Friday, August 17, 2018

Sari Silk Patchwork Belt

The sari silk scraps that are available on Gwen Lafluer's website are irresistible, with their delicious, vibrant colors and glittering embroidery and gemstones. Naturally I ordered them in practically every color. They made gorgeous additions to several of my art pieces. I had quite a selection of scraps left over and thought there would be something magical about combining them with some Turkmen jewelry parts. I tried to visualize just the right project--and while I loved both the vibrant colors of the silks and the unique variety of Turkmen component--I couldn't come up with just the right project. I visualized a blouse, a vest, a skirt and a totebag, but I didn't feel inspired to pull out my sewing supplies and start creating.
My stash of silk scraps, Turkmen jewelry parts and Darn Good Yarn.
One day I was remembering some textile items that were gifted to me and my mother back in the early 1970s. My cousin had been sent to India for a year as a representative from the bank she worked for. Not only did her adventure spark my interest in the designs and fabrics of India, she also became one of my first career-woman role models.

My uncle went to visit her, and brought back exotic gifts for us: perfume and a green silk scarf for my mother, and a yard of yellow linen embroidered fabric (that I made into a fabulous mini-dress) and a hot pink linen embroidered sash for me. The gifts made a huge impression on me--a young "country mouse" who had hardly traveled out of upstate New York.

Fondly remembering the sash from India, I decided to make a belt. First, I put out all the silks to make my color selection.
These were some of the final sari silk selections used for the belt.

Next, I cut them into 2" squares. I had decided that 2" was the perfect width so I would be able to wear the finished belt with my favorite jeans.
I measured the space of the belt loop on my favorite jeans so that the belt would fit through them  just right.

I found some fusible felt interfacing and cut it into long strips, 2" wide.
One side of the fusible interfacing had glue dots that would melt and stick to the silk squares.
A cutting mat, rotary cutter, scissors and a metal ruler were used for precise cutting.
Next, I selected the colors I wanted, and using a rotary cutter with a metal ruler on my cutting mat, carefully cut them into 2" squares.
I arranged the silk pieces in a color gradation and when I had an arrangement I liked, and carefully fused the silk and interfacing together with a hot, dry iron. I used a piece of parchment paper over the silk to prevent scorching, and also to keep the glue of the interfacing from gunking up my iron.
The silk squares were carefully arranged and ironed on to the long,  2" wide strip of interfacing.
A view on my ironing board of one side of the fused squares.
The next step was doing the same thing on the reverse side. Since the fusible interfacing was only sticky on one side (the other side was felt) I used some wonder under lightweight fusible webbing and ironed the squares in place on the flip side. So far, so good!
The fused side was flipped over, and thin fusible webbing used to adhere the rest of the silk pieces.
Unfinished belt, with both sides fused.
I needed to cover up the join marks between the squares, so I decided to connect the pieces with contrasting stitching. I set up my sewing machine with black thread and got to work. My machine has a lot of decorative stitches, so I varied the design. I had never tested some of the stitches so I had fun experimenting.
The stitch choices were all really pretty, but I settled on a few favorites that seemed to go with the silk and Indian theme, and alternated them.
Detail of stitching.
Unfinished belt, fused and stitched.
In a few places, the silk had slipped and the white interfacing showed. I solved the problem by cutting small strips of contrasting colors and stitching on either side. It was a happy accident--the thin patched sections turned out to be some of my favorite parts of the final belt.
Detail shot of small patched and embroidered strips of silk.
The belt was going to need a closure of some kind. I debated about whether to use a buckle or a loop, and opted for the loop since it would allow the belt to be worn both tight around the waist or lower on the hips. I didn't have a D-ring handy, so I pinned some circular binder rings (leftover from my Turmeric Flip Journal project) in place and tested it out.

I tried the unfinished belt on to see how it was looking. So far, so good.
Testing the unfinished belt to see how it fit.
I noticed that the edges were a bit uneven and the silk frayed easily, and debated what to do:
  • I could leave it raggedy and call the design "rustic"
  • I could trim it off, but then the stitching might come undone
  • I could bind it with fabric, but I didn't have enough commercial double-fold binding on hand that would cover both sides and the ends
  • I could make my own binding out of ambitious undertaking...and I was afraid it would overpower the patchwork design
  • I could use some kind of sealant to keep the frayed edges from unraveling
My decision was to try some black gesso along the edges. The black edge would match the black stitching, and the rubberiness of the gesso (when dry) would prevent fraying yet still be flexible.

