Monday, February 8, 2016

Hidden Kisses of the Heart Couple - Embroidery and Pattern

In honor of lovers worldwide, I've taken a cue from my grandmother's era of youthful frivolity and freedom and embroidered a little boudior mini-pillow.

The embroidery is done here on red linen, upcycled from a women's shirt, and stitched using backstitch, stab stitch, and open lazy daisy in black and white embroidery floss.

The design lends itself to being cut as a heart shape and made into a Valentine's Day present or wedding or anniversary keepsake.

Rather than use a pom pom edging, I lightly rolled bits of wool into soft balls and tucked them inside a strip of chiffon handkerchief which is whipstitched along the edge between the balls. 

The embroidery pattern is for sale here in my Etsy shop.

The file for sale is just the embroidery pattern. The full-size pattern fits into a 6" hoop, but it can be enlarged or reduced.

Newsletter subscribers always get a discount on the newest PDF pattern in the shop!

Here's how I made the mini-pillow:

No, you did not miss a project last week. I had some matters come up that assumed they were more important than stitchery. I'm thrilled to be back.

Monday, February 1, 2016

5 Reasons Why Moms Should Stay Creative - the Mean Girls Version

After two months of getting in touch with my authentic self and using printable planners to reinvent and rebrand my business, I decided to share some ideas I've had lately about the global drive to maximize human potential and bring peace to displaced refugees and neglected puppies worldwide leading to the all important:

Why it's important to stay creative.

These days, anyone with a needle-nose pliers or a glue gun who then blogs about it or opens an Etsy shop, is called "a Creative". Being a Creative is all the rage. Countless entrepreneurial coaches are predatorily circling our desires to put two disparate objects in our hands and watch one lovely thing emerge. 

But being a Creative is easier than ever. You don't even need actual glitter anymore. You just need the SOFTWARE that emulates glitter and an Instagram account. Voila! You are a Creative. The world needs you. Open that creative business!

But wait. Are you really a professional in your field? Oh yes, you are a designer now. And you emulate these 5 qualities of the Creative.
  1.     creative thinkers are problem solvers
  2.     creative thinkers pay attention
  3.     creative thinkers have rhythm
  4.     creative thinkers are more spontaneous
  5.     creative thinkers are industry trailblazers
(clipart in the public domain)
1 - Problem solving 

Being a designer is something you've dreamed about for forever, you know, like since October. But you don't seem to have any training in art, graphic design, writing, or business. Time for some training. Thank goodness there's an entrepreneurial expert wherever you go. Now you've signed up for Skillshare, Creative Live, seven entrepreneurial email newsletters, MailChimp, Google Analytics, WooCommerce, Shopify, and an Etsy shop. You've also purchased a new MacBook Pro and a subscription to InDesign.

Bonus round: You still don't know how to do anything, but you really love owls and foxes and cutting and pasting. Problem solved.

Extra credit bonus round: You throw in antlers. The world is your oyster.

2 - Paying attention

You despise trends but are sympathetic to your children's desperate needs to not be lame. ( Or - not be lame, yo. It's MY thug life.) With the only guideline being - make your child look as laughable as you can - you make an afternoon of secondhand shopping a roaring success by dressing your child in a backwards cap, a large synthetic-fabric sports jersey printed with a fictional US soccer team number, bling made from the chain handles of two otherwise useless handbags, and a pair of shorts six sizes too large. Then you watch your happy child walk around gesticulating with one hand while holding up his pants with the other and yelling: "No worries, mate. She'll be right, yo, know what I'm sayin' homie" in a fake south Bronx accent. (This only works in Australia.)

Bonus round: Your entire home interior is painted "natural" white and decorated with burlap buntings, sliced branch drink coasters, and deer antlers. (You don't really despise trends.) You made them all yourself, except for the antlers which were eco-responsibly sourced from a survivalist family in Utah, USA who used the rest of the animal for meat to feed their family and make much needed shoes for the small shoeless children in their militia group. Or cult. There is a single kaleidoscopic boho tribal pillow on the reading chair. It's a statement piece. Now you can take those all important "studio" photos and not be embarrassed.

