Sunday, September 30, 2012

Art Abandonment, Part Two

Over the course of several days, I abandoned all six of the altered matchboxes I glued, painted, and sewed for this project.  I have now posted them all in the Facebook group  Art Abandonment.

#1--On Wednesday I left the first one on a bench in Colonial Williamsburg, Va.

I watched this woman with a lot of bags sit down right next to it and she didn't even notice it!  *Sigh*  After that I decided to make the rest of them more prominent by adding a fluorescent-yellow index card with the words "Free Art!" to the packages.

#2--On Thursday I abandoned the next one near the hand of a famous American...

...Thomas Jefferson, also in Colonial Williamsburg (which shall henceforth be referred to as "CW"!)

#3--On Friday I walked unnoticed to the upper floor of the public library and left this matchbox on a computer keyboard in the Art section.  (Clever, huh?)  There was no one else upstairs, so it might have taken a while to be noticed.

#4--On my way back to the car, I stopped outside the library in the pretty area with fountains and a pergola.  I left this matchbox on the seat of a chair.  There it is, on the chair on the right.

#5--On Saturday my daughter Jenna came with me as I returned to drop off the last two altered matchboxes in CW.  Can you see this one on the bench in front of Jenna's knee?

#6--I left the last one on yet another bench in CW.  I think the best way to abandon art in a crowd is to sit down and casually set the art beside you; then wait a moment to be sure no one is looking at you, and walk away.  (You want to be sure no one is looking so they don't yell "Hey lady, you forgot something!" and come running after you with the art!)

So far there haven't been any e-mails saying the art has been found.  It would be interesting to continue doing this just to see how many I have to abandon before I get a response!   Of course, the point is to set the art free with no expectations other than the hope that someone will find it and love it.  Getting an e-mail from the finder would just be icing on the cake.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Art Abandonment, Part One

For several months I have been a member of a Facebook group called Art Abandonment.  It was started by a well-known artist named Michael deMeng; you can read how it all got started on his blog, Assemblog of Michael deMeng.  Basically, we are a group of people who make all different sorts of art, and occasionally leave our art in public places for any random stranger to find and keep.  You can join the group too, if you like; you just have to put in a request to join.  When you are approved, you can post comments and pictures there.

This week I finally had time to work on some art, and I spent a couple of blissful hours making six altered matchboxes to abandon. You might remember that I posted a picture of a matchbox with a winged heart on top, that I made as a trial run about a month ago.  I like that matchbox, but I like these new ones even better!  Here they are in all their eye-popping brightness:

Today I will show you how I made them.  In a couple of days I will show you where I left them (I still have two that I plan to abandon tomorrow.)

Start with empty matchboxes.  You can find a package of 10 in most grocery stores for about a dollar.  (What you do with all those matches is up to you!)  I covered my boxes with pages from a discarded book, but scrapbook paper would also be great.  I used an X-acto knife to cut the pages from the book, and to cut the paper to size.  Scotch brand Quick Dry Adhesive is the name of the glue I used to adhere the paper to the boxes.

To decorate them, it helps to have a pile of bright fabric scraps like the one below:

I made a little fabric collage for the top of each box, starting with a base fabric cut to the size of the box top. Then I cut bits of fabric and arranged them in pleasing combinations on the base, and topped each one with a fabric heart.  All the edges are left raw.  I carefully moved each collage to the sewing machine and stitched all around the edges with a contrasting thread--in this case, purple worked well for all of them.

I made hearts to go inside the boxes the same way:  starting with a base heart, I added scraps of other fabrics until I was pleased with the composition.  Then I topped each one with the question "got art?" stamped onto purple fabric.  After sewing around the edges of the collages, I added a back to each heart and hand-sewed it in place, stopping to stuff each one before closing the seam.

I wanted the inside of the matchboxes to be a little more interesting, so I cut out hearts and wings from scrapbook paper and glued them inside.  Then I brushed a thin, uneven coat of white acrylic paint over the entire matchbox, inside and out.  When the paint was dry, I glued the fabric collage to the top  of the matchbox and put the stuffed heart inside.

Below you can see an open matchbox with the tags that accompany each one.  They include an e-mail address that is monitored by someone at the Facebook group, so the person who finds the art can let us know it has been found.

Below you can see how I send each of my matchboxes out into the world, safely enclosed in a plastic bag.  I hope each one will brighten someone's day!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Filling a Jar of Hearts

I'm sending out a bigger-than-usual package of Hope Hearts today.  Suzy, whom I know from the Craft Gossip blogger's meet-ups  in Little Rock, Arkansas, asked for my help as she assembles a jar of hearts for her sister who will be having surgery in November.

