Friday, June 29, 2007

I actually worked a whole day today - no jigsaw puzzle or chatting on the computer or cruising around looking at my favorite blogs. Finishing a major project after creative avoidance for two weeks (procrastination) actually gave me energy instead of a feeling of fatigue, so I finished a few more of the bright, gaudy Talavera ornaments I've had on the table for a while. The mini-stocking and the round ornament are only two of the pieces I was able to draw from the design elements on this plate, as there are still a 15" pillow and a frame left to put on canvas. When I bought the plate, I had challenged myself to see how many different needlepoint designs I could find in it. Love those bright, happy colors!! Then, on a roll with the painting, and the copy and pictures sent off to Needlepoint Now magazine (barely on time, as my deadline was moved forward by three days), I painted two more ornaments that were already drawn from other plates. ALL DONE! Now back to Crazy Quilts! I already have the canvas drawn and ready to begin stitching, and now am waiting for my new threads to come in the mail. Something to look forward to is good for the soul. (especially if it has to do with needlework!)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The chenille needle definitely helps!! It took me ten years to figure that one out. Anyway, I had a hard time putting this one down - as always the surface embellishment is more fun than stitching in the background "fabrics." There are one or two things I would change, but won't, as one has to stop somewhere sometime. (and start another one) My original thought on the long, curved seam was just to do "sprays" of the white flowers - but it looked unfinished and uninteresting, so it was put away for a day or two, and then I could see immediately that it needed something more - so added the little yellow flowers and some green French knots. Again, thanks to Allie and the CQ ladies - I had never noticed a curved seam before in crazy quilt. Adds character and personality!!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The shield needs a little bit more work, but Granny is out of steam - it will have to wait. I had visions of fleur-de-lis in the blue field and lions rampant on the red - but not tonight. Jake won't know the difference if I don't mention it. I doubt that he has ever heard of the aforementioned design elements, and doesn't care. It's ready for him to take to school tomorrow, and that's what counts. The first picture shows the split peas before they were painted gold - my son-in-law was amazed at this element!. I saw a shield on a site for Medieval Shields and noticed the gold bead/nail head thing around the border, so had to add it.
The crown is covered with brown wrapping paper and Elmer's glue - painted with gold acrylic in a bottle, and the split peas and gaudy jewels added. This paraphanalia probably won't last until sundown tomorrow, but I had lots and lots of fun with it. Jake's reaction certainly made it worth while.

Friday, June 22, 2007

It is amazing what one can accomplish when the computer is not functional. Thunderstorms again today, and I lost my wireless connection until the brilliant son-in-law fixed it for me late this evening. I worked on the Prince's paraphanalia some more, and he was so thrilled when he came home from school he was speechless for a second. Only a second.... The crown started life last night as a rolled up strip of poster board - we had to determine the correct size, of course, and tape it. Then this morning, with no computer and no jigsaw puzzles to work and no friends for chatting, I cut the points and then papier mached the whole thing with recycled brown wrapping paper - superior for this sort of thing, as it absorbs the glue well and is then soggy but strong, and easy to manipulate. Due to high humidity, I had to dry it in a warm oven. The next picture shows one coat of paint - will have to finish it tomorrow, and paint the "lions rampant" also. The crown will have "jewels" added - Jake picked them out himself at the craft store. Great huge gaudy ones, and he is hoping to use the whole package. Probably we will glue split peas around the bottom, as painted gold they look just like round gold beads. Quite elegant - so he will be ready to slay dragons for his Mama by Sunday - and for the princesses at school on Monday, if the crown survives until then. This sort of activity is good for the soul!! In addition, I actually worked a bit on my things, and drew another CQ heart with a BIG blob of lace on it.
Also, I have to show off the latest one now that everything for the background is on it - except the beads - and it is ready to embellish. Check out those curved seams!!! wooo hooooo.! they actually look curved. without zig zags and bumps.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

This is a record for me - three in a day!! The slide show was an ordeal, as I forgot how to do it. The lace swatches are pieces I did several years ago when reviving an old effect I used to do of duplicating the look of crocheted lace for edgings and borders for small pieces and simple pillow - monograms, names, etc. It helped having a working knowledge of the crochet process - the popcorn stitches, joining chains, etc. Of course, when using a different medium, liberties can be taken. I have enjoyed these things recently while stitching them into needlepoint crazy quilt work, and now have even added little flowers and leaves in a "laces and trims" format. I think the most enjoyable thing for me - my "mathematical buzz" is working out the corner turning and mitering - also doing the same effect on a diagonal. It's amazingly easy to create a border of any desired size - and then fit a monogram, name, or small motif within the framework. Wondering lately if I could do some semblance of a doily. Hmmmm. maybe. I really enjoy the filet lace!!!!!

Check out my Slide Show!