Extra credit bonus round: The child with the "thug life" now lives in the granny flat behind the house. There will be no pizza eating in a designer's home. Paying attention has saved you massive amounts of housework and frustration, and everyone is happy.

3 - You got rhythm

When you began using Twitter five years ago, composing a meaningful tweet of 140 characters took half a day. Today, you can pour apple juice into baby's sippy cup, take a mummy and me "ussie" and upload to Instagram, and promote your new Etsy listing on two Facebook groups and four social media outlets in the time it takes to drive up to the window and be handed your McCafe and Happy Meal order at the drive-through window.

Bonus round: Because of this, you have finally used your physics degree to crack the time warp/ time travel theory, designing plans for a working machine which you have vector drawn and uploaded to Spoonflower and are selling as a steampunk decor fabric. Time is your b*tch now.

4 - Being more spontaneous

On the Four Types of Creativity model (Ann Dietrich 2004), you find yourself increasingly in the cognitive/spontaneous corner where Isaac Newton and his apple live. Not quite an Isadora Duncan, throwing scarves in the face of caution and devising an entirely unique method of artistic expression, you fall into the I-use-planners-to-manage/declutter/refresh/relate-but-welcome-new-inspirations-to-guide-me-to-exactly-where-I-need-to-be category. These inspirations are made known to you mainly through brush lettering on pithy printables you've seen on Facebook. But when "them apples" of wisdom fall on your head, you hesitate not. You rebrand, run a giveaway, and launch another new product within two weeks, making sure to pay yourself well. Because being true to yourself IS exactly where you need to be. And gosh darned it, people will spontaneously pay to be part of that. Because it's so authentic.

Bonus round: Your spontaneity looks completely well thought out as though it had been planned, developed, and market tested for years. Because you used pastel brush lettering and a blindingly white background. On Picmonkey.

Extra credit bonus round: You have all your posts, launches, and emails scheduled by web software and autoresponders so you only work two hours a week and spend the rest of your time surfing Pinterest on your phone and awaiting more mind-blowing Eureka moments.

 (snapped in the eastside Tucson target 2013)

5 - Industry trailblazing

You are well aware of the fact that advertising does not inform consumers of what is available but rather inspires them to believe that what they see is what they want. Therefore, with a backhanded slap to Madison Avenue, you design the transformative hoop art, home decor, DIY, locally-sourced, environmentally-friendly experience-in-a-recyclable-box for children-of-all-ages which sets off a tsunami of copycat products and styles that FINALLY lands on the shelves of West Elm and Urban Outfitters. But you smile and know, it all started with you.

Bonus round: You patented your design and product last year, so you send a cease and desist letter to West Elm who stops importing the knock-off from China and settles out of court for $200,000. This, added to your Kickstarter fundraiser, is going to allow you to quit your day job and be a designer full-time.

 There's no washing on Monday, without irony on Tuesday.

5 Reasons Why Moms Should Stay Creative

After two months of getting progressively more behind in all my grand stitchery plans and deadlines and having nothing of interest to show you in my Cabinet this week (although you know there's something fun under construction), I decided to share some ideas I've had lately about fledgling-home-business-mums and knitting grannies and friendship-bracelet-making-aunties and professional women who secretly glitter and waitresses who are really artists leading to the all important:

Why it's important to stay creative.

 (photo: simple living workshop - learning to crochet)

These days, creative hungers are easily fed. Our desires to put two disparate objects in our hands and watch one lovely thing emerge are fulfilled via Pinterest and blogs dedicated to every form of visual art - name it, dream it, it's there to learn and explore.

As Phoebe Buffay, quirky gal from the TV show Friends, said about Monica's catering, "It’s hard to believe that just a little while ago this was nothing but ingredients." There are shops with classes, local crafternoons, markets and fairs galore. We can try anything.

But if being creative doesn't necessarily mean honing one's skills as an artist, are there any redeeming results from ironing toxic plastic grocery bags into a solid fabric and crocheting a granny square?

