Friday, May 19, 2017

Not Thinking About What Doesn't Need Thinking About

Tonight, I'm having a sleep over with my grandsons while my daughter and her husband celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. I can not believe how much faster time is moving as I age. I'm ten years older than that day I remember so clearly. As I said to a friend earlier this week, I feel a tremendous need to get up earlier, go to bed later, and get to all those ideas that are jumping around in my head.


Yesterday, I went shopping with a friend and - hopefully as I'm writing on Tuesday evening but talking as if it's actually happening/happened - wearing my new pants - the denim Trio Pants - which I finished more than once. The first time I sewed them, I took the hems back down and the waistband off, shortened them substantially, lowered the waistband an inch, and re-hemmed them. The next time I sewed them, I took the waist band off and the hems down and took another 1" seam in on each side, restitched the waistband, and re-hemmed them. And then I altered the pattern and stitched a shorter version out of a bright blue/black/white print for the summer that I am counting on coming some time soon.

I love the way the top-stitching looks with the denim thread. It's a thicker turquoise thread combined with a longer stitch length so that it will show up nicely against the fabric. Top-stitching is one of my favourite details whether it's in a coordinating or a contrasting thread. How do you feel about top-stitching? What is your favourite detail?

The taupe pair of pants that I mentioned in the last posting - the ones that I cut out but didn't sew - are in the paint pile. I'm going to add black and other colours and paint the pieces to have an overall colour/tone that I would wear. I think that will be fun.

My all time favourite - most sewn - top pattern is Vogue 8691 by Katherine Tilton although my version is so evolved from the original that Marcy once asked me whose pattern it was. I've shortened the top, removed the frilled hemline, changed the neckline, altered the sleeve length, and sewn it over and over and over again because it's incredibly flattering. I wear a black version all the time only it's gotten so big that I took a 1 1/2 - 3" in total - tuck down center front just to get me through until I can sew some more. AND THEN...

... I altered the pattern and cut out a purple version and everything that could go wrong went wrong from not walking the seam lines to make sure they were accurate and having to add 2 3/4" to the center front to hating the way the fabric stitched up to finishing the wrong side of the fabric for the sleeves because it was too dark to see which side was the right side, and... and... and... It's in muslin mode now. I've pinned and tucked and cut to see what I want to do to finesse the smaller size and I'm ready for that project when I get back to the studio.

The second wire wrapping workshop I've finished is Start Wire Weaving: Cabochon Pendants with Dawn Horner. For the assignment, I practiced with this blue stone bought quite a while ago. The instructions say to separate the two base wires by the depth of the stone only I didn't take into account that my stone was deeper in the middle and narrower on the edges. That was good learning. I'm not going to finish this pendant since it's really rather ugly. Instead, I'll cut out the stone, ball the wire up, and see what it can become however....

... I did use the technique to move on to my second - designed by me - piece. I've been asked several times what the stones are and I have no idea. I bought them on a string at Michaels. The colour of the smaller beads rubbed off when I finished the piece and I repainted them with a metallic acrylic paint before finishing the piece. Originally....

... I designed the pendant to have the curly edges to the top and kept struggling to bring the piece together until I decided to change the orientation. That's one thing I've learned with textile art and painting. That just because you think it's going to be this side up doesn't mean it's going to be this side up. No matter what I'm creating, I've learned that I have to stay flexible and listen to the developing piece and see where it wants to go.

The Craftsy platform has been fabulous for learning this new skill of wire wrapping. I'm on their email list and usually wait until there is a sale before buying a new class so I get more for my money. Some of the ones I've enrolled in haven't been at all what I wanted but most have been and some have been even more than I could have asked for. I'm finding that working through the assignments is helping tremendously. Right now, I'm enrolled in Big & Bold Wire Jewelry by Sharilyn Miller. We're actually making a necklace as the assignment so I'm not sure what I'll do for my "designed by me" piece but we'll see. I want to take the skills in a different direction to make sure I'm thinking independently.

