MoodBoardDec14
mood board – noun –  an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.
I have recently worked on a number of projects where it was helpful to use the idea of a mood board to communicate a style or collection of ideas.  We were trying to use it as a collaborative tool, which I don’t think was as effective as it could have been but I thought I would take a minute to design a mood board for my collection of new work.  Think of it as a sneak peek with photos of the finished products to come very soon.  (Click the image and you can see it bigger)
So I am curious… What does this collection say to you?  What’s a word or two that pops into your head?

infinityscarves

I am getting all kinds of new things ready for the show I am doing at the American Craft Council Library on December 13.  So excited!  This is the first large collection of my digital prints that I will have for sale.  Last week I finished the cowl scarves.  I know that the “giant infinity scarf” is a major trend, but I just don’t think they are that flattering.

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

These are made with a more simple and elegant kind of silhouette.  More like a necklace.  These are all made from polyester crepe, which is soft and lightweight and drapey and the colors are vibrant and gorgeous.  I haven’t used this fabric before and I am in love.  Each design also has a story:

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In honor of Uncle Lester. This origami box was in a book that Lester gave my dad. My sister and I loved the book when we were kids and had to be very respectful and careful with it. This is the first origami project that I memorized. The thing I love about this box is that it starts with a rectangle and not a square. Which means you can make it with a piece of typing paper (or bright pink construction paper). Which is a very cool thing when you don’t have much allowance money to spend on fancy origami paper. (Leo makes a brief appearance and comment).

I love to do a little behind-the-scenes post about the annual Halloween photo to tell you a little about it and this year there is a neat story.  First some fun facts you might not know when you look at the photo.

  • There is only one half of the box.  We made 1 and took two photos of Andy to assemble the scene.  Much easier than actually sawing him in half.
  • There are no star decorations in the background.  We added them later because it needed a little more bling.  Andy also gave our glitter a little more oomph.
  • The saw is our Christmas tree saw that has now been painted gold and had jewels added.  We will be very styling for Christmas.

The neatest part of this photo is the tuxedo.

photo (20)I originally had a whole other plan for the Halloween theme, but then I got this tuxedo in the mail.  It belonged to my Uncle Lester (actually my great-great-uncle).  Lester Grimes, “The Paper Wizard”, was a magician in the 1920s and 30s.  He was known for tricks that involved paper and origami and performed one of the opening acts at the 1932 World’s Fair.  He was a friend and colleague of Harry Houdini and actually acquired Houdini’s collection of books about “spiritualism” after Houdini’s death.

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The tuxedo is one that he wore in one of his acts and family history says that it was made for him by the costumers at Radio City Music Hall.  I raise my coffee in a toast to those costumers because it is beautifully made and it amazing condition.  My dad found this in a box of old family treasures and decided that since I am the family expert in all things fabric that the tuxedo should come to me.  The minute I pulled it out of the box, I knew it would fit and I knew it had to be the Halloween theme.  The rest wrote itself.

 

 

Halloween-2014

chester

I have spent the last 4 weeks making a variety of home dec type objects for a variety of reasons.  Placemats, table runners, pillows.  And the thing is, I just can’t get in to it.  It’s relatively easy sewing as those things go.  Mostly straight lines, lovely fabrics, but I just can’t get excited about the finished objects.  How many throw pillows does a person need exactly?  How about you?  Love it or hate it?  Do you redecorate for every season?

Meanwhile, I did find some fun, helpful and inspiring tutorials while I was working out all of the details on these projects:

I got the faux batik samples in the mail yesterday and I am so thrilled.  They look awesome.  These are all printed on the basic cotton which is a nice middle weight basic fabric.  I didn’t wash or press the fabric yet, this is just what it looks like out of the envelope.

Here is the original colorway.

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Photo Oct 15, 4 13 13 PMAnd a couple of alternate colorways…  (The color in these following two isn’t quite right in the photos because the light wasn’t cooperative, but they look good in person.)

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I also made a set of coordinating prints for each of the colorways.

Photo Oct 15, 4 14 44 PMearthcoolswarmWhat do you think?  Which colorway is your favorite?  Although I love the warm colors I started with, I am also really loving the neutrals and I think that’s the one I might print to make a t-shirt.

photo(5)I had a vast quantity of tiny rolled hems to do this week.  The project is something I can’t really share yet, but I can talk about rolled hems and what I learned.  So I have done both machine stitched and hand stitched rolled hems before and although I am pretty good at the machine variety, I hadn’t really mastered the hand stitch. I could make it work, but they were fiddly and so very slow.  It was frustrating.  So I started to do a little research.  Maybe there was a better way to do the stitch?

The tips that really helped?

Rolled Hem Hankies at the Purl Bee.  Not only are the photos beautiful and clear, but the tip about slobbering on your fingers is essential.  I did just grab a damp washcloth and throw it on the table in front of me, but it’s amazing how much of a difference that made in getting the roll to happen.  She also does the stitch just slightly differently than what I was taught (with much of the stitch hidden in the roll) and this is much nicer.

It turns out that the best “tutorial” I found has no words.  But just by watching an anonymous and skilled seamstress hem a Hermes scarf, I picked up another really helpful hint or two.  If you watch the video you will see how she pins the scarf to a heavy pincushion.  This is genius.  It’s like having an extra hand to put some tension on what you are stitching and I could go twice as fast.  My tomato pincushion isn’t heavy enough.  I ended up weighting it down awkwardly with a pair of scissors.  But the next time I have a batch of hemming to do, I will take a few minutes and make a heavy weighted pincushion.  You can also watch how she does the corner. I am not sure exactly what she did, but based on my observations, I folded just the tiny tip of the corner at 45 degrees and then double rolled to make a neat little miter at the corner and secured it with a couple of tiny stitches.

