Thursday, April 29, 2010

Flip, Flop, Fly on Artful Thursday

Beading is so much fun - the sparkle of the little beads as they fly all over the place!

I thought this week I would make some little decorated bags for my herbal concoctions - a pretty beaded one for pot pourri or bath herbs and an embroidered one for my Fines Herbes bouquets garni.

I found a linen rayon blend in my cupboard that had a soft, crinkly look and the colour was perfect - light grayish with a fine tan stripe. Perfection in fabric. I figured out how big I wanted the bag to be and then decided on the construction - I want them to be easy to open and reach into so I decided on a top that would open right up. (There is a diagram at the end of this post which you can enlarge by clicking on it)

Once the fabric was cut, I basted a piece of muslin underneath the design area; this will add stability for the bead work, but I also like it under embroidery as well - hides all those travelling threads very well.

Using a wash out marker, I drew lines for the bead placement.

When I am beading, I prefer to knot each bead but when I am doing a design that calls for a long run of beads, I prefer to load them all on the needle and lay them at the same time.

Once they are stitched in place I couch them for added stability by coming up from below on one side of the beads, lay the thread between two beads and take the needle back down to the wrong side. I usually couch between every second bead, and if you are careful to come up and go down as close to the drawn line as possible, the stitches are invisible.

Here is a photo of the embroidered version. I drew a wavy line up the centre of the design area, again with a wash out marker. The stem is backstitched with two strands of embroidery floss, the flowers are french knots, three strands of floss and three wraps around the needle. I did two dark knots at the base of each flower and then one knot with a lighter colour at the top. The leaves are two strands of green, one light and one dark and are done in a simple straight stitch.
To each side I did a simple herringbone with french knots in between the "arms" of the stitch.

Now for the details: I cut my fabric 4.5" wide 18" long. If you click on the above photo, you will see how I divided the fabric for the design area and sewing the front and back flaps. Once all the flap folds are pressed and edge-stitched you need to fold each flap down to the wrong side and stitch it in place just above the design area. Stitch another line about 3/4" above this to create a channel for the ribbon or cord.

Finally, fold the entire piece in half, wrong sides together and sew the side seams - I did an overcast stitch on mine as well, especially at the point where the side becomes the flap (where you made the 1/4" cut). Turn right side out, thread two cords through and you're done!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Flying Free

We lost someone today ... my daughter's boyfriend's mother Sina passed away after fighting the good fight. Quite the label I just gave her but of course she was so much more than that. I met her once, at Thanksgiving in Calgary several years ago and we shared turkey and wine and stories.

I liked her frankness, admired her spunk, thought highly of her ability to raise three fine children but I had known I would like her even before I met her because I heard she was a quilter.

She sent me a scrap of fabric once to see if any of the stores around here might have it - many quilters ask such favours - but when I told her none of the local shops had it she wanted me to stop looking. "Not worth wasting time on" she said, but I protested. Kamloops, Vernon, and Kelowna all had shops and if she could wait a week or two I would be happy to check them all - you see I know all about looking for more of the perfect fabric and I was happy to take the time. But she said no because it was her time that would be wasted, not mine. She had another fabric that would be fine and it was more important to finish this quilt for her child; they would never care whether or not it had the perfect fabric, they would care that it had been made for them by the perfect person.

This morning, before I knew she had passed away, I read this poem on another blog and thought it was so beautiful:

There is a place I call my own
Where I can stand by the sea
And look beyond the things I've known
And dream that I might be free

Like a bird above the trees
Gliding gently on the breeze
I wish that all my life I'd be
Without a care and flying free

But life is not a distant sky
Without a cloud, without rain
And I can never hope that I
Can travel on without pain

Time goes swiftly on it's way
All too soon we've lost today
I cannot wait for skies of blue
Or dream so long
That life is through

So life's a song that I must sing, a gift of love I must share
And when I see the joy it brings, my spirits soar through the air
Like that bird up in the sky, life has taught me how to fly

For now I know what I can be

And now my heart is flying free...

