2012 Takes my Blog to Fiberluscious

2012 Takes my Blog to Fiberluscious
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Monday, September 26, 2011

Being Manipulative...in a good way, of course. TUT

Manipulating fibers, fabrics, thread and yarn is like waving a magic wand. Abra cadabra! Your stash is quatrupeled
With a little paint , dye and perhaps alcohol ink or a stamp pad ink you can coordinate any fabric to be exactly what you need.
Now don't you wish you could do that with your honey?

Here is what you will need to start:
A variety of fabrics and fibers to manipulate
A spray fabric paint or diluted acrylic paint.
Rubber Gloves
A disposable work surface. I use plastic plates.
Spray bottle filled with water.
Paper Towels
Drying Surface (a layer of plastic is fine)
Iron to set colors (optional)

This project is for beginners or experienced fiber artists. I use a spray fabric paint called s.e.i. tumble dry. I picked it up at Hobby Lobby. I often use acrylic paints as well. If you use fabric dyes, be sure that they are compatible with the type of fiber you are coloring. Most any fabric or fiber can be manipulated. I often change the color of silk flower petals. The flower above was made from a number of yellow and white disassembled silk flowers. I added yellow to them all and a bit of pink here and there to create a pretty glow. The depth and tone of the final result may vary by fiber. I really love coloring yarns and embroidery cotton. I can create the perfect accent for my stitching projects. Its all good!
In this demonstration I am manipulating cotton batting in white and unbleached, mohair blend synthetic yarn, crochet cotton and silk flower petals

1. Lay your fibers out on a plastic plate. Don't worry about over loading it. Everything will get squished together eventually.

2. Spray everything with water. Soak some, and dampen others for different effects.

3. Spray your fabrics and fibers with the color of your choice. Don't worry about saturating each piece. Just give it a few squirts to start.

4. Spray again with water. This spreads the color and adds a mottled look to each piece of fabric.

5. Mash it all together so the color is covering most fibers. Gloves are essential, unless you also like your fingers and nails to be colorful!

6. Add more color to refresh the intensity or add a second color! Repeat the spraying, watering and squishing until you reach your desired colors. When adding new colors, try not to blend completely. Allow variations to happen. Be wary of allowing white to show around the edges. While they look great on your fabric piece, white can be distracting when you are actually cutting and sewing into your project.

7. Allow to dry. Colors will become lighter once dry.

Here are a number of colorways I created with this method.

I've included some of these fabrics in my new Needle Case Embroidery Journal Kit found in my Etsy shop.

Here are some fibers I dyed and the fabric flower I used them in. Beautiful and unique.
Its so worth it to add a part of you to the things you create.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beaded Fringe Flower ~TUT~

This flower is so elegant and beautiful.
It has a rough around the edges elegance, which makes it so unique.
This project is for the fiber artist who has a nice little stash of beads and rhinestones, sewing notions and fabrics on hand.
This flower requires just a bit of problem solving, but hopefully, I've worked out most of the frustrations for you.
Lets Begin!

Materials Include: Scissors, pinking sheers (optional), needle, coordinating threads, glass beads (assortment), home dec fringe", scraps of fabric, (I used linen, netting and organza), bits of yarn. You will also need little bits of felt or felted wool in a contrasting and/or coordinating fabric. You may also want to add some disassembled silk flower petals.

Create the fringe layer
1. Cut a length of fringe 3-4 inches long. 2. Begin by gathering the inner part of the fringe into a loop and sewing the ends together. 3. Take a scissors and chop at the outer edge of the fringe. This will make it a bit smaller and give the edge an irregular quality.

