Oct 252016

Friday is fascinated by my box of stuffing.
Friday in stuffing.
To save money and fuss, I ordered a ten pound box of the Poly-Fil when I saw it on sale at Amazon. Figured that would last a while. I have finally used enough of it that I can get the box closed again when I’m done. You know how stuffing expands when not being pressurized. Now I pull the box over to my chair and pull out reasonable size tufts with my long hemostats and put them right into the Scrappy Cats. Friday finds this irresistibly appealing. Her eyes get black and she stalks the stuffing tufts. This time she couldn’t contain herself and jumped into the box. Her paws began sinking into the fluff, so she moved to the box flap and attempted to pull out paw-sized bits of polyester. It seems as though she simultaneously wants to touch it and doesn’t want it to touch her.

Oct 182016

Another Scrappy Cat was not an intended project this year, but inspiration got its claws in me.
Hacker Scrappy Cat
It is in pieces still, but this will be Hacker Scrappy Cat. We were watching Mr. Robot (specifically S2 E3: This is your brain on drugs). The main character, Elliot Alderson, takes Adderall as a sleep deprivation tactic in an attempt to silence his alter ego/ schizophrenic second personality, accompanied by excessive joy and excitement. There was one scene, from which I will share a screenshot later when I’ve completed the Cat, with him wide eyed and delirious that I instantly pictured as a Scrappy Cat. Weeks later, I had an opening in my project schedule and have started it.

These Cats take so long to finish, but I enjoy making them at almost every step of the way. Turning them out is the one thing I hate. You may be thinking, don’t turn them out, stitch them seams out, but I can’t do that because I don’t like it. They don’t look right. So, I hate that one part and get it over with. The rest is good.

This Cat will have the ubiquitous black hoodie and multi-use backpack. And maybe a robot head pin, similar to the logo from the original shop in the show history. Or maybe not – that might be too close to something from the show. Inspired by is fine with me, taken from is not. I’ll sketch it up and see.

Oct 122016

Recently, I ended up with a new set of colored pencils. While I already have a surplus, I thought it would be nice to carry this set around with my daily sketchbook. However, the tin this set came in, while protecting it nicely, did not include a sharpener and tended to make small rattling noises which most people wouldn’t notice, but would irritate me. A zip pouch is the obvious answer, but when I selected an extra zip pouch from my stash, it wouldn’t do. It was your typical, unlined, flat zip pouch with no dimension, from the dollar bin.

For colored pencils, my first priority (after the basics like protection, silence, etc. are met) is access – visible and physical. I hate having to push through pencils to find the right color, then pull it out at an angle to escape the zip opening, hoping not to snag the teeth with the sharpened tip. Also, I don’t like to keep accessories like erasers and sharpeners in the same compartment with the pencils – I end up digging through all the pencils that way and they never seem to want to fit in compactly. With these things in mind, I drew up a zip pouch that would open up completely on the top for maximum reasonable visibility and ease of access. It would also have a side compartment for small accessories, be easy to open, and fit exactly the items it was meant for.

After my last zip pouch making play session back in June, I was confident I could execute my design needs and got to work immediately. I was prepared to make a number of these, since that is the best way to improve a design; make one, critique it, make another incorporating those improvements, and so on until you have the design closest to perfect that you can get. That is what I did.

Zip pouch efforts.
The first zip pouch. This is actually pretty close to the final design.
* The biggest problem was that I made the bottom too big for the number of pencils it was meant for.
* Second, I put a tab on the zipper on one end for ease of opening, but not the other. Turns out it feels better with tabs on both ends.
* The lining fabric is directional, but I cut it in one piece meaning half of the cat characters on the lining were upside down when you look inside the pouch.
Other that that, there were a couple sewing mistakes or imperfections and I thought of a way improve one construction method.

Zip pouch efforts.
The first pouch, open. It may be too big for my desires, but I have LOTS of other art supplies that need homes and this is my new living room art-spot pouch. Those things fit well. The design works.

