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.

Snapshots

gold

October has been a beauty, with mild days for most of the month and gorgeous colors. When I saw these leaves one morning this past week while waiting for the bus with my oldest, I was immediately reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. Unfortunately, just a few days later, we were waiting in weather more like this:

frost

Also pretty in its own way, but much colder. I’ve been feeling the effects of the decreasing amount of daylight, I think, because most evenings find me dozing on the couch. Frustrating, because evenings are my work and blogging time, and I feel behind in just about all of my projects at the moment. Hence this catch-up post of snapshots of our days.

running shoes

My sanctuary + my lifeline.

On Mondays Amanda posts writing prompts on the Kindred site, and on Thursday, she shared my photo and words in response to the idea of “sanctuary.” I am terrible at sitting meditation, but I’ve found that running helps bring me out of my mind and into my body in a way that is sanctuary indeed. Another thing that has helped me this past year is the writing of Pema Chodron. I’m currently slowly reading Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion. I read one or two teachings at a time, every now and then, and let the words sit.

at the beach

On one of the last milder days last week, we headed to the beach to collect items for Mudpuddles to Meteors‘ nature exchange. We just heard our match partners live in Alaska. Fun!

making cheese

Checking the temperature of milk that will become ricotta cheese.

My 9yo wanted to know how cheese was made, so we looked it up at the library and he placed a book of recipes on hold. This past week, he made ricotta cheese–twice, actually, because the first time (using the book’s recipe) didn’t yield much cheese. Perfect! More opportunity for learning, as he Googled recipes to see how they were different from the one in the book. We used his ricotta cheese in baked pasta, but he wasn’t impressed with it. (I was! I thought it was yummy.) He would like to make Monterrey Jack next–”an orderly cheese,” in his words. I think the gloppiness of ricotta displeased him. I’m not sure he’s seen it in its natural state before; he’s always just eaten things made with it. However, he also said, “I love math–when it’s used for cheese-making!” This is self-directed learning, folks, and it’s a wonderful thing.

goat note

We are a little later with wrapping up her goat project than I’d hoped, but G’s enthusiasm for printing goat cards waned a bit, and then I waned a bit, but we’re back on track now. We changed in all her coins for dollars, and we’re heading to the bank on Monday to deposit it all so I can write a check. I interviewed her and typed up a letter to Heifer International explaining her project, and she is including this note–on one of her note cards, of course. I can barely stand it. Biased mama, yes, but I think she’s pretty amazing and awfully sweet. I am also extremely thankful for the family and friends, both near and far, who supported her project and helped her raise $120. She never thought it wasn’t possible, and so many of you helped make sure she was right.

I’m hoping to get my evening energy back so I can get back to making progress with Issue Two of Art Together, and a tutorial I’ve agreed to create, and more embroidery, and that sweater I’m knitting… I’ve no time for hibernation! I hope you’re enjoying nature’s “hardest hue to hold” before we slip thoroughly into the starker colors of winter.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils

Slide2For the second year, I’m a part of a fantasy football league run by Diane of CraftyPod. It’s a fun way to connect with other creative women who also love football. Because I’m first and foremost a Patriots fan, I have a lot of rules for myself. I won’t have any player on my team who’s in the same division as the Patriots, and in any particular week, if one of my players is on the team playing the Patriots, I sit him. I won’t put myself in the position of rooting for a player against my Patriots.

So of course, when the idea was floated of a crafty football blog hop among crafty fantasy football league members, I knew I’d be doing something Patriots related, and I decided to share a tutorial on how to make and use freezer paper stencils. I generally create these stencils from my own designs; I’ve used the Patriots logo here in keeping with the blog hop theme. You cannot use a licensed logo on any item you plan to sell. Honestly, I’m hoping if anybody from the Patriots organization happens upon this tutorial, they see it for what it is (fan devotion) and don’t sue me. I like to think Mr. Kraft has sympathy for the common man…

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Materials: Freezer paper (look in the supermarket in the aisle with foil and plastic wrap); scissors; craft knife; masking tape; source sketch for design; cutting mat; iron; item to be stenciled; fabric paint (see below); paint brush

How To: Freezer Paper Stencil at amyhoodarts.com

Materials for cutting the stencil.

Every stencil begins with a source design drawn on regular paper at the final desired size. I like to measure the paper to fit the item I’m stenciling (in this case a tote bag purchased at the craft store) so I know my design fills the space the way I want it to.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Source sketch of design, with colors written in for reference.