In addition to the three hearts that come in every Hope Hearts kit that I mail, there are three extra hearts from me to her sister.  Two of them have faith-related messages, and one is made from the damaged  vintage quilt I have been repurposing.

When I was thinking of how I could best help Suzy with this jar, I had the brilliant idea of making some extra hearts with a blank piece of white fabric on the front and leaving them unstuffed, so non-crafty family members or friends can contribute to the jar by writing a message on a heart.  Suzy will then stuff them and sew them closed.

Suzy, I hope for all the best for your sister.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cutter Quilts, Continued

In my last post I showed you the first cutter quilt I recently bought on eBay.  As I explained there, "cutter quilts" are old, worn-out quilts that are too damaged to be useful as a covering any longer.  The undamaged areas can be reclaimed and used to make other items.

I just finished making a few brooches from that quilt:

To find the most interesting areas from which to cut the brooch, I made a clear plastic heart-shaped template, and positioned it over areas of the quilt where several different fabrics were close together.  When I liked what I saw under the template, I traced the heart with a pencil and cut it out.  Each one is about 2 1/2" wide and tall.

The small pink heart on the above brooch was also cut from the quilt.

Each heart is backed with wool-blend felt with a pin sewn to it.

This last one is my favorite, because of the beautiful aqua-blue fabric in the center, and I love the flower (cut free-hand from three fabric scraps I found in my sewing room.)  I tried to keep these brooches sweet and simple, so the quilt would shine through.

Now, onto the second cutter quilt I bought!  I paid $25 for this one on eBay.

It's an Irish Chain pattern, and although the seller described it as "pink and white", it really is more of a rusty red and ecru.  This quilt was made by a skilled quilter; it was hand-pieced, and the quilting stitches are all small and even.  It is a really beautiful quilt, despite the large faded area in the center, the badly frayed areas of the binding, and the torn spots in the backing.  Even with those problems, I'm not sure this is a "cutter".  It might be too good to cut up.  I think I will fold it and put it where it can be seen and admired in my house.

I assume it came from an estate sale in Connecticut (where the seller lives); there was a hand-written note pinned to it that said "Quilted by Harriet May Howes Downer".

You readers left some interesting comments on my previous post.  Gill (in the UK) wondered if cutter quilts are a "U.S." thing, because this was a new idea to her; it probably is American, because we have a rich history of quilting here, and there are a lot of old, battered quilts in closets and attics.  Another reader mentioned that she has an old quilt of her grandmother's that came out of the barn!  She has been reluctant to cut it up, and I TOTALLY understand where you are coming from, Charlene.  I have no emotional attachment to these eBay quilts, but it's still hard to make the first cut!  I would encourage you to take lots of pictures of it in it's present state, and then carefully plan how you will use it before cutting it, so you can preserve as much of your grandmother's work as possible.  I know your family members would appreciate having a pillow or wall hanging or something else made from her quilt.

I have one more eBay quilt that I will show you in a future post.  It is the most interesting of the three, because it is double-sided (a pieced quilt on both front and back) AND instead of batting, it is filled with...another quilt!!  I just need to wash it before taking pictures; you can expect to see that one in a few days.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Look at Cutter Quilts

"Cutter quilts" are old, worn-out quilts that are considered too damaged to be a useful covering any longer; rather than throwing them in the garbage, they are re-purposed by cutting them up and using the "good" parts in other items, like pillows or stuffed toys.  I've always taken a dim view of this practice, because pieces of cutter quilts were being sold online, and what was to stop sellers from cutting up quilts that were still in good condition?  I worried that pretty soon ALL the old quilts would be cut up, and once they're gone, they're gone.

Recently, however, I took a look at vintage quilts on eBay, specifically those labeled "cutter".  There are TONS of them, and they generally sell for under $40.  Vintage quilts in good condition (not labeled "cutter") were selling for hundreds of dollars.  Clearly there is a distinction between them, and sellers realize they will get more money for a usable, intact quilt, so my fears were put to rest.

I put bids on a few of the cutter quilts, and I ended up winning three of them.  The first one was mine for just $10!  I could hardly wait to get my hands on it, to see the actual condition.  Here it is:

It's a full-sized scrappy quilt, with a large and interesting variety of fabrics, which I love!  One edge is completely frayed and shredded, and there are MANY holes and missing pieces of fabrics, especially in the middle.  The first thing I noticed as I took it out of the box was that it smelled of cigarette smoke, so I had to wash it.  The picture above was taken as it was drying on my back porch--(it would have gone to pieces in the dryer).

