Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The End of Summer

For me, this is The End of Summer, every year: it's the day school starts and my best friend goes back to school after a summer of hanging out with me. Some years I've gone back to school, too, either teaching or subbing or taking classes or all three, so it always seems like the end of one season and the beginning of another. The first couple days feel really lonely, which feels silly for a lot of reasons: I like being alone and have a bunch of stuff to do and he's going to be home in the afternoon (not late at night, like it was when he was coaching and it was Football Season in West Texas, a 24/7 gig for coaches everywhere).

Anyway, so Monday was my birthday, and I had a fabulous day, with a day trip ( = 4 hours of stitching for me! Yay!) and trying on a ton of fabulous clothes (mostly other people's expensive rejects) and just in general getting to do exactly what I wanted all day long. It was so much fun that I did it again yesterday. Not the road trip part or the trying on clothes part, but the being Queen for The Day part. And now summer's over and I've got all this stuff I want to do and I thought I'd show y'all some of it. You know: in part to keep myself on track. If I say, "Oh, hey, I'm going to do this!" then I *have* to do it.

Or, you know, I could sneak back in here and delete this blog post and deny it ever existed.

So here's some stuff, and one of these things might actually be of interest to you. First, the stuff that might not be:

Here's the pile of stuff that I'm dyeing green today. There are a couple things I bought Monday that I'm excited about turning greener. It's lots of fun for me when I start with a pile of stuff in different colors because I never know exactly what will happen and how stuff will look when it's all done. Sometimes it's a wonderful surprise, and sometimes it's a huge WTF???
 Then this, below, ongoing project with the random bits of floss. This is NOT the skeins of regular DMC, of which I have approximately 1,487,354. Oh, no. I wouldn't even dream of trying to rewind all those. Nope. These are skeins I over dyed, or variegated floss, or cool stuff I've been given. This is, in short, The Cool Stuff, the odds and ends that I can use for stuff like patterns on a garment or edging or whatever. I love having it all wound like this, and I love that it's no longer tangled up in plastic bags (the stuff I dyed), and I love the sound these make when I pile them up (the clothespins make a very satisfying clattery sound), and it's fun to pick out one and pop it in my bag to take along. It unwinds smoothly when I use it, and it's portable.

OK, dang it: it's CUTE, all right? There, I said it: I like it because it's CUTE. Gah.
 In the background of that photo you can see my notes for a garment I'm working on:
It's driving me nuts. I printed the dream on the jumper thing and started stitching, and it all started rubbing off even before I put the needle through it. I had to just kind of feel my way along, which works lots of times but not so much when you're going for legible text. Plus the linen is coarse, and the pencil lead gave me fits: if it's sharp enough to give me a fine line, the point catches in the weave and distorts the letters (as you can see, below). If I dull it enough so it doesn't catch, it makes a line that's so thick I can't print the letters in the space I have for them. I tried the pencil, a fabric pencil (even worse), fabric chalk (even worse) and soap slivers (ditto).

Thoroughly frustrated, I went to Michael's and spent—omigod!—$23 on this stuff:
 Yeah: $23. And I'm on a tear here. On the left, below, you see a white fabric pen from the fabric section. It was $6.99. On the right, a Gelly Roll pen, $1.99. Now, to my eye, the pens look i-den-ti-cal (from My Cousin Vinny, in one of the courtroom scenes, so you have to clap your hands when you say it), but surely they aren't. Right? So, irritated beyond imagining, I bought one of everything that might possibly work for what I'm doing, and today I'm going to test them, by golly. And I will take photos (this is me holding myself accountable) and report back with the results. And if those two pens are identical? You'll hear me yelling Very Bad Words about the soul-less-ness of marketers, yes, you will.

 So right now I'm going to put in that load of acid green, and then I'm going for a walk. Alone. By myself. I'll probably be chased by wolves or something. (There are some aggressive new pits in the neighborhood that chased The EGE this summer while he was running, much to their chagrin because The EGE doesn't play that. So now they glare at us over the fence and vow revenge. Probably on me, when I'm by myself. They say, "We know you're his minion, and you will pay.")

And then I'm going to try to photograph the various projects: ones I've finished in the last week or so, ones that I'm working on, ones that I've got lined up to start. There's also the work calendar to set up—this is a tough time of year for setting up interviews because everyone's so busy with end-of-summer vacations (several of the artists I need to talk to are on vacation on various continents) and getting kids back in school and starting to travel again for art retreats. Once I get the calendar set up, though, it feels like there's A Plan.

