Category Archives: embroidery

Making + Listening::5/2014

I’ve been very busy making this past week. First priority was a custom order for Dawn, for a pouch for her son’s Kindle. She also wanted it to be protected against wetness. After talking about her son’s interests, this is the design we came up with.

photo 1 copy

For the uninitiated, that’s a Minecraft cake block.

I lined it with PUL, the fabric that’s used for cloth diapers and wet bags.

photo 2 copy

It’s on its way to Dawn and her son now. I always put my own good intentions into what I make–even when I don’t know who may end up buying something, I make everything as if I’m sewing a gift for a friend. But when I do know who will be getting it, that’s even better, because then I’m thinking of them all the way through. Which is to say, I enjoyed making this for Ander!

Also this week I’ve been working to put together the next issue of Art Together. I am so excited about it. As part of that process, I made my first gelatin printmaking plate.

gelatin plate

Photo by V. Hood.

The kids and I spent Wednesday morning experimenting with it, and we were back at it after lunch on Thursday! I have a stack of gelatin plates in my fridge right now (I cut the large one down into smaller ones). Because this is a completely normal thing for some of us, to have ink-stained printmaking plates hanging out in the fridge.

I’m also happy to be making time for running again. Earlier this month I was cleared by the orthopedist to start slowly, with short distances, adding only 1/2 mile or so of mileage each week. I was waylaid a bit while my husband was away last week, but I got back to the track last night and it felt so good! I’m also transitioning to minimalist shoes, on the orthopedist’s recommendation, which requires a different footstrike, too. (I know, I lost the non-runners there, sorry.) The bright side is that coming back slowly to running makes it the perfect time to transition, because you have to do that slowly too. By the time sunrise is early enough for me to get out before I need to tend to the day (my favorite running time), I ought to be able to just head out the door and go.

As for listening…it’s still the Olympics most of the time, and Pandora shuffle in the art room. What a happy thing, to listen to music and make art.

(Linking up with Dawn again this week.)

Hello, 2014

And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass

–Counting Crows, “A Long December”

Sometime during the summer I heard this song on the radio and thought, I can’t wait until I’m slamming the door on 2013. I pictured kicking it in the ribs a few times on the way out. (I had some anger. Exercise helped.) I reflected on the past year just a few months ago in my birthday post, and I don’t have much more to add, except this: It turns out I’m not angry at 2013 after all. I’m grateful.

Just to be clear: I wouldn’t want to relive this year. Absolutely not, even though it contained some wonderful moments and experiences. But I’m grateful to have lived it. I wouldn’t have requested the situation to occur, the one that triggered such severe PTSD symptoms. When I picture the worst of the PTSD this past spring, when I try to remember, I see myself curled up, knees to chest, at the bottom of a narrow, deep hole. There’s light way at the top of it, but I’m stuck down in a close, dark place. Life is going along normally for the people at the surface–I can glimpse them going by–but down in my hole, clumps of dirt keep falling into my hair and I’m running out of air. It was like that. I don’t want to go through that again. But for most of my life I was having flashes of symptoms that I didn’t understand, blaming myself for overreacting to things, or not having gotten over whatever-it-was, guilty for feeling the wrong way. If it took that situation, this year, to trigger PTSD so severely that it had to be brought to the attention of someone who would recognize it (I will love her forever) so I could learn to understand what was going on and learn how to manage it–how can I not be grateful for that? Profoundly grateful.

Oh, 2013 was a terrible and beautiful year, all at once. I am wiser and more self-aware than I was a year ago. I like myself better. I’m more comfortable in my own skin. There was no way to get here, I’m convinced, without living through the terrible parts.

I didn’t choose a word for 2013 so much as a guidance. I hoped to remember to always choose kindness first. (The last half of 2012, it wasn’t so smooth either.) I thought if I could remember to start from a place of kindness, I’d be on the right path more often than not. I know I didn’t keep to this ideal in all situations, but it’s a good ideal, and one I will keep aspiring to. As the year wound down, I made myself a reminder. It hangs off the window that faces my kitchen sink. In other words, I will see this reminder quite a bit.

 be kind at amyhoodarts.com

I did decide to ponder a guiding word or ideal for 2014. I’ve been working on being okay with uncertainty–no small task for a control-freak Virgo who additionally thought for a long, long time that if I could just keep track of all the details, hold onto all the ropes, nothing bad would happen. (False.) I think I’ve made huge progress, but it’s going to be a lifelong practice, I believe, to embrace uncertainty. However, I didn’t want to choose “uncertainty” as a guiding word for the year. I wanted to flip it around, turn it inside out, and find a more positive-sounding word. This is what I decided upon.

serenity at amyhoodarts.com

I want to settle towards serenity in the face of whatever-may-come. Serenity, the state of being serene, that is, calm, unruffled, steady. That is my practice.

