Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Getting a Head Start

Last year I was a little disappointed that I didn't have any sellable items prepared for the Putnam Arts Council's annual holiday art sale.  The year before, I managed to sell a few bookmarks and lavender sachets.  This year, I thought I'd get a head start making charms and see if I can produce a few bracelets and maybe some earrings and quilted coasters as well.   Here are a few samples.
I still have some embellishing to do on the coasters and I just ordered some silver-plated chain and toggle clasps to complete the bracelets.  I think the button Christmas tree charms are my favorite so far!  I'd love to make more of them, but I need to find some more smaller buttons for the top of the tree.  I have bags of green buttons but only a few that size!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Staycation Postcard

Quilting Arts Magazine is sponsoring another postcard challenge.  The theme for this one is "what I did on my Staycation."  Even though we did actually get away to the beach at the end of the summer, most of the summer I was home and working but took little "staycations" by escaping into a book.  I still think it's the most fun, relaxing, inexpensive, and easy way to get away from it all!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tackling a Big Job

 The bushes and shrubs in front of our house have gotten very overgrown in the past couple of years.  We mistakenly put too many plants in too close together and I wasn't sure what to do about it.  I trimmed what I could, but I didn't want to overdo it and ruin the shape of some of the trees, like the dwarf Alberta spruce.  I considered digging up some of them and moving them to another location in the yard, but that seemed crazy.  Here are a couple of shots of a weeping cherry, a golden cedar, and two of the dwarf Alberta spruces.  There were two cedars and two spruces way too close together.  They almost reached to that bedroom window, as you can see.
Finally, over the weekend, I couldn't stand how messy and out of control they all seemed.  I started by clipping some goldenrod that had found their way into the mess, then trimmed back the weeping cherry and the azealeas beneath it.  Then I tackled the cedars.  I'd been thinking all these years that it was just one big trunk under all that foliage, but there were about 6 smaller trunks.  I cut off just one or two at first, but then ended up removing an entire plant.  Below is my pile of clippings!
 Once I got started, I almost couldn't stop!  I could feel the plants breathing a big sigh of relief because they were finally getting some air and light.  I left one of the cedars, but gave it quite the haircut!  I also cut out an entire spruce.  There was a tiny Andromeda struggling between the cedar and the spruce, so I dug that out and moved it over.  It looks so much better!  Now I even have room to put in some flowering seasonal plants, like some mums to brighten it up a bit.  Even though it seems almost shockingly sparse, I bet by this time next year, it will look just right!

Just goes to show you what you can accomplish with a few simple tools, a little determination, and an afternoon of hard work!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Shot at Sun Printing

 We've been having perfect late summer weather here in the Northeast:  warm, dry days and cool crisp nights.  The daytime skies are clear and blue with barely a cloud.  The other day, I was home from work early (so the guy could give our oil burner its annual cleaning) and decided to take advantage of the weather to try sun printing.  I started by collecting some ferns and leaves that I thought might make nice prints.  Then I took a half yard of prewashed white cotton fabric and spread it out on our outdoor table in a sunny spot (I put a plastic tablecloth underneath to protect the table).  I spritzed the cloth with water from a spray bottle and splashed on some Pebeo Setacolor paints mixed with water.  I chose fallish colors - dark green, golden yellow, and a rusty red.  Then I placed my leaves and ferns all around and weighted some of them down with rocks, as you see above.  I didn't collect enough leaves and things,  there were some empty spaces between them.  I thought about adding a few more, but since it was such a dry, sunny day, the paint was quickly drying.  Instead, I sprinkled some of the empty spots with salt, which leaves speckles.

I also realized (a little late) that I should have chosen a different sunny spot - the shadow of the house very quickly threatened to overtake the whole piece of cloth - but luckily, my daughter's came home from school and were able to help me move the table further out.

Below is how the cloth looked after it dried in the sun and all the salt and leaves were removed.  You can see how the places where the leaves blocked the sun turn white.
Here is a close up of one area where you can see a part of a fern, an ivy leaf, and many speckles from the salt.
 Here is another spot on the cloth where the ivy vine and some of the maple leaf prints are visible.

 The cloth came out pretty well, and I'm considering using it for another "renga"-type project in my FANE group.  This time, the half-yard will be cut in two and go to two different people.  Since I can't make the next meeting, I'm not sure if I'll participate.  If not, I may add some leaf prints or stamps to it myself.

More importantly, I learned a few things about sun printing:  have more objects than you think you'll need, give yourself plenty of room away from any encroaching shadows, and results might be better if you use paper cut-outs of shapes rather than leaves and ferns that curl up and away from the fabric, making less clear prints.  Anyway, it was a nice excuse to be outside in the sunshine clipping leaves and playing with paint!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Presents and Projects

Happy Monday, eveyone, hope you had a great weekend!
 Look at t he fantastic carry-all my Mom made for me for my birthday!  It is very roomy and has pockets all along the outside, but it's also reversible, so the pockets could be on the inside.  She chose a sturdy quilted fabric in colors that I wear all the time.  Isn't it great?  Thanks, Mom!  I love it!