1. Cut various size circles of your fabric. I cut my circles 2 1/2 inches to 4 inches.
2. I used a pinking shears on the outer edges. Then I snipped petals into each circle and added a fringed edge to those petals.
3. I like to coordinate different fabrics by tea staining or by dipping them into a dish of pale, acrylic stained water. To manipulate fabric to give it qualities that coordinate with other materials in my project. (Shown in step 3 & 4). Dip linen into an acrylic stain. Then squish it, roll it, wrinkle it, flatten it and allow it to dry. I love how this abuse gives fabric a new life. (A tutorial on that process is coming soon)
Tip; I also took a brush loaded with the stain, added a bit of fabric stiffener and lightly brushed that solution onto the fringe trim. It gives it body and just a little stiffness. I didn't want the fringe to flop over when it was being worn. (not shown)

Next, I created the yarn accents. 1. Gather coordinating yarns. 2. Cut lengths of yarn at about 4" and 3. join them at the center.

Then, create the beaded center. Use one layer for flower shown at the top of this tutorial or add a layer of embroidery (pictured below).

1. Cut one or two circles of felt or felted wool. I use them in combination. Cut a circle the size of your desired center size. Cut only one circle and add 1/8 inch if you do not want to add embroidery. 2. Begin sewing the beads onto the felt circle. Place them very close together. You may need to purchase a beading needle for this step. Use the larger sized beads toward the middle and use small beads to fill in bare areas. I like to pour a nice selection into a small lid so I can see how they relate to each other. Be creative.
3. You may find that the felt no longer lays flat. Use that to your advantage! I gather the edges and begin turning them under using a coordinating thread. I then stuff the center with a little polyester fiberfill.

Join all of your layers together.
Center your layers together and stitch through all layers to join. Add a layer of netting as one of the last layers and add a small linen layer to finish the back of the pin. Originally, I planned on using a few layers of silk flower petals but found that they added too much bulk to my finished flower. Experiment with the layers. The transparency of the organza allows the yarn layers to show through in a soft subtle way. I also may trim the fringe further if I find it is too big or too heavy.
Use plenty of stitches and be sure to tack down the outside edges of your beaded center.

Add a pin back and you are finished!
I love these domed pin backs. They have a little tab that bends over into the bottom layer so I am sure it will stay put. I use hot glue as well so the pin back can be handled without falling off. The last layer of netting and linen is the difference between making a flower and creating a professional product. Things should look clean and polished on the front and back.

Don't have the time to make one of these beauties. Go to my Etsy shop. This and other fabulous fabric fringy flowers are available there!

Go-To Embroidery Stitches for Any Project ~TUT~

These stitches are very simple. They give most any project genuine charm and personality.
Most of my work contains only these stitches. Just layer them, add to them, and add a bit of you to everything you do.
back stitch
chain stitch or lazy daisy stitch
french knot
split stitch
couching stitch
satin-shading stitch

I've added a new stitch- The Star Stitch. Enjoy!

I would love to direct you to a wonderful instructional website called Needle'n Thread. Mary Corbet takes you through these stitches and many more by video. My other favorite website for learning stitches is Sarah Whittles Artful Threads. She lists stitches from A-Z and walks you through using images of each step.

Now what do you do with all of these stitches? Find some inspiration but be sure to change things up to reflect you and your creative spirit. Try following the shapes and lines on a large patterned fabric. This can be fun and nudges you into making creative decisions. Try a sampler! Simply section off a nice piece of linen or cotton and fill each section with a new stitch! This is a wonderful way to create a reference for future use. I keep one at the computer and practice.

If you are a pattern person, (that's okay too) try some of Carina's Craftblog's free patterns or go to her shop Polka & Bloom to purchase her adorable designs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting Published- Stuffed

My plush work has been published in "Stuffed- A Gathering of Softies" twice in 2 years. What a lovely, happy feeling. Its like being told that you are really and truly an artist, even though I've been a professional artist and illustrator for over 30 years. It is always a thrill to be in print. My advice to you- Jump In- the water is not as scary as you think, and it does the creative spirit good.

My Birds of a Feather were in the previous issue. I had a ball making them. The best thing about seeking publication of your work is how your work is infused with a delightful determination to be original. You have to stick out from the rest, while being a good fit for the publication you want to be in. I love the Stampington & Company magazines. They speak to my creative passions and always inspire. I also love that they feature the work of you and I. They want to see what we are doing and they do such a wonderful job of showcasing our work.

