Thursday, April 26, 2018

Future possibilities in my fiber art: which way do I go?

Almost there! One of the three ruanas is complete except for sewing in the tag. And the other two are cut and pinned, ready for sewing. The one hanging has a black cotton weft. The one on top on the ironing board has a black tencel weft. It amazes me how much more vibrant the tencel weft is vs. the cotton one. I don't know if it is a function of the fiber choice, or the fact that there was an 8 hour difference between when I dyed the warp for each one, and I might have gotten different concentrations of dye in that time frame. In any case, I think I like the feel of the tencel weft better than the cotton one. It is a bit smoother, cooler to the touch, and drapes a bit better.

I'm loving the results, but I'm looking forward to being done with this project. I want to move on to something new. In May, I'll be doing a weave along with a group on Facebook, exploring a 4 shaft pattern in the Echo and Iris style of weaving. I'll post pictures of that as I go along, so that will make sense in a bit.

I also have all sorts of things that I want to explore. I want to do some more needle felting. I'm thinking maybe some landscapes, based on the photos that I take when I'm out on my hikes. Or, I love doing abstracts, and just playing with the colors. And, I think I want to use that medium to do some self portraits, as well.

And, I also want to play with nuno felt. I fell down that Pintrest rabbit hole the other night, and I'm itching to give it a try. I love the idea of vibrant drapable felt, that I could make into wearable art garments. (My inspiration board for felt is here:

And speaking of garments, I also want to pick up my sewing again. I haven't done much of it since I gave up the historical recreation group that I was part of. I'm thinking of making some simple summer tops to start with, and maybe some dresses. My body has shifted with menopause, and much of my current wardrobe doesn't really look flattering on me any more. I think I want to express myself in something I can wear that I can be proud of. And then, once I have my pattern dialed in, make myself some wearables using my own woven fabric, and perhaps the nuno felt.

I can sort of see the direction that my art will be going. I just need to let myself play long enough to explore the possibilities!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hand painting a ruana: Don't get cocky!

My latest project on the loom is a warp painted ruana. It is going to be gorgeous! But it has been a struggle, mostly because I got cocky and missed little details.

So, it started well. I sat down with my client, and we batted around ideas and picked colors. I usually do my warp painting with about 4-5 colors of dye, but she picked out 10 colors. We figured out how to put them together, and off we went.

When I had the dye and the yarn, the measuring began.
And then, the dyeing. Here was snag number one. I usually dye with foam brushes, but I forgot that I only had enough for 6 colors of dye. And I was working with 10 colors this time. And I started dyeing after stores closed. So, I shrugged and got eye droppers, which I had plenty of. Annnnnd dyeing took a bit over 8 hours, non-stop. Eye droppers are NOT the way to go. Lesson learned. It turned out, but that was quite the marathon.

Also, see the strips of cut up plastic bag that I tied on the ends of the warp chains in that middle picture? I use a permanent marker to write numbers on them, so I can keep track of the order of the warp chains. That helps me get them back onto the loom in the same order that I dyed them in. Lesson two: use Sharpie, not the knock off brand even if it is near to hand. Because the knock off brand washes off in the rinsing process, and then you have a puzzle to solve when you take the chains to the loom!

Lesson number 3: It is quite ok to use your top loading washing machine to soak your warp chains when you are rinsing them, to get the excess dye out. But for the love of God, do NOT turn your back and let it flip over to agitate mode. Luckily, I had put the chains in lingerie bags, so it wasn't a total disaster. But I had some serious untangling to do to separate things back out.

Lesson number 4: Double check which reed you have on the loom before you start sleying it. I got halfway done, and realized I had the wrong one in. I had to take the old reed out and lay it across my lap, then one by one transfer the threads into the new reed. Again, nothing I couldn't recover from, but a pain in the neck! And it would have been an easy catch if I had looked before I started.
Thank goodness for the warping trapeze! It took some patient work to straighten out the tangles from my previous goofs as I beamed the warp on, but I did eventually get everything on the loom under even tension.
From there on out, things have been much easier. I've got enough warp on here for three garments. I'm using black cotton for the first weft choice, purple cotton for the second, and I'm currently weaving black tencel for the third.

