"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Monday, December 31, 2012


Over the years I have collected a small stash of old keys. Some are pretty beat up, some are pristine and quite lovely, with beautiful decorations. I have used some of the smaller keys on charm bracelets, but for the most part, they have been stuffed in one of the small drawers in one of my multi-drawered plastic storage units...you know, the ones sold in hardware departments for screws, washers, nuts, etc.

Since the Steampunk trend went mainstream, keys are now everywhere, which made me reluctant to dig mine out and use them. The jewelry market is buried under a glut of items made with keys, so what more could I possibly add? However, I was, well, bored the other day, and decided what the hell, I'll play with my keys and see what I come up with. And that was, earrings. I left the keys "as is" and just added beads and wire. I had fun, and the earrings came out funky, which is not usually something I do.

So, here they are: Old keys, beads (some vintage), crystals, colored jump rings, and surgical steel ear wires.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

For 2013...More Drawing

I miss drawing. I have let that skill slide as I worked on other things, oh, like jewelry and clothing.  Even with all the mediums, old and new, available to play with these days, I still love drawing the most. For 2013 I want to get my drawing skills back up to speed. Also, I want to use my photos in artwork, mixed with drawing and collage.

Even if it is only a quick sketch, or playing around with doodles, I have made a promise to myself to do some kind of drawing a minimum of once a week. Preferably more often than that. Some may be done in a journal/sketchbook and some may be on scraps of paper that will later get stuffed into my on again/off again journal. I admit, I LOVE the idea of journals, and have good intentions when I start one, but they always end up pretty hit or miss, and months can go by between one page and the next.

In an effort to prod myself along, I am going to post many of the drawings here. At first I know they are going to be rough. Also, I don't use a model. I sketch from my imagination. If I need anatomy help, I go to magazines. I live too far out of town for any model to want to drive out this far, and I can't really afford to pay one.

So, what do I want these future drawings and finished works to say, since I have a very good imagination? I suspect they will mix together all the things I love...


So here is the first one. Doodles on a printout of one of my snow photos, and a quick sketch in Sharpie over pencil.  Remember, as I said, these first sketches will be rough, since right now it feels like I am drawing with clubbed fingers. But with time, and the zillions of ideas I have, I hope the finished pieces will start to sing.

Also, I would like the drawings to be in sync with my jewelry. This will be hard, as I can draw extremely complicated pieces I don't have the skill to actually make, yet—like the earcuff in the drawing here. But it would be nice if the two could meld, influencing each other. That would be very kewl indeed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Photos of the first good snow of the season.

This last one is the view from my living room.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Next Project — Earrings

I have a whole collection of old keys, which I use periodically in my jewelry. I haven't done anything with them lately, since it seems that everywhere I look there are folks doing stuff with old keys, especially since Steampunk went mainstream. Keys and clock gears turned up EVERYWHERE.

But I was in the mood for something different than the more elegant jewelry pieces I had been making lately, so pulled out my keys, and some of the things I thought might go well with them, including two fancy wire paperclips. I'll see how things go as I play around with these. One thing I do like is that the earrings will be asymmetric, since each key is slightly different from the other in each set. Just some fun, funky stuff to experiment with and see what turns up.

In the background is the keyboard to my old computer, which still has stuff on it that I use. Also, and I am embarrassed to admit it, is my tea-stained tea cup, which needs a good scrub with baking soda. So, sorry if it grosses anyone out. :=D

Tibetan Bolero, Finished — Sorta

I have finished beading the binding on the bolero, and at this point consider the piece done. I may, at some point, go back and add beads to the little prayer flags, but for now, I want to move on to something else. So here is the finished garment. I like the way it turned out, and I think I've said somewhere else (or maybe here) that I will do more of these little guys. They are fun, easy to make, comfy to wear, and make great mini-canvases to play around with.

Note on beading: I started out using heavy button/craft thread, but it was so thick it took an act of God to get it through the beading needle. After ten minutes of struggling with it I gave up, and used regular sewing thread doubled.  Next time I will find some quilting thread in the correct color and use that, probably doubled as well. The small beads won't fit over a bigger needle, so that option is out. And bigger beads would look a bit clunky, at least on this piece. I'm still experimenting, which is part of the fun.

