Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(You Can) Use Scratch Foam to Print a T-Shirt

The kids and I have been decorating lots of t-shirts lately. We started with sun print shirts, but I'd had the idea in the back of my head to try printing with scratch foam and textile paint. Before I tried it with the kids, I stole some time for myself and tried it out. I used a plate that's been knocking around the studio for a couple of months, so it has some extra lines in it. A fresh plate would look even better, although I don't mind the extra texture. We'll call it rustic, or something like that.

What you need: A t-shirt; some textile paint (I used Speedball Water-Based Textile Screen Printing Ink), although I think you could try this with liquid acrylics; some scratch foam; a palette and brayer--although my brayer did not seem to like the screen printing ink and jammed up on me.

What you do: First, scratch a picture or design into the scratch foam. This couldn't be easier. Experiment with different mark-making devices, like the pointy end of a paintbrush, a bone folder, a comb--anything that will indent into the foam. Remember that your image will print in reverse, which is especially important if you're thinking about including text.

This is what my plate looked like (it's still got ink on it) in its just-created, pristine days:

I prewashed my shirt, placed some freezer paper inside so no ink bled through to the back, and taped some guiding marks with painter's tape. Then I mixed my color--I wanted a blue-grey. Ink your plate so you have a nice, even layer, not too thick (or it will squoosh out the edges when you make your print).

I'd planned two prints, so I made the first print. Carefully place your foam plate, ink side down, on your shirt, then gently press all over it. Try not to move it while you're doing this. Lift it straight up when you remove it so you don't smudge. Remember to keep your fingers as clean as possible--wipe or wash your hands as much as necessary in between prints--because you're using textile paint, and if you touch the shirt with inky fingers you'll make permanent fingerprints on it.

And re-inked the plate to make the second.

Meh. I wasn't crazy about the streakiness (darn brayer!!) or the space in the center, although I'd originally thought I wanted it that way. So I mixed up some grey and re-inked the plate.

I slightly offset the second set of prints so they met in the center, getting rid of that space.

Hmm. Still not sure--really, a fresh plate would have been better--so I left it to dry, then set it with the iron according to the directions.

Now this, I like. It's very subtle, but it's definitely recognizable as a plant sort of thing with leaves. (It's just a doodle; I drew it in about 30 seconds while my kids and I were scratch foam printing a couple of months ago.) Here's a closer look.

And a much closer look.
You can see the plate was kind of beat up. I think something must have been on top of it, leaving a slight depression that I couldn't see until I printed with it. The foam really is designed to be easy to scratch into! And the stubborn brayer didn't help matters any. But it's got a certain look about it, with lots of texture, and I'm pleased with it as a first try. I think I'll be experimenting with more scratch foam printing on fabric in the future.

Shared with Our Creative Spaces; see more creative spaces here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Crafting Like It's 1990

Did you see the post on friendship bracelets at The Purl Bee not too long ago? Boy did that take me back. I spent at least one summer in high school making loads of those. I remember working at it to figure out how to get the Vs and Xs, until I got it. I still don't know if I create those patterns the "right" way and I don't care. It was so satisfying to figure it out on my own--hmm, some things never change! I'd been thinking I wanted to make a simple bracelet to tie around my ankle for the summer, and seeing the post spurred me to finally do something about it. After all, I have loads of embroidery floss around these days!

I started it when we went to the deCordova last Friday. Back in high school I used to cross one foot over the other knee and pin the bracelet to my Keds (I loved my purple ones best; how about you?), but since I was wearing strappy sandals, I stuck my Red Sox hat over my foot and pinned it to that. (That's an awesome, broken-in hat, softened right up by salt water and sun.)

I finished it the following Monday while we were at the beach.