And that's *my* plan for the day. Hope to have more to show you soon—XO

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Embroidery Project

This past weekend I showed you this:

I was totally jazzed about this, and in some ways it worked well. In others, though? Not so much.

First of all, the good: I loved doing the stitching. I like following lines I've already drawn, just pulling the floss through the fabric, over and over. It's like meditation for me, and it's soothing, and it's fun because I can try to imagine what it will look like (I can't visualize things, not in any concrete way), and I can dream of other applications, other projects. The stitching on this was really nice and smooth: I hooped it and used, mostly, 6 strands of floss to do a backstitch. Easy as it gets, right? (We watched a lot of Netflix, and it went quickly, relatively speaking.)

The bad: I quickly realized that the smaller details, like that lotus in the middle of the paisley, the things that needed 3 strands of floss? Those were not going to read well at all.  Let me show you what I mean. See the lotus above? Here it is stitched:

And here it is from a distance. You can't read it at all. It just looks like a snarled mess in there.
The bolder lines, though, the ones in 6 strands—they read fine. See?

So what I had to do was to re-think all the piddly little details inside the paisleys, and I had to ignore those lines and just go with shape:
You can see where I ignored the original lines and just stitched. You can also see the leaf-like stitching that I tried as a filler. It looks kind of OK, but I'd need to work on it to get the lines parallel and shorter so one stitch would fill each one and keep them from looking choppy. It needs uniformity to read well as a filler.

I didn't stitch the small circles around the outside; small circles are really, really tough to read (lumpy, not circle-like), and I thought I'd put a sequin and a bead instead of each one. And I thought I'd put the same sequins and beads as the outline for that center paisley, as well—the part where there's un-stitched scallop shapes. But I don't think I want sparkly on this. I don't know. I need to wash it and see if the ink is going to come out. It may not; it's permanent (although I don't heat set it, so it may).

It's also funny to see that it's placed a little wonky on the dress. This amuses me a lot. Because of the OCD, I don't count stuff and I don't measure things unless absolutely, positively necessary, so even though my anal-retentive brain wants everything to line up perfectly and be exactly centered and blah, blah, blah, it's never going to happen. Through many, many years, I've learned what works and what doesn't, what's going to set my brain off and what will sooth it. And while nice and centered looks best, it just isn't worth it. I'd be in there with a magnifying glass counting threads on each side of center, and you'd find me like that, glass gripped tightly in my hand, piles of sheets of paper with calculations of thread thickness scattered around my lifeless body. You'd notice the teeth ground down to a fine powder and the furrows of lines permanently creasing my forehead and—

Well, it's a moot point. It's not happening. If I can't eyeball it and get it right, I just have to go with it.
 I kind of like that darker (unstitched) outline, and I may leave it. But it feels unfinished (because it *is*), so I may do a line or two of a darker floss in there. I really think I'm going to have to launder it before I decide, but I wanted to show you how it turned out because I think it's something you might enjoy doing in some way: transferring a design to something and then working with it (coloring, beading, stitching, enameling). Something about it is just soothing beyond imagining.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Project

I'm putting it here, publicly, to force myself to do it. It's a tactic that actually works quite well most of the time, so here goes. I don't *want* to dye stuff and cut stuff out today because I'd rather be stitching. But the groundwork for new projects has to be done, and it's interesting, thinking about what I want to do next. It's just the tediousness and the conflict I feel about dyeing. I would love to use ecodyes, but so far, the colors are not going to work for me. I'd rather just leave everything white (gasp) than dye them muted colors. I hate muted, dusty, pastel colors.

