Project Beanbag

Several weeks ago, an acquaintance asked me if I would be willing to sew a beanbag for her son, a former preschool classmate. We were briefly reacquainted at last year’s Swap-O-Rama-Rama, part of the larger GreenFest at the Washington Trade and Convention Center. As a volunteer, it was my job to get folks started creating something new from the heaps of fabric donated and acquired by the organizers of the event. I helped her son sew small sleeping bag out of some recycled fabric. From that interaction, she decided that I had enough skill or blind initiative to wrangle a beanbag into being.

While I had never sewn anything similar, I’m always game for a new project. A quick google search brought me to a pattern which seemed easy enough. Soon, a bag of flannel and muslin appeared on my porch and a personal imperative loomed.

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Determined to work this out on my own, I drew a 1″x1″ grid on two large pieces of paper and then sized up the pattern. This process took one hour. Once that was done, the rest was pretty simple. My sewing machine struggled with topstitching the double layers of flannel once the seams were folded over. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to work with something like corduroy or denim.

My only complaint surrounded the zipper. The materials list specified one zipper, when in fact two zippers are required: one for both the muslin lining and the other bag. The instructions for inserting the zipper weren’t very clear, so I turned to Amy Karol‘s book Bend the Rules Sewing, where the illustration and step-by-step directions were both clear and concise.

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Start to finish, I put six billable hours into this project. There was considerable unbillable time spent filling, scooping up the spills, emptying, scooping up the spills, and filling the beanbag. Lesson number one: cut a small hole in the corner of the pellet bag. Lesson number two:  insert lining into outer shell before filling. It won’t fit otherwise. Duh.  Lesson number three: wait until someone is home to help you hold the beanbag open.

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Now that the project is finished, it is time to sit back and relax…for a few minutes…until it is time to bike to school for pick-up.

Next Stop: Columbia City Gallery

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

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I am thrilled to announce that SpiderFelt art and objects will soon be available at a new Seattle location in the vibrant Columbia City neighborhood.  New work will soon be on display in the gallery store at the Columbia City Gallery.

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In honor of their 10th anniversary, the artists of this co-operative gallery are curating a new show: Urban Icons.  Featuring gallery artists Lori Duckstein, Esperanza Gomez Grundy, William Herberholz and Lisa Lamoreaux. The gallery will host an artists’ reception on Saturday, May 30th from 5-8pm.

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In addition to these new felt vessels, I also have large felt rocks, felt flowers and rose brooches and a few ladder scarves for sale in the gallery store.

Brain Dump

In the last few days, I’ve come across an abundance of amazing events, letters and websites. Since my work at the moment is in a pure production phase, I’m going to share other people’s cool stuff instead.

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Wet spring weather brings out the godzilla slugs in our garden. Before I go to bed, I walk out in the rain to peel them off my tender new lettuce. Despite my dislike of the creatures, I couldn’t resist this felt snail.

I can’t recall what chain led me here, but Gartenfilz von Frauke is only one of many fantastic pieces in the Filz Galerie, a German gallery of felt pieces created by participants in Feltalong. I really, really wish I read German because I want to know more about the other pieces in the blog.

If you want to participate in the Crafster Feltalong challenges, search for ‘feltalong‘ discussions on the Craftster felting discussion boards.

feltunitedGet on board for the International Day of Felt, October 3.  2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibers, as declared by the United Nations. Sign up, spread the word, plan, organize and participate. More details at FeltUnited.

Future Craft Collective is a very creative group of energetic folks working to make something beautiful in community. Two things melt my heart: seeing people make art together and watching a child bring an idea to life. Some lucky folks in Austin may get to work with them in person; I’ll have to settle for admiring from a distance and then continuing to build art in my community.

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The yummy felt bead necklaces made by  Kleas and company for Mother’s Day gifts look good enough to eat. These remind me of the world’s best salt water taffy, but made of wool. What more could a mother want?

Not sure how to describe the next bit, except to say watching this video and getting into the mind of this woman led me to dimensions I had never imagined. See and watch crochet coral as examples of hyperbolic geometry.

paper_boatTime for a slight fiber detour to the world of paper craft. Make some crazy collage, paint some paper, sew some paper together, fold a boat and then mail it to Joanne Kaar. Each piece will  be auctioned in support of Mary-Ann’s Cottage, a living history museum in Scotland. Submission deadline is August 10, 2009.

Stating my intention here,  in the hopes that will make it happen (thank you Future Craft Collective), I plan to embellish paper with the parents and children of Seattle API at the next monthly gathering of the Handcraft Group. Look on theirblog for photos of the oustanding pieces they have received so far.

Artwalk Wrap-Up

The coolest thing about our neighborhood is the number of community events that take place just blocks from our doorstep. Let’s start with a short list: farmer’s market, beer taste, wine taste, home renovation fair, a summer children’s parade, hot-rod car show, street fair, lots of block parties and last but not least, the Greenwood Phinney ArtWalk.

