Make (or buy) a reusable shopping bag this weekend. I've been thinking alot about my trash lately (more on this later) and I've decided to quit thinking I'm just a drop in the bucket, man.
Back in the fall, I wrote a blog entry called "How to Preserve Fall Leaves." I don't know about you, but I've been kind of baffled about what to do with them. They are beautiful, but incredibly fragile and not things you can just leave around.
Browsing through my extensive stash of vintage craft magazines, I came across this little project in the Summer 1969 issue of McCalls Needlework and Crafts.
It's a simple idea - to glue preserved leaves to gessoed board in various shapes. Here the artist Kay Seiler has created a series of birds by finishing the images with brush and ink.
You could use these techniques to create almost any image you want - simple, abstract arrangements or collections of colors as you see here would be beautiful.
I came across this idea while flipping through my friend Julie's copy of Pillows and Throws.
I'm anxious to try it to see what the possibilities are - more for fabric collage and freestyle embroidery than throw pillows.
It all seems fairly simple - print a photo on fabric; stitch to a backing and then machine stitch or hand embroider as desired.
Snip between the stitch lines, leaving the layers of fabric intact to add dimension.
But I'm just guessing, to be honest. I forgot to scan the directions and the book is at Julie's in Miami.
For the first time in a long time, I actually had a weekend that went pretty well as planned.
This shirt was made from a stencil from Ottobre Design, from an idea posted many, many, moons ago by WiseCraft.
The paint soaked into the fabric and made a watery green stain around the airplane - but the grownups thought it made a pretty cool "airplane over country" effect.
Alison told me that Mick is still "pretty stoked" about his airplane shirt. The complete photo shoot, with all the different shirts, can be found on my Flickr site - don't miss it! Good times.
We're planning to make a bunch of t-shirts and onesies using stencils saved from way back when, and a few iron-on transfers we'll make ourselves from family photos.
I'm going to make myself a couple of shirts using these bird stencils from Lisa Howdin at Fitzpatterns. I like the bird on the lower left the best!
I found the bird stencils over at Craft magazine - check out the projects section for other good ideas.
This video came to me at just the right moment. I've got three last-minute gifts and no wrapping paper. All of these ideas could be adapted for year-round use. Enjoy!
I collect hand-embroidered vintage linens, keeping an eagle eye out for those that bear my initials. I most often use them as guest towels, but have been looking for ways to restyle linens that are too worn or stained to be functional.
I tore this page out of the most recent issue of Marie Claire Idees. I love everything about this room - the vintage Turkey redwork restyled as pillow sham and bed cover; the distressed and painted nightstand; and the mistletoe and silver heart hanging over the bed.
Last fall, I found a pillowcase beautifully embroidered with flowers and vines at an antique store for $1. The pillowcase is torn beyond repair but the embroidery is perfectly intact. Perhaps I could start to block embroidered flower squares - hoping to find enough to complete a bed cover someday?
I love advent calendars - the idea of finding a little tiny surprise each day makes me just crazy!
I found some really wonderful German advent calendars this year at Bas Bleu. I love the huge paper replica of Siena Cathedral, with doors and windows that reveal religious art when opened. The Madonna and Child calendar reproduces twenty-five paintings of the Virgin and Christ Child from the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
But advent calendars are even better home made. Collecting things to put inside could be an all-year activity with a special someone in mind. This is yet another idea from the clever creative team over at Martha Stewart Living. This tiny advent calendar is quickly assembled using old matchbooks, construction paper and glue. You can find complete instructions for the project here.
John, who was then just about three, made everyone a turkey place card with their name on it. I just loved mine, and seven years later, I still keep it in a very safe place!
At last, I have little kids in my extended family that I can do art projects with. Last week we made thirty of these hand-print turkeys, dipping little hands in washable tempura paint and then stamping them on construction paper.
The adults drew in the legs and wrote out the names. A quick, easy, and fun project we'll remember for a long time.
Here are a few ways to preserve fall leaves. I know it's still early, but I wanted to give you a chance to get your materials together so you'll be ready! These are great projects to try with kids.