Not why this photo came out so dark...ah well. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tibetan Bolero — 3

I have added prayer flags to the front (using a free-form feather stitch, combined with a blanket stitch,  to resemble Tibetan script), and sewn the side/sleeve seams. I added the binding with feather stitch, which took me awhile to get the rhythm of, which is why the sleeve binding looks more even that the stitching on the binding around the neck and front. But when I was done, I kinda decided this would be my "signature" binding stitch, the way the Cretan stitch is for Rice, over at the Voodoo Cafe.

I am now in the process of adding little gold beads to the binding, and will probably add some to the prayer flags.

Bolero back

Bolero front.
I stuck a piece of cardboard inside to hide the messy machine embroidery backing. Had I to do this piece over again, or if I get another T-shirt with a large machine embroidered design on the back, I will make the back of the bolero two layers. The outside layer will have all the decoration on it, and the inside layer will hide all the messy bits.

Here is the beading I have just started.

And here is why I put the cardboard inside to take the pictures, and why I will make the next bolero sporting a machine embroidered design in two layers. This is just WAY too messy looking to leave uncovered. Well, to me anyway.

I really like the color combination in this bolero. The green was just something I had on hand...one of my husband's old work T-shirts. Also, I enjoy working on these little guys because I don't have to get into any complicated patterns, piecing, futzing, etc., like I do with a lot of the costuming stuff I make. These boleros, and the AC T-shirts and tank tops are simple patterns to sew together so I can spend more time playing with embellishments. That's the really fun part.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Medal For Kay Nielsen Shirt

Per a request by Rice over at the Voodoo Cafe as part of her discussion on SoulWear, I am posting pictures of this work shirt I did back in the early 70s. The title comes from the one I came up with off-the-cuff, to be used in the Art Clothing show it appeared in at the Riverside Art Center and Museum (Riverside, CA). It refers to the image on the back of the shirt, which was my interpretation of one of Kay Nielsen's illustrations for East of the Sun, West of the Moon, and the front of the shirt made to look like I had a chest full of military medals. The woman putting the show together saw me wearing this shirt to an art class, and asked me if I would put it in the show. Gosh, lemme think...of course I would! Not thinking, I whipped it off my back and handed it to her (I had a T-shirt on under it). Much to my later embarrassment, when I went to the show, I discovered my shirt had been washed and...gasp...ironed! A few days later, this shirt appeared in our local paper as part of the advertizing for the show. I still have that article...somewhere.

By the time this shirt was made, all of us art students were into the embroidery, embellishment thing. I started this shirt around 1972, in conjunction with finding and buying the book Native Funk and Flash, which, alas, was destroyed by water two decades later. 

So here it is, pulled from a drawer, not ironed...gasp...and laid out on my work table in the garage.

The front of the shirt is decorated with clothing labels cut from other garments I either Goodwilled or gave away, along with bells, keys(one now missing), and metal star studs. The dragon, now looking a little ragged around the edges, was one of my first attempts at decorating with embroidery, after I dorked around with the little roses on the collar points, and the fake ribbons on the "medals". The little pins were gifted to me by various people over the years, and once on the shirt, never left.

The back of the shirt is a combination of embroidery, applique, beading, and painting (the dark clouds). The horse's breast collar is some kind of washer, and a small bell. Everything on this shirt was drawn, sewn, painted, embroidered or beaded by me.

This old guy has held up pretty well over the decades. All the appliques and beading were done using just regular sewing thread. I haven't added anything to it since the 80s, as the shirt fabric is just too thin to hold up. But I still love and wear this shirt. He's an old friend who brings back a lot of memories of a young woman taking her first real art classes (with nude models!),  hanging out with other artists, sharing our ideas, showing our works in the yearly member's show (and feeling so, so important), and all of us overflowing with enthusiasm for what we were doing, and what we hoped to do in the future.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Yeah, I Got Bored

No, you haven't hit the wrong place. I've been wanting to change the colors of this blog site for a while now. Thought they were too dark, dull, boring. So, decided at last to liven things up a bit. Hence, new colors, brighter pallet, and a not so brooding blog face. Everything a bit more cheerful. That's why things look different...for now. Who knows, in a month or two, I may get bored again.