The next step is to cut a piece of freezer paper a little bigger than your source design so you have plenty of  margin around the edges. Tape your design to your surface so it doesn’t move; tape the freezer paper over it, shiny side down. Trace your image onto the papery side of the freezer paper.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Now it’s time to cut out your stencil. Be precise and cut only on the lines. I use an x-acto knife for this. If the design has lots of straight edges (like this design that incorporates a star), I’ll use a steel ruler as a guide for those lines. Just make sure you stop right at the intersection of the lines; don’t cut over. You’ll be painting into the open spot, so you want the edges to be as clean as possible.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Turn the paper as necessary so the cutting motion is as smooth and easy as possible. Avoid awkwardness! This design has two “floating” pieces, the star and the face, which need to be ironed on into the middle of the open area. If your design has floating areas, you need to cut those precisely as well.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Once the stencil is cut, it’s time to iron it onto your item. The shiny side of the freezer paper will iron onto fabric firmly, yet also peels right off without residue. It’s really amazing stuff. Iron the surface of your item first to make sure it’s free of wrinkles, position your stencil where you want it, and iron away. Pay careful attention to the inside edges, where you’ll be applying paint. You want those firmly affixed so no paint bleeds under them. I usually stencil t-shirts; this is the first time I’ve tried a tote bag, and the surface is a bit more textured. You’ll see below where I didn’t get a few edges as closely adhered as I should have. Live and learn.

Because this design has those floating pieces, after I ironed on the outside piece, I fit the inside piece (which I’ll need later, too) without ironing it down, then placed the floating pieces inside, like puzzle pieces. I kept my finger on them while lifting off the inside piece, then ironed the floaters in place.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Proper positioning of the floating pieces.

The completely ironed on stencil looks like this for the first paint layer:

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

I typically use Speedball Screen Printing Ink for my stencils. I like the smooth look and the basic colors. It’s heat set, and it’s worn on our shirts well, although overly thick layers will crack a bit in the dryer. However, I needed silver for part of this design, and I don’t have that in the screen printing ink, so I used a little liquid acrylic paint as well. This is the kind of acrylic paint sold extremely cheaply in big-box craft stores, and it won’t wash out once it’s dry. It’s great for use on fabric, easy to find, and a fine alternative to screen printing ink for these stencils.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Materials for painting.

For this first paint application, I’m using red and blue.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Once those colors are dry, I can peel off all three pieces I’ve ironed on. For the small floating pieces, the edges of which are covered with paint, tweezers are helpful . These colors need to be heat set, so that’s the next step. Follow the directions on whatever paint you’re using.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Notice the slight bleed in a couple of places on the red stripes and one spot on the blue. I should have ironed a bit more firmly in those spots.

I still need to paint the face silver, however. Remember that other inside piece I said I’d need later? I matched it up to cover the blue paint and ironed it down, again paying attention to those edges. Now I can paint the exposed face silver.

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

After letting it dry, I carefully removed the final stencil and put my knitting inside the bag. Ready to watch some football and knit!

How To: Freezer Paper Stencils at amyhoodarts.com

Be sure to visit the rest of the blog hop participants for more crafty football ideas!


A Birthday Shirt and Cape

I’ve been quiet here because I was busy last week getting ready for my youngest child’s fifth birthday. For her third birthday, I surprised her with a white t-shirt with her number and a crown painted in pink, and now a new shirt is expected every time her number changes. Last year’s shirt was purple with a light blue number and crown, and this year’s is pink with a black number and crown. Of course she wore it on the big day itself.

five

I made it using a freezer paper stencil, which is so easy, with such satisfying results. I’ve been using them for years now, and I’m working on a tutorial for a blog hop I’m participating in on Thursday with other members of my fantasy football league. (I’m a woman of varied interests!) So look for that.

She is also wearing her new wizard cape, which is technically for Halloween, but she really, really wanted it in time for her birthday. She and her brother picked out Halloween decorations for her party, and Halloween plates, and she wanted people to wear costumes, and she wanted her wizard cape. Four years ago, when she was just a wee baby who wouldn’t sleep without me, I agreed to sew each of the boys special capes–my younger son has one just like the one you see here, except it’s white (he was a ghost), and my older son had a wizardy one with stars and moons on the fabric and big drapey sleeves. I drove myself into several meltdowns trying to sew slippery fabric around the schedule of a clingy baby, plus I’d only been sewing for a year, which means I’d sewn as much as possible for a month before having the baby, then barely sewed at all, then made those two capes. (After that, my husband banned me from sewing Halloween costumes.)

But this year, four years later…I know so much more. I made this cape with French seams, so the raw edges wouldn’t fray and unravel like they’ve done in my son’s, because patterns never do tell you what to do about those raw edges, they just figure you know, and I didn’t. The fabric didn’t seem at all unmanageable, I gathered the hood as instructed (I don’t think I even attempted it last time), and I turned the narrow hems with no trouble at all. It took a goodly bit of time to sew, of course, but that’s all it took–time. It didn’t take anything else out of me. As I sewed the pattern pieces together multiple times (because of the French seams) and watched my seams line up and everything come together smoothly, I kept thinking, I have come so far! That’s a nice feeling, and a pretty good bonus that comes from making the same pattern four years later. As my daughter twirled around in her cape, pretending to fly, I sat on the couch watching her and couldn’t help saying, “I did such a beautiful job making your cape.”

