Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Continuing Education

The only formal art education I have, I received from my high school art class. I've never taken a craft class or a sewing class. Like most people, I learn by doing. And, yes, I've done A LOT of doing. But I've thought recently that I should work on my skills, that I should try to get better at what I do. There's always room for improvement, right? To that end, I decided to join Craftsy. From what I can see, Craftsy is an on-line community that offers an assortment of on-line craft courses from talented designer/craftspeople at reasonable prices. Okay, I'm intrigued...

So I joined - it's free. But not only that. I also jumped right into their free on-line class which they call "Craftsy Block of the Month". Every month from January to October, students learn to make two new quilt blocks which they then combine into a quilt in the fall. Taking this class will be a good way for me to get my educational feet wet, I think. I will no doubt learn something new (like a bunch of new quilt blocks). I'll meet some crafty folk. Hopefully, I'll get a pretty quilt out of the deal. And, for future reference, it's a good way for me to judge the overall quality of Craftsy's classes and services.

I'm excited about it. I will keep you abreast of my progress, write a little about my Craftsy experiences, and post pictures of my blocks month by month. Above are my first two 12-1/2 inch blocks. They are supposed to be simple slashed blocks: a wonky pound sign and an asterisk. In theory, they're easy to make and get right, but mine for some reason, are FAR from perfect. But no worries. I'm learning, right?

Also, I'm working from my fabric stash so, as usual, it's going to be a scrappy thing. My chosen colour scheme is a somewhat out there but I wanted to try a little funkiness so I don't loose interest halfway through the year. We shall see how that goes.

I wonder what Amy (our teacher) has planned for February... Oh, see that? I'm already looking forward to next month's blocks. That's a good sign I think. Learning is supposed to be fun, right?

So far so good.


Note: See February blocks HERE.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Epiphany: With Abandon

When I saw these brilliant drawings by Sara and her children, I knew the Boy and I were going to be breaking out the oil pastels as soon as was humanly possible.

As it turns out, the Boy had a day off from school yesterday so we spent a moment playing with oil pastels. He walked away from the above scene in about 1 minute flat.

I don't know how they do it, but kids make the best art. It's because they're in the moment I think. They enjoy. They don't overthink things. Unlike us adults, they're not attached to the outcome and they certainly don't try to control it. This is a small epiphany, another teachable moment. Not for the Boy; he's already got it figured out. For me!

Create with abandon Michele. Like a child, do not worry about results. Just let the goodness flow from your fingertips and then... let it go.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Making Cork Stamps

If you're in the habit of collecting things like I am, you likely have a bunch of wine corks taking up residence in the cookie jar just begging to be put to some kinda use. Ya do, don't ya? Well guess what, I know just the thing. Cork letter stamps. These are useful and cute, they lend gobs of personality to cards, gift wrap, artwork, blogposts... and best of all, with a few simple tools and materials, they are pretty easy to make.

Here's what you'll need:
  • many corks
  • craft foam (Note: You'll be using craft foam to create the letter part of the stamps. Because this project requires only tiny pieces of foam, this is the perfect opportunity to use up any odds and ends you have kicking around.)
  • small, fine-tipped scissors (I found a pair in my Christmas stocking... Thank you Santa!)
  • foam craft glue (I used Aleene's FunCraft Foam Glue. It's good stuff. Other glues might work too but I suggest testing them out first. Foam can be tricky where adhesion is concerned.)
  • pencil
  • small handsaw
  • sandpaper
Step 1. Prepare your cork. Start by cutting off the skewered end of the cork with a small handsaw.
Step 2. Then, with a piece of sandpaper, smooth down the freshly cut cork surface and round off the edge. This is to be your glueing surface.

Step 3. (Not shown) Quickly wash your cork in water to remove any dust. Allow cork to dry.
Step 4. Using a pencil, lightly draw your letter onto the foam. Before cutting it out, compare the size of the letter with the cork surface to be sure the letter will fit the cork. Try to make your letter as large as possible. This will prevent the edges of the cork leaving unpretty ink marks all over your precious paper or fabric.
Step 5. Cut around the outline of the letter with a fine-tipped pair of scissors.