I immediately tied it on, then realized I didn't have scissors to cut the tails so I sawed through each string individually with my keys. I still haven't neatened it up--it's summer! This is just a perfect, no-stress thing to make because it's so temporary. If it doesn't fall off first, I'll cut it off in about two months, when I'll need to start wearing socks (oh, I hate having to wear socks). So who cares if it's perfect? That purple kept popping to the front when it wasn't supposed to, so I have some purple showing in the blue and green stripes. Somewhere near the bottom I forgot to knot the strands in the center--I think it was about the time my younger son kicked sand in his brother's face--so there's a little hole. It's all good!

So throw on some Fine Young Cannibals, or maybe some INXS, take a break from reading your Sassy (were you a Sassy or Seventeen girl? I loved Sassy), and start knotting. One thing is different from 1990, though. In 1990, I didn't have a boyfriend to ask me to make him one.

My husband rarely wants me to make him anything. But he wants a string bracelet. (Hey, can anyone identify what kind of pillow that's pinned to? It's definitely something I'd never heard of in high school!)

Some music to knot your bracelet to...

...and some more....

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Claiming the Day--Sort Of

Wednesday afternoon I was all I bend over backwards so we can go to the beach and take day trips and do science experiments and art activities and I can't even get help setting the table! (You moms out there, you know what I mean, yes?) Now mind you, I really enjoy going on day trips and to the beach and our art and science activities--having a job that has me spending all day on the beach is pretty darn good, even if I'm the one who packs the lunch and unpacks the lunch, packs the car and unpacks the car, and makes sure the kids and the laundry are all clean at the end of it. Just maybe those lucky kids could have a reality check of sorts... so I declared that Thursday was Mama Day and I'd be sewing and told my oldest he was responsible for keeping his younger sister happy. I had a list of things I hoped to make. I made one. Reality check indeed. Here's a peek into my day.

8:45 am:

The kids have all had breakfast, the dishes are washed, I've begun the laundry (sheets and towels), and I'm ready to start cutting out the pieces to turn this old denim shirt into a skirt, using a pattern from Wendi Gratz's Shirt Off Daddy's Back Workshop. I've already cut off the sleeves and set them aside; I plan to turn them into pants for my daughter, but she wants flowers embroidered on them first, so they'll be a while.

10:05 am:

I realize that when you're trying to incorporate an existing hem as the bottom of your skirt, you should sew from hem to waist, not the other way around. At least, that's what you should do if you don't want your hem to look stupid at the side seams where it doesn't quite match up. Out comes the seam ripper.

10:55 am:

I re-do the side seams and I'm almost done zigzagging the edges when I run out of bobbin thread. Are you kidding me? I just want to get this part done before I have to stop and get everyone lunch. I wind another bobbin, rethread the machine, and finish zigzagging.

11:08 am:
This is where I leave the skirt for the morning--ready for the top binding (or so I think). I get the sheets from the dryer, make the beds, get the four of us lunch, clean up lunch, and 90 minutes later I go back downstairs.

This is where it gets a little dicey. I made the binding tape for the waist, sewed it on, it slipped at some point, out came the seam ripper again so I could rip back to where it was right and sew it the rest of the way on. I sewed on the hook and eye at the top. I tried it on. I hated the way it fit my waist. This is me, not the pattern. My tape measure and I have some sort of problem in which I don't believe it, or maybe I should have somebody else taking the measurements. I tend to cut my waists bigger than they need to be. What I should have done for this skirt is measure a skirt in my closet that's fitted at the waist and used that measurement. I should know this from making my own knitting patterns to fit: measure the garment, not the person. So much easier. Anyway....

2:15 pm:

I cut the top off, tape and all. Then I sewed the waist in another half inch on each side. Then I made more binding tape (wider this time) and sewed it on. 

3 pm:

I take this really bad photo in a mirror leaning against the bedroom wall. I am done with the skirt. It doesn't have a hook and eye (maybe I won't put one on; I haven't decided). The kids are ready for a snack, and then I'll have to start dinner, and there's my day: clean towels, clean sheets, and exactly one project that I'm only sort of happy with. 

Later, I take a better photo of the skirt outside, so at least you can see what took me an entire day to create. I worked for this skirt, darn it!

