Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Photo Dump Wednesday: Flora

These were taken on my droid while walking around the side yard at my family home on my last visit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

GeeGee's Needlework

 This piece hung in my grandmother's farmhouse when I was a little girl. My gram passed away when I was in elementary school and thankfully my mom loved this as much as I did and made sure to take it. It has hung in the entryway of our house ever since. I'm pretty certain that my gram's mother made this. We called her Gee Gee and I have a few things that she made. Most notably an apron that my mother wore when she was a toddler in the 1940's. I'm not really sure when this embroidery was made but my guess is the 50's, perhaps the 60's. Gee Gee also died when I was pretty young so my only memory of her is a Muppet Baby version of Nanny. I remember being at her old and creaky home watching TV on the floor with my brother and having a pair of orthopedic shoes in thick stockings serve us Hydrox cookies and milk on a tray. I always thought the tray was a nice touch. I also remember her funeral being the day I found out that my family has a tradition of kissing the person in the coffin goodbye so my second memory is my mom guiding me towards an open coffin and telling me to give Gee Gee a kiss on the cheek.
I really wish I would have known her better than this because the stories I heard about her later where all tales of her being quite the prankster. When she worked at the local sewing factory she stuck a pair of mannequin legs in a vent and then hid nearby. Whenever someone walked by she would yell for help. My favorite photo is one where she decided to practice the layout for her funeral. It has an 80-something year old woman flat on her back in the grass holding a lilly with her eyes closed and a slight smirk. She really knew how to commit.
And with that we're back to the embroidery. My mom said it was loosely based on their daily life at the farm. She always had the chore of feeding the chickens. They had a lot of chickens and they enjoyed pecking her legs so she was not a fan of them. The only other person she ever pointed out was that my aunt was possibly the girl feeding the ducks (and thus once again getting away with not doing any of her own chores). I always assumed my grandpa as the wagon driver with one of his many trusty dogs following behind. The last dog my grandpa had was a gray toy poodle named FiFi. FiFi would ride with my grandpa on the tractor while he plowed the fields and looked after the horses and the sheep. He also took FiFi to the groomer's once a week for a wash and color-coordinating nails and bow. FiFi was also a boy. I was used to most farmers I knew having little dogs they took along with them during their work but none were like FiFi. I also assume that my grandmother is by the house in the upper left hanging out the wash. An uncle (the twin to my mom) is fishing. My other uncle (twin to my aunt) is loading up the apple cart. And I'm totally lost as to who the other man in the orchard would be but I'm guessing it would be my grandpa's father who was the previous owner of the farm.

I never really attempted embroidery until I was in college and did an independent study course in Fibers one semester and taught myself. I hadn't thought about this piece in ages but quickly realized that it was a pretty big influence on me and my obsession with having large scenes that you can dive into and find intimate details. Embroidery also tapped into my love of neo-impressionists and of course, pointillism. I still remember having my little mind blown in second grade when we had a class on the paintings of Seurat. I couldn't wait to have my turn to look at the print up close. It was fascinating going near and far to see when was the precise moment that the splotches started to work together to convey a recognizable image.
When I returned from college after my first attempts of embroidery I had a whole new appreciation for this piece. I love that she rarely used anything but a straight stitch to convey shapes which I find I do as well now. I know so many stitches but I really love just sticking to simple dashes, satin stitching and of course the lovely colonial knot. Sometimes I'll work in a fancy stitch and then pull it all out because I find it distracting. It's also great to see how few stitches she used to convey something that you can instantly recognize (like the ducks and the crows.) I really enjoy how she used white to pull everything together. I think these objects could easily look like blobs if it wasn't for that.

Every time I walk into my dad's house this is the first thing I see and I am so happy it survived to be passed down along with plenty of tales of GeeGee.

note: all of these photos are pretty big so you can click on them and zoom in. You can also find some more shots here. I had to take all of these shots with the embroidery still under glass so sorry about some of the glare. Speaking of this still being under glass- the back of this is just as fantastic as the front. I love all of the bits and pieces she used in the framing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Best Thing I've Seen All Week

Emily Carroll's art always amazes me (I especially adore all of her centaur illustrations) but this story was amazing- especially the way she set up the pages.  I won't spoil it for you but man, it is amazing. 