Happy New Year to you all. May it be full of good things, and remember, sometimes those good things require difficult times first.

Giveaway Day!

Congratulations to Chiska, whose comment number came up on random.org as the winner of the pouch. Thank you to everyone who commented–I really enjoyed reading about your handmade gifts and memories.

It’s been a long while since the last time I participated in Sew Mama Sew’s Giveaway Day and I’m pleased to be joining up again. I’m offering this hand-embroidered zippered pouch, with a design inspired by those found on Ancient Egyptian faience (such as this bowl).

embroidered zippered pouch 1

Pens and washi tape not included, but it’s certainly roomy enough to hold them!

I wanted the base fabric to match, as well as I could, the blue-green color usually found in faience, although the color of the objects themselves do, of course, vary. I often find inspiration in art and nature, and I’ve always been drawn to the beautiful, ancient pieces created using this process. I’ll never own any, but I can try to create something inspired by it.

embroidered zippered pouch 4

This pouch measures 8.25 x 5.25″ on the outside and approximately 8 x 5” inside. It’s embroidered with cotton embroidery floss on Kona cotton, with a lining of sturdy 100% cotton and an 8” YKK zipper for durability. Spot-cleaning is recommended for best results.

embroidered zippered pouch 2

This particular giveaway is open to US residents only (due to shipping costs) and I’m not asking for anything more than a comment in return (see details below), but I would love if you visited my Etsy shop, where you’ll find many more zippered pouches, including hand-stamped and hand-embroidered ones. Code HOLIDAY13 is good for 10% off your purchase.

I also publish an e-zine, Art Together, full of information and activities designed to inspire confidence in adults to explore open-ended art together with children. Code HOLIDAY gets you 20% off Issue One: Color, Issue Two: Line, or the bundle of both (available on either issue’s page). If you have kids or work with kids, I hope you’ll take a few moments to read about the e-zine.

To enter this giveaway, though, all you need to do is leave a comment with these two pieces of information:

(1)  Your email address! Please make sure you fill in that field. I need to be able to contact you by email.

(2) Tell me a favorite handmade gift you’ve either given or received. It doesn’t matter if it was made by you or the person who gave it, as long as it was handmade by somebody. This is a hard one for me, because I’ve given so many handmade gifts over the years, but one of my favorites is the doll I knit for my daughter a couple of years ago, which you can see (if you’d like) here.

giveaway_2013_Dec9In accordance with Sew Mama Sew’s guidelines, this giveaway will close at 9pm EST on Friday, December 13. I’ll update this post with the winner’s name and email the winner next weekend, and your pouch will be in the mail by December 20–and most likely well before that. Good luck! And be sure to visit Sew Mama Sew’s Giveaway Day posts to see all the wonderful items on offer.

Notebooks in the Shop

I’ve added some new items to the shop, including some hand-colored and hand-stamped notebooks, like this one:

daisy moleskine notebook at amyhoodarts.com

And this one:

tree moleskine notebook at amyhoodarts.com

And a couple of others. I also added two new embroidered pouches:

I sewed both of these together this past weekend, and when I was completely finished–turning hole sewn closed by hand, pockets ironed–I regarded them with what can only be described as satisfaction. I am pleased by them, in that quiet way that comes of creating the thing that you envisioned. Sometimes I get that feeling from a piece of writing, too, the sense that it expressed exactly what I was trying to say. That’s a good feeling, a feeling worth slogging through the not-quite-right attempts in order to achieve.

Anyway, I suppose if I ever lose that feeling with these pouches, I’ll have to move onto making something else, because I hope the sense of care and satisfaction hangs around them like an aura, packaged and mailed right along with the pouch.