Shadows on Rainbows

If I time it just right, I can get photos of the rainbows scattered around our living room and dining room, made by early morning sunlight shining through the beveled glass in our front door. This time the colors were very intense, and the one under the dining room table was the best of the lot. So, of course, I had to whip out my camera and play around. Which resulted in this...my hand held between the light and the floor, where the prism effect was the brightest. Looks almost like a hologram, but it's just my hand, interrupting the flow of light.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tibetan Bolero — 2

Okay, here is what I got done yesterday.

After looking at the photos I posted, it occurred to me that the temple had a lot of rectangle elements-windows, wall sections, etc. When I saw that, the idea of adding rectangles to the shirt with strips of T-shirt material popped into my head. Then the idea of prayer flags popped in next. Then prayer flags held down with embroidery that vaguely resembles Tibetan script. Bingo! Decoration problem solved.

So far I have only done the back of the bolero. I will add a few more prayer flags to the sleeves, and front. I am also going to add rectangles sewn with just embroidery thread, as I want a bit more color, and I will add small gold beads when all the prayer flags are done.

BTW, the binding trim on the bolero will be the same color of green as some of the little flags.

Here are the little flags pinned in place.

Here they are sewn down with free-form fly stitch embroidery.

So, that's the latest update on the Tibetan Bolero.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tibetan Bolero — 1

The title sounds sort of crossed-ethnic, but I'm not talking about a Tibetan version of the sultry music. No, it is my second attempt at the Alabama Chanin bolero pattern from their book, Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin. The first bolero I did turned out fantastic, so I couldn't wait to try another. However, a lot of stuff got in the way, including that mounted archery shoot for which I made so many targets. Then I started the Riding Costume, which I am still working on. Also I needed to get a few more jewelry pieces up on my Etsy site. Bottom line, I am just now getting around to playing with T-shirts again. Also, since it is cold and raining outside, I figured if I made a summer garment I'd feel a bit more cheerful. Maybe.

I found this great dark-purple T-shirt at the Goodwill. I bought it because I loved the machine embroidered Tibetan temple on the front. I thought it would look super on the back of a bolero. So yesterday I dug the shirt out of my stash drawer and went to work.

Here is the front of the T-shirt, which will be the back of the bolero. I mark the center line and cutting lines with soap, which works really well on dark material.

The shirt looks more wrinkled in the photo than it actually was. Not sure why.

 Here are the front pieces and one sleeve drawn out.

This is how I mark the pattern on the fabric. Tuna and olive cans to hold things down, soap to mark the cutting lines. This section is what was left over from the front of the T-shirt after I cut out the temple design, which was enough to make the other bolero sleeve.

Here are all the pieces cut out and ready to sew. I haven't put any designs on the front or sleeves because, well, I just don't know yet what I want to do. Figured I could always add something later.

This is what is left of the original extra-large man's shirt. Two sleeves which I had cut off the shirt, the folded and sewn hem of the T-shirt, which I save to use as straps or binding over the top of things, and at the top of the photo, the pile of scraps that were too small to use.

And this is what I used one of the sleeve sections for. This stenciled piece will be sewn to a turquoise sweatshirt (also purchased at the Goodwill), stitched around the design, and then the design will be cut out for a reverse applique. The gold paint is Lumiere metallic gold. The stencil sheet I bought at Home Depot in the paint/home decorating section. More pictures of the sweatshirt project will come later.

