Quickie Project

December 16, 2006

My how time flies! I keep meaning to post something, anything, but things just keep getting in the way. I’ve been working on lots of projects, but really can’t post photos of much until after Christmas. And, while I have much about which to be philosophical during this season, I just don’t have a lot of time to put it all down on paper, electronic or not. I do have one thing that I’ve completed recently, for our annual fund raising auction of my guild, and since that event has come and gone, it’s okay to post a photo. Hexagon Pouch

This is made from an elongated hexagon, pieced in the log cabin style, quilted as it was pieced. The front is another elongated hexagon, but with the top end chopped off to provide a straight edge for the opening (which is under the flap). Once I had the piecing done, I put on some beaded embellishments, then assembled the bag. I added a lining to the bag at the time of assembly, so that when the binding went on, I was covering all the raw edges at once. The button is sewn to the flap, and the dangly beads wrap around the button to keep it closed. A pretty rayon twisted cord makes up the strap, which is long enough to wear the pouch around the neck. This project was fast, fun, and well received, so I guess that makes it a winner. I have more ideas for this little concept, but they are way on the back burner, because I have lots of other ideas floating around in my brain, waiting to escape as well.

Until next time…


Brad, who’s brad?

November 12, 2006

A while back I went into the scrapbooking store, thinking there wasn’t any trouble that I could get into in there. Wrong. Back in the corner, I found the eyelets and the brads. I bought a few eyelets, but right now I’m not thinking they’re going to be much fun, but the brads are another story altogether. I’ve had them floating around in my stash for a few months, but today I finally found a reason to drag them out. I’ve been working on a little pouch style purse for my daughter (I won’t say how long I’ve been working on it), made from a single panel which will then be folded into a purse shape. All the pieces are silk, with one very irritating exception – that’s another story – and most of the fabrics are solid color. One patch, however, was made from a particularly modern, particularly abstract necktie. Selecting the proper embellishment for this piece was quite a dilemma. I thought about crosshatching the entire patch with black thread, with a bead at each junction, but that didn’t really do anything for me. Inspiration came in the form of these cute little brads, with little words or sayings on them. bradsonsilk2.jpgInterspersed between them are a few smaller ones with a brushed finish. For those unfamiliar with brads, they’ve been around for years in the form of little brass button type things that kids use in elementary school to put moving hands on their construction paper clocks. Recently they’ve become very popular with the scrapbooking set, of which I’m not a member. The backs have two pointed prongs which meet together at the center of the back of the brad. The two prongs are pushed through the construction paper, or in this case fabric, and then are separated and pressed flat against the back side of the project.

This being my first use of them, I learned a couple of things right off the bat. The fabric in this project is silk, and using the brad itself to push the prongs through the silk and foundation muslin could easily result in some pulled threads. After the first one, I used the tips of very sharp pair of scissors to make a pilot hole. This was really only an issue with the three larger ones, the points on the smaller ones were fine enough not to cause a problem. Also, it might not be a bad idea to use a bit of stabilizer behind the brads, just to give the fabric a bit more heft.

The first thing my daughter asked when I showed it to her was, “will there be any embroidery in between?” The answer is no, I like it just the way it is, and in this example, I think the minimalist approach works just fine. Besides, the fact that I couldn’t come up with any good embroidery ideas was the reason I got the brads out in the first place.

Until next time…

Use it and Lose It?

October 27, 2006

Good Heavens, what if I use it up?!!

Do you have items in your stash that you don’t want to use because it might not be the right project? I’ve come across several comments lately in e-mails and blogs in which people are saying that they didn’t want to use a particular item from their stash, because then it would be gone. Judging by these comments and the way I feel about my stash, this club has a fairly large membership, and I’m certain I could be elected president-for-life.

I’ve had remarkable success, usually at estate sales and thrift stores, in finding needlework treasures. When the estate of a very talented and prolific needleworker was donated to a local church for their thrift store, I was able to purchase literally miles of various kinds of silk thread and other interesting items for a fabulous price. Pearsall’s Silk ThreadThey are carefully stored in their own containers, awaiting the perfect project. But what if the perfect project never comes along? I’m awash with excuses not to use the silk threads. First, I could never replace what I have without spending big $$$. Second, it’s the “silk is too nice to use on a utilitarian object” rationale. Then there’s the “what if I need it for a different project that really is the perfect place for it?” question. So finally, I did give in and break out the silk floss; after all, I bought two skeins of every color. Also, I’m currently only using the most boring of the colors. The project is a Wyoming landscape, and until I start adding flowers and creatures, etc., we’re in a golds, oranges, tan and sage green rut. I’d love to get back to work on this project, if I could only figure out where it’s hiding.

