Skeletons, skeletons, skeletons! I love to draw cartoon skeletons doing funny things!! Are you inspired by day of the dead? By Halloween? And by silly skeletons? Ooo, ooo, I am! And that’s just what I ended up making this moon for the Little Alters project.
Kimberly Kostal is the recipient and I know how much she loves skeletons. In fact, last moon, she tried to make one for the alter for me, but got stuck. So, I was excited when inspiration began to strike. Little did I know, I’d hit some rough patches that would hold me back and delay my progress.
Below is the quick sketch I did of the skeleton I planned to create. I thought I'd be making a bah relief (think embossed or carved effect). But, my body and the universe had other plans and my idea totally changed. Or so I thought.
Do you find that when Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos time comes, you feel like the world has slowed to a near halt? This year I feel more in tune with the natural world. This means that my life is naturally turning introspective, the same way the earth is quieting for winter, and creating art is not as easy as other times of the year.
I’ve had ups and downs in health for much longer than I’d like now and am back on track to healing. But, sometimes, we need to pause and listen to our body, then change course. I’m learning to listen and honor the message, no matter how hard it is to hear. Spending time on health that I normally spend doing other things means less of those other things for now, including art.
After realizing I was going to attempt an art technique, the bah relief with paper clay, that I had never done, nor had any experience with (read neither failure or successes), I finally had to come to terms. I don’t like to work on techniques while on a deadline. I prefer to have tried, failed, succeeded, learned, and know how to do a technique before I attempt it under deadline. Otherwise, I’m a stressed out basket case. Not that bad really, but puts undue stress on my art and life and I need less right now.
I have tried techniques under pressure and time crunches and it can be very educational and huge inventions/breakthroughs can occur, but I’d rather save that for a different time/place than the alter project. You’d think one month was plenty of time. But for some reason, right now, my brain & emotional well being just need a bit less stress. So, I’m purposefully acknowledging and choosing the less stressful route. In future, I will try new techniques under deadline and will plan for it be a fun and enjoyable route. I've learned that planning helps make the journey fun and if you anticipate there will be unexpected turns, it is much more manageable.
Why not just draw & paint? Well, silly me, I thought that wouldn't be "enough". It wasn't grand enough, complex enough, blah blah - shut up critic in my head. Back to drawing I went. I found some ATC sized vellum / marker papers (heavier than cardstock) and re drew the original sketch. It's more fun to sketch an idea over an over (without expecting it to be exactly the same), because you begin to see what elements you consistently emphasize or remember.
After sketching Mr. Skelly Pants - who is actually a bit of a steampunk observer (he says, "Hmmm, yes... what is that I see" with the voice of a hefty walrus) - I grabbed all my water soluable crayons, pencils, and pastels and went to town coloring. Ooo boy, coloring between the lines! That was fun! You'll notice that I gave the feather a ton of color, but in the end it was a shiny purple. That was NOT on purpose. I was faking my way through, trying to to see what would happen. I think nicely though, the colors do come through a little and give the feathers and cap more depth.
After I watered it all down, it needed more still. I know! Twinkle H2O's! So, I painted the sky, the hat & feather, and a few other adornments in the wonderfully sparklie Twinkle H2O's. Now I'm really in LOVE!
Just above you'll see a miniature version of one of my skeleton designs that I carved into a stamp. I reduced it 50% and recarved it to create the one you see above left. But, it just didn't excite me for this month or on the mini canvas with paint above. Meh. And I was really diggin the water colors.
The down side of canvas was that it was just a smidge too thick to fit into the space. Oh I can fix that! With a blade, I went to town cutting off the folded corners of the canvas. Dangerous? Yes. Because the canvas could peel away over time. Washi tape to the rescue! Round the edges and 2 pull handles so the piece could be inserted into it's slot on the printer drawer and then easily removed. Grab a couple of bits of secure glue and mount that mini painting to it's canvas style frame. Voila!
Looking back at him now, I think he definitely has the dancing feel of the silly skeletons above, don't you?
