24 November 2013

The Winner of Sarah Ann Smith's DVD

Thanks to the randomizer at Random-ize.com 
I am happy to announce that the 
winner of Sarah's latest DVD is:


Thank you to everyone who entered!
I wish that each of you had been able to win!
I am planning to add some more small give-aways soon.

SALLY, Sarah will be getting in touch with you to make arrangements. 
please check the email that you have connected to your blog 
since that's the one I forwarded to Sarah

18 November 2013

New Textural Knit Projects

This is Sundara Aran Silky Merino yarn in "Autumn Leaves". It's the ultimate in a luxury yarn with 50% merino and 50% silk in the blend.  The pattern is called "Autumn Blush" by Joji Locatelli

I have been thinking a lot about what shape the next phase of my artistic life should take. I have come to accept that I need to focus more on one, or maybe two things. That leaves me in a bit of a quandary. What do I not do? I have decided that sewing and knitting are my "have-to-dos", so I am not sure where that will leave mixed media. I know that I will continue to do some but maybe not as much.  I can't "do it all" anymore as much as I would like to think that I can. I posed some 'choice' questions at the bottom of this post if anyone cares to help me with their answers!

My friend, Sarah, recently teased me that she had a difficult time locating anything 'quilt-y' on my blog, and she said that she had to go back a ways to find any quilts. She wrote a blushingly complimentary post about me when I did my give-away post for her new DVD. I have to admit that she is right, which led me, in part, to my ruminations about the future. I have, you see, become very addicted to knitting. My knitting addiction, I should mention, is a direct result of Sarah's influence. I did not know how to knit until she moved from where I live to Maine and I was more or less forced into teaching myself to knit. 
I started both of these projects in the last month, and the knitting has become obsessive. 
I'm  close to finishing both of these luscious shawls.

This shawl is a project that I had wanted to knit for some time, and I finally started it on 12 November. I'm a bit more than half way through now. Sundara graciously dyed up some more of this color.  This pattern calls for  Sundara Aran Silky Merino blend, as noted above. It's what was specified in the pattern, and I fell in love with it just as it was pictured, which is somewhat unusual for since I generally like to mix it up and seldom use the specified yarn in a pattern. 

My LYS, Island Wools, is where I generally prefer to spend my knitting dollars. Julie at Island Wools carries Madeline Tosh and Malabrigo which are two of my most favorite yarn brands, so I have little need to wander to far afield when the lust for a new skein hits. These projects, however, called for new yarn experiences.
The textures in this pattern are a delight to knit and the yarn just makes it that much more special. I love the feel of the yarn and the developing pattern as I knit, and often just run my hands over the shawls lush surface. I have not quite finished the shawl yet, and so these images are not of a blocked and finished product, but it will be awesome when it's done . I just could not wait to share it ! This project has given me the chance to brush up on my short row theory and the double moss stitch. Divine. I swoon over this shawl!
The next project is the very first mystery anything that I have ever done. I never much liked making mystery quilts. Generally I found myself disappointed in the resulting quilts.

I have been equally hesitant to do a mystery knit, but I knew Jen Lucas' book, Sock Yarn Shawls, so I figured that I would, most likely, like the finished project. I hedged my bets, and it was a good bet! You can find more of Jen Lucas's patterns on Ravelry of course! This pattern will be for sale soon
Another yarn that I had heard a lot about was Wollmeise Merino Superwash. It's not too easy to find here in the US( it's made in Germany), but Ravlry users were a Godsend and I was able to buy a skein from a fellow Raveler. This color, which is one of the best greens I've seen, is called Spinaci, and I want to buy another just to have on hand. It provides wonderful stitch definition, and I think that it really shows up well in this pattern. I have not quite figured out all of the ins and outs of Wollmeise brand yarns, and which types are what, but I like it well enough to want another few skeins in my stash - maybe just of this type since it suits the things that I like to knit so well.

This is also not a finished project yet, so it has not been properly clocked, but I think it's obvious how nice the patterning is, and I am eager to get the last clue next week so that I can finish it! The first clue came out on November first, and I have been anxious to get the next one with every passing week. The final clue is published on 22 November.

One thing that I have found about myself is that I like to knit with really nice yarn. If I don't like the yarn, or the color of the yarn, I don't enjoy the knitting quite as well. I have been trying to knit out of my color box and have been enjoying knitting with colors that I might not have chosen in the past (that means blues and purples and a few brighter colors).

