Saturday, January 17, 2015

Sewing the Sea Monsters

When working with fabric, I find that creating organic imagery is easiest.
Inspiration taken from here, with 3D gold added to glass.
My sister really admired this piece we found in a local shop in Amherstburg, but the sales associate was unable to offer shipping and my sister felt it would break in her long journey home to Calgary. So, I decided to make a go at my first fabric collage.

Easy - Hard, depending on how sophisticated and detailed you care to go

scraps of cotton
Wonder-Under (not necessary but helpful)
misc buttons
a bit of stuffing from a toy
a large scrap of blue jean fabric for backing

sewing machine

First, I decided on a general layout, how many fish I wanted for example. I knew I wanted a 3D affect with the fish swimming between plant life, so i had to plan accordingly. This was probably the most difficult part of the design process. Then, I ironed on Wonder-Under to applique pieces, and ironed them into place.  I sewed over their edges with a zigzag stitch. Afterwards, I switched the zigzag foot to the embroidery foot and did some free-hand embroidery over the entire piece. It was so awkward at first, but I love this method now!  Check out Leah Day on youtube for amazing tutorials! 

I sewed all the way around the starburst, adding strips of scraps along the underside to create a jellyfish and through a small opening I stuffed the polyester batting for some nice 3D affects. Sorry, I did not take pictures along the way because I made this in a few hours and simply forgot to do so.

Finally, I added buttons for eyes and cowrie shells near the bottom.

Close up of small fish

Completed design. My sister brought home a piece of driftwood to run through the upper loops for hanging.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

New "Z"entrance Door, Part One

I need a new front door. I feel like my house looks "cheap" because the front door is a porch door with a large window on the upper half; I feel like it detracts from my home. On top of that, the challenge is that my front door is smaller than the inner door because it's not a real front door, so buying a standard door isn't an option. And buying the entire door frame is a bigger project than I am ready for - carpentry isn't my forte. So, I trash picked this awesome Cedar door. I know it's beautiful, but to best restore it is beyond my woodworking skills.

View of door prior to work. This side shows little damage.
Because it's a trash pick, it had some flaws - lots of damage around the lock and some near the top edge.

View of damage at top of door.
View of damage near lock.
I picked up some Elmer's Wood Putty for $12 and started filling in all scrapes and chipped areas. The part by the lock was very badly damaged, missing much of the wood. I had a piece of scrap curtain rod which I inserted into the hole where the lock will be in order to build the missing wood with the putty into the proper shape; I don't want to have to drill into the putty, making another task.

Metal tube inserted to ensure a cylindrical shape prior to adding Elmer's putty.
I realized that these holes are going to be in the wrong place because I will be lengthening the door, so I had to fill them in anyways...

Filled in door knob holes.
Next, I cleaned up the raw edges using sandpaper and a wood rasp. Once the door was properly prepped, I decided to lengthen it first (before narrowing it). 
Wood stock for extending the length of door.
I grabbed the wood stock that I previously cut and planed for the door. I drilled out three 1/2" holes down the length, using the drill press. I used the drill press in order to help keep the drill straight for the next step. I lined up and clamped the stock wood to the door and drilled thru the holes 2" into the door. 

Next, I cut four 1/2" wood dowels into 4" lengths. (The depth of hole into door plus hole in the extra stock.) I applied glue to the dowels, tapped them into place with a rawhide mallet and clamped down the extension.  I allowed it to dry overnight before finishing up with the wood filler.

The drilled out holes with wood dowels glued in place.
The extension glued in place.
Trimming the door's length is important to make a straight edge to make or professional. I measured the original door and then made several marks on the new cedar door and used a straight edge to connect the lines. The first thing I realized was my door was not square :/

I measured the distance of the edge of the saw to the blade at 1.25" so I added that to my line and clamped down my 2x6 there. This provides a straight guide when I cut down the length of the door.

A board clamped onto the door below to act as a straight edge guide for the saw.
The sawed door.
At this stage, the door is ready to be wiped down and painted. Additionally, I will make a glass mosaic in the center window. This next step is the exciting part for me!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Setting Up Your Home Studio with Natural Gas

I took a local lampwork class and the instructor mentioned that I could set up my workbench to run my Nortel Minor Burner torch with natural gas. I researched how to do it, and got bits and pieces from different forums. Since I could not find a basic tutorial, I decided to write one.

