Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve!

Hello, Friends!

Looks like we survived the alpaca lips. Now to survive Christmas.

I have been busy this summer/fall with craft fairs and online sales. It feels nice to have a vacation to make things for my family. Kiddo has finally received a few Mommy-made things and there are more under the tree!

Her first request was an OmNom. The little green fellow from the game Cut the Rope. I didn't know these toys were available. I created one using a ball pattern that I tweaked then sewed felt on for the face. The legs were created separately and stitched on after with a yarn needle. He was a hoot to make because he is just so cute. I didn't wait for Christmas because my excitement bubbled over. He was a hit!!

I hope her response is just as excited when she gets her other gifts.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Oh, Brother!

I am now back in the land of the sewing!

I was gifted a new sewing machine yesterday which makes me quite happy. My birthday will roll by in a few months and I will say thank you (again, considering I said it a hundred times yesterday!) to my husband's grandparents for their sweet surprise.

I have the Brother Model CE8080PRW. I have used this brand for quite a while. I find it easy to use, the manual is easy to interpret, the feet easily changed, the weight comfortable, and the stitch choices vast enough to cover every project I have dreamed up. I am a happy girl to have this machine on my table.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Forced vacation?

I am going through the unfinished objects bin. Good time to do so considering my sewing machine has been broken for a minute now. I am attempting hand stitching as much as I can and trying to finish up some projects, but it is much harder on my hands. Oh I miss that machine. I have many, many opportunities currently and a wide open list of possibilities coming up if I can get some product made. I am stressing because my machine has been down for a couple of weeks and more stressed that I am unable to get it fixed any time soon.

I guess I will have to wait patiently... no. I am frustrated and stomping my foot until someone can fix my little darling. :-(

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Time and measurement and measures of time...

It would be wonderful to add a few hours to the day. Anyone know who to contact for this change?

The studio has been busy lately. The addition of a wonderful employee Nicole (who I am more thankful for than she will ever know) has made DDOF a much more bustling venture. We have recently taken on a large project for a local night club. We are stitching the covers for the acoustic panels that they will put up. This project involved 51 yards of cloth! We are quite proud of the amount of scrap cloth we have leftover. If you take away the selvage trimmings (we pinked it off after we finished each one), we have only a handful or two of cloth slivers. We were very fortunate to speak to a lovely woman at Hancock Fabrics here in Johnson City who understood what we needed when we went to pick up the second order of cloth. She made sure that our yardage was cut in such a way that we received no short panels. She was heaven sent! We finished the project and feel more confident in our skills because of it.

Measuring and determining dimensions are very important steps to take before diving into a project. We worried over each measure before we began to cut. We took a couple of hours to design and do some math and because of that step, we saved a LOT of cloth from misuse. :-) We also determined that several tools are VEEEEERY important.

1. We measured my big kitchen table and masked off measuring marks so we didn't have to measure each time we had to cut (which was a lot). Blue painter's tape is great for doing this.
2. A rotary cutter and mat made this job both precise and much faster. I had not used one very much since I have a very "eyeball it" nature in my art. Nicole brought hers from home and showed me the ease of precision and the importance of trying new ways to do things. Because of this, another two items have gone on my wish list.
3. The use of a corner of cardboard made marking out box corners AMAZINGLY simple. I relearned from watching this video on YouTube. Once we knew exactly what to do, we created a stencil and got to work. 48 corners later and we were finished.
4. A large ironing board is a thing to be appreciated.
5. Lastly, ALWAYS test your iron on a scrap of cloth before diving in. I set the iron for cotton blend since I assumed the fabric that was brought to us at first WAS cotton/poly. It wasn't. The scrap I began to gently iron melted! Wow. We turned down the iron and all was well. Could you imagine if I would've just started in the middle of a panel?! Yikes!

With this big project behind us, we are ready to take on bigger things and looking forward to learning with each challenge. For now, though, the big things can wait. I have foot tall dollies to create. :-)

See ya soon!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Voodoo and Lily Yarn

I sold this little fella last year to a very wonderful customer. His name, I believe, is Voodoodie. He was one of my favorites because he was inspired by my great friend, M. We used to sit together and "play" with Sculpey. He had started a little fella then decided to scrap him. I thought it was a cutie so I had M. show me how to make little stitches like the ones on the arm. I mimicked the eyes a few times until I got them right. It took a bit of time to fiddle with the body to get it just right. The tilt of the head or the fall of an arm can say so much. I love Voodoodie's expression. I have made several of these since that night but Voo is my favorite since he was my first AND I learned something from my good friend. :-)

