Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A silk painted rose

This little rose was my first attempt at painting on silk. I was hooked from the start. I have signed up for two more classes and set up a nice little space in the basement for the delightfully messy stuff. On this piece, I've used clear gutta to define the shapes. Gutta is a resist to contain the flow of the paint to specific areas, acting like a sort of dam to hold back the paint.

After the gutta was washed out I found that I lost some of the paint with it, especially in the center. I also ended up with white silk showing where the stems were meant to go, which I liked because it just begs for embellishment.
Silk is very slippery and thin, so I ironed a hunk of Wash Away Applique Sheet to the wrong side as a stabilizer, and hauled out my box of silk embroidery floss. My first thought was to replace the missing paint in the center with embroidery stitches.
Nope. The blending of shades of pink didn't work as hoped. The stitching just looked clunky and forced, so it got picked away. The nice thing about silk is that it's pretty tough and the holes just closed right in.
What it needed was a more refined hand. I started in the center of the rose, outlining each petal, using the stitches to replace the lines that the gutta had left. As I worked, though, I felt that perhaps, once again, I was being to literal. As I got to the buds I decided to let the lines be a little more abstract, unfinished, more sketched in than actual outlines.
By the time I got to the last leaves I realized that thinner lines would be even better, so I used just two strands of the six stranded floss here. If I were starting over, I think I'd go even finer, something to try next time.
Here it is. I love how the leaves look. Best of all, this little slip of a project (it's just about 4 by 6 inches) has left me thinking about how I would do the next one differently. I won't try to fix this any further, I think I've learned all it has to tell me.

What a luxury for me, creating these little cast-offs, just little bits of this or that I can use for trying out new ideas. It seems like forever since I've had the time to "waste" on things that may not turn out. Deadlines can do that to you. It's taken me a long time to unwind from the deadline rat race too, to leave behind that feeling that every moment must be productive or I will fail, disappoint or come up short. A feeling that's left me entirely unproductive, paralyzed, feeling guilty and a little lost. Finally I am looking forward to not getting it right the first time. I have entered the joyful land of the do-over.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Back to work

I love everything about winter except for the short days. Well, I love everything about winter that can be enjoyed from the inside looking out. Since my inner child has been playing with matches for years, the colder weather suits me just fine. But the short, dark days take their toll and by Christmas I'm ready to hibernate. While it feels like I can sense every minute of daylight added to the days in January, it takes until the middle of February for me to be convinced that spring truly will come again. And then I begin to come back to life.

Stitching the long borders on A Fine Romance can be tricky. With dozens and dozens of pins holding the applique shapes in place it can be downright painful to do all the twisting and turning needed to stitch down the curvy shapes.

After cursing (and bleeding) my way through the side borders I decided to pin just half of the longer top and bottom border shapes in place. The empty end of the border can be folded up and pinned together to help reduce the bulk. The pinned end (you can see it behind the sewing machine) is rolled up too. It does make it easier to turn the border fabric, but it also stands some of the pins straight up. Ouch. A good book on my iPod helps to pass the time.
The diagram for the top and bottom borders seems to trail half way across the studio floor, the remaining motifs are spread out on the shorter table. I suspect that I will run out of leaves, I lost count somewhere along the way, and I may need to make a little more bias strips to finish up the vines. But I've pinned one end of the two remaining borders, and one of those has been stitched down. I've been listening to Alex Berenson's John Wells spy series. I have three more books in the series to go. I wonder if that will be enough to finish the borders.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Room for the loom

I have taken over yet another room in the house, this time for the yarn stash. This is the smallest bedroom. It was sort of mustard and baby poop brown, which made the room feel very small and close. I painted it Secret Scent by Behr, with a white ceiling. It's a gentle lavender and I love it.

Tapestry, like quilting, requires a bit of a stash. Getting a gradation of values with yarn can be even more challenging than with fabric. But there are interesting tricks. Please check out Sarah Swett's blog post on value, Go ahead, I'll wait. Really, her post is genius and so beautifully written too.

I got to meet and take a workshop from Sarah almost three years ago. I was too new to spinning (and knew nothing about tapestry) to fully appreciate how lucky I was to spend time with her. The class was on mixing colors and values in wool for spinning, but it covered so much more. This was my first ever selfie, taken with Sarah at the workshop.

The class was very meaningful to me, in a lot of ways. I was wrestling with the decision to curtail my teaching travel and dealing with creative burn out. I learned a lot in a few days, and about way more than how to blend wool.

When deciding how to set up a room I often start by checking out what will be seen first. Does anyone else do that? I consider what little vignette will be seen when passing by the door. I'd like it to be intriguing, welcoming, to pull us into the room and then see that there is more to discover.

There's more to do, clearly, but setting up the loom room meant unpacking six more boxes. We're getting there. I'm on the fence about bringing up the floor loom, it will fill up the room fast, but I'm sure not going to use it in the basement. We're still waiting for the old house to choose its new family. There's been a lot of interest in the last couple of weeks, we're hoping for good news soon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Startitis and Finishitupism

They say the first step in recovery is admitting the problem. Fine. My name is Beth and I have startitis. I was blissfully in denial about this until my local guild started a UFO challenge. The winner from last year finished off TWENTY projects from her UFO collection. Ever so smug I though, who has so many unfinished projects? How does that happen?

