Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jewelry with wire, beads... and fiber?

I’ve been in a jewelry phase lately and when I wandered into JoAnn’s yesterday, most beading supplies were marked 40–50% off (yippee!) One of the intriguing books available was Crocheted Wire and Bead Jewelry by Jacqui Harris. It was only $5.97 after the markdown, with nice color photographs of the variety of necklaces. They’re all based on the same process; chain stitch at least 3 lengths of wire with beads, then braid them together. They can be elegant or wild and crazy, depending on the choice of colors and beads.

The random quality inherent to this style of jewelry is one of its most appealing aspects for me. Another nice feature is that these are pretty quick to construct. I made the one below in a couple of hours in front of the TV last night. It has 6 strands braided in groups of 2, so it’s still a 3-strand braid. One factor is that the wire can be hard on the fingers, so perhaps gloves might be in order for the fingertips that must grip the wire chain while in progress. I used 26 gauge wire instead of the recommended 28, so that made it a bit tougher as well.
Of course you wouldn’t have to stick to a 3-strand braid. 200 Braids to Twist, Knot, Loop, or Weave by Jacqui Carey is wonderful eye candy that shows amazing ways to create unique trim. A helpful photographic “braid and trim selector” is a visual index to the contents. Each sample is explained clearly with general instructions plus the unique aspect of each one, e.g. multi-colored or different strand weights and/or textures. I bought the book without any specific project in mind, but with over 75 braids alone, there must be some that would be appropriate for crocheted wire work jewelry. Time to experiment, definitely.

And what about adding some fiber? Whether wire can be considered “fiber” is perhaps debatable, but there must be a way to add strips of fabric, ribbon, or yarn. Below is a simple 3-strand sample with one strand that’s crocheted with wire + ribbon yarn. The other two strands are wire chains with beads. Some definite possibilities there!
Tomorrow is the Craft and Hobby Association Craft SuperShow which moved to Orlando this year, so who knows what supplies may be available there? Better bring an extra bag...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The 2010 Quilting Arts Calendar is here!

The printed calendar came in the mail and it looks beautiful. The fruit, flowers, and veggies depicted every month will cheer up a studio, kitchen, or office all year long. And the variety of fiber art techniques will be an inspiration as well. You can order a calender at the Interweave store.

A nice little bonus that goes along with a winning entry is the $200 Visa gift card they sent us. I’ve already bought some art supplies and books, but there’s still plenty left! Hmmm... I wonder what the theme will be for the 2011 contest? Birds? Bugs? Beasts? All three? We shall see!

Toodles for now,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Beads plus fiber?

Beads have been one of my art supply obsessions for quite some time. In recent years, the fabric acquisition mania has taken precedence, but the beads refuse to be ignored for long.

This choker is a super-simple random arrangement on memory wire, so it doesn’t even require a clasp. Last week I took beads, necklace and bracelet memory wire, plus tools over to my sister’s vacation place so the nieces, aunts, and Grandma could all make something sparkling.

The next two necklaces use a method of stitching with a strong nylon beading thread over a beading wire, known as the spiral stitch.
Basically you string 4 large seed beads (#8 or #6), add a sequence of beads that together are slightly longer, then go back through the first 4 large seed beads from underneath so it makes sort of a D-shape. Add one more large seed bead, string the same sequence of the other beads, then insert the needle from underneath through the previous 4 large seed beads (skipping the very bottommost large seed bead.) The beads naturally fall into the spiral, though you have to watch to make sure they’re nesting together properly. I like to use stone chips or irregular coral beads in these. Fortunately, I just found an online tutorial that shows the basic technique.

Here’s an interesting book that adds fiber to the mix, Bella Beaded Jewelry: Artful Italian Designs with Wire, Thread, Cord & Ribbon, by Donatella Ciotti. She uses various cords and threads, thin wire, and/or metallic tubular mesh ribbon plus beads (of course!) in a variety of ways to fashion necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings.
Below is a spread about making a crocheted base that beads are then added to. At 96 pages with plenty of full-color photographs, it’s definitely an inspirational book worth having if you enjoy creating your own one-of-a-kind jewelry. In addition, many of these methods are suitable for embellishments on fiber art of all kinds. Like many of you, I have quite a variety of yarns, ribbons, cords, etc. that could be gorgeous in combination with the stash of beads on hand.

