art, craft, creativity, design, embroidery, garments, graphic design, illustration, needlework

Creativity channeled into clothing?

A snapshot of a very untidy desk.
This is what it looks like when I do things.

Okay, I…I have a confession to make. Instead of continuing on with coloring my sketches (which are still beside my bed, by the way), I’ve (re)started sewing. And embroidery. After doing some research on aniline dyes for reproduction work, I’ve decided to hold off on using them until I can get good ventilation or go outside to paint (and use gloves).

In the meantime, I’ll likely be using some combination of watercolors (“like that’s better?” you ask), watercolor pencil, and colored pencil, to color my illustrations. It won’t be as friendly to the scanner, but it will put me at ease (and possibly result in more durable images).

One of the symptoms of acute exposure to anilines, through inhalation or transdermal absorption, is hypoxia — or low levels of oxygen in the blood. With COVID-19 around…I want us all to breathe as easily as we can. From the research I’ve done, it looks like most serious complications from COVID-19 (aside from secondary infection) are from too little oxygen.

I don’t know if any contemporary viewer has looked back on the very old posts in this blog, but there is a blouse (Folkwear 111, “Nepali Blouse”) I first got the idea for…in 2010? I think the relevant post about when I finished the toile (muslin trial garment) is from last year. For about nine years, it had just been sitting around and periodically sticking me with the pins that were holding in the ties.

As recently as about this time of year in 2019, I had re-purchased and re-cut the pattern, with an eye, especially, to making it cover more of my body. Originally, the side slits came up all the way to my natural waist. Like, at my ribs. As a youth I had problems with feeling constantly unnecessarily exposed in my clothing. As I was going to make this myself, I decided to lengthen the panels and insert new panels behind the side slits (as versus wearing a wrap around my waist or a wrap skirt or chupa [yet; I’d have to make the latter], as the pattern suggested). I’ll have to design the exact panel dimensions as I come to them, as I have realized that my body does flare out below the waist, significantly.

Yes, I can do this without draping, by taking a circumference around the place where the hem should fall, and adding that into what I have ready to sew, then dividing it by two, to get a minimum panel width. But one thing at a time. The hemming is actually one of the last things to be done, and I can do it by hand if I need to.

I also went up a size over the past decade, and neglected to foresee this happening when I originally trimmed away the extra pattern paper in 2010. Of course, I had intended to complete the toile in less than nine years, as well. But, better late than never. The main issue, I believe, is not wanting to “destroy” a beautiful cut of fabric (which, in turn, calls into question what I feel is “destruction”…and thaaat calls up a certain phase of my life, where I realized that making anything means transforming it from something else — that means being willing to let go of that “something else”).

I don’t really have a great image of that one readily available…I’d have to look for it in my archives. It’s in the lower left corner of the photo at the top of this post, though, as well as in the upper left corner of the final image in this post. It’s basically a really beautiful blue-green batik with white lines and dots.

The top photo…is what my (new) sewing area looked like, today. Last night I felt like stitching but not like ironing, so I started dealing again with embroidery. Showing what I did would make me a bit nervous, though it is in the bottom center of the top photo (I was playing and screwed up more than a few times), so here’s some eye candy:

DMC embroidery floss in different colors with a pair of brass scissors on them.
Sometimes too many colors are as bad as too few…on the center right is a ball of perle cotton.

As you can see…I am a color nut, so I have collected a lot of different colors of stranded embroidery floss. There are also some, particularly in the orange/pink/violet range, that aren’t in this photo, due to having been separated out for practice. I do have a photo, below:

More DMC embroidery floss on a wine-colored piece of fabric bound in an embroidery hoop.
Yeah, some of them are hiding…particularly a pinkish orange, at the bottom, there.

Last night I was working with perle cotton, as well. The difference in texture and body between the two different thread types is fairly…well, weird. The floss is much flatter and softer, while the perle defines knots well, is lustrous, and doesn’t crush. Right now I’m using a small embroidery needle for both (I forget the gauge).

I’m thinking of trying to incorporate embroidery into the final blouse design, though that will necessitate either appliqué, or working on the panels before assembling the blouse.

