Knights and Fairies

Lately, I’ve been faced with the dilemma: make stuff or write about the stuff you make. The choice seems pretty simple, but the voices in my head that dictate my blog posts won’t go away. I keep dreaming, writing, editing and framing the blog posts that I’m not writing. To date, I have four finished objects (two of them are knitting objects!) undocumented, three great field trips and a work in progress just sitting in my brain queue waiting to come out.

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For Father’s Day, I wanted to take something made by our children and turn it into art. I’m not sure how this came about, but Owen drew a tooth fairy on a piece of wood Lance found for him. It was his very first piece of representational art, a dramatic change in style for him. He was delighted to have it turned into a stencil for Lance, especially because I found a bright orange shirt at Goodwill (Owen eschews any color that isn’t orange).

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Most evenings, when I’m working on the computer, Lance keeps me company by playing multiple chess games online. Sophie learned to play chess at school this year and was an enthusiastic member of their chess club.

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 I had plans to make two more shirts for Lance, but ran out of time. They will appear some day.

Fixing Things

It is funny how a simple thing like folding laundry leads to a cascade of events that end up with this sweet little shirt. This story is a little like “If You Give a Pig A Pancake“.

After folding several loads of laundry, we tried to put away some t-shirts, but found the baskets were too full. Hmmm. Time to cull the old shirts at the bottom that get ignored week after week. This was a shirt bought at the Cotton Caboodle outlet on Elliott; it had sloppy seams when we bought in 2002, and after five years of wear, there really were no hems left.

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Since I didn’t have any thread to match the original stitches, I decided to add a little ribbon and stitch over the oddly colored hems. The warped sleeves didn’t look right by themselves, so this bit of stenciled fabric left over from here ended up in the middle. The irony is that I like this shirt so much more than the shirt I sent for Anna’s birthday, I may have to send it to her as well.

Can anyone give me suggestions for ways to sew knit fabric without stretching it out of shape? I’m going to pretend I wanted bell sleeves and a wavy hem for this shirt, but it would be nice to know how to avoid it in the future in case I wanted something a little straighter.

Working on the little turquoise ostrich was just practice for the real repair at hand: a “new” denim shirt brutally altered by a previous owner. I picked this up at the West Seattle clothing swap (didn’t I say it was a great day?) and have worn it twice, despite the fact that the sleeves were lopped off and the threads were left dangling. When I put it on this morning, I noticed that one sleeve was starting to rip vertically, making a nice little slit towards the shoulder. By the time I had finished folding all the laundry, the slit was getting dangerously close to bisecting the sleeve. Some repairs were needed, but what?

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My success with the little t-shirt left me inspired to pull out this ribbon trim and add it to the sleeve after I had hemmed it (no coordinating thread, again). One of the reasons I love this shirt is because I can show off my favorite stencil, P. Edward Squidersons II.

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Sophie kept me company as I worked today, ironing our best napkins. She did a great job, and said it was fun! I’ve got plans for you little girl… Actually, I hope she always enjoys ironing, so I’m going to resist the urge to use her helpful nature to my advantage.

Stencil Day

Two weeks ago, I offered to teach the parents in our Attachment Parenting Craft Group how to create freezer paper stencils.

We started with graphics I downloaded from Stencilry; another source is Microsoft Clip Art.

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Jennifer had great success tracing cookie cutter animals and cutting out the image with scissors; she made nine shirts with her older son after trying unsuccessfully to get an image cutout with my dull Exacto knife blade.

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Freezer Paper is coated on one side, and plain paper on the other. It is available in most grocery stores.

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Tools of the trade: freezer paper, a wide sponge brush, and fabric paint. Versatex is sold at art supplies store as a silk screen ink; Artist and Craftsman Supply in the u-district sells a 4 oz bottle for $4.49. The ink is very thick, creating a nice opaque finish on a dark shirt, just be careful that it is applied in a smooth, even layer. Neopaque by Jacquard is a fabric acrylic; I found this 2.25 oz jar at Pacific Fabricsfor $4.99. It has a very thin, watery consistency, which seeped under the edges of my stencil, and dripped on the t-shirt when I tried to pour it onto my sponge brush; I wouldn’t recommend it, though if it is the only thing available, it will do the job. SoSoft by DecoArt had the best consistency of the three, though I had to apply several coats to get the coverage I wanted. The squeeze bottle made it easy for little hands to use, without risking a large spill. It cost about $1.50 for a 1 oz bottle at JoAnn Fabrics.

If you are just getting started, I would recommend SoSoft because you can get several colors with little upfront investment to see if you enjoy the process. Don’t forget to pick up some new blades for your Exacto knife while you are out.

