30 April 2011

Signals and birds

This week I’ve been working out of office and away from home, so my routines, activities and projects have been a little different. I miss my sewing machine and all the art and craft supplies I have at home, but I have by no means been idle. I tried to pack my bag cleverly, and I'm very pleased that, with less competing projects around, I've actually managed to work more in my Thailand journal. This is a detail from a page I made about hand signals used by divers to communicate under water. Head over to Flickr if you want to see more.

Another project that was suitable for taking with me was the slipover I started knitting a few weeks ago. By now I've finished the back piece. The yarn's a bit chunkier, so the work progresses nicely.

I wish I had cable needles, as that would make it easier to knit on the train journey home tomorrow. I wouldn’t want to poke my seat neighbour with the long needles, so I’ll just leave the knitting in my suitcase. To amuse myself, I’m probably going to continue on a small Christmas cross-stitch kit that I found among my UFOs. I didn’t have any suitable project to bring on the train this time, so although a cross-stitch kit isn’t my number one choice, I’d rather sew mistletoe and holly than stare out of a train window for four and a half hours. I tried journalling before, but didn’t feel comfortable drawing with a stranger sitting next to me. Mind you, with a Christmas cross-stitch kit around Easter, the embarrassment factor is just a question of degree…

Today I'd like to share a project with you. I've mentioned before that I sent one of my finished projects to a special person, who's going through some difficult times. She’s a great source of inspiration to me, and I wanted to show her my support and appreciation. By now the bandana I sent her has arrived, so I’m going to share some images of it with you. I made it following Natalie Chanin's directions in the Alabama Stitch Book, but with my own bird design. I really like Natalie’s techniques and would love to try making a bigger project, like a tank top or skirt covered in appliqué. But that’s for later. For now, I’m warming up with bandanas. I made one for myself too last summer, and found it very useful, so I’m probably going to make more of them in different colour schemes and patterns. Perhaps I’ll start one for my next train journey.

23 April 2011

Cooking just got more fun...

… with a cute apron.

Last time I presented four new projects that I’d started. I haven’t made very much progress with three of them, but the apron is now finished and ready for action. It’ll be a relief to put the old apron in the rag collection. As I already mentioned last time, I made the apron following Meg McElwee’s pattern for the Emmeline apron, and it’s reversible. One side is for everyday cooking, and the other side is for Christmas. I used my granddad’s old table cloth for the Christmas side. That will be a nice reminder of Christmas Past. On the other side I used two different fabrics – one patterned and one plain. I cut out motifs from the patterned fabric that was used for the bodice and fused them to the skirt, securing them with stitch.

Apart from sewing an apron, I’ve been busy drawing and painting fish for the Sketchbook Challenge. Head over to my Flickr Photostream if you want to have a look at 10 of my new-found finned friends. The yellow boxfish and pufferfish are my favourites. They’re so goofy and loveable. 

(I just had to throw in a pufferfish)

17 April 2011

Something Finished, Something New

I love to learn new things and to try different techniques, and my head is spilling over with ideas and future projects, which means that I’m pretty easily distracted, although I prefer to think that I have an inquiring mind. I always have a number of different projects going on all at once, and an even greater number of UFOs that may or may not become finished products. Every now and then, though, I do finish a project, which gives me great satisfaction. Last weekend I finished two projects. Firstly, a hand embroidered piece that was shipped off to an amazing person overseas (I will publish an image later), and secondly, the knitted and crocheted wrist warmers that I started working on in January. Now I’m off to work on an art doll and the Franka wall quilt. – Or so I thought.

This week I’ve continued decluttering my home – a Herculean task – and found a bag of gorgeous yarn that I’ve been saving. So, there I went again, off in another direction, and I started knitting a slipover for myself. Well, my excuse is that it’s all part of the decluttering process. I need to find a good place to store the yarn, and what storage is better than actually finishing and wearing it?

Another thing I unearthed in my decluttering frenzy was an apron pattern by Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated, which I bought a couple of years ago. This project has been on and off my mind since then, while my old apron has slowly deteriorated. I also found the fabrics that I’d put aside for the apron and figured that the best storage for them would be the place where I store my apron. So I started cutting out the pattern pieces.

