Bold geometric iphone case

 

plastic canvas iphone case

If you know me in real life, you’ve probably seen me carrying around my phone case clipped to my keys with a carabiner. Its a strategy to keep from losing either phone or keys. Yet, this strategy failed one day in December when my needlepoint iPhone case fell off the clip (thankfully without my phone inside).

When I discovered my loss, I re-traced my steps, searching, but came home empty-handed, and quite sad to lose something so personal and that I had made myself. So, I decided to make a replacement right away, hoping that a quick replacement would help me move on.

In the interest of speed, and inspired by Diane at Crafty pod, I used plastic canvas, cotton yarn and a geometric pattern from one of my favorite vintage needlepoint books.

plastic canvas iphone case open and closed

I’m mostly happy with the way it turned out and I do like how the striped sides have a kind of 70’s or 80’s vibe.

I love working with plastic canvas because its so geometric and speedy. Plus, no hand sewing with thread – I used a glue gun to secure the flanel lining.  One of the benefits of using inexpensive materials is feeling no compunction whatsoever for using a glue gun.

Yet, with the finished product hanging from my key clip, I didn’t love it. It was either too plastic, or too brightly colored, too boldly geometric, or just not an adequate replacement for my lost needlepoint case.

So, I was ecstatic when I received a voicemail from a stranger, a local real estate agent, who had found my lost case and tracked down my home phone from a scrap of personalized stationery inside. Never mind that he referred to it as “macrame” (Macrame?! that’s for old ladies!) I am so grateful he took the time to find me and return it, because as it turns out, a soft ombré suits my personal style better than the bold geometric, however much I admire it.

keys and phone case

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.

P1030776

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

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

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

Small moment: Sorting embroidery floss

sorting floss

I’m tidying up this morning, sorting embroidery floss before I finish up my second embroidery project. Handling the threads, enjoying the textures and colors can be intensely satisfying-  a small moment but a pleasureable one.

Since I’m new to embroidery, I’m trying out a system of wrapping the threads on little cards and keeping the cards on a ring. If any of you more experienced stitchers have any tips on how to store floss, I’m all ears!

I’m also participating in “A Picture… a Moment” a link up over at Weekend Doings. Martha takes beautiful photos on her blog and on instagram. I’m thrilled to be part of this party. If you’re a blogger, you should link up too!

Weekend Doings

The tale of two pirate shirts, or, I sometimes hate my sewing machine

sewing maachine

I kind of hate my sewing machine, and yet, there are times when I just can’t stay away. For example, I might find myself spending a long Sunday sewing two small-sized pirate shirts instead of skiing like everyone else I know. I might find myself puzzling over how to fit the sleeve into the shoulder with just the right amount of puffiness, or how to cinch the cuff so my 5 year old can easily get it on and off. I might find myself looking at a kitchen table covered in scraps of unbleached muslin, newspaper patterns, bits of thread and straight pins, and wonder what was I thinking?? Why did I take this project on??

sewing debris

My mother once said that knowing how to sew can feel like a curse. When you know how to sew you see how simple and easy it can be to make something. You can imagine customizing and creating exactly what you want – color, fit, feel, functionality. You can imagine and execute any number of stunning and special projects.

Sounds like a blessing (and it is) but sewing projects take time. Lots of time. I could never possibly do all I dream up so I have to pick and choose which projects are worth it. Yes, there are probably mothers out there who manage to hand sew all their children’s clothing while also homeschooling, eschewing refined sugars, and building a home composter. But I’m over any form of competitive mothering.  I’ve settled for polyester superhero suits with stitched in muscles and dubious plastic party favors. But simply knowing the hand-made possibilities makes this settling hard to do. 

ruffle.cuff.pirate.shirt

In my household, costume collaborations always start strong, but  by the end of the project, my children have run off to play legos while I finish up. I’m fine with that – we’re not raising them to be tailors. But I sometimes wonder – wouldn’t it have been easier to just buy a flimsy scrap of polyester?

I remind myself: its the process, not the product. I know there are benefits of doing these types of projects with my children. We work together,  they exercise a few skills (pinning, cutting, sewing) and they learn something about sequencing a project (draw pattern, cut newspaper, pin it to fabric, cut fabric, etc.). Its a creative collaboration that allows my children to see and experience something more authentic and less made-in-china.

