I’ve been quieter than usual on this blog because I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo this month. Of course because I am me and I can’t do anything the way it is supposed to be done, I’m working on a non-fiction book rather than a novel. It’s a sewing book, which means I’ve been working on designs and prototypes, as well as writing. I have no expectations of actually finishing the book in November. The plan is to have a rough draft by the end of December.
Writing, sewing, remaking a design two, three, four times, has been strangely reassuring. Each iteration gets me closer to the finished version in my mind. Working with my hands keeps me anchored to the world. And the work gives me a sense of forward momentum. I need that most days. The medication I’m taking has helped tremendously with the depression, but I’m still struggling with it, especially with the seasonal change.
Which brings me back to Willendorf. Part of my focus this month and next is on myself. Making things for me, to wear and to decorate my space. When I made the Venus of Willendorf design I tried a variety of sizes and designs. One was a little back stitched goddess with french knot hair. I love how tiny and cute she is, but I didn’t have a project for her. She’s sat in the pile of my doodles, waiting patiently for me to come back to her. Now, with these two months of relative downtime, I was ready to do something with her.
So here is my little Venus, round and soft and cute, standing next to the text of one of my all time favorite buttons. I wanted to keep the design focused on the message, thus the simple border. The pink was just the first color I grabbed, and can be substituted for any other color one desires. The design was stitched on white 14 ct. Aida cloth, with one strand of floss for the back stitch and two strands for the cross stitch. Click here to get a copy of the design for yourself.
If you decide to make one for yourself, please share a picture in the comments. I’d love to see it.
I love unicorns. Love them. Looooooove them. And I love cursing almost as much as I love unicorns, so it’s no wonder that both show up in the pep talks I give friends:
In the comments a friend wanted to know what it would cost to turn that into a needle point. And thus the following cross stitch design was born.
The cross stitches and french knots are done in two threads. The back stitches are done in one thread. The design pictured above was stitched on 14 pt white Aida cloth and the final measurement of the design is 9″ x 6″.
If you end up stitching this design let me know in the comments below.
I’ve been playing around with making paper and now have a good sized stack of sheets. There’s something very satisfying in taking all the junk mail, school flyers, paid bills and telephone books and turning them into something else. Plus, shredding paper is very soothing.
I really enjoyed the embroidered gift cards and holiday cards I made last year, so I’ve been playing around with other embroidery work. Other than cross stitch, I’ve never gotten into embroidery on fabric. I always viewed embroidery as too difficult for me to learn. But switch the medium to paper and all of the sudden I’m spending hours on the internet researching different stitches to try. Go figure.
Below is a gallery of the embroidered paper art I’ve done so far. I’ve been playing around with various stitches, some beading and stickers. I like the depth and texture of the images. And I’ve even gotten to the point where I’m okay with the back of my work looking like a shattered bird’s nest. When I’m not trying to make the back look as good as the front, it takes off a lot of the pressure and I can enjoy the process.
The hardest part is poking the holes. I have to be careful not to tear the paper, not to poke myself, and not losing my needles.
I’ve got some other ideas for designs. I want to play around with flowers and leaves in the paper. I’ve got several specimens from the yard being pressed right now. I’ll post more pictures as I make them.
On the bullentin board behind me is a pin I bought years ago at a Worldcon. It reads: “I have the body of a goddess—the Venus of Willendorf.” A guy friend who was with me at the time said, “roach, you aren’t fat.” While I appreciated his attempts to soothe what he saw as my mocking my body, he missed the point of why I wanted that pin. I wanted it because I thought the wording was clever and I love the Venus of Willendorf.
I have several reproductions in stone and clay throughout the house. I like how they feel in my hand when I hold them. Of all the goddess images I’ve encountered, hers is the most pleasingly tactile to me. When I started playing around with creating my own cross stitch designs, I knew I wanted to eventually make my own Venus to hang on the wall.
