Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Inspiration - Fiona Rainford and "The Remains"

One of the things I most enjoy when looking at pieces of art is learning what inspired the artist to create it, what went into their process from idea to finished work. has a wonderful interview here with mixed media artist Fiona Rainford talking about her piece The Remains, which was inspired by an old woolen mill that a group of artists she was part of was focusing on.

The Remains, 2016

Fiona talks about what first interested her about the mill, shares the photographs she took (which are wonderful studies in textures and form), and tells about her research.  It's especially interesting to read about how what she first was interested in and focused on did not become the subject of the piece she created, but led her to looking at the old machinery parts and cogs.

If you want to see more of Fiona's artwork, visit her website - there's a lot to see!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Many Rivers Shawl and Short Rows

I've been slowly checking off my list of new knitting techniques I want to learn - cables, check, colorwork, check .... short rows.  That was one I was a little worried about!  You hear such stories .... There was this intriguing shawl sitting in my queue for ages before I realized it was done using short rows.  The reviews on how easy it made learning how to do them convinced me to give it a try - and they were right!  The perfect project for first time short row-ers!

The pattern is Many Rivers by Pam Jemelian and is available on Ravelry here.  The pattern calls for (and is lovely in) three colors, but I had a Madelinetosh exclusive Georgia yarn from two years ago (more on this in a moment) I'd been dying to use and another that went well - didn't have a third that I loved with them, so I went with two.  Madelinetosh Sock in Chattahoochee and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Solid in Kerfluffle.

I love the way the motifs look like eddying river water!  Now, more about the yarn - a couple of years ago, Madelinetosh made an exclusive colorway each month based on a Georgia landmark.  This yarn was only available at a Georgia yarn shop, Eat.Knit.Sleep.  Chattahoochee became a permanent exclusive and is still in stock in a few of Madelinetosh's yarns, but I believe all the other colorways are long gone.  This year, Madelinetosh is creating an exclusive colorway each month based on the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to go along with a fun game you can play, earning store credit and other prizes based on the projects you knit or crochet.  Be forewarned - it's addictive!!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween/Day of the Dead Shop Update

The new Halloween and Day of the Dead beads, pendants, and bracelet spacers are now available in the shop!  Click the button at the top of the page or go to  

Next up is a big button update in a couple of weeks.  Big update, not big buttons - they're all regular sized!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday Inspiration - Faith Ringgold

Way before I ever realized who Faith Ringgold was as an artist, I knew and loved her as a children's book author.  Her stories are engaging, the illustrations are vivid and intriguing.  These were the days I bought books for my own children and for the schools where I taught preK.

When I began exploring quilting as fiber art I ran across her again - this time as an artist and activist.  She began her art career painting and teaching art in the New York City public schools and campaigning for the inclusion of female and black artists in gallery representation and museum exhibitions.

She began creating the quilts that most people know her by in the 1980's and created the first of her children's books based on her quilts, Tar Beach, in 1991, based on her quilt of that name created in 1988.  It's hard to find an exact count of how many she's published since quite a few are now out of print, but it's somewhere around 19 - 20!

Faith's quilts are intricate narratives of things she wanted to say, in the only way people would listen.   It's hard to pick favorites from among her large body of work (and at age 87 she's still creating!), but two of mine are The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles (1996)

and Subway Graffiti (1987).

If you'd like to learn more about this fascinating woman, see her website here and visit ArtNews for a good story about her.  And there is a short, wonderful video featuring her talking about her work on PBS's The Arts Page available here.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Knitting with Sari Silk Ribbon

I've been fascinated with sari silk ribbon for quite awhile and recently bought a few skeins to experiment with.  Mainly I used it in jewelry, but you know that if I have hanks of fiber around for long enough, I'm going to try knitting with it!

I worked up a small swatch - enough to teach me a few things.  First of all, my size 10 1/2 needles were not big enough - the fabric was too tight.  Those giant needles that come in sizes such as 20 and 35 would make the fabric a lot looser, but I'm not a big fan of that super loose fabric.  The bottom portion is garter stitch and the top is stockinette.  As a whole, I like how the stockinette turned out but the rows of garter stitch underneath do add some nice texture.

So the pros - it's really soft.  And it has that beautiful silk shimmer.  And I can see it taking up indigo differently at different spots which could lead to an amazing looking fabric!  The cons - it has knots.  At places, lots of them.  Since I was just experimenting, I pushed the knots to the back but if one was really knitting something you would have to cut on each side of the knots and sew the fabric together.  And you'll have to do that with some of the sewn joinings as they vary between sewn end to end and being sewn with a seam.  Those joins with a seam act a lot like a knot, making a big lump in the fabric you're knitting.

The bottom line?  I'm still intrigued by knitting with sari silk ribbon and see enough promise that I'm going to try using slightly bigger needles to loosen the fabric up a bit and then see what I can come up with for a project, since I wasn't overly fond of any of the ones I found on Ravelry.  I just have to see what a finished, knitted project in the silk does in an indigo dye bath! 

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Inspiration - Taking in the Forest

I always head to a forest when I need to de-stress, heal, get inspiration .... There's just something about the spicy, heady smells and the feel of the trees towering over one that seems like home.  John Muir said, "Come to the woods, for here is rest."

The Japanese, I recently discovered, have a name for it - Shinrin-yoku.  I've seen this translated as "forest bathing," "forest therapy," "immersing in the forest," and "taking in the forest atmosphere."  And there appears to be actual research results showing benefits in boosting immunity and mood, and in reducing stress, among other things.  

When I walk in our forest, I slow way down, looking at things in detail.  And even though our forest is not very big, about 6 or 7 acres, I see new things every time.

And I come out rested.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, September 25, 2017

Art Nouveau and More Sunflowers!

