Wednesday, 25 May 2011


Over the weekend, I was storing up treasures. Not actual treasures, but some little things to add to my Lost Treasures journal cover. I originally made a couple of coins from two layers of fabric, joined with fusible web and edges with satin stitch. They looked vaguely coin-like, in the sense that flat round things with a firm edge might be called that! They were not really as luscious and rich and desirable as I wanted.

So I decided to try making some treasures with my hot glue gun. I laid baking paper over a wooden board (my silicon sheet would have been better for this) and started melting hot glue onto the paper. One word of caution: when people say "well-ventilated area", they clearly mean right outside in the open air. Using my glue gun in my workroom, with windows open and venting fan going, is clearly not well-ventilated enough! I truly felt not quite the thing after doing a really small amount of glue melting. I know I'm a canary-down-the-mine kind of person, but be warned.

My aim was to make various shapes, coins, jewels, chains and free-form objects, that I could later paint as treasures to add to my journal cover. The chains were a series of c-shapes added to an initial circle, rather than individual links, since I just wanted the general effect. The jewels were variations of a basic blob, since there's no way I'm going to get anything faceted from a glue gun. The glue coins were circles of glue with some inner fill, leaving lots of gaps and holes. The others were just little bits of pattern.
Most things I read suggested that hot glue gun elements can be painted with acrylic or Lumiere paints, once they're cool. While mine would take both Setacolor and Lumiere, I wasn't really happy with the way the paints went on, and I felt they might easily rub off with handling, such as on a journal cover. So I coloured the treasures in with Sharpie pens, which will write on pretty much anything. That gave me a good base to paint on. I could have tried Gesso, but the pens were handy. Alcohol inks would probably work too, since they seem to go on anything.

Here are my treasures, once they were coloured in with Sharpie. The gold one has been over painted with Setacolor Shimmer Gold (because it was handy and it's a nice gold colour). Some treasures are hard to see because they are the clear material of the glue.
The white on the fabric coins is Setacolor Expandable Paint medium. I decided to add some of that, paint it and then heat it, to give the coins some heft. However, the bottle I grabbed was the old one that has gone a little cheesy over time. I kept it because it gives really interesting lumpy, serious-case-of-mumps effects. You can see this in the next photo. All the shapes have been painted with a couple of coats of either Setacolor Shimmer Gold or Lumiere Pink-Gold.
I felt the shapes, especially the gold ones, were too plastic and extruded-looking, to look like something that is cast. So I added some of the new bottle of Expandable Paint medium, with a paintbrush. Using a bristle brush gave me patterns and texture in the way the medium went on, which gave the coins a sort worn texture, the kind that old coins have. I wanted that worn die-cast effect so I was happy about that!

I decided to make some more coins, and since the fabric ones hadn't been heavy enough, I cut circles from a medium weight card. For those pedantic enough to want details, it's actually the card that comes inside boxes of tea-bags, holding the rows in place. I love these little cards! Perfect for throw-away scrapers for glue and other media, sometimes big enough to be the basis of a bookmark, and easy to cut for little projects like this, that need a little bit of robust card. I painted the circles with the Expandable Paint medium, and marked ridges around the edges with an ice-cream stick. I had to do this to both sides of the card and fabric coins, to prevent curling when the medium expanded. Once they were thoroughly dry, I painted them all with Setacolor or Lumiere paint. A short zap with the heat gun, and I had some significantly thicker coins and jewels. The white medium showed through a little once it expanded, so I added a little more paint in places and gave them all a rub with Treasure Gold. And here they are:
The three coins on the left are the cardboard ones, the large ones in the right hand row are the fabric ones, and the little ones are made just from the glue gun, with Expandable Paint medium used to fill in the gaps. The chains looks surprisingly chain-like. I don't think I'll use the flower on this project; it was just me trying to get my hand loose to make the chains. When I laid them all out on the journal cover like a pile of treasure, it looks very much as I imagined. I plan to dangle the two fabric ones from the gold D-ring clasp with a couple of gold jump rings.

