Monday, April 23, 2012

A Short Break

Update ---- I'm currently without my computer, due to a family emergency during a "short" trip.  I'm unable to make Wednesday's Sewing post, but will have a Friday Inspiration up this week and (knock on wood!) should be back full time on Monday.  Thanks!

I'm taking a short break to get the semester finished.  In the meantime, here are some sneak peaks at what I'm currently working on ---

See you a week from Wednesday!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Inspiration - Interesting Spinning

Now that I'm spinning, I'm all of a sudden noticing those cool, funky yarns - you know, the ones for twenty something dollars plus!  So once I get regular spinning down, I want to start spinning these yarns for myself.  Here are some of what's inspiring me:

Karla at Spinning Mermaids has a wonderful sense of color - I love her combinations.  You can see her dyed rovings at her Etsy shop here

I could just sit and look at these yarns forever!  And I'm actually getting to the point where I think I could attempt them - whether or not they'd turn out like this is another question, but I'm always way over my head in what I try!  Danika spun these yarns using a random yarn generator "game" that can be found on Ravelry here.  She has several other gorgeous hand spun yarns here.

 If you're wondering how some of those great art yarns are spun, Jacey Bogg's "Spin Art: The Craft of Spinning Textured Yarn" tells all.  Even if you don't spin it's pure eye candy!  I have great plans for this summer, using this book.

And here's what else is inspiring me lately, when it comes to yarn.  Yep.  I think I caught the sheep bug.  These are Icelandic sheep - read about them here.  They sound great!  However, I live in Phoenix on a suburban sized lot.  Probably won't work.  Okay - I hear my husband saying it definitely won't work!  Hmmm ... who knows?!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Sewing - Projects for Earth Day

Earth Day is this Sunday, April 22, and I've been thinking of ways I can reduce some of our garbage.  One of our throw-aways that's bothered me for awhile are the plastic produce bags.  They're can't be recycled (at least not where we live) and we eat a LOT of vegetables!  I tried skipping using them, but then my vegetables and fruit rolled all over the cart.  One of the millions of catalogs I get before Christmas had mesh bags that looked great, however they were a bit spendy for my budget.  No problem - these things are really easy to whip out!

I used a mesh fabric from my local fabric store - it looks like what laundry bags and some athletic shirts are made from.  You could also use any cotton fabric - you'll need to hem the opening.

These can be made any size - I cut 25 inch by 19 inch rectangles ...

folded them in half ...

and sewed down one side and across the bottom with a zigzag stitch.  If your machine bunches the fabric up or if the presser foot catches on the netting, see my past tutorial on sewing sheer fabrics.  I didn't finish the top, but you could fold it down about an inch, sew along the bottom of where you turned it down, and insert string/ribbon for a drawstring.  I just fold it over on top ...

or tie a knot.

These also make great project bags - another way to get rid of carrying all my work around in Ziploc bags.

Another thing we throw away a lot of are glasses cleaning wipes.  Both my husband and I do a lot of computer work and so need to have non-glare coating on our glasses, which make the lenses pretty tough to get smears and grease off of.  We've been buying cotton disposable wipes and a commercial brand of glasses cleaner - and both keep going up in price.    I bought a yard of diaper material at the fabric store, cut it up into big squares and they work great!  I just toss them in the washer, dry them, and they're ready for another week - and I was lazy and didn't even hem them.  They don't seem to fray much.

About that glasses cleaner - I found out how they make it and the ingredients are ridiculously cheap.  Take a spray bottle (I use the old bottles I'd saved from that commercial brand), fill it 1/4 full with 99% isopropyl alcohol, fill to about 1/2 inch below the top with water, and add a big squirt or two of dishwashing liquid.  That's it!

Now I'll look around and see what else we throw away that could be made from something reuseable. 

Happy Crafting!  Deborah

Monday, April 16, 2012

Show and Tell - Spinning!

I haven't said anything before, but for the past couple of months I've been quietly learning to spin!  Another skill I'm learning in the fibers class I'm taking this semester - which I can definitely say is the most amazing class I've ever taken.  

I fell in love with spinning immediately - even when my yarn was uneven in thickness and all curled up from over spinning.  There is something so satisfying in taking fleece and turning it into usable yarn.  And it's also one of those relaxing "zen" things now that I've got it partly down.  I bought a Kromski Sonata wheel that I absolutely love, bought the bigger flywheel for it so I can ply larger amounts, and am well into season 4 of Deep Space Nine on Netflix because of all the spinning I'm doing!

So here's my show and tell:

I've spun two of these bundles of black corriedale roving and love it!  It's from TriPly Fibers on Etsy.

And it spun up into this.  I'm using it as part of my final project - you'll see it in a couple of weeks!