* * * * *

On Being seven and Learning to Craft...

This story actually begins a little earlier than age 7 - my Mom would likely better be able to pinpoint the right year but I make it about 1965, when I was four. We were going to our cabin at the lake with my grandparents and whilst everyone was busy loading up the cars I was occupied at the kitchen table table pasting things. I don't remember exactly what I was pasting but I remember the process well - homemade flour-and-water glue and a brush. The glue was still warm from being made with warm water and even though I had a brush I couldn't resist sticking my fingers in it when no one was looking.

When it came time to leave I was adamant I couldn't leave my glue behind. Looks were exchanged over my head and I don't remember whether it was my Mother or Grandmother, but one of them produced a small glass jar with a little glass lid, my glue was scraped into it and off we went.

We made glue in that little pot for several years and I still have it although now it holds rosebuds and lavender and sits on my dresser...

A charming reminder of a happy childhood activity.

By the time I was seven the glue pot had made way for learning new crafting techniques: to sew fabric pieces together in a first attempt at quilting, learning traditional bead work from my best friend's native Grandmother and knitting. I still remember that first attempt at knitting a scarf - the yarn was a deep purple, the knitting needles were hospital green and I dropped more stitches than I carried. I ripped it out and started over many times but never did finish it.

After the last Demo Friday I got to cleaning up my sewing room and found a dishcloth I had started knitting many years ago and thought of that earlier project. I decided right then to finish the dishcloth and last night I used it for the first time - and what a pleasure that was. It is a beautiful golden brown colour and so easy to wring out! I was so happy about finishing it that I sat down after and made this...

A small scarf, perfect for a little snowman! I am determined to change my ways and start finishing things. But perhaps the best way to achieve that goal is by making miniatures...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Artful Box

A last minute phone call and I worked today - so I scratched my head thinking of what to do ... it is Artful Thursday after all.... I really must think ahead but my brain is somewhat addled these days...

Now you must know I don't think of myself as an artist - I make things - that's what I do. Artists think up things out of thin air, see a vision and create it.
Sometimes I make things designed by other people, sometimes they are my own designs and sometimes they are a mixture - a hybrid, if you will. I can't recall any that came from thin air... I am alright with that though.

But the real reason I know I am not an artist is because I don't name my creations and I do not sign my work. And for all you quilters out there - No, I do not label my quilts. (Quit sputtering and read on...)

My good friend Carol is an artist, and a darn good one. She is also the person who told me about the importance of choosing a name for your art. I scoffed at the idea - after all I had seen a painting of Monet's titled "Still Life With Haunch of Meat" . I put forth he was famous for his skill, which could obviously stand up to any vocabulary issues he might have. (Another thing you must know is that we have discussed this at great length, over many years. She always comes back to the same thing - "Before you jump around saying "The monkey has no pants, you must be sure the monkey should indeed even be wearing pants." In other words, that particular painting of Monet's was a part of a study series and thus did not require a proper name - but I digress, as she would be the first to point out.)
And doesn't this also hearken to "A rose by any other name..." I know, I know, digressing again...

And so, to the point of the post - several years ago Carol sent me this:

A little treasure box of hand-dyed fabrics, small pieces of silk fusion, fish leather (yes, there is a story there, but it's hers to tell, not mine), threads, and assorted bookmarks and cards made from images of her art. I was so delighted with my "treasure box" that I have kept it intact for all these years, dipping in and using things as needed, but it seemed like keeping them together kept the gift alive.

