Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Mother’s Day

A little while after I started actually writing here again, after the crazy year of craziness (yes, I totally just called it that), one of the blogs I read posted a sort of “how to blog better” list of tips for new bloggers. One of those tips was to make a list of 100 (I think, don’t remember exact number) post topics to write about on your blog so that you’re never trying to come up with something when you want to post. Thinking this sounded like a great idea, but not expecting to come up with quite that many ideas, I started making a list of things I could post about when I didn’t have a current project to post, and promptly wrote down about 5 things. That was rather disappointing, but I did manage to expand the list to 15 or 20 items, and still add to it occasionally as ideas occur to me. I mention this because one of the topics I came up with was my mother. I talk about my mom a lot when I talk about my crafting, which makes sense to me for reasons I’ll go into in a moment, and it occurred to me that I could easily write a whole post on why she is so awesome, and of course including a bit about the crafting she does. So I’ve been thinking about that post in the back of my mind and when I realized Mother’s Day was coming up (and that I didn’t have a present for her, although I hope I’ve gotten her a card by the time I post this) and that would be just the perfect time to tell you all about my mom and the wonderful effect she has on my life.

In terms of crafting, I think of my mom primarily as a quilter as, I think, do most people who know her. Not surprisingly then, she got me started sewing at a young age, in fact I don’t even remember when she taught me to sew. But I do know that in kindergarten we had a place where we could sew little pieces of fabric together and I was already ahead of everybody else in that department, so it was probably before that. Her workroom is on the third floor of my parents’ house (yes it has a third floor, it’s a pretty big house) and I’ve loved going up there as long as I can remember. She’s got shelves of fabric on the walls in lots of different colors, and boxes of all kinds of crafting stuff, and when I was a kid I loved to look at it all and always wanted to play with it, which I think I did sometimes. Of course, half the fun of her workroom is seeing what project she’s currently working on, cause she does some awesome stuff. (She’s gonna kill me for some of these pictures…but they’re some of the stuff I love about her workroom and growing up in a house surrounded by her art)

I think I must have spent a lot of time bugging her in her workroom cause that’s how my first quilt got made, she wanted me to leave her alone enough for her to work, and I remember her teaching me to embroider because I was hanging out there with her and I needed something to do. But her teaching me new techniques, and encouraging me to learn them on my own, definitely didn’t stop when I got older and didn’t spend as much time in her workroom anymore. When I first learned to knit I was only taught the knit stitch, so I was doing lots of garter stitch scarves (garter stitch is what you get when you just knit) and was convinced I couldn’t do anything else unless I had somebody to teach my how to purl (which is the only other stitch in knitting). At that point I didn’t have anybody to teach me because I didn’t know any other knitters, and my mom just kept telling me to try it cause I could figure out how to purl by myself. And what do you know, it worked! And she even let me teach her to knit when I was so excited about knitting that I would have even tried to teach the dog to knit if he’d had thumbs, even though she didn’t enjoy knitting at all and didn’t really want to learn. But my favorite story of her encouraging me to try different crafts is when she got me started on needle felting. It was actually a Christmas present, I had a box from her and I opened it up and it was several balls of roving and this tool for a technique I had never even heard of before. She said she had heard a lot about it and thought I would like it, so when she saw the tool and wool at Hobby Lobby she got them for me so I could try it. Now I think plenty of people would look at that gift and be disappointed, but I was so excited, and I know that it never even occurred to my mom that I wouldn’t like it, because she would have loved a present like that too. And I just love how we can be on the same wavelength with crafting stuff like that so well.