Step 6. Dab a thin layer of foam craft glue (I suggest Aleene's FunCraft Foam Glue) to the FRONT of the letter (You need to glue it on backwards for your stamped letter to have the correct orientation.)
Step 7. Stick the gluey letter onto the freshly cut surface of your cork. Allow everything to dry.

And yep, you have letterage!

Now... make the rest of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation (I totally missed the punctuation boat...), symbols, invent whole brand-new fonts if you like man! Jiminy Cricket, the sky's the limit, eh?

I asked the Boy to write out his alphabet and numbers...

And I made him his very own set of stamps in BoyFont. You may or may not have seen the BoyFont in action on Tuesday over HERE.

Then o'course I had to make my very own font. Stands to reason. Look how different our fonts are. Isn't that swell?

Oh the fun I'll be having with these, just you wait. Boisy, I'm going to be playing!

Okay. So the cookie jar is empty... Who around here's gonna make me some cookies? Anyone?... Hello?...


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tutorial: Sunkissed Heart Wreath

Lo and I celebrated 15 years of togetherness last Monday. My heart feels like it's been kissed by the sun since I've known him. I dedicate this post, the result, and my very heart to him.

This wreath is inspired by those beautiful string wedding balloon displays, like THIS one, for example.

Tutorial ♥ A Sunkissed Heart Wreath

You will need:

  • 2 long skinny balloons (the type used to make balloon animals)
  • balloon pump (unless you have gorilla lungs)
  • white (PVA) glue
  • water
  • container for glue
  • yarn
  • pair of scissors
  • pin or sharp thing
  • length of ribbon (optional)
  • drop cloth or newspaper

Step 1. Using the pump, blow up the two skinny balloons. Try making them of equal size or as close to it as possible leaving tails a few inches long. Knot them.
Step 2. Gently tie the knotted end to the tail end to create two loopy balloons as shown.
Step 3. Cut up your yarn into several 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) lengths. Pour some glue out into the container. Add a little water to the glue to make it a little runnier than normal. Say 4:1 glue to water.
Step 4. Now to the messy part. One at a time, drop your yarn pieces into the glue, coating them fully and removing any excess dripping glue. Wrap your gluey yarn around a balloon. Continue in this way, wrapping your balloons with gluey yarn, criss-crossing over lower layers and building up a web of yarn around each balloon. Note that in photo 4, my balloons still require more yarn as they would NOT be strong enough to hold the shape if left as shown. However you do not want to fully cover the balloons either. You want the sun to shine through your heart (words of wisdom my friend)... Let these dry overnight on clean glass or plastic. Do not dry it on paper or you'll wind up with gobs of paper permanently attached to your heart. No no.

Step 5. The next day: Prick the balloons with a pin (or sharp thing) and gently pull out the balloon carcasses. It's cool how hard your pieces are, once dry. Now, you want to place your balloons side by side to see if they need to be trimmed or not, and to figure out the best way to join them into a heart shape.

Here's what I did: 

Step 6. I started with the bottom joint. I butted the two ends together as shown. No glue yet.
Step 7. And for the top joint, I cut away half the cylinder (equal in length to the diameter of the cylinder).
Step 8. This made a recess into which the other end fit nicely. Now I checked to be sure that with both sides butted together my heart was actually heart-shaped. I had to trim a little off the bottom of one side so it all looked hunky dory.
Step 9. I then strengthened both joints with several lengths of gluey yarn. Notice the many overlaps. Once dry, these joints are strong like bull. At this point, I also added a few lengths of yarn over the rest of the heart to make it extra robust. Allow your heart to dry out overnight on glass or plastic.

The next morning, find your heart ready to be hung up and admired!

