Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gone and Done It!

Well, I did it.
I am now the proprietor of my very own brand new Etsy Shop, A Fine Seam.
I have been hounded and harassed by well meaning friends and family and now I have finally gone ahead and taken the plunge...

And here's the first item up for grabs,

and the second,


fourth and final!

I am dipping in my big toe and testing the waters. I am great for starting things (I love beginnings), but once I have something figured out I begin to look further; what more is there? It made me hesitant to do this but I think I am finally ready to try it out. I have no great hopes or aspirations, just a desire to be able to offer my wares to a larger audience. And a wish for a new sewing machine if I am to be entirely honest!

As far as the give away from yesterday's post, I want to tell you why I am doing it this way.
All I am asking for as an entry is for you to answer the query. The reason for that is that I just received a book of my blog. Yes, I took advantage of that great service and had the first year printed and bound and am completely delighted with the results. I was able to choose the pictures for both the front and back covers, the hard cover vs. soft cover, the format of the blog posts and the option of having your comments included. I am so delighted with the results and can't wait for this year to finish so I can have the next installment printed. 
One of my favourite aspects of the book is your comments; I love to know what you are thinking in response to what I have posted. So as we go into this holiday season, I would like to add your thoughts to mine; from my prompt, your pondering. What a wonderful thing to be able to look back on.
And in return, I am offering a small token of my creative spirit, in response to your thoughtful-ness.

I will be back tomorrow with the winner of the button tree ornament!

Over and Done...

Well, my friends, it's shortly after 11:00 pm and I am sitting in my newly re-decorated living room, reflecting on the chaos that just happened here, a few short hours ago.
The annal event of my Sale is over and my time is now my own again. 
It was a smashing success!

More people than ever came, and sales were a record as well; very gratifying indeed.

And now I am sitting here, quietly wondering, when you have all the time in the world to do whatever you want, how do you decide what to do first?

More silk fusion? Another piece like the swan quilt? Clean up my workroom?

Ahhh, now we're talking... the one thing that would give me the most pleasure right now is to do a full clean-up and re-vamp in my workroom.

And I will start by having a give-away. In fact, I think I will do a give-away each week from now, all through December. I'll post it Mondays and announce the winner on Wednesdays.

So, the first will be this ornament I made a while back....

Eight of the buttons are vintage mother-of-pearl buttons from Paris, purchased from French General a few months back. The background is silk, which is one of my favourite fabrics, so this is a special piece - I hope you like it.

Entering is simple, just leave a comment about trees.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Artful Thursday - Another Hole

When I was a child and had a stunning idea, perhaps unnecessary, but stunning nonetheless, my mother would say "You need that like you need a hole in your head."

My mother is a very thrifty, sensible woman and she had a saying for everything, especially when she was trying to teach us about something virtuous, like having only what you need - a good lesson to be sure, but it does get in the way sometimes!

I still hear her, whenever a stunning yet unnecessary idea strikes me, but now I just wave the thought away and carry on. 

The most recent one to strike was this - Silk Fusion. (You really need to click on this picture to see how pretty it is!)

When this class appeared on the schedule at the shop I knew I had to take it; Silk Fusion was something my good friend Carol in the Yukon had dabbled in and sent me small snippets of her work; I was most intrigued.
If you aren't familiar with it, silk is too fine to be felted so it needs to fused together with a textile medium, hence Silk Fusion. The result is something akin to both fabric and paper and is simply lovely. All the beauty of the silk fibre comes through and you can also fuse it together with various threads, sequins, skeleton leaves and many other items.

I started with colour-blocked tussah,

and added in some silk rods, other silk fibres, a few sequins and some glittery thread.

This is a "Creative Pack" featuring silk rods, a silk "hankie", dyed cocoons and other silk fibres, all in various tints and shades of forest green. I can't wait to dig into it!