Among the silks were two huge cones of buttonhole twist, in two different weights. Undyed Silk ThreadAnd yes, I’ve barely scratched the surface of those as well. I did take a few yards of them to try my hand at dyeing with Kool-Aid, which came out great and was a lot of fun. However, the lion’s share is still on the cone, and not going anywhere anytime soon.

It’s not just the silk thread, oh no. I have cotton threads in all shapes and sizes, and even a little wool. And let’s not leave out the bits of lace, trims, crocheted edgings, etc. Then there are the beads. It used to be just seed beads, mainly due to some really great aquisitions. But after seeing some really wonderful work that went beyond the mere seed bead, of course I began collecting non-seed beads. I call them non-seed beads because they run the gamut of bead types, from the basic base metal beads to be found at my local Ben Franklin to some really cool vintage beads from a local estate.

There’s that word again. Estate. I’ve been to a lot of estate sales. I’ve been lured to them by newspaper ads, auction notices, announcements at guild meetings, and chance comments from friends who know I love to collect this sort of thing.

There’s an underlying current here. I’m buying from the heirs of people like me. Ladies who collected, horded, stashed their stuff. But the big question, to me anyway, is: Did they use it? Or am I buying stuff they purchased in hopes of using one day, on the perfect project. In two cases, I know they did use it. Both were very prolific textile artists, and they DID many things with their materials. One lady was a dealer for the thread company, and a lot of the things in her estate were backstock that she originally intended to sell. But what about the others? Was I pawing through the things of a woman who had great plans and ambitions, but was waiting for the right project? Perhaps the family members had scooped up all the beautiful finished things these ladies made and kept them as keepsakes. I sure hope so, because they weren’t in evidence at the sales.

I’m kind of a ‘seat-of-the-pants’ person. I have a terrible time maintaining a calendar, and I’m not very good at planning out a daily schedule. I often realize I’m supposed to be somewhere ten minutes away five minutes before I should be there. Given my blonde hair, the word ‘ditz’ has probably entered a few minds after an encounter with me. A rigid scheduler, I’m not. Like the project finishers previously mentioned, I have a hard time comprehending the people who are always there and seated quietly well before an event begins. I just don’t see how they achieve all that punctuality. So why then do I have such a hard time breaking free to use a particular item from my stash until the right project comes along? Why do I agonize over using things from the special stash? When my husband of 26 years proposed after we had been dating only 3 weeks, I blurted out “Yes” without spending even a tenth of the time it takes me to decide it’s okay to use some of that silk thread. That lightnening fast decision has worked out awfully well for me, so how come I can’t bring myself to cut into the silk?

While this whole thing isn’t me worrying about my ultimate departure from this world, I can’t help but wonder what people will say about me at the estate sale my family will undoubtedly hold. Hopefully it won’t be “How sad, all these beautiful materials and they were still brand new.”

Until next time…

More Beadwork

October 16, 2006

I’m having more fun playing, er learning to use the new camera, so while I’m thinking beadwork, here are some more photos of my beading adventures. The first one is another item in the victorian flower technique. I made the petals individually and then sewed them onto the crazy quilt block. When making beaded flowers of this sort, the usual material for stringing is fine gauge wire. For these, I used beading thread and found them to be very floppy and slightly annoying. Also, without a little support under the petals, you don’t get the three dimensional character you would if using wire. Orange Beaded Flower Free standing beaded flowers can be bent into shape after constructing the flower. I guess I just didn’t want to use wire on a textile work. They are made with orange lined yellow seed beads, which are much prettier than the name sounds. On the left hand edge of the photo is a piece of vintage lace with straight stitches and clusters of 3 dyed pale orange seed beads. I seem to be on an orange kick lately, though this block was made some months ago as a sample for a brochure for Quilt Wyoming, where I taught last summer. Somehow, a lot of my more recent work has orange in it as well. The big rose on the right is a spider web rose made with 7mm silk ribbon that I dyed myself, probably using calligraphy pens.

The second photo is a beaded mother of pearl button that I did a few weeks ago. I was looking at photos of beaded faces and cabochons, and I found a tutorial of this method at About.com I can’t say I’m too fond of the object in the photo, but scroll down to the technique to get to the good part. Make sure you join the ends of the strip together as shown, as you need the beads in the right place to do the subsequent steps. Ya wanna know how I know that?? Beaded Button

