Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So You Wanna Felt Some Sweaters?

Or, I could call this entry my Year End Compendium of Cool Stuff and Dismal Failures. Rather you are new to felting sweaters and cutting them up to make new things or have been at it for a while, you may find some good information here.

Sourcing the sweaters:
Let's start with the basics. Most of my sweaters come from thrift stores. Wednesday is the best day for sales at Salvation Army. Goodwill tends to be more expensive so check for their half price color of the week. Tag sales can be an option too and once your friends know what you're up to they'll give you sweaters. The sweaters must be 100% wool to reliably felt. Do check the tags for content and care instructions. (Sometimes they hide them on the side seam.) If it says machine washable put it back. The wool has been treated and won't felt. If there are no tags, put it back. Whenever I take a chance on a sweater without tags I invariably get burned. Also, keep in mind that other wool items can be felted too, scarves, skirts, jackets and coats are all worth consideration. The easiest way is to get your sweaters from Resweater on Artfire: http://www.artfire.com/users/resweater

Protect your washer, dryer and pipes.
Sweaters can throw off an incredible amount of loose wool. I use an old top loading washer that drains into a utility sink. My husband glued an inverted wire mesh sink strainer over the drain to catch the fibers and save our plumbing. Granted, I do a fair amount of felting but you should be aware of this. Make sure your dryer lint collector is clear before each load rather you're drying sweaters or not. If your dryer vent tube is one of the plastic ones you should replace it with a metal or foil tube immediately. Even if you never dry a felted sweater this is a good idea. Your local Fire Department can tell you that many house fires are started when lint in the dryer vent gets too hot and ignites. In a metal vent it quickly burns out. In a plastic one the fire burns through and away it goes. Please, go check this now. If you have the plastic vent and it has brown marks on it, those are burn marks from the times you already got lucky.

Felting in your washer.
Ok, you've got some wool sweaters to felt, now what? Well, you could just put them in with a regular load of laundry, separated by color and set to hot wash/cold rinse. But before you jump into it, take a few moments to look over and prep the sweaters. I turn them inside out to protect the right side from too much fuzzing, check for moth damage, mend it and separate by color or dark and light. I usually take off buttons and zippers too. If a sweater has finished knitted edges on the pieces I'll take out the sleeve and side seams. (This won't work if the sweater was cut from knitted fabric and sewn together on a sewing machine.) Sweaters were not intended to be washed so some will bleed like mad, particularly reds and any dark saturated colors.
Each sweater has its own personality. Some will felt well with one wash others may need a second wash. Or you can add a kettle of boiling water once the wash starts to agitate. I set my machine for the longest wash and sometimes turn it back before the rinse to agitate longer. Leaving the lid open stops the machine before the wash drains so you can check it. Unfortunately, the newer machines may not let you do this and because they are made to be more gentle, don't felt as well. You could take your sweaters to a laundromat, hopefully one with older machines.
In my next post I'll talk about the fun stuff, making projects and why I love my clothes shaver.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree, part 1

When I was a kid we lived in a rural Connecticut town on the edge of the Cockaponset State Forrest. Driving home from work one evening my dad found a small owl lying stunned in the road, so rather than leave it so vulnerable, he scooped it up and brought it home. He had a friend who was licensed to rehabilitate wild birds so he called him up and we took the owl to his place. It was an awesome visit! We got to see the hawks who were recuperating from injuries up close. There was a barred owl they had named George sitting on a stump in the kitchen recovering from an injured wing. The family cats were prowling around just outside the reach of George's tether, eyeing his unfinished dinner. They had learned the hard way that even if he looks like he's sleeping, it's a bad idea to mess with a barred owl's dinner! But we weren't a threat to George's dinner so we were allowed to pet his head. Our fingers sank into the softest feathers imaginable. Adding to the magic of the visit, it was about this time of year and they had an enormous Christmas tree in their cathedral ceiling living room.
It turned out that my dad had found a saw whet owl. My sister and I had been calling it Victoria, but Victor would have been more appropriate. After an examination, Victor was pronounced to be fine, he'd just need to rest overnight and then could be released. My dad's friend casually walked over and placed Victor in the Christmas tree.
That was the inspiration for my just for fun project after my last craft show. I'm calling my owl Seraphina. She's made out of the same felted wool sweater material that I use to make my hats. We just need a Christmas tree for her to sit in.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Progress on the Folk Boots