When I get back to my jewelry bench, I'll be working on cutting apart and shaping the jump rings made from a larger gauge wire and then assembling the pieces of the necklace. Whenever I finish work for the day - or go away on a trip - I leave my studio space(s) clean and neat and ready to return to and I make sure that I know what I'm going to do next. That helps me to flow right into the work. With sewing, I'll be working on the painted pants and another top. With knitting, I'll be adding a collar to a baby cardigan. With wire wrapping, I'll be separating the jump rings and assembling the necklace. With learning, I have the next workshop ready to review. I find that knowing what I'm going to do next and having studio routines help me to think less and work more. What systems do you have that support your creativity?

The creative study I'm working through right now is Creative Thursday: Everyday Inspiration to Grow Your Creative Practice. It it, the author writes: Thanks to the Internet, there are now countless opportunities to learn from people all over the world who can inspire and/or challenge us. Exposing yourself to something entirely new will not only increase your skill level and build your knowledge base, but it might open you up to a possibility that you had no idea you would love so much. 

My oldest son and I were talking about productivity the other day. Both of us receive comments all the time about how much we produce and we both think it's because we're organized and efficient. For me, not thinking about what doesn't need thinking about is a huge part of how I work. While I'll alter my routine if needed, I pretty much follow the same schedule every day and when I'm working in the studio, I have other routines I follow like placing pattern pieces here and cut pieces there and working in a specific order and cleaning and sorting at designated stages. These all sound confining and yet they are actually freeing. If I need a pattern piece, it's over there. If I need the fabric part, it's right here. If I need thread or scissors or a zipper or elastic, it is exactly where I think it is and each project starts on a fresh page. It's a positive habit that allows me to maximize my time and creative energy. What habits do you have that work for you; what habits do you have that you'd like to change?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - my hip has healed enough that I can now jump on the mini tramp again without pain... which is good for getting back to my routine of exercising before showering

Friday, May 12, 2017

It's Remnants For This Blouse

... we should be thankful for routine everyday life. There is nothing ordinary about getting up and going to work. There is nothing ordinary about being able to see, having friends or having family. These are gifts from God. You and I should never take for granted what God has given us. If you can see, if you can hear, if you can walk, if you've got good health, family, friends and a good job, learn to appreciate each of these gifts. - Every Day a Friday by Joel Osteen

Last Sunday, I went for a walk along the lake. Over the winter, the city did some work along the shoreline and a large part of the path is now wider and flatter with rocks along the lake edge and more trees. The sky was a gorgeous blue punctuated by clouds. The foliage was the hopeful green of spring. And the bird sanctuary was filled with activity and noise. It's a wonderful space. I'd hoped to get back later in the week except that I spent the only two sunny days working on the front yard and the rest of the time it's been drizzly and wet... which is... of course... perfect studio weather.

I am not a woven blouse person. When I do sew them, they don't get worn and even so, I liked this Burda 6580 top, view B, and thought I'd try it with a drapey rayon. First, I sewed the back and bias cut front together and tried it on and it was tough tugging to get it over my head but before I changed the neckline I wanted to make sure I liked it so I sewed in a sleeve... and it was too tight... so I took it out and sewed in a larger sleeve... and it still feels like a straight jacket. At first, I intended to ball it up and be done with it - do something with the remnants - but after a few days thought, I'm going to remove the sleeve, finish the armholes, and add the side zipper and the pleats, and if I like that, I'll lower the neckline. If I don't... it's remnants for this blouse.

Last night, I cut out The Sewing Workshop's Trio Pants in a medium blue denim. I've sewn these quite successfully a few times and - thankfully - one of the drafted patterns is my current size so I'm hoping to have them sewn for next week when I'm going shopping with a friend. It'd be fun to have a new outfit. But, even this has not smooth sailing. At first, I thought I'd cut them out in a grey only when I looked at the fabric more closely under different lighting it was a taupe... which doesn't go with anything I own... so I'm not sure why it's in my stash... but I put that aside and cut the pattern out again. With my ultra small wardrobe, I'd rather sew something I'll wear.

