Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Measure Twice, Felt Once?

I am working on prototypes for felted cat beds.  I think I had our small cat in mind when I made these.

Our fat cat Vincent can barely fit inside one and that is after I cut away a whole bunch of felt to make the opening larger! 

He knew immediately that they were for cats and that they were for sleeping in.

But he wasn't having much luck maneuvering into position, even with my help.  

This is the best he could do. 
They seemed gigantic when I was making them, even allowing for shrinkage.  Oh well, back to the drawing board.  I will attempt new sizes tomorrow.  That's a lot of felt!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Unobtainable Fantasy

My completed sculpture, Grounded in Reality.  Wire armature with hand dyed fabric, glue, and wool.

Ir's been really nice these last few weeks to have a working studio again.  Our house is big enough that I can take over a room or two to create art in but it is not the same as having a dedicated messy space.  I wake up in the morning excited to get out there and do some work.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Home For a Unicorn

I decided I really wanted to make a unicorn for one of my final projects this quarter in my fiber arts program.  We've had a lot of interesting discussion in and outside of class about expectations for the class and our own artwork that got me thinking that a lot of times artists can be unrealistic in what they can and will achieve when they take a class.  Not always a bad thing; it is good to aim high versus thinking your art will always be so-so or just making something easy that you already know how to do.  I was thinking of the unicorn as this unobtainable thing that we were all looking for.  I needle felted the unicorn out of 100% Corriedale and Merino wools.  It took about 6 hours.

But part of this last project is that we have to use a fellow student's project from that last assignment and incorporate it into our new piece.  Which is fun because it makes us get over obsessing about the preciousness of our art and just let go a bit.

I had quite a challenge with mine because I received a fabric wall hanging and I don't usually use fabric in my sculpture.  First, I decided to over dye it with a shibori style of dying to tone down the bright blue and aqua tones.  I love how it turned out. 

Next, I started cutting the pieces into strips and wrapping and gluing them around a metal armature that I made.  
It is not quite done yet as I am waiting for more of the glued fabric to dry.  I felted a mossy looking bit of wool to sit inside the cage and then the unicorn will go inside it.  I love messing with wire and wool!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I Want These Booties

OK, normally this is not a fashion blog, but when I saw these Erdem 2012 Fall collection booties I swooned a little.  I know they are going to retail for something like $900 but they are so cool!

Check out the whole Erdem collection over at Lainey's Lifestyle page

Maybe I can go buy some cheap booties as TJMaxx and splatter paint on them myself?

Monday, February 20, 2012

38 Things: Donate an Item to an Auction

If you read my last post, you would have heard about my desire for a nice dedicated area in my studio for taking photos.  In this photo, hopefully you see what I mean!

Anyways, the non-profit cinema I volunteer for, The Grand Cinema, hosts an Oscar viewing party each year.  It's pretty fun.  People dress up and there are raffle tickets and a silent auction.  I made this Poppy Scarf especially for the silent auction.  It's silk and wool nuno felting.  Fingers crossed that somebody buys it and supports a good cause!

Donating an item to an auction is one of my favorite things on my list of 38 Things to do Before I Turn 39.

Working in the Studio

I have been pretty busy in the studio with my homework for my Certificate of Fiber Arts class.  It's nice to have a messy, heated space that I can work in and not worry about the mess. One item that has completely changed my life in the studio (not an exaggeration) was the acquisition of a rubber apron.  Normally when I wet felt, I make a huge mess even when I try not to and the whole front of my clothes become soaking wet and I always have to change clothes after working.  I bookmarked this apron on Amazon and finally broke down and bought it and now I am slightly irritated that I didn't buy it sooner!

I've got my wet felting station all set up.  It is away from the line of the blowing heater.  Note the PVC piping I use to prop up the legs.  I can stand at the table and my back doesn't hurt.  I also stand on the rubber mat. 

Poor color in this photo, sorry, but I wanted to show off the expandable clothes line that my friend Patrick installed for me.  I just dyed these yellow green silk scarves.  They are right in line with the heater in the upper right corner of the picture.  I can also hang the soaking wet towels up too and they dry out over night.  
Still a few more things to work out like a painting area and a dedicated area for taking photos, but it is really taking shape in here!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kindle Touch is Just What I Needed

Usually I own the oldest and most falling apart of technological devices.  I don't upgrade because I have to have the latest model.  I upgrade only when my IPOD/computer/cell phone is on its last gasp.  Or I wait too late and it dies.  Well, the first generation Kindle a friend passed onto me when he upgraded is finally dying.  It doesn't keep a charge very long and sometimes  you have to toggle the on/off button many times for it to wake up.  We are going on a cruise next month and I realized if I didn't take evasive action, I may have to drag along 20 paperbacks in my luggage.