Here's a quick shot of the project so far. Not the best shot but you get the idea. I need to set it aside for now to finish a custom order and put a lining into a hood for a customer who can't wear wool. I also hope to get out to pick autumn olives for jam. It would do me some good to be out in nature but first I need to plant some mushrooms on a wreath,
I have a new incentive to deal with our messy house. I have a client who is dead set on a studio visit to pick up a hat for his wife. This might just do it!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ya Gotta Keep Yer Feet Warm

I need new slippers since the ones I made for myself three years ago have been patched and resewn about as much as they can take. My inspiration for the new ones is this pair of man's socks from Georgia. They are in that wonderful book I got at the Westport library sale, Folk Art in the Soviet Union. They are more like boots than socks, but made for indoor wear. There is so much going on in them,but the design doesn't fall apart. I splurged and bought a pair of black suede soles. My homemade ones have always turned out to be too big. If I had drawn the pattern the size of the store bought soles I know I wouldn't have believed it was big enough and I'm tired of sloppy-floppy slipper boots. The original socks were thickly knit and then embellished with beading,applique and buttons. I'm making mine from a nice piece of fulled woven red wool lined with red brocade at the top. The embellishment will be added to that base, with pieces of sweater felt and crewel embroidery taking the place of the knit patterns. Last comes a bit of beading and the pearl buttons.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I've Got My Tinfoil Hat On

Well, I did it again - fell out of the blogging habit. The weather has finally cooled off and I'll be photographing and listing hats up here so I'll probably get back to blogging. I dyed a piece of beige wool a soft blue for the background behind my hats which means I'll be replacing some photos that were taken with the overly bright blue fabric background.
This is going to be a random sort of post. For anyone thinking about signing up with Propay to take credit cards - do it! I had my first experience with it last Sat. at a fair and it worked great. I'm so glad I did it. It was a ferociously hot humid day so sales were a little down. Who wants to try on a wool hat on a day like that? That's why I don't do summer shows. I felt sick from the heat all evening even though I tried to drink lots of water. On the up side, the fair itself was great and I won Best Of Show!
The picture is my entry in a tinfoil hat challenge we had going in the Etsy forums. It was fun and I really need to do something silly to change things up a bit.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shaman's Hats

Friday was going to be spent with a friend but she had to cancel. It must have been meant to be because I was ready to put the inspiration I'd been soaking up from Folk Arts in the Soviet Union to good use. These are my two favorite hats. Since getting the book last Sat. afternoon I've looked through it every night before going to sleep. This gives my mind time to absorb and mull over the pictures so by the time I sit down to work I've got them sorted out. If you've never tried this, you should. Another trick is to look through a book like this upside down. You'll see the shapes differently, not so much as what the subject actually is.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bridal Mushrooms

Is there anything more rich looking than white and cream when shape and texture tell the story? As much as I love color, every so often I need to go with this color way. I really recommend it to refresh the eye. It can be so satisfying to play the variations in color and surface, one of the few times I can wholeheartedly agree that less is more.
This rainy thundery Monday has started out well for me. I finished these two pieces and opened my mail to find I'd sold a hat on Etsy. On Saturday Dan and I went to the Westport Library Book Sale and I think I got the bargain of the day. Folk Arts of the Soviet Union, a beautiful Abrams book loaded with inspirational pictures was only $5. I'm in design heaven!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Crocheted Socks that Don't Suck part 2

Here's the new and improved heel. I'm glad that I set it aside long enough to convince myself that it was worth it to rip it out and do it over. My biggest help in making knit or crocheted socks has been Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' Ethnic Socks & Stockings. There are any number of ways to construct a sock and this book did a great job of explaining them.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Crochet Socks That Don't Suck

