Thursday, May 27, 2010

Collage on the mail

I'm mailing a great article to a friend. (It's a piece in the latest issue of the Buddhist magazine Shambhala Sun, about waking up -- if you're curious, there's an excerpt here.) Like so many others, I don't send a lot of physical mail any more, so I was a little excited to have this opportunity to create a little mail art piece.

It's entirely collage from a flower catalog, glued onto a standard envelope. (I tend to hoard those catalogs, because the pictures are so pretty that I have a hard time throwing them out.)

A little piece on the left front side:

Mail art flower envelope (front)

I went crazier on the back:

Mail art flower envelope (back)

A little color in the mailbox -- what's not to like?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Sometimes I have trouble undoing my work when I don't like the way it's turning out. Why I am so attached to a few strands of thread, or a few beads, or whatever I need to change?

I had to talk myself into removing the orange daisies from my backpack panel. They were in the wrong spot, and not quite the right color. But part of me always wants the illusion of progress as I work -- that I'm getting something "accomplished" -- and tearing out an "accomplishment" makes me feel as if I'm going backwards.

I doubt that makes a lot of sense. It's very silly. Yet I noticed the resistance in me when I considered the idea of cutting out those daisies. I had to take a deep breath as I picked up the scissors. But once I began snipping threads and pulling them out, I relaxed. Now the panel is closer to the look I was hoping for. Which is an accomplishment.

Side panel of backpack, embellished

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

3 embroidered daisies

Today was dominated by science project mania, but I did manage 3 small daisies.

Embroidered daisies

I'm glad that I did a little something before I went to sleep.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Pretty buttons

Today I needed "pretty" -- something to work on that pleased my eyes. It had to be quick, and not a brain challenge. Too tired to think much tonight.

I gravitated toward the pink and green backpack I was working on in March. The outside pieces have been cut out, backed with felt, and stitched with some free-motion quilting. I've collected some buttons for further embellishment, so tonight I sewed a few on.

Buttons on pink

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Playing with blue paper

Not all of the dye has dried yet -- the t-shirt will be revealed tomorrow. Here's a peak at the paper:

Dyed paper, four ways

The top two samples were on white grocery bags, and the bottom two were on brown grocery bags. I love the intense, pure blue, yet I think the brown bags could be very useful, too.

Dyed paper doodles

The Sharpie doodles shine through the pigment dyes. Using the clamps to resist the dye worked fairly well. If I'd used less dye, there'd be more white. I find the back side very interesting -- there are places where the doodles bled through, leaving partial images.

Dyed paper doodles, back

I twisted up some of the paper, as I did for that spidery thingy a couple days ago. My fingers got a little blue as I twisted; maybe using a hot iron to set the dye into the paper would have been a good idea. I sewed the twists into a little lantern shape.

Paper twisty lantern

The paper doesn't hold its shape very well, as you can imagine, so it was a mistake to think it would bow out into a perfect lantern. It's good to experience what the paper can and cannot do.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Using up old dye

Friday was not a very creative day, unless you count sewing badges onto a newly-minted Boy Scout's shirt and hemming his uniform pants. I'm glad my son is moving up from Cub Scouts, but I didn't budget my time well. Oh well, it happens. The important thing for me is to keep going the next day. Otherwise, I start beating myself up.

Today I decided to experiment with paper again. I've had a bottle of diluted blue pigment dye sitting around for a long time, and it was time to use it.

As usual, the cats thought I was inviting them to play with the art supplies.

Gus sniffing dye jar 5-22-2010

Gus with sharpies

I cut open a couple of small white grocery bags, and decided to doodle on one of them.

Doodles on grocery bag

Then it was time to add texture.

Paper with doodles, crumpled

I covered the table with plastic and rummaged around for other things to dye. I wanted to pour as little of the dye down the drain as possible, and I knew I had a lot to use up. I found a white t-shirt that's a 50/50 cotton-poly blend -- perfect for pigment dyeing, because it will color the polyester, unlike procion dyes. I placed it under the paper that I planned to dye, so that it would absorb the excess.

I accordian-folded the doodles, then clamped them, hoping for a tie-dye effect. Bubba had to get in his sniffing at that point.

Bubba sniffing paper 5-22-210

Then I began to pour the dye. The blue looks pretty intense, but it won't be that bright in the end.

Dyed, doodled paper with clamps

Now it's a waiting game -- 24 hours for the shirt. I haven't unclamped the doodles yet, but some of the plain paper is already dry. This is a brown paper bag, simply crumpled and lightly dyed:

Brown grocery bag, dyed blue

I'm hoping for some interesting surprises when everything is dry.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oh the places you'll go . . .

. . . when you decide to create every day. Strange notions will pop up, and you'll decide to follow them.

