Sunday, August 15, 2010

Drawing again

After making 27 loaves of bread, I finally decided we had enough bread in the freezer and after making 6 or 8 new pot holders, some new aprons, and things material that I can't recall right now, I found my way back to my drawing box. At first, being ever the optimist, I thought I'd practice a lot and fill up a drawing journal. Fool. I did three and was soon looking for something else. The attention span of a May fly.... ( Quick! Life is short! What can I learn next?!)
So, I found, at the bottom of my watercolor box, (I have boxes for everything) some 8 inch by 8 inch splattered paper made months ago for an on-line "Make a Journal" class with Dina Wakeley. Nice paper. Never quite made it to the journal stage. Well, the papers were just too pretty for my petty ramblings. It's craving Iambic Pentameter about the beauty and color of a life well lived... Instead, I picked up a few and saw a face in this one. It was barely a glimmer, but I saw a nice profile. This is the result of my classes with Mystele, who teaches "gut art". A fun, fun, fun way to create. Make a background, look for a story. Draw or paint it out as you see and feel it. Since I see faces in every car grill, tree shadow, pebble walk and popcorn ceiling pattern, this is a natural way to start. I was happy with my number 9 pencil. So much fun to smear! I love to use my fingers to smear. It feels like I am molding the face and not just drawing it.
See, I told you these papers are pretty.
 I also "saw" this face in the pattern of the colors. This time I used a fat graphite #9 pencil, but I really was looking for something darker. Since I am working on 140 lb. watercolor paper, it's difficult to lay in a really solid black line. But, it smudges nicely.
So, at the end of the day today, I did something new. I took out a stick of charcoal and quickly drew this face.
Now, this looks like Iambic Pentameter to me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Bread, bread, bread

Creating a lower fat diet took me back to my bread making days. I used to make bread for our family and truly enjoyed the whole process.
Bread flour is a soft, soft white and has a wonderful scent.
 My bread cookbooks all have a thin layer of flour even now, these fifteen years later.
Pans greased and flour dusted waiting to be filled with that living, rising, yeasty loaf. I can hardly wait to see the rise above the top of the pan.

And here is one of many being given its' own time in the oven to rise and bake and fill the house with the aroma of life giving goodness.

It's hard to describe what this smells like if you've never baked bread of your own.  You've  just got to try it.  It's amazing!


And the final product cooling on the counter. A Cornell Wheat Germ loaf that is so nutritionally balanced, it is said to sustain life if paired with a little butter, and maybe some jam and tea.       

Friday, June 18, 2010

Blessings and bumps in the road...

Finally! We get to meet our new granddaughter, Blanche! A family gathering in Boston for a Bat Mitzvah brings all from near and far.

 My son Aaron and his beautiful, wonderful, wife Alana and their four children under the age of 5 years take the trip from across the US to be there and we finally, finally, meet their newest family member, baby girl Blanche.  Isn't she just beautiful?

 This is us together at the night time party to celebrate the happy event of a Bat Mitzvah for Abigail, my husband's niece's daughter.

 Two hours later I was in an ambulance going to Beth Israel hospital with severe pain.  Thought is was a third heart attack. Not. Perhaps a kidney stone? Not. Maybe the gall bladder... most likely.
Sigh. The fun just doesn't end.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Lawn Skirt...

A few weeks ago I got some lawn fabric on sale. I've not played with this fabric type very much because it is so thin and needs some kind of lining. This week, however, I just kept seeing this skirt in my head. Multi-tiers of soft, gauzy, un-hemmed layers. Something my home ec teacher would be scandalized about. No hems?! It's going to ravel and fall apart! Well, maybe. I'm not exactly going to play football in it. Tree climbing isn't a current occupation and I have a washing machine that has a "handwash" cycle.

 I made this frothy beauty on Mother's day starting at 9 AM from the first cut of the bias, bleached muslin, A line skirt and lots of 6 inch strips of the lawn, sewing, gathering, and sewing until 12 Noon. A 90 minute break for a shower and lunch and I finished this skirt at 3:30 PM.

 Wore it out to dinner with the family at 5:30 and got raves.