So, that's the start of the Tibetan Bolero, and a teaser for the Turquoise Sweatshirt. The binding color on the bolero will probably be green, as I already have a T-shirt that color to cut up. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ice Princess Necklace

Newest item up on the Etsy site. This necklace is made up almost completely of recycled bits and pieces from vintage or near vintage costume jewelry. The pendant was an old brooch, I'm guessing from the late 1950s or 1960s. Not sure. The two light blue dangles were a pair of earrings. The dark blue dangles from an old necklace, and the powder blue beads on the links I made, were from a huge, multi-strand necklace my mom gave me...I think. It's been a while since I acquired it, so I'm not sure on that either. People give me stuff all the time, and it can be years before I finally getting around to using it. By that time I can't remember who gave it to me.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Aqua Pearl Necklace

This is the latest necklace. The center medallion is vintage brooch. The clasp was broken, so I took it off. The necklace is made of aqua potato pearls, dark iridescent blue pearls,  AB clear crystals, small vintage gold-tone metal beads, brass heart spacers, and small blue glass beads.

As winter has set in, it is becoming increasingly obvious that I need to get a better method of lighting the pieces for photos. In summer, I can take them outside and photo them in natural light. A Facebook friend sent me a link to a site that shows how to make a light box. Pretty sure that's what I need. The photos I take, even with the best lighting I can come up with, still don't show the pieces to their best advantage. Especially the old brooch in this necklace, which has such a lovely patina.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Another Book On Recycling T-shirts

While cruising through the book selection at the local JoAnn's Fabric store, I came across this little gem. I flipped through it and was instantly struck by what a good companion it would be to the Alabama Chanin book I already have. The clothes are made from recycled T-shirts, sweatshirts, and man's cotton dress shirts, all of which can be purchased at the Goodwill for next to nothing.

The cutting directions are a bit more complex than in the AC book, but could be simplified. Also, many of the items of clothing would be a bit skimpy for anyone over the age of, say twenty-five. But with those you could wear tank tops under the more skin-baring designs, or make the skirts longer, to make them more adult-friendly. I particularly liked a long coat made of sweatshirts, and a T-shirt with sleeves made from the cutoff sleeves of a cotton shirt.

Also, there is no ornamentation on these garments, but most would lend themselves, and be improved by, the AB treatment.

So, here it is...........Cut Up Couture

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Autumn Light

I took this photo about four days ago. It is soft morning light shining through the beveled glass window in our front door. Robert and I were sitting on the couch drinking tea, and I happened to look over and see how beautiful it looked illuminating the display on my antique washstand. So I jumped up, grabbed my camera, and took the picture. Within minutes the sun was smothered in clouds again, and that ethereal, magic moment was gone. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finished Blue Necklace

Here is the finished necklace, made from the components I showed in the previous post. This one turned out really nice, very elegant, and it's a hard one for me to let go of because I really like it. However, I need another piece of jewelry like I need a hole in the head.  Also,  I think it's already sold. I put pictures up on Facebook, and a friend loved it and wants to buy it. If that falls through, I'll put it up on my Etsy site.

Center component is a vintage bracelet. The rest is "gold" chain, blue drop crystals, and dark blue glass beads.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Back to Projects

Now that the ARC mounted archery event is over, I can go back to my normal (?) life of working on different projects. Here are the latest. These are being done simultaneously with the Riding Costume, but I like variety and hopping from one project to another. It's the same reason I read two and three books at the same time.

Here is number one. I apologize of the lousy quality of the photos, but trying to take pictures in my house in winter is like trying to take photos in a cave without a flash. Usually I take things outside to photo, but it's pouring rain today, so that option was out.

My latest Goodwill score. A Christopher & Banks cropped linen jacket, bought for only $4.99. New they run over $40. I think this is the natural, un-dyed color of the linen, but not sure. It's a soft, sorta greenish beige. It has same-color machine embroidery in a leaf pattern up the front, on the collar, and a detail on the back. There is also what looks like narrow, pulled thread work up the front along the buttons and buttonholes. Rice, over at the Voodoo Cafe, would dye this some bright, zingy color, but I'm not really into the whole dyeing thing. I will, however, add more thread detail and beading. I might also swap out the buttons, if I can find some others I like better, which shouldn't be hard, as these are pretty bland. I really liked the gold thread work I did on my red bolero, and I think that would also look good on this jacket. Maybe small gold beads, or shiny rust colored ones. Not sure. I will have to play around with stuff to see what works best.