So, all's well that ends well? This is turning out beautifully. But boy, have I said a few words along the way!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Needle felted life drawing

So, if you've been following along for awhile, you know that I'm a life drawing model. Mostly retired now, but I still work every few months with TriPal Studios. They have a drop in class every other Tuesday. Last time I was there, I brought the needle felted pieces that I showed in my last blog entry, and the lady of the house was intrigued, but couldn't quite figure out how I did it. So, this week I went to draw instead of modeling. I figured I could draw on the shorter poses, and felt on the long one at the end.

It has been over a decade since I did any regular drawing. I was RUSTY. The two minute gesture poses went ok...

But the 20 minute poses showed me that my eye for proportion is quite off.

I have a tendency to make the legs too short. Need more practice!

But this is the reason that I showed up tonight. I brought not only my paper and charcoal, but my wool and felting needles. This was my first time trying to felt from a live model. I could really have used more time on it, but I can see the start of something really neat here.

I used white and black wool on a grey background. The piece is about 8" x 11". I think I would like to work larger, to get the ability to do finer details. Or, next time I should just felt part of the body, and blow it up to fit the background piece. But, so far so good.

With access to a model on the Tuesdays that I'm not working, I think I may need to drop in to draw more often. I could really use the practice. And I'd like to see where the needle felting might take me. I have skills to learn!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Dyeing sock yarn, making flip-flop socks, eclipse pictures, and needle felting.

So, what have I been up to this past month? Playing in the dye pots! I'm really getting a kick out of creating variegated yarn by dyeing it in my crock pot. I love what is coming out of it so far.

I had a request for flip-flop socks, so I've been teaching myself how to do those on the sock knitting machine. They are a bit fiddly, but I'm getting the hang of it. I'm part of a circular sock knitting group on Facebook, and there were instructions for these in the files. So far, so good.

I had a great time getting these shots of the lunar eclipse. My husband Eric got up early, I stayed up late, and we made a drive out to our favorite spot in the White Tank Mountain regional park west of Phoenix to stalk the super blue blood moon. I'm quite pleased with the results.

And speaking of pleased with the results, I tried my hand at two dimensional needle felting, using some 8x10" wool prefelts for a base to work from. The first picture was me just doodling over the course of an evening, trying out layering different colors in an abstract piece to get a feel for the materials. The second was my attempt at fiber figure drawing, using just black and white wool felted over a medium grey piece of wool prefelt. I am loving the results!! I am definitely going to be pursuing this medium for my art. I dyed many of the colors in the top piece, by putting a length of white roving in with my sock yarn when I dye it. So, this combines my dyeing, my felting, my drawing, and hopefully in the future my photography. I'd like to take pictures, and use them as reference photos for my fiber painting.

I am really really excited by the possibilities here!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year's moon rise

Happy New Year, all of you! This is how I started my year. After the wonderful hustle and bustle of the past several weeks, I took the day just off. The last stragglers from last night's party (I had maybe 60ish people here?) left after lunch, the kids got back to their respective homes, Brian went on over to the game day at our friends' place, and it was just me and Eric at home. I suggested we grab a bit to eat and head on over to the White Tanks for a picnic. And so that is what we did. We had time for a half hour hike before the sun set, and then spotted the full moon coming up as we were getting ready to head out of the park. And so, of course, I had to grab a picture. It was just stunning!

I love the times when I have all my friends and loved ones gathered, and we can take time to just revel in each other. And then, I love when they all wander back to their lives, and I can find stillness.

Today was for stillness.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Christmas crafting recap, and a family photo

Happiest of holidays, everyone! This has been a very hand made Christmas over here. The above photo is one example. My husband Eric's mother usually asks us for a family photo, and we usually trot over to the local Target to have them take a professional one for us. This year Target isn't doing that any more, and I have a perfectly good camera anyway. So, we headed out to our favorite spot in the desert and took the photo ourselves. That is me in the top row with my two husbands, our two kids in the middle row, and my son-in-law down in front. All the kids are home for the holidays, and the house is merry and full of laughter.

