Archive for August, 2013

T-shirt Tiles

In junior high and high school I did technical theater for a lot of plays. And, of course, we got a t-shirt for every play we were in, so I have a lot of them. (Add to that the fact that the BF was in most of those shows with me so he has all the shirts too… that’s a lot of t-shirts!) I’ve been saving them for years, and my mom had sort of vaguely agreed to make me a t-shirt quilt or something with them, but neither of us ever got real excited about it. Then, in prepping for the Fiber Arts Festival, my mom started playing with t-shirt yarn and decided she wanted to demonstrate re-using t-shirts for the Festival. So we pulled out my old t-shirts and she said she’d work on them. Then she asked me if I really wanted a t-shirt quilt or if I wanted something more interesting. Well, I just want to be able to hang them up and show them off so I told her to do whatever she can come up with, as long as you can see the designs. And this is what she did!

It’s hard to know what to call them, but I think t-shirt tiles works quite nicely. They’re much more interesting, and feel more sophisticated, than a t-shirt quilt, and I can intersperse them with pictures on the walls! Of course, I haven’t put them up on the walls yet, but I’m just really bad at committing to wall decorations. No other commitment issues, just with wall decorations. Also, I’m pretty sure there’s at least one show shirt missing, and I may see if I can get her to do something like this with some of my other commemorative t-shirts, if we can find them that is. They’re kind of missing.


A little bit about the construction of the tiles. Obviously they’re the front of t-shirts that have been cut up, but because t-shirts are very stretchy (and they’re going on stretcher bars) she put a stabilizer on the fabric before she mounted it. Then it’s just wrap it around the stretcher bars and staple like crazy! I’m quite amazed at her skill at getting things on the stretcher bars just right, I know I’d be messing it up 5 different ways, and there would be a lot of swearing before anything got finished. Anyway, here are some details of the back of the pieces, to give you an idea of the construction.


Beauty and the Breast

This is the project I was working on on Monday.  And I think it is the first project I have ever finished, looked at, and just plain liked. But before we get to the pictures, here’s some explanation. The piece is for another challenge show, and here’s the prompt I got:

Beauty and the Breast

Breast shapes appear ubiquitously in nature.  Rounded, small hills. Grand, pointed peaks. A profile line moving softly around a curve. Spirals wrapping toward a center point. These shapes repeat in manifold patterns, reminding us of the breast in human form.

How does our identity as women and “breasted-beings” affect the way we understand and interact with others?  Breasts are both subject and object; a source for life; pleasure; compassion, fullness and sacrificial giving. Cradling life from the beginning to the end, we hold close to our breasts the experience of life.

In this exhibit, we invite you to view studies of the line, form or pattern of the breast worked on 8×8 or 12 x12 canvases.  These canvases stir the imaginative link between breast as shape and the reality of human form. Together with the larger pieces they invite you to ponder “who can deny the beauty of the breast?”

I wasn’t all that excited about it at first, and I definitely couldn’t think of anything. Really I just kept picturing hills and thinking that’s what everyone’s going to do, and it’s just not interesting. Then I got to thinking about how you could make it like really, slap-you-in-the-face kind of explicit that the hills are breasts, and I got an idea I loved. So first, here’s a drawing I finally did of what the piece actually ended up as.


Before I did the drawing, I tried just starting right in felting, and it went badly. I tried to get it like what I was picturing in my head, but it just wasn’t right, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and was just so frustrated I almost totally gave up. Looking back at the pictures, it’s not so bad, and if I hadn’t been very definitive in what I wanted, it could have been usable. But then I was talking to my mom about it, and she suggested doing the piece in 2 parts, since what I was having trouble with was that the image in my head was rectangular, and the space I was working with was square. I was uncertain about that at first because there’s a bit in the center of the piece that is very important, but she suggested basically sliding it all to one side, so you don’t get the full curve of the hills and the whole scene is a bit off-center. I figured that at least that would look all artsy, then when I drew it out I decided it looks pretty cool.

My first attempt

My first attempt

So I pulled that apart, and actually cut the background down to 8″ rather than 12″, which I originally thought would be too small, but turned out to be juuuust right (which makes me think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears). That seems to be the moral of this whole project, even if it doesn’t seem like it will work, it might just turn out perfect. So here are the pictures of the finished project, and then I’ll give some explanation of the piece itself.

