Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting addicting!

I'm having so much fun making these little 4x4" coasters, that I made another set of six and sent them off to my mother-in-law for her birthday. Even though it would be faster to just keep making the same six designs, it's so much fun to sit and play with all the possibilities and see what develops! Here is my second set, above, which does have one design almost identical to one in the other set (the palm tree set on the diagonal). But I cut a fish stamp out of thick craft foam and added that to my stamp set and also did a little more free-motion stitch elements on these.

In the ones below, I stuck mainly to squares and rectangles in an effort to simplify and speed up the process, and even then, I didn't find it boring or repetitive. Once again, if i could find a way to do these more quickly, I would consider selling them on ETSY or in the Putnam Arts Council Holiday sale, or any other venues that might arise. I could do some with seasonal themes, or popular color schemes like blue and yellow or black and white.

The first two sets I made contained six different designs (I wanted to be generous) but this set only has four. I think whenever you buy sets of coasters, they only come with four, and that would make everything easier and faster. Maybe I'll do a little marketing research and keep this idea percolating...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Fun and Artful Weekend

My weekend actually started on Friday morning when I snuck away to Joann's Fabrics to do a little artful shopping. I haven't been doing as much of that as I used to because the closest store is now over 30 minutes away and also because I now have a decent stash of stuff and don't seem to need as much. It was Joann's "coupon commotion" so I felt compelled to wander around and see what was new, inspiring or interesting that I could get for 40% off! This trip I only got 3 pieces of fabric: two in my favorite shade of aqua and one plain white to paint on and play with. I also couldn't resist these two sets of pens and markers. One is those "jelly roll" pens in metallic sparkle colors. I just love those - they are so smooth and fun to play with and they seem to be fine on fabric too (but I haven't tested them for washability or longevity). I also got a set of Sakura "permapaque" pens which are acid free and can write on nearly anything - glass, ceramics, wood etc. I especially wanted a white one.
When I got home, I started playing. I first glued these thin foam shapes onto a thicker foam base to make a stamp. The sailboat fit nicely on an empty spool so that's where that went. I used acrylic paints and Stazon ink pads to stamp some of these onto some of my fabric scraps.
Then the fun really started! I ended up making a set of coasters as a hostess gift. As you can see, I have amassed quite a collection of fabrics in the aqua-turquoise-blue range and it was fun cutting and arranging them onto the 4" squares of timtex. It already had fusible on it, but I stitched some of the pieced edges and also all around the perimeter. Then I covered each one with fusible vinyl (yes, there really is such a product!) to make them waterprooof (In this shot, only the one on the upper left has the vinyl on it. Click on the image to see it larger). Aren't they fun?
I had seen this idea in one of the articles in Cloth Paper Scissors, which mentioned the fusible vinyl, so I've been wanting to try it out. Another reason I needed a hostess gift was because I was invited to a cool "arty party" at Natalya Aiken's lovely home. Several FANE members were there as well as some SAQA members from out of town (two were visiting from Hawaii!). It was great to spend some time with such a great group of like-minded highly creative people! We shared some food and wine and chatted about so many things. We also had time to share some pieces we each had brought. Below is a shot of Jane Davila, Vivien Zepf, and Robin Ferrier admiring a WIP of Natalya's which is painted on a small vintage tablecloth.

Here is a shot of Natalya sharing a recently finished piece. The hand stitching on it was really amazing.

Now that my fun and artful weekend is almost over, it's time to be getting back to reality. Look at my work area - there are scraps of aqua fabric everywhere! I really need to spend a little time cleaning up. But I had so much fun making the first batch of coasters, maybe I'll use up some more of these scraps by making a few more. I have some family members with birthdays coming up....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Aquatic Exercise

Since the main focus of our next FANE group show at the Mahopac Library is color, I've been playing around with my current favorite, this lovely aqua. The title of the piece has to include the name of the color, so I'm calling these "Aquatic Exercise I and II".

I made "Aquatic Exercise I: waterfall" at right first, by weaving strips of sheer fabrics through a piece of painted cheese cloth. At first I planned on hanging it horizontally, but then thought it might look cool with the woven strips either dangling down like fringe, or curled up like the bottom of a waterfall, which led me to the idea of hanging it vertically. Although I like the colors and the thin ribbons of copper running through the piece, I'm not sure it's having the impact I hoped. I want to stitch it to the canvas so the top edge hangs over the top of the canvas, as if the waterfall is pouring out of the wall, but I don't think that will work for the show, because it will leave a four-inch space at the bottom of the canvas and will disrupt the unity of the show.

