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28 September, 2023

Rejections are part of the story

2023-09-28T10:37:51-05:00An Artist's Life, Gallery Exhibitions|3 Comments

Sometime a piece of art kind of takes on a life of its own. This year for the MN State Fair Fine Arts competition, I entered a piece called Growversight. It’s one of a series of boxes I’ve been making all about the theme of detours and unexpected obstacles, plans that go awry, timelines that slip, and projects that run into snags outside of one’s control. Red is often a color used to communicate a stop and the theme of the pieces in this series is to talk about things that stop momentum from going forward. So each is made in an analogous color to red, to sort of play with the idea that these ideas were not quite a hard stop or an end, but more the idea of things that were in the way of progress.

I call this series “Portmanteaus”. The word portmanteau refers to a suitcase-like container or two words that have been joined together to form a combined meaning. Each of these boxes carries a story, just like a suitcase, and leans in to the idea that every story has an internal or personal version and an external version that you tell to other people. Each piece in the series has something going on inside and outside the box. I love puns and wordplay in my work. For Growversight, I created a paper flower that is pushing off the lid and crawling out of the box. It’s a nod to an oversight, or problems you ignore that just keep growing and growing.

It was rejected from the Fine Arts show. I’ve entered many times and been turned down far more often than I have had pieces accepted. That wasn’t unexpected. But then a friend told me about another show which was celebrating the pieces that were rejected from the exhibit. The theme is modeled after the Salon des Refusés, French for “exhibition of rejects”. The first was held infamously in 1863 as a response by artists being rejected by the Paris Salon, an annual show sponsored by the Academie of Fine Arts and the French government. Their protests were heard by Napoleon, whose office issued a statement that said “Numerous complaints have come to the Emperor on the subject of the works of art which were refused by the jury of the Exposition. His Majesty, wishing to let the public judge the legitimacy of these complaints, has decided that the works of art which were refused should be displayed in another part of the Palace of Industry.”

The theme was entertaining, so I entered the show and was accepted into the show, which was titled “Rejected”. We went to the opening and enjoyed the art in the exhibition.

The story takes a detour when I went to try to pick up my piece. And I mean literal detours. The gallery is situated in a place which is currently surrounded by extensive road construction and two large event venues, where there were police cars blocking streets and officers directing traffic. I spent 30 minutes driving in circles trying to find a place to park for two minutes to run in to the gallery. I finally drove to a dodgy parking garage a mile away and walked back to retrieve my piece, my quick errand now taking up nearly two hours of my day.

When I got to the pick up desk, a kind volunteer found the paperwork and my piece, but insisted that I chat with the gallery owner about their upcoming holiday market. “Your work would be perfect!” she said. Unfortunately, the gallery owner had a different idea. She looked at me, looked at my box, and said “No. That’s too fine art. Nobody buys that.”

Rejected once again. I appreciate the irony.

She went on to explain the ways that it was a bad fit, the wrong price, and my aesthetic completely unsuitable, while I stood tired and sweaty, with a puzzled expression on my face. (It was honestly pretty rude, considering it wasn’t my idea to talk about their holiday market in the first place.) I finally made an abrupt excuse and left, hiking the mile back to my car.

On the drive home, I realized that Growversight would now always have this story associated with it in my head like an imprint. Just like the theme of piece, the story grew while I wasn’t looking. So I decided that the piece should grow as well.

In light of its transportation issues, I decided that the original box needed a little cart to ride in. But you’ll maybe notice that the cart has four flat tires and a distinctive pattern embroidered around the edge. I love this piece even more now.I am curious to see if it will grow some more the next time it goes on an adventure.

16 August, 2023

I’m a new Skillshare Teacher!

2023-08-16T12:08:54-05:00Classes & Teaching, UpcomingClasses|Comments Off on I’m a new Skillshare Teacher!

I’m super excited to announce that I have my first class available on Skillshare.

This is something I’ve been working on and thinking about for a long time. I’m absolutely going to continue teaching in all the places you love online and in the community, but I have been looking for a way to get my classes in front of more people. Social media algorithms are impossible for independent makers like me to get things seen by new people and I thought that Skillshare would be a great place to find potential students who were already looking for classes. Accessibility is an important value to me, so I didn’t like the idea of students only being able to participate via a paid subscription, which is why I’m really happy to add this as one more way to be able to offer lots of different classes in different ways. Students have asked me for years if I am on Skillshare and I can finally say YES!

