Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Notes on texture

While I was working on the bedroom, I noticed that the textures in the room were happening at different scales:

Small-scale textures:  the carpeting, the textured paint on the walls and ceiling, the grain of the woodwork.

Medium-scale textures:  the crocheted string star and comet, the rough pottery jar on the bookshelf.

Larger-scale texture:  the crocheted twine rug.

That is a lot of texture for one room, which is one reason I made the cardboard circles to put on the wall. The only smooth pieces were the windows, headboard, and the large mirror leaning against the wall. The chunkiness of the rug makes a nice contrast against these.

Monday, May 30, 2016

So much to sew

My mother-in-law borrowed my sewing machine, so I am using our Janome Hello Kitty 11706 machine (bought long ago on clearance for $50; they are still available new for $110 and up). It is a good beginner machine but not a robust one, so I am saving my heavy-duty sewing projects for later. The other things that I miss on it are a center lever for lifting the presser foot (it's on the right, and I'm left-handed), and more control over stitch width and length (which are limited to three choices). EDITED TO ADD:  Access to the mechanism is limited, so the machine is almost impossible to oil at all the necessary points; the instructions don't even mention oiling. This greatly reduces the potential longevity of the machine; sewing machines need regular oiling (usually just a single drop of oil at any point where moving parts meet).

I finished a long dress that I created a pattern from scratch for, with princess seams and a three-quarters (knee-length) lining. I used a free piece of bordered fabric, and had just enough to complete it. It turned out well, except perhaps for the neckline; I need to review how to make those properly. It is high enough that I could go back and redo it later.

Also I am working on making a lighter cape, out of rummage sale corduroy. This fabric was originally black, but I bleached it to a medium brown. The color came out slightly mottled, but this just makes the fabric look more plush. For a pattern I have been referring to my pattern making reference book. Capes are fairly simple; the hard part is fitting the shoulders. Yet again, I have had to be a bit creative to eke out an entire garment from the piece of fabric that I have to work with.

I got bored with making the clothesline basket, and decided to do something different for the sides:  sew two pieces of cloth together in lines to make channels for the rope to run through. For precision, I did the sewing first, instead of placing the rope and sewing beside it. I had a miserably hard time threading the rope through later, though, until I switched to starting with a piece of twine (with a closed safety pin attached to its end, to lead the way), and then used the twine to pull the rope through. Then it was only miserable when the twine came loose from the rope. Now I have my fabric with the rope running back and forth inside it, and I need to join the rope loops at the sides and attach the basket bottom.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dyeing with tea

I had a new knit shirt in a sort of cold-oatmeal heather color that I wanted to make a deeper and warmer color. I bought some cheap tea, which costs about $2 for 100 bags, and brewed 30 or 40 bags in a stock pot. I took the bags out before putting in the shirt, and stirred it for a few minutes, until the color looked about right. Then I took it out and hung it up outside on a hanger, trying to straighten the fabric as much as possible--for more even drying and less streaking. After drying, I rinsed it and put it through the dryer. Since then, it has gone through the regular laundry without much fading. Things that I tea-dyed a couple of years ago have held the color all right.

With the same batch, I also over-dyed a colored sleeveless shirt, just slightly. It was much slower to pick up tea coloring than the first shirt was.

I've found that newer cotton fabrics work best. Next time I am going to do the rinsing and machine drying right away, because the first shirt that I dyed this time still came out a little streaky under the arms.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The two little art projects...

...that I made for the bedroom:

1.  Wood-grained circles:  A while back, we picked up a free particle-board bookshelf that a neighbor had set out by the curb. The back side of it was a piece of very thin corrugated cardboard, with a bleached wood grain pattern printed on it. This back piece had fallen off, and the recipient of the bookshelf didn't want it repaired, but I thought I might be able to use it for a project...maybe. I am getting pickier about my materials as I get older, and I nearly threw this one away.

The bedroom has developed a bit of an outer space theme, at least in its upper half, and I had the idea of using the cardboard to make "planets"...simple circles, which with the wood grain turned sideways would resemble Jupiter. I had a lamp shining up the wall right where some previous owners had made a sloppy patch job, and I wanted something else there to look at.

I cut out four circles, after tracing around a bowl, and ended up using three of them. I burnished the edges a little, to round the edges over slightly and make them look a little less two-dimensional. (Burnishing means to rub something with something that is smooth and harder.) I attached them to the wall with double-sided tape; ours is rather old, so I don't think it will harm the paint.

2. Cloudy night sky in a jar:  I was looking for something that is cobalt blue, to put in the bedroom as an accent piece, and remembered that I had a short cobalt glass jar. Then I thought that it needed something in it, and grabbed a couple of pieces of tissue paper I had saved; white and pink. I stuffed the white piece in first, then the pink, screwed on the lid, and flipped it over. The result looks a lot like clouds at night. The cobalt color is very intense, but so far I like it.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Got it!

After I got the curtains straightened out, and made the bed up nicely, and finished crocheting the twine rug and deciding exactly where to put it, and added a couple of quick little art projects, still the room seemed to be missing something.