I also am finding a true delight in my sewing and quilting again and have been spending many hours making gifts for the holidays. It feels so good to return to thread and cloth. I have not missed any of the 18 bags of fabric that I donated earlier this year during my sift, sort and divest phase, but I am thoroughly enjoying the cloth that I kept (along with a few recent additions of course)!

My knitting and yarn stash is smaller than some perhaps, but I now will wait until I can get the yarns I want so that I can enjoy every minute of the making. I love to feel the stitches develop under my fingers, I love the juxtaposition of yarn with stitch, and I love running my hands along the surface of my projects. I guess that means that when I gift a knit it comes with a lot of my soul knit into it. I hope that the people to whom I have given my knits love them and use them well. That's what they are made for, a little extra warmth, literally as well as figuratively, on a cold day.

Sarah is right, there are more knits and mixed media things on my blog now, but I have found a lot of pleasure and growth in them. One thing that I know is that  I will never stop knitting now - it's one of life's great pleasures!

Have you ever had to choose between committing to one thing over another ? (in terms of art making)

How did you make your choices?

Do you have any favorite knit patterns? Any shawls, gloves, hats or scarves that I should know about?What are your favorite things about knitting? (if you knit that is) Do you prefer wood to metal needles? Do you prefer one weight of yarn over another?

17 November 2013

Simple Pleasure For Simple Minds. A Laundry Product as Art Supply!

Simple things tend to please me. I am especially fond of happenstance, and this is what these are an example of! While I was at our quilt retreat this pat September, someone mentioned "Shout Brand Color Catchers". Since one of us needed to prewash some red fabric we all tramped to the local grocery store and we each bought a box of these little gems. I had never heard of them, but now I am looking for a larger box of them!

First of all they really work in your laundry, as these used sheets testify, there really is a lot of dye floating around i the wash water of many loads of laundry. It was bated breath that I timidly added one of these to a load of laundry that held my favorite lime and pink pajamas along with some blacks. Eureka! All came out of the wash just fine, no dulling of my perfect lime green was evident!

These darn things make laundry almost fun to do these days, and I have been unable to toss any of these sheets away because  of the sometimes fascinating patterns that I get on them. I'm planning on an art project that will use them. They really do look like hand dyed cloth! The 'treated cellulose sheet' is the weight of nice thick paper. They can be "over-dyed" too with some interesting effects. It's hit or miss, but as you can see the results are intriguing, and they are unpredictable as well. Fascinating, simple pleasures for simple minds! I have not yet ironed these, but they react pretty much like a cotton, or paper - so they can be ironed easily.
I'm really looking forward to making something out of these. Of course, I'll post the results when it's done. Have you used these? What have you thought about them and have you also kept any of them?

15 November 2013

Sarah Ann Smith's DVD Art Quilt Design From Photo To Threadwork

This is your opportunity to win a copy of my friend, Sarah Ann Smith's new DVD!
Keep reading to find out how!

Sarah and I became fast friends when she lived here in the Great Pacific Northwest, before she became the famous quilt artist that she now is! We both are "what if" kind of people and we used to love to play together. Traveling, experimenting with new things and new methods. It was a sweet time in my life, and she has become a 'forever friend' no matter how far the distance or how famous she becomes! She has always been a personal cheerleader for me, and I am constantly amazed at what an inquisitive, 'how-to-do-it', kind of mind she has. I used to watch her mull over a concept. You could see the focus and watch the gears turning, and her solutions were /are always well thought out as well as beautifully executed..
I imagine that many of you are already familiar with Sarah's book, which I find to be a very valuable. It's a fine example of her Sarah's mind works, detail oriented, perfect, well planned instructions. If you have not seen it, or don't own it, you really should check it out!

Her DVD, "Art Quilt Design From Photo To Threadwork" is much the same, beautifully planned, well though out, with clear, concise directions. 

The DVD is a step-by-step walk through Sarah's design process. She takes you through the process of transforming a photo into a quilt. She goes through how to choose the right fabrics,  how to make templates for the design, how to select and use the perfect threads to make your quilt sing (of course given the title of her book!)

