Flowers in Portland, Oregon

I’m  traveling for work this week and because we use Airbnb for accommodations I’ve found myself in such a charming neighborhood that I now have dreams of buying a home here. OK – it’s not a new dream, but I found my new dream neighborhood.

I took a walk this evening in my neighborhood and captured these moments of Portland love. I miss this area so much! (I lived in Eugene, OR for 5 years and Seattle, WA for another 5 years – it’s such a cool  lifestyle these folks are living – jealous!).

I love the garage underneath the front porch on this one!20160427_193150

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Frothy goodness
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Rhodies!
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Not sure what this is but I sure love it
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Iris Amazing
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More amazing rhodie love
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Iris Crazy

 

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Rhodie Magic

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These beauties growing out of a random wall

Always love visiting this area. How lucky all you inhabitants are…

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Needle Lace: Waves

I’ve been working on a needle lace pattern I created to represent a set of waves and I really like how it turned out. I enjoy in-process pics so I’m posting a few.

How It Started

I stitched a few free-drawn leaf patterns first that I liked and didn’t like (yes on silk thread outline, no on structural veins that don’t connect because lace loses its shape).

So then I tried this wave pattern sketch of mine…

my base pattern
my base pattern

 

a few waves stitched: 2 threads per wave
a few waves stitched: 2 threads per wave

 

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Silk and metallic thread combinations

 

Finished product

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left side
left side

 

right side
right side

 

next to the pattern
next to the pattern

I’m really loving how this wave pattern came out matching my expectations for movement in thread. And now an artist friend has suggested that I abstract this pattern and go bigger…I’m hooked and thinking….how can one abstract a needlelace pattern…I have ideas….

 

 

Encyclopedias from the 1940’s

Oh what a great (free) find today!!

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Cover image from the 1940’s encyclopedias…ah the dreams…!

A few months ago I signed up for a site called nextdoor-dot-com (syntax to avoid spam) that has turned out to be a great app that keeps me posted on neighborhood happenings (I think it’s US-only in scope but surely there are others?) Subject matter ranges from lost dogs (I’ve posted in this category more than once, maybe because I live on a corner?) to police/criminal activity (good to know!) to free stuff (be still my heart!)…so an overall amazing channel to tune into as it relates to the streets around my house, right?!

This morning someone two streets over posted a note about “boxes of encyclopedias from 1947-49 with spine damage and some mold.” I think keywords “boxes” and “mold” might have scared off the average person, but this crafter was all alerts on the ready! Turns out it was just a few stacks of some vintage books I’ve been trying to manifest for about 2 years. Maps and everything y’all…and I’ve only seen a tiny suggestion of the possibility of moldish tendencies on one picture. a.k.a. A Gold Mine!! I’ll be stamping seahorses on these pages very soon…

Without Further Ado and For Your Viewing Pleasure
(my two favorite introductions)

The spine and cover already intrigue me – they almost look like leather!

Random Pages

So I started opening books at random pages (before M. started frantically boxing them all up – I think he only got the “mold” alert and was a little worried…understandably).

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The first page I opened: “Hostesses of the White House”
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Different book: We’re learning how to make arrowheads now…

I honestly didn’t try to find the CA map too hard (I still don’t know which parts of the alphabet I have in this book set – they went into boxes way too fast), but this opened up pretty quickly during my photo search and I latched onto the kismet.

 

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This is part of a six-page spread on animals and plants you’ll find in the “Rain Forest.”

Zoiks right? I can’t wait to look through all these books in my non-copious free time in which I am preparing my future artistic career. Getting right on that…but really, what a fun find. I better become a Certified Organizer immediately to deal with my ever-growing craft supply (I just made that up, but I feel certain people are making money doing that today…DIY!!).

Everything’s Coming up Roses!

My across-the-street neighbor grows only roses (she has over 200 different kinds, all with little signs stating their names!). I refer to her as The Rose Lady on my dog walks when people ask where I live (“across from the Rose Lady”) which always gets a resounding, “Oh yeah!” Everybody knows The Rose Lady, and we’re lucky enough to see her garden from our bedroom window every day.

She encourages everyone to cut a bouquet whenever they want so I headed over this (warm) afternoon to trim a few blooms and plunge them in water.

