Saturday, October 25, 2014

Poison Pumpkins, Oh My!

Poison Pumpkins!

So, recently I took part in a swap challenge to make a Halloween/Fall related embroidered felt ornament. I thought for awhile & wasn't sure what to make, but after a bit of thought about Halloween & fall, pumpkins & apples, skeletons & skulls I came up with the idea of a 'poison pumpkin' & today, I thought I'd share how you can make one, too :)

Wool felt (stem), wool yarn scrap (for hanging the ornament), pumpkin orange felt fabric (found at  a local Goodwill, stuffing, scrap of vintage fabric, embroidery thread in candy corn colors, sugar skull embroidery pattern from Sublime Stitching (awesome pattern or you can draw your own)

What you will need:
Felt in orange & green
Yarn or Ribbon
Plain Fabric (light colors or white work best)
Thread in candy corn colors
Stuffing for plushies
Embroidery Pattern for skull (this one is from Sublime Stitching there are others or you can draw your own
Bowl (mine was about 6" across) & pencil for tracing
Scissors, pins

Step one: Iron your skull design onto the plain fabric, according to package directions, or draw your own. Embroider in your choice of colors & stitches (I liked the idea of candy corn colors on a sugar skull. My son once made a sugar skull with candy corn colors at a local event & I thought of this as I worked). Cut around the design. I used pinking sheers (some my grandmother had) to prevent fraying of the raw edges.

Step two: Cut two circles out of the orange felt. I used a bowl, large enough to accommodate the sugar skull design, plus enough for a small seam allowance & extra so the pumpkin wouldn't be completely covered by the design, to trace the circles onto the felt.

Step three: Cut out one stem piece. I just free-formed the shape, from some memory. You could make it less curved, as some pumpkins have more of a stump than an actual stem. Leave enough at the bottom for a small 1/4" seam or so.

Step four: Stitch the sugar skull embroidered piece onto one of your felt circles. I hand stitched everything, but you could also machine stitch your pumpkin.

Step five: Cut shallow ) ( into the top & bottom of your pumpkin pieces. These don't have to be perfect, but they should be the same on both pieces, so do both pieces at the same time.

Step six: Sew your stem piece to the top of one of the pumpkin pieces. Mine is sewn to the inside of the ) with a 1/4" seam, leaving most of the stem sticking out. Add a piece of yarn or ribbon for hanging.

Step seven: Sew the 'circles' together, using a 1/4" seam, leaving an inch or so left open to add the stuffing. I've simply left the edges showing, so there is no need for turning & the sugar skull is already on the outside.

Step eight: Add the stuffing. I've stuffed this loosely, for a lighter & more 'squishy' feel, but you can add more, if you want more a 'stuffie' kind of thing. Sew the opening together.

Step nine:  Add hand stitched curved lines, for a pumpkin effect. I've pulled my stitches a bit, to make the sections created by the lines puff out, like on a pumpkin. If you leave out the stitching, you get more of an apple shape, than a pumpkin (which would be cute in red felt, for a poison apple ;)

Have fun! Come back & show us what you've made. SAM

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fixing Old Jeans & Repurposing Stuff

So , for some reason, both my husband and son have decided that their jeans should have giant holes in them. Maybe they didn't decide this, but the holes have appeared anyway. I could have just slapped giant patches on them or maybe they should have been thrown out...I'm kind of liking the current ripped jeans thing (that's been a current thing, many times in the past) & I like the idea of giving things new lives, so I decided to add patches in a new/old way.

When I was a child & my jeans or my brother's pants needed patching, my grandmother would iron the patches in so they were on the inside facing out (usually before the fabric was able to fray in the wash). This made them less obvious, virtually invisible, if done right, than the traditional patches thing on the outside, particulary when we were able to match the paches to the fabric color. I still had some of the outside type of patches, but these were emboidered patches, added for fashion statements & not often used to cover actual tears, especially once I found that they weren't as sturdy as the real thing.
I decided to use my grandmother's technique on my husband & son's jeans in a way that strengthens the jeans & keeps some of the great texture of the frayed fabric, while adding a new textural detail of its own.

Starting with some bits of vintage 60's denim fabric that I had lying around, I pinned the fabric to the inside of the pants & basted around the edges to hold to fabric on straight while I stitched. Any fabric could be used, you could even use lace or velvet, for a pretty contrast. Since these jeans belonged to my husband & son & they were signifcantly damaged, I decided to use more of a matching fabric. If you're trying to strengthen the area, as well as patch the hole/s, I'd suggest matching the fabric to the weight of the pants fabric. If you want to use lace on heavier pants, with large holes, you could try backing it with another fabric first, even if that fabric is sheer, for extra strength & to help keep the lace from tearing, when the pants are worn.