This is one of my first skeins - yep, a little over spun!  But I love it.  It had a light dip in indigo.

I bought this pygora goat fleece a couple of years ago.  I didn't know what I'd do with it, but it was SO soft I just had to have it!  I plied two strands together for the yarn.

A happy accident ... I spun two bobbins of this merino wool at two separate times.  In two separate directions!  When I plyed them, one puffed out and the other wrapped around that giving me a boucle type yarn.  Interesting - I might do it again on purpose.

Tussah silk - not too bad to spin and so beautiful!  I can't decide what color to dye it.

Milk protein silk - really!  Not very nice to spin at all ... maybe easier for someone with more skill. 

Double plied alpaca.  I love spinning alpaca!

Alpaca and Romney wool plied together - the hat is the first thing I've made from yarn I spun.

Hmmm - linen.  I spun this on a drop spindle - it looks (and feels) like jute to me.  I have some more I'm going to try on the spinning wheel to see if I like that better.

And this is more black corriedale I have on the niddy noddy drying after having been soaked.

My husband made me this niddy noddy from PVC pipe using the instructions found here.  It's great for wrapping the yarn on and then soaking in water.  I had him make the top pieces easy to take out of the t-joint so that the yarn is easy to remove.

Now that I'm into spinning I keep finding myself looking up different types of sheep and goats to raise!  For now I'm afraid it'll have to stay a day dream, but it's fun to dream ...

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Inspiration - Handed On/Kelsey Viola Wiskirchen

I've visited the Harry Wood Gallery on the ASU Tempe campus several times this week - I can't get enough of Handed On, Kelsey Wiskirchen's MFA exhibit.  Seriously, this is one of the most amazing fiber art shows I've seen! 

Many of us had our beginning textile lessons from great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, .... it's a field dominated by women and passed on to younger granddaughters, daughters, nieces, ....  This is something I've been thinking about for some time, so it was amazing to see such a strong exhibit from someone thinking along the same lines.

Kelsey spent time with women's weaving groups in several different cultures - Bolivia, South Africa, and Arizona - and was struck by the similarities.  Women working together as a community, sharing stories, and passing on skills and traditions to the younger women and girls.  Working from her photographs, she drew life sized women at work and used free-motion machine embroidery on cheesecloth to bring these women to life.

The free hanging cheesecloth works wonderfully in several ways.  It moves as people walk in between the rows, giving animation to the representations of women involved in their work.  And the thin, fragility of the cloth represents her vision of the women's stories as delicate and fragile, subject to fading from our memories.

The stories are told along the walls - embroidered onto thin fabric she hand wove.  I'm not big on reading a lot in art galleries, however I read each one.  There are stories of how fiber techniques were learned from older women, of the life lessons passed down, of the family histories passed on.

Kelsey's present in the gallery during most of the time it's open, weaving a thin cloth on which she'll embroider the new stories she gathers.  A very inviting table with pens and paper invites all visitors to add their own stories.

Handed On will be on display through Friday, April 20.  Hours for the Harry Wood Gallery are 9 - 5 Monday through Thursday and 9 - 3 on Fridays.  The Gallery is located in the Art Building on the Tempe Campus of Arizona State University - a map and parking information can be found here.  See more of Kelsey's work on her website.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Sewing - Pearl Keeper

Last year I went on a pearl tying binge!  And when I'm not wearing one, the necklaces have been sitting in little boxes since then.  When I saw how the blue flowered felt piece I made last week turned out, I immediately thought of a pearl case.  Pearls like to have softness around them, so the felted wool seemed perfect.  Pearls don't like to rub against themselves or other pearls though (it damages the nacre), so pearl cases usually have little compartments or sections.  My felt piece was too small to to do this with .... but when I spend some time thinking about how to make a sewing project work, I usually come up with something!

First I added some embroidery and beading.  I used a plain piece of hand made felt for the back and sewed around the three sides.

I have quite a few handkerchiefs that were mine when I was a child and some that also belonged to my grandmothers.  I wrapped each necklace in its own handkerchief before slipping it into the case.

After folding the case in half and tying it with a ribbon, it was finished.  Much nicer than boxes!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wet Felting Tutorial

Wet felting is a method used to make a dense fabric (felt) from animal hair.  Some animal hair - or fleece - works better than others.  Fleece from Merino and Corriedale sheep felts very well, as does alpaca fleece.  Plant fibers don't felt and neither does any animal fleece that has been made be be "superwash."  Trust me on that last one!  I accidentally grabbed my bag of superwash Merino and was not happy to see the piece I worked so hard on all fluffed out and unfelted when it dried.  Human hair makes an interesting felt, too.  Animal hair has scales that open up when you get them wet and soapy.  Agitating makes them grab onto each other causing all the strands to stick permanently together.  Depending on what fleece you use, what colors you add, and any type of post-felting impressions you make you can get very a interesting, one of a kind fabric!

