Prepping for Embroidery

Continuing from my post earlier in the week, I set out to start embroidering the purse front before continuing on with the handles and lining.


I decided upon this image of Buddha because it is beautiful. Also, I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on Buddhism over the last couple of months and so it’s been on my mind. Here are a couple of videos from YouTube, for those of you who might be interested. Feel free to skip over them if you’re not šŸ™‚Ā This first is only about 2-3 minutes and is just a basic introduction to what Buddhism is.

This next one is the first of a two-part look at the relationship between Buddhism and science. This one is actually pretty cool and gets into quantum physics.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo get the image onto the purse, it is best to trace the image with a heat transfer marker or pen and then iron on the design. I have both a Sulky iron-on transfer pen (which is my preferred implement) and a basic heat transfer pencil. I discovered my Sulky pen was dry so I have to use the pencil.

Maybe because I’m tired, maybe because I just wasn’t thinking, I thought neither about the printer ink nor to use an OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAironing cloth. This is what happens when you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing, folks. I’m really hoping that the ink will come out. If not, I’ll have to decoratively hide it with some extra dazzle. Also, as you can see, the heat transfer pencil doesn’t show up nearly as well as I’d like (the Sulky pens show up so much better but don’t last very long at all).



Presto Change-o! Pants become a Purse! Part 1

Some months back, a relative of mine gave me a bag of clothes she no longer wanted. I took most of what she gave me to OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe second-hand store where I work during the day, but in this bundle of clothing were a cute pair of pants that I just couldn’t let go of. Sadly, they’re a junior’s size 5 and don’t come up over my grown woman hips.
So, I sat on them for awhile, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with them. Yesterday evening I finally decided to make a purse with them.

Ā Very Basic How-To

Ā The first and most basic step is to cut off the legs. You want to cut them off pretty much at the crotch. Observe the dotted “cut here” line I drew in.


I’ve seen a lot of these purses made in such a way that after the legs are severed, the bottom edge of the now super-micro-mini-skirt is stitched together. This is fine, but it doesn’t allow for much actual storage space. So I made mine with a bottom plate. Simply cut out an extra rectangle of fabric and stitch it on the bottom edge of the skirt…Ā OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course, you may have to play with it a little get the proper sizing. Making the initial rectangle longer than it needs to be, like I did, is better than cutting out something too short. You could also just do the measuring and math, which is probably quicker, but I’m lazy.

So Far…


Now I just need to add the straps and a lining and Presto! However, I think I want to get a little fancy and do some embroidery on it first..Ā  Any ideas or suggestions? I’d like to here them! Seriously, give the comment box some love!

Be Kind, Please Rewind: VHS Tape as Yarn

I’m not entirely sure why I decided to try my hand at working with VHS tape. Perhaps I just wanted something different to try, perhaps it is because VHS tapes are hard to recycle where I work and I wanted to help find a way to make use of them (I work for a second hand retailer, we try to recycle almost everything that doesn’t sell/ can’t be sold, but last I checked, we didn’t have a place to send VHS tapes). In any case, I’ve been playing around with using old VHS tape as yarn, on and off,Ā  for the last couple of weeks.


While writing this article, I came across a Flickr discussion on the topic citing health dangers adherent in magnetic tape (VHS and cassette tape). Read the full discussion complete with further links here: Warning- Crafting with old cassette/ video tape. Basically, the tape contains cobalt, chromium and iron, which can break down or come off as dust from the tape. The iron may not be so much of a problem, as humans naturally have iron in their bodies (though too much iron can be bad), but cobalt and chromium are certainly toxic and can cause cancer. I am not telling anyone not to use these tapes, and I, myself, have not had any issues with it yet, but I want to bring the health concerns to attention so you can make up your own minds.

Trial and Error

While I don’t really have any finished projects right now, there are certainly some things I have learned in the process of trying to work with this material that I want to share.
The first idea I had was to use it to make a “Letters From Mr. Right” letter holder/wallet/clutch from Melissa Horozewski’s Austentatious Crochet.Ā This required that I pull on the tape to stretch it and make it thinner and more pliable. It is harder to get the tape stretched out uniformly if you are impatient and are trying to get a lot of it in a short time. I ended up getting blisters/ friction burn on the sides of my index fingers. I recommend using leather or garden gloves, this will not only help prevent the blisters I got, but it will also help prevent getting any dust on your skin if your tape happens to flake off on you. I also learned that if you pull too hard the tape will snap apart. If you look, it’s kind of hard to see the texture of the cluster stitch used. It just looks like a blob to me.

Because I got tired of pulling on the tape so much, I decided I’d also try using a bigger hook and crocheting with the straight tape, no stretching. Because there is no prep work needed, it works up a lot quicker. I don’t have much done with it yet, and it’s entirely possible I’m just going to scrap the exercise because I’m just not fond of it. This experimental piece is just a single crochet around a chain, in the round.