I will post a how-to later in the year. My best advice is to go for it. Read all the submission rules very carefully and get your work in before the deadline expires. Become familiar with that magazine or publisher. Write your descriptions in the style they admire. Be very imaginative and creative in your submissions. Send the actual work, not images. Let them fall in love with it. Answer all their inquiries asap. Finally, and this is terribly important; before you pack up your work, give it a good pep talk. Tell it to speak kindly and loudly on your behalf. Cross your fingers and let the cards fall where they may. You just never know....

Welcome (Pretty Much) Art Followers!

Hello and welcome to my blog. I thank Stephanie at Pretty (Much) Art for introducing my blog to you.
I'm new at this and so my posts are rather new at this point, but I think you will find something new and different here. If you adore working with fabric, fibers, yarn, embroidery and more, you came to the right place. I will be offering tutorials on sewing, stitching, fabric dyeing and manipulation, and so much more.

Browse through my shop. If you purchase something, take 20% off! This special will run through the entire month of September. Just use the coupon code JVTheBig20. This code can be used by anyone who visits. Please follow me and I promise you will be inspired to experiment and play to your hearts delight!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Basic Embroidery Stitches- Just stitch it! ~TUT~

Hand embroidery is the most personal mark you can make on fabric. It embraces tradition in a new way. Embroidery stitches have been passed down from one generation to the next by fiber artists from all over the world. Recently, with the birth of the "handmade nation", new fiber artists are taking embroidery to the next level. I am often inspired to be courageous and experiment with tradition. This is why I have dedicated this "Sew Old Sew New" blog to fiber artists of today. I hope our next generation takes our lessons even further!

I find embroidery to be very relaxing. It is one of those tasks that demand enough brain power to do things correctly and creatively, without a lot of difficult problem solving. When I stitch, the world disappears. I tend to have twitchy toes and legs every once in a while. Embroidery and crochet are my drug of choice to relax and keep my mind off of those irritations.

Here are the basic tools and some tips for your adventures into hand embroidery.

The Tools
Crewel or tapestry needles.
A pointed tip works for sewing any fabric. A blunt tip needle is good for using on cross stitch (aida) fabric. I like size 20 or larger.

Embroidery scissors. A small scissors makes for easier and more detailed snipping and cutting.

Embroidery Thread
Perle Cotton is my preferred thread. It does not fray easily, creates a bold line, and comes in a wide variety of colors. I like size 5 for most work but use size 3 for detailed work or for light black outlines.
Embroidery Floss can be split into 6 strands. For this reason, floss makes me crazy. For many embroidery artists, there is not other option. It has a nice sheen and comes in an infinite number of colors from matte to metallic.

Floss bobbins- These are inexpensive cardboard or plastic holders for your floss or thread. If you work from the hanks you buy, you will find that your thread will tangle easily. The ends will be floating all over your storage container and become a tangled mess. By winding your thread on a bobbin right away, you can keep your threads at the ready and organized.

Most woven fabrics with some body can be embroidered. Many are better than others. I love to work on linen. Its open, flexible weave makes stitching a breeze. The needle slides in and out like butter. If you make a mistake, the weave will correct itself and with a little manipulation, the hole created by the wrong stitch disappears.
I love working on recycled, felted woven wool. Again, it stitches like a charm, and the lanolin in the wool actually polishes your needle! I have also embroidered on knit wool that has been felted. You just have to watch that you don't pucker the fabric by pulling the thread to tight.
I often embroider on quilt quality cotton. I love to work with the patters and prints. I have stitched on very lightweight cotton as well. Mistakes are hard to correct and you have to be careful not to pucker your fabric.

I don't know that I would recommend working on lightweight knits. Open weave fabrics will not cover the back of your work, which can get a little messy as you go from one area to another. Practice on muslin or canvas at first. There are wonderful fabrics designed for embroidery. Actually, you never really know until you try. Experiment!