Here you can see one of the intact areas of the quilt:

This quilt was entirely pieced together by hand!  The quilting was done by hand too.  I think the big, uneven quilting stitches are charming, and this quilt will be perfect for re-using.

The picture below shows one of the many damaged areas.  Some of the fabrics have completely disintegrated:

It probably won't surprise you to know that the first thing I've made with my cutter quilt is some hearts:

I want to salvage as much of the quilt as possible, so I cut the small blue checked heart (below) from a scrap.

The fabrics are beautifully faded and soft.

On this heart (below) I used a piece of the backing (from an area where the front had a big hole) as the base of a small collage of  fabric and buttons.

As I make more hearts and other things from this quilt, I will be careful to always tell the people who receive my gifts that they were made from a vintage quilt.  I want to be sure the work of the unknown quilter is acknowledged and appreciated.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Hope Prayer Flag

Recently, I showed you the hope-themed prayer flag I received in a personal swap with fellow Craftster member Tina.  Here's the flag I made for her:

I used the first verse of Emily Dickinson's poem "Hope" as my starting point.  The fabric with the bird printed on it was the perfect centerpiece, and I used the color palette of that fabric for the entire flag.  It's a bit unusual, but pretty, I think.  I couldn't resist using the heart with wings (my logo) at the top!  I added balance to the piece with the three little scrappy squares at the bottom.  As always, after I'm done with something I look at it and see things I could have/should have done differently; in this case, the three random charms I used on the squares could have advanced the theme better if they represented the three virtues of faith, hope, and love (I could have used a cross; the word "hope" in charm-form, which I have on hand from my hope hearts project; and the heart, which I did use).  Oh well, as I always say, NEXT TIME!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Did Someone Say "Christmas"?

I know it's early to be thinking about Christmas, but if you are making things to sell, you need to rush the season a bit.  I am done selling what I make...EXCEPT for one final customer, Dale, of Dale's Floral Design.   My exit from the retail world caught her off-guard, so I agreed to make a few more bags for her store.  I want to show you this one because I LOVE the fabric so much!  It's such a different Christmas print; it has elements that are both modern and traditional.  I bought it from eQuilter a couple of years ago, but there's no information on the edge of the piece of it that I have left, so I don't know who made it.




I might have to make one of these for myself--I don't have a Christmas bag!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to Make a Great Swap Package

I've been doing craft swaps on Craftster for about a year and a half; I love it, and I always have at least one swap going on.  Making something specifically for another person, and receiving something she made just for you is fun!  But there's more to it than just making your item, packing it and mailing it.  A great swap package includes some extra details, all of which can be found in the package I received today from Tina.  We arranged to do a personal swap of a prayer flag.  Here's how to make a great swap package, Tina-style:

1.  Thoughtfully make the crafted item you have agreed to swap.
We decided to use "Hope" as the theme for our prayer flags.  Tina used bright Fall colors, and an acorn, to symbolize hope for the future.  Everything is hand-stitched, and there is a lot of stitched detail on the acorn cap and the letters.  This pretty flag is going up on my front door!

2.  Wrap the crafted item nicely and include a card.
Tina used pretty yellow tissue paper and tied it with baker's twine.  The card she included is really cool--it's a print from one of her art journal pages.  She had it printed at Ink Garden.

3.  Surprise your partner with some unexpected goodies.
Tina generously included some vintage linens she had been given, plus some small pieces of fabric and ribbon.  I can't wait to think of ways to use these wonderful gifts!

4.  Before mailing, be sure your package looks FUN!
Yep, this envelope passes the "fun" test!  The front is embellished with stamped stars, decorative paper, and the phrase "Beauty surrounds you because you create it."  She also made my name and address special by drawing a starburst around it.



I've never received a more exciting swap package, and I'm never going to send another one without following the four steps of "Tina Style"!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rainbow Bag

In the recent Surprise Swap on Craftster, I had two partners.  I've already shown you the Luna Moth bag I made for one partner;  I decided I should make a fabulous bag for my other partner too--after all, she stated on her questionnaire that that she is a "sucker" for bags!

This partner had a rainbow pillow on her Pinterest so I used that as the inspiration for her bag.

Here's the front.  Placing all those little rectangles of fabric was really easy because I used HeatnBond lite, but I REALLY should have used the ultrahold version, because I had to sew around the edges of each and every one of those rectangles...and it drove me a little bit crazy!  As I was planning the bag, I thought the stitching would add a lot visually, but with the finished product in front of me, I have to say it would have been fine without the stitching.  So, I learned something!

