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…


And Now for Something Completely Different

September 17, 2006

I’m off on a different subject today, my other love, knitting with beads. The purse in progress below is knitted with Omega Nylon Crochet Thread (#2) and size 8/0 seed beads on size 0 needles. When completed, it will have a 6″ snap open internal frame that fits in the casing hidden behind the solid strip of beads. I’m shooting for about a 6″ length, so it will be roughly square. sixinchpurse.jpg I tend to alternate between knitting and crazy quilting, with the frequent departures off on tangents of beading, or other needlework related pursuits. The color in real life is quite pretty, a pale pink with amethyst silver lined beads. There really aren’t any patterns for this thread, so I’m designing as I go. I’ve done a similarly styled coin purse that I’m enjoying very much and is holding up very well to everyday use. I like designing as opposed to working from a pattern, though when I knit clothing, I still prefer to have a pattern to help at least form the basic structure, even if I select yarn that is totally different in size and texture.

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…


A Finished Tree

September 5, 2006

As promised, only just yesterday, I’ve finished the tree motif, and can call that little section of the project complete. The same cannot be said of the rest of the block, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And then, if you’re me, skip around a bit. This project is the “outer shell” of a hussif I have designed for carrying around my sewing tools. It should probably be made of something more durable, but this was the whim at the time I was designing the project, and I intend to go along with the original plan and finish this block for its intended use. I did make another, with the outer shell being a pretty green suede, scavenged from a pair of shorts purchased just for the purpose of recycling the leather. This is what the interior of the hussif looks like. hussifintmain400.jpg A hussif is old English for housewife, and refers to the sewing kit carried by soldiers for repairing their uniforms. I wanted something I could keep basic tools in all the time, and not have to go looking for them. I made another one, so I could document the pattern as I went along. hussifgreenopen.jpgThis one is configured a bit differently inside, as I’m using this one for my knitting tools. It works very well, and I’ve enjoyed having it in my knitting bag. Right now it’s at my local quilt shop, as the sample for a class I’m teaching later this month.

I need to explain the odd looking curved stripe in the upper pocket. I was down at my LQS where I sew most Thursdays, and had just grabbed some scraps to use to make this one. One of the scraps was the discarded back of a jacket I made for myself some time ago. I got the piecing arrangement backwards on this one, and had to make another. This piece ended up in the scraps and I had intended to just cut a piece of fabric the right size from the piece. My good friend Pam suggested I incorporate the curve, and it was a great idea.

Oh, I was talking about the tree, wasn’t I? See how easily I get sidetracked? Okay, so here’s the tree, in its little field, complete with bird, fence and a few flowers. tree4.jpg I really like the effect of adding some ‘environment’ for the tree, it gives it a little more character. Pardon the fuzziness, I usually have better luck scanning rather than photographing, but this one’s blurry on the left side. This is most likely because I didn’t use a hoop, and we have a little puckering going on.

While we’re talking about variegated thread, we’ll see a bit later that it isn’t the best thing for bullions, but I should have expected that. Meanwhile, here’s an excellent use of variegated thread, by Debbie of Needle Lil More Time to Sew. Scroll down to the September 2nd entry on the muscari flower. What a great flower and great control of the medium. Oh, and look, I learned how to put links in my blog.

Until next time…


Variegated Threads – Round 3

September 3, 2006

Sooner or later proved, as it often does for me, to be later. At the end of my previous post on variegated threads, I mentioned that I was going to road test the Caron Wildflowers in the Black Forest colorway on a tree trunk. True to my hopes, this thread does make an outstanding tree trunk. As variegated threads go, this one’s a winner, especially in this application. Whether it was chance or good fortune, one of the lighter areas of the thread landed just along the left hand side of the tree, and not so obviously anywhere else that I got a nice looking highlight on that side.tree1.jpg Working from a bare chalk outline, I started at the bottom of the left side of the trunk, worked my way to the end of the branch, and then started back down again, not from the tip of the branch but ‘down’ the branch a little ways. From there I did the other main branches, top to ground, later going back to fill in any gaps in the stitching. The tiny branches off the larger branches were an afterthought, added with the last bit of thread on my needle after the main tree was complete. There was a big chunky mess near the top of the center branch, but I didn’t bother to take it out, knowing it would get some leaves shortly.
After the trunk was complete, I began adding leaves. Using my all time favorite stitch for foliage, the detached chain (aka lazy daisy), I started adding leaves. I made a point of having the leaves cross over some of the branches, just as you would expect to see foliage on a tree obscuring some of the trunk.tree21.jpgThe thread is one strand each of two different colors of DMC floss, though the colors are so similar they look the same. I was looking for a little depth by using two colors, but it is much more subtle than I was trying to achieve. So, if you’re going to blend using two different colors, they need to be a little more different than the shades I chose. Who knows, it could have been two skeins of the same color number. I have a bad habit of selecting the same shades over and over, only discovering the duplication when get it home. I discovered 3 skeins of the same pink the other day, all right next to each other in the box. It is a pretty shade of pink…

