Thursday, November 29, 2012

NEW Painting: "J+X"

Oh yeah, time to start a new painting.  And I'm going to put updates here every Thursday. 

This new canvas is small and it's a simpler subject, so I'm hoping it won't take a YEAR to finish (ok, that was dramatic--it doesn't really take me that long to paint considering I only paint 3 hours a day one day a week only during the class semester).

Ok, enough blathering.  Time for the pics.

Here is where I started:

Blank canvas is blank.

And here is where I ended up.

Good progress!

Wait. . .I need to show off the painting I'm working from and share what I'm up to to explain why my "after" looks so weird.

I'm deconstructing one of my existing paintings, "Jackie and Xerxes".  A minimalist thing, where I just want to pick out the major shapes from the original.  I'm going to shade it a bit like the original, which I started a bit in the gray around the hoof on the left side of the painting. . .wait, I need to show the original for reference.

Yeah, that explains it a little better. 

When I first started I was going to just make basic shapes but then I liked the odd shapes of the original.  Like the bum patch, how it curves and that curve relates to the curve of Jackie's head--and there are up curves on both the hoof and the boots.  There are only two "real" circles, Jackie's head and Xerxes eye.  Then there's the dramatic blue block-ish shape of Jackie's dress (which I plan to shade quite a bit to mimic the deep color of the original--but blue is so sheer it takes a bit to build up the color on the canvas).  Then there are the more straight lines of Xerxes mane and Jackie's hair. 

I can't decide if I'm going to add a tiny bit of detail from Jackie's dress and accessories.  I kind of like the idea of adding one yellow dot and one pink dot to the dress.  The yellow one would represent the flowers (and compliment Xerxes's eye) and the pink would represent the pink elephant on the purse and tie into the color of Jackie's hair.  It would also break up the big blue blob of the dress, minimizing it a bit since I have no other blues like that on the canvas (though I like that Jackie's head and dress don't have "matching" colors anywhere else on the canvas--it makes her stand out).

Blah, blah, blah, enough painting talk.  Well except to say I'm enjoying doing something totally different from all my other paintings.  It's fun and very relaxing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Geeky Gingerbread Swap

Time to show off something I made for a Swap Bot swap.

The swap was gingerbread themed Dotee dolls.  You had to make a pair to send to one partner.  The only "rule" (beside the basic Dotee doll rules of having a hanger, tail, and being 4-6 inches long) was it had to be gingerbread man themed.  It was a sender's choice, so I wasn't required to check out my swapee's profile to see things they liked but I did.

My swapee listed "Big Bang Theory" as one of her favorite shows.

So I just couldn't resist. . .

I made a Sheldon gingerbread man and "soft kitty" gingerbread kitty.

Of course, the Sheldon-bread man had to have the Flash shirt and wouldn't be complete without the infamous Sheldon-ism "bazinga" embroidered on the back.  The "soft kitty" (for those unfamiliar, Sheldon likes to have a song "Soft kitty, warm kitty" sung to him when he's upset/ill) is from the same gingerbread man shape just with some pointy kitty ears on the head.  To keep the gingerbread feel I had to have the rick rack on the arms/legs (to mimic icing) and kept the decorations very minimal on both (except for the backs--normally a cookie wouldn't have the back side decorated at all).  I did super basic tails from some leftover string I had (string I got on packaging from a swap I received a while back).  The hangers are also from recycled ribbon from a swap.

Made with felt, poly fill, rick rack, glue, string, ribbon, bells, and embroidery floss.

Super simple and (if I do say so myself) darn cute!

They're off to Canada today.  Here's hoping they are well received.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Feeling Festive (cuties for a swap)

WARNING:  I'm about to show off two things I made for a swap.  It's a holiday ornament/decoration exchange held through a blog (which for the life of me I can't remember the name of right now and I'm pressed for time so. . .I'll have to share it later).