Absolutely! Not only do moms (and all creative people) embody the following qualities, we also teach them to our children by example and by mentoring.
  1.     creative thinkers are problem solvers
  2.     creative thinkers pay attention
  3.     creative thinkers have rhythm
  4.     creative thinkers are more spontaneous
  5.     creative thinkers are industry trailblazers

1 - Problem solving 

You want to embroider and the tutorial calls for a lightbox or transfer carbon paper or iron-on pencils, and you have none of these. A pencil and a window later, you're on your way. 

You want to print a craft pattern at a slight reduction. Your printer ink seems to have become a solid block of chalk (which you WILL find a use for later). You don't know how to reduce something to print anyway. You open the document and use the two-finger trackpad maneuver to reduce the size. You carefully trace this onto paper.  

Bonus round: Your child needs to be a cow at morning assembly at 830 am. It's 745 am. You throw your husband's tan cashmere sweater over your child, cut and safety pin (from the inside) a few white felt spots, and gently attach four barely inflated condoms whose nipples have been gently rouged with your lipstick. Moo.

(kid craft at the CWA Beerwah markets)

2 - Paying attention

You may be able to use a sewing machine easily, but four year old daughter won't leave you alone while you sew up that grrl superhero cape for her. So you show her how to stitch a piece of burlap using a large tapestry needle and a length of colorful yarn. Look who can suddenly embroider a flower! Oh, that's a dinosaur? Another creative mind is born. And two can create where only one did before.

Buying craft supplies can become an expensive proposition. But for every loop band bag, every Play Doh tub, every artist's grade charcoal pencil, every bottle of Mod Podge, there is a homemade or frugal alternative. Recipes abound for homemade supplies. Remember that dried up printer ink? Anyone up for an adventure in charcoal drawing? Cleaning out the garage? Make a box of potential craft supplies. Don't store them. USE them. Take some old crayons and leaves and do the old leaf rubbing activity. Make reuse a visible part of your family's life. Teach your children they don't have to be consumers to create. What's hanging around your house just waiting to be reinvented?

3 - You got rhythm

Time ticks on relentlessly, but the time we spend on meaningful pursuits, the ones that bring us joy, is the time we remember without regret, with fondness, and with gratitude. Time spent loving, making, giving, sharing, exploring is the time you want to be sure to engage in every single day. 
The rhythms of the day, the week, and the seasons is something we can offer to children to show them, they too, have choice in how they spend their precious moments in this life. 

Bonus round: You don't schedule creative time. It just becomes part of your life and your mothering.

Extra credit bonus round: You take a dance break every single day. Often while cooking dinner and the kids need some loud music to let off steam and generate some joy before settling down to a nice family meal.

4 - Being more spontaneous

The gauntlet was thrown down. You have somehow been volunteered to head up the decorating committee for the school dance. It's a closet glitter-addict's dream and you've decided to design the best decorative atmosphere EVER. And then you meet all your helpers, some of whom are so much better at the actual crafts than you are and some of whom seem to be able to glue themselves to the chair by just being in the same room as a glue gun. Being spontaneous may mean jumping in unexpectedly and suddenly, but it also means being able to think on your feet cooperatively, being flexible, being gracious, and being open to change. My husband often says: There is no Sergio in TEAM. (Of course, he means he doesn't join teams so sod off and leave him alone, but I think the sentiment can also mean, there is no such thing as a team of one.) Children need to know being spontaneous can mean taking risks and trying new things on a whim, but it can also mean taking the risk to not have to have everything our own way, to share and to compromise for a larger creative win.

(children's dharma class - Three Jewels Tucson)
5 - Industry trailblazing

There's a decided frustration at having a small business creating products and designs from the heart only to see them copied like mad by other Etsy sellers. And it's even more frustrating to see no less than ten tutorials for making the thing you designed first. But wait until you see what you made being imported from overseas and sold in high end shops. It might seem flattering but industry trailblazing is as full of highs as it is lows. Creative moms take the high road, sometimes the cease-and-desist-letter road, and always the remain-creative-and-keep-going road. Because letting a few small hurdles get in our way sets a bad tone to our business and breaks our spirits. Lewis and Clark probably sat and rubbed aching feet and even cursed a storm when faced with Rocky Mountains that seemed unscalable, but yet they persevered and they made it to the Pacific Ocean and a Disney animated movie. It doesn't get better than that. 

