Sunday, March 03, 2013

On the Mannequin - Wild Fibers Wrap

There's a new date for the silent art auction that I'm participating in, so I'm now pacing myself in the completion of the quilt that will be donated...

The focus I needed for the project is there. It hit me like the brick, probably because I'm one of those people who HATE guns and war. It's because I'm a mom. It's because I've watched videos of the parents of the little boy whose name I have been given. Maybe it's a blessing that I have more time to complete the piece. It was hard to focus on anything else important. I've dug out the crochet hooks and a lot of wild fibers...and learned how to do a granny square.

Here are some photos of the "wild fibers wrap" so far...I was going to stitch the squares together. Nah. Buttons? Maybe, but then I remembered the wooden rings I had stashed away. one of the detail photos, you can see one of them (covered in silk roving). 

Some of the wild fibers - some dupioni silk and panne velvet, cut into 1/2 inch strips...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A New Quilt in Honor of a Little Boy

I have been given an incredible gift! It's challenging, because it's been quite awhile since I've worked on anything that is representational and that I've had to reach deep down inside my soul to create a piece. In the past, I have used serious medical conditions of my own and others, political rants, and an occasional commission that has rocked my artful world...

The Rockford Area Arts Council, htttps/,
along with Rockford College,
and the Rockford School District 205, invited local artists to donate a piece of art for a silent auction coming up on March 16th. The artwork and all funds from the winning bids will be gifted to the Newtown, Connetticut School District. Hanging alongside the professional artwork at the auction will be pieces created by local students, and the names of the 26 victims. 

As one of the invited artists, I could donate one of my finished quilts, but that's TOO easy. Who knows, maybe since that credit card commercial where the woman climbs to the top of that peak, and you hear the lyrics, "Somebody left the gate open..." struck me (okay, slapped me in the face), I've been furiously journaling! Didn't know why, but this feels right - hmmm...the commercial and the journaling started about a week before the invitation came.

I have been given the name of one of the little boys who was murdered. I have watched videos with his parents talking about him, one of which his mother talks about a dream in which their dear, sweet son comes to her, telling her it's okay. They have set up a fund in his name to help build a new community center in Newtown.

The art quilt that I'm working on will have a large "fractured"sun appliqued on it. The sun has 26 fabric strips in it, and 26 wild rays streaming from it. I've decided this time to cut the background for the sky into 7 pieces, and quilt them individually, then hand stitch them together. I've been asking friends to give me a word that comes to mind when they think about what makes a community work together. MORE WORDS NEEDED!!!

Jotted down in my journal: the colors green and white, the numbers 7 and 26, the little fish in the movie "Nemo," community. healing.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Inspired Felt Buttons

So in the process of cutting circles of wool felt for buttons...I became bored.

Even knowing that I would be attaching these to some upcoming nuno-felted pieces with beads, other buttons, and some perle cotton didn't help...I was not inspired!

I had gone through all my containers of smaller felt pieces looking for ones that were at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. If the piece wasn't big enough for at least 3 buttons, back in the container it went. Okay, the plain red ones, the plain fuchsia ones, the plain ochre ones...
Wait, what are these narrow multi-color pieces? They're not wide enough for circles, but what if I cut them into narrow strips (mine were about a half an inch wide), put a little glue on them and rolled them up like a pinwheel? Pin them until they're dry. Oh, yeah!
It was pretty easy to get that look! 
These started out with 2 or 3 different wool yarns (feltable) that I single crocheted into squares or rectangles.  Any completed size will do as long as you remember that the squares or other shape will felt down to about 1/2 of the original size.  If you think about how the crochet stitch is created, you'll understand how the interesting circular patterns in the discs appear even after felting. Wow. I like. I think I'm going to need a lot of pieces that need closures for this fall's collection of "Of Wool and Silk Bondage" wearables...

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Back in the Studio?

It's discipline. It's working through life's little annoyances. Some days it's Facebook. It's S.A.D.S...
How many times have you heard this from me? 

Well it's now April, and this week I have finally finished some crocheted purses that I've been working on all winter.  To help the calm, I would cut strips of different fabrics, tie them together, then crochet them into this interesting shape for the purses.  As listed on my Etsy site, these are not your grandmother's crocheted bags!