As I clean up and muse about the value of sewing projects,  a wee pirate bounds into the room, smiling and proud, brandishing his pirate sword and smoothing his fresh pirate shirt over knee breeches. Yes, our afternoon of sewing has been a success, though, next time, I might consider a less time consuming cooking project

aargh.pirate

P.S. I sat down to write a post about how to make a pirate shirt and wrote this instead. Clearly, I needed to work through my feelings about the value of sewing children’s costumes. In my next post, I’ll share some DIY instructions and what I learned about how to actually make one of these.  

EDITED 2/27/14: I’ve now posted some directions here. If I haven’t scared you off and you want to make one of these, hope my tutorial can help! 

Needlepoint and the creative process.

np.iphone.case

One of the more challenging of my late 2013 projects was a second ombre needlepoint iphone case. I posted about my first ombré phone case last August, and that post still receives traffic. I took this as a sign of interest, and so, in making a second one, I planned to take photos of the process and try a proper tutorial. (Insert a foreboding snicker here.) As it turns out, I was filled with hubris.

yarn.for.needlepoint

I started with this photo of beautiful new yarns, and planned to follow the same pattern as in my first phone case. I took notes on how to prepare the canvas and how I counted out the stitches for the bands of color.

taking.notes

Quickly, my plan and the project fell apart. These colors looked too cold and hard in the wide bands of color I’d used on my last ombré case. So I ripped them out and tried again. My next attempt was not much better. So I ripped it out again. In fact, I lost track of how many times I started over and thankfully I stopped trying to take photos of the progress too. I probably threw up my hands once or twice, but in the end I found a way to finish it.

np.iphone.case.2

I’m happy with the way it turned out, but also chastened and reminded of the tenacity, flexibility, and, of course, creativity, required to make something satisfying. There’s are reason its called the creative process.

Fancy Needlepoint Clutch

I’m not really much of a ‘fancy’ mom as my four-year-old would say. I spend many of my waking hours  in yoga pants and Dansko clogs, yet when I first saw this tutorial on making a needlepoint clutch, I knew I had to make one.

np.clutch.step2

I even bought new yarn, fancy yarn, made of silk and wool, rather than use the usual decades old wool I’ve inherited from my mother and a cousin. The beautiful feeling of the Silk and Ivory yarn inspired me to work slowly and carefully, to work to make something truly beautiful and finely made.

The stitching was quick, especially since I started with a long flat stitch (from this book) to form a lattice pattern. Then, the assembly took some time.

I contrived to install a magnetic snap closure and added a pocket for my phone in the lining. (The second time in recent months that I’ve made something special for my phone – what does this say about my relationship with that little device?)

finish.clutch4

I will probably only use it rarely, but since my usual bag is more of a bucket riddled with loose change, cracker crumbs, and a few wadded up receipts, it will be quite a thrill. No doubt, it will make me feel elegant, chic and, downright fancy.

finished.clutch

DIY project: Ombré iphone case

iphone.case

I’ve been carrying around this needlepoint project all summer – to children’s birthday parties, tennis lessons, even to the beach. Since nothing says “I’m the cool mom” like a little needlepoint, I often try to deflect questions when I’m out and about with my needlepoint. When someone says, “what is that?” my answer is usually something along the lines of “oh, just a little project I’m working on” and try to keep on chatting about youth soccer, the merits of organic produce, or when exactly is the right time to get a child his first mobile phone. Because those topics are so much more scintillating than needlepoint.

iphone.case.phone

Now that I’ve finished it, I can say all the humiliation was totally worth it, since I finally have my very own ombré needlepoint iphone case.  I really love it. It’s super soft and pretty. Plus, I added an interior pocket for my headphones and a loop for clipping my keyring. It has its flaws (I hate the snap closure, colors on the flap don’t line up right, etc.) but overall, it still thrills me. Now, I’m wondering: is the dowdiness of needlepoint couterbalanced by the trendiness of ombré?

UPDATE 2015: Since this post, I’ve made a lot of iphone casesand I’ve become a better blogger. If you’re here because you’re interested in learning how to make a needlepoint iphone case, I’ve posted a tutorial here: Needlepoint Phone Case tutorial