A while back I bought a book of crochet sock patterns and made myself a pair. I really wanted to make myself some socks but was intimidated by knitting on double points and since I learned to crochet as a kid, I'm faster and more at ease with it. The pattern was easy to follow and the socks looked great. I wore them once. The soles were bumpy and by the end of the day I had stretched big holes in the toes. I swear to you that I worked to gauge and followed the pattern faithfully. It just didn't work. Standard sock yarn is just too thick for crochet socks. It takes something more like cotton crochet thread in thickness worked with an 8 or 9 steel hook. I find working with cotton hard on my wrists and hands and I wanted wool socks anyway. I'm working on two different pairs now. Both start with a double row of African flowers at the top and the leg is worked in shell stitch. I started the white one first and made a heel flap with short row shaping. It's kinda sloppy since I was making it up as I went along and I wish I'd done the heel flap in reverse single crochet on the back side so it wouldn't have the ugly ridge effect. I was going to just live with it but it's starting to really bug me so I'm going to frog it out. Then I realized that if I did an inserted heel I could work it in the round. So on the blue sock I crocheted the spot for the heel opening with contrasting yarn, continued a few more rows and then went back to work the heel. The contrast yarn was going to get frogged out to make the opening but I picked up the stitches on the bottom of the waste yarn first because I wasn't sure what would happen. It worked just great! I'm probably not explaining this very well so if you have questions, ask me..

Monday, June 21, 2010

Finished Painting

Well, my attempt at creating flow didn't work so I had to rely on good old fashioned discipline to get the painting done. There are too many distractions on the weekend. In this case, knowing I'd have to drive my son somewhere but not having a set time for it until his friend texted him. Anyway, it's done and I'm happy.
We had fresh peas for lunch and they were so good!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Neurobiology of Excellence

Right before I came down with that virus last week I had picked up a couple of books at the Goodwill. One of them was Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I was particularly interested in the section, Flow: The Neurobiology of Excellence. For me, flow often feels like a state of grace in which I've gotten out of my own way. I'm totally focused on what I'm doing but in a relaxed joyful way. It's been a while since I experienced it while painting and I really need the occasional dose of it to keep me going. Better still, I want to develop a set of work habits that can help me access it on a regular basis. A way to enter flow is to "intentionally focus a sharp attention on the task at hand." It's a bit like meditation, once the intruding thoughts have quieted it becomes self reinforcing. Ideally, the work should be at a level of difficulty just a bit more challenging than one is used to.
So for the time being I've stopped listening to NPR talk shows while I work. I'm trying to get my mind quiet before I paint. It may be that some soft music may help. Nothing I'm doing is really new but trying to deliberately, systematically train myself is new to me. I'll let you know how it goes.
This image is the painting I'm working on, another close up of a glass jar against a blue background. Getting some of the highlights in is making it more fun to work on.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Here's what's blossoming in the lot next to our house today: day lillies, daisies, red clover, white clover, hawkweed,yarrow, yellow vetch, moth mullen, blue toadflax, deptford pinks, daisy fleabane, bedstraw and those bright pink flowers that I can't name at the moment. This is what I'm looking at while Lucy is searching for intruder cats instead of taking care of business. It's the season for kitty romance and a pair of cats has taken up their dalliance in our backyard bushes. Though I don't much care for their serenade, they're driving Lucy bonkers.
It's been a year since our son graduated from 8th grade at the Waldorf school. Saturday his best friend who was in the class a year behind him graduated. So did my best friend's daughter. I finally feel closure with that phase of my life. Waldorf education is wonderful for the kids and I'm glad we chose it for our son but it can be unbelievably hard on the parents. I've only just gotten over my Post Waldorf Stress Disorder and I hope that it goes faster for my friend.
P.S. The school just sent out this year's annual fund drive letter, including one to my not quite 16 year old son.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sewing Lesson

