Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Have a Spooktacular Day!

This lovely fabric ATC was sent to me by Lula of Woolydream.

We're looking at a rare warm and dry Halloween--perfect for trick-or-treating!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

recent projects

I spent some fun time last week stitching up these sweet little baskets. On Thursday I had several doctor appointments (get it over with at once!) and this was the perfect project to bring with me.

Ann taught this at a recent Homewood Embroiderer's Guild meeting. They're paper pieced pentagons and they make sturdy baskets. I have to admit I totally copied World Embroideries' blue basket (down to the clever contrasting center). I think hers is nicer but I still like mine. (My first attempt was so badly stitched I covered the seams with ribbon to hide them.)

All are wintry/holiday fabrics and I think the hanging ones will make nice ornaments, perhaps with a few candies in them. The sitting ones will also hold candy, but I was thinking perhaps rings or thimbles...

A while back I ordered two kits from Vintage Vogue for their signature Victorian Heart Pin and then forgot all about them--the kits were on backorder. They arrived last week and I put the first together this weekend. The instructions are clear, the materials generous and I had a lot of fun creating the pin. Choosing the colors for the flowers and the placement is a fun challenge. I've set the second kit aside until I finish this month's TIF.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Take It Further start (long)

I'm feeling particularly relieved at the moment. (I know it won't last.) This year at work has been full of back-to-back conferences that I've run, and I'm finally getting my feet back under me and am doing my "real" work.

I manage a couple of dozen different grants and accounts and I have them all up to date for the first time in months. Now I have to turn my attention to the annual report that should have been done a while back.

This is the start of this month's TIF piece. It's very different from what I had planned. But once I began thinking about where I worked and how I managed the process, I ended up with more images (more on how I did the transfers below) than I expected. This journal page kind of traces the process of how I work. It's starts in my brain. It's the one workspace we all have in common.

I often do research and some thinking on my computer. Next is my ironing board work-station where I can do larger or messier things or those that require heat. Mostly I sit in my chair and stitch. The image of my stove-top photo studio isn't clear, but I still decided to include it. (I'll know what it is.) Last is my file cabinet/display gallery at work. I don't often put up images of pieces I've done there--they're more likely to appear as a background on my monitor or at the top of the custom calendar pages I print each month. But it's every changing and a kind of a symbolic bulletin board for me.

I identified each photo using a letter rubber stamp. It's a big one like those date stamps libraries used to use. This one has about 16 bands of the alphabet so you can "set" and print your own words. I've had it for years and this is the first time I've used it. I love it. I used pigment ink.

The little blobs are actually off center yo-yos (thank you, Clover!) to represent all of the piled up bags and totes that contain my various projects and materials. I have added a lot more since taking this photo and plan to add more yet.

That's pretty much it. I plan to complete it this weekend. I'll back it with some prequilted fabric I've used on others and add some sort of loop for binding.

Image transfers: I wanted the images to be rather rough and not crystal clear. This is where and how I work right now, but it's not my ideal and I think I'd like it to be fading away. Here's how I did it: I printed reversed color images of my photos using a laser printer. I ironed on two layers of Wonder-Under fusible to the front of the paper (one at a time). Then I soaked the images and rubbed the paper off of the back. This type of transfer isn't quite as clear as using acrylic medium, but it is quicker--you need to let the medium dry at least 24 hours. Press, wave in the air a bit to cool, and dump into a pool of water. The two techniques are equally fragile (you can remove the image with the backing paper if you're not careful).

I rolled the wet paper off with my fingers using kind of a pushing motion and let it dry a bit. Once the paper begins to roll up, it will help the process by picking up other bits of the paper as you move it along.Then I wet it again and went over it again with a more circular motion and got more of the paper. I let it dry again.

By now my fingers are complaining about all the rubbing so I dampened a tea towel and rubbed some more, very gently. Now you need to be careful--you can easily rub away the image--and here's where the edges begin to fray.

Once I had the paper removed, I placed my images on the background fabric (and spent about 24 hours moving them around each time I passed by) and pressed with a hot iron to fuse. Fabric right side up, image photo side up (the photos will now be facing the right direction), fusible down. Cover with a Teflon press sheet or parchment paper and press with a hot iron. The images brightened up a bit upon being transferred.

I was pleased with how well they stuck--no curling edges or missed spots.

Concurrent with this month's project, my husband and I have been doing some house hunting. We do it occasionally but haven't for a while. I would like to move (desperately!) but am not thrilled at taking on a huge mortgage, so our options are limited. We live in the town where he grew up and he's not one for change so he's not thrilled but he understands my reasoning.