So, I did the family portrait, and I updated the nature photography screensaver that I give out each year. I also made 14 of the needle felted ornaments, 4 pairs of socks (one dyed to order), 4 hand woven napkins, 1 Viking wire woven necklace, 1 triloom shawl, and 12 pairs of hand dipped candles. Whew! On top of the stuff for the Tangible Daydreams shop, that made me a very busy lady indeed. But there were smiles all around, and joy was had in the making and the receiving.

I swear I'm starting earlier for next year though.

I also say that every year.

One of these years I'll learn.

Really. I mean it.

And you all can laugh at me next year when I'm posting the same resolution once again. Because I know better. Christmas in the Arizona desert sneaks up on me every year, because the seasonal cues are just so off from what I grew up with in the Midwest. When I still have the air conditioner on in early November because it is still in the 90's F out there? Christmas crafting just doesn't occur to me. My hindbrain knows there is plenty of time. But, there really isn't.

This year for sure!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tutorial: Hand dipped candles

So, this is what I was up to last night. I had some candle wax, wicks, and color/fragrance left over from making dip candles years ago, and Christmas is coming. I figured I could make a batch of dip candles to hand out to friends at the party Christmas afternoon/evening. I learned how to do this as a child, watching folks at the Miller-Cory House in New Jersey make them. That is a restored colonial era farm house, where my parents volunteered on the weekends. I had my own little costume and ran around the grounds, wide eyed and just soaking everything in. I remember seeing candles like this hanging in the gift shop for sale.

Now, I'm using paraffin rather than bees wax or bayberry, and raided my husband's work shop for nuts/washers for weights, but the idea of a gradual build up of wax over repeated dips is the same. Here's what I did:

paraffin wax (No, I didn't measure, I eyeballed it)
candle wicking
added color and scent if you want it. Refer to the box for amounts
(I found supplies at Michaels. Check your local craft store.)

a container to hold melted wax
a pot of water
a wide stick to hang the wicks over (I used slats from blinds)
chairs or something to support the sticks
scissors to cut the wick
hammer & chisel or screwdriver to break the wax into chunks for melting
disposable chopstick or something of the sort to poke at the melting wax if you are impatient
candy thermometer
So, put your melting pot in a pot of water, add chunks of wax, and heat things up. Keep your water warm, but not making bubbles. You are looking for a temperature of about 150F for the wax. You can check that with your candy thermometer. The melting will take awhile.
While the wax is melting, prepare your wicks. Figure out how long you want your candles to be, keeping in mind that you are limited by the height of your dipping pot. Double that number, and then add maybe 5 inches more, so you have enough to tie weights on each end, and still have enough connecting string to hang over your cooling rack. I used nuts this time for weights on the end, since they have a hole to tie through. Also, once the wax melts, you can add color/scent if you want to, using the directions on whatever product you have.
Ok, when you have liquid wax, go ahead and start dipping. Hold your wick by the center point, and dip straight down and back out. Don't dawdle in the melted wax, or the heat will melt previous layers of wax. Hang your proto-candles over your cooling rack. Don't worry too much about how straight the wicks are for this first phase. I had a dozen pairs of candles going, so I just rotated through them and had no issue with them being too hot by the time I got back to the beginning ones. But, some folks recommend having a tall bucket of cold water to dip the candles into as you work, to cool them faster.

Once you have several layers of wax on, you can straighten out your candles as you need to. Keep on dipping. This process took me several hours. As the amount of wax in your dipping pot goes down, occasionally add more chunks of the unmelted wax, and let them melt down before continuing. I also added more color as I went along, so the outside of the candles would be gradually more colored than the insides.
When your candles are as thick as you want them to be, take a scissors or knife and cut the weights off of the bottom of your candles. Dip your candles a few more times, just to smooth out the cut edges. Then, hang your candles to cool thoroughly. I hung mine on my back porch overnight while I slept, and they were fine in the morning.

I did find it was easier to get the weights out of their wax coating while the wax was still pliable.

And voila! Candles!