Sunday, January 29, 2012

Crazy for embellishment

Among the many crafts I do, I have to say the one that I enjoy the most is embroidery.  I know how to quilt, and find it okay as a creative outlet, but I thoroughly enjoy crazy quilting, which allows me to make crooked seams and use a variety of fabrics, and the best part is that I get to embroider the heck out of it!

A couple of years ago, I joined a free class at a nearby quilt shop, the Shibori Dragon.  It was a Crazy Quilter's class, and since I've always liked crazy quilting, I thought it might be fun to learn some new things and maybe meet other women with similar interests. 

Three years later, I'm still taking the class, and love it.  The instructor, Teresa White, is very experienced, and gives us great guidance.  She and several others in the class have become my friends, and I look forward to each month's get-together.  However, as one friend put it, it is the most expensive free class we've ever taken!  Because you can never have enough fabric, books, or embellishments, and we are all hoarders, get the idea. 

My name tag for class--we were all required to make one!

Anyway...the first year, we were going to work out of the Piecemaker's Times and Seasons calendar for 2009.  This quilt was largely black-and-white in color scheme, and many of us decided to work in that color palette.  I, however, needed more color.  So I added in shades of purple and burgundy, as well as gray and some greens.  My first block turned out fine, but I like my second block better.  These were LARGE 14" square blocks, and after two, well...I was completely bored with the color palette.  And it took me a year to realize it.  :)

My first block
Detail photos below:


My second block

 Details of the second block

The second year, we all managed to get copies of the Piecemaker's Times and Seasons calendar for 2001, which features gorgeous blocks done in seasonal color palettes and themes, as well as much more embroidery.  I LOVE this calendar!!  I get lots of inspiration from looking at its pages.  However, many of us have noted that what they show on the cover is not the same as what's on the inside.  But that's OK.  :)  This calendar inspired me to work different, smaller blocks as color studies, and I have to say that creatively, this approach is much better suited to my mood-based style of working.  Somehow I will work them all into a cohesive quilt, but until then...I'm having fun. 

This year, we're using both of the previous calendars as references, but we've also added the 2002 calendar, as well.  I have a "thing" for trees and leaves, as well as flowers, and this calendar inspires my tree fetish.  :)  Who knows?  I may actually make this one according to pattern someday!!  :) 

My first color-study block was inspired by two fabrics, a koi print and a leaf print, both with similar colors.  So this block developed into a study in gold, salmon, moss, cream, and tan.  I had difficulty taking a photo of the block straight-on, so the full-size block is skewed a bit from my angle in taking the pictures.  I assure you that it is not trapeziod-shaped!



The second finished color-study block was inspired by the central print of a blooming willow, which was another Asian-inspired print.  The colors I extrapolated from it were browns, dark green, fern green, purples, blues, and dusty pinks, as well as gold. 




These color-study blocks are fun for me, and I'm really enjoying creating them.  For continuity, I've included either pieces of the same fabrics in each block, or the same print/fabric in a different colorway.  I also want to make sure there is at least one hand-embroidered panel image in each block.  One color that seems to be consistent in each block is gold--many of the asian fabrics I use have gold accents, so I tend to pick that up as a "metal" and thus, a neutral, in my blocks.  I probably do this because in beading, a metal is what balances a piece, and unifies it.  So...craft crossover!!  Woohoo!!  All of the squares use tiny flower sequins I have found at Cartwright's.  I have two unfinished blocks in progress at the moment--one is gold, red, white, and black, and the second is in shades of teal, peach, yellow, and gold. 

The beauty of modern crazy quilts is that you can cross the lines, use all kinds of amazing fibers and hand-dyed goodies, as well as all the beading you can do!  I love it!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Christmas Stockings

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had to make some Christmas Stockings this year...I thought I'd share pics of them. 