Meeting Stanley Hostek
During Jan Bones classes
, fast sewing friendships were made and arrangements were made for time with Judy Barlup
, Seattle's own Japanese Tailoring expert, and a visit to meet the famous Seattle tailor and teacher, Stanley Hostek
. The universe is mysterious. My mom tried to connect me with Judy years ago after meeting her at Sew Expo
saying she had so many things she could teach me. But, I was not yet interested in tailoring. Little did I know that she and I would choose to take the same class and meet years later. I feel so lucky!
As for Stanley, I didn't know much of him before we met, but I knew meeting him was something I just had to do. And that was only emphasized by the giddy tones emitted from the other new sewing friends. Boy was I in for a treat. As he started talking, every third sentence talked of how blessed his life has been. Wow, to be in your nineties and still grateful. We should all be so lucky. He took several hours out of his day to tell us his personal history. He talked of making clothing to last for years (not just 1, 2, or 3, but 10, 20, 30, more). He talked of the power and last-ability of hand-stitching. Say what?! last-ability and hand-stitching in the same sentence? Yes. I won't tell more, because you really need to buy your own copy of his books. They are worth every penny. Mind, the more advanced student is likely to gain the most. But the beginner, if really invested in a high quality finished product and not fast/easy, also stands to learn by leaps and bounds. Don't let the simplicity of the copies (just post mimeograph) or lack of photos fool you. Stanley's books are chock full of excellent information for ANY garment. I can see ties in all styles, for both men & women. To me, his techniques transcend time and trends to the ultimate high quality garment.
Hand Stitching on Vest Lining by Stanley Hostek circa 1975. Photo taken 2013.
One of Stanley's lovely drafting tools.
Hand stitching on vest by Stanley Hostek circa 1975. Photo taken 2013.
I'm in awe, my head is filled with amazing new ideas, and my bookshelf is 4 books heavier with all 4 of Stanley's published books. The piece shown in the above photographs is a hand-sewn vest from a 3-piece suit that was made more than 35 years ago. It looks brand spankin' new!!! Every button hole is hand-stitched with waxed linen and you should see how sturdy the button shanks are! I'm so honored and blessed to spend an afternoon learning from these two greats!
If you've heard of London's Savile Row
& the suits made by tailors there, then you'll know that Stanley's technique books
, written in 1975 are how these top of the line men's suits are still made today. Get your own copies of his books at http://stanleyhostek.com/
Handstitching, Are you Allergic?
In the classes she just taught in Tacoma, Jan mentioned that a friend of hers is "allergic to mending" and told us this cute story about how her friend's family just knows that mom won't mend anything because she really doesn't like to. And thus the allergy.
I cross stitched as a kid. It was cool for as long as my first sampler, then - BORING! Oh the thought of how painstakingly slow that was. Me? I'm fast. I think fast, act quickly, recall easily, keep multiple projects going in all areas of my life. Better busy than bored is my preference. Handstitching fits right into that slow category. Oh. My. Gawd. You mean I have to spend 30 min stitching a couple seams that could take me less than 30 sec on my machine? No way.
Well, yes way it turns out. In 2004 when I was half living in Kansas City, Missouri, I learned how to put a hand-picked zipper and hand-stitched lining (Silk Charmuse in Pucci print mind you) when I was taking classes from the beloved Cherry Barthel at Kaplan's Fabrics (drool!). That woman is amazing! I can still hear her telling me, "Yes, honey." I walked in wanting to learn to sew a suit and walked out several weeks later with trousers, jacket, and skirt in tropical weight wool. I even wore the suit to an interview and got the job. It was a perfect fit for the work environment. But, I no longer have the pieces because my body changed. That's ok. I hope someone else is enjoying them. But Cherry, Oh! You must take a class from her if in KCMO. The plaza is grand that that woman is FILLED with wonderful knowledge and stories. And she's so matter-of-fact. She wouldn't hear of me sewing in a zipper on the machine. Well, she would, but she made a pretty strong case for the hand picked. And it looks so much nicer. I was scared, impatient, and very unsure that my hand stitching would be even enough. But, she showed us ways to make the stiching invisible and damn if it didn't look amazing. I didn't even practice, I did it on the finished product.
Fast forward to 2013. Hand-sewing pollen count: HIGH. My Allergy to Hand-sewing: FULL BLOWN.
