Monday, July 25, 2011

What I’m Reading

Patron Saint of Liars—Ann Patchett
I think this was probably her first published novel, written when she was still in her 20’s. It’s set in the 60’s, near Owensboro, Kentucky, and is about the people who live and work in a home for pregnant women who will be giving their children up for adoption. Patchett shines in her ability to give life to her characters. Good read.

Cleopatra—Stacy Schiff
This was not an easy book to get into. The author is primarily a historian who takes pains to use sources as close to the original as possible, but there are no sources from Cleopatra's contemporaries so there is a lot of speculation and reference to the variety of sources. I received an overdue notice from the library when I was on page 121. Oh well.

The Thoughtful Dresser--Linda Grant
I read Grant's novel, The Clothes on Their Backs several weeks ago and while it was good, this one is much better. the subtitle of the book is The Art of Adornment, the Pleasures of Shopping, and Why Clothes Matter. Lest you think yourself exempt from the frivolity of fashion and shopping, her multitudes of examples leave very few women out of the equation. Recommend, for women of all ages.

We Had it So Good  Linda Grant
I'm on a Linda Grant kick, in fact, this was the book I heard about that got me started looking for her books. It's a multi-generational novel with good character development and very good writing. It spans the years from the mid 1950's to the present day. When I read the last page, my word for it was depressing. Enough of that, move on. If you want a good Linda Grant book, read The Thoughtful Dresser.

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts--Neil White
This was the book selected for incoming freshmen at Davidson College to read for orientation discussion groups. The author was convicted of bank fraud and sentenced to a minimum security federal prison in Carville, Louisiana. During the time he served, the prison grounds and buildings also housed the last isolated colony of those disfigured by leprosy. The mix of patients, guards, inmates, provides for great reading. It is fascinating, recommend.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Paper Towel Purse

I’m back in the studio making things that have little practical purpose, but having fun in the process. I’ve been making samples for the fabric painting workshop I’ll be doing with teens in a few weeks. When I get out my paints I have a multi-step process to cleaning brushes.

1. Paint off all excess paint onto sheets of paper.  I save the paper sheets for future projects.

2. Squeeze out any remaining paint with paper towels.

3. Swab the brush in a bucket of brush cleaner. I use The Masters brush cleaner. I have been using the same tub for over a year, and I’m generous with it. It looks like it will last another year or two. Again use a paper towel to squeeze out the soap and paint

4. Finally rinse in a bucket or under running water. Very little paint goes down my drain. I’d rather throw paper towels in the landfill than pour wet paint into the water system.

The end result is that I get a lot of painted paper towels. I usually let them dry and throw them out, but one from last night caught my eye. Today, I bonded the paper towel to a piece of fabric using this technique as described in Kelli Nina Perkins book Stitch Alchemy

The towel was a little bare in some places, so I added a few drops of blue ink and let it dry in the sun.  I made a very simple clutch purse, boxed the corners and added a button and ribbon closure with beads. I bought nothing for this project and didn’t take a lot time thinking about what color button, beads, thread, etc.

What will I do with it? Keep it awhile and admire it. It’s only about 4”x5”, so I’m being generous to call it a purse.

paper towel purse

Friday, July 22, 2011

Design on a Nickel

All it took was a project to get me back in the studio again. The young people at our church meet in a room that needs a face lift. One of the easiest and quickest ways is to do this is with pillows. So we’re having a fabric painting workshop. We’re a little short on cash, so we’re not designing on a dime, we’re designing on a nickel.

Here’s the challenge

Teach teens and 20 somethings how to cut, sew, stuff canvas pillows. They will have varying degrees of interest and skills. The desired outcome is to have them make three pillows, two for their meeting space at the church, and one to take home. Some of them may only want to make one pillow, others may want to make as many as time allows.

Fabric—I have unbleached cotton canvas which I have washed to remove the finish that inhibits paint. I’ll pre-cut the pillow tops and backs. They will need to mark seam allowances with rulers and pencils.

Paint—Between my personal stash and the supplies at church we have lots.  I’d like to limit the color palette so the room has a cohesive look.

Design and Application—I want to keep it simple, so we’ll use masking tape freezer paper and foam stamps. I’ll need to have some shapes printed on freezer paper ready to cut out.

Stuffing—Since this is design on a nickel, we will not be using purchased pillow forms or even fiberfill. We will cut up old towels and t-shirts and use that for stuffing. The end product might be a bit lumpy, but we’re using canvas, so I don’t think it will be too noticeable.

Sewing—I have two sewing machines I can bring in for the workshop and after the paint dries, we’ll stitch front and back together, stuff and close. For those who are interested, I’ll show them how they can sew the pillow completely by hand.

here are some samples

masking tape

Masking tape grid

Joy splatter

Stamped letters with splatter paint background


Simple rubber stamp shapes


Star shape embellished with gold paint applied with pencil eraser

stencil J

6” stencils lettering, notice blobs on right side of blue J. Need to figure out some ways to embellish those inevitable mistakes


Freezer paper waves. I think I’ll try adding some text on the white spaces between the stripes, or maybe only on the stripes.


I have some more experimenting to do. I don’t know if it would be too stiff for a pillow, but I’m going to prep some canvas with gesso, and add text with chunky black markers.

This is going to be fun figuring out.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another day in the kitchen

Today Franky and I tried another recipe from the Harry Potter cookbook. It was a recipe for Harry’s first birthday cake, you know, the one baked for him by Hagrid when he was 11 years old.

First we assembled the dry ingredients and prepared to mix

ready for mixing

cakes out of the oven

out of the oven

Mixing up the glaze.  We tried smashing the chocolate squares with a mallet, but simply cutting them with a knife worked better.

breaking up the chocolate

After making the frosting, we chilled it for awhile, then began to frost the cake


frosting second layer

Now the green decorative frosting. We made do with a Ziploc bag instead of a pastry bag and tip. I liked the free form application


Ready to eat!

the cake

I hadn’t made a cake for awhile, but it is so much fun to make one from scratch. This one had a lot of steps, but it turned to look exactly like a cake Hagrid would have baked.

Fun Day!