Thursday, March 29, 2012

Small Things in Various Stages of Completion

Thanks for all your kind words on the circles embroidery for the 4x6 exchange. I sent it off yesterday with an extra stamp and a note explaining why (I heard back from the Art House Co-op folks and that's what they said to do). I wonder what I'll receive in return?

I have been falling short left, right, and center in my solo parenting role this week. I sort of hoped, after ten years at this job, I'd be better at it. In between meltdowns (mine and my children's), I've done a little creative work here and there. First, I decided I wanted some interesting, handmade note cards on hand for when I send off a package and want to include a note. Nothing crazy difficult to make...I just wanted to play around.

My kids have been spraying canvases with liquid watercolors, so I started by spraying red, yellow, and blue watercolors on a sheet of watercolor paper. I did them one after the other, so the colors blended quite a bit. When the paper was dry, I dropped on some black ink with a dropper and then tilted the paper so it ran in spots. When that dried, I brushed on some gesso here and there with a wide brush. I haven't played with gesso at all, really, and want to figure out what I can do with it.  Then I sliced up the paper into six 4"x6" pieces and printed them sparingly with circles and purple acrylic paint. Some are bubble wrap prints, some a small cork (the kind you can buy in a craft store--so smaller than a wine bottle cork), and some the end of a plastic tube. Fun.

Above is a second Baby Yours sweater in progress, and the embroidery that distracted me from working much on the sweater. After much consideration of other patterns, I eventually decided to go ahead and make another Baby Yours, but modify it to eliminate what I don't like about the pattern. This should be easy enough, given I've already knit it once. The embroidery is on a piece of fabric I printed, and it's Irish Moss (ETA: a type of seaweed) in progress. (I've shown it before as a stamp.) Since I didn't have the energy to post this the same day I took that photo, I get to show you the finished embroidery, too. (The sweater looks about the same, though.)

I'm going to finish this one similarly to the circles and I think it will be my contribution to the local gallery's 4"x6" fundraiser.

A note on trying to transfer the drawing onto the printed fabric...I tried to use stabilizer, because it's certainly easier to see a transferred pattern on a white background. But I really don't like stitching through paper into fabric. So I started over and used an iron-transfer pen instead. If you click on the in-progress photo to make it a little bigger, you might be able to see how faint the lines are in some places. They just don't show up well on blue/green textile ink. I kept the original nearby to consult when necessary and fudged just a little bit. But since it's my drawing to begin with, and I know Irish Moss quite well, it all worked out in the end.

I'm linking up with the folks at creative spaces and am kind of surprised I managed to join in this week!

Monday, March 26, 2012

4x6 Exchange, Take Two

I've decided that my overlapping circles embroidery will be my contribution to the 4x6 exchange. That link shows it in progress, and here it is finished.

I am really, really happy with this. While the skunk cabbage watercolor is okay--perfectly acceptable, I know--this feels more authentically me. Now, one caveat being that this 4x6 piece of embroidery weighs just over one ounce, which means one stamp won't cover it. Since we send in a self-addressed, stamped envelope to get someone else's work back to us, I'm not sure how that's handled. (The rules just say it has to lie flat to be mailed.) I emailed to ask. If this is too heavy to swap, or I don't hear back by the postmark date of Saturday, I'll send in the skunk cabbage instead.

So, back to the embroidery. I cut a piece of book board to size and sewed the embroidery around it. I followed the instructions in Stitch-opedia, but it's more or less like this. I didn't take a photo of the trussed-up back in progress. Here's what it looks like finished.

I need some work to make a nicer label thingy to go back there, I know. The plain piece of cotton hides all the thread work and is sewn onto the embroidery fabric.

One more view of the front!

Seriously, so pleased with this. I want to start another one (but different) right away.

{Thanks for all the good vibes you're sending my way! I can tell they're helping.}

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In The Mail

Lots of fun in my mailbox this week, as postcards have been arriving thanks to iHanna's DIY Postcard Swap. I've received eight so far, pictured here with the personalized wrapping Caterina used. I've left this photo a little bigger, so if you click it you should get a much better look.

