Bargello pocketbook

close up modern bargello

Remember this? Last October, I stitched this bargello – a modern, multicolored, aspiring-to-be-Jonathan Adler bargello. After I posted it, I tucked it away for later, not quite sure what to so with it. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had a vague vision of a clutch purse type of bag, but it turns out, I don’t need a fancy needlepoint clutch. (Already have one and I’m not fancy enough to use it very often.)

Wool needlepoint pocketbook.
Wool needlepoint pocketbook from colonial williamsburg.

Only when I revisited my photos from a summer trip to colonial Williamsburg did I know why I had this idea was lodged in my brain. Look at this hand-stitched 18th century pocketbook (photo above), used by the ladies of colonial Williamsburg to store scissors, needles and other sewing notions.

That was when I knew I had to make my own 21st century version. As someone who typically throws an extra needle and a pair of scissors in the bottom of a canvas tote bag, drops her needlework on top, and then periodically struggles to untangle metal bits from thread, I found the idea of having an organized case for the small notions deeply appealing.

needlepoint bargello pocketbook

I particularly liked the idea of stitching it entirely by hand and using all natural materials, as in the 18th century, so I used wool twill tape to bind the edges, and 100% wool felt to line it. The only place I cheated was in using a lighter, thinner rayon to form the gussets that allow the pocketbook to open a bit wider. (I was hoping they would fold in more easily for closing.)

opened up sewing case

When it came time to engineer a method to keep it closed, I hemmed and hawed again. In other projects, I have used magnetic snaps or velcro. I like the convenience of both of these closures but each has their drawbacks, too. (Velcro obscures a large area of the needlework and can also snag threads if not carefully placed; Snaps sometimes open too easily.)

So, again, I consulted the work of the Williamsburg ladies and decided to try twill tape ties for closure. They are certainly not as convenient, but they leave no mark on the needlework and can always be removed and replaced with some small miracle of the 20th century like velcro.

There it is, tied up and ready to go. Now, I am excited to put this pocketbook to use and move on the new projects. The first of which might just have to be a needlecase, so I can get rid of the plastic bag I’m currently using to store my needles.

tied up needlepoint pocketbook

 

Giveaway winner!

kitchen table giveaway

Wow! Giveaways are fun. I loved hearing from everyone one who entered last week’s embroidered phone case giveaway, even if I feel that I’m bribing you, my friends and readers, to speak up and show yourselves. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a comment – it was so fun to read your responses!

I’m happy to hear there are other tea-drinking, home-organizing, idly snacking, book reading procrastinators out there. Also, so many of you are knitters… who knew?! I see the appeal of those fluffy and colorful yarns and the cozy things one can knit, though knitting has never been a strength for me.

I wish I could send something to everyone, but alas, that level of crafty output is out of my reach. So, I’ve picked one winner.

wrapped giveaway

I made a list of the 14 entries (social media shares were listed twice), numbered them, and then used a random number generator to pick a number… and the winner is Grace! Thank you all for reading and participating. Have a great weekend everyone, hope you find lots of time for knitting, taking photos, crocheting, procrastinating and talking about good books.

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Hello, New Year… and a December projects round up

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Hello. Happy new year!

Another December has passed, and I spent the month making things, but not posting here about anything at all, let alone creative projects.

I blame introversion: the hustle and bustle and social activity of the holiday season are too much. I’m all tapped out at the end of every December day, and I’ve got nothing, not even a single word or photo, left for the virtual world.

But I’ve missed you, my internet friends! I’m happy to be back and I’d like to share a few of the projects I made during the month of December.

I’ll start with a wreath. I made this and many more wreaths for my church’s annual Christmas Market. Every year, I plan to post about the creative frenzy of this greens workshop, but every year, I end up too tired to put the words together, so here it is, a month late. (And there, on my front door, this wreath remains and will remain, possibly until Ash Wednesday.)

less traditional wreath 2014

Next, I made an embroidered felt pouch for one of my neices, inspired by a slightly different project in Aimee Ray‘s book Doodle-Stitching. It was a chance to use pink and be girly, and I loved free stitching on the soft wool felt. In fact, loved it so much, I’ve already started some new projects… to be posted soon.