One thing I was going to try, if the coins still looked too flat, was stamping with the Expandable Paint medium. A few weeks ago, I had a stamp-carving frenzy. I love handmade stamps and I always keep some materials to make stamps on hand. At present, I'm mostly using those large erasers that you find in Dollar stores and the many Chinese shops near where I live. At 5in x 2 1/2in, they are a good size for most stamps, and the medium cuts easily and doesn't tend to crumble. These are the stamps I made recently:
I stamped them into my journal, so you can see what they look like. As you can see there are quite a few round ones, because I knew I would need coins and jewels for the journal cover. I also like to do positive-negative stamps, because they are so useful. I carved the top left hand one especially with these coins in mind. It has a tiny skull and crossbones. That's what I say it is, even though two different people have complimented me on doing such a good cow's head! I can only suggest that they obviously haven't looked closely at a cow lately.

A friend told me that, if you use the unmounted rubber stamps, you can actually stamp into the hot glue shapes before they cool down. That might require an extra pair of hands, though I suppose you could reheat a cooled one with the stamp at the ready. She says they must be unmounted, because they have to be flexible to come off the glue blob, once the glue is dry. But I notice that The Craft Curmudgeon on this forum recommends using any rubber stamp and putting the blob and stamp in the fridge or freezer to set. Some people also seem to recommend inking the stamp first, which they suggest makes it less likely to stick permanently to the glue; other say to brush it lightly with vegetable oil first. This suggests you should experiment with your least-loved stamps!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

More knitting

Here's a photo of The Coat so far. It's really been easy peasy, once I realised that the cables didn't do anything fancy where they crossed. I wanted them to do a clever over-under interlock, and of course, they don't. I could have made them do it, but I was worried I'd get distracted and forget I'd changed the pattern, if this really does take me two seasons to knit. Anyone living in northern climes might wonder about knitting being seasonal. I know the Yarn Harlot would be astonished to learn that there are places in the world where you Just Can't Knit, sometimes. I suspect she might want to come down here and prove me wrong. But I defy even her declared capacity for self delusion enthusiasm for knitting to cope with Sydney in February! Not even to make a sock.

I also mentioned the one I'm making myself in Skye, from the Bendigo Heather range. I took a photo from the sleeves I've knitted, so you can see how gorgeously flecky it is. I'm tempted to buy some of the few colours they have left, before it disappears completely.
But then again, there's the whole vexed issue of storage. And how I'm trying to get things out of my workroom, instead of bringing new things in.

Speaking of getting things out, I am also slowly making a knitted scarf from leftover wool. The pattern, to the extent that one need a pattern, is also from an Interweave free download, Knitting Scarf Patterns from Spin-Off, called Spontaneous Knitting by Charlene Anderson-Shea. The idea of knitting scarves lengthwise using different colours of leftover yarn is not new, by any means. I was doing that when I was a teenager! What is clever is the idea of using moss stitch (she calls it seed stitch), which, when you do it in different colours each row, results in a line of what looks like running stitches along the scarf in each colour. You can see it here if you go down to Page 8. It almost looks woven. I've done about a dozen rows and am liking it just fine. I'll post a photo when I've done enough to look like more than a frill.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Two steps forward..

...and one back, or is it the other way around? Either way, I can't say that the past weeks have been hugely productive of wonderful creative things.

First there was the knitting. Whenever the weather turns cold, my thoughts turn to what I can knit this year. I cunningly bought some gorgeous yarn last year from Bendigo Woollen Mills. It was from a range called Highlands, which they have almost sold out now, so I guess other people loved it as much as I did. The shade I bought is called Skye and is, unsurprisingly, blue. It has little brown and white flecks in it, and I was a little dubious, since brown flecks sometimes just look like you've been through hedges and ditches recently. But no, it seems to be knitting up beautifully. Two sleeves are done. I always begin with the sleeves, since I find them so boring at the end. So far, so good, you say.