The Prince and the Sea by Emily Carroll

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wedding preparations

As I said yesterday, Megan had her wedding at her parents' house. It took a few days to ready the house, side yard and the desserts. Her parents have a gorgeous and large house so hosting 25 people was tight but totally doable.
After Megan picked me up from the Mega Bus and treated me to breakfast we made lots of to-do lists and cleared off the deck where the dinner and dancing were to occur. Doing this was kind of terrifying but also really fun. I was in charge of hooking up the furniture with a hook her dad had fashioned and lowering it down. I only dropped one thing. I consider that a victory.

It was fun wandering through the basement and picking things out that would make for cute decorations.This is where the candles around the cake and all of the birds came from that are seen here. Their basement storage is set up like a store with several large racks lined up on 2 sides. It's awesome.

On Friday Megan was dropped off and I ran errands with her mom. This ended up becoming a mini tour of childhood friends. We went to a bakery that was just opened by an old friend Jena (her cupcakes were delicious, by the way). I spent many a summer day in her pool and spent a load of time running around with her in high school. The next day I ended up at the farm of another friend named Lisa where we picked up the chicken for dinner. Her mom opened up a catering business out of her house that Lisa helps with which seems like a natural since her cooking was always a highlight of my frequent stays. Being there also reminded me of an incident of playing in her hayloft with some other girls. We were climbing to the top and 2 girls fell off and landed on top of each other on the hard wooden floor. Luckily they missed landing on the tractor and even more luckily neither had a scratch on them. I can still remember the dead silence in the barn as we waited for them to move after the fall.

Anyway, back to the cupcakes. Megan had hydrangeas as her bouquet and centerpieces so she found a tutorial for making hydrangea cupcakes. She figured it would be best to have the bottoms pre-made so she could just focus on the icing. It was smooth sailing and the result was lovely.

She modified the icing by just using 10x sugar and butter so it wouldn't be as heavy.

the favorite.

Megan's mom also made welcome baskets for Philip's out of town family and friends. I found this to be incredibly sweet. Megan and I went to a local farmer's market to pick up some fruit and we of course picked up some whoopie pies made by some local Brown Suiters. The basket is rounded out by the local favorites of Hartley potato chips, candy from Asher's candy store and brochures of what to do in Mifflin County (which really does involve lots of cow sightseeing). Not pictured are some great postcards for our local festivals and plenty of options for wagon rides and eating heavy German food.

The napkins I posted about earlier looked pretty swell on the table (although I didn't get a picture of them) although we were sadly one short. Luckily Scott took a bullet and opted for a paper napkin. We also made tissue paper poofs that hung over the ceremony. I was on the fence about these but Megan swore that they would look fantastic in the trees (they were married on the spot where the fire pit usually stands). She was totally right.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Megan gets a new nickname

This is a little sneak peek at my best friend's wedding that happened this past weekend. I'll post more because there are lots of pictures of the making of. Her and her lovely husband Philip wed at Megan's parent's house and beside a bit of catered food everything was made and set up by the family (with some help from Scott and I).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Abigail Recommends

Hello, my historical poets! Today I bring you a very dainty and old book. A Vintage of Verse was written by Clarence Urmy in 1897 with only five hundred copies printed. It is a lovely little book to take along with you to read in the warm sunshine. And although it focuses on the land of California, parts of the poem below remind me of my own days in Central Penna. Although I would substitute the cow bells with sheep baaing. 
Toward twilight-time we slowly pass
Along a road whose winding turns
Are decked with dainty wildwood flowers,
With trailing vines and graceful ferns;
Along a rail-fence runs a quail,
A bluebird darts amid the trees,
And cow-bell echoes, dimly heard,
Are wafted on the evening breeze.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Busy Bee

This bee is part of a larger onesie but sadly I can't find the other pictures for it.  

