Thursday, 16 April 2015

Arts Club at the Library

The April Arts Club at the Central Library in Calgary proved to be a lot of fun with participants making a funky, woven purse or bag for an iPad. We raided our quilting scrap bags and those of a friend, who was only too happy to get rid of fabric leftovers, often to the chorus of “what was I thinking buying that fabric”?
As always we make a prototype to work out construction and material needs and for our full class the quantities were rather amazing, 400 strips of variable widths for the body of the bag and another 120 strips for the braided strap. These were all torn on grain or cut with a rotary cutter.
Bag with braided handle
Bag with button closure

We started with an 18" x 14" piece of white Roc-Lon© fabric purchased for another project and never used and ironed double sided fusible webbing to one side of the Roc-Lon© stripping away the silicon paper. Most brands of fusible webbing should work.
Fabric Strips

As time is limited at these sessions we opted to sew the foundation warp pieces to one end of the Roc-Lon© and used all tints, tones and shades of blue as the warp.
After a short demo, we let everyone loose to choose strips of coloured fabrics for their weft pieces and start to weave their bag…over, under, over, under… The carefully sorted and piled strips of coloured fabric were soon all askew, somewhat resembling a bird’s next gone wild.

Once all the weaving was done, they ironed all the pieces to the fusible webbing. This left some squares open where they could be embellished with pieces of ribbon, yarn or torn strips of fabric.

Jan then machine stitched the top and sides of the bag ready for the next step.

Ironing woven strips to the fusible webbing
The next step was to make holes on two sides using my very vintage leather punch on the largest hole to create a hole where a two pieced grommet could be installed.
 A spiral screw punch could also be used for this step.
The final step was to feed 3 strips of fabric though the grommet on one side and tying a knot on the outside. Once that was done they braided the strips, tying pieces together as needed to make the length of strap they wanted and then finishing the end through the grommet on the other side of the bag. 

With the base warp of blues, the purses took on a colourful finish with the participants choices of weft fabrics. There was a great amount of laughter in our two hours and I think it was safe to say that we all had a good time.
Colourful Weaving
This would be a great project for a youth group and there would be a number of items that could be fashioned in the same way.
Lots of decoration

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Arts Club at the Library

With Spring in the not-too-distant future, we worked with wire and beads at the March Arts Club to create a small bird’s nest pendant complete with soon-to-hatch eggs. 

Techniques for this pendant abound on the internet and the nests can be made from nearly any gauge of wire, though we chose a slightly larger gauge of 18 or 20. Spools of 20 gauge wire may be found quite inexpensively at most hardware stores. The copper wire is particularly nice for this project. 

We found the small bird charm at Beads and Plenty More here in Calgary. They were the perfect addition to the pendant.

Once all the nest pendants had been finished, each person received an organza and cord necklace to string their pendant for wearing.

If you want to make matching earrings with 1 egg, or 3 small seed bead eggs, then you would likely want to use a finer gauge of wire, perhaps 24 or 26. This finer gauge wire will need to be purchased at a craft or bead shop.

Lastly each person picked a tumbled stone and with an 8” length of 20 gauge copper wire tried their hand at wire wrapping. These too could be worn as a pendant.

Until April Arts Club…

Thursday, 26 February 2015

FOG Tuesday - Air Dry Clay

You may not have discovered this, but we found that not all air dry clays are created equal! Unfortunately, we were not able to try all types. 

We purchased two air dry clays — the Crayolabrand and one from Dollarama here in Canada.

 Crayola Air Dry Clay

Overall I’m sure we would all agree that the Crayola™ brand was the better of the two commercial products. We tried the white version, but it also comes in terra cotta as well as a 3-pack of smaller tubs in coral, sunglow and emerald. It seemed more robust when dry and dried flatter than the Dollarama clay.

Dollarama Air Dry Clay

I felt that the Dollarama clay, when rolled too thin, warped when dry and was likely to break off along lines of design.