And now it is my turn. I am reluctantly re-packing the box with treasures I have collected over the past few years; reluctantly because this box has come to symbolize creativity for me and I hate to lose the visual reminder. I have no regrets about what I am putting in it though - 1920s Art Deco ribbon from France, mother of pearl buttons from Paris, silver leather, fossil beads, silk brought back from Thailand by another friend, and most special of all, crystal buttons from Sarah. Sarah knew I have an almost pathological love of buttons - so she gave me a box filled with buttons. I have treasured everyone (yes, I kept that box intact too - perhaps another issue I have?)
Sarah was our friend and fellow quilter and that woman had a way with fabric... she had a knack for combining such disparate fabrics and making them look great - it often puzzled Carol and I how she did it. And in the early days of our quilting, when we made everything from patterns, she would say to us (in her charming English accent) "Well, it is lovely you know, but really, it would be so much better if you did your own thing".

And every time I follow a pattern I think of her words and feel confident enough to add my own twist, or go off in a different direction altogether. Her gift to me.

So now the box is off to Carol in the Yukon again, hopefully to delight, and inspire. I will think of it as The Artful Box. Perhaps in honour of Artful Thursday I will decorate the outside - maybe with roses - because "AirPort Card Adapter" signifies art.

At least to me.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Room With A View

Yesterday I was working away in my sewing room, getting this ready for the Friday's Demo (amongst many other items that are nowhere near this far along)...

and all day I could hear the buzzing of chainsaws and power saws. I was thinking there must be a new house being built somewhere nearby, or serious renovations on an old one. The noise eventually became tiresome so I shut the window and blocked it out.

Last night, while getting the extra petals ready for said project, I happened to look out the window and this appeared, right before my very eyes...

I used to have a marginal, fragmented view of the lake, and only if I wedged myself into one corner; now, I can stand in front of the window and see this!

Yesterday afternoon, three neighbors across the street worked together to remove several trees that had deteriorated over the past few years and would be in serious danger of being blown over in a wind storm. And now I have a view.

So first thing this morning I happily rearranged my sewing room and parked my cutting table (which is also my preferred work surface) right in front of the window. Now all I have to do is lift my head and I am inspired...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bozzy Gets A Brand New Bed

Years ago I saw a magazine article on recovering old suitcases with tapestry fabric. Two days later I found just the right suitcase at an antique store. I brought it home and laid different fabrics in it to see what would coordinate with the interior and as soon as my back was turned, Bozzy the cat jumped in, curled up and pronounced it his. It has been his ever since!

I noticed lately he didn't sleep in it as much; it seems in his old age it isn't big enough to really stretch out in.

Last week I found a bigger suitcase at our local antique store - it has a grey exterior (which I quite like) and a claret interior (which beautifully sets off Boz's hair). I brought it home, put his favourite blanket in it, and in he went and promptly curled up.

Today I found some flannel fabric that would look alright (for those of you following my fabric reduction program this took up 1.5 metres) and made a pillow insert.

Bozzy isn't sure about it so he wouldn't stay in long enough to get a picture but I am hoping a little catnip will do the trick.

I also spent some time today reading up on photography tips and I practiced on my fabric tag - I think this is a better photo than the one in my previous post!

Now I'm off to wash the patio - the streets have finally been swept and I think there is a chance it may stay clean for a day or too!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Artful Thursday - The Sequel

The days and weeks are flying by and here we are at another Artful Thursday.

Many years ago in Victoria Magazine they did a feature on a tag artist, in fact, I think she was the first, or one of the first Artists-In-Residence for the magazine. Though her little tags were beautiful in their simplicity, other artists have expanded on tags as an art form and it is amazing to see what people do with them. And I wanted to play too...

I haven't seen many out of fabric; most are manila tags that are tea, coffee or vanilla stained (sometimes a combination) and then embellished in many different ways. I wanted to play with fabric though and since I wanted my tag to be elegant I chose a piece of fabric that looks like lace.

A ruched linen flower, a snippet of "Merci" ribbon, a copper eyelet, some black grosgrain ribbon and a beautiful decorative brad and I had this:

My tag is about 3" wide by 6" long. I fused interfacing to the wrong side of the front fabric, layered it with batting and then another piece of the lace fabric and stitched around the edge with black thread. The edges are then pinked , another piece of fabric fused to the front for contrast and my ruched linen flower is tacked down through all the layers. The "Merci" ribbon is folded in half and attached with a large brad.