Difficulty: Medium-Difficult (working with gas is dangerous so do not attempt this project without the assistance of a proper plumber or minimally a layperson who has done it before)

Necessary Equipment:
1) natural gas line
2) ventilation hood
3) stable work bench
4) oxygen tank or oxy concentrator
5) flexible oxy/gas lines
6) misc adapters for the lines
7) hose clamps
8) wire/chain/nylon string to hold up vent

Necessary Tools:
1) Drill
2) Jig saw
3) pliers

For starters, your house needs a gas line. Some houses do not have natural gas, they run electric water heaters, electric dryers and electric ovens/stoves. Lucky people have natural gas lines into their house.

Properly installed shut-off valve to my torch.
Have a plumber (or pipefitter) come out and run a line near your workbench. If you cannot afford that, it's not so hard to insert a "T" and a shut off valve and some additional black pipe, just as if you were installing a gas dryer. Measure out what you'll need and have them thread the black pipe at the shop where you buy it. Perhaps choose an area near an existing gas line (near your existing gas dryer) to have minimal expenses for your new work bench.
Oxygen hose attached with proper fitting to the oxy concentrator.
Next, attach your oxygen concentrator to the oxy line. Use a proper fitting or hose clamps to secure the fitting. Attach your torch to the appropriate hoses (oxygen is always green).

NOTE: From the shut off, hook your line. Keep some extra flexible gas line in case you want to move your work bench in the future. The pipefitter that I hired did not leave any extra line so if I want to swap out torches for metal work, I do not have much room.
Additionally, venting your work area is extremely important when working with a torch, misc adhesives and/or paints etc. I didn't realize that my work space in the basement polluted air throughout the entire house until I set a hot glass rod on a small piece of paper and singed it. The odor was so minuscule and yet my husband came down (from the bedroom on the second floor) to see if everything was alright. That's when I finally got serious about putting in a vent. 
This is what I did:

I went to our local ReStore (Habitat for Humanity), looked for a range exhaust fan that had potential to blow out the top or back (not only from the front, because those are fairly useless IMO).  This is revealed by punch-out plates on the metal. I wanted one with a light and possible blower range (hi-lo). They were all under $15. None very pretty, but I had probably fifteen to choose from. 

Misc coat-hanger wire and chain to support the hanging exhaust fan.
I looped wire coat hangers through some existing screw holes and hung the fan to the floor joists above my work area. I grabbed an old lamp cord and wired the fan to the cord. (The fan can be hard wired to a fuse but I connected it to a plug instead.)

Exhaust hood adapter, from square to dryer hose.

View of flexible dryer hose to the exterior wall.

Also, grabbed a piece of ducting that attaches to the hood. It cost $3 but was 6" (too large) so I then visited Menard's and bought the dryer installation kit (exterior vent and flexible hose with clamps) $21 at that time.

 At home, I drilled a 1/4" hole in the exterior wall of the house (I am lucky that between the house foundation cinder blocks and floor joists I had enough room for me to run the 4" dryer hose.  I used the jig saw to cut out a square hole for the vent hose.  Then, I installed the vent in a matter of minutes, problem-free. 

I tapped out the metal sheet at top of the exhaust fan and connected my duct. (The only reason I had to do this was because the previous owner of this system had the vent installed differently.)

Dryer vent, looking down into the opened vent.

Dryer vent, exterior.
View of the installed exhaust hood.

Voila! Fairly straight-forward installs and I have a great studio for both lampwork and jewelry. (I can also mix my lye/water for soapmaking under the vent.) 
Minor Torch is firmly clamped to work station.
Be certain to clamp down your torch to the work bench! I added a piece of stainless steel on the desktop to avoid burns on the work surface from exploding rods. 

My natural gas work station - notice how short my gas lines are?
Jewelers kiln with bead door for annealing my lampwork.
I have my jeweler's kiln behind my work station to anneal my beads. 

NOTE: Natural gas has only about a 3-4 psi of pressure to your home which will limit your choice of torch. It's my understanding that only small torches will run on home-installed natural gas lines. Propane burns hotter and also is under more pressure, so you can burn a larger torch but that defeats the purpose of this tutorial. If you have a larger torch, you may look up THIS stream of posting for more info. I will tell you right now, that i noticed an immediate difference of the size of bead I could make with the natural gas as compared to my propane/oxygen tank set up. When I make beads over 2" in length, they crack before or after annealing. That may improve with experience, but there is definitely a learning curve going from propane to natural gas.  When finished using your torch, always bleed your lines and shut of the gas from the shut-off point, not only at the torch. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Starry Starry Night Mixed Media Collage - Part 2

Now that you have your photo transfer completed, or not, we can begin with background. By the way, the background can be done first, or even begun before your photo transfer has dried or been cleaned up. It really just depends on how multifunctional you are and what other things you have going on in your head.