Ok, so if you are Dani (my exchange partner) and don't want to be spoiled. . .STOP LOOKING NOW.

Now, everyone who wants to look, check out this cuteness!

Wait, first, props where props are due.  Links to the patterns/inspiration.

Christmas lights ornament HERE.

Gingerbread man trinket box HERE.

Now (at long last) pics of the goodies.

Ok, how cute are they!

I've already shown off the lights before (this is the second set I've made) so there's not much to say about them.  I changed up the pattern the same way I did before (stuffing my lightbulbs to get a bit more dimension then Molly at Wild Olive did) and using string for the cord not wire.  That string was recycled from a swap I got (it was tied around the packages I got, it's too cute to throw out).  I also didn't put a plug on one end, just a slip knot on each end so it can be tied to tree branches (or whatever) for display.

The gingerbread trinket box turned out quite nice, if I do say so myself.  The only "bad" thing about it is it still smells a bit of modge podge.  I know that will dissipate in a bit (this has only been finished for a few days so it hasn't had enough time to breathe yet).

I deviated from the original pattern a bit to suit my tastes.  The original pattern/tutoial has you use a buttonhole stitch to make the seams on the face/body more noticeable.  I didn't really like that so much.  I prefer a more subtle seam on the face in particular.  So I sewed on the reverse side then turned the pieces out.  So you still see the seam but it's very flat.  I used a basic whipstitch for all the other seams (not a buttonhole/blanket).  I've found on these small pieces if you keep the stitches very even you still get a very nice finish with a lot less work (blanket stitch on something this small would have made me batty).  I used six stands of floss for all seams.

I didn't put rick rack all the way around the body.  I liked that in the tutorial one but once I got this guy done, it was too much on him.  I used felt for the eyes (glued on) and three simple stitches (I can't remember if they were chain or stem) for the mouth (using 3 strands of floss).  For the buttons I used more of the string I used on the ornmanet.  The candy buttons are just knots pulled super tight so they won't come undone.  That string ties tighter than embroidery floss, which I find tends to want to slip apart.  A dab of glue would solve that problem but I'm not a huge fan of tons of glue on sewn pieces, especially felt, so I used glue sparingly. 

I used felt glue for the eyes, rick rack, and the icing on the box.  I found a brand that's really great and you only need to use the littlest bit to get a really nice hold.  I haven't had any issues with pieces coming apart when I've glued them with my felt glue.  I also used hot glue to hold the gingerbread figure to the top of the box.

The box is just a simple paper mache box I got at the craft store and painted then covered with a layer of modge podge.  I didn't paint the lid (since it was covered with felt) but did modge podge the inside so it would be shiny and match the rest of the piece.  I didn't paint the inside of the box, just sealed it with modge, too.

Both projects were SUPER easy to make and easy time wise.  You could easily make them fancier (with glitter--which I debated but I wanted the white felt to look more like icing than snow, so I opted for no glitter) if you wanted but they really don't need a ton of embellishment.  The gingerbread man pattern is also used to make a snowman, the body for a santa, and an elf.  All the variations are at Cotton Pickin' Fun.  That's a really fun blog (as is Wild Olive).  Such generous folks behind both blogs, sharing free patterns and tutorials all the time.

I really hope my exchange partner likes them.  I think they will.  I know if I got something like this I'd be happy, so I'm not worried.  (that's my lithmus test, if I feel the items are made well enough that I would find hem acceptable then they are ready to send out).

Now I just need to finish the stuff I want to make for my sister's christmas gift (though I bought something to give her just in case I don't get done in time), make a pair of dotee dolls for a swap bot swap, and get my regretsy swap done.  Busy, busy, busy!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Kitty Up" : Progress Report: DONE!!!


Time to celebrate all y'all.

Guess what's FINALLY done.

*happy dances*

Want to see it?   Ok!

I'm very pleased with it.  I'm tempted to fiddle with the corduroy texture a bit more but the rational side of me says "no, let it be".

