Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Triage Wednesday

I'm still happy as a puppy over here, planning and experimenting and moving from one project to another. Today I had to pile them all up and do triage, just so I'd know what's what. I like to be able to grab a bag and have everything in it (needle, floss, the garment, a thimble if I need it, maybe glasses and a pair of cheapo scissors) so I can go into another room and sit down and work without having to get up to go find something because once I sit down, I'm almost always covered with cats, and since I hate to disturb them once they're settled, I would otherwise find myself just sitting and petting them. That's wonderful, but eventually I *need* to stitch.  Plus I have to have a bag ready to grab when we head out to The Wine Rack. I hate having to stop and think about what I'm going to take to work on; I want it to be ready to go, and I want to have choices. If I feel sociable, I want something simple that will allow me to carry on a conversation while I stitch. If I don't feel like talking, I like something that engages me more fully so I don't get pissy at the conversations I overhear.

Anyway. So here's what's lined up:
 Here on the desk in the office are my Jewel Looms, about which adventure I'll write more later. Today, at some point, I hope to finish those two on the left, which are an experiment with weaving wrist cuffs out of a 50/50 wool silk blend I got on clearance. The jury's still out on this, and I'm really jazzed to cut them off the loom, finish the ends, and see how they're going to work.
 Here, above, are the suede laces I'll use for more woven bracelets (along the sides to use as a closure). I stretched them out and hung them up here to relax.
 Then to the big table I set up in the former living room, now sewing room. That's the pile, above.
 Here's a pair of Levi's that have needed mending for over a year. I think I've learned enough about weaving to weave/darn the knees. I don't get how people can wear artfully frayed knees. Mine always rip more and more until they reach the side seams and then gape open, letting in cold air and catching my knee when I bend my leg.  I just started this today. I need just a tiny start so I can pick it up and know where I'm going. I really believe that's the key to productivity: always knowing what you want to do next and having everything you need to jump right in, even if you have only 5 minutes.
 Then there's this Flax dress ( below) I'll wear as a duster, an open over-garment thing. I have a green one just like it that I bought and dyed (a better green) a while back, and I love it, so I had to have this one, too, of course. I thought it was brown until I took it outside in the sunlight and realized it was purple and yellow woven together. There's a reason we don't mix purple and yellow, and it's because it looks hideous. I was trying to figure out what color I could overdye it, and one of the girls who works in the shop suggested red. So I did, and this is the result: a redder purple and a slightly coral-y red. I can work with these, even though the result isn't ever going to be my favorite color. I'll make these photos extra-large so you can really see the weave, which is fascinating. It's linen, and I love the nubby bits. I've chosen a red-purple t-shirt for an appliqué and have matched the colors of the weave with red and purple floss, so I'm ready to experiment. My goal is to bring out the individual colors as much as possible so it doesn't just look muddy.

 Then I got this groovy two-layer Cynthia Ashby jacket, below, and I'm going to work on it with some bright red-orange floss and matching felted wool for an appliqué. It's dark grey, which I don't hate, surprisingly enough, but it definitely needs some bright color to spark it up.
 A two-piece set I've had and been working on, off and on, for a couple years:
 The tablecloth I'm making into a shawl, below, embroidery with Stencil Girl stencils. I may still be working on this one when I'm 80.
 An apron jumper I made from a tablecloth/bedspread/I don't know. It needs a lot of stabilizing handwork:
 The wool sweater Sharon gave me in Stamford, now with more wool felt appliqués pinned on and ready to be stitched:
Chambray-blue linen I dyed this week along with some purple and some red, all waiting to be cut out and sewn into apron jumper things. That's a piece of silk from Janice Kissinger of Felt Sutra:
 And, finally, something I actually finished. I don't know if I showed it to you before I started stitching, so here it is then:
And here it is now. It can be worn as a shawl:
 (I tried to get a close up of her toothy bling, but it was blurry and I was too lazy to go out and try again. It started pouring down rain—that's my excuse.)

 or a hip wrap over skinny jeans:

This triage and blogging thang has taken me all day long. I didn't even do any actual *work* today, which is unusual. But it feels much better: it was getting a little overwhelming, and I realized this morning I didn't know what to work on next. I had some stuff I wanted to do, but I didn't have all the parts gathered and wasn't sure where I was going to start.