What a perfect day.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Rose Painted Circles skirt -

Yeah! This skirt turned out just as I wished.  It is full, long and perfectly gathered. 
It sways when I walk. It swirls when the wind blows. It is graceful. It is Spring!
The top is my favorite knit pattern. A boat neck knit with 3/4 sleeves, I can cut it out and sew it together in l hour tops!
OK, so now I have 3 black, a purple, royal blue, rose, turquoise, yellow in addition to the new white one. Yes, this is a series....

When first beginning any project, I am tentative. How much water should I mix with the paint? Should the fabric be damp or dry? What kind of brush or foam tool will make the marks I want?
It all is a mystery until I get going and just relax into it.

And this is how it becomes what I am looking for. The paint, Pebeo transparent fabric paint, is mixed half paint and half distilled water.  The brush is a size 10 beautiful watercolor brush. The fabric is dry with a slight misting of water over it. And the best part is the drip, drip fling! of paint all over that pristine whiteness.

And here are seven panels of painted, heat set and cured pieces just waiting for me. I love this so much, I let it sit on my kitchen table for a whole week for my frequent admiring glance. I think every artist experiences this at times. The work, the worry, the play, the constant striving to understand tools and the whole process of making something work. There are times when the work needs to be put aside, forgotten, dismissed, let go for some inner work to be done. And then, on impulse one goes back to the tools, the ideas, the hopes and dreams and tries again to find that this time it works. It's like seeing an old friend after a time of separation. At first we are shy, but soon the love resurfaces and the interaction flows smoothly again.
Here is the gathering foot in action. I've been aggressive in my stitch length settings and the tension is tight! The fabric is gathering up so close together, each strip is making the most perfect layer. I'm loving every minute at my machine. This skirt took about 7 hours to put together, but boy, it was worth it.
The muslin I used for this project was only 36 inches wide and each strip was cut to 6 inches in width. I had to sew a lot of strips together for each tier of the skirt.
I like to count the number of strips needed for each tier as I go along and this skirt just mushroomed!
The bottom tier, number 7, used 11 panels of 6 inch wide fabric. At 36 inches in width that makes the final hem a whopping 396 inches!
Now that is truly a skirt to twirl around and around in on a sunny, Spring south Florida day!
And, wearing a skirt like this makes doing all the insurance claims work, referrals and check writing go just a little bit easier. Happy clothes make happy people.

Note to self: find out why what I see in my post as a draft has very little to do with the final post I see on my blog. I line comments up with my photos, but it sure doesn't  post out in the nice logical order I've created.   grrrr.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Handpainted, multi-tiered skirt: ta-dah!

Skirt front or back depending on what color top I wear.

This little skirt took about three weeks of little bits of time to put together.
The fabric painting was spread out over my lunch times at home. I could easily spread out a damp piece of fabric, open the slightly watered down paints and paint lines before having tea and a grilled cheese sandwich.

Or, if I was in the mood, I'd iron a panel or two to set the paint.

I made several panels and suddenly found myself impatient to begin putting the skirt together.

Skirt back? It's nice to have options...

First, a bias cut yoke for the top tier makes the skirt very comfortable to wear and it drapes nicely over round hips.

Next. Cut lots of six inch strips. I'm never sure how many I will use, so I cut at least 24. These were all 36 inches across.

Sew a few strips together and then begin the gathering. I have a gathering foot for my Janome machine and have learned that though it is the absolute easiest way to gather fabric, it is somewhat of a guessing game.

It works according to the stitch length and stitch tension settings. Big stitches and tight tension equals lots of gathers. However, the weight of the fabric is the one factor
that is the mysterious variable. You'd think that the heavier the fabric the more difficult it would be to gather under the foot.
Yes and no. I've made a few skirts of batik cotton and with each one, the machine settings were different for the amount of gathering that would be created.

Since this hand painted fabric was a very light muslin, I figured I'd have to go with less tension.
Not sew!