Announcement: Shop Sale

banner2

Select items in the shop are 20% off now through November 1. There’s no need to enter a code; just click to the sale section and the prices already reflect the discount. This is a great time to do a little early holiday shopping. Do you have an artist or writer on your gift list? A pencil pouch would hold all their drawing or writing tools in one place; both the daisy version and the brightly colored squares version are currently discounted. And these small pouches come in a pink or purple variety:

basic pocket purple 1

Purple version

They make a great teacher’s gift, with a coffee gift card tucked inside.

I haven’t started making my holiday gift list yet (it’s hard for me to shift into that mode until after my daughter’s October birthday and Halloween), but I’ll be thinking about it very soon…and I’m sure I’ll be shopping Etsy for gifts myself. And don’t forget you can also give Etsy gift cards, which is a fantastic present for someone with unique, individual tastes (ie, hard to buy for). I’m kind of hoping I get one myself this year…

Make + Listen: Watercolor Painting

I’m joining up with Dawn one day late for her weekly Make and Listen Along posts, but I can be excused for tardiness because we’re on Day 7 of a 9-day business trip over here! Yesterday (Day 6), we set up for a watercolor painting session.

painting session at amyhoodarts.com

Tuesday morning, the playground at the park was littered with gorgeous, vibrantly colored maple leaves, and we took some home. My 4yo and I went downstairs to try and capture the colors with paint. By the time I snapped the photo above, she had moved on to painting a still life, a collection of objects she gathered from upstairs. You can see she’s working on the rainbow.

When we sat down with our leaves, paper, and pencils to make a sketch before painting, she had the idea to trace the leave’s outline. I thought that was an excellent idea, and I did the same, loosely, and then added in some more detail freehand. We were mostly concentrating, after all, on trying to capture the colors. Here is her finished leaf, with a mix of reds and orange.

4yo's fall leaf watercolor painting

And here is mine. This was built up with many layers of paint, as we’re learning to do in the watercolor class I’ve been taking on Saturday afternoons.

autumn maple leaf, watercolor painting

While we painted, I simply had Pandora playing through the nifty wireless speaker I received for Mother’s Day this year. I’ve been playing it in the morning, too, because I find having some music on helps keep me moving forward with all the morning tasks when there’s not another adult here to interact with. This morning the first song it played for me was Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” This song was on a mix CD my husband gave me for my first Mother’s Day, when I was pregnant with our first child but not quite pregnant enough to announce it yet, and the song can still tear me up.

I love the Louie Armstrong version of “What a Wonderful World” as well, and used to sing it to my first baby as a lullaby, all those many nights when we paced the dark living room because he had colic. Now that baby is almost twelve years old, old enough to help his mama get out for a run when his dad’s away on another business trip (something for which I’m extremely grateful). Twelve years in an eyeblink, I tell you.

Schooling Update

9yo using Cuisenaire rods to help with Singapore Math.

Friday was conference day at my oldest child’s school, when we sit down together with his teacher to check in and set goals. The pre-conference paperwork asked us, as his parents, to list our goals for him for the upcoming year; we wrote that we wanted him to set his own goals, as our goal is for him to be a self-directed learner. Honestly, I can’t think of any other answer to that question. It seems absurd to state what I think my son’s goals for himself should be.

At the same time, it’s been about a month since we began our non-summer homeschooling schedule. While learning happens all year round, we do add in more required work in the fall. Because I have one child in school, it makes the most sense to stick to the same sort of schedule, although that has its frustrations–I don’t enjoy being beholden to an outwardly imposed schedule. However, it’s a good point at which to check in with how we’re doing.

I began using Singapore Math with my 9yo this year, and I’m happy to say it’s going well. He knows more than he thinks he does; the main thing is overcoming his own self-doubt. A year ago, he’d have fought me on using a workbook and textbook; this year, he sometimes complains and needs reminders to focus, but he gets the work done. I’ve noticed that he does best with word problems (even though he says he doesn’t like them). He also took really well to Life of Fred last year, which is story based. I noted this and pointed it out to him—he seems to comprehend the numbers better when they are presented in a verbal way.

Another great help for explaining some of the concepts are Cuisenaire rods. We’ve had these for quite a long time and they have been useful many, many times. Most recently, I used them to demonstrate the concept of borrowing in subtraction. He needed a visual in order to understand that I wasn’t telling him to get rid of any numbers; we were just regrouping. After seeing it with the rods, it clicked in about a minute. Now he understands what’s going on when he borrows to subtract, rather than just doing it because he’s been told to but without any comprehension.