Right now, my major source of fine perle cotton thread isn’t safe to visit, so I’ll have to hold out until we can start moving around again, to get more colors of that. I’ve also had a pretty hard time figuring out what ground color fabric to use (right now, I have some Kona cotton solid Fat Quarters [pre-cut 1/4 yards of fabric], muslin, and a limited stash of nice fabric along with a ton of Fat Quarters for quilting practice — and I can’t even begin to say how much easier it is to cut simple shapes with a quilting ruler, cutting mat, and rotary cutter, rather than pinning all the pattern pieces down one by one and cutting them out with scissors), even though at this point I’m just experimenting. I’m seeing what I can do and can’t (–yet), and what looks nice, and when and how to mark guidelines.

I’m anticipating using that pink and violet+blue fabric in the top of the next photo (heh heh I’m re-learning Photoshop, heh heh), as inserts and accents in the Nepali blouse. I realized that since both of these fabrics are batiks, that could unify them (as versus trying to make an analogous color scheme with a different fabric). I have another batik I was going to use (turquoise and green), but it’s seriously much heavier than the main body fabric (nearly to the point of felt or light denim)…and I’m pretty sure it’s a Fat Quarter, whereas I have more of the pastel batik, because I actually bought it off a bolt.

Folded fabric and miscellany in front of partially-opened blinds.
Photoshop 2020 made adjusting this image a lot easier.

The above shows two of the nicer fabrics I’ve got lined up (with the Nepali blouse pieces cut out and marked, at the upper left — I’m trying not to move them until I’ll use them, to preserve the chalk and Saral paper marks). I’m still not really sure what to do with the pink one; it’s super light. I got it to make a hair wrap (likely it was either that, or curtains), but the thing is, it has a very clear top-to-bottom pattern orientation, and to wrap my hair I’m most likely to need either a long piece or a triangular piece.

I’m also not clear, exactly, on how large my head scarves actually are. It’s been a very long time since I’ve worn one. (Actually, I am pretty sure I can’t remember having covered my hair in the last 6 months, because of work.)

I think I may have avoided making it into a scarf because it was too narrow, or too short…though I suppose I could make a ruched waist wrap (or line something). There’s nothing that says I can’t, after all. Of course, though…chances are that it would creep up my waist while my pants fell down, and not do much.

This is why I want to sew. It’s also why I had to buy suspenders, because some designer — who was good at drafting patterns so that they fit female bodies — didn’t force the clothing company not to use stretch fabric with their dress pants with no belt loops, so now the pants stretch out when worn, and use that stretch to gradually slide down.

Like anybody wants that in their professional attire.

Though — I just did get an idea for a belt that goes under clothing and attaches with clips to the tops of pants, skirts, etc. That could be interesting to work out…

Yeah…I think that’s why I want to sew. I have an aesthetic that is unaddressed. I’d forgotten about that.

Is that the same reason I got into beadwork? Why did I get into beadwork in the first place, anyway? That was so long ago!

By the way, I started back in on this because of seeing the projects of some knitters on my feed. That made me think it was a good idea to knit, if one could reach said levels of skill…and then I actually visited Ravelry and realized that I’m nowhere near that level of skill. Anybody who has tried to knit and has gotten past the beginning stitch modifications (K2tog, SSK, YO), likely knows what I’m talking about! There are beautiful projects that can be made, but first getting a handle on the basics is necessary. I’m not sure I’d be able to tolerate not knowing what I’m doing, long enough to make it to the place I want to be.

Then I wandered over to the fabric stash and started mechanically going through things. Just sorting through fabrics. Then looking at the pattern pieces for this project, which I’d already cut out. Then looking at how much marking and cutting was left to be done. To the credit of my former self, I had set things up already so that it was easy to mark and cut the few things I needed to. Whether the batik pattern lines up correctly, has yet to be seen, but I’m not going to worry about that now.

I also have at least one project that can go with it, which I’ve already started. Then I decided that I wanted to try again. Because I want to add those to my repertoire. And I had set up the desk (see first image) as a sewing station.