I dug into fabrics in the basement, my closet for "never to be worn again, too small or too big" clothes that I've made over the years that are still pretty cool, and some that I got at the store.  I've even hit the resale shops for old purses and belts that I could upcycle.

I must have 12 that are crocheted and are waiting for linings and handles.  In the past 4 days I have finished 6 of them.  All photographed, except the black one that refused to show up well in the shots.  Anyone have any ideas what might work? All I manage to get is a black blob with no detail of the stitches. Detail shots are fine...     
Here's a few of them!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Propping up the Fire

Yes, I now can peel carrots while watching the 4th season of "Mad Men."

Santa brought Jeff and I a Kindle Fire for Christmas and even though I have a pool of the Kindle Cozies that I've made to store it in, I also wanted a case that when opened, would hold the Fire in place and prop it up at an angle for viewing while doing something else (idle hands, eh?)

It wasn't too difficult to design, since I had made a custom iPad cover for our Pastor Sandi a few months ago. This one just needed an extra flap with an extra button so I could close it.

I used a piece of "Lexus" (really nice) vinyl that I got at the store and some black corduroy. Jeff will be using it too, you know, so I couldn't go girlie on this one!

I'm thinking about marketing a few of them on my Etsy page - what do you think?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

For Those Quick Gifts

The "Make It and Take It" at the store today was inspiring!

Even though our Jo-Ann's is not an education store, we do participate in the company's "Make It and Take It" demos, and most of the time, I get to lead them.  Today's offering involved making spiral paper ornaments, using one of the holiday Martha "You-Know-Who's" paper cutting template and cutter.

If you remember cutting out paper snowflakes as a child, then you'll understand...the template is triangular in shape, a top and bottom to it with a hinge, and it has all these grooves in it to accomodate the little hand held cutter.  You just guide the cutter through the grooves, open it up and take the paper out.  You then fold the opposite edges together and glue each one.  Open it up and you're done! Hmmm...

Since I'm more of a fabric then paper gal, I started thinking that if I took one of the completed paper ones home, I could make them out of fabric.  Hmmm...

Using Christmas prints, heavy duty Wonder Under and some two-sided fabric tape, this is what I came up with - so, when I hear "Dear, do you have any little artsy/crafty things I can give as gifts? I forgot I need a little something for so-and-so and that other person." "Yes, my love. It will cost you a kiss, and a promise to do some laundry (or other fun chore).

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mixed Media Shopping - In the Studio

The excitement builds as I shop in my own studio for supplies.

Getting ready to start another collection of art pieces involves the gathering of stuff - you know...well, I might use this, so I'll put it somewhere close by so I won't forget it. One of the things that I get so charged up about is finding that stuff that you did forget about.  So it's almost like shopping, right?
Here I have a small basket of fabrics and some of my pre-felted wool pieces, a container of mixed media papers, a heart-shaped box with felted bits, small crocheted flowers and trims, and to the right, a containter with beads and other embellishments. I am ready to go!

I have always been in love with the "Woman in Repose" rubber stamp, and have used it in so many different projects for the past 5 years.  Wanting to create a collection of brooches with that image on them, but wanting it a little smaller definately presented a challenge...the only thing I could think of was to take a extreme close-up photo of the stamp and save it on the computer. After a few tries, I finally got it to the right size and resolution that would work for me.  I printed 9 of them in B&W on one sheet of Transfer Artists' Paper, then ironed them onto white Kona cotton.  What's so amazing about "TAP" is that you can add color to the transfer afterwards if you want.  For the color, I used Adirondack alcohol inks, and then blotting with a q-tip and their blending solution, I was able to lighten the colors. I mounted the small images onto 2 pieces of very heavy cardstock, centering them so I'd have the area around the images for creative play!

Here's a shot of the first one...I've surrounded "her" with some faux suede and am deciding on just the right embellishments.

Along with 23 felted flower brooches that I've finished, I'll be showing these and "setting up shop" at our local Coldwater Creek store on Sunday, November 27th in the afternoon.  If you remember from a few weeks ago, I was invited to exhibit at the store for "Art at the Creek" - if you're an artist and might be interested in participating, give your local store a call - it is a great venue!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

For Thread Heaven's Sake - A Pocket of Miracles

Sometimes an artist is just so clever...

