Wednesday, December 02, 2009

New Projects!!!

I'm very excited to be part of a new outreach project with my EGA chapter - Gentle Pursuits of Richmond. We will be making two Elizabethan style coifs for the interpreters at Agecroft Hall. You can read all about it on the blog I write for the group . We hope to post regular updates as we work on this project. Let us know what you think!

Here is my practice motif. I think I'll need to try another!

My other exciting news is that I will be taking the class The Mermaid in her Grotto in February. I had originally been planning to take Tricia Wilson Nguyen's Goldwork Masterclass through her Online University, but then I saw the mermaid!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reading to Save the Planet

One of the collections librarians at my public library must be interested in "green" books because I always find something new and interesting on the shelves. This summer, I've read three of the many books I've seen there, and I can heartily recommend them. Of course I've been frustrated, embarrassed, angry, and hopeful by turns as I've been reading these books. Despite thinking that I'm living carefully, I've realized how little I do to help and how much I do that can hurt, but I think I've got some ideas about what more I can do help people and the planet.

Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World. by Amy Seidl, is an excellent book on global warming and climate change. Rather than quoting lots of climatological data, she makes things real by looking at how timing has changed for seasonal events. The change of dates for bird migrations and maple syrup gathering. The insects that appear early and late, out of sync with their bird predators. The lack of solid ice on many norther lakes and snow at northerly latitudes affecting ice fishing contests and winter fairs. It may be hard for some people to grasp the rise in temperature and sea level expected in 100 years, but most people can recognize a change in the seasons from childhood to adulthood. With lovely, sensitive writing about her family, home, garden and the woods around her in Vermont, Amy Seidl quietly brings people around to the problems of global warming and why we need to be concerned.

Along with global warming, I am concerned with all the chemicals people apply to their lawns, especially since we live next to the reservoir that supplies our drinking water. So I eagerly read 'A Weed by Any Other Name; The Virtues of a Messy Lawn, or Learning to Love the Plants We Don't Plant' by Nancy Gift. Despite starting out in a weed science program where she studied weed control in crops (i.e. pesticide use), Nancy Gift is now the acting director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. Nancy Gift lives in the suburbs so she understands the desire, and sometimes the need, to conform to the standard weed-free perfect lawns. But she is also a mother who worries about the effects of pesticides on her children and she loves many weeds and feels a green lawn can include them, along with grass.

I was especially interested in this book since our front lawn has been taken over by moss and a wonderful weed that is a perfect ground cover - it stops growing at about 3 inches, takes the shade, grows on the clay, and looks fine (I suspect this is mainly because the yard slopes down from the road and the strip along the road has some grass). I'm sure if my children were playing on it, it wouldn't work, and the backyard is not so great, but for the front it seems fine, and my DH has only mowed once the whole summer. So I'm all in favour of weeds.

I also have a fondness for small mammals - I did my honours thesis research on voles - so I like to see animal holes in the ground around our yard. And I'm happy our yard it filled with toads.

Anyway, Gift's book covers various weeds seasonally as she discusses ways to live without pesticides. She gives lots of ideas for ground cover and how to justify a weedy lawn to the community association and especially how children can learn so much from playing in a yard with a variety of plants. If you want to escape from the tyranny of feeding, watering and pesticide application, this book will help.

The final book I've had a chance to read is 'Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff' by Fred Pearce. Pearce has travelled the world to find out what really happens when food is grown and raw materials are harvested, and how things are really disposed of. It is frustrating that the fair trade coffee I buy to try and help is not quite a good as I hoped, although it is much better than regular coffee. And while some cheap cotton t-shirts are made by companies slaves and children, other companies provide women independence from their husbands and money to educate their children, despite the sweat shop conditions. It is all terribly confusing, but it also made me realize that we all need to be more concerned about where the things we buy come from. And as long as Westerners want cheap goods, Third World people will be exploited. Pearce also tells some more inspiring stories about people who are doing good things. WonderWelders ( ) uses money from selling refurbished phones to support a workshop of polio survivors making beautiful sculptures from scrap in Dar es Salaam. Projects to green cities, especially with edible plants, are growing. So Pearce leaves us hopeful - although we all have to work at it.

I have more reading ahead. Jane Goodall's 'Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink' and 'Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide' by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Both look wonderful.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Happy Mistake

A few posts back I showed the horse DD the elder drew for me to stitch for the top of another satin box. I used a nice chestnut silk I had in a few shades to give some dimension. I used the lightest to make the mane and tail using Turkey work, but then I had to stiffen the threads in some way to get them to go the way I wanted. Instead of looking in a book or checking the Internet for suggestions, I decided to make my own mistakes. I used hair products, reasoning that silk was protein like hair. So I sprayed a curl enhancer on, since it stiffens my hair. But, it was very wet and of course the colours in the silk bled all over the fabric. BUT, that was okay. It toned down the colour, which I wasn't completely happy with, and now the white fabric doesn't show at the edges after I cut the horse out. The curl enhancer didn't really hold the threads either, so I used hair spray in the end! So here is the satin box finished - only 4 more to make!