I didn’t have any cabochons handy, so I dug out this enormous button from my stash. The button was about 1 1/4″ diameter before being beaded. Before putting on the fringe, I showed it to my husband, who said it looked just like a steering wheel cover. Hmmph!! But, he’s right, that’s a perfect description of what it’s like. There’s nothing holding the beadwork to the button, except the fact that it wraps around the edges. It’s just like the fleece steering wheel cover that I had on my old car. If you handle it too much, the beadwork will squish out of shape and you have to push it back where it belongs. Oh, and the back looks much the same as the front. Where some techniques have you putting the button onto a backing and sewing through that backing, this one is completely naked on the back. Once you get the cover on the button, then you can have fun adding fringe, spikes, whatever you like. The fringe-y things in the center are to camouflage the fact that it’s a button, with four big holes in the center. I’m not sure what I plan to do with this, nor am I sure that it’s completed. I was contemplating some long fringe along the bottom. Does a round object have a bottom? It does if you put fringe on one side. It should probably end up being a brooch. For those wondering why I wouldn’t want some sort of backing on it, especially if it’s going to be a brooch, here’s the explanation. First and foremost, I just had to try the technique, right now. One of those ‘because it’s there’ kind of things. I’ve done beaded buttons before with a backing, and they’re great when done that way. Mainly this was just a little adventure in beading. Another good reason to do a button this way is if you had a valuable button that you didn’t want to risk ruining by putting glue on the back. Although it would destroy the beadwork, I could liberate the button any time I wanted and be right back where I started, the button no worse for the wear. I’m one of those purists who believe that if you have something old and in good condition, it should be left that way, not cut into bits and pieces for other projects. Now, give me a stained up old doily and a pair of scissors, and then stand back. If the item can’t repaired or cleaned, then it’s fair game.

Until next time…

Beaded Critters

October 14, 2006

First, I’ve amended my previous post on finishing projects with a photo of a finished project. Ta Da!! I can’t say I’ve completely gotten the hang of the new digital camera, or even come close, but I’ve managed to snap a couple of really nice shots. I think it’s so very cool that you can snap as many photos as you want and then just delete the ones you don’t like, which for me was most of them. Of course the other great thing about the camera is that I’m no longer restricted to flat objects that can be placed in the scanner.

That said, I’ve taken a photo of a tiny beaded lizard that I put on a pincusion made from a tin can. The lizard is made in the same technique used to make beaded critters, and also Victorian style beaded flowers.

Beaded Lizard

This one is done with emerald green transparent seed beads with an AB finish, and a couple of black beads for the eyes. I used high strength Berkeley brand fishing line, which makes a great critter but it is easier to do them with fine gauge wire when getting started. Once complete, I tacked it down to the pincushion. These are fun to do, and I think the result is pretty cute. A look around the internet will find patterns for lots of beaded critters.

Until next time…

Finishing the Bad Project

October 1, 2006

Oooh, now there’s a sticky subject!! Finishing. Let me be the first to admit, I’m a great project starter. I get enthused about a new concept, technique, object I want to make, and I’m off to the races. I love to try new things. Let me also be the first to admit, I’m not one of those people who finishes one project before starting the next. I can’t begin to comprehend the mindset which makes these people tick. I don’t have the discipline that forces me to finish what I start before jumping head first into another project. To me, life is an adventure, and half the fun of it is rushing off headlong down a rabbit trail (a new project) to see where it takes me. All roads eventually lead back to the UFO pile, though I might have enjoyed a lot of scenery along the way. Sometimes it’s that scenery that gives me fresh perspective or inspiration to get me back on track. Even better, sometimes I learn something new that makes an old project even better than the original plan.

I’d also like to state unequivocally that I don’t think starting projects without finishing the first ones is a character flaw any more than I consider the drive to finish first things first a character flaw. Though, as I said, I can’t comprehend those people.

I mentioned in a previous post that deadlines are often the source of “doneness” in a project such as crazy quilting where there’s no specific “finish line.” For me, a life without deadlines would be chaos, even more so than my life already is, with family, pets, farm animals, a business, playing, coaching, search & rescue… Take out the deadlines and nothing would get done.

Just to prove I do finish things, the purse from the previous post is finished, Pink Evening Pursebecause it had to be at the library yesterday morning for our annual Fiber Art show. This show, like other deadlines, is a great motivator to get projects done so I can participate in the show (aka show off).

Okay, so it’s one thing to finish projects you love, or are at least close to finishing. But what about those projects you really wish you hadn’t started? I sat with a friend at our weekly Threaders lunch on Tuesday and she was talking about a project she hated. The quilt was beautiful, and well worth completing, but she said she detested working on it. I have had projects like that. One I can remember was a mystery quilt which had a design that did nothing for me. Of course, one should go into a mystery quilt with the understanding that you may not like the result. If you can’t handle that possibility, stay home. Early on in the process, I knew I wasn’t going to love the finished quilt, but I forced myself to finish the project without working on anything else. Why? I knew that if I set it aside, I would never complete it. Because of the nature of the pattern, I also knew that mine was going to look just like everyone else’s and I couldn’t have that. So, while forcing myself to finish the quilt, I found a way to put my own personal stamp on it. Oddly enough, I like the way it turned out, and got lots of compliments on it. Sometimes perseverance has rewards beyond the actual completion of the project. Besides, if you bring a 10 year old project to show and tell, people will cheer when you announce you’ve finally finished it.