This has been a pretty yucky week for me. I came down with a virus, head ache, fever and chills since Monday afternoon. The sort of bug that just has to run its course. Tuesday morning I got the urge to sew a test version of the peasant blouse pattern. Even as I carried my Singer downstairs I was wondering distantly why I was even trying to sew. But the stars were in alignment. The machine was running perfectly and in my slow loopy state of mind, I didn't try to hurry things along. When I got tired, I stopped. In the past I've found myself getting impatient. Something about the machine puts my mind into faster-faster mode while I don't get that with hand sewing. The end is in sight, keep going, I tell myself. If I'm hand sewing and get bored or tired I just put it down and come back later. Part of it may be that the machine takes up a chunk of space on the dinning room table and it's more of a pain to move around. If there was an upside to being sick, it was that it forced me to slow down.
The pattern worked well. I'm going to work on the sleeve a bit but everything else is good to go. This fabric was from my sister-law. They bought a house that had been empty for twelve years and it needed cleaning out. Dan and I went up to help and I brought home some of the fabric from the attic. This is cotton and sooo soft.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's A Serious Post Today

I need to write about something that's been haunting me for a couple of days. If you're a thrift store regular like I am you'll probably have noticed the other regulars. I've been seeing the same white haired lady for years and though I don't know her name, we've chatted casually a couple of times. The store staff seems to know her well and she's one of those people that I just naturally like. When she was going through chemo I overheard her talking to the sales people about it and I was impressed with the way she weathered that storm. She's one tough, matter of fact lady. I put her in my prayers and hoped she'd be OK.
Now I think I know where that toughness came from. The last time I saw her I noticed something I hadn't seen before. She was reaching up to touch a garment on a high hanger, her sleeve fell back, and there it was, a concentration camp tattoo. It's hard to think of the right words to express what I felt but, "no" was the first one that came to mind. I know the history and I don't doubt the true horror of the holocaust but this brought me face to face with it in such a personal way. How cruel and evil that string of black numbers looked. I felt sick for her and sick over that dark part of humanity that can do such things.
Yet here she is, going on with life, and you'd never know what she had been through. That strength of the human spirit is what I'm trying to focus on and not the terrible evil that we humans are capable of, and I've been struggling with it, though this post is helping me sort out my feelings.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Peasant Blouse Pattern

This is the design I'm using on the yolk of my peasant blouse. It's inspired by Erica Wilson's Crewel Embroidery book, a recent thrifted find. The critters are jackalopes.I'm going to use cotton floss instead of wool because the top has to be machine washable. But before I can even start that I need to sew a test version of the pattern. Leave it to me to do the fun stuff first! I'm still dithering over rather to use a diamond shaped gusset under the arm like the original or add a side panel like on a kurta.
My son is going home with a friend this afternoon and then a group of them are going to an all ages concert tonight so I'll have him on my mind today. I'm still getting used to this sort of thing. I'd rather it wasn't on a school night but who am I kidding? He may be in his bedroom by 10:30 but I know he doesn't go to sleep right away. I don't think it will be that late but it's the long drive that takes up the time. I already told him he's not taking tomorrow off, even if I have to pry him out of bed with a crowbar. Chances are he'll be eager to see his friends to talk about the show anyway.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I've been going through a period of daytime sleepiness and getting really frustrated with myself not having energy. Today is better, much better and I'm wondering if it was the supposedly non drowsy allergy medicine I was taking. I also started taking vitamins again. Hopefully, I'm past the worst of the pollen.
This is the latest mushroom garden. I've got another one in pink that is nearly done but I got tired of working on it so I did some new listings and shipped a package. Dan asked me to make him some sleeveless kung fu tops and I figured I'd draft a pattern for a square necked peasant top for myself since I'll be sewing. The summer before I started high school my family took its one and only big vacation to England and Scotland. While in London my sister and I bought peasant tops from a Pakistani shop. Mine was turquoise blue, my sister's was the brightest eye popping yellow you could ever imagine. I ended up with both of them and wore them until they wore out. This style is so much more comfortable than a t shirt in the summer heat. Assuming I have success with this, I'm willing to share the pattern which will probably be about a 1 or 2X. Alas, I am no longer the size I used to be back when I got the original.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Happy Sunday