I have made all of my family's stockings for the last 17 years.  I love the felt kits that various manufacturers create, and that began when I was a teenager.  I have yet to make one for myself, but my daughter, husband, and my sister and all her kids (and spouses, both current and former).  This year, because I didn't have time last year, I made a stocking for her new husband, Chris, and one for the latest addition to the family, Milo. 

Because Milo's had a LOT of teeny pieces, I did his first. 

Chris' was a piece of cake by comparison! 

They loved them, and I enjoyed stitching them.  I bought both kits online at for reasonable prices.

Fairy Princess Pumpkin House--work in progress

Well, I decided last night that I will post pics of the pumpkin house in progress and not wait until summer.  Since I have a while to wait until my stuff in the dryer is done (and I have no jeans until then), I thought I'd make use of the quiet morning hour by updating the blog. we go:

First, I cut off the back of the "funkin" in a flat plane, then cut the windows and door. 

After that, I needed to establish floors.  I used 1/4" foam core board, partly for its durability, and partly because I knew I could get a good fit by angling my cuts so that they fit the curves of the pumpkin. 

Floors need covering!  This is some heavy scrapbook paper.

My floors are not perfect, so to both cover the minor gaps and to give a nice, finished look, I glued some fine, flexible braid that I had on hand over the seams.  It also gives a little extra stability to the floors.  I have used hot glue in some areas, but Fabri-Tac in most others. 

It was my husband's idea to include supports for the 2nd floor, and a cool aesthetic appeal.

I also added crossbars to the window holes.  The wood I've used is actually a bundle of grapevine stems, so I've been able to incorporate their curly bits to add to the character of the house.  After all, pumpkins have curly vines!!

Windows need curtains--and this is where I got to be more creative.  I used 20 gauge beading wire and size 8 beads for the curtain rods, winding them around a fine knitting needle for the curly ends.  For beadwork, I used G-S Hypo cement (made for beadwork), which has a fine tip (and is kind of hard to thread the cap back on, as it is a fine piece of wire that has to go back in the needle tip of the glue tube!).  You need to have ventilation for it--it is a stinky, toxic substance!  The curtains are made from some cotton Leaver's lace.  I tied the curtains using 1/4" orange ombre ribbon, and to decorate, some teeny, thin polymer cane slices in leaf patterns. 

The curtains installed.  Definitely gives things a finished look. 

And here is where I ran out of time, and left things unhappily unfinished.  I started a chandelier for the bedroom, and also did some candle sconces for the downstairs, but never finished.  First, the roof of the pumpkin had a small flat spot, but it was kind of ugly looking, so I covered it with a bit of scrapbooking paper (I do a LOT of crafts). 

Then I worked on devising a chandelier using jewelry findings and beads.  I couldn't just stick a pin into the ceiling (well, I probably could, but it would have been messy, and look unnatural), so I made a lamp finial (don't all hanging lamps have a circular flange/finial that covers the wire box?) with a resin flower, a head pin, and some necklace chain.

The chandelier itself was a bit of a challenge, getting all the wires to line up properly, then gluing them in place, and then making them all curve the correct direction, etc.  I have all the beads and findings set aside to complete the candle look, but haven't done the gluing.  My cement ran out!  And life caught up with me.  Sigh.  But here is the unfinished chandelier.

And, for scale, a Polly Pocket doll (same scale as many other tiny princess dolls, including Tinkerbell and friends).

Oh, and here's the front door--I made a handle from a bead and wire, then made hinges from twisted wire.  Good thing we aren't working on sealing it from the weather!  I had to cut it from the section I removed for the back, and got the size a bit off.  However, it swings open easily!  :)  And does rest on the base, so it isn't always hanging out.

Here are materials I gathered for the project...I plan on using the styrofoam as a base (this was pre-finished for use as bases for Halloween houses at the craft store) and the faux foliage as decoration/vegetation around the house (as well as on top).  Gotta make it pretty, you know?  I do have a lintel/mini roof to go over the door, complete with woody supports, but am saving that for after the interior is complete. 

I'll post more when I get in that Autumnal spirit again!