I also finally bought myself a polymer clay conditioning machine (aka, a pasta machine).  All this time, I've been conditioning the clay by hand, which is tiring.  And when I roll it out, it never comes out even and smooth.  I do use clay quite a bit, so I hope to get a lot of use out of this.
 But lately, I've been sticking with fabric.  Over the weekend, I put together these four 4-inch-square coasters.  I used the scraps from my previous project so they came together very quickly.  I still need to paint the edges with acrylic paint and seal the tops with that fusible vinyl.  I had a lot of fun choosing fabrics and getting back into decorative free-motion quilting.  Small projects are so satisfying because they can be finished in a day or two!  
Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Summer's End

That school bus rolled up the street right on time this morning, signaling the official end of summer.  The first day of school happened to fall on an auspicious day this year: my birthday.  Since the house was quiet and I wanted to combine some errands with some celebrating, I took myself out to brunch!  I've always wanted to indulge in a plate of decadent cream-cheese-stuffed french toast, but for some reason I never did it - til today!  This is "frittered french toast" from the Everready Diner in Brewster, and it comes dusted with cinnamon and sugar, and drizzled with raspberry sauce!  Wow!  I couldn't even finish it, so I'll have the rest tomorrow.
Another present I got for myself was this set of 36 colored pencils, below.  I use colored pencils more often than you would think, and the basic 12 color set just wasn't doing it for me anymore.  I don't need a fancy artist-quality brand or anything; for my purposes, these will do just fine.  Now I have a variety of shades of each color to use for sketching or on shrink film charms.  Sometimes just a little, inexpensive thing like that gives you just the lift you need!
 I also made a bit of progress on my fern piece.  I decided to use the same fern batik as sashing around the larger fern block and some smaller squares.  I fused on a variety of leaves and stitched around all of them by hand with a blanket stitch.
 When I first looked for ferns to trace for this pattern, I really wanted to go with one of the more divided, feathery looking ferns.  I knew that would be a hassle to cut out and stitch so I took the route of ease and simplicity.  I was going to simply free-motion around the edges of the fern, but the idea of a blanket stitch popped into my head.  I think it gives it a feathery appearance without all that work.   I also like the touch of shine the metallic thread adds.  For once, I followed my gut without overthinking and it worked!
I'm not sure how I'll finish this piece.  It's about 13" square, so it might make a nice pillow cover, but it will probably end up getting too much wear.  Maybe just a small wall hanging.   I think I'll call it "Summer's End."  The colors capture this time of year, when it is really still summer and everything is mostly green, but you begin to see tinges of rust and yellow here and there.

And although the summer is ending, this time of year is also a beginning - another school year and, for me, another year of my life.  Maybe it's a good time to revisit and revise the goals I made in January and plan the next few months accordingly.  One of the things I really want to get serious about is dropping a few pounds and exercising a little more.  I did start the day with some stretches and exercises, but the diet will have to wait until tomorrow - after the birthday cake and frittered french toast are all gone!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Vacation Inspiration

As I mentioned in a previous post, Mark and I really got a kick out of the retro "Doo-Wop" style of architecture of many of the motels in Wildwood.  Our favorite, by far, was the Caribbean, above, which was right across the street from where we stayed.  Above you can see the neon sign which glowed bright fuschia-red at night and the walking ramp that leads up to the ultra-cool lounge above.  Below is a view of the pool from the lounge deck.  The predominant colors here were yellow and lime green.
 Below are two interior shots of the lounge which was updated in 2005.  I love the cactus behind the bar, the leopard print upholstery, and the boomerang-shaped coffee table!  Also, notice the walls which are all glass and angled in, and the groovy lamp in the corner.  It reminds me of something out of The Jetsons cartoon from way back!

 On the next block over was the Bel-Air motel, which we could also see from our motel.  The aqua louvred doors, bright white walls, and hot pink umbrella kept catching my eye -  what a great color palette!  (It reminded me of my "Margaritaville" charm bracelet, which you can see by clicking here.)

This morning I dug around in my stash and came up with these fabrics that might make the same fun-in-the-sun statement.  I would love to make something with them, but I'm not sure what yet.  Maybe a larger abstract piece.

 Meanwhile, I had already pulled a few fabrics before I left and found them still sitting on my work table.  I fell in love with the fern batik, which I got in PA last summer, but wasn't sure what to do with it.  This morning I cut the fern shape out of it and fused it to the background neutral.  I dug out all those coordinating fabrics and I love the way they look together, but I'm not sure if I want to simply frame it with the other fabrics, or make it part of a pieced top.  I'll have to try out some options and play around with it all.

Meanwhile, I'm already lining up some other fabrics that would also work with the fern motif.
 I have so many ideas and color combinations racing around in my head, I'm not sure what direction to go first!  I probably should sketch some design ideas out with colored pencils so when I find myself with some free time, I'll know where to begin.  It's great to come back from vacation with renewed interest and energy!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fifth Prayer Flag

Just a quick post to share my latest prayer flag for our earth.  I fused the basics together before our trip and worked on the hand stitching while we were away.  Happy September!