Optional Tools
This is an optional tool to protect your fingers from becoming calloused or poked. I like the soft leather version as it conforms to my finger. A small metal piece keeps the needle from passing through to my skin.
A small pliers
When stitching with thick fabrics or when many stitches pass through the same area over and over, the needle just doesn't seem to want to glide through the fabric. Because the needle is small, its hard to get a good grip at times. I keep a small needle nose pliers handy to grip the needle and pull it through. You may find this keeps carpel tunnel at bay.

To Hoop or not to Hoop
Many traditionalist would not dream of doing embroidery without a hoop. A hoop keeps your fabric taut. This helps to keep your fabric from puckering, especially when satin stitching. A hoop is inexpensive. You simply place your fabric over the bottom hoop. Then take the top hoop and schooch it down over your fabric and the lower hoop. Tighten the screw or nut. To move the hoop, loosen the nut or screw and slide the fabric over and re-tighten.
I prefer not to use the hoop for a few reasons.
I tend to work on small pieces of fabric that would not fit onto a hoop securely. (If you want to hoop, you can baste small pieces of fabric to a larger piece.)
I worry that tightening the hoop over embroidered stitches can skew them and create a fold or crease.
I like to stitch in one motion. When using a hoop you have to go down, then move to the other side of the hoop and bring the needle back up. Without a hoop, I can make that up and down motion in tight, tiny spaces in a snap.
To keep the fabric from puckering, it is important to keep a tiny bit of slack in your stitches. Every now and again, I give the fabric a tug and the stitches even out and the fabric becomes straight and flat.

Some Tips and Tricks

To make straight lines simply line your needle up along the previous stitches.
Keep your beginning knot as small as the fabric allows.
When stitching on white fabric, I advise finishing off each area before beginning the next. Some times you can see your thread through the fabric.
When stitching on very light weight fabrics, you can add an iron-on stabilizer. Note that any errors or removed stitches will show, as the stabilizer will hold the hole open.
Take your time and allow your personality and style to show through.
Relax and enjoy the meditative process of embroidery. Your work will love you for it. If you are tense and rushed, your stitches may be tight and uneven. Take a deep breathe and play.

Basic Embroidery Stitches to Try
click on the stitch to go to the tutorial.
Back Stitch
Buttonhole Stitch
Chain Stitch or Lazy Daisy Stitch
French Knot
Split Stitch
Couching Stitch
Satin and Shading Stitch

More stitches, tips and techniques to follow....

Take a look at the apple pincushions below.
Tell me they would be the same without embroidery....

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Add some fiber!

All you hear these days is that fiber is good for you. Well, I guess you could say that fiber is a fresh way to add texture and color to your projects. You see yarn and fiber in so many mixed media, quilting and fabric jewelry creations. I think yarn is a fabric waiting to happen. It amazes me how knitters can take a skein and turn it into a sweater or scarf in no time flat. Wow. I knit, but every thing I make turns into a triangle as I drop one stitch after another. So, I will be showing you how to sew with fiber and yarn.

My addiction to yarns is ridiculous. I went into my closet the other day and they all came tumbling down around me. I keep them in big bags according to their color, texture and style. I crochet and knit a little, but not nearly enough to justify my huge collection. So I decided it was time to do a little destashing and share the wealth. The yarns in my assortments are beautiful and rich. No sport weight or worsted yarns for me. No... I need variegated colorways representing every color in the rainbow and then some. I like bits of sparkle, long spidery fibers, bumps, lumps and ladders and ribbons. I buy one at a time to justify their ridiculous price tags. A little splurge here and there is good for the soul!

Here are a few links to my Etsy Shop where you can purchase some of these beautiful fibers and yarns; Pretty in Pink- http://www.etsy.com/listing/81025587/art-yarn-assortment-pretty-in-pink, Sky and Water- http://www.etsy.com/listing/81026007/art-yarn-assortment-sky-and-water and Landscape- http://www.etsy.com/listing/81025481/art-yarn-assortment-landscape-colorway.

Take a look at my Etsy shop. I'm ready to share the wealth. Grab an assortment and explore the beauty of yarn and fiber as the perfect touch to your next project. Each strand is 5 feet long. Long enough to crochet a little posy, enhance a your next quilt, create a necklace, bracelet, tassel or pom pom. Each listing gives a list of projects in my shop that include fiber. I will also be adding tutorials to this blog in the next week.

Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of your yarn stash.

Couching- This can be done with a machine or by hand. Couching is simply trapping yarn under stitches. Some machines have a couching foot. The foot is made to accommodate a thick, long string of fiber. Simply slide the fiber into the groove and stitch away. I couch without this foot in a few different ways.
Simply set your machine for a zig zag stitch, wide enough to straddle the yarn. Its ok to poke the yarn. That makes it more stable and less likely to work itself free.
You can also couch across fibers. In the brooch above, I lay fibers across a piece of woven, recycled wool. I took it to the machine and stitched up and down across the layers of yarn to hold them firmly down. I then hand stitched beads, a charm and a pin back to complete the brooch.

You can create whole cloth from fibers without a knitting or crochet needle in an afternoon. Its easy and fun, but you will need a few assortments to make a nice long scarf. The following directions are for a full scarf, but I would advise trying this out on a smaller, practice cloth at least a foot square. You will be able to use this swatch for other projects when finished.

No-Knit, No Crochet Yarn Scarf
You will need to purchase a roll of water soluable, dissolving stabilizer. Solvy makes a roll, 12" wide by 9 yards long. Find a surface to work on that will accommodate the desired length of your scarf. Cut a piece of stabilizer the length of your finished scarf. Begin laying pieces of yarn and fiber, even scraps of fabric on top of the stabilizer. Keep adding until you have a generous layer of yarns. The best results come when you criss-cross your yarns. Once you have the stabilizer covered to your satisfaction, cover it with another piece of stabilizer the same size and length of the first. You will be creating a sandwich of sorts, with the yarn being the good stuff in between slices of stabilizer. Pin up and down the edges and in the middle, the full length of the scarf. You can even use a glue stick sparingly to hold the 2 layers together. Once you have both layers stabilized with pins or glue, carefully take your sandwich over the your machine. Begin stitching up and down and across all of the layers of yarn. It's okay if it begins to look bunchy and misshapen. The sewing machine thread has to be connected to other sewing machine threads. These threads will bind all of the yarn fibers together to create a whole cloth. Don't rush through this step. Add more stitches than you think are enough. You can use matching or contrasting threads. You can use straight, zig zag or any decorative stitch you desire. You can use one stitch or use many different stitches. These rows and rows of machine stitching will be somewhat evident in the final product, even when using matching threads.
When you have stitched each layer from top to bottom and side to side numerous times, its ready for the magic. In a large bowl, filled with warm water, submerge your scarf. Let it sit for a minute, then gently agitate the bath until the stabilizer begins to melt away. You will want to refresh the water bath a few times. If you feel brave, you can run warm water directly over your fibers to rinse the rest of the stabilizer away.
Lay your scarf across a layer of towels. Gently press it to remove the excess moisture. Arrange your scarf across fresh towels. Do a bit of "blocking" to create an even, flat cloth. Allow it to dry completely. Once dry, you are finished! Add some fringe to the ends if you like. The scarf pictured is a thin example of this method. I packed the fibers and yarns close together and used a zig zag stitch to hold everything together.

Hand wash gently when it needs a bit of cleaning and lay it flat to dry. You will love how easy and fun this process is.

I'd like to share some innovative ideas on couching and water soluble fabrics from a talented fiber artist, Christine Jones. Her blog is called Art Textiles. The first image is on couching and second is water soluble machine embroidery. You can click on the title of these images or her name to visit her blog and find out more about her work and her techniques.


Water Soluble Machine Embroidery

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A rose by any other name.... how to write a compelling descripton

Many of my posts have to do with my Etsy shop, because it has been such a wonderful learning experience for a handmade artist, like myself. Because Etsy recently changed it's search perimeters to be more Relevant, Buyer and Google friendly, now is as good as time as any to figure out how to describe your artwork so someone can't live without it.
Here is a description for a pincushion I sold. http://www.etsy.com/transaction/55113205. I'll use it as an example.