So I thought I'd play around with my next idea, which was cutting free-form wavy strips of the various sheer fabrics and layering them over each other. Here is the result of that experiment:

I think I like this one better although I didn't expect to (I'm calling it "Aquatic Exercise II: wave theory"). It was very meditative to create, from the gentle cutting of the strips to the stitching of all those undulating lines. I hope it's also calming and meditative for the viewer. It was fairly simple to create and didn't require any special techniques or materials, but maybe this simplicity is also part of its beauty. I'm still debating whether it's finished (does it need anything else?) and if I should leave the edges straight or try to make them wavy to fit the rest of the piece (any comments?)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mixed-media house

Cloth Paper Scissors magazine recently featured a "home sweet home" reader challenge. In their May/June 2011 issue, they included a pattern for a little house (about 2" x 3" x 4" tall) and invited readers to use any media they wished to decorate it, then send in some photos. My FANE group decided to make these as well, and they may be included in our next show at the Mahopac Library coming in September.

The deadline for submission was July 1, so I didn't get this done in time to submit it, but I sure had fun pulling out all my boxes and bags of materials! I could think of a bunch of ways I wanted to approach this but decided on a "Four Seasons" theme.
The front of the house is obviously winter, and features a currogated cardboard "log cabin" exterior, two needle felted wool evergreen trees sprinkled with snowy glitter, a rick-rack wreath, and little snowflakes I cut out of a piece of lace ribbon.
Spring features a fabric tree, some blooming seed bead daffodils, and a felt bunny.
Summer might be my favorite. I painted a beach scene with Caran Dache watercolor crayons and added some sparkle tulle for water and sprinkled on real sand. I happened to have a small piece of picket fence I picked up at a craft store years ago but knew I would use some day and today was the day!
Autumn was the first wall I finished. I machine stitched on the yarn for a tree and used some oak leaves I cut with a small paper punch. I glued a little black cat in the window - can you tell?

The roof is a flattened piece of birch bark I've had laying around, which I cut into shingles and glued on. I'm happy with the overall look and really enjoyed playing with all my supplies. It was fun to think of something I might use and then look around to see that I had it and didn't need to run to the store! It was also fun getting to use a variety of materials, instead of mainly fabric. Now I only wish I had made that July 1st deadline!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Home Improvements

The last few weeks, we've been spending some time sprucing up the deck, refinishing the surface, and adding lots of colorful plants.

We're planning to spend more time out back this summer in lieu of taking a vacation...

so we can relax in our brand new hut tub! Wow!
What a splurge for us! We actually ordered it in mid May, had it delivered about 3 weeks ago, and only filled it up today after the electrical connection was finally installed. Maybe it'll help alleviate all those aches and pains that come with daily life (and dare I say, age?).

But the youngsters in our house had the first opportunity to enjoy it. They even climbed in while the water was still cold. They sure look happy, don't they!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Walking in the Woods: fungi

Here are a few photos I snapped in the Pennsylvania woods. It rained heavily both Sunday and the following Friday, so everything was moist and mushrooms were springing up everywhere: among the leaves, between rocks, amid the mosses. This first one is my favorite - the Indian Pipes. I love their unusual shape and ghostly white, almost-translucent color.
Here are a few others:

Of course, the main reason I was out in the woods was to walk Cassie. I think she liked all the different and new smells out in the wilderness. She even scouted out a deer skull and a few other bones. But she was very happy to get home to her "invisible fence" so she could run around without her leash!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


This is how I've spent the last three evenings! I returned from the Poconos on Monday evening but Mark and the girls stayed there without me. Even though I've had to work all week (and the library is a bustling place in the summer!), I feel like I'm on vacation! After work I've come home, put my feet up, and indulged in a good summer read. The library sponsors a summer reading club for adults in addition to the children's summer reading program and this year the theme is "Novel Destinations." The book I finished last night (Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty, about a set of adult triplet girls) was set in Sydney, Australia. It was fun reading about their highly intertwined lives and how they celebrate Christmas down under (I've always wondered what it's like to have hot weather for Christmas). It's been a relaxing week and a great treat for me to only take care of myself and not have to worry about the dog, the girls, packing lunches, cooking dinner, etc. Tonight I even treated myself to my annual pedicure! What do you think of the color?

I felt a little guilty indulging in so much unproductiveness, but since I didn't have to walk the dog in the mornings, I was able to get up early and start the day downstairs in my sewing workshop. I'm still working on the 9"x20" piece for our next FANE show. I thought I might do both hand and machine stitching on it, so I started with the hand work. That seems to be holding it together nicely without flattening it out too much. I really want to keep an almost sculptural feel to the fabric, so I think I may skip the machine stitching altogether, which translates into slower progress. But at least it's progress! I hope I'll have it finished by next Thursday when we have our monthly meeting.

I'll close with a shot of the sunset over Lake Gleneida which greeted me on the way home from the grocery store. Hope you're enjoying your summer too!