Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fabric Collage Artist

If you think all fabric collage is dorky, be prepared to have your mind changed by Laura Btrietman.

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! Thanks Joyce for the link,

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nejman Experiment

Besides completing the knitting needles cases for the Middle School Knitting Club, I spent some time during all the rain playing with some of the techniques I picked up at the Christoper Nejman class. Here's the 22" squarish pillow I just finished stuffing:
I started out with a piece of cotton canvas that I had used as a drip cloth with the Arts & Crafts Cub. It was slightly stained with paints and dyes but stll in good condition. I then went to the scrap bag and pulled out all sorts of fabrics to see which ones worked best when run through the embellisher. I soon found out that the softer, thinner fabrics worked very well and that fabric content really didn't matter if the fabric was flimsy enough.

After I had covered the canvas with tons of different fabrics I had a pretty messy piece of canvas.... ugly colors but some nice textures.... it really looked like the dog's breakfast. I decided I needed a way to meld the colors together and found a piece of grey chiffon with scribbly black flowers drawn on it that I cut into chunks and put through the embellisher machine. The original colors show through a little but I think the overlay gives it an interesting look.
I then played with some black wool and couched it down with a multi-step zig zag stitch. The beaded middle of the flower was a little less successful. I couched down bits of an old neckace and glued down some of the beads as well. There are black beads everywhere on the floor and, for some reason, Alex is not interested in eating them. I guess I will need to do some vaccuuming!

The stuffing was some that was left from the Anti-ouch pouch project and the back is a bit of fabric that I keep thinking I have a lot of only to find I only have an usuable half yard of it. There is zipper closure about a third of the way down the back done with a lapped insertion so that the zipper is invisible.

I had fun playing with the front of the pillow but I don't think I would make another pillow this way... at least not for my house. With three puppies and a veteran couch napper (me!) something as purely decorative as this has a high probability of being destroyed by either the dogs playing with it or by me tossing it off the couch everytime I want to nap.
I will definitely try this again but next time I will end up with fewer layers, a lighter base fabric and a better bead attaching method. With those changes, and, some thinking about the design before I start, I may avoid some of the issues I have with this effort like beads falling off and the front having a final feel like luan mahogany. Also, I would make this as a gift for someone else to deal with or in a different project like a purse or tote bag.

This does sound pretty negative but I really did enjoy the whole process and look forward to trying again.

Rainy Day Play

As you may have heard, Houston has been inundated with rain the past few days. Apparently we entered the month of April with a four inch rain deficit. So far in April we have had over TEN inches of rain. This has meant alot of time in the house waiting for th water levels to go down on the roads. My neighborhood has been fine but Alex and the Girls really, really hate going out in the rain. So much so, that when I am not sewing and watching old movies I am patroling the house for their indiscreet deposits.

It started pouring rain last night and fnally stopped late this afternoon. To keep myself amused, I completed a new project rather than complete the stack of UFOs calling to me from my cutting table.

The Knitting Club at Humble Middle School has finally received a large batch of new knitting needles and the carton of needles and other supplies was getting a little disorganized. I brought it all home last week and spent most of the day today making various containers for them. Here's what I came up with:
All in all I made a zippered pouch for miscellaneous supplies, a roll of pockets for crochet hooks, one for about 10 pairs of short length needles, another one for the medium length needles, one for double pointed needles and one for circular needles. I ran out of ideas for a case for the tons of long needles that have been donated to us and for the large size donated crochet hooks. I hope you noted the cheesy hand lettered labels on the packets. When I thought up this project I wanted to embroider the labels like I did for my own cases but the big machine is in the shop I made do with a Sharpie.
Where ever you are please do not pray for rain... even if you are in a drought area. I know, that with Houston's luck, the rain will miss you and come directly to our water logged bayous.
Have a dry week!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Christopher Nejman

I just spent the last two days at a class with Christopher Nejman of 'Pillows' fame. He uses pillows as the product for his innovative fabric manipulation techniques. I was really looking forward to this class as I love his work even though I had heard from several others that he was autocratic and a real pain in the butt as a teacher. I was prepared to love and hate the class and, surprise, surprise, I loved and hated it both.