Here's a picture of the whole piece I created. It's about 12" by 14" and I can bead, stitch and embellish it as much I want. 
I just can't decided whether it should be a journal cover, or cut into bookmarks, greeting cards or bits for collage...
Perhaps I am having trouble focusing because my head is beginning to resemble Swiss cheese thanks to all the holes in it.
And that would be a bad thing because the other day I did see an ad for an oil painting workshop... I have always wanted to paint...en plein air...

Sorry Mom!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Random Acts of Quilting

"It's alright to be little bitty..." so goes the song; I thought it could apply to these little guys too...

Little crazy quilted stockings just right to hang on the tree, the knob of a drawer or the post of a lamp. I love making these and have a few for the upcoming Sale. I like to scatter all them over the room to show people what you can do with them; they always sell out.

I also love making the body of the stocking in various light coloured fabrics and then the cuff in a pale print; sometimes I use Christmas prints as above but sometimes I use pretty floral fabrics - really, the sky and your imagination are the limit.

Speaking of the Sale, it's right about now I start rummaging through cupboards looking for things I have made and stashed away, things I decided I was keeping but am now wondering if I shouldn't sell. It's all because I am certain I have nowhere near enough made for the number of people invited. (I go through this every single year and I always have enough - it's just anxiety - Glenda, if you're reading this I need to either be talked off the ledge, or given a shot of tequila, your choice).
Anyhow, I found this, made several years ago from some of my most favourite fabrics. And I ain't selling it! All four of these fabrics were the kind that made every project that I used them in sing. They always worked, made everything look better and I kept going back and buying more, until the last bit was gone. I am down to the barest scraps of some and others are gone entirely.

Truth be told I don't know if that's because I just really like them, or if they are of a very good design.... I know some fabrics are harder than others to use for certain quilting patterns; it has to do with the scale, repeat, direction and coverage of the design motif printed on the fabric. And that also explains why some fabrics look better on the shelf than when they are unrolled at the cutting counter. Things that weren't apparent in a side view of 2" become glaringly obvious when looking at a few feet, and I have had more than one or two customers change their minds when looking at a larger chunk.
When I am helping people choose fabrics the first thing I say is that you don't have to like every fabric you put in a quilt, you just have to like what they bring to the mix. More than once I have had people turn up their noses at something I suggest only to pause, tilt their heads and say "Ohhhh..." when I plunk it down. 
I say it's like a play - anyone should be able to audition - as the Director you get the final say, but you should at least let them try out for the part.

You might just surprise yourself with what you find!

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Beg Your Pardon

Those are the first words to a song that runs through my head every time I see a rose; "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" - comes with being a child of the 60's I think. Like every time I hear George Hamilton's name I think "A White Sport Coat...", but I digress...

My good friend Lucille is obsessed with felt. I can safely say whatever I want about her because she doesn't have her very own blog to say things about me back. (And she rarely comments here but may just make an exception now.... watch for it...)
So it was a given that she would pester me about making felt things for my Sale, and another given that I would oblige (she could easily make her own felt things but we craft vicariously through each other). Hence, pretty felt flowers.

I have to say I'm glad she pestered me about these - they are fun to make and don't take too long...I did find myself obsessing about getting the petals to pinch and curl and shape just so though. (I think I'm in a funky linguistic mood tonight!)
And then finding the right button! I confess to being a textile junkie and a button addict. When my three brothers and I were small and Mother was at her wit's end with us (we were "busy" kids, she says with a smile) out came the button box. The contents were divided into four piles and we searched and sorted and traded for hours. 
And over the years some dear, dear friends have gifted me with buttons and I treasure them all.

Three of these beauties have buttons purchased last week at a local fabric store and the other two have vintage buttons from my favourite store in Enderby B.C., which is closing at the end of the year. Bleah. I am thinking a field trip will be in order this weekend and if I am feeling bold I may just belly up to the button bar and ask how much for all?

And then I can get to work on that Rose Garden after all.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Artful Thursday - Sigh

I have been wanting to make little stuffed trees for a long time and late last night I finally sat down and got started...

They are so easy, yet there is great scope for playing around...