I guess that’s a pretty hard-core example of karma in action…

I’ve already made this, once. The difficult part is actually in pattern design alteration — or in thinking about design alteration without actually doing it. But if there’s skill and experience gained for trying, is there anything of matter lost in exchange? (Besides money and time, which are both valuable. But I want the skill. Ready-to-wear clothing vexes me, all too often…)

Ah! The last thing! I’m pretty sure I’m going to keep my Photoshop subscription (it’s so much easier for me to use than what I was using [no, they didn’t pay me to say that, but you can see I actually got some images up here, this time]) — as for the rest of Creative Cloud (CC), I’m not sure I need it — especially not if I’m not doing comics. The reason to keep it would be to train on it, in case I have to take up a role in writing or producing copy, blogs, videos, brochures, graphic design, etc.

If I want to go into a production job, I may as well commit to CC and stop paying the stupid high extra fee every month for being noncommittal. If that’s not the case, I can stick with Photoshop and not pay extra for the rest of CC. I haven’t figured it out yet, and I’ll probably give it another month and see where my illustrations go. If I stick with them, that’s a reason to keep it. If I start taking tons of photos and playing with Graphic Design, that’s another reason. (I actually found a Macro setting on my digital camera, today; I don’t remember ever seeing that, before.)

Then there is the issue of classes. I need to investigate further, but right now…I am thinking of going for a Cataloging or Metadata position. That will likely put me into an Academic Library or an Archive…I’m thinking, actually, of taking an internship either before or right after my probation is up (it increases employability and helps build experience). I should be able to complete all my classes by the end of Spring 2021, as I’ve found a place which gives information on two topics I’d need, in one class series, more focused, and for less money than I’d pay at the University.

I’ve also been advised that knowledge of a second language is in demand, so I’m encouraged to continue with that (I narrowly avoided having to pay for this out of pocket)…and there’s a verifiable crossover between Tech and Cataloging these days, so I may not have wasted my training by aiming for Digital Services.

The other thing: online tools for Cataloging. I’ll wait to subscribe to these, if I ever have to go that route (rather than having my employer provide access). As I may have said, they run about $850 together for a year, and I may not even need one of them (if I take a job in Academia). I also won’t need them if I take a turn towards a creative or production job.

And I need to rebuild my ePortfolio. I took it down because I wasn’t ready to run a website. I have all the copy, but I can make it better.

I should really, seriously, take a look at all the services I’m subscribed to, as well…

beadwork, craft, embroidery, money, needlework, seed beads, self care, work

Apologies for the rhyming. Hamilton’s infected my timing.

Today, I came off of my second day in a row of working eight hours. Not joking, that’s hard. Especially when you skip breaks, and have to get up at 7:30 AM on both days. (At least I didn’t take any shifts that had me getting off after 8.) Then I came back home and had to do things related to work and career (and getting a higher-paying job) which cost a stupid amount of money. Professional Development.

On top of that, I’m going to have to deal with driving school (that is, getting a license). And I didn’t get paid last period because I was not working, I was out and then sick. Before then, I was trying to cram in my hours because I knew I’d have to be off, and that I’d have no income for that period. I also thought I had to fulfill a set number of hours, but they didn’t tell me that I had already far surpassed them.

Stressful…much?

It’s hard to deal with the beadwork stuff when I barely wear jewelry as it is. Sometimes I intend to. Then I forget to care, and I stop, and my piercings get sensitive again. Actually — now that I think about it — I hadn’t been wearing jewelry to work because of sanitation concerns. Water under the ring, water under the bracelet, earring against the phone, earnut on the floor, necklace with a lanyard over it.

There’s that, and the fact that I keep wearing flannel because it’s so cold. I’m not yet used to mixing-and-matching the genders of my clothes, though I can see the need for another insulating vest which isn’t a puffer. Or, you know…like maybe some pink or mauve button-front shirts. That fit.

Tomorrow, I need to go see someone about the driving stuff. That’s going to be another stressor for the near future. Not to mention that I’m having a mini aging crisis.

Maybe I should be thinking about stuff I can do to de-stress, instead of trying to get all my problems out of the way as quickly as possible. I mean, no one’s really watching me to makes sure I read up on Reader’s Advisory, or finish any particular book, or learn to make a Public Library program. I do have time that can be mine.

