Sunday, September 30, 2012

Spring Zing

We've had a bit of a hiccup in the Spring weather here, with rumours of snow on the nearby hills in the past few days. Nevertheless I've been stitching away at a couple of little spring scarves for myself. Here's my favourite one still on my needles.
It's a Patons viscose-cotton blend called Sorrento. It reminds me of the eighties slubby cotton knit tops that a friend of mine used to wear. I'm just increasing at the beginning and end of every row to form a wide triangle. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I went out to my studio this morning to fix a necklace which I bought yesterday and before I knew it, I'd made this.
The big pearl is yet to be stitched into the centre and I may yet change some things, but I'm pretty happy with my quick burst of inspiration. It's a couple of inches across, so quite a big burst of colour and texture.
I also need to decide about whether to string this on a twisted cord, or ribbon or chain. In the spirit of my quick inspiration, could I have some quick feedback please. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Share the Like

I've joined the facebook community and set up a page for my textile art. I'd love it if you would join in and *like* me there.

I'm planning to continue my regular blogging, but there will be extra photos and other bits and pieces on my facebook page. It's a good place to have a bit of a conversation. If you'd like to be even more enthusiastic, you could share this with your own friends!
And just to make it easy for you to get to my facebook page, I've added a badge at the top of my sidebar. Click on it any time you like and you'll go right there. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Refining the Design

I'm still working on my new felt ball necklace designs.
The colours are dictated by the details in the felt balls. This one was originally finished with a string of seed beads, but I decided I preferred to use fibre--hand twisted rayon embroidery thread teamed with handspun wool. I'm a litttle unsure about how the hot pink beads will behave in the rough and tumble of real life. They are metallic paint over glass. So this one will remain a prototype. I feel that I've found the balance I want between beads and fibre, though, so it was worth the effort.
And I've tracked down an initial source of white felt balls. They are on their way across the country to me now. I hope they will be in my dyepots by early next week. That will give me more control of my colour options and help me to put in the personal twist that's so important in what I make. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Personality Infusion

After making a couple more felt ball and bead necklaces, I stopped to evaluate. I've got the technique down pat and I'm happy with the length variations I've come up with. The combination of bold bright felt balls with a really light, easy to wear necklace makes me very happy. But I want to infuse a bit more of myself into this design. One way to do that is to dye my own felt balls. That's something I can do as soon as I source some more of them in white. Meanwhile, I came up with this.
It's made with my own handspun yarn combined with hand-dyed (by me) recycled silk loom waste. It's light and bright and I think it's a goer. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Necklace

I started my day by tidying up my workspace aka dining table. It had never really recovered from my prop-making session and was badly needing a good sort-out. That earned me a reward. I gave myself a couple of hours in the studio working on a new necklace design.
Felt balls and glass beads stitched with beading thread and a sense of humour.
For the rest of my sunny Sunday afternoon I'm planning a bike ride and coffee with my friend A.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


It's a beautiful warm spring day. Yesterday I made lemonade. It was easy and today it's cool and tangy. So is the green wool which I've just pulled from my drying rack.
I've had a busy week and not quite enough sleep, so a sleepy sunny afternoon is just what I feel like today. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Baby Blanket Begun

I decided not to go with the granny squares for the baby blanket. Instead I've turned to my favourite armchair project design.
I've dyed up some more yarns in the past few days. I like the way the variegated blue and palest of greens set off the other colours. Is this the time to confess that those two were dried off with my hair dryer because I couldn't bear to wait any longer to get stitching?
For reference, that's a 3mm crochet hook and 2 ply wool, so it's my usual design in miniature. It feels particularly apt to do it this way because a really big blanket like this was my gift to the parents-to-be. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Glimpse of Green

While I was out in the studio the other day working on some free-form necklaces, I also finished this off.
In case you're wondering about the tantalising close up of the piece in my hand, I may as well confess . . . my workspace in the studio is covered in beads, wool and wire. There wasn't a space big enough to lay anything out to take a good photo. My hand provided a rare clear surface. And this one is for a friend of mine, not for the market, so I don't want to spoil a surprise. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ball-band Love

I'm still playing with ideas for a baby blanket. For some reason the ball-bands have a special appeal to me.
Normally I value ball bands for the useful information they contain--all the vital statistics about the yarn that I love. Of course they're essential for matching dye-lots. But none of that is relevant here. There's no way I'm going to be able to match this old baby wool in a shop. Still those little slips of paper feel like a precious thing. I haven't been able to discard them yet. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Freeform Again

I've been out in the studio working on freeform wire and wool necklaces. Here's a close up of a couple of strands.
Wool, silk, cotton, wire and freshwater pearls . . . 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Start Printing Lino

I've been looking forward to printing the first exercise for my linocutting course. My burst of enthusiasm for making display props for my market stall got in the way. There was no way I was going to try to set up a space for printing on a surface awash with sawdust interspersed with various bits of wood and glue! This morning I managed to clear the space and get set up.

