Sunday, September 30, 2018

Stitch-a-Long update - a changing of projects!

Hi everyone!

Full disclosure -- I didn't finish the butterfly piece in time to give it to my Mom for her birthday... We decided to celebrate on the Saturday night rather than on Sunday (her actual birthday) ... and while I might have gotten everything stitched if not framed for Sunday night, well, it just didn't happen in time for Saturday night.

Still -- I did get it framed and am looking forward to giving it to her as a belated birthday present when she gets back from her Alaskan cruise! Here's a sneak peek for you of how it turned out:

I'm really pleased with it -- I know my mom will be too!

Now, I know what you're thinking... what's next?

It's a Glorafilia kit I bought nearly 20 years ago while living in the UK. A girlfriend came to visit and we did a little road trip to Wales, stopping in Chester on the way back to London. We went to an amazing stitchery store -- now gone, I think -- and each of us purchased absurdly expensive needlepoint kits. So expensive that we couldn't make eye contact as we left the store, and said, "We shall never speak of this again."

This "craft that dare not speak its name" has languished with me, moved from house to apartment to house, and though I occasionally opened it to look at it, it made me feel anxious because it incorporates needlepoint stitches beyond basic basketweave or tent stitch.

But after I successfully stitched and finished Mr. Fox, I feel more confident. And, hopefully, with the support of my awesome stitch-a-long colleagues, I'll get through this, too!

It's a big piece -- about 18x16 inches -- and there's a LOT of wool.

It's so big I can't fit the whole thing on my floor stand... but I decided to tack down half of it and get to work.

I'm clearly going to have to learn as I go along -- my instincts tell me to do the foreground items -- that is, the swans -- first, so that I can control the shapes of them. But at the same time I always like doing the light colors last so they don't get grubby.

I started with the feet ... not sure how to do the outlines. I decided to try just stitching all the dark blue and then add the stem stitch outlines afterward. Not sure that was the right decision, but I think it is turning out okay.

As for the swans ... I realized pretty early on ... okay, after some frogging! ... that the outlines of the birds and the feathers needs to be done first, and then the feathers filled in after. So I've been playing with that.

I think my next steps are to finish the outlines of the swans, and then work on the outlines of the leaves -- just to get all the shapes defined. Once I've done that I'll figure out how I'm going to stretch this massive canvas on a frame so I can work on it! I really enjoyed the floor frame for my last project and feel like it really kept me from straining my hands and wrists. So that's something to sort out in the next few weeks.

I'm writing and scheduling this post early as I'll be out of town on the 30th -- so apologies if I miss a late addition or update to the participants! We're headed down to Mount St. Helens to climb to the crater rim -- wish us luck!

When we return to sea level, I look forward to seeing all the amazing work my fellow stitchers are doing!

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Kate, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, LindaHeidi, Jackie, Hayley, Tony, MeganCatherineDeborah, and Connie.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Of Pumpkins and Pops - a visit to Everett

Every Halloween I add to my glass pumpkin collection, which I display for at least the entire month of October. This year I decided to get my act together in August so that I could get a space for a "make your own" glassblowing experience at the Schack Art Center during their annual Schacktoberfest. (Seriously, if you don't sign up within a day or two of the start of registration, you will probably be out of luck!)

I've blown glass before -- a small, very solid pumpkin many years ago, a couple of ornaments at work team building events -- but I had been wanting ... and failing ... to create another pumpkin.

Wil and I drove up to Everett, a city about 30 miles north of Seattle. Mine was one of the first slots of the day, so we milled around outside with several other people, before going in and heading to the hot shop.

I signed in and was introduced to my glassblowing guide, Ty. Our first task was to choose what color pumpkin to make. I had hoped to make a purple one, but that color wasn't available.

So I went with Wil's request: green with speckles.

Ty set up my workspace with the glass powder and the larger pieces for the speckles (you can see this in the picture below), and then walked me through the steps we would be taking -- but without a lump of molten glass on the end of the blowpipe!

Here's where to put your hands -- always behind his...

and here's how we'll roll the glass back and forth to pick up the color...

then you'll take the glass and -- always rotating the pipe -- put it into the glory hole...