My own trick is to use a beading needle to do the stitching.  Although this one was a little long (I couldn’t find my short ones), I really like working with tiny needles.  When you are only trying to make a stitch that catches 2 or 3 threads of the fabric, it is so much easier with a small needle.  I almost always hand stitch my hems.  I like hand stitching and I like the way a hand stitched hem can just disappear and not draw attention to itself.

If you want to learn more beautiful hand stitched hems, the Coletterie blog has been posting a really great series about all kinds of hem finishes.  Here is their take on the hand rolled hem.

Part six of our faux batik journey takes us back to Photoshop.

I have all of the motifs for my faux batik laid out, I have my color palette chosen, so now it’s time to put the finishing touches on my design.  This next bit might seem like a little bit of over-the-top, but I want to add a little bit of subtlety to this design, which is why I am going to go back into Photoshop before I add the final colors.

First I hide the colored background layer that I put in to help me lay out my design and I replace it with just basic black in my Illustrator file.  This is going to make it really easy to do the design cleanup next.  I export it, using the edges of my artboard or canvas to crop the design (getting rid of all the bits I left hanging off the edges).  It looks something like this.

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My first task is to make the edges of the design seamless.  Since I have very organic shapes, the lines and shapes at the right side of the tile aren’t going to exactly match up with the things on the left side of the tile.  But I want to make everything match up so there aren’t little flaws in the design when I repeat it.  Photoshop has a tool called “Offset” that will wrap the design around and match up those outside edges so you can do the touchup work.

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Here is one section of that matched up edge. I separated the black background from the other parts of the design and put them on two different layers.  Then, I used a paintbrush and the eraser tool to carefully erase a little bit and redraw these lines to they seem to be one continuous line.  I did this along the sides and top/bottom of the design and now I have a seamlessly repeating tile.

Now I want to add the background colors back in.  I could have used the color blocks that I set up in Illustrator, but I wanted the edges where the colors meet to be a little less like a quilt block with straight lines and have a little more painterly quality.  I also chose 7 colors for my colorway, where my mockup had only 5.  Leaving my white batik shapes as the top layer and the black as the bottom, I added a layer in between for each of the colors in my colorway.  I used a big paintbrush with a little bit of a soft edge to paint in the background colors where I wanted them in my design.  Using a paintbrush allowed me to let things bleed a little outside the lines and to keep the more organic look to match my batik shapes.  By putting each color on it’s own layer, it was easy to tweak the colors if it ended up that I didn’t like one of those colors I chose for my colorway and it will be really easy to make another colorway of this design this way (which I am planning to do!)

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Finally, my white layer had some of those placeholder colors in it that I used to fill in some of the shapes (like the arch shapes above).  To make those fit my colorway, I used a tool called Select Color Range which lets me click on a color and it selects that color anywhere it sees it on the screen all at once.  So I could click the placeholder red and replace it with the red from my colorway.

Here are the finished colors painted in.

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It took a couple of tries to get everything to feel like it was balanced and to make sure that I didn’t have any colors too crowded together.  The next little bit of subtlety I wanted to add was a little bit of a hand-painted or hand-dyed effect, to make the background colors look less flat and even and perfect.  I tried a bunch of different techniques to achieve this: painting with different brushes, playing with opacity and flow, but they were all a little too heavy-handed.  Finally I found the effect I wanted.  I added a layer on top of all of this with a filter called “Clouds” in a contrasty dark and light.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 6.23.36 PMThen I made this clouds layer adjust the luminosity of the design instead of just layering on top. Luminosity is like the light shining through piece of paper, but it gave my just the effect I was going for: areas of lights and darks, without changing the colors of my design and making them muddy grey or washed out.  Here you can see that effect:

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One last effect and my batik is finished.  For the last subtlety to really make this look like a batik, I wanted to add the distinctive crackled look that you get when working with wax.  It took a lot of experimenting, but a photograph of a piece of marble gave me just the right pattern of cracks.  I made this photo into a seamless repeat as well and added it as one more transparent layer on top of the design.

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I have ordered a yard of this fabric to be printed and in a couple of weeks we will revisit the tutorial and see how it turned out!

 

Today is all about color!  Now that I have most of my design laid out, I want to start to think about the colorway for this fabric.  The colorway is the set of colors I am going to use.  I really love the colors that were in my original inspiration fabric.  I could pick these colors out on my own in the color palette in Photoshop, but I want to show you a really fun tool that you can use for creating colorways.  It’s called Adobe Kuler and it is a free app for your iPhone or iPad. Edit: You would know it. In the week since I posted this tutorial, Adobe did an update. The app is now called Adobe Color and the screens are slightly different but still work essentially the same.

photo(3)It uses the camera to look at whatever you want to capture a colorway from and it picks out a set of colors from what it sees.  As you move around 5 little circles pop around the scene and identify colors.  You can tap the screen anytime to freeze it and then click the check box to save the colors.

photo 2Once I have saved it, I can open up the colorway by tapping a little icon that looks like a panel of sliders and here is the best part…

photo 1For each color, it shows me the HEX code and the RGB values, which are codes I can type right in to Photoshop or Illustrator.

Now remember that it is using a camera to capture the colors.  Your colors will be influenced by the light the camera sees, shadows and so forth.  So it might not be the final colors you use for your design, but it’s a great place to get started or even to just get inspired.

Here’s a colorway out my kitchen window on this rainy Wednesday and a little vector pattern to go with it.

rainy

And here’s a version in a Chester colorway.

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I did a couple more shots with Kuler of my bag and I have come up with this colorway for my faux batik fabric.  I may tweak these a little bit later when I see what they all look like together, but this will be my starting point.

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