ARTSY WRIST CUFFS

I'd been wanting to try my hand at making wrist cuffs for some time. I have, after all, many beautiful materials and scraps just begging to be repurposed and mated with other fabrics into something new. And wrist cuffs always caught my attention when visiting fibre art shows. 

They make beautiful accessories, with the added benefit of extra warmth in the colder months. The right fabrics work well in summer too, with fabrics that feel cool against the skin.  A search on Etsy and Pinterest revealed many styles of wrist cuffs, from simple to lacy, leather to felted, beaded to gothic.

And with more time to experiment this year due to the pandemic, I got busy pairing up various fabrics, tulle, ribbons and more to sew up some wrist cuffs, not just for me, but as gifts for family and a friend or two, all while trying to find the styles I felt were a good fit. 

Here are my best ones. A few didn't turn out as well as I had hoped and so will be turned into something else.


For some I used 2 hairbands tied together and a button to join the ends. This worked especially well after completing one wrist cuff and discovering it was too short to overlap the ends on my wrist. I realized how much better I liked this unplanned look, and continued to make more in this fashion. 

I'm still not sure how it ended up too short in the first place, as I had measured my own wrists and a few others to get an idea for sizing. Perhaps I didn't follow that rule of measure twice, cut once.

On another cuff (not shown here) I used 2 buttons and loops, which also works well. 


For other cuffs that I made in a more triangular shape, I used a simple snap that is hidden from view. This shape has a softer and less chunky look on a wrist. 


Most of the cuffs have 4-5 layers: a backing fabric, some kind of metallic or bling, a lacy fabric, tulle, and sometimes some ribbons, providing a wonderful depth to the cuff. A simple stitch around the edges and middle adds a finishing touch. I found stretchy materials the most challenging, as I'm not used to sewing jersey. I've since received several tips that should make it easier. 


I plan to continue experimenting to make some very boho cuffs in the not too distant future. The possibilities are endless for these artsy wrist cuffs. And I'm also considering starting to make ATCs.

IDEA BOARDS TO STIMULATE CREATIVITY

Do you keep an idea wall? I had so many project ideas rattling around in my head and, not able to remember them all, needed a way to capture them for safekeeping. Like many, I have tons of photos on my phone, several of which I refer to for art projects. I also used to write notes when ideas popped into my head, but couldn't keep track of all the notes. Computers and post-its may be an easy storage system, yet are easily lost. 

Seeing potential creative content at a glance - on a wall, in a frame, captured in a binder - boosts the the creative process - we can see the big picture, see how pictures relate, quickly dismiss parts that don't work. There's a reason that filmmakers and designers use storyboards and design boards for their projects.  

A wall is ideal, or even a partial wall, to post photos, words, small sketches, anything we don't want to forget. Because of a lack of wall space, I converted an old frame for this purpose, painting it white, adding string to the back, and using clothespins to hang up my ideas. 

I also started a chalkboard list - specifically to capture thoughts on projects that are in the works - a next step, an idea to try to incorporate - steps I don't want to lose sight of it but also may not get to for a while. Keeping all these thoughts on display is inspiring and helps bring perspective to my works. 

A binder can be a great way to capture design element concepts that tickle the imagination and emotions.  These provide prompts when we are stuck for next steps on a project. My binder is broken down into the several sections, with removable sheets I can prop on a counter or hang in my idea frame, and includes photos, images from magazines, sketches, samples I have made when testing an idea or learning a new stitch. 

  • interesting new colour combinations I had not thought to use previously
  • lines (the lines in bird feathers, the ripples in sand, the spokes on a bicycle wheel)
  • shapes (a fern unfurling in spring, a turtle shell, graffiti letters, a map)
  • form (an acorn, mushroom, bowl)
  • value (sunsets, lightning against a dark sky, shadows, a porch light at night)
  • texture (a stone wall, tea fields)
One photo I kept coming back to was of  a crumbling stone wall in an old Kingston building. I'm now just starting to work on a fibre art piece of parts of that stone wall, inspired mostly by the texture but also the colours. 


I'm now converting my photo into fibre art - this is just the start and is very much a work in progress. I used the faux chenille technique (fabric slashing), different fabrics for each brick, and am embellishing through hand stitching, beading, heat distressing and more. 


I also wanted to share photos of a show which just went up December 1st at the Stittsville Public Library in Ottawa, by the Out of the Box Fibre Artists. The theme is 2020: Year of the Pandemic and includes the items on the wall and in the display case. My piece is the orange labyrinth - front and centre! - also using the same stitch & slashing technique. I added some beading and some small stones to complete the piece. The show is on until the end of December. 