Over the past few weeks I've been progressively acquiring all the materials and equipment I need to print. Tracking down a dense foam roller as recommended by my teacher was the biggest challenge. I finally bought one from an art shop in Fitzroy. Unfortunately this morning it was nowhere to be found. Searching for it did result in a tidier living space, but still the roller eluded capture. I also found a lino block which I'd cut last year and never got around to printing. I decided to go with the soft brayer recommended for printing on paper and the not-dense-enough-foam roller which I'd purchased earler in my hunt for tools.
I can see how the different roller would be more effective in distributing the ink onto the lino, but the tools I used did get me a half-decent print.
My main purpose in printing this first block was to make sure there wasn't a fundamental flaw in my cutting before I embark on the second exercise. That mission is accomplished now. I was also quite interested in the effects of over-printing.
Oh, OK, then . . . in my enthusiasm I neglected to dash out to the studio and pick up some more fabric. To tell the truth I became interested after I realised I didn't have enough fabric. But it sounds better to say I was interested in over-printing!
One more piece of learning. It was OK working on the half of my dining table which I'd managed to clear, but a whole table would have been even better. Now there's a challenge for me. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another Rose . . . and a spot of styling

I've made another flower brooch with my hand-dyed cotton.
I'm happier with this one, though I still need to refine the process. And the styling isn't quite there, but the only space I could find to take a photo was on my bench hook where I've been cutting bits of wood to make display props. The basket is still unfinished nearly a year after the workshop, but it's still good for some interesting texture. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String

I'm working towards a stall at the October 13 Made 'n' Thornbury Market. In the past when I've done market stalls, I've focussed almost exclusively on making items for sale. This time I'm remembering to pay attention to how I'm going to display them. It's a benefit of having insights from the Make Craft Your Business course to guide me in my preparation.

I've been thinking about a style. I'm going to use a combination of purchased and home-made bits and pieces. I need an overall look to tie it all together. Yesterday it came to me: "Brown paper packages tied up with string". Not necessarily actual brown paper and actual string--or at least not exclusively so, but that sort of look I want. It seems to be a good fit with my handspun yarns and neutral enough to set off my beloved colours.

Here's what a corner of my worktable looks like this morning.

Ooops, that's supposed to be my dining table. Oh, well . . . I did manage to find a spot for my cereal bowl amongst the bits of wood and sawdust.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vintage Granny Square

This sweet old wool is Patons 2-ply from way back when. I got it in a box of bits a while ago. At that time it was pale yellow--a classic baby colour, but not my favourite. Now it's pretty green, courtesy of my dye pot. My mind has been on baby things lately, but I was unsure how to use this yarn. I started playing with it a couple of evenings ago and found it wanted to be little granny squares. At least that's how I called it.
I'm not sure that the little gaps are the best idea for little fingers, so this could end up being used a different way entirely. I've got plenty of wool and lots of ideas, so that's fine.
You might deduce from the spash of blue on my thumb that I've still got dye pots on the go. You wouldn't be far from the truth. I am planning a bit of a clean up, though so I can do some printing. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Leaf Print

I kept this leaf from my collection the other day in the hope that I might be able to print directly from it. The veins have become even more prominent as it has dried out, but so has the curl, so I don't like my chances of getting a clear image.
I wasn't drying it deliberately, you understand. I just liked it too much to throw it away. Now I have the photo which I can use as the basis for a lino print even if the leaf doesn't last.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Start Cutting Lino

It may seem an obvious thing, but the trick to getting started on  my linocutting course was to start cutting lino. All my dreams about things I might print in the future weren't going anywhere until I had the tools in my hand and the lino in front of me. Thankfully the first exercise was just an exercise . . .
Now I have a better feel for the different tools and the marks they make. I also have a block to print from. I've managed to gather all the supplies I need. That turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected.
Meanwhile my dyepots have been busy and yesterdays topic in the Make Craft Your Business course was goal setting and motivation. Today I'm off to the Made 'n' Thornbury Spring Fling Market. I aim to have a stall there next month, so I'll be taking mental notes as well as enjoying the lovely things my collegues have made.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Ready to Print

I've signed up for Dijanne Cevaal's online linocutting course. I've been wanting to do more with printing and am impressed with Dijanne's work. An online course means I can work at my own pace, in my own time. On the other hand it doesn't have that sense of a fenced-off time to do the work. I need to make sure I protect the time day by day or at least week by week. The first lesson arrived last weekend. Today I'm making time for it.

I picked up these leaves on my walk today--looking forward to my first actual lino cutting exercise.
In fact the first exercise is a sampler of different textures. It looks like a good way to get used to the different cutting tools. The second exercise is a leaf.