This fabric just didn't want to gather easily!!!
And it wasn't that the paint was in the way. This fabric paint is virtually unnoticeable on the fabric. I just does not change the "hand" of it at all. I'm sorry now that I was too tentative with my settings. I was afraid I would run out of fabric before getting to the last tier and so I ended up with a skirt that is not as "swingy" as I'd like.
My impatient self was very glad to finish with the elastic waist.
My perfectionistic self was unhappy with the final product.
Next: Fuchsia circles.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Painting yardage for skirts

Lately I've been using up my really old bottles of Pebeo Setacolor transparent fabric paints. This stuff is at least 8 years old. They've been in a box in my garage/studio waiting patiently, as all my art supplies do, for me to get back to using them.
I have a love/hate relationship with them.
I started out coloring fabric using Dupont Silk dyes when I had my prayer shawl business back in the 90's. That meant I had to stretch silk on big home made wood frames, paint the silk, steam it, rinse it out hoping there would be no back staining, and go from there.
The results of dye on silk were always, always beautiful, but I found, after hanging up some marriage canopies on my wall, the colors began to fade all too quickly.
Annoying after all the work done. And stretching silk by putting pins into the wood frame really, really hurt my fingers. I grew to hate it.
I was tempted by silk paint (paint not dye) because all one had to do to set the color was iron your fabric. However, there was always the matter of "hand". The "hand" of the fabric changed and became a little stiff. I didn't like it. At all.

I put all of those things away when I went to work as the office manager for my husband.
And, now I am back.
This time I am using bleached muslin on a plastic bag surface and am letting the paint, which had to be mixed with a lot of water because it had thickened out so much, just do its' thing. This is a lot of fun! I am using slightly damp fabric, a foam brush and five colors. I like fabric with a lot of white in the background. Being summer 10 months of the year here makes wearing all kinds of white things OK everyday.
Fixing the color is just a matter of 20 minutes in a hot dryer and my iron. One thing I've noticed though. The fumes from the heated paint make me a little nauseous. I moved a big fan to the left of my ironing board, so now that isn't such a problem.
This stack of fabrics with lines, flowers, stripes, drips, splotches and journaling with a black fabric marker, will make a wonderful multi-tiered skirt.
So now I love the paint and don't hate the "hand". This stuff just doesn't make any difference at all on how the muslin feels.
Hey, does anybody know where I can find out how to post using more photos? Maybe it's this version of Blogger, but it won't let me put in more than five photos per post. Time to learn more. Time for an upgrade.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Pentel Dye Sticks

This morning I got an e-mail from with the usual funny note about all the amazing stuff they have to color fabric. They sell everything you could possibly need to change plain fabric or clothing into something amazing.
One of the links led me to a video previously shown on You Tube about using Pentel dye sticks.
I was inspired!
I've had the dye sticks in my box of fabric paints, but have not done much with them.

I'm one of those people who order stuff on the net because I'm excited to try something and by the time it gets delivered, I've already moved onto something else.
Not a good trait.
However, it is so nice to have supplies right there when the urge to play comes back!
Today I took a pillow case right out of the linen closet and set to work.
Yeah, yeah, I know the fabric is supposed to be "scoured" and not a bit of fabric softener or other fragrant things are "allowed".

All the books say any softening agent will prevent color from sticking. But have you noticed how when you are painting and get some on your clothes, NONE of it comes OFF.
So, back from my morning walk, still seeing that little three minute video in front of my frontal cortex eyes, I find a small padded quilting thingy and stretch the pillow case over it so the fabric will stay in place as I work.

I must say I had a fine 30 minutes making these flowers. The dye sticks are so creamy! The red, pink, yellow and orange for the flower just glided onto the cotton. Two greens made a nice stem and leaf and I was ready to repeat.
The only problem I had was that since I work in my garage/studio, it tends to be the same temperature as outside. This morning it is about 76 degrees and the dye sticks are very soft. They got on my fingers and I had to be careful about leaving smudges.

However, smudges and imperfections are part of the beauty of anything that is handmade, so I didn't stress about it.
And, seeing a small crumb loose on the pillow case just lead to another flower near the top.
I'm going to let this this sit for a day and then heat set it.
This is going to look very pretty on our bed.
More! More! I HAVE to make more! This is really fun. Thanks Dharmatrading, for setting my soul alight.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hand painted stuff -

Have you ever visited Alisa Burke's blog? She has fun stuff to do all the time. Fun classes based on her book and all kinds of new crafty things to make or just look at and admire.
Go there - as soon as you can.

She is amazing.

Inspired by her "messy painting" techniques, I washed a couple of canvas totes that were beige and boring and turned them into these colorful bags.

