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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Sarah over at Makin' Projiks has a post today about an idea she picked up from another -- butterfly shadowboxes using magazine images. I thought I'd share my version of this, with needlecrafted butterflies:
At my brother's suggestion, I even used pins to hold them in place, just like real butterfly shadowboxes except a lot less icky. It seemed a good way to display all the butterfly patterns I had collected over the years. And still collect -- I'm almost done with a second box.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Recession Jewelry

I often get ideas for jewelry from different magazines. I'll see a piece I like and think "i can make that." Usually as I make the piece I end up using the image as inspiration rather than something to copy exactly; I'll change the colors or the length, I'll tweak the style or make it more suitable to my taste. Sometimes the piece I've made ends up almost identical*, other times one would be hard-pressed to recognize the original jewelry piece in what I have made.

Today while waiting in the drug store I flipped through a copy of In Style magazine and found a stack of leather bracelets with Swarovski crystals and immediately thought "I can make that!" As soon as I got home I headed up to the third floor and got to it. Rather than make several bracelets to get the stacked look (which would require several clasps on leather, not my favorite thing to do), I decided to use one long piece of leather thong. I cut a piece that I thought would fit around my wrist loosely five times (thanks to my mom, who taught me odd is better than even). The bracelets in the magazine had the crystals in metal settings in the leather. Not having a BeDazzler, instead I wrapped the crystals (swarovski, round, 6 mm) onto the leather with a long piece of thin brass wire, spacing the beads about an inch and a half apart. I finished it off with brass coils and clasp. The whole thing only took about a Simpsons episode and 2 innings of a Red Sox game. Best of all, it was free. I'm quite pleased with it.
*Lawyer time: this is Fair Use. I never take credit for others' designs, and I never copy another's design for commercial use.

Thread Play

Inspired by the success of the tissue paper bookmarks, I decided to try another technique from Fabric Art Collage (although I've seen it elsewhere too) to create a sort of freeform thread lace by machine. The idea is to free-motion stitch all over a piece of water-soluble stabilizer, being sure to cross the thread over itself a lot to prevent the thread from later unraveling. Then you soak the piece in warm water to remove the stabilizer, and let it dry. Of course, within one second of sewing I learned an important lesson -- use a hoop to stabilize the stabilizer. My stitching totally scrunched up the stabilizer:
The stabilizer started out as a nice big square.

Lesson number 2 -- don't sew over the thread lines too much, or you'll end up with a very dense lace:
Still, a neat thing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Even More Bookmarks

It's that time of year again -- end of school (sort of, Beadboy1 is eligible for 12 month schooling) -- which means I have to come up with small gifts for his teacher, aides, para, therapists, and social worker. That's 8 total, which is a lot. We thought of doing gift cards to Barnes and Noble, but they will have to be small. I also want to include something a little nicer, handmade by me, to thank them for everything they have done. So, probably because of the swap I'm working on, I came up with the idea of bookmarks, which have the advantage of being small, easy to make, and appropriate with the gift cards.

For this set I used the "tissue fabric" technique from Fabric Art Collage, which the leader of my Crazy Fridays "made" me buy. It was a great technique -- fast and fun. I ironed torn pieces of tissue paper onto double-sided fusible webbing, added on top another layer of webbing, fused Angelina fibers to it, painted it (which you can barely tell; next time I won't dilute the paint as much), fused the entire thing to muslin, added a band of plastic mesh to the top, and sewed the entire thing all over with variegated thread. Finally I fused felt to the back, cut the piece into bookmark sized strips, and zigzagged around the edges.

Now that I write that all out, it seems like a lot of work, but the whole thing took only three hours (not including the zigzagging, which was the only time-intensive part). I'm really pleased with the way it came out:
especially because I had never tried this layering technique before, thinking it would be too hard. I even did a pretty good job on my first attempt at zigzagging edges, if I do say so myself. Generally I can't really do anything on the sewing machine except sew a somewhat straight line. I also threw in the two decorative stitches my non-computerized machine has:
(well, only one is visible here). One sheet roughly 8.5 by 11 produced enough to make nine bookmarks (meaning I get to keep one, yay) and three little 1.5 inch squares to save for another project.
I have to do this again. Also, I highly recommend the book. It clearly explains how to do a lot of different mixed media techniques, and provides inspiration with all of the gorgeous finished projects it features.

More Bookmarks

I finished the running stitch bookmark on Saturday. I'm pleased with the way it came out, although I wish I had used a darker, yellowier green.
So I moved on to the buttonhole/blanket stitch. I've only just begun it, but I want to build up lots of imperfect layers.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bookmark Swap

For a few years now I have been taking a monthly quilt class at the City Quilter in Manhattan. Originally a crazy quilt class, because of the high proportion of regulars it has become more of a art quilt/mixed media studio, where we all work on a variety of projects (sometimes even an actual crazy quilt). Recently we've started doing challenges, such as making small quilts totally from recycled materials or trash, or finding innovative or unusual ways of "quilting" three layers of something together, and so on. This time around, the instructor decided to do a bookmark swap. There aren't really any rules, just that it, you know, be bookmark-shaped and flat enough to go in a book, and that in contain something recycled.

