Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Felt and Gourd combined

I had a brainstorm last week, just as I was crawling into bed at about 2 in the morning. Isn't that the way it always works? I got so excited, that I wanted to crawl right back out from under the covers and get started right away. But I had to get up in the morning, and with one thing and another the experiment had to wait.

The thought that struck me was, would it be possible to wet felt around a gourd bowl? It would be structurally sound, and still have the organic swirls of the felt. Oooh...and then you could cut away some of the felt, revealing the layer of gourd underneath! And...and...

So, I gave it a shot. I carved open a gourd, and cleaned out the insides. Then I sprayed the outside of the gourd with several layers of clear finish. Felting came next. I put on 3 layers of a base camel brown color, then added wisps of whatever other colors came to hand. I covered the gourd with pantyhose to keep everything in place during the initial felting.

It worked...with a discovery. When gourds get absolutely soaking wet, they are very fragile. The gourd cracked part way through the felting process. I thought a bit, and figured I could save it. So I cut an opening in the felt, and cut out a smaller opening in the gourd itself to control the crack. While I was at it, I also cut slits in the felt. I finished the felting process very gently. The slits I cut in the felt pulled gradually open as the fibers shrank down.

Then I set the gourd aside to dry completely, for several days. Dry, the gourd was strong again. I sanded the opening I made, and stitched the felt securely down around the rim. To add structural strength in the opening, and to give a bit of sparkle, I added copper wire bars. The finishing touch was a disk and leaf pendant added to the copper wire.

I'm really pleased with this experiment, and will try combining felt and gourds again. Next time, I'll try spraying the inside of the gourd as well as the outside, to try to seal out the water in the felting process. Lets see if that makes things easier.

(Listed on Etsy at http://www.etsy.com/listing/55148622/gourd-with-wet-felted-coat-and-copper )

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tutorial: Warping a standing inkle loom for card weaving

I got my new-to-me standing inkle loom all warped up for card weaving. This was my first time warping this loom, which is always a bit of a problem solving process. But once I got the bugs worked out, it went very well. For the tablets, I'm using the coasters that I altered the other night. (Go back two entries for that tutorial.)

I went through my stash of weaving yarn, and picked out several cones of 8/2 unmercerized cotton. This was leftover from several towel projects. The blues and greens are not the same color obviously, but when I squinted at them I could see that they were just about the same value. That means they will blend visually, while giving just a bit more interest to the finished product. I needed 4 cones of dark, and 2 cones of light.

I clamped the loom on top of a cone holder that my husband made for me several years back. This made it easier to keep the yarns from tangling up.

I picked out 4 cards for the border of my strap, and lined them all up the same way. Then I threaded the yarn from each cone through a separate hole, all coming from the same direction.

I tied all 4 threads together, and then tied them on to the first peg on my loom

I dropped off one card from the top of my stack there by the first peg. Then I used a binder clip to clip together my stack of working cards

Then I wound the threads around my pegs, holding the working stack of cards in one hand. I had to use one hand for the camera here, so it isn't quite right. I usually held the cards in my right hand, and guided the threads around their path with my left.

When I got back to the beginning, I wound the threads around the top peg several times to free up both hands. Then I took one card out of the binder clip from the working stack, and added it to the stationary pack. I used a second binder clip to keep the cards in the stationary pack from wandering around. Then I unwound the threads from the peg, and went around the path again.

I kept doing that, until I had gone around the pegs again after dropping the last card off. Then I cut the threads down by the cones. I went back to where I had originally tied on to the first peg, and carefully cut that knot. Those two ends got tied together, so there was a continuous warp.

Now, I threaded a stack of 16 cards for the middle pattern part of the strap. The A and B holes got dark colored threads. The C and D holes got light colored threads.

It was a little harder just to poke the thread through the whole stack of cards, so I used a tapestry needle to help me out. The pattern cards were warped the same way as already shown. Then I did a second stack of 16 cards, again in the pattern colors. (The binder clips are only so big, so I didn't do the whole stack of 32 at once.) After that, I did another 4 cards of all dark colors, for the other border. The pattern is 4 cards all dark, 32 cards dark and light, 4 cards all dark.

After the loom was all warped up, I started weaving the header. The cards separate the threads, creating an opening (or 'shed) for the weaving process. Rotating the cards brings different threads to the top, creating a different shed.

With all the cards lined up identically, I made a great stripe pattern.

However, what I wanted was a wavy water pattern. I rotated each pattern card separately, until the light and dark threads matched the pattern seen here. This is from Candace Crockett's book "Card Weaving'. (I highly recommend this book for beginners!)

After I had the cards in order, I started weaving...and found that I had the pattern on the bottom of the band instead of on the top. I reversed the notching pattern. This gave me smooth diagonal lines. By rotating the pack forward 4 times, and then reversing to rotate backward 4 times, I got my wavy line pattern.