It took nearly the whole class last night to get the whaling in.  I also touched up the eyes a bit and fiddle with the shadow at the right side of Mr. Roboto's head (lightened that area so it matched the space between Mr. Roboto's armpit and Timothy's head).

I'm VERY ready to start a new painting.  There is no class this coming Wednesday (holiday week) but we bought the extenstions classes so I'll have 2-3 classes this semester before the full Christmas break.  I could make some good progress on my new painting in that time.

I'm not going to reveal the new painting description yet, but I do have the name.  The new painting is "J+X".  I'll definitely be doing progress reports with it.

WOOT WOOT, another painting finished!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a Swap Christmas

I just joined Swap Bot and am about to send out my very first swap.  It's a christmas themed dealie specifically for newbies like me (who need to get their rating up so they will be welcomed into bigger swaps).

I'm also in an ornament and decoration swap (not through swap-bot) so I was in need of some cute ideas that were also easy.

So of course I ended up at Wild Olive.  Face it, her patterns are cute and easy and translate well from embroidery pattern to sewing patterns.  And don't you know, she had a whole ornament event a year or so ago so her archives are full of fabulous festive wonder like. . .

Eee, aren't they just too cute. 

Closup time!

(bah to crappy cellphone pics in my office--but I'm about to finish up the package these go with and mail it out and I forgot to take pics so I needed to document these cuties).

I did change it up a bit from Mollie's pattern.  For her version she just cut out two pieces for each color and sewed them togther with a running stitch and didn't stuff.  While that was fine for her, I like things a bit more puffy (and with less visible stitch lines) so whip stitched around the edges (trying to keep the stitches really close and just deep enough to hold the edges but not deep enough to really show) then stuffed them.  I also added a little plug at the end.

So now what was "just" an ornament (that's how Mollie was listing her version), mine can now be called a Dotee doll.  (yeah, that's something I just learned about via swap bot and I like he idea a ton--basically they're just little dolls made from scrap fabric/felt--most need to be 4-6 inches long, have a hanger and a tail).  By looping one end of the cord, I had a simple hanger.  And adding the plug on the other end gave it a tail.  Bippity boppity Dotee!

This is for my swap bot swap and my person likes Dotees and christmas so double duty, baby, yeah!

It's just a small low committment type swap but I still needed something else to round it out.  I had a few other ideas for stuff but time is really having its way with me right now.  Then I remember I had a GREAT item already done (in my "charity" bag).

I think I've shown this off before so. . .remember this?

Reversible drawnstring bag (cats on the "outside", sushi on the reverse).  And inside two week kitties.

I know I showed them off before.

Graham and. . .I can't decide what to call the black kitty.  Inky keeps coming to mind but I don't like how "cheap" that name is.  Ooh, black cat needs a black theme name (like "Cinder" or "Blacky").  But Inky really does sound cute (and poor Inky, she had to pose on the office cactus so I coudl try and get some decent lighting.  OUCH!).

I'm rounding the package out with stickers and a post card along with a notecard (with a note).  The swap says items should be wrapped but I really hate gift wrap (it seems so wasteful) so I'm considering the bag the wrapping.

I'll get this in the mail (most likely) tomorrow evening along with Biggie Smalls.  Yes, I'm finally mailing him off.  I can't wait to be rid of him.  Ooh, that sounds harsh but I don't mean it that way.  I'm just ready for the buyer to have him and not have to fret over him anymore.

Now I need to get together an ornament and decoration for another swap.  Then a pair of gingerbread dotees for another swap.  Then my regretsy swap.  Oh, and the phoenix commissions needs worked on.  And I still have to make stuff for christmas gifts. . .yeah, I'll be stitching a lot in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sewing for Charity: Hurricane Relief Quilts

Color My World put out an all call to share quilt blocks to be assembled into quilts for hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  Check out the post here if you want to help.