Shared with Our Creative Spaces: see more creative spaces here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


(First, though, are you on Google +? If so, I'm right here!)

Last week, Sara at The Split Stitch posted that she was looking for help stitching some new patterns so she could add them to her shop. So I emailed her, even though I only taught myself to embroider earlier this year. I thought it would be fun to stitch up some patterns, and a good opportunity to include some new-to-me stitches for practice. Sara is being wide open with the patterns--color and stitch choice is up to us, as long as there's a good contrast so potential customers can get a feel for the patterns.

And did I mention, we got to choose our pattern? I think I was third on the list, and I was pretty excited to see "Snakes." We love us some snakes here! The pattern includes four: Emerald Tree Boa, Rattlesnake, Cobra, and a stripey snake that could be, well, anything stripey. So the first thing I did was pin some snake photos through Pinterest. Then I went shopping for floss. And then I started with the Emerald Tree Boa, so he's the first one I finished.

I haven't even ironed him yet, so, um, excuse the wrinkles! The outline stitches are backstitch, which is my favorite stitch, except for the dark green around the white spots--that's a tiny split stitch using only two strands. The white is satin stitch, which I don't enjoy doing so much but it does make the spots pop. I lightly shaded the snake with a bright green colored pencil (thanks for the idea, Wendi!) because it needed to be green, and the muslin is not green. Truthfully, even I could have faced filling it all in, I'm not sure the muslin would have held up to it. I think this snake would look really cool embroidered on a green background.

For the rattlesnake--and this is as far as I got last night--I decided to try seed stitch as a fill stitch. So far, I really like it.

As you can see, I go really high-tech with the transfer method--I hold it all up to a window and trace it with a pencil. This works just fine with muslin. I much prefer it to the tear-away stabilizer I've used on jeans and felt, which requires breaking out the tweezers at the end.

I'm really enjoying stitching these, although I'm generally not so much for crafting on a deadline. I think I can pull it off, though! You can read about Sara's other volunteers here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

DIY: Two-Layer, Drawstring, Perfect Summer Skirt

This tutorial is now located at:

Please update your pins, links, and bookmarks. Thank you!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Finished Voile Skirt

I love, love, love this skirt! I finished it Thursday night and was so excited I wore it upstairs to show my husband. (He loves it, too.) Friday I wore it to our visit to the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, where these photos were taken.

While making this skirt, I did a couple things for the first time: I used French seams, and I made buttonholes (by hand!). I sewed 72" of super skinny binding tape to make the drawstring, too.

It is summery, it's comfortable, and I love how I feel while I'm wearing it--not like a run-down mother of three, not at all! This skirt came out pretty much exactly like the picture I had in my head when I started. I love that! I'll post again after the weekend with more details on exactly how I made it and some tips on making buttonholes by hand (on voile, no less), but in the meantime, I'll leave you with a few more photos from the sculpture park. (ETA: The tutorial is right here!)

Rain Gates, by Ron Rudnicki

Cones, by Ronald Gonzales
Apollo, by Albert Paley
(In the first photo, I'm standing in front of Skirts and Pants (after Duchamp) by Ilan Averbuch.)

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Attempting Voile

When I shopped Purl Soho's Memorial Day sale, I bought fabric for three skirts. The first two are done, along with matching ones for my daughter, but I saved the voile for last. I had to work my way up to it, I think. For starters, I had no idea what to expect when I ordered it. I was thinking something gauzy, maybe? Definitely summery. For some reason I was enchanted with the idea of voile, sight unseen. No place around here has any, not the box store or the quilting stores, as far as I could tell. So it was a surprise.

It's not gauzy, for starters. It IS thin. It reminds me, truth be told, of an old, worn-in cotton sheet. Soft, thin cotton. It took more care to cut it. I switched to a smaller needle size, went way down on stitch length (about 1.75 mm, I think; lordy it takes forever to stitch a seam at that length!), adjusted the tension a bit, and called it good. I'm not working from a pattern for this skirt. I'm working from an idea. Since voile is thin, and I'm not one to wear a slip, I wanted a two-layer skirt, with a drawstring. The hardest bit so far has been the hemming.