I say my mom is a quilter, and she definitely is, but that’s not all she does, and she doesn’t really do your traditional bed quilts. She makes art quilts, and art not-quilts (I have no idea what else to call them), that are some of the coolest pieces I have ever seen. She just sits down to play with a piece of fabric, often that she has hand-dyed herself, and maybe some beads or some embroidery thread and ends up with this amazing piece of art, and I just don’t know how she does it. She will still do more traditional quilts if she has a reason to, she made me a quilt in college, cause I asked her to, that I just love, but mostly she does the art quilts, I think she gets bored with the traditional patterns. And she does so much other fiber crafting. A few years ago she got interested in natural dying and spent the next couple years experimenting with all kinds of things. She ordered indigo powder and thought about trying to grow indigo of her own, but decided it wouldn’t work, she tried growing woad to dye with, she collected hundreds (maybe thousands) of marigolds from her friends with gardens to use for dying, she used the rhubarb from the backyard, and I think she even tried dying with the vines that grow on my parents’ house. It was so fun to see the results, even though lots of them ended up being different shades of browns and yellows, and it was even better to see her get so excited about it! Her excitement for crafting is just contagious. Although my dad wasn’t real crazy about all the natural dying, boiling all the plants and stuff tends to smell pretty terrible and stunk up their whole house, but he’s gotten used to not really having any say when my mom gets started on fiber stuff.

She learned to crochet when she was younger, and recently she started crocheting again. I’m  not sure what sparked her interest again, but I do know one of the things she started doing with crochet pretty quickly is yarn bombing. She has made lots of different crocheted sleeves for the lamp post outside their house, usually changing them with the season or holidays, and has made a couple for friends as well. She’s made sleeves for all the lamp posts on their block that she’s going to put up for the local marathon this year, because it goes right past their house. Every sleeve is different, and many are quite fancy looking, including some crocheted flowers she’s sewn onto them. For a while she was making a lot of crochet flowers and leaves from a book she had gotten, one of which I wore in my hair at my college graduation, and which she’s added on to random other things she’s made.

She does, and has tried, so many other fiber things I could go on and on about it all, and that’s just the stuff I’ve seen her do, but I think the best part of it all is that she shares, and wants to share, all her crafting with other people. She’s part of a group of quilters who get together once and month to share what they’re doing and create challenges for themselves to try new things. She gets together with her friends all the time to try new things or share the new techniques she’s been playing with. She is always happy to show me how to do stuff, and is the first place I think to go when I want to try some new technique or do something weird with a technique I know, and she has always been happy to teach my friends too. She teases me sometimes about how I wanted to teach everyone to knit when I first learned, but I think I got that urge to share from her. But I think the biggest way she shared her love of fiber is by starting the Fiber Arts Festival in our home town 4 or 5 years ago (I honestly don’t remember how long it’s been now!). The website has a much better description than I can give you here, but it’s basically a place for fiber artists to get together and play with fiber, while sharing the techniques they love and learning new ones. And of course there’s a little shopping too. Sometimes I look at it and can’t believe that my mom started something that’s gotten so big, it just feels surreal, but I love it.

So happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you, and if I haven’t made you tear-up a bit with the post, I’ll try harder next year ;-). And since I should have tried looking at my mom’s facebook pictures before I was most of the way through this post, here are some more pictures of her stuff that I found on her facebook, quite a few of which I had never even seen before. She is just full of surprises even after I’ve know her for 23 years (or maybe 20 that I really remember).

Since I couldn’t post a link in the picture caption, here‘s a link to the Periodic Table project from the picture.

KaCBW Day Five: Something a Bit Different

Today’s post is in a different format than usual.

50 posts

Stupid program I used to create the graphic didn’t tell me they’d put their name *all over* my entire picture, grumble grumble

KaCBW Day 4: Colour Review

The prompt for today: “What are your favourite colours for knitted or crocheted projects. Have a think about what colours you seem to favour when yarn shopping and crafting.” I think I tend toward two different sets of colors when I’m just buying yarn because it’s pretty and when I’m making a project. (I think I’ll leave needle felting out of consideration for this one cause the colors I use in needle felting tend to be based on the colors of objects in the real world, not my own choices.) When I’m just buying yarn because it’s pretty, which is most of my stash, I think I tend to go with mostly blues and greens, and the occasional bright red or yellow, if it jumps out at me. Blue is the color I wear most, so I think that affects my yarn buying because there’s always that rationalizing voice in the back of my head saying something like I could make a hat out of this, or this would be great for that mitten pattern I found on Ravelry. Not that the theoretical projects get made very often.