For the top detail, fuse a piece of contrasting fabric and add an eyelet. The ribbon is cut about 8" and then looped through. I am writing my note on another piece of muslin and that will get fused to the back - I just haven't found quite the right quote yet.

Don't you think this would be a pretty way to say "Thank-You" to someone special?

Monday, April 12, 2010

One Down, How Many To Go?

There are many benefits to doing the Friday Demo at the Sewing Basket: unlimited access to many patterns and books, playing with the newest fabrics and gadgets and an excuse to try out new ideas and techniques -but the best benefit is when getting ready for the Demo pre-empts dusting and other such icky chores!

There is one down side though - I bet my unfinished projects have quadrupled in the past twelve months.

Today though I bucked the odds and finished one, the little Dresden pincushion - and it's the cutest thing I've made in a long, long time. See if you don't agree...

And if you do, leave a comment, telling me what colour you'd like and on Thursday I'll pick a lucky winner and make them a custom pin cushion - my way of saying thank you to all of you who have played along here with me.

I so appreciate all of the lovely comments and kind words from all of you; they mean so much!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Art Speaks

Art speaks to me in many ways but if it's my own art, it's usually in the form of a dictum. (Don't you just love that word? I do; it sounds so decisive.)

This piece was planned as a lavender sachet but as I worked on it I decided it should be a book cover. Or rather, it decided it should be a book cover and I acquiesced.

To make a ruched flower (you can use ribbon or fabric strips), cut a length longer than you think you need - my flower was formed from a torn strip of muslin that was almost 2" wide by about 26" long.

Using a matching sewing thread (the heavier your fabric or ribbon, the stronger your thread should be), begin at one corner and work a basting stitch across to the other side and back again forming little triangles. You can pre-measure this but I usually don't. Baste in this manner all the way to the end of your strip.

Once you reach the end, gently pull on your basting thread and ease the gathers with your other hand, pulling until the entire strip is gathered. Secure with a knot, but don't tie off the thread.

This is what it should look like!

Form a coil, starting in the centre and place it on your project where you want the flower to be centred. Using the attached thread, tack through the folds to hold in place and continue coiling and tacking until the flower is completed, tucking the last bit underneath to round out the flower. Add seed beads or pearls for detail if you wish.

And now I must go speak to my art as I have a few ideas of my own about what sort of book it should be...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Artful Lateness!

I finally sorted out the batteries for my camera but I am off to work again today - and feeling a little like the White Rabbit - "I'm late, I'm late!"

So here is a teaser shot - the flower is ruched muslin and it turned out way better than I thought it would.

Have a happy day (the sun is shining after yesterday's snow!) so you know it has to be good...

And I will have the full tutorial on here by tomorrow at the latest - I just have to edit the photos! (I am not a very good picture taker so thank heavens for iPhoto)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Artful Thursday - The Barely There Post

It's still Thursday here in the Pacific Time Zone so this post is squeaking in under the wire.

I took some pictures at work today for the store blog and all went well; tonight it seems my batteries are dead. Soooo.... pictures won't be posted until after work tomorrow night but in the meanwhile, here are some "artful descriptors":

Beautiful, rough, antique linen, coarsely woven

French linen handmade lace from days long gone by

Dark wooden buttons from the 1930s

Mauve linen thread

Torn white muslin

Freshwater pearls

Piqued your interest? Check back later tomorrow evening...

In the meanwhile, here is an old photo of some millinery work I did for a store demo a few weeks back - I formed it into a pin for the bag I posted a photo of in my Easter post. When I am tired of the raggedy flower pin, off it comes and this elegant rose takes it's place.