Since I started working on my first class, I have watched a bunch of other Skillshare classes and I am enjoying them a lot! The way Skillshare works is that you get an annual subscription and you can participate in as many classes in as many different topics as you want to. I’ve watched classes on video editing, watercolor, sewing sock gnomes, and bookbinding. There’s a brand new teacher that’s doing one about seed saving that looks interesting and I am just waiting for that one to launch. Teachers have to audition to teach on the platform, so you know that they are pretty passionate about what they are teaching. It was totally intimidating making that intro video and hoping it would be good enough!

I also believe in transparency. Part of the way my class gets seen on Skillshare is through interaction, which means I have to tell people about it. So this is a referral link that says I sent you there, which helps Skillshare see that I am doing my part to promote my classes too. That also gets you a free 1 month trial (think of how many classes you could take in a month!) I would love it if you would interact with my class there in any way: bookmark it, register, follow me as a teacher, sign up for the trial. Everything helps show the algorithm that people are interested!

Why did I start with Embroidered Ice Cream Cones? Skillshare put out a list of their most requested classes and hand embroidery classes were on the list. These ice cream cones are a fun project that’s not just a boring beginning sampler of straight lines of stitches. I think embroidery lends itself to online classes so well. You can really see how to make the stitches close up and you can repeat the video as many times as you need to see how something works. I’m already thinking about the next class. I think it might be a pond with waterlilies and lilypads. What would you like to learn?

7 August, 2023

Pattern Review: Itch to Stitch Santorini Tank

2023-08-07T12:47:53-05:00Fabric Reviews, Sewing & Design|1 Comment

It’s been about 5 years since I have sewed something just for myself, just for fun. That seems crazy to me, but I think the last one was a dress for my sister’s wedding. I do a lot of sewing for my business, so the machine has put in the miles, but the only things I have made have been basically business related.

I realized that I wanted to just spend a day sewing for me. So I went on a search for some fabric that was not something I had designed and was something a little special. I have had great luck ordering some Indian cotton fabrics on Etsy. I ordered several yards of block printed cotton from this shop. It’s lovely. Smooth, soft, washed beautifully. Exactly what I wanted for a blouse.

I was going to make a favorite tank pattern (Gemma by Made by Rae) which I have made several dozen of over the years, but I needed to do an adjustment to the pattern because my body just isn’t the same shape it was 10 years ago and I was just feeling like I wanted to sew and not do math. So I was doing a little searching and this pattern popped up in my feed and I had to try it.

The Santorini Tank by Itch to Stitch. So much to love: the interesting seam lines, the button detail on the side. The fact that this pattern comes in sizes 00-40 and 4 different cup sizes! I’ve made one other pattern by Itch to Stitch before and I loved it, so I was pretty sure it was going to be great.

It took me about 4 1/2 hours to tape the pattern pieces together, cut out and sew my first one. I chose a size 12, C cup based on measurements but I have decided that it has more ease than I prefer, so I will go down at least a size in the future. (I made two; you’ll see that later.) I found vintage shell buttons in my stash, which were perfect.

What I love:

  • It has a great way of stitching the armhole facings “burrito style” and a link to a blog post about how to do it if the instructions are confusing to you.
  • The finishing details were really thoughtful. No weird raw edges on the inside.
  • Great instructions with lots of links to extra help.
  • The fit/shape is awesome.

My adaptations:

  • The pattern calls for 5 – 1/2 inch buttons which felt like not enough to me. I did 7 and they were slightly larger.
  • My sewing machine had issues stitching the two buttonholes right at the top because of the extra/varying thickness of fabric there. Not the fault of the pattern, but I might think about how I could tweak that construction a little bit so I don’t need to seam rip buttonholes out. (Argh!)
  • Eleventy-one pins really does make all the difference in making a curved hem lay nice and flat. I used the hemming method from the Gemma Tank which I mentioned up above, because I have had success with that before.

And then I made another one!