I'm still working on mastering my rolled hem foot. It would have been perfect for this skirt. I'm making progress--I can get a nice hem once I get going, but the transition from the starting bit to the automatic bit is still wonky, so for this project, I ironed a narrow hem. Sorry for the poor quality of photos; my creative space is often in the basement, in the evening.

(You know, I loved this fabric pattern online, but after several days of quiet struggling with it, I keep thinking it looks like lettuce.)

I'm almost done with the skirt, as of Wednesday evening. The two layers--longer on the bottom, shorter on top--are sewn together at the top. All that's left to do cut a couple of buttonholes (for the drawstring to come out from), sew them by hand (because I have more confidence in that than my buttonhole foot), and sew the casing closed at the bottom.

The buttonholes are marked, but I thought it best to leave it for the night, perhaps to pick it up again this evening. My original plan was to make the drawstring from the voile by basically creating a narrow binding tape. Despite my difficulties working with the fabric, I think this skirt is going to come pretty close to the picture I had in my head when I began. That's one of the big pleasures for me, in making something--working out the how, and getting my idea out of my head and realized in yarn, or fabric, or paper, or thread. Do you enjoy that part?

Shared with Our Creative Spaces. See more creative spaces here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Design*Sponge had a post on Queen Anne's Lace not too long ago, which reminded me that I keep meaning to pull over to the side of the road and gather some to take home. It's all over the place around here right now, especially since so many of the roads on which I drive are bordered by fields, too. I recently inherited some small crackle glass vases, and I thought Queen Anne's Lace would look beautiful in them.

So today, on the way home from the market, I stopped to get some, hurriedly pulling up the tall white wildflowers, because all the kids were in the car on the side of the road, too. (I'd pulled into a small cross road, so they weren't on the side of the main road, but still.) Once home, I unpacked the groceries, arranged the flowers, admired them, and photographed them on the deck, which has better light and less clutter than the dining room table.

But wait a second! Only some of that is Queen Anne's Lace. Most of it is something else entirely. I took a good look at it, consulted my trusted Newcomb's, and I'm pretty sure the other white wildflower is Yarrow. I cheated a bit--I wasn't having luck keying out the plant, so I went to the page that had Queen Anne's Lace on it, and sure enough, there was Yarrow--common on fields and roadsides, says Newcomb's. No kidding! In case you're interested in this sort of thing, Queen Anne's Lace has flowers arranged in umbels (like it sounds, it sort of looks like an upside-down umbrella), while Yarrow's flowers are arranged in corymbs.

If only we were having as much luck keying out our jellies! We see two species of jellies when we go netting in the salt pond behind the barrier beach. One is a comb jelly, and I can attest that it doesn't sting, since my daughter decided she didn't need a net and scooped one up with her hands. (That link talks about different species than we have in our bay, which is farther north than Chesapeake Bay, but I couldn't find a similar online guide for the species of Narragansett Bay. We have a great book, though.) The other is a glob of gelatinous goo that doesn't hold its shape at all. We think it's a kind of jellyfish, but we can't find it in our book. But maybe, like the comb jelly, it's not a jellyfish at all and we're looking in the wrong section. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Creative Space: July 7

I've been making progress on my holiday project, as you can see--or I was, until a headache got the best of me a couple nights in a row. Then I spent another evening sorting through the last three months' worth of digital photos, editing and selecting the ones to print. I do this every three months so it doesn't get away from me, and I know they're all on the computer, but it's not the same as sitting with the kids and flipping through the pages. They'll want those albums some day, I hope. At any rate, tonight I'll get back to it--sewing wool felt onto wool felt is just delightful, and I'm completely smitten with the results so far.