All better now.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


We're home, and I met the last deadline (the one I was working on at Art is You in Stamford), and I don't start another one until Monday, and I copyedited something this morning and now I can do whatever I want until Monday morning. Woo-hoo!

Believe it or not, there *is* a problem with that. Not buying it? Here: there are so very many things I want to do that I've pulled out a ton of stuff and am just pretty much going in circles this morning, pulling out more and more and more and making a huge mess and acting like a crazed bumble bee, zipping madly from one pile to another. Let me show you!

Here is the coolest thing ever: old silk saris and sari parts I bought from and was given by Janice Kissinger of Felt Sutra, my best stitching buddy. We meet in hotel lobbies across the country (Mississippi, California, Connecticut) and stitch together, and it's beyond lovely.
 She gave me this scrap, below, which I adore. It's torn and stained a lot and has some tears, and that makes it even more fabulous to me. I washed and dried it and trimmed the raw end, and now I'll roll and hand stitch that end with silk floss.
 See the handwork? Stitching and beads and some French knots, which I adore.

 I already had some strandable silk floss that will work for this. I love it when that happens.
Then there's this amazing sweater, given to me by Sharon. She said she'd had it for years and was going to—gasp!—cut it up to use to make pin cushions but then thought of me and thought I might want to cut it up and do something with it, and when she handed it to me, I squealed and put it on and wore it for the rest of the week. Even though it's wool, it doesn't make me itch, which is a first. It's light but warm, and I LOVE it. And of course I immediately thought of what I could add to it and came home and dug out the bin that's labelled BRIGHT FELT (there's one labelled DULL FELT, too, I think, but I never open it) and picked out these scraps of wool felt (most of which I fulled myself from thrifted clothing). I'm totally jazzed about working on this, too. Janice told me how to wash it, and I did that yesterday, with no disasters.

 Then there's Julianna Hudgin's Jewel Loom. Julianna taught Tonia Jenny how to use it in Mississippi (all of these are Art is You retreats, of course), and then Tonia taught me in Petaluma, where she gave me a bracelet she'd woven from bits of sock yarn. I fell in love with it and got just the teeniest bit obsessed about this. Here you can see my standard operating procedure, where I can't rest with just one. I have a loom Tonia gave me and one Julianna gave me and then four more I bought. I work on all of them at the same time, but I finished them all in Stamford and am ready to start new ones. I've made about a dozen of these woven bracelets so far, and it's time to branch out and experiment further. Eventually I want to weave a bag out of strips of t-shirts, but I'm taking my time and learning stuff (about tension, stretch, finishing the ends, etc) and using up various bits of floss.
 Today I dug around int he storage building and found my big of FIBERS (the bins are all helpfully labelled in all caps), and there was a bunch of silk ribbon and some cool yarn, and here I've made piles of it by color and am going to start mixing textures to see what will happen. I'll show more about this adventure soon.

 Then here's my pattern for the new aprons, which I adore. The aprons, not the pattern. I've got to hang it up instead of rolling it, though, so it's ready to go for a TON of experiments in the next couple months. First I want to make a purple linen one (I already have the dyed linen ready to go) and then a sample out of silk.
 For right now, I'm going to use the silk sari pieces I like less to make an experimental apron and see how the silk works for these. I may have to back it with some thin cotton, since the silk is old and fragile, but we'll see. When I figure out how to do it, I'll make something out of this, which I love:

So this is what I've got spread out all over the house this morning. I got a zillion loads of laundry done yesterday, and today I'm doing towels and starting on the mound of rugs that got cat barf on them while we were gone.

Life is grand, and I'm so jazzed about all these ideas I've got racing around in my brain I can't stand it. An example: my friend Chris Malone gave me bags of animal fur—he used to work at a zoo—for needle felting. I didn't use it for that, and now I'm wondering if I could learn a really simple spinning technique, maybe with a drop spindle [Disclaimer: I've watched only the first 3-4 minutes of this, so if she gets nekkid and dances with a crocodile later on in the video, it's not my fault, OK?], to spin it and then weave it into cuffs. Or! Or I could order roving from DharmaTrading, and dye it, and then spin it! OR! I could get a herd of llamas and a spinning wheel and. . . OK, I have to stop here. Every time I think of the word "llama" it makes me think of Obama's Mama's Llama Pajamas, which for some reason my brain made up when Obama was elected. It's such a fabulous name, and there are so few rhymes. This seemed to make my brain very happy, and it still finds it entertaining, pathetically.