Jan recommended we hand-stitch the straps on our nighties
. Did I listen? Noooo. I machine sewed the crap out of them them on the body of the nightie. Then, I got home and the straps fell off at every movement. Too wide and too long for my body. Jan had other recommended mods that I could have done, but needed to try the standard fit first. Oh I was so excited that I was done. But now, ripping?!?! Ugh. Double Ugh. Those who know my knitting style know it took me a LONG time before I would ever rip my knitting out if a mistake was found. Usually my MO is like a dog, "kick some dirt over that crap and move on." But, these days, I don't want a garment with blaring mistakes or areas that I fuss over. I want one or 2 good quality pieces, thanks to many positive influencers in my life. And so, after several pushes from the universe...
- Hearing Jan say that she hand stitches her own straps onto this pattern
- Listening to other students in Jan Bones class talk of their experience with the quality and value hand-stitching brings to a garment (and hearing that they ripped less)
- Recalling the hand-stitching work Cherry pushed me to do on my suit and skirt
- Meeting Stanley & seeing the newness and quality of his 35+ year old suit that was totally hand-sewn
... I ripped out the heavy machine stitching, replaced and shortened the straps, then grabbed Stanley's book, "Hand Stitches for the Fine Custom Tailored Garment"
, picked a stitch (cross stitch, how ironic), and went to town. Lawdy, lawdy. While my stitching isn't as fine or even as I'd like it, I'm grateful to practice directly on the garment. And I recalled knots that Cherry taught me as I got started. In all, I think this will be a great way to finish the straps on the Nightie
pattern, and also give my nightie
elasticity and longevity. Cause as much as this girl tosses and turns at night, that back attachment of the strap is SURE to be a stress point. I felt so good finishing, that I started Jan's Front Close Sports Bra
. I love the momentum and high from a solid finish.
Narrowed and shortened straps on my nightie from Jan Bones class. Photo by Gwen Gyldenege 2013.
Trying out cross stitch method of hand stitching to finish attaching my nightie straps. Photo by Gwen Gyldenege 2013.
The Northwest Creative Spirits guild I joined October 2011 was officially closed as of Summer 2012. Included in that was the "Pass the Paper 2012" project I participated in. It was fun while it lasted. I'm very grateful I had the opportunity to meet so many creative souls and learn new techniques with them.
The 2 photos above show part of my paper cutting process. I discovered paper cutting in 2012, checked out several great books from the library, tried their designs, then decided to fumble my way through designing my own. After I learned that pen sketching really freed me to create my carved stamps, I thought I'd try it for paper cutting on JoAnn's paper, one of the last ones I worked on.
The big fairy in the upper left was my first attempt at sizing and capturing the feel of the vision from my head. Then, I used that size to scale down (bottom left). I just eyeballed it and used my pen to measure. As you can see there are plenty of ghost sketches and what I preveiously would have classeified as "mistakes". But, knowing I was only trying to capture the feel and get a line dark enough to use for cutting out, I let the "mistakes" go. The picture on the right shows the final cut out fairy, in reverse that I put into the page as though she's just perching on the block words and running her fingers through the butterfly dust trail. Reminds me of energy or the flow from Flowdreaming. I was tickled to see that my cruddy looking pen sketches could help me create such a glorious paper cut. Wow! I did that?! Yay!
Other projects I worked on last year included encaustic, carving more stamps, paper cutting more of my own sketches, sculpting dolls, folding origami, and working in polymer clay. I found inspiration in areas I never knew possible.
This guy to the left is partially finished, but he's a happy little sprite. Good thing too. The clay I worked with was ridiculously hard and did not warm easily. I created him at a beach retreat and had no plans, vision, or pre-conceived notion of what my results "should" be. And out came this magical little sprite. "...How lovely!" to quote Madam Mimm.
This month I decided to take a couple classes from A for Artistic
. They're online classes on all forms of doll making - sculpted in polymer and art clay through cloth dolls. One class even shows how to make a cushion chair for your doll to lounge in. They're very inspiring. Since, with the alters we're working with such wee spaces, I thought these classes would prove useful. Then, I can also use the skills learned for my other creations.