I've been giving "accept and lean" even more thought over the past week and I've realized that as much as I enjoy sewing labour intensive garments with lots of little touches, I rarely wear them. I've worn each of these coats twice. I reach for garments that may be as "complicated" in structure but will be simpler in terms of detail or contrast - like the trio pants with multiple seams and top stitching or a similarly structure top - in a solid coloured fabric or in one colour with varying textures. As I mentioned in the last posting, my preferred look is a plainer upper garment with a statement necklace which may be why...

... this surprising new love of wire wrapping could be a missing link. Not only am I enjoying putting together the pieces but I am also enjoying wearing them. I showed you the start of this piece in the last posting. The finished size is 3" wide by 3 1/2" high. It's my first free-form, designed by me, piece based on what I learned in the first workshop on weaving bracelets. I'm working on my second free-form, designed by me, piece based on the workshop about cabochons. It works well to watch the workshop, then watch it again and do the assignments, and then create my own piece based on what I learned. My design abilities seems to have transferred from other mediums. My technical abilities need to catch up but WHAT FUN!

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - time with friends

Friday, May 5, 2017

Accept & Lean

The pants I showed in the last posting have already been altered to fit better. As the linen warmed from wear, the crotch depth seemed to get too long and baggy. After pinning to test, I took off the waistband and moved it down a full inch and I like the fit considerably better now. Small changes can make a significant difference; the difference between wearing or not wearing a garment.

I am really rather picky about my clothing and if a garment doesn't fit or feel quite right, it often gets recycled. This bag is made from two pairs of jeans I bought at the thrift store and a skirt from my closet that never got worn.

I wanted to practice using studs before adding bling to a bag I'm making for my daughter as well as use some of the bag hardware I've been accumulating like the handles and magnetic closure. The D rings are another thrift store find - from belts.

The flap is a pocket from the jeans. I stabilized it with interfacing and added a lining and then folded it up and over and stitched it to the bag back. The edges have zigzag stitching with purple thread that adds just a tiny bit of glow.


Large snaps on the side give shape to the bag and narrow the opening while purse feet on the bottom will help keep it cleaner. The lining is purple like the details on the front and there is plastic canvas in the bottom to hold the shape. I'm pleased with how it turned out and...

... at the same time....

... I feel like the bags I'm making are rather predictable and I want to give them a higher degree of interest and sophistication - like a statement necklace. I've had a few conversations over the last few days about accepting and leaning into my style. At first, I was looking for my style or looking to evolve my style into what I thought it should be because I admired someone else's look. That doesn't work. It's false. By defining and recognizing my style... and accepting it... I now feel comfortable with it and want to increase its authenticity and originality. That's a fun journey - to be the best me.

Statement necklaces are part of my style. In all likelihood, any outfit you see me wearing will be some version of a plain upper garment, a lower garment with more impact such as a print or texture or piecing, and a statement necklace that adds energy and detail to finish the look. I'd like the bags I sew to have that same impact as my necklaces even if the one I personally use daily is just plain black. Bags are a wonderful playground. I think the answer I'm looking for is in the added details.

My refashioning and re-purposing skills have grown tremendously over the past five years that I've been working on them. Before, I didn't even want to go into a thrift store and now, I have to be careful how often I go because I always find something... like this bracelet made up of multiple bangles all of which would be great for wire wrapping.... which has...

... turned into somewhat of an addiction. Above is the piece I'm currently working on. I started by cutting seven base wires and randomly weaving them and then added the turquoise stone and securing it with the weave. The piece is currently more pendant like and I want more of a wider bar so I'm about to add another stone and extend the design toward the right.

I'm allowing the piece to evolve as it will and seeing what unfolds step-by-step. Although the medium is new, this is a comfortable way of working. It's how I work with fabric. And the lines I see emerging are familiar. They're just made of wire not thread. I think that's the leaning part of accepting and leaning. My style involves texture, multiple small details, curving lines, and focal and secondary focal points. Almost anything I create fits into that "formula" in some way. It's my uniform, the blank canvas within which I create and there are multiple ways to fill the form. YES YES

What are you accepting and leaning into about your style?