This bag is for my "stuff". I got a lot of practice doing stencil painting and was surprised at how much I liked it.

Of course, following Melisa's lead, everything is supposed to be messy, so no rules are broken when you have blurred images.

Yeah! Freedom!

This is the first one I painted and got really strung out on hot pink and orange. Oh, how I love hot pink and orange.

See the black drips? Another very freeing technique that is fine to do on canvas because it is so sturdy.

It just doesn't matter that all this craft paint makes the tote a little stiff at first. Using it softens it right up.

This is the back. Looks like it could be the front, it's so pretty.

I also got some little totes to give to my grandchildren with matching coin purses, too.

If I stuff them with books, candy, toys and money, maybe they will actually use them!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Where did February go?

I can see why it would be wise to post as I finish things. The weeks do go by awfully fast and the reason I started this blog was just to keep a small journal of my art work wanderings.
But, then again, I never figured on working outside of my home at the time. That really does make a big difference in the way each day is used up.
Oh well, a short list of some of February when I wasn't at the office or working on those darn insurance claims and "explanation of benefits" payment distributions.

I took a delightful class on-line with Sharon Tomlinson at
She is a gifted teacher and has wonderful videos on how to use craft paints to paint portraits.
Her style is loose, but not doll like. She is careful to show you what colors she is using to do the shading as she goes along.
I highly recommend this class if you are interested in seeing shading in acrylic paint.
My samples were fun to do, but not as loose as I was aiming for. I still blend, blend, blend and end up with a lot more realism than I would like. Oh well, someday, I will make it the way I want - LESS CONTROLLED!!!!

Meanwhile back at our front yard, we now have a bunny. He apparently hopped over two streets to try out the cat food I leave for our feral feline friends.
(note to self- don't put food out for hungry animals no matter how cute they are. They will think you are their mama and will keep on coming back)
This all started in 1993 when our then 16 year old cat was not eating and just sitting out front on the roof waiting for the grim reaper. Instead, a fluffy, but starving and pregnant female showed up. They fell in love. I took her to the vet for surgery, shots and a bath. They stayed outside most of the time because she was mostly feral and didn't trust the closed in space of a house. Our cat, Tabby, started eating again. And playing, and cuddling with his beautiful lady friend. The food, however, had to be outside in order to fatten her up. Long story short- he lived 5 more years and every stray in the
"we sniffed your food" range came to stay.
Now we have about 8 feral cats, 4 neighborhood visitors and this bunny who shows up for three squares a day.
I love it. When I come home from work, it's almost dark and I see many golden eyes slanted my way, and much meowing sings me into my front door. When I return with food, I get a chance to pet their furry bodies while they chow down. Bunny tries to hump everybody, but he gets swatted quite smartly by each in turn. Eventually he quits sniffing bums and lines up around the plate to chew, chew, chew the Meow Mix.

It was my 64th birthday this month and boy am I glad. One more year and I can get Medicare!
Just kidding. But, no, really, I do need to get some kind of health insurance. Really.

This is what I did to take a break from making portraits in February. I started out with an old canvas covered with lots of color that I didn't want to try to fix. I layered it with lots of browns, scratched into the paint with a stylus and then just looked for what might want to be painted. Much to my surprise, this is what I saw. So following my gut, as Mystele teaches, ( another really great teacher with amazing and fun classes) I saw these figures on a grassy plain. I see Mother and child and a symbol of one's soul.
My husband saw faceless, hooded figures with a big bird. He's very literal.
Now he is very worried about me.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sew much more...

The good thing about having a meltdown; if it's an hour, a day, a week , a month or longer is that at some point you get sick and tired of being sick and tired.

That's when you say, "Self, what is it that you know how to do that always makes you happy?"

For me, it's sewing. And anything to do with looking at patterns always, always relaxes me.

If there is a death in the family, say one of our pets has died, after the burial, I have to find a pattern store. One day, in 1991 my son Joshua's pet rat died. We took it to the vet because she was sick. She was two years old and the vet said she was not eating because she was old and there was nothing we could do for her.

Well, my 13 year old son decided it would be in her best interest to have little Estey put to sleep.

We cried.

We went home, found a box and a towel, a shovel and a tree to plant. I shoveled some. He shoveled some. We cried.

