Feathering the nest, part 1

•July 25, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Greetings from the void, everyone. Apologies for the long hiatus. I’ve been a bit poorly and am currently facing a surgery date in a couple of weeks, followed by six weeks of recovery (including two weeks of bed rest; yuck). One good thing that’s come from it is that I’ve experienced a creative burst, particularly as I tidy up my cubicle ahead of my sabbatical. As the days get shorter ahead of my leave date, I decided to make a couple of pieces of hoop art for everyone to enjoy in my absence.

6″ embroidery hoop
4″ embroidery hoop
14-count Aida cloth
Cotton embroidery floss
Folding embroidery scissors
Needle minder
Embroidery needle
Scrap cotton canvas
Liquid Stitch

Props to StitchPoint for providing their search engine so I could experiment with new fonts for this project. I chose “Oxford” font and promptly messed up the base-six height and the spacing between words. Oh well! Working in an office full of non-fiber artists, I have been informed that I am the only one who can see that.

I used the 6″ hoop for room to maneuver when I was working on the project and the 4″ hoop for framing the piece.

One thing I was particularly proud of with this project: this is the best the reverse-side of one of my cross stitch projects has ever looked. I’m so used to the back of my project looking like a Muppet exploded. Not this time.

I’ve been doing the backs of all my hoop art wrong — not surprising, considering I made my first sets of hoop art from kits that had hard plastic or cardboard backed frames. For my tribute to my friend John and other gift pieces, my habit was to layer the canvas under the finished design, frame them, then trim the excess cloth from around the edges. For this project, I decided to try trimming and folding in the excess cloth. I used Liquid Stitch on the frayed ends and to glue the folded ends to the inside of the hoop.


Et voila! All finished and it looks great next to my Blu Delliquanti prints.

Stamped Wristbands

•June 4, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I love leather and I probably should have guessed that I would love leather stamping and find it a lot easier than metal stamping. I recently placed an order for a couple custom pieces. While I was waiting for them to arrive, I decided to try my hand it on my own.

Real leather 1/2″ dark brown strip
Pearl Ex pigment “Duo Red-Blue” And “Carbon Black” powders
Unique Stitch liquid stitch adhesive
Fiebing’s Leather Sheen
1/8″ letter stamp set
1/4″ sun and swirl stamps
16 oz. hammer
Steel jewelry anvil
Eyelet tool with hole punch
Colored hemp cord
Acrylic brush
Cotton swabs

I trimmed a 6″ piece of the leather strip, intending to create a tied cuff. I hydrated the leather on both sides and let it dry before I punched the eyelet holes and started stamping. Having just re-watched Pacific Rim for the hundredth time, I decided to go with some unique captions related to the film. For those who haven’t watched Guillermo Del Toro’s mecha vs. kaiju film or its sequel, “kaiju blue” is a toxic byproduct of the vanquished monster’s rapidly decomposing corpse (…I may have just declared myself toxic waste by wearing this, but oh well).

The tutorials I found for this kind of stamping recommended acrylic paint and/or gilders paste. The arts supply store I found myself breezing through on my lunch hour didn’t have those — but they did have a bunch of Jacquard Pearl-Ex powder pigments that caught my eye. The “Duo Red-Blue” pigment looked particularly good with the brown leather. For the K-Science – Hong Kong bracelet, I went with “Carbon Black.” I hydrated the leather before applying each with a dry brush and then hydrated the leather one more time.

Because I didn’t use an acrylic binder for the pigments, I was relieved to see that the leather sheen had an acrylic binder that both fixed the color and stiffened and waterproofed the leather.

I opted for hemp cord to create the ties, alternating colors with the leather (gray cord for the blue band, blue cord for the black band) and using liquid stitch to stiffen the ends and make them easier to pull through the eyelet holes.

All in all, this was a very satisfying project. Annnnd I ended up with quite bit of leather strip leftover, so I’m thinking a few more of these are definitely in order.

Gothic Print Small Project Bag

•April 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

In anticipation of warmer weather that still hasn’t arrived, I’ve been streamlining my usual messenger bag and craft tote down into a single Kilim bag that can also be used as a rucksack. The majority of my craft tools are in my military surplus kit bag, but I wanted something to separate and secure my balls of yarn and small fiber crafts in-progress.

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Knitting “Wars”

•April 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Women’s Institute at war as branch president takes aim at ‘hipster’ young groups

So, that happened. The headline here is misleading — particularly since the article attributes two sources: the (since deleted) Facebook post that started the whole discussion and the reaction from another Women’s Institute leader. For what seems like such a small, insular conflict — the statement ended up rippling out across a few media outlets in the UK, including the mostly male talking heads at Have I Got News For You (Jeremy Paxman’s condescending priggishness getting shot down by Steph McGovern is a joy to behold).

The things women like and create tend to be held up for a disproportionate amount of criticism, whether it’s knitting, baking, artwork, or fan fiction. The instinct to create and craft something from inspiration in particular has a stigma linked with age and gender: older women may be seen as old-fashioned and wasting time while younger women are seen as disingenuous and trend-chasing. And it’s a shame that other women aren’t immune to reinforcing the stigma, because we have such common ground to start with.