I'm all set ready to weave. Warping and weaving the header took me a bit over an hour and a half.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Poetry: Why I Don't Claim a Totem Animal

I do post original poems here on occasion. I wrote this one as part of a poetry challenge in 2007, where I did 30 poems in 30 days. I hang out on a thread in the Etsy forums that is inspired by the Native American culture (they very kindly welcomed me in, even though I am very white), and it reminded me of this one. So campfire folks, this is for you:

Why I don't claim a totem animal

I've always been fascinated
by spirit dreams
and totem animals.
Wouldn't it be incredible
to have an animal guide of your own?
A fox or a raven,
or maybe a loon
with its haunting cry
and knowledge of the watery ways.
I've never picked one though.
I think maybe the guide chooses you
when you are ready.
Still, I tried one evening,
when we were camping on the lake
during our summer Canadian pilgrimage.

Everyone had gone to bed,
and I was standing alone
in the darkened cabin,
staring out of the screen door,
taking a deep chill breath
of living midnight air.
A single light illuminated
the weathered stairway
that led down to the dock
and the softly tapping waves.
I could almost touch
the magic, thick with promise,
drifting through the dark.
Maybe...maybe now. Yes.

I closed my eyes,
stilled my thoughts...
and sent a call winging
into the listening night,
asking for my guide to be revealed.
Calm. Center.
Extend the senses.
My very skin tingled.
A moment passed.
And...yes. I felt
a sort of...*presence*.
I opened my eyes...
and right in front of me
clinging to the screen...
was a whole freaking flock of mosquitoes.

I swear I heard someone
giggle at me.

-Melissa McCollum

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tutorial: Making card weaving tablets out of restaurant coasters

I picked up a new-to-me standing inkle loom today! I was the lucky bidder in a benefit action. I've been wanting one of these for awhile now, so I can make more than a yard or two of trim at a time. This one should make around 6 yards at a go, which means I will get more weaving time per warping session. This sounds much more efficient to me.

I'll show you the loom in a later post. I'm having camera glitches right now.

However, I did manage to get these shots earlier this evening. I've found that I prefer tablet weaving to inkle weaving. It is a sturdier fabric, and I get a more even selvage edge. I know part of that is practice, but for a first try on the new loom I wanted to go with my strengths. So I went to grab my cards for tablet weaving...and they weren't in the drawer. They weren't in the other drawer either. Or the bench. Or...Hrmpf. So I decided to improvise. I had a stack of coasters from a Chili's restaurant that were the same size and weight as the professional pack of weaving cards that I had. It was high time to turn them into working weaving tools. Here's what I did:

restaurant coasters (These are 3 1/2" square.) (Sweet talk your waiter for a stack.)
3x5 card
hole punch

First, I traced the corner of the coaster onto a 3x5 card. Anything sturdy enough to keep its shape will do. Paper is a bit flimsy.

The coaster had a rounded corner, so I extended the lines out to give me a good sharp right angle.

Then I cut a bit of the 3x5 card off, and held it up to the corner of the coaster. I eyeballed about how far down and in I wanted my holes to be, and marked that on the card. If you want to be more precise, I think it was about 1/2".

Back to my coaster tracing. Mark that distance down each side, starting from that right angle point.

Using the 3x5 card bottom corner as a straight edge and t-square, extend those lines down at right angles so they cross.

That is your cross hairs. Punch a hole on the cross hairs.

Cut out the 3x5 card along the tracing lines, so it mirrors the shape of the coaster. Match that up to a corner of the coaster.

Using the 3x5 card as your template, punch a hole in the coaster.

Do it again, punching holes in all 4 corners. Now you have one card weaving tablet.

However, you're going to need more than one. I like to have at least 50 on hand. Keep on punching. Yes, your hand might get tired after awhile. (I have heard that it is possible to stack up your pile of cards on a jig, and do this part with a drill press.)

Ok, once you have as many cards as you want, line them all up the same way. Pick a corner to be 'A'. Use a Sharpie (or similar), and mark A B C D clockwise around the corners.

Line up the cards. Using a marker, color one of the edges.

Scooch your chair back, and take a moment to admire the dogs who are sleeping at your feet. (Ok, I admit. That isn't a required step. But I did say that this is what I did, right?)

I like to color each side differently. This helps give me a clue where I am in a pattern repeat when I get going on the weaving.

If you were careful enough with placing your holes, they should all line up perfectly.

Ok, I've got my cards. Now, to figure out yarn and patterns! But that is a job for another day.

(Oh, the pack of cards I couldn't find? I posted about it on FaceBook, and a friend reminded me that she had borrowed them. Oh yeah. I remember that now.)

Celtica! singing group

I'm going to decide that singing fits into the crafty/artsy side of my life, as it is definitely creative. Tonight I took myself off to a rehearsal of the group Celtica!, at the Irish Cultural Center in Pheonix, AZ. I have a friend who sings with the group, and he let me know that they had a couple of open spots for new members. So I brushed off my sight singing skills, warmed up in the car on the way there by singing at the top of my lungs with the radio, and gave it a shot.

I'm in.

I do, however, have a heck of a lot of catching up to do. The group has been singing together for awhile now. And we have a performance in a few weeks on the 11th. So I've got a folder full of music, and a piano, and time before the next rehearsal to brush up on my part. Ready? Go!!

