Wednesday, October 4, 2017

more postcards

Rain came yesterday so I put off my outside chores and went to work on my postcards for Hanna's International DIY Postcard Swap.

My tools are simple: a pair of scissors and a stick of Elmer's glue. These sticks are usually pretty cheap during back-to-school sales. About the only glue I don't like much is Duck Brand. This time I'm starting with a background layer that covers the whole card so I want it to stick really really well. I usually glue both the back of the background paper and the top side of my cardboard base, making sure to get the edges well covered with glue. I don't want the post office machinery to catch the edges. After I stick the two pieces together I go over the paper with a paper napkin or tissue to press everything together and to smooth out creases in the paper or blobs of glue that may be underneath it.
I did all the backgrounds and then came back with scissors and from the back I trimmed any paper that was hanging over the cardboard.

 After that I played with the pieces I had associated with the card and thought about how I might layer them. I did one card at a time without actually glueing anything. Then I did another one glueing just one clipping down or maybe two. Piece by piece the cards are coming together. I seem to have a Halloween theme going with some of them. There are some birds, a vampire, a black cat, aliens in the desert, dogs at the swimming hole. Oh wait, maybe it's just my usual cards from the Twilight Zone.

I have seven cards nearly done but I'm stumped for the last three. Even though I have lots of clippings spread out nothing is falling into place. After struggling with the parts my solution is to finish the cards I'm working on and start with a blank slate. Something is bound to turn up!

If you are stumped for ideas check out Hanna's mixed media process, and her ideas for different kinds of postcards.

Monday, October 2, 2017

october DIY month

Now that temperatures have dropped down to the upper 80s, as opposed to upper 90s, there's a narrow window of time until cold weather sets in. People from out-of-state often say that Texas doesn't have four seasons, maybe because we don't get a lot of colorful leaves as summer melts into fall, but fall in Texas is my favorite time. Spider lillies are popping up and pecans and bur acorns are crunching under my shoes when I walk. It's also outside chore time, and lately when it's cooler and dry I've been prepping my garage door and the eaves around the house for painting. Right now that's repairs, sanding and washing with TSP. My arms get tired so fast!

In between outside chores I've been cutting fabric for my next quilting project. Above are a few selections from the Creekside collection, by Sherri & Chelsea for Moda Fabrics. I fell in love with this collection months ago when it was a "coming attraction", and I finally got my grubby little hands on it. I opted for a fat-quarter bundle instead of 5" or 10" precuts so I could practice my cutting skills and so I would have some leftovers for future projects. It's a lot more work working this way. For instance the fabric quarters came folded neatly in a tight bundle, leaving creases on every piece of fabric. I'm learning to starch and press everything as I go. I never thought I would enjoy ironing, but it's strangely relaxing.

It was a bit daunting at first when I thought about how many pieces I was going to be cutting: 120 for this, 144 for that,  and 288 for another part. Instead of doing everything at once I did small batches of cutting between my more rigorous chores. I placed the squares on my design wall (a worn out flannel backed tablecloth) and watched it fill up with color.

I now have most of the colored blocks cut although they won't all fit on my wall. Now I'm working on the batches of 144 & 288 I'll need to fill the spaces between some of these colored squares.

I also continue to edit this layout. My first layout was made as I cut different colors of fabric and the colors weren't well placed. This layout was made by alternating random light and dark fabrics, but I think I'm too much of a control freak to allow it to remain this way.

Monday, September 25, 2017

first quilt

Maybe I should say my first FINISHED quilt. I have another quilt I started when I was about six years old that's still not done. Maybe someday?

This one is done though. It's mostly made of charm packs of Tabby Road by Tula Pink. I wanted to concentrate on the assembly of the quilt rather than cutting fabric so I started with pre-cut fabric. I've learned a lot about modern quilting tools and machine quilting and have added a lot of new words to my vocabulary. I also learned you have to invest a lot of money to get started in this particular practice. Kind of like furnishing a woodworking shop, which is something else I'm working on.

This is a crib size quilt. I wanted to start small to get the feel of everything. It's the first project I've done on my new sewing machine, so I was learning how to operate the machine as I went. I had to buy a walking foot for the machine, because it didn't come with one. The quilting is minimal on this quilt. I didn't plan ahead for it, so after everything was pieced I couldn't find a thread color that would look good on all the squares. I finally just stitched in the ditch around each square. My stitching wasn't very straight and a lot of the stitches are alongside the ditch rather than in it.

As a rank beginner, I relied on  this quilting book & online tutorials to figure out all the steps needed to finish the quilt.

Trouble is, there are a lot of different ways to do things. How to decide which method? For example, at left is the quilt before binding. The tutorial I watched recommended cutting the backing and batting 8 inches wider and longer than the pieced part and I don't know why. The process of pinning the sandwich went well, but I ended up cutting off all that extra material. Seemed wasteful to me.

I did better with a wonderful tutorial by Leah Day on how to machine bind a quilt. She made it so simple!

Now I just need to wash the quilt and send it to its new home.

PS There's still plenty of time to join Hanna's DIY postcard swap.

Make and send ten postcards and get ten cards delivered to your own mailbox.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

the box of magic clippings

It looks like it's been 8 months since I posted anything on this blog. I thought my genealogical reboot would get the the words flowing through my fingers, but it didn't. Maybe I need to write about something a little more artsy - like Hanna's annual fall postcard swap.

