Friday, December 31, 2010

Scarves for the new year

I've taken some time this week to wrap up a couple of projects.

The first project is a scarf that I began crocheting while on vacation in Michigan this summer. I bought a gorgeous hand-dyed wool and started working right away. On the flight home, however, I realized that I wouldn't have enough yarn to make the scarf as long as I like. I looked through my yarn stash, and found a cotton/poly 2-ply with almost the exact same color scheme! The colors are more muted, but I think the two yarns look great together.

Multicolored scarf

One-third of the scarf is the 2nd yarn. The combination is subtle - it takes a beat or two to see that there's a difference.

Multicolored scarf - 2 yarns

The second project: I've had the rusted fabric sitting around my house for a while, not sure what to do with it. I decided that I'd like to dye it again. I added a third piece of muslin to the pile, and added more rusty objects this time. It occurred to me that I could cut the fabric lengthwise and make a very long scarf out of it. It was hard to be patient with the dyeing process, but I am very pleased with the results.

Rust scarf

Since the rust will keep working on the fabric (the process never completely stops), it will eventually develop holes. I like the idea of embracing that natural decay. I tore the fabrics instead of cutting them, and sewed them by hand, leaving the edges ragged. The scarf will unravel and rot over time.

Rust scarf close-up

(This, too, shall pass.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas joys

Christmas Day

Christmas smiles and joys . . .

Ross with Yoshi

(Yoshi was crocheted by EnemyAirship, whom you can find on Etsy.)

Chris reading Ross' card

Ross with Star Wars t-shirt

Ross opened this present and said, "Oh cool, a venn diagram!" Do I know my kid or what?!

Chris and Ross playing Wii at Christmas

Must play the new Wii games, of course.

The cats liked their presents, too.

Gus playing with Christmas toy

Bubba with Christmas present


December 26th

This afternoon, Ross and I visited the annual Christmas display at Gaiser Conservatory.

Christmas lights and cactus

Ross in the Christmas light jungle

Ross in Gaiser light display

Self-portrait side in Gaiser

Looking forward to the new year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Want to see the zine swap?

Remember back in September when I produced this zine for a swap? Now you can see photos of all of them. And let me tell you, there were some jaw-dropping zines! Alma Stoller has posted photos on her I Heart Zines blog -- check it out!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Photos of the season

Part One
I painted some quick gift tags the other night, but made the mistake of leaving the wet paper where our cat Gus could get to it. Of course he walked right into the red paint! Luckily, Chris caught him before he left Christmas footprints all over the place.

Cat feet with red paint (and whiskers)

Cat feet with red paint

Part Two
The sun peeked out just a tiny bit this afternoon. I grabbed my camera to take photos of the berries on my neighbor's mountain ash tree.

Mountain ash branches with snow

Mountain ash berry bunches

Mountain ash berries with snow

Mountain ash berries with red orange blur

Mountain ash berries close-up

Mountain ash berry on snowy fence

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas craftiness: a green nativity scene

My church has some sort of program or class almost every Wednesday night. As the staff was planning our December offerings, it was suggested that we could do a craft night for the whole family. We were also planning a nativity scene display, and thought it would be fun to help people make their own nativity scenes which they could add to the display. Well, guess who got to design the craft project?

I knew I'd like to use as many inexpensive supplies as possible for this project. Since I knew I'd have young kids and parents in this class, I thought it would be easiest to find something three-dimensional to be the main body of each piece. Some sort of box or tube . . . ah ha! Toilet paper rolls. Readily available and free, and easy to upcycle. Perfect.

My sample nativity scene looked like this:

Nativity scene with cardboard tubes

I decided to give the people a simple head scarf and robe. I glued a piece of fabric onto the roll for a robe, leaving about a third of the roll uncovered to become the head. Then I cut more fabric for the head scarf. I folded the fabric to find its center, and then glued it over the area that I wanted to be the face. (Ideally, the center of the fabric should align with where you'll draw the nose.) I only glued it around a third of the tube. The head scarf can be easily trimmed if it's too long in the back.

Mary in nativity scene

You can see on Joseph how I gave the scarf a couple of folds, and then tacked them down with a little glue.

Joseph in nativity scene

I found it easiest to draw the faces last. I used markers; some of the craft-night folks used crayon, or glued on googly eyes.

For baby Jesus, I cut a toilet paper roll in half. Then I wrapped the roll in a piece of fabric that was extra long, so that it would look like "swaddling clothes." I glued it at the top like a head scarf, but also under the chin. Again, I drew the face last. 

Baby Jesus cardboard tube

The manger turned out to be easier than I thought. I cut a roll in half lengthwise, then used double-sided tape to connect the two pieces at the curve.You could paint it if you wanted. Some folks in my craft class glued yellow yarn in the top to create straw.