Visit my website: www.needleartsonpaper.com





TURNING NATURE'S ARTISTIC LINES INTO FIBRE ART

I've written only 2 blog posts since the pandemic started in my area. Like me, many of my artist friends felted blocked from creating for the first few months. Other than simple projects and finishing others, my focus turned to the outdoors, lots of walking, and to some projects around the house. Over time I did manage to get back into a creative mode, which for me is therapeutic. And while I haven't completed many new fibre art pieces, I have been able to play and experiment which is leading me in a wonderful new direction. 

Writing - and blogging - also felt like a chore. The enjoyment was lost. But I think I'm now getting my groove back and my hope now is to post once or twice a month. But if I don't, I plan to not feel any guilt. What matters is that I continue to create.

But I digress.

Two of my three posts since the virus hit here were about the faux chenille technique, otherwise known as fabric slashing. This is the technique I've been playing with, experimenting with various fabrics and some interesting materials, with adding dimension and embellishments. 

But to back up a bit first, having spent much time outdoors over the last months, I really began to look for and "see" the lines in nature - very artistic lines - which I am now attempting to translate into my fibre art.

This piece was based on the marks of the emerald ash borer on the ash tree. It's sad how many of these beautiful trees have been lost, yet the marks of the ash borer do have a certain beauty, a beauty I've tried to capture here. I used 7 different fabrics, sewing, cutting and tearing, heat distressing, and adding hand embroidery. 

Ash Borer Designs Fibre Art


Adding some dimension to this fibre art rose was trickier than I thought it would be. It was too flat at first after mounting it onto canvas, so I added some batting behind the middle sections, adding a bit of surface shape. It turned out not too badly I think. Next time I would add the batting and scrunch the surface more before mounting. 


I'm very pleased with this piece below. It's based on a piece of corrugated cardboard (see photo) that had been outside our shed in all types of weather. The colours and patterns on the distressed cardboard captured my attention, and I then interpreted it into this work,. It had 7 different fabrics: old cottons and linen, denim, a piece of indigo & rust dyed cotton, tulle, and a metallic fabric all mounted on a black felt background. Some beading completed the piece to add some of the smaller marks. This was the first time I had worked with denim, a fabric I will definitely use again. It goes with everything, as we know from wearing blue jeans, is soft and has a beautiful nature colour. 



There are others I've been experimenting with, incorporating alternative materials, and adding embellishments, in both 2D and 3D formats. I'm not there yet, and at least one project has me has overwhelmed. So I'm also turning for now to smaller dimensional works that are quick to finish, using these same techniques. But more on that in a future post.

Stay creative!

DON'T COME UNGLUED. MAKE YOUR OWN

I ran out of glue the other day, my favourite glue that I use to adhere fabric to paper. Not just any glue will work for this purpose as I've discovered the hard way. And the store where I buy it is now closed and it's a glue I can't get at a hardware store.

A search online yielded a number of recipes for homemade glues. They're natural and non-toxic. And fortunately most glues use ingredients we have at home or can easily get at a grocery store. I also found homemade glue recipes for ceramics, porcelain & pottery, for wood, and a waterproof glue.

You have probably tried wheat paste at one time or another (recipe at the end of this post), however reviews indicated that wheat paste doesn't work well for the project I was working on which was to attach burlap to a canvas board.

You see, while doing some cleaning and decluttering I came across a burlap bag I was given when in India in 2011. I had never used it, concerned it would not last well. Nine years later, I decided it was time to do something with it. After a brief search online I chose to reconstruct it into a jewelry hanger: a canvas board is covered in burlap, put into a frame, and hooks added to hang necklaces, bracelets and other bits.

So began the deconstruction of the bag. The front and back would fill most of the frame, and the long strip that gave the bag its depth would run down one side, filling the rest of the space, and part of the handle across the width for an added hanging spot. It was when I started gluing that I realized I was going to run out.

The fabric glue recipe I found suggests its use is for hems, and warns that ironing may cause the glue to weaken and laundering may wash it out. But these didn't apply for my project. Here's the recipe:

Homemade Fabric Glue

12 tbsp. water
4 packets gelatin
4 tbsp. white vinegar
4 tsp. glycerin

Heat the water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Remove from heat, whisking in gelatin and breaking up the clumps. Add the vinegar and glycerin, stirring for 5 minutes - you want a smooth texture. Pour into a mason jar and allow to cool.

This will gel up very well, and I found about 12-15 seconds in the microwave liquified it so it was usable. And even though I discovered the best before dates of the gelatin and glycerin I had on hand were from 3 years earlier, the recipe was successful. I will admit the glue is perhaps not quite as good as the store bought, but when times are tough, this will do just fine, and perhaps because I was using old ingredients. Plus I knew I would be adding hooks that would provide additional cohesion.