I have always loved  Thread Heaven,
that great thread conditioner in the cute little blue box...since I have been using longer needles to stitch up my felted flower pins (see photos below), I was trying to come up with an idea to use a little bit of it without having to take all that miracle stuff out of it's container. I know it can get dirty from your fingers, and the conditioner itself picks up bits of fiber from your project, eventually leading to a clump of gray, fiber-filled gunk (which still does the job wonderfully, by the way).

 So here's what I came up with: I took 2 small pieces of fabric, 1 x 1 1/2 inches in size and scooped out a small quantity of Thread Heaven from the box.  I placed the conditioner in between the pieces of fabric, then stitched all around the edges.  Too boring by itself, I added a flower button and a bead.

It works beautifully!  When I draw my needle and thread through it, I use my thumb and forefinger to press down on the pocket as the thread makes it's way through.  It helps accomplish both tasks - conditions your thread, and removes any excess Thread Heaven on one layer of the fabric.

After creating my 30+ nuno-felted scarves for the Greenwich Art Fair, I had so many smaller pieces of merino pre-felts left.  Playing with some of the pieces one day and wanting to make some brooches,  I started manipulating the felt by twisting, cutting and wrapping it around itself.  Hmmm...these look like flowers, I think!  I put together about 10 of them for my gig at Coldwater Creek a few weeks ago, and they were a hit!

Now I'm out of pre-felts, so I crocheted a skein of roving yarn, felted it, then cut it into pieces and dyed them.  They turned out pretty thick, so these brooches are a little different, but I love the fact that they remind me of fireworks.  The dye didn't reach inside of the felt completely, but that's what makes these brooches unique - that explosion of color from the Fourth of July! You might notice a little sparkle in the green one..that's from a skein of olive green roving yarn that I also crocheted and felted, but I added a thin blue sparkle yarn to it. I have 24 of them in different stages of completion, all to be ready for my next "Art at the Creek" (Coldwater Creek store) event on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

 One more thing before I sign off for today...I just discovered last night at work that we now carry 100% wool felt on a bolt - it is $18.99 per yard, 36" wide, so I just got 1/3 yard to try.  I washed it to determine the shrinkage factor, and the results were what I expected: it shrank 50% in length, and 33% in width.  I blocked it last night, and will have enough for 4 more brooches...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where Have I Been Lately?

Life as we know it, right? A week after I last posted on this blog, I experienced a week from hell that I think I'm still recovering from.

*Dear Friend, I did what I said I'd do today- thanks for the inspiration!!!*

Let's of our cars bit the dust. A favorite aunt died.  Jason left for college in Vermont. Excrutiating phone calls to companies trying to fix their mistakes. Our beloved Elsa was hit by a car and died. And of course, a very upsetting experience that is still not resolved is the fact that a friend still owes me a $200 balance for an art quilt that I created for him - I could really use some advice on that one!!!

I really don't remember getting so much artwork done during that time, but I did.  I realize now in writing this is that I didn't enjoy the process. I was pushing to get ready for the Greenwich Art Fair, and I know that what I created was good, but I missed that joy that I usually experience...

A week after the art fair, I was heading off to Green Mountain College for their "Friends and Family Weekend." Wanting to save some money, I flew into Boston, then rented a car for the trek across Massachusetts, then north to Poultney, Vermont.  Never having traveled that part of the country, I got lost big time.  The drive that should have been around 3 hours took me almost 6!  It was dark, there was road construction, and it was raining. I never made it to my booked motel and ended up staying somewhere else for the night.

The next morning I headed off to Green Mountain, and was never so excited than when I saw my son standing outside the main entrance to the campus with a huge smile on his face!  We had a fantastic weekend and were able to just sit and talk for hours - that was the best part...

Since then, I have been working at the store and it is now the crazy time of the year for retail, so when you visit your local Jo-Ann's store, be patient and kind to all the team members.