Manger with cardboard tubes

The animals were a challenge. Luckily, I had some fabrics in my stash that made great sheep and cows and donkeys. (Look for remnants at the fabric store or clothes at the thrift store that you could cut up.) I'd make big animals (horses and cows) with full-sized tubes, and cut them smaller for smaller animals.

I used chenille stems (pipe cleaners) for legs. Each 4-legged animal needs two stems. Cut them both in half, so that you have 4 pieces. Fold each piece in half, then twist the ends together to create one leg. Bend over both ends a bit. One end will be where you tape the leg to the tube, and the other end will be a foot. Feel free to add knees, too! After you tape on the legs, then you can glue the fabric onto the tube. The fabric will cover the taped portion of the legs -- you may need to cut small slits in the fabric to get it to fall where you want it. I didn't put a tail on my sheep, but it's easy to do. Cut a circle of fabric slightly larger than the end of the tube and glue it on for a solid behind on your critters.Then attach a tail to the fabric circle.

It was easiest to glue paper faces onto the bodies. I found some nice animal faces on free internet coloring pages, which I thought would be less stressful for people than to tell them to draw faces on their own. These were cut out and glued on last.

Sheep in nativity scene

So there's the basics. I'm sure you can come up with shepherds and wise men and chickens, and you could even construct a little barn, too. Jane LaFazio has a great version of a toilet paper tube angel on her Flickr account. I didn't use paint because I didn't want to deal with the mess of a large group, but you certainly could. I hope you enjoy making your nativity scene as much as my students did on craft night!

P.S. Sharp scissors (preferably fabric scissors) are a must for this project. Parents, please help your little ones cut fabric safely.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Yesterday's icicles

Winter sunshine can be a rare thing in the Inland Northwest. Yesterday, the temperatures rose and the sun peeked out for a little while. I grabbed the camera and stepped outside to admire the icicles on our church building.

They are so beautiful, and so ephemeral. Especially when they are melting fast!

Icicles dripping from roofline

Icicles were falling off the roofline and smashing into the snow and slush as I shot these photos. Had to be careful not to get hit by one!

Shining icicles

I am in love with the way icicles show off the sunshine.

Bright icicles

A wondrous, drippy world.

Water drips in front of tree

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In gratitude: five things

Five things I'm grateful for today:

1. My exercise bike is ready to go whenever I am.
2. Space heaters. My office and my basement would be uninhabitable in winter without them.
3. Deadlines. They make me crazy, but I'd probably never finish anything without them.
4. The generous people who post free images on the internet. Thank you for saving me, time and again.
5. Email. (Yes, really.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Word play

When I see some idea, several times in quick succession, I know that I'm supposed to try it out. At least three times in the last couple of weeks, I've read about the idea of making a collection of words -- going through old books or dictionary pages or what have you, and gathering the ones that attract your attention. Every person I've read gives credit to Susan Wooldridge and her book Poemcrazy for the idea.  Liz Lamoreux talks about it in her new book, Inner Excavation.  Diana Trout used this idea in one of her journal nudges on her blog; who am I to resist trying it?

I grabbed a couple of very old books off my bookshelf, and wrote down whatever struck me. Then, I chose ten words at random (with eyes closed!), and challenged myself to write a poem with them. To create the two-page spread, I loosely painted my journal with watercolors. I decided to cut out my long word list, and tuck the pieces into a pocket created from a magazine photo. Diana's nudge suggested creating a tab for the spread. I cut out some thick stock from an old calendar and taped on two tabs. I wrote down the poem, and contemplated doodling on one or both pages, but decided to stop there. The words should be the focus this time.

Journal spread 11-28-10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When in doubt, just keep going

I have no doubt that I've been in a funk for most of the autumn. There are lots of reasons, but no excuses. Do you know what I mean? I can blame outer circumstances, and I can blame myself, but what use is any of that? Blame is wasted energy. Right now, it's more important to me to keep going. I know that I must keep doing something, anything creative.

I bought a package of three small Moleskine journals. Nothing fancy, just simple cardboard covers and blank pages. They are light and thin -- perfect to carry in my purse. I put 4 pens in there as well, thinking a small selection would tempt me to use them all, but most of the time I've been using only one.

As a mother, I spend time waiting for my child. Most days, it's just a few minutes. The perfect moment to take out the Moleskine and do something. This was a rough 5-minute sketch:

Garbage cart sketch

Nothing great. But it's something.

Occasionally I get 15 or 20 minutes of waiting time. If I'm not sleep deprived, I'm usually eager to scan my surroundings for a subject to sketch. And if I like the sketch enough, I may go back and add color later. The next two sketches have colored pencil.

Street scene sketch

Pumpkin figurine sketch

There's something very satisfying about playing with colored pencils, trying out colors, seeing what I can mix together to approximate what I saw. It's an appealing way to end my day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dyeing with rust

I first saw fabric dyed with rust on the cover of Belle Armoire, September/October 2007. (Maureen Cox's stunning aqua-and-rust duster can be seen here.) I've thought about playing with rust over the years, but I finally got around to it last week.