Zip pouch efforts.
This is the second pouch. It is almost perfect. There are only two problems.
* The side zip pocket goes down too far. You can’t tell because it is all internal, but if you had something very small, like a dime, it could slide down to the bottom of the pocket which would put it below the pencil compartment. It would be slightly more difficult to retrieve.
* I wanted an attachment option on the first zip tab so I added a swivel clip. That didn’t work and I removed it later, but you can see the shiny edges of it in the photo. It was too heavy and not suited for this design. I didn’t need it anyway, but it would be a nice option to have.

Zip pouch efforts.
The other side, where you can see the outside zip welt pocket for accessories. I love these skele-cats! And skele-mice, too, of course.

Zip pouch efforts.
Side pocket open. I lined it with a vibrant blue for fun.

Zip pouch efforts.
It opens up perfectly! It is the right size for the pencil set, I can see about half of them at a time, a small sharpener and eraser fit in the side pocket. After I removed the swivel clip, this was perfect for my needs and I could have quit at this point with the desired end product. I already had it in mind to make a few, so I kept on.

Zip pouch efforts.
The third pouch. Having satisfied my original need, I made a different size. Again, this one was almost perfect. The only flaw is minor, and shown below. Oh, this Halloween paisley!! I have such good fabric.

Zip pouch efforts.
The other side, showing the outside zip welt pocket.

Zip pouch efforts.
This opens up, wide and boxy. While this design is ideal for some things, it is not the answer to every zip pouch need I’ll have.
The attachement thing I talked about on the second pouch – while I didn’t need it for this design goal, I wanted to have it sorted for the day I do need it. I figured my press eyelets would be both tough and light enough to offer the best option. I made the first zip tab twice as big as needed to accommodate it, as well as to provide an instant tactile indication of which side of the zipper you were on. You know, in case you are getting into your colored pencil set in the dark. (!!!)

Zip pouch efforts.
Here is the imperfection – in the eyelet I installed on the start zip tab – I put it in upside down. The fat, tube part of the eyelet ends up the prettiest, but that part is on the bottom of the press dies. I forgot this when I pressed it in, but did leave myself a note for the next time I use the eyelet press. Really, you probably couldn’t tell. I showed it to Slick, who thought it was fine. Then I pointed out the pretty side and the slightly less pretty side of the eyelet so he could see what I was talking about. He grudgingly agreed that one side was slightly less pretty than the other.

Zip pouch efforts.
And this side pocket got lined with a striking red. Love that pop of color.

I did make one more zip pouch, a custom design for Slick. I ‘m not showing pictures of it because it was structurally perfect and there were zero design improvements. Also, I found his fabric choices dead boring, so just imagine a happy Slick, with his precisely designed and created zip pouch, and feel warm and fuzzy about it. He does, so it was a success.

There were two things I splurged on which made my project easier. First, a roll of zipper tape, 30 yards, in black, size 3, which is most accessory zippers, or pants zippers. Now I can simply cut off as much zipper as I need with nary a care. No more hunting through the stash for the size closest to my needs or making a trip to the store. I measure, cut, and pop a zip head on it. Truthfully though, I don’t even measure! I lay the zipper from the roll atop the thing I’m installing it in and that’s it. Buying zipper in bulk is WAY cheaper, too, especially since I got my roll on sale. Given how cheap and easy it is, I think this goes on my list of things I should have bought many years ago. It is a short list.
Second, a bolt of fusible interfacing. As a general sewist, I don’t use interfacing often. Usually, I would purchase a piece to fit my needs, plus the common extra to account for my human mistakes. This meant if I wanted to make a spur of the moment idea-something late at night and it needed interfacing, I was at the mercy of whatever offcuts and scraps I had from my last project. Not good. When I was in the store to buy interfacing for this very project, I saw a brand new bolt sitting there in plastic wrap and realized I could use my coupon on the whole thing. Sure, it was expensive, but it is now very possible I won’t need to buy interfacing again in my life. Plus, when I come up with some idea-something that needs interfacing and the stores are closed – IT WON’T FUCKING MATTER because I have an entire bolt of it! This won’t go on my “should have done this years ago” list, but it is a luxury worth mentioning to my past self.