Monday, August 15, 2011


A good while ago I participated in an art show in the southside that the Steel City Art Collective put on.  It's taken awhile to post these photos because of camera problems but here you go.  This also means that it's for sale!  Check it out at the shop

The theme of the show was "something from nothing" which put me in mind of seeing things microscopically and the little worlds that go on around us every day.  I'm always amazed at all of the tiny components that make up larger objects.  Just like Bjork.   I spent some time researching different images of items that would make good embroideries.  Most of them are pretty true to life but I did tweak some of the colors and such.  You know, cause I'm an artist.

I started off by sketching everything out on paper and making notes on colors and such because 1. It never really occurs to me to use colored pencils and 2. I don't think I'd use them anyway.  I'm used to doing embroideries so for me everything starts out being sketched in a way I know will work for thread with the knowledge that I only have a limited amount of colors to work with.  I probably have about 80% of all of the colors of floss so I just crack open my thread boxes and take a look. I also like to crack open my thread boxes when I'm stressed and organize them.  Sometimes I go ROY G BIV and sometimes I try to make fun gradations.  I also like to write down all of the colors I have so I know what I'll need in the future.  I lead a wild life.

After this I used tracing paper to transfer everything onto fabric.  This normally works pretty well and if some of the chalk doesn't stay on I just trace over it with pencil before it fades.  The designs were too small and intricate (they're all in 1" squares although some are much smaller) for this so I just got to work as fast as I could.  A few faded before I was done so I free-handed (free-embroidered?) the last few.  All but one of the images was done with one strand of embroidery floss.  The closeup of #9 at the bottom involved 2 and 3 strands of the various shades of orange.

After I was done I numbered all of them. At the show I printed out lists so you could take a stab at guessing what each one was and refer to the cheat sheet as needed.

As you can see I made two of these hoops. Here's a little closeup.  You can check out more closeups at the shop. The answer keys are included with the hoops.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I sent some squid to Paper Crane for their carnival/sideshow themed show.  It will run until the 28th but here's a sneak peak of one of the squid.  Stop by if you can.  Everything showing will most likely be delightful.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sailor Squid (and working with stabilizer)

This was another squid for last month's Squid a Month Club.  It was the final squid of a one year run for a girl in Colorado.  Her mom has been ordering them since 2008 and I have adored her lists. These lists always have the staple interests such as Dungeon and Dragons, video games and cats (me and this girl would get along splendidly).  Every year though it's fun to see what new interests she has.  Her mom just re-ordered and there's now a new element of medical science.  I also learned that she took some in for show and tell once.  I think I melted briefly when I read that email.
So, I had been holding off on the tattoo description on this list for the year since I wasn't really sure what to do.  I knew the tentacles of a standard squid would be too small to really do anything so I decided on the Limited Edition style squid.  I couldn't draw directly onto the felt with the accuracy I needed so I dug through my supplies cabinet.  I have a shelf that has odds and ends that I like to keep "just in case".  This has proved fruitful.  In college I needed some plastic for a Fibers project. I bought half a yard of that plastic that people use to cover picnic tables.  I never thought I would need it again but I hung onto it.  Once I started making squid I snip some off occasionally to make the safety goggles for science squid and also a welder's mask for another custom piece.  So hey, sometimes it pays to be a pack rat. 
Anyhoo, I dug through my embroidery supplies until I found some stabilizer.  I can't even remember what I bought this for but at some point I purchases some of the insanely thick stabilizer  but have never opened the packaged.  I figured this would be perfect. I was kind of winging this so in case anyone else out there isn't sure how to use this stuff here's a little how-to.
I started off drawing my designs on a template of the squid since they needed to be exact.  There really wasn't any room for error on the arm tattoos.

After that I took some strips of stabilizer and placed them on top of the drawing to trace the designs.
And then I got to work.