For this section, the following supplies are needed:

1) fabric scraps
3) thread
4) optional embellishments - beads, sequins, yarn or ribbon scraps, silk flowers, 
5) optional acrylic paint

1) iron
2) needle
3) optional sewing machine (makes project easier)
4) optional rubber stamps

Everything here is up to your discretion. So, that's either great for us "squiggles" or horrid for those "squares"

Begin by cutting out a piece of fabric for your backdrop. I am using a medium weight canvas. I know that I will be fusing minimal fabric here, so it won't get too thick but it's heavy enough to make a stable background should my friend want to frame this. I am making it, however, with the intention that it be hung from the upper edge with a dowel or stick to keep it earth-bound. 

Choosing the background fabric.
At this point you must decide if you would like to use fabric and Wunder-Under, paper and gel medium or needle to adhere it, or the rubber stamps and paint. Yes, lots and lots of artistic choices here. I have chosen a Van Gogh-ish Indian kamees that I picked up at Value World, to be the sky. 

Cut out a section of Wunder-Under to fit the section of fabric you wish to fuse to the background. This stuff is tricky to work with, regardless of some YouTube video makes it look like magic. It's heat sensitive, and I do mean that. Too much heat and it will melt into your fabric and the paper backing will be a nightmare to remove, too little heat and the webbing won't adhere to your backdrop fabric. Do not use steam. I have best luck around the cotton setting (the directions on the paper-backing are vague.)

Peeling back the paper after ironing on the Wunder-Under
Once heated and secure, peel back the wax paper. This will most like rip of in strips rather than one nice sheet. It's not a problem. 

Lay your fabric with the newly bonded webbing down onto your backdrop. Again, using the iron, fuse the two together. The webbing is gooey and icky if it melts on your iron, and very difficult to remove. You may want to place a thin piece of high temp scrap fabric in between the iron and your project so any glue will adhere on that and not your iron.

Sky glued to the background canvas.
At this stage, I decided that my background needed relief. I sloppily laid out loose threads from the floor on top of the sky area and fitted my machine with the embroidery presser foot. Making random stitches across the canvas, I secured the loose threads. 

Close-up of the sky with loose threads sewn on.
I then centered the house, pinning it in place while I sewed it with zigzag stitch around the house edges. 
Close-up of the photo transfer sewn to the main project.
After this, I cut away the excess canvas as closely as I could get to the house.
Over-view of the project thus far.
I was worried that the loose threads were looking very messy and well, ugly, but I didn't allow myself to criticize my work and I moved forward. I like the results. The only bad thing is that I noticed I sewed he house on crooked. It's runs slightly downhill. I will hve to trim the edges to allow the verticles to stand vertically. 

From here I have to decide what I will do with the foreground. I don't want it to pop out too much, and yet I DO want some reach-out-and-touch-me-here; it needs life.

Organza and silk to be melted and manipulated with a heat gun.
Ok, I found this green silk printed fabric and some scrap green organza. I ripped, rather than cut, each fabric so they would appear organic. I randomly sewed them together in layers and made scissor snips here and there.  (Interesting tutorial HERE about surface manipulation.)

Random seams over the silk and organza.
Then I hit it with a heat gun and melted it. 

Melting the organza and silk creates a wonderful texture. Be careful not to heat too much!
A view of the project.

Hahahaha -- well maybe it's not funny but this project is taking so long that my girlfriend has since painted her house lol!! At this point, I must say, "done is better than perfect". So here goes the finale!

Removing stems from silk flowers.

I added some red silk flowers to POP the image a bit. The piece could use a cat or butterfly for added interest, so I cut apart an old barrette, and also added a pre-made ceramic moon. 

Added felt rectangles for hanging.
I added three small felt loops for hanging te piece with a wood dowel.

Completed piece.
I finished the piece by running the edges through the serger (just prior to previous step). THE END. 

Fingerless Gloves in Less Than Five!

I love wool, but it's also one of those fabrics that requires higher maintenance than I'm willing to perform to keep it intact. So grab those wool socks that got thrown into your wash with the "regular" cycle and thus became shrunk and felted.