What else, let's see...the Rockford Area Arts Council's Fall Artscene was fun this year - the Art@Emmanuel group hosted "Beyond the iCon," which is an exhibit of all things iconic.  I put together a 12x12 mixed media piece inspired by the "27 Club," and it included a word search puzzle in the center with all the musicians' names and other words pertaining to their lives.  I don't have a photo of it yet, so I will share one soon!  Marilyn Monroe and Elvis were also there...very iconic!

I was invited to be the featured artist at the local Coldwater Creek store last week.  They were wonderful to work with, and supplied me with any display items that I might have needed.  It was a wonderful venue, and they've asked me to come back, so I'm thinking about the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  They're calling it "Art at the Creek" and I was thrilled to be a part of it...

Also coming up will be a new venue for me as we get closer to the holidays.  There are a couple of wonderful groups that are promoting events in our downtown area - this sounds good to me as Jeff and I used to live downtown and still miss being a part of it. On the first weekend in December, there will be 2 art markets that both sound promising - I just have to decide which one will be a good fit for my artwork.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Violet and Wooley Tails

I love ripping silk yardage into strips, then knitting them...but what to do with those pieces?

Awhile back, a friend from church had given me a box full of mixed fabrics.  I reached for the silk first.  There was this 2 1/2 yard piece of fuchsia crushed silk that I knew would be nice in a scarf, so I overdyed it in violet and starting ripping, knotting, and knitting away.

I took some multi-colored wool yarn and made a crocheted chain out of the whole skein, then felted it in the washer.  I cut it into different lengths and tied the pieces on the scarf in a very random pattern.  Success!
 Here's the photo of the whole scarf.  I wish it was as good as the detail one, but you can see how cool it turned out.

I have 5 more knitted pieces to add tails to.  It was a cinch to "chain" full skeins of white wool yarn, then dye it along with my roving and chiffon fabric, which is usually the silk of choice for nuno-felters.

I love this look!   

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Upcycled Art Cloth?

It's been hanging in our livingroom for 2 years, wondering if I was going to do anything else with it.

 It's a piece called "From the Dark Earth" which I completed, I'm thinking, for one of our exhibits at Emmanuel. I started with some black cotton sateen to which I removed some of the black with discharge paste.  I  added color with Caran 'd Arche pastels, wanting to represent the crazy growth that I'd seen in a garden somewhere, and how pollen seems to fly everywhere in the spring (Jason sneezing). It's never been out in public since 2009, and I believe it's now screaming for more attention!  Aching to be quilted, perhaps, then mounted on canvas.

It could be a nice focal piece for the Greenwich Village Art Fair coming up next month here in Rockford. Yes, I'll go and get some wool batting at the store tomorrow, and make a plan to attack it with some major quilting lines.

On another note, I saw the new cardiologist last Friday, and was quite impressed with him.  He answered my questions and said that he thought I would be needing that valve replaced in 3-5 years.  I was relieved to hear that, although he does want me to get my knees done before that - "I want you to be feeling really good and in tip-top shape for the valve job!"  I'm now hoping that the less invasive "Core Valve System" that he said is soon to be approved by the FDA in the U.S.will work out for me, timing wise. I do need some further testing, starting out with a nuclear heart stress test (no treadmill, thank God, because of my knees). He's put me on a medication to calm the arrythmia down a bit, and Lipitor, which I guess is proving to delay the progression of aortic stenosis somewhat.

In the meantime, I'll be felting lots of scarves and planning my display for Greenwich, and hopefully working on a few more of my "Hands" series pieces also for the fair.  Oh, and one more thing...Jason has been accepted to Green Mountain College in Vermont, starting classes August 26th, so Jeff and I are helping him get ready to go.  Gulp, my baby...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Embroidered Beads and My Heart Valve

It's hard to imagine that it's been 15 years since I was diagnosed.

It was during a routine physical when the doctor asked if I knew I had a little heart murmur.  I told him that yes, I remembered when I was a teenager hearing my doctor telling my mom that, but it was nothing to worry about, that it would probably go away.  What went away then was the fear and that memory. Fifteeen years ago, I first visited a cardiologist who told me to have an echocardiogram every couple of years, take an antibiotic before certain medical procedures, and when I was older, I'd probably have to have that valve replaced, but by then, medical advances would assure me of having a much less invasive procedure done.  So, I was thinking, maybe when I'm 70 or 80...