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I decided to participate in some of the monthly jewelry/art bead challenges - I added one requirement for myself, that the main beads/pendants/etc. have to be made by me.  This is mainly to jump start my ceramic work and get me thinking in different ways than I've become used to!

If you love art beads and jewelry made with them and haven't yet discovered Art Bead Scene Studio, quickly check them out.  Whether you make jewelry, collect beads, or just like to look at gorgeous pictures, you'll love them!  They have a challenge each month based on an artwork and this month's was to create jewelry and/or art beads inspired by Eugene Seguy's print Insects, inspired by the styles of art nouveau and art deco.

There were so many directions this one could go in!  I decided to focus on art nouveau aesthetics, with their soft, flowing curved lines and inspiration from nature - this fits in perfectly with my style.  Insects were a popular theme, especially butterflies, and I seem to be in somewhat of a deconstructing mood this month, so I chose to use a butterfly wing.  After several mis-fires on how to decorate the wing, I went back to art nouveau's focus on nature and plants and printed the wings with leaves and Queen Anne's Lace.  I added a bronze glazed, raised relief bead to give it bit of a metal feel.

I loved these so much I had to make a necklace using the Queen Anne's Lace butterfly wing and the glazed bead.

The final challenge of the month was another one to create jewelry using sunflowers for the September Honey Do List.  This time I went in a more traditional direction and created a spacer which I then glazed in the Majolica tradition.  This is generally thought to have started in 15th century Italy and involves painting terracotta clay with a white tin glaze and then decorating over it with pigments.  I use a matte white that's non-toxic and paint over with underglazes and stains.  Traditionally, the back is left unfinished or is burnished to show the terra cotta, but that doesn't wear well, so I cover mine with a clear glaze.  These are the spacers I created ...

... and this is the bracelet I designed using one of them.  I used a little leaf accent bead, jadeite beads, and silk sari ribbon.

I just have to add a bit to my post about doing these challenges.  They seem to be working at getting my creative processes jump started!  After a walk in the forest and focusing on the forest floor, I came back and made a few more pieces that are inspired by nature but are not as much in realism as I have been working.

I've updated the shop to add the art nouveau inspired pendants/bead sets and a few sunflower spacers.  I'm currently working on more forest floor pieces and have put up the ones I have finished so far!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Inspiration: Autumn

Happy first day of autumn!  It's one of my favorite times of the year - cool mornings, brilliant fall foilage, and I love the holidays.  Today I'm looking at three amazing fiber artists who capture autumn's feel.

UK artist Heather Collins gets her inspirations from walks through the woods and along the seashore.  Her sculptural embroidery is mainly pieces that look plucked from the landscape - the realism is amazing!  The apples on our farm are starting to ripen and fall, filling the air with a wonderful sweetness ... looking at Apple Box, I can almost smell it without even venturing outside!  Be sure to look at the gallery on Heather's website and her other pieces.

I've always enjoyed looking at tromp l'oeil based artwork in any medium!  Laura Breitman's fabric and paper collage pieces use color and light to really fool one's eye.  Looking at the image of Looking Up, it's hard to tell whether or not one's looking at a photograph.  See the close-up from the work?  She's brilliant at combining the fabrics in such a way that the viewer sees real trees and leaves.  There is a lot more of her work here.

Fiona Robertson works in embroidery, using machine stitching combined with handwork to get some pretty amazing details.  Autumn Woods captures a late autumn day in the woods beautifully.  See her other work here.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Recycled Silk Ribbon Necklace

I've been in love with the recycled silk ribbon that seems to suddenly be everywhere, but I haven't been able to figure out what to do with it.  That didn't stop me from buying some, however!  Then, while I was stringing pumpkin bead sets onto small pieces of it, it occurred to me that silk ribbon would make a great necklace!  The ribbon is thick enough that the beads stay right where I put them, even without knots.  I put a clasp on mine to make it look a little more polished, but they can also just be knotted like in the tutorial from last week on pendant necklaces.  You can also refer to that post for how to work with jump rings, if you're new to jewelry making!

First a word about where my silk ribbon came from - I ordered it from Darn Good Yarn.  I love the colors it comes in and that it is made by women in fair pay cooperatives in India and Nepal.  And no, Darn Good Yarn doesn't pay me - I doubt they even know who I am past my name on a couple of orders!

*a little less than a yard of silk ribbon
*a set of beads with larger than normal holes
*sewing needle and thread to match the ribbon
*tapestry needle
*two jump rings - one small and one medium
*two jewelry pliers

First, you'll probably want to iron your ribbon to get the creases out - as you can see from my photos, I didn't.  The creases aren't visible when the necklace is worn, so if you're lazy like me, who didn't want to go upstairs to use the iron, it's not essential.  Next, cut diagonally at the top of one ribbon end.  This makes it easier to thread.  Don't worry about all those loose strings yet.

Put the tapered end through a large eye tapestry needle ....

... and begin stringing your beads.  Start with the bead you want to be the first one on the right side (when looking at the necklace lying on the table).

I have a pumpkin focal bead on mine, so I put a jump ring on it ....

... and strung it on, followed by the last two beads.

Next, put a jump ring on the clasp.

Put one end of the ribbon through the clasp's jump ring ...

... fold it down about one inch ...

... and sew in place.

Do the same with the other end of the ribbon, using a jump ring.  I used a slightly larger one than I normally do since it has the ribbon going through it and still needs room for the clasp to easily hook onto.

Now you can take all those loose strings off!

And voila, you have a necklace!  Okay, anyone on my gift list, don't finish reading this sentence - these would make great gifts, right?

I have a few of these pumpkin bead sets left in the shop and am hard at work on several sets for the winter collection!

Happy Creating!  Deborah