I also had a piece of Atelier Brunette Viscose Crepe which I got from Wyldwood Creative. She “unboxed” it live on Instagram and I ordered it that day. I love this vintage style print and texture. See a photo below. The one I chose is Lucie Cedar (green); she also has it in a blue and a gold/peach color. I had never seen this fabric in person before so I felt like this was a little leap of faith and I was absolutely rewarded! It is so gorgeous.

I decided to take another chance and I threw the fabric in the washer and dryer when it got here. Spoiler alert: that is not what the washing instructions tell you to do. But if I am making a garment, I will need to wash it and it’s going to end up in the laundry at some point no matter how carefully I try to remember to pull it out for special treatment. That’s just how it works at my house. I lucked out. It came out great with my not-following-the-instructions treatment.

For this one, I didn’t have enough fabric to do the button band and I decided with this very drapey fabric and busy print that it wouldn’t be a good match anyway. But I loved the way this pattern went together, so I just decided to make up another one and sew up the side seam, skipping the buttons. I could slip the other version on over my head without unbuttoning, so I didn’t need to invent another kind of closure.

The first version I made was too large in the bust for me and so I took it in as I was fitting/stitching. Instead of doing that again for this one, I reprinted the pattern and went down a size, so this is a size 10 C cup. I took about an inch in on either side on the previous version, so I just looked for a new size combo that was that much smaller. I loved how I could look at the chart of all of the combos of garment size measurements and find exactly what I needed. Ultimately, I chose to size down overall vs changing to a B vs a C cup (which also could have worked).

This one is close to a perfect fit. The bust still feels like it gapes a little at the underarms so if I do another, I might just swap out the B cup pieces but stick with this size and see if that makes it just right for me. Otherwise it’s just a little pattern tweak.

This is my favorite kind of top with some skinny jeans and a light cardigan when the weather gets cooler. So I can see myself making many more in this style and using some of my Spoonflower fabrics. With the button detail I think I would choose lawn or sateen. Without the buttons, poly crepe de chine would be very similar to this viscose crepe.

27 July, 2023

Wonder what to do with Spoonflower Wallpaper Swatches? Make a book!

2023-07-27T17:22:49-05:00Spoonflower & Fabric Design, Tutorials|1 Comment

I made a handful of these for holiday and graduation gifts this year and I wanted to share this fun idea! I ordered a swatch of Spoonflower’s peel-and-stick wallpaper a few weeks ago because I am thinking of updating a backsplash behind the stove in my kitchen. It’s currently wallpapered in peel-and-stick, which I did about 4 years ago and it looks awesome, but I wanted to change it up for something different. So, I ordered a swatch of this design by red_tansy but as soon as I got the swatch I realized the scale was too large for my tiny space. So I ordered another in a smaller scale.

But what to do with this leftover swatch? The answer for me is to make a book! I learned to make coptic sketchbooks a little more than a year ago at a class at the MN Center for Book Arts. I fell in love. These are fast to make and I love the exposed stitching on the binding. In our class, we tore the paper down from larger sheets which gives the pages a torn organic edge, which I also think is so pretty. I love all of the “imperfections” that make these really look handmade. I’m going to start teaching these as a class soon, but if you are interested in making a sketchbook like this, check out StoneBurnerBooks on YouTube. Her tutorials are fantastic.

The paper I have for the inside pages tears down beautifully to make pages for a book that is 4×5 inches, which is a nice pocket size. That also means that you need just a piece of wallpaper 5×12 inches to make the covers, which you can get easily from a 12×24 wallpaper swatch. The peel-and-stick wallpaper is durable and water resistant, which is ideal for a book cover. I know this is going to hold up to use.

If you’ve used Spoonflower’s peel-and-stick wallpaper in the past, they’ve got a new substrate in the last year and it’s very different than the previous one. I love it. Get a swatch! The new wallpaper takes a crease better and it is stickier than the previous version. It’s still removable if you use it on the wall, but that makes it even more usable for craft projects like this. Which is the way I use it most often.

I made the covers from a lighter weight book board and wrapped the outside in peel-and-stick wallpaper. For the inside endpapers, I used a scrap of gelli plate printed paper that I just made in another class. The colors were so perfect when I saw it on the table that I had to choose it. The PVA glue I used for the endpapers sticks nicely to the wallpaper, so you don’t have to worry about it peeling up from that slightly glossy wallpaper surface. I let the glue dry overnight under weight to make sure the boards did not warp, but the whole book went together in just a couple of hours.