Start with drawing a half-tree shape on a folded piece of paper, as below, and then make a sturdy template.

Fold a piece of fabric in half, wrong sides together and trace the template on the fold (see the blue line below). Sew on the blue line, beginning at the tree top and make sure you take a few backstitches! Leave an opening of about 1 1/2" in the base of the tree. (I didn't mark it, but don't leave the opening at the fold - the stitching should come out from the fold out about 1/2", with the opening between that point and where the line begins to curve up to make the tree branches - should have drawn that on the paper pattern - darn!)

Stuff with polyester fibrefill and sew the opening closed - I found a zipper foot best for this task.
You need to make 5 if stuffing pretty full, six if stuffing more lightly; I used 5 but made six. Sigh.
Trim the edges about 1/8" beyond the stitching line. If you want a raggedy look you could use pinking shears or take a nail brush to the edges after trimming.

Begin by sewing together, whip stitching along the spine. I had pressed these really well before stuffing so the creases were still there as a guide.

Continue adding the pieces one at a time, always overcasting along the spine. I used hand quilting thread for this - just make sure whatever you use is strong!
If you want the tree to stand by itself you might want to weight the bottom with plastic pellety things. I have a little stand mine will hang from (I'll get that picture up soon - sigh again!)

This little jewel looks much better in real life than it does here (third sigh - I am photo challenged!) but I intend to play with all sorts of embellishments. 

For now though, I am pretty happy with it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lend Me Your Ear

Lend me your ear? Well, maybe not - I'm not sure about these ears...

Some of you were wondering what might be attached to the funky feet portrayed in my previous post....

Why, funky ears of course!

Four of these little fiends, er, I mean fellows, have been keeping me company over the past few weeks. They are bossy little dickens; highly opinionated about what they should be wearing and how their facial expression should look. Can't say as I blame them - how would you want to look if it would be forever?

I think "curious" so that's what I tried to do.

My family knows about my driftwood fetish, as does an accommodating neighbour who spends some time on the sea shore a few times a year. That made it easy when I wanted these guys to have driftwood canes... one is from Switzerland (yes, I went beach combing on Lake Maggiore!), one from Kananaskis near Calgary, one from Marsh Lake in the Yukon Territory (my most favourite place in the whole wide world) and one from an adventure with said neighbours on our very own Shuswap Lake. 

I like what I make to have meaning, even if it is only to me.

Funky hats...

Furry vests...

And a pleasing countenance...

And there's those feet again!

Pretty high in cute factor huh?

I only made four of these elves - they take a heck of a lot of time and I barely get my money back but they have "wow" factor so are a good Sale item.

The Manager of Cuteness likes them. He's also my husband and note I said "Manager of Cuteness", not "Cute Manager" - irritates the heck out of him.

I have had to bring some order and structure to these managers of mine or they will make me mental. So, I have, in no particular order, the Manager of Cuteness (husband Marc), Manager of Food and Beverages (daughter Laura), Wanna-Be Manager In Training (Lucille) and finally, the Original Manager aka Alpha Manager aka Manager to End All Managers, my good friend Glenda. She was the first and is the bossiest and the others have no idea what they are up against. She calls all the shots, keeps me on track, keeps me sane and pulls me back from the cliff when I want to throw myself off. She says I simply don't have time and can hurl myself later, when the Sale is done. A wise woman.

Less than two weeks to go now... more to come!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Artful Thursday - The Cutting Edge

The other day I was standing around talking to a friend...

When along came another friend to lend an ear...

I was telling them how busy I have been getting ready for my upcoming Sale, and how hard it is to make interesting things that don't cost the earth, especially when it comes to the finishing details. Like quilt hangers. We have very cute little wire ones at the local shop but they aren't cheap and they can add a fair chunk to the final price of my designs.

But then one of my little friends told me about something he had seen at the local antique store when he was poking around...

Very old steels for keeping the edge on your carving knives.
I know very little about using a steel on my knives, but I know an interesting quilt hanger when I see one!

