"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

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mistakes...They're A Good Thing!

I've been hearing a lot lately about letting yourself be free to make mistakes, because we always learn something from them. In some cases, for those of us with artistic proclivities, they can lead to a whole new fun way to play. Case in point: my attempts to stencil on T-shirt material.

My first attempt at putting a design on T-shirt material with fabric paint worked okay...sorta. The paint was a bit thick and as I dabbed it on with a makeup sponge, the fabric stuck to the sponge and pulled up through the stencil. It still worked, but I thought it would work better if I thinned the paint down with water.

With a new, larger stencil (found at my local home improvement center in the paint department), and some red pigment mixed with water, I tried again, and got...a blob of icky pink, in the vague outline of the stencil. The mixture was too thin, and the water bled under the stencil. And, alas, this blob was right on the front of my first tank top project. Wonderful, I thought, as I stared down at the nasty shade of pink. What the hell do I do now?

First, I let it dry. Then I thought, well, I'll just re-stencil the same design over the top of the blob, since most of it would be cut away anyway in a reverse applique. So, with a different color of paint (not my first choice on any of these colors, but I wanted to use stuff I already had during the experimentation process), I redid the stencil over the blob. To my surprise, I loved the halo effect the blob gave the pattern, but really hated the colors. Now I'm thinking of ways to purposely create the blob/halo before I put down the actual stencil design, using much nicer colors.

As for the final pink and white design...it got completely covered with a design that tied in better with the colors and design of the section of pet food logo that ended up on the top right of the shirt (I'm using old work T-shirts of my husband's, and most have pet food logos on them somewhere).

Even though the experiment with the watered down color failed completely, it actually gave me a new idea to play around with, so in the end, it wasn't really a failure, is was a mistake that led to new ideas. So, go ahead, make mistakes, and you, too, might create a big icky pink blob that leads to new ideas.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Another Project...Really?

I need another project like I need a hole in my head, but after seeing Rice's numerous and amazing experiments with hand sewing and beading over on her Voodoo Cafe blog, and after purchasing the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin, I had to jump in and play.

It has been a long, long time since I did any kind of hand sewing or embroidery, so the first thing I decided to do before diving in with wearable items, was to experiment with the fabric on small sample projects. All of the embroidery I had done previously had been on cotton or denim, material that didn't stretch, and that I could put in an embroidery hoop to keep it flat and smooth. I had never done anything on knit fabric, so was unsure how that would work. How would I keep even thread tension if the fabric was moving around?

First I dug through my husband's T-shirt drawer. He gets tons of the things for free through where he works. All of them have pet food logos on them somewhere, so I will have to work around those. To start, I picked out a black one and a grey one, and cut off the sleeves. Then I made a simple paper pattern and cut out two pocket-sized pieces from the sleeve material.

On the grey piece, which would be the top color, I stenciled a star with alternate wavy and straight arms, using some pale rose fabric paint I already had, dabbed on with a small makeup sponge. After it was dry, I pinned the two pieces together using two of my grandmother's long, pearl-headed straight pins. Using dark grey embroidery floss, I back stitched all around the star stencil. Then I back stitched around the border of the two pieces, about a half inch from the edge. Lastly, using some old rose colored beads I'd had for decades, I did a beaded back stitch next to the original back stitch around the star. Final act was to cut away the painted stencil to reveal the black under-fabric, and trim the grey away from the border to give the piece a black frame. Then I added three rose beads to the center of the star. Done.

Notes to self for future reference:

In the Alabama Studio book, they use paint mixed with water and spray it on the fabric to make the stencil pattern. Now I see why. Using straight paint made the fabric very stiff when it came time to cut it out. Also, dabbing at the fabric caused the material to pull up in the middle of the stencil, as it kinda stuck to the makeup sponge. Once the design was cut out, it left a stiff edge rather than a softer one, which makes the reverse applique look kinda spiky.

Use a simpler, slightly larger stencil next time, at least for the reverse applique. When it was all finished, I couldn't really tell that the arms of the star were different shapes. It ended up looking like an amoeba rather than a star.

My embroidery scissors are still too blunt-nosed to get in the sharp corners of a cut-out design, so I need to find sharper ones.

I need lots more practice with my embroidery. This first piece is pretty crude in that respect.

The beads I picked, although a good color, were too big and clunky for the design.

I very much like the feel/weight of the doubled fabric. Since where I live there are more cold days than warm ones, I think I will be doing more work with two layers rather than one.

One lucky break was that I already had in my personal library the embroidery book Elegant Stitches by Judith Baker Montano, which is the book the Alabama Studio author recommended.


Am I hooked? Oh yeah. Embroidering on the T-shirt material was easy and relaxing. After more practice with small pieces, I will attempt an article of clothing—probably a tank top. Will I have an entire wardrobe of hand sewn clothing? Probably not. I just don't have the time.  But I will enjoy embellishing articles of clothing I already have, using the techniques shown in the Alabama book. They are very inspiring.

The most fun for me, I think, will be adapting the techniques and embroidery into designs more in keeping with my personal style of dressing. I have no idea what I'll end up with, but, as always, the journey is the most exciting part of the process.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Around the Garden

Here are a few pictures taken of the flowers in my large fenced garden. It is fenced so the deer won't eat everything, since the little darlings sleep on the lawn during the summer. They like the cool shade and soft grass, I guess. For the rest of the yard, I have become a bit of an expert on putting in plants that deer won't eat...well, most of the time.

Anyway, here are just a few photos that I took about two weeks ago, when everything was pretty lush. As we roll into summer, and it gets hot, the first bloom of the roses is over, and the blosoms left  or that come later, fade in the heat.

Oh, and I included a picture of our little pond turtle. He/she turned up about three years ago, and stayed. We have no idea where he came from, but we're kinda happy he likes our place.