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I lined them up on the floor for easiest pictures…and now I want to leave them there!
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An army of roses!
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I love this splatter pattern. These remind me of candy.
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These rose petals are orange on the outside and red on the inside. I couldn’t capture the beauty of the whole bouquet.
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I enjoyed placing the cute red bouquet in the middle of these pinkies.

P.S. Marge is doing well and headed back to the care facility (from the hospital). Thanks for all your positive thoughts.

Carving Rubber Stamps (and I bought some amazing gourds!)

Today I went to Oceanside Museum of Art and took a class from Jane LaFazio to learn how to carve my own rubber stamp. It was a great class…but before we get to that…I got there an hour early…

And there was an art show in the streets!

So I got to browse around and found one of my favorite artists, Grace Swanson (GourdsByGrace.com). I bought a beautiful gourd from her last year that incorporated a dyed pine needle trim and woven antique silk kimono material. Today I found two new pieces I just HAD to have (I went back to her booth after class for a beaded gourd I had seen earlier, but got stars in my eyes over these two beauties and there was no going back).

She "chip carved" the outside of this gourd (involves a special tool that makes a notch or chip, then you scoop toward the notch). Then she dyed the notches.
She “chip carved” the outside of this gourd (involves a special tool that makes a notch or chip, then you scoop toward the notch). Then she dyed the notches.

She often scoops out her gourds (and sometimes appliques cool textures inside) but this one is left whole so the seeds inside shake around a little (I like that :).

Then there’s this piece of magic…

Grace carved the outside of this one then painted it (it's a flat little gourd - belly button on the back :).
Grace carved the outside of this one then painted it (it’s a flat little gourd – belly button on the back :).

 

I love this oblong cut in the top (jagged on the painted edge and smooth on the back edge).
I love this oblong cut in the top (jagged on the carved/painted edge and smooth on the back edge).

 

Trying to capture some of the glitter of the paint
Trying to capture some of the glitter of the paint

I was so glad to get the chance to see her work again and chat with her about her materials and process (she also does spectacular pine coiling and she uses Montezuma pine needles from Texas – we talked about the differences between those and the Torrey Pine needles in my neighborhood). Getting to add to my “Gourds by Grace” collection was icing on today’s cake.

And Now, Some Rubber Stamps

The class with Jane LaFazio was everything I hoped for and more. I spoke with someone who is taking one of her online courses as well and they come highly recommended. I got to see this gal’s art journal from the class (water colors and sketching) – so elegant and exactly the kind of skill I’d like to learn. I’m sure I’ll be signing up for the next one of those.

So we started with something called a “gum eraser” to get some practice and create something small.

I went with a wavy pattern. I call this my "water phase." :P
I went with a wavy pattern. I’m in what I call my “water phase.” 😛

I borrowed the carving tools from the museum but I’m definitely going to invest in my own set because this is a fun and easy way to make amazing reusable patterns. In the class we talked about making Christmas cards, printing tote bags, combining these patterns with watercolor painting – the possibilities are endless. Some people made a printed envelope in class with some brown paper, and the teacher showed an example that she stamped, scanned and printed on vellum. So many options!!

tbd
My next design was a seahorse. I’m proud of the detail I was able to achieve in his body and fin (I worked thru the lunch break :). I’m planning to cut away more background so he isn’t framed with a rectangle.

So the bottom right design is my first print test after cutting out the seahorse (I kind of like the black background). Then I went through a series of trimming and printing to get at the effect I was after.

My stamp, next to some trial prints and a first drawing rev
My stamp, next to some trial prints and a first drawing rev (the yellow-green paint represents where I’ll shave next to get rid of some of that “chatter”)

 

The teacher likes to work with black ink so she can watercolor the insides, but colored ink yields some cool results too...
The teacher likes to work with black ink so she can watercolor the insides, but colored ink yields some cool results too…

What a fun day and an interesting class. The materials for this are not too expensive (cutting tool, some rubber pads and ink) and the results are really fun to play with (I haven’t even started to play with coloring in my designs with pencils and water colors). I saw some really artistic renderings today from folks who have some experiences with these stamps. We also learned ways to repeat patterns and create mosaic type designs. This might play a role in this year’s Christmas cards…

Sending Love to Marge

I learned this evening that our beloved Marge broke her pelvis yesterday and she’s in good care while Aaron is stuck at home (without his beloved Marge).