Once the patch had been basted to the inside of the fabric, I started stitching, back & forth across the patched area. This is amost like weaving extra stability into the area. The stitches don't have to be perfect or perfectly even. These patches look great stitched with a more 'primitive' look, it matches perfectly with the frayed edges of the fabric. I used a blue thread (also something vintage that I've had lying around forever), that is similar, but doesn't quite match the patch or the original jean fabric, to make the stitches stand out a bit, for texture, but not too much (for my husband & son). You could use a completely contrasting thread, to add another layer of texture to your design. Sewing the stitches in more than one direction, crossing over each other, strengthens the area, along with adding a design element.
I like how these patches turned out. It takes a while to do patches this way & I used up the better part of a day for each pair of jeans, but I think it's worth the effort. If you don't like hand stitching (I find it kind of relaxing), you could try machine stitching. The effect would be a little different, less primitive, but still interesting. Maybe you could even use different stitches or embroider a pattern over everything...
So, in the end I've saved four things from the trash heap: two pairs of jeans, some fabric scraps & an old spool of thread, plus came up with a technique I think I'll use again & in the process, made someting cool out of old stuff. I hope my husband & son appreciate them, but at least I like them :) SAM

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tacoma Summer: Every Day is Exactly the Same, Seven Days

Tacoma summer: Every day is exactly the same, seven days

Center Photo: Wright Park, Tacoma, WA, Outside Photos: Tacoma, WA
Day 1. Sunny, Warm, Light Clouds
Day 2. Sunny, Warm, Light Clouds
Day 3. Sunny, Warm, Light Clouds
Day 4. Sunny, Warm, Light Clouds
Day 5. Sunny, Warm, Light Clouds
Day 6. Sunny, Warm, Light Clouds
Day 7. Sunny, Warm, Light Clouds

So, yes, almost exactly the same...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Be Yourself

Journal Pages: Animal prompt, Repurposed anmal images from magazines, vintage "Black Beauty" pages (from a damaged copy) & ink in a handmade journal with repurposed magazine pages (journal by L. Florig-Beck)

Be yourself

Release your inner spirit
Be an animal
For awhile,
For as long as you want:
Embrace perfection
Fly to the sun
Dance under the moon
Stretch to the stars
Embrace imperfection
Be an animal, whatever animal you want
For awhile,
For as long as you need...SAM 8/14

*Image, journal pages & words by Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Challenges, Trades & Random Ideas

Challenges, trades & random ideas, a few things I've worked on recently:

Travelling Art journal pages, by me: Doodle theme, vintage (70's) algebra book page, acrylic paint doodles, black pencil doodles, black pen doodles, scrapbook paper piece, for a journal swap on Swap-Bot

Music challenge: Based on "Nothing compares 2U" the Sinead O'Connor version, acrylic paint, pencil, black pen, colored pencil, embroidery thread, for a Sketchbook Project challenge, Songs to Draw From, to create an original 4X6 piece based on a Spotify playlist (& for a chance to be published in Diner magazine)

Necklace for Swap Bot Summer Scavenger Hunt Swap: Wood from my yard, chain from Goodwill, owls from another swap, glass beads (from an EtsyRain stash swap), porcelain beads, vintage wood beads (from an 80's bracelet), gemstone diamond shape beads (from an EtsyRain local group stash swap), copper bead, hand crochet fiber 'chain,' gold color wire, purchased pearl look findings
And lastly, a preview of a piece that I'm working on for Seattle Handmade's Tiny Tales & Small Stories show at the Stunningly Strange Gallery: Vintage Frames, repurposed images from a Leadbelly (Huddie Ledbetter) postcard by Pomegranate Publications, Hand embroidered with handspun silk & wool embroidery thread by Dragonfly Lotus Designs, Copper Wire
I've been enjoying these little challenges & working in new ways. Have you been working on anything lately?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fahrenheit 451: A 'Review'

Near the original Emerald Queen Casino, Tideflats area, Tacoma, WA by Shelley McElhiney*
How does one review a classic? A 'banned' book? A controversial book, even now, more than 50 years after its first publication? I don't think you can or maybe shouldn't, but it should be discussed & thought about, so here are some random thoughts & answers to a few questions:

  • What was the book about? The book is about burning books (Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn), but more than that it is about destroying independent thought, about the pursuit of happiness through ignorance, about allowing technology to take over our thoughts & lives, something that Bradbury wrote often about, one of his favorite topics. It starts as the story of a fireman, not the kind of fireman we see today, who puts out fires & saves buildings & libraries, but the kind of fireman who starts fires, destroying 'dangerous' books & subversive literature, saving the public from old knowledge that might make them sad & unhappy, unable to carry on with their mundane lives, in the face of wars that they know little to nothing about, saving them from the knowledge that they are wasting their lives on meaningless frivolity & mundane tasks
  • Did you like or dislike it? I loved it, which is up from my original feelings. I originally read this as a child & I liked it, but there were depths that were lost on me, not because I couldn't read the words, the text & even some into the subtext, but because I hadn't experienced enough to read into the depths & richness of the novel.
  • Who was your favorite character? Most were interesting, who should I pick? Clarisse, the catalyst that changed Montag's perceptions, his reality? Faber, the old man who helps Montag after he realizes that the world is not what it once seemed? Montag, the main character, whom I disliked immensley, at the beginning, but who moves toward redemption, in the end.
  • What was your favorite part? What was your least favorite? My favorite part is not a part at all, but the subtle progression of the themes, throughout the novel. Least favorite, maybe the scene where Montag reads bits of poetry to the women who have gathered with his wife, for an evening. The women represent the worst of the society that has formed, lead by the 'pictures' of their 'families' that stream through their homes, on an almost constant basis, pictures that take the place of reality & thought. What bothers me, is that the women in the novel & this scene in particular, seem to be more reliant on their 'families.' This probably has more than a little to do with the era in which the book was written, where few women worked outside the home.
  • Have you read any other books by this author? Many
  • Would you read any others because of this book? I have & probably would again,
  • Were there any situations or characters in the book that you identified with? How? I identify with Clarisse in that she can't help thinking outside the box. This is where creativity & inventiveness live. The box is often synonymous with stagnation & oppression. In the book, her way, her families way leads to both freedom & danger.
  • Did you like the book from the beginning or did it take you a while to get into it? At first, it was difficult to get into, Montag's character was not likable & the reality he lives in is frightening
  • Would you change anything about the book? No, I don't think would. 
  • Would you ask the author a question if you could? What would you ask? I'm not sure what I would ask Bradbury, such a prolific & interesting writer.
  • Would you recommend this book to other readers? Yes, definitely!
  • What surprised you the most about the book? The depths of the storyline & characters
  • What is the significance of the title? Would you have given the book a different title? If yes, what is your title? Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn & fire plays a huge role in the novel, I couldn't think of a more perfect title. First published in Galaxy Science Fiction, in a shorter version, under the title "The Fireman," I think the change to "Fahrenheit 451" is a far more provocative title. 

Have you read "Fahrenheit 451?" Was it recently? Did you re-read it later? How have your perceptions changed? SAM

*Original photo by Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved

Sunday, July 6, 2014

55 Book Related Questions

Inside The Nearsighted Narwhal, independent bookstore, 6th Ave. Taoma, Wa by Shelley McElhiney*
I thought that today I would share with you my answers to the "55 Book Related Questions" swap in the Carpe Librum group on Swap Bot. It's always interesting to read how each one of us answers these questions, how we're similar & how we're different, even how we differ each time we answer the questions. How would you answer? I know I have slightly different answers each time, so here are my current answers to our "55 Book Related Questions:"

1 Favorite childhood book? I'm not sure, I loved books: Horse books like Black Beauty, etc, there was a great series of fairy books that I discovered at a school library, each book was a different color & they were fairly old, I was in 4th or 5th grade & I loved them, I read an anthology of Ray Bradbury stories & Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, these got me into science fiction & related genres...

2 What are you reading right now? Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury, I'm reading it for a book club. I read it long ago & I'm glad I've revisited it, as an adult, there's such a different perspective you have as you get older.

3 Do you go to a library? If so, what do you currently have checked out there? If not, is there a reason? I haven't gone to a library in many years, maybe not since college. I've worked in a couple of bookstores & it was easier to get books there. I also like to keep most books & with libraries, I have to give them back :)

4 Do you collect any authors/series or certain types of books? I love Neil Gaiman works & I have collected a few Haruki Murakami books. Also, Chuck Pahulniak & Christopher Moore. I used to collect sci fi books & have a huge collection of those, but lately I've been reading more modern lit & non fiction.

5 Do you have a yearly goal on amount of books you want to finish? No goals, just read what sounds interesting, when I can

6 Do you have an e-reader? I can read books on my tablet, but I don't have a dedicated e-reader.

7 Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I'm generally reading several at once.

8 Do you have a blog where you post about books? Do you follow any blogs about reading/books? Which ones? I have a blog, but it's about everything & occasionally about books or little stories I've written. I have followed a few blogs on books, but I can't remember any names right now. My blog is Random Stuff by SAM on Blogspot.

9 Least favorite book you read this year (so far in 2014)? Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin, it was meandering & long, though the language was beautiful.

10 Favorite book you’ve read this year (2014)? Maybe Fahrenheit 451, even though  it's a re-read.

11 How often do you read out of your comfort zone? I try reading new things that look interesting on a regular basis, but if they don't engage me, I stop. I've never been able to finish an actual romance or western.