String it up with a ribbon, place it in a window and let the sun beam through it. Just LOVE-ly!...

Happy anniversary Lo. My heart is yours. Let's keep up the good work, okay?


Oh! And speaking of wreaths, check out my latest project. It's a blog! I call it:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quilt Finish: City Streets

One of my goals for this month was to put to rest this sweet 'n scrappy quilt project, one which I started back in... oh dear... July 2011? Wow. I really really gotta work on turn-around times. I think what held me back on this one was the idea that I HAD to, and could not NOT, hand-quilt it.

I think hand-quilted quilts are the ultimate. I've only ever hand-quilted. There's something about the feel and look of them that is so warm and old-timey. I just love them, needless to say. However, if I was ever going to finish this project, compromises were going to have to be made by me. Over the Christmas holidays, I re-considered machine-quilting as an option, and I have to say, it was such a relief to make that decision. There's no question: I can be extremely stubborn. But it's nice to know that when push comes to shove, I can still be flexible.

Now, I recently inherited a lovely 1973 Elna SU sewing machine (to replace Betty, my even-older White sewing machine) from my mother-in-law. It's in ship shape. It's like new in fact. She took tremendous care of it over the years. So last weekend, my husband kindly took me around to all the little sewing/quilt shops in town (he was so encouraging) and I was pleased as punch to find a walking foot for it. The walking foot (similar to this one) turns my regular sewing machine into a quilting beast. It's darn great!

So, as you might have guessed, the quilt is quilted and bound and done and totally finished. Amazing! And as for my first walking-foot experience, I'm a satisfied girl. I've still got stuff to learn but I'm pleased with this first effort. I've dubbed the quilt "City Streets". Here it is!

You have a lovely day now. I'll be back soon!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In Mother Nature's Studio

When Mother Nature takes out her glitter, get out of the way. This past Thursday, she bedazzled our whole area in a thick layer of it. We didn't even bother leaving the house. We just sat tight and watched her work.

She's the only artist I know who can get away with this sort of unapologetic, over-the-top behaviour. How does she do it? She makes it look so easy. It's like it's second-nature or something... I wish I knew what brand of glue she used.

Truth be told, Mother Nature has always been one of my favourite artists. I find her work eminently inspirational and timeless. Her use of lines is magical. She's got repetition and composition down to a science. Her way with light and shadow is to die for, and her colour-mixing: perfection! It's obvious she's a natural. And I am fairly convinced that she can do anything.

Just look at her artwork. It blows my mind! To be perfectly honest, I'm more than a little jealous. I wish I had even one iota of her talent. Luckily, she lets me into her studio whenever I like. I'm trying to take full advantage of that. Who better to learn from, eh?


Note: I'm trying out a new way to respond to comments. You can read about it in the previous post.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Comment Response Update

You may have noticed that Blogger has recently introduced threaded commenting. This new development allows for direct response by both you and I to specific comments within the comments section. Thusly, I will no longer be responding to comments via email but rather responding here on the blog within that section. I'm very much hoping this will work well and simplify things for us. Fingers-crossed!

If you'd like to contact me privately, you can always send me an email at michelemademe (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

Have a happy day now!


Note: The above wedding card was designed by The Boy. It was then rendered in paper by me.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Corked Cushion "Safe To Dance"

Eight months in the making and it's finally here. Yay, me! Why eight months? Heaven knows... I got distracted or something.

Slow though it was, this cushion was inspired by Men Without Hats "Safety Dance", so I'm calling it my "Safe To Dance" corked cushion. Corked because I made the knitted tubing embellishment with my own two hands using a new-to-me method called spool-knitting or corking. I'm doing a little jig right now in celebration of this pillow's completion! Dance with me now... Come come, let's see your moves.


