Friday, August 12, 2011

Using what you have

I was rummaging through some very old photos this morning, and ran across images of some earrings I had made almost two decades ago. We had been bitten hard by the early nineties recession in California, and were preparing to leave for Missouri. The cost of living in SoCal was just too much for us with a new baby.

I knew I would have to make and sell jewelry to help with income, but we had no money for supplies to keep me going. I mean NO money.

Big earrings were in style back then, and sparkly dangles, and niobium and titanium. I had a few findings to work with, but not enough to flesh out a craft show when I got to the Midwest. I also knew I’d have to change my products and my price points for a different market. How to do this with no money?

One day, I got to thinking about making art paper earrings with beading as accents. I found out that the art paper I had in mind came in huge sheets, and would cost as much as a pack of diapers for my baby, so that was right out.

I don’t know how it happened, but one day I got the idea to use an old brass stamping as a mold, and try making an impression of it by laying down a piece of thin paper, squirting on some glue gun glue, then laying down another sheet of paper. I pressed down the stamping with the end of a pencil to make an impression in the hot glue, and then I cut away the extra paper. The goal was to end up with a surface that looked like art paper, and could accept paints and varnish. After some trial and error with every type of paper readily available to me, I tried sheets of Charmin toilet paper. Bingo! Success! The paper was thick enough to make a good painting surface and to keep the glue contained, but thin enough to get a good stamping of the design in the brass. And they did not look like what they were made from once I finished.

I painted and sold a bunch of these earrings back then. I made them in all different colors, with whatever suitable old stampings I could find. This is the only pair I had left when I stopped making them and moved on to other designs. The pictures I took are very blurry and the earrings themselves are long gone. I painted and decorated them in all different ways. This was one of the plainer pair that was just a solid color slicked over with some shimmery violet interference paint.

Now we are being kicked in the teeth again and again by the economy, and I am learning how to spin and weave even though these both are very expensive hobbies. I probably will not resort to using Charmin in my work ever again, but I do find myself having to create as many of my supplies as I can. I’ll be blogging about that in the coming months.

This blog lay dormant for a long time because my schedule and my toddler kept me busy, It’s hard to find time to write sometimes. But now he is growing up and becoming a good helper, and he goes off to preschool this year. More posts coming soon.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, August 11, 2011

The scarf that made me get a spinning wheel

It’s both too much “something”, and not enough “something”, and it’s scratchy as heck. This is my first clasped weft weaving project from last year. I had just ordered a 10-dent rigid heddle, and I thought I had plenty of fingering weight yarns that would work, but I was wrong. I forgot to take into account the need for lots of tensile strength in warp yarns, and that they should not be subject to stretching. Suddenly I was down to a strident green mystery yarn that was the only yarn I had that would work as warp. I found two other colors that I hoped would at least be on speaking terms with the green, and off I went to make my scarf.

I loved every minute of the process, and I see real possibility here, but not with these types of yarn. To get what I want, I have to spin it myself, or dye it myself, or both. A scarf like this in buttery soft homespun with random slubs and harmonious color changes throughout would be a different beast altogether.

With this in mind, I asked for a Babe wheel for Christmas. I had always wanted to spin, and now I had a legitimate reason to start. The economy being what it is, I didn’t want to ask for something I couldn’t use a lot, and eventually use for income.

I discovered that I love spinning. I mean, I LOVE spinning. I also learned that I am not crazy about spinning uniform and neat yarns unless they have a lot of color in them. A couple of weeks ago, I spun a bobbin full of solid teal colored yarn and it felt to me like the yarny equivalent to driving I-80 across Nebraska or I-70 through Kansas. Serviceable and predictably monotonous, and not something I want to do a lot of.

I’m being pushed towards art yarns, and incorporating them into my weaving. I don’t know where I am going with all this fiber stuff yet. All I know is that feels right to me, and that I enjoy the journey. I thank this itchy scarf for pointing the way.

Once my kids are in school this fall, I will start blogging about spinning, weaving, beading, etc. I will also get around to writing beadwork tutorials at last.

Whatever you might be working on right now, embrace it and listen to what it has to tell you.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do you recycle ramie sweaters?

I have misgivings about ramie, but I found a sweater that was 40% silk, 30% nylon, 15% ramie, 11% wool, and 4% other fiber, and I decided to buy it. It was a quarter, so I would not be out much money if it didn't work out.

I found it reasonably easy to take apart and unravel, but I did not like the feel of the ramie. It was dusty and the texture reminds me of soft paper. Even with only 15% ramie, I could feel it was in there.

Since I am not attached to this yarn, I thought it would be fun to blotch it with McCormick Neon purple and blue. The yarn itself is a striped gray tweed. I'm hoping this will be fun to weave into scarves with the colors appearing at random throughout the work.
I will probably avoid ramie in any quantity from here on out. I just don't like it. The texture reminds me of the feel of an old wadded up unused tissue that has spent the winter in your coat pocket. Soft, yet dusty and vaguely unpleasant. It's not my thing for knitting or weaving.

Have you ever taken apart ramie sweaters for the yarn or re-purposed them in some other way? What did you make with the sweater? There are tons of these sweaters around, and if there is a project for them, I might reconsider my stance on ramie.