Then it dawned on me that I have so many unfinished projects that I have CATEGORIES! Sure, it's just a sock (or three, the lower left is a mystery sock waiting for the final clue) in progress here, a knit-a-long cowl there (which I can't finish because the final steps haven't been released),
a sweater from yarn that I spun myself (never mind that I really don't like the yellow in the yarn, or that it's entirely likely that the sweater will be a.) too small and b.) I will likely run out of yarn before I finish the last sleeve.

And then there is the lace cardigan I started, also with yarn that I spun:
You can see how most of these projects fall into separate categories and therefore don't count against starting something new before something else is finished. Truly!

But then there is the quilty projects.
A Fine Romance is just two borders short of having the entire top done, but I can't decide if I want to do more embroidery embellishment, and then I can't decide if I want to do hand or machine embroidery. And this is a "work" project, not so now it is in a subcategory. The hard deadline was met, of having completed each step before publication, so in one sense, this project could be considered "done". (Feel free to co-opt any of these explanations if they help with your denial.)
And there is Christmas Yet to Come that needs to be quilted. It's at that awful, awkward stage where I am convinced that the very next thing I'm going to do will ruin it completely. Truthfully, I do need to take this slow because free motion quilting is hard on my neck and hands. (I am so lustful after BERNINA's new long arm machine that I often wonder what the going rate for kidneys is.)

If you've followed the blog for any length of time you might remember this project, from a class with Elly Sienkiewicz in Houston, um, a, four years ago? I love what I've done so far, but, well, just but. That's why it's not done yet. Plus it falls into the quilting category of "not work", so it can safely be ignored when ever deadlines loom.

And then there's this little wool applique project that I put together almost a year ago. See, then I was living in a hotel room, during the transition from Saginaw to Green Bay. I had no stash with me, and I panicked! I bought all the stuff for this sweet little table topper and then felt guilty/relieved to have a UFO in the room. (Yeah, I'm crazy, but you know exactly how I feel, so don't go getting smug on me!)

I had this great plan to finish these projects. A Fine Romance and Christmas Yet to Come will get my mornings, alternating depending on certainty of the next step. AFR is really in sort of a brainless sewing state, stitching down the applique, so I can put off that decision for a while, and the quilting on CYtC in small spurts will save my body. These are "work" projects, so I can consider myself at work while I work on them. The other quilty project will be my "away" projects. I've joined a guild and a bee, so I need project that are small enough to travel, right?

This all made perfect sense and gave me a wonderful sense of control and calm, until last week when I took a workshop with the guild on painting on silk.
Oh, yes please! I loved it, it was so much fun it just about took my breath away. My brains fell out of my ears and I ordered almost two hundred dollars worth of silk painting supplies. They arrive on Wednesday. And I haven't even mentioned the tapestry weaving I want to get back to.

I've decided that finishitupism (I've just noticed that a swear word suddenly appears in the middle of that word, one that seems perfectly appropriate) is just a symptom of January and will pass shortly. If I just hold on for a couple of weeks I can forget all about UFOs, the virtue of finishing and go blissfully back into denial. Wanna come with me?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The paint goes on

I think I may have mentioned how much the previous owners liked brown. Almost every room was brown, from the color of a Hershey bar wrapper in the living room to a mustardy baby-poop brown in the smallest bedroom. The living room was painted a soft green (Behr Chinese Jade) before the furniture arrived and the studio now glows in Blushing Apricot.

It took me a while to find just the right shade of blue for the master bedroom. I wanted sky blue, actually I wanted haint blue, as in the southern term for ghosts blue, the proper color for porch ceilings in the south. I finally settled on Clear Blue Sky by Glidden and Kent painted while I recovered from strep throat. (Four days of fever spent on the couch in front of the tv, I am now an expert on building log cabins in Alaska.)

The mirror in the master bath has a silver frame. The fixtures are brushed nickle. The tile is a warm brown with very dark tones, and, as you can see, the counter top is black with brown bits. The black vessel sink is the dumbest thing ever, every spot shows.

I wanted to use these seed packet prints that came with us from Saginaw, but the frames were antique gold and just didn't look right with the silver mirror. A small bottle of black acrylic paint and a tube of Rub'n Buff in silver changed them right over.

The hardest part was waiting for the paint to dry! They look terrific with the mirror, exactly the same finish, and I really like how the brown tones in the pictures play so well with the counter top. I'm not sure about the silver with all the brown (which isn't going anywhere any time soon), but I love it with the blue.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A lesson on love

This picture pretty much sums up the whirlwind that was Christmas for us this year. Nearly perfect. We laughed until our sides hurt. As a mom I have to say there is no greater pleasure than admiring the men my sons have become. They are hard working, serious, silly, thoughtful, smart, handsome, irreverent and loving. And, now that I know they read my blog, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

My youngest son couldn't get off of work long enough to join us in person, so we Skyped him here. We took turns passing around Kent's smart phone so David could be a part of the Christmas morning silliness.