Voodoodie's new owner has asked for a larger version of Voo. I have started a crochet version. I am using Lily Sugar 'n Cream Yarn in warm brown. It has more of a chocolate color than red clay, but the redder yarn was too orange red. It didn't translate well for me. (Fingers crossed that my customer agrees.) I have made the head and I am halfway through the body shaping. I think I will send my customer a picture of the progress to make sure she agrees with my color choice. If not, I will still finish my original version and let him hang out on MY shelf. That's the fun thing about being an artist: I get to keep all the mishaps for myself. I usually treasure them most of all anyway.

I adapted my doll pattern from a toy pattern on the Lily website. The pattern was easy to use and written quite simply. (Every yarn artist has seen at least one pattern that seems to be written in code with too many abbreviations jumbled together. Whew! They can be disheartening.) This site is really nicely organized. I appreciate the yarn details listed with each yarn Lily offers such as recommended knitting needle or crochet hook size, washing instructions, length/ounce count, as well as color swatches and how to buy online. See what I mean by clicking here. There are a number of free patterns in each category and it is hard to settle on one project after you spend time browsing. The skill level and yarns used for each project are listed immediately under each picture so you know, before you fall in love with a project, if it is within your skill range. A log in is required but it is free and quite easy to sign up. You have a choice to sign up for newsletters and notifications from the website, but I chose neither. The "Learn How" tabs were a great help when I was learning how to crochet (again). Learn crochet stitches here. The pictures are descriptive without being confusing and the definition of each stitch term included the universal abbreviation used in most patterns. The Sugar n' Cream yarns are cotton which makes them a great yarn to use for wash clothes and any project used for cleaning up. The natural absorbency is wonderful. I like the durability. Even though my wash clothes have softened and the fibers have spread a bit after multiple uses and washings, they are still quite strong and look wonderful. I like using the yarns for baby toys, too. Cotton holds up to washer and dryer very well so it is easy for mom or dad to launder after it has been chewed or spit up on.

Lily Sugar n' Cream yarn, a Bernat product, is usually between $1.50 (on sale) to $2.50 (online) for about 95 yards and can be found almost anywhere yarn is sold. I have found it most recently at Michael's Art Stores where, if it isn't on sale already, you can use a coupon. It is a very economical choice for learning to crochet... which I recommend everyone learn.


EDIT: The little guy turned out amazingly sweet. I finished the crochet and carried him in the crook of my arm for a bit. After talking myself out of keeping him and make a second for the customer, I added the details that make him who he is. The above photo was taken by Sara Tavenner (of She is the new owner of this little guy and, amazingly talented photographer that she is, had quite a photo shoot with him.
((This photo made me proud to do what I do.))

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little Voice of Inspiration

"A stitch in time saves nine."

That phrase was taught to me to remind me to fix small tears before they become large holes. I hope I have decided to come back to DDOF in time to keep riding the building wave we were on. Maybe I have chosen to return quickly enough. I took some time away, though not as much as I originally thought I would. I made what I thought was a certain and clean break. I posted a note on my facebook page to inform my fans and customers. I cancelled my commitment to a couple of events. I thought I had done all I needed to do to stop being the Dolly Mama.

I forgot something, though. I never covered my sewing machine. There she sat (yes, my machine is a girl though her front is emblazoned "Brother") quiet and contemplative. Each time I walked by, she grabbed my attention. Did she move? No. Speak? No. But somehow, she called out to remind me of possibilities. I started noticing an emptiness that opens up when there are no pricked fingers, no piles of thread ends, no stray thimble found here and there because it stowed away in a pocket. But, I wasn't the only one she whispered to.

The funny thing about this little vacation was so that I could create more for and with my daughter. We spent crafty time with a number of materials. We have played with clay, made paper, painted, colored, drawn together, and spent time cooking. But she turned to me, one day after seeing the machine on the table, with a serene yet contemplative face that stops all the world from turning and kind of takes my breath away, and asked me why I don't make dolls anymore. Mind you, I had only stopped for a short while at this point. I told her it was so that we could spend more time making things for each other. She thought for only a second before she said, "But, Mommy, people really like your dolls. They make people happy. You should make them some more." We talked about it a bit more and I saw that she didn't simply like to receive my dolly creations, she enjoyed watching me create them. She likes to tell others what I do. I had thought that working in the studio a great deal was taking me away from her. I was wrong. It was giving her something. I can't quite define what my work means to her, but she is excited to know that I will be back at the sewing table again.

