Encrusted CQ class project

Encrusted CQ class project

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Ruby's 1/2 and 1/2 block and a quick gift

As promised, I am posting something other than all pink!  This week I finished a quick gift for a new friend, a pincushion.  The base is the lid of a can, covered in felt.  It is based on the instructions I found on http://ivoryblushroses.blogspot.com/2008/08/sea-dreaming.html  Lisa's blog and her art are beautiful, and she has lots of pictures on Flickr.com as well.  

Yesterday, Ruby's 1/2 and 1/2 block arrived.  Since there is a good chance that Canada Post will go on strike on Thursday, I decided to add my stitching right away and get it ready for the mail today.  I hope it makes it across the border before any postal disruption.  Here is the block as I received it.   Amber and Lynn made an under the sea theme, which is a favorite theme for me, too.  

Don't you just love Lynn's jellyfish?  The iridescent threads are so pretty.

There are fish, seaweed, starfish and a green turtle, as well as some shells.  I had no trouble adding to this block, it's so pretty and fun!

Here's the block after my work.

Another whole block view.

The big fish at the top is made of clay, made by an artist friend of mine.  I also added two green glass fish, and three more clumps of seaweed, waving in the current.  I made sure not to cover up Lynn's jellyfish!

Above you can see a silver fish charm, and one of the seaweed strands.  The fuzzy yarn was too green for this block, so I overstitched it with brown.

Another shot of the fish nibbling at the kelp forest.

After uploading these photos, I noticed that in the bottom center there is a tan piece of fabric that has no embellishment, and kind of sticks out.  So, although you won't see it in the photos, I added some herringbone stitch in a variegated teal thread.

Since both the Pink RR block and the 1/2 and 1/2 block are going to Ruby (just the way the rotations worked this time), I'm going to get them into an envelope and into the mail this afternoon.  Have a great Tuesday, and happy stitching!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

My work on Nina's Pink block

Here is my work on Nina's block - it was so much fun to work on, I had to force myself to stop stitching!  

 Picture 1 shows the overall block - I think it is coming together nicely!  Click on any of the pictures for a larger view.

 Picture 2 is a close-up of the fabric flower, the variegated pink fern stitch and the pink crystal beads I added.  The flower is a "silk" flower like you can get at Michaels, for flower arrangements.  I cut off the stem (use wire cutters, it wrecks your scissors!), and pulled out the plastic middle piece.  Then I stitched it down with matching thread and added a pearl center.

Picture 3 is a close-up of one of the pieces of lace I added - it was a thrift store piece of off-white machine lace, which I colored with Setacolor transparent paint in a random pattern.  I added a short row of herringbone stitch at the top corner, and the bottom is finished with rice pearls and embroidery.  In the top right of the block, I added a hand-crocheted doily (also from a thrift store), hand-painted by me.

Next week I really, really plan to show you something that is not pink.  I've got a few things in progress, so once I finish them up I'll grab the camera and show you.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Lots of projects

The studio reorganization continues.  I have donated lots of bits and pieces I won't use (books, magazines, fabric), filled a couple of garbage bags with assorted paper and junk, and I'm about halfway through organizing the "keepers".  No photos yet, it's still fairly chaotic.

Yesterday I received Nina's Pink RR Block, and here's how it looks right out of the envelope:

The photograph is actually upside down, you can see there is an upside down heart doily next to the button cluster.  When I rotated the photo to the correct position, it looked out of proportion.  I guess I photographed it a strange angle.  Anyway, it's a really pretty block, and I especially like the silk ribbon rose (top left of this photo) and the bullion roses in variegated pink floss (top right).  I don't know what I'll add.  I usually like to leave these blocks out on my ironing board and study them for a couple of days before I start embellishing.  I did find a tiny handmade doily today at a thrift store, which might work very nicely once I "dye" it with Pebeo Setacolor transparent paints.  Maybe some vintage or vintage-look charms....I'm still auditioning some ideas.

