Shabby Miss Jenn

Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Praise of Aurifil's Wool Thread

Among the plethora of giveaways by various blogs and manufacturer's during the weeks prior to Christmas, Aurifil ran the "safecracker" contest.  The winner who guessed a 6-digit number correctly would win 200 spools of 12-weight Lana wool thread.  The contest was held over the course of a few weeks, during which periodic clues were given out.

A few days before Christmas, I got an email from Alex Veronelli, the Product Manager for Aurifil, letting me know that I had won the contest.


I absolutely could not believe it, but he assured me it wasn't a joke, and a very large box of thread showed up at my house the week after Christmas.

I now live in thread heaven!  Every color under the sun was in that box.  And it was the large spools of thread, too.  From their website, I learned that this wool thread can be used for hand embroidery and applique, but also in both long-arm and domestic sewing machines for machine applique and quilting.

I finally had a chance to give it a try this week.  First, I pulled out a wool applique pattern I'd bought a few years ago - A Time to Plant by Threads That Bind (Shawn Williams).

I had traced the pattern pieces onto freezer paper, but hadn't cut anything out yet. Why?  Because I really didn't want to use the same color brown floss for all the pieces, I wanted to color match each one.  And I didn't have that much floss on hand. And I find that regular thread is a little too thin for wool applique work.

But now I had the luxury of having available every possible color I needed, and I got the colors selected and the pieces cut out quickly.  I used the Lana thread to hand-applique the stripe onto the pig, the door onto the bee skep, the inside shadows on the watering can, the holes on the birdhouses, the white stripe onto the flag, and the pots into a stack.  The Lana thread just melted into the wool, and blended perfectly into the background.  LOVE!  Here are a few detail shots:

I've got a ways to go, but a few nights' of TV watching should have this finished up in no time.

Then I decided to give the thread a try in my machine.  I have to admit, that I was a little concerned about how thick it was, but it threaded easily. Using a sketch, I put together a highly-textured block of burlap with squares and rectangles of silk, scrim and organza.  I zigzagged the edges down with the Lana thread, and it sewed beautifully, and due to it's heavy weight, sat on the surface and became a lovely design element.

At Christmas, my brother gave me some silk hankies by the Tentakulum group, and I wanted to play with them. (Examples can be found at the YLI website.)   I needle felted them down onto a disk of wool, and got these lovely, dimensional flowers.  To create the centers, I added some wool locks from Living Felt (my favorite online wool distributor), and added a few beads to give just a bit more sparkle.  Aren't they gorgeous?

After blanket stiching down some wool stems and leaves (again using the Lana thread), I removed the flowers (they were not attached yet) to prep the top for quilting.  I wanted to balance the quilting across the whole piece, so I added two  "ghost" flowers to the left side of the panel, simply using green, turquoise, and purple thread to outline flowers comparable in size and scale to those with the silk and wool.  The heavy wool thread sits beautifully on the top of the batik background fabric, providing a nice design element without detracting from those gorgeous silk flowers.

I used an elongated stipple for the background, and everything popped nicely.  Here is the finished piece, which is 16x20.  I used the faux piping binding technique that was so beautifully described by Trisha at TLC Stitches.

So, thanks to Aurifil for such a generous giveaway.  To pay it forward, I will be doing a few giveaways here on the blog, and giving some to the members of my bees.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy National Popcorn Day!

They pretty much have a day for everything now, don't they?  But this one - for me, at least - was fun.  I read a blurb about it a few months ago in Paper Crafts magazine, and put it on my to do list.  Because all of my guys LOVE popcorn.

Matthew has a particular thing for it.  I did this page several years ago, but he hasn't changed since.  If given the opportunity, he can down a large bucket at the movie theater with no problem.

To "celebrate" this important national holiday, I made envelopes containing a bag of microwave popcorn to give to my 3 guys, the boys' teachers, and my in-laws.  The popcorn box was made using a Silhouette 3-D popcorn box template.  I modified it to only present one face of the box.  October Afternoon's Egg Basket paper from the Cherry Hill line made for perfect popcorn, don't you think?  (Unfortunately, though I scaled the font to be large enough to read on the background piece of paper, ever since Epson "upgraded" their printer interface, my wide-format printer, which is supposed to give edge-to-edge printing, won't do so.  It will no longer print pages larger than 8.5x11, which was the whole point of my getting that printer.  And so the font printed much smaller than I'd like it to be.)