On that note, when I talk about the short list of things I wish I’d known or done years ago and that I’m going to tell my past self, I am (of course) not being serious, nor am I regretful of my past. I put it this way to indicate the level of usefulness this new knowledge holds so that it can be appropriately gauged. It is easy to dismiss the impact of better tools or advancements when you’ve already enjoyed those benefits for so long that they are common, or when you don’t have them at all and therefore have no scale to consider them by.

I will probably make one more zip pouch in this style, now that a couple weeks have passed, to be sure I have my methods ingrained. I don’t need a pouch like this for anything offhand – maybe I’ll go looking around the workshop for things that need to be contained and then measure them.

Oct 102016

It’s been almost two months since my last quilt finish. 30 days of button badges really took all other creative focus away.

This is a long, skinny quilt, so all the full photos are sideways.
Going Somewhere Quilt, front.
Going Somewhere? Quilt
32″ x 85″

There were a few inspirations that led to this design. One was the desire to use or be inspired by a traditional block. I’ve always liked the idea of Flying Geese and wanted to do fun things with them. Typically, Flying Geese are aligned straight, with matching color edges. If they are curved, that is considered fancy in the traditional world. I thought my geese might like to fly in a twisty curve, with more colors and shapes.

Going Somewhere Quilt, detail.
The yellow geese triangles are from four different fabrics. I wanted to work with blue and this golden yellow was a good contrast. Like glowing lights in the sky. I cannot say why I wanted to use blue since I have an entire blue quilt that is very patiently awaiting its finish, sitting on my work table, taking up precious space, but there it is. WTF?
Seeing the spread now, I think if I’d mirrored the geese and maybe thrown some smaller tails on them they could have easily been golden fish in the sea. Instead of purple, the mid could fade to a deep green. Could throw in some of those gray pearls I’ve been hoarding… anyway. That is for another quilt.

Going Somewhere Quilt, detail.
It is mostly machine quilted. For some reason, I decided to do some decorative hand stitching on this quilt. Again, WTF?! I hate decorative hand stitching on quilts. Whatever. I did it, I tried it, I still don’t like it. I won’t do it again – not for a few years anyway.
Oh, look! A stray thread end. You guys don’t get the finished, trimmed and pressed quilts. You get fresh from the dryer, with cat hair, lint, fuzzy bits, and thread ends. Very real.

Going Somewhere Quilt, detail.
The binding is hand stitched too. It suited the middle well; it is a good look. Probably won’t do it again though.

Going Somewhere Quilt, back.
And the back. I seldom use big prints like this, but this piece has been waiting its turn and I couldn’t say no when the time came.

Who would want this long, skinny quilt? No idea. Maybe my slender whip of a niece – she would fit it, but these aren’t her colors at all. Plus, she has the giant cat quilt already. Well, I don’t make them to be sought after, I make them because they need to come to life and I need to bring them to this existence.

Oct 062016

Spirit Fox

ArtSnacks is a subscription box service I get. Every month they send you a small box with a few art supplies in it, along with a tiny snack. The snacks go immediately to Slick each time, but the art supplies are my kind of candy. I also subscribe to SketchBox, which does the same deal of art supplies, but no snack. Clearly, I have an art supply addiction. Anyway, they have a challenge every month to create a piece of art using only and all the supplies in the box and this is the first one I’ve played along with. At first I was having trouble with an idea because it is October and I kept thinking of Halloween (skulls, bats, pumpkins) and autumn (trees, leaves, wind) and being stuck. Finally, I pushed the seasonal thoughts aside and thought about what the materials would fit and this idea bubbled right to the top. A spirit fox in a dark wood.

I’ve had a number of animal helpers in my dreams, but the first one I really remember was a snow fox (Vulpes lagopus). Of course, I’ve never seen one and they aren’t telepathic like mine was, but it was snowing in my dream and it was a dream so it made perfect sense, in the way dreams usually do. Seemed like if I was going to draw a spirit animal, I should choose the closest thing I had to one. I thought of using a different animal because foxes are “so hip” and “on trend” right now, but that isn’t fair. If you change your behavior due to a trend, whether for or against, it is still influencing you. Ignore it, that’s the best. So, I ignored it. Of course, you can’t tell that my fox is a snow fox because it is glowy spirit white already, but whatever.