Roughly top to bottom, going left to right: Caterina's "Home Sweet Home" ccollage; Vesna's "Be You" paint and washi tape collage; Yvonne's stitched fabric card; Madelene's woman card; Quinn's found poetry card; Paula's cheerful red and yellow painted card; Susan's "She loved books most of all" collage; and Chris's goddess collage. (I don't know if it's really a goddess, but it reminds me of one.) How cool are all of these? I'd love to show you close-ups of every single one, since they all have some amazing details. You can see lots of postcards in the Flickr group. I want to share the quote Madde included on the back of her card, though.

Kinda what I need to hear right now...

Also in my mailbox this week, I received my first Whimsey Box!

It's just so sweetly packaged, with a pretty postcard telling what's inside. Glue stick, stick-on magnets, Sharpies, trim, and patterned paper, which you can't see at all, so here's a better look.

Luscious, is what that is, especially with that lace and rick-rack.

Anything fun in your mailbox lately?


I typically try to keep background chatter off this blog, but my husband is away for the next week. This isn't an uncommon thing (although this spring has been lighter than usual), and I'm usually pretty on top of the solo parenting. I typically handle it all, with something approaching aplomb. During his last work trip, the dishwasher broke, the cat killed the TV by puking into it, and I was diagnosed with Lyme. That's a fairly typical solo parenting week, actually. However, due to non-bloggable background stuff, I'm not feeling too confident in my abilities to handle even the daily schedule on my own, never mind the random crazy. So if you'd take a minute to wish for a calm week in these parts, I'd so much appreciate it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Finished Knits: Mitts and a Baby Sweater

I have some knitted things to show you (and some I'm not showing you, since I managed to knit myself the most unflattering sweater ever...). First up, fingerless mitts knit for Jen:

This was the exclusive in the Squam store last month--the yarn is by Jill Draper and the pattern, Pinehurst, is by Natalie Selles, just for Squam. I didn't have even the least tug toward buying either, overwhelmed as I am by the bins of yarn in my basement and more than happy with my modified-to-suit-myself Evangeline mitts. (I've lost count how many times I've knit those mitts as gifts. I can nearly knit them in my sleep.)

However, when Jen mentioned in the Squam Ravelry Group that she'd pay someone to knit them for her, I offered to do it. For free, of course. I've pretty much decided not to knit for money, ever, because knitting needs to stay a centering activity for me (we're not talking about that unflattering sweater, remember?), not a stressy thing for income. So she had the yarn and pattern sent to me, and I asked, in return, that she learn how to knit.

The yarn is absolutely gorgeous, lovely and soft. The pattern gives lots of choices--type of cuff, length of arm, plus three sizes. This is the horizontal cuff, long arm, size medium. Supposedly you only need one skein to knit these in any size, but see that itty tangle of yarn in the photos? That's all I had left. I was weighing as I went. I did have some trouble with the numbers given for this size/cuff combo, and I emailed the designer as suggested in the pattern. Normally I'd just work it through on my own, not email, but I really wanted to send Jen the mitts exactly as designed. But I never heard back to my email--maybe it got caught in spam? Regardless, I reworked the numbers in question, referring to the numbers given for the small size as my starting point, and after that it was smooth sailing. (Ravelry project notes are here.)

Is it weird to offer to knit something for a relative stranger? I dunno. I don't think so...I wanted to offer, so I did. Not too long before that, she'd sent me a really nice email, out of the blue, about what I'd been struggling with as far as Lyme (this after I posted my February DDD of walking, to help with the pain and fatigue). It happened to land in my inbox on a day I'd been particularly discouraged with Lyme out in the real world. Would I have offered to knit for her if she hadn't made that connection? Dunno. I do know I like to knit, and I was more than happy to, well, make her happy. Good enough, right? It's kind of a people thing, in that, people should do nice things just because we're all people.