Once I was done I cut away any extra stabilizer that I could get to and grabbed some water and a paint brush to dissolve the rest. Normally you're supposed to soak but I found it better to dab and brush on the water since I was working with felt.  I accidentally used one of my non-squid markers with this so my outline also washed away and I had to redraw it.  Also it stained some of my white embroidery floss so I had to cut that out and sew it again.  That was a pain.

After all of this I just waited for everything to dry.

The squid is a tad stiffer than it would normally be with the stabilizer but I kind of liked that side effect.  It made the tattoos stand out more. 

This guy didn't seem quite finished after I sewed him up so I added a little something extra.

As soon as I finished with this guy I wanted to do more.  As of last month I have.  The latest one was inspired by my reading of Fruits of Victory and a sideshow carnival theme of this lovely show

(update: here are the finished squid from the carnival show)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Bulk napkins

This week I'm helping to sew wedding napkins.  It hasn't gone as smoothly as we had hoped but it's still fun to sew together.  Hopefully they'll be done this week and thankfully my friends are having a very small wedding.

Lucy was the only cat that was interested in the sewing party.

Annie was not as interested but was close enough to suffer through getting a new kerchief. 

Monday, August 08, 2011

Photo Dump Monday

Some visuals of what I've been doing lately

Celebrating the new felt colors with a new squid project.

sewing my best friend's wedding veil

Play breaks for everyone.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Thank you, Japan.

This morning I am off trying to find a last minute maid of honor dress for my best friend's wedding.  We were at the bridal store last week to find her wedding dress.  I mentioned that technically I would be her Matron of Honor.  The lady helping us at the store said that the trend lately is to use the term Goddess of Honor.  Ladies, this whole thing of inserting Goddess into titles I know what you're going for but the execution has failed.
After dropping this fun fact on us we got to picking out wedding dresses.  The ladies at the store (who were very nice and helpful) seemed to not know what to do with a bride who was so laid back, had a month to plan a wedding and also seemed freaked out by the trying on process.  Apparently I had blocked out the whole awkward part of borrowing undergarments and having to have assistance with gowns although I think that might have been more that I was in this store for about 15 minutes.  I tried on the first dress I saw when I walked into the store and then was out.   At  this point I thought the worst part so far was the Goddess comment.  Then Megan found the dress she wanted.  Megan said "alright, I like this one.  This is the one I want"  Lady: "So this is it?" Megan "yea!" Lady: "So you're saying Yes to the Dress?" Megan "yea".  I thought this was some sort of fluke but then it happened with the bride to be to the right of us as well.  Luckily we were ready to go after this.

Well, that's more than enough about bridal stores so hey, check this out!  Japan sent HD cameras to space a few years back.  They took this on the moon.  It's narrated and so beautiful.  Although seeing anything from space is amazing it's kind of nice to actually be able to make out something so well.  It makes that whole  "holy crap, I'm on that planet right now" feeling even more spectacular. 

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Thursday's Accessory

My desk is lousy with Squidtivity and other Holiday themed squid at the moment.  These wings were created 2 months ago.  The Fall and Winter season never really ends around here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Squid A Month Club (August Astronaut)

On the list of this particular club member was the description of "last astronaut".  

Tina Kova is elated to be the first squid in space although her excitement is tempered by sadness. She's on the last NASA flight and is determined to make the most of it. She's gotten clearance to use her own camera creation while on a space walk. While repairing DEXTRE she will take a break to photograph all of the wonder around her. She'll also take a break to bask in the knowledge that she has gone where no cephalopod has gone before.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Tadly Sale

This picture that Scott made for the facebook this week inspired some things.  First, it inspired me to finally settle on what the new Tadly and Abigail design(s) will be this year for craft show season. Second.
It inspired a SALE!

A pretty epic sale actually, so if you ever wanted a Tadly or Abigail of your own now is the time to strike.

In the shop until August 15th enter the code MIMICUS and receive 25% on any purchase of Tadly or Abigail.  There are 11 designs in all to choose from.