One of my favorite conversations I’ve ever had about crafting was with an Amish grandmother on an Amtrak train to Lafayette, Indiana. I was knitting the ear flaps for a hat for my friend’s young son. She was in her 70’s, crocheted, quilted and sewed, but had never learned to knit. We ended up talking for most of the three-hour train ride about making things, resistance to commercialism and consumerism, and the instinct to create. We were very different people from different communities and circumstances, but we were able to share and have a wonderful conversation about why we like making stuff for ourselves and for other people. I live for those kinds of exchanges and I wish that experience for everyone. It sounds quite a few of us could use it.

“Bite Me” Office Cowl

•March 29, 2018 • Leave a Comment



I’ve gotten a lot of joy out of a few skeins of fingering weight wool in the past few months. Once I finished my Rosie the Riveter headband, I really wanted to tackle another small project with my “Once Bitten” wool from SMAK SuperFibers. In anticipation of warmer weather (which has yet to arrive in Chicago), I decided to try a warm weather cowl to wear around the office, if nothing else.

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Favorite Videos: “Midnight Special,” Creedence Clearwater Revival

•March 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

We’re up to March and the horror movie marathon continues. I keep searching online for a yarn called “Color Me Blood Red” but I guess I’ll stick with what I’ve got for now.

“Rosie the Riveter” Headband

•February 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment


Much of my time this past few months have involved traveling out of town for funerals, attending funerals, recovering from funerals. The most recent one was for my wonderful grandfather who passed last month, a week before the original ‘Rosie the Riveter’. I made sure to take my craft supplies and some yarn with me on the six-hour train ride. Many thanks to Squirrels & Curls’ “Rosie the Riveter” headband pattern for keeping my hands busy during a very trying time.


I ended up using a 4mm crochet hook and my SMAKSuperFibers “Once Bitten” fingering weight yarn. Red and grey being two of my favorite colors, I was quite pleased with how this turned out.

By hook…

•January 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

In St Louis for a funeral — the new year is off to a rough start. To keep my hands busy, I started a new crochet project with the SMAKSuperFibers Ka-Pow! fingering wool blend I purchased last month. This color is called “Once Bitten” but the emerging striped pattern reminds me of Baby Selwyn’s onesie from Dead Alive.

Happy New Year, I’ve got a life to lead

•January 1, 2018 • Leave a Comment

So, it’s been an interesting year.

My girlfriend and I spent most of New Year’s Eve afternoon in our pajamas and dressing gowns. We had a wonderful lunch – savory oatmeal and chorizo scramble. She played games while I watched Bake-Off and attempted to make Australian bacon and cheese rolls. We each drank an enormous amount of coffee as per usual.

Last year, I wanted to set 2016 on fire while it was still breathing. People surprised me in 2017 – journalists, lawyers, park rangers, climate scientists, everyone who showed up at the Women’s March and the trans marches. We didn’t lay down and take any of this and, because of everything I said in paragraph 2, we’re not going to take it in 2018. I have a good life and I feel very, very sorry for anyone who tries to take it.

So, I’m walking into 2018 like 2017. I hope you are too.

Vintage Chicago Spoon Ring

•December 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Generally, I get a lot more out of my fiber crafts — knitting, cross stitch, embroidery — than I do out of my jewelry and metal craft attempts. There’s something about a project I can start on the couch and then take on the train with me in the morning, but I also did get my start designing and beading jewelry, so I return to metal stamping and new jewelry crafts frequently, particularly when something that seems impossible to do at home catches my eye. This time around, it was spoon jewelry.


Designed for the 1933 World’s Fair, this particular spoon commemorated the construction of the Michigan Avenue Bridge, then referred to as the Michigan Boulevard Link. After the city ruled out building a tunnel underneath the Chicago River (…how?), they spent two years designing and constructing a bridge to unite the north and south sides of the city. When I lived in Lakeview East, I used to take the bus to work through Lincoln Park (and over the 10,000 plague bodies buried underneath) and over the bridge every day, past the Wrigley and London Guarantee buildings also featured in the design.

Bolt cutters
Hand file/needle files
Steel or aluminum ring mandrel
Rubber mallet
Bernzomatic butane micro torch
Firebrick or charcoal block
Jewelry/beading tweezers
2 small tumblers or bowls (one for water, one for pickling solution)
Pickling solution: white vinegar, sea salt, hydrogen peroxide
Baking soda
#0000 steel wool
Paper towels

A few years back, one of my aunts asked if there was a craft that I couldn’t specifically do. I wrote out a short list, which included “using a blow torch.” I still haven’t quite made it to that level, but — once I used the cutters to separate the bowl of the spoon and my files to smooth the rough edges — annealing the sterling silver handle in order to bend it around the ring mandrel required the use of a butane micro torch. It also required a block to fire it on, and a pair of tumblers nearby — one with water for quenching the heat after, one filled with pickling solution in order to aid the removal of fire scale.

The heat from the torch also ended up turning the silver black with oxidation. To aid with the removal from the detailed engraving, I used baking soda to lightly scrub it and the #0000 steel wool to remove it further. Altogether it worked to soften the metal enough to bend it with the rubber mallet and give the ring itself a gorgeous patina.

A bit shaky (and not quite round) in places but not bad for a first effort.

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