May 282015

Obviously, if I make the quilt bigger, it will take me longer to finish.
Of course, I did make it bigger anyway.
I stayed up late last night finishing the blocks. It is unlikely I will complete this thing in time for show entry. Now, if I miss the entry date, that means I can spend even more time on it. More handwork, maybe some beads. Could take lots of time to feed my obsessive ideas.

May 272015

I’d show you my latest project, a rather free-style quilt, but it is still in pieces. It was meant to be done over the long weekend, but I made it bigger. Then I changed it. Then I made it bigger again. Changed the layout a bit more And made it bigger again. And I might make it bigger just one more time.

I hope it is only one more time. This thing is already going to be 300% bigger than planned. I almost feel bad for wanting to enter it into the upcoming CAG show. Almost. Most of their art is quite traditional and standard. Paintings, pastels, in regular frames. My work is soft, touchable textile, bigger than their usual. It needs space and it needs to be seen both close and from across the room. DO NOT TOUCH – except for that crazy quilter person who won’t go away. You can touch her quilts. Quilts! Who ever! Tsk!

I don’t care. I want to make them. I want to share them, sometimes. Size and tradition be damned.

I’m totally going to make it even bigger tonight.

May 182015

Finally, more colors.
The original tulips might be overtaken. I need to get that grass cut down. Usually the grass is still weak and sparse this time of year.

May 142015

As requested:
Walking bridge.
A picture of the bridge at the new-to-us park Slick and I have been walking in lately. There always seems to be water in this slender creek, but even more surprising is the presence of fish! They like to jump up and splash the water when you’re walking past in the quiet and scare the crap out of you.

May 132015

You’ll recall that a couple months ago, I made new fabric out of scraps and bits of fabric and thread for an Experimentation project. I decided to use that fabric to make art cuffs. At first, I thought it might be a good audition for Art-O-Mat, but the sheer number of repetitions needed was disheartening. You know, because I’ve said it before, I don’t like to make many of the same thing and it seems like 15 is a good number for this series. I might take these down to WYO Art Factory for addition to the Wonderpull, or maybe put them in my Etsy shop, but I prefer the smaller quantity.
Completed art cuffs.
I very much enjoyed making these, every step of the way. Making new fabric from bits, pulling out my stamps and adding them in, beading the edges for a touch of sparkle, sewing them together, using the snap press. I expect the label stamp for the boxes to be equally entertaining. If/when I make more of these, I’ll use slightly smaller stamps or keep the edging closer to the image – a couple of these have beading that goes off the edge. I think they’re okay, but maybe those ones will be discounted or giveaways or something. Doesn’t meet my standards. Anyhow, I have a whole slew of freshly carved, slightly smaller stamps to use. I’ll probably make some wider cuff bases as well, to keep the bigger stamps in the game.

Completed art cuffs.
Each one has a stamped back and a snap closure. I still need to whip up the packaging for these guys, so they’re not 100% done quite yet. Creations of Dubious Utility is my shop name and my artsy website.

That starry, drinking squirrel one is mine! All mine!

May 122015

The HST (Half Square Triangle) into diamond blocks small quilt, is done.
Half Square Triangle into diamond block quilt, front.
Man, why do I never lint-roller these things BEFORE photographing them?! Oh well.
The binding is teal background ditsy from the same fabric line whose charm pack inspired the whole thing. Charm packs are small stacks of 2.5″ squares of fabric from a fabric line. You generally get one piece of each color and print, but they are cheap. For three or four dollars you can have a smidge of an entire line. I got this pack at last year’s quilt show and shop hop and it sat on my shelf until a month ago when I needed a small sewing project, and now you’re caught up. The problem with waiting a year – as I explained last year – is that fabric has seasons, like fashion. So the fabric in the charm pack I got in 2014 isn’t sold in stores anymore by 2015, unless you get lucky and find a bolt sitting in the back corner of a shop. This means that if you need a little bit more of the same fabric to fill out a project, your best (sometimes only) option is to visit Etsy, where many shops resell fabric online. They are more likely to keep older fabric lines around than regular shops. I got a yard of the cream background and a quarter of the teal flower ditsy for the back and binding, but the rest of the fabric I filled in from my personal stash/palette with prints and colors that I thought went together nicely enough. The look is good, and I’m not much for making an entire project out of one designer line. That stuff bugs me. The choosing of the fabrics, colors, placements, layout, etc. is what makes it your project. If you’re buying a collection of fabric and using a pattern – what is there of you in it?