This was a class sponsored by a sewing machine and fabric store called Fabrics Etcetera. The store sells Babylock machines and the 'Embellisher' was the main tool used in the class. One of the store's goals is to sell machines and as Nejman is a Babylock spokesman, it seems like a match made in heaven. The love part is that the only supplies needed by the students were a pair of scissors. The bad part is that there were THREE students per machine. That meant that only one third of the time available for actually working on the project was productive time. I am too impatient to sit and watch others work and I am not nice enough to smilingly offer encouraging advice to others when all I want to do is get something done.

The other love/hate part of the Babylock link is that there were presentations during the two days on several Babylock products. Good to hear about the products and have a chance to use them but bad to waste time on products you really have no interest in purchasing. I also hate paying, even a modest sum, for a sales pitch. The class was extremely well priced, only $100.00 for two days of instruction, use of the machines, all the supplies and food, but all the waiting to actualy do something and the wasted sales pitches made me wonder about my desire to take other classes in this format.

The big love about the class was Nejman himself. He does have a great method for combining many techniques to make innovative items and his love for the topic is clearly visible. He had all of us, even me, with my two left feet and no sense of rhythm, up and dancing during breaks. Laughter was the order of the day and stories about his life added a lot to my enjoyment. On the other hand, my inability to gracefully wait through all the other garbage was visible to all but the brain dead. During the down times I finished up knitting a sock, got its match started, completed half a dozen games of Sudoku and read about 50 pages of my current science fiction novel, so all was not lost.

Here are a couple of shots of the examples from his book that he brought with him:

and a couple of shots of the first day's project.

One shot of an example of what we tried to duplicate on the the second day.

In the small world category - Nejman is a hair dresser and lives in New Port Richey in Florida, my parents former Winter home. He worked at J. C. Penney for many years and my mother used to have her hair done there once in a while... I wonder if she ever had him do her hair?

It looks like he will be back in town later this year with a two day class associated with his as yet unpublished new book - Celebrity Bags. The cost will be two to three times higher than the class I just completed because of the qualty of the kit needed. Once again we won't need to bring anything so there will be a lot of sitting around waiting to get something done. I would like to make one of his bags but I don't think they make chill pills strong enough to over come my inner boredom beast. Maybe I just need to find a distracting project for the down times or to rent a room in the hotel where the class is held so I can nap or sew on my own projects between times.

No matter what I decide, do not miss an opportunity to see Christopher Nejman. His techniques and the creative energy they release are not to be missed.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Little Thief

Does he look guilty?

Once again Alex has astounded me with his ability to get what he wants. For example:

Earlier today I purchased a new bag of food for the Alex and the Girls. When it came time to carry it into the house I realized that I had bought the big kibble size, rather than the preferred, small kibble size. Since the team had been locked up for many hours today, I decided to take them to the store with me to exchange the bag. The exchange went quickly and they got lots of loving from the sales clerks. On the way back to the car I noticed a little stuffed lime green ball on the ground. I asked the clerk, who was carrying the bag of dog food to the car, where it had come from and he replied "The brown one had it".

All became clear.
In the few minutes it took to exchange the dog food, Alex had found a toy and STOLE it from the store.
I apologized profusely and offered to pay for it. The clerk was more amused than angry at the theft and told me it was on the house.
The toy? Well, after several hours of chasing it and making me play fetch his way, the remains are on the floor near my desk all but forgotten while he begs for belly scratching.
Glad I didn't pay for this one!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thread Disaster

When I sew I use a large spool of thread on a stand next to my sewing machine. These spools have more than 1,000 yards of thread of them and don't fit on the standard machine spindles. Yesterday I was quilting a small quilt and unthreaded the big spool of thread and started using a standard size spool of thread. After about an hour of quilting the big spool of thread fell on the carpet. When I went to pick it up I saw that it had a lot less thread on it than it had before. Here is what the missing thread looked like after I had taken it off the hand wheel on the end of the machine:

The loose end of the thread got caught up on this, the hand wheel:
There are still a few threads caught up in the wheel but I seem to be sewing just fine. Ihope this doesn't happen again as it took a long time to get the thread off the hand wheel and I hate wasting that much thread... then again some people might say that I waste thread every time I sew :-).