Chenille on the Wheel

Hi folks,

This blog has been dormant for a very, very long time, but I have been crafting. I will not really have time to post about all the things I have learned until this fall, but I will get in here from time to time this summer.

Since I last showed up here, I have taken up weaving and spinning with all the zeal of a new convert. I don't have a lot of money, and I like the concept of recycling whenever I can, so I will be posting about making "new" yarn from old yarns in the coming months.

Today's effort is a chenille yarn made from 2 plies of recycled thrift shop sweaters. It's acrylic, and I'm making it for weaving into scarves on my Schacht Cricket loom.

I wasn't sure what to expect, so I started out with the sweater I liked the least from my thrift shop haul, and got this yarn as an end result. I'll edit in the wpi later.
On the niddy noddy, before setting the twist
Balls before plying.
On the Babe Production wheel.
I have not used Blogger in so long that I accidentally uploaded my pictures in the wrong order. Whoops. :)

So far, I'm pretty happy with this yarn. I don't know if I would knit with it, but my goal was to make a weaving yarn. I believe I could use this yarn right from the sweaters without plying it, and use the 12-dent heddle I bought separately, but a lot of us only have the 8-dent heddle that comes with the loom. By plying this yarn, I now have a thick enough yarn to use with the 8-dent. I have been reading that chenille yarns need to be woven fairly tightly to prevent "worming" in the finished piece.

I'll keep experimenting and posting my results. For now, I will continue to be semi-random in my posting habits, but soon you will see more from me. Look for a lot more posting activity from September on.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mom, can I have some more of those screaming alien heads?

I love it when something mundane turns out to be unintentionally funny, it changes the course of my day for the better.

I have a nine year old boy who never eats. He's growing, but I don't know how. I was the same type of child. If I could find a way to hide things on my plate to make it look like I'd eaten them, I would. He is me all over again.

We shop at Big Lots whenever we can. A lot of stuff that ends up at Big Lots is discontinued products or various oddball things. I found some elbow macaroni that are pinched closed on one end, and open on the other, and since they were made in Italy and priced under a buck, they landed in my cart. Pasta that little guys can easily get on a fork is always welcome in our home.

Last night I was dog-tired and disinclined to spend much time in the kitchen, so I went for the pasta. When I opened up the bag and dumped it into the pot, I noted again that they were odd-looking, but I was when I spooned one out of the pot to test it for done-ness that I burst out laughing. The pasta had puffed up into a little screamy-face, like these guys:

The sauce I used with these was rather thin and unremarkable, and didn't look very appealing.
But when I showed the meal my nine year old, he said "Cool! Screaming alien heads!" He cleaned his plate and asked for seconds. That never happens, ever.

This blog post is silly, but alien head pasta wrought an unexpected miracle at the dinner table, and I wish I had bought more.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Some old sweater recons, in time for the cold weather

I actually made these last winter, and I fully intend to make more this year. Due to my sketchy blogging track record, I might not blog about them until July! So here are a couple of basic sweaters I made for my youngest. He was not a cooperative model, but I got him to stay in one area, looking out at the snow, long enough to get in a few blurry shots.

I noticed that many of the old acrylic sweaters in my pile to go to the thrift store were serged together. I had just downloaded some Kwik Sew toddler shirt patterns at that time, so I thought that turning my old sweaters into something warm for the little guy would be a great way to use them. I live quite far from any real fabric stores, and runs down to Joplin for supplies are few and far between.

The lighter blue sweater is made from Kwik Sew 3149

I used the turtleneck collar from the pattern, and made it from the big piece of back section left over after cutting out the front, back and sleeves.
I placed the pattern pieces so that I could use the existing ribbing. No hemming needed to reconstruct this sweater. Awesome!
The seam on the collar was centered in the back. I did not center it perfectly, but maybe next time. This sort of knit creeps a little while sewing on an older serger. I just got a new one with a differential feed, and I think that will help. No matter, it's not that noticeable unless I point it out.

The darker blue sweater with the patterned areas needed to have some wrist cuffs added. I just cut them out of some scraps left from the original sweater, when I cut out the collar. I had to do this so that the design would line up the way I wanted it to. It's very easy to add cuffs with a serger.

The dark blue was made with 2918 view B
This was not difficult, and the sweaters you see here have been washed many, many times and are holding up quite well. When I first made these, I was afraid they would not last, but they are tough enough for an active three year old.

This is a great project if you have too many grownup sweaters. It's also environmentally friendly and very inexpensive. You can use thrifted sweaters, or mix together a few sweaters into a new creation as long as they all have similar washing instructions.

Rooting fresh basil from the grocery store

About three weeks before Christmas, I was in the produce aisle at my local store, and I got to thinking that basil might root easily in water, like the pothos plants that I had just finished potting up. I found a package of nice-looking leaves with a good date on them, took them home, and put them in a vase near a window.

Three weeks later, they had enough roots that I felt I could transplant them into a pot. They seem to be happy enough, considering that they need more light than I can give them at the moment.

So far, so good. They smell heavenly and are a good antidote to the dead of winter. Next time you go shopping, pick up some sprigs of basil and give it a try.