So anyway, that's the mitt story. Before them, I knit this:

That's the Baby Yours sweater (project notes here), knit for one of my son's teachers, whose wife is due with a boy early next month. I won't lie; I am not crazy about this sweater. Oh, it's cute enough (and isn't that little gift tag I made adorable?), but I'm worried it's too small, and it's wicked fussy to sew all those pieces together, plus the end result doesn't look comfortable to me, with seams at the shoulders, down the arms (and I don't like those increases either, the arm looks like it tapers too much toward a too-narrow cuff), and on the sides. I knit the smallest size because I figured, how long will a baby due in early April wear a sweater anyway? (Especially this year, geez!) But it looks super small to me. Maybe I've forgotten how tiny new babies are? Although I'm not sure my full-term babies were ever that small. (The preemie, yes, but even he was a good size for a 34-week birth.) I really hope the parents get at least some use out of this.

My original plan was to knit two of these, one for another upcoming baby, but now I'm not so sure. I bought enough Socks That Rock Mediumweight (colourway In the Navy) for two, but either I'm going to have to make some mods to get rid of those uncomfy-looking seams, or I'm going to have to find another boy-suitable pattern in sport weight.

Also, kind of random, but I kept wanting to ink up that cable and make a print of it. So I may be knitting that cable again either way, just to ruin it.

Anyway, there you go. Proof that I occasionally still knit, too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Small(er) Things, Embroidered and To-Be-Embroidered

Remember that Japanese fabric that told me it wanted to be embroidered? I've begun.

(That was taken after dinner on my back deck because the weather has been beyootiful!!!)

Here's almost what it looks like now, not including what I added while I sat on the deck while my daughter played in the sandbox because the weather has been...oh, you know. I already said that part.

This right here is several things. Firstly, it's just under 4"x6", by design. Secondly, it's the first time I've embroidered on a multi-colored background, except for the August Stitch-a-Long, but that was different. I've admired many of the pieces I've seen that embroider on top of patterned fabric and finally got the nerve to try it (because the fabric told me to). This is just a simple design, so so basic--overlapping circles of primary colors, definitely not anything complex there! But I'm discovering that as the colors in the fabric gradually shift, my perception of the seed stitch against the background subtly shifts too; in other words, it's more interesting than I anticipated. It makes me want to try more (adventurous) things with color shifts of floss against color shifts of background.

Also, I think I am drawn to this piece of fabric because I had a similar-looking flannel shirt in college... (Pearl Jam, yes! Nirvana, blech).

I was intending this piece for a local gallery's Postcard Fundraiser (which does not appear to be limited to local artists--please click the link if you're interested). But then there are these...

(Photographed on the big rock in my yard, in the sunshine, because the weather has been...right, you know that already.) These are stamps I've carved, printed on cotton using textile ink, each 4x6. One of the thoughts I had while reading Hoopla was to try mixing embroidery with other images on the fabric. So these were heat-set the other night and are waiting to be embroidered upon, when I'm done with those circles.

I have some knitting to show you, too, but that will have to wait until the next post. But before I go, I wanted to share some of nature's own elegant weaving that my middle child spotted this morning:

Linking up with our creative spaces (click to see more creativity!).

Monday, March 19, 2012


Cameron, it turns out, is working her way through Drawing Lab and looking for company. And while I tend to do exercises as they strike me, not in order, and while I'm not sure I'll do one a week like she is, I went ahead and did Lab #6, "Index Card Multiples," over the weekend. You're supposed to start with a simple line drawing of a dog and a stack of twenty index cards and a big fat marker, and then draw that dog twenty times. This forces you to let go of detail--you're working small with a big marker. So I stacked up my cards, used the fat end of a marker, which still wasn't as big as a chisel-point marker, found a reference picture or two of a dog I liked, and got to it.

That's the whole twenty of them, plus my handknit socks (I was standing on the stool to get the picture). Also my coffee mug in the top right corner. I would grind to a miserable halt without coffee. Anyway, sometimes I tried to use the fattest part of the marker to force myself to let go of those details I was getting hung up on--I was working from a photograph, not a simple line drawing. Plus the photo I picked was of a BIG dog, and I was having a hard time fitting him onto an index card. Here's a closer look at the first ten.

And the final ten.

For the first one of this group I switched photos, to a close-up of the dog's face, but then I went back to the full-body photo, changing the orientation of the cards for five drawings to try to get more of the dog's body in--which, when I was drawing it, looked all different from what you think it looks like, just like hands and arms, when we really look at them to try to draw them, look sort of awkward and wrong. Anyway. These are my twenty big-dog sketches using big marker on small index cards.

