, whatever its age, is going into a pair of khaki slacks.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Editing an Improvisation

Can an improvisational work be edited? If it is edited, is it still improvisational?

The work in question is my January Bead Journal page, as pictured. Maybe it's done, and maybe it's not done.

It's improvisational bead embroidery--embroidery done without a plan. It develops as it is stitched, until the page is covered. The page is now covered, and the question is whether or not it can be edited and revised--ripped out and re-stitched--and still maintain the character of improvisation.

My considerations:
1. The page does not look balanced to me. I can visualize a couple of changes that would improve the page. After the eighth grade, anything I've learned about art has come from books. I don't have a natural feel for what would be balanced and what wouldn't. So when I improvise, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.

2. The unbalanced page conveys a different impression than what I was feeling and thinking as I stitched it. That leaves me mildly annoyed. It's not a true journal of this month. Or is it? (The meaning of this page will be revealed later.)

3. I am perfectly comfortable ripping stuff out. Lots of stuff. I personally believe that every needleworker should have a seam ripper in every room. I have six seam rippers. That leaves the bathrooms without seam rippers, which I think is probably ok. If I had all the thread I have ripped out rolled into a ball, it would squish quite a number of people when it rolled down a hill.

4. I already ripped out some beads. But that was before the page was covered. Can I rip out more now that it may be finished?

So here's the deal. Nothing is going to happen this morning. Later in the day, maybe. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Everything I Know About Football I Learned from the Wall Street Journal

In order to be a Highly Qualified Grandma, I need to know about football. My two grandsons are probably the biggest football fans in the entire world. Ok, so they're not that big (kindergarten and second grade), but their fan-ishness knows no limit. The older one has been trying to teach me to throw a spiral for a couple of years. So far he has not been successful. They both quiz me about team colors, mascots, and quarterbacks.

So I've had to take the Wall Street Journal's short course in Football for Grandmas. And this is what I've learned:

1. Quarterbacks are the handsomest players, if facial symmetry is equivalent to handsomeness. Check it out.
2. After a football team changes its logo to look fiercer, it wins more games. Note: The new logo has not helped the Detroit Lions in any way worth thinking about. (But Matt Stafford is handsome for a kid.)
3. Statistically, going for it on fourth down pays off in points.
4. Losing the last one or two games of the season does not bode well for a team during the playoffs. The Colts forgot to read this article.
5. Peyton Manning may be the best quarterback ever. Maybe even better than Johnny Unitas.
6. The blitz is the trendiest move in football. But it can be a bad idea when playing against the Colts.
7. The Vikings built their team by aggressively recruiting elite and free agent players with potential to meet specific needs. And paying big money. And going after old, frequently retired quarterbacks. (Brett Farve is handsome for an old guy.)
8. During a typical 174 minute broadcast of a football game, the football is in play for approximately 11 minutes.

You'd better have your knitting handy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

January Bead Journal--A Start

I've got a good start on mu January Bead Journal Page, but it's not turning out like I expected. After making a public statement that it would be 2.75 inches by 2.75 inches, the same size as last year, I changed my mind. I'm going to make the pages 3.5 inches wide by 2.5 inches high.

There isn't any particular reason for this size, except that it fit on the pieces of Stiff Stuff I cut when I was going to do the pages in a 2.75 inch square. I just found that when I started to sew, I felt a strong need to do something different than last year.

And a new size fits with my January theme, which is a meditation on what a new start in a new year means. I'll post more about that when I finish the piece.

When I visualized an almost entirely ecru piece, this is not what I imagined. But so far, I like it very much. I found that working with these ecru beads is quite different than working with the white beads that are on the Snow Princess in the post below. Interesting...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Snow Princess Doll Complete!

Meet the Snow Princess! She was completed yesterday. Next week she will be adopted by her new parents, who support children and families through a regional, private, not-for-profit social service agency.

The Snow Princess is five inches tall and nearly four inches from fingertip to fingertip. Her bead-encrusted front is fabric backed by lightweight fusible interfacing. It was beaded flat. The Snow Princess has between 30 and 35 different kinds of beads and a sterling silver heart.

Her back is the same fabric painted with a mixture of Pearl White Lumiere and some sparkly craft paint. After the beading was complete, the front and back were stitched together by hand. She was then stuffed, and a picot edging and some hair were added. She has a ribbon so she can be hung on a Christmas tree. She also has a little fabric bag to stay in when she is not on display.

I think the Snow Princess will love her new family!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fitting Pants Is a Pain in the

place where the pants are supposed to fit.

I've been working on the pants with the pickpocket-proof pocket. Although I had to reinvent the pocket, it went together well. The front zipper also went in smoothly. The front was done.