Now I'm the newbies of newbie quilters but I figured I could manage to make the simple block requested (a 9 patch--so you make 9 4.5 inch squares then sew them together to make a 12.5 inch block).

SO. . .I did.

Double bonus time, I used some fabrics I recently won.  Remember that "pin it to win it" thing from a few months back, that mystery fat quarter bundle.  Well this is it.  Yeah, I wasn't so thrilled with the set.  Not that it's not nice fabric but it's really not my bag (those florals--uh, yeah).  BUT. . .they look fabulous together and I'm very happy with the blocks that came about as a result.

This one is my favorite:

But now I'm worried they won't be good enough to use.  You can clearly see my corners don't match exactly even though I checked my machine to find exactly where the magic 1/4 inch spot was (I had to move my needle to the right then I could get the seam just right using one of the lines already on the throat plate).  But even though I took care with the blocks, they still might not be good enough.

And what if they're not the right finished size?  I did measure them but I thought the finished size was 12 inches but now I see it's supposed to be 12.5 inches (and I can't remember exactly what my sizing was--I know it was larger than 12 but was it 12.5 or more like 12.25?!).

Yeah, I'm being a worry wart but that's what I'm good at.

For what it's worth, if someone offered me a quilt made with these blocks (even with their not quite perfectly matched corners) I'd like it.  Especially that dots/lines square.  I wouldn't be ashamed to gift these squares to friends/family in a quilt so that makes them perfectly acceptable.  But I can't help feeling they should be PERFECT.  Where is this perfectionism coming from?  Especially given these are my first official quilt squares (I don't count my postage stamp quilt as "real" blocks since it's all scrappy and free for all).

Well, if the organizers don't care for them they can always tear them apart and keep the fabric for themselves.  It didn't cost me anything and wasn't really my bag anyway.  And I did get some scrap for my postage stamp quilt, so I'm only out the tiny bit of money it cost to mail them.

But I still want them to be GREAT.  Ok, for now I'll settle for "good enough".

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"Kitty Up" : Progress Report

Oooh, the end is SO near with this painting and I'm so very excited.

Ok, here is the "before" pic:

And here is the "after" pic:

The changes are very subtle.  I did some more work on the eyes, gave Timothy a nose job and fiddled with darkening the black.

I have a good feeling next week will be my last go round with this painting.  I just have to fiddle with the eyes a bit more (making the green stitching pop more) and then lay in the whaling to get the look of corduroy.

Next week we'll have a model but I'm not sure I'll be doing that.  I'm not a huge fan of life drawing (because I SUCK at it) and I really want to start a new canvas.  I'm nearly 100% committed to the idea I have in mind (which should be a nice fast painting--famous last words there!).

Oh yeah, I'm so happy to see "Kitty Up" finished.  Here's hoping the whaling turns out well (it's really going to make Timothy pop!).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Work in Progress: Phoenix (commission)

New commission in the works.

The (potential) buyer wanted a Phoenix that was akin to the one in Harry Potter.  She provided a pic of mass produced stuffed toy (to give me an idea what she wanted) and my first reaction was "It's a parrot in drag!".

So with that in mind, I sought out a parrot pattern.  That was trickier than I thought it would be.  But I did find THIS.  Someone took a song bird pattern and modified it to be a parrot.  Fabulous!

Based on that pattern/tutorial, here is my prototype.

Since this is just a prototype, I wan't overly concerned with matching threads.  So for the wings (where they attach) I'll probably use a matching yellow (not the orange I had already threaded!).  I'd also add more frillyness to the wings to get more of a feathery/fire look to them (I added the few snips currently on the wings at the last minute before taking the pictures).

Also, I didn't do much in the way of embroidery embellishment.  In fact, I'm not sure how much I would put on even for the larger finished product.  To be totally honest, this is for a baby/young child so I feel simple is better.  And if I'm being brutally honest, tons of embellishment seems wasted on a baby who's probably just going to destroy the toy by gnawing on it.  (also, stitches could come out and be eaten by said baby, so that's not cool either).