This is my first attempt at doing the "invisible-zipper thing" too. I installed it without the fancy-special invisible zipper foot and it turned out pretty well. I may invest in the fancy-special foot because, from what I've read, they are quite inexpensive. But yes, it can be done without it. Amy's got some helpful installation hints, and there are countless YouTube videos and tutorials on the subject. I googled "how to install an invisible zipper" and was inundated by the 34 600 results. It seems I'm not alone in my quest for zippy stealth.

Oh, and find out how to cork or spool-knit HERE. The resulting tubes are just nifty and can be used in a plethora of ways. Have you ever made anything corked? Do tell.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Exploring Loop Closures

Today's post originally appeared in November 2011 at Pickup Some Creativity as part of Chris's immensely practical Sewing 101 series. I'm re-posting it here now. Here we go...

loop and button closure 3

I've decided to tackle this post from the point of view of a learner because, to be honest, that's what I'm doing. I'm sitting at the front of the class doing these things for the first time, fumbling about, and figuring them out as I go. As a result, I will be sending you hither and thither to a few really great tutorials.

Are you ready? Let's learn something!

So for my part, I've chosen to explore the "ins and outs" of the loop closure as an alternative to buttons and button holes, snaps, and other closures, so that we might add it to our bag of sewing tricks. The loop closure is simple. Essentially, it's made up of two elements: 1) the loop, and 2) what I'm going to call "the anchor". See? I'm making stuff up already... As part of my learning, I decided to try my hand at a few loop closure variations.

Variation #1: Fabric Loop + Button

First, I visited The Sewing Diva. Her button loop tutorial showed me how to make the most basic button loop closure. The process photos I include below are only to prove that I actually tried doing it for real. The Sewing Diva will show you the way.

Just let me add two small recommendations to the info The Sewing Diva provides: 1) to get the perfect button placement once you've sewn in the loops, mark the button locations through the loops and stitch the buttons in place. And 2) to make the loops themselves, make tiny fabric tubes using the highly recommended "Turning Tubes of Fabric" trick from Pattern Review and go from there.

I will say this for the basic button loop. Of the variations I tried, this is by far my favourite. Once you've learned the trick to lining everything up properly, it is quite simple and the results are so pretty. Not only that, but it won't take long to perfect. The following result was my very first attempt. Not too bad eh? Only a little bit off. I still think it looks pretty.

Variation #2: Fabric Loops + Tie

Next, using the very same method as in #1, I decided to try putting a series of loops on either side of an opening, and have it lace up like a pair of shoes. You've no doubt seen this concept on vests and dresses to allow for growth or cinching. But I could imagine using this variation as a small-scale decorative element on the flap of a messenger bag maybe, or on the back pockets of girl's pants even. Wouldn't that be cute?

Again in variation 2, I used the handy "Turning Tubes of Fabric" trick from Pattern Review to make the loop fabric.

Variation #3: Stretchy Loop + Decoration

Elastic hair ties make great stretchy loops. For my third loop closure variation, I started by making a felt swirly flower. Dozi Design shows you how to make swirly flowers here. I made my flower out of felt instead of paper, secured it with several stitches, stitched on some leaves, and paired my flower with an elastic loop for a sweet decorative closure. I used the very same method presented in #1 and #2 for installing the loop.

The possible uses for this closure are many and varied. Think belts, bracelets, needle cases, journal covers, bags and more. The stretchiness of the loop allows for firm closure and permits the use of bigger and odd-shaped anchors. For example, instead of a flower, why not use something else entirely? Like a painted wooden cutout or a crocheted bobble? Just make sure your loop is long enough to stretch around your chosen anchor.

Variation #4: Chinese Frog and Knot

Before writing this post, I had seen "frogs and knots" on oriental dresses and silk bags. You can purchase these closures ready-made in sewing shops and online. But guess what? You can actually make your own too! Bridges on the Body has a beautiful Chinese frog and knot closure tutorial that will allow you to make your very own closures to match your particular project.

Truthfully, it took me many many - probably about 15 to 20 (I stopped counting after awhile...) - tries before I got these to look anywhere near authentic. But to be fair, I was using the wrong type of cord at first: a small crocheted chain that I'd made. Bad idea.

