Monday, July 30, 2007

Oops, I did it again... more French Knots!

I find these completely addictive. I did all of these French Knot projects in one week, including completing a whole pillow.

I am not sure what I am going to do with these yet.

South Park Embroidery

I am really proud of this piece - the chicken and me as South Park characters! We created the characters at the terrific South Park Studio, which provided us with quite a few hours of amusement. I found it far more satisfactory and sophisticated than the Simpson's avatar creator, even though I am a bigger fan of the latter show. Anyway, we look cuter as South Park creations than Simpsons characters.

The chicken created these:

Then I took it to the next level, as they say:

Here is the back. I really like to make sure the back has character - here is my signature envelope back with zigzag stitching:

And the completed project again:


Saturday, July 28, 2007

French Knots

This is a project inspired by one of my favorite blogs, the purl bee. I was looking for a project to make my mom for her birthday - something quick but nice. I saw this posted on the bee Monday AM - I had finished the french knots portion by Thursday and the pillow construction by late Friday night.

When I first started, I thought damn, those knots are going to take a long time - will I have the patience? I don't usually do abstract embroidery. Well, I had nothing to worry about - I found making the knots completely addictive. In fact, I have already started to make one for myself.

I am very happy with how this pillow came out. It's even more personal because it contains fabric that my aunt gave me from her stash.

Check out the purl bee's excellent instructions for a french knot sunburst in their Connect the Dot Pillows tutorial.

And here's the back:

The binding is fabric from Denyse Schmidt's Flea Market Fancy collection. I bought a couple of yards of it for a wall hanging project I never did. But it makes the most charming detail, and I've used it both in this project, and the shark pillows.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Charteuse Velour

Another gift for another friend's wedding. She loves chartreuse velour.

I am especially proud of my first buttonholes.

And it's just a bonus that the back looks like a little alien creature's face.

I got the velour for 25 cents at this truck engine show in Massachusetts. I also got a whole lot of muslin for 25 cents from the same vendor. I think my friend would especially appreciate these recycled materials being part of her pillow, because she is way into reclaiming yarns and materials from flea markets and making them her own.

Here's some gratuitous shots from the engine show:

Some Lovely Sharks

I made these for a friend's wedding gift.

Here they are before the log-cabin style patchwork:

She really likes sharks.

And here's the back:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Embroideries

The Embroidaries - Threadless, Best T-shirts Ever

I was just turned onto I really like cool t-shirts and buy them regularly from the Giant Robot store.

For those of you equally in the dark as me, threadless holds contests for t-shirt designs, and then prints the winners. I am sure I'll find countless tempting items as I peruse this site, but I was really surprised to find an embroidery themed shirt on the home page! It's not actually embroidered, it's some kind of fantasy of angel-workers stitching a dinosaur. I might have to have it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Bartender Pillow

I draw pen and ink illustrations based on found photographs. (Can someone please give me a sexier way to describe "pen and ink drawing"? You can really see people's eyes glaze over when you say this - unless you evoke Robert Crumb). My principle sources for photographs are loose individual photos purchased at flea markets, old magazines (especially LIFE, Playboy, and "physique" magazines), old textbooks, and the occasional original photographs that I take as snapshots.

A couple of years ago, I was lucky to come across a whole stack of snapshots taken at a strip bar in New Jersey in the 80s. This is a very unusual find. At that time, I was strictly drawing, not embroidering, so I made an attempt at drawing some of these ladies.

When I started embroidering, I was attracted to this particular image. I liked her tough attitude, her stance, and her sexual ambiguity.

The major disadvantage of drawing women is hair. Hair takes a long time to embroider. I took a break from embroidering women for awhile, but now that I've become more proficient, I am no longer intimidated by long hair.

White Stripes Embroidery

This amazing portrait of the White Stripes is by Jenny Hart, truly the queen of alternative embroidery. I had been previously familiar with her Sublime Stitching kits - both Purl Soho and The City Quilter carry them in New York. I had tried out a kit when I first started doing embroidery. But I had never seen her embroidered portraits before last night, and I must say I am blown away.

White Stripes Crafts

I was looking for a picture of Meg White's button bass drum last night at 2 o'clock in the morning, to no avail. But somehow, I stumbled across this:

Yes, it's the White Stripes. Knitted. Check out Hannah Simpson's blog cakeyvoice for the 411. Be sure not to miss her knitted Shaun of the Dead. Surely the first knitted interpretation of a rom zom com movie?

White Stripes!

Just got back from the White Stripes concert at Madison Square Garden. I just love the White Stripes. And I was fixated on a certain thing - Meg's drum. Meg's bass drum looked like a huge white 4-hole button, with red threads going through in a criss cross. You could see a little black behind the threads where the holes were.

