Hand made gifts, part two

So here is my second half of the Christmas crafting creations!

First, for my nephew who is constantly carting around an armload of books, DS, games and other stuff where ever he goes, I sewed him a Avatar: The Last Airbender themed messenger bag.  The back has a pocket with embroidered patches of the 4 element symbols.

Avatar bag: back pocket

Avatar bag: back pocket

Here is the front flap with the arrow.

Avatar bag, front flap

Avatar bag, front flap

And I lined it with a wonderful wool-feeling fabric. Not sure what it really is, I picked it up at a thrift store, but it’s very soft.  I was prepared for it to be a “eh, cool.” but not really interesting to an 11 yr old, so I was rather delighted when he actually took his other gifts and stuffed them inside.  He *used* it, so that was close enough to liking it in my book!  Especially since I was up until 2 AM Christmas morning finishing it! (I ended up having to use my sister’s sewing machine, I flat ran out of time and some of the seams would have been too thick to reasonably hand sew.)

Avatar bag: inside lining

Avatar bag: inside lining

Of course, now my mom wants one, too!  And I’ll likely end up making one for my sister as well, and I really want one myself!  So I have several more projects pending, and nope, not burnt out on them yet!

For my sister and her hubby’s new house, I made them a Dream Catcher as a house warming/Christmas present.  I snipped some branches from their new willow tree and steamed them on the stove until they were nice and pliable, then wound a few into hoops.  Picking the one I liked best, I used my yarn and wove the center pattern, adding a couple of beads, then a tuft of kitty fur (one of my cats is half brother to hers.)

I also snuck out to her horses and got some of Cayenne’s mane, then bound both it and some turkey feathers with leather strips.  Added a few more beads, some shells, and a bit of bison fleece and was able to present them with this.  They were both delighted which of course made me delighted as well!

Dream Catcher

Dream Catcher

For my sister and brother-in-law’s individual gifts, I wove hand-spun yarn into bracelets and added a shell as clasp, and their two shells are halves of the same, so they fit together as a pair.  This one is his, and it’s laying on his gift bag, which he loved.  He asked if I’d make some more bags for him, their tribe gifts them to certain people at ceremonies or for doing a favor for the family or some such thing.  So I’m going to make several for him, and embroider a Lummi eagle onto each one, or some other notable Lummi animal art figure (like a frog or whale or some such).

woven bracelet with shell

woven bracelet with shell

Here is my sister’s, again the shell is the mate to the above, but I made her colors a little brighter, though there are many of the same colors in both, her base warp was white yarn, and his was a blueish gray.

woven bracelet with shell

woven bracelet with shell

All in all, everyone loved their gifts and I’m so glad I had a chance to do hand-made this year!

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Barely a week to go

And I still have so much to do!  I can’t post any of my sister’s presents here as she knows about this place and while she may not check between now and then, she might and I’d hate to ruin the surprise!

But I’ll show you all the rest of what I’ve been working on these last weeks.

My cousin’s daughter has started getting into sewing with her grandma so I made her a little needlebook/sewing kit with felt pages, a pocket for buttons and things, and a little case and embroidery scissors:

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My nephew is into things like Avatar, the last airbender.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m making him a messenger bag to hold books and his DS and other things that he hauls around with him.  Here’s the pocket that I’ll put on either the back or the front under the flap, the four elements and their symbols from the cartoon.

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My dear friend got me into using gift bags instead of wrapping paper.  Quite beautiful and reusable.

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And my mother’s gift, a choker using my hand-spun/hand-woven yarn, with a cross pendant, some beads, and a celtic knot button closure in the back.  I’m so delighted with the colors!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll post the rest probably after Christmas.

I hope you all have a very warm and bright holiday season.

Spinning and Weaving

Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, life took a left turn when I wasn’t paying attention.  But I come bearing crafties!  I’ve discovered and am working furiously to perfect my Navajo ply, a three-ply style that plies the thread with itself as you go (rather than needing two other threads to ply with or trying to roll the spun thread into a ball and plying the ends together.)