The back of the bag features one great big rainbow pocket:

The inside of the bag features this luminous blue fabric lining.  The top of the inner pocket is accented with a strip of the rainbow that was  left over from making the back pocket.

Yes, my bag-and-rainbow-loving partner loves this bag!  In fact, the pictures she posted of it show it full of her belongings--she started using it almost the minute she opened the package!  Another success!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chevron Leaf Patch

This is the post I wrote for Lime Riot when we swapped blogs yesterday.  I am now adding it here because I will be having my blog printed as a book, and I want to have it included.

I love to sew, and I always want to put a personal spin on the things I make.  I designed this pretty leaf patch to decorate the front of a journal cover, but it could be used on anything that's looking too plain--you could use it on the front of a purchased tote, or a bag you make yourself; on the front of a t-shirt, or on the back of a denim jacket.  You could also make it in different colors for seasonal items.

Materials you will need for the patch:
--four different green cotton print fabrics, cut 1 1/4" x 12"
--blue fabric cut 3 1/2" x 5 1/2"
--green fabric cut 4" x 6"
--matching thread
--Heat n Bond Lite (You can buy this in any fabric store.  You can substitute any brand of iron-on adhesive. I used the "Lite" version so I could add stitching for visual interest, but if you want a quicker project, use the "Ultrahold" version, and you can skip the top-stitching.)

Here's how the finished patch looks:

Start by cutting a leaf from paper.  I made my template by sketching a leaf-shaped curve onto a 4" x 2 1/2" rectangle of paper that had been folded in half lengthwise, and cutting it out.  You might have to cut out a few leaves before you get one you love!

Next, sew the four green fabric strips together lengthwise, using a 1/4" seam. Press all the seam allowances in the same direction.

To assemble the leaf, cut two strips from the sewn-together fabrics on a 45 degree angle, 2" wide, as shown in the picture below.  (The easiest way to get the angle right is to use a gridded cutting mat and acrylic ruler.)

In order to get the chevron appearance, the two strips must be cut from opposite ends of your sewn-together fabric, with the 45 degree angles running in opposite directions, as in the picture below. (You will end up with an extra triangle of pieced fabric in the middle.  I'm sure you can think of something cute to make with it!)

Sew the 2" strips together lengthwise, using a 1/4" seam.  Press the seam to one side.

Now it's time for the HeatnBond Lite!

Trace your leaf shape onto the paper side of the HeatnBond, and cut it out, including an extra 1/4" all around.  Place it on the BACK of the chevron fabric, and center it.  Iron the HeatnBond in place according to the directions on the package.

With the paper backing still in place, cut out the leaf along the marked line.  When you are done cutting, there will be scraps of fabric with HeatnBond on them; cut a stem freehand from these scraps.

Okay, you are halfway done!!

Measure and cut a piece of HeatnBond to go on the back of the green and blue fabric rectangles; the HeatnBond should be 1/4" smaller than the fabrics.  Iron the HeatnBond to each rectangle.  When the fabrics have cooled, trim them down to 3" x 5" (the blue fabric) and 3 1/2" x 5 1/2" (the green fabric)--this is the best way to be sure you have HeatnBond entirely covering the back.

I wanted some words to go with my leaf patch, so I ironed HeatnBond to the back of plain white fabric, taped the fabric to a piece of paper, and put it into my computer printer.  I used two different phrases and printed them in different sizes so I could choose the best one for my finished product.

Assemble your leaf patch by first removing the paper backing from the leaf and stem.  Carefully center them on the blue fabric and iron in place.  Let it cool for a moment, then remove the paper from blue fabric, center it on the green fabric, and iron in place.  Your patch is now complete, hooray!

The next step is to remove the paper from the green fabric and center it on the item you are decorating.  Iron it in place.  I put my patch on a journal cover.  You can find a tutorial for it by clicking this link to my blog, Leslie's Art and Sew.

You can see that I made two leaves, and two phrase patches.  I always like to have choices when I'm creating something new!  I assembled the phrase patches using HeatnBond, just the same way that I made the leaf patches.

After ironing the patches in place, I sewed around the edges of all the fabrics.  I used matching thread for each one.  It would look good with a contrasting thread too.

Isn't it cute?  I use several composition books to keep track of different things, and I LOVE this new cover! The best part of decorating your belongings with a fabric patch you make yourself is that no one else will have one just like yours!

Now, run over to Leslie's Art and Sew to see the project Mareth is sharing there is surprisingly similar to mine, even though we didn't plan it that way!  (Great minds think alike!)

Thanks for letting me share this project with your lovely readers, Mareth!  I'm honored to be your guest!