First, I used a machine blanket stitch along all the edges. Next, I applied the gesso. To keep the line straight and neat, I used a thin, heavy brass bar to block off the center parts. I carefully painted the gesso on with a small round sponge brush, lifted away the bar, cleaned the bar, and continued the process until all edges on both sides were painted black.
The heavy brass bar was positioned so that only a small part of the edge could be painted.
After the bar was carefully removed, the neatly painted black edge was visible.
Black gesso was carefully and slowly applied to the edges on both sides.
Was I done? Almost. It looked pretty good, but the collection of Turkmen jewelry parts was still calling to me.

I "auditioned" the various pieces to see if I wanted to have one on every square, alternate squares, and whether I wanted all round, or additional heart and rectangular shapes.
This "audition" had assorted Turkmen pieces on each silk square.
This "audition" had a round Turkmen piece on every other square.
 After some rummaging around in my sewing supplies, I did manage to find a set of D-rings, and switched the circular rings for the Ds. Before hand sewing the Turkmen accents, I hand stitched the D-rings in place.

I also tried on the belt again so that I would know where to sew the Turkmen pieces. I needed to be sure that, on the reverse side, some of the Turkmen parts would show when the belt was closed and the inside of the belt came through the end of the D-ring. I took care to use very small pieces that might fall near the closure.

The finished belt is colorful, fun, unique, and eye-catching! It can look elegant and festive on a "little black dress" or casual and Boho-chic with a pair of jeans or peasant skirt. I am sure I will get a lot of wear out of it. Although my new belt is really is not at all like the belt my uncle brought back from India in the 1970s (it was wider, hot pink, and had little mirrors embroidered on), it is every bit as pretty and whimsical, and evokes happy memories of my teenage years.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Romantic Collage with Stencils

Artists, including me, tend to hoard beautiful and/or interesting things. Sometimes we save paper goods or fabrics, sometimes it is three dimensional objects like sticks, stones, pieces of metal, beach glass, vintage game pieces, or broken jewelry. Living and creating in a small space, my hoarded treasures are usually paper.  Sometimes the paper is brand new, but often times it is a snippet of paper leftover from a project, a beautiful card, mailing envelope or paper napkin.

When I need to unwind, my favorite creative outlet is collage. I pull out the bits and pieces of papers I have stuffed into shoeboxes and storage drawers and pull out about 10 or 20 scraps that speak to me at that moment. Next, I choose one or two that might be the focal point and set them aside. I choose about 10 favorites out of the remaining papers and put the rest to the side to use another time.

Without a lot of overthinking, I start tearing them into pieces and gluing them to a journal page. Depending on how heavy the paper is, I use either a glue stick or matte medium to adhere the papers.

When I am feeling cozy and soft and romantic, I tend to like earth tones and old text--especially old fashioned script and foreign words. Used teabags have a nice aged quality and add textural interest as well. Flowers, especially roses, add to a romantic feel, as does sheet music.

For the collage above, here's a few shots of how the page came together:
Torn pieces of French handwriting, vintage sheet music, the inside of an envelope, a printout of my own blockprint on teabags, and an old medical journal formed the first layer.
I knew I wanted to use a photo from a fashion magazine that I had been saving. The woman was wearing an old-fashioned lacy dress and I loved the style of her up-swept hairdo and the shape of the dress. I debated about whether to keep the background--the chandelier light was really interesting--but it was large and covered too much of the page so I opted to carefully cut the figure out and place it on my background. I tested the figure in several locations on the page.
The magazine photo of a woman in an old-fashioned dress was my choice for the focal point.
Testing the focal image on the left of the page.
Testing the focal image on the right side of the page.
It was hard to decide quite where to place the lady in white, but I decided to place her slightly to the right of center. I could have stopped here, but I pushed myself to go a little farther. I added a little stamp of a key from a set by Lynne Perrella by Paper Artsy that I had printed on black ink on deli paper. It seemed just right in the background, so I carefully trimmed it with a pair of tiny, sharp scissors and used a little matte medium to adhere it. The deli paper is very thin, and when used with matte medium, makes the deli paper nearly invisible so that the image appears to have been stamped directly on the page.
The page still cried out for more, so I softened and united the page by adding Gwen Lafluer's Ornamental Compass stencil in white. It magically pulled the elements together and made the figure blend effortlessly into the background. The white paint on the delicate stencil added softness and enhanced the romantic feel. I could have stopped here, but there was a big, open space on the left side and I decided it needed words, so I pushed ahead.

The question was: What kind of words? Should I hand-write some words? Use a stencil? Use a stamp? Find some large words in a book or magazine and glue them in? I'm not a particularly talented calligrapher, so I decided to try one of Gwen's new stencils from the Boho collection. Among the butterflies on the Boho Butterflies stencil are a couple of words; I chose "change" and carefully stenciled it on the page using black ink and a fingertip dauber tool (after securing it in place using some washi tape). To emphasize the word and add a little more interest, I also stenciled a small circle and arrow tip from the deco alphabet stencil. One word and the small design filled in the empty space, and added a nice graphic contrast to the soft, romantic page. The contrast between the soft, old fashioned figure makes me think about how far women have come. A Gibson Girl of the 1860s was considered a modern woman of her time, but the great change--women having the right to vote--would not come for another 60 years, and we would not have a female presidential candidate from a major political party until 2016.