The final product will be MUCH larger, around 12-18 inches tall and will probably include legs/feet.  I'm toying with making simple velcro straps in place of legs so the bird could be attached to the side of the crib, so the Phoenix could be watching over the baby (I like that idea).  The potential buyer wasn't sure about legs or not (and even stunned me by flippantly saying, "well, they can cut the legs off if they don't like them"--what the hell?  but I digress).

Overall the pattern is super simple to make.  The real time suck will be in how much (or little) embroidery I add.  I'm thinking the larger item will look nice with a bit more than this small prototype has.

One more pic.

Perched on my apple.  This is what made me think a velcro strap to lash it to the crib would be a cute idea (though now that I'm thinking about it, a larger item might not lash so well--would it fall over due to the weight?  I'd have to look into that).

Now I need to share the pics with the potential buyer and see if this is what she had in mind.  I kind of hope she prefers this smaller one (with the idea of velcro legs).  A smaller one would sew up simple enough so I could have this commission done quicker (not that I hate this project but I'm really keen on my own projects right now so. . .this is kind of hanging over me like a dark cloud).

Here's hoping I get a positive response from the potential buyer.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: Remnant Box

I'm stealing this idea from alimakes .   She reviews new stores she buys from and she's a fan of buying remnant/scrap/mystery packs, items I adore as well.  She's introduced me to a few different online stores that I enjoy buying from but more importantly she's about the only review I found that showed pictures of what you can expect when you buy the 3 lb remnant package from  Yeah, I probably would have caved and bought one eventually even without the pictoral review but she definitely showed me it was worth the $20.  In fact, I think the pack I received was even better than what she got.

SO. . .blah blah blah, lets see what I scored in my remnant pack.

It came all double bagged so I had extra fun picking out the knots (hey, I like to re-use the bags) which just increased my anticipation.  I tried not to look at the fabric too much while I was freeing it.

There was a TON of fabric in the bag.  No piece was smaller than about 1/2 yard.  Most were around 1 yard with only one small swatch missing along one cut edge.  (which is fine with me, since I want to include all of these in my scrap quilt--so I can just even up the edge where the swatch was cut and get my scraps and still have a nice full piece to do other, bigger projects).

First up was about a yard of this great fabric.  The picture doesn't do it justice in showing off all the shiney gold fabulousness.  Each of those stripes is covered in gold leaf (I'm sure there's a real term for this but I'm too lazy to look it up).  The flowers/vines are also all trimmed in gold.  This is not a type of fabric I'd ever buy (especially in yardage) but I like it.  A lot.  It's definitely going to be a great addition to my postage stamp quilt.  In fact, the pattern is so big and varied I can see two or three bits of this in the quilt, giving a little gold flash here and there.

This piece (about 1/2 yard) is also shiney.  The snowflakes are silver leaf and there are other shiney embellishments on the swirly action along the side edge.  The way it was folded up in the bag, I could only see the snowflakes on the white background and I was thrilled with that.  I love subtle/neutral holiday prints.  As I was unfolding it, I saw the dark edge and thought it was two small pieces folded onto each other.  I was thrilled once I unfolded it all the way and saw it was printed with the dark stripes on each selvage edge and then it faded from tan/beige to white (with poinsettas and snowflakes).  Again, this is something that's outside of my comfort zone but I REALLY like it.  I like it so much I kind of don't want to ever cut it up.  But I also really want it in my scrap quilt.  Like the other shiney fabric, the print is such it could make several appearances and not look like a duplicate.  Love that.