Happy creating!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Making cotton with paint... and cotton

Have you ever tried to represent cotton in a quilt? I’m making a cotton field for the LIQ project because Jenny needs something soft and cushy behind her head (just kidding.) I tried to find suitable fabric in the quilt shops that would work, but ended up having to paint it. The brown fabric below seemed like a good prospect.Below is my first try with white acrylic. The blank areas are supposed to show the gaps between rows, but they aren’t defined enough. Also, the overall effect is too contrasty and Jenny’s plum color is too similar in value. By the way, if you’ve never seen cotton fields at harvest, the plants are dead and brown with a fluffy frosting of fiber.The lighter ochre colored fabric below is the next victim. Tape is used to mask off the gaps, and a natural sponge works well to apply the white paint. The secret weapon for making the dots is an embossing tool (used for metal tooling.) It makes much better same-sized dots than a brush can. Below is the field in place with a green strip for the tree line. Because the field fabric is placed over a flip-and-sew pieced background, it has some stabilizer behind it to prevent the bumpy seams from showing through. I was going to FMQ it, but ran into an unexpected problem with the white thread... it looked darker than the white acrylic paint, plus the needle holes were big and wouldn’t close up because of the paint. The result looked like a line of light gray stitching. It’s hard to see but it’s now quilted with small random seed stitches. I tried several white threads and none of them looked white enough so had to deemphasize the quilting. Besides, with the stabilizer underneath, it was very hard to hand stitch! In retrospect, the paint might have stiffened it enough that the stabilizer was not necessary.

The foreground of this quilt will have some actual cotton balls, such as these below. I was going to use those craft pom-poms, but that seemed pretty bogus. These are just little rolled up balls of white 100% cotton batting dipped in water and allowed to dry. I was thinking of dipping them in highly diluted acrylic medium to help them hold together better, but this seems to work. They will be sewed on with monofilament thread after absolutely everything else is done, because they’re so fragile and inclined to fuzz up.
I’m thinking about making some clouds with white thread machine-stitched on soluble stabilizer... we’ll see how that works out.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Repaint a barn in Photoshop

We recently visited Calloway Gardens in Georgia, and I spent a couple of mornings practicing my plein air painting. This little barn is in the vegetable garden area. The bright light hitting the lime green coleus plants caught my eye plus this vantage point was in the shade, so this was the spot. The photo below was taken very early before the light hit the front of the building. One of the tricky things about outdoor painting is that the light changes quickly. You can read my previous plein air posts here.After about 4 hours of painting over two mornings, this is what I was able to finish (below). I left off some of the more complex details of the building, but at least it’s fairly straight. It seems to have lost some of the width of the actual structure... oh well! Anyway, what bugs me about it at this point is the overall brown look between the taupe color of the barn and fence plus the reddish-brown mulch. Before putting more actual paint on this, I’m going to test some tweaks in Photoshop first. One way to change color is to select a section with the magic wand and use Hue/Saturation to try different colors. But today I’ll use the Replace Color feature. First I used the Lasso tool to make a loose selection around just the barn. Then under Image>Adjustments>Replace Color a dialog box will open up. Click in the image window to select the front of the barn. To add to the selection, hold down the Shift key. Slide the Fuzziness lever to increase or decrease the selection amount. Once the front of the barn was completely selected (it appears white in the preview window), I increased the Saturation and Lightness. Below the barn looks lighter and more yellow.The same procedure was used below to make the fence a light gray. Testing out color changes digitally like this can save time and paint! While this doesn’t look exactly like the actual barn now, the issue is making the painting look good. To me this has a better overall value and color harmony. The shadows on the mulch should probably be darker, actually. My favorite part is the trees.It’s fun to push an image even more by playing around with Curves instead, which posterizes it somewhat and inserts some odd colors. There’s no real consistent procedure to follow other than to go to Image>Adjustments>Curves and start drawing little bumps above and below the diagonal line, then see what happens. Give it a try, it’s fun to play with.Have a great 4th of July!