I have lots of things to share this week--I've gotten four postcards in the mail so far, each one is lovely and happy-making, and I'm thinking at the end of the week I'll post what I've received by that point. I have some knitted stuff to show, and some embroidered stuff too...I'm having fun.

Oh, almost forgot! The dog is Elizabeth's dog Henry. I love his expressions. The two photos are this one and this one. And I'm linking up with Cameron's Lab #6 post here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I have boys, which means I've patched my share of holey knees. Both my boys wear size slim pants, which aren't available everywhere and therefore aren't cheap. For a while there, I was patching knees constantly. This year the rate has been younger son tripped at the beginning of the school year and ripped a hole in a brand-new pair of pants (argh!!), and my older son's favorite corduroys just required patches on both knees. It took me a night or two to work up to it--patching isn't my favorite thing to do--but he was so anxious to get them back, and then so happy when they were done. It's humble, the patching, but it's satisfying that I can repair with my hands, extend the life of an item of clothing, and make my kid happy, all in one swoop.

I also have a favorite pair of jeans, the ones I embroidered poetry on. My first-ever embroidery, actually, was practicing chain stitch to make a spiral on some batik denim, to turn into a patch when the left knee began to wear out. (The poetry came next.) When the right knee needed patching, I was lazy...I just cut a circle from a torn, rag pair of jeans and blanket stitched around the edges. (The denim frays, but the stitching contains it. It's easier than trying to stitch through a turned-under edge.) Well, earlier this week, I looked down an this is what I saw:

Ack! I decided it was time for another cute patch. I found some more of that batik denim, embroidered around some of the shapes in a bright lime green, then blanket stitched it on with bright orange. Because this fabric is thinner than the circle patch, I tried to cover all the edge. Here's what the jeans look like now.

Hmm. It was cloudy this morning. Here's a close-up of the old spiral patch with the new patch overlapping it.

Isn't that fun? Although it kind of looks like a mushroom house. So, I went around the edges twice. The first time, I was spacing the blanket stitching and aiming to get the thing on. It can be hard to get patches on without them buckling sort of funny, especially in a stretched-out area like the knee. The second time around I filled in the in-between spaces for as solid an edging as I could manage.

I keep the patches on my boys' pants plain and straight-up, but I can have a bit more fun with my own. These jeans make me smile, they're so bright and cheery. And this patch didn't take that long, especially doing a little here and there. I finished it up Saturday morning--I've been working on little tasks here and there all day--patching, sewing buttons, weaving in ends. Lots of stuff to share this week!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Creative Space: 4x6 Exchange

So I signed up for the Arthouse Co-op's 4x6 art exchange, but it's making me sort of stressy, I think because when I signed up instead of "name" in the name box, it said "artist." I nearly closed the browser tab right then. But I didn't. So I need to come up with "art," versus those fun loose postcards that might be called mail art by some but Hanna gave it the way less stressy name of "DIY Postcard Swap" (and by the way, that link goes to the post with the links to everyone's postcards and they are amazing).

I think I should put my head away, really, and just have fun with this, but in the meantime, I tried to make a small watercolor painting instead. Remember the skunk cabbage from yesterday?  I sketched it a bit while we were walking, and then tried to paint it, using the sketches and the photo as guides.

After I took that photo, I added in some highlights that are probably completely unnoticeable, using white conte crayon.

I don't know, technically, this has problems, although it does look like skunk cabbage, if you know what skunk cabbage looks like. (My daughter, when shown this, id'd it right away. That's my girl!!) I haven't decided if this is worthy of an "art" swap. Maybe I should take another approach--printmaking, maybe, or collage, or even sewing. (A local gallery is holding a postcard fundraiser, with submissions due later in April...I've got something sewn in mind for that.)

The more I look at it, the more I'm thinking no. What do you think?

Linking up with our creative spaces...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


The calendar says five more days of winter, but the weather has been all about spring this week. Monday my daughter and I spent all day at the zoo. Yesterday morning it was rainy, but we still fit in a walk in the afternoon. I've been continuing to try to walk at least two to three times per week, usually turning around at the mile point for a two-mile walk. Two weeks (or so?) ago we walked all the way to the end of that road, for about a 2 1/2-mile walk, and I felt pretty awful afterwards. (In October, pre-Lyme, that walk was fine.) So anyway, I've been consistently walking two miles and it's been good.