Final "change" romantic collage journal page
A similar technique was used on another favorite journal page. I had been home sick for several days and was feeling better and getting pretty bored. I decided to set up a mini studio on my bed atop a tray table, so I pulled out a few boxes of papers and a gluestick and got to work. First, I tore up some of the favorite leftover bits and pieces and glued them down until the journal page was covered. Some of the papers were my own designs done in Photoshop, some were papers printed with images from The Graphics Fairy, and a few were commercial scrapbook paper. It looked pretty good and I was tempted to stop there. But, I pushed myself to take it further.
Step 1 of the kitten and rose collage.
Next, I added to the romantic feel with some corner stencils in black ink, using the deco flower medallion repeating corner stencil.

I loved it! What a difference the stenciling makes in uniting the collage papers and drawing the eye to the center of the page. also seemed to need just a little more.
Step 2 of the kitten and rose collage
I decided it needed something to tie the corners into the center. Thinking of wrought iron, I took a black sharpie and started drawing freehand curlicues all over the page. The curvy lines reminded me of vines, and seemed to go with the rose and other flowers. Song lyrics and words flowed into my head as I was drawing, so with a fine tipped black marker, I wrote them down, and the page was finished. The eye still goes to the center of the page, but the curlicues and words also make the viewer want to look all around the page, read the words, and linger a little longer.
Final kitten and rose journal collage page

To see a great selection of vintage graphics from The Graphics Fairy, click here.
For Lynne Perrella's Paper Artsy stamps, click here.
For Gwen's website, click here.
To see what Gwen and the Artist Tribe members have been creating, click here.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Egad! I finished the ICAD!

What's the ICAD? It is the Index Card A Day challenge, hosted by Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow Art. Tammy started the project in 2011 and it has grown into a huge movement. I had heard of it before, but only after it had already started. Fortunately this year, I found out about the challenge in the nick of time and joined in.
All 61 index cards have a hole punched in the corner, and two flip books were created.
The concept is simple: create art on an index card every day for the month of June and July. Not using beautiful watercolor paper cut to the size of an index card, but floppy, thin, ordinary index cards that are inexpensive and readily available.

The first thing I did was to make a cover for my book. I used some leftover, stenciled paper that I had created for a mermaid paper doll exchange, cut it to index card size, added washi tape and hand wrote the title.

There were daily prompts for people who like a new idea every day, and weekly prompts for people who like to work within a general concept. If you went off prompt and marched to your own drummer, that was okay too. The main idea was to be creative every day.

I'm not big on prompts, so I chose the weekly ideas. They were open-ended and there were several to choose from, so I didn't feel stifled. I mainly did collage, because that's what I love. I incorporated washi tape, stencils, stamps, recycled product packaging, mailing envelopes, canceled stamps, paint, and pretty much whatever was in my art stash that spoke to me at the moment I was at my art table.

I did make 61 index cards, and posted one every day to my Instagram account.

I challenged myself to choose my top 10 of the 60. It wasn't easy...actually I chose 11...but here are my favorites:
Collage of fabric, paint skins, printed deli paper, recycled envelope and recycled "paint splat" packing tape.
Collage of recycled, paint stained baby wipe, commercial map scrapbook paper, and stencil on deli paper.
Collage of recycled mailing envelope, geli print deli paper, vintage mail graphic and washi tape.
Collage of vintage Graphics Fairy image, Dina Wakley stamp, stenciled deli paper, stamping, handwriting.
Dina Wakley stamp, painted deli paper, stamping, handwriting, washi tape, paper scraps, Dresden gold wings
Collage of stenciled deli paper, washi tape, Tim Holtz vintage floral tags, vintage Graphics Fairy images, fluer de lis stamp and washi tapes.
Collage of assorted washi tapes, snippets of turmeric tea bags, Turkmen jewelry part, and mini brads.
Stamped newsprint, Graphics Fairy vintage images, washi tapes.
Portrait made with Jane Davenport facial feature washi tapes, acrylics, Derwent watercolor pencils, and Nuvo drops.
Portrait made with Jane Davenport facial feature washi tapes, acrylics, Derwent watercolor pencils, and Nuvo drops.
Collage of Tim Holtz printed tissue, assorted washi tapes and a beach admission ticket.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Magical Mini Book

I recently joined The Stencil Club, an offering from StencilGirl Products. It is an online community with a private Facebook group where ideas and tips and creations are shared. Each month, members are shipped three exclusive stencils created by their team of designers. In addition to the online community, there is an exclusive "how to" video and pdf. The Stencil Club designs are only available to club member; they are not sold to the general public.

