Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spider Stain Removal: The Little Miss Muffet Dress

The Miss Muffet Dress

Another score from the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale: a diminutive little cotton lawn dress with a host of problems. The collar and sleeves were unfinished and fraying, the back closure had never been added, and the sleeve openings were too small for the almost-three-year old I wanted to give this to. Otherwise the garment was cunningly stitched, clearly homemade, with hand-sewn embroidery at the collar. Why did the creator abandon this project part way through? Closer inspection revealed the answer: stains on the upper left back. I've used many stain-obscuring techniques in the past from Mend Writing to Spirals. I have never, however, used spiders.

Spiders concealing stains

It turns out that once you start stitching spiders it's hard to stop.

Spider concealing nothing

more spiders...

and more spiders...

and more spiders...

Finally I had 12 spiders on what turned out to be a Little Miss Muffet Dress (poem follows). In the process I hemmed the collar and sleeves after creating a wider opening for the sleeves and added a back snap.

Miss Muffet front

Miss Muffet back

And a reminder of the words to the classic children's poem that is over 200 years old, dating back to 1804:

Little Miss Muffet
sat on a tuffet
eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
that sat down beside her
and frightened Miss Muffet away.

One can only imagine how this poem will be played out when the dress is worn by a three-year-old.

ta da

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Notions Pin: Survival Jewelry Line

The notions pin

I haven't created an assemblage pin in quite a while, though I used to show them in a couple of galleries when I was really cranking them out. Quite frankly my junk supply is running thin, so when I had the chance to hit the last hour of the Oakland Museum White Elephant Sale and take advantage of the "everything you can stuff in a large paper bag for $5" deal in the sewing department at the end of the sale I jumped on it. My bag contained wonders untold, including the following little items from some notions bins:

This pin practically made itself, and sort of fits into the survival clothing/jewelry lines found elsewhere on this blog since the little ivory bakelite thingy (I actually have no idea what this object is) has a lot of red thread on it, which I decided to leave in place as part of the piece, so the pin wearer is armed for any sudden sewing emergencies.  I also have no idea what the metal pieces were originally, but I like their irregular, battered quality.

A few scraps of metal chain, a couple of jump rings, and an old pin backing, and the job was done.

Gluing on the pin backing

If you know what the white thing was originally used for, let me know.

And the story evolves... Apparently this is actually an emergency lace-making pin. Blog reader lewmew informs me this is a tatting shuttle, which I googled to learn about tatting. The following image from Gutenberg strikes my fancy.

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Angry Mouse Club

Another upcycle in the Angry Mice series, and this time around there's a template so that you, too, can join the Angry Mouse Club. Yes folks, what started as an accident (see the first Angry Mice piece) has turned into a movement, and surely you are angry enough about something or other to want to join up.

Angry Mouse Club sweater

In this rendition Angry Mouse has gone upscale with a red cashmere sweater scored at my friendly neighborhood thrift store. Once home I discovered a tiny hole on the front of the sweater.

At about this time, I heard about the cashmere scandal coming out of China with the report that a number of Chinese factories were using rat hair instead of cashmere in their "cashmere" exports (see BBC News story). Upon inspection I discovered that the source of the thrift store sweater was indeed China. I'd say wearing a sweater you thought was cashmere that turns out to be rat hair is something to get angry about. I decided to cover the hole with another Angry Mouse. As a follow-up I decided to create the template and how-to instructions below so that others could join the Angry Mouse Club movement.

Template with complete how-to instructions

To join the Angry Mouse Club just download the template above to your computer and resize it to whatever size mouse head you want. The only materials you'll need are a few pieces of felt, a little embroidery floss, and a needle and thread, as well as a used piece of clothing that will be markedly improved with the addition of the Angry Mouse Club logo.

Angry Mouse created from felt

Stitched onto sweater

On this piece I just used the head and not the "angry mice" stitched words you see on the original Angry Mice piece. What you do is up to you. There is a lot of creative leeway in the Angry Mouse Club.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Suspended Disbelief: Fun with Antimicrobials

Guaranteed to turn heads at the airport

In the midst of an al fresco tamale festival in San Cristobal, my friend Roger eyed my little bottle of hand sanitizer sitting on the table (judiciously applied before putting hands to mouth, tamales, or anything else) and said, "I wonder if you could float stuff inside of that."

A little bottle with endless possibilities.