Both can be coloured with acrylic or Lumiere paints and highlighted with pearlescent powders or metallic rubs. It may be beneficial to seal the items with gesso before applying paint to the surface, particularly the Dollarama clay which, though touted to dry white, actually dried a light grey. 
Various techniques and finishes.
Both were quite easy to roll and form and could be reworked as required. Both took impressions made by Sizzix™ or Cuttlebug™ embossing folders, mould flexible mats, rubber stamps and other mark making tools.

Dollarama Air Dry Clay
Dollarama Air Dry Clay 

Although we put holes into many of the pieces so that we had a way to adhere them to other
projects, I’m not too sure how well they will stand up to that use, especially larger pieces. Their use as buttons and smaller items to sew or glue onto cards and fibre projects is likely a better use of these air dry clay pieces. One does need to remember that these would not be suitable for washed items as the clay would break down.

Leslie making buttons.
Vintage look plaque.
Two FOG regulars “cooked” up different home versions of air dry clay and we’ll have a better idea of their properties once the pieces are brought back for show and tell.

Karen's home made air dry clay.

Just a funny side note – if your diet is of any concern to you, then you might want to try the grey clay from Dollarama as it was labeled as being “Gluten Free”! Sheesh – do we really need to be told that or are there way more pica kids out there than originally thought?

Until next time…

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Arts Club at the Library

We started with a simple brown kraft paper box from the dollar store, printed paper napkins, Mod Podge™, assorted ribbons, tags, flowers, buttons and each person had fun embellishing a mixed media trinket box.

My former high school teacher ears picked up this comment, “It’s like craft camp for adults” from one participant, which made me smile. Why is it that as adults we don’t let ourselves play often enough or think that some projects are too juvenile?

Most paper napkins, even the dollar store variety consist of three layers. These must be peeled apart as only the top printed layer is used. This project also works well with printed tissue (as in my sample) or any other printed paper that’s interesting – newsprint, old book or dictionary pages, foreign newspapers etc.

Distressed tissue paper covering.

Spread a thin layer of Mod Podge™ over a small area and either used the entire napkin in one piece, or tear the papers and Mod Podge™ them on as you go. Once the first layer is dry, it’s a good idea to give it another coat to seal everything. Depending on the look you want use either gloss or matte finish Mod Podge™. Before or after that final coat take a sanding block to distress the edges of the box and colour the corners with a stamp pad to give it an aged look.
Plain kraft paper box and works in progress.

Then the fun begins…the embellishing! It’s not a bad practice to employ a few simple design principles so that your project stays focused. The main ones in this project were colour, working in odd numbers, layering items and flow. Once the design is completed use a glue gun to secure the embellishments. The interior of the box can be left plain, covered with more napkin or painted. (as in Jan’s sample) 

Painted interior.

It’s all in the details…sometimes it’s not easy to see where a project can be improved, however slightly, by cutting a ribbon on the diagonal, trimming one piece shorter than the other two or subtracting an item to open up the design. One good way is to take a photo as this may show up those pesky threads of hot glue that always seem to be there or that the bird button is upside down to the rest of the design.

The brown kraft paper boxes come in a lot of sizes and shapes at Dollarama and other interesting shapes, also in the kraft paper finish, can be found at the larger craft stores.

Now there's nothing stopping you from picking up a box, a few supplies and pretending you’re away at summer camp!

Finished Projects
Finished Projects

Monday, 2 February 2015

FOG Tuesday - Stitch Day

A new warm up exercise for the new year.  Hand stitches are one of the hottest trends in mixed media and other art work. It seems they are being incorporated into everything, whether to add texture to a fibre or mixed media art piece, or onto paper and photos, or in journals and hand made books.

So, in response to requests for some unique, cultural stitches, our monthly FOG sessions will begin with a new hand stitch from another country. It will be fascinating to see where our FOG members take this.

January's stitch is the Hungarian Braided Chain Stitch, aka Braided Chain StitchThis stitch is worked as a reverse chain stitch and is a great stitch for making bold lines of stitching.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

FOG Goes Heavy into Metal

Our January session was quite productive, so much so that I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked for this posting.

Our topic was metal – foiling, dry embossing, cutting, colouring, etc.

It’s amazing to see what can be done with product on hand – dare I say that we are all pack rats? One of the favorite items to dry emboss and colour were the inside foil lids from cottage cheese and yogurt containers.