Along the way, wherever swampy freshwater wetland borders the road close enough so we can see it, we look for skunk cabbage. This is what it looks like at this time of year, late winter/early spring, just starting to poke up. It can create its own heat to melt ice and frozen ground as it blooms (not that that's necessary this year). I showed my daughter what to look for, and once she recognized it, she was able to spot it everywhere, even far back where I don't notice. Now when I put her in the stroller, she says, "Let's look for skunk cabbage!" Skunk cabbage is a wetland indicator species in Rhode Island. In other words, if you see skunk cabbage, it's a freshwater wetland (and subject to regulations--leave that swamp alone!).

Yesterday, we thought we heard frogs. On this morning's walk--all the way to the end of the road with no ill effects!!--we were sure of it. We heard a riot of frogs, squawking loudly. They sounded goose-like. There are wetlands all along that particular road, bits of swampiness hidden behind upland trees, which will probably be bone dry in August, but right now they are literally hopping. We didn't see any, even at the pool closest to the road, but boy did we hear them.

After lunch we headed to a local park that has a playground. It also has a very small pond with a beach area. Apparently it's popular in the summertime, especially for families with small children, but I've never been; we always go to the ocean beach. But today I suggested we walk down and look at the water.

She started like this, throwing sand into the water.

Then she progressed to this--and look at that glorious springtime light!

And it wasn't long before my girl, who hates wearing socks, even with winter boots, went all the way to this:

Low 60s--perfect toe-dipping weather, no?! Meanwhile, I sat down on the sand, sunglasses on, sun warm on my face, bliss.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sketching at the Zoo

Monday's weather was supposed to be fabulous--and it was! Over 60 degrees at home, and ten degrees warmer in the city, where my daughter and I spent the day at the zoo. She's been asking to go for a while, and here I was, with a beautiful weather day and no plans. The bathroom, in dire need of cleaning, was ignored. To the zoo! With sketchbooks!

Over the weekend, I received an Amazon order. (My husband and I were jointly given a $50 Amazon gift card for Christmas. He turned it over to me.) It included Drawing Lab: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun For Mixed-Media Artists. I don't know if I'm an artist, never mind a mixed-media artist, but I do want to get in the habit of drawing daily, and I wanted some fun prompts. I love this book already. One of the "labs" is to sketch at the zoo. Why had I never thought of that before? There are several tips on how to approach moving animals, including gesture drawings (of course) and starting drawings and going back to them when the animal returns to that pose, tips on how to do this with a three-year-old along... (this is only a sampling of the sketches, many of which were even less successful...clicking should make them a little bigger)

I brought her sketchbook too, and gave it to her while I tried to sketch chickens. Chickens move fast, and mostly they were showing us their back ends, pointed up to the sky while they pecked. While this was amusing, and rather characteristic, I think, of a chicken, it got old fast. Unfortunately, I used up my daughter's interest in her own drawing with the uncooperative chickens.

I did a little better with these fish, which were (a) inside a building and (b) really interesting to my daughter, who loves fish. I was only able to sketch a bit of that scale pattern, enough to remind me to see if I can find more photos of this type of fish online, and maybe mimic that pattern via stamping.

Super quick (maybe a minute, if that?) gesture drawing of my daughter watching the tortoises.

Three-year-old human
Three-year-olds move at least as fast as chickens. {And, you know, ignore that hand.}

I really wanted to sketch the camels, from the minute I thought of bringing my sketchbook along. Camels have such personality. When we got to that exhibit, one's back was to us and the other's face was hidden behind a tree. Eventually I found a decent vantage point, and then realized that these animals, which looked at first glance to be completely motionless and lying down, never stopped moving. Up, down, shift, move a leg, stretch the neck, every time I tried a quick line contour and came back to where I thought I'd begun, I was somewhere else. (Good Picasso-style camels, I suppose.) Finally I quickly managed this:

...and looked up, only to realize my daughter was several feet down the path, climbing the wall. (Look at that horrible mother, letting her child get away while she...what is she...drawing? What the hey?!)