Also, don’t think I’m demeaning Etsy fabric sellers – I quite prefer them to brick-and-mortar shops most of the time. You can shop any time you want, their prices are usually lower, their combinations and options for fabric are generally better, and they are almost all operated by one or two sellers who need happy customers to keep up their reputation – this means they are friendly, helpful, and usually ship your order very quickly. Online, you don’t have to adhere to the limited shop hours of IRL stores and there are no elderly women pushing you aside, or salespeople grilling you on what project you’re making and what pattern is that and why aren’t you following a pattern?!

I don’t like people.

Half Square Triangle into diamond block quilt, back.
I pieced the back together, both because I like the look and because I was simply out of coordinating fabrics. I think I’ve settled on the way I like to piece my backs now – an echo of the front design, in one piece, floating as a focus. This one and the rainbow stripes quilt are good examples.

Half Square Triangle into diamond block quilt, draped.
You can see that our Japanese red maple tree is starting up. The leaves are that pretty red in the spring and fall, but green in the summer. The squirrels like it, but they don’t harass it too much.

Now, onto a few more project finishes!

May 112015

I’ve been meaning to start thread sketching more often. Like regular paper sketching, the best way to get better is to do it more often. I wanted to start with something simple, but as usual, I fail at simple.
Thread sketch of everyone's favorite droid.
Thread sketch based on the Lucasfilm R2D2 figurine, which you can see in the upper right corner of the next photo. This is not an ideal sketch subject. Lots of straight lines, lots of stop and starts. I’ll choose a more fitting subject next time.

Thread sketch of everyone's favorite droid.
With paint. I like it. Tonight, when it is surely dry after 24 hours, I’ll heat set it. Then? I don’t know. I didn’t think that far ahead. Maybe the side of a tote bag? A skirt or jacket panel? Pillow front? I’ll find something to do with it.

May 092015

The Captain caught sight of a rabbit in the yard.
The Captain caught sight of a rabbit in the yard. He became very excited and focused; the rabbit became cautious.

Also, look at those rabbit ears! Those are great! I’m going to turn that rabbit into a carving.

May 072015

This is the last post of the Experimentation Project for fusing plastic bags. You can see the previous experimentation results:
for basic fusing of grocery bags here,
for decorative fusing here,
and for seams and closures here.
and using plastics besides grocery bags right here.
This post is the last, 5/5 of this project series.

This post covers a few more closures, seaming, and leftover “what-ifs”.

Fabric enclosed seams
Fusing plastic experimentations.
This is the last method in the project to get plastic seams together. You can use heat only, you can sew them straight on your machine (or by hand with assistance of a hole-poking tool) and you can glue them if you have an appropriate glue, like E6000. Here I’m going to make yet another simple envelope pouch from a long piece of fused plastic folded over. I did shape the flappy bit to make it look nice.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
This method uses fabric binding on the edges of the plastic. It works well. Almost like sewing on only fabric, but there is still that thickness in the middle, so I used a slightly longer stitch (3mm). This looks nice. I put a snap closure on it, using the snap press I got myself for my birthday. You could absolutely use snap pliers – the full press is an unnecessary luxury.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Look, the new pouch holds a bottle of Elmer’s School Glue perfectly! That was not intentional. Or needed for any reason at all.

Can you fuse plastic to fabric?
Fusing plastic experimentations.
Yes! You totally can. Looks nice, feels good. You could line a toiletries bag with this, or make a plastic-covered pouch for a wet swimsuit, or whathaveyou.