See you tomorrow!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Days

Sometimes you decide to do something and it turns out to be exactly the right thing. That's what the Artful Thursdays have become for me; just what I needed, when I needed it most.

Although the things I have created thus far are not the most artistic things you will see, they have performed a vital function for me - they have cleared my mind. Things I have wanted to fiddle around with but never had the time - well, truthfully, never took the time. And with them out of the way, new ideas are creeping in....

Another benefit has been looking at what the other Artful Thursday girls have been doing - very inspiring!

Below is a flower I found on Tina's blog and it was just what I needed to add some pizazz to a bag I have been working on.

I changed it slightly by layering in a yo yo for the smallest round and used a different template than the one she mentions but I am delighted with the results just the same.

I am already tossing around ideas for this week's post!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Baskets

Sometimes at Easter I think back to my childhood and remember pretty dresses and gloves to wear to church on Easter Sunday; oh, the days of dressing up for special of occasions...

This year I am thinking of my own children, especially of the little baskets they each made for me when they were in primary school. Laura's was the first (makes sense as she is the oldest) and she went into great detail with the straw and the eggs.

She was very proud of her creation and it had a place of honour on our Easter dinner table for years.

Doug's basket is much plainer; his is also much bigger so I suspect he may have run out of both time and clay to add any details but I am glad of that because I can put things in it. He too was always proud of his art; often so much so that he hard time giving some things away!

Below is my version of a basket - it's the French Market Bag by Fig Tree - I changed the pattern a bit by making it taller and a few details like pockets etc. I also added purchased handles rather than making fabric ones. The flower has a pin back so it can be removed and a different one put on whenever I want a change. I bought the instructions from Rebecca Sower's Etsy Shop and they are a great way to use up all those little scraps!

Happy Easter to all of you and may your baskets be overflowing with good things.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thursday = Creativity!

Since I cleaned up my Stock Room, er - Sewing Room, I have been feeling very creative. I was afraid it would be the other way around and although I have had a hard time finding a few things since the big reorganization, I am really liking the orderliness of it!

A few weeks ago I mixed up some homemade laundry soap and today I decided to come up with a pretty little bag for it. I want to be able to give it as gifts, and perhaps sell some at my Sale this fall so I need something to dress it up; it is after all laundry soap.

Below is the front panel...

I cut out a centre rectangle in a light fabric, traced an oval using a wash-out marker and then using a Pigma 05 pen in green I wrote "Lavande" all around it. (Lavande seems so much more elegant than Laundry) Rinse off the wash-out marker and iron dry. I added simple borders to all four sides, fused a piece of very light interfacing to the back and then stitched a Cretan stitch over the seams using two strands of DMC . Tiny little buttons were sewn in each corner and a straw flower was couched down in the centre.

Cut out a back and two lining pieces the same size as the front; set the lining pieces aside for now. Sew the front and back together, right sides facing, leaving the top open. Clip the bottom corners to reduce bulk and turn right side out.

Cut a top "cuff" 2" by the circumference of your bag plus 1/2" for the seam allowances (all seams are 1/4" unless otherwise stated). I tore the the top edge of my strip for a raggedy look. Fold in half across the width, right sides facing and sew the short sides together. Slide this cuff over the outside bag, right sides together, matching the raw edges at the top (the torn edge should be at the bottom). Sew with a 1/8" seam allowance.

Place the two lining pieces together, right sides facing and sew down one side, across the bottom and up the other side, leaving a 2" opening along one side. Clip the bottom corners. Slide the lining over top of the bag-cuff unit, right sides together and sew all around the top with a 1/4" seam. Pull the bag out through the opening and then pull the lining piece straight up; press and sew opening closed.

Push the lining section down into the bag, ensuring the corners are pushed out. Pull the torn edge of the cuff up and press in place.

I put the laundry soap in a baggie and then into the fabric bag and tied the top with with a twisted cord and a torn fabric strip.

Now if only the laundry room was this pretty!