Having said that, I'm getting ready to make something out of this, just the way it is: pale, pastel pink. Oik.
That's a sheet from King's Daughters Hospital in Temple, Texas. I know this because that's what's stamped along the hem of it. I hunted around online to see if there were a fabulous story about that hospital, but no. it still exists under another name. It opened in the 1890s as a religious charity hospital, and I'll imagine this sheet is that old. It was white when I bought it, probably at a garage or estate sale, and I liked it because it has textured lines running its length. Linen? Cotton? I don't know. Sheesh. I should know, right? Anyway, I dyed it pink, and we used it on the bed as a coverlet-kind-of-thing for years. For the last several years it's been in the deck box on the front porch; it's one of the covers we put over the chairs before we sit in them (there's so much dust that even though The EGE cleans the porch at least once a week, it's always dusty). Last week I got the idea that I wanted to make it into a Jumpron and do kantha-style stitching on it, so I bought some cheap bleached white muslin to use as an under layer (for stability; the pink sheet ripped right down in the middle when I washed it the other day) and base for stitching. I hope to cut that out today, pastel-ness and all.
 Here's the whole pile I'm all excited about.
 This middle thing, in orange, is something else I bought at an estate sale, years and years ago. Bedspread? Table cloth? I don't even know (I haven't spread it out to look at it yet). I just know it's big, and I dyed it orange, and I'm going to try for a deeper orange today (I need to do an orange dye load). It's nice and drape-y, and I think it will be fun to work with as a Jumpron. The white linen under it will go orange, too, just because I don't have any lightweight orange linen (they had linen on sale for 60% off last week, so I bought the end of the bolt).
Then there's this quilt. Same story: I bought it somewhere, have had it for decades. It's been lying on the back of the love seat out here in the studio, neatly folded up for when I take a nap there. But I never do, and it's never used. We have a quilt one of my grandmothers made that we can use if we want to sleep under a quilt, so basically this is just A Spare Quilt. And I'm going to make it into a Jumpron, too. Wish me luck there, for sure, please. The idea is to get it made into the Jumpron and then stabilize it with lots and lots of kantha-style stitching. This kind of stitching is 1) very soothing and meditative for me and 2) really fabulously portable, requiring nothing but fabric, a needle, and plenty of floss (no pins or beads or anything to corral in the car or at a wine bar or a table).

So today I plan to do a load of orange fabric and then cut out at least one of the Jumprons. That's the plan. I'm telling y'all so I'll hold myself accountable. Like I said, I'd way, way rather stitch all day.

Fingers crossed I don't get distracted.

Oh, look! A chicken!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Santa Fe Indian Market Skirt

We went to the Santa Fe Indian Market one year. It was amazing, mostly because it was crazy: we'd been to Santa Fe in June, just two months earlier, and we saw the same things in August, at Market, costing significantly more than they had in June. That was OK; we weren't buying. But still. The best part: people-watching. People come from all over the world to shop at this market, and some of them appeared to be wearing their entire turquoise collections on their bodies, all at once. It was fabulous.

Some of my favorite jewelry of all? I don't know the name and can't find it. It may not be traditional at all; it may well be some modern spin. But it's clusters of stones in brilliant colors, along with dyed spiny oyster shell. So you have blue and green turquoise with orange and red and purple, and it's just perfect for me, color-wise. I have a ring that's orange and green and one earring that's all those colors, but I don't wear much jewelry any more because of my joints, alas.

But that's OK, too, because I made myself a jewelry skirt. If I knew what kind of jewelry this was, I could give the skirt a better name. Anyway—here's what I did.

I started off with this, which you've seen:
 Then I took the turquoise one on the left:
And did this to it:
That was a while back, at least a year (of course I can't remember exactly). Like I said last week, I was going to give it away because I didn't want to go where it seemed to want to go: more orange punctuation symbols. Bleah. But then I realized where *I* wanted to go, and I persuaded it to come along. I finished it about an hour ago, and here it is:
 The front, above. Side view below.
 Back, below:


 Cheapo glass beads I already had in the exact colors I needed:




So there it is, my Santa Fe Indian Market Cluster Jewelry Skirt. Or some better name. . . .
*Now* I can start on this embroidery I prepped yesterday:


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gah.

I don't even know what to title this post. I would just leave it blank, but never mind: I just want to get to it because I want to share this, but what I REALLY want to do is get back in there and work on it some more and see if I'm going to be able to salvage this. If we're connected on Facebook, you might have already seen this, but here goes.

Yesterday afternoon, after working in the morning, I thought I'd finally tackle the t-shirt I've been promising The EGE. We Netflixed Breaking Bad and enjoyed it, and I wanted to do a Heisenberg shirt for him. I'd found some images online that I thought I could work with, but I couldn't figure out how to get the detail necessary to make him identifiable without making myself nuts: I don't like machine embroidery, and trying to do a portrait in hand stitching would be way, way too much: I couldn't do it on a t-shirt and would have to make it into an appliqué and blah, blah, blah.

So I thought I could make a stencil. Labor-intensive, but I've done it before.

(What I did was save a bunch of images, print them out in various sizes, put one on the lightbox and trace relevant lines and flip it to get the parts of the face that were missing, tweak that to simplify it as much as possible, and then transfer that to freezer paper. No, it's not my original image, even though there was a lot of sizing and tweaking and filling in and simplifying, so I would not sell it or use it for anything but a t-shirt for my husband.)