Anyway, I love the feel of the linen, it's pretty heavy, but very comfortable to wear. I did laugh when I bought it though, as the cashier lady made the comment, "Oh, this will be really nice when you iron it." Yeah, like that's ever going to happen!

Here it is hanging in my bedroom. The machine embroidery actually shows up better than I thought it would.

Here is the detail along the front, and on the collar. Now that I really look at it, I think the pulled thread work is just more machine embroidery. Oh well. Still looks nice.

Back detail.

So, that's one project.

Project number two is a necklace.

The main section is an old vintage bracelet, with lovely sky-blue crystals. The end link is missing the main stone, and I will remove it, maybe find a stone later and use that piece in something else. I have three blue teardrop crystals, some darker blue glass beads and will probably hunt up some other small metal detail beads or spacers. To extend the length, I'll make links with gold wire, add a dark blue bead to every link, and if I have enough, make the extensions a double strand of links. The links will be hooked into these really wonderful peacock-blue jump rings I found. The teardrop crystals will hang from the vintage bracelet.

Overview of the components.

Closeup of the vintage bracelet.

And that is project number two. Can't wait to do this one. It will be an experiment in mixing vintage with the modern, more flashy jump rings. I've had that section of vintage bracelet for ages, just waiting for the right other pieces to fall into place. It was finding those peacock blue jump rings that sparked inspiration. Funny old world, isn't it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

After Event R&R, then Moving On

It has been a week since the ARC event. It has taken Robert and me that long to detox and get our place back to normal after concentrating on nothing but ARC for over three months or more.

ARC (Ancestral Remembrance Celebration) turned out to be a ton of fun, but in retrospect, a ton of work. And as usual with such things, mixed messages and human error or misunderstandings were part of the territory. In the end, it all worked out and everyone had a grand time. I kept thinking of the lines from the movie Shakespeare In Love, "It will all work out"..."How will it work out?" ... "I don't know, it's a mystery." Friday evening I was in a panic because folks hadn't shown up to get qualified to play, the lady who was supposed to bring the equipment for them to qualify with didn't get to the event until after 6 pm – too late to do anything— which was moot, since there was only two riders on site by that time, and they had already done a "going through the motions" type qualifying with borrowed weapons. Then I heard that the man who was to make the prize for the hunt didn't come to the event, and there was no prize. To say I was in a high state of anxiety is an understatement. However, by late Saturday morning, everything had smoothed out, the prize was indeed on site, and the qualifications went just fine. Truly...it was a mystery. 

Here is the group photo of the riders right before they started the hunt course. They were out for over three hours, trail riding and shooting targets. Everyone had a good time, which in the end, is the real goal of any event organizer. That's me standing next to Robert on Apollo. I didn't ride the hunt, as I was manning one of the last obstacles, and toting up the scores. Robert and I did ride the course on Friday morning, which was nice, we just didn't shoot.

The Monday after the event Robert and I went back to the site to take down all the targets. When we got to the one of the crane, we found a little surprise. This is the back of the target.

Apparently the local bear took an exception to fake cranes in his territory.  While clearing the course in the weeks previous to the event, we had spotted quite a few piles of bear poop on the trail, so this wasn't a total shocker.

So, now that ARC is over and life has gone back to normal, whatever that is, I can get back to the projects that got put on hold while I drew targets and organized a hunt. First will be finishing the riding costume, and then I need to make an SCA period winter cloak or robe for Robert, who needs one badly. After that, not sure, but lots of ideas in the works. I also want to get back to playing around with the Alabama Chanin-type T-shirt adaptations and of course, making more jewelry. It helps that winter is setting in, and outdoor chores will be nothing much other than cleaning stalls. Oh, and I also want to get back into writing, and doing some artwork.

So, that's it. Event recap and the projects lined up for when the Dark Days have socked me in for the winter. Hopefully, they will keep me from going insane until the sun comes back next May.