Confessions of An Online Class Junkie

I love taking those short classes online that are only a few hours or days. There, I said it out loud, I’m addicted. I’ve paid a few bucks for them, get to learn a new technique in something that might be related to something I already know, or it could be something totally unrelated. The investment of time can be from only an hour to many hours and days. This is the magic of the internet.

Calligraphy PracticeSometimes it leads me to a completely new interest and I go down that rabbit hole only to emerge wondering where I’m going to incorporate this new skill. Such is the case with the classes I’ve been taking through Creative Bug. First it was Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing, which led to her Sketchbook Explorations, which then lend to Maybelle Imassa-Stukuls Beginning Calligraphy. Okaaay, as a fiber artist, how does this relate to anything in the knitting, sewing, weaving world I’ve been living in? I don’t know YET, but I do think there’s something brewing.

P1000840I did make this denim piece that I added embroidery to, which is very much in the style of Lisa’s line drawings. I like it very much and it was lots of fun to do. I think I just might have to do another to see if the fun and play are still there. I got a little bogged down when it came to the embroidery, even though I did yet another class to brush up on my embroidery skills.

That led to the other website that I like for classes which is Craftsy. The embroidery class I checked out was with Sue Spargo called Embroidering Texture & Dimension by Hand. I’ve been doing embroidery off and on since my teens, so this refresher looked like fun and it is!

Denim BoxThat then led to Embroidering With Ribbon with Mary Jo Hiney and I learned not only how to do ribbon embroidery but also how to make a little box and a picture frame. Ok, so now how do I incorporate that? Oh lord, I don’t know, but I do know it was fun to create these boxes. I mean, who doesn’t love a little box. This one was promptly given to a friend for her birthday.

Of course, as I’m adding the links to these classes, I find two more that are very interesting to me. Bead Embroidery with Myra Wood on Craftsy and Beginning Watercolor with Yao Cheng on Creative Bug. Ugh, there isn’t enough time in the day to take all the creative classes! And wouldn’t some beading look great on that little box or the denim flower piece?

And just to let you know, this post is not sponsored, I have just found that both websites provide excellent classes with exceptional instructors and I hope that you will too. The range of classes are incredible. Currently Craftsy has many classes on sale and Creative Bug is having a sale on their subscriptions. Both sites also have free classes so go check them out, it may take you down a new creative rabbit hole too.

 

Posted in art, Calligraphy, collage, creativity, denim, DIY, embroidery, lettering, mixed media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calling It Done

65181_532200718_lFor the past month or so I’ve been working on a sewing project. It’s one of those free form things that could go on and on, ad nauseam. My enthusiasm for it started when I saw this very cool denim starburst on a blog named Belrossa. Having an absolutely mountain of denim I figured it would be a way to kill two birds with one stone. I’d have some new art and lighten the load.

P1000694There are no instructions on her blog how to make it, but I knew I’d be doing it differently anyway, since I wouldn’t need to be cutting up jeans. If you do want to do this project, I’d just cut the legs off 3-4 pairs of jeans and slit a seam. The denim I have is what I would call sample pieces and all I’d need was to cut one seam and I was off and running. So I pulled out a stack of various colors, deciding limit it to 5 blacks, grays and an off white. I ironed a “heat & bond” type adhesive on the back, cut them from 1″ to 2″ widths and then to various lengths.

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I also used a lightweight black cotton as a backing to fuse and then sew onto. I first put down the white center and a layer of darker colors in wider widths. I laid them out in a pleasing sun-bursty design, fused and then sewed around each piece with a nice red thread using a zig zag stitch. Now, that sounds pretty quick and easy, right? Well, it is very easy to do, but quick it is not, even the fusing isn’t that quick. Mind you, you can just go at it all willy-nilly, and I truly enjoy making free form pieces, but I also felt it would be easier to sew the pieces if they’re already tacked to the backing. It took the whole weekend to get the first layer down.