I was rather concerned about getting the pieces lined up right with each other, and getting the temples the right shape, so I copied reference marks from my drawing onto the fabric, and checked and double checked that everything lined up. The hills went much easier than I expected cause I didn’t felt them down as tightly as I thought I’d need to. And the temples went just right. First I put the black outline down, then I basically colored it in with the roving, and I was so happy with how they came out! The people were rather tricky because they’re so tiny. The head of each figure is only slightly bigger than the felting needle itself, so the roving kept getting just pushed through a hole in the background rather than felting to it. It took a bit of tricky felting, but I made it work.

For the show, we are supposed to write a short story to go with the piece. I thought this might be the hardest part, but when I got the idea for the piece, the beginning of the story came with it. The exact wording of the story was a bit trickier, however, and may still change, but here is the current version.

            The Temples had always been at odds. They both believed the female form to be sacred, but disagreed on what that meant. The Left Temple believed the mystery of the female body should be preserved, and therefore covered as much as possible. Their rituals were mysterious, and always solemn. The Right Temple believed the sacred form should be celebrated and shared with all. They wore little clothing and conducted their rituals outside as often as possible, sharing and explaining them with anyone and everyone. They probably would have just ignored one another, but they were each on one of a pair of hills that they both considered to be a holy place, and so they hated each other.

One morning a stranger appeared at the Left Temple. This stranger asked many questions about their beliefs, and hoping for a new disciple, the priestesses gladly answered the stranger’s questions. As the morning wore on, the priestesses became frustrated with the stranger’s insistence that to always hide the sacred would lead to people forgetting about it, or believing it to be obscene. Finally, in their frustration, they told the stranger to leave and join the rest of the heretics on the other hill.

That afternoon the same stranger came to the door of the Right Temple. She asked many of the same questions, and the priestesses gladly answered them, as they would answer anyone’s questions. Even the Priestesses of the Right began to become frustrated as the stranger questioned their beliefs, pointing out that if the scared form is always seen and flaunted then it would become simply part of life, and unremarkable. They too told the stranger to leave, and join the charlatans on the other hill.

The next morning both temples awoke to discover that in the night a bridge had been built between the two hills. They all rushed outside to see the bridge, and were outraged that the other Temple would have the audacity to build such a bridge. The High Priestesses of each temple decided to cross that damned bridge and give the other Temple a piece of her mind! As both Priestesses attempted to cross the bridge at the same time, they inevitably met in the middle. They glared at each other for a moment in the wind between the hills, although the Left Priestess had trouble seeing through her blowing hair. Just as the Left Priestess opened her mouth to inform the other Priestess what she thought of this bridge, she noticed the Right Priestess was shivering. Being a compassionate woman, she swallowed her ire and offered the other Priestess her jacket, knowing she herself would be warm enough with the extra covering of her dress. With a small smile of thanks the Right Priestess accepted the jacket, and in return offered her hair tie for the Left Priestess’s blowing hair.

And so began a discussion and exchange of ideas that began an era of peace between the two Temples. The Temples both changed, although there are still differences, and they no longer hate one another.

As I worked I realized the story is sort of a metaphor for my relationship to my own body. I have felt many times that the shape of my body is a nuisance that should be hidden as best as possible to avoid being treated differently, especially when I was a teenager. But in many ways our culture tells us that a woman’s body should be seen, generally as a sex object, and that a resourceful woman will use her body shape to get her way with men. As I’ve grown up, I think I have been able to find a middle road, accepting my body, but not exploiting it.

I am glad that I decided to make a piece for this show, both because of what I learned about myself, and because I just love this piece! I don’t know what it is, but it is very visually appealing to me, and feels like the most artistic piece I’ve done. It’s also the first piece I’ve done that, when I finished it, I looked at it and thought “that looks good” rather than noticing all the little details that weren’t how I pictured them, or all the little mistakes. I think this even beats out Serenity for my favorite piece I’ve made. As always, I would love to know what you think of it!

Fiber Arts Fest recap

The Fiber Arts Festival this past weekend went amazingly! I don’t know the official numbers yet, but I heard we had around 400 people on Saturday, which is right on par with last year. I had so much fun. I was demonstrating needle felting, which is what I always do, which is just crazy hectic and busy. I don’t just demonstrate needle felting myself, I teach people and let them try as well, so I tend to end up with two tables full of people learning to needle felt. I believe I had 8, maybe 9, stations set out with foam and felting needles and they were all full throughout most of both days. It is fun but exhausting. I love people’s reactions, the adults are always amazed at how easy it is, and the kids just love the colors and making pictures. And of course everybody enjoys getting to stab things with a needle. But I think my favorite part is to see the things that people make. I don’t usually think of taking pictures of the stuff that gets made, but this year I got a few.