Between my own projects and the CQ group round robin, I've been doing a lot of pink work lately.  Right now I am gathering black and gray fabrics for a crazy quilt to be framed.  I'm thinking black and gray piecing, with a tiny centre piece of bright color in each block.  The stitching, buttons, etc will be in bright colors which (I hope) will "pop" against the dark background.  I hope to document this project start to finish so you can see how I work.  That will be once I finish organizing the studio, and complete a project for a friend (yes, D, I am still working on it).  Looks like it's going to be a busy, happy summer!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Organizing the Studio

My studio is a mess.

My studio/office space is an average size bedroom that I share with my husband's office. There will be no Before pictures here, it's too embarassing. So, picture half a room, filled with quite a lot of fabric, a desk, worktable, ironing board, buttons and beads and threads (oh my!), and lots of half-finished projects. Snippets of thread and fabric on the (oatmeal berber) carpet. Desktop littered with receipts. Desk drawers filled with - well, it's not junk, it's just non-current stuff that needs to be stored elsewhere. I have piles and piles and empty files. I have use of the entire closet, and that's fairly well organized but I can't get to the closet because of the storage boxes on the floor. Organizing expert Peter Walsh (check him out on Youtube) says that nothing should be stored on the floor. He's right, and yet I've been unable to achieve that so far.

So, the reorganization has begun. Yesterday I moved things around a bit and brought in a dresser that we had been storing in the garage. This will store all the fabric for my business, once it has been laundered. This also creates a limit - if I can't fit anything else in a three drawer dresser, it's time to stop purchasing AND list more things in my Etsy store www.reclamationtextiles.etsy.com . Pretty simple math - sell more before you buy more. Sounds obvious to many, I know, but I know that if I don't set a visible/physical limit for myself, I will keep acquiring and fill up the studio to the point I can't work in there. Again.....

Yesterday, I also boxed up the non-current items that were in the desk drawers, and now I have my business records, mailing supplies and general office supplies in the drawers. I am in the process of sorting the linens, trims and fabrics by color into the dresser.

I promise to post pictures when the project is done, hopefully by the middle of next week. I know that having things better organized and having empty flat surfaces will make me so much more productive.

Monday, 16 May 2011

My work on Amber's block

 I have finished my portion of Amber's 1/2 and 1/2 Round Robin block.  It will go in the mail tomorrow. Here are a couple of photos of the whole block....

 And this close up shows the curvy line of cross stitch with Miyuki cube beads.

I added feather stitch in a pale periwinkle color.

The same pale periwinkle is worked in fern stitch in the top left, and I added a pale yellow/ivory button and bead cluster.  I also added darker purple french knots to the purple half of the center medallion, and on the light side, lavender sequins with pale yellow french knots.  I hope Amber likes this block - I think it's looking like a spring flower garden!

Friday, 13 May 2011

Mixing It Up

I think we fabric artists each have our own favorite themes, colors and stitches, those old standbys that always produce good results, without a lot of thought. I know I have a few stitches that I enjoy working above all others, and they seem to appear in my work all the time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I have found lately that I am using the same 6 or so stitches over and over, and my artwork is starting to look all the same. I call it being stuck in a velvet-lined rut; it looks pretty and it's comfortable, but I'm not growing as an artist and I really don't want my crazy quilting to look like it was made on an assembly line.

To break out of the rut, every so often I have to challenge myself. I make a piece with a color palette I don't normally use. Right now I am in a Round Robin with my crazy quilt group, and we are working on pink blocks. Working in a monochromatic color scheme makes you search for ways to add interest and contrast with texture and the use of positive/negative space, instead of contrasting color. Using new types of threads and fibers, trying new stitch combinations, working on a small scale (like "inchies"), or layering and encrusting more heavily than you ever have before - these are all good challenges. Another favorite challenge of mine is "buy nothing". You can only use what you already possess for that particular piece. Without the option of running to a store for the perfect finishing touch for a project, you are forced to think creatively about what you already have and how you could use it in a new way. Another challenge is to use only one stitch on a block; exploring its variations and using different thicknesses of thread or different sizing and spacing of the stitch.