Once upon a very long time ago in a town far away, I was known simply as "Mama" and was gluing sequins and rhinestones to assorted things, and sewing tulle into tutus for Jake's mama. At this time I am called "Granny" (my oldest son gave me a choice between Granny and "Big Mama" - I chose the lesser of two evils). Anyway, Jake is four years old now, and is very much into slaying dragons for princesses at his school. This is in between identifying with various jet propelled, cape wearing intergalactic heroes. He had been sporting one of his mom's pot lids for a shield, so I suggested to his dad we make him a real shield. This idea was accepted with great enthusiasm, so he and Jake retired to the garage/workshop to cut out a shape from 1/4" solid core plywood. After much research among toys and and a lot of discussion, we had sketched a pattern on my drawing paper, cut it out, and transferred it to the wood. It was left to me today to prime it and get it ready to decorate - soooo this is what I have been doing today while the camera is recharging and other paint is drying, etc. Did I fail to mention how grateful Jake's mother was for the peace and quiet last evening, as Jake was occupied in the garage and not hanging onto her skirts in the kitchen? I suppose this evening we will tend to other important things like finding a design for this shield. Later. Then I will post a slide show of the latest "crocheted lace in needlepoint."

Monday, June 18, 2007

This is moving along nicely now - and I'm beginning to really enjoy it!! Since I removed the restrictions of deadlines, I actually look forward to working on it. I think I had more to say, but it's evening now, and I have spent the last two hours entertaining small grandsons who are still young enough (one is age 4) to enjoy playing roles - this time a prince to vanquish the dragons at play school. We are, with his father's help, making a shield. I feel like I have marbles in my brain. Granny doesn't cope as well with pandemonium that comes with great enthusiasm, but I am grateful for the opportunity. Whew!!! Now back to stitching. I finally saw the light and bought chenille needles for the embellishing - the tapestry needles were awful to try to push through stitched canvas. After all these years - I finally thought of chenille needles. I'll probably bloody the threads a few times, tho' before I get used to it. Anyway, in my mind, I can already see the pink beads on the orange patch on the heart, as well as a fine looking vine with flowers and clumps of French knots on the big curved seams.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another post of my ceramic pieces - mainly to stall until I get more done on the current crazy quilt needlepoint projects (two of them and two more "brewing"). Also drawing several new Talavera pieces. Anyway, the plate is one I found at my daughter's house - I was quite touched, as I didn't know she had found it and put it into her "shopping bag" at some point. It was an experiment in the early days of my working with design painting with underglazes - and forming plates and bowls by just laying a slab of rolled out clay onto a china plate or into a bowl and gently working it down into shape. I love this effect, as the appearance is "hand made" and not mold poured or otherwise mechanically generated. I have only recently come to this conclusion, as I thought they were too crude and misshapen to show. The two-color bowl with leaves was a fun thing - I was working on glaze layering and sgraffito. Just formed the bowl by laying the clay into a soup bowl in my kitchen, letting it dry a few days - then firing and subsequently decorating. This was done with the two green glazes - half light green, and half dark green. Then the process was repeated, but putting the dark over light and light over dark. The sgraffito was done by scratching the design down to the color beneath with a semi-sharp instrument (don't remember what, but it was something I dug out of a kitchen drawer, I'm sure) Notice the squiggly line down the center. I was overjoyed with that effect!! The thing was then hustled off to the art museum for firing (after applying a suitable clear satin glaze.) One of the things I love about this sort of ceramic activity is that it is not instant gratification, but a time of anticipation in waiting to see what emerges from the kiln.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Ceramic crosses and tiles?? and also bowls and plates and vases and pots? Of course I do!! and it's all hand built on my kitchen table or while sitting on the floor in my painting studio. I don't even own a potter's wheel, and have never used one. Strangely, I have had several people ask in the last few days, expressing a bit of surprise. I have wanted to do this since college, but didn't have time. Several years ago I finally indulged myself with classes at the local art museum, where instruction is superb and lots of fun. I had just put my "Alzheimer's auntie" into the nursing home, and was having a terrible sinking-into-depression episode after walking on a tight wire for several years caring for her. I thought I needed to seek professional help - but decided on another course of action, as it made no sense to me to pay someone $150 per hour to listen to me whine and complain (and put me on drugs) when I already knew what was wrong. Sooooo it has been the most wonderful and therapeutic thing I have done in a very long time, and actually a fine social activity once a week. It's also a cure for PPD (post project depression) after a major thing is completed in needlepoint design. This is a thing I do only for myself, and really never thought I was very good at it - so most things went to the garage in various stages of contempt on my part. I hid them from my children, who decorate their homes with exquisite taste. To my surprise, when cleaning out the garage preparing to sell the house, a few things actually looked good to me. Further astonishment came when ladies of the local Episcopal thrift shop came to claim donations and wanted to buy these lovelies on the spot. I will put them on my web page, but to give instruction to show people how very very easy it is to do these things at home with simple materials and a few basic instructions. I do not want to sell them, as it would take the joy out of the activity for me - as I would have to worry about production, pleasing the public, trends, etc. and also pricing. My youngest son, Sam, has expressed the same sentiment as we have chatted about his superb hunting bows - his blog is totally to give away information and share a very satisfying hobby with anyone interested. Soooo - from time to time I will show some of this work, and also put them on my web page with total instructions. For example, the vase (which I do like) is simply a rolled out (with my biscuit and pie crust rolling pin) slab of terra cotta clay, wrapped around a glass vase for a mold - and acanthus leaves applied, which were made in a mold from pressing clay onto a planter and then firing the reverse clay image. Easy? The glaze is just Amaco LG-11, which well imitates the tin oxide glazes of the early mailolica ceramics. The little sea shell cross paperweight was made easily also with the same glaze. I made the plaster mold for the clay shells from actual seashells. I was amazed recently to find one of my plates from my experiments into painting with underglazes and maioloica techniques in my daugher's kitchen cabinet. You never know what they are going to dig out of your closet!! It is very flattering in this case to me that she would like it. I'll show it later.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This pillow in needlepoint was begun several months ago in the same spirit as the seashell that ended in disaster in my UFO box (couldn't discard it!!). I decided it needed to be done - and by a deadline. Although the drawing was carefully thought out, and the colors chosen and arranged, the decision to put the "crocheted lace" border around it was not, at the time, a good one. I soon put it away, as I couldn't bear to think of all those bump stitches in a limited amount of time - a bit over-ambitious. I brought it out again recently, and decided to use it as a relaxation piece - just enjoy the journey and not worry about the destination. This has made a great difference, as I find myself wanting to do just a little bit more of the lace - it is wonderful to see the thing emerging as i do more white bump stitches and then a bit more background around. It's kind of like painting on blank, white canvas with a needle. I am having the same experience with the "crazy" patches - thorougly enjoying the process without worrying about time and the product. I have even discarded the drawing with little pieces of thread and notes on it, and am just designing as I go. Can hardly wait to get to the embellishing!! Moral of the story (as I remind myself) Relax and enjoy the journey!!! Isn't that what needlework is about? The "lace" is an old charted thing I did many years ago to imitate crocheted lace in needlepoint. Lots of little bump stitches and a colored background - a fascinating and mathematical thing to plan. I am so encouraged by this experience that I have decided it is time to start on the block that Allie made for my magazine article. (You can find this on her blog in the March archives) I love the colors and the fabrics, and I am getting a bit tired of the intensity of the colors I have been working with. Something to look forward to, definitely!!