The 2 classes I'm taking are taught by Deb Wood
, "Turn that Frown Upside Down" and "Sculpting Feminine Hands and arms". I find making hands without armatures quite easy. But, introduce the armature and I wanted to see how someone else approached it. That's the great part about a class, you're paying for someone else to teach you the best method so you can avoid making some of the same mistakes they did during their trial and error period. That is something very worth paying for because it saves Gobs of time if you actually listen and follow their guidance.
I'm fascinated by hands and holding objects at present. And, I found these super awesome doll (maybe barbie) tea cups at an estate sale and am thrilled to put them to use. I created the armature, followed Deb's instructions for creating the hand and arm, but kept it simple so I could just experiment and try. To me, it looks a bit cartoon-y. And the armatures were totally see through in many parts of the hand. But I kept on with Deb's instructions and it didn't turn out too bad. I didn't add fingernails or the other knuckle wrinkles, but I did add "meat" to the heal of the hand and the padded spot just under the first knuckles of the hands. All in all, not to shabby for the first try.
The background was created by using heavy drawing paper and yellow and green Dylusions sprays finished off with a good shaking of salt. Then, I just cut a wee bit off to use for background. See the arm is a tight fit, so a full box would only get in the way.
Next, following a suggestion from Peg, I added a sleeve. She suggested polymer, but I wanted to try my hand at hand-stitching and doll costuming over the polymer. It was really fun how fast this little puff sleeve went together even with the step of gathering above the cuff. Faster and easier than I would have expected.
I chose a wee bit of my clown pants
and floral skirt bias trim so that this alter would carry a little bit of me - bright and tropical color choices to remind us of the more cheerful side of life. We see plenty of grey, let us rejoice in the experience and shifts that colors can bring. Even if these aren't your favorite colors, what do they make you think of? I once took a painting class and only worked in colors that I didn't like. It was hard at first, but then it yielded paintings that were beautiful even in my least favorite colors.
For the final touch, I used more of the background paper to create little cards that will sit inside the tea cup as wishes for the receiver, Kathy. I wish you time to unwind, day dream, rejuvenate, rest, and find your bliss. Those are all things I feel when I take a sip of hot tea and let myself rest. I know you are always on the go. So, this will be your reminder (from bright and colorful Gwen to take time out for yourself and enjoy your favorite tea. It's amazing what things occur, shift, become realized or resolved, or ideas that click into place when we quiet our mind from the tension of the world around us.
It's alter art time again! Yep, moon is full. Tomorrow to be exact. And, as the Native American's called it, the Worm Moon.
Full Worm Moon
At the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins. -- source: The Old Farmer's Almenac
Well, let's just say this month I tried to PLAN. That's right, I had really cool ideas. I was SO inspired. I've taken up rollerskating again and am fascinated by what people are doing on skates. I thought it was a lost art. But, people are dancing as fluidly on roller skates or more so, than with their feet on the ground. Blows my mind. And there's this amazing phenomenon where a whole group of people skate in a single file line really fast practically dancing. It's fascinating to watch and scary if you're skating too slow and they come racing through the crowd. So, you learn to stay toward the center and just watch.
How does that fit with my alter project this month? Well, I thought I'd be sketching skaters, doing some cool 3-D art. Spent hours looking at skaters, watching videos and out skating. But, I don't have enough time under my belt drawing bodies, observing the skating movements I want to convey, nor enough experience skating to intuitively know how those movements should feel or look. And queue melt down. The harder I tried, the more frustrated I got. I even went outside and had myself a good cry. You've got to let go of the emotions so you can get on with making the art! Ok, ok. I surrender. This is not what I should be making right now. Too early.
I went back inside and just started working on making the background or inner box with samples of water color paper I had messed around spritzing and daubing alcohol inks and dylusions sprays
. I knew I needed a background. Didn't know where I was going, what it would be. That was cathartic. I made something I knew would be needed and work. I even got to try my new perforator tool. Cool tool, that. Voila. A beginning. I made another, and tried to put the roller skaters back in and hit another wall. OK. yeah, got it. No skaters this time. I'm moving on universe. Message received.