Library books and websites can be helpful sources of inspiration if you need to venture outside of your current artistic comfort zone. I recommend any of the books written by Judith Baker Montano, and you can also buy an iPhone app - Judith Montano's Embroidery Stitch Tool. I sat in my local library yesterday and did some stitching (a change of scenery is a good way to breathe new life into my work). I needed instructions for a particular stitch, checked the Emb. Stitch Tool, and had diagrams and directions immediately. Other authors are Allison Aller, Barbara Randle and J. Marsha Michler. Some favorite websites are www.pintangle.com , by Australian artist and teacher Sharon Boggon. Sharon's other website, www.inaminuteago.com , has a stitch dictionary which is very helpful. Allison Aller's blog is www.alliesinstitches.blogspot.com . Another favorite is www.ivoryblushroses.blogspot.com For more great photos, go to Flickr.com and search crazy quilt. You can set it up as a slideshow (not on my iPad, alas, but it works on most other computers) and have a continuous parade of crazy quilts running while you are stitching, or doing boring paperwork.

Challenge yourself this week. Try something new, limit your options, force yourself to tackle a problem creatively. Get out of your velvet-lined rut and take your art to the next level!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Thrift Store Haul

Today our local thrift store had a bag sale, as much as you can stuff in a plastic grocery bag for $8.  (And the store manager will really pack those bags full, so it's a great value).  The following pictures show about half of what I got in that one bag.

When purchasing garments to recycle, I look for beautiful fabrics and unusual details.  I don't have to worry about small stains or signs of wear, and size is not an issue - although, obviously a size 6 has less fabric than a size 22.

 This ice blue satin blouse has crystal buttons - Bonus!!

 I shudder to think what someone originally paid for this lilac satin bridesmaid or grad dress.  I got it for under a dollar, and will reap several meters of fabric and some lovely sequined appliques.

This linen blouse is a gorgeous dusty rose color and has an embroidered chiffon detail at the cuffs and hem.  

When I get garments like these home, I remove price tags, then wash on a gentle cycle with liquid detergent that contains no perfumes or dyes, about 1/4 cup of baking soda, and vinegar to rinse.  I am allergic to fabric softener and perfumes, so the above products are what I use for all our laundry.  After years of not using fabric softener, I find it smells quite offensive.  Thrift store clothing can be a multitude of perfumes and scents, so washing this way removes much of that odor.  Hanging the garments on the clothesline removes any lingering odor and prevents damage from the heat of the dryer.  After laundering, I begin unpicking seams, cutting off buttons and lace, etc.  Formal dresses in particular have lots of fabric, often an underskirt of a different fabric, sometimes crinoline or tulle.  After pressing the usable fabric, it will get cut into smaller pieces, and packaged for sale in my Etsy shop.  If a fabric is really special, I'll be sure to cut off a chunk for my own CQ stash - hey, a girl's gotta have some fun!

This is my buddy Fuller, who is in serious need of a haircut.  He's part Jack Russell, part Shih Tzu.  He's usually sleeping in a corner of the studio when I am sewing, but always alert in case I do something exciting like go outside or open the fridge, that magic white box where we keep the cheese.  

Finally, this is a small piece of CQ (about 5" square) that will eventually be a piece of jewelry, if my experiment works....come back to see how this turns out....

Monday, 9 May 2011

Mother's Day, Amber's RR Block and other projects

Well, I had a great Mother's Day yesterday.  Our daughter came to church with us, and then we went to lunch, followed by a couple of hours exploring Old Strathcona Antique Mall.  We love browsing through the dozen of stalls of vintage linens, furniture, jewelry, housewares - the list is endless!  I'm proud to announce that I didn't purchase anything this time!!

Mother's Day flowers from Ames

Below are some pictures of another round robin block I will be working on this week.  The block belongs to Amber from Ohio, and the first round of embellishment was done by Lynn from Minnesota. This is the block straight out of the envelope, I haven't pressed it yet, hence the fold line across the top.  The colors are a little off in the photo, that is actually a much softer lavender color than the photo shows. 

This RR is for Half and half blocks, and Amber's block is very simple in construction, but makes a strong visual statement, and a great backdrop to highlight our stitching. Photos 2 - 4 show Lynn's additions - tatting, buttons, a satin flower, lace, and yellow organza ribbon roses.  So very pretty.