I should perhaps mention that Sarah is also the reason for my addiction to knitting. In my prior life I was a weaver and a spinner, but I had never even considered learning to knit during that time. Before she moved to Maine, Sarah had knit and felted, and gifted to me,  what I call "the cure for cold feet". In reality they are a felted knit bootie pattern from Cat Bordhi. I have not suffered form cold feet since I received this gift. 

Over the years several people, including Sarah, attempted to teach me to knit. It all seemed like Greek to me, and none of it ever made sense. When Sarah moved, however, and her"cold feet protection" wore out I realized that I had to teach myself to knit. I bought a beginner's pamphlet and began to teach myself how to make those wonderful booties! I made six pairs, giving some as gifts. I remember that at one point DH said that "I should stick to what I know how to do" (quilting), in response to my frustration at one point. Of course, that was just what I needed to hear to get me to figure it all out! I've never stopped knitting since then and the more I know about knitting, the more I love to knit. I now knit as much as I quilt - if not more lately! I owe it all to Sarah and her felted booties! 

One lucky person will win a copy of Sarah's wonderful, informative DVD please leave a comment on this post by Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Make sure to leave me a way to contact you!

If you are a US resident you will have the opportunity to choose a DVD or DVD download (which is what I did, and it works wonderfully!). It's always right there on my computer, ready to open and enjoy!

If the winner is a non-US resident they will receive the DVD download

Sarah did a blog post about here DVD  HERE
She also did a blog post about our friendship. It's HERE

There are more chances to win on these wonderful blogs:

November 16:     Brenda Gael Smith   http://serendipitypatchwork.com.au/blog/
November  19:    Jaye Lapachet    http://artquiltmaker.com/blog/
November 21:     Susan Brubaker Knapp   http://wwwbluemoonriver.blogspot.com/
November 23:     Lisa Walton    http://www.fibreinspirations.blogspot.com/
November 26:     Daphne Greig   http://daphnegreig.blogspot.com/
November 28:     Sarah Ann Smith     Yep--it is US Thanksgiving that day…I'll write mine up in advance!  Or maybe I should do mine on Black Friday (the beginning of the holiday shopping season the day after…)

03 November 2013

Fabric Stiffeners and Hardeners For All Occasions Plus A Recipe For Home Made Starch Alternative

I have had to become better acquainted with various ways to harden, stiffen or prevent fraying in cloth lately. It has been an enlightening journey, and I thought that I would pass it along the lessons that I have learned about a variety of excellent products that suit any need to 'tame' fabric for a variety of reasons. 

Fray Check. Who among us has not used this ubiquitous little potion over the years? It works like a charm to 'glue' up those raw edges on some of the most beautiful fabrics I use; ensuring that I can sew the fabric without fear of endless unraveling. This product has remained a favorite since I first discovered it many years ago. The only change that I think Prym/Dritz has made to it over the years is a finer application tip.

I have re-discovered my admiration for this product as I was making a holiday gift from some beautiful cotton that was especially prone to fraying! I have also recently learned that Fray Check can be removed with rubbing alcohol. If needed, soak the area in full strength alcohol for 30 minutes. Caution though. because alcohol can change the color of a fabric - test it fist! The product is non-flammable when it is dry, but flammable while it is wet. In much the same way, it is non-toxic when dried, but toxic when wet. Fray Check is made from a nylon plastic in an alcohol base, which is also why alcohol will dissolve it. 

One of my newest favorite textile hardener is called Fabri-Glaze and it is made by Innovative Craft Products. The company had, most graciously, sent my a jar to try, and I finally needed something just like it the other day - so try it I did! And I like it I did! When you open the jar it looks like a generic white glue. 

It is non-toxic, super fast drying, and it is water soluble which makes cleaning up a breeze. 

I wanted to harden a piece of fabric to use in a mixed media project. I did not want to use a simple starch because I wanted something more durable - something that would be easy to cut and react more like paper than cloth. 

I thinned the Fabri-Glaze just a bit and liberally applied it to my fabric 
with a foam brush, and then allowed it to dry completely. I was especially hoping
 that there would be no loose threads left after I cut the fabric.
As you can see, Fabri-Glaze dried perfectly clear with a perfect matte finish. No brush strokes were visible - which is exactly what I had been hoping for ! The fabric did not have any visible hanging threads or unruly threads after it was cut! 

