Stamping Christmas Cards (sorry it’s so early)

I’m happy to report that I’m working way ahead of schedule this year in the area of Christmas cards. Year before last I stitched some Christmas card beauties and, frankly, set the bar way too high for myself, as witnessed by last year when I barely wrote replies to those industrious souls who kept us on their list. It’s a tough grind that one wants to keep going right? (Yes we do – it’s worth it – handwritten snail mail rocks!). In some cases it’s our only reachout to some of our favorite people! And once my progeny moved out of the house the ready-made family photo was no longer available as card material, so I had to come up with something (dog photos? Scruffy is pretty Scruffy-licious!)

Draw a Few/Carve Once – Stamp Lots

One of the things I love about rubber stamp carving is that it allows me to easily share a creative idea across multiple media. I’ve just experimented with paper here but I can see some fun to be had in stamping material with these (handmade stamped canvas gift bags?).

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I sketched so many trees before I figured this one out! I like the way it comes out after Sharpie embellishments.
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So many things to love…

The drawing for the tree stamp is partially showing top right, so that’s fun to see in it’s original state (the candy cane and heart you’ll see in a minute). Then the poinsettia, which I stamped in a darker red to accentuate the spaces, and also in a lighter red so I could marker-outline the edges. Right now I can’t decide which I like more. Let’s make 10 of each!

I think those are the winners in this year’s contest for “Which Rubber Stamp Carvings Will Make This Year’s Christmas Cards” (the acronym isn’t worth it…this contest may never happen again).

Runners Up

Candy canes big and small deserve air time, and I’m here to make sure that happens.

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The heart candy canes are my own design (though I doubt I’m the first to think of it so I won’t be seeking a patent) and I think they’ll look great on the sealed back of a Christmas/Valentine’s Day card envelope.

The larger candy cane stands alone as a tribute to lazy rubber stamp carving. It was easy, so I did it, and I can’t imagine where I’ll use it. Such is the way with rubber stamp carving sometimes. (Good news: I used a scrap piece from another stamp to make it, so no full rubber stamp lives were lost in the making of this candy cane stamp.) Phew! Thank you for your concern.

Sending love and thoughts of light. What art are you working on today?

 

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Bringing It All Together: I’m Making Cards!

I had to wait awhile to post pictures of this so my daughter wouldn’t see her birthday card ahead of time. I’m having a lot of fun using my mono prints and stamps to make impromptu cards (anyone else out there boycotting purchased greeting cards and all they stand for? UNITE!).

So here’s what I made to celebrate my daughter’s offspringing…

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I added beads to the embroidery then used double-sided tape to attach it to a piece of scrapbooking paper.
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Then I glued a mono-printed page to the inside top and stitched my needle lace to the bottom (I like how the cut threads added to the wave motion).
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close-up of the mono print
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close-up of the attached needle lace
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Back of the card – I like how the blue silk stitches seem to interact with the gold grassy marks.

I really enjoyed adding beads to my embroidered patterns and I suspect that technique might make another appearance. I especially enjoyed finding a use for my needle lace pattern AND avoiding the greeting card industry. It’s evil y’all. Buy card stock on sale and draw a picture. Your loved ones will love it even more than that $7 card that sings.

P.S. I used my mono prints recently to create a thank you card (plus two bonus bookmarks I included…that could be used to create two new cards…). It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as well as a gift that’s fun to give. I highly recommend purchasing a cheap gelli-plate and going to town. It’s kind of a “no wrong answers” situation: even your least favorite print can be turned into your favorite bookmark.

Monoprinting Fun

Hello All! I feel like I’ve been away forever, even though I’ve been sewing and crafting the whole time.

This week I took another class with Jane LaFazio, learning how to use a gelli art printing plate to create some fun monoprint “masterpieces.” In these classes I tend to forge ahead toward a finished product, then I love to step back and use the skills I’ve learned to create new things at home.

Print Once, Use in Multiple Projects

This is a layered technique, not only in the making but in the using. Collage and layering are fun challenges for me (it’s hard to cover up stuff I love and let the “next thing” emerge). First I used acrylic paint and a variety of resist material to create some fun patterns on rice paper. I gathered them in color palettes below.

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Of course it was windy at photo time – the shell from the garden helped.
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These are both uncut because I’m just not seeing it…yet. P.S. The gals at the table next to me loved both of these images. So I’ma give it some time…

Color Palette #2

I was in too much of a hurry toward a finished product in class, so I wasn’t able until today to leisurely stroll through my prints and find my various color palettes. It was really fun to discover the color families I ended up making and I can’t wait to make some more (and work these into new projects).

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I got an encyclopedia page in the mix, though the paint coverage isn’t very delineated (learning…). I think the upper right is my overall favorite – I like the mix of colors and shapes.