We also have an exhibit every year, and this year we got lots of amazing pieces. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to really see everything because I only managed to see the exhibit Friday night while we were putting it up, and several of the pieces arrived Saturday morning. So I missed getting pictures of some things, but I’ll post a few of the pictures I did get, because the pieces are beautiful. I entered my Serenity and a group of hedgehogs (the ones that are in town) and managed to win the People’s Choice award for the hedgehogs. And really, how can you compete with multicolored hedgehogs? My mom said all of the entries got some votes though, so people enjoyed all of them, which is a great thing. The exhibit doesn’t have any sort of judging component, so there is no first place or anything, just the People’s Choice award, which is something I really like, people should be able to share their work without worrying about being told it’s not good enough.

I always try to get at least a half hour to an hour each day to wander look around at the other demonstrations and the vendors. I got quite a bit of new roving, and had lots of fun chatting with all the vendors. And I discovered this great little company in Fargo called Modern Textiles. Once I saw their postcard I realized that I’d seen it sitting around my mom’s house, but never really looked at it. I talked quite a bit with Connie, one of the owners, and she was very nice and extremely enthusiastic. They’re looking at opening up a storefront in town and she asked if I would be interested in teaching embroidery classes there, which would be so cool! She was talking with my mom quite a bit about the ideas they have for the store and it all sounds so cool! I’m really hoping it’s part of a trend toward the local craft/art culture growing, cause we really need that.

All in all the weekend was a big success and lots of fun! And after 10 hours of sleep last night I am feeling very much recovered from the hectic lead up and then very little sleep for the weekend. And I am feeling really inspired, finally! Apparently what I needed was a weekend full of fiber and talking with fun crafty types to get the creative juices flowing again, because today I sat down and worked for two hours on a project that I’ve been trying to get done for a month or so. And it felt like I was only working for about 10 minutes! Hopefully the inspiration lasts, and now I’m totally going to go and spin for the first time in over a year to take advantage of all this creative energy I’ve got!

Yarn bombing!

Preparations for the Fiber Arts Festival continue apace! Hehe, I’ve always wanted to use that phrase, it’s fun. For the Festival we decorate the park with some yarn bombing, and this year my mom had the idea to put afghans up on the fence that is around the park. You know, for publicity and stuff. So today my brother and I went out and helped her put up the afghans, along with some crocheted sleeves on a few trees and poles. And now, pictures of the yarn bombing!

Kumihimo Kits

Goodness I am behind on posting, sorry. The slow posts will probably keep up at least until after the Fiber Arts Festival (August 10 and 11!) and maybe a week or so beyond. I just don’t have any projects done or any new ones starting cause I’m busy getting ready! But I mentioned the kumihimo braiding kits in my last post so I figured now would be a good time to explain them more in depth.

So my mom wrote the instructions in the kit. And she cuts out the foam cards that the braid is worked on, as well as cutting all the strings, which is good cause I don’t have the patience for that. Or the string. So she prints the instructions, sticks them in the nice little plastic bag with the foam thing, two sets of strings, and either a clip or a keychain ring. And then she gives them to me.



So then I double check the number of strings in both sets (I started doing this after discovering a kit that was short a string in one set, so I figured I should double check them all), and get one braid started. I like to give the braids a fancy loop at the top around the hardware so I start by making a knot in the middle of the strings and doing a short braid on one half of the strings, with the knot on the other side of the card.

Once I have a braid that looks long enough to loop around the hardware and still have a little slack, I untie the knot, put the hardware on the braid, and loop the hanging parts of the strings back up to the top of the card, through the hole. This is the hardest part of the whole process cause it’s hard to get things to stay in place. Once I have all the strings on the top of the card I re-distribute so that the top and bottom halves of each string are in the same slot in the card.

Then I start braiding again. I like to braid just until the strings are sitting nicely in the slots and there is enough of the braid that you can see there is a smaller loop and a bigger main braid.

The braiding is done by taking the third string to the right of the empty slot and moving it to the empty slot. And then repeating that over and over and over and over and over… It gets kind of repetitive when I’m making a lot of the kits. This makes a pretty small braid, great for using as a decorative cord or a drawstring, but you can make much bigger and much more complex braids using the kumihimo technique. There are all different kinds of patterns, including flat braids like the one in the picture of the kit I got at the Fiber Arts Fiesta.

That’s the kumihimo kits in a nutshell. They’re pretty easy to make and kids just love them so they go like crazy. Now I’ve just gotta quit procrastinating and work on the second bag my mom gave me to finish, too bad I don’t have another long car trip or a boring job with time to sit working on them, *sigh*.


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