It's been a good Sunday. I went to a welcome home/birthday party for a good friend and got to catch up a bit with my sister-from-another-mother who has been busy with her daughter's end of eighth grade craziness. On my way to the party, I noticed a sign for Coon Hollow Farm, alpaca and sheep wool, honey and herbs, so I stopped on my way home and met Dawn, the very nice owner. She's just opened the farmstand for the season. We chatted for a while and then she uttered a phrase that was pure music to my ears,"free alpaca poop." This stuff is garden gold!
Today's pictures are pea blossoms in my little garden and wild bedstraw that has grown up under the back porch. If you want to try a bit of natural dyeing, bedstraw roots have the same dye element as madder roots, just not as concentrated. This would usually be harvested in the fall when the color is strongest but if it's getting weeded out now I thought I'd save the roots anyway.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A present for Me

Meet Cheshire, made by Furritales. (http://www.etsy.com/shop/Furritales) He's the coolest needle felted guy I've ever seen and now he's mine. You can find some amazing needle felted work on Etsy. I've seen some wonderfully lifelike animals and ,of course, there are a lot of Waldorf inspired gnomes and fairies. After eight years of being a Waldorf Mom I was looking for something different. I'm also an anime fan so you can see why I love Furritales' style. She's only 17 and she's just gotten into RISD. Proceeds from her shop are going toward her education. How cool is that?
I'm trying to decide what to work on today. I'm having a hard time settling on something. I could go to the art supply store, paint or draft a pattern. I want to make myself some square necked mexican style peasant tops to wear this summer. Guess I'll just get moving and see where I end up.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Quote of the Day

This from my son: "And yet you get me no pudding."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mystery Saturday

Can anybody out there tell me what this prickly looking tool is used for? And ,please, don't say kligon sex toy. I found it with a bunch of sewing supplies and all I can guess is that maybe it's used in pressing velvet without crushing the nap. It's not for needle felting, there aren't any barbs on the wires. I can't resist old craft and sewing tools. Palm loom, weaveit, daisy loom, you name it, I've got it.
On to the second mystery. Can you guess what I used to make this pendant? Except for a little polymer clay, it's all repurposed stuff. Stop reading for a sec if you want to guess because I'm going to give the answer. OK? The metal ring and tab is from an old zipper pull. I put a pad of aqua colored polymer clay in the center, coated it with translucent liquid clay and pressed bits of broken windshield glass into it. The zipper pull was from last week's tag sale bag of zippers. I guess you could say that I got the glass "delivered" to my doorstep. We live on a busy street and before they added a stop light, we had three different cars crash through our yard. The glass came from the one that left tire marks on the front door,went on to barely miss a huge pine tree, ending up on it's roof in the vacant lot next door. DUI? You bet. The driver and passenger took off in a friend's car before the cops arrived. Every time there has been an accident out here some mind altering substance was involved. Thankfully, the stoplight has worked. Jeeze, I really didn't intend for this post to be taken over by a DUI rant. Deep cleansing breath. Back to repurposing. I've been reusing found materials since I was a kid. We didn't just run to Michaels for stuff and the craft kits made for kids tended to be garbage anyway. Except for sharp blades, I always let my son use my art and craft supplies. It isn't fair to hand a kid a cheezy craft kit. They only get frustrated when they can't make it work. Give them your empty boxes and some real supplies and they'll astound you with their original projects.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Taking a Different View And Good Luck

Yesterday my almost 16 year old son spent the whole afternoon with two friends screen printing band t shirts in the basement. This is the first time he's done it without Dan's help and it took him a while to get it right. Not only did they stick at it till it worked, I could hear them joking and laughing the whole time. I want to be more like that. I'd probably have been swearing a blue streak and having a rotten time of it. Sometimes I take this being an adult gig too seriously.
At about 5:30 I got a happy surprise. I had bid on a box of bottles at a local church tag sale last Sat. and since I didn't hear anything, I figured somebody else won them. Then I got a call, there was a mix up and they forgot to call the winners. It was actually more fun this way. I was doubly happy to get them. I really wanted the coffee jar for a painting and the little Wheaton bottles are collectables. I wasn't so crazy about the rest but Dan liked them.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Zen Art Of African Flowers