So, I have dusted off my machine, apologized to her for the abandonment, re threaded and inserted a full bobbin, and placed my scissors close. Dolly plans are in the works, sketches on the table, and cloth waiting to be cut. I wonder if my kiddo will ever know how expertly she has wrapped me around her finger and how quickly her small voice can stop me in my tracks or spur me on my way.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Book binding class was fun!

The Coptic stitch book binding class was so much fun! I didn't take a single picture (genius) so I can't show you the fun we had. Not to fret, friends. I have already begun typing the steps for book making and, as soon as I take some pictures of each step, I will post a tutorial here.

 ((There are several great YouTube videos on the subject if you get antsy while waiting.))

 My tutorial will be broken down into steps the way the class was last night. It made it very easy for our large group of folks from various crafty-skill levels to understand and follow.

I cannot wait to share this with you guys. These little books make sweet little gifts. I treasure the one I received years ago from my best friend. She covered the mat board with a sweet vintage cloth. I adore it so much, I find it hard to fill up the pages. :-)  I have been known to keep my notebooks pristine and refer to them as "my preeeeeeecious" while making my notes on the back of receipts and phone book covers. With this new skill, I can make some ordinary ol' books for writing and some special ones to feed my book hoarding obsession. :-)

Are you excited yet? You should be! Be back soon with the pics and tutorial!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Changing yarn colors or joining yarn in crochet.

Delicious Patons wool
I have so many unfinished projects stashed around my house that I sometimes forget and use one project's supplies for another. I also have a problem with buying too much yarn. Not that I cannot calculate how much I will need, but I just can't say no to "one more skein" when I buy. I end up making a "stew" project every now and again just to use up the remainders of some great yarns. (As if they would go to waste sitting there in the basket. Hmmph.)

Making a tote with some leftover bits.
This use of bits and pieces means I have to join yarn ends a lot in a purse or tote bag. I know there are purists out there in Craftsville that would stone me for saying this, but... I tie knots when I join yarns. I hear the gasps and feel the cold shoulder of being shunned. Thats ok. There are many different ways of finishing a project. If there weren't, we would never have heard of those three little pigs and their different houses.Fortunately, there is no big bad wolf to come along and eat us if we crochet our bag in a different way.

That said, I want to show you how I join yarns. This is for a bag or purse only. Joining yarns in a wearable project DOES require a bit more smoothness and no knots. Anyone who has ever worn a sweater with a knot on the inside feels like the princess who tried to sleep on that irritating little pea. It drives a person batty.

The steps are simple to follow as long as you know something of crochet already. This join is done in sc or single crochet.
Crochet to the end of a row with the first color. (In this case, it was the last bit of the variegated wool and a knobbly yarn whose manufacturer I cannot remember. I just wound up the last bits to keep them organized.) I have one loop of the first color still on my hook. The joining yarn (two strands of Patons wool) is ready to crochet in.
With one loop of the original color on the hook and holding both yarn tails in my hand, I draw up a loop in the second color and pull it through with a slip stitch. It looks as if I am beginning a chain. I do this to avoid having one post of the first color in my new row.
One I have connected the two yarns via slip stitch, I approach the tails. I begin by tying the two together to stabilize them while I finish crocheting. With the bag project, I can just tuck them inside while I work. If I was changing colors a lot or if I had a lot of tails, I would wind these around a yarn bobbin to keep them from tangling while I crocheted. This is fine for now.
I turned the bag over to continue working in the round, now with my new color on the hook.
Crochet as normal, sc in every stitch to continue pattern.
I love the subtle shift when joining multiple strands this way. The two strands of the first part of the bag mixing with the two new strands makes me feel accomplished. And its just neat.

After crocheting as many rows as the pattern calls for, fasten off as normal. You will need to go back and take care of the loose ends from the join. I use a blue plastic yarn needle for this. No particular reason to use plastic over metal. I simply have more of these stashed about in my crochet basket.

 Thread the tails onto the needle and weave into your project in a way that does not show easily.

I hope this makes joining yarn a bit less intimidating. There are many videos in Internetsvania from the great citizens of Craftsville (totally made up place that exists in my head where everyone crafts and you can borrow a cup of mod podge from your neighbor as if it were sugar) that will show you how to join yarns. Some folks have their own way of doing it. I was never taught how and simply fumbled til I found what works for me. Practice multiple ways until you find your most comfortable and dependable way.