Now for the blossoms. Determined to make use of my several skeins of DMC variegated pink (color#48), I cut off an entire length of the thread, from lightest all the way to where it was darkest and beginning to go light again. I split it into two groups of 3 strands. Setting one group aside, I removed one of the three strands from the other two and turned it the other way around. So, it had two very light strands paired up with one very dark strand. What I mean to say is that at one end, two strands were very light and the other very dark. The other end had one very light and two very dark. I tied my knot in the light/light end, and began making colonial knots starting at the left end of the leftmost branch. Remember, I’m left handed. I worked my way to the trunk, about which time I discovered that my knots didn’t look so multicolored anymore. I had reached the point on the thread that there wasn’t a lot of contrast between the strands. tree3.jpgI puttered around the center of the tree for awhile, until the three strands were all the same color. At this point I cut the thread, tied it off and then cut the rest of the ‘all-the-same’ colors off the remaining thread and started up again. There was a section of about 8″ that I didn’t use at all. At that point, I realized that I should be skipping all over the place with my knots, instead of going to the nearest next good place to put a knot. This gives better balance and puts dissimilar knots near each other. Floss is cheap, and it’s ok to waste a few inches in the interest of better looking work, or just in being satisfied with what you’ve done. The last four knots are the ones falling from the tree, and I did them twice before I was happy with them. The first four came at a point in the thread where the colors were too similar, so I cut them out and used the other end of the thread, where there was more contrast.

If you’re going to skip around while doing this sort of work, either make sure not to pull stitches too tightly, or use a hoop. Since most of my work is wool and has lots of body, I seldom use a hoop, but even with the wool, it pays to keep an eye on your tension.

Alas, this tree is not out standing in its field all alone, and a future installment will show the surrounding grass and a few other little things to give the environment more character. DD thinks the tree needs a bluebird, but I’m still on the fence about adding fauna to my flora. Hey, maybe I should make a fence in the background for the birdie to sit on. That sounds like a plan.

Until next time…


Ribbon Roses

August 20, 2006

Today on the Hand-Embroidery list, we were talking about ribbon roses, and what different types of ribbons were suitable. Of course silk comes to mind, but you can use other types of ribbon as well. I’ve used both single and double faced polyester satin ribbon, gros grain ribbon, and wire edge ribbon. Ombre ribbon creates a nice effect when making folded ribbon roses.

This photo is the lapel of a men’s sportcoat that I jazzed up a bit. The original inspiration came from watching a guest on the Carol Duvall show. She had several blazers dressed up with a variety of materials. While she used fabric glue – gasp!! I elected to sew all my embellishments onto the jacket. Some of the materials used are vintage, and I wanted to be able to reuse them later if I got tired or something happened to the jacket. The white trim around the edges is rayon bobbin lace, the likes of which I’ve never seen before or since. blazer1.jpg

The top bright pink ribbon rose and the third bright pink one down are made with gros grain ribbon. Most of the rest of them are made with single face satin ribbon in various widths. Add a little greenery with ribbon leaves and tendrils, and you get a nice layout. I tucked in a few silver toned buttons here and there for visual interest. Though the photo doesn’t do a good job with colors, the jacket is a dark gray pinstripe and all the embellishments are in the pink-mauve-burgundy family.

On the opposite side of the jacket there are fewer things, but I didn’t want the two sides to look alike. There’s a piece of vintage tatting, a wired ribbon rose or two, some leaves and a really cool old glass button. The velvet flower is made of velvet ribbon, gathered tightly on one edge, formed into a circle and then stitched down around the outer edge. A pearl button finishes the center.blazer3.jpg

On the pocket below, I used some vintage lace that appeared to be from a cuff of a blouse. Below that is some soutache braid that had a bit of metallic woven into it. The burgundy trim on both lapels is a purchased soutache braid. The color on the photos isn’t very good, which is why I usually scan my work instead of snapping pictures. This time however, there was too much dimension for it to scan well, so I used the digital camera. A newer camera with a macro setting is on my shopping list.

Until next time…