If it is the beginning of the month, there must be more geckos. Here is 6 - only one egg in this clutch. I've taken the photo with my new macro lens, but it is hard to work with a squirming animal.
This is the father Norbert. He has grown quite large - probably over 8 inches now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stumpwork Tudor Rose box done

Once the rose and leaves were done, it was time for a butterfly - all the Elizabethan things seem to have a bug of some sort. I decided on a blue butterfly to be done in detached buttonhole lace. First I laid the wire, then I started the fill. I tried first with some filmy sort of thread from a kit I cannibalized, but it was horrible to work with as detached buttonhole, so I switched to silk. The bigger wings I did from the tip in, and the lower from the body out. I made sure there was enough separation between wings when I set out the wire so it would be easy to stitch, but later realized it might be a problem when I wanted to push them a bit closer. It actually turned out fine - though I'm sure there is a better way.
Here are the finished bits, ready to go on the box.
And here is my finished box. I'm rather pleased. Actually, it isn't really finished since I need to cover the wires with some material on the underside of the lid, but that will be easy (knock on wood - famous last words).

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Stumpwork sepals close up

I think I chose the wrong photo yesterday, so here is an in focus photo of the bullion picot edge on the sepals, and the long buttonhole I'm using to fill in the inner part of the sepals. You can see the material showing through in the center - I've since poked through it to put the flower together. Paula is mainly right, bullion picot and buttonhole, but the ends are buttonhole as well, since I wrap wire very poorly. Since I can't find bullion picot instructions online, I'll have to direct you to sharon b's bullion stitch instructions, but make it a very short distance between the in and out points on the stitch, and add lots of wraps. Mary Corbet has a video that might help as well. I've looked through my books and can't find the one where I learned how to do it, of course. Hope this helps.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Stumpwork Tudor Rose instructions - part 2

A quick hint on tools for wire bending. I started out with the red handled size - a cheap kit for beading from the craft store - and then moved up to real tools from Home Depot. They aren't great tools, they came in a box with lots of hand tools and most were bigger, but the whole set was only $12 (around Christmas) so it seemed like a good deal to me. The larger pliers are much easier to use, so treat yourself to decent tools.So yesterday, I had a lovely stretch of time after work and completed my Tudor Rose. For the sepals, I used green paper wrapped florists wire. In this case, because of the sharp tips, I bent the wire first.
Then I tacked down the wire and started doing a long button hole over the wire to form the sepals.
I had to stop in the middle of it all because two more baby geckos were born. We are up to 9 babies, 2 adults (in separate habitats) and one egg, due to hatch in a month. The female seems to be gravid again - we found out they can store sperm for a year so who knows how many more eggs will appear.
Back to the stitching. I used bullion picot along the tips of the sepals to simulate the jagged edge of the sepals.
The cutting out was easy and it was no trouble getting close. I am very happy with the neat edges formed by my non-woven material, whatever it actually is called. I'll have to carry a sample with me so I can check whenever I go to a fabric store. (or I'll have to change the brand of sanitary napkins we use in the house) While you do have to be careful not to create huge holes in the material, it did form the nice edge I expected.
And here is the completed rose on the box top. Not the final placement, just a test, since I plan on adding more decoration and the rose would get in the way. I just poked a hole through the material, padding and cardboard base, for those who wonder how it got there. I'll glue a piece of felt to the underside of the lid to hide the wires when it is done. DD the younger pointed out that it was off center, but I actually meant it to be, part of the design I have planned, so stay tuned.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Stumpwork Tudor Rose instructions - part 1

There was some interest in the Tudor-style rose I did earlier this year as a pin. So this past week I started a new one and I've documented the steps. It is also a bit experimental because I did it on an odd fabric. I have been hearing and reading about using dryer sheets for various stitching and craft projects so when some sanitary napkin samples came wrapped in some really neat non-woven material came in the mail, I saved the wraps. As I was starting the rose, I thought, What if you do stumpwork with a non-woven material so you don't have to worry so much about cutting the shape out? Well, here is where we find out.

It was very easy to trace the design onto the material. I put the wire down for all 5 petals with one piece of wire. I did this because I wanted 10 petals in total, but I didn't want 20 or even 10 wires for the stem to go in the posy holder. So I tried this. The one drawback is you can't overlap the petals very well, like you can in this single rose I did a while back. So here is the wire placement.