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Please take a moment to close your eyes and send healing thoughts to 93-year-old Marge and her life partner Aaron, who awaits her return home.

Excited About What’s Next: Classes and a CAL!

I have WIPs, I have Done Stuff and I’m signed up for more – yippee!

Signed up for More…

Through a friend I made at the Art and Soul Retreat (who doesn’t live locally) I found an artist and teacher who DOES live locally – right here in San Diego!! I’m beyond excited and even though she offers online classes that look awesome, I’ve signed up for three in-person classes to learn some new skills.

Artist and Teacher Jane LaFazio

Jane LaFazio teaches lots of cool skills I can’t wait to learn!! (her website, her blog, her teaching schedule – including online classes you can take from anywhere!!)

I’m signed up for these in-person classes over the next month:

  • Stamp Design & Carving
  • City Block Art Quilt
  • Abstract Collage with Gelli Plates for Mono Printing

These are some art techniques I’ve been wanting to learn more about so I’m delighted and thrilled to have the opportunity to take some all-day classes with an artist. Of course I’ll share pics of my learnings!!

Done Stuff

At my last machine sewing class I made a small zipper bag. I love first attempts because of their history…and yet, so much to learn about elegant machine zipper stitching…it’s kinda wrinkly…

My first zipper bag (complete with trick cover-up stitching on this side)
My first zipper bag (complete with trick cover-up quilting on this side…which is now my favorite side because that feather stitch is cool!)

I’m not sure how I feel about stitching zippers. I need to stitch more to have a valid opinion. I’m slightly afraid of stitching more…and so I must. (P.S. My attempts in class to stitch a button hole sent my sewing machine to the hospital, but good news! It’s fixed and ready to sew another seam…and zipper…and, uhm, gulp, buttonhole? I better check youtube first…)

I want to add that I took my tote bag to the local pet store on tonight’s dog walk (along with my zipper bag, which carried my credit card, DL and phone) and everything fit in my tote bag for the walk home: big bag of dog food, other sausage things we add to his food and my zipper bag). I want to make a million more…tote bags. 🙂

CAL (Crochet-A-Long? never typed that out before)

I’m happy to be part of a Crochet Along offered by Scheepjes.

I love this colorway
I love this colorway

This pattern is inspired by a blogger who I happened to find as inspiration in early 2015, and I’m happy to commemorate her contributions in this CAL. The colors are blueish-green and yummy and I can’t wait to get started.

Found on a Dog Walk

We found this tiny creation on the sidewalk y’all (thumb included for size reference).

We found this tiny creation on the sidewalk y'all (thumb included for reference).

At first glance it might look like it’s made from a paperclip (that’s what I thought), but it has a silver tag that suggests soldering, so now I’m intrigued…and inspired to write a haiku (lucky you!)…

treble

It was on the ground
Silver treble and bass clef
Left for me and you?

WIPs (Works In Progress)

OK – enough poetry posturing. It was fun while it lasted and I’m going to save that little silver creation for one of my future art works. (I think it might get sewn onto my “City Block Art Quilt”!)

In the meantime, I’m off to work on my newest needle lace pattern…

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I tried variegated thread and a larger pattern on the brown leaf with mixed results. Now working the surf pattern with metallic and silk threads…digging it so far… pics to come…(sorry for poor lighting)

Let me know if you have any cool zipper bag patterns I can try and/or if you sign up for the CAL.

Rule #1 in Learning a Craft: Learn How to Fix Mistakes

I took dance classes for about 20 years…

Same year: Recital included the Pink Panther theme song and "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Don't miss the orange shag carpet and my feather headdress!
This year’s recital included the Pink Panther theme song (acrobatics) and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (tap). Don’t miss the orange shag carpet and my feather headdress!

One of the things I learned early on is the value of learning how to fix mistakes (in dance this involves keeping your face in the right configuration – usually a huge smile unless it’s modern dance – and moving around dramatically until you catch up. It works every single time…even in real life sometimes…).

Fixing Sewing Mistakes

Today I prepared for my last sewing machine lesson (which is tomorrow), and to get the most out of my time (still have to finish up those pj’s) I prepared some things ahead of time for another project: a small zip-up bag made from the remnants of the tote bags. I want to learn about my machine’s zipper foot and button-sewing attachment before the day is over (I’m just going to sew two random pieces of material to button together – not digging the pillow cover with buttons she’s offering – it’s cute, we just have too many pillows already).

