Sunday, November 24, 2013

More Time for Sewing

I'm at home for 5 more weeks convalescence following major surgery. My jaw is broken and banded shut, but that doesn't impede my sewing ability, except trying to moisten the ends of thread in my mouth. Envelope licking is also not possible.

Meanwhile, being on disability means I have more time than money. And I am going to be spending Christmas with my bf's family, all of whom traditionally give gifts to every other person or couple. So we need a lot of gifts, and I'm not sure we put up enough peaches. I decided to sew tote bags, because I already had most of the stuff.

Next I thought how I go to the store and buy stuff like flax seeds and quinona from big bins, and wouldn't it be nice to not have to use a plastic bag?

These little bags are simple, made with lightweight cotton and minimalist construction to minimize weight. I think they're cute, and I can drop them into one of the grocery bags I keep in my car. I'm going to give them to the kind of people I think will use them.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mahl stick, homemade version

Now that I am occasionally drawing and painting larger, and using an upright easel, I can see the advantages of using a mahl stick. I looked at them in the store and they are ridiculously expensive!!! As has many times been the case I thought "I can make that!"

This whole project took about 10 minutes, including sanding the dowel. OK, it was 15 if you count the time I spent gathering materials. The cost was less than $2 (I picked up the dowel at an estate sale for $1). Way better than the nearly $30 the store wanted for a mahl stick.  Sheesh!

My version of the mahl stick cannot be disassembled for easy transport, but I do not care. I took a four foot long, 3/8" oak dowel I happened to have lying around for the stick. If you don't have one lying around your house you can go to the store and get one. Even places like Michael's and Home Depot sell these, maybe not in oak though. Or you could go crazy and use walnut! Just make sure it is not all crooked and wonky. I then took a scrap of old t-shirt from my rag bag and wadded it up for the filling. I traced a circle in a scrap of leather I had lying around, cut it out, and tied it around the end using some silk fingerloop braid I wove years ago.

I thought about staining and finishing the oak, maybe putting a handle on it, and also a loop at the end so I can hang it up. Maybe I'll do those things later, or on another version. This one is fancy enough for now.

The scrap leather came from the bargain scrap bin at Tandy's. If you don't have that available there are suede-like fabrics at the fabric store, or use a scrap of cloth or something. Also it can be tied with plain twine. I just got all fancy 'cause I could, and because I like it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I used an orbital sander as an eraser

I was commissioned a while ago to make a Dia de Los Muertos themed shadow box, and other than making the figures (similar to those for this project) for inside I've made little progress. Until now!

I started with making the box since I wanted to make sure it was going to all fit together after I put huge numbers of hours into the painting. Having decided to go all out and paint the inside with tempera, I then made and applied a traditional gesso base to the inside pieces. I then started painting the inside, but decided I hated what I'd painted and the project stalled...for months...

...until one recent day when I grew so frustrated with looking at my failure that I decided to try something to fix it. I put 220 grit sandpaper on my orbital sander and sanded all the unwanted paint right off. It worked! Well, almost perfect. There were some scattered spots where the paint didn't sand off but nothing that will make a big difference with what I am doing.

I am so totally going to use a power sander next time I make gessoed panels! One of the mental barriers to making panels has been my hatred of hand sanding. Power tools are certainly worth a shot! Next to figure out how to apply gesso with a sprayer...

The painting is going to be a miniature painted room divided into two sections: a simpler, floral patterned upper area, and a more detailed lower area. The person for whom I am making this loves peacocks, so there will be peacocks in the lower section.

For the color palette my goal is to do something that uses a few pigments only so it will be harmonious, and the overall scheme to complement the figures but not overwhelm them or be too distracting.

The graphic above shows some of my progress to date. I started by drawing out the basic design, then tracing it onto the gesso using blue Saral transfer paper. Then I painted in the lines and shaded the flowers with a greenish Raw Umber. Much of the vines will be lost when I wash in the background but I will just repaint it later. These lines are more for use as a guide for the final touch up.

Next I started laying the washes for the background. With tempera there is a translucence which allows previous layers of color to show through, so using multiple layers with multiple colors creates beautiful texture and depth. The Vagone Green by Kremer is a mixture of Chrome Green and an earth green, so it brings qualities of both colors. Next I used a mixture of Bohemian Green Earth, finer than some similarly colored earth greens, and Titanium Buff. I mixed the paint 2:1 because the buff is more opaque than the green, I also used a dilute mixture. I prefer to do multiple layers of a thinner paint so I can get more even coverage at the end and not apply the color too thickly or intensely too soon.

I have started painting in the peacocks but don't have the photos ready, so more on this project later.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An unexpected museum visit in Frankfurt

detail of shoe

St. Veronica, attributed to the workshop of Roger
Campin, circa 1428-30
Recently I went on vacation to the Canal du Midi in the south of France, finishing up with a weekend in Germany.  As it turned out I was there for Frankfurt's "Night at the Museum", a celebration of all the wonderful museums that are within walking distance of each other in Frankfurt. Admission was only 12 Euro for all of the museums, less that the 14 Euro for the State museum alone, home of some lovely Medieval and Renaissance artwork. My boyfriend and his friend were very patient with me and my long gazing at some of these fabulous paintings. There really is nothing to replace seeing something in person. 

For example, I had pored over the above image many times and never really took notice of the lovely little shoe St. Veronica is wearing. The painting is nearly life size, so there was a lot of detail to take in.
Since the museum trip was a surprise I hadn't done any research and didn't know what to expect. I was so happy to be able to take close up pictures of some embroidery details:

Portrait of Simon George of Cornwall by Hans Holbein
circa 1535-40
blackwork embroidery detail
And another Holbein, this time the Portrait of a Member of the Weiss Family of Augsburg, circa 1522. It looks to me like an embroidered band was stitched on to a smocked or gathered neckline with matching woven ties:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fascinating fascinators, and other millinery bits

For half a dozen years or more I've been wanting to take a Beginning Millinery class offered over three Saturdays at a local community college, and finally I am doing it. The instructor is a wonderful milliner, Wayne Wichern, with nearly three decades of experience. Our class goal is to leave with three finished items: a straw hat, a fabric covered buckram hat, and a fascinator.

Due to time considerations we did not get to block our own straw hats, alas. We did watch the instructor demonstrate using one of his collection of dozens of hat blocks (in the photo also note the two blocks with a round and flat buckram crown blocked and drying). He also used some leftover straw to make a straw feather. A piece of straw is wetted, the edges are fluffed out, a wire is stitched on, the the feather is trimmed to shape and bent. The contrasting thread and wire in the photo are for demonstration purposes.

I made an extra buckram fascinator base at home. I covered a conveniently shaped object with plastic wrap to protect it from the buckram. Then I took buckram, wetted it with warm water, and stretched and shaped it; finally I pinned it down to dry. Here it is sitting in a sunny window to speed up drying.

Once it was dry I drew the desired shape of my fascinator base (photo below), cut it out and covered it with fabric. Photos were taken with my cell phone, sorry about the quality.

Also I have been trying to teach myself how to make fabric flowers. My experiments with that will be the subject of other posts. As part of that I am making my own stamens, because the commercially available stamens are expensive and not necessarily exactly what I want. Below is one of my experimental flowers posed under my first stamen experiment. The stamen stems are 28 gauge covered floral wire (I decided that is too thick) dipped in paint. I really like the iridescent green! A cooling rack ordinarily used for baking makes a great drying rack for the stamens; it is resting on two frying pans.