 

And finally, I painted one more silk scarf, which ended up under the tree and in the hands of one of my sisters-in-law. I’m holding back one more December project, because it comes with a story. That project and the story of my own tiny Christmas miracle will be the subject of my next post.

painted silk scarf blue green

 

New creative obsession: Painted plaid

bright painted plaid

I haven’t been posting lately because I’ve developed a new obsession: painted plaid. A fashion trend, painted plaid seems to be trickling down and popping up lots of places. I am delighted by the softness, the regular irregularity, the nuanced colors. So I decided to give fabric plaid painting a try. I bought a few yards of habotabi silk, a brush, and a few bottles of silk paint, and got to work.

bright colors, 2 scales, painted plaid

I’ve been experimenting with scale and strong colors.

soft silk painted plaid

I’ve been experimentaing with softer, more muted colors and leaving unpainted spaces.

painted plaid in purples

And I’ve tried some colors in between.

Variation of color combinations, scale and rhythm of the lines makes pattern possibilities feel endless. Everytime I work on one, ideas of future patterns and projects fill my head. Its heady, exhillarating, irresistible.

Some of these swatches are so small, I’m not sure what I’ll make with them. Others are large enough I might hem them for scarves. Safe to say that friends and family might see some variations popping up at Christmas time.

Its also safe to say that that as the busy season between Thanksgving and Christmas rolls around, I won’t be posting much, but I’ll hope to get caught up in the new year.. Happy Thanksgiving, my American friends and readers, and happy December to everyone else!

Halloween craft: eeire orbs

yarn ballooons for halloween

With Halloween on the way, its been a crafty time at my house. We’ve been working on costumes, decorating and generally enjoying the season of spookiness.

We also made these orbs out of webbed yarn. Inspired by pinterest, these yarn balloons were super-easy to make. I took cotton yarn, dipped it in paper mache paste made from elmer’s glue, water, and some flour, and wrapped it around balloons. After letting them dry for a few days, I poked holes in the balloons and gently deflated them, while making sure to unstick the yarn from the balloon.

deflating balloon

Thorough instructions can be found on Instructables, but really there’s not much to this project. Only be sure to use 100% cotton yarn, no matter how tempting a sparkly or hairy synthetic yarn might seem. The synthetics just don’t hold the shape once the balloon is deflated. Trust me, I know this from experience.

I liked the simplicity of the orbs on their own, but my children had other ideas. They wanted to add cobwebs, spiders, skeletons. You know, make them spookier, kookier, more eerie. I confess to a few judicious edits of their adornments before hanging them above our kitchen table and taking this final photo. Happy Halloween, my friends in the blogosphere!

yarn.balloons.all

 

Beginner’s Bargello

multi color modern bargello

I’m really excited about my newest finished needlepoint piece.

When I started this canvas in September, I was planning to make another geometric needlepoint purse, but none of my plans or patterns worked out. One seemed too heavy and dark, the other seemed too small and boring. So I scratched my plans and tried something completely different – bargello.

I’d been eyeing bargello needlepoint for years. There is something appealing and mathematical about it, like an M.C. Escher drawing, it draws you in and along, moving your eye through it.

I’d also been eyeing these modern-looking bargello pillows at Jonathan Adler. But of course, its one thing to admire something, but its another thing to try and re-create it. After a few false starts and repeated picking out of those erroneous stitches, I settled on an asymmetrical design I charted on a piece of graph paper. Next, I went to my bins of stashed yarn, pulled out heaps of colors.

jumble of needlepoint yarn

My final pattern consists of 5 and 3 block high bands, which move only in one direction – diagonally down, from right to left. It was only later that I read that the traditional Bargello unit is 4 stitches high. I stitched bands of 2-3 shades of the same color mixed together in a random order. I tried to put complimentary colors (e.g., purple and yellow, red and green) beside one another to highlight the transition between bands of color.

close up modern bargello

 

Of course, all this randomness requires careful organization and the bulk of my mental energy went into planning a sequence of colors that was consistently inconsistent. In the end, I was not so free and haphazard with color as I might have liked. While not being a repeating pattern, my piece comes very close – it is not quite consistent, i.e., consistently inconsistent.

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I’m thrilled with my first attempt at bargello and I’m starting to understand the deep appeal it seems to have for many needlework ladies. Maybe next time, I’ll try something multi-directional, closer to this waves pattern pillow. But for now, all that’s left is to decide what to make of it: another purse? a lumbar pillow? any other ideas?

multi color bargello

August break: painting by bubbles

Every August, we head to the coast north of Boston, to spend a few weeks at the beach.  Since we don’t have much planned, I always troll through pinterest when packing, and plan a few portable crafty projects to do with my children. So far, this year, we’ve only managed to try painting by bubbles, and it was a wild success.