If you've got an inkjet printer, spend a little time exploring Canon's Creative Park website.
Creative Park has hundreds of free project templates and digital photo downloads. The 3D and pop-up art projects for the inkjet printer make me tremble - I don't think I've ever seen anything like this come out of my inkjet.
This pop-up birdcage card is one of my favorites. The bird holds your personal message in his beak. Way too cool.
Last month, I wrote a short post about threadbanger.com and their quick and easy method for stenciling t-shirts.
Wisecraft has been making t-shirts this week, and mentioned a site called Ottobre Design. A source for free sewing patterns and cool images for t-shirt stencils. I'm all about the reindeer.
Check out Ottobre and then settle down to work. Send me a jpg of your t-shirt and I'll post it on this site!
But every once in awhile, someone shares a simple, obvious, truth that totally rocks everything in my universe. This may sound shallow to tall people, but Dacia Ray's post on How to Hem Jeans did just exactly that.
Dacia will teach you how to do it without cutting off the original hem - so the jeans look just the way you did when you bought them.
I tried out the technique on two new pairs of jeans yesterday. It works. If you have basic sewing skills, you can absolutely do it. I will never, ever, take my jeans back to a tailor!
With a motto like "Live or Die DIY", Threadbanger.com is a dream come true for renegade craft artists.
Every Tuesday, the Thread Heads post a five minute how-to video on YouTube. The super easy t-shirt stencil is one idea I wouldn't mind experimenting with, especially since I just invested in a set of new fabric spray paints.
Uh huh. The first of our summer visitors arrived exactly to the minute the cherries ripened and needed to be picked. A few days later, just when everyone was getting relaxed, a storm brought three tornadoes that left us without power for two days. Six gallons of melted ice cream later, our guests decided to head home early. [Insert Guilt Here]
So it was somewhat ironic that when I logged in this morning, a WikiHow article about how to stop people pleasing popped up on my iGoogle homepage.
Have you ever checked out WikiHow? It is the world's largest collaborative how-to manual written and edited by internet users all over the world. Now is your chance to show the planet your expertise. Write a page and tell people how things should be done.
Most websites use Really Simple Syndication or RSS to make news, blogs and other content changes available to subscribers via email.
RSS easily saves me an hour a day, and that's why I think its worth posting on Two Kitties. With feeds, I can stay up-to-date on the most recent changes to websites. All in my inbox. I can either read posts as they come in or save them up for those long layovers at Salt Lake City airport.
It's simple to set up a feed. If you want to receive updates from Two Kitties, for example, you would click on the "Subscribe to this Blog's Feed" link in the upper right hand corner.
If you use a popular web mail client like Yahoo, Google or Hotmail, click the button and enter your webmail account information. Another option is a service like Bloglines that will allow you to organize your news, websites and blogs all in one place.
If you use Microsoft Outlook 2007, you can either click on the orange button or enter the twokitties.typepad.com URL manually under the Tools/Account Settings menu. Outlook will organize the feeds into a separate folder so that your inbox isn't cluttered with stuff. Complete directions for Microsoft Outlook can be found here.
On another website, look for the orange buttons. It might have little white 'speaker' lines on it, or it might say XML, RSS or FEED. Have a look at NPR's Arts and Culture page and you will see available RSS feeds on the bottom right hand side of the page.
Done! You'll get posts from Two Kitties to your inbox the moment they upload to the web. Try some RSS subscriptions from your favorite websites and see how you like it!
This week, my sister and I knit oven mitts using a pattern from Beverly Galeskas' book Felted Knits. Before felting, the mitts are extra, extra large.
To felt your knitted items, place it into an old pillowcase and secure the pillowcase with a rubber band. Put the pillowcase into the washing machine and set the water temperature to 'hot' with a 'cold' rinse.
We pulled on the mitts here and there to adjust the shape, then laid them flat to dry with plastic bags inside them to prevent the fibers from sticking together. Don't be afraid to pull and stretch your project into the look you are aiming for!
Remember that your yarn must be 100% wool or it will not felt completely. Darker colors will felt better than lighter ones. We had excellent results knitting with Mauch Chunky yarn.