I just tried to stay calm while he was explaining all of it. And then he went to get the first lump of glass onto the pipe, and start shaping it. 

He's got the glass on the pipe now, and is carrying it to a workbench to shape it a little. Note that I am trying to stay well out of the way of anything hot!

Then at his bench he shaped it a little to get it ready for me to work with... and then it was my turn.

He brought the glass-laden pipe over and we rolled it back and forth in the green crushed glass.

This melts into the clear base glass, and colors it green.

Then into the glory hole to soften up the glass again ... this is the scariest part, as I felt I was going to drop my glass ... it's soft and melty and you have to keep turning the pipe ... without spinning the glass off the end. Clearly an acquired skill!

Then out for another roll in the green glass. 

... and another visit to the glory hole ... during which the green powder was quickly put away (see, it's gone in the image below):

... and then back out to roll in the larger chunks of yellow/orange, which would melt into "spots" on my finished pumpkin.

it's pretty satisfying to see how we picked up all of the speckles as we rolled the ball of glass.

Then back into the glory hole, and then Ty shaped the glass so it would fit into the mold -- which was ridged to produce the "ribs" on a pumpkin.  Note how I am doing all I can to keep my hands very much away from hot glass. 

That's Ty putting the glass into the mold, while I am holding a rubber hose that will soon be attached to the blow pipe. 

Ty blew the first bubble -- just to get it started.

Then it was my turn to huff and puff, while Ty shapes the glass and keeps the pipe rolling.

and puff.. and puff...

At this point he told me to "blow blow BLOW BLOW". I think I'm turning purple.

And then it was time for one last trip to the glory hole to soften it up a little:

Look! It's still pumpkin shaped!

Then Ty took the pumpkin over to another work table, took it off the pipe, and shaped it:

and then added a stem while the other "student" in my time slot and a lot of folks looked on.

I love that it's so hot that it all looks orange -- you really can't tell what color it's going to cool down to be:

The pumpkin then goes into a holding space, where it can cool down slowly for 48 hours.

Since we were up in Everett, we decided to go to the Funko flagship store. If you're not familiar with Funko and their omnipresent Pops, well, they're freakishly cute vinyl figurines of pop culture icons from Jimi Hendrix to Hermione Granger to Tigger to the Hulk. And Funko has a massive HQ and store that is seemingly always busy.

The store is huge, with various themed sections featuring different products... and lots of giant Pops for shot-ops.

Perhaps more amazing was the number of shoppers on a Sunday afternoon ... and that everyone had baskets full of products. You can even make your own Funko Pop.

We managed not to load up a basket ... though I did struggle not to purchase the tiny Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart Pop ... and headed home.

Now, I know what you're thinking... HOW DID THE PUMPKIN TURN OUT???

LOVELY!!! I love how the speckles look, and I even love the swirly green stem. I'm very pleased. I set up my little "pumpkin patch" (why, yes, that *is* a Halloween tree!) and set it out next to my first glass pumpkin:

It's fun to think that I made these guys over the space of 15 years or so:

Did I mention that Halloween is my favorite holiday, and autumn is my favorite season???

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Butterfly Stitch-a-Long, part 4

We've just returned from camping in the North Cascades -- staying at Newhalem, our favorite campground. So this stitch-a-long update is a quickie!

I wish I could tell you that I have finished my little butterfly project -- no, but I *am* close... and my mom's birthday is still a week away, so I think I will be able to get it done in time!

Apologies for the wrinkles, I've just pulled it off the frame so I could see all of it. There's a little backstitching on the rest of the butterfly (lower wings and body), along with a few more Chinese characters on the sides, and I have to make some cords and attach them. But I'm definitely in the home stretch!

As an offering for not writing more about this project, how about these lovely forest pics from the weekend?

The path to the walk-in campsites:

Almost there!

Our little private path:

Our weekend home!

My fellow stitchers have most likely done MUCH MORE on their projects -- check them out and get inspired by their beautiful work!
We'll be back in three weeks, on September 30, when I will have finished -- and presented! -- this butterfly project ... and chosen my next one from my great big box of UFOs... and hopefully gotten it set up and ready to go.