Other VHS Artwork

Now, while I’ve determined that I’m not entirely fond of working with the VHS tape, there are other people out there that do work with it and have done things with it that I like:

Diane Gilleland used it to make flowers to accent a straw purse. She also used the casings to make bookends. –

Cindy from My Recycled Bags made a cute little sling purse –

Adrian Kershaw manages to turn VHS tape into absolutely gorgeous fine art – Crochet Concupiscence

Zilvinas Kempinas created this awesome tunnel installation – Lost At E Minor

Erika Iris Simmons created several portraits from VHS and cassette tape – VHS Art Representations

“I’ll have a plaid milkshake, please!”…

…Replies my comedian friend, Buddah Eskew, when I posted to my personal Facebook page last night about putting fabric in a blender. “…What were you trying to do?”, asks another friend and fellow textile artist, Rachel Suntop of CoolClimates.

I wanted to make paper

I don’t like just throwing away material when I think that they might still have some use. I have an entire bag that is just scrap materials, a big bag full of smaller bags – scrap lace, scrap cotton, scrap fleece, etc. Over the last week, I have been trying to think of ways to use them, because I need to do something with them or get rid of them – I’ve been carrying some of them around since high school! I honestly couldn’t tell you what made me think of paper, but once the thought was in my head, it wouldn’t leave. I was determined to make paper using scraps of fabric.

Hasn’t anyone made paper from fabric before?

Because I’d never made paper before, let alone from fabric, I needed to get a basic understanding of how to go about such an endeavor. So I hit up teh internets. While I found several different videos and pages on how to make paper using old papers, I couldn’t really find much on how to make paper from fabric – at least not in the DIY arena. (There do exist companies that make paper from resources other than commonly used wood pulp, Conservatree lists several sources, including Arch Paper which makes their paper from 100% post-consumer textiles, like unsold or used clothing.) So, I followed the basic instructions for using paper, but substituted fabric instead.

The Setup

What you will need: A Small Tub of Water; A Blender; A Screened Frame; Towels; A Bucket or Large Pot; An Iron; Paper and/or Fabric Scraps

The best video I saw was How to Make Paper: Basic Steps by Arnold Grummer.

Homemade screened frame

He makes it look so easy and quick. I mean, the video only lasts about 9 minutes and doesn’t really cut away. I’m kind of cheap and didn’t want to go spending money for a kit and I’m also impatient and didn’t want to hold off until a shipment came in, so I made my own frame from an old picture frame and some window screen. I spent just under $2 at The I.D.E.A. Store here in town. I basically took the glass and backing out of the frame and sewed a piece of window screen onto it with some crochet thread.

Making a Colossal Mess

Even though my fabric scraps were small to begin with, I did cut them into even smaller pieces. You want to try to cut in squares as strips can and do get caught up in the blades/ rotating unit. Since I only have the one blender, I was worried that it would jam up and burn out the motor. My blender did survive, but please be careful when and if you do this yourself. I put all the cut fabric into the blender, added water, and turned it on. It only took a second to get entangled in the blades. Getting the fabric pulp took a lot of back and forth between the blender and the pot because I’d have to stop every few seconds and pull out the fabric from the blades. I was also helping it along but going back and cutting the bigger globs of fiber into smaller chunks as I went. It takes about 30 seconds to make paper pulp in a blender, but it took me about 30 minutes to get the fabric pulp.

Making the Paper

Ultimately, I used a mixture of fabric pulp and paper pulp to actually make the paper. (That last thumbnail is the fabric/ paper mix) I don’t really know what the ratio was, I just threw in some paper. I eyeballed it until it looked about half and half.

I made a lot more pulp than I needed and wasn’t sure how much pulp I need to put into the frame to make 1 sheet. I played around with it for awhile. That’s all I can really say at this point, if you want to try this yourself, just play around with it until it looks good to you. For me, it really is a learning by experimentation thing.

After I took the frame out of the water tub, I set in on a towel. I then covered it with more window screen and another towel and proceeded to use the palms of my hands to flatten down on the layers and soak up some of the excess water. I let it set and dry overnight. It was still damp when I went to peel it off the frame, so I had to be a little careful. I set the sheet on the towel and used the iron to dry it out. I think it turned out fairly well. I only had one clump of fiber that didn’t get broken up all the way.

Making Use of Everything – Recycling, Repurposing, Everyday

I’ve been spending most of my morning cleaning my apartment. I’ve been folding laundry, doing dishes, sorting the recyclables, etc. (I do my recycling with Green Purpose here in town.)


As a good practice I always clean out containers before I throw them in their bins, but today, one of the items I’m cleaning out is a tube of toothpaste. I cut it apart to be able to clear out all the remaining toothpaste residue.

However, it’s a little hard to get that bit in the opening. I don’t have any pipe cleaners and see no sense in buying any (especially since I’m kind of broke right now), so I made use of some scrap fabric.

The other day I cut the edgings off of some fitted sheets I want to use for quilting/ clothing and wasn’t sure what to do with them. This is one use šŸ™‚Ā Ā  I’m also considering saving the flat portion of the toothpaste tube to make something with, perhaps a wallet or a purse, much like these capri sun purses.