More WIN here.  I really like all four of these.  The green one (on the right) is something I'd probably even buy as yardage.  I can see a lot of uses for it (in fact, I'm thinking "alligator" right now!).  The other three are definitely things I would consider buying as individual remnants, so getting them together (and each is between 1/2 and a yard--the purple may even be a bit bigger) was awesome.  I see I have the black one upside down.  Those circles are actually balloons, each with a different pattern.  The white confetti one just screams "birthday" but could also be new years (or any festive celebration).  The purple is something I've actually seen before and thought cute but had no reason to buy (yardage).  All of these will look fabulous in my postage stamp quilt and I can think of plenty of other uses for the rest.

This bunch contains the only fabric I gave a "wtf?" look to.  Bet you can guess which one it is. 

Yeah, that camoflauge colored one with the saketboardesr/bikes is it.  I don't hate it (it's good quality) but it's something I would never buy on its own.  The only way it would come into my posession is through a mystery purchase like this (or in a bag from the thrift shop), if it was gifted to me by someone else (hey, I wouldn't turn it down), or if someone asked me to buy it to make something for them (and I kept the leftovers).  Thankfully that one is one of the smallest pieces I received (about 1/2 yard). 

The orange paisely next to it is also bordering on a "dud".  I like the colors but I'm not a fan of paisleys at all.  But it does match (sort of) the orange biker on that funky fabric, so I'm thinking I could make one hideous gift bag with the two.  I do swaps at Regretsy so. . .yeah, I may have to just do that.  I have about a yard of it so. . .

The blue one has great colors (really bright--again, my pics don't do any of these justice).  It's not something I'd ever buy even as a remnant but I do like it.  The pattern is really large so I might just use it twice in my postage stamp quilt.  I have NOTHING like it (color wise) in there yet so it's a welcome addition.

The skulls?  Yeah, I like them.  They'll be welcomed in the postage stamp quilt and I can see uses for it in other projects (maybe a skirt for a sock monkey?).

Overall I'm very pleased with this purchase.  I got a TON of fabric for $20.  And with, if you spend $35 you get free shipping, so I had an excuse to buy a few other things I'd had my eye on (which were on sale) so I met the minimum.

The fabrics are all good quality, not cheap stuff from the super clearance bins.  This batch had a lot from Timeless Treasures. 

My only beef with the pack (and this is super minor) is quite a few of the pieces had tape and/or staples on them (one small piece of tape in one spot).  It was only one staple (per piece--not all of them had it) and it came out without incident but it's annoying having to check for it.  The tape was less annoying except on the shiney fabrics.  It did take some of the shiney off (but it was along the selvage so it was no biggie).

I'd definitely buy one of these again.  But not for a while, since you get SO much with them. 

Great stash builder.  Great way to get you out of your comfort zone.  They'd also be great for a quilt along style project.  Everyone who joins could buy one (or two folks could go together and share one) and you have to use ONLY the stuff in your pack to make something.  That would be so FUN.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Kitty Up" : Progress Report

Time to check in on my painting. . .


And here is the After:

The only part I didn't work on was Mr. Roboto.  Wait, that's a lie.  I did touch up the blue dots (on the orange square), his eye, and his antenna. 

I really made some good progress on Timothy's eyes.  At one point I thought the left hand one (at the odd angle) was just a right mess.  But then I stepped back from the painting and saw it really WAS coming along.  I wish I had put the bright specks on the dark ring on the bigger of the eyes.  It would help me really see how close this painting is to being DONE.

Really, it is.  Next week I'll most likely give it another once over (dabbling here and there where necessary) and focus on Timothy's nose and eyes.  Then it's time to think about putting in the whaling for the corduroy.

I was torn on adding the text but after I got it on there (and saw how well it turned out) I'm glad I added it.  It's an odd addition that really works (at least I like it, and it's my painting so *sticks out tongue*).

For reference, this is the photo I'm working from:

Yes, my painting is not 100% true to the painting.  But it's getting really close which makes me VERY happy.

I don't want to make any predictions on how many more classes.  I'm just aiming to have this done by the end of the semester (including the extra three sessions we just signed up for).