I don't have any fabric paint, though—I had a ton of it, and eventually most of it got old and dried-out, and I gave away what was still good and dumped the rest. I haven't ordered any more: all this had been sent to me by companies, and if I order it myself, I'm going with just the basics: black, white, red, yellow, blue. So I can mix colors myself and not have the waste of all those jars sitting around for years.

But I don't have any now, and I'm not ready to place a DharmaTrading order, and nobody local carries it (Jacquard Textile Paint is what I like, and although one store used to carry some, nobody does any more as far as I know). So I'd been playing with the Crayola Crayons (you saw that earlier, on the cicada wings), and I thought I'd try a crayon stencil. Long story (somewhat) short(er):

 I was totally jazzed when I got the face on there. I'd had no idea what it was going to look like (stencils are *hard* for me, thinking in positive and negative), plus I didn't know if the crayon was going to work. But I was jazzed. The words are from a package of cocktail napkins I bought years ago, and I love them and once did an apron with them and my face. I think I gave it away.
 Yeah, he's having fun being Heisenberg. Trying not to smile.


Then the trouble began. I don't know if the paper towels I used weren't absorbent enough to remove the wax or if I didn't heat set it enough or what. I was in a hurry because we were going to a Wine Society thing and I wanted to finish it so he could wear it. Whatever: when he put his camera strap across his chest, everything smeared. I almost cried.

Here's what happened:
 I don't know if you can see it, but In Real Life it's obvious. There are black smears around all the letters and—so much worse!—my face that I so loved.

I grumbled about this and berated myself (I should know better by now; I know how to heat set and should have been more careful with removing the wax, blah, blah, blah). I finally, at the end of the evening, told him to just hide it and never let me see it again and please, please not wear it ever again, which made him look at me as if I'd asked him to fly nekkid to 7-11 and buy me some cigars.

So this morning when everyone on Facebook was being so wonderfully supportive and I got to thinking maybe there *was* a way to salvage the shirt, it was tough to find it because he'd filed it away in one of his closets (probably hiding it so I wouldn't cut it to shreds in a fit of frustration). But I did find it and started in on it, and I wanted to show you what's working, just in case you someday need to know this (although I don't know why you would, since you're not going to be making this mess in the first place).

 I got packing tape:
 my old bone folder from bookbinding days:
 put a piece of tape over the smear and a hard mat underneath and rubbed really really hard on JUST the smears, not on the letters. Lots of burnishing.
 peel off tape and repeat with a new piece:

 This is what the tape looks like when I peeled it off:
 and here's the fabric with the smear (mostly) removed. I wish it showed up better so you could get a better idea of how well this works. Tedious and time-consuming, but it sure beats having to toss the shirt (he wouldn't let me do that, though, and knowing it was here, somewhere, lurking around all smeary? Would keep me up at night).
Sorry about the not-great photos, but I hope you get the idea. It's way better, and now I'm going to go work on it some more. Once I get most of the smears removed, I'll work on the letters some more with more-absorbent something—brown paper or fabric or both. Then I'll go over the letters with either actual fabric crayon (it turns out I Shopped At Home and found two packages of these, one of them brand spanking new and unopened) or fabric markers (which I found, too).

More later, maybe here and maybe on Facebook, depending on time.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Magic Cicada

Yeah, OK, it's actually Magicicada, and there are varieties, and you can find out everything you possibly wanted to know by going here. Or, actually, any one of a number of other sites, because apparently I'm not alone in thinking these are some pretty nifty bugs. And, yes, you can safely call them "bugs" without being ridiculed because they are Hemiptera, or "true bugs."

So this was an experiment all the way around. I started off with a green linen dress and over dyed it because, of course, it was just a pale, sad green. Then I realized the neckline was way too high, like right up against my throat almost, and I can't stand that. So I cut it down and added some binding, and I had plans to attach it to an over-jumper out of gauzy linen, but then I wanted to try a more detailed embroidery, and so began the experiment.

In the past when I was making fabric art journal pages and I wanted to transfer an image, I'd tape the paper on the storm door and tape the fabric over it and trace it that way, with the light shining through. But on a garment, you're dealing with two layers you have to manipulate (the front and back, unless it unbuttons all the way down), and it's heavy, so it's not going to tape to a door very well. I tried several things, and finally I hunted online and found a reasonable light box. I had a coupon, so I bought one (they have various ones, from the simple one I got to a large digital one for which I can see no possible application for what I do).