This month, dreams and reality met. (so far, reality's winning)

For many many years we've driven down this one short street, out in Indiana near the Dunes, and said, "boy, this is where we'd like to live." A few weeks ago as we were doing that exact thing, we noticed (for the first time in all these years) a house for sale on the street. So we called and went to look at it. It's lovely. It has no stairs--but it looks like it may have a wet crawl space. It has a large garage--lined with toxic particle board. And the whole thing was kind of like that. Lovely living room but the kitchen needs a major redo. It would double my commute to work and effectively isolate my hubby. And it's just barely beyond our price range--and if we moved there we couldn't afford to redo the kitchen and bathroom. But this area is so far beyond our price range that the place seems quite the bargain--and very difficult to pass up. This was a really hard one but for now we've opted to stay put.

It really got us thinking and talking about what we need (space, no stairs, trees) and want (studio, three-car garage, a bath and a half, a kitchen we can have a table in, neighbors further than 10 feet away). We've looked at other houses, closer to where we are now, and that's honed our requirements and also encouraged us to stay put for now. We've been contemplating renovation but I think we'd need to move out in order to be able to do that. We need (and sometimes want) change but we're two old fuddy-duddys stuck in our comfy rut.

Monday, October 27, 2008

old news

This feels a bit old news to me because I have some new pictures I'm itching to post, but I just can't skip over these fun things. First things first!

This first image may not look too exciting but I'm thrilled. Take a peek at the amazing hemstitching on this pillowcase. It was a very surprise gift from a friend. She knows how I very much prefer to sleep on old cotton pillowcases. I used to buy them in antique shops because they were very reasonably priced and pretty--and then found I like them much better than new.


The next pictures are pure eye-candy. Last weekend (the 18th) we visited the open house at Ellen Anne Eddy's Studio. Definitely Thread Magic! I was excited for the chance to see her quilts up close and in person. I hadn't thought that she might have things for sale! I got a lovely stash that I'm still regularly fondling and contemplating.

Ellen's quilts are amazing and I love how she dyes her fabrics. She works to convey the effects of a definite light source--can you see it in the pictures? I also got a load of dyed cheesecloth, perle cotton, and a magical piece of sheer fabric, shown together in a photo.

I loved meeting and chatting with Ellen and her friends (and her amazing greyhounds--they are so sweet and loving and I was very sad to learn Beau suddenly died this week). I also got a sneak peek at a design tutorial Ellen is working on. (Check out the one one her website--it's great.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TIF and odds and ends...

I haven't done anything yet for this month's TIF. I have taken pictures of the various places where I work:
The first two locations are my office at work--my computer monitor and my ever changing file cabinet. The files in side are all business (really!) Actually, so is the mess on my desk.

The green chair is where I do most of my work, surrounded by piles of books. If I need table space, I use a very sturdy adjustable ironing board. The advantage is that I can raise or lower it as I wish to sit or stand. It's wearing it's plastic cover because I was gluing and stamping. Last is my stove-top photo gallery. This is where I take most of my indoor pix--the window next to the stove faces south and has the best light we get in the house. I decided not to take a photo of my piles of boxes in the basement--my storage area.

My plan is to print these images reversed (done) and fuse them to Wonder-Under and then remove the paper and fuse them to fabric for my page. That's as far as I've gotten with my planning. I need to see how the images on the Wonder Under look--I'm hoping for a rather old and faded effect. I think I want to do a crazy quilt sort of design because my workspace is a hodge-podge.

I did do some other things besides rust last weekend. Each year I need to make several holiday ornaments for exchanges, gifts, and displays. I did this one mostly in one long evening...pulled thread on canvas. It's always fun to experiment with pulled thread stitches. It's a little harder on canvas and my hands did hurt the next morning, but I like the lacy look enough for it to be worth it.

This last image is of some fabric I printed on Sunday night. Every time I make stir-fry I think about doing this and I finally got around to it.

The "rose" images are actually the cut off end of a head of baby bok choy. The circles are the cut off end of a small zucchini. I used pigment stamp pads in gold, silver and copper to print my totally random design. I think it came out pretty cool.

I need to press it to set it and then I need to figure out what I want to do with it!

Monday, October 20, 2008

more rust

Another long weekend, what bliss! I stitched a Hallowe'en ornament from my first rust attempts. I basted around the pumpkin magnet I'd used and then quilted it with an outline stitch over some old prequilted calico I had. Then I folded the edges under and slip stitched it to a piece of black felt with a scalloped edge. I added a knot of orange floss in each scallop and a buttonholed hang tie. The flash made this a little brighter than the actual piece.