Embroidery, watercolor, or — actually — doing something with the beads I have, might help. I guess that when a person works part-time, there is that possibility of doing what one wants to do when off-work.

And I do have an urge to go out and get the tiny boxes I was after, before. My Czech seed beads, in particular…it’s hard to even think of using them, while they’re still strung. I do have some unused boxes. I’m just trying to figure out, now…how exactly I’m going to tell what’s what. Because I have a lot of odd-sized Czech seed beads, from 6/0, maybe up to size 16/0.* It’s harder to tell what is which size, when they aren’t all in a row. But I’ll have to cut them apart to use them, anyway.

It would be good if I could get back to my micro-macrame. The issue is that when designing from scratch, there is a period in there where things just aren’t working. The other issue is that working on one project generally leads to buying more beads to assist. Also…there’s the issue of the inevitable needle sticks and sore pinkies.

I am not sure how much longer I’m going to be beading. After all, the truth is that I don’t know what I’m doing when I’m prioritizing this. And I just bought something way outside of what I had outlined as my interests…but maybe embroidery will be soothing?

Something with needles. For some reason I like sharp precision instruments.

I’m not sure if that’s related to liking colors that I shouldn’t be touching.

IT’S “HAMILTON’S” FAULT, OKAY. Yeah, that one. The rap opera.

*actually, that’s pronounced “six-ought” and “sixteen-ought,” not “six-oh” and “sixteen-oh.” But I ought not think of it.

art, craft, creativity, food, needlework, painting, paper crafts, personal, sewing

Switching between modes?

Now that I know there are no additional assignments for my course and the end is in sight, I’m feeling a good deal better about it. For the past few days, I’ve been chipping away at this, trying to get it done before I need to. The bright spot here is that I’m now ahead of schedule, to the point that I can relax a bit.

By next Friday, I hope to be totally done, though through Tuesday (it’s currently Friday), I’ll have at least half-day commitments.

I’ve decided to use library computers for my ongoing job research; at least, where it comes to accessing previously unknown websites. Although I’m using a relatively high amount of security on my computer, I encounter enough broken links to make me cautious. (Actually, the cautiousness pre-dates the security — it was just validated by my need to keep myself online while I was in school.)

I’ve also written my last thank-you note from Graduation. :) That was more fun than I expected…I got to draw with translucent and opaque markers on top of a printed card. I also included one of my tatted butterflies (which seemed to legitimate the process of having made it). So the paper-crafting…I’m wondering about combining it with sewing. I don’t know how that would eventually work out, but I got the idea by using one of my awls to punch holes in the card, in order to tie on the butterfly (which I did with a needle and thread).

I really really really want to do something with a needle and thread. I’m not sure whether this will be hand stitching (like quilting or garment work), or embroidery — or beadweaving — though maybe I shouldn’t categorize it, at this point. Maybe I should just start piecing things, or embroidering samples to be stitched together later. I did see some really nice counted-thread needlework at the State Fair which encompassed shapes (curves) that I didn’t expect; but I’m not sure I’m that precision-focused.

What I did do today was practice my tatting. I’m still working on combining rings and chains, and haven’t yet had to restart my current sample (though I want to do it in pink and red instead of ecru and green). I’ve learned to watch for having put in the correct number of double stitches and picots before closing loops, and to keep from inadvertently catching threads within those loops before closing them. Because the pattern I’m working with now always has four double stitches before a picot (loop) or a join or turn, it’s easy to remember. And I am getting better — my hands mostly remembered the motions.

The really good point about this? I’m using DMC #5 perle cotton, which comes in tons of colors and is super cheap, so I don’t feel bad about using up expensive thread while learning. Really, the most expensive things are the tatting shuttles, and they’re reusable.

Since Wednesday, I haven’t physically worked on painting at all (unless you consider buying pads of quality watercolor paper, work; I’ve learned not to), though I have watched some instructional videos on painting. I suppose it’s easier to keep doing something I’m already doing (working on the computer), than it is to switch modes into something else.

However…let’s see. What have I been doing for the last three days?