Embroidery Doodling

One of the major problems I have in trying to get anything done, creative projects or otherwise, is that I get too caught up in planning and wanting to make sure that the tiniest details are perfect that it takes me forever to start or finish a project.(Anyone remember my nataraja quilt idea? I *still* haven’t quite figured out what I want to do.) As an exercise in just letting creative juices flow and not letting myself over-think, I decided to just do something. I grabbed the first spare piece of material I had (the mate for the pillowcase I used for purse lining), a small embroidery hoop and some embroidery floss and just let my hands move. Kind of like doodling. It was free style embroidery with no rules and I just sat from the outside looking in as my hands and the needle did whatever they felt like doing. It was a very freeing exercise, even if the end result wasn’t exactly all that pretty.

I don’t know why, but I really enjoyed creating swirls and circles…

I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, if anything.

The Finished Purse Yields Paid Work!

It’s been roughly a month since my last posting. I have since finished the purse I was working on (see parts 1 and 2) and after I took it to work, one of my co-workers paid me to replace the zippers in one of her higher end purses (and I am happy to report that she was pleased with the results). Around the same time, I had responded to an ad on Craigslist looking for a seamstress to do some custom work, and that sucked up about a good two weeks between design, production and fine tuning, but was worth it.

Anyhow, here are the photos of my purse!

The inside of the finished purse, from the top opening. You can see both the inside pocket zipper and the back zipper. The pillowcase turned out to make quite a nice lining indeed.

The purse from the back opening.

Making Purse Repairs

A few months ago, I talked about repairing one of my purses in an effort to avoid contributing to our throw away culture any more than I have to.Ā  I actually sat down with it today and got some work done on it.Ā  While zipping the pieces through my machine didn’t take more than a few seconds, I did actually hand sew the zippers into place. I always sew in zippers by hand, as it’s too easy to accidentally break a needle on the teeth. The new lining itself is now ready to actually be inserted into the purse. That will be a project for later in the week.

The Incredible Matthew Schultz

Ever since I first saw him walk through a crowded 3T show dressed as the Trickster Crow, I have loved Matthew Schultz’s work. The man is brilliant!

WUIS - My Source for News

A local professor uses art to prove itā€™s easy to fall for propaganda. He says he wants those who see his work to be inspired to think critically. Rachel Otwell takes us to his exhibit:Ā 

You can find more information about the ā€˜The History of the Divisionā€™ exhibit at the James S. Murray Gallery at Lincoln Land Community College here.

Audio of entire lecture by Matthew Schultz on ā€˜The Divisionā€™:

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Finishing the Rag Rug: What I have learned

I first began working on the rag rug just shy of a year ago. (You can read all about the humble beginnings here) I had never woven anything before, on a loom or otherwise, but I wanted a way to use some material I had laying around and wanted to try out the technique. I always get excited to try something I’ve never done before, I always jump into these big projects head on and learn as I go… I’m actually kind of surprised I even managed to make a small practice swatch! That being said, I ran into several points of frustration that resulted in long periods of walking away from the rug to work on other things, which is why it took me so long to finish. This is how I learn though, through experimentation.

Trial and Error Learning

Experimenting with dye:

I knew I wanted to make my rug black and red. I also knew I didn’t want to have to go out and buy a lot of new fabric either (as that would be expensive as well as defeating the purpose of utilizing old material), so I thought it would be wise to dye some old white bed sheets to the colors I wanted. That should be easy, right? Oh boy was I ever wrong! Not only did I spend hours cutting and dying fabric (note: dye first, _then_ cut!), but I made a mess and all I had to show for it in the end was some pink and grey fabric. For all the other dye noobs out there: Rit is no good if you want strong colors. Do some research before jumping head first, which is what I should have done.

Types of fabric:

While most of my material came from old bedsheets (cotton is awesome), I wanted to use what I had handy as well. This meant cutting some strips from old pants as well as an old satin sheet set I’d had for some years that was worn from cat claws. Satin frays like a mother and, while it certainly made use of the material, using it was a giant pain. The fabric from my old pants was thicker than the other material, and while that’s not really a problem in itself, I should have cut them into thinner strips, as the difference in thickness contributed to the my other major problem…


Notice that pink/ grey piece in the center, I wanted to make sure my dying efforts weren’t for naught, and it serves as a reminder of my journey in making this rug.


Just as with knitting or crochet, gauge is important. Gauge, for those readers who may be unfamiliar with the term, is the tension and tightness or looseness of a knit, weave, etc. When you are following a pattern and knitting asweater, you want your gauge to match that listed in the pattern or the sweater will be too big or too small. The problem with this rug is that the gauge is not uniform. The gauge is super tight at the top and very loose toward the middle. So, how do I fix it? I do not want to unravel all my hard work and re-do it. I can either tighten up the lower rows or I can add some material to the upper rows or some combination to even it out. However, no matter how I go about it, there is no getting around that this is going to be another time consuming process. It’s quite aggravating when I really want to be done with it and get some use out of it, not to mention, I’d like to move on to other projects.