I joined in time to receive the July set, Ceramic Tiles, created by one of my favorite artists, Gwen Lafluer. I can't stop using these stencils, especially the mid-sized one with the fluer de lis accent. In the exclusive club video (about 45 minutes long), Gwen demonstrated how to create a gorgeous mini book from one large stenciled paper. I decided to give it a try. Gwen shares all her tips and techniques on how to stencil, and if I had wanted to, I could have used exactly the same colors, placed the stencils in the same positions, and made my little book just like Gwen's.

Being a practical Virgo, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity to use up some unfinished designs. So, I started by gathering all my miscellaneous stenciled, unfinished papers that I had hanging around. None of them matched but I knew I was going to use them as a background so it didn't matter too much.

I started with a heavy, good quality piece of fairly smooth watercolor paper (about 12" x 18") that had a couple of perfectly stenciled deco images. I squeezed a large blob of matte medium on the paper, spread it with an old credit card, and started collaging the other pieces in place.
Some of the stencils were printed on heavy paper, like the green and aqua image above. I carefully split the paper, pulled the the two-ply layers apart, and kept only the top layer.
The first layer I added was the green and aqua area. The gray, lavender and turquoise stencils were already on the paper.
Next, I added a purple deco stencil. It had been printed on deli paper and was very lightweight.
A large sheet of olive-green deco stencils was peeled apart, then cut and added around the background.
The empty white areas were filled in with torn pieces of stenciled deli paper in shades of aqua and green.
Once the background was covered with stencils (most from the Art Deco collection), it needed to be united and softened. I added the circular background stencil in white over the areas that were too dark.
The brand-new Ceramic Tile Stencil Club collection
I also added the fluer de lis 6" square stencil in white. The background still looked too dark in places and also didn't feel unified, so I mixed up some light turquoise acrylic paint and dabbed it through the fluer de lis medallion stencil until the darkest colors were muted. Here and there I added some pale green, light aqua, and a golden umber with the same two stencils.
Once I had a background that pleased my eye, I wanted to add some "bling" so I used a VersaMark stamp pad with the fluer de lis medallion, sprinkled on some champagne embossing powder, blasted it with my heat gun until is melted and shimmered.
The embossing powder stuck to the areas where the VersaMark was used. This is the way the embossed areas look unheated. A blast from the heat gun melts the powder and turns the soft brown areas into a rich gold color.
I liked the way the underlying deco stencil, done with lime green paint and Seth Apter's Emerald Creek Patina Oxide Baked Texture looked, so I again used the VersaMark stamp pad, but this time with sections of the background circle stencil in Patina Oxide. Finally, using only the center of the fluer de lis stencil, I added a few x-o shapes with Ancient Amber Baked Texture.
It was time to stop painting and stenciling and start folding. To be sure it was nice and dry before folding, I gave the paper some extra heat with my blow dryer, which is gentler on the paper than the heat gun, and more diffused rather than directed at one section.

I booted up my laptop and carefully watched the Stencil Club video of Gwen's technique for folding the paper, and followed along. There is also a pdf that I could have used, but it has words like "vertical" and "horizontal" and I am directionally-challenged, so my brain fried...I needed the visual help of the video, and paused it and/or replayed when I wasn't sure how to proceed.
The back of the folded artwork. The bone folder ensured that the folds were crisp.
The artwork, folded into 8 sections and ready to be turned into a book.
One cut in the right place is needed to separate the pages.
With just the right twist, the book pops together.
My book was a little wonky--probably because the paper was quite thick. I decided to use some heavy gel medium to glue the folded parts together. I applied the gel, separated the sections with parchment paper, and put it under a big cast iron pot to flatten the book and ensure that the pages stuck together.
I darkened all the edges with a brown chalk ink, and it was almost finished. Something was missing. I decided to add a closure. After some debate and auditioning possible closures, I opted to use a simple ribbon closure.
A vintage dragonfly button, tiny elephant, and dangly Turkmen jewelry part were auditioned for the closure.
I added grommets halfway up the front and halfway up the back, and fed ribbon through them. For the front, I used a Turkmen jewelry part, fed turquoise ribbon (from the packaging that Gwen ships her website orders in!) through the loop on the back, then pulled the ribbon through the grommet and tied it. 
A simple bow at the side is easy to tie and untie.

Now the question is: what should go inside the pages of the book? Poetry? Special photos? Other keepsakes and memorabilia? Inspirational quotes? Prayers? Or nothing at all?