P1000713Still having some enthusiasm, the next weekend I went after it again and got most of another layer done. It was starting to shape up and look more like a starburst or a light at the end of the tunnel, as I started to think of it. By the third weekend the enthusiasm was starting to wane, but I plugged on and by this weekend I’m calling it done. This thing is the sewing equivalent of knitting’s garter stitch. It got boring very quickly and I’ve been working on it for so long, I’m not even sure I like it any more. So I think I’ll set it aside, let it marinade while I decide whether I just mount it, or add something else to it and use it as a background for a mixed media project.

It may not be done, but I sure am. It was good for me to have a different kind of project, and to make myself follow through and finish something. But I do know one thing, I’m not making another!

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Peering Into the Future and Playing In The Present

This is the time of year where almost every one I know has been making their yearly business/life plans and goals and I find I’m over here flopping around trying to figure out what the hell I want to do beyond this only two week old year of 2015. So rather than lock myself into one path, which I would actually hate, I’m doing something totally and completely different, I’m painting and drawing and playing in a different medium than I usually work in.

Watercolored BackgroundThe direction I’m taking is with the help of Lisa Congdon. She’s doing a four week class on Creative Bug called Sketchbook Explorations. I’m on week two, and it’s been really fun to cut loose and just play. Play in a different medium, play with a different technique and not worry about creating “product.”

But you know what has happened with that, I find I’m taking what I’m doing on paper and thinking about what it would look like if I did it on denim and make it into wall art. Instead of drawing on the fabric, what about embroidering on it? How big do I want to make this? (Big) How about taking some of my necktie scraps and use them like they were the ephemera that Lisa uses in her collages. (Sure why not!) Maybe adding beads, lace and ribbon to it, and how embellished do I want to make this stuff? I’ve even been thinking about how they could apply to clothing. Ack! I’m off down another path, a fun one mind you, but a completely different path.

These are all thoughts I’ve been waking up with for the last couple of weeks, and I’m just going “Oh why the hell not just go for it.”

It’s really fascinating how my brain works and how something so separate from what I was doing this last year could spark a whole new path of creative expression. You never know what will trigger a whole new body of work if you just allow yourself to go. My word for this year was to PLAY, and that’s what I’m doing. Playing with this and seeing where it leads. If nothing else, I’ll come up with some new wall art and if I absolutely hate it, I’ll have a new perspective and new skills.

Posted in art, beading, collage, denim, embroidery, mixed media, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

So Long 2014, Hello 2015

Tencel ScarfIt’s that time of year where it seems absolutely everyone is making the end of year list. The what I made, what I accomplished, what I learned and what happened in the world lists. I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, how I want to approach my view on what happened in my world in 2014, and quite frankly, it was a mixed bag, like I’m sure it was for most people.

I had the highs – Yay! Congratulations on your marriage! And the very lows – what do you mean my two year old grandson has cancer. Glad to report, another Yay, he’s now considered cancer free after treatment.

Tencel ScarfBut what really rings true for me when I look back on 2014, was it was a year for me to cut out the external distractions so I could focus on what the hell I really want out of what I have left of this life. Once you hit that magical number of 60, your realize you’re no longer “middle aged”, that the number of years left is fewer than the number of years you’ve already had, so I better really get off my ass and accomplish something, anything.

When I really got that picture, it was pretty early in the year, it may have even been a year ago. There were three major decisions I made, that all involved pulling back from volunteer positions within organizations that I’ve been a part of for many years. What that did, was to really begin that process of giving to myself instead of giving away so much of my energy. So then I could really start to focus on creating, and then maybe by the fall, I would actually have something to sell at some craft shows I planned on participating in.

Cat and MonkeyIt was hard to not get distracted. Oh I want to weave now, now I want to sew, now I want to knit, oh and how about diving into drawing and hand lettering, and maybe I should make some filler, cheaper items for the booth. Damn, I didn’t plan on that taking that much time out of being able to make X.

It was a real learning experience to be making a plan and executing it, and at the same time allowing myself the freedom to explore and have fun with making “product” without it becoming drudgery. After all, if I’m going to be self employed, I need to be able to have a good time doing it too.