*animal fleece - also called "roving."  This can be bought at weaving stores, many yarn stores, Dharma, some craft stores, and from many different on-line sources.
*plastic shelf liner
*athletic shirt fabric - the kind from man-made fiber that is mesh-like
*small piece of thin PVC pipe or some other small diameter cylinder
*diluted dishwashing soap - it's nice to have this in a squeeze bottle.  I dilute mine about 1 part soap to 3 parts water
*a plastic store bag

1.  On a waterproof or plastic covered surface, lay a towel and put a piece of shelf liner (about 2 feet) on top.

2.  Roving usually comes in long, thick strands.  Take one end, put your right hand down firmly on it and pull with your left hand until a piece (usually about 6 inches or so depending on the fleece type) comes off.

3.  Continue until you have about 4 pieces.  Make another row to the left, overlapping the ends of the fleece slightly.  This will make a rough square shape where all the fleece lays horizontally across the shelf liner.

4.  Add a second layer by starting at the top of the square and pulling the fibers down so that this layer is perpendicular to the first layer.

5.  Your square now looks something like this.  Notice that the fibers lay vertically down the shelf liner.

6.  You can make felt with two layers, however I think it's easier to learn the process with thicker felt.  Add a third layer - this time you back to the direction you laid the first layer down in.  Start at the right side and pull across.  These fibers will be perpendicular to the fibers in the second lay and will lay horizontally across the shelf liner.

7.  Layer the athletic shirt fabric on top of your square of roving.  I like to cut my fabric in two pieces and overlap it slightly in the middle of the roving.  This will make it easier to take the fabric off after your first round of agitation.

8.  Pour hot water in the center of your roving and add a good sized squirt of watered down dish soap.

9.  Scrunch up the plastic store bag and begin pressing down in the middle of your square while rubbing the bag in a circle.  Gradually increase the pressure until you are rubbing quite hard - still in a circle.  Expand the circle out a bit.

10.  Your roving will now look something like this - fluffy with a flat dent in the middle.

11.  Add more water and soap to another section of your square and work it like you did above.  Keep doing this until all of your square is flat and compacted.  If you find you're rubbing and rubbing on one area, but it's not compressing down you probably need to add more water and a little more soap.  When everything's flat, spend about a minute of hard circular rubbing.

12.  Gently peel off the athletic shirt fabric - this is where it's easier to start peeling from the center than it is from an edge and why I cut my fabric in half.  If you notice you have a lot (not a few) of wispy pieces of roving still loose, use the scrunched up plastic bag and rub it around in a circle until the loose pieces are down firmly.

13.  Your piece should look something like this ...

14.  Gently lift your piece from the shelf liner and turn it over.

15.  Put the athletic shirt fabric back on, add a bit more hot water and a bit more soap and vigorously rub (in a circular motion) this side of your fabric for a couple of minutes.

16.  Place your piece of PVC pipe at the top of the shelf liner and roll everything (not the towel, though!) up snuggly.

17.  Press down on the pipe as hard as you can and roll everything back and forth quickly.  Count to 100.  Did I mention that this is a good upper body workout?!

18.  Unroll, carefully pick up your piece, and ...

... rotate the piece 1/4 turn to the right (90 degrees).

Roll everything back up and repeat the rolling and counting to 100 process.  Unroll, turn your fabric 1/4 turn to the right again.  Roll back up and repeat the rolling.  Unroll, turn your fabric 1/4 turn to the right again.  Roll up and repeat the rolling one more time.

19.  Take your felt over to the sink and run it under hot water.  You can add a small squirt of dish soap if you don't have many bubbles.

20.  Scrunch the felt up and squeeze and rub it for about 30 seconds.  Start gently and get more vigorous.

21.  Open up your felt and flatten it in the bottom of the sink.  Repeat this process about 5 or 6 times until your felt feels firm and thickened and it has shrunk quite a bit - dip it under the hot water each time, but you shouldn't need any more soap.

22.  Rinse all the soap out, flatten (see how much smaller it is!), and set aside to dry.

You can use your felt as is or if you want a really tight, thicker piece you can put it through the washing machine with a pair of light colored jeans.  I did that to the felt on the left.

There's a lot of experimenting you can do with wet felting - you can add colored roving or bits of yarn to the top of your very first fluffy square before you put on the athletic shirt fabric ...

you can make impressions in your felt when it is wet ...

I layered this felt between two pieces of bubble wrap and used a rolling pin to press in the bubble shapes.

Experiment with different numbers of roving layers, layering dark and white fleece, .... the possibilities are endless!  I'll keep you updated on what I do with my pieces.

Happy Creating!  Deborah