Now, I generally don't do pillows in white, black or red in combination, but staring at the button drum made me want to try. I started mentally going over how all the black, white, and read fabric I've seen over the last year. And where to get those very mod, over sized white buttons. Mmmmm...

The closest I've come to this color combination is probably in this pillow:

Here's the back - this is very White Stripes:

I am particularly fond of the red constrasting zig-zag stitch. This is Michael Miller's Water Swirl - it isn't easy to find these particular colors anymore.

Anyway, I really wanted to find a picture of that button drum, but all I could find was pictures of her drums that look like peppermint candies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The $1000 Pillow, again

So, a sewing machine, three patchwork and quilting classes at purlsoho, a shelf full of books, two cartons of brilliant, delicious new fabrics, miscellaneous rulers, mats, seam rippers, rotary cutters, and ziplock bags full of embroidery thread later...

... and that first pillow isn't done.

However, I have spent the last year making and selling original embroidery designs, and I am ever so grateful to k studio for inspiring me to get started.

The $1000 Pillow, continued

It took me about a week to unlock the mystery of transferring images to fabric - old fashioned carbon paper. Helpful hint: look for a dusty, local stationery store for the best prices on this stuff. Staples is dreadfully overpriced, and I haven't had consistent luck at craft stores with this particular supply. You can reuse the sheets, so a little goes a long way. (Update on this: try dressmaker's transfer paper instead. It washes out.)

Another great way to learn is to pick up one of Sublime Stitching's kits. It contains everything you need to start, including transfer paper, a nice wood hoop (I have tried plastic and find it un-yummy to work with). I prefer the kind of embroidery thread that comes in a ball, but again, this is a great way to dip your toe in the water.

The chicken and I attacked this first project together. It was a combination of xeroxing and recreating images from scratch. I must say the chicken did an excellent job on the squirrel - he really made it his own.

After I had finally traced the images on fabric and finished embroidering the first creature, i had the first "aha" moment.

Aha! I can actually do this.
Aha! I like doing this.
Aha! There's no way this pillow is going to save me money.

I have seen the future. And it's going to be expensive.

The $1000 Pillow

I really wanted that Woodland Creatures pillow from k studio. And I was determined to "save money" by somehow creating it myself. I also really admired their more architectural pieces as well, but I couldn't even consider tackling a project so complex.

As I considered how to do this, I had absolutely no idea where to start. I wasn't even entirely sure what stitching patterns with thread into fabric was called. I went to a local bookstore and found out oh, this is embroidery. I bought a dictionary of embroidery stitches, which was very clear and helpful, though I must admit to this day I only use 3 stitches regularly: the backstitch, the side stitch, the split stitch, and just recently, the french knot, thanks to my friends at the purl bee.

How It All Started

I have been an artist and an illustrator for a number of years, but I had always stayed in the 2-dimensional realm. It all started last summer, when the chicken and I were really into decorating. Like many juvenile-acting adults of my generation, I am attracted to the cute and the superflat, especially when it comes to animals and representations of animals. I am the proud owner of 3 Ugly Dolls. I have jewelry with small birds on it. I have been unable to throw away my old stuffed animals. When I recently visited my old friends in California, almost everyone one of them made a comment about my Paul Frank-dominated wardrobe.

from k studio:

So when the chicken sent me this picture from the wonderful k studio of Woodland Creatures, it was of course no surprise that I was delighted. It was just exactly my aesthetic (that is, the cute part of my aesthetic, vs. the raunchy side of my aesthetic, which we'll get to later).

I mulled over this pillow for some days; I had just invested a decent sum of money transforming my apartment from a post-college (well, let's be frank - post-post college) dump into a more mature aesthetic - which is, to say - reasonably adult. Bright colored mismatched walls had transformed into creamy neutrals. Rooms had been assigned 4-hue color schemes. I was maintaining a book of floor plans - to make sure things fit before I actually purchased them. I was a devotee of apartmenttherapy. Things were looking up. How did Woodland Creatures fit in?

Well, it would have fit in perfectly. But I didn't want to spend the $100+ price tag on it. It dawned on me - I called up the chicken - "I can do this myself!"

Now, mind you, I had never considered myself a sew-er. I could sew on the occassional button, but I had always left mending to the experts (eg: my mom or the local dry cleaners). But I had just had an inspirational summer. I had painted several rooms - complete with scraping and priming! I had covered radiators with toxic heat-resistant silver spray! The chicken and I had laid down 400 square feet of laminate flooring with our bare hands! These were unprecedented achievements. If I could do that, I could do anything. Right?