So maybe I'll get a herd of goats, instead.

Anyway, time to take a walk and let my brain rest a little and then come back and iron some silk and cut out some stuff and pull out even MORE crap and then feel guilty when The EGE comes home from school and can't even walk through his own damn house without turning sideways. Luckily he doesn't mind that, so I suck it up and deal with the guilt and pull out even more, and more and more and more. Yay! for messes.

Friday, October 10, 2014

I Love My Jobs

And here's why.

This story, in the link above, is why my various jobs—working for Art is You, writing for Stampington publications, writing books—all fit together so smoothly and why I love what I do. It's the story of my amazing morning with Lisa Lichtenfels, and if you want a link to her site (with fabulous photos!), you need to follow the link above and read the story.

More soon as our adventures continue—XO

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Hello from The East Coast!

We're here at Art is You in Stamford, Connecticut. Here's a post about the first morning, and I'll be posting on that blog throughout the week.  Sorry I've been out of touch lately; we were in Petaluma, California, for 10 days at Art is You there, and then we were home for 10 days, during which there were two interviews and two deadlines and then the stress of finding, interviewing, and hiring a brand new cat sitter, plus a multi-hundred-dollar trip to the vet's and 3X a day ear RX for Lennie LuLu, and—oh, need we go on?

No, I thought not.

It was busy, and you know how I try to avoid even *saying* the word "busy," much less engaging in busy-ness, but there it was.

All is well now, though. We're here, and I've brought work with me so I can make the second deadline (long story nobody else cares about),  and I'll be posting on the Art is You blog as often as I can. With photos, I hope!

After the Morning Motivator this morning, I've been finding new homes for stuff, handing out things I found in the storage building (stuff like a tiny china doll from the 1960s) and art books. Big fun for me, plus my suitcase will be WAY lighter on the way home.

Thanks for coming by, and I hope everyone's doing well out there~~XO

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Here's Something Else Fun for You To Do

Long ago there was a sale, or I had a coupon, or something at JoAnn's, and I bought some Tim Holtz stuff, metal pieces meant to be used in scrapbooks and assemblage and stuff.  Not long after, I pinned one of the pins on a t-shirt to see what would happen. It's been through the laundry about a dozen times, I'm thinking:
 It worked great: didn't rip the fabric, didn't stain it, didn't seem to fade or anything:

 Today I unearthed the other stuff (which of course I'd forgotten all about) and started playing around with it. I tried some of it in various locations and discovered that the weight is a problem and has to be taken into account when you decide on placement. But I'm happy with it and will see what happens over time.

I back both of these (this one and the larger one below) with a scrap of soft denim to reinforce the lightweight linen.

 I thought this was a good quote for an experiment of sewing metal onto clothing, right?

I'm pretty jazzed about the possibilities, and I hope this gives you some groovy ideas, too~~XO

Jumprons, Schmumprons

Forget the Jumpron. You know, these:
I am sooo over those.

No, I can't believe I just said that, either, but it's true: after making 17 (yes: seventeen) of them from scratch and altering clothing to make several more, I think I'm done. I'm pretty sure I'm done. I thought I'd be making these forEVER out of sheets and tablecloths and quilts and stuff (and, oh, yeah: I do have a tablecloth and a quilt I want to make into some, so maybe I'm not *technically* done).

But Saturday I bought this:
 It was beige/ecru/off white, one of those non-colors, but as soon as I tried it on, I fell in love. I'm not sure why, but I'm guessing it's the general funkiness: I love funky clothes, but I'm still way, way too anal-retentive to get there on my own from scratch. I work on it every day, but my innate love of symmetry and balance and order gets in my way. I'll keep working on it, probably until the day I die (I typed "dye" and then laughed out loud).