Honeycrisp Apple Pincushion
This is the next Honeycrisp Apple Pin Cushion in my apple series. This one is just as crisp and sweet as the first! My love of fabrics and my obsession with embroidery is evident in this wonderful fun and fruity sewing tool. Each time I create one of these apples I am transformed back into my grandma's kitchen where there was always something fun to do and good to eat.

Lovely hand painted, embroidered cotton, batik fabric, a leaf stuffed with emery, lots of luscious hand embroidery and a lovely natural twine stem from nature. The apple is generously stuffed with new polyester fiberfill. Three pins are included, two from my "Stick with Me" pin assortments.

This apple is much bigger than the last- 2 7/8"' high apple, with a 5" stem. 5 Inches across, 13 7/8" in diameter.

Limited edition. When this fabric is gone, this series will be discontinued. Each apple will be a one of a kind edition of this series. Please allow for variance in colors and design.

Ready for immediate delivery.
List in the first three words what your item is. Honeycrisp Apple Pincushion
Repeat the word pincushion if you can. This should lift your item higher in the search pages and make it more searchable on the main search engines.

Essential Embellishments- Give your item a warm fuzzy, bedazzled, delicious and/or attractive name. I can't keep these apples in stock. There are many apples competing with me. I think my apples are relate able. Honeycrisp is a yummy apple. It sounds sweet. I have a leopard print pincushion I call "Sexy". Its for the hot seamstress in all of us. Now who doesn't want to feel sexy and alluring? Get the idea?

When writing your item descriptions, let the buyer see into your world and get to know you. Buyers are drawn to artists who create items they like. They want to feel like you are their artist and you create items that seemed to be designed especially for them. Its great to find kindred spirits in this life. Let them know what inspired you to create your item. Maybe the fabric is special, maybe the print helped you to remember a special day or person.

For example, "My love of fabrics and my obsession with embroidery is evident in this wonderful fun and fruity sewing tool. Each time I create one of these apples I am transformed back into my grandma's kitchen where there was always something fun to do and good to eat."

Specifics & Facts- Don't forget to tell them all they need to know. How big is it? Get out your ruler and be accurate. What did you use to make it? Photos are important, but they need more. Help them feel like they were able to touch it, hold it and know how special it is. Is it soft, crisp, hard, squishy?.... When you describe it, use loaded adjectives.
Also, if it is one-of-a-kind, say so. If you can only make a few, its a limited edition. Be honest about this. If you are lucky, you will have repeat buyers. If they see you crank out 20 more of a limited edition, they will feel deceived. Trust is hard to build and precious when you earn it.

For example- "Lovely hand painted embroidered cotton, batik fabric leaf stuffed with emery, lots of luscious hand embroidery and a lovely natural twine stem from nature. The apple is generously stuffed with new polyester fiberfill. Three pins are included, two from my "Stick with Me" pin assortments.
2 7/8"' high, with a 5" stem. 5 Inches across, 13 7/8" in diameter.
Limited edition. When this fabric is gone, this series will be discontinued.
Ready for immediate delivery."

We create for many reasons. We sell for many others. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in figuring out what to make, we forget why we want to create at all. Its good for your muse to create from your heart. That kind of joy will always show in the final product. It is a joyful way to feed your soul.
I feel like the more I sell, the more stuff I can buy, and thus, I can them make more stuff. I like the money. I really do. But, I don't have one of those shops with 20 versions of the same pencil case. Some people enjoy that kind of sewing. They may have a thousand sales and that really does sound nice. I like to try to create something new each time I sit down to work. It takes longer to reinvent the wheel over and over. But, I have many repeat clients who I love to spoil. Its a good way to make a few dollars and feed my addiction to sew.

I just ran into a cool site with tons of help for the Etsy seller. http://vintagechalet.blogspot.com/p/free-help-for-etsy-seller.html. I also added her to my blog list. Interesting info.

Whatever reason you are out there, I wish you much success. If you would like to chat further about descriptions, please contact me. I'd love to hear from you.