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - maturity

Friday, April 28, 2017

Wire & Pants

During the morning hour yesterday, I attempted to work on the bag only I kept making silly measuring errors so it was more stop than go. Hopefully this morning I'll have better luck. For the rest of the day, I concentrated on...

... finishing up the three assignments from my first workshop - Wire Weaving Bracelets: Basics and Beyond  with Sarah Thompson. It's very well done and I feel I learned a lot - as in....

... what to do and what not to do. My wrap improved with each project and I anticipate it'll keep going int hat direction. My curls and turns need more work. I'll learn to do by doing. I seem to be quite good at tucking under the ends. There was only one "catchy" one when I scrubbed off the liver of sulfer patina. I made it a little on the strong side so the first two were quite dark and the third (the most complicated) I dunked quick in and out.

These two were relatively straight forward. Assignment one on the left is about learning the weave and shaping the bracelet. Assignment two on the right is about creating texture, layers, and movement. 

My version of assignment three seemed to get quite ornate and it was disappointing that the finish rubbed off the beads. If you look back earlier you can see that they had a brass and copper finish which looked much better than the clear glass HOWEVER... the beads cover my "learning curves" one of which is to use a flatter focal bead.

The next workshop I'm taking is Start Wire Weaving: Cabachon Pendants with Dawn Horner. In my jewelry supplies I have a large blue stone that will do for learning. I'm doing my best work possible with these projects and quality wire but not my best stones and beads. I'll work up to them.

As a teacher, I know that the assignments are designed to teach skills from beginner to more advanced however, as a student, I often skip over them to what I really want to do. In this case, I'm doing all the assignments in each workshop so I can practice, so I can learn to do by doing, and so I can develop solid working skills.

I'm sorry these pictures are so dark. Hopefully they are better than nothing. It was grey and stormy yesterday and not good for taking pictures. I finished the linen souvenir pants and paired it with a black t-shirt and the purple cardigan I refashioned a few weeks ago. The outfit received compliments yesterday which was rather nice.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - one workshop, growing confidence

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An At Home DOL

For Howard, the first robin sighting is a major event. It's not that he loves spring. It's more that he hates winter and when the robins appear, it's over. Typically, they eat all the old berries off of the mountain ash tree in our front yard before moving on. This year...

... we're running a robin hotel. The window in my studio looks out at the underneath the back deck. There's a main beam running parallel and then joists running away from the wall. In-between nine of the joists are nests. It should be a chirpingly happy place sometime soon. I'm intending to dig out this area and put doors out from the studio to a deck... but probably not this year... although I should clean it up before next spring so they don't come back especially as the word seems to be out that Myrna's place is open for nesting.

I'm working on a bag from recycled jeans using the plain and striped pair above as well as another darker pair. Whenever I grow out of a pair, I cut up the pieces and put them in stash. Denim is one of my favourite fabrics. 

I wanted a project to practice applying studs to before I add LOTS of them to a bag for my daughter. They were a lot easier than I thought they'd be and I'm happy with the look. The front is finished and I'll work on the lining next. Refashioning is - in the scope of my years spent sewing - a relatively new past time that I really enjoy and one that has given me greater confidence...

... to cut into expensive fabrics. This piece of linen is one of my souvenir fabrics which means I bought it on a trip for more money than I'd pay normally. It's from and has an absolutely gorgeous drape. Just before I cut out the pieces, I had one of those what if I wreck it thoughts immediately followed by oh well, then I'll make it into something else. The remnants will definitely become something else. They're too yummy to throw away.

This month, I had planned to be in Ashland, Oregon for the Design Outside the Lines Retreat with Diane Ericson. For several reasons, the trip didn't work out so I decided to have an at home DOL and focus on learning how to wire wrap. I treated myself to a set of starter tools and the proper wire supplies and signed up for several workshops at Craftsy. I've been working through them doing the samples and have shifted from absolutely horrible to not so horrible. This is progress. You can see in the image above, that I make one error consistently. Eventually, I'll get smoother but for now, my solution is to sew a bead on it - LOL.