Here's a couple of videos of the group on YouTube:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Etsy Treasuries

I've been in a couple of Etsy treasuries recently, and thought I'd post the links here. Treasuries are such fun. The person who makes them pulls together 16 different items from different shops around Etsy, and organizes them into some sort of coherent whole. Sometimes it is based on color, or theme, or a phrase, or a holiday, or... I love seeing what folks come up with! The result says as much about the eye of the curator as it does about the individual artist's creations.

The first one I was in was titled "Campfire Stories", and was put together by 'ohclaudia'. She included Native American inspired artwork from regular posters in the campfire thread in the Etsy forums. http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4c6764c79cde6d91c238fe8d/campfire-stories

The second one was titled "Hush Puppies Hat, Rooster Revelry, Cinnamon Browns and Indigo Blue", and the curator was 'TameraHerrod'. This one features a light blue and creamy brown color theme: http://www.etsy.com/treasury/4c69b68cc7c26d91128fba4f/hush-puppies-hat-rooster-revelry .

If you head over there, take some time browsing through the various Treasuries. It is fun to see the results!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recipe: Mulled Mushrooms (great for pot lucks)

I'm going to an SCA event tomorrow, called RenMan. The day will be filled with dancing (which I'm teaching), rapier tournaments, feasting, games, crafts...all in all a wonderful time hanging out with friends. We'll be having a silent auction, to raise money to pay for the lights we use for summer time practice. (It is too hot in the summer in Arizona for the sword fighters to practice during the daytime.) I made up a Viking wire woven necklace in the local group's colors to go into the auction:

For the feast, the event will be providing meat and bread, but everyone else is supposed to bring side dishes, pot luck style. I'm going to be bringing my Mulled Mushrooms. They are dirt simple to do, and I get raves every time I bring them. In fact, by now if I don't bring mushrooms I get pouted at.

The recipe? Well, such as it is, here you go:

Mushrooms, whole or chopped into large pieces, washed
Italian dressing
soy sauce

Put the mushrooms into a sauce pan or crock pot. Just cover with equal parts soy sauce and Italian dressing. Simmer for awhile.

You can save the sauce after you're done with the mushrooms, and use it to flavor a pot roast later on. I used to do these on the stove top in a sauce pan, but for potlucks where there will be a plug available it is easier to use the crock pot. I just combine all the ingredients in the crock pot when I get to the event, and plug it in. By the time dinner rolls around, the mushrooms are hot and done. They shrink down while cooking, so I'll sometimes pile more mushrooms in the pot once there is room.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Recipe: Almond Cream Crepes

I haven't been posting much recently, because I've been busily getting my eldest all set to head out to college in a few weeks. Can you believe it?? She just turned 18 today, and we all went over to my folks' place for dinner to celebrate. We taste tested smoked northern pike vs smoked walleye for appetizer. Then we had leg of lamb, potatoes, carrots, and gravy for dinner. And for dessert, my folks made an old family favorite, Almond Cream Crepes. I am sooooo full!

I had a friend ask for the crepe recipe, so here it is:

Almond Cream Crepes

Source: "To Make it Taste Right" by Ginny Wold

Preheat oven to 350F

1 c flour
2 tbs sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 c milk
2 tbs butter, melted

Blend and beat together all ingredients. Refrigerate several hours until batter is smooth and thickened. Fry crepes on both sides in a lightly buttered crepe pan, using scant 1/4 c batter per crepe. Cool in single layer on cookie sheet. Can be frozen between 2 layers of waxed or parchment paper each. Then put the stack into freezer bags.

1 c sugar
1/4 c flour
1 c milk
3 eggs, beaten
3 tbs butter, cut into chunks
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 c ground toasted blanched almonds

Mix sugar and flour. Add milk, cook and stir over medium heat until thick. Continue cooking and stirring 2 minutes longer. Stir some of the hot mixture into the beaten eggs to temper them. Then return egg mixture to hot mixture and stir in. While stirring, bring just a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in chunks of butter, vanilla, almond extract, and ground almonds. Cool. Spread crepes with about 2 tbs filling. Roll up and place seam side down in a buttered 9"x13" baking pan. Bake in 350F oven for about 20 min until hot.

Topping: 1 part sifted powdered sugar mixed with 1 part grated unsweetened chocolate. Spoon as garnish over hot crepes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wet felting: passport cases

Wet felting is such a magical process! In this case, I wrapped wool roving around a wooden board that is cut in the shape of a passport. Then I soaped up my hands, dunked the bundle in hot hot water, and started gently tossing it back and forth. Gradually, as the wool started to velcro itself together, I got more and more forceful.

Given enough time and agitation, the mass of fluffy wool condensed down into a sturdy, seamless fabric. The transformation amazes me, no matter how many times I make it happen. And I love watching the colors move and meld, coming out in beautiful--if slightly unpredictable--patterns.

This is an example of what the finished product looks like. I made this one as a commission piece, for a friend who will be going on a cruise next month. I've added a button and loop closure, and a sturdy strap that was hand spun and cabled out of the same wool that I used for the body of the case. It is long enough to wear over your shoulder, and the passport tucks safely up under your arm for comfortable and secure travel.

I do so love working with felt!