This project came together over a couple of days once I had glue on hand. And I have lots left for other projects. The drying time took the longest, as I left each step to dry for several hours. Pretty, and practical too.

Wheat Paste Glue

1/4 cup pastry flour
1-1/8 cups COLD water

Combine flour and water with a whisk, ensuring there are no lumps. Place over low heat, and stir constantly until the first bubble appears as it starts to boil. Keep stirring for another 30 seconds.
If you cook less, it may not thicken, and if you cook after it starts to boil, it will become rubbery. Remove from heat and pour into a mason jar. Add lit and cool in a refrigerator. Recipe can be doubled if you need a lot of glue.

And although I have not tried it, I've read that gluten free flour can be substituted for pastry flour. Alternatively if you have Elmers Glue on hand, try mixing 1 cup glue with 2 cups of cornstarch and 1 cup water.

IN TIMES OF STRESS, CREATIVE ACTIVITIES HELP

In stressful times, creative activities can help. Indeed, numerous studies by medical doctors have shown creative endeavours can help improve our well-being:
  • lessening anxiety
  • keeping us grounded
  • helping us reach a calmer state
  • bringing out positive feelings
  • lowering blood pressure
  • reminding us to enjoy and laugh
  • keeping our hands busy
  • distracting us from stresses
  • providing a sense of purpose or accomplishment
Any creative activity you enjoy can help, and many don't require us to go out and buy supplies. Some ideas include: sing & dance, colour, decorate cookies or cupcakes, take fun photographs, make some videos, garden (when it gets a bit warmer - or take cuttings from your houseplants to start new plants), declutter, rearrange your furniture, do some improv (start a story where each person adds 1 word or 1 sentence), learn to make paper airplanes or origami, get outside for a scavenger hunt, write. 
Pretty fabric covers up several little holes

Some have a practical side too, like sewing or learning to sew on a button or mending our clothes instead of going out to buy new clothes. Google "boro mending" to find some great ways to work around holes and tears in clothing while make some very creative designs.

As a local weaver said: 
"I for one find my weaving to be a good antidote to everything I'm hearing on the news.  I often nowadays feel a bit numb after hearing the news, and sitting down to weave keeps those numbed feelings and thoughts moving freely and gently in a safe space."
Sharing what we're working on by uploading pictures, phoning a friend, emailing, helps to keep a sense of connection within a community. 

The important thing is to try to do something creative every day.  It really can be a good prescription to stay positive and enhance our well-being. 

Stay well


MORE FAUX CHENILLE - AND A CONNECTION TO THE PAST

My husband and I visited an architectural salvage company recently who sell wonderful treasures from old rural homes: doors, shutters, spindles, windows, doorknobs, lighting, hardware, and much, much more, and keeping these items out of landfill. As I was seduced by the atmosphere in the barn and shop, I found 2 items I was compelled to purchase for use in an art piece.

One was the frame-like part of a vintage floor grate, measuring roughly 18" x 25, and the other a section of backplate for an old fashioned doorknob.

Once home, I got busy choosing colours from my stash of used textiles that would complement the floor grate frame and the door hardware, with the intention of sewing and slashing the layers of fabric to create a faux chenille look.

My vision was to put the doorknob backplate in the middle as the feature, with the slashed fabric lines radiating out from there, symbolizing stepping through a doorway to the unknown, to some connection to the past. The grate frame would be used as, well, a frame for the art. But after finishing the sewing and attaching the backplate, I felt something was missing. I added a few light green button-like beads, a few sequins, yet still needed something. Playing with other colours, twisting fabrics to add texture didn't yield any answers. I then put this project aside until the answer presented itself.


A week or so  later I was with a friend practicing free motion sewing, and was experimenting with sandwiching and sewing silk sari threads between 2 layers of water soluble film, forming small circles which I planned to fashion into small bowls.


On a whim I placed a completed circle on my doorway piece. It was exactly the right look! The circle complements the curves of the hardware and plays off the green buttons. Deciding that 4 more circles of various sizes would complete the piece, I quickly sewed them up using a granite stitch over the sari threads and water soluble film, rinsed them to dissolve the film, and voila, this piece was almost done. Once the circles were dried, I could then stitch them on and touch up other areas to reveal more of the hidden fabrics and colours.


Aha moments such as these don't happen often, but it was just the discovery I needed to finish this work. The sewing of the fabrics and circles may represent a nurturing side, an energy, a connection to others in my life, and the fabric layers the depths of our selves. I've realized that the timeframe for making this has been around the anniversary of my mother's passing. Perhaps my Doorway is a connection to her and to my past. This creation was meant to be I think.

UNFINISHED ART IN YOUR STASH? A GROUP PLAN CAN HELP...