It's Cynthia Ashby, of course, and it's linen. Those are handkerchiefs used for the pockets (a little too twee for me), but they work:
 I think what I loved best was the asymmetrical neckline.
 I'm guessing some frou-frou ribbon must have gone through these eyelets, but it wasn't there when I bought it, and I can't imagine that it would have looked anything other than silly. I can't find this apron thing online, but from the others I did find, I'm guessing it was originally $150-300. I, of course, did not pay anywhere near that much. And wouldn't have, not for something like this.

And it didn't take me long to realize, duh: I can make these. Anybody can make these.

 So this week, all excited, I set up the table in the living room and got out the heavy brown paper and started working with it. There were things I loved (the shape, the neckline) and things I didn't: the way it sticks out on the sides under the arms, the width of the neck (it's too wide for even my wide shoulders), the angle of the straps (if they went up straight, instead of angling out, they'd fit better).
I went out into the storage building and discovered that I had enough already-dyed linen, all neatly folded and waiting for a project, to make not one, not two, not three, but FOUR of these.

I started with the green linen, since I have enough green jumper/apron things to last a lifetime already (many of the things I find second-hand are beige-ish light green, and this is the only way to go with dyeing). If I screwed it up, I wouldn't be sad that I'd wasted that color.

Because this linen is very lightweight, I didn't want the heaviness of binding and so rolled the edges and basted on the machine and then laboriously stitched them all by hand. The hem is sewn on the machine (rather than basted) and then overstitched by hand. I loved using the bamboo floss I'd dyed in variegated greens. That was a thrill: linen I dyed, a pattern I made (not designed, but made from a garment), floss I dyed.

 And I absolutely love it. I wasn't sure I would, but I've been wearing it around the house over a tank and a long linen skirt, and it's perfect. Perfect! I love everything about it.

And therein lies my current problem: after I cut it out and started working on it, I decided I wanted to tweak the pattern a little and try again. I moved the straps in and raised the sides a little and took an inch or so off the circumference of the hem. And then I cut out a hot pink one. And in the meantime, as I was sewing up the pink one, I was also working on the green one. And I finished the green and started wearing it and loving it, and now I'm thinking I might wish I hadn't tweaked my first pattern at all. I'm going to finish this pink one and wear both (not at the same time, I don't think, but who knows?) and see which one I like better. I have both patterns and can cut and paste if I decide I need to.  The other two swaths of fabric (one red, one purple) are heavy linen, and it will be interesting to see how this design works in heavyweight fabric. It might not; it might be too heavy for thin straps.

Then what's really exciting: I have a huge whack of well-worn chambray, some from our old shirts, some from thrifted shirts, some from shirts people have sent me. I started looking at it and realized I have plenty—way more than enough—to make one of these in pieced chambray. Whoa. I can't wait, but I have to: I have to figure out which pattern (it's mostly the straps and their placement that's the issue) I want to use because worn, faded chambray isn't something I can go get more of if I screw up (i.e., make it and then go, "Man, I wish I'd done it differently.")

For the pink one, I spent yesterday afternoon making bias tape—you know, like I made the purple stuff I showed. It will have it around all the edges including the hem. I don't have (or want) a serger. so I finish the edges of linen by stitching all the way around every cut-out piece with the machine set on about 14-16 stitches per inch, right up near the edge. That keeps my seams from fraying. Then I bind the edges, either with cotton jersey or this bias tape. I'm really liking the bias tape because it's so easy to work with and easy to sew. It's just the cutting of it and the ironing it that's a pain: it takes forever.

Now I'm wishing I had more of this thin linen, already dyed, so I could make one just like the green one in all the colors I wear: purple, orange, pink, denim-y blue, orange-red, red-purple. And I'm thinking to myself, "I'll bet their linen is on clearance at Hancock's," which is close enough to walk to. But I swore I wasn't buying any more fabric until I used up all I have (and I got a great deal on what was left of a big bolt of heavy linen, so there's still a lot out there, not yet dyed), so I'm going to focus on finishing what I've got here rather than going crazy and planning another dozen projects.

There. I said it publicly. So now I have to stick to it, right? I have to stick to the half dozen things I'm working on right now instead of buying linen and dyeing it and cutting it out and starting a half dozen more.

I think I can. I think I can.