It's a very simple process. Wash the fabric, apply a mixture of vinegar and water, then add your rusty objects and let it dry. Wash the fabric again, dry or iron, and voila! Rusty fabric!

It's usually recommended that you do this process outdoors because of the odor and the mess. However, I thought I'd try dyeing a small batch of fabric in my basement, where I could keep it away from kid and cats.

First step: dig out my rusty object collection. Doesn't everybody have rusty stuff laying around the house?! Oh yes, not everyone is a packrat like me. If you don't have any rusty things around, you can easily create them by soaking iron or steel objects in some vinegar and water for a while, outdoors. Or go on a scavenger hunt into a garage, junk yard, barn, estate sale . . .

Rusty stuff for dyeing

I chose to use bottle caps. I have lots, and I thought I'd make a simple pattern with them. I decided to sew them onto a 9" x 12" piece of white muslin.

Rusty bottlecaps sewn on fabric

I pinned a second piece of muslin on top of the first piece, reasoning that the rusty bottle caps could easily do double duty. I figured the pins would rust, too, adding extra marks. I carefully wet the fabric and wringed it out a little, then placed it in a plastic container and soaked it in white vinegar for a minute. Wringing the fabric out again, I then spread it out in an extra-large ziplock bag, and placed it on a high basement shelf. I didn't seal the bag, wanting the fabric to air-dry slowly.

Rusting fabric in ziplock bag

The rust formed pretty quickly.

Rusting bottlecaps on fabric (in process)

After a day, I took the fabric out of the bag so that it would dry faster. I noticed that some of the bottle caps weren't getting any rust onto the fabric, because the fabric wasn't firmly touching them. I placed some glass jars and plastic containers on top of the fabric, and that seemed to help. (Next time, I'm going to try placing bags of rice or sand on top, to create better contact.)

Once the fabric dried, I pulled out the pins (very tough to do!), then cut the sewing thread and removed the bottle caps. I washed the fabric in hot water and put it in the dryer.

Rusted bottlecap fabric

Each bottle cap left a unique imprint. The fabric was wet enough that the rust migrated, so a lot of the fabric ended up at least a little orange-brown.

Rusted bottlecap fabric (close-up)

I wonder what I'll do with it now?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Buddha's autumn

A couple of members at my church recently donated a little Buddha statue for a meditation path that will someday be on our grounds. He is resting under a tree near our peace pole for now. This morning I noticed that he had some beautiful maple leaves resting on his arm, so I decided to take out my camera and see what I could capture.

The light wasn't great, but Photoshop helped brighten up the images. On the second photo, I added some texture and played with the contrast.

Buddha profile with autumn leaves

Buddha hand with autumn leaves


"As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground in the fall, we are reminded that nature's cycles are mirrored in our lives. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden. All the religious traditions pay tribute to such acts of relinquishment. Fall is the right time to practice getting out of the way and letting Spirit take charge of our lives."

-- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, on Spirituality & Practice

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Collaged journal page (part two)

Diana Trout's nudge #7: Paint gesso or white paint over your five-minute collage and draw into the wet paint with a pencil.

I am a big fan of FULL color, but I decided I'd give the "whitewash" a try. I attempted to apply gesso thinly in the spots where I wanted color to come through, and I wiped some of it away if it seemed too heavy. But it dried very quickly -- too fast to get the effect Diana was going for. So I had a very white page on my hands!

I took out my markers and pens, and drew back over the photos and words that I wanted to preserve. I added words that popped into my head as I worked. Then I added a little embroidery for visual interest. This was easy to do, since I'd done the collage on a separate sheet of chipboard. (I like to do elaborate pages on their own substrate, then glue them into my journal later.)

The re-drawing made me think about the images I'd chosen. A pseudo-story emerged before my eyes.

Black paint or gesso could be interesting, too. . . .

Journal page 10-30-10

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Collaged journal page (part one)

Journal page 10-25-10

Inspired by Diana Trout's nudge #6 -- a "5-minute collage" -- which took me more like 45 minutes. I stopped tearing out photos and words to read some of the magazine articles I'd missed! Plus, I couldn't resist fiddling with the placement of the photos a little bit, but there was no stress involved.

Now I'm off to work on Diana's nudge #7 . . .

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Beautiful October walk

We've had gorgeous weather most of this month. Today I finally took out my camera and went for a walk in the sunshine. I cannot resist Manito Park when the leaves are in their autumn glory.

A view of the Japanese garden through the fence . . .

Japanese garden

The crop of leaves is ripe for the picking (with my eyes.)

Yellow birch leaves at the fence

I found myself noticing striking patterns -- bark, shingles on a roof, mushrooms, pine needles, and more leaves.

Red Japanese maple leaves against green

Looking up and trying to decide how to frame the views -- what an embarrassment of riches.

Ponderosa and red Japanese maple