As the ink was drying, I went right into button-making mode. After that 30 day challenge, it was almost a habit; it felt natural.
Spirit Fox Button
The button badge is good, but not great. Some of the fine, light details are lost and the spirit floaty sparkles are barely visible, so I put a spot of micro-fine glitter ink on it before the mylar layer – not that you can see it here, only IRL.

This was a good evening art playtime, especially since I couldn’t do what I was supposed to be doing, which is hand stitching on the latest quilt. I’d taken it to work with me so I could stitch during my mandatory lunch hour, but I was a bit stressed and had terrible posture while I was doing it. That made my neck so sore I had a headache and could not bear any more stitching, good posture or not. Inking was easier, despite a similar pose. Maybe I was just that much happier to be at home in the workshop making art.

Sep 302016

Autumn is the most wonderful season. With it comes cool breezes and tumbling leaves, which the cats love. We keep the doors and windows open as often as we can.
The Captain thinks he sees a bug.
Here, The Captain thinks he may see a bug friend.

Moxie likes to play in the sheer curtains.
And you know who this is.

Moxie likes to play in the sheer curtains.
Moxie. She likes the light play on the sheer curtains and is fascinated by the limited visibility through them.

Sep 272016

Maker Talk, all the way.

All the buttons!
Now that the 30 Day Button Badge Challenge is completely over and behind me, it is time to look back and glean information from the experience.

The negative points:
1. This first and most obvious thing is that I will NOT be doing a daily Inktober (ink art a day in Oct) project. No way. I might do a weekly, or a series, but not a daily thing.

2. This would be an ideal type of project for a full time artist, not for a person who works a full time job and already has been squeezing her efficiency to eke out every bit of time possible for creative pursuits. After I get home from work, run any needed errands (like groceries, or cat supplies, or yard work), make and eat dinner, I have only a couple hours each week night to be creative in my workshop. I change gears as fast as I can, but my time is limited. Dedicating it to a single project type is terribly restricting to me.

3. I was tired of making buttons before I reached the halfway point. Once I make a few of a thing, I’m done. The next creation usually needs to be significantly different to keep my interest.

4. Needing to have a finished product daily became a THING, almost an obstacle. Sometimes it felt like it couldn’t simply be a bit of art for a button. Nooooo! It must be good, meet a standard, be special or meaningful, quite clever, amazing, etc. A few times I stood in the workshop thinking that all my ideas were rubbish, none of them were “good enough”, and then I had to work past those feelings. It’s a button, for fuck’s sake. Who cares if it is “good” or not?! As sometimes happens, my least favorite one is another’s most favorite. Good is relative.

The positive points:
5. I will NOT be doing a daily Inktober. Yes, this is also a positive point. I’ve learned that I don’t want to wipe out an entire month of creative time and give it to one thing. I am already relieved I won’t be doing Inktober daily, now that I’ve done the buttons. If I want to make ink art for 30 days, I will do it for that reason alone, not for a challenge. I gave the challenge format a shot, but it is not for me and now I know for sure. I am free of it.

6. Good way to form a habit. After a few days, I had a process down pat. The badge station was perfectly useful. The “idea, to art, to scan, to PS sizing, to laser printer, to button, to photo, to PS edit, to upload, to web” process meant noticeable changes in the original visual. That change was my hardest thing to gauge. I figured out how to shoot the photos in a balance of minimal reflected shine and minimal fuss and setup needed. Fuss and setup is the least fun of any project for me.

7. Small artwork took some pressure off. The daily art didn’t need to be big or detailed – in fact, when it was big and detailed, I had to redo them smaller so they’d look okay on the small button sizes. Button badge art is practically a doodle effort. Those seven cat buttons happened in one evening and were actually fun to do; same with the bugs.

8. This daily challenge was a great reason to pull out and use some of my more obscure art supplies. It is easy to fall back on the reliable favorites, like watercolors, any time I’m ready to create. Those NeoColors were fun. Paper collage is obvious, but I seldom do it. It’s nice to use my supplies.

9. I have a lot of finished buttons badges with my work on them! Before, I felt like I wasn’t taking proper advantage of the button presses and my mere handful of original buttons was meager. I wanted to have a number of these things, and now I do. Total success!