Later, when my husband got home and Josh just wanted to veg out in front of the T.V., I went to the Rag shop and sat for two hours looking at pattern books. I may have bought a pattern or three. Some fabric. Some thread.

I felt better. The tree has beautiful yellow

flowers that attracts yellow butterflies. In the hurricane of 2005, it got pushed over on its' side.
It didn't die. It is still growing, pushed over on its' side.
Estey resides under the roots of the tree.

In 1999 Tabby, our 20 year old cat died. Buried in the back yard. In June of 1999 Lady, my beloved 17 year old Doberman died. She was cremated. Her ashes are on my bookcase shelf.
2008 was a difficult year. We lost Daphne our 14 year old persian/siamese, Squirt, (from my sister Joann who died in 1993 and I got her cat), and finally, Liz our 13 year old boxer (ashes on my
case) all three died that year. I was a wreck.

I spent a lot of time at Joann's looking at and buying patterns and fabric.
Two weeks ago, I took out my box of favorites and spent some time dreaming. Later I pulled out some linen fabric and began to layout, cut and sew.
Now I have six new long, fishtail linen skirts to wear to work.
I have mourned my heart attack.
I feel better.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Melt down

Had kind of a melt down about two weeks ago. See, I had two small heart attacks the end of December and the beginning of January.

This spread is a bunch of photos taken with the little Zumi camera I had in my purse while in the hospital.

I'm OK, but now on drugs that cost over $300.00 dollars every month. Made me feel kind of weird and dizzy too, the first few weeks I was taking them. There's a blood thinner that makes every pin prick bleed for an hour.

At first I was in shock. This couldn't be happening to me! I have been walking almost every morning since the birth of my second child, 34 years ago. I have been on a low fat, no meat, low salt diet for years and years since it seemed like the healthiest and sanest thing to do. grrrr

A week after I came home I got sick with a cold. Am still coughing now! Fevers still coming and going. Rats!
This is pissin' me off. This is the anger stage. Then I got sad. Now I am used to the idea. All stages of grief for the official loss of my youth. grrr.

Guess I shouldn't be surprised. My mom died of a second heart attack when she was only 60 years old.

And you know what, she died on the same date that I had my second one. January 3rd. How weird is that?

Sure do wish we had health insurance. But, maybe it's a wash. If we could pay $2000.00 a month for the basic plan we could qualify for, it would have been $24,000.00 a year. By the time we get the bill for this fiasco, with the cost of E.R. care, in patient time, blood tests, a bill from an ambulance company for transfering me to a hospital that has a cardiac cath lab, and individual physician charges, I bet it will all add up to about that.

This sucks. But, I am over it now. I am glad to still be here to have this worry. I see beauty everywhere as I always do and now am even happier I have had more time to enjoy it.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Reverse color portrait -

Today I started with acrylics to do a reverse color portrait of a photo of me.
I had reversed the colors in my Paint Shop Pro software and liked the brightness of the colors in reverse.
I also fuzzed the photo a bit with the brush stroke filter.
Copying the photo was Hard!!!

Ultimately, I used less colors than the photo, but finished the exercise when I felt like I had done enough!

Sometimes, just time finishes a project for me. At least with this drawing and painting stuff.

When I make a skirt or knit top, enough comes with the final hem. That is a nice bonus with sewing. There is an obvious stopping point.

Not so with drawings and paintings!

Oh well, what are you goin' to do? I have too much paint and too much paper hanging around to quit now.

The other interesting thing is what happens when you take a photo of your work.

It's an opportunity to see glaring flaws.

This left eye crease shadowing is too well defined. The eye color is good, though.

The right eye looks OK, but I'm still working on tilted faces.

The angle of the eyes and cheekbones require a lot more attention than a full front drawing.

Additionally, I did a very fast sketch in order to get to the color and perhaps that limited the shading effects.

Still learning what I like to do.

Close up of the right side eye shows lots of color in the iris which is something I know I like to do.

Acrylic paints are a challenge! They sure do dry quickly, and sometimes that is good because I can lay another color on top to change direction.

Of course, using glaze is a option and is a really great way to go over a graphite sketch to "nail it down", but today's play was just that.


Very good, Adrian! Now smile and when you come back in a week or two, this is gonna look even better.