Jan and Karen brought their Big Shot™ and Cuttlebug™ dry embossing and die cutting machines and they both got very major workouts. If it could be run through those machines we did it.

Several interesting products were tried – real metal DUCT tape (not Duck Tape) – this is purchased in a dollar store or hardware store. It is a sticky backed aluminum tape making it great to use on paper products for cards or it seems to be robust enough to apply to fabric and stitched on with long stitches on the sewing machine. It can be coloured with alcohol inks and other alcohol based markers as well as being embossed through the machines.

Chris brought one of the more interesting products called ÉTAL™. However, a quick internet search only turned up an old Etsy listing so perhaps the product is no longer being made. It is a cross between paper and a fibrous material which has some metal content. It dry embossed through both machines very well and could easily be hand or machine stitched. A light rubbing of a colour of some sort over the surface would enhance the dry embossing.

Left: ÉTAL™, Centre:  ÉTAL™ dry embossed,
Right: Con-Tact Brand - Metal FX

Jan brought along a sticky backed roll of Con-Tact® Brand - Metal FX® which cut and dry embossed very well. Jan brought the Stainless Steel version, though it also comes in Copper. This product also coloured nicely with alcohol inks.

Foiling proved to be very popular and is easily and quite inexpensively done. Chris did some foiling on hand dyed silk and I did some foiling on marbled cardstock that I had previously done using the shaving foam method. I think that most of us that did foiling used a type of fusible web such as PellonLite EZ-Steam™, Wonder Under, Heat ‘n Bond™ though there are foiling adhesives on the market also..

Foiling on shaving foam marbled card stock using Pellon Lite EZ-Steam and copper foil.

Foiling on hand dyed silk.

Lastly, Karen dry embossed metal disks that she had found in a scrap yard here in town, proving that no place is too strange to search for mixed media supplies. They coloured well with alcohol inks and will be great additions to any paper or fibre project.

Dry embossed metal disks.

Monday, 5 January 2015

January Arts Club – Take Those Crayons Out of the Box

Our first project for the Calgary Public Library Arts Club this year was a bit of a nostalgic one, for me at any rate. Its funny where inspirations can come from and for me this project was based on a tinted and stitched pillow that my mother-in-law had in her house. From the research that I did online, I believe that it was likely a tinted Vogartembroidery piece, certainly from the 50s, but perhaps before then. From searching on the internet I discovered that some of these pieces had the colour printed onto the fabric, while others may have been coloured with crayons.

I also collect vintage linens and the collage photo below are ones that are of a similar nature to that pillow and the inspiration for the stitching project for the Arts Club.

Vintage tinted embroidery pieces.
As with all of the projects that Jan and I teach, we do prototypes mainly to gauge the time and materials that it will take for the students to complete the project in the limited time that we have and to give them other ideas of where they can take the new stitches that they have learned. The photo collage below shows a couple of the samples that we did as examples. We also provide a kit for each person and for this project the finished item was a card complete with an envelope to mail to a lucky recipient.


We chose the simple owl motif as it was quite small and had interesting areas to colour and to stitch. Prior to the session Jan copied the motif onto the cotton/linen blend fabric using an erasable Frixion pen by Pilot and stitched a decorative border around the piece. Frixionpens are erasable and can also be removed by the heat of an iron.

Frixion lines on left, heat removed on right.
It's a bit difficult to see in these photos as the black threads on the right ghost through the fabric.

We opted to use simple stitches based on a running/straight stitch, though we also showed them how to do a French knot as the owl needed an eye.

To complete one of these for yourself, first colour the using Crayolacrayons and a light hand. Once the colouring is complete, stitch around the motif using a running stitch and two strands of floss. (A back stitch or stem stitch could also be used for a more solid outline). Once all your stitching is completed, lightly press the piece with a hot iron to remove the Frixionpen lines and to heat set the crayon pigment.

The participants were all quite intrigued by the project and had a great time completing them. Their projects are below.

Works in progress.
PS The February Arts Club is on February 7 at the Central Library. Registration is required. We will be doing a mixed media project and all supplies are provided. Register here.