So Wednesday, I was basically studying. Yesterday (Thursday) I did some produce shopping, specifically after things I could cook and eat, which weren’t sweet. Today (Friday) was the gym, and cooking. That was long beans with mild (Italian?) sausage, onion, green onion, a little hoisin, a little soy sauce, and a little sesame oil. It turned out surprisingly well, though D suggests using ground pork next time, so that I can tweak the seasonings myself (instead of having to deal with the sausage, which had some surprising flavors of salt and anise — although I have had Chinese recipes with star anise before [like Red-Cooked Chicken]).

I still need to shower, wash my clothes, and maybe change my sheets. Tomorrow, I might be able to hit the Farmer’s Market for stone fruit. We bought maybe 10 lbs. (D estimated) of stone fruit last week, and I’ve eaten the majority of it (that is, I haven’t had to toss much moldy fruit from that batch). That has had some odd consequences for my digestion and my weight, but I haven’t gotten upset stomach, yet. (That can happen.) The thing about Farmer’s Markets is that they have fresher and riper fruit than most of the stores.

I picked up some kale and Savoy cabbage to cook with bacon; I also bought materials for mushroom chicken (yellow, zucchini, and white zucchini squash; we have the mushrooms and frozen chicken breast). I’m thinking the kale is going to be the next thing to become unusable, though, meaning I should probably aim to prepare it as soon as feasible. (It generally just gets wilted and mildewy [fresh kale should never smell like mildew at the store], but it’s easy to replace.) The Savoy cabbage is the regular Savoy (a compact head), not Salad Savoy (a blossom-looking thing), so it will likely last longer.

EDIT: Actually, mushroom chicken with rice, sounds good for tomorrow’s dinner.

And, right: I got Poblano chiles and onion, to try and make rajas. I found out when making corn salsa last week, that scorched Poblanos with the skins peeled off are really delicious. You just take the seeds and ribs out and put them face-up under the broiler until the skin blisters and darkens and pulls away, then you can take the skin off (after they cool)…and the chile tastes excellent, just like that. I was really surprised. Rajas, as I’ve gotten them in restaurants, have Poblanos and roasted onion, though I am not sure how to do the onion, yet; I’m planning to try and broil them with the Poblanos.

On a wide scale, I’m looking at the probability of switching between modes of thought and behavior, moreso than now. I’m wondering if it will be possible to do detail and system-oriented technical work for my job, and not let that have an effect where I’m impacted in my creativity, at home and in my art. I mean, actually, work on not letting that have an effect, as a goal, and reason to pursue the Art.

Maybe my art can be my time to break loose from systems and precise, regimented thinking.

Well — there’s also a gradual transition here from being a student, into becoming a fully-functioning adult…which is a place I haven’t fully occupied, before. That is a good thing (the former, not the latter)! I mean, if I look at what I’ve been doing today, it’s normal life stuff. That hasn’t been “normal” for me, for a long time, if I’ve ever even been in a place like this, before…

fiber arts, garments, needlework, sewing, tatting

Crochet lace?

Today I realized that if I wanted to add lace accents to clothing, I can make the lace using a crochet technique.  It’s been a fairly long time since I did any crochet, but I find it much easier than knitting.  If I wanted to try my hand at it, I do have some laceweight yarn, which I think is alpaca.  I also have fine cotton crochet thread, which would likely be what I’d use if I put lace cuffs on a shirt, for example.

I found one book specializing in crochet lace patterns today, but it focused on bedspreads and tablecloths, which is not really what I want to make.  New Tatting focuses on doilies, which again, is not really what I want to make.  There’s always the option of going back to Ravelry, if they’re still up, and actually that may be a very good option.

I have in mind a shawl pattern with a lot of openwork between denser areas of stitching.  It would probably take me a while, though, given that the yarns are so tiny and the hooks are so tiny.  But! I know I can crochet, and I can read crochet diagrams; whereas tatting is almost totally foreign to me right now.  And I have all the stuff I need to crochet, including some backup manuals.  ;)

Sounds good?  :)  I’ll add it to my “things I can do” list.

embroidery, fiber arts, garments, needlework, tatting

Beginnings of playing with _Embroidered & Embellished_; plus, tatting?!