But they have been tenderly laid aside, probably until next winter, or maybe the one afterwards, while I tackle The Coat. My dearest daughter (I only have the one) has been complaining for some time of the sheer impossibility of finding a knitted 100% wool coat to replace her treasured and aging one. So I am making her one. Of course, this is the very year when the Fashion Gods have decreed that hand-knitted look-alikes in wool are so terribly cutting edge and, now I've begun, I've seen several of the very thing she wants just hanging innocently in shopping malls. (They look innocent, but really, they're smirking.) Of course, anything I make with my own two hands will naturally be superior to anything mass-produced, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, as the winter makes its presence felt, she will be tempted by those smirking imitations! The solution? Knit faster!

Fortunately, the pattern I'm knitting, the Aran Duffle Coat by Judith L. Swartz, from the Interweave free cardigan patterns download is thick and uses huge needles like crowbars. So it knits up fast. As long as you don't assume you know what the pattern is doing and have to pull out the first 10cm or so, because it isn't doing what you expected. If I have the teeniest complaint about the pattern, it's that is doesn't have a nice clear picture of the cable pattern. Oh wait, it does. Sigh. But now I've done.. ooh, a good 30cm of the back. She'll just have to wrap herself in a blanket for a few months.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to finish a challenge from Fibrecircle. Those who know me, and anyone who visits this blog more than once, will know that I'm not naturally friends with deadlines. So it will come as no surprise to learn that the due date for this challenge was the first week of May. Good grief, it's only a journal cover! But somehow it has been a huge, yes challenge, to get it finished. I can guarantee that, as soon as I start to think about it, the phone or the doorbell will ring. Guaranteed! While it's lovely to have contact with my friends (though, I admit, less lovely when it turn outs to be someone selling me their religion), I'd really like to get this done and out of my head!

The challenge was Lost Treasures. Here's where I got to last time I took a photo:
 Exciting, non? But then it rearranged itself into this:
Better! It's almost finished now and looks like this:
 The thing behind the title is an island. (Yes, for the one inevitable clever clogs out there, it *is* roughly shaped like Cyprus. Upside down. Cyprus always looks like an island that's going somewhere in a hurry.)
The fastening is a cheat, really. I wanted to use a lock and key and then I wondered just how useful my journal would be, if I had to unlock it every damn time I wanted to use it. I'm a lazy cow; I would grab another one rather than bother undoing something. So I thought about something with straps and a buckle. Nope, too lazy, and besides, I didn't have a buckle the right colour in my large stash of buckles, and I wanted to finish this sometime before I die. So I decided on D-rings. But hey, we're back to undoing and doing up again, aren't we? Well, no. It actually has a sneaky snap fastening underneath the whole thing, so the ties are just to allow some expansion as my journal gets into middle age. I couldn't show you the snaps, because my camera was so shocked at the cheat that it refused to give me a decent shot.
See these box things? One upon a time, I had a Plan to make something inspired by my friend's photos of his travels in China. There were all these lovely market shots so I started playing around with the shapes. After a while, I decided that it looked rubbish, so I chopped it into three pieces and threw the bits into my fabric file. Moral of this story, never thrown anything away. Then again, this might be why a visit to my workroom is fraught with danger of avalanche?

The map piece is on the back. I gave it rough white edges by painting over torn paper, and I cut the edges accordingly,so it looks a bit like it's torn from a larger map. It's attached with fusible web and stitched on with latitude and longitude lines. The fabric was a commercial one, but I painted it with transparent Setacolor paints to give it a bit more colour.

I just need to make some "jewels" and coins for it. I've been experimenting with the hot glue gun, although the shapes are, what's the word? Organic. To say the least. And they don't seem to take paint very well, though Lumieres seem to stick the best. My best result was colouring the shapes with Sharpie pens, which have the benefit of sticking to pretty much anything, and then painting over the top.Oh well, playing with media in my workroom does beat robbing banks, I suppose.