Difficulty: Super Easy

Required Tools and Supplies:

1) a pair of felted wool socks (to "felt" wool-anything, wash it on the hottest, and longest most vigorous cycle your machine can produce, and toss item into the hottest dryer setting. As predicted, this will shrink and mat the wool fibers so they will no longer unravel when cut. Keep in mind, it will REALLY shrink your item, and multiple times through this cycle will continually shrink the item, so STOP the cycle when your item feels the proper size! You can test for raveling by cutting an area of the garment that you will later discard.)
2) sharp scissors

Line up hand with sock before cutting.
Line up the heel of the sock with your thumb and cut a small slit. When you've determined the best area to remove, complete cutting out a small piece of pie.

Sock with thumb-hole and finger's-hole cut out.
Depending on how long you'd like to extend the glove onto your fingertips, cut off the toe section of the sock.  Remember, it's much easier to cut off more than sew it back on, so take smaller cuts before larger.  This is a good way to up-cycle or re-purpose those worn out wool socks too.  

Since the wool is already felted, it'll be quite dense and warm, and will not fray.  A benefit of that is, NO sewing! 

Completed glove.
This is something you could also make for homeless people in winter, but start with a nicer pair of socks! Don't give out a grungy pair of stained gloves.

I just noticed that this also works with wool sweater sleeves that have been felted. This is probably even a better way to make fingerless gloves because there  probably won't be much wear or stains on a sleeve as compared with a sock!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Horn Bow Tutorial

Making my own horn bow has been fun! This photo I found online was both my inspiration and incentive to create a tutorial since I found none. 

Difficulty: medium
Supplies Needed:
1) wood handle or stick
2) horns
3) some string
4) glue
5) epoxy (not necessary, but helpful)
6) Great Stuff (not necessary but helpful)

1) band saw (or hand saw)
2) shaver or sand paper
3) rat tail file
4) bench vise (makes job much easier)

I began by choosing a nice solid weathered stick which felt good in my hand and was over 2 feet long.  Picking out the right horns was the next crucial step. I searched eBay for horns because they're not very common to find in second-hand shops in Michigan. I purchased my selected pair and they were a great physical fit with my chosen stick. 

I would have to cut my stick down quite a bit and either cut, whittle or sand the ends down to best fit inside the horns allowing both tips to point in the same direction. The tips of the horns became the nocks after I had secured the horns in place. 

If it's not obvious, this bow is not intended to be functional; not even for LARPing (which I suppose also means functional), but more decorative as I dress up as a ranger for our local Renaissance Festival. 

Next, I used the wood glue and spread it along the stick in a few contact points. There were not many since both the stick and horn are curved. (This step is more like tacking.)

Once the wood glue had dried, I mixed the epoxy and used a brush to better secure the contact points. I did it this way because I had many small pouches of epoxy envelopes and they don't make much (I didn't need much) but the epoxy is quite hard to control as it's fluid and very sticky, AND has a very short setting time (5 minutes). I wanted to be sure my horns were where I wanted them to be prior to messing around with the epoxy which is much less forgiving than wood glue!

After the epoxy had set, I filled in the hole with Great Stuff. Since this product must be used up immediately once opened, I first walked around the house and noted where I could spray the left-overs so I wouldn't waste the can.  

Notice the size of the gap I am going to fill; it's quite large!
A visual looking into the horn.
Keep in mind that Great Stuff expands A LOT! You want to be sure the foam has a place to grow or you risk breaking the object that the foam surrounds. In this case, the horn opening is very large so I didn't anticipate stress on the horn. 

Old school water putty for filling in holes.
Next, I wanted to make a smooth transition from the horn opening to the handle and decided to go with Rock Hard Water Putty. This product can be drilled and shaped before drying (maybe even afterwards??), and once dried, does not accept stain but is paintable. Cost $10 for this can which is probably 15 years old! My cousin loves this stuff, so I'm going to try it out rather than go buy something else. 

Whoa!! Low and behold, I hated this stuff! It took over 24 hours to dry and the product to water ratio was waaaay off! It cracked and large chunks fell off of all edges. It was a disaster. (Does it go bad??) Maybe it's good for filling nail holes! I had to cover the entire surface area where I used the putty. I used a rabbit fur collar from a second-hand coat. It turned out beautifully despite the putty mess. I added some elastic for the bow string, (I KNOW it's not functional, as a stranger pointed out to me LOL - well, in fact it IS! It's functioning as a prop for a costume 😌) anyway, the end result looks fabulous!