I will admit to being a little intimidated when I started out. I don’t view myself as an artistic person. I tell myself that I can’t draw, that my color sense is limited to a base functionality. The rune designs I’ve done so far were easy-peasy in that they were just straight lines. Here I was faced with curves and perspective and shading. It felt like jumping from stick figures to Rembrandt.
The technical details weren’t the hardest part to overcome, though. As I was creating the first design, I found myself constantly fighting the automatic inclination to slim her down. I kept shaving down her curves, dechubbinating her thighs, giving her breast reduction surgery, one stitch at a time. I found myself trying to figure out how to make her breasts even, how to round her face more. A lifetime of living in a society that reduces women to cardboard cutouts was fighting to whittle this goddess image into a Bratz doll.
The process was difficult and halting. Every time I caught myself making her less than she is, I had to go back and see if I had missed other instances. She and I had talks about her rejecting the tyranny of symmetrical breasts. I took to calling her “Boobs McGee” and referring to her “bodacious tatas” while I worked. It was as much about ripping out all the ugly stitches of body shaming, as it was about creating a piece of embroidery to hang on my wall.
Venus hangs on the wall near the front door, now. She is a constant reminder that bodies are meant to take up space, big and small. She tells me to lead with my tits when I walk out of my house. She informs me that I am an artist, just working on a different canvas. And she passes on a message from Sheela na Gig, “Time to finish up my design.”
So, I’ve been keeping pretty busy lately with trying my hand at a few new things and recently discovered that I’m pretty good at chainmail jewelry. This is also why Pintrest is both awesome and horrible at the same time. I found a few patterns and items I really liked, studied the pictures of it and then made it myself. Here’s one below of a recent commission.
These seem to be pretty popular and I’ve made some adaptations as well, to include a fifth set of secondary (the small colored) rings and then suspend a bead or something in the middle. Once I get a few of those made, I’ll update here with pictures. Below, though, are the current secondary colors I offer:
In any case, I’m still doing the runes, though will probably be ringing them with copper, but below you can see the non-copper ringed ones.
I’ve taken (and will some more) full advantage of the awesome light box the shield-maiden made to make the pictures I take with my phone of the stuff I make look a lot more professional.
So, in case you were wondering, that’s what I’ve been doing (alongside the duties of SAHD). Soon, you will also see a new category from me, “Snippets of Ragnarok”.
I was walking through my local Jo-Ann Fabric store a couple of months ago when was seized with a fiery passion of the sort that overcomes a baron for the new stable boy. Usually it’s a piece of embroidered linen that stirs my creative lust. This time it was a skirt. More specifically, the panel skirt show on the cover of Stylish Skirts: 23 Simple Designs to Flatter Every Figure.
Just look at it over there, all stripy and swishy, with french seams! Now, that skirt is swoon-worthy on its own, but my mind was going off into another direction. I had, buried in my stash of fabric, several yards of soft, knit fabric in three colors: grey, heathery-purple, and a smokey-blue. They had been sitting in a cardboard file box for years, waiting for the time when I would get around to making them into something awesome. Well, their time had come.
It has been years since I’ve made any clothing for myself. Which is funny as I originally got into sewing for just that reason. So, it was with a lot of giddiness, trepidation, and wine, that I set out this past weekend to make myself a new skirt. The skirt started off very close to the original pattern, which is where I ran into the first obstacle. Stylish Skirts is translated from Japanese, and there are some glitches in the transition. Fortunately there’s the internet, and I wasn’t the first person to run into problems.
Creating the pattern took about half an hour once I figured out the issue. I didn’t take into account any changes to the pattern with regards to using a knit fabric. I drafted it to my waist and hip measurements, and drew it much longer than the book calls for. I like long skirts. I don’t care if they’re not supposed to look good on short girls.
The actual cutting out of the pieces took an hour or so, due to the fact that I wasn’t working with intact yardage. At some point in the past I had cut out two one-piece tunic style dresses for Charlotte out of the blue and purple fabrics. As such I had to take some extra care to get it all cut out. Even so, I ended up with only four panels of the blue, six of the purple and then ten of the grey. The original pattern calls for six of each, but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop me.