The teacher suggested that I just cut out my pieces and bring them to class, but I decided to work ahead on the instructions as much as I could. So this brought me to quilting two pieces of material together with batting in between. Only I forgot to add the 2nd piece of material to the back of the first one (basically “quilted” the batting to one layer of material…not exactly “quilting”), and I got a line of stitch in on the second piece before I remembered. Ah well, forging ahead…

When I was done I had one piece quilted properly (the lining material with the batting makes it looks a little puffy), and one piece that was stitched “like” it was quilted – but it was completely flat (missing the attached lining piece). I thought about just using it as is and letting the seam stitches hold things together, but one of the linings would have been wriggling around inside the bag if I did that so I got creative. I tried a decorative stitch on my new machine!!!

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top piece is quilted to original design; bottom piece has been amended with feather stitch on top of the original vertical lines to fuse the lining piece to the batting

I am MOST IMPRESSED with myself for getting all those feather stitches directly on top of that already stitched line (of course I HAD to use a lighter color thread for “creative purposes” – which shows everything). Looks like I did it on purpose now (though I probably won’t make this decision again as a design choice – pain in the butt to line those stitch lines up).

Once again I have learned a new and important skill: how to undo or fix sewing machine mistakes (P.S. the seam ripper was involved on this one because I also sewed 3/4 of a row of feather stitch with no thread in the lower bobbin – doh!).

Can we also take a moment of silence to enjoy my nearly perfect 45 degree angles on those lines (heck, maybe they’re perfect! They look perfect to me!!). I used another new sewing tool to do that (it’s just a huge flat ruler with a bunch of angles and stuff printed on it) but there was almost math involved, as well as a dull piece of sewer’s chalk from my 7th grade home ec class, and I had to sit down and think about it for a second.

Flower Time!

Meanwhile on today’s dog walk, one of my favorite flowers:

Amaryllis - These usually show up a bit earlier in the year here...shifting weather patterns
Amaryllis – These usually show up a bit earlier in the year here…shifting weather patterns

 

Needle Lace…I’ve Been Inspired by an Artist

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase a piece from this amazing artist: Ágnes Herczeg. She does a form of needle lace that incorporates natural elements to create amazing works of art.

Hanging proudly on my wall! By Ágnes Herczeg
Hanging proudly on my wall! By Ágnes Herczeg (link to more of her works on her facebook page)

Her work really intrigues me, and even when I hold it in my hand, I can barely comprehend how the tiny stitches came together into such a beautiful form (I’m still admiring it under a magnifying glass – such detailed work!!).

Needle Lace and Me

So of course I had to look this up and figure out how a lay person might give it a try. I found this super cool tutorial that walked me through the BASICS of creating lace on paper. So I gave it a try.

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Finished product – lots of room for improvement but an interesting experiment. (silk floss on outside/ribs, cotton floss on veins)

 

In Progress Notes

 

Using the cordonnet stitch to attach the framework
Using the cordonnet stitch to attach the framework. I think next time I’ll use broader anchor stitches instead of stitching each cord separately (the anchor stitches didn’t come out easily)

 

Working the buttonhold stitch up the leaf
Working the buttonhole stitch up the leaf

 

Adding silk thread to the veins of the leaf
Adding silk thread to the veins of the leaf (boy did it take me a long time to figure out the direction of stitches on each vein to get the knot to line up…I think I got it…)

I’ll definitely create more patterns to mess around with (and I’ll probably “have to” buy more embroidery thread because my stash colors are boring).

Until then…

Here’s What’s Blooming in the Garden!

Squash flowers are so beautiful!!
Squash flowers are so beautiful!!

 

 

Needle felting: by hand and by machine

I’m back to my regularly scheduled programming this week, returning to my day job, or what I like to refer to as “my new daily grind” (it’s definitely caffeinated). The night time blend still involves art du jour as possible, and tonight I have more stuff to share from my Art and Soul Retreat.

Turns out there are soooo many ways to felt beautiful things!! I talked earlier about my first wet-felted scarf and needle-felted penguin (see: felting).  I decided to felt some more penguins and I took a few pictures along the way.

Hand Needle Felting

Penguin #2 started like this...just a black roll of roving.
Penguin #2 started like this…just a black coil of wool roving and that little purple-handled needle (of doom, if you’re not paying attention).