I can't breathe in here yet, I told myself.

Well, why?

I want to feel grounded and centered in here, and wholly myself, but there's nothing here that connects me to my past. 

This isn't surprising, because a few years ago I did a Really Big Purge, and gave away or sold almost everything of mine that I didn't physically need. It was the right thing to do at the time; all the objects I love are engraved in my heart, and I don't really need to keep the things themselves...they can be "sent ahead to heaven" where rust does not consume.

But that left me with few possessions from way back in my past. I made a search around the house, and found a couple of things. They didn't quite fit in the room, either, but I left them in overnight.

Then I realized that a painting I had hanging in my office, would now work really well in the bedroom. It is a painting I made a few years ago to remind myself of one of my favorite spots on earth, back where my roots started. I took the picture and put it up in the bedroom, and it fits in just right. Actually, it ties the whole room together:  it has some of the curtain and bedding colors in it, and the homemade frame echoes other elements in the room. I put this painting on the emptiest wall, which makes it stand out, wherever I happen to be in the room.

After getting that settled, I went on to finish the spring cleaning in there, which I began a couple of weeks ago. I washed the windows, vacuumed the screens, wiped down the shelves and baseboards, and finished with a quick vacuuming of the carpet. Those seem like small things, but they do make a big difference, perceptually.

Now I can breathe in there.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A quick note

I've added a Portfolio 1 page in the sidebar to the right, featuring some of my projects and designs. I am planning to add two more pages of portfolio pictures, as I take and edit the photos.

So I painted my curtains...

...just a little bit.

To recap from the previous post:  the bedroom curtains were a dramatic color but a casual length, and had a subtle pattern that was getting lost in the color.

What I did was very simple:  I painted on some little white dots with acrylic paint, to bring out parts of the pattern a little better:

I did actually iron this curtain, before I hemmed it.... Anyway, notice that the dots in one column of circles are brighter than the rest. Those are the ones I painted with a cut-off cotton swab stick; just one line of dots on each curtain panel, off-center to the outside. It took about 15 minutes, and accomplished the following:

1.  The brighter dots give the eye something to latch onto, an entry into perceiving the pattern.

2.  Then the eye, depending on the light and distance, can start to follow the rest of the original pattern, or else the dots will stand alone as a pattern. (Try moving closer to and away from your display to see this.)

3.  With the pattern more visible, the green becomes the background, and becomes visually subordinate to the pattern. Or maybe attentionally is a better word than visually.

4.  Offsetting the column of handpainted dots to one side gives the curtains a much more casual feel, more congruent with their length.

With this one simple change, I like these curtains much better.  In my experience, acrylic paint, once it is dry, will more or less survive machine washing. If not, repainting would be a quick job.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Crazy weekend

I survived the Maker Faire...I think. My husband's project (The GIANT CAMERA!!) was a success. I even made it out to the rummage sale on Friday evening, and while I was there they announced that almost everything would be half price. So I ended up spending $22 altogether, mostly on two director's chairs and a nice dumpy little armchair that needs reupholstering. This brings our total seating to Enough for hosting a large group indoors. Director's chairs are nice because they are comfortable, the fabric can be removed for washing, and the chairs can be folded and put away. I am using one as my desk chair now. (Children, however, tend to pull off the back fabric and use the chair as a play vehicle with flip-down doors.)

I also found two down pillows, for $2 at half price, which I am going to wash and re-cover, re-using the zippers from the original covers. That will put us at Enough for couch/fort pillows.

Then I found a pair of curtains in an interesting modern green print for $1.50, which fit well with elements of my bedroom decor. I spent part of Saturday cutting and hemming them to out-of-baby-reach length, and putting them up. Now that they are up, I am not so sure about them--they are much darker and less airy than the previous curtains, and the dramatic color is not working so well with the casual length. Also, the print is subtle and hard to see from across the room. I am going to have to think about this more, when I have re-centered and re-grounded myself.

In the previous post, I said that what I mostly wanted now was books, but when I was at the sale, I had a curiously difficult time even looking at them. When I tried, I got too antsy and would take off for another section; a holy restlessness, I guess, because I certainly prayed before the sale for wisdom and guidance and moderation. So I only bought a single book: one of the few Madeleine L'Engle books that I haven't yet read.

There was also a fabric remnant that might be large enough to make new pants for me, and an old wool blanket in a nice shade of green. And a short jacket. And, finally,  the Giant Enlarger Motherlode (a heap of advanced photographic equipment), which my husband went back later and bought with his own money.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Enough already

A couple of weeks ago, I had an attack of shopping fever, not surprising after waiting through a few weeks of tight cash flow. So I sat down and made a list of all the things that I wanted to buy. Some of the things on the list were just silly--stuff that we already have, and already have enough of. Some were things that are best left to my Empty Nest List. Some things I will buy when the money is there and the time is right. There were also things which I could just as well make myself. I did some shopping at home and found some materials (such as a box of cedar shingles) that I had completely overlooked before.

