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30-something mother, wife, lawyer, writer, design junkie, craftaholic, cook

likes: clever tools, snazzy colors, working for justice, kid wrangling, Meyer lemons

dislikes: inefficiency, civil discovery, most shades of purple, Tori Amos

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Entries in craft (7)

Monday
Feb162009

I Felt Like Nasturtiums

Felted Nasturtiums © 2009 Cameron Blazer

Seems like it's been a few weeks since I had anything good and crafty to crow about. Well, Ta Da! I had a very nice bout of creativity this weekend and I finally tackled a project that has been in my brain for months.

Detail of Linen Nasturtiums.
A couple of years ago my stepmother, who is a champion vintage textile forager, gifted me with a pair of antique linen tea towels. I can't pinpoint their age, but when she gave them to me they were still sporting the hand-typed paper tags that appeared to have been written in Polish. They are screenprinted with nasturtiums in a riot of green, orange, yellow, and red. They add a welcome dash of sunshine to my windowless kitchen. The trouble is that the colors are next to impossible to match or even compliment in other kitchen-y textiles.

Well, that was then. I have long wanted to try needle felting after some very soapy, very messy and misbegotten attempts at wet felting a few years ago. The endless array of colors is a total turn-on, and the power to control the design of fabric from start to finish appeals to my control freakiness.

Now, what I really want is to do a kitchen rug this way, but in uncharacteristically rational fashion, I decided that I should start a wee bit smaller since I had no flippin' clue what I was doing.

1. Applying roving to pre-felted wool. Note the angle? It is bad. Do as I say, not as I do. Straight up and down!
First, on a field of rust-red pre-made felt, I set down a background of blue-green roving about 7x7 inches square. This color is not the perfect green of the tea towels, but what it lacks in accuracy it makes up for in joie de vivre. Here, I should say, if you've never needle felted before, it's truly a wondrous thing to behold: fluffy puffs of loose wool get matted down together and linked together like permanent Velcro using nothing more than the back and forth motion of a bunch of sharp needles.*

2. Placing the leaves and the first flower.
Once that was done, I cut out my basic nasturtium shape from some orange-y pre-made felt (I eyeballed it. People! If you know me at all you know that this ran counter to all of my cut-phobic instincts. And you know what? Not so bad, if I do say.), and I set it down on the blue felt on top of some blobs of green roving "leaves." Why pre-made felt for some and roving for others? Well, I think the pre-made stuff gives you a nice dimensional look, whereas the roving sort of blends in physically, making it good for background motifs. Anyhoo, I just layered them in a pleasing way and stabbed about until they were attached--very therapeutic!

3. "Painting" with wool roving.
The next part was my favorite. Plain orange flower shapes weren't going to capture the painterly depth of my tea towels. So I started adding, tuft by tuft, tiny bits of orange and red roving to my flower. It felt almost like finger painting and really was great fun. I repeated the same process for the second flower, although I had to be a little creative, as I didn't have any pre-made felt in the orange color I needed. I did have some roving in the right color, though, so I cut out another flower shape and then felted the roving onto the shape before putting it onto my square.

4. Cut edges of the almost-finished piece.
One of the best things about felt is that it doesn't ravel. So when I had the flowers the way I liked them, I just took the felt to my cutting mat, eyeballed a straight edge and hacked off all the wobbly edges, leaving me with a nice, clean 7 inch square--the perfect size for a trivet or a potholder. I'm still nattering a bit about whether to bind the edges, blanket stitch them, or something else, but I'm pretty durn pleased with myself, and I will definitely be trying this again.

Who knows? Maybe I really am ready to felt a rug? If you have any experience making felted objects to withstand the wear-and-tear of heavy floor use, I would really love to hear from you. It seems like it could be a recipe for heartache, but that's never stopped me before.

*I used a Clover needle felting tool, which is really 5 felting needles in one--it makes quick work of felting. I have read from some purists that it prevents good detail work, is cheating, is felting for amateurs. Whatever! Do what works, I say. And this little jobbie WORKS!

Wednesday
Nov192008

I want that Wednesdays #2

Have you ever taken a craft or art workshop? I think the last time I did I was about 8, and my white paint got tainted with ochre and I ended up with yellow clouds on my painting of some old building in Charleston. I want to try again.

***

Last week I decided that I'd create a recurring feature for my blog, "I Want that Wednesdays." Kinda cute and snappy. And consumerist.

And, look, consumerism gets a bad rap, especially these days, but I think that there is room for consumption that is conscious and conscientious--like buying handmade or "upcycled." I don't know much about physics, but I believe in the words "conservation of mass-energy." We are all here on earth for an indeterminate time, and we all have to find a way to entertain ourselves, make ourselves useful, and try to bring comfort and joy to others. I think that people who make things with their hands for the enjoyment of others are making the most of this mass-energy balance--entertaining themselves with their travails and entertaining others with the fruits of those travails.

So, this Wednesday, I want that. I want the spirit of thinking and making and giving that animates the best of art and craft. And I am feeling it more than ever as I reconnect with old friends, find new outlets for my ideas, and encounter the stunning richness of creativity that is but a click away thanks to the internet. More than ever, I am at home in my own abilities and able to enjoy the talents of others without jealousy. And I want more of that. More! I want to foster more connection and more encouragement. More friendship and more cross-pollination.

***

I remember the first time I bought a bead and strung it on a wire twenty years ago. My friend Nia had received these beautiful amethyst earrings for her birthday. I can still see them clearly: three smooth, round, deep purple (don't ask--I make an exception for amethyst) beads, each hung from a graduated silver pin. So simple, but so lovely. And I coveted them. So I got my mother to take me to the only store in Mount Pleasant that sold beading materials back then, and I bought some purple glass beads and eye pins and earring wires. And I had no idea what to do with them. I found my dad's rusty needlenose pliers and set to work. After hours of struggle, I had a decent pair of earrings--nothing nearly so fine as the ones Nia had been given, but attractive nonetheless. But the thing was so much less valuable to me by then than the making of the thing. I had imagined something and made it real, and that was exhilirating. I wanted the thing. What I got was so much more.

***

When my husband and I got married, we didn't have time or money for a honeymoon (I started law school the same week). And I have been fantasizing ever since then about a different kind of trip. A learning trip. There are several schools for art and craft within driving distance of our home that offer one- and two-week courses in all sorts of disciplines. I can imagine him spending a week on photography while I do a week on metalsmithing. Or he could do a week of lithography while I do a week of bookmaking. Sounds dreamy, right? So far, I've bookmarked the John C. Campbell Folk School, the Penland School of Crafts, and Asheville Bookworks, but I'm sure there are lots of others within range.

In the meantime, maybe a shorter workshop closer to home is a good idea? Redux Studios is a local print studio that has been offering a wide array of classes for the past few years. Hmm...

Any suggestions for other drool-worthy craft-nerd immersion programs? Experiences?

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