Hanna has hosted this DIY postcard swap twice a year for over ten years I think, and whenever I've participated it seems to give a real boost to my creativity. This year, however, I didn't feel very creative & I wasn't sure I would be able to create ten postcards from scratch, so before I signed up for the swap I decided to dig through a couple of my boxes of old clippings to see if there was any magic left. I'm happy to report there is.

One of the fun things about this swap is seeing other people's creative processes. It's a puzzling thing the way the mind works. I've described my process before, but I'm taking another look at it now.

Collage is my method of choice for making postcards. Below is a glimpse into one of my boxes of clippings from magazines, ads, and other paper media. I have four old 10x10 inch Kodak boxes that once contained round slide trays. Now they are filled with clippings of birds, small landscapes, faces I like, and all kinds of colorful this and thats. They're not organized. I tried that once and it didn't work well for me. I prefer the randomness created by a messy collection of dissimilar parts.

I usually use cardboard cut from cereal boxes or six-packs of Texas beer as a base for my cards and I like to have a few cut to size before I start dipping into my collection of paper clippings. It helps me see how a piece will fit onto a finished postcard. On the table to the right of my Kodak box I have a few pieces I've been arranging on some pre-cut cards.

I pretty much just start fishing out clippings from the box and spreading them out on the table until a couple of things seem to go together. Usually it's color combinations that catch my eye. This yellow bird, below, looked so bright against the dark cityscape I thought they belonged together. The cityscape was big enough to cover an entire card, so it'll be the background. I played with positioning the bird in different places and then started looking for other colorful pieces that might work as part of the composition. Sometimes I think of silly captions and I'll look for a clipping that adds to what I'm thinking. I have a caption for this postcard already, but I'm not telling what it is, at least not just yet.

Wouldn't you like to get ten handmade cards in the mail?

Go HERE to learn more about Hanna's international postcard swap.

Friday, January 27, 2017

research reboot

I had a DNA test done through in October, and after I got the results, it seemed as if I was suddenly drowning in data. There are so many family lines to research I was jumping from one to the next and generally giving myself ADD. As the new year approached I knew I would have to change some things to become more efficient at translating my research into proof and creating readable stories. I picked up Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over Workbook a few weeks ago and found it to be just what I needed to maybe get my genealogy mess in order. I'm starting my "do-over" a bit later than January 2, but it's just a happy coincidence that a group do-over is happening at the same same as my own re-boot. I may not follow the curriculum exactly, but I can view comments on the Facebook group for helpful hints along the way and maybe pick up some new research links.

I spent the last few weeks reviewing my past methods for taking notes, entering data, and citing sources, as well as thinking about what time of day would be best for working on genealogy. I looked at different note taking methods, research logs, and genealogical software. I think the software review is scheduled for May, but I see several programs now have a way to enter a research log and a to-do list that I think I would prefer over a spreadsheet. I might as well get started on creating good work habits as soon as possible. I also spent time upgrading my current programs and making sure everything is getting backed up.

Part of the do-over is setting aside previous research so you can see facts and sources with fresh eyes. I put most of my paper files into boxes and just kept out some things related to my immediate family, and I'm going to try to avoid looking at the family tree I created on I will either start a new tree on their site or at home with whatever software I end up getting.

I think I'm almost ready for February.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

how i spent my summer vacation

.....and all of autumn on in to early winter.

Last year I had the sad duty of moving my 87-year-old mother into a facility for dementia patients. She had lived with me for about 15 years, so I had to get used to her not being in the house. About the same time my 15-year-old dog died, so I had a lot of sadness to deal with.

Life goes on. I adopted a rescued dog and began renovating my mom's old room.

Mom's messy & dark room

I knew I wanted to remove the wallpaper border and paint the room a lighter color. My new puppy also had some accidents on the carpet, which seemed to activate the smell of every previous accident from the previous dogs who lived here. No amount of baking soda, vinegar or Nature's Miracle could get rid of the entire smell. The carpet and padding had to be removed and trashed. I decided I wouldn't replace the carpet; instead I would use an acid stain to add color to the concrete floor and I hoped it would be easier to keep clean.

I watched a lot of videos on You Tube, and staining looked pretty easy. It's the preparation that's murder.


I won't go into all the problems I had with my floor. I did learn more about concrete than I ever expected to know. I repaired the holes from the carpet's tack strips and hairline cracks from aging. I sanded off a lot of 35-year-old old joint compound and paint spatter, but I couldn't remove the stains from the old carpet glue. I ended up resurfacing the floor with a concrete and a pool trowel. The floor didn't come out as I expected, but I think it looks pretty nice. I wanted it to look like stone or rocks.

While I wasn't working on the floor I removed the wallpaper border, repaired holes in the wall, and primed and painted it. I replaced the very low-hanging ceiling fan with a smaller but brighter ceiling light fixture. I removed all the baseboards and door molding and repaired and repainted it. I have arthritis in my back and hands so I could only do a limited amount of work each day. I was constantly reminding myself of Lao Tzu's proverb that "the thousand mile journey begins with a single step." It took almost five months to complete most of the work, but today I have a new craft and sewing room. The tiny room that was my combination office-studio-junk collector is now becoming an efficient place for doing "office" stuff like scanning and organizing my genealogical research.

I still need to sort through all the shoe boxes on the shelves and make some curtains. For now I'm using Mom's old card table as a work surface.

Monday, January 2, 2017

happy new year

Maybe I will post more pics here this year just to remind myself of the weird toys I pick up on my daily walks. Just a thought, Not a resolution.