Look, I have this thing about crafting and calling oneself a "Creative" in business. You know, gluing glitter to a die cut paper shape and sticking it on the end of a toothpick and calling it a cake topper. This is obviously not high art. I'm not even sure it's low art. But it makes the day brighter. It adds an otherwise missing dimension of celebration and frivolity to a morning bran muffin. And it can be all that is needed to start a creative business.

Creativity makes us smile in a world seemingly working against us with its self-agrandizing politicians and radiation spilling across the Pacific Ocean and animal neglect videos and crazy wars fought so conveniently over someone else's heads half a world away from the source of the violence. We need creatives. Very much.

Being creative can take just about any form in any aspect of our lives. Being creative simply means going down the road from A to B that I have not taken before. Until I found you, I never thought a glitter paper crown in my bran muffin would delight me. But it does. Until I read your blog, I hadn't understood how to attach bias tape to my cool vintage tea towel potholder gift without the bulky corners. Until I downloaded your Ravelry pattern, I had never made my own cozy rustic knitted shawl before. In fact, until I watched your knitting You Tube, I couldn't even get the yarn to stay on the needles. 

It's important to stay creative because it not only feeds something in us, it nourishes the whole human community. It strengthens basic values we all hold dear and it make a space for relating in some way other than simply about the tasks and to-dos of ordinary life.

Stay creative! And sitting at my messy worktable, I say - Happy Stitching! 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Reverse Applique Botanical Small Quilts

In my previous post, I showed you my inspiration for these small quilts  - week four of the 2016 Sewing Cabinet of Curiosities exploration. And I also explained what reverse applique is in brief. 

But I did not mention my fascination with the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th century and its influence on art in the early 20th century. I love the flow of William Morris' art (co-founder of the movement) but particularly how it can be as ornate or as simple as desired. (For more William Morris-inspired craft, check out this pincushion tutorial.)

I used all these elements to create these two flora and fauna small quilts -
  • botanical silhouettes
  • reverse applique
  • Arts & Crafts style embroidery
  • tea staining fabric 
 There is also a sewing pattern and newsletter subscribers have first dibs AND a discount. (This is all in today's newsletter.)

The pattern is fully illustrated with photos and text and includes:
1) 6 methods for transferring embroidery designs to fabric;
2) a time-honored homemade laundry starch recipe (useful in applique but optional).

The quilts are about 11" x 9" and 7" x 7.5". Mine are wonky because I like to cut a little off for a perfectly imperfect look and the yellow linen border for the moth came from a vintage piece that was not quite as wide as I'd have liked, but the pattern fabric requirements are for a perfectly shaped quilt.

The pattern is not yet available in my shop, so if you'd like to purchase it directly from me at a discount, be sure to subscribe (if you haven't already) and read today's newsletter.

Here are some process photos and photos of the finished small quilts. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When Going in Reverse Isn't Going Backwards

This week's Curiosity is a still in the works and should be finished today. But I wanted to share a bit of background to it.

The inspiration was this pin. (Yes, click here.)

And although the link from the pin does not go to the site, so I no longer can track the original post, I'll show you the image. 

What a magnificent collection of reverse silhouettes and all in sepia tones!

Immediately I thought: reverse applique.

Reverse applique has been used in quilting for a long time. It is the technique used in Central American mola quilting. It looks like this one which is from the Mola Museum, an online viewing collection of Panamanian molas collected in the 1960s.

Most people hadn't heard of reverse applique until Alabama Chanin came onto the scene in a big way. Hand sewing cotton knits together and then snipping out the top layer to create florals, geometrics, and other designs created a signature look and easy style anyone could create. 

Thank you, Popsugar, for a photo of one of my favorite actresses in a reverse applique design and a close-up of the style in your post about Alabama Chanin.

Okay, so now you get the gist of where I'm going. Take a bunch of framed reverse silhouette flora and fauna and an ancient but revised layered quilting technique and voila! I have a Reverse Applique Botanical Small Quilt exploration.

