Sunday, November 28, 2010

Do Not Enter, Fräulein!

Just a few close up shots on the progress of my German "Do Not Enter" embroidery.

I'm trying a new fill stitch for the big red circle -- backstitch as fill stitch.  I'm loving the woven quality of the stitches, although they are profoundly imperfect.  But the imperfections are part of the handmade process, no?  Each stitch is a decision and a test... can I get the next stitch into the exact center of the previous row's stitch?

Of course I can't!

Embroidery is weirdly moving to me.  Just thread going into fabric, but there is something so textural and primal about it.  And there are so many hazard signs and simple images to translate into fabric and floss.  I'm grateful.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Belligerent Ninjas from Hell & More Alien Creeps

These little pugilists don't know if they are good guys or bad guys.  They just know that they like to fight!

Meet BAM, POW and KA-POW, three wool/rayon felt ninjas. I had a lot of fun making them.  They are  very lightly padded.  Their eyes are embroidered and they sport cartoon captions that I made from art shrink plastic.

I also finished four more Alien Creeps. I've listed one in my etsy shop at

I don't know why I can't seem to make anything that is friendly and cute any more. Just a phase I'm going through, I guess.

I didn't wind up going to the Vega Arts Market today to sell my work.  I'm in a more homebody mode and I'm enjoying making things for friends and family.  I have so many Christmas presents yet to finish making!!

The Alien Creeps are really growing on me.

Tomorrow I'll post some updated photos of my German Do Not Enter sign.  The stitching on that piece is so involved... I love the methodical process of the fill embroidery.  Thousands of stitches, thousands of moments.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Making felties, new and old

My alien ornaments have been surprisingly popular. I've sold or had special requests for the ones I made, so now I'm making a few more for the craft fair at Vega Metals in Durham that I'm hoping to attend this weekend.

Rico says that when he sees them in piles like this, with arms and legs strewn about, he is reminded of an alien autopsy.  We're going to work on a series of Area 51-themed ornaments (and other mid-century alien) soon.  I like the idea of little alien pieces. He recommended that I make an alien with a post-vivisection scar on its chest.  Love that idea!!

I'm also playing around with a new feltie for my String Thing Ornament Swap.  Here is a first pass at the cut felt.

It usually takes me several tries before I'm satisfied with a design, so we'll see how these ultimately wind up looking.  Can you tell what they are going to be?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and my birthday. I'm headed to my parents' for a combo celebration.  So I'm going to try to spend several hours today working away in my little workshop.

I head back to work next week after several weeks of medical leave.  I'm very nervous about it.  Among other, more personal medical concerns, I'm worried about keeping up my creative mojo in that thankless, very uncreative corporate work environment.  Have to keep carving out time to make things or I'll go quite nuts!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cool YouTube Photoshop tutorial re my blog's banner

I know that this may be getting a little meta here, but I wanted to share this awesome You Tube tutorial that my friend Mo made about how to create a blog banner.

She created my blog banner and she uses my blog as an example. Big Picture Workshops is a Seattle-based company that teaches folks how to use programs like Adobe Photoshop, After Effects and Apple Final Cut Pro.

I just love the voices that Mo gave to my aliens in her video tutorial!  It is a plush maker's dream to hear people get creative and playful with their little creatures.  At least, it is my dream.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fingers are sore!

Yikes! My fingers are killing me from doing this long-and-short fill stitch on my German Do Not Enter embroidery - but the hand is done!

This is part of my hazard sign series of embroideries.  For this one I used two layers of fabric.  The top layer is Kona Cotton in white and I added a muslin layer behind it, which was recommended by my wonderful embroidery teacher, Rebecca Rinquist, from the Squam Art Workshop I attended last May. Rebecca was an inspiring teacher and I'm so excited that she has a blog about her amazing embroidery and other artwork. Check it out here:

For the big red circle around the hand and man, I'm going to try doing the fill stitch in back stitch. I think that will give it an unusual texture and will hopefully be easier on my fingers!

Friday, November 12, 2010

No radioactive material in these felties

Since I was a wee lass in New York City, I was always attracted to radiation signs and fallout shelter signs.  In fact, until I was an adult, I honestly thought that the fallout shelter symbol was an official symbol of the NYC public school system, because it seemed like every PS had this oddly comforting sign attached to the brick face.  Embarrassing, but true.

I often wear an embroidered radiation symbol button/brooch that I made and I'm working on a series of radiation and other hazard symbol embroidered pillows, so why not bring these happy little guys to my world of felt holiday ornaments?
I think that these are perfect for when elves and candy canes don’t fit your edgy holiday mood. I'm starting a collection of not-quite-right Christmas decorations.

I made these from a wool/rayon blend felt and embroidered them with a questionable “Ho” on each propeller, which sounds a little nastier then I'd intended. They are very lightly padded with quilt batting dangle from a string of black ric rac.

I like ornaments that acknowledge the darker side of Christmas... the alcoholic grandma, the brother-in-law with a secret, second family, the burned, inedible ham, the extra Valium a girl has to take to face her mother's magnifying glass... that kind of thing.