I gave up on the sketchbook after that! But it was still fun, and something to perhaps try with my older kids, another day. I've already shared another "lab" from this book with them, turning watercolor blots into creatures. This was my result:

I explain how we did it and share the boys' work, too, here.

Like I said, I'm completely loving this book so far! It's so much fun, not stressful drawing at all, which is what I wanted. I have taken drawing classes, a very long time ago, and I enjoyed them very much (and was better at it than I thought I would be, at the start), but it's been years and you sort of lose confidence in the connection between your eye and your hand. So something fun is a good way to get back into a drawing habit.

ETA: Taking Karen's suggestion, I linked up with Paint Myself Pretty's do-it-together Drawing Lab link thing.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Winter Tree in Watercolor

One of my challenges to myself this year is to get out of the house and find the real-life community I've been missing. Sounds simple, right? But I've spent the better part of the last decade home in the evenings, nursing kids before bedtime and generally being on-call (this was by choice; I'm not complaining), which meant getting to a knitting group or sewing class or anything at night, really, was just not happening. Now that I can do such things, the challenge is to get myself to go, because it's easier to let my natural homebody impulses take over, get into pajamas when the kids do, and snug up at home. But I'm not going to meet anybody new that way, am I?

A couple of weeks ago, while I was out for knit night (see? I got out that night!), I saw a flyer for a one-night watercolor class at a local store. One-night classes are great, especially at this time of the year, when my husband travels a lot. So I went home and signed up. On Friday my daughter woke us up at 5:30, and we spent most of the day out and busy. By the time dinner rolled around, my eyes hurt, I was so tired. I filled a travel mug with coffee and went to the class anyway. I'm so glad I did!

I wasn't sure what to expect, and I was so happy with the class. I hoped she wouldn't have us copy her exactly so we all ended up with the same painting, although I figured I'd at least learn some techniques that way. But she didn't! She had a stack of photographs of winter scenes and she had us each pick one. I smiled when I saw most of them included trees; it seemed like a good sign. Then she talked us through how to approach the painting, which means I came away feeling like I'd learned quite a bit in only two hours. Although I've been playing around with the watercolors at home, I haven't had the confidence to make that leap to attempting anything representational. I understood the general process, but I really needed someone right in the room saying You can do it, and this is how.

I came home full of happiness, and my husband and oldest (who wasn't in bed yet) were suitably impressed--it's nice to have an in-house cheering squad. (My husband has mentioned it would look nice in his office.) It's a first try, but it's given me the excitement and confidence to try some more, on my own. The instructor is a natural-born teacher; she teaches kids and adults and clearly finds her joy in sharing what she knows and inspiring others.

This was a good way to begin the weekend. I hope you are enjoying yours!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Winter Trees II

This is my second go-round with the winter trees theme. I'm calling this embroidery, although I suppose it's also applique.

Here's a photo of the back.

So you can see the white linen is the ground fabric, and I added the negative space with the black to create the birch trees. I both machine-sewed and hand-stitched the pieces. My intention all along was to blanket-stitch the edges, which were left raw, by hand, but I was concerned about shifting, so I zig-zagged them on the machine first.

Here's a detail:

I do think it's hard to get the feel for this just through a photo. Every here and there I added some longer blanket stitches extending in, and in a few middle areas I satin stitched and then snipped some threads, to give the feel of peeling birch bark, and the naturally fraying edges contribute to that too. It worked out more or less like I'd hoped it would, when I was figuring it out in my head. It is, I think, deceptively simple looking--and actually, rather simple in execution, once I had the shapes the way I wanted. (Although since my main time for handwork is after dark, I nearly blinded myself stitching on black linen with black floss...luckily a couple of weeks ago Joann's had Ottlites on sale and I bought a small floor lamp to go behind my chair. So I'm not completely blind yet.)