Update: A friend told me she has done this a couple of times and needed to take her machine to the repair shop to get all the thread off the hand wheel. I guess I lucky just to lose a few hundred yards of thread.

After the Storm

Besides hearing that all the streets in my neighborhood, except mine, were flooded and that we got between 5 and 8 inches of rain, the big two day storm did not have much of an impact on me EXCEPT that my internet connection went down for about four days. I forget how much I enjoy having this access available to me 24/7. Not only did I not see my e-mail or do any blog entries but my Chumby would not update and my Kindle would not update the daily news paper subsciption that I have. Of course,there was some good news - the weeds and grass enjoyed all the rain and Houston's rainfall deficit is down to about a quarter of a inch. I guess its time to get out the lawn mower again.

I did not, as promised, spend the whole time working on fixing my sweater disaster. Here is a photo showing my problem.
And another of the perfect grafting stitches I have to remove.

After two days of staying in, I did not take out more than about a dozen stitches and instead started on my second pair of socks. My first pair ended up being just one sock that looked like it would fit someone with many foot defromities. This pair is turning out better and I hope to have one done soon.

Wish me luck!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Lauren Levy

Check out this artist's use of buttons - truly amazing!

It was a dark and stormy night....

... and all the little crafty types were busily making quilts, fitting garments, assembling collages and, in general, being creative . With two days of storms predicted, it would be a great space of time to create since errand running and/or yard work would be impossible.

Not me though.

My plans included finishing a quilt top, making table runners and finishing off a new bog coat.

All that went out the window when I realized that I had make a huge mistake in finishing off a sweater I had been knitting. The sweater was knit in two pieces - one for the left side and one for the right side from this pattern. Before adding borders, eadging and a button strip, you join the two backs together with the kitchener stitch... a wonderfully beautiful finish that makes the two edges join invisibly.

To complete it correctly you align the two wrong sides together and spend a couple of hours joining the halves.

I followed the instructions perfectly and made a wonderfully invisible join.

Then I went try it on.

I had joined the sweater so that the neckline of the left side of the sweater was joined to the bottom of the right side of the jacket and visa versa.

I would show you a picture but the camera is missing again. (Alex?)

Now I am off to unjoin my perfectly invisble join and re-do the sweater back joining.

Creative, right!?!

May you weekend begin and end on a better note than mine will.

Maybe I should hope for flooded streets and evacuation by handsome muscular young men... one can only hope!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gob Smacked

I think that is the expression Brit's use when they are very impressed by something.

Well, I am gob smacked by the performance of Susan Boyle, a middle aged Scottish villager who appeared on Britain's Got Talent and blew away the competition.

Here is a link to the You Tube video of her performance.

You must listen to her... her voice literally brought tears to my eyes and a grin to my face.

Thanks to Janetta for the link!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Recharging Station

The other day I received two new chests of drawers for my bedroom to act as night tables. I had been using one of those pressed board round tables and a table we used for eating in the kitchen from when I was first married. I have been looking for something besides the typical small bedside tables because I have a lot of stuff next to my bed. Typically I have a tissue box, the Chumby, a lamp, a beverage, a bucket for nail clippers, lotion, inhalers and other bits, a book, my glasses and the waste basket. I found two on clearance at Pottery Barn from this collection.
Anyway, I realized that one of the dressers would be a great place for a recharging station. I did not like all the wires hanging around just to fall behind one of the chests and I did not want to make this a big production so this is what I came up with:
Using industrial strength Velco, from my stash, which has a stcky back, I put the rough side on the back of the drawers, attached the soft side to a piece of white poster board and secured the wires between the two layers. By using Velcro I should be able to easily swap out chargers if I need to at a future date. Now my rechargers are always available without looking too messy. I plugged the cords into an old power strip which is hidden below the drawers and plugged it into an outlet that is controlled from a light switch. Apparently, if you leave your charger plugged in all the time, even if not attached to the thing that needs charging, there is a small usage of electricity. Now I only turn on that plug while I am charging something.

Here's what the chest looks like from the front with the wires just peeking over the back edge:

Not a fancy like this solution but definitely works for me.