When I made these for holiday & graduation gifts, I scaled down several of my own designs on Spoonflower so they would be the right scale for a small book cover like this. That’s easy to do. And with one swatch I can make half a dozen covers easily.

26 June, 2023

My Favorite Hand-Embroidery Threads: Eleganza Perle Cotton & Kreinik Very Fine Braid

2023-06-26T18:42:27-05:00Classes & Teaching, Embroidery|2 Comments

I’ve been teaching a weekly online embroidery class for more than a year now and although my regular students know my favorite threads, I thought it would be great to talk a little more about them outside of class. I do a LOT of hand embroidery on both paper and fabric so I use threads nearly every day. I just finished a large project using all 6-stranded DMC floss, which is probably the kind of thread that most people are familiar with, but it turns out that it’s not my favorite one. So, let me tell you about the ones that are my favorites.

Eleganza Perle Cotton

The threads shown on the left side above are all #8 Eleganza Perle Cotton made by Wonderfil. They have had artist Sue Spargo design a line of colors for them and these are my absolute favorite threads to stitch with. Perle cotton is a little different than 6-stranded embroidery floss. Instead of 6 strands, perle cotton has only 2 and they are meant to stay twisted together; you don’t separate them like you can with floss. The threads are incredibly smooth and shiny and I don’t think they knot up as easily when you stitch them. The variegated colors are particularly nice because the color changes are pretty close together, so when you stitch the color changes often and you don’t get long stretches of the same color. There are also some unusual color combos in the variegated threads, like this one called “Conga Line” which I like when I am stitching.

Pictured are Welsh Poppy EZ16 (orange), Paradise Blue EZ10 (blue), Conga Line EZM47 (variegated), Mounted Trousers EZ57 (deep green).

Kreinik #4 Very Fine Braid

I have tried so many different metallic threads over the years and they are always stiff, rough and fray easily. They are difficult to stitch with and some stitches just look ugly because of the stiffness of the threads. The Kreinik braids are completely different. They are still a little more challenging than perle cotton, but the #4 Very Fine Braid is much smoother and easier to stitch with. They are sturdy and they don’t leave your piece feeling rough and scratchy. The threads are very sparkly and come in so many colors. It’s not just silver, gold, red and green! I usually get mine on Etsy because Kreinik doesn’t sell directly from their website, but it’s pretty easy to find.

Pictured above are Gold 002, Vintage Burgundy 153V and Aquamarine 684. “Golden” Mrs. Santa shown below is from a pattern by mmmcrafts, stitched by me.

16 May, 2023

Finished (almost)!

2023-05-31T14:07:11-05:00Construction|2 Comments

Our construction project is all-but-finished and so I thought it would be fun to look back with some before and after photos. The only thing left to finish is the stucco on the outside of the dormer and that should be happening in the next few weeks.

For those that haven’t been following my series, the quick recap is that about 18 months ago, the pressed fiber tile ceiling on our second floor died of old age and fell down all over the bedroom and office that we had up there. We worked with my dad, a retired architect, to rethink the space; took months to find a contractor and get on his schedule; and in October, we finally started fixing the mess. Instead of just repairing, we decided to add a bathroom and replace all of the windows. The previous space was like a cave. There were no overhead lights, ancient insulation, and everything was covered with knotty pine paneling. We had been intending to update this space for about 20 years (not kidding) and we’d been saving up for it, but some other project always came up with more urgency (like replacing the furnace) and so it wasn’t until the house decided to self destruct that it forced us to jump in.

The previous photos are a before and after of the space. The following photos are the brand new spaces we created by cutting a giant hole in our roof where you see that row of closets. We added a second dormer, which made the ceiling high enough to add the bathroom and window seat.

One of the last fun details I added was to design some wallpaper for the inside of our linen cabinet. When they demolished the old walls and insulation, they pulled out huge booklets of newspaper from the 1920s that were used to insulate between the floors. It was very fragile, but I went through pages and pages and cut out all of the advertising that had to do with soap, toilet paper, and beauty products. I put together a collage of these that was about 24″ square and made a repeating pattern. The cabinet and drawers of this beautiful vintage furniture piece are now lined with this wallpaper, which delights me every time I open a drawer.

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