The handles are fabulous: one is scrolling iron work and the other is bone. Thankfully the steel part is not too tapered so I should be able to compensate easily enough when making the hanging sleeve. They aren't very big either, but I think they will be perfect as offset hangers for smaller collage pieces and I think will give them just the "edge" I am looking for!
And the best part? The large one was $5.00 and the smaller was only $4.00!

Now if I can only part with them!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Artful Thursday - It's All In The Details

I love detail. 
Everywhere I look, whether it's at clothes, architecture, landscaping, fabric, notions, doesn't matter, I notice detail first. I understand experts will tell you colour is the first thing we see but I disagree. I know me, and I see detail.

So it is no surprise to anyone that knows me, the things I make almost always feature some special detail or another. I have made these little fabric hearts for years, always in pale, muted colours of fabric and threads so you can see the texture of the cloth and the stitches that adorn each seam.
It was natural to add one of the torn roses I have been making lately; another layer of texture and detail.

A knotted, twisted cord for the hanger adds more texture,

The other thing I am known for is finishing the back of something in a special way.
The back of this heart features a beautiful antique mother-of-pearl button from Paris, and a single line of layered Cretan Stitch, covering the turning seam. 
While the stitching and the button both serve a definite purpose (hiding a seam and hiding the stitches used to attach the rose to the front), they add to the overall design and are a lovely surprise when the heart is turned over. 

Which is how I came to recognize the importance of detail in the work I do. 
One of the first things I observed when selling my creations was that people always, always, always, turned everything over to look at the back. In the early days when finishing things usually involved muslin, the piece was quickly flipped back to the front. But as I added detail finishing to the back of the things I made I started hearing oohs and aahs and exclamations of pleasure - people liked the surprise of something special on the back. And that often clinched the sale.

The added benefit? Detail denotes quality. People quickly realized that if I paid that much attention to the back of something, the inside must be well done too.
And so my work was recognized as being of good quality.

It really is all in the details! 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Project Genesis - Garden Goop

Today I'm linking up with Suzan of oldgreymare for Project Genesis.

The first of each month Suzan and anyone who would like to participate, post about something pertaining to creating awareness to effect change; change in how we live on, enjoy, and make use of our beloved planet Earth.

I know gardening tips aren't relevant everywhere right now, but I am sure they are relevant somewhere so here goes:

I always liked to garden but was never very good at it. My son used to tell me my plants should come with chalk outlines because they would be dead soon, and he wasn't far off the truth. 

When we lived in the Yukon, my Mom was visiting once and asked where my compost was. "Don't have one; it's too cold and things will take decades to compost," I replied.

My mother is the smartest recycler I have ever known.
She calls it recycling now, but when I was a child she called it "waste not, want not" and that mantra has pertinence in all things.

She asked for my blender and did this:

A better look...

Added some water and made this...

I call it Garden Goop.

Took it outside and carefully scooped soil away from a plant (not too closely, so as not to disturb the roots) and poured some of her concoction in the depression...

She then scooped the soil back and assured me that in no time at all, that Goop would be composted and feeding my plants. With no smell. And she was right.

The hotter it is, the quicker the composting happens but since moving to Salmon Arm I have noticed another benefit. I have two half barrels on my patio, one gets full-on unrelenting sun from morning 'til night and the other gets it for 2/3 of the day. It seemed no matter what I planted in those barrels, the plants were in danger of being toasted, regardless of how much water I poured on them, or how well I fertilized them. My blender had broken before we moved and I didn't replace for a few years so wasn't making Garden Goop. 

Once I got a new blender and started burying my quick-compost around the plants, I noticed they tolerated the heat much better, in fact, they thrived on it. I had never grown such healthy, luscious plants, nor had such beautiful looking planters.
I think the Goop near the roots must act as a natural coolant and as it composts, it certainly helps the soil retain moisture much better too.

This is the mint plant in my herb garden. Big, beautiful and green.

Thanks to my Mom.

Suzan has a bag tutorial as her post today and you can go here to check it out, and the rest of the Project Genesis posts!