It was that easy. It took an afternoon to knit the mitt and an hour to felt it. They work well on hot cookie sheets and we love the way they look!
On a visit to Bend, Oregon, I stopped by Goodwill and picked up a handful of wool and cashmere sweaters to put in my studio inventory. This week, I felted the sweaters for this stuffed animal project that I had seen in Martha Stewart Living last year.
When I looked on Google for instructions on felting sweaters, I didn't find very many helpful posts. So here is everything you need to know about felting a sweater for your projects:
1) I think we all put a borrowed sweater in the washing machine in high school, right? So remember that experience when choosing sweaters to work with. They will shrink significantly during the felting process so make sure you don't get too attached to your project idea until you figure out if you'll have enough wool.
2) In order for a sweater to felt properly, it must be 100% wool. I also love to make soft toys out of cashmere, but cashmere will not felt as tightly as wool.
3) Machine the sweaters (separately, by color) with a small amount of laundry soap and hot water.
4) Machine dry the sweaters on high heat until dry. (Save your beautifully colored dryer lint to make handmade paper another day.) If you can cut the sweater and it doesn't fray, it's felted.
Your felted sweaters can be used to sew mittens, pillows, blankets, tote bags, ipod cozies and much, much more!
The other day I read a post on Erin Wilson's blog about a post on another blog offering advice to photographers interested in shooting humanitarian projects around the world. The original post, "Advice: An Exercise in Presumption (OR: How to Transition to a Life of Gratifying Poverty As A Humanitarian Photographer), was authored by David duChemin.* The article has good advice for any creative, but one item stuck with me:
"Don’t assume that you’re talented just because your friends say so. Everyone has a boat-load of fans that will praise their mediocrity. Don’t seek fans, seek critics. Seek people who will tell you how to be stronger, not people who will stroke your ego. Of course it can take years to develop an eye, but align yourself with some talented people, not necessarily photographers, who will speak the truth in love and either help you get better or point you to another direction."
I couldn't agree more that artists can benefit from an honest critique of work, particularly in highly technical fields like traditional photography and digital media. And, if you want to earn a living as an artist, critique may help you shape your work into more commercially viable product.
But the article also reminded me of Karen, a fellow student of mine in a summer painting class at Georgetown. She was a mature student majoring in psychology, just about to graduate, and had taken the painting class as a treat to herself. We all had a great time, painting on the banks of the Potomac; on top of the dorms overlooking the DC skyline; and at the small, hidden observatory at the top of the hill. Like most of the other students (and me), Karen's work was average in comparison to the two or three brilliant painters we had in the class. But she threw herself into it and I think she had a great time.
On the last day of class, our professor - who had been bored, distracted and invisible for much of the term - wandered in and out of our studio tables and asked each of us what our future "plans" were for art. He told me to stick with it, because I "had ideas". He then went on to Karen and told her, in front of the entire class, to try something else - that she had "no talent." I'll never forget that moment and I'm sure she hasn't either. The perfect example of a poor critic. No direction, no instruction, no real feedback. Criticism that doesn't encompass thoughtful, constructive advice is just displaced punishment meant for someone else. Plain and simple.
I've spent much of my professional life encouraging people from all walks of life to be more creative and attend arts and cultural events. Worked for a foundation that funded programs with exactly those goals. Undertaken research that sought to understand how and why people participate in arts and culture and designed programs that encompassed the accepted best practices of the field. But I would be hard pressed to tell you where you could find agreement on how to measure the artistic quality of the visual arts at any level of professionalism. Even the funding community - not always but often - relies on the aesthetic judgment of one or two individuals who are making decisions influenced through a series of filters. Past experience, board preferences, overwork. Which loops back to another point that duChemin made that is so important:
"First, you don’t need to get paid for your images in order to create great, world-changing stuff. It helps, but it’s not necessary. Thinking so creates a trap and makes your images more about money than about truth and beauty and witnessing to what is and what should be. Money can be a means to an end, but is not the end itself. If it is, you're in the wrong line of work."
* If you have a free moment today, check out the recycled 70's crewel tote bag on Erin's blog - pretty cool stuff.