There were also a few months where I physically couldn’t do some crafts. For almost the first six months of the year, I couldn’t weave. I twisted my ankle on Jan. 2, my birthday, and it was severe enough that I couldn’t push the treadles on my loom. But I made up for it starting in July and wove six scarves in 3 months. I also started knitting again and made 5 scarves in 2 months.

MandalaSo here I am, looking at 2015 and am making some plans, I like that word better than “goals”. I plan on weaving more, knitting more and starting to explore drawing more. I also plan on playing with making toys. It’s been fun to make things for my grandkids, and maybe a wider audience would like them too. I’m also considering getting back into teaching. Passing on the craft is so very important. So we’ll see where these plans take me on my creative journey and if I were to pick a word for what 2015 is going to be, it would be PLAY. I’m going to play with my art, my creativity and my abilities and we’ll see where it takes me. I’m up for it and bring it on.

Posted in art, creating change, creativity, denim, DIY, knitting, lettering, mixed media, scarves, sewing, teaching, Toys, weaving | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Craft Show Imposed Finishitis

City StoplightsIt’s that time of year when not only myself, but thousands of other artists are getting ready for holiday craft shows, in the hopes of making a couple of bucks so we too can buy presents. In my case I’m doing the last of the fringe twisting, shawl blocking, labeling, and pricing of the pieces I’ve been working on for the last six months.

I’m ever so hopeful that the rain lets up, and that there isn’t too much storm damage from this monster that has hit the west coast. The ever so drought stricken Bay Area is now experiencing an absolute deluge that I haven’t seen in years.

P1000569But I’m ready. I’ve gone through my inventory, made sure that everything is nice and neat, clean and looking spiffy. I’ve gathered together the display racks and hangers to make everything look pretty. I have my business cards and I even made a banner so people will know who the hell I am, other than just another knitter.

In spite of all that, I’m a bit nervous. This is the first time I’ve done this show, the Harley Farms Christmas Fair, in Pescadero. I have to remind myself that there are some things I can control, like having things ready, and there are some things I can’t control, like the weather. I can only hope that Pescadero Creek doesn’t flood the town (that would be very bad) and that it’s dry enough that people will want to make the trek.

ABlue Alpaca Shawlnd I’m happy I’ve licked the finishitis. I’m ready, and if you’re in the Bay Area with nothing to do this weekend, come on out to Pescadero. The show is at Harley Farms, 205 North Street, Pescadero, Ca. 94060 from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Just click the blogroll link and it’ll give you additional information

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Birth Of A Rug Weaver

Paula's RugYes, I know it sounds rather dramatic, but it took longer to make this little piece of rug than it took for me to birth my son.

Jason Collingwood

Jason Collingwood

It started over a year ago when I asked the membership of Black Sheep Handweaver’s Guild what kind of workshops they might be interested in, and who they might want to have come teach. The overwhelming response was to have Jason Collingwood come from the UK and teach us about rug weaving. So I started on the quest to see what his schedule was and whether we could fit it into our schedule.

He’s actually very easy to track down, with having a web presence at http://www.rugweaver.co.uk. He even answers emails in a timely manner! We hashed out a weekend that would work for both of us, which was last weekend Oct. 10-12, almost exactly a year after first contact.

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Jason Demonstrating

Eight people from our Guild and adjoining areas gathered with their looms and enthusiasm in my living room, to learn the techniques of rug weaving first taught by Jason’s father, Peter Collingwood. Peter’s book, Techniques In Rug Weaving is a classic, and Jason having been taught by his father, is continuing the tradition of making quality rugs by hand.

We had a great time! Jason’s relaxed style and unending patience with us repeating the same questions over & over, he had us weaving samples of rugs in no time.

 

Dorothy's sampleRug weaving isn’t really that difficult, but for all of us there were new techniques to be learned and trying to wrap your head around them was sometimes daunting. I found myself more than once staring at my loom and this little piece of weaving, wondering what the hell I’m doing, or what was I going to do. During those times, I’d also look around the room and was rather relieved that I wasn’t the only one with that look of concentration.