To paint by bubbles, we added a few drops of food coloring to bottles of bubble solution, rolled out some plain paper, weighed the corners of the paper down with rocks, and then blew the colored bubbles onto the paper.

coloring bubbles

bubble painting

When the bubbles pop, they leave a ring of color. And, as the drips and rings of color build up on the paper, it creates an effect similar to marbleized paper.

bubble painting 1

bubble painting 2

More gratifyingly, bubble painting is flexible and open-ended. It engendered free play, experimenting, and creative problem solving. Once we set it up, my children took over, adding colors to the bubble solution, experimenting the direction at techniques for blowing the bubbles, observing wind direction, types of bubbles, effects of layering colors on the paper.

Before we started, I harbored fantasies of saving the resulting bubble-painted paper and using it for wrapping paper or some other crafty project, but it truth, the colors faded after a few days and the results were uneven.  No doubt there is a way to do bubble painting with a beautiful end product in mind, but in this case, we just enjoyed the process. Process over product.

How to use masking in fabric stamping

printed frens on tea towel

I’ve been printing again! It all started on a visit to my mother’s house in woodsy Maine where I caught site of a fern printed tea towel I made for her last summer. With a thrill of recognition, I thought, Hey that’s not quite so bad looking as I remember… I kind of even like it! So I decided to try it again.

hand carved fern stamp

I used stamps I carved from “speedy-carve” material last year, but I had to relearn how to use a technique called masking in order to create the look of overlapping leaves. This time, I took a few pictures to document the process and I’ll share a bit below. I learned mostly by watching about 1000 you tube videos – some good, some bad, but none standing out as exceptional. I also learned through a lot of trial an error.

First, I used ink pads and stamped out the design on paper to make a template for printing the entire design. I lightly spray glued this template to a piece of cardboard. Then, before laying the fabric over the template, I lightly spray glued it again and let it dry until it was tacky. I then smoothed the fabric out on top (see photo above). The template showed through the fabric, guiding me where to stamp in order to to replicate the design. Next, I stamped the “top” ferns on (see second photo above).

I made a paper to mask these “top” ferns by (1) stamping the design on paper again, and (2)  cutting around the stamp shape, cutting especially close where I knew the designs would touch. After cutting, I sprayed the paper lightly with a acrylic spray so it wouldn’t disintegrate with too many uses. After the “top” ferns dried, I placed the mask on top to prevent any new ink from landing on the areas that had already been stamped.

fabric stamping

Finally, I used the same stamp, this time inked in a slightly different shade of green, to stamp the “bottom” ferns on. Notice how the stamp lands partly on the masking paper, which blocks the areas that have already been printed. Also notice that I used painter’s tape to attach the blocking paper to the fabric – I don’t even remember doing that. Masking makes ferns appear to be overlapping without stamps being printed on top of one another.

hand stamped ferns

This time around, I’m thrilled by this little stampy project. Maybe its just that my learning curve was not quite as steep as it was last summer. Maybe being able to do it faster meant I didn’t get sick of looking at those ferny leaves. Maybe I’ve just learned no to focus so much on the flaws in my own work. Whatever the reason, it was a pleasure to revisit those ferns and think about those Maine woods.

ferns in maine woods

Paper circle garlands

Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree - click for link
Photo and paper circle garland by pomtree – click for link

I’d been eying these paper circle garlands on pinterest for a while. So, this weekend, when we welcomed one of our sons home from sleep away camp, I decided to use some to decorate.

They were super simple to make: cut circles from paper, then stitch. (Look here for a really great tutorial.) Or, if you’d rather just buy some handmade paper circle garlands on etsy, look here or here.

jumbled garland

Since I spaced the circles a bit too far apart, I did struggle a bit with keeping the garlands from getting tangled up in themselves. So, when I discovered that my husband had taken the garlands down without my supervision, I gasped in horror, imagining a heap of tangled thread and paper circles. What I discovered instead, was his very simple solution to the problem: a clip. Bravo, dear husband!

stacked garland

I know I could do better if I did it again (less thread, more circles) but it was altogether a fun and easy project.

P.S. If you’re a pinterest user, I’d love to connect with you there! Here’s where you can find me.