I also stitched a pulled thread ornament and did some other fun things I'll write about later on. Right now I'm all about the rust.

Saturday night I sat out in the grass in back of the garage, with gloves and a mask, and unrolled the rusty fabric. Here are some final pictures of the fabric before I unrolled it. The bottom of the container sure was sludgy.

I slowly unrolled the wire, wrapping it around a bottle to keep it for next time. Then as the sludge drained into coffee filters (to clear the water and also save that lovely rust for future use), I unrolled the fabric and picked off bits of rusty steel wool. Those went into a container to save, too. I rinsed out the box and then placed my semi-cleaned fabric in it and added clear water and rinsed it around.

It's a good thing coffee filters are cheap--the rust really clogs them up and I used quite a few filtering the container water and then the rinse water. I'm using quart-sized yogurt containers for filtering, rinsing and storage and I began layering a clean, dry filter with a rust clogged one as I went along. Later on I laid them out on a box top to dry.

I swished my fabric around in the rinse water and picked off more pieces of steel wool. I had wrapped two pieces of fabric on my tubing so I had multiple layers of copper wire and steel wool. After the first rinse I filtered the water and then rinsed the fabric again.

I took the whole mess inside then, to the utility tub, and thoroughly rinsed out the box, the water container, strainer and the fabric. Then I hung the fabric to dry. Taa-daa! These pictures are the first fabric, front and back. The fronts are a little different from the backs.

Here's the second fabric piece,
front and back.

I may try another batch and let it rust in the basement. Doing it outdoors is definitely a summer thing. I like that it took about a week to rust because that fits my schedule--set it up one week, rinse the next. It would go quicker in the heat of the summer.

I'm certainly noticing rust everywhere. We did some antiquing on Friday and I noticed I was hunting the shop for rusty objects--something I definitely would have bypassed in the past! Didn't see any this time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


While at last weekend's quilt show, I met Lois Jarvis (here, too). She made the Ground Zero quilt that was on display at the show and had a lovely booth. This is a sample piece of her rust dyeing--it's amazing. So, I bought a rust dyeing kit that included this cd and everything needed to try it out including prepared for dyeing (pfd) fabric so I could just dive in. Let's make rust!

I didn't get to it Saturday (and it was a shame because it was hot this weekend) and ended up getting things going after dark Sunday night. (It's getting dark way too early now!) We have a street lamp across from our house so I worked on the front steps and my fabric has been dyeing itself all week there, to the consternation of the squirrels and confusion of my hubby's friends.

So here it is, all wrapped and tied to cook away in the sun. I got an inexpensive plain toolbox from HobbyLobby to hold the dyeing fabric and give me a place to rinse it out and, hopefully, store some of the dyeing equipment. It got cool and rainy but I figured that would be okay because it would just dye more slowly and I won't have time to unwrap it until this weekend.

I had also purchased some iron filings and decided to try magnet dyeing--I placed a magnet cut out into a pumpkin shape in a plastic veg tray. I laid a piece of damp pfd fabric on it and sprinkled on the iron filing. Supposedly they would gravitate to the magnet. I added salt and let it sit over night. This is what I got.

Here are the rinsed pieces. Not very pumpkin like but kinda cool. This fabric is certainly stained! I learned that unless I wanted to smell like iron all day I need to wear gloves. And not wash things out in the bathroom sink.

Here's the fabric bundle on day two. Not much change.

Here's day four. I got more copper wire to wrap the outside layer. (I did a double layer--of course I can't follow instructions!)

Here's the underside on day four. Gettin' rusty!

I didn't get a shot this morning but it was looking pretty gross--which seems to me to be a good thing. I went out and got some additional supplies--more steel wool, face masks (just cheapies), coffee filters to filter the rinse water, a cheap strainer to hold the coffee filters. My starter kit included gloves and synthrapol to wash the fabrics in when they're done. I also rounded up some yogurt containers from recycling (the quart size) to use to hold my new stash of rusty bits.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fair Trade in Chicago

Following Jane's lead for blog action day against poverty, I went looking for addresses for the local fair trade shops that I knew about. I've been to a lovely one in Glen Ellyn and I know there's a good one in Evanston (Ten Thousand Villages). And I'm pretty sure I spotted one here in Hyde Park.

While I was looking up the shops, I came across this wonderful site: Chicago Fair Trade. It lists all sorts of local activities, vendors and importers of fair trade items (including a list of fair trade cafes and restaurants). October is fair trade month!

My favorite fair trade shops is Marketplace: Handcraft of India. I first learned of them through catalogs and generally order online. Their clothing is wonderful--I have several pieces.

If you're not in the Chicago area, check out what's going on by you at Fair Trade Towns.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More quilt show...