Her First Embroidery

My daughter, who recently turned five, has been cutting fabric with real fabric scissors for two-and-a-half years now. She has a box that holds her scraps, scissors, and a few pins, because when she cuts the fabric, she wants to pin pieces together. Naturally, she recently asked how to sew the pieces together, so I taught her the running stitch, using a large needle, the full six strands of bright embroidery floss, and some white felt.

sewing practice by 5yo at amyhoodarts.com

“I can’t believe you’re letting me use your materials!” she exclaimed, even though, of course, we share materials in the art room all the time. But up to this point, hand-sewing and embroidery is something she has watched me do, and I took needle and floss for her to use out of the zippered pouch that holds my embroidery scissors and needle case. Kids notice what supplies they’re given, and handing over the “real” supplies for her use demonstrated that I was taking her interest seriously.

After she sewed around all the edges of her practice piece, she decided she knew enough to embroider, so I taught her how to back stitch. After practicing that, she decided she wanted to embroider the first initial of her name. I drew it onto the felt to her specifications, and she set to work.

back stitch embroidered "G" by 5yo at amyhoodarts.com

Those are careful, attentive, small stitches right there–she was working quite earnestly, and she can’t wait to start another project. This piece is now hanging up on her bulletin board in her room. She has always had excellent fine-motor coordination, so I’m not surprised she was able to do this. I also started her with a full thickness of embroidery floss, which is less likely to tangle than sewing thread, and a larger needle, which is easier for smaller fingers to hold. Felt is stiffer than regular cotton and doesn’t require a hoop (although you can certainly use one). Contrasting floss shows up well on the felt, so she can see where she’s sewing or stitching. And I was on hand to quickly help with confusion or mistakes.

I’m pretty impressed with her first embroidery, but more importantly, she is delighted to have learned something new that she wanted to do.

A Bit of Embroidery

A while ago I experimented with transparent wash-away stabilizer for embroidering on darker fabrics. These are the two designs, both inspired by Haeckel, that I embroidered on denim that I salvaged from a pair of my husband’s ripped-up jeans.

Haeckel on denim 1 at amyhoodarts.com

Haeckel on denim 2 at amyhoodarts.com

Once I decided that worked out okay, it meant I could embroider on the fantastic dark brown Japanese cotton I’ve had in my stash. I love this fabric.

salsify-inspired embroidery at amyhoodarts.com

This design is inspired by a plant I saw and photographed in Montana. It’s new to me, and Twitter helped me identify it as most likely Western Salsify. It’s gone to seed here, like a dandelion does.

western salsify at amyhoodarts.com

It was all over the place when I was hiking, and I was just entranced by the delicacy of it. I thought it would be interesting to post the photo as well as the finished embroidery–you can see how I simplified, choosing to try to get the feel of it rather than get bogged down in trying to capture every detail. I also used slightly different colors.

I can get lost in detail sometimes, and I need to remind myself that what I’m trying to do, with stamps and embroidery, is distill what I like into a workable design, not try to reproduce something exactly. And that, too, is where the fun comes in–a finished design can go in so many directions depending on what decisions are made. I could come up with something completely different, still based on this flower photograph. It makes it all so much more fun.

I’m linking up with Dawn this week for make + listen, even though I only made the flower-inspired embroidery this week. As for listening, I keep landing on Indigenous while in the car. Good stuff. How about you? Do you have any new music suggestions? I’d love to hear them.

Experimenting With Stabilizer

When I first began embroidering, I tried different ways of getting my image onto fabric. I traced directly onto fabric with a pencil, but that only works with very light-colored fabric; pretty much only muslin. Sometimes I draw directly onto the fabric, but that’s typically too tricky for anything at all complex, so when I embroidered poetry onto my jeans, I used paper stabilizer. I didn’t enjoy picking out all the little pieces from under my stitches, though. Since then I’ve mainly been using an iron-on transfer pen, and I really love that method. I take my own drawings, reverse them, trace over them with the pen, and I can iron them onto the working fabric. However, again, that doesn’t work with darker fabrics.

The thing about stabilizers, though, is that I don’t like anything between me and the fabric I’m embroidering. And while partly that’s a “feel” thing, it’s also a sight thing. While I often have an idea of what colors I want to use when I begin, I like to see how the colors are working together on the piece, and I need to see how they’re working with the fabric, too. Stitching onto anything that replaces the fabric background with white prevents me from checking out the interplay as I go. It’s like stitching blind, as far as I’m concerned.