So now I’m supposed to go look at my stash and see if I was right! *five minutes later* Ha! Just as I thought, mostly blues, although a surprising number of oranges, and lots of random single or pairs of balls of a big range of colors. There are especially a lot of partial balls of various jewel tones from the Hedgehogs.

Now in colors for projects, I think there’s a much bigger variation. Very few of my projects are clothing items, and of those even fewer are for myself, so I can be more adventurous and indulge my love of color. I really do enjoy bright colors, and will gladly put together a set of colors that make your eyes water but I think looks good, but I prefer not to call attention to myself so I don’t wear many bright colors. That just means I have to use all the bright colors in non-clothing items! Now let’s take a look at some of my projects and see if I’m right.

I’d say there’s a pretty good range of color there. The bright colors are mostly in the hedgehogs I guess, maybe that’s why I like them so much, but there’s even lots of colors in my first quilt! Yay for lifelong consistency!

So there you are, my color preferences, and a nice little review of my projects in the bargain.


I have clinical depression. I have been struggling with it for years but a couple weeks ago I had what my therapist called a “crying episode”. I call it a depression attack cause I think that describes it better. Basically it is a stretch of time where all I can do is cry, I can’t think or do anything else, even talk really. This inspired a new embroidery piece, pictures and description below.

This is the pattern I drew on paper first, to give myself a guideline for the piece.

I traced the pattern onto the fabric with pencil, the picture of that didn’t really come out, then I backstitched the outline in the correct colors.

I used chain stitch to create the texture of the hair. I wasn’t sure about using chain stitch but I couldn’t come up with a stitch that would give me a better hair texture. I was trying to think of something that would be a bit fluffy, but I couldn’t find a stitch like that. The chain stitch worked pretty well though.

The black is the depression. The central swirly bit is the overwhelming ache that is the biggest part of the depression attack. The jagged lines radiating from the swirl show how the ache spreads and takes over the whole body, and the whole person. The texture of the black lines turned out a lot more jaggedy and less smooth than I originally pictured, but I like it this way. The jagged edges seem more right than smooth lines.

I considered adding lines around the outline of the person, partly just to fill up the background, but decided not to. I have a tendency to make pieces overly complex, and I plan to make a custom sized frame for the piece that won’t leave a lot of empty background showing, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

After I had recovered some a friend (whose blog I will link to once she starts one! hint hint) sent me a link to make a bracelet with a reminder that “depression lies”. I printed the bracelet on paper like it’s intended but wanted a more comfortable one that would last longer so, with help from my mother, I printed out another one on fabric. I also printed one for my friend who sent me the link, which is what is in the picture, cause she needs the reminder too.




Embroidery Re-awakening

When I was a kid, my mom got me started on embroidery a little. I learned basic back-stitch and made one embroidered tea-towel and did some of a motif with pine trees (that’s really all I remember about that piece) but never got overly interested. I did a little more embroidery again in highschool when she got me and a friend to do some crazy quilting, but it still didn’t stick. Then several more years later when I was in college I did this awesome course we called Philosophy Camp. The course involved living in southwest Minnesota with the other students and instructors for a month and as part of that we did a lot of sharing of interests. One of the other students decided to do an embroidery project for her final project in the class, which was inspired by a story one of the instructors told about his grandmother, and I went with her into town when she bought the supplies for the project. Looking at the embroidery floss just really inspired me so I got the stuff to do it and had no idea what to embroider! Then I got one of the other students to draw a simple line drawing for me which I traced onto a tea-towel and off I went.

And so began my rediscovery of embroidery. And this time I’ve gotten pretty well hooked. This bit of the story is best told with pictures.