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's amazing what happens when one's computer is not available for jigsaw puzzles, chatting, and other fun and games. Mine had a bit of a problem with the thunder and lightening storms last night, and developed a loose connection somewhere until about an hour ago. (sons-in-law are handy people for things like this). Anyway, I finished the first little heart CQ in the interim and drew and planned the next one - a little larger and more ambitious. It is amazing how the light strikes the surface of the stranded silks (these are all three "Soie Cristale" by Caron Collection.)and creates a texture of its own. Also the beads - I used orange beads on the pink patch, thinking it would make fine sparkly polka dots, but the iridescence and surface reflections took on more of the background color - a really lovely effect - one of those happy surprises. I am still a bit clumsy with the surface emboidery, as the canvas + stitching makes a heavy ground to push a tapestry needle through. Maybe I need to get a chenille needle. Anyway, I have already planned colors and patterns for this next one, and will start on it tonight if time and energy permit. I must remind myself to "enjoy the journey," as the "destination" of the finished patches ready to embellish call to me here. In my mind's eye, I can already see the floral vine along that long, curved seam. Of course they never look quite like I pictured them - but sometimes even better. If not, I can just rip it out and try again.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The terms "sane quilting" and "crazy quilting" make perfect sense to me - but I am wondering how acceptable it will be to differentiate needlepoint between "sane needlepoint" (which it isn't always, in my opinion) and "Crazy Needlepoint." I have decided to just call it "Crazy for Needlepoint." ?? Anyway, as it has been suggested by a certain friend, I am working on crazy hearts. Starting with a rather small, simple one - it was fun putting those orange beads into the pink area, and plotting the little floral "lace" trim onto the canvas. (This was worked with Smyrna Cross "bump" stitches before the patches were stitched.) As usual, the embellishment is a terrifying and intimidating prospect - but I will give it a try this afternoon. I promise I will. Maybe. That "cranberry swirl" silk ribbon (from the Thread Gatherer) is yummy with this piece, as it has just the right cast of pink/orange/red. It should do a lovely flower or two on the green patch. Yet to come is the larger heart with the first curved seam I have attempted to embellish. Later. It is drawn, colors and stitches chosen, etc., but not started yet.