Now I bet some of you are wondering why the hell weave a rug? There are many rugs you can buy out there that are quite adequate to cover the floor. Well my answer to that is, why not weave a rug? I’m at a place where I’m exploring with my weaving. I’ve been weaving with fine threads over the summer, and have made some very cool scarves that I’ll be selling at shows this winter. It was time to try something different to see if I liked it.

Source: Jason Collingwood

Source: Jason Collingwood

I learned lots of new techniques in this workshop that I’ll use in other areas of my weaving and I’m thinking that after the first of the year I’ll explore it even further. It may not be rugs that I make, but wall hangings, because some of the work I’ve seen of Jason’s is really exceptional and I’d love to have some textile art on the wall.

 

Paula's Rug

Paula’s Rug

For now, I have this sweet little piece that’s about 12″ wide and 20″ long to refer to. I’ll be using it for a table runner or maybe  as a wall hanging.

It was a great weekend and I’m still ruminating over all the things I can make with this very different type of wool. Thanks Jason for the inspiration!

For all the weavers that might be interested, Jason will be teaching a three day workshop on 3 End Block Weaving next year at the CNCH conference, April 9-12, 2015 at Asilomar on the Monterey coast. You too can learn how to make an amazing rug.

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Going Mobile

WhosnextSummer of 1972, at the ripe old age of 21, I packed up my Volvo 122 with camping gear, grabbed my favorite cassette tape, Who’s Next and set off for Montana to see my grandmother. I wasn’t sure how much longer she was going to be around and I was at the pivoting point where I really needed to figure out what I’m going to do with my life.  I thought this trip was going to be the one to show me the light, help me to focus on what to do to be successful, to make some money and get my parents off my back, so I could finally say what I’m going to be when I grow up.

Who’s Next was my driving force. I screamed “teenage wasteland, it’s only a teenage wasteland” from Baba O’Reily across Oregon and Idaho and “This Song is Over” had my crying for my lost youth and more than a few relationships. But Going Mobile kept me driving, especially on my return. I left Yellowstone Park at seven in the morning, the mist rising and elk browsing. I arrived at Lake Tahoe at a friend’s house at eleven that same evening, bleary eyed and more than a little burnt out.

I didn’t really figured out my life path on that trip. There really were too many decisions to make, but I did go back to school. I did have a great opportunity to not only see the grandmother in Montana, but also the one that lived in Wyoming and numerous cousins and aunts and uncles. I think it was the last time I saw both of them in person.

Crochet FlowersFast forward 42 years, to 2014. This post isn’t just about my misspent youth and existential angst, that it looks like I do with some regularity, but I’ve also been thinking about those times when I take my projects with me. Back in 1972, it was crochet in the horrible plastic-y acrylic yarn in god-awful colors. Today my crochet is more along the lines of thread crochet of hat bands and flowers and it’s a little more to my taste.

Mitered Square Baby BlanketIn the years since 1972 I’ve also started knitting so that is probably my number one portable project. Currently it’s a miter square baby blanket. The pattern is so easy and simple that it is an excellent candidate for travel. I don’t have to pay attention to it too much, anticipating the color changes. This one is in primary colors and the next will be in more subtle pastels. The recipient is expecting twins, thankfully not until December.

MandalaAnother thing I’ve been drawn to lately is literally drawing. The pens I invested in to do lettering, have migrated for use in doodling. I actually started doodling again years ago, when Zentangles started becoming popular. As a lifelong doodler, it’s fun to take it with me. Finding patterns, (airports are great for that) and putting my own spin on them.

The good thing about being multi-craftual is I have many types of projects to choose from. Besides knitting, crocheting and drawing I could also bring a small spindle and fiber and spin some yarn, embroider elements to go on a larger piece and if I’m feeling particularly brave, even do some beading. The down side of being multi-craftual, I have to choose which project or projects to take with me!

Crochet BouqetIf you’re wondering where I get the inspiration for these projects, there’s a few places. First of all, I found this great book for crochet flowers, called not surprisingly called Crochet Bouquet by Suzann Thompson. Most of her examples use all different kinds of yarn, and it’s a great way to use up your odds and ends of left overs. I happen to have a lot of crochet thread, and they work well with the patterns, but they do come out smaller than the examples she has.