Sewing the skirt together took a couple of hours. The original pattern calls for a zipper closure, but because I was using knits my plan was for an elasticized waistband. Remember how I drafted the pattern as suggested by the book? That didn’t take into account the need for the waist to fit over my hips with an elastic waist. So when I sewed the panels together I dropped the seam allowance down to 3/8″ of an inch, which gave me the necessary room.
I gave the hem a rolled edge because I was tired of sewing by then, and also I didn’t want to sacrifice any of the length. (Did I mention I like long skirts?) The resulting skirt is soft and swishy. I have to kick the hem out of the way when I walk, or pull it up—a bonus in my book. I have been twirling around the house in it for a few days making little noises of happiness and satisfaction.
I’ve already settled on the next skirt I’ll be making from the book. I’ll post pictures and a write up when that happens. In the meantime, please enjoy the playlist I put together for the skirt:
Cross-stitch was one of my first hobbies. I’ve never gotten into crochet and knitting (I could never get my stitches tight enough), and sewing came much later. I enjoyed picking out new skeins of thread (back when one could buy four for a dollar at the local Pamida). They were little brightly colored threads of potential. Winding them on little cardboard bobbins was incredibly soothing. The limited number of stitches and the structure of the Aida cloth were less intimidating to me than freehand embroidery (I could never get my stitches even enough to look right).
At some point I stopped stitching. I got busy with the sewing, and then the publishing, and then the stress of just getting through the day. Sitting down and working on something just for myself seemed indulgent and irresponsible. The boxes of thread, the Aida cloth and cross-stitch books got pushed to the back of shelves to make room for bolts of cloth and serger thread and depression.
In November, as we reorganized the garage into a workshop, I found all of my cross-stitch supplies. They were dusty and wrinkled, but no worse for wear. I sat down one evening with some linen and waste canvas and my Celtic Cross Stitch book by Gail Lawther. I had an idea to create something I could hang over the front door, a pouch I could fill with herbs, stones, medallions, whatever represented to me safety and love and protection. I have an affinity for Hestia, who is often represented by a circle, and Stephan has a strong connection to his Celtic roots. I picked a design that was circular and got to work.
The actual stitching took a week or so, working in the evening. The whole time I had to remind myself that it was okay to take this time for myself. And as the pattern emerged, as I looked from design to fabric and back again, as my hands worked, I stitched pieces of myself back together. Those parts of me that had been torn away because I felt I didn’t have the right to self-care were reattached with careful rows of Xs. Breathe, I told myself. This is okay. You get to do something solely for the joy of it.
And it worked. It was soothing to concentrate on the rhythm of the needle going in and out of the fabric. I had to give all my attention to keeping the thread from tangling, to the number of stitches, to the tautness of the fabric. There was no room for other concerns. I made sure to tell Stephan several times how much I was enjoying this one simple act, to reinforce the good feelings.
After the pouch, I embellished my bag with a design of Hecate’s Wheel. I started having issues with leaving the house last year. Not so much agoraphobia, as anxiety about being around people. I thought that carrying a reminder of Hecate, a goddess that I associate with strength and protection, would help with my feelings. I am taking medication and am in therapy, both have helped with this particular issue (among others), and I think that the cross-stitch has aided in my healing.
Me being me, though, I started playing around with the idea of creating my own cross-stitch patterns. I’m also working on another book with Stephan, and I am looking to incorporate the cross-stitch into that. To those ends, I pulled out some graph paper and started with a topic that seemed easy enough: the Elder Futhark. The runes are all lines, with definite proportions. I wanted to design something that could be repurposed for various projects, and thought of all the alphabet samplers that one finds in various cross-stitch project books. I researched various viking design elements for the borders. The actual drafting took several weeks of graph work and then stitching out the designs to see how they looked. In the end I drafted two samplers, both on the small side so that they can be completed in a single sitting.