I haven't forgotten my embroidered trees. My challenge to myself this month is to enter something in a local arts center's open show. (Drop-off is actually in early April, but I need to have something ready.) Last year I asked my older kids if they wanted to enter something--it's truly open to all, if you're willing to pay the entry fee, which is only $5 for kids. They both did, but I chickened out. So. This year I'm entering something. It needs to be 12"x12" and ready to hang, so I considered various ideas, in consultation with my sister, on how to get the embroidered trees to comply. This is the solution I like best:

I'm basically matting it with fabric (black linen again). I cut into the black piece and folded the sides back to have a neat edge bordering the embroidery. I'll sew that by hand, and this way I'm not cutting the embroidery fabric. I'm going to wrap a 12"x12" canvas with the black fabric, centering the embroidery. I prefer that to framing it. What do you think? Opinions are welcome, as I haven't done anything beyond pinning yet.

If I can get the birch trees into 12"x12" format, I may enter that one as well. We'll see. I just need to follow my children's example and proceed fearlessly and confidently...

Shared with our creative spaces.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pretty Things + Surprises

I had the sort of week where every single night, I went to bed thinking, Tomorrow is a new day and I will do better. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday...I failed to do better each day. I was so far from the me I want to be. In part I blame February, such a tough month for me. I know last winter was colder and much, much snowier, but I feel like this winter has been darker. We got more sun last year, and whatever we got was intensified by all the snow cover. I think that's the difference. In the understated way my husband has, he ventured, "You always have trouble in February and March." This was some point after a kitchen drawer literally fell apart; eight years of me slamming it shut when irritated in the kitchen finally took its toll. Thankfully, after that, I stopped falling apart too. Friday was better. Want to see?

Four headbands I've made lately, three of them finished up Friday morning. The two larger ones on the bottom are mine, made from fat quarters bought just for that purpose. The two smaller ones are my daughter's, from stash fabric. Aren't the colors so springish and bright? On purpose, of course. I really do love these. They take minutes to sew up, they're so useful (my hair is long, long, long and heavy, too, and my daughter's is also long, and elastics slip right out of her baby-fine hair), and I always get complimented on them. I'm planning an embroidered denim one next.

After that, I put the stroller in the car and my daughter and I drove into town. Wednesday and Thursday, it was cold and wet--not only couldn't I take a walk, but the damp bothered my hip. Today the temperature hovered near freezing, but it was sunny and dry. I parked at one end of a stretch of bike path and walked the path from there to Main Street, where we stopped into a couple of stores. At one, I paid for a one-night watercolor class I'd signed up for over the phone, and at the fabric store, we did a little of what I called February Recovery Shopping.

Two fat quarter bundles and a 1/2-yard cut--that's the polka dots--for another headband for my daughter, because why not? She likes to pick out fabric too. Fat quarter bundles are the fabric store equivalent of a nice skein of sock yarn. You want something, you don't have anything in particular in mind, and they're so pretty. This store makes them especially pretty, don't you think? You can't see all the fabrics in this photo, of course, but on the left is a variety of beautiful greens, and the right has four pieces of Japanese fabric that feels lovely and told me it wanted to be embroidered on somehow.

When I got home I found unexpected goodies in the mail. I think I mentioned I participated in the Squam Double Dog Dare for February? I said I was going to walk at least twice a week, because I felt that moving my body would help me recover from the effects of Lyme and help me with the quicksand naps I was falling into daily. I'm happy to say I both made good on my word, and that it has helped. And this is what the Squam fairies sent me:

Yes, that's just the package. It's decorated. I had to take a picture before I opened it. There's a note on the back, too.

Honestly, I don't know how they have the time for such personalized love, how Elizabeth and her staff are keeping the spirit of Squam so true as it gets so big. This is what my daughter and I found inside:

My daughter helped me empty it, which is how we ended up with sparkly blue stars all over the rug!

Notecards, a dog tag that says I'm a top dog, glitter lip gloss, sticky notes (which is awesome, because I'm always hunting for sticky notes while I'm knitting), and FLOWER SEEDS!! Because spring, oh spring is coming, y'all. Oh, and everything was wrapped in what I think is a doggie neck bandana. Hmm, maybe I can get the cat to wear it? I'm sure a stuffed animal will be pleased to receive it, if the cat isn't.