The miter square pattern someone posted on Twitter, but I’ll be damned if I can find the original link. It was a free pattern on their blog, and I put my own twist on it. I wish I could remember who it was.

The pattern was simply cast on 3 stitches. Knit one, make one, place a marker. Knit the next stitch, make one, knit the last stitch. Next row, knit. You repeat these two rows of increasing on the “front” before the marker and after the first stitch past the marker. I also used a separate color code marker, to mark the right side of my knitting. It is also an excellent stash buster. I did have to buy some yarn, just not all of it, and only to have the color combinations I preferred.

The doodles came entirely out of my imagination, so please enjoy them here, and ask if you’d like to use them elsewhere. If you haven’t checked out the Zentangle website yet, do go over there, there are some amazing drawings going on.

And lastly, if you haven’t listened to Who’s Next by the Who, it’s well worth the time to listen to the entire album, it the order it’s listed. There are many iconic songs are on that album, not just the clips you hear on the many different versions of CSI.

So, what do you take with you on your travels? I’d love to hear what you do and maybe I’ll get some new inspirations for travel projects.

Posted in beading, crochet, embroidery, knitting, spinning, travel projects | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Adventures in Weaving, A Tale of Two Scarves

Tying on WarpNow that I’ve recovered from yet another bout of existential angst, I started rummaging around the studio, aka garage, to see what kind of project might suit my fancy. Sewing? Nope, too much stuff on that table. Knitting? No, I still have three projects I’m avoiding. Spinning? No, that much ankle action would have me limping in no time.

I started eyeing the loom, with that “come hither my love” look. To unearth it from the nether regions, where it was accumulating dust, required moving more that one piece of crap that I’ve yet to deal with. But unearthed it was, and upon eliciting help from the minion husband, it was in it’s new home among the other living room furniture, and ready to do my bidding.

Tencel in purples & turquoiseThe lovely tencel I dyed in the warp painting workshop, was to be my first victim. I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm, so working the the cool fiber would suit the season. The warp length for two scarves made it easy to wrangle, and with one end more turquoise and the other more plum, it would be interesting enough for me to keep plugging along. Plus, with my magical thinking, I just knew I would have these two, and four other tencel scarves completed in the next two weeks, so I could sell them for Mother’s Day presents. I was amped!

Beginning of ScarfI warped up the loom, threw in the turquoise accent part of the warp, fished out the more turquoise weft yarn, and went at it. Now I know I made that sound quick and easy, but the reality was, it still took me a good 6 hours to get it warped and tied on the way I wanted it should be. Of course once I was ready to weave, I discovered two threads that were missed at the beginning of threading, and all the empty heddles were on the other side. So I opted to NOT spend another hour re-threading the entire warp, I was anxious to get weaving. Another thing, our great teacher, Theresa Rusch warned us about tencel, is that it can cut you. Do you think I remembered that little tidbit? No, of course not. Deep into tying on the warp I discovered how raw the side of my ring finger was, thankfully before I started bleeding all over my fresh yarn.

Closeup Now I must say in my defense, this is a couple of firsts for me. This is the first time I’ve woven tencel. It’s also the first time I’ve woven this fine a yarn, both the warp and weft. Do you know how much longer it takes to weave with something that’s the thickness of yarn I make lace scarves out of? A lot. But it’s well worth it. I’ve already taken the first scarf off the loom and it’s made a lovely fabric. After a finishing bath, it’ll make a very nice summer accent scarf.

Second ScarfWith the first scarf was off the loom, setting up the second half was a breeze in comparison to the first. First thing to do is take out a couple of warp threads that had shifted in the warp, and was bugging me during the entire first scarf. See the dark lines in the photo above? Those. I used the two skipped threads from the first scarf (Yay, see they did come in handy!), put them in and I was good to go. Since I liked the pattern on the first scarf, I figured I’d use it for the second one too. This one is much more purple-ly and I’m liking it too.  The weft yarn is finer (think cobweb lace weight) than the other, so it’s taking even longer. I’ve also found my left ankle and knee that I tweaked last January are complaining, so I’m really learning the old adage of “slow and steady will still get you to the finish line.” I hate that, I want it fast and quick. But if I even want to be able to walk anywhere without excruciating pain, I’m taking it slow and steady.