 

Magically (after much hand-punching) that black roll of roving turns into penguin base - ready for his mask and tummy cover.
Magically (after so very much hand-punching) that black coil of wool roving turns into a penguin base – ready for his mask and tummy cover (you can see First Penguin modeling spookily in the distance – he doesn’t move around much – good model).

 

TA-DA!  "Felted Penguins in Ice Plant"
TA-DA!
“Felted Penguins in Ice Plant”

They’re cute little buggers and I want to make more!

Machine Needle Felting

So this is where the learning got real. We used Bernina machines with felting foot attachments, and the activity looked something like this.

Now. The person in that video is a ninja expert and is sewing at the speed of light…in circles. These happen to be the two behaviors that lead me to break approximately five needles (I lost count, and there was a hand-held felting punch in the mix as well. Oh so much learning. I was warned…) So that video isn’t so much “me doing machine needle felting” as “don’t try this at home.”

But I tried it at the retreat, because the teachers encouraged it, and they were the pictures of patience as they changed my needles (and removed the needle pieces from my work…with pliers…they didn’t even snicker!). Here’s the lessons I learned about machine needle felting:

  • Start out with some big pieces on your base felt, to get the feel of the felting needles (small pieces can be hard to felt into your design at first – edges are hard to deal with)
  • Start out at a very slow speed
  • Don’t use materials that are too thick (needles break – start thin)
  • Edges are tricky – don’t let the felting needles push the material down into the stitching hole (I finally figured out a few ways to deal with this; trial and error can be “fun!”)

My First Experimental Pieces

One of the great things about this Art and Soul Retreat was the ability to experiment with lots of different media. In this machine needle felting class they had all these sewing machines set up with the needle felting attachments, and once the teacher shared the basic technique we were free to use the machines and her stash (as well as some sharing students’ stashes!) to experiment.

Many of the teacher’s designs involved covering the top of the base design completely with a white silk scarf and needle-felting it so that you could barely see the base material underneath. But I preferred to try that on only part of my design (I’m still working on the concept of “collage” and possibly covering up an original layer :). You’ll see the white silk scarf running vertically in the top right corner of the design – pulled apart with my fingers as I felted so that more of the fabrics behind could show through.

There’s some orange-dyed cheesecloth in here as well – that’s really fun to felt with! And more silk pieces running horizontally as I tried tacking other pieces in (the pink across the top is one of my favorites).

I'm working on layers here. The base felt was white, covered by pieces of cotton and velvet, then felted with strips of silk, then embellished with beads.
I’m working on layers here. The base felt was white, covered by pieces of cotton and velvet (bottom left corner in purple – my fave piece! I love how dimpled the velvet got with the felting), then felted on top with strips of silk, then embellished with beads.

After Lunch…

I tried something completely different.

I started out with a blue piece of felt. (This is the end result turned upside down – you’ll see why in a second. Just remember…blue piece of felt…)

This is after felting - you can see where the yellow and white fabrics began to fuse with the felt and come through to the other side.
This is after felting – you can see where the yellow and white fabrics began to fuse with the felt and come through to the other side. This was actually a pleasant surprise I discovered after working for about 3 hours on the other side…

 

So many layers...base cotton material, strips of yellow and white (silk and cotton), layer of chiffon scarf over the whole thing, then ribbons of white silk felted on top
So many layers…base cotton material, strips of yellow and white (silk and cotton), layer of chiffon scarf over the whole thing, then ribbons of white silk felted on top. I spent extra felting time on the yellow strips and maroon circles, to bring them to the front.

I really was just messing around with the felting machine at this point – trying to attach different layers while maintaining a “sun-ray” design in the felting. I only felt-stitched along the sun ray lines (instead of up and down, side to side or the dreaded round-and-round) – which created that really fun back view in the end.

I like the frothy edges of these pieces, though I could just as easily cut these pieces up, zigzag stitch the edges and use them for smaller pieces.

After doing needle-felting by hand, I can definitely say that a sewing machine attachment is interesting to me. I can’t really create 3-dimensional shapes so easily with the machine (e.g. cute penguins), but I can create some very interesting background material in short order using scraps and hand-dyed fabrics.

I am considering that sewing machine attachment…

Have y’all done any felting you’d like to share? I’m new to this and very interested in what others are doing in this space.