My 4yo, of course, wanted her own math to do. She was making up her own rather baffling worksheets, so I picked up a workbook for her. She’s happy, and I get a little bit of time to teach the day’s concept to my 9yo without her chatting our ears off.

The other area that has me really excited is language arts. We’re transitioning into using Brave Writer; we read August’s book, The Lemonade War, in September, using the copywork assignments and discussing grammar and a bit about writing style. We haven’t begun October’s book yet because we moved right into the sequel, The Lemonade Crime. This is my main logistical problem with using Arrow; we read aloud as a regular part of our homeschool, and trying to make one chapter book stretch out all month is limiting; there are other books we want to read too. I haven’t quite figured out how to handle that. We’ve also done some free-writing exercises and list-making; gentle ways to get my 9yo writing more often.

But then! I saw the book Guy-Write on the library shelf and asked him if he’d like to read it. He said yes, read it in about a day, and then…began writing a book. Something in that book hit him just the right way, and his writing is alive and exciting. He reads each chapter to me when he’s done. He told me the spelling is all wrong, but I told him when he was done writing, we could type it into the computer and worry about the spelling then. He declared I could be his editor. I’m a bit dumbfounded; he has “hated” writing for a few years now. I am cautiously optimistic, hoping this new-found love of writing will stick around.

My daughter is also writing—asking how to spell words and either writing as we tell her the letters or copying the words she’s dictated to me from another piece of paper. She’s been reciting letters off of signs, asking me what they spell. Just recently she began doing that in reverse, saying words and trying to sound out the letters they contain. Her brain is working constantly, it seems, on the puzzle of reading. It’s really cool to watch.

One area I’m not totally up on is project time. I’ve failed thus far to carve out predictable blocks of time for project work. I keep waiting for our weeks to settle down into a routine, but I think our routine is that there isn’t one. As much as I try to contain the errands, things like doctor’s appointments go where they fit, and we seem to have lots of those. So I’ve begun just claiming the time where I see it. I need to do a better job of reminding the kids what they wanted to accomplish, though. So project time is still a work in progress this year.

Of course we’re continuing our studies of history and science, supported with library books and so on, but math and language arts have taken such a huge leap lately, so that’s where I chose to focus on this recap. It seems like overstating the obvious, but a huge advantage of homeschooling is the ability to work with my child right where he is, to take advantage of leaps of understanding, and to take the time to work on trouble areas…as well as having the time to be patient and wait for the progression of things without feeling pushed and rushed to meet an artificially imposed standard. I’m thankful we can do this right now.

More Watercolor Practice

This past week, the watercolor instructor set up a still life of bottles. Glass, edges, shadows, reflections, transparency, things showing behind other things…it was a tangled morass both to draw and to paint. The method of instruction sort of feels like teaching someone to swim by throwing them into the deep end, but whatever. The four of us–there are only four students–sat there and figured it out and did our best. This is what I managed in a couple of hours. This is not considered finished, but I’ll be honest; I don’t have much enthusiasm for doing anything else with it right now.

But I will say I’m enjoying the class, because the chance to sit and draw and paint uninterrupted for a couple of hours…well, that just doesn’t happen normally in my life. So it’s a pleasure even sitting there frowning and squinting at bottles, if I have a pencil or paintbrush in my hand.

Apparently we were supposed to keep working on our apples and bring them back in to show her, so I am probably supposed to add more layers to those bottles. Instead, I fell in love with a red kuri squash in the supermarket over the weekend and took it home with the goal of painting it. Wednesday afternoon was so gorgeous, I took it outside and set it on a stump.

My attempt doesn’t really do it justice–especially the stump part. Phew. This is why I’m taking a class. I want to get better.

I’m going to keep trying to paint this squash–until it rots, I guess. It’s just so pretty, and it’s really redder than it looks, or at least I thought it was, until I started trying to mix colors to match, and then all these orange tones butted in too. This is the best reason to draw and paint, I think–because it helps you really see what you’re looking at. Anyway–I spent an hour or so outside in my yard Wednesday afternoon, on a gorgeous summer-like day in early October, painting. Pretty good use of time right there.

An Early Autumn Nature Walk

Last week my 9yo, 4yo, and I went to Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge–a favorite spot of ours, and close to home–for an early Autumn nature walk. Our visit is highlighted today at Mud Puddles to Meteors as part of their Hitting the Trail series. It was fun for me to walk around with camera in hand, looking for things to share with the wider world. We really love where we live and it’s always a treat to talk about a favorite local spot. Go check out the post, and stay a bit to explore everything else this new nature site has to offer! You can also find all the photos in my Trustom Pond Flickr set.

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?