Hopefully, since Mother’s Day is still a few days off, I’ll have this second one done too, and can choose between them which will look better on Mom.

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Where To Now Saint Peter

That is the question Elton John posed in this song on his album Tumbleweed Connection. After re-listening to it, I really related to the line “I understand I’m on the road where all that was is gone, so where to now St. Peter, show me which road I’m on, which road I’m on.”

Road less traveledSince I’ve made some big changes lately, by freeing up my time from my volunteering, I’m having some difficulty figuring out what’s next and what road I am supposed to take. I’m also discovering how easily I’m swayed by other people’s paths. It’s so easy to get distracted when you see someone making really great pieces, whether it’s knitting, or weaving, or felting, or lettering, or dolls, or polymer clay, or jewelry, or sewing, or, or, or. I see them and I’m ohh, that looks good, ohh, that looks fun, OH that is so cool! I want to do that, and that, and that, and that other thing over there. In this day and age, where the internet offers instruction on how to do all those things and much, much more, I find myself wandering off in many, many directions.

img019Some are fun little distractions that are easy to backtrack from, but then with others, I find myself going down the rabbit hole, wondering how the hell I got here, and why did I sign up for that course that takes me so far off in a completely different direction.

Prime example, do I really want to learn lettering? Now what? Do I really want to do this, or do I just let it go, and steer myself back to what I know, what’s familiar. I can see the value in knowing how to do this, if for no other reason, I’ll have custom cards and promotional materials for my fiber arts but really…how much do you do yourself and how much do you farm out to someone who already has the skill. Then I can focus on something where I might have a little more skill, so I’m not just starting from scratch. Even though I’m a firm believer that all learning is good learning, and all skills will be useful, but how much is too much?

Just writing this out, is helping me get some clarity. What I also realize, there’s no reason why I can’t play with lettering. Have some fun with it, create some logos, doodle, make some art with it. I don’t have to make it my next life’s work. I can also focus more on my fiber pursuits, where I do have skill. After all I already have a great name in Fiberdazed, and Letterdazed doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

For now, I think I’ll go poke little barbed needles into some fiber and see what that’s like.

Oh, and a new rule, no signing up for any courses after 10 pm.

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Swimming Upstream

otter1That’s what it feels like, like I’m trying to swim upstream. I’ve made the big decision, to quit my volunteer jobs, to follow my bliss, to create for myself. I had the wonderful elation (for like 10 minutes) of contacting these people and letting them know I’m no longer going to be actively involved in the planning and day to day work at their organization. Now I’m getting hit with the resistance, the uncertainty, fear and sometimes down right anger about the change. Mind you, no one is actually saying it out loud, that they’re angry, but I’m so sensitive to energy, I know it, and I feel it.

dr3eSo to get through this time of change and transition I’m working really hard on keeping my focus on myself and what I’m creating. Finding support from friends that understand what I’m going through. Focusing on what I can control and what I can do now to advance my struggling business. And maybe, just maybe, be a little amused about how I don’t do things half assed. How when I decide to make a change, it’s not small or unnoticed. That I can hang onto an idea and run with it. That if I continue to swim upstream, through this river of resistance to change, I’ll get to the spawning ground of my creativity. (Yeah, I know, bad metaphor.)

derSometimes I wonder if this isn’t just a big test by the universe. We’ll throw all this resistance and uncertainty and fear at her, and see if she’ll keep going forward, or just run away with her tail between her legs like a frightened puppy otter. This way we’ll know for sure that’s she’s really serious about making art, not just saying she’s going to make art. This way, it’s really do or die, shit or get off the pot.

So it’s time to put my big girl panties on. Ignore the nay sayers and critics (especially the one that lives inside my head) and just keep going forward. In the end, when they see I haven’t given up, they’ll know I’m serious about my changes and desire to create a new life. That life that’s full of creativity, exploration, fun and otters. Lots of otters. Otter photos courtesy of the web, and Daily Otter.com

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