Awake Late at Night

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This is going to be one of those streams of consciousness styled posts I occasionally like to write. I took a nap earlier this afternoon, do not have to go in to work until the middle of tomorrow afternoon, and so, I am wide awake and my mind is bouncing around. Honestly, you’ll likely not be reading this until sometime after I’ve left for work tomorrow, but, just for fun and pointing out real-time, it is now 11:33pm CST on a Sunday evening as I begin to write this. (in the same vein, real-time distractions will be inserted, italicized, in parentheses)

Tonight, I just realized, was the premiere of the new Cosmos with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I’ve not watched it yet. But, I’m actually running a Symphony of Science playlist on Youtube as I write this. (jump to facebook, to get into a discussion with a friend about Carl Sagan) I’ll have to watch that tomorrow. Perhaps I can introduce the kids that I work with to the awesomeness that is the universe and curiosity and the badass-ness of DeGrasse Tyson. Or they may just think it’s lame. Which is *usually* what I am met with – a general disinterest for pondering the bigger picture or the vastness of the universe or the meaning of life. Once in awhile though, I am pleasantly surprised.  This reminds me… some time back I came across this quilt that a woman had created to teach kids about the solar system. (another facebook break)

Speaking of work, I brought in my sewing machine this morning. One of the teens staying in the shelter wanted to learn different ways to refashion some of her jeans into shorts. We worked together to make 2 pair of shorts, a pair of cut-offs and a hemmed pair, and I had her get familiar with the machine with some scrap denim. I pointed out the importance of a stay stitch with cut-offs and how to get the denim to fray quicker. I’d like to work more with these kids on some of the basics of sewing, even just basic repair work. And I wonder if it would be worthwhile to try to set up some kind of community sewing studio.. because not everyone has the funds or space for a machine… and perhaps free classes on how to sew, repair, and design your own clothes. I would like to see sewing become something of a norm again – it would help to combat throw-away fashions if people could simply repair/ refashion their clothes. Perhaps, with an emphasis on re-used fabric, it might combat the sheer tons of textile waste we create Every. Single. Day.  Also, I love outlets to build community and be creative. Of course, maybe I’m a bit daydreamy to think that kids and teens would be interested in such a thing. How do we make sewing “cool”?  If you have never commented on these blogs before, I encourage you to comment on this topic… thoughts, ideas, anecdotes, discussions…

(break to take a shower and put on jammies. 2 thoughts whilst I was in the shower: 1) I want to do up a cosmos themed dress.. embroider the universe, a la Ms. Frizzle 2) I’m totally dressing in Sagan-style next Carl Sagan Day – Nov. 9th) … screw it, I kind of want to do that this week. Flashback to Emulation. It’s also just occurred to me that I never expanded into all the realms of emulation that I wanted to do – Halloween, LARPing, CosPlay, etc. I need to revisit this.

I mean to mention a couple of other things that are important. 1) Hatch. I did it last year (see here), I’m actually in it again this year. I’m horrible at self-promotion. I should have been talking about this weeks ago. The opening reception, the trashion show (yes they had a trashion show this year), and the gallery talk have already come and gone. My lack of posting about it is probably due to a combination of 1) being too lazy to buy new batteries for my camera 2) the artwork I had accepted for the exhibit is a piece I’ve already written about in length here and 3) I’m just lazy in general. HOWEVER, this coming Saturday, March 15th, 2014, is the Art Fair for Hatch. I originally intended to go to this. However, The Culture Monk is going to be in Chicago that morning in his series of coffee houses. I’d really rather go to that. Because I’d kind of like to meet this guy in person, link a face and a voice and an experience to the blocks of text I read regularly. Sadly I cannot be in 2 places at once. But I promise to be in at least one of those places Saturday. (youtube and facebook distraction) (time check – 12:54am. Going back into text to insert links) (links inserted, tags entered, end time 1:28am)

Update, 11:11 am: Just finished watching the new Cosmos on Hulu. I teared up. I literally teared up. DeGrasse Tyson’s remembrance of Sagan at the end touched me.

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Come What May

So, welcome to 2014. New year, new chances to lie to myself about blogging more regularly and finishing unfinished projects. This will not be a polished entry, this may even get personal. Maybe. Right now I’m just typing words as they escape my brain between shoving unhealthy snacks in my face.