So I ordered the Touch this week.  And as my husband just pointed out last night, I now have both the newest computer and the newest Kindle in the household.  Which is a first in like the 14 years we have been together.

I decided on the Touch instead of the Fire because I just want a device for books.  We have so many gadgets in this house to get us online, play us music, watch movies on, sing us to sleep, that I want to keep my books separate.  I don't want to even have the tiniest urge to make check something online while I am reading.  YECH!  I want to read, read, read.  OK, done with rant. 

What I like:
-It's smaller than ever but the screen isn't smaller, it's just that there is no keyboard.  Which is great, because I rarely browse and purchase from the Kindle itself.  I usually just do that on my computer.

-I can either tap it or swipe it with my finger to turn the page.  (I also dislike this about it too, more in a sec.)  Page turning time is nearly instantaneous compared to older models.

-Long charge time.  Amazon claims it can stay charged for up 2 months.  I doubt that but it will still be better than the old one.

-Super easy to read, search for content, bookmark, etc.

-Cheaper model has ads on it but they are only on screensaver or at bottom of menu.  They don't pop up when you are reading, so who cares? 

-Can hold up to 3000 books. Hey, that's a lot of books.  I like to reread my favorite books, so it is nice to keep everything handy.  I only have 35 books on it so far, but plan on getting at least 12 more before going on vacation next month.

-I also bought the inexpensive Marware Atlas cover because I couldn't decide what to choose and it works great and holds the Kindle nice and snug.
What I Dislike:
--I can either tap it or swipe it with my finger to turn the page.  Now in general, this is just fine.  But I am still getting used to it and if you hold your finger down too long, it can skip ahead dozens if not 100's of pages.  Also my hair touched it as I was reading in bed and it was sensitive enough to turn the page.  I also feel like my fingers get in the way of reading and it was easier to press a button on the side.  I am sure I will get used to this over time but for now it is annoying me.
Other than that, no complaints!  It was super easy to transfer my library of books from my old to my new Kindle and the current book I am reading opened right to the last page I was reading, nice!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

38 Things: Throw A Themed Brunch

I chose Valentine's Day this year for a themed party on my list of 38 Things I Want to Do Before I Turn 39.  I mostly chose it because of the date: we had not had a party in 3 months and it was a good time for it!  Usually the thought of Valentine's Day makes me gag a little so I decided I needed to really run with the Valentine theme.  So I told everyone that they had to bring food or drink that was either red in color or Valentine themed.  Everyone brought red food. 

I made Bloody Marys.  The key is okra pickles and hot sauce.  Lots of hot sauce.  

Hey, that's one big container of Vodka!  I always buy in the economy size but funny thing is I rarely drink Vodka!  I will have to take the leftovers to someones house as a gift.  But I love the styling on the bottle.

I also made raw, shredded, beet and carrot salad.  I love beets, raw or cooked.

I decorated with the red theme as well.  When I was editing this photo I did a double take because I thought the colors were off.  Nope, right on target for the brightly dyed daisies and carnations.

 It's not a party at my house unless I have some sort of contest or raffle.  I decided on a Haiku contest about love.  The entries could be sweet, snarky, or use one of my mystery words.  The mystery words were just odd words I wrote down on slips of paper.  Random words like "fridge" or "pine tree" or "coffee".   I had two of my tweet ornaments and one of my felted owls as prizes. 

The winning entry by Paul in the sweet category:
Kittens' soft nuzzling
show us great affection
on Love's special day.

My paper garlands that I made especially for the party.  I wrote a tutorial about my success and failures in making these garlands.

My friend Kimberly had her A-game on and brought a lovely Marscapone mold with a cranberry cilantro chutney.  That was SOOOO good.  I am going to have to get the recipe and post it here.  (Hint hint to Kimberly when you read this!)