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Alden chose a fish, which Rima traced and then cut out with the Exacto knife; Alina stayed close to her mom offering moral support and encouragement.

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When the design was cut out, Alden ironed the freezer paper to his mom’s shirt, and then ironed the negative to a piece of fabric. Make sure the iron is really hot, to ensure a firm seal on the inside edges.

He used a wide paint brush to move the ink around after squeezing it out of the bottle. We hung the shirts up to dry, and then two weeks later, peeled off the freezer paper. The ink should dry in less than eight hours, though the directions specify 24 hours. Fabric paints need to be heat set, so run the hot iron over them after you have peeled away the paper.

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Rima said she has the perfect shirt in mind for the fabric patch, and her well-love shirt just got a little brighter.

My apologies to any faithful readers who have seen bits of this process repeated on previous posts. A new mom to our group asked today if all of the info was in one place, and I realized I didn’t really have it collected in a single post. There you are Paola! You are ready to go!

Tree Huggers

Jeremy Carlson’s birthday is forever burned on my memory: he was born on the very first Earth Day, April 22nd 1970. If the world could have voted for someone to be born on this day, they would have chosen Jeremy, or his wife Erika, the ultimate tree-huggers. 

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It seemed appropriate to use my own red tree design to create his stencil.

Not a reflection on how special she is, but I managed to entirely forget their daughter’s birthday. If only she had been born a little after Jeremy’s birthday, then I would stand a better chance of remembering, but birthdays are really hard for me. There is something about the pressure to perform on a specific day that ends up sabotaging my best-laid plans. Some day I’m going to sit down to do some deep soul searching and the origins of my birthday complex, but suffice it to say that I was chagrined to realize, while I was speaking to Erika on the phone, that I had forgotten her daughter’s second birthday. Ugggh (that is the sound of my heart sinking to the floor).

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Anna is the lucky recipient of my children’s hand-me-downs, many of which were lovingly made by my mother. This green long sleeve shirt was worn by both Sophie and Owen when they were three, and managed to survive two messy eaters without any major stains (few shirts have earned that distinction). When creating a shirt for Anna, I decided to recycle this shirt and add an ostrich stencil as a patch for a little extra color. Angry Chicken has great tips for making this process more solid than my slap-dash version.

I buy 100% of my children’s clothes used at consignment stores, Goodwill or yard sales because I can buy nice clothes without laying out lots of money for first run retail prices. However, there are times when necessity dictates a different path, and when necessary, buying quality is the best option. When we lived in New Hampshire and the three closest consignment stores were an hour away in three different directions, I decided to order three identical shirts for Sophie from Land’s End. Four years later, these shirts still look brand new, despite heavy wearing by two active children. They were the most expensive shirts I’ve ever bought, but they were worth every penny. Betz White, a fashion industry insider, wrote a post in honor of Earth Day expounding on the wastefulness and hype built into the marketplace. In her follow-up post, she mentions working for a company with a super employee discount so she could buy clothes that last for her boys. Which company would that be? Land’s End. Strange but true.

Portrait of a Dog

One of Lance’s oldest friends, Keith McCarthy, visited us last week while on his spring break from teaching 6th grade English in Rockport, MA. I decided to play with a picture of his dogs, Toby and Pickles, to see if I could create an image similar to Zeke’s shirt.

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This photo was taken at 3am, as Keith prepared to drive our family of four to the Logan Airport last August. It is amazing how much you can fit in a Mazda 3; I had more shoulder room in the back seat of his car than in the Suburban that picked us up when we arrived in Boston, and I didn’t have any suitcases under my feet. Sophie and Owen are besotted in their love for Toby and Pickles, miracle siblings from the same litter. Did you know a dog can bear pups from two separate sires in the same litter?

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To create the image for the stencil, I selected the dogs, removed the color from the image, smoothed out the image and then reduced it to a two-color image. Ultimately, the lines around Pickles were too confusing, so I decided to just paint Toby. A great tutorial for freezer paper stencil can be found on Neither Hip Nor Funky.

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The end result is a little corgi/chihuahua on my hip.

Zeke the Wunder Hund

An article in Make magazine inspired me to try making my own t-shirts using freezer paper stencils. This tutorial was extremely helpful, particularly the bit about keeping the white cutouts and ironing them on after the master stencil was in place.

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This image seemed like a perfect candidate for converting to a two-color graphic.

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A little fiddling in Photoshop removed the color and blurred the fine detail. This tutorial, plus the discussion on the Flickr Freezer Paper Stencil Pool helped me figure out just what to do.

Clearly, blogging for me is all about documenting the process, so here goes:

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