I’ve got my laptop next to me, with my camera, my sewing machine is out, and I have bits of fabric on the table. What follows is an insight into my creative and thought processes, raw, unedited – chaotic and probably going nowhere. But why am I still typing crap? Here – look at some pictures.

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This is some sexy lingerie I bought several years ago. I only wore them once. They don’t even fit me anymore. I’m going to chop them up. Why not?

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Chop CHOP! Choppy Chop! Lace is pretty.

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Oh, remember these? Yeah, I’m still not sure what to do with them, but, they’re sitting in a pile on the table.

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This looks kind of neat.

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CRAP! I need pink thread! The stores are closed! All I have is embroidery and hand quilting thread! Grrr…

Do I want to just sew it with a contrasting thread color? Or use embroidery thread? I don’t want to wait until morning. I’m pushing through, making do, not putting it off. Embroidery thread it is. Such is life. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be messy, it can be chaotic, and it will be ok. It will. I promise. Screw the fairy tales and the picture perfect notions of what should be. The harder you push it, the less idyllic/idealistic it will be. Ideallic. Is that a word? Screw it. It is now. #Ideallic. Go trend that crap.

Idyllic -1:  pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicity; 2:  of, relating to, or being an idyll

Idealistic – 1: of or relating to the philosophical doctrine of the reality of ideas; 2: of high moral or intellectual value; elevated in nature or style; “an exalted ideal”; “argue in terms of high-flown ideals”- Oliver Franks; “a noble and lofty concept”; “a grand purpose”

Yeah, neither of those quite do it for me quite the way it feels in my mind standing by themselves. Oh, so, here’s a thing I’ve been working on off and on that I don’t think I’ve posted about:

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I got the pattern from Urban Threads. It’s going to take me eons. Ok. I’m getting kind of sleepy. I think I’m going to post this and come back to this in the morning. Maybe I’ll get a stock of posts done to schedule over the next few weeks. Maybe I can be more regular. Maybe I can convince myself that I don’t actually NEED to have a point or well-formed idea. Maybe I can stop avoiding the blog and the facebook page when I haven’t finished any of my many unfinished projects. Maybe.

Laptop Bag: Making a Pocket

A couple months ago, while I was working on some other artwork, I took apart an old dress I’d picked up from FreeCycle eons ago and had been hoarding because I loved the pattern. I’ve decided I want to make a laptop bag with it. However, there are some modifications I had to make to the original Instructables pattern.

See, isn't that a gorgeous pattern?

See, isn’t that a gorgeous pattern?

First off, the material isn’t as heavy as that of a suit jacket. So, I needed to add some moderately thick interfacing to give it some extra stability. I only have 2 kinds of interfacing on hand – very thin fusible web and some generic sew-in interfacing that I picked up from somewhere ages ago (probably from my paternal grandmother) and I don’t even think the company that made it is around anymore. I don’t want to make a trip to the store, so I went with the 20+ year old sew-in stuff. It’s awesome how well this stuff kept. The point is, if your outer material is on the thin side, just about anything will do to stabilize it. If I didn’t have any interfacing, I could have used a layer of some slightly thicker fabric to add more durability.

The other thing I have to do is to create my own pockets. See, the beauty of using a suit jacket is that it already has pockets, so you don’t have to make them yourself. It’s a time saver, it really is. It can be a bit of a pain to draft and construct a pocket where none previously existed, but it can be done. Here’s how:

GE1) Measure out on the back where you need the hole for the pocket mouth to be. I do this my marking the center line. Then, you’ll want the mouth to be about 2.5 – 3 inches from the top. I decided I want my pocket to be about 5 inches wide, so, I made sure to put that 2.5 inch mark on that center line. You can use a rotory cutter or good scissors to carefully cut along that line.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn't been trimmed yet.

Ignore the stitching along the sides. I had to play around with the pocket installation before I got it right. Also, you can tell the top bar hasn’t been trimmed yet.

2) For each pocket I made, I cut out a rectangle of lining fabric about 5.5 -6 inches wide (wider than the mouth hole) by anywhere from 12-14 inches. It all depends on how deep you want your pocket. Say you want your pockets 6 inches deep. Since you’ll be folding the piece of lining in half, multiply the number of inches (in this case 6) by 2. Then, use some scrap piece of the outer material to line the top edge of each pocket piece. You will need this piece of outer material to blend in when pushing back the edges of the opening creates an open space. You’ll see what I mean later.

