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

 

Printing Project: Soap Bubbles

IMG_2979

I was thinking about bubbles a lot this past summer. In addition to blowing colored bubbles with my kids, I also made a bubble inspired silkscreen.

EZ print bubblesFor the first time, I used an EZ print screen. It certainly was quicker, lighter, and easier to manouever than the wood framed screens I’ve tried in the past, though I think I managed to scrub mine too hard in between printings and destroyed the screen. Somehow it seems fitting that a screen of something so ephemeral as soap bubbles should be short lived itself.

printed bubble towel

Once again, I printed on small hand/ kitchen towels, though I used cotton, rather than linen this time. I felt like soap bubbles print needed to be printed on something more utilitarian, something that could be used in a kitchen.

soap bubble tea towel

I wrapped a few up for my little sister for her birthday. The rest are wrapped up to be presented as a hostess gift this weekend, and so as I really, finally say good bye to summer, I say good bye to the last remnants of this bubbly summer project.

wrapped soap bubble towels

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. 

Hello, new blog graphics!

design your own graphics

I have a new header on my blog! I am obscenely thrilled by this. The pleasure I feel with this infinitesimal change is completely out of proportion with the change itself. Why? Because I made this new header myself.

I know what you’re thinking: It looks almost the same as the old one. Or, maybe you’re thinking: I can’t remember what the old one looked like. Or maybe you’re just wondering what a header is.

Rather than repost the old half-baked header, let’s just say my new header is cleaner and more professional than the old one I cobbled together using powerpoint. My new header is the real deal. And, did I mention I made it myself?

I made it using Canva. Canva?! What is Canva? Canva is a graphic design hack’s dream. It allows those of us with poor graphic design software skills to make graphics that look, well, pretty darn professional. (I learned about it from Abby Glassenberg at While She Naps and I’m hoping to try out some of her many other great tips of graphic design sometime soon.)

On the Canva website, you can assemble graphics using their templates and design elements. You can upload your own photos. You can drag elements around and tweak sizes and colors to your heart’s content. DIY for the digital world.

My first project was to make myself a business card. Why a business card? I have no idea. Who actually uses business cards these days? But here’s what I made:

I only wish I had been able to make the project photos into circles instead of squares. Circle photos are trendy, plus they would have looked better with my circle logo on the front. (Psst! Hey, Canva peeps, did you hear that?!)

I even printed some of my cards up at moo.com I just couldn’t resist seeing how the photo part would print. The answer: beautifully. Now I have 47 business cards I need to dispose of. If any of you readers want one, just say the word.

canva created card

My next project was to make my new header. For this, I created a custom size graphic (885pixels by 252pixels, as recommended by WordPress for this theme). I tried many photos, backgrounds, text boxes, but in the end, I uploaded my own photo of linen, added simple text and viola! New header:

cropped-bottle-branch-header-simple.png

The resulting header is worlds better than the old one. I know if I took the time to develop real skills and use real software, I could make even more customized and special graphics. I could definitely make circular photos. But for now I’m pretty happy to have Canva – it offers the thrill of creating something in the digital world without the frustration of learning new software.

Disclaimer: No, I did not receive any thing for this post (or for anything) from Canva or from Moo.com. I’m just enthusiastic.

Amos and Boris and an Embroidery Project

happy whale and book

For me, one of the biggest pleasures of being a mother is reading bedtime stories. As I snuggle in each night with my youngest child, I often find myself re-reading old favorites – The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Gruffalo, Frog and Toad. And I often find myself inspired, transported, bewitched, not just by good stories, but by captivating illustrations.

amos and boris book

One such inspiring book is Amos and Boris by William Steig. It tells the story of a friendship between a whale and a mouse and the illustrations are loose and alive, emotive and humorous, absorbing and appealing. I know this story so well now, that I read the words aloud without comprehension, while my mind dwells on the images, roaming over the rooftops of a castle on the horizon, basking in light shining from a boat’s cabin, floating in the swells of the ocean.

waves

Inspired by the quirky and cheerful seascapes in this book,  I recently sketched a whale in the ocean, a design I decided to use in an embroidery project. I chose three shades of murky blue-green for the sea, an earthy whale grey, and a white cotton drawstring bag.  I stitched the lines of ocean swells, darkest blues toward the bottom, lightest towards the top for an ombré effect. (DMC #s 924, 926, 927, if you care for specifics.)

happy.whale.front

My whale, outlined in a split stitch, seems a bit washed out compared to William Steig’s beautiful illustrations. When I am a more experienced and more confident embroiderer, I’ll have to revisit this project and try filling and shading the whale with stitches.

At the edges, I extended the ocean waves (stem stitch) around the side seams of the bag and across the back too. This reverse side might just be my favorite part of the project. The open blue ocean, embroidered version.

happy.whale.back

DIY pirate shirts tutorial

DIY pirate shirt tutorial

We’re really into costumes at my house. I have two sons who love dressing up, with pirate costumes being among the most popular. For Christmas, they received a beautiful set of sea captain coat, knee breeches, boots, from H and M Unicef/All for Children.

While these clothes were a hit, the problem of what to wear beneath the coat became a nagging question in the mind of my seven year old. White button down? Wrong. Plain T shirt? Wrong. Striped shirt? Wrong. Like I said, we’re really into costumes. So, we sewed pirate-ish muslin shirts to go with these jaunty sea captain clothes.

I’ve already described my mixed feelings about this project, and since it was a little out of my comfort zone, I’ve just added it to the New to Me Linky at Celtic Thistle Stitches. Click over there to see all kinds of geat projects. If you want to hear more of  the details of how I sewed these shirts, please, read on! I’ll tell you what I did and what I learned.

Before starting I did a little google searching, and found this pirate shirt “unpattern” tutorial on Wee Folk Art to be helpful for thinking the project through, though I did some things differently, notably the cuffs and neckline.

Now, the details in slide show format. Please note that by clicking on the bottom center of a slide you can pause, go forward, or go backwards in the instructions.

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Craft Project, or a cry for help?

tulle.tutuI recently made tutus for two of my little nieces. Initially, I did not plan to post about this project because it’s been done so many times before and as a craft project, there’s pretty much nothing to it. One need only to look at this photo and this photo, and how to proceed becomes clear.

DIY.tutu

Proceed, I did, and in the end, I was almost shocked by the finished products. These tutus appear so ridiculously girly, so over the top in their puffy, frothy pink-and-purple-ness, that it occurred to me that these tutus might seem like a cry for help from the mother of four sons.

In truth, I‘ve made my peace with the awkward questions (Gonna keep trying ’til you get a girl?) and unanswerable comments. (Four boys!! How do you DO it?!!) I even try to have a sense of humor and enjoy connecting with other mothers of all boys. I love my children for the wonderful people they are and feel lucky for all I share with them.

Nevertheless, I won’t deny enjoying the novel experience of tutus, barrettes, bows, and extreme girliness I get by having nearby nieces. I guess I better enjoy it now, before the girls get old enough to reject it.