First, Leila very thoughtfully noted the blog with the sweet teacup pincushions in a comment to yesterday’s post. Here it is in case you missed it. Mimi Kirschner does lovely work.

In lieu of a real vacation, I’m taking some long weekends this fall. Hopefully we’ll have more time to play and have fun on the weekend. Actually, last weekend was all fun and not a chore got done. I think I have just barely enough undies to make it through this week! We’re already planning for next weekend and right now we’re looking at this art studio tour in Porter County, Indiana.

More on the quilt show. Pat Winter’s booth was just lovely. Her bags, purses, and pendants are beautiful in photos--but they're even better in real life! She had her garden quilt there, too, on a display stand. It's one of those pieces you can look at for hours and always see something new.

And Pat is much too sweet. I need to get a better picture of the pendant I bought with it's lovely tag. This is blurry (I took it outdoors on a cloudy morning but there was still glare). The embroidery is exquisite. Everyone at my guild last night fell in love with the teeny flower sequins Pat used. I was thrilled to note when I got home that the pendant really complements a new jacket I’d gotten the day before. I felt quite the queen yesterday in my new jacket and pendant! (even the lime green ribbon was perfect!)

And look at all the goodies Pat very generously gave me – lovely silkies, ribbons and a dragonfly kit and a bliss kit. I’m in heaven. I’m very lucky to have people like Pat in my life.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lots to time to say it!

I had a fun long weekend and have lots to go on about but no time today. I did want to post this pillow. I won it last week in a draw at my EGA chapter meeting. It was donated by a member, Pat. Our chapter holds these occasional drawings for donated items as fundraisers. This is the first time I've won! Just in time for Thanksgiving.

We had a lovely summery weekend here in Chicagoland and I enjoyed being outdoors as much as possible. On Friday my hubby and I visited the outlet mall in Michigan City and then went out for a long walk along the lakeshore.

On Saturday I went to the Wildflower Harvest Quilt and Wearable Show. It was a really inspiring show, full of inspiration. I got some goodies at the market, too! Pat Winter was there with her amazing garden quilt and a load of wonderful things to sell.

Here is the kit for a cathedral window ornament with my finished ornament inside. The kit was from Caroline's Cottage Cottons, Rome, Indiana. The kit included everything except thread and needle (fabric, beads and stuffing!)

They had a lovely booth and I also got some wools in striking colors. I don't have a particular project in mind but I have seen some really cool landscape pincushions in teacups (I found them once on a blog and haven't found them again) and they were my inspiration for choosing the wools.

On Sunday we got out and about to the Morris Car Show, a truly huge show! More to come...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Valparaiso Quilt show

This is where I plan to be on Saturday morning:

Sponsored by String-A-Long Quilt Guild
Saturday, October 11, 2008 - 9 am - 5 pm
Sunday, October 12, 2008 - 10 am - 4 pm

Porter County Expo Center, 215 E. Division Road, Valparaiso, In. 46383
Admission $5.00 - under 12 Free.

Featuring 300 New and Antique Quilts, Merchants Mall, Boutique, Flea Market, Food Vendor, & Wildflower Raffle Quilt (Tickets $1.00 each or 6 for $5.00). Raffle quilt drawing will be held on Sunday, Oct. 12th. Lois Jarvis’ Ground Zero Quilt will be on display.

Thanks Leila! (I copied this from her blog.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Here's the batch of bottlecap pincushions that I made this weekend.

A monster's eye, sushi, and a Christmas tree. I'm happiest with the sushi. (I embroidered the bottom, too.)

They're all caps from water bottles and felt.

I think I could put pins in the monster eye. It's inhuman enough. I must admit I haven't tried it yet. My eyes are still too "thick" from top to bottom.

The sushi ingredients are felt bits, the rice is detached chain stitches in white perle cotton on the white felt. This one was fun and came out like I'd hoped.

I had fun figuring out how to make the tree like I wanted it--in layers. I'm not quite there but it was a fun experiment.

Each layer is a more tapered cone, separated by a felt "bead." I think wooden beads would work but I didn't have any handy. The embroidery is French knots in gold Balger Braid #8 (and chain stitch around the base).

I think I may do a scull next for Dia de los Muertos.

Alternate photos are on my Flickr site at

Monday, October 6, 2008

more pincushions

My endless headache seems to be gone (for now) and the weather here has improved. I spent my down time this weekend making more (and more) pincushions.

This beauty is from Bird Brain Designs. I bought it as a kit at the Great Lakes Regional Seminar in Madison last spring. It took me this long to get to it but once I did, it worked up quickly.