Then I buttonhole the wire down. I try not to make all my stitches the same length so it blends better later when I do the needle painting on the leaves

Then I use satin/long and short/whatever works to sort of needle paint the petals. I usually make at least a couple of passes because I like the depth it creates and I don't feel compulsive about filling in every space the first time - since that leads me to build up too much in one place and leave others blank. This way I take my time and fill in what needs.
This is the back of the piece because I wanted everyone to avoid an early mistake I made. If you carry your thread from one petal to the next, go down to the center and then up the next petal or you have threads crossing the area you will cut out. Obvious I know, but I did it the first time.
So here are the petals all completed. You might not notice in this photo since there is a white background, but, the material in the center is barely there. While I had no problems with the buttonhole and satin stitch in the petals, the large number of pokes in the center almost removed all the center material - which could be a problem depending on what you do.
So, I had to get creative with the center and put bullion stitches across the center hole and then put French knots around and through the bullion stitches. Once I have the second set of petals in behind, I may add the beads I used in my other roses.

Hopefully I'll be able to post the rest of the steps later this week or next. The DDs get their wisdom teeth removed next week so I'll have a day at home nursing but I suspect the TV will be a better nurse. I'll just make milk shakes now and then.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Round Robin done and other fun things around the house

I actually have some stitching to show today. I finished my band on a Sampler Round Robin. It has really been wonderful getting a close look at the lovely work of everyone in the group. And it has been a great challenge to figure out the best design to add to each sampler. I used a pattern from one of my Hungarian books, but I used overdyed floss for the flowers to spice it up.
The curls fit with several of the other bands, which I would like to say was on purpose, but I didn't realize it until I actually stitched the band and had a good look at the whole thing.

My next project is a needle painted horse for the top of a small satin box I picked up at Michaels for $1. The last time I saw satin boxes at Michaels I only picked up one and they were all gone when I realized their potential and when back. This time I bought 3 green and 3 white. The horse will be cut out like stumpwork and stitched on a green one. DD the elder drew the horse so I thought I would get it photographed before I covered up her lovely design. I'm not sure if my stitching will do it justice.

This is a mosaic table top make by DD the elder. She did it at school year this year and finally got the table spray painted. It was a glass tabletop so it make a good base for the mosaic and it is very nice the way the light under the table warms the colour of the mosaic.

The spoils of a plastic horse convention - DD the younger went off to Breyerfest in Lexington, KY on a father-daughter trip. They had lots of fun, ate lots of junk food, went on two trail rides, and came home with lots of horse models. Now we have to add new shelves to her bedroom to fit these in.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Telephoto at the Zoo

I love taking nature pictures but I often get comments about them from my family - usually "Where is the animal?" It is a longstanding joke and I keep trying. Well, thanks to a lovely Mother's Day gift I have a very nice Canon camera with two lenses - a regular zoom and a telephoto zoom. I've used the telephoto a little at horse shows so I know it is nice. But today was the true test. DD the elder and I went to the National Zoo and I finally have some nice close-ups of the animals.
I love orangutans. (be sure to click on the pictures and get the full screen view)
And gorillas - this baby was born in January and the mother seemed to know the best spot to hide her from the view of the zoo visitors. Of course babies won't sit still so she peeped out now and then to the delight of everyone.
While not terribly impressive, this panda was at the back of the enclosure so it really is good - usually I just get a black and white dot.
And the telephoto is great for zooming in on elephant parts, because you really don't need a zoom to get an elephant.
I love otters too!
Now, I think I need a macro lens for the flower close ups!

BTW while we were in DC we went to some other museums (how could we not) and we saw a small but excellent exhibit Picturing Words: The Power of Book Illustration and the link is to an excellent online version - better in some ways because you can sit and really drink in the illustrations. Of course it is wonderful to see the original. Just like seeing some of Alan Bean's original space paintings at the Air and Space Museum is exciting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ginkgos and geckos