I'm intrigued with my reaction to wire wrapping. In home economics, I sat down at the sewing machine and fell in love and I have loved sewing in many forms ever since. I breath in fabric and my mind is constantly jumping around with ideas. I've tried numerous other art forms in the over forty years since and none have resonated in the same way.

Knitting is perhaps the closest and while I've studied it at a high level including design, it's more of a meditative, social, out in a group or sitting in front of the TV with Howard, nothing too complicated, kind of thing for me. With wire, I started wrapping and fell in love. My mind is already jumping with ideas that are completely beyond the scope of my abilities but I know if I persevere, I'll be able to incorporate the texture, flow, line, and colour that I see into my head into actual pieces I can wear. YES YES.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - new adventures

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's Not Such An Uncomfortable Place

To invest in a new form we need to get rid of the old one. We need to try to reach into the unknown and drag it into our space so that it will be useful to us. At first, this unknown place is uncomfortable. We tend not to like this kind of surprise or risk and we fear failure. The more we practice reaching into and prodding the unknown, the more we see that it is the only place to be and the most rewarding for us as creators. We even may grow to like it. - Mary Todd Beam - Celebrate your Creative Self

Our entire family was here for the Easter weekend which was wonderful. With living in different cities and varied work schedules, it can be hard to find a weekend that works for all of us but I definitely want at least one a year. Christmas is difficult with winter travel but Easter may be entirely possible. It's something to discuss.

We had an Easter egg hunt with the boys - meaning my adult boys and my grandsons. The piles of three were for the adults and were not as easy to find and the piles of two were for the small boys and were much easier to find. It was a very chocolate weekend.

I sewed two pairs of black and white pajama pants and hate both of them. They're woven and it seems I much prefer knit pajama pants so I'll take these apart and use the fabric for bags and sew new ones from a knit. - - - - The rolls are 2 1/2" strips of a cotton/polyester blend that is either purple or dark blue on one side and grey on the other. I prepped the strips for the two bedside rugs that my friend Rosmarie is weaving for my bedroom. She'll also include a colourful yarn in the weft. I used the rotary cutter to cut the strips and yes, polyester dulls the blade very quickly. I was asked but I don't remember cutting polyester before so I wasn't sure.

Everyone left before the couch and the - unbelievably heavy - and still unfinished - thrift store table were taken back down to the studio so I slid the couch into the kitchen where I could sit and watch the pond and the morning sun and the table into the corner of the living room to use as a wire weaving station. My order of wire and tools came on Wednesday so I'm redoing the workshop and practicing the samples again with the correct supplies. I'm really enjoying learning this new art form and...

... earlier this week, I went to a friend's to learn about creating polymer clay shapes free-form. I'm hoping to combine polymer and wire wrapping in some way. My friend doesn't bother with different colours of clay or with rolling and sanding the pieces she makes. She simply forms them by hand, bakes them, and then paints them with acrylic paint.

It's interesting to look at the pieces in my photo as opposed to looking at them in-person. In the photo, I can see fluff and rougher details than I'd want in a finished piece so I imagine if I think polymer will work with the wire, I'll be sanding off some of those edges although the thing that attracted me to try again with polymer was the less labour intensive approach so I'll need to find a happy medium. I can also see now how these free-form shapes could have a textile piece adhered to them whereas before I was overthinking the idea.

The quote at the start of this post was from yesterday's journal time. It reminded me not to cling too tightly to how I think a thing should be done and to instead let it evolve. When I first started wanting to make textile jewelry, I wanted it to be all fabric and now I see that if I'll shift my desire from textile jewelry to making jewelry - and in particular statement necklaces - and pull into that journey whatever it is that I know and can learn and that works, it'll be far more enjoyable. I'm making progress and - having learned to like the mystery of the unknown - it's not such an uncomfortable place.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - family & fun