My biggest summary is that 30 Day Challenges are not for me. Goals are absolutely for me, I do very well with reasonable goals, but not like the Challenge.

And now my problem is all the buttons I’ve made. Since I made multiplies of each, I’ve got over a hundred buttons taking up my ironing board. I need that ironing board for other things, like ironing while I sew! Smaller sets are being carded and packaged up, but to help get the inventory down, I made an Etsy shop listing: All the Button Badges!
There are only three full sets, so if you want one, get it soon.

And now, back to our regularly expected stuffs.

Sep 212016

Nighttime jackalope, with moonflowers.
The Jackalope, 2.25″, Copic markers on Strathmore marker paper.
The last button of the challenge, and one I reserved my most favorite character for – the Jackalope. This guy is depicted on a moonless night, surrounded my moonflowers and the soft glow of stars. The Copics decided to spit blobs of ink out again, but it was an easy PhotoShop fix in post production. This button is tied for my favorite. It is too soon to really decide; I have to let them sink in a bit. Soon, I’ll post a Lesson Learned about this challenge, but for today, I will relax and let the last button of the challenge be the last.

Sep 202016

Honey Bee button.
Western Honey Bee, 1.25″, watercolor.
There is a lot of (justified) hype the past few years about honey bees dying out, colonies collapsing, etc. These are true and research is determining the causes of this. However, along with that hype comes your typical modern-day-news nonsense that hasn’t been researched or even understood before being plastered all over the media. Honey bees are not responsible for a third of our food supply, or any of the other magical, multi-billion dollar industry crap you may have heard or read.

What are honey bees responsible for?
First, obviously, is honey. Sweet, delicious honey and useful beeswax are direct products from honey bees. Don’t forget that mead comes from honey = yum! Indirectly, they help pollinate many flowers, veg, trees, etc.

What does it mean if honey bees vanish?
It means that tasty things like strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, onion, lemon, lime, almonds, chestnuts, pears, peaches, apricots, apples, plums, allspice and cardamom and more (not a complete list) would not have the help of the honey bee for pollination, and therefore production. Other insects pollinate these items, so they wouldn’t vanish with the honey bee, but they would become harder to produce, therefore more rare, which means more expensive to get your hands on.

So, the collapse of our food system (horribly flawed though it may be) is not realistic. The rarity increase of many bee-assisted delights is totally realistic. Throw a couple bee and butterfly friendly plants in your yard and (provided you’re not using industrial grade neonicotinoids insecticides) you’ve done a good part to help. With so many massive, awful problems facing humanity and our entire planet, this is one easy thing that you do to stem the flood of doom and gloom and thus, perhaps help you get to sleep at night and worry less in general.

Sep 192016

Two birds, chatting in the moonlight button.
Night Birds, 1.25″, Tombow markers on Rendr paper,
We had an excellent full moon this past weekend which was made even better by cool breeze and leaves turning golden and crispy on the trees. The turkey vultures are closing up their breeding season – they are part of our fall experience since they favor an enormous pine tree about five blocks from our house. They’ve worn the branches bare on that tree. Crows are more plentiful in our trees; they like to complain at me on morning walks. The drawing is of crows, with their rounded sweep tails. Ravens look similar but have pointy, shovel tails. They are less common at my house, too, so crows in the moonlight it is!

Sep 182016

Ganesha button.
Ganesha, 1.25″. Super Black ink, Strathmore Marker paper.
Ganesha, Lord of Obstacles. Ganesha is one of my favorite deities. As the Lord of Obstacles, he will help remove things from your path, if you’re worthy. Alternately, if you’re full of yourself and being a brat, Ganesha is the one to put obstacles in your way.

Again, this is the second attempt at the art, the first is below:
Original Ganesha button.
Same problem as before, I made my work too big. I was excited to try out some new supplies I’d received from Artsnacks, a Kuretake Sumi ink, with a new nib and a new notebook of ink-friendly paper. My original Ganesha was about 7×9″ with very fine lines. After scanning it and shrinking it to button size, it was partly invisible. Using PhotoShop, I thickened the lines, but scale was still the problem and it simply didn’t look good enough to me. I redrew it much smaller the next day and it was good.

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