So, over the past few days, I experimented with using Sulky Solvy, which is clear, so I can see through it, and dissolves away in water, so I don’t have to use tweezers to pick out itty bitty pieces when I’m done stitching. (Knitters, you think weaving in ends is a sure way to kill the joy of knitting? Picking out pieces of paper with tweezers is worse.) I still need to get the pattern onto the stabilizer, and although it said I could iron it on if I didn’t use steam, that really didn’t work–the stabilizer began to bubble almost immediately. So I simply traced my pattern with a red permanent marker (because, remember, it’ll be getting wet later). I used red because I was stitching on denim.

This is what one of my pieces looked like in the hoop:

My tracing came out a bit wiggly and freehand, so I simply stitched it the way it ought to be. Since the red isn’t actually on the fabric, I don’t have to worry about covering it all up, like I do with the iron-on transfer pen. You can barely tell the stabilizer is over the denim, visually. Here’s a close-up:

I need to see my background material, especially with the darker colors, to make sure the colors I’m using look the way I want them to.

Here’s a finished stitched piece after I rinsed the stabilizer away:

I’m pleased with this. The stitches don’t seem to be any worse for the wear for having had stabilizer between them and the fabric, and while I was concerned that the marker might somehow still transfer to the stitches, I see no evidence of that. The only challenge I see is making sure I use a color that will show up against darker fabric.

So, fellow stitchers…how do you solve the problem of transferring patterns to darker fabrics?

Another New Patch

I’m supposed to leave for Montana a week from tomorrow. I have no idea yet what I’m packing or even how I’ll get from the airport to the ranch. And I should leave some sort of homeschooling plan for the days I’ll be away, and I meant to sew more shop items before I left instead of when I got home, among other things I meant to do before August went and passed so quickly. So obviously I spent all of last night patching another frayed spot on my jeans–because I am bringing those, and it would be awful to have them rip while I’m away from all my patching supplies.

This frayed spot is on the thigh and required a long, skinny patch. As so:

I didn’t have any pink on these jeans before this patch. But I needed to add a little black, too. This sort of embroidery/sewing is very relaxing, because it doesn’t at all need to be perfect. It’s a patch on a pair of jeans. I’m not thinking, Oh, my stitches must be perfectly even! I’m thinking, Hey, let’s cover up that frayed spot with something a little fun and funky.

This is what the jeans look like in full now. They began with the snippet of poetry running down the leg.

My 9yo said, “Those jeans are almost a work of art!” I think so too. They will be all patch at some point, and I love wearing them. So. At least I know one thing I’ll be bringing to Montana….

(Finally) Some Making

I’ve been slow to get my making groove back, but finally this week I feel I can join in with Dawn for her Making + Listening series again. I’ve had a panel of trees waiting for French knots for quite a while, so I finally got to it.

I have a stack of fabric cut and a list of ideas. I need to get a move-on.

Also this week I re-ordered some postcards from Moo, with updated website/shop information on the back. I want to include a little free something with orders, and I thought, at least for now, these postcards are just the thing.

As for listening, there isn’t anything new on my music list. Mostly I’ve been listening to my younger two kids bicker. We’ve been a bit house-bound…my 9yo is being treated for Lyme Disease. He had several days with no energy at all, which, combined with his aches and fluctuating fever was enough to send us to the hospital walk-in on Saturday, where the doctor mentioned Lyme before my husband even brought it up. We’ve been limited to short excursions–the library, the karate studio–and a lot of time at home. I thought we could finally manage the grocery store today, but my oldest was sick in the middle of the night, which reminded me to be grateful for both my washing machine and the fact that this is not a solo-parenting week, because my husband handled the rug.

Oh, back to listening… I am looking forward to listening to this, as soon as it arrives. Has anyone read or listened to her work? She’s new to me.

Any making going on in your world this week? Anything new on your playlist?

{Announcement} Buy Local!

I’m quite excited to announce that if you are in Rhode Island, or plan on visiting, you can find my zippered pouches for sale at VOILA gallery in Wickford.

pockets on display 2

I took a closer picture of them this morning, before I dropped them off.

pockets ready to go

This is what’s kept me so busy these past couple of weeks, carving, stamping, embroidering, and sewing. But this is just the beginning of my experiment in selling, so I have more work to do. I do plan to sell online at some point, but I’m not quite there yet. In the meantime, if you’re in the Ocean State, you know where to find me–well, my pockets, at least!