When I was big into polymer clay, Marie Segal stayed with us before and after the SCPCG retreats. She gave me one of the first ripple blades when she was introducing them and I got totally obsessed with making patterned sheets of clay. It was a wonderful way to learn about color. Each new slice was a discovery and at the same time, a soothing meditation. The African Flower crochet motif is my current version of that zen experience. I'm using my thrifted stash of persian tapestry/crewel yarn, a single strand with a #8 steel hook. I don't have an end project in mind. This my handwork meditation, plus, the more I use, the less I'll have to sort through and untangle when I'm done. I might use them as the yoke on a sweater, or even as the top of some socks. I'll knit the foot. It just depends on how many I eventually make. Check out Flicker if you want to see more pictures, there's a group dedicated to African flower projects. The pattern is posted there too. http://www.flickr.com/groups/africanflowers/

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Tag Sale and Thrifted Swag

I hit the textile and tag sale at the Monroe Historical Society, my usual thrift stores and a church tag sale this week. The milk glass and ceramic containers are for mushroom gardens, the fabric is for hats and the yarn has already gone into a hat. I also got an old book about drawing the human figure for Dan. It was a great day to go out for a drive and now I'm home painting. (taking a break for this post.) I finally feel like painting - probably because I need to deliver paintings on Monday. Nothing like a deadline to get my butt in gear.
Sifu Dan is having a good time teaching his Sat. morning Kung Fu class in the back yard. It's kinda cool how that came together. In the space of a week, four guys stopped to ask about his wooden practice dummies in the back yard. Guess this was the pay off for clearing out the old treehouse, the dummies are more visible from the road. Tomorrow our son's band friends are coming over to record some songs. I asked him when and his reply was "first thing in the morning." What about church? No problem, they're coming over at 12:00. Never a dull moment.

Friday, May 7, 2010

On The Garden Front

This year "Quackgrass Acres" has moved from the community garden to our back yard. Community gardens are wonderful things but it just didn't work out for me. Now I can walk out the back door and do a bit of gardening whenever I feel like it without getting in the car for a ride across town. So it's starting small, as a container garden on a small cement and flagstone patio area that we didn't use. The process of removing our son's dilapidated treehouse and the dead hemlocks has begun. Ultimately, that will give us a bigger space for the garden but I'm happy with this for the time being. Good soil for the containers is the big need now.
I still have my DIY Japanese wind bells (furin) from last year, much to my amazement. I foolishly left them out all winter but they came through it just fine. All I had to do was replace the tails. They were a fun project and I'm thinking of making a tutorial on how to do it. The one in the picture is made from a thrifted votive glass. I have others made from porcelain teacups. The wind has been blowing like mad here so I hooked the tails on the fence posts to stop them from ringing themselves to bits.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Silly Putti

Years ago I had the idea to open a museum called House of a Thousand Tchockies. Like my other idea, The Museum of Avian Architecture, it never actually came to fruition. This cherub and egg planter would have been a perfect exhibit. I got it years ago from a thrift store. Somebody did a rather crude job of scratching off the backstamp, which makes me think that it is a Japanese copy of a European piece. To my mind, that's irrelevant. It is what it is, a divinely silly little planter.

Friday, April 30, 2010

It's a Small World After All

I just found out by way of a google alert that my hats and mushrooms are on an Italian style blog. http://www.frizzifrizzi.it/2010/04/30/wandering-lydia-nomen-omen/ Wow, the web is really something, isn't it? I tried to read the article by clicking on "translate this" and I sorta kinda got the gist of it. The one thing I would like to correct is that I'm female, not male. That's why I posted this recent picture of myself. (Really, just ask my son at 6:10am when I'm waking him up for school.) Anyway, thank you Frizzifrizzi!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

It's A Good Day

Happy Thursday,All. The sun is out, the wind is invigorating and I bought myself new (to me) clogs at the thrift store. I saw these the last time I was there but I was being parsimonious with myself and didn't buy them. This time I knew that If I walked away again I'd regret it forever. I'm sewing today after blocking in a painting yesterday.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Hats Are In Belle Armoire!

Back in August I sent some Wandering Lydia Hats to Belle Armoire for the Salon section and then tried to put it out of my mind. But, periodically, I'd wonder about them. Saturday was one of those times. Once again I put it out of my mind - until I opened the mailbox to find my comp issue of the May/July 2010 issue! Wool hats in May? What the heck, it's going to be winter in the southern hemisphere, right? Thanks Belle Armoire!
This is probably good timing for my creative focus. I've been having success with the mushroom gardens and I intend to keep on with them. I was starting to miss making hats and maybe this was a reminder to switch back for a while. Changing up what I'm doing keeps me moving forward. I need to cut a large panel for my next mason jar painting too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Blue Skies

We're having one of those gray dreary spring days here. It does help that the trees are starting to leaf out but it feels like a good day to curl up with a book and a cup of something warm. Unfortunately, that won't get the groceries home so I put on my new necklace from Crafty Wings and went on my way. Honestly, I think it helped get me moving! You can check out her etsy shop here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/CraftyWings She paints beautiful cloudscapes on wooden plaques and when I first saw them I thought they were pendants. So I asked her if she would make a summer sky pendant for me and she did!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just Pictures Today

I don't want to fall entirely out of the blog habit but I'm just not feeling it today.

Friday, April 9, 2010

See A Penny Pick It Up

And all the day you'll have good luck. I picked up a penny this morning on the way in from delivering a painting, logged onto etsy and found, to my delight, that I had three new sales. This came at just the right time. I've been bummed out because I'm on 28 days of antibiotic to treat the nasty tick bite I got earlier this week. I'm so glad I went in and started treatment. Within hours of the first dose I started to feel sick. It isn't too bad today but I'm feeling very tired. Somehow I managed to run an outdoor summer camp for three years in a lyme disease hot spot without getting bit. But finally, my number came up. I'm not sure what to do. I don't want to give up rambling in the woods so I'll have to find more ways to protect myself.
Today's picture features some odds and ends. The yarn is from the mushroom/hickory exhaust bath. The crocheted motifs are made with the natural color and the small skein in the last post.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble

We've all seen the jokes about modern witches who ride electric vacuum cleaners instead of the traditional broomstick. I wonder if a crock pot would be the modern version of a cauldron? I decided that my old crock pot would be great for simmering dye baths, just set it and forget it. I don't use it enough to miss having it for cooking and they show up in thrift stores all the time if I want another. These yarn samples are dyed with shelf mushrooms and hickory hulls, no mordant. It's a nice brown but I'm really hoping to find the mushrooms that will give exciting colors, blue, purple, red and orange. Unfortunately, it's too early for them.
My latest mushroom garden is in a thrifted sugar bowl that I found years ago. It's making me think of St. Patrick's Day. The ivy design reminds me of shamrocks and the color is so spring/March looking. I'm painting today. Kathryn sold my 8x10" "Blue Star" this weekend. I need to finish the one I've been working on and then I'll start a bigger painting of another close up on the mason jar embossing.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Fairy Ring Crown Completed

Finished my fairy ring crown this morning and I am so happy with it! Somewhere along the line I'll do a bridal version all in shades of white.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Process of Painting

This is the painting I'm working on now. It's really helpful to me seeing it reduced in a photograph. I'm past the worst point, that part when the painting looks pretty awful and I just have to take it on faith that by the time I'm done it will work out. I don't know rather it's just the way I paint with acrylics but it seems to take a certain number of layers to get the effect I want. This reminds me of a talented friend of ours who went through a phase of giving up on his paintings too soon, to the point that he restarted one painting so many times that he finally gave up on it. This was a terrible shame because each one had some really good elements. As in so many other pursuits, it's probable that he would have learned more from sticking to it through the tough spots. Even if the painting still didn't work out, it would be worth it. I've heard it said that you have to love your painting enough to make some bad ones to get to the good ones. The universe won't strike you dead for making a crappy painting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Carnation Hair

Here's another way to use a carnation made from a sweater ribbing. She has one carnation on top. The sides and back came from the cuffs which were only partially rolled up.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Osprey Have Returned!

Wow, what a gorgeous weekend! As usual, I heard the osprey pair before I saw them. I'm so happy they're back. I've resolved the issue of how to garden this year. Quackgrass Acres has moved from the community garden to our back yard. In the long run I'll have 4x4'raised beds but the spot needs to be cleared first. We have a row of hemlocks on the side of the house that have been killed by insects. Our son's old tree fort is up there too. We need to take down the fort to recycle the wood and get rid of the hemlocks. This isn't going to happen overnight. So for this season I'm container gardening in 18 gal. storage bins. I got the first one going today with peas and lettuce. A dead hemlock branch made a nice trellis for the peas. The soil is so nice, a combination of soil from a decomposed wood chip pile and some manure leftover from last year. And it's darn near rock free. Community gardens are great but not for me. First, it was just too big for me to manage on my own. Second, it was across town. I'd rather be able to wander out and garden for 15 min. a couple of times a day. This is going to be a lot more manageable. Now if I could just remember where I put the leftover seeds from last year.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I Believe in Spring

After a winter that seemed endless spring really has arrived. These daffodils are in the warmest spot in the yard so they open first. I am so happy to see them! Every time I walk the dog I keep looking to see if the pair of osprey have returned to their nest on top of the cell phone tower down the street. I usually hear them before I see them. Having them for neighbors compensates for the ugliness of the tower.
Our home is a bit odd because it can feel like two totally different places depending on if you're looking out the back windows or the front. The back drops off steeply to the Naugatuck River, a spit of land with the rail line that runs between Waterbury and Bridgeport and then Coe Pond. Since we are high above that, the view is wide open, a great place to look for summer rainbows. By contrast the front yard is small, the road is busy with a stop light close by and there is a big restaurant across the street. We have a vacant lot on one side and that's where the garden is going this year. Last year I had a space at the community organic garden but it really got away from me. If I have the garden right here I'm much more likely to keep up with it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sweater Rib Carnation Instructions

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
You know me, gotta use every scrap! Here is an easy way to use the waist ribbing from a felted sweater to make a pretty carnation. This works best with a typical K2, P2 ribbing. Carefully cut the ribbing from the sweater and cut apart the halves. Trim the ends along the edge of a raised rib. Fold and pin the strip in half lengthwise matching the ribs. Thread a large needle with strong thread. Give it plenty of length because you'll use be using it to baste and sew the flower. I use the old fashioned way of measuring a yard. I make sure the threaded needle is long enough to reach from my nose to the end of my outstretched hand. Baste the strip without shifting or puckering the ribs. Now cut between each raised rib to just under the line of stitches. Gather the cut strip to compress the petals and tie a knot but don't cut the thread. Start rolling and sewing the petals into a flower. Once you get past the first bit you don't need to sew all the way through, just into the previous row. It will naturally want to get a bit domed as you go and this is fine. This will give the blossom depth. Tie off the end securely and you're done.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fairy Ring Mushroom Crown

When I do craft shows I like to wear one of my hats but if it's a warm day or indoors, I get too hot. So I came up with the idea of a fairy ring crown. There's a lot of work going into this project but I get to keep it so that's OK. Most of the dark green base will be covered with felt moss and I'll have green vine-like dreads looping down from the sides. This isn't something I'd have for sale in the booth but I would take custom orders. It would be so much fun to make one for a wedding! Now I'm taking a break from sewing to work on painting. I also have a call for submissions from a greeting card company to work on. But what I'd really love is a nap. Stupid time change!