And another sign of spring landed in my mailbox today:

That, my friends, is this year's National Poetry Month poster. Those of you who have been reading since I first began blogging elsewhere may remember that often in April, I posted a poem a day. I'm considering doing that again. I love poetry, love it, I love sharing it, it makes me happy. Spring and poetry and pretty things and walking and surprises and getting through Friday behaving more like the me I want to all makes me happy.

{P.S. I set myself a March DDD challenge too...and you don't have to be registered for a Squam workshop to participate. There's something about publicly setting a goal, no matter how big or small, and feeling accountable, that does wonders. There is a lot of good energy over there.}

Thursday, March 1, 2012


I've completed the postcards for the postcard swap! So before I show them, I'll tell you that I always have a nagging feeling that whatever I make won't be good enough or up to the standards and that's a main thing that has been holding me back on this sort of thing. I signed up anyway. (I'm trying to be more open, remember?!) There are lots of small things that I wish were a bit better with these postcards, the biggest being that I tried three different types of glue/paste, the final one being the rice paste I use for bookbinding, and set them to dry under or in a big huge book (my art history book, which is great for this sort of thing), and some of them still have a curling problem. I hope it doesn't cause an issue in the mail sorting machines, and I wish I knew what to do about it.

So anyway, these are my finished postcards, in sets, and here are the papers I began with for the collages, if you want to look back. Some of them look very different once cut up!

These are more or less random collages in that I had no plan when I began and simply wanted to play with the papers and see where it led me. I think the two on the right, and the one on the bottom, are the most successful. The bottom one was created by cutting the striped paper into one-inch strips and then piecing them together, almost log-cabin style but not quite. I find the stripes much more interesting this way. Each bit becomes its own little composition. I really enjoy slicing painted papers into smaller pieces for just that reason.

I've been thinking of this next set as the "seashore set."

After these collages were dry, I stamped them, using blockprinting ink. You can see where it took me a couple of tries to realize that where the paper joins, I needed to apply a bit more pressure. I'm actually okay with this skip where it occurred though. It's proof an actual person made these, yes?

If you count, you'll see that's just nine. Going against my own wise instinct, I tried to paste too-big a piece of vellum onto one of the postcard blanks, and it curled horribly. Since I needed to make more, I decided to make extras. These four were watercolored, then block printed.

Totally abstract, and I like them quite a bit. I cut the watercolor paper to size, then used rice paste to glue the watercolor paper to the postcard blank (I'd printed these out on cardstock, so I could personalize them with the swap date, my state, and my name and blog address). Most of them didn't curl too badly. I accidentally smudged some ink on the bottom right one though, so I don't think I'll mail that one out for the swap. The stamp, by the way, was carved at a parent/child program, with a textile design as the inspiration.

So those are my postcards. I hope they hold up through the mail. I hope the recipient enjoys them. Despite my huge insecurities with this sort of thing, I went ahead and signed up for the Art House Co-op's 4x6 exchange today, so I'll be thinking on what to do for that next.

Shared with our creative spaces...such an inspiring community of bloggers!

Some other fun things around the web lately:

* I have a post on Kidoinfo on the wonders of freezer paper for the uninitiated.

* After a couple months of waiting, I received my Whimseybox invitation this month and signed up. I just think it sounds like a cool challenge and a way to explore different materials. I was pretty excited to see the invite in my inbox, and the first one should arrive, I think, while my husband is away, so perfect timing there! Fun things in the mail are always nice when I'm holding down the fort alone.

* You've probably heard about Taproot by now. I was really excited to get an email telling me that I would be receiving a free trial issue because I'm a Nova Naturals customer. I don't remember how or when I first came to Nova Naturals, but I know I only had two kids at the time. When I first saw the announcement about Taproot, the fact that Nova Naturals was involved made me more interested. I have always admired not only their products, but their philosophies and customer service (plus they're located in the only state without a coastline I'd ever want to live in, Vermont). Their catalog is so beautiful that when my daughter was a toddler, she would carry it with her everywhere. I love the toys we've purchased from them; they have a soul. Even after reading of their involvement, I was completely surprised that they'd send a trial issue. Really, these small considerations make me so happy! And I'm eagerly awaiting to see the magazine in person. (Yes, I subscribed, too..they had me at "valued customer!")

I hope your days have contained some sweet surprises as well!