Here are some teaser photos of the process. I'll be back later today....or later this week with the finished project. And did I mention this one comes with a pattern? Yes, indeed. You too will be able to make your own Reverse Applique Botanicals! 

Enter your name and email in the newsletter sign-up above right if you haven't already. Subscribers will be getting first dibs on the pattern and a discount as well. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Regency Tea Cup Reticule


This wasn't completely what I intended when I brought home a few mugs and pieces of hand painted ceramic dishware from the thrift store. I had hoped to embellish them with embroidered elements for a delightful 3D effect. It was a disappointment when problems with my wrists limited the amount of control I could manage with the power tool, one I have used in past years with great delight.

The Dremel and I could not see eye to tendon and the best work I could get out of it was a series of holes around the rim of a tea cup liked for the color. I had visions of a drawstring hand-crocheted purse which became a massive FAIL but a lot of fun, because seriously, who crochets a teacup? Ever?

But pulling that Marie Antoinette wig off and raiding my doily stash brought back the delicacy to the image I had in mind. And the Regency Tea Cup Reticule was born.

It all starts with a teacup, a thin but constant stream of water, and a Dremel tool with a diamond-tipped drill bit.

And it ends with husband drilling the last three holes as my efforts had gone from 4 minutes per hole to 20 because my hand and arm were completely numb.

After the drilling was done the real fun began. I stitched a blanket stitch around the rim of the cup using wool boucle yarn pulled from a woven wool scarf I had already used part of for another project and proceeded to crochet a row of slip stitch (chains) to the blanket stitch and then a bobble stitch using a delicious pink wool roving yarn I unraveled from a crocheted cap I thrifted for the yarn.

I'm not going to bother showing you the massive fail this was. But I thought the colors were so much fun and the potential so great, I believed I should offer up this intro in case you might be inspired to devise the most heavenly teacup/wool yarn sculpture ever.

Please show me up on this. I want to see how it can be done.

So what did I end up doing? I raided my doily stash and clipped off an edge to a nicely matching green and white doily to use as a collar to the cup edge. I attached it by stitching the blanket stitch through it as opposed to afterwards as above. The raw edge simply sits inside the cup. I used a cotton crochet thread for the blanket stitch. I don't know the size. It was also a thrift score sans label.

Then I laid another doily over the cup and stitched it to the collar and blanket stitch all around with a whipstitch. It's a little hard to see because I used a light pink cotton crochet cord.

The doily was a perfect fit design-wise. There was a mandala-like center that just fit the cup mouth.

After that it was simply a matter of threading some wool yarn through the outer edges of the doily to create a drawstring bag. The crochet bag can remain as is, or I can cut through the inner center to allow the cup to be part of the whole purse.

Yes, I am actually reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith, at the moment. My local library never ceases to amaze me. 

And here are some fun facts and links about regency reticule handbags

The tea bag paper umbrellas were a side note to the week and I hope to get back to them and make many more and embellish them with stitching and perhaps beadwork. 

If you are enjoying the 2016 Sewing Cabinet of Curiosities, remember to stay informed via the weekly newsletter. Sign up here:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Why I post with large print

In late 2015, I watched this remarkable Creative Live series about online marketing by April Bowles Olin. April is a cutie pie in every way and has learned a great many tips and tricks for helping the online presence of the online entrepreneur. 

One thing that stuck with me was when she threw in a quick word for using large print in your blog posts.

Assuming she meant for bloggers to make sure their copy was readable, I decided to increase the size of my font here. 

Unfortunately, Blogger offers me exactly five options from smallest to largest and this is "large". It's just one up from "normal" which I used to use.

I'm pretty sure this size is a bit ridiculous and it increases the length of my posts greatly and, you know, we're always told to keep posts short and bulleted and easy for modern people who are reading on their kidney bean sized phones to scan your meaning because they have the attention span of a spoon.

But I decided to keep the size anyway, because it occurred to me that I could barely see the text myself what with my eyes doubling everything more than 8 inches from my face and a prescription that needs to be changed and, well, you know, I'm the one who has to write it. 

Besides, we all know we can never trust the small print.