Then I made the pants backs. Darts. That's about it.

The moment of truth: Sewing the front and back legs together. Sewing the crotch seam.

The trouble always starts here. They didn't fit. AARGH!!!!

In 2006 I perfected the perfect pants pattern. Then as a result of my exercise program, I lost some hip fluff. So last year I readjusted the pattern. I was sure it would fit (I haven't changed size.) but I was confused by the notes on the pattern pieces. They listed slacks made in my less svelte period. Was this last year's pattern? Or an old one? If it was the old one, where in the world was the new pattern? Dumb questions. It was the old one. Time for the adjustments to begin.

Just last week my Co-Granny asked if I made all my slacks. I make nearly all of them. If I have a good pattern, I can make pants that fit faster than I can find pants that fit in a store. But I need my good pattern, which apparently is now located in Someplace Else.

Now I'm not a really weird size, but I am short. There's no sense in euphemisms. I'm shorter than petite, but my weight is in the right range for my height.

Honestly, I don't think that many women who are in my age group--older than Barbie--have an easy time finding pants that fit well. A couple of years ago, the Renegade Militant Seamstresses drafted pants patterns using the directions from a Nationally Known Sewing Instructor. The process involved stripping down to our skivvies, taking numerous measurements, doing complicated mathematics, drawing with yardsticks and T-squares on large sheets of paper taped together, and laughing a lot. I think one of the seamstresses came out with a usable pattern. Who knows where the rest of us went wrong? Measuring, calculating, drawing? The only thing to do was to laugh some more.

I wasn't laughing that much last night, but I've got the situation under control today. I adjusted all the darts, the side seams, the crotch seam, the leg width, and just about anything else that could be adjusted. More than once. Now I'm ready for the waistband and belt loops.

These pants are intended to have a relaxed fit, to leave room for the pickpocket-proof pocket to hold what a pickpocket might want to pick. I'll put elastic in the waistband so there is a little give and attach a loop to hold my pedometer on.

I've got to rework the pattern. Because fitting pants is a pain in the patootie!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hanging Around With Friends!

My four little dolls are hanging around with their friends.

Little Greeny is the oldest of the dolls, at nearly a year. You can find more information about her here.

The red one was the second one of these started but the last one finished. That would be finished yesterday. You can read more about her here and here. She doesn't have a name yet, so suggestions are welcome. And here's a close-up of her.

Blue Moonstone is a round robin birthstone doll. All that beautiful and complex beading? Three other people did it. I was stunned and amazed by the finished doll when it arrived home. You can see how I started to make her here and here.

If you read the first post link about the Blue Moonstone, you'll see why I had to make Miss Peachy. She was finished just before Christmas.

Now it's on to other projects--a pair of black slacks with a pickpocket-proof pocket. The pocket has a hidden zipper compartment. A nefarious individual would have to get his or her hand pretty far down into my pocket to get ahold of the zipper pull. There is another secret pocket hanging down on the inside for my passport. I made another pair of pants with a pickpocket-proof pocket a couple of years ago. I didn't write down how I did it, so I had to re-invent the process. I vowed that I would write down the steps this time. Oops! Forgot to do that. But I did write down how I changed the pattern (made smaller) when I cut out the slacks. Sure hope they fit...

*Note: I am not paranoid. We're taking a trip to Spain, and there are lots of warnings about pickpockets.

And then there's my January BJP page.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Peach Doll #2--Miss Peachy

I finished Miss Peachy before Christmas, but in the midst of all the festivities, I did not have the time to post about her. So here she is:

And here's her back:

Faithful readers will remember that the poor little thing has had her problems, necessitating a heart transplant and a complete facial reconstruction, as described here.

She's doing well now, hanging around with some new friends.

A little over a year ago I made a doll in a similar color. Her name was Not Quite Pink. You can see her here. Not Quite Pink was beaded on only the front. I beaded the fabric, sewed the front and back together by hand, stuffed her, and put on a picot edging. She was sold so I needed to make a new doll.

Miss Peachy, as you can see, is beaded front and back. I fused some lightweight interfacing to the fabric, stitched the front and back together, stuffed her and beaded like crazy, using a curved needle. Except when she needed Major Surgery. (And for all of you who were wondering, I DID wash my hands before I performed the heart transplant and the facial reconstruction. You will not read about me in today's New England Journal of Medicine.)

I have two other little dolls nearly finished. One of them is Red, as shown here. She's been waiting for her back and stuffing for nearly a year. The other one is white, and it will be a gift.

If you want to see my other dolls, you can find them here.