As for that big ball of string, it's Aunt Lydia's No. 10 crochet cotton. I so loved knitting my Hemlock Ring Blanket last winter that I tucked away the idea of making the doily version in the summer. Now it's summer, and I finally got around to buying some thread. That's 1000 yards of string for under five dollars--quite a bang for the knitting buck, don't you think? I haven't started it yet, and I'm worried the cotton will be too slippery against the metal needles (and I'm going to have to buy a circular at some point; I don't have a circular in size 1), but I can't use bamboo needles that thin--they'll break. Even my metal sock needles have a bend to them. Apparently I'm a forceful knitter?

The kids and I have also been creative... making sun prints on paper and t-shirts, and working our way through some science experiments from the Steve Spangler site. I tell you, it's like summer camp around here, except better, because we serve ice cream for afternoon snack every day.

See more creative spaces here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

How To: Create an Outline Font in Photoshop

Note: I’m using Publisher 2007 and Photoshop Elements 8.0.

Occasionally, when you’re sewing, you might want to appliqué on some letters or numbers—a kid’s name, initials, who knows? Or maybe you need templates for letters for a craft (some textured ABCs, maybe!). For a project I’m currently working on, I need some big numbers with an outline that’s easy to cut out. I suppose I could freehand draw them, but I didn’t want to; I wanted to pick a font I liked, size the numbers, and print them out so I had a template. So I went into Publisher, picked a font I liked (Berlin Sans FB Demi), sized the numbers, and realized I didn’t want to use up all that black ink when I printed them. This is an example of what one page looked like in Publisher (you can click on the pics to embiggen):

Yikes. That’s a lot of ink. So I decided I needed to figure out a way to convert it to an outline. I have Photoshop, so how hard could it be, right? The solution was blindingly obvious, except I couldn’t find the directions anywhere when I searched Photoshop help or online; quite possibly I was using the wrong search terms, but nonetheless, just in case you, too, are trying to do this someday, here’s how you do it.

If the font you want also exists in Photoshop, just open a new document, size it to 8.5” x 11” for easy printing, type your text, and pick up with the filter below. If not, once you’re happy with your text in Publisher, save your document as a jpeg—once you convert it to an image file you can’t edit the text. In the “Save as” drop down menu, you’ll choose “Jpeg file interchange format.” 

Open Photoshop and then open the jpeg file you just created. Go to filter: stylize: find edges.

Click on it, and boom—you have your outlines.

Make sure your color palette is something dark—I think my line color is black up there. I saved my number files as Photoshop PDFs, and then, because I plan to share a how-to when I’m done with this project, I merged all the individual PDFs into one PDF document using PrimoPDF, which is a free download. (Directions to merge PDFs can be found on their website here.)

I was ridiculously pleased to have figured this out, and a little chagrined that it was, in fact, so darn easy. I typically only use Photoshop for basic photo editing, and if I knew it better, probably this wouldn’t have taken me as long to figure out as it did. But in the event that someone else out there is looking to do the same thing and doesn’t know how, here you go! Save yourself some ink.

Friday, July 1, 2011


I skipped rainbow day (Thursday) at the Summer Colours Week Flickr Group, but while we were at the beach yesterday, I found some red for today.

This isn't quite the shot I had in mind, but people will get in the way.

My daughter happened to be dressed in red at the beach, too.

Not surprisingly, I've made about zero progress on any sewing or craft projects lately. Actually, after the first full week of summer vacation, I've made negative progress, because I pulled out the knitting project I'd been working on. You know how sometimes you're not really committed to a project? I thought maybe I could go up a needle size, I wasn't sure how much I was loving it, so when I dropped some stitches picking out a messed-up cable round, I turned it all into string and called it a day. I have no idea what I want to knit, though.

As for no-time-for-projects, I'm okay with that. I'm sure we'll even out a bit as summer goes on, but on the other hand, the kids have a scant 9-and-a-bit weeks of summer vacation. That's really, really not long at all. There is so much we want to do together, and not much time, and yes, I do feel like school is a huge intrusion on our lives, and my patience for it gave out somewhere around April vacation. Nine weeks! Ridiculous. So, no creative spaces post this week, but maybe next week. You never know.