Now, is it durable?
Fusing plastic experimentations.
Eh, mostly. I was able to work a fingernail under an edge and peel up some of the plastic. I don’t consider this normal wear-and-tear use, but this might preclude using it for a pouch for sharp pencils or forks. Can’t think of a reason you’d want to line a pouch for sharp objects with plastic, but this Experiment Project isn’t about regression testing, only information gathering and hypothesis forming.

Can you fuse plastic to paper or cardstock?
Fusing plastic experimentations.
No. Not well, anyway. The plastic peeled back up off this index card with minimal effort. I don’t think a layer of plastic fused onto a postcard would make it to a mailbox, even with hand delivery.

How about those anti-static bags?
Fusing plastic experimentations.
Anti-static bags! Technically plastic! Let’s try it! This one shielded a hard drive in its previous life.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Excellent! Almost no shrinkage at all. The resulting plastic is resilient and mostly transparent. Exciting.

What else could you use it for?
Fusing plastic experimentations.
A paintbrush or tool roll up! Admittedly the plastic side wouldn’t help your brushes dry out at all, but it could prevent them from getting wet? Tools then. This roll up was made with fabric for the pockets, straight sewing and a strap with Velcro to close it.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Not too shabby for something made from garbage and scraps.

Anything else?
Fusing plastic experimentations.
You can totally make some primitive art by fusing plastic. These fabulous colors are thanks to AmyKatt, who hoarded some plastic bags for me. Thank you, AmyKatt!. If you’re going to do this sort of fusing, I’d recommend one of the small, seam pressing irons that are marketed to quilters. They are cheap, $20, for what they are and how long they last. Using a full size iron for this means that many pieces are heated multiple times. After this many heatings, they stop fusing and merely get hot compared to the other pieces you are trying to layer up. Some bits might try to unfuse as well. Flipping the piece over and getting it fusing hot from the backside helps stick the bits down again, but a tiny iron circumvents the problem to begin with. Also, static electricity!! Really the hardest part of making this scene was getting the pieces of plastic to release from my fingers and stay still on the plastic base. Grrr!

I’m concluding this Experimentation Project now. I was going to do another section for shaping and forming plastic, but that seems like a different subject at this point. I’ve fused plastic, in many formats, in pretty or utilitarian combinations, into useful items, with different seaming methods, with different closure methods, as well as purely for art. I feel familiar with fused plastic as a material for use and am confident I could integrate it into other projects in the future. I’ll probably fuse plastic to cloth for some reason, use fused plastic for bags and maybe even a raincoat. I’m sure there are some outdoor or camping applications that haven’t come to mind yet, but I’ll be ready when they do.

May 062015

There is a secret surprise on the blog right now.
Is that redundant? Secret surprise?
Anyway, there is.
I will announce what it is next week, unless no one trips over it. In that case, I will say nothing and there will be a different secret surprise some other time.
Good luck.

 Posted by at 12:18  Comments Off on Secret Surpise
May 062015

Apple blossom againt a bright sky.
The apple tree is blossoming. The sky is perfect. The temperature is mild. I’d like spring to last longer. I want more time to lay in the grass and ponder.

May 052015

This is the continuing Experimentation Project for fusing plastic bags. You can see the previous experimentation results:
for basic fusing of grocery bags here,
for decorative fusing here,
and for seams and closures here.
This post is Section 4, using plastics other than grocery bags.

This post covers using plastics besides grocery bags, and a couple more closures.

Clear tarp
Fusing plastic experimentations.
The clear tarp, or drop cloth, was purchased from the hardware store. It was marketed as a painting drop cloth, which we all know from years of movies means body-disposal plastic. If you’re disorganized, you’ll use the shower curtain. If you’re more organized, you’ll use the opaque black plastic drop cloth. But, I digress. The clear tarp wasn’t very clear, more like semi-transparent. I put some bits of purple plastic in the middle so you could see the level of transparency. This is four layers, two on bottom, purple bits, two on top. It works and the plastic is a good thickness, but it isn’t too clear. This might be best for a single layer topper, for clarity purposes.