The first design you can see above, the runes are four stitches high by one or two stitches wide (depending on the rune). The finished design is approximately 2 1/4″ tall by 3 1/4″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth. It has been worked with two threads: the runes in red and the border in red and black.
The second design (below) is even smaller, the runes two stitches high and one or two stitches wide (again depending on the rune). The finished design is approximately 1 1/8″ tall by 2 1/8″ wide on 14 count Aida cloth. It has also been worked with two threads in the black and red colors.
Both designs are done in back-stitch (making them less cross-stitch patterns, but that’s the term I’m going with). The stitches include half and quarter stitches, so you have to work between the weave at some points.
I used the program KG-Chart LE to make the charts. I will definitely be buying the program as it very easy to use and does exactly what I need it to do. I highly recommend checking it out if you want to make your own patterns. You can view the designs by clicking on the links below:
As part of my continuing efforts to kick my marketing and selling skills up several notches, I picked up Torie Jaye’s How to Show & Sell Your Craftsfrom the library. I will get books from the library first most of the time, and if I find the information in them to be valuable, I’ll buy a copy for my own shelves. I won’t be picking Jaye’s book up, though.
The book’s focus is on branding: creating your own brand and making sure it saturates every level of your business. A good chunk of the book is dedicated to things like picking your brand’s colors, creating great banner images, choosing an avatar. This is a book written by a crafter who sees “strong brand focus” as “pivotal to her online success” (as stated in her biography), so the emphasis on branding is understandable.
There’s another section on how to photograph crafts that I found very helpful. And there are several profiles of other crafters who have made a business of their designs. The book itself is very pretty. The layout and design is pleasing, and the pictures are beautifully photographed and presented. This is the kind of book you want to flip through for inspiration.
However, I came away from the book feeling that it is a blog’s worth of information stretched over a books’ worth of pages. While the crafter profiles are nice, the focus was mainly on their bios. Words of advice or guidance is would be more inspirational than reading about their passion for vintage items.
Included in the book are several crafts. Ostensibly they were tied into the sections they were found in (paper covered cans as pencil holders in the section on organizing your work space) but they felt like filler meant to pad the page count.
Those sections that I was more interested in—the business of doing business—were sparse. The page on business plans doesn’t really tell how to write one, or what one looks like. It doesn’t even tell readers to research more information. There’s no mention of dealing with taxes, or what it goes into setting up a business.
The book reads like a wish fulfillment manual: emphasis on packaging your crafts and setting up your booth space, talk of when you might need to hire help, blogging and social media. While these are important things to consider, they’re really ancillary concerns (and in the case of hiring help, concerns that won’t crop up for 99% of the crafters out there) compared to things like finding venues, bookkeeping, taxes and other boring, but necessary details.
If you are looking at trying to make money from your design skills and passions, I’d recommend skipping this book and looking for something more in depth. If I find one that fits the bill I will definitely mention it here.
The thing with being crafty is that you are always looking for new things to try. You find yourself with a bunch of chipboard from various projects and you found a couple of bin full of embroidery thread you stashed away years ago and you wonder “What the heck am I going to do with all this?” These days, you can just head to the Internet and find someone, somewhere, who has done something cool with those materials.* Which led me to the embroidered card tutorial over at Design Sponge. After I had made a couple, I found myself with lots of leftover chipboard. Too small for cards, but too large to just chuck. With the holiday season coming up, I decided to try my hand at making embroidered gift tags.
If you’ve been saving your toilet paper rolls for seed starter pots and find yourself with still more rolls than you have use for, make a pretty holiday garland. Little crafters can help with some of the construction, so they can feel part of the holiday decorations. The idea of this garland was inspired by toilet paper roll flowers pictures here. Coloring them green and red give them a festive feel. Continue reading Toilet Paper Roll Garland Tutorial