I don't know what I will be adding to this block yet, I will be studying it some more before I begin auditioning colors and ideas.  But first a good pressing - and by the way, for any newbies out there, I carefully press around the embellishments.  Some of the embroidery threads and laces melt if heat is applied, and we want to keep the texture and dimension of the stitching.  That's why many (most?) crazy quilters prefer hand-stitching to machine embroidery - machine stitching sinks down into the fabric, whereas hand embroidery sits on top and adds so much dimension.  And when ironing someone else's piece in particular, I am extremely cautious with the iron temperature.  I can always turn the heat up later and go over it again, but you can't un-iron a scorch mark.

Last post I had a couple of pictures of sparkly things in ice cube trays.  Here's what I have been working on....

These are going to end up as pendants - made from 2-part acrylic resin.  When done correctly, they cure to a hard, shiny finish.  I mention when done correctly  because these are not the pieces I showed in the previous blog post.  That batch had all kinds of problems, from excess bubbles to a cloudy finish.  I think I have figured out what I did wrong, so next time should be much better.  Batch #1, some of which are pictured here, was about a 75% success.  Batch #2 - epic fail.  Batch #3 - hope springs eternal.....

Flower beads and a touch of glitter in the background

Mother of pearl buttons and a pearl bead

A limpet shell, with blue glitter background.  When I saw this, I realized that I could use sand on the back layer, it would look like a piece of the beach.

I have some more ideas for these pendants, and once I get some I am really pleased with, they will go into my Etsy shop.  More pictures as I complete more experiments.

Thanks for stopping by!  L8r, cre8rs!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Work on Cathy's RR block

This week I have been suffering with a head cold;  nothing serious, just one of those "you-should-feel-very-sorry-for-me-because-my-head-feels-like-it's-gonna-explode" viruses.  Therefore, I haven't posted anything new to the Etsy site.  I have, however, been stitching and doing other art projects.  Below are some pictures of a Pink Round Robin block I did some work on for my CQ For Newbies group.  I'm not really new to crazy quilting, but I was new to round robins and swaps when I joined last year.  I am meeting a great group of ladies online, from all over the US, a few from Australia, I think a couple in Europe, and me, the lone Canadian.

This block belongs to Cathy from Iowa - she pieced the block and sent it to me.  I added some embellishing, then will mail it on to the next gal in our group of four.  We will get our blocks back at the end of July/beginning of August.  We never know exactly what the blocks will look like, although we can add lists of likes/dislikes or suggestions for the theme of the block.  And, I have always been extremely happy with the work done by the ladies of this group.  Some of them are very new to the art, but everyone does their best work and it's always a beautiful completed block.

Cathy's block - overview
Herringbone stitch with beads and french knots

These are called Button Ears - long strands of beads threaded through the holes of a large button.

More stitching and beadwork.  I did some more embellishing, but the photos aren't the best quality.  It was fun to work on this block.

Now....what in the world has Jenni got in these ice cube trays?

It looks shiny and sparkly..... what is it?  Stay tuned, I'll explain tomorrow.....

Monday, 2 May 2011


Yesterday my husband I went to a matinee performance of Riverdance! Ahh, the music, the dancing, the costumes! Having watched full-cast performances on TV and DVD several times (okay, dozens of times), I wondered if the smaller cast of the Canada tour, and "unknown to me" lead dancers would be the great experience I hoped. Well, Riverdance did not disappoint! Seeing the show in person, and not only hearing but feeling the thundering of the hard shoes - it was absolutely breathtaking. I was already coming down with a cold, and with the whooping and yelling I did during the most upbeat numbers, I have pretty much no voice today. But it was oh, so worth it.

We topped off our evening at Ruth's Chris steak house - what an experience. Excellent service and incredible food.

So, another week has begun and I am trying to get back into the studio and get some more Etsy items posted. I am working on a pink Round Robin block for my crazy quilt group, and need to finish a blue memory quilt for a friend (in memory of her late grandparents). And I am designing another quilt in my head, one that I will likely offer for sale. More on that in the coming days....I'm off to do some laundry and pick up some art supplies at the dollar store, then, let the stitching begin!