Fabri-Glaze is the hardest of all of the stiffeners/hardeners that I had tried. You can adjust the stiffness with water as I did, but you can effect a hard shell or create a softer result as desired. You can mold fabric easily into a bowl shape or vessel with this amazing stuff. 

Yes, Fabri-Glaze has earned a permanent place on my bulging shelves!

What I believe is the latest thing on the market in this particular fabric hardening/stiffening/fray checking category is water soluble and called Terial Magic. I happened upon it at our local craft's supply store, Creative Passions. Terial Magic is touted as being a low, or no, fray fabric treatment, and I agree with that statement.

It was originally developed for fabric flower making. It obviously has other applications as well. You spray your fabric to soak with Terial Magic, air dry and then iron. You are encouraged to thoroughly soak the fabric with the product.

I consider this product to be a heavy starch, somewhere between spray sizing and the much harder coat of Fabri-Glaze. I like it, but think that it is a tad pricy at $14.95 for 24 ounces. I have not yet compared it to what one or two coats of regular spray starch. Nor have I compared it to bottled starch that I buy and can make as light or stiff as I need to with water. I'm glad that I bought it, and I will be using it, but I want to experiment with using it more and compare it to other, perhaps less expensive options.  

Which brings me to my latest search. 

In September I bought my first bottle of Mary Ellen's Best Press Starch Alternative to try. Always the skeptic, I wondered what, exactly, made Mary Ellen's the best and also what made it a starch alternative? Did I even know that there were starch alternatives other than, perhaps, sizing as opposed to regular starch. My education was beginning!

I searched on line for a list of the ingredients in Mary Ellen's Best Press. Needless to say, I could not find any information about the ingredients, and, it seemed, that others had also been wondering the same thing. I paged through volumes of forum posts and many blog posts looking for an answer. No one knows, it seems, what, exactly is in Mary Ellen's Best Press. The nagging question remained. What made it an alternative to starch?! I like using Mary Ellen's Best Press Starch alternative, but why do I like better than my regular starch?

I like this product enough that I was looking into buying a gallon refill for my bottle when I started to wonder if I could make my very own starch alternative that I would like as well. I was still 'hung-up' on what made this an alternative to starch, and what was in it that made it different. I kept reading and searching.
Voila! The answer! Potato Vodka!
 Huh?  Although I don't drink anything alcoholic anymore thanks to the potential for some adverse medication reactions, I was delighted to learn that there was another use for what had once been a favorite drink. After more "web wading" and researching a variety of helpful recipes and hints for starch alternatives, I found the following recipe which I think it is the easiest as well as the best:

I thank ExScapes blog for this recipe and her own inspiring article that helped me in my own search.

8 OZ (1cup) water - I used distilled
1 ounce (shot) potato vodka
spray bottle to put it in!

The key to making this best possible alternative is to use potato vodka

Mixed grain vodkas work too, but not as well.

Of course, for some odd reason, I had always presumed that vodka was, necessarily, made from potatoes. Since I had last been in our single, local, liquor store things had changed and been moved around, but I found the vodka. I was looking for a small, one pint, bottle, thinking that if this worked as well as I had hoped I would, I could make use of a pint. Big surprise! There was only ONE brand of potato vodka on the shelves - a large bottle at that - of the brand shown above, Chopin Vodka.  The others were all made from mixed grains.

The clerk was of no help what-so-ever. I think that he thought that I was on the lunatic fringe when I mentioned that I did not want to actually drink the vodka, but that  I wanted to use it on fabric! He just went about his business and tried to avoid the crazy woman in his store (me).  I was about to give up hope, but tried riffling though the mini bottles that were is metal baskets  towards the front of the store. I unearthed ONE single mini bottle of Glacier brand potato vodka. This mini was $5.00 for 50ml (1.69 ounces). I snapped it up.

I am, indeed, happy to report, that my experiments with potato vodka do, in fact, work! It really is an alternative to regular starch! The starch from the potato vodka provides a nice crispness. I wonder if this is what Mary Ellen's uses? I would never in a million years have thought to try using potato vodka as starch! Amazing. 

My next step  will be some experiments to add essential oils for scent. Mary Ellen's offers many scents in her starch - which sounds like a good thing to me. I want to experiment with some scent blends. Some oils will not be suitable of course. Perhaps fragrance blends , such as I use for my soaps, would be a bit better? I dunno yet, but I will and will keep you posted.