There must be a warp in the time space continuum of my life because I can hardly believe that it is nearing the end of June.  Despite reducing my expectations for what I want to accomplish this summer, I suspect I need to reduce my list even further.  But I have finished a pillow.  After getting the squares stitched down I decided on a palette of threads to embellish the pillow.
Here is the final pillow all sewn up, but without the pillow form inside so you can see the squares.  It is not heavily embellished since it must cater to all the tastes of the household.  DD the younger doesn't like it, but she may just be trying to bug me.  I carried the ginkgo leaf theme to the middle left burgundy square.
I was really pleased with the way the burgundy outline worked on gold in the corners
Because I mixed up ginkgo and gecko one time while trying to explain the design, I decided a gecko should go in the plain square, but then it needed some background so I used more ginkgo leaves.
As it turned out, the pillow was too small and the colour not quite right for the couch it was meant for, but it looks perfect in one of our chairs.  Of course, I make the girls take the pillow off the chair before they sit in it.
Here is our collection of baby geckos by the way - Baby 1, 2a, 2b, 3a, and 3b.  Clutches 4 and 5 are in the incubator and we will soon find out if New Caledonian crested gecko females can store sperm!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Just when I thought I had decided

I have a bit of a break from going into the city for work this week because of school exam schedules and early release.  So I'm puttering around the house doing all sorts of things.  Today I decided to reduce my stash of fabric by actually making something.  I mentioned to DH a while back that I should make pillows for the couch because it might detract from the dingy old couch - it is over 17 years old but it is still sturdy and it is a sofa bed.  I'm not quite ready to try my hand at recovering the couch, but colourful pillows I can handle.

So today I pulled together a pile of fabric that seemed to go with the living room and started a pillow.  I decided to use some green velvet from old curtains as the base for the front and also the back of the pillows.  So after some playing around I came up with this.
With the help of DD the elder, we decided that the greenish pieces in the middle of the top and bottom would help tie things to the back fabric.  But then I decided that I really liked the side pieces and tried it with all four center squares the same, but with a brown back.

I really like this one!  I like the original as well, but I love the burgundy and gold batik fabric so much that I think I'll stick with the second colourway.  Of course that means I've totally covered the green velvet, but maybe it will survive in the second pillow.

The ginkgo leaf piece in the center is a mystery to me.  I purchased a huge stack of fabric squares at my EGA guild silent auction last year so DD the younger had some interesting things to quilt with.  Well, since that hasn't happened yet, I went through the stack and found the gold leaves.  So I can't tell you anything about how it was made.  But it is really nice.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Altered tin ta-da

I've finished the president's challenge for my embroidery group - early!  Somehow this past week I had a few quiet evenings (don't ask me how) so I glued the top and finished the inside pillow for my Elizabethan embroidery altered tin.

Here is the top, done mostly in silks and gilt silk twist.
Here is the inside.  As mentioned in the last post, I chose flowers based on a Shakespeare verse, so I stuck a copy inside the tin lid, using a lightened flower photo as background.  The bottom embroidery is made up as a very thin pillow to set the pin on, to keep it from sliding around.
And this is the finished rose pin.  I will be making another rose, in a different colour, although I don't know what that will be.  I'm going to take photos for those who are interested in the process, since I forgot this time, I was just so keen on seeing if it would work.

All in all, I'm very happy with how things turned out and I think it will be appreciated by the recipient. 

I still don't have a photo of the science fair project.  It hasn't come home yet and I couldn't get a good photo at the science fair.  But DD the younger seems to have explained it all well, despite her blase attitude going in, and received a 3rd place in the chemistry division.  Which I figure is good for somebody who says she hates science.  I was personally quite amused by all the 'specialty school parents' - a subset of soccer parents - who were trying to outdo each other with stories of applying for the various specialty schools offered in our county and state.  Neither of my girls was willing to give up horses in order to deal with the longer bus rides and mounds of homework - which I'm actually quite happy with since it means they have a life and I do too - because who do you think would have extra work driving and supervising and buying supplies?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This and that and the other

This, is a wonderful mini reef embroidered paperweight from Paula at The Beauty of Life.  She sent it to me as a Pay it Forward gift.  I will decide soon how best to pay it forward.  In the meantime, if you want to make an undersea garden of your own, check out Paula Embroidered Paperweights post.

That, is another needlefelted creation.  I forgot to include this in the last post.  DD the elder made it for their riding instructor.  It is made to look like the filly we saw born last spring.

Finally, the other is another altered tin, this time for the president's challenge for my EGA chapter. I'm not done with this, but it will be the top.  I've based the tin on a quote from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream.  "I know a bank where the wild thyme grows...
The top has thyme and oxlips.
Inside, are violet and woodbine (aka honeysuckle).  I will finish this as a cushion.

And the cushion will support a rose/eglantine pin in a posy holder.  I tried a new technique with the rose.  There are 10 petals and I didn't want 10 or 20 wires, so I worked around all 5 petals in each whorl at one time, leaving me with only 4 wires.  This had the added advantage of making it easy to embroider and bead the center of the rose.
DD the younger is still writing up her science fair project, but I think I can safely say it is not a good idea to dye anything with koolaid unless you won't be washing it.  I'll post more later.