I transferred the image, and then to do the letters (freehand), I used the cardboard piece I made (from two layers of a heavy-duty cardboard box I cut down and taped together). I pinned the fabric taut and then printed text on it.
 I hooped it for stitching—I have to do that on garments so I don't have to keep shifting it around and losing my place through all the fabric.
 I really, really enjoyed this stitching. I'm doing backstitch with three strands of floss.
 Then one day I geeked out and copied all the stuff about cicadas—you know, the stuff we sort of vaguely remember from 9th-grade biology: kingdom, phylum, class. Only the stuff I found had subclass and superfamily and a whole list of stuff with what I assume are the names of scientists who discovered yet another variation on the basic bug and the date they did that, which is all pretty cool but also a *lot* more stitching than I had originally planned to do on this experiment.

That's the way it goes, isn't it? The text goes all the way around the hem.






 For the text, I used three strands of the same dark green I used on the bugs plus three strands of some variegated floss I'd over-dyed a while back. I don't know that I'd do that again for text; it makes it less legible. I think it would work well on less-detailed stitching, like long lines. I'm still learning about floss + readability + detail and stuff.
 The binding started out with Cretin stitch, but then, after that was done, I realized I needed some other shades of green, so I did the straight stitching in olive. Then, after I did the bugs' eyes with beads, I decided to add beads to the binding, too. At some point I may cut down the armholes and add binding to them, but not right now. Stupidly, I didn't even check to see if I liked the actual dress, and it turns out I don't, not really, and so I'll probably wear it as a work dress, i.e., what I wear when I'm home working. Then I can keep experimenting on it, as well.
And then one last experiment, last night after it was already finished and laundered, ready for photographing: I wanted to try some fabric crayons. Alas, those are made for fabric that's at least 50% synthetic, and that isn't going to happen in this house. I hunted around online and found a post about using not fabric crayons, but regular Crayola crayons, on cotton fabric. So I went out and bought an 8-pack of the big ones. It said to use Crayola because they have more pigment than the cheaper off-brands. I tired a couple things, drawing on some scrap fabric and then heating it (you put it between paper towels and iron it to melt the wax into the paper towel and leave the pigment on the fabric). I then took the fabric straight to the bathroom sink and scrubbed it with a bar of soap—I mean really, really scrubbed it, the way you would with a washboard. And then I ironed it dry and tried again, and what I discovered is that the crayon goes on much smoother and darker if you iron the fabric first and heat it up; then the wax melts as you're coloring. I liked this a lot and plan to experiment more soon.

Here you see one of the experiments: I heated the fabric, colored with the green, melted the wax out, colored with the orange (for an acid-ier green, rather than a tree green), melted it out, and then repeatedly pressed the tip of the iron (over a paper towel, of course) into one spot. Now I'll leave this until the next time I launder it, and then I'll see how it goes. Will it fade away to nothing? If not, how much will it fade? I have that little spot in the middle for comparison. I was pretty aggressive with all this, so I'm thinking that if I do it more carefully and then wash it inside out on gentle (no scrubbing), it might hold up quite well. This is exciting, as I'd love a way to add bits of solid color to embroidery that were *not* fabric paint (this doesn't seem to change the hand of the fabric the way paint does) or satin stitch, which is cloying to me when used too much. I think after I melt out the wax, I should then heat set the remaining pigment. You know: real heat setting, not the quick-swipe-with-a-hot-iron heat setting.

So this was fun, and I'm jazzed about doing more with the light box AND, OH: I forgot! I also experimented with three different transfer pencils, the kind where you draw on paper and then transfer to fabric with an iron. One did really well, and I can't wait to do some more-detailed images that way. I'd completely forgotten about that experiment: it's how I put the wings down the front, with three different pencils. One faded away after transferring, and I had to go over it with a Micron pen. Huh. 

Yeah, as I was saying: jazzed about the light box and the transfer pencils and the crayons. A lot to explore there. Right now, though, I'm back working on a skirt I showed you a couple years ago, when I first started this project:
 I'm working on the third from the left:
 This is what I did to it first; I don't even remember how long ago:



 I was going to get rid of it because I wasn't satisfied with the result—it needed more, but I didn't want to do what it seemed to be asking for. This past week I had a revelation, though, and got busy and fixed it. Now I just have a bunch of hours of stitching, and then I think I'll really love it. Back to work, and I hope to have it finished to show you soon.