How many art pieces or projects did you start in 2019 (or earlier) that aren't finished? If you're like me, I get excited planning and starting new projects, and make good progress on them up until the next idea comes along. Then my interest wanes and sometimes I finish them, sometimes not. On some pieces I'm unsure what step to take next, so the picture just sits until the answer comes, which may be months... or never....

Then I stumbled across an idea on a friend's blog - to post a list that is shared with others of those unfinished projects that we really would like to finish. The idea was to identify 12 outstanding projects, and target one each month to work on and complete by the end of the year. 

I shared this idea with friends in an open studio group, and was met with an enthusiastic response. A recipe for success we hope!

And so an excel spreadsheet was born and shared, and after a few tweaks, we each got our lists posted. 12 projects seemed reasonable, with monthly updates reporting on our progress. Some chose to add projects that hadn't actually been started, but ones they had been thinking about doing. I thought that was a great idea. While it would be nice to finish one piece each month, progress on a few is okay too as long as we are moving forward.

Sharing photos is of course welcome, as is asking for feedback, ideas, input, or whatever is needed to help us stay on track. But being accountable to each other is the best part. 

The goal of course is to have all the art pieces completed by the end of the year, giving us almost 12 months, but also not letting any new projects we undertake fall to the wayside. But any of those that aren't done will get added to a list next year.

"Now that’s all I want to do!  I’m very motivated..."
"I am excited to begin!"
"I am sure it will help me to finish my artworks, to give life to other works ..."

We are already seeing results after just a few weeks. I've managed to make a bit of progress on 3 of my art pieces, and finished one of the smaller ones - a fibre art interpretation of Electrified Cat's Moss. Although it had taken me months to find the right technique, once I did, it came together very quickly. And like the comment above, I too am motivated to get my unfinished pieces finished. 




I'll sign off this post by sharing a quote in Olympic speedskater and cyclist Clara Hughes' book Open Heart, Open Mind. This quote resonated with me, especially since I worked in sport for several years, but also because applies to any walk of life, and any type of project.

"You can only attract success for yourself if you want every single 
one of your competitors to be good and strong. 
When you wish good things for others, this comes back to you. 
The strength to be kind is not often asked for, 
but this is perhaps the most important strength to have."

Quote by an elder to Clara Hughes 


Very true.


RECYCLING FABRIC AND OLD TEXTILES INTO FAUX CHENILLE

I have a stash of old fabrics and thrift store textiles I've collected over the years, not sure what they would be used for but knowing they would get used up one day. I'm pleased to say I've now discovered the purpose for all these gems: a technique known as "faux chenille", also called "fabric slashing". 

I first tried this technique about two months ago and made 6 cushion covers (see photo below) (the first 2 were test pieces) with a 7th that I framed instead. And I'm now working on 3 different pictures using this same technique. 

Faux chenille includes several layers of fabrics stitched together, then cut between the stitched lines with sharp scissors. But it's the friction of machine washing and drying the sewn & cut fabrics that creates the frayed fabric edges, giving it a chenille-type look. The first time I washed the bundles was a bit nerve racking, but I was thrilled with the result. And it's a great way to recycle fabric scraps and old clothing and textiles. 


I'm learning the different looks that can be achieved based on the various fabric types, and the importance of colour choices - high contrast is most effective for this technique. I thought the spotted fabric shown at right would be great as a top layer, complemented by layers of pink, green and blue, however these latter colours overshadowed the spotted fabric, dulling what had been a fun piece of fabric. But this was part of the learning process, and a reminder to keep colour theory top of mind.


The orange piece below turned out spectacular, with some red, black and blue layers peeking through. As the top layer was from an old orange blouse with delicate embroidery and sequins, which did survive the washing process, I decided it would look best framed and for long-term protection.


Sewing line after line spaced about 1/2" apart and without a guide is great practice for one's spatial vision, and one's machine sewing skills too. Of course the distances don't have to be exact, and some variation adds interest to the overall piece. 

After completing all these cushion covers, I had decided to try making some pictures using this technique.

I chose this photo of a hosta leaf from my garden. After studying the colours in the picture, I selected several fabrics in shades of greens, blue-green and some fushia and purple to add to the edges, then carefully planned out the layers. The stitching and cutting were the easy part, following the veins of the leaf. 

Next came the washing and drying, again a bit nerve racking but also with great anticipation. I could not have been more pleased with the result.

I embellished some of the edges with pink tulle, couched on yarn for vein lines, and handstitched some beads and sequins to represent water drops. 



I'm so inspired by what I've learned so far and with the potential for this technique. It lends itself very well to nature images, and I now have a list of pictures I want to create. I'm part way through one of a Japanese zen garden and another of moss. And perhaps there will be more lichens in my future too.

If you're interested in learning this technique, there are lots of great tutorials online. Just google "slashing fabric technique" or "faux chenille".


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