A no cost solution to a messy problem.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Good News

Back on April 3 the CBS Early Show reported that knitting is good for your mental health. Actually, any somewhat repetitve task that makes you think has the benefit of keeping your mind nimble and could fight off dementia. What they didn't say is whether the cursing that may occur when you drop a stitch or mess up a pattern is also helpful.

I believe that my cursing has benefits at it is somewhat repetitive and makes me think of new ways to express my thoughts on my errors.

So .... if you catch one of my tirades be happy that I fighting off dimentia rather than shocked by my original verbal phrases.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Strip Club/Saturday Sewing

This past Saturday the Strip Club group had another sewing session. Instead of a quilt top, this time we worked on tote bags. One of the group had always wanted to make a tote bag so I presented the Schlepp Bag which can be made from almost any size squares and works well with pre-cut charm square packs from Moda. These are inexpensive packs of about 30 five inch square cuts of one line of fabric. Here's what the Fat Quarter Shop offers in the way of charm packs. There were six of us at the sewing session and here is a mug shop of the whole group: (I'm the one in the back who couldn't figure out how to get in the picture)

The instructions we sewed were from here with a few modifications inspired by an article, in Quiltmaker magazine from the Sept./Oct. '01 issue, called Japanese Twist Bags. The interior and the batting were cut as for a traditional tote bag based on measuremens taken from the exterior. The instructions had you cutting five inch squares of batting and that is way too finicky for me. Three of us used charm packs, one of us used a charm pack mixed with stash fabrics, one used upholstery scraps and I used stash fabric in a larger size. The best part about this is that we all went home with a completed project.
We had scheduled a second bag to be completed but we just did not have enough time for all of us to get it done. The bag we were going to do was this one from an Australian magazine. Myself and one other got to the final step of adding a button. One woman got to constructing her lining and one other got to finishing the basic exterior layout. Two others never even started it which was a good thing as it eliminated the possibilty of another UFO going in to their sewing pile. Here's a picture of the bag I made from a charm pack I had in my stash:

This bag really needs a good press but while looking at one side of it I realized that the whole thing is like a square duffle bag. I wonder what it would look like if those triangles that the handles are connected to were trimmed off and a zipper added. Definitely something to explore some other day.
These once a month gatherngs are good for my soul. There is no pressure to get anything done and we always seem to end up with an interesting project. The last two were quilt tops, this one was a tote bag and the next one will probably be the French Braid Quilt as shown in this book and this one as well. This quilt looks like a study in value but can probably be made using a jelly roll of fabric like this.
I hope your weekend went well. I've become obsessed with watching the early episodes of the television show 24. Whenever I can convince myself that I can let the dishes, laundry and vaccumming wait, I am curled up the dogs and the remote watching Jack Bauer save the world.
Life is good!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Not So Gainful Anymore

The Arts and Crafts Club has only one more meeting and for that we will be going to the Houston Center for Contempory Craft. There will be two adults with 20 budding crafters at the center for about an hour. I don't think anything will go wrong and it will be fun to be with the kids outside of school. I'm actually getting nostalgic about the club and our weekly creativity sessions. There will be alot of stuff left over and I will be donating it to a local charity that works with homeless kids. I wish I could see what they can come up with with the ton of supplies that have been donated to the club. Of course, I won't be colllecting my teeny tiny paycheck after next week but, then again, I spent most of it on supplies so my pocketbook really won't notice the change.

My attempt at teaching at a local quilt shop has also come to an end after two classes. Although I like teaching others the history of the Bog Coat and helping them create their personalized patterns, I really don't have the skills to teach others how to sew one up. After the first hour of the class on the stuff I like, we were then spending two more hours constructing the coat. I found I do not have that innate ability to notice when a student is in trouble so those lost as to the next step probably felt abandoned. In addition, I think it would have been best to give the students the first part of the class before they actually bought fabric. In every case, the students had purchased more fabric than they needed AND it was all quilting cottons sold by the store. Quilting cottons are not the best fabric for this kind of garment so, again, I failed my students by promoting an unsuitable fabric. My pocketbook will be emptier but I will stop feeling guilty about the fabric issue.

I really should be looking for 'regular' employment but I just can't wrap my head around the forty hours a week grind... yet! Until I get desperate or the stock market disappears, I'll continue trolling for minor empoyment and enjoy it while I can.