To be successful, you need the type of cord with a high coefficient of loopiness. In other words, it's gotta hold its loopy shape and resist flopping and folding. Once I figured that out, the frogs were much easier to make. Also, after so many tries, the method is etched forever in my little brain. But it is an elegant process once you know it. I'm very glad I learned it!

Variation #5: Emboidered Loop + Button

And finally, the fifth variation that I attempted was this embroidered loop. I learned how to make it from Ysolda.

Ysolda's button loop tutorial perfectly explains the easy steps to create this simple embroidered loop. It seems to me this variation would be perfect for a small subtle closure, one that you hope won't be too obvious.

And there you have it: my round-up of five loopy closures. Hopefully you will find it useful or, at the very least, feel encouraged to learn about a different closure! I certainly did. I'm sure whole new neural pathways have formed in my brain as a consequence too. And it didn't even hurt. Yay!

Okay that's the post. Thanks for reading. I'll be back here on Saturday!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Getting 'Er Done

Corking or spool knitting. Part of a proj I started... oh... probably 8 months ago now. The goal is to finish it, get some closure, tie up loose ends, follow through, see its backside. Know what I mean? Wouldn't that be gRRReat?... Oh yeah.

Okay. I'm doin' it.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fabric Heart Garland

Tell me the truth... Did you suspect, at any moment, that some sort of heartish garland would materialize upon these pages? Did you know in your heart of hearts that I, like so many others, would fall prey to the ebb and flow of those yearly calendar events around which crafters build their crafts. Of course you did. And you were 100% correct. I've become predictable, haven't I?

Could you perhaps, forgive me just this once? For I sincerely heart this tiny garland. I heart the sweet row of blanket stitches holding together each hearty sandwich of fabric and felt. I heart the play of single crochet and chain stitches entwined around some of their heartish borders. I heart how I've woven this latest garland through my new crochet-edge curtains. Little did you know it, but that was my crafty plan you see, hee hee.

The garland brings a sweet blush of colour to our wintery room.

I heart it very much. I hope you heart it too.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012: Year of the Epiphany

Hey there!

Hello stranger!

Happy New Year 2012 and a giant polar bear hug to you!

Do you know that I've just enjoyed the longest break in the history of this blog? Eleven days of silence.  Wow. Seems impossible doesn't it? But no, it's true. I've had a really lovely holiday. It's not quite over yet either. The boys don't go back to school/work until the 9th. But I wanted to check in here. To let you know that I'm still very much alive and alove. And to verify that the interwebs hadn't crumbled to smithereens during my absence.

Yep, nope. They're still here. Still going strong, just as I suspected.

So um... I had a small epiphany during my break don't you know.

Minor Epiphany: I CAN CROCHET. 

I don't know what it is, but sometimes I really lack confidence. Take crocheting for instance. I learned how to crochet sometime in the summer of 2010 just after starting this blog. Since then, I have made thisthis, and these, among other things. Yet, for some reason I basically think I blow at it, which I've realized over the last few weeks is a bunch of hooey. I've had it up to here with that kind of negative attitude. Henceforth, I will be working on turning my crochet frown upside down. I CAN CROCHET! And BY GUM you will be seeing more crochet-type projects from me in the coming year!

That said, I'm declaring 2012 my year of the epiphany. I will be keeping my eyes peeled for moments of clarity and ideas that should probably be obvious to me but for some reason haven't managed to penetrate my tiny brain. And then I'll write about them here amongst the many and varied crafts.

Okay then...Well, you have a great evening now. I'll be back soon!


Note: The above photos are some of the crochet projects I've been playing with over the holidays using some of my yarn scraps. First, I made the lacy square. Secondly, I made some curtains to which I attached a pretty crocheted border, the first attempt of which I rejected. It was a bit much, I felt. The second iteration was just simpler. I like that.


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