Ross went off on a 3-day, 2-night camping trip with his school on Wednesday, so Chris and I had a little extra time to ourselves. I decided to do more free-motion quilting on the red and white patchwork.

Red and white quilting in sewing machine

I'm almost done with the quilting, and I've developed some ideas about how I'll put it together with the hearts I've been creating.

Tonight, Chris and I sat down at the dining room table together. He was working on his latest light saber (yes, you read that right -- he's built a couple of light sabers, complete with lights and sounds). The sewing machine would have made things crowded, so I played with an idea I had about twisting paper.

I still have some painted grocery bag paper left over from my zine covers. I cut 1/2" to 1" strips, approximately 7" long, and twisted and curled the strips. Then I sewed them together with hand quilting thread and a big needle (after I broke a regular needle).

I could hang it up, as an odd sort of tassel:

Paper twist thingy (hanging)

or I could attach it to something, as a weird flower, or hair for a doll:

Paper twist thingy

(Our cat Bubba thought it would make a great toy to chew on, but I rescued it from him!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things that fall from the sky

Today is the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Mount St. Helens. I didn't live in Washington at the time, so I only know what I've seen on the news and what I've heard from folks who were here. Spokane is on the other side of the state from the volcano, so the impact here was mostly the ash -- days of ash-fall, making it difficult to go about daily life.

Today there were more normal things falling from the sky, like raindrops. The showers washed flower petals from the blooming trees, creating carpets of pink and white and yellow on the ground.

Today I looked out the staff room window and saw that our church grounds had a thick coating of flowering plum blossoms. I loved the green of the benches in contrast to that soft pink.

Green benches and pink blossoms

Can you imagine a shower of pink petals erupting from some sort of enchanted volcano?

Flowering plum blossoms on wet stone

Monday, May 17, 2010


I felt disappointed this morning as I thought about my weekend. I had hoped to get in a large block of creative time, but chores and commitments seemed to block my path.

I'm still learning how to keep my commitment to my creative path.

Being gentle and forgiving with myself isn't easy. Anger arises in me when ego knocks around in my head, squawking "You should have gotten so much more done this weekend -- what's WRONG with you?! You wasted time, you fooled around, you didn't concentrate. You failed -- again!"

Sometimes anger is the fuel that pushes me. Tonight it felt like a force that I needed to release physically. Free-motion quilting appealed to me. The sewing machine runs fast and loud, I push and pull the fabric around, and there is a rhythm to it. It's almost mindless, but it demands concentration; it's a meditation of sorts. A good activity for shutting up the ruthless ego.

I quilted a section of the red-and-white patchwork fabric that I'm using to make the hearts. I suspect that I'm going to need it for the sculpture yet to come.

Red and white free motion quilting

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lawn mowing moment

I didn't post yesterday because we went to a movie, but I did finish stitching wrinkles into this heart's backing.

Heart with wrinkled fabric back

Today was a catch-up-with-chores day. While I was mowing the lawn, I thought it'd be interesting to take a photo of myself in that moment's reality: sweaty and tired. I parked the mower under a tree and played with camera angles. This shot was the best. I like the rogue strands of grass in the foreground, and I didn't need to crop it at all.

Lawn mowing did me

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stitching in the waiting room

I had a nice chunk of stitching time today while Ross was getting his teeth cleaned at the dentist. I finished up heart number 8 (it's the top heart in the photo), and I went back to an earlier heart (at bottom). I'd left the backing very loose on it, so I decided to tack it down with random straight stitches. Not quite done with it yet.

Red hearts (progress, May 13)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


My son had an assignment to create a diorama of a room featured in the novel, The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. We (his parents) didn't find out about the assignment until Monday, and were pretty ticked that he hadn't bothered to work on it last weekend.

We probably should have left him to flounder on his own, letting him learn the consequences of his actions. Yet Chris and I both like to make stuff. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to help with the diorama, because we think this sort of thing is fun.

Chris jumped in and created a grand piano out of cardboard and chopsticks, and he glued on a picture from the internet to create the keys and the inside of the piano. (Unfortunately I had to put small photos into this post -- you really should click on the photos to get a larger view.)

Piano and plants for diorama

When I came home from work, Ross had just started to concoct some potted plants. I knew I had tiny clay pots and some "silk" leaves, so it wasn't a great leap to make better-looking plants.

Diorama top

And so it went. We parental packrats went to our stashes and found fabric for carpeting and curtains, the metal from a windshield wiper blade for a curtain rod, upholstery foam, straws, etc. Ross cut and painted and glued along with us.

Diorama window and plants

It was a family effort. We worked together and learned together.