3) Starting with the bottom edge, face the right (face) side of the pocket to the right (face) side of the bag face, lining the edge of the pocket along the edge of the mouth hole. Pin into place and then sew. Go ahead and sew along the entire length of the pocket piece, even if it’s wider than the mouth hole. You can always use a seam ripper to pull out a stitch or two if you need to later.

GE4) Now you’re going to do the same thing with the top edge. Kind of loop the pocket lining over so that the edge of the right (face) side of the pocket runs along the top line of the mouth hole.  Sewing this one with a machine can be a little tricky, but it can be done.

GE5) Push the pocket into the mouth hole. Very carefully, work the edges of the mouth hole , pinching the edge from the pocket and the face, creating a smooth seam edge. Pin as you go. Pay particular attention to the two sides of the pocket slot. This is where you may need to take out a stitch or two – but just enough that you can push the pocket edges all the way in and create a smooth edge all the way around. Now, stitch around the pocket slot, making sure you don’t sew the pocket shut.

6) Sew the sides of the pocket shut.GE

Tada! You have created a pocket! I told you it was a pain in the ass, didn’t I? Now do you see why you needed that matching fabric at the top of the pocket piece?GE

Red Bull Fueled Late Nights – On the Journey from Concept to Art

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A page from my art journal. What started with one idea bloomed into an entire theme.

Right now, it is around 2:45 in the morning as I start to write this. Since I don’t have to work tomorrow (er, today), and I am behind schedule from where I would like to be, I decided to pull a late night working on pieces for the Boneyard Art Fest.  What started out with one idea grew into multiple pieces with an overall theme. And I am paying for it now. Check here to see how it started.

I’ve been looking back into my past and my experiences with domestic violence and have built each piece as various portraits of a woman – a hybrid between myself and my mother, but also extended into portraits of those who’ve had to endure these experiences in general as many of the feelings and themes are, sadly, universal.

The screams and cries

You may have already read the entry on Seeing Sound, or if you haven’t GEyou can go back and check it out. I’ve since hashed out the image I will be embroidering onto that denim hem background. I found a good diagram of the larynx online, and GEwith the help of a nurse friend of mine, we enlarged it to more or less be life sized. I then sketched out a rough (very rough) outline of what the embroidered image will look like. I still need to actually embroider it.

The Cycle of Violence

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Mother and Child planned layout

Violence begets violence. Children who grow up in an environment where there is domestic violence are more likely to learn and repeat those behaviors. This does not have to be fate, however. Cycles can be broken, but to do so takes effort. My mother made every effort she could to make sure the cycle would be broken with me, and I’d like to think that it has, but some days I’m not sure. It can be hard, when you’ve never seen an example of a healthy relationship, it can be hard to know what one is *supposed* to look like and it can be hard to tell if your reactions or feelings are normal and natural or conditioned.
I wanted to capture this generational cycle in another portrait. A portrait of the mother and child in utero. To plan the layout, I had a friend trace my outline onto poster board and I made the abdomen GEwider to incorporate a pregnant womb. It’s entirely possible that I’m not medically accurate as far as fetus size or belly size, but I made an honest attempt. I am currently in the process of creating the surprisingly complicated background for this piece and, once complete, intend to outline the body, womb and fetus with embroidered descriptor words and phrases (I may replace embroidery with a quicker method if I hit a serious time crunch).
For this background, I am using several different fabrics, all used clothing, in shades of black and blue (to symbolize bruising). This is what I was playing around with the other day. I am piecing these fabrics together crazy quilt style, to reflect the shattered lives, emotions and homes that must be stitched back together if we are to survive. And it goes deeper than that. I took a light blue fabric, the lining of an old prom dress, and wrote down the stories, the experiences, the feelings that have been handed down. Because I had to. Because in creating these works, I am digging deep into my own life and those stories needed to be GEthere. And I cut them into shards just like the other pieces and covered them with a layer of sheer fabric. I have done this for two reasons – 1) While these are my stories, they do not belong to me alone and I need to respect that. I’ve made it all but impossible to actually *read* them. 2) Like anything else, these histories are broken apart and distorted from time and perspectives. What I would have to say, what the other actors in these stories would have to say, are likely to be different parts of the same whole. And so, cutting them and obscuring them symbolizes that fact.

More to Come, Stay Tuned

I’ve more to say, but this is getting long and I need to get some amount of sleep. Check back Saturday, March 30th for more.

“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 🙂   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.

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…

GAUGE!

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.