Christmas Eve morning my two oldest sons and their wives took off for some shopping. Now I would rather be slapped with a wet stick then go shopping on Christmas Eve, but they were determined that it needed to be done. They returned with rustling bags and sly smiles and disappeared to the basement where the wrapping paper was set up.

There was one gift for me that was set aside to be opened last. Amanda (my oldest son's wife) warned me that it would make me cry and she was so right.

This is what they put together for me. They found a framed chalkboard and just the right stickers and then put heart shaped gems where we each can be found. I can't even write about this now without tearing up!

I didn't just cry, I sobbed! My heart was broken with the pure rightness of it. Home really isn't a place, no matter how long the history there. When you're loved, home will always be exactly where you stand, where ever that may be.

How silly am I that this is a lesson that I am still learning at my age! And how blessed I am to have sons who are wise enough to teach me. I have always had a feeling of "otherness" about myself, like I just don't quite fit or belong, the perpetual visitor. This sampler is a charming and gentle rebuke. No matter what, I will always be theirs, and they will hunt me down to remind me, even if it means driving half way across the country, or through Chicago during rush hour.

For those of you who are saying, but of course they will, be grateful that you understand that sense of belonging. For me, I was thunderstruck, both that they would come and that they would understand how much it meant, really understand. And perhaps, most of all, what incredible human beings I helped to raise. That's what I got for Christmas this year, I got love. Well, and then strep throat, but that's a story for another time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Last Minute

Or, as the car manufacturers call it: just in time delivery. I maintain if it weren't for the last minute, nothing would ever get done, and that it doesn't really matter how long before the deadline it is accomplished, as long as it's before.

So, as my children pile into their cars to head north to soggy Green Bay, I decided we needed little Christmas Stockings for the lot of them. Stockings have been a fun part of our holiday tradition. I loved finding silly little things to include. Every year the kids each got a flash light, that was standard, and an orange in the toe. (Kids these days have no idea how precious an orange in December once was, but they're getting one any way.) One year I found little guns that shot discs, they were so cool! I'll never forget seeing the air filled with colorful little circles, and how the kids just howled with glee over them. The discs were all lost within days, I half expected to find one when we moved out.

We always hung the stockings on the kids' bedposts. It was our scathingly brilliant method of keeping the kids from pestering us before 5 am. (Works with Easter baskets, too.) It was so sweet to wake up to whispering, giggling boys who thought they were pulling something over on us.

These are little stockings, just big enough to hold a clementine in the toe, and we'll include a small can of silly string and other silly things, and some candy of course. They are ridiculously easy to make, and would be a fun way to give a little something to the nice folks in your life. The stocking is just eight inches tall and about four inches wide at the top.

I used flannel, which I washed in hot water and dried on hot to shrink for fluffy goodness. I used a 1/4" seam allowance to sew the stocking shapes right sides together. The dual feed function made it easy to sew the bulky fabric without shifting. A walking foot would be great for this. To make your own stocking with these instructions, cut the cuff so that it is 1/2" less wide than the raw measurement of the top of the stocking, and twice as tall as desired plus 1/2".

To make it easier to turn, I used a back stitch at the beginning and end of the seams. My B820 has a stitch with a built in securing function. It's handy because I never remember at the beginning of the seam, and this stitch will remember for me. (How many other fancy functions do our machines have that we forget about?)

The short end of the white flannel rectangles are sewn together. I pressed the cuff seams open, and since the iron was hot, I pressed the first and last couple inches of the stocking seams too. It will make it easier to sew the cuff in place, and clipped the seam allowance at the curve. The stocking isn't turned yet.

*For those who have more than a last minute, you may want to embroider the recipient's name on the cuff, you'd want to do that before sewing it. I'm just going to write their names on with a fabric ink pen.

Now, here's where it gets a little crazy, but it's super easy. The cuff is folded in half, wrong sides together, matching raw edges and the seam.

Slip the cuff over the stocking. Match the cuff seam to the back seam of the stocking. It looks like the stocking is a little bigger than the cuff, but it's not.

A couple of pins, one at the seam and one opposite will help keep everything in place. Make sure all three layers of fabric are aligned.

Here's the magic. This is a tiny opening, it's even too small it fit over the machine's free arm. So, we're going to sew it from the inside.

 Let the bulk of the stocking sit above the foot and just rotate the seam into the foot. (The first time I saw this done my poor little head almost burst. Of course it's easier! This is why we take classes.) I don't back stitch to start.

But I do finish with back stitching over the beginning of the seam.

Turn the stocking right sides out and then gently fold the cuff down over the top. The cuff seam is hidden in the fold. I'll be sewing on little yarn loops for hanging, but they could have been included in the cuff seam.

Who doesn't want an excuse to do a little sewing right before Christmas? Next I think I might whip up a couple of valances for the guest bedroom. Just kidding. Maybe.