Speaking of cutting, I've made myself a rough and ready bench hook. I definitely don't want to cut my fingers rather than the lino. I know I need to keep my hand behind the cutting blade. I'm hoping this will save me from that sudden impulse to reach out for a slipping bit of lino.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Freeform Necklace

On my continuing mission to fill in gaps in what I've made lately, I turned my attention to my freeform necklaces.
I sold two of these at my first Sussex Neighbourhood House market. I brought one along to my first class in the Make Craft Your Business course as an introduction to to myself and my work. It sold to another participant. That gave me an encouraging boost.
The challenge is to develop more effective ways of making these. They are a combination of fancy handspun, hand-dyed fibres, felt balls, pearls, semi-precious stones, thread and beading wire. My technique involves twisting, stitching and binding. Despite the freeform look, it takes a fair bit of planning to make sure that features end up in the right places. I like the ends to be nicely finished. A bit of flexibility in length is another desirable feature. So, I'm working on them and enjoying the process. Stay tuned for developments. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Behind the Times

My friend E is into the whole steampunk thing. I've been thinking about making some jewellery for her. I had this old watch. It's not worth replacing the battery on the off chance that it would still work. So I was dreaming about pulling out the little cogs and wheels to string into something interesting. Taking the back off proved to be a challenge. And then I found this.
Obviously I'm sadly behind the times! Watches no longer contain watch parts. That would explain why they're no longer worth fixing. And why replacing the battery and band costs more than the watch itself. Maybe if I'd thought about it a little more I wouldn't have made that particular mistake. Oh well . . .
Tell me, has this been the case ever since I stopped having to wind my watch daily? Any suggestions about where I could find some interesting little cogs without spending a lot of money on a vintage watch just to pull it apart?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beautiful Silks

My outing to Beautiful Silks on Saturday afternoon yielded a bag full of goodies.
I couldn't possibly sample their entire range, so I bought a few fabrics, some recycled sari silk and a small amount of high-twist mulberry silk yarn. They're all destined for my dye pots. Some will also require me to develop my sewing skills a little further if I want to hem them into scarves.
Meanwhile I'm just enjoying the beautiful drape and lustre of the fabrics. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Pushing the Envelope

My friend L saved this postcard for me. The catalogue came in the mail the same day. Both have the potential to push my creativity just a little bit further.
The Writes of Spring is a Victorian public library writing competition. They want a postcard sized story--with a definition of story which encompasses all sorts of visual arts. I don't know if I'll enter, but it's good to think about the possibilities. It's also a great reminder to think of my creative work as story telling, whether or not it turns out to be postcard-sized.
The catalogue includes all sorts of things that I probably wouldn't wear and lots and lots of interesting colours. One top that caught my eye comes in
  • persian blue
  • havana orange
  • fuchsia
  • sauerkraut
  • coral &
  • palmolive
 . . . and there are pops of yellow all over the place.
Thankfully I still have my dye pots out and I stocked up on plenty of white wool, so I'm good to go for some more colour mixing. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take 2--or Double Take

I really enjoyed the polka dot flower brooch I made this week. On the strength of it I asked myself a couple of questions:
  • how would it look in a hand-dyed cotton homespun fabric?
  • how long does it actually take to make one of these brooches?
Here's how it looks. And it took fifteen minutes to make after I'd assembled all the materials and worked out the technique on a previous incarnation.
 So what? Well, one of the topics for this weeks Make Craft Your Business class was pricing. We've been pointed to this formula as a good guide. It suggests a fair retail price is four times the cost of materials plus time. Yep, four times! That's to cover all sorts of things like finding and purchasing supplies, developing designs, labelling, promoting, etc, etc, etc. Not to speak of overheads. Now I'm no-where near making my living from my crafts, but it's a worthwhile question, particularly if I'm going to be more intentional about what I make to sell.
 I don't have an estimate for the time and materials I used to dye this fabric. It was a few years ago, but I know that good quilting cottons, whether hand-dyed or commercially printed retail for $24 per meter. This flower takes just under 10 cm of fabric, The brooch back costs 40 cents. The big question then becomes, "What price should I put on my time?"
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this difficult topic. I can tell you that when I pulled out the brooch in class and presented my figures, we were all struggling to know how to reconcile the issue. I deliberately did this with something I don't feel too precious about. In fact, by the end of the day I wasn't even sure that I liked the brooch. I'm a bit happier with it this morning. And the possibility of selling kits helps. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Good Morning

Here's my plan for the day so far.
First: finish waking up. I bought myself a new coffee cup yesterday--just because. So I will wake up with a smile on my face. Then I have class. It's week three of the Make Craft Your Business course. One of the women in this group does cyanotype. It's a traditional printing method which uses sunlight to develop the colouring agent. It makes the original blueprint. I love it. So I've picked out some openwork crochet to lend her. It will be fun to see how it prints.
Depending how much energy I have left at the end of the class, I might head down to Beautiful Silks. I've been thinking about my crochet flowers in the light of the realities of selling. I've figured out that the biggest component in the cost of what I make is my time. So I'm looking at using more really great materials so I can make the most of the time I put in. What could be better than silk? --hand-dyed by me! Last time I was there, they had some lovely white silk yarn in an 8-ply equivalent thickness. I expect to come home with some.
Beautiful Silks is just around the corner from Brunswick St Fitzroy and a street full of great cafe's. That would finish off the day just nicely.