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 see...one 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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two More Padfolios Finished

It's interesting how the mind (at age 56) can still think ahead.  I'm still considering publishing a pattern for my padfolios.  Hmmm...yes, I need to tweek this size a bit, change the way I do this...

I'm in the last two weeks of preparing for the Edgebrook Arts Show that will be on June 11th.  Whew - one day shows are a grind, but this one will be fun as I'm doing it with 3 of the gals from the store.  We all work with fiber, but in different ways.

I wanted to share photos of the 2 other padfolios that I've finished.  I'm quite happy with the way they turned out!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How to Make a Duct Tape Display

So I was going to cover it with some stretchy fabric when it was done. I guess that is one of the true signs of a "fiber" artist. We always have something in the stash somewhere that will work to cover something up and make it pretty.

After getting so frustrated trying to find just the right dress form at the right price (read: cheapo), I thought I'd look online to see how to make one out of duct tape.  I know there are classes at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, but I didn't really want a form of mine or anyone else's body.  I just wanted a basic torso-like shaped form so I could display my nuno-felted scarves and wraps at the art fairs and other venues.

It all starts with a strong cardboard box, some 2-sided tape, and a vase. I used the tape to adhere the vase to the top of the box.
 Before using the duct tape, I wrapped an old turtle neck top (sleeves removed) around the form and stitched it in place in a few areas. My plans then were to cut the duct tape into manageable lengths, then apply them, but I found it to be fairly easy to just start wrapping.  I did, however, rip some smaller pieces to go around the "neck" area.  I went around the form 3 times and ended up using about 35 yards (one roll plus some from my husband's stash).


 Three layers of the duct tape will make the form solid and stronger.  Now it was time to cut it apart and pull it out of the box/vase form. I then used a few strips of the tape to close the form up in the back.

Now heres' where I got out my fiber box, so to say...and this was a little messy!  I used "Rigid Wrap," which is a form of plaster tape that you can find in art and craft stores.  Messy, yes, but easy...I did cut this into about 20 inch pieces, dipped them into a plastic container of warm water and then applied them onto the form.  When finished, I was glad my brain was still in gear when disposing of the water - do not dump it down the sink, because at the bottom of the container was about a 1/2 inch of wet plaster gunk - not good for the sink drains...

 And so, here it is in all it's glory, with a few added elements around the top edge, soon to be re-shaped. And...there is the matter of painting it: I don't want to do black, and I'm not sure about a flesh tone, so here's where I need your help!  What color should I paint it? Maybe gray?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Padfolio Pattern?

Could it be that part of the business end of creating artwork for me is making a pattern?

I've taken a little side step from the "hand" series to create a few padfolios for an upcoming one day arts fair here in Rockford.  I've made lots of these in the 5x7 inch size, but thought that it was time to re-size my pattern so those who use the 8 1/2 x  11 3/4 inch legal pads for taking notes at meetings would like something nice to put them into.

I started gathering fabrics, fusibles, leather strips to see what I had. The last time that buttons were half off at the store, I purchased a few that I had been eyeing...I've written everything down and have tweeked the directions for my benefit.  Wondering now, is this a self-published pattern in the making?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Hand Series has New Canvas

What was I saying about now doing 8 - 8x10 inch pieces, 5 - 5x7 inch pieces, etc. for my "Hands" project?

Jeff and I were up in Madison yesterday and I wanted to go into the Jo-Ann superstore there, just because our store here in Rockford doesn't have everything, including not having a fine art supplies section...

With my employee key card in hand, I checked out their stretched canvases, and saw these very interesting sizes that came 3 to a package.  I've never seen 4x12 inch ones before, and for some reason, I knew they would be perfect for a few of the pieces in my collection.  When we got home, I checked online to see if their prices were comparable - Jo-Ann's had the best price - $16.00something for the three, and my discount on top of that...

Maybe I should stick with unusual sizes for the rest of the pieces.

 Something else different here: had just seen on Lily's site about scented yarn, so I decided to pick up a skein of "Sugar 'n Cream Scents"...not sure what the scent is, but it is pleasing.  Just think, aromaknittingtherapy.
I had thought last weekend that I had 5 days off from work, so I could delve into some major playful time in the studio, but I was wrong...I only have the next couple of days off, and wouldn't you know, this is the week for deadlines!  Rockford's Greenwich Art Fair app, a one day show app that will be held at an upscale shopping complex this summer, and my art class proposals for Rock Valley College/Rockford Art Museum are due tomorrow.  I wish I could pull those all-nighters like I used to, but now it just ruins the next day for me.  Well, maybe I could do 1:00 am...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Colorful Balls of Felt to Lift Those Gray Sky Blues Away

I just can't say it without laughing! While at best friend Bobbie's today getting ready to show her how to make a nuno felted scarf, I pulled these out of my pocket. Perfect timing it was, because of a conversation that a goofy trio (Bobbie, her hubby Lenny and myself) were having. So here they are, now cut in half to show the colorful insides...

(Okay, if you watch Project Runway, Tim Gunn once said that he "preferred the wooley ones.")
I need to stop now. It's too late in the day for falling off one's chair.

 Aren't they fun? It's been so gray and dreary here for so long - the bright colors are good for the soul! I also needed a little distraction from the "hands" series, plus it does give me inspiration for next week - I have a few days off in a row from the store and plans are to make some pre-felts from roving...and maybe make a huge batch of these!

Monday, April 18, 2011

New Sizes for the Hands Series

12 - 12x12's are finished, now onto the 8 - 8x10's.

I was thinking that this would be a way to decide how many pieces I could realistically handle for this series. Knowing that the largest ones were done (the tops anyway), I can focus on creating the next group without feeling overwhelmed.  This is the first time I've done anything like this.  What's next? 5 - 5x7's, 3 - 3x5's, and then maybe some tiny pieces.  I'm feeling encouraged now, thinking that this would make a wonderful exhibit.

This is the first of the 8x10's...it was a commercial print that I fell in love with because the pattern had such movement to it.  I stitched away with some of  JoAnn Deck 's threads in her gift box to me.

And this is the 2nd one that I'm currently working on.  While straightening the calico wall the other night at work, this print stood out.  No little florals here! It's been fun so far coming up with giving the different circles a little character.  And,  Sherrie , that one solar-looking stitch in the detail shot is for you!