Make sure you have a bit of popcorn today!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Change, Art Journals, and Doodling

When I was a girl, I loved drawing and sketching.  As I began having more homework and and a part-time job in high school, I gave up those activities.  This year, I'm trying to relearn these skills.  I am also going to keep art journals, for practicing those skills, as well as mixed media art.  To get started on drawing/sketching again, I'm taking a variety of online classes:  two workshops (one on sketching, one on watercoloring) by Alisa Burke, and two of the free Strathmore online classes: doodling with Traci Bautista, and, later in the year, watercolor sketching with Carol Johnson.  

To approach the journaling, I joined the Art Journal Caravan (AJC) with Tangie Baxter at scrapbookgraphics.  This workshop provides a variety of weekly journaling prompts, guidance, and technique instruction, as well as a forum for group participation.  While scrapbookgraphics is a digital scrapbooking site, the AJC is open to digital, traditional, and hybrid participants.

One of Tangie's first challenges was to choose a word of the year.  "This a word that you will focus on for the WHOLE YEAR. Instead of setting so many overwhelming "New Year's Resolutions" for yourself, the idea is to find a word that inspires all your goals in one small word. A word that should be displayed prominently at your work space, in your journal, in your mental images. "  I've been doing that instead of resolutions for several years now, but Tangie added a new spin - create a personal symbol for your word of the year, and incorporate it into your journal.  

For a variety of reasons, my word this year is CHANGE.  While a butterfly first came to mind, after thinking about it, I realized that the butterfly represented the final stage of a process of change, and was not really what I wanted as my symbol. But it still spoke to me as being appropriate for my word. As I googled butterfly images, a few chrysalis images popped up and i had an "aha" moment. A chrysalis is a self-created safe haven for growth and change, for internally-directed adaptation. 

After googling a variety of chrysalises, I sketched and then watercolored this image.  A fantasy chrysalis in my favorite color, purple, with some bright yellow and greens for high contrast. The creation of it lived up to my word of the year - twice I thought I knew what I wanted, and executed the idea, and didn't like it. Instead of letting myself get upset, I changed my approach again until it all gelled and resulted in this piece of mixed media art - which I love.  It will reside to the left of my monitor where I can see it while I am working and creating.

Supplies: Watercolor: Caran d'ache Neocolor II; Pastels: PanPastels/Sofft Tools; 
Oil Pastels: Crayola Water Soluble; Ink: Dr. Ph. Martin's India Ink, Tattered Angels 
Glimmer Mist; Pens: Pigma Micron, atyou Spica; Paper: Pink Paislee, Strathmore 
400 Series watercolor 140 pound; Charm, Rub-ons: Pink Paislee; Adhesive: 3M, 
foam mounting tape; Other: sewing machine, thread, bubble wrap.

I wrote quotes having to do with change around the sides:  
  • Nothing changes if nothing changes.  Anon.  
  • Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.  Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.  Maya Angelou
  • The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.  Maya Angelou
Traci's doodling class began the day after New Year's.  While I was watching the video for the first lesson, Matthew joined me partway through and was fascinated.  He decided he wanted to take the class with me.  As we were working on the first layer, Jeremy poked his head in and decided he wanted in on the fun.  So we're all doing it together.  

The first lesson is about layers of color building up to the final project: first, spray acrylic or watercolor paint over stencils, then adding layers of marks with different media (paint, oil pastels, sharpies, markers, and white out).  It is not planned art, just free form marks and doodling.  The boys are still working on their projects, and I'll post them when they're done.  

Here are my first 2 attempts.  I like parts of both of them.  I used Glimmer Mist as the base layer on both pieces.  There is also Lumiere paint on one of the top layers on the first piece, and as you can see it reflects a lot of light.  These are meant to be used for other projects, and not used as art per se.  I'm leaning toward notepad covers and bookmark backs, but have not made up my mind yet.