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This was my first year participating, slipping in through the back door as an invited guest by one of the businesses, as opposed to a juried artist assigned to a business.  I was invited by the sweetest little children’s store, my personal favorite store from the time my daughter was just a wee one, Rising Stars, to display some felt art in their playroom along with printmaker, Yoshi Nakagawa.

Not sure what to expect from the crowd and the event, I brought a mixture of items: five pieces of felt art, a large assortment of felt balls, felt flowers and brooches, kits and handouts for my upcoming summer felt camp.

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After living on the edge of the Phinney neighborhood for close to five years, attending two neighborhood preschools, participating in a neighborhood babysitting co-op and teaching felting classes from my home, I was delighted to see so many friendly, smiling faces walk through the door. All night long, an endless parade of friends, students, children and colleagues stopped in to say hello, see what I had brought and give me their encouragement. The evening was like one long hug.

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I wish I could say that I sold every piece I hung Friday afternoon, but the reality is that the experience was much more valuable than any money I could have earned. Because of the deadline imposed by the artwalk, I finished the second and third of the leaf & vine triptych; revised, edited, printed and packaged my felt flower kit; embellished and wetfelted twenty-three felt balls; hung three mostly-finished-but-not-quite-done art pieces; and got back into the writing/documenting/publicizing habit that had fallen by the wayside during those lazy months after Christmas where I had no deadlines.

Now I have lots of stock to list in my etsy shop, which I will be doing systematically over the next few weeks. Each piece will be listed, one at a time, one piece per day, in order to draw out the exposure that comes from listing a new item as it tickles the etsy search engines.

F is for Flower

How long can I run this theme? There are a lot of single word ideas piling up in my head.

After months and months in development, testing, trials, comments and revisions, I’ve finally finished a WetFelt Flower Kit.

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Materials included in this kit are sufficient to create three large flowers with stems: 1.5 oz merino, 12″ square of tulle and 12″ square of bubblewrap, photo instructions and an online photo tutorial.

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Thank you to the kit testers who helped enormously in the refining stages of this kit. My hat tips as I do a deep curtsy to Lora Shinn for the gorgeous photos she took on a very grey day in March.

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*Edit: This kit will is now for sale in my Etsy shop; for crafters who have materials on hand, the tutorial is available for purchase as a pdf.

T is for Turtle

The same weekend that gave life to the pink pig, I began building an enormous pile of felt balls. It seemed like a good way to occupy my hands as we watched movies. First, I tightly wound a handful of roving into a rough ball shape. Next, I gently needled it to hold the stray fibers in place. By the time the weekend was over, there were twenty-three balls ready for designs.

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Starting at 10am on Sunday, I began embellishing the balls with stripes, polka dots and letters; my imagination was supplemented with a couple of books of illustrated poetry on the bookshelf outside my studio.

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Once every ball was adorned, I wetfelted each one for several minutes to solidify the design and firm up the ball. Then the whole set was tossed in the washing machine for a rinse and spin cycle. The lights went out in my studio at 11pm.

I plan to bring the assortment to Rising Stars where I will be exhibiting some felt art pieces for the Greenwood Phinney ArtWalk this Friday, May 8th and Saturday, May 9th. There were also be some kits available, for those inclined to make their own squishy spheres.

P is for Purse

For my daughter and son’s birthday party last weekend, I created two new kits. My intention was to have something we could do together as a fun activity and give the children something durable to take home.

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The first project was a needlefelted purse kit. The light rain was a good excuse to stay under the shelter. The girls wasted no time pulling out the contents and getting started. Several of them are enrolled in a creature class with Coco Howard at school, so they were both familiar and comfortable with the tools.

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The girls wrapped roving around a foam square, layering an inside and outside color, then needled the foam until it was firm.

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The handle was created by braiding a length of handpainted merino roving and then needling it to either side of the block. The purse is felted in the washing machine, making this a very simple kit for fiber fans.

By the end of the party, after running around in the woods, playing pogo, chasing balloons, running around in the woods some more and then eating cake, several girls were ready to felt their purses at home.

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This kit will be available for sale shortly in my Etsy shop. You can see it in person at Rising Stars as part of the Greenwood Phinney ArtWalk on Friday, May 8th and Saturday May 9th.

Felting Underwater

The wheels of industry have been busy cranking in my workshop preparing for an upcoming summer camp, art walk and a craft show.

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In mid-July, I will teach a summer camp at Space to Create combining both wetfelting and needlefelting techniques. Opening my imagination to a time beyond the gray days of spring, I dreamt up an underwater seascape inhabited by creatures both imagined and observed. It was fun to pull out fibers, beads, and yarn to add three dimensional texture to the flat background.

To sign up for the class, which runs from July 13-17, visit the Space to Create website.