Please leave a comment if this was helpful to you (or if you are the Big Bad Wolf and need to tell me I am doing it "wrong") because I appreciate all feedback (even wolfie criticisms that are huffed and puffed).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It twill or it won't.

     Is it spring or something? Not yet, but there IS a spring in my step today. I went to the fabric store on this beautiful sunny day and had an opportunity to hand out several cards, found out about a new classroom space that might materialize in the coming weeks, AND found some great deals on remnants.
     Hancock Fabrics in Johnson City has some of the most cheerful and helpful workers. I picked up some twill tape and a permanent fabric marker so I can create the tags for my purses, dolls and aprons. It was on sale!! I saw the idea a couple of weeks ago online (probably Pinterest since I spend hours pouring over the pins there) and wanted to try it out. I really dislike the idea of ordering professional tags since I like keeping my costs/prices down. So I am hoping to make my own. I hope with a permanent quilting pen and a thorough heat setting, the ink will stick well.

     I wish my printer would allow me to print directly on the tape as Spunkyarn did. But I have an inexpensive printer which rarely prints on paper! See Spunkyarn's tumblr entry here.

Click here for a link to some Twill Tape Cuteness like the photo to the left!

I will have to add some pictures to this post after I have some success (or failure) to show off. Have a great evening all! I know I twill. (heehee)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Reading Folk Art Halloween by Bethany Lowe

I received my new book shipment from Crafter's Choice book club a couple of weeks ago and I have had great fun going through every page. I have seen inspiring photos and read great tips and instructions. I am quite happy with my choice to splurge and buy several books. Crafter's Choice has a clearance section and I was torn between a large number of crafty bits. I chose two regularly price books and two on sale. With shipping, clearance prices, and the B1G1 sale, I only spent $30!

The book that has my attention currently is Bethany Lowe's Folk Art Halloween out by Lark Books.

I have enjoyed reading about Bethany as much as I enjoyed reading about her artwork. It is wonderful to read about mothers who are crafty and whose family supports them. She thanks her family for their support and her children for being "willing to put up with a mom who baked Sculpy hands instead of cookies." I am that kind of mom. Our school projects often feature buttons, beads and ribbon from my studio.

The designs in this book give more than a wink to nostalgia. The 26 pages at the end of the book are filled with images and patterns for enlarging and copying. Multiple vintage Halloween folk art images are handed to you so that you can recreate the wonderful creations Lowe has dreamed up.

Our family loves Halloween so much that I am sure no one would object to leaving up the decorations year round. Everyone in the house has looked through this book since it arrived and we each have found our favorites. Personally, the paper clay and fabric witch doll, who graces the cover, has captured my heart. I have plans to create a few of them for Halloween gifts. I also adore the Papier Mache masks. They are based on late 1800 to early 1900 masquerade masks. I am in love with the kitty cat mask and look forward to getting my hands into paper clay again. My daughter loves everything dress-up so she has already requested a pink kitty cat mask.

This book has inspiration and instruction to make some really great folk art decor. The "Getting Started" portion of the book is informative and gives tips on a variety of crafting techniques that ate used in the tutorials. The materials and tools lists are in depth and well explained for each project. The photography is well done and engaging as well. This book is as fun to leaf through as it is read for direction. I hope you have the chance to enjoy it sometime, too.

PS - You should take a minute to Google papier mache masks images. Amazing work and wonderfully inspiring images. Oh! I can't wait to get to work.

(NOTE: I have yet to attempt any of the enlargements. Some readers have said that the enlargements were difficult. Attempting to reach 400% enlargement and so on. I always take my important projects to a local copy place for enlargements and sometimes have to patch together patterns. I don't foresee difficulty with these patterns, but I wanted to give you the warning.)

(Also: No one from Crafter's Choice, Lark Books, or Bethany Lowe Designs asked for, paid for, or demanded this review. I chose to share my thoughts on this book because I liked it and I thought you guys would, as well.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Found Materials Art Doll

     The above dolly was made for my friend, Katie, when she was having a rough day. She is made with rope, wire, a scrap of cloth, and a polymer clay face from the Sculpey Art Doll faces mold. I had to post a picture here to try the new blog layout (and make sure everyone out in Internetsvania could see it!). I will be uploading better quality pics from now on, too.

     Maybe it was a good thing that all of my 2012 posts were deleted. I get a new start. New Years in late January? Sure. Why not?