I played around with several ideas. I thought of incorporating beading of some kind, since that is my specialty (if I can be said to have one); I could only use seed beads, though, to keep the bookmarks functional. I thought of making charms out of the little colorful plastic caps I've been collecting from juice cartons -- drilling a hole, filling them up with beads and thread and charms, and sealing them, then having them dangle from the bottom of the book. The charms, though, I thought would be too big. I thought of experimenting with various mixed media techniques I've been meaning to try, but that seemed daunting. And then I realized I would be missing the August class and would have to turn them in a month earlier in the beginning of July. So for the sake of my sanity I decided to embroider wool felt. Here are the first three:
(Ignore the scarred and beaten, I mean distressed, table.) I've opted for bright colors for the felt and perle cotton (sizes 3 and 5, with a little 8). What I wanted was to devote each bookmark to a particular stitch and its variations, and to get a layered, not-very-organized look.

The top one is feather stitch. Turns out, there are not a whole lot of variations, but because it is so airy it layered nicely. I still might fill in a couple of spots. Detail:
The stitch family for the bottom one was the chain stitch. There are all sorts of pretty variations, but I'm not thrilled with the way it ended up so linear. I guess I should have meandered more. I do really like the laced cable stitch, though -- that's the 3 pink columns of chain with two strands of red weaving them together.
The middle one is just a simple running stitch. I really like how the stitching came out, and the colors are growing on me. I've since added some teal and purple, but I don't have a photo yet.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The (almost) lost art of independent bookstores

On Sunday Beadhusband and I went to the Upper West Side to visit friends. We arrived an hour ahead of schedule (so desperate were we for some kid-free time) so we parted ways; he went to see the renovations at St. John the Divine, and I headed uptown looking for a Barnes and Noble. Happily, I found Book Culture on the way. I hadn't been in an independent book store in so long I had forgotten what a joy they can be. Instead of yards of bestsellers and the same old midlist fiction, Book Culture had dozens of little displays of thoughtfully collected books -- a pillar devoted to the latest indie graphic novels and related periodicals, shelves of literary magazines, tables of fiction and literary criticism, stacks of philosophy and art history and poetry. The best part about such a set up is the browsing, the discovery of books I had never heard of but I must own right away. I found the latest book by Rabih Alameddine, The Hakawati, about a storyteller (I read her I, the Divine years ago). I found a recent issue of McSweeney's with stories told in different obscure genres. I found several books on the art and criticism of stoytelling and genres, which only with great effort I did not purchase.

See a trend in what I like? I have yet to read The Child that Books Built by Francis Spufford for personal reasons that would be too complicated to go into, but I always remember a line from the New York Times book review that stated Spufford's "defense of those whose reading pleasure derives from storytelling and who unashamedly love thrillers, science fiction and metafiction." (Shapiro, James. "Confessions of a Literary Mind." New York Times Book Review 2 Feb. 2003: n. pag. New York Times. Web 15 June 2009.) That made me realize for the first time that my love of Lord of the Rings and Possession, Pride and Prejudice and Dictionary of the Khazars was related. I love storytelling -- the stories being told, and the ways they are told. I like both a good mystery and an experimental novel like The House of Leaves which is a typesetter's nightmare. I collect modern retellings of fairy tales because I want to see a new way of looking at them. To quote another book review, I am in that "extremely slender overlap between the set readers who like the ineffable, high-concept fiction of, say, Jorge Luis Borges or David Foster Wallace, and the set of readers who favor fondly comic portraits of small-town life in mid-century America after the fashion of Garrison Keillor or Jean Shepherd." (Miller, Laura. "American Meta." New York Times Book Review 6 Mar. 2009: n. pag. New York Times. Web 15 June 2009.) (The book that is the subject of that review, Flying by Eric Kraft, is on my must-buy list, natch.) On a fundamental level, both kinds of books entertain me, and that is the most important function of a book; I may at different points want to think, to puzzle, to feel, to relax, to analyze, but I always want to enjoy. An academic bookstore like Book Culture feeds my habit quite well.

Friday, June 5, 2009

So much for crafting . . .

Usually each week I get at least one or two chunks of time when I can go hide up on the third floor surrounded by all my craft crap and play for a while; it is a necessary thing to recharge my batteries and brighten my mood. So far this year I had actually made some progress on my stack of unfinished projects plus worked on some new ones, both practical and decorative.

Sometimes, though, I get weeks like this one. Between babysitter cancellations, appointments, errands, and unexpected delays, I'll go the entire week without picking up a single needle or bead. I hate that, it makes me grumpy. I hope next week is better.

In the meantime, since I have nothing new to show, I'll talk about my recent obsession with beaded flowers. A few weeks ago I pulled out my copy of The Beaded Garden to make some tiny little flowers for a pair of earrings I had been thinking about. The inspiration was a trip to the botanical gardens in Pittsburgh I took while visiting my mom. We walked into one room and I was immediately stunned by gardens overflowing with deep purple (almost black) pansies and dark magenta, orangey-red, and yellow tulips. (the Beadboys' reaction -- "Oh, wow!") I made a note of the colors to use in some future project, then eventually settled on earrings. I chose the tiny tulip, five-petaled rose (the official pansy pattern was too big), and daffodil (for variety) patterns and made these:

I couldn't stop there, though, so I also made these:
Then I thought I really needed to make more daffodils:
Whenever I make it back to the third floor I think I'll make some of these flowers into earrings and put them in the shop.