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Wait, the bottom right is my new favorite. The red “roses” were made with rubber bands!

 

Color Palette #3

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I added the seahorses afterwards from a rubber stamp I carved.
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The purple and the swirls show up a little differently in this angle.

Color Palette #4

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These are bolder than the rest – I like them!

 

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In Process

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I’m using a gel matte as glue to attach my favorite pieces to a 12 x 12 gesso board.

Ta-dah!

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It needs a second layer of varnish but I’m digging it as a first effort!

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….

 

 

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.

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.

Sewing Machine Skills…Check!

I’m not sure exactly why I’ve been so afraid of using a sewing machine up until now…but I was. So I tackled that baby head-on and made two more tote bags (based on this one I made in class).

I learned a lot, made some mistakes (always a part of learning), and I now feel like I’ve conquered my sewing machine (enough to work it anyways). Today I filled a bobbin and threaded my machine with new thread (a first for me, unsupervised), and completed two more tote bags.

Another greenish theme allowed me to use the same thread in the machine as the last bag (lazy and/or addicted to this color palette)
Another greenish theme allowed me to use the same thread in the machine as the last bag (lazy and/or addicted to this color palette)

 

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This one is my favorite – the colors and prints make me inexplicably happy.

The lining inside on these is the same as the top print, which may seem like a waste of print material to some, but I enjoy the happy surprise of a party inside the bag and the darker print on the bottom will show less dirt.

Things to work on:

  • My measuring and cutting needs help – things didn’t line up as well as they did in class and I’m a bit baffled by it.
  • The straps don’t match up exactly on the bottom of my two new bags. I’ll ask the teacher how that might have happened (besides my earlier mentioned measuring/cutting challenges).
  • I forgot to stitch the top of each new bag and had to re-string the machine with the green thread. Pay attention to detail, and good on me for practicing threading the machine again. (What does everyone do with all those half-filled bobbins? Do you just keep buying more for new projects? Do you unwind them when you’re done? Seems like a lot of bobbins…)

In this Saturday’s class I’m going to start on some flannel pajama pants (there’s elastic involved…I’m a little nervous). Wish me luck!

Wet (Nuno) Felting

Today I spent too much time (and money) at my local fabric store buying supplies to make more tote bags (to make sure I know how to make them on my own – I like to repeat newly learned skills early on in hopes of keeping them long-term).

Sidenote: I think these tote bags might make good fund-raising items for a craft fair I participate in, so I also spent some time this evening sourcing cheaper supplies in bulk (I got the price of supplies down from $24/bag to $12/bag!). I thought it was surprising that the webbing (straps) and fusible lining (doesn’t show, but adds stability) were the most expensive at my local store. Much cheaper to buy online and in bulk, then I’ll probably choose my material and thread based on the webbing colors I can purchase online.

ANYWAYS…lighting didn’t work out for pics of those works in progress…so I’m going to show you my Nuno felted scarf from my recent art retreat.

From the web:
Nuno felting is a fabric felting technique developed by Polly Stirling, a fiber artist from New South Wales, Australia, around 1992. The name is derived from the Japanese word “nuno” meaning cloth. The technique bonds loose fibre, usually wool, into a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating a lightweight felt.

The beginning: 1st layer wool roving, then thin material, more wool roving. Bubble wrap and warm soapy water...and lots of agitation...
The beginning: 1st layer wool roving, then thin cotton material, then more wool roving. Bubble wrap and warm soapy water…and lots of agitation…

 

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time to work in the felt on the other end

 

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the material and wool before they got “felted into one”

 

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Happy artist wearing her wares!

 

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Another angle

 

In the Light at Home

It’s a frothy thing…

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I used a sewing machine y’all!!

I am taking a sewing machine class that spans four Saturdays. My experience with sewing machines has been: hands-on in 7th grade (the dress I made didn’t fit well over my shoulders…), The End. So I’ve been hand-sewing and hand-mending for the last XX years, living in fear of sewing machines, broken needles and threading mysteries.

The first class we just talked about sewing materials and techniques, but today I hauled my new sewing machine into class and made a tote bag!!

the dark green panels are all pockets!
the dark green panels are all pockets!
the bottom - I made square corners y'all!
the bottom – I made square corners y’all!

 

I'm thrilled with these close stitches right on the edge (it's the small wins on the big projects that matter). Sewing machines are cool!
I’m thrilled with these close stitches right on the edge (it’s the small wins on the big projects that matter). Sewing machines are cool!

OK – So I’m going to sew up 12 more of these post-haste (not really…but I feel inspired!). Just as I suspected: sewing machines sew things up way faster than by hand (soo-prize!).