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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 fabric (10)

Thursday
Aug202009

Better than sausage or legislation any day!

So the title of this post is probably not ideal since I had to explain it to my husband who thought it had weird (creepy?) overtones. Jokes are never funny when you explain them.

Anyway, you know the old saw: watching laws get made is like watching sausage manufacturing--sort of ruins your appetite for the end result. Well, when Stephen Fraser from Spoonflower sent me this video of some of my fabric being printed, I felt just the opposite, so I just had to share:

On the one hand, there's something almost unremarkable about it--we've become so accustomed to inkjet printers with picoliter droplet sizes and borderless printing at breakneck speeds, that it's easy to be unimpressed--in essence, this is just a giant inkjet printer, right? But when I think about how far digital printing has come since my family got our first Image Writer II (1987?), it blows my mind. Reminds me of the Saturday Night Live sketch where the crochety old man says, "We ate dirt for breakfast, and we liked it!" Back then, we had four-color ribbon printing and 72-dpi and we liked it! It wasn't like anything we'd ever seen. Low-cost home printers made anybody with a story and a willingness to hack away at Aldus PageMaker a desktop publisher. And now services like Spoonflower are democratizing craft, making it possible for anyone with a vision to forge on in a medium that has been all but completely closed to individual artists and craftspeople. And that is, as I told Stephen when he sent me this video, just plain rad.

Try it out

If you've wanted to try fabric printing but hesitated about the cost, there's still time (2.5 hours as of this writing) to get two free 8"x8" swatches (in the fabric of our choice, and with free shipping, too!) from Spoonflower. And while you are at it, they've made it super easy to donate some or all of the money you save to a wonderful charity, Heifer International, that provides cows, lamas, chickens, and other livestock to people in developing countries as a means of empowering them and enabling them to meet their long-term food and economic needs. Also rad.

Free swatch day is over, but swatches are only $5, so what's stopping you? I have a frightening number of them, so I am working to come up with a project to use some of them up.

Tuesday
Jun162009

Lessons learned

I did a dry run of my shirred dress pattern this weekend, because I was afraid that it was not going to be as easy as some had breathlessly claimed. I learned some things.

1) I was right. The shirring is definitely a learn-as-you-go kind of thing, so I was really glad not to have hacked up my peacock fabric before ironing out some kinks.

2) Hancock Fabrics on Sam Rittenburg Boulevard in Charleston, SC, is probably the 9th Circle of Hell. Really, I already knew that, but I wanted to state it publicly here. I went there for elastic thread. I mean, you know the name of the store is Hancock Fabrics, not Hancock Thread, but I thought it was sort of an understood sub-category of product offerings. After searching the entire store, with 3-year-old in tow, I waited only a tiny bit less than 5 minutes for someone there to deign to respond to my plaintiff wailing (the 3-year-old, on the other hand, was very well-behaved). I asked her where I could find the elastic thread. Seems she had the same trouble as me.

Finally, with a heaping helping of surliness topped off with a dash of sloth-like speed, the lady working there found the one, ONE, spool of elastic thread in the entire store. And it was black. All I can say is that the next time one of my crafty friends who lives in a civilized spot with running water and a Jo-Ann whines about her fabric store trials, I am planning to have her instantly whisked to this fabric hovel. I had come to accept the curious truth that big box fabric store employees rival 13-year-old girls in their capacity for disaffection and surliness. But I had not yet confronted the warped reality that a fabric store can continue operations when it carries next to no fabric and is bereft of the simplest of thread and notion options. You live and learn.

3) Most of the patterns for shirred garments assume certain facts not in evidence in my particular anatomy. That's about all I feel I can say about that here, since my dad reads this.

4) It is best to get the size of your shirred garment right ahead of time. If you find, for example, that following the advice available on Threadbanger results in a giant, droopy garment that could easily envelope your sofa, you might try to take the seams in. If you discover this after shirring and want to trim away 10 inches of extra fabric, you will end up with an unravelling mess. Elastic is tricky stuff.

5) Those people who breezily extoll the ease and virtue of shirring also probably wake each day with perfectly styled hair that only needs washing once per week. I'm not saying that it was hard so much as not exactly effortless.

6) I do not like cutting fabric. At all.

With these and other lessons learned, I still think I can tackle the peacock dress this weekend. That is, if I can get elastic thread delivered by Friday. Film at 11.

Tuesday
Jun092009

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Peacock Scatter Fabric © 2009 Cameron Blazer. Printed by Fabric on Demand. I have a fear of winning the lottery. No, really. Much as I can whine and moan about the difficulties of my tragic middle class existence, I am actually really lucky. And I'm afraid that if I play the lottery I might actually win. And my life would be ruined. No, really. I mean, how many lottery winners do you know who've written a Great American Novel? Or argued before the Supreme Court? Or held a patent? No, lottery winners hail from Warbled Gulch, WV, and Juggler's Bend, ID,* and they all squander their winnings on that most potent cocktail of sportscars, McMansions, and breast augmentations. That's not exactly my American Dream.

Still, from time to time I throw my name into the hat for contests that are not exclusively luck-based. A few weeks ago, I learned about a new print-on-demand fabric company, Fabric on Demand from the awesome website, TrueUp. Now, I am already a big fan of Fabric on Demand's competitor, Spoonflower, so I was hesitant to spread my loyalties. But I did what any good social media addict would do--scanned their site, ordered fabric samples, and followed them on twitter.** And, lo. There was a contest. I would be lying if I said I didn't have a Sally Field, "you like me, you really like me" moment when I got the email that I won. But there it was--and, lickety split, the fine folks at Fabric on Demand sent me my peacock fabric on 100% cotton broadcloth. So exciting. It's destined to be a sundress a la this pattern as soon as I can get a couple of uninterrupted hours. So it should definitely be done before my child enters high school in 2020. Anyhoo, thanks to Rysa, Mike, and the other fine folks at Fabric on Demand!

*An as-yet-undetermined prize awaits the first person who can document in comments the existence of either of these towns. Side bets may be available for your own invented hamlets of despair.

**I love twitter, I really do. But is it just me or is the whole following/unfollowing thing like so much canine bum-sniffing? Just askin'.

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!

Monday
Nov172008

A vote for Ginkgo is a vote for prosperity!


Soooo, Spoonflower is having a wee contest to pick the "fabric of the week." The winner will get free fabric, and the winning design will be made available for sale to the public through Spoonflower for one week only. How snazzy is that?

And. AND! My gingko fabric is one of the three choices!! I am beside myself. Would you please, please, pretty please go vote for me? The contest is described here, and that post has a link to the voting.

Part of why I am beside myself is that I do not do contests. I have not run for anything since my crushing defeat in the sixth grade student council race of 1986. I don't play games for keeps. I don't buy lottery tickets. I just don't ever put myself out there for stuff like this. Because, um, it stinks to lose. And you can't fail if you don't try!

Yes, it appears I have failed to learn the lessons of the many afterschool specials that touchingly addressed this very subject.

But today is a new day! Today I am putting myself out there and saying, "Hey, world! Here I am! Wouldn't it be cool if your 'I voted' sticker were printed with awesome orangey, patterny goodness?" Right?

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