This is the piece I had my friend draw for me. It’s also the first piece I had embroidered for a long time and I’m quite proud of it. You may notice there’s some dirt on it. That’s because I use the towels I embroider and I feel strongly that they should be used. I make some fiber art just to be art but I really like to make all of my stuff tough enough to be handled and interacted with. And if I make something that has a purpose I want it to be used.

At first I felt constrained to pre-made patterns like this one. They’re very pretty and can be quite fun. I made one that was a man with a turnip for a head playing a string bass made of an eggplant which was neat. I can’t seem to find that one at the moment so I will have to post a picture later if I find it.

Then I branched out a bit to more custom patterns. This is one of a series of pieces I did of cocker spaniels that some family friends own. I had my same friend who drew the flowers for me draw the outline of the dog based off a picture and I traced the outline onto the fabric to embroider. I wanted to do several different dogs so after she did the first outline for me I changed the coloring outlines myself for each dog. This one isn’t finished yet but I already gave the one (or was it two?) pieces that I have finished to a friend for her wedding. I will be asking her for pictures but, again, I’ll have to post those later if I get them.

This is another of the dog series but this is one that I traced off of the picture myself. I don’t consider myself much good at drawing so I was iffy about trying this but I like how it turned out. It’s based on the more adorable picture that I’ll post here too.

Aren’t they adorable? I love dogs 🙂

This is one of a pair of cuffs I am embroidering for another friend. He and I are members of a medieval recreation group and he took over as president for the local chapter of the group so I decided I wanted to embroider something for him. In the group the symbol for the president is a key and the symbol for our specific chapter is a white snowflake on a blue background, hence the colors and design. This design I made myself. I found the basic shaped I wanted for the key online and then used that to make the pattern of interconnected keys. I haven’t actually finished these yet cause I decided I wanted the keys to shine so I’m using nice shiny nylon thread which is quite difficult to work with and does not cooperate.

This is sort of the culmination of my progressively increasing confidence in embroidery. I feel comfortable now not using a drawn out patterns and just using fancy stitches to embellish the existing design on the fabric. I just love the little sheep on this fabric.

My embroidery work has followed a progression of sorts from using commercial patterns to creating my own to working free-hand. Of course I will still gladly use commercial patterns, but it’s nice to be able to make my own and be confident enough to just improvise. I have lots more pieces than I’ve posted here but this post ended up much longer and more in-depth than I expected, so those will wait for other times. I do plan to do a tutorial post of sorts about creating my own patterns both by modifying commercial patterns and copying photos. I have several tutorial posts I’m thinking about so I may do one of the others before I do the embroidery tutorial.

Early beginnings

I’ve been around some amount of fiber arts my whole life. My mom is a quilter and has been for a long time, so she was always sewing on something. She taught me to sew long before I can remember and she owned a fabric store for a while, which we still visited a lot even after she sold it, so I spent a lot of time around fabric and buttons and sewing accouterments. I’m pretty sure I can attribute my love of buttons to this too. I still remember when we would go to the shop and I’d be bored so someone would take me back to the back room and give me this box of buttons to play with. I would happily sort them again and again, in many different ways, and always wished I could take those buttons home!

To get back on track, my mom’s hobby led me to making my first quilt when I was about 6 years old. I remember that I was bored, and my mom was in her work room, and I was annoying her, cause I was bored. So she handed me a piece of white fabric and a bunch of scraps, and told me to sew. So I sewed and sewed, and then put some buttons on it. And my mom put a backing on it for me, and voila! my first quilt. Which is named, aptly enough, the Button and Shape quilt. I’ve always been so creative with names, I’m sure you can tell. And here are pictures!

I’ve been trying different ways of doing the pictures in posts, including in this one. Please let me know what you think. Most of my early posts had the pictures as galleries which put them all on one line with smaller thumbnails. The last few posts have just had the pictures inserted which means they’re all on separate lines, take up a bit more space. I tried this one as a slideshow but the captions were an issue so I’m not sure about the slideshow, and I changed this post to a gallery.

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