I can’t explain it so I’ll show you a video I found.  Thing is, watching the video, I was convinced I would need four hands to pull this off because she’s using a spinning wheel and I only have spindles and you need two hands to work the thread and then one to work the plying spindle and another to keep the source spindle from getting tangled.

Well, I figured out how to do it using two spindles and yet only two hands!  And… I am utterly failing at trying to explain how so I’ve drawn really bad diagrams to help:A: start by making a small loop or slipknot in the end of your thread to anchor it to the plying spindle.  Draw a length of thread from your source spindle and pull it through the loop.

B: hook the length of thread you pulled through the loop back over the shaft of your first spindle, holding the original loop open with your fingers (keep the yarn from plying that loop closed or you’ll be fighting it the whole way.)  This will keep all your thread under enough tension so it won’t knot on itself.  As you turn your source spindle, the set up will act like a pulley system, as you unwind the thread it will run through the loop, around the shaft and to the second spindle.

C: when you’ve drawn out as much as you want, use the hand holding  your first spindle to pinch the three portions of thread about an inch or two out from your first spindle and then use the second spindle to ply the lengths.  Wind the yarn onto your plying spindle, then carefully unhook the loop from around your first spindle shaft.  This becomes the new loop in figure A, draw a new length of thread through and start all over.

This is so simple and quick and such a beautiful result!  Wanna see?

Navajo plied wools

Navajo plied alpaca

Navajo plied silk

 

Navajo plied cotton

Oh yeah… I spun cotton!  IT WAS HARD!  The staple length is so terribly short you have to be *really* careful how you draft it or you’ll lose it.  But I have my first ever tiny little batch of cotton yarn now!  And so fluffy white and ready to play with vegetable dying 🙂  I have some beet root that I think will make an excellent first try.

So now that I’m just blowing through the spinning and plying, I have lots of fiber to use for (drum roll, please) WEAVING!  I don’t have a full loom set up, yet, but I’ve started making bookmarks on my bead loom.

These were my trial runs, so I didn’t want to use my ‘valuable’ handspun yarns yet, but I did use some for the purple accent on the top one. The bottom has beaded accent rows.

The upper was entirely hand-spun. The lower used hand-spun warp and ribbon weft.

Purchased yarn warp with hand-spun weft

Purchased cotton. This was produced on a makeshift 12″ loom to get a longer bookmark, so again I went back to store-bought to make my first practice piece.

And then I decided to do a little longer piece and made it a choker:

Woven choker necklace with beads

Celtic knot button closure

Final result

I’ll be making bracelets for my sister and brother-in-law as well.  Oh, there’s another story.  Okay, so my sister took me out to lunch/dinner the other day to this place she raves about but I’d never had the opportunity to try, Boundary Bay up in Bellingham.  It was quite good!

My sister had steamers (clams) and I got a to-go box and took home her shells.  They scrubbed up beautifully and then I used my uncle’s drill to put a couple of holes in them.  Voila!  I now have pretty clam-shell bead, pendant, button, whatever!  So I picked out what I felt was the prettiest shell and the two halves will go on their bracelets as a matching pair.

So this is what I’ve been up to, lately.  I’m laughably behind on NaNoWriMo.  Ah well, there’s always the whole rest of the year. 😉

Lessons from Jane Austen: On Being a Woman

So Dean Kutzler‘s suggestion was a biography, and even though I have one already it’s hardly an exhaustive one, is it?  So I’ve decided to write on an aspect of my life that in many ways is responsible for my involvement in crafts like spinning, weaving, and embroidery.

Now, this *may* come as a shock to some of you, so be sure you’re sitting down.  If you have not, in fact, noticed by now, I am a woman.  I know, I know… “Eliza!  How did this happen??” you cry.

Well, I’ll tell you.

It happened when my sister introduced me to something called Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

Ah yes, I can see the confusion on your faces. “Wait… does that mean you weren’t a woman before that?”

Yes.  I wasn’t.  I was a girl.  Well, actually, I was a tomboy, (which, in many ways I still am) but I was a girl.

“Ah, semantics.”

Yes and no.

One annoying thing about American culture is a lack of, what I’ll call “rights of passage” observances.  Oh, we have superficial ones, like 21st birthdays or sweet 16s but as a whole, there is no meaningful, cultural marker of the transition from childhood to adulthood, with the conveyance of both benefits and responsibilities.  It makes me sad.  But that’s not for this journal.

Growing up, I never wanted to be like the popular girls.  I didn’t *want* to be stuck-up and more worried about my clothes than my grades.  I still don’t wear make-up except for *exceptions* like friends’ weddings or the like.  I didn’t spend time doing my hair, or doing my friends’ hair, or them doing mine.  I had very different sorts of friends.

We spent time hanging out in the woods building forts, or throwing jelly beans around her cabin watching stupid funny movies.  I lived in the country, so a lot of my own free time was spent out in the woods behind our house, making tee-pees with tree branches and a tarp, and climbing trees and playing in the ditch (I used to make whole villages on the banks of the “river” (i.e. drainage ditch water) and weave exceptionally tiny baskets out of grass and fill them with puffs from the cattail heads like they were cotton.)

So I was a tomboy.  I never wanted to be girly, and since I equated all irritating “girly” things as what it meant to be a girl, I didn’t want to be.  That’s not to say I ever wanted to physically be a boy, I just didn’t want to be a girl.

So I was about… I’ll guess 24 or 25 the first time my sister brought this movie in called Pride and Prejudice.  I was absolutely enthralled with the movie, because in some ways, for the first time I had a standard by which to say “That!  That’s what it means to be a *woman*, that’s the kind of woman I want to be!”

Not like Eliza’s younger sisters, silly, ignorant, idle, vain… I wanted to be like Eliza! (well, probably at the time I was more like Jane, very quite and reserved) but Eliza really got my attention.  She didn’t have to put on airs, chase after men, or be terribly concerned about the condition of her petty coat.  She was strong, she had a quick and sharp wit, the goal of her life wasn’t the ‘getting of a husband’… I could go on for two pages about why Eliza Bennett became what I decided was the ideal woman.

Helped along, of course, by Mr. Darcy’s description of “a truly accomplished” Lady:

‘…A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing and the modern languages to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.’

‘All this she must possess,’ added Darcy, ‘and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.’

So even by these standards, I do fail rather miserably.  I love music, but I have no real knowledge of it.  I can at least claim to have a greater range of musical tastes than ‘your average American’.  I can sing badly in the shower and loudly in the car, but not well.  I have a little skill at drawing, though I do *adore* dancing!  That is one area I really do have some talent in.  And by dancing I don’t mean busting it on a dance floor, I mean I have done Jewish Folk dance, Scottish Country dance, Irish step dance, belly dance, etc, and I love each one dearly.

The only language I know – modern or otherwise – is English.  I know a bare smattering of Spanish words, even less Hebrew, and the only Swedish or Finnish I know is what I sing along to with my music.  When I visited Holland I at least tried to sound things out and figure out what they meant.  (Falafel!  I know that one, that’s what I’ll have! *grin*)  My friend was delighted, actually, making good natured fun of me.   She said no one else had ever come to visit her and tried to read the street signs or dragged her to the grocery store to see what was different and what was the same.  And she made fun of how I held my fork 😛

I can’t claim any special ‘something’ in my air or speaking.  Rather I suppose I’m quite coarse at times, and this tends to be where my tomboyishness really shines through.

But I do so love reading.  I’m so glad you put this in, Mr. Darcy, it really is one of my few saving graces in your list.

So there we go, I really fall quite miserably short of Mr. Darcy’s accomplished woman in most areas, but that was 200 years ago, so surely I can update a little, right?  I can obviously add writing to the list, since Jane Austen was an author, and that’s something to aspire to as a woman!

This is where the arts and crafts come in.  It’s too late for me to try to learn Latin, I’m certainly not going to enroll in Miss Kitty’s School For Fine Ladies anytime soon, so I had to improvise a bit on that list of Darcy’s.

It’s not an easy task to remake a dedicated tomboy into a Lady.  Especially not when you really have little but yourself to guide the process.  And… it just struck me that a lot of my crafts would probably have fallen well below Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy’s societal stations in life.  But I’m going to ignore that in favor of the 200 year time gap and just go with it.

So back to the SCA (my historic reenactment group), I went to an arts and crafts event and learned how to do blackwork embroidery.

Up to this point, I had never done any kind of needlework in my entire life.  I had barely ever threaded a needle!  But here I was, creating these gorgeous designs on a bit of fabric and thinking “Wow!  I did this!  Me!”  And that was the beginning of my absolute love of crafts.

I learned to embroider, and sew, and spin, and I learned basic inkle loom weaving, and I did repousse, and Norse wire weaving, and I sewed a vaguely Turkish garment, and I learned silk painting, and I make paper, and I learned to cook!  And I write, write, write!

And I’ve learned to draw and paint better than I ever thought I could.  I am old fashioned, I’m really not ashamed to admit it.  I like doing the things that I associate as being feminine, not girly – which I hate –  but feminine.   Because they make me feel like I could fit into the world of Eliza Bennett.  Because, in doing all this, I feel like a woman!
… anyone know a Mr. Darcy?

Spinning and Weaving, Pt II

Sorry for the delay, Sonja!   Here is the weaving at last!

I got my inkle loom at my reenactment event after taking a class using one.  I was very lucky to find one that was very affordable not long after in order to facilitate my continuing addiction to fiber.

What I love most about them is they create very functional pieces in a very short amount of time with very little work.  Being highly portable helps as well, I can be weaving while camping, in a car (that I’m not driving…), sitting on the couch watching TV, or even when I’m hanging at my computer.

Inkle looms – highly portable, usable at my computer!

Inkle loom

There are many different styles of inkle loom, but the basic idea is the same.  They produce long, narrow strips great for trim, draw strings, straps, even shoe laces or jewelry (think bracelet or choker necklace.)  The many pegs provide much greater option for the length of the piece, so depending on how you warp the loom you can end up with anywhere from about three to six feet or more.

Though the design naturally produces a pattern which repeats every other row, so depending on how you arrange your warp threads, you can get things such as checkerboard patterns, stripes (vertical or horizontal) dashes (like below) but the restriction is every other row will always repeat.

White and blue wool bracelet

More advanced techniques can be used to create very elaborate patterns; these involve pick-ups (think of the game pick-up sticks, they came from creating weaving patterns!) and brocade work.

I’ve given pick-up work a try.  It’s definitely tricky and requires a lot more thought on both the warping and weaving end of the work, but the finished product is very beautiful.

White hand spun bamboo and orange hand-spun goat

You can see on the left side the alterations in the pattern where I practiced doing various kinds of pick-up patterning between the white and orange.  It’s pretty rough, this was my first attempt at doing anything like it and I was mostly playing around with the possibilities, but this certainly shows off what can be done!

This piece comes in just over six feet long and was made using orange dyed goat hair and white undyed bamboo.  The bamboo is very soft, almost like silk, but can be a little tricky to work with.  It feels lovely, though, and creates a strong yarn.White hand spun bamboo and orange hand-spun goat

I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to use this piece for.  Might end up as the handle on a bag I keep meaning to sew up.

Here is another piece of trim I worked on, you can again see the repeating pattern of yellow/black/yellow/black with an edge of solid red:

Red, black and yellow hand-spun wool

And another piece I did using a mottled dyed green wool with color gradations from black to bits of white.  The result is a very lovely effect, I think!

Mottled green hand-spun wool

In fact, this piece ended up replacing the shoulder strap on my purse!

Purse shoulder strap

So not just pretty, but functional!

Burgundy and ivory wool/silk blend

This is the piece I quickly warped up and wove when Sonja asked me to show off my weaving.  It didn’t take very long, but I kept getting interrupted, so this entry got delayed until I could show it off as finished 🙂

And just like the first entry mentioned, it’s amazing how much you can feel connected to others throughout time and across geography when you get involved in these kinds of arts and crafts!

Also: more spinning, because I forgot to add this picture to the last journal.

Hand-spun goat hair (top) and hand-spun undyed silk (bottom)