(My grandmothers had other problems, trust me, but they didn't drink, and they are long dead. As far as I know, my only brother-in-law has just the one family and I don't eat mammals, but you get the idea!)

UPDATED: These are now listed at my new etsy shop that I started with the hugely talented Juline,!

Also, OJ Designs will be at the craft market at the Durham Farmers' Market on Saturday, Nov. 13th.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Evolution of Christmas Aliens!!

Been playing around with wool/rayon felt, making a new set of holiday ornaments. These Christmas Aliens make me oddly happy.

Here is a little about their design...

It started as a very rough, random sketch in my sketchbook.

I made the first one with very similar proportions to the drawing, but I didn't like it. It looked too misshapen to me somehow.

So I redesigned the head and eyes to make them much larger and cuter.  I added a bow for the girl alien. I liked the way that these turned out.  Very cutesy and sweet aliens.

Although I really like these sweet aliens, my original intention was something more sinister and creepy, so I made the eyes a little smaller and less cute, embroidered humorless mouths and made them silver collars with red buttons.

Now these guys are the menacing aliens I'd originally intended!  I will continue to make sweet aliens and explore threatening aliens and various colors of wool/rayon felt and with various collars and accessories. I'm thinking purple and blue aliens, among others.

Next up: Create a radiation sign felt ornament!  My obsession with the radiation sign will not allow me to work on anything else until I at least make an attempt.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hex Quilt Photos on a rainy day

It is dreary and raining today.  I took a few photos of the current state of my hex quilt.  Luna is always demanding to walk all over it.  I can't imagine making anything without her sticking her snout or paws into the scene!  Last night she pawed a baby sweater that I was knitting, causing me to drop a couple of stitches.  Monstrous beast!

I ordered some more fabric from one of my favorite fabric bundle sellers on etsy, starlitnest. I bought the charm pack of Anna Marie Horner's Innocent Crush collection.

They look so delicious and I can't wait for them to arrive!

Here are a few close ups of some of the hexes.

Back to stitching!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Just stitching

I'm working on a huge, hand-stitched hexagon quilt that I started in May 2010.  I expect to finish is in 2012, if I'm lucky!  I'm participating (in a very laid back way) in the Hexagon Charm Quilt-Along started by the blogger Texas Freckles on her blog and in the Hexagon Charm Quilt-Along flickr group.

My incredibly talented friend JC inspired me to try creating a quilt by making an amazing quilt from 1-inch hexes that she somehow managed to finish (including hand quilting it!) in just a few months.  You can see photos of JC's gorgeous finished piece here.

JC is a hugely prolific and wide-ranging crafter.  She makes adorable felt jewelry of cool things like 45 records and sews quilts and knits... just to name a few of her talents!  And her house is filled with the most whimsical, cleverly designed pieces that she makes and acquires.  Clocks with vintage milk bottle caps instead of numbers, coffee tables with maps decoupaged on top.  She is such an inspiring soul!

JC and I swapped fabric scraps and embroidered special hexes for each other's quilts.  Here is a photo of a radiation sign hex I embroidered for her.

My friends Lisa and Katherine also swapped fabric and sent fabric scraps.  I love that I have fabric from so many of my friends sewn into the quilt, which I hope to, some day, hang in my living room.

Strangely, I'm not in any rush to finish the piece.  I'm still collecting fabric, slicing up squares and paper piecing the quilt.  So far I sewn together over five feet of 1 1/2 inch hexes.  I have a design plan, including a charcoal stripe with embroidery and a black & white border, but I'm taking my time with it.  I'm thoroughly convinced that the stitching is healing me by forcing me to slow down and take tiny steps.  2010 has been a rather dreadful year.  This quilt is one of the few highlights.

I think I'll just post photos from the quilt over the next few days.  But for now, back to stitching up these addictive little hexes!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mrs. Claus’ Date Night Handbag Ornaments

Making ornaments is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season.  I’m calling these "Mrs. Claus’ Date Night Handbag."   It is a very simple pattern that I wrote up 2 years ago that I call Ornamental Joy Tiny Handbags.  I’ve made this pattern in all types of yarns and with all types of embellishments.  (I’ll post photos of the various versions over the next few days.)  Mrs. Claus doesn't always want to be a frump.  But she is a hard working woman, so she never ventures forth without her "Naughty or Nice" notebook.

Fortunately for those of us who are on the wild side, Mrs. Claus enjoys drinking rich, red, Italian wines (vino nobile di Montepulciano is her favorite) and, despite her ample frame, is a bit of a lightweight.  She is a happy drunk and after the first glass and a half, she simply adores every person she sees and we all get our names scrawled into the “Nice” side of her notebook.  

Forgive me for this hopping around among the holidays, but back to Halloween… Rico and I carved these faces into our pumpkins and presented them to my parents.  Mine is the friendly face on the left. (Looks like one of my creatures!) Rico’s is the deranged face on the right.

Today we roasted the seeds and OH MY, I’d forgotten how yummy freshly roasted pumpkin seeds are! We soaked the seeds overnight in salt water, let them dry for a day and then roasted them for 45 minutes at 300 degrees in a mixture of butter, salt and garlic.  Shazam!!