Mom took me out to her studio (a place of wonder) and started pulling out all the bits and bobs, doo dads and whirly gigs she's collected and stored from the you-never-know-when-you-might-need-this pile. And my Parisian Dream began to take form. We found wheels, skulls, mini light bulbs, and so much more. There were a few stencils - an Eiffel tower, a hot air balloon, an old Model T, and a guy riding a 1910 big wheel tricycle. First, I tried to reduce them on the copy machine to check fit. Then drew a few Eiffel towers on shrinky-dink with colored pencils. FUN! The first was so fun I did another. Then, remembered how cool things look en masse and made 2 more. Each is a little different. Added a hot air balloon and shrank them all in the oven. Oh they became so wee! When they finally landed on the background, they ended up circling one another like going down the rabbit hole or the view from a kaleidoscope.
While each piece (background, shrinky-dinks, etc) was made independantely and I had no intention of creating "Oz", I discovered that the balloon & a spot on the background paper worked out to be just that. So, I let myself be inspired by Disney's Oz
and I let the balloon act as though it were The Great & Powerful Oz floating his way way to Paris by night. All while a French bulldog barks at the crazy multiplying Eiffel towers.
I'm SO happy. But if you'd asked me when I started if this is what I'd have ended up with - I'd have told you entirely different. Not at all what I planned or imagined, but better. Reminds me of phrases in many of Summer McStravick's flowdreams
What can you do with dingleballs?!?!
Well, I'm cultivating a Pinterest board
just for you. It has a few great ideas for knitting & sewing patterns along with some crafty things like flowers and garland. Pop on over and check it out!
Once you've used your kit, just about all of the yarns I sell will be perfect for making dingleballs. I'm spinning up some new colors for an update later this month to inspire your muse. :)
Fellow felters and spinners, I ask you... - Do you have a project that needs a dash of fiber, but not a whole skein?
- Maybe you want to add cocoons or beehives to your handspun for that extra charm?
- Want to wet felt some beads or balls?
Then FELTY BITS
are just the thing for your next project, my dears! I made these especially for small projects or little bits of adornment that Felters, Crafters, and art yarn spinners just like me are always looking for. You don't want a whole skein, but can't find that small colorful amount of what you need. Here I come to save the day!
I've priced these just right so that your project budget won't be taxed. At $5 for hand carded fiber, it's a steal! I've already sold many of these at previous shows to lots of very happy customers.
Every $5 bag of Felty Bits:
- Is stored and shipped in a seal-able plastic bag
- Contains approximately 1/2 oz of fiber
- Is a wool blend. Some contain sparkle, silk, angelina and/or mohair locks.
- All are hand carded to align fibers and create the most loft
- Is a unique batt. If you see another in a similar color, best grab it,
because you may not see it again.
I started by making these for my own projects and have had so much fun carding and using these small bits of fiber that I just had to share. I used one 1/2 oz bag with a needlefelting machine, adding several medium sized leaves and petals to a shirt. I was amazed by how much fiber I had left over.
I hope you love them as much as I do. I love them so much, it's really hard to sell them. But I know they'll be going to good homes and will make many amazing projects and bring happy, joyful color to many lives. And that, makes me happy. :)
Making dingleballs. Some with, some without haircuts.
"Oh what fun
it is to make
Yes, I do make up my own lyrics to songs. It's a family tradition. I was singing about dingleballs to the tune of Jinglebells. Kinda fun, huh? Yeah, I thought so.
I've been saving this bag of yarn scraps for ages. On 4th of July, I blogged about making potholders from my leftover dreadlocks making days (see pics below) and knitting project scraps. That project wasn't enough to satisfy. Besides, I had lots of different colored scraps. I needed a way to pull all the colors together. And they weren't really colors that I typically worked with. I'm a bright and bold color girl normally. But these colors were soft, muted and nature toned. I do love those colors and enjoy working with them, but they're not usually my first grab from the yarn or fiber basket.
Then, my mom found this color work style, ready-to-wear, sweater with some crazy long fringe all round it. When I say long fringe, I mean long... 4". I looked at her like, "Uh, what do you want to wear this for?" She said, "Dingleballs!" Oh. my. goodness. That woman is amazing. The sweater was perfect and already had holes in it, from the fringe, that would be perfect for tying on a few dingleballs.
So I took the sweater home and dug through my bag o scrappy goodness. Wonder of wonders, all these leftovers that didn't have a purpose or a project all of a sudden fit the sweater perfectly. Various shades of blues & purples (dusty to royal), tans and browns, and a variety of olive greens including a few forest green. I even used some of the fringe (it had polyester in it though, ick!) to make itsy bitsy dingleballs.