In conclusion, the situation now is that I finished two projects and started four new. It’s pretty normal for me, I guess. It will take some time to finish them, but I have faith in these projects. I don’t think they’ll end up in the UFO-bin. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

 Finished wrist warmers. Knitted base, crocheted flounces. 
Based on a pattern in Solveig Hisdal’s Dikt i maskor.

 Doll in progress. The fabric has been dyed and the pattern pieces are ready for sewing.

 Slipover in progress. Yarn: Freedom Spirit by Twilleys of Stamford

 Apron in progress. Fabric: my granddad’s old table cloth. 
The apron is reversible, so the other side will be something less Christmasy.

 Franka in progress. I started defining the pattern elements on the printout. 
This project will be a challenge, but I like that.

9 April 2011

Branching Out

This month’s theme in The Sketchbook Challenge is ‘Branching Out’ – expanding your skills, sprouting new ideas, discovering unknown territory. One pretty unknown territory for me is stamping. I seldom use stamps on fabric, I’m not a scrapbooker, and since I’m still struggling with regular journaling, I haven’t got a habit of using stamps in my journals either.

However, I can see why stamps would be a good addition to my repertoire, so when Melanie Testa recently published a fun little tutorial on incised foam stamps, I decided to branch out.

I know a lot of people love to use stamps, but I’ve discovered that for some reason my relationship to stamps is complicated. I love to look at stamps in the shop, but if I feel like buying one, I often stop myself with the questions: When am I going to use it, and how many times? Is it really worth buying it? Shouldn’t I make my own personal stamp instead of using a commercial and impersonal one?

Then, when I’m faced with the task of making my own stamps, I get confused by the endless possibilities. Which motif should I go for? Which one will I want to use over and over again? Which one is worth the effort? I find it difficult to make a stamp unless a have a clear idea in my head of what I’m going to use it for.

I guess I just need to make more stamps, and play with them. The more stamps I make, the less pressure is attached to each single stamp. The more I play, the more I will come up with ideas on how to use them. It’s as easy as that. And Melanie’s tutorial really makes it easy. The materials are simple and accessible, and if I mess it up, I can quickly make a new stamp, or alter the one I’m unhappy with. This is where I’ll start. And if I get hooked, I can branch out even more and finally use that linoleum block and block of speedy-carve that have been sitting in my cupboard for far too long.

If you think that you don’t have the right equipment for the method Melanie describes, use something else. I didn’t have sticky back fun foam, so I used normal fun foam with double-sided tape. You could also use glue. I didn’t have an awl, so I used a thick sharp needle. And a blunt needle for the indentations. Use the things you have around the house.

Dig where you stand
I love Celtic knotwork, so that was a good place to start.

How about a motif without a background?

And how about a background without a motif?

Then, how about rejoining the motif and the background?

3 April 2011

I needed Something for my Bathroom

In my last post I wrote about the Franka wall quilt that I want to make to remind myself of a special moment. If anyone wonders, I haven’t got very far yet. I’ve scanned the image, resized it, printed it and blue-tacked it to my wall. And then other things started to demand my attention. I have a little project for a friend that I need to finish. I also have another project for a friend that I need to get cracking with. And I needed something for my bathroom.

The ‘something for my bathroom’ won this time, and so I picked out Rashida Coleman-Hale’s book ‘I Love Patchwork’.(Follow this link if you want to look inside the book.) I love this book, because it’s full of charming little projects that are just calling out to me: ‘Make me, make me!’ I decided to make a small basket for bathroom stuff based on the utensil basket she describes in the book. This is the result:

I used mainly commercial fabrics, but one of the fabrics is my own. The one with a citrus pattern is made with thickened Procion MX dye, soy wax and monoprinting. I followed the instructions in Melanie Testa’s book Inspired to Quilt when I designed it. The citrus shapes are made with a plastic thingy that came out of a jar of sundried tomatoes in oil, which I dipped in melted soy wax and applied to the fabric. I then painted around and inside the soy wax shapes with thickened dye, covered the shapes with a new layer of wax to protect them and monoprinted the background. Here's the basket put to use: