Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bird Envy...

How cute are these fancy birds? I loved them the minute I saw them, and of course immediately wanted to make one. Barbara, who attends our weekly quilting and crafting group, made the stylish felt ornaments some time back. She's supposed to make lots more but her sewing machine belt broke, so she brought them to the group to see about getting them stitched on our community machine. When that didn't work out so well (the machine gobbled up the narrow beaks), I offered to bring them home and stitch them for her on my machine. I figured it would give me a chance to study and enjoy them, and it might cure me of feeling the need to make one myself. And it worked... it didn't take long at all to stitch the shapes and now I don't need to make one. Just having them visit my sewing room was enough. Plus working on my own machine, with the needle-down feature and better stitch control, the bird beaks made it through just fine. Could this be the cure for UFOs? Just have an admired quilt or project visit in my sewing room for a few days, and I won't need to start one of my own? Nah. It couldn't be that simple.

Below are are a few of the bird bodies stitched and stuffed. You can see they're just simple shapes. All the pizzazz comes from the added beading, sequins, detail features, and embroidery. I've finished almost all of them, and returned them to Barbara to get started on embellishing. The flock has flown home now. Bye-bye birdie!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Elevating the Humble Tin...

I've just completed an online swap of altered tins with other members of a Yahoo group known as Mixed Media Art Friends. I created two altered tins which were filled with embellishments and small treasures, and sent them to my two swap partners. They returned the favor, sending me tins that they had altered and filled with goodies.

The "Flora" tin shown above was made by decoupaging crinkled brown paper to the top of the tin. The top was then aged with paint and ink. I used a free image from Clearly Vintage, and added some flowers, gems, and text. The "Venezia" tin was done in a similar manner, and includes a tape-transfer image of gondolas. The "Flora" tin edges are beaded with adhesive and secured with Diamond Glaze. The "Venezia" has applied ribbon on the edges.

The Daisy girl image is repeated on the inner lid, which is lined with stitched patterned paper. And here are the little treasures packed inside both tins.

So those are the tins I sent out, and here is what I got back. Both of my swap partners live in Arizona. Marrianna's tin, left, is loaded with beads and shells, and contains an embellished Chinese coin charm with a proverb attached. It reads "If there is beauty in character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world."

Florence's tin is the snappy red tool box. I admire and wonder at how she managed to install the handle on this. And I've always liked this vintage war-time image. The messages inside say "Caution: Men at Work" followed by these words, "Women work all the time- men have to put up signs when they work." And my favorite, "Keep Calm and Carry On." Words to live by!

And to think these tiny works of art began as a simple tin of mints. Fun stuff!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Going in Circles...

The annual Honeybee Quilters' Retreat in Jacksonville was a couple of weekends ago, and the group did their usual fine job of organizing several days of classes and fun for dozens of quilters. This year, I took a class taught by quilt artist Carol Taylor titled "Arc-I-Texture". You can see a series of quilts made using her techniques in her gallery section.

Our supply list included a selection of fancy fabrics like satins, silks, sequined, sheers, and drapery fabrics. We were to adhere them to fusible web ahead of time. In class we then created a background using squares and rectangles of the fabrics cut from the fabrics by fusing them to a muslin base. There are no seams, so we next learned to couch yarn. This method allowed us to cover the areas where the shapes butt up against each other. If you look closely, you can see the red yarn I used to accomplish this. Carol sold an assortment of yarns suitable for the project in class since it requires yarn with a fair amount of texture... but not too thin, not too thick, not to furry. The piece changes quite dramatically with the next step.

Once the background was couched, we got to the fun part... sewing the circles on the surface. Carol is an excellent instructor and we got the hang of doing this quite quickly. The circles are also completed by couching.

The class was very enjoyable, and this is my "practice" piece. That's beacause at the half-way point while driving to Jacksonville, a thought popped into my mind- did I, or did I not, bring my fused fabrics?? In all my preparation of things to bring with me, I did not pick up the tote that had them. Next question- well then, did I pack the red backup fabrics which were not yet fused? They were not my usual color pallette, but fabrics I had on hand. Happily, the answer was yes. So I spent some time the afternoon before class fusing the fabrics you see in this project. I have another potential project waiting in the wings, all fabrics fused and ready.

Lily, who considers my sewing room to be her personal playground, was enchanted by yarn couching. Carol uses a rigged-up drinking straw attached to the sewing machine to feed the yarn smoothly. All that yarn moving was pure delight for Lily, who interfered often, causing several stops and starts for me while finishing up the project.

These photos show two classmates' projects. One, just the background, the other, background with couching.
Love the faux-fur piece in the one on the right, and the plaid at left.

Below is one of Carol's class samples. By the way, these are not large projects. Each of ours measures about 15"-17" square. So I need to think about how to use it. Pillow? Tote? Wallhanging?

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Long, Tall Display Heart...

This pin-keep heart is another of the projects I made as part of the Roses on My Table mixed-media art group. A few of the elements still need to be stitched in place... they're pinned for now. But it's an easy-to-sew project, and provides a place to showcase embellishments (of which there are many!). I have a number of pins tucked away in the jewelry box that will now get out and about, and be seen for a change.

The hand-crocheted piece at the bottom of the heart, seen in the photo below, is from the edging on a pair of pillowcases given to us by a family member as a wedding present. The pillowcases wore out, but I trimmed the lovely edging off and kept it for just such a project as this. We just celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary last week, so it seemed timely to finally give a small piece of the edging a home. It just goes to show that the creative "stuff" we hang onto does eventually have a use. I can get quite lost in sorting through buttons, beads, and trims! It's a very happy pastime.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

You Gotta' Have Heart...

I saw the pattern for a valentine quilt like this in "Pretty Little Mini Quilts", a collection of small quilted projects by various designers. The pattern was by Cindy Cooksey, and I just had to make my version in time for the holiday. I used burgundy taffeta for the whole cloth background, and then added fused hearts cut from assorted cotton, silk, and fancy fabrics. The edges of the hearts are finished with a buttonhole stitch, some by hand and some by machine. I machine quilted "blocks" using decorative machine stitches. And then I added a few embellishments to the hearts, including some bits of hand tatting done by a woman in my sewing group. She brings me little bags of her pieces. I love using them in small projects like this, and admire her skill. At 12" x 15", the quilt is not much bigger than a sheet of printer paper! But it was fun to make. So here's to St. Valentine, the patron saint of engaged couples and happy marriages, love and lovers. Oh yeah, and patron saint of bee keepers, epilepsy, fainting, plague, travellers and young people according to the Catholic Online site. The plague and love? Really St. Valentine??

Friday, February 4, 2011

Remember When?

A community member donated a whole box full of old sewing notions and patterns to our quilting and needlework group. It was fun going through the items, and I brought these home with me. Not so much because I'll use them, though I might in some of those vintage-style note cards, but more because I just liked them. They reminded me of sewing through the years, and how things gradually change so that we barely notice. Zippers with metal teeth are hard to find now. So are wooden thread spools. But just look at the prices on these notions! Every item less than fifty cents. I wonder when these were purchased? I like old notions almost as much as I like old quilts, and am drawn to antique store displays of pincushions and sewing ephemera. Now I have this little collection of my own.