With all those things out of the way, what was left on my list was Books. Hence my trip to the library. This library has a used book sale area, with most books for $1 or less.

One of the books I bought was Affluenza, a book from the Nineties based on the PBS series from that time. Another was an older Larry Burkett book, Your Finances in Changing Times. The chief idea that I got from these was that we could decide on a maximum standard of living for ourselves and live within it; this is timely, because we are about there in terms of furnishing and equipping our household. Many of my projects now are actually repairs, maintenance, and replacements of what we currently have. My next sabbatical year will begin next fall, so I am thinking of taking a few months to transition into non-expansionary mode.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Friday follow-through

There's a backlog of projects that I've been working on recently, but haven't written anything about:

Blouse:  I had a thrift store blouse (originally homemade from a pattern, I think) that had worn out beyond minor repair. I deconstructed it, taking measurements and notes on how it was put together, and then used some batik fabric on hand to make a replacement. It turned out well enough; I should have practiced making buttonholes more before making them for real, but with the print and the buttons, they don't stand out. I had only just enough fabric for it, and had to piece together the short sleeves and collar.

T-shirt:  I had a piece of jersey from the art salvage store, again just enough to piece together, and drew up a quick pattern from my current measurements, and sewed it up quickly this morning. (In fact, I am wearing it now.) I made the tops of the sleeves too wide, and just folded the excess into a tuck as I sewed. I might go back and fix that later, or just leave it...I will wear a long-sleeved layer over it in public anyway.

Pumice stone experiment:  Can you refresh a yucky old pumice stone by grinding away the sides until fresh pumice is revealed? Yes! I found that a coarse rasp worked much better than a fine file. I put it in the vise (gently!) to hold it while I worked, otherwise I would have held the rasp steady, and rubbed the stone up and down it. (If you don't have a rasp or file, a coarse stone or even a concrete sidewalk would work for this.)

Maker Faire consulting:  The Minneapolis/St. Paul Mini Maker Faire is coming up on May 14, at the state fairgrounds, and my husband is planning on exhibiting. I have been helping him out with his project, which stands a fair chance of being finished on time this year. The admission to the Faire is a bit pricey, by my miserly standards, but there is also the YMCA garage sale going on nearby in the Merchandise Mart that Saturday...this is where I found a heaping cartload of stuff last spring (for $35). Go in the early afternoon when it is winding down, and they will practically beg you to haul more stuff away. 

Repairs and rearranging:  The quilt got me started thinking about perhaps making some changes in the bedroom. While I was thinking, I also repaired one of the curtain rod brackets that was coming loose (thanks AGAIN, children). This time I put a long screw in, all the way into the wood of the window header. In the end, I decided to put everything back and keep the look eclectic. It's just about time to switch to summer blankets, so I don't want to redo the whole room around my winter quilt. I will buy more twine when I can, to finish the granny hexagon rug that I started for this room.

Nature art project:  We have a tree in the backyard with interesting patterns in its bark, that I would like to take a rubbing of, on the piece of canvas from the art salvage store. I tested using a (new) charcoal briquet on the fabric, and it marks well, but some sort of a fixative will be necessary to keep it there.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The best time to put away laundry...

...is in the morning, right after the caffeine kicks in. I brewed my tea extra strong today, and got the job done in no time.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Patching a quilt

A while back, I bought a utility quilt at a thrift store, for five or ten dollars. The top is made of rectangles of wool and polyester from old suits, in browns and blues grays and blacks, and the back is a plaid flannel sheet. It's a good quilt for winter, but it's not pretty.

Some of the seams on the top were starting to come apart; a little hard to fix when it is the fabric itself that is pulling apart.

One of the pieces of fabric that I recently bought from ArtScraps was a medium-size piece of emerald green wool. Not quite enough fabric to make a garment larger than a hat; it cost about one dollar. So I decided to use it to make some patches for the quilt.

I marked and stitched leaf shapes in the wool, before cutting it:

I used regular (colored) chalk for marking, which comes out easily...sometimes more easily than I would like.

Then I cut out the leaves, just outside the stitching, and hand-sewed them to the quilt top. I should have used button thread, which is much stronger than regular thread, but I don't have any. I plan on re-sewing the leaves on before I wash the quilt again.

The end result is a few organic "pops" of color on a blocky, drab background. I am not actually a fan of pops of color in decorating, but in this case it worked out really well.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Not a full book review: Rustic Elegance, by Ralph Kylloe

I leafed through this book at the library to drool over the pictures, and skipped over the text. It features a number of uber-rustic cabin palaces, all by the same architect. The primary elements of the look are dry-stacked rough stone and tons of rustic wood, paired with elegant and expertly-arranged high-end furnishings. What most of these rooms lack, therefore, is color and light; it is a very cave-like style. Too depressing for full-time occupation without a few modifications.

But there are a few interesting ideas that I took away from it. One is that now I think my basement room needs a boulder or two! It is definitely a cave sort of room. Another is that you can glue chunks of wood to almost anything.