Everyone did a good job with the red theme.  Besides the beet salad and cranberry chutney we had shrimp and cocktail sauce, flourless chocolate torte with spicy raspberry sauce, pink bacon muffins with a maple bacon glaze, and pizzas of chocolate and carmelized onions, both with strawberries.   We also had sparkling cherry punch and bottles of red wine.

I love themed parties!!  I recommend having one if you want to throw a party but aren't sure what to do.  Pick a holiday, a color, or a cuisine, and have at it!  I once knew a woman that threw alphabet parties.  Everyone had to bring something that started with a certain letter of the alphabet and she was working her way down the line.  Maybe this summer I will have a "Green" party and make everyone bring green food and drinks.  Kale juice, anyone?

Making a Festive Garland

 I made a fun garland for my Valentine's brunch the other day but you can really use any colors and make it for any time of year.  Garlands are inexpensive, relatively easy to make (unless you try to take a short cut like I did--see below) and add a lot of punch to any decorations.  The whole thing cost me less than $4.

I bought 6 sheets of 12" x12" card stock in varying shades of red to fuchsia.  Then I took out my ink nib and pot of ink and went to town doodling and scribbling all over each sheet of paper.  After they dried I turned them over and did the same thing on the other side.   Now, you could easily use a big fat Sharpie as well but I really like the look of the pen and ink and it really didn't take that long. 

Then I used a 1 1/2"  punch and punched out my dots.  I punched out the perimeter first and then cut off those bits and punched out the center, etc.  I ended up with about 200 circles.

Finally, you need some ribbon to attach these to.  On past garlands I use a little thicker ribbon and sew all down the length of it, adding a circle every 5-6".  But this time I bought a little too skinny ribbon and I knew it would take a long time to sew along it without breaking the thread so I decided to be a clever monkey and staple them to the ribbon.  Bad idea!!!!!  First, I nearly gave myself carpal tunnel  squeezing that stupid stapler 200 times and second, the ribbons immediately get tangled upon one another the instant they even barely touch.  What I should have posted was a photo of my husband patiently untangling 6 different lines of garland for 1/2 hour. 
See, I should have just done it the correct way to begin with.  But I am not throwing them out.  I am wrapping each one individually around a piece of cardboard to stop the tangling issue.  But be smart and sew them and save yourself the hassle!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What I Ate: Thank You, Mark Bittman

The Sunday New York Times is worth the price for the Magazine alone.  I would even venture to say that the weekly Mark Bittman column in the Magazine is alone worth the price.

Every week he picks a simple food theme whether it is a type of cuisine or a specific item.  This last week it was all about the humble chicken breast.  This column is a nice reminder that it is okay to slow down and cook something simply without having to make a big gourmet feast.   I suffer frequently from that syndrome.  If I am not spending 3 hours preparing dinner, then I am just opening a can of soup.

Ugh, why do I do that?  But not today!  Today I made his simple chicken and mushroom in a skillet recipe.  (Although of course I had to add kale because I can't leave well enough alone.)

Check out Bittman's articles.  He has cookbooks too but I don't own any of those.   Yet.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Grandmother's Dishes

 These are the dishes that my dad recently brought be back from a trip to my Grandmother's house.

They are glass and some fancy Avon collection from the 80's called the 1876 Cape Cod collection.  The set is missing a few pieces but if I ever decide I want to replace the lost pieces, EBAY has about a million sets for sale. 

This is perfect timing, really, because we are hosting a Valentine's brunch on Sunday and red plates will be fantastic.

I especially love this pitcher.  I love all pitchers.  And this now brings my collection of pitchers up to 4. 
Now I need to get cracking on all the Valentines decorations I am planning.  Lots to do!

Funky Wet Felted Bracelet Tutorial

 I have been playing around a lot this week in my new studio with an idea for my latest school project: Make a piece of wearable art as self portrait.  I have been coming up with a lot of ideas and while these candy looking layers of felt probably aren't going to make it to my final piece, I realized that they would be great as bracelets! 
All you need for this is just a few materials and the most basic of wet felting skills and could be done easily in an afternoon.  I wish I had known how to felt in high school.  I would have worn these up my arms like goth-girl gauntlets.   OK, let's get started.

You will need:
-approx. 3/4 oz wool roving in 2-3 contrasting colors
-tapestry needle
-elastic cord
-fabric scissors
-bubble wrap
-small amount of dish soap or olive oil soap dissolved in warm water.