12 What is your reading comfort zone? Modern literature, non fiction, sci fi/fantasy

13 Do you read for enjoyment or to gain knowledge? I do both & the most enjoyable books I've read have generally been one that I've learned something from.

14 Favorite place to read? At home, I find it hard to get into reading when there are other people around.

15 What are your thoughts on book lending? I don't mind it

16 What are your thoughts on pirated books? The same as pirated music, the original authors, artists & writers should be the ones who earn something from their work

17 What are your thoughts on "Banned" books? I don't think books should be  banned as no one should be able to dictate what another person can or can't read. Books with 'difficult' subjects should be openly discussed

18 What are barriers you have to reading more? (work, family, ect) All of the above: Work, family, etc...

19 How many books have you read in the last six months? 3 or 4

20 What makes you love a book? Books that have something to say & say it in an engaging way

21 What will inspire you to recommend a book? If it was well written & I think that the other person will enjoy it

22 5 of your top read genres Literature, Science Fiction, Non Fiction, Classics, Humor

23 5 authors you read a lot Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman, Christopher Moore, Kafka, Calvino

24 Do you read non-fiction? Biographies? Yes, I enjoy both (if they're not to dry, if it's interesting enough of a subject to write a book about, it should be interesting enough to write the book so someone will want to read it...)

25 How many times do you read a week?  I read sporadically, unless I'm reading for a book group, so I can go a week or more without reading anything that is not on-line.

26 Do you feel you read better with or without noise? I used to read while listening to music, but I don't like to read around people who are talking (It's really hard to read at work, during breaks)

27 What influences your book choices? Book blurbs, cover art, recommendations

28 Favorite reading snack? Kettle Korn

29 Do you literally judge a book by its cover, title, or author? Sometimes...I don't generally pick up books with creepy or gory covers or covers of traditional romance novels

30 What is the longest book you have ever read? The shortest? Maybe "Gödel, Escher & Bach" for the longest, not sure about the shortest, I can't remember any titles right now.

31 How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? I don't mind it, if it's done in a constructive, 'the book just wasn't for me' way

32 Do you make up stories, or ever think about an alternate ending for a book because you want to? Occasionally I think of ways I think the book could have ended better. I've only created original stories, I haven't written any fan fiction or alternate endings, except in school

33 Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? House of Leaves

34 Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? I was nervous to begin Winter's Tale, because it was so long & I wanted the author to get to some point, rather than just reading meandering descriptions of things.

35 What book do you try to steer people away from? Any Harry Potter book, even though the movies were thoroughly enjoyable & the books were written for a young audience, many adults enjoy them. I'm not one of those adults, I thought that a lot could have been cut from the first book, without affecting the storyline & they just got more & more verbose from there.

36 What book do you recommend most to others? Fight Club, but it's definitely not for everyone

37 Do you ever re-read books? Yes, sometimes. I am re-reading several books through the book club that I read as a child & I'm glad that I have

38 Favorite fictional character? Tyler Durden

39 Favorite fictional villain? Cruella DeVille

40 Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? I'll bring most anything that I'm reading on vacation.

41 The longest I’ve gone without reading. Several months

42 Name a book that you could/would not finish. The Harry Potter books

43 What distracts you easily when you’re reading? People talking

44 Favorite film adaptation of a novel? Fight Club, practically word for word the same as the novel

45 Most disappointing film adaptation? Most film adaptations are bad, since they don't match your imagination or the author's intent. I can't think of any specific titles right now. The only thing I can think of is Judge Dredd, which was not a novel, originally but a great British comic strip/series of graphic novels socio/political commentary, no romance involved. The film turned it into a boring, but strange romance. Sylvester Stallone did at least look the part...

46 The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? A couple hundred dollars, during our Borders employee holiday discount events.

47 How often do you skim a book before reading it? Almost always

48 What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through? There has been no point made, just lots of descriptive language

49 Do you like to keep your books organized? I like to, but they aren't...

50 Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? I usually keep them

51 Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? I avoid romances, westerns & rarely read mysteries

52 Name a book that made you angry. An Ann Coulter book, also Rush Limbaugh books. It's ok if you're conservative, but these two seem like they are trying to insult others who do not believe the same things they do & their evidence often leads nowhere. (I don't hate others that like these writers, but they are not for me)

53 A book you didn’t expect to like but did?  Clan of the Cave Bear, it was presented as more of a romance series, but Jean Auel did a great deal of research that made these books fascinating

54 A book that you expected to like but didn’t? The Harry Potter books

55 Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading Christopher Moore books, so funny

I hope you enjoyed reading my answers & thinking about your own...SAM

*Photo by Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved.