Fiber Art DOTW - Week 2
Note: In case you don’t know what the fiber art days of the week are, please refer to the beginning of this post to read the full breakdown.
I’m having a lot of fun approaching this as a sort of crafty diary and slowly updating it throughout the week! So expect to have a lot of extra randomness thrown in, not just oooh, look at what I made! *silly face* (because I’m really not like that, except with my husband and kids)
I actually got a bit stuck with my wanting-to-upcycle-clothes thing, due to my habit of being picky about which/how many clothes I hold onto, and my utter lack of wearable-cloth-material. I do have some more sweatpants I saw in the donate pile that I can modify like the ones last week, but I wanted to try something different. So this project ended up getting a bit spread out over the week. It’s not a total lack - after all, I do have a nice pile of used saris I ordered from India a few years ago for re/upcycling purposes that I could use here. I meant like t-shirt type stuff - jersey knits, rayons, etc. The t-shirts that I do have are mostly plain, because up until now, I’ve been mostly plain jane. Well, still am, but we’re working on that, right?
To put it another way, I think I need to plan a trip to Goodwill or 2nd Ave in the near future, and just look at materials/prints rather than something I’d wear off the rack. About 90% of my clothes are thrifted, the other 10% purchased, but of that, about 5% were purchased BK (before kids). I guess that’s the nice thing about not giving a flying F about trends. T-shirts/flannels/hoodies and jeans/leggings are timeless. I can still hear my mom getting frustrated with me… “why do you always look like you’re about to go camping?” At least I no longer wear plaid flannel pants in public. You’re welcome.
I’m just dying looking at these upcycled/altered shirts and scrappy rag skirts. In fact, I recently learned there is an actual term for this style that I’ve fallen in love with, called altered couture - I’ve never followed fashion although my brother has taken me to boutiques way back in the day with altered clothes, so I’m sure this isn’t a new thing. I could totally see myself transitioning from my plain-jane-wardrobe to one that better reflects my inner self. Or at least how I think I see myself? A bit of a mess of contradictory things that seem like they’re randomly stitched together, but were actually carefully planned, to make a uniquely whimsical whole.
I’m not sure if there are any rules for altered couture, but I know for myself that I want to try doing this without buying anything “new.” What I mean by this, is I want all my material to come 2nd hand (thrift stores, yard sales, or given to me) or if I do buy material in a store, it will only be remnants - since those are destined for the dumpster anyway. There are a few things for which I will probably buy new, especially after finding this store with really cute Japanese fabric, which includes brushed linen (I do want more linen stuff, including a linen smock). Speaking of Japanese, I also want to try incorporating Sashiko, in addition to Kantha (which comes from India, I believe the Bengal area), as well as any other traditional methods for upcycling and repurposing clothes from around the world. I love how pretty much every culture has a way of preserving, fixing and repurposing materials, and some became developed folk art forms. The whole concept of consumerism, single-use/short-term-use items, throwing away what no longer serves us, is really a relatively new concept, and it’s contributing to the harm of the planet. I can’t stop companies from making these things. I can boycott, though I pretty much do this already because we’re a single-income-family and we can’t afford to live this way. I find so much irony in companies making new clothes that look like they’ve been worn, stained and tattered and then selling these things for the same price as a week’s worth of groceries for my family. I also find it especially atrocious if such companies are paying factory workers unlivable wages (not to mention the farmers who suffer due to the pesticides used on cotton). But at least I can do my best to try to keep things out of landfills (within reason).
Also, do you remember that needle felted octopus sweater that I made two years ago? Well, that sweater is a bit tight because it felted down some more when I washed it, though the octopus handled being washed just fine. It still fits, it’s just really tight. As much as I don’t want to cut up that sweater, I’m considering cutting it out and including it in an altered sweater thing. The other option is to shadow box it and hang it up. Decisions, decisions… note to self: pick a bigger sweater next time.
The one thing I do have that is perfect for this purpose is a whole bag full of lace trim. Literally. I guess my mom had a thing for lace trim at one point, and two years ago she brought me all her stuff since she doesn’t really sew anymore. Some of these are really vintage. I’m a bit sad, because I do wish she had taught me how to sew and knit (though if I said that to her she’d probably tell me I was too stubborn and wouldn’t have wanted to learn from her anyway). Her mom was a seamstress, and my mom knew how to sew and knit, but the only sewing I really remember were our Halloween costumes, which I also inherited - her hobbies these days are gardening, cooking and baking. I believe the knitting stopped before I was born. A bit of a tangent here but do you know just how many moms told me that once I became a mom I wouldn’t have time for any of my hobbies? I was like psshhhhhh…. hold my drink. I guess they were trying to find excuses as to why they quit theirs, but you make time for the things you care about. And now as a mom I can fully stand behind my statement. Not only did I keep my hobbies, I picked up more and started a business - so take that naysayers. Granted they probably meant having a full time job, plus kids, plus hobbies, but even for the short while I was working after my daughter was born, I was still doing things. When it’s part of who you are, making is as important, even necessary, as eating and breathing.
Since I ended up going to Joann’s on Tuesday and finding some remnants that I think will work for what I want to do, I’m hoping I’ll be able to get this done next Sunday. For now, I just cut up a dress that was destined for destruction due to a busted zipper that also happened to be an invisible zipper, and a long one at that, and was so deeply stitched into the dress that I couldn’t figure out how to undo the whole thing to fix it anyway.
I spent some time today carding the rest of the dyed alpaca wool that I had while working on my hand carder guide, and then suddenly I had the idea to stain the wood on the backs of my hand carders. And you know what? Now I’m wondering what it would look like if I stained the wood on my drum carder, blending board, and spinning wheel. Yessss, this is starting to look more like “me!”
I needed to get my car inspected today (I mentioned this in my post last week) - which might I add ended up being more than usual despite our efforts to cut down costs by having my husband replace my breaks for me - also not cheap, just cheaper. I ended up needing a new battery after all was said and done since the battery was weak. Not sure what happened, since that one had been replaced 3 years ago. Anyway, since car seats are a major pain to move from one car to the next, it’s just easier for me to wait with the kids. We’re not waiting in the shop though - the shop is located right next door to a Burger King with a playground, and at this point we’ve done this so many years in a row, my daughter actually looks forward to my car inspections (I still don’t). We go, grab some yummy breakfast - okay that part I do look forward to because breakfast is literally my favorite thing they offer - and then spend the remainder of the wait time playing in the playground. Or rather they do, and I sit at a table working on a project. In the past I would bring my felting tin, but since today was Tatting Tuesday, I brought my little felt coin purse with thread and shuttles instead.
So I showed up, phone fully charged so I could follow the video of the pattern I was planning on doing, and got to work. Got about halfway done by the time my car was ready, we headed home (stopping at Joann’s first to pick up some more thread, some serger thread, and found some remnants I love) and I kept going.
Unfortunately I got a bit carried away and couldn’t undo what I did so unfortunately the project I did earlier was trashed, after cutting out the beads first. I swear I’ll get the hang of this eventually. Anyway, I started over, this time it went quite a bit faster, not to mention since I picked some smaller thread this time - #8 DMC thread which I assume is pretty similar to #20 tatting thread - I was able to use the seed beads I really wanted to use. I was really excited to complete this project in time to send it off the next day with one the Whimsy Houses kits someone ordered from me - I hope they liked the surprise!
Another thing I got done were these leaves. I thought that since my logo is a tree, if I’m going to send out little gifts with my orders, leaves would be a good one! Plus they’re pretty quick to work up. Unfortunately I need to improve my skills a bit more I think - the stars seemed a bit more forgiving, lol. The left was the first leaf, which I made too loose. The middle was my second attempt. And the third was because I had a bit of thread left, but didn’t feel like wasting it, so I just kinda threw whatever together, and it kinda ended up looking like a treble clef.
So I learned a bit more about setting the twist on my yarn. A balanced yarn is one that after setting the twist (i.e. soaking in warm water or hitting it with steam) it doesn’t twist up on itself. And one that still twists up on itself isn’t balanced. You can then dry it under tension if necessary. A balanced yarn that isn’t dried under tension is better for knitting, whereas one that is dried under tension is better for weaving. So with the corespun (which was still twisty) I decided to hang some heavy stuff on it as it dried. I do have a cheapie steamer that I bought at ALDI years ago, which I may use at some point once I get my hands on some PVC pipe to make a DIY niddy noddy (better to do plastic for steam setting anyway). I don’t have one right now for the small amounts of yarn spinning that I do, I just use my foot to hold onto it as I wind it off the bobbin, then tie it off. For now, I use the microwave to heat up a bowl of water and throw the yarn in there to soak.
This week I continued with the Pintangle TAST challenge, again doing both the challenge stitch - the fly stitch - and bonus stitches - the Italian border stitch. Continuing with the January crazy quilt block, this week I focused on just one small section, working the Italian border stitch up one of the seams to make it look like a zipper, and then the fly stitch in a variety of ways to make a flower (using red satin thread - I lovehate this thread, so pretty but a pain to work with), the base of the flower, and some surrounding greenery. I finished off the flower with a French knot in the middle and surrounded that with a chain stitched ring. Since there are three more TAST weeks in January, I’m trying to pace myself with this block to make sure I leave enough space for the other challenge and bonus stitches. I can always go back and fill in the rest of the blocks with the previous weeks’ stitches.
I’ve thought about my plans for the blocks some more, and the plan is that each month’s block uses pretty much only the challenge stitches from that month. Yes, I did sneak in a single French knot today, but since the ends of the Italian border stitch are basically like a fly stitch with a French knot at the end, I didn’t think it strayed too far from the design elements. I am also not sticking with the same colors for each block, but rather wanted to add the “feel” of each month. January feels like a mostly white/blue/navy/red month to me. White cloudy skies, the midnight blue with snowy white dots from the occasional snow (that part might be repeated into February), with night still arriving way too early for my liking. The red is partially a repeat from the musical note in the one scrap, but also because January’s birth stone is garnet. The red flower is even a bit reminiscent of a carnation, January’s flower. There are other colors in there as well to give it a bit of a pop, but it’s largely going to be a blue and red square.
Do you ever sit down to do one thing and then it ends up taking you in a completely different direction? That’s what happened to me today. You see, I sat down to start knocking out a new tutorial concept, got the sketch all drawn up, even shared it in my Artsy Craftsy Friends Facebook group, and then I thought “Hm, well I should maybe record this and save myself some trouble when it comes to filming the tutorial.” That led me down the rabbit hole of figuring out how to set up my OBS studio software with the proper settings to record a good-enough-quality video to my computer (in the past I would mount my portable video camera for that, and used my webcam only for my live streams). But to test it out, I didn’t want to work on this project in case it didn’t go well, so instead I decided to make the accompanying video tutorial for my beginner’s 3D needle felting guide, which I’d already had mostly written and was just missing the video and last section.
So, instead of felting a coral reef wool painting (the subject of my next tutorial that I really want to do, which will be geared more towards intermediate-to-advanced level needle felters), I ended up felting a naked gnome. Yep. Nudie gnome won this round.
I spun up a few things today.
First, I finished up carding the alpaca I’d dyed a while back, part of which I spun last weekend, and separated it into three piles. It was one of the first fleeces I bought because it was so cheap (someone was destashing and I paid $60 for 7lbs!) but unfortunately it was a learning curve on washing it, which means some of it got felted! Of course, as a felting artist it doesn’t bother me one bit, because I can use all of that, even the felted stuff, in my work. There were also a bunch of second cuts mixed in there. So the teensy second cut bits and any torn fiber got separated into a pile of fluff that I can use for felting (because I don’t need long fibers for that). The intact unfelted locks were carded into a larger pile of fluff and set aside, which I may card into another batt or spin, haven’t decided yet, and the felted strands got pulled into thin, long strands, and those I spun into a thick & thin yarn. I think pretty much anything I spin while learning is essentially thick & thin, lol. I actually found it enjoyable to spin them - it made it a bit easier, almost like pre-drafting it.
The other yarn started out with a peach/blue/mint-angelina tiny batt my daughter made for me on the blending board and asked me to spin it up. It was sooooo small though, there was no way I was going to get any yarn out of it. So I put it back on the blending board (off to one side), grabbed my big jar of scrap wool bits, and threw some of them on the blending board so that when I rolled up the rolag and spun it, it would go from the one she made and then transition to other colors. You can see hers at the bottom of the bobbin on the left.
I found that spinning in general is getting much easier now, and I think part of that has to do with where I choose to spin. When I first started, I did this at my desk in my chair, but I think the chair is too high up for the little Roadbug. Last weekend I figured out that the couch is actually much better for spinning with this wheel, perfect height, and I can actually lean back and draft while something is playing on TV in the background (like Blue Planet, which I love). I’m normally not much of a TV watcher because I feel like I can’t get anything done, but this is a game changer. In the past I have needle felted on the couch, but I had to stop due to my kids being in the jumping-on-the-couch-and-people-phase. They seem to leave me alone with the wheel though!
i got other things done this week, too!
I got three blog posts up in one week (four if you count this one), two of which were guides! WHAAAAAT?! Seriously, I was in a real blogging mood lately, hahaha. I guess this kinda goes to show that once you’re on a roll with making things, it translates in other areas of life as well. I don’t mind this pace at all (ok, I could probably scale back on the blogging other than the DOTW stuff), just need to figure out my balance with the rest of life. Because I gotta say, my kids have already undone all the cleaning I’d done for the holidays. It was only a matter of time.
The first one was my hand carding guide for anyone interested in getting a pair of hand carders.
Then on Friday I figured out how to record video directly to my desktop, making filming much more likely to happen now than it did before - the only thing I need to figure out is how and when to record myself explaining what’s going on so I can attach it to the video. Oh, and I probably need to install the 1TB hard drive my husband got me, because it does take up quite a bit of disk space. However, my first - and pretty much all my public - videos on youtube have zero talking, just doing with captions. I’ll continue to do so, reserving most of the talky talky stuff for my paid tutorials, but at least I’ll have more up on youtube again! In fact, I did get a video up that is a complete beginner’s 3D needle felting tutorial, as well as finishing up the blog post to go with it. I’d already started writing it a while back. In case you were curious, while there are certainly days where I sit down and just write most of the day, in reality I have about 4 or 5 blog posts in draft form. When I say that I’m working on a blog post about something and you don’t see it for a while, it means I’m still chiseling away at the draft until I feel it’s complete and ready to publish. These DOTW posts? I start them on Sunday, and then every day I sit down and write down a little blurb about that day, and then before I publish I read over it, make edits, and add photos.
And with that, another week has passed - on to week 3!
Random personal thought: After this week I realized I need to get back to using my DSLR for photos unless I don’t have that option. My phone is great for snapping pictures on the go, like “hey I’m working on this let me take a quick picture,” and can even shoot in manual (which I just can’t get used to, takes to long to set up), but just looking back on the photos from this week you can easily tell which ones were done with DSLR versus phone.