Ubiqutous blue tarp
Fusing plastic experimentations.
The blue tarps are everywhere and I purchased a new one at the hardware store. The bitty sample attached to the outside of the package melted down to this. Looks like it melts pretty well, but the amount of blue coloring coming out of it is discouraging. Let’s try something bigger.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Okay, it doesn’t melt so well. It takes higher heat and more of it and it doesn’t like to meld nicely. This resulting piece is only mostly fused, wrinkled and warped. Maybe it needs a different plastic to join with. Let’s try some blue tarp with grocery bag.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Damn. Blue tarp single layer onto grocery bag is even worse. The differing temp and time points meant this thing barely bonded at all. As well, there is blue over my pieces of parchment now and that will get transferred back onto the next plastic that touches it. There is a smell of hot plastic – which sounds obvious, but there has been no (or almost no) smell on other plastic at any point up to this. The best summary here is that blue tarps are no good for this type of fusing project and I don’t suggest them. On the other hand, I’m certain you could easily patch up a torn blue tarp with another bit of blue tarp or even the above painting tarp. You know, in case you aren’t able or willing to get to the hardware store and spend $5 for a new one.

Food packaging
Fusing plastic experimentations.
Since most of our food products nowadays come packaged in plastic, let’s try fusing some. Here is a single bread bag folded in thirds, with a couple scraps of white grocery bag in the middle for aesthetics. (Above pic is pre-fusing.) Result? It fused beautifully! Minimal distortion and good adherence through all plastic layers. Highly recommended.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
It fused so well, I immediately turned it into a small envelope pouch with a Velcro closure. The branding designs lined up as if the bread company knew I’d be doing this to their bag.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Seriously! Look at that balanced logo placement! I don’t like looking at brand names, but if you’re not opposed to such a thing, I think there are some great fusing supply opportunities to be found on your next grocer run.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Since we’re into the grocery store plastic, let’s try some vegetable mesh. This piece came from a bag of boiler onions. I love those things. Throw some into the pot with a bit of roast, carrots, and potatoes. Yummy. Again, I digress. I layered the mesh in between two pieces of clear packaging plastic so we could see the mesh well. In this photo, I’ve slipped a piece of fabric behind it all for viewing purposes only. The whole thing fused together fairly well. The mesh pretty much got smaller and melted only enough to stick to the other plastic. It looked cool enough to turn into a simple envelope pouch.

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Some quick E6000 glue was used to seam it. This time I installed a magnet to metal closure. I melted a small coil of binding wire into the receiving flat piece (right) and a small but powerful magnet into the flappy bit (left).

Fusing plastic experimentations.
This type of closure works quite well – the gentle snick of magnet finding metal through plastic is satisfying and reassuring. Creating this is marginally more difficult than other closure styles. The metal coil pulls heat from your iron and it takes much longer to complete the embedding than you’d expect. Likewise, the magnet wants to get away by sticking to your metal iron, or to your nearby scissors. It isn’t too difficult to manage, being that you’re steadying it through the parchment paper, but maybe don’t make it the first thing you try when you go for your fusing project.

Tyvek shipping bag
Fusing plastic experimentations.
These are thicker, tough plastic bags often used for shipping flexible items. This bag is from some clothing I ordered last year. I like that it says “Please Recycle” right on it – because that is what I’m about to do!

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Yep, fuses like a dream! Smooth, minimal wrinkling or warping, quick and adhered well all around.

Caution tape
Fusing plastic experimentations.
How about caution tape for some added flash?

Fusing plastic experimentations.
Excellent! Especially against (my favorite) the black garbage bags that fuse to look like pleather. There was almost no shrinkage or distortion of the caution tape at all. It merely fused down and stayed there.

Soda bottles
Fusing plastic experimentations.
I cut strips from a soda bottle and wove them between fused grocery bag strips, then heated the whole piece. It looks like it worked….

Fusing plastic experimentations.
… but no. No dice. The soda bottle shrunk a miniscule amount and did not fuse at all to the bag plastic.

Alright, that is plenty for now. I’ll post the remainder of the experiment results on Thursday, so come back for more then!

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