I finally broke through the wall and started playing around with muslin and threads, today.  What I found, which was surprising, is that my own handwork differs from the handwork I’ve seen in my main text, for now — Embroidered & Embellished, by Christen Brown.

I picked up this book, as it was advertised to me before the date of its publication, and I’d been waiting on seeing it before I bought it.  It’s a very pretty/inspiring book, and I ended up checking it out of the library and reading it all the way through.  I found out that it seems to be geared towards beginning embroiderers, given the (limited) spectrum of “traditional” stitches which it features, which seem based on linework.  There are also some stitches for more advanced needleworkers, which fall under the chapter on “raised & textured embroidery” — though I wouldn’t have known about the difficulty level, except for reading in other embroidery texts.

Despite the linework bit, which really reminded me of drawing with fineliners as versus markers (ribbonwork?) or painting — I went out and bought a copy of this book today, because it does say (out of the great plethora of options) what needles to use with what thread or floss, and things are easy enough to understand, and limited enough, that it’s relatively non-intimidating.  It also seems that the later stitches often build upon simpler stitches learned early-on.  So while this isn’t a thorough reference by any means, it is a good teaching tool and introduction to embroidery, as it shows different results given with the same basic skill set, based on using differing materials.

I’m really glad I finally got up the nerve to try and practice.  I don’t know what it is, but starting is always the hardest part, for me.  I think there is a fear there that I’ll try it but not like it, or that I’ll try it and fail.  What happened today is that I tried it, and I liked some of my errors more than I liked what I was supposed to be making!

For example, there is something called a lazy daisy flower — while trying to do this, I accidentally started making a lazy daisy maple leaf.  I actually like the maple leaf better than the flower!  It all has to do with variations in proportion and spacing.  Color doesn’t hurt, either — I’ve been intentionally avoiding pink, and so came out with a bunch of red maple leaves.  (And one flower, after thinking to myself that I really should try to make one.)  ;)  Note:  when using a French Knot as the center of a flower, make the knot first and then stitch the petals.  The needle has been punching holes all through the center of the flower, and so your knot may pull all the way through the (now-weakened) fabric, otherwise.  So unless you want an eyelet with a knot hanging off the back, don’t do that!

There are a few other things to mention.  One:  how one holds the thread on the right side of the work while stitching, really does matter.  I’ve had more luck with making a stitch and then looping the floss over the needle, rather than stitching with my floss leading in some general direction, however.  Two:  it’s difficult to make a finishing knot when working with a small embroidery hoop.  I think mine is about 4-5″ across, and that’s not enough when you want to finish a thread (requiring one to make a French Knot and pull the [thick] needle straight through taut fabric) and the needle is facing a wall.

The third bit is related to #2; and that is, when stitching an outline using a backstitch, it really does matter whether the floss falls above or below the needle.  Randomly, one gets an offset, broken pattern, though this can also be done intentionally; always holding the thread above the needle, however, gives an overlapping pattern.

The last thing I wanted to mention:  proportions.  I genuinely like my own proportions better than the ones shown in this book.  I am not sure how much of this has to do with having practiced writing kanji, but my staggered blanket stitch (called the “short-long-short blanket stitch” in the book) really looks like I was writing yama, yama, yama over and over again.  (The Japanese character [or kanji] for “mountain” reads, yama; it shows three peaks next to each other, not unlike the staggered blanket stitch.)

That’s as far as I’ve gotten, for now.  I did, however, find a book on tatting, which is a method of lacemaking.  I’ve gotten the idea in my head to make garments with 3/4 sleeves, and lace edging the sleeve openings.  However, I’ve really got to find a good, simple book on tatting which will teach me the fundamentals.  I’d never been exposed to it before, and so while a lot of what I saw, looked basically like a lark’s head sinnet which was looped around and upon itself — I had never even seen a tatting shuttle before, and I don’t know how to use one.

There is a place I know of which I can go to in order to look at laces, and they probably have a library there.  And it’s probably much greater than the one book I found on the shelf, today.  ;)  I didn’t pick that one up; it’s called New Tatting.  It focused mostly on doilies, which is not really my end goal.  My end goal would be something more like making trims for garments.  But again, you know, maybe it’s just meant as a course for learning the basics.  I’ll just have to research it more.