About a month ago, my doctor recommended that I schedule an echo since I was complaining of fatigue. I did get it scheduled, but would have to wait a few weeks to have it done. A few days later, upon leaving a local hospital complex after having a mammogram, I was not feeling well.  A little chest pressure, some lightheadedness and a little shortness of breath.  Knowing that I hate emergency rooms, I headed for the local walk-in clinic.  The doctor there was concerned that I was having a heart attack, so he recommended I go to the ER. They said I had bronchitis, gave me an antibiotic and sent me home (all of this took almost 8 hours, you know).  I asked if they could do something to bump up my echo appointment, but they said there was nothing they could do about that, and to get on a waiting list.

The lack of patience in this patient is not a good thing. I started doing what a lot of artists would do: deal with it by creating art, and for me, pulling out more handwork.  I knew what I could work on would be some usually last minute embellishments for nuno felted scarves for the upcoming Greenwich Village Art Fair in September. I also took yards of silk fabrics that don't work for nuno-felting and started cutting them into strips, then knitting them into scarves with size 50 needles.  I've made 7 of those so far...

Getting back to my heart valve, the echo did show some changes and now, my aortic stenosis has been classified as "moderate" disease.  I think I know enough that this doesn't require valve surgery yet, but might involve medication and maybe some resriction on some activities. I'm seeing a new cardiologist who comes highly recommended by two friends.  I'm hoping to get an appointment set up with him today.

This did take a little time, but I wanted to share a tutorial on some of what I've been working on: embroidered pony beads.  Yes, there is something you can do with those little plastic kids' beads...
 Each of them take about 1 yard of perle cotton embroidery floss.  Thread an embroidery needle (size 18 or so), then insert the threaded needle through the hole in the bead.  Make a simple knot, leaving a few inches as a tail.  Keep wrapping the threaded needle around the bead, and with each pass of the floss closest to the first knot (I call that the "bottom"), insert the needle through the previous pass of floss and pull tight.  This will keep each pass (or stitch) tight and in place. The bead will hold about 30 stitches with size 5 perle cotton...You'll know when you can't pass the needle through the bead anymore. 
Finish the bead by knotting the two tails together.  Put a dab of fabric glue (like Unique Stitch or similiar) on the knot.  Wait for it to dry and make one more knot.  Clip the tails as close as possible.
These are great stacked on top of buttons...or add a bead on top.  I've also inserted them on  pearl floral pins with a little glue, pinned a few on some cool hand made paper and given them away as gifts.

Latest update on a new cardiologist - I have an appointment in 2 weeks with someone who specializes in valve disorders.  Keep a good thought. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Tale of Two Skirts

I think I had worn each of the two skirts once or twice. Loved the fabrics, just not sewn into skirts, I guess.

I needed to wait at the store after work last week for a few minutes, so I decided to sit at the pattern table and browse - Buttericks' were 1.99.  I found this funky sling bag pattern that I liked and though I'd get it and probably end up stashing it at home in the file of multiple others that I never opened.

This one really intrigued me...maybe it was because it looked like it would be a challenge.  After seeing that it took 7/8 of a yard, I thought, hmmm, let's dig through the closet...I must have something there! One of the skirts was made out of a gold patterned cotton print with a border, and the other was made from this beautiful olive green embroidered cotton print. (side story on this print: everytime I had recovered fabric at the store, I kept watching it to catch a sale, as I didn't want to pay 24.99/yd. I think I ended up using a coupon).  The two fabrics looked great together and very summery. Now, would I end up having enough fabric, especially since I needed 3 1/2 yards of bias tape?

 Here are the two fabrics sewn together, center piece and sides. I quilted the center fabric with some french knots and some curvy topstitching lines.
 There wasn't a pocket in the pattern, but I added one, using part of an old eyelet tablecloth that I had dyed. You can see the cotton I found in my stash for the lining.
 It took a lot of piecing, but I was able to make the yardage needed for the bias tape from the border and from the gold fabric.
 Even had an old metal zipper that was the perfect size.
 And here it is - I like it, and have already had quite a few compliments. THAT always makes a girl feel good!
Add upcycling to my list. The decontructionist artist is on the prowl. Jeff is off this afternoon, and we'll hit the Goodwill store later today.