I made dingleballs using the tool from my kits. But, I wanted to have big and small dingleballs. I thought that would give the sweater some character. I do love the wee kit tool, but, the tools aren't offered in any size smaller than 3/4 inch. I recently learned on Pinterest how to make a dingleball using a fork. Using a fork doesn't give the same uniformity that the pom pom tool does. but the dingleballs are still super cute! Below are a few photos of the finished sweater. I think it would be adorable with a belt and a fun olive colored skirt instead of my amy butler tunic. ;)
Kits will be posted to my etsy shop this weekend. So you too can make your own amazing dingleballs.
Last year I launched 2 handspun yarn kits, only available at shows. I'm now offering a limited quantity of kits in some very fun colorways. I started making kits because I often want a project, but don't have the time to commit to anything major. Plus, with everything else going on in our lives, I think we all appreciate a little instant satisfaction (I know I do).
The kits will be going up in the Etsy shop
this week. Look for an shop status updates on the Facebook page
or sign up for my newsletter
to get an email as soon as the store is updated.
The first kit is for a magical toad. It's magical because it reminds me of the frogs and toads you see or read about in Harry Potter. I love magical things, stories about wizards and witches and other wonderfully fantastical things. Well, with a name that comes from the story of Camelot, how could you not love magical things? Can you guess the queen I'm named after? But I digress...
One day I discovered Brigitte Read
's amigurumi style crochet toys. I fell in love. She designed projects that were small, fun, and had lots of character or were a great base that allowed me to give them further character. It's her amazing pattern (used with her permission of course) that supports the handspun yarn I create for this cute little "Toads!!" kit. I think you'll find her patterns easy to understand and the little toady fun to create. Though, they do need names once they are finished. Send me a photo and your toad's name and I will post him here. I love to see finished projects and loved toys!
The second kit I currently offer is D.I.Y. Dingleballs. These are also known as pom poms to the the misinformed. Why call 'em dingleballs? Well, I am a bit of a clown and I love funny things. To some, the name may bring about nasty bits and icky thoughts. But, to me, they are like the pom pom trim seen adorning the top-edge of the windows
in a VW Bus just dingle dangling
away, bobbling along, as the vehicle hits bumps in the road. Dingleball makes me think of dancing. I love trim that dances. It's a ball that dingles and so... dingleballs. They also make me think of big fat cherries ripe on the tree. There are so many fun, happy visuals to imagine, so get your minds out of the gutter. ;)
This pom pom maker in this kit is fabulous. When I first ordered them for kits, I was in the middle of a big knitting project and needed a mental and hand-resting brake. So, I sat down and made like 50 dingleballs in a single Saturday afternoon. I could barely tear myself away from them. I was floored by how much fun it was to watch them evolve into these gorgeous spheres. I'd made many dingleballs before with lots of other tricks, tools, etc. but none compared to this one. Then, after practicing on commercially spun yarn, I "bit the bullet" and dared to cut my handspun. OH it was scary let me tell you. But it was glorifying. Never have I seen such amazing color than when using the handspun I had spun up specially for dingleballs. I was in awe. My mouth began to water. And on I went to make more, and more, and more, and ... well, you get the idea.
Then, I observed that many indie knit designers were creating scarves with knit or crocheted pom pom like trims. Oh God, the thought of having to knit all that trim makes my eyes roll into the back of my head. Too much work! It's beautiful, but not something I like to spend my time doing. So I made kits that would allow a knitter to work up a simple scarf or shawl, then adorn the edge with dingleballs. You'd get the same happy dancing effect like in the VW Bus, but you could wear it everywhere. After I created the kits, I discovered more and more ideas and uses for dingleballs. I will be sharing another post that will show off the sweater my mom & I trimmed with dingleballs. It's gorgeous and super fun (and comfortable) to wear.
I imagined that there is some Tony Dinozzo
character mocking my chameleon calling him McGecko
I finished him
on February 12th, he's made from a small amount of leftover handspun. The fiber is BFL (Blue Faced Leicester)
. The pattern
was created by Brigitte Reid. Isn't he just the cutest?