I asked Ross what he'd say to his teacher if she asked him if he had help. He thought for a bit and said, "I'd tell her that my parents helped me." I said, "Good. Because I think it's better to tell the truth."

We did not help so that we'd be rescuing him from a possible poor grade. We helped because we like to do this stuff. I know I may catch some flak for my choice, but so be it.

Ross through the diorama door

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I'd hoped to stitch enough to finish this heart today. But there wasn't quite enough time -- the session in the car, and the session in the audience, as I waited for my son's concert, just didn't add up.

8th quilted heart, almost done

My yoga teacher has a bag of quotations, on little slips like a fortune-cookie fortune; each student gets to draw a slip from the bag at the end of class. On Monday, one of my fellow students drew this out of the bag:
"Inches make champions." -- Vince Lombardi

It's a very appropriate thought for yoga. During every session, a practitioner is encouraged to work deeper into a pose; most stretches are not static. The quote fits my experience of creative work, as well. As I make things, I have periods when I seemingly make very little progress, and it's easy to belittle my efforts or to feel that I'm failing. But it's an effort in patience with myself. Visible progress may be measured in millimeters, but as I long as I persevere, it is still valuable progress.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More tie-dye and hearts

I didn't get a chance to rinse out my tie-dyed t-shirt until Sunday. (Your tie-dyed items can sit for longer than 24 hours if necessary; the chemical reaction stops after that time.) I am pleasantly surprised by the results. I wasn't sure I was going to like the green that was produced by the yellow and blue dyes running together, but I do like it. They're sort of Kool Aid colors, don't you think?

Yellow dots tie dye t-shirt

(click on the photo for a larger view)

I wore my orange hoodie to work today, and got a lot of compliments on it. In fact, some of my coworkers are asking about all of us doing a tie-dye session together. Could be fun!

I've started to stitch the eighth red heart.

Red heart (number 8)

Didn't get very far, but I bet I can squeeze in some more work after I post this blog entry. . . .

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A bright Mother's Day

The main reason I like tie-dye: it's somewhat unpredictable. I like the surprises as I untie and rinse the fabric. These dyes turned out brighter than I thought they would. The hoodie is gaudier than I would have liked, but hey, there are times when it's good to stand out in a crowd.

Orange tie-dye hoodie (back)

Orange tie-dye hoodie (front)

(Thanks to Ross for taking these photos.)

I decided to make some last-minute earrings yesterday -- I attended a Mad Hatter's tea and garden party, and the flower yo-yos fit the theme perfectly.

Flower yo-yo earring

A bright and cheery Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Orange tie dye in progress

Tonight I tie-dyed a t-shirt with turquoise, medium blue, and lemon yellow; also a terrycloth hoodie with brilliant orange, lemon yellow, and golden yellow. The photo is rather eye-popping, but I don't think the finished product will be that bright. We'll see . . .

Orange tie dye in progress

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flower Yo-yos

Thank goodness I have crafty things I can do when I'm brain-dead. I came home feeling very tired this afternoon. I took a nap, woke up still groggy, and picked up Chinese takeout for dinner. I didn't think I'd have any energy left for my 15 minutes of creative activity.

Then I remembered that I would like to make some flower yo-yos for my pink and green backpack. I found my Clover Yo-yo Maker, grabbed some fabric, and stitched up a couple. It's good to remember that I can make a little something, as long as I can stay upright for a few minutes. It all adds up.

Pink and green flower yo-yos

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rhythm and flow

I came home from work and crocheted while Ross did his homework. He watched me intently for a while, then said: "Oh, I see how you double crochet." Then he proceeded to describe the technique correctly. I remember trying to teach him how to do it months ago, but he was more interested in single crochet, and he never really got the hang of it. Now I think he could do it easily. His hands and mind have started to find the rhythm of crochet.

It's a dance, the way your hand works the hook in and out, pulling and twisting, creating loop upon loop. I take joy in the movement. I like the flow of it -- there is a meditative quality to the work. The present moment is where the hook does its work. My mind rests.

fabric crochet (decreasing rows)

I'm nearing the end of this part of the project, because I'm running out of fabric strips. What's next?

Monday, May 3, 2010


Fabric bundle

The irony of knotting fabric strips together, while other things feel as if they are slipping apart. At least there is the satisfaction of hands at work.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A couple more rows

Crocheted fabric 5-2-2010

Only crocheted two more rows today -- went as far as I could with the fabric that I'd already knotted together to form my "yarn." I'll probably tie more before I go to bed tonight. I've started decreasing (making the rows shorter), in order to make the piece easier to handle, and I hope it'll be easier to fashion it into a basket when I'm done.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Added 2 more rows of crochet today

three rows of fabric crocheted

I'm starting to think this will be a basket of some sort. It takes a fair amount of hand strength to crochet this much fabric!