 For one of my bracelets I used 2 colors.  The next one I decided to layer 3.  Lay out your bubble wrap and start laying out each color in overlapping shingles.  Each color should be at least 3 layers and make sure you alternate the direction of the layers or your piece won't want to felt properly. 

Try to be as exact as possible as laying layer upon layer.  The more whispy thin waste on the ends means the more you have to throw out when you cut it up.  

Here it is with the 3 layers.  I have pressed down firmly on each proceeding layer before I did the next one to help it all stay together.  

Ready to felt?  For something this small I don't bother putting a mesh over the top of the felt; I just press down firmly on the felt and gently pour the warm, soapy water over my hand to distribute the water.  Do this carefully: you want to keep your layers even and in place.  Slowly work around the whole rectangle of wool, pushing out air bubbles and making sure the entire thing is saturated with water.  The warm soapy water raises the PH balance and opens up the scales in the wool so the fibers will lock into one another. 

Once you get the whole piece wet go around the edges, rolling them gently so that you get a nice square(ish) edge. 

Now comes the felting and fulling process.  You can do the whole thing with your hands but I like to use some simple tools so my hands aren't in water all day long.  (You can see how puckered my skin is in several of the photos!)

Basically in the first stage you want to press up and down on the layers.  You do not want to rub the layers because as the wool is not felted yet you can move the material around and create thin spots.  So you can gently start by tapping on the piece with your fingers and gently with the palm of your hands.  I do this for a few minutes, gently turn the piece over and do it for a few minutes more.

Then I start to use some of my tools to help speed up the process.  Sometimes on these smaller pieces I just double the bubble wrap over on itself and then lightly tap it with a pool noodle.  Pool noodles are indispensable for wet felting. 

I will also lay a piece of rubber shelf liner over the felt, roll the whole thing up and then roll back and forth about 50 times before unrolling, rotating the piece, and then rolling up again and so forth.    Check periodically with a "pinch" test.  If you pinch the felt and you can pull it apart, it has not felted yet. 

When the piece has felted (meaning the fibers are sticking together) then next comes the fulling part.  This is where the fabric really locks together and the piece visibly starts to shrink and buckle.  At this stage I like to toss the wet soapy piece around on the table.  Start gently at first and when it is really starting to full you can get more aggressive with knocking the felt around.    You can also rub it on a washboard: the texture does wonders for fulling the felt.  Just make sure to keep it wet -but not soaking- with warm soapy water.

Once it has felted and fulled together to your satisfaction (with this piece, the more shrinkage, the better) thoroughly rinse the felt and then soak it in a cool water bath with either a couple teaspoons of vinegar or fabric softener.  I like to use fabric softener because it smells better.  Either way, this step is VERY important.  If you just rinse the soap out of the felt you do not rebalance the PH in the wool over time it can deteriorate.  (Maybe not so important with a crafty bracelet but very important with a nuno scarf that took you 5 hours to make!)  The vinegar or fabric softener also helps to close back up the scales on the wool making it smoother.  That's why you like the effects of it on your laundry.  Rinse out the vinegar or softener after about 10 minutes.  Then you can roll it up in a towel to dry but I throw it in the dryer with a load of clothes to really shrink it up.  Usually after drying is when you block out a piece.  This doesn't need that.  Also, watch out with the dryer on delicate pieces: sometimes you only need a tiny bit of time or you can shrink a piece too far.

As  you can see, it has now shrunk quite a bit! 

Trim off all the edges with your fabric scissors.  You should see a nice layered effect of your colors.  I also ironed it a bit to smooth out some bumps but that is purely optional.  

 Next, cut it into 1" strips and then cut the strips into roughly 1" squares.

Thread your elastic onto your tapestry needle.  I had to tie thinner floss to the elastic and then feed it through the loop because the elastic wants to fray.  

Gather enough squares to fit your wrist and your aesthetic fancy of how full you want the bracelet to look.  

The green one is using thinner squares and I only used 30.  The purple one is slightly thicker and I used 32 squares.  Play around with it until you are satisfied.  Tie a square knot in the elastic keeping it so it is not too tight when it is actually on your wrist or it can distort the wool.  Trim elastic so it can't be seen between the felt squares.  

Wear out to fancy dinner party and impress your friends!  I like how light weight they are.  Now I am thinking of using the same technique to make a statement necklace or cutting the squares into circles instead. 
I love playing with wool!