Another of those bad, bad projects was a paper pieced Christmas cactus quilt I did for my mother. This is where I discovered I detest paper piecing. Detest might be too mild a word. My mother loves Christmas cactii, and when I saw the pattern I knew it would make a lovely gift. The pattern is really beautiful, but it was the process I didn’t like. OK, hated. But since it was for a Christmas gift, and it quickly became too late to start another project, I persevered. That, and knowing how much my mother would love it kept me on task. I have never paper pieced another thing. It’s just not my thing. I don’t envy the people who do enjoy it, and it’s okay with me not to be one of them.

Sometimes there is value in learning that a particular technique “isn’t your thing.” Say you’ve purchased a few patterns or books on a specific technique, and you feel they are all hanging over your head because you really want to do them. Once you do one, and decide it’s not for you, you can sell, donate, burn, whatever, the other patterns or books, thereby liberating yourself from many nagging, undone projects. Chances are good that if they were good enough to be published, someone else will want to do them and be happy to give your castoffs a home. Thus, by letting go, you have given yourself a break and made someone else happy. What could be better?

So, how to get yourself to complete those bad projects? Well, bribery is a good technique. I frequently use chocolate chips or M&Ms to bribe myself. Work for 15 minutes or get a specific task done, and I get chocolate. Just like the chicken ringing the bell. If chocolate isn’t on your menu, there are other ways to bribe yourself. Is there a project you’d really rather be doing? Something new you want to try? Why not work on the bad project for an hour, or to a certain goal, then give yourself a treat by working on the fun project for a while? In this way, you can create balance between the need to complete and the desire to enjoy what you’re doing. Other than brutishly forcing myself to complete the project, which completely kills it for me, bribery is the best way for me to slog through.

We’ve covered the projects we intend to finish, but what about those that were doomed from the start? Do you need to waste precious time and emotional cash lamenting the unfinishable project? NO, I tell you, a resounding NO!!! Life is too short to regret the unfinishable. Give yourself the gift of letting go!

Okay, but the practical side of you is considering the dollars and time you’ve invested in this project. You can’t just throw it away! Or can you? Call it a waste and move on? This is something a lot of us can’t do. So maybe it’s time to look at how we can recover some of our expense. With beads and yarn, you can snip threads, unravel, and recoup the materials. With fabric it’s not so easy. If you’ve already cut the pieces, it’s pretty difficult to re-use them. Do you know someone who would love this project enough to complete it? Is there someone out there who loves the technique who would be happy to have it? Then make her day, at the same time liberating yourself, and hand it over. You’ll both be better off for it. If you don’t know anyone who’d like to have it, then donate it to your local thrift store. Thrift stores are filled with other people’s good intentions. One woman’s trash is another’s treasure, and I have brought home many a beautiful thread or component donated by someone who has liberated herself from that bad project anchor tied to her leg.

But what about the time you have invested? Time is something you can’t get more of, and what’s the point in throwing good time after bad? Time spent in resentment is worse than wasted. If you have 50 hours into a project and are looking at another 50 to finish it, and you’re still going to hate it when it’s done, I say give it up. Reclaim those would-be hours and spend them enjoyably. I spoke with a woman once who said she was going to take up quilting after she retired. I felt sad for her. I know of too many people whose life after retirement has been brutally short. How sad not to try something new because you were waiting until you had more time. She didn’t know what she was missing. To me, it’s even more sad to spend time doing something I really don’t like, just because I think I have to finish it before moving on to something new. More sad because I do know what I’m missing.

Until next time…

First in a Series

September 11, 2006

In my first post, I explained that my original reason for starting a blog was to document my “embellishment extensions,” taking a simple embellishment and adding to it to create an even better effect. This embellishment is a simple piece of venise lace, originally ecru in color. I used permanent calligraphy pens to dye it green. I do this by wetting the lace, then dabbing the ink on and letting it sit for a few minutes. I often do this from the back side of the lace. The color bleeds around the lace nicely, and if you don’t get enough color, you can simply hit it with the pen again. The color of the pen I used is called ‘evergreen’ and is quite a dark color. After allowing it to bleed around the lace, the color is a lovely soft green.fern1.jpg

After tacking the lace down with silk thread (which is nearly transparent when you make tiny stitches) I placed a detached chain stitch in most the little dimples at the ends of the fronds. I felt that it needed something more, so I added some red-pink lined transparent irridescent beads to the base of each stitch. The beads are more glitz and shine than visible as actual beads. I auditioned several beads before choosing them. fern2.jpg I often buy transparent beads, which I then have trouble using because they don’t show up on the fabric. This is most often a problem when working with dark fabrics, which I tend to use more than light colors. However, in this example, the transparent beads are just what I needed.

Until next time…