The kit came with the really nice wool pincushion, wool fabrics, roving, felting needles and instructions. I had plenty of materials and had great fun. I used the felting needles that came with the kit and also a four-needle Clover felting needle I'd gotten.

The Clover needle was a great (safe) way to tack things down at the beginning (it has a guard to keep the needles from attacking my fingers). But it leaves a very flat appearance. I find you can have a lot of control with the single needle and can place edges where you want them and manipulate the fibers better.

The colors in the photo are actually brighter than in reality. Must have been the flash this morning. The pincushion base is beige and the green a pretty dark green. I plan to use it to hold felting needles since it's so thick and sturdy.

I'll post more of my bottlecap pin cushions tomorrow or Wednesday. More photos on my Flikr page.

Friday, October 3, 2008

another little pincushion & TIF first thoughts

I'm still playing with bottlecap pincushions (between migraines and bill paying--it's that season for me (variable weather) and the first of the month). Here's a little fall pumpkin. The stem is detached buttonhole (I'm not sure what the metallic thread it--it was a scrap). It looks more tomato colored here but the felt is a burnt-orange color in reality. I'm now working on a Christmas tree and another creepy eye with green skin.

I couldn't bring myself to put pins in the eye I made. It's now living with a friend who loves Hallowe'en, didn't have a pincushion and will have no problems at all with the pins.

I've been thinking about this month's Take It Further--about my textile work space. Or more to the point, my lack of one. Things are a bit out of hand at our home. Too. Much. Stuff.

And it's exacerbated because I don't have a place for myself and my textile work. Usually I sit in my lovely recliner with my good light and stitch. Which means many of my materials and projects are piled around the area. If it's painting, messy or needs flat space, then I set up the ironing board in the kitchen. I made a cover for it years ago with elastic around an ironing board shape cut from an inexpensive plastic shower curtain.

The problem is the ironing board takes the entire open space in our (tiny) kitchen. But it's adjustable for sitting or standing and it's a very old ironing board so it's heavy and stable. If I need really firm I add a cutting board or cookie tin on top and off I go. It really works quite well (until someone else wants to get into the space for silly things like lunch!).

I do an awful lot of thinking and some note making here in my office at work. I also use Photoshop and the Internet here, after hours. Here's my messy desk, with my monitor and word for the year (focus), birthday card, calendar and piles of work. Caramels for the students (but it's mostly the professors who stop by and grab them). The bowl under the monitor is a gift from China. Next to and below the candy bowl is my coaster collection. In front of the candy bowl is my box of little 2" art squares.

Here's the file cabinet I sit next to, with some of my magnets, photos, friends, and ancestors stuck on. The quilt is a little piece I made in a class with Laura Wasilowski. On top is an encaustic screen I purchased recently from artist Jenny Learner. Quite a hodge-podge. The cabinets face me. The side that faces out is properly plain and blank and only the artful encaustic screen shows to passers by.

As you can see, I don't quite fit into the minimalistic and paperless image that is being promoted here.

I'm far from minimalistic at home, too, and after 30 years in a small house with another pack rat, it's become interesting to say the least!

My immediate thoughts about the topic were pretty negative. I want a pretty, clean, empty, big studio, too! (stamping foot here!) I am feeling unhappy and frustrated with our lack of space and my lack of a place to keep things and to work. A short exchange with Jane reminded me of other things and I realized that in reality I have mixed feelings about a studio.

I would like more space. I would like more bookshelves for the books piled about and nice cabinets for the lovely laces and trims I have. I'd like a big permanent table and a place for my sewing machine. And I have a feeling that I'd go in there to do specific tasks on occasion, but that I'd still end up most nights where I am now--in my comfy recliner with my hubby nearby stitching by hand.

Once upon a time we had a big ole farm house (it needed more renovation and tlc than we could provide) and I had a room upstairs that was designated the sewing room and my boxes of stuff went up there and my sewing machine. But the sewing machine made it's way downstairs, to a corner of the dining room, within a pretty short time, and the ironing board ended up next to it. And I spent most of my time sitting in the living room with my hubby nearby stitching by hand.

So for now I have my office as my "get away" spot--the place with a door I can close. I think this may become more of an issue if I can ever retire (and with the way the economy is going, that date keeps getting farther and farther away!). But for now, I've realized I'm more content than I'd realized (thanks, Jane!)

My immediate visualization for my journal page is a crazy quilt. I'm feeling rather crazy and disordered, but there are a lot of good things in the mix (laces and trims and buttons!). I had the thought of piles of yo-yos to represent some of the piles of projects in bags I have around. I haven't gone very far with this yet but I think that's the start.