The rest is history. If you, like me, carry hand sanitizer when you travel and tuck a bottle into your pocket or shoulder bag on a daily basis at home, particularly during flu season, then you may be in for some big fun. Hand sanitizer turns out to have amazing abilities when it comes to suspending light plastic objects. The only limit to creativity is size: the objects have to be small enough to fit, fold, squeeze or jam through the neck of the bottle (see the amazing hand-in-a-bottle below). Here are some early hand sanitizer assemblages.

In microbial utero

An ambiguous short story in a bottle involving a baby, scissors, and a coffee cup

Hand sanitizer

Blue boy in a swirl of fortune-telling charms

Pacific Gyre Happy Clams revisited (click link to see original concept)


The human element: Pacific Gyre Happy Clams 2

How-To Tips:

For the most amazing aspect of this phenomenon (the suspension) you needn't do anything at all. Whatever formula they've come up with for that 98% alcohol gel works miraculously well at suspending light objects and holding them aloft and in place indefinitely. Nudge the items with a toothpick or slender chopstick to arrange items within the gel to your liking. I even created a little hook with a long handle simply by twisting a piece of light wire to give me even more maneuverability.

The big challenge: getting the sticky label glue off of the bottle. Here is a dead-easy method.

Step One: peel front and back labels off of bottle

Step Two: Use paper towel to apply olive oil all over front and back of bottle. Let rest for about an hour.

Bottles being prepped

Step Three: After bottles have rested for about an hour, first rub them with a little more olive oil in a circular motion, then wash them free of olive oil with soap and water.

NOTE: Purchase a large, counter-size bottle of hand sanitizer and use to refill your little pocket-size assemblages whenever necessary. Your only challenge will be deciding which bottle to bring along to baffle airport security. Also consider whipping a bottle out, cleaning your hands, and casually setting it out on a conference table during an otherwise boring meeting.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Stitching Leaves in the Lacandon Jungle

During a recent visit to Chiapas in Mexico, I stayed for a while at a cabin in the Lacanja River Camp, run by an indigenous Lacandon family in the Lacandon Jungle.  This is the same family that originally discovered the Mayan ruins of Bonampak and served as guides and the primary source for information on the Lacandones people for archeologist Frans Blom.

Lacandon man in Lacanja Chansayab, Selva Lacandona (www.luxuriousmexico.com)

With little to do but hike through the jungle, talk to the family about their encounters with early explorers, or watch the river roll by from my front porch, I unpacked my sewing kit and started searching for broad, pliable leaves. This is the result. Materials used: two leaves, 1 small fern sprig, needle and thread.

Leaf shoe, fern buckle.

The sole.
Once the shoe was completed I derived considerable entertainment in staging it in various locales in the jungle.

Leaf shoe on a leaf.

On a tree root

On a fern.

On a log.

When a member of the family came along through the forest and was curious about what I was doing, I handed him the shoe to look at. He held it in his palm and was extremely puzzled, but then said thank you and walked away with it. The moral of this story? If you have a needle and thread you need never be bored.

The end.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hoarding Wishes: A Tale of Oceans, Immigrants, and Dandelions

Bottled wishes

In the Western world we wish on stars, we wish on dandelions, and in my family we wish on bales of hay. Years ago I met a man who wished on the ocean and has regretted it ever since. An immigrant from Vietnam, he made his wish on the ocean when he was one of the boat people fleeing Vietnam. He wished he could go to America. At a refugee camp in Thailand he told immigration authorities that's where he wanted to go. Once he was in America for a couple of years he realized he'd made a terrible mistake and should have wished for Australia. "But," he said with a sigh, "you only get one wish on the ocean."

Too bad for him, but great news for me. I'd never heard of wishing on the ocean, which means I had a brand new wishing technique at my disposal. However, since you only get one wish on the ocean I keep waiting until I can figure out something really good to wish for. After years of flinging my wishes to the stars and the wind and bales of hay, I have become a wish hoarder. 

These little bottles filled with dandelion wishes can be used in a couple of ways. You may save the dandelion wishes until something wish-worthy comes up, decant the bottle, shake out the wishes, and blow them away to be fulfilled. Or ... you can fling the wish bottle into the ocean when and if you are finally ready to make your one and only wish on the ocean. There's no real connection between dandelion wishes and ocean wishes, but it seems like it would produce a double-whammy. I also like the vague message-in-a-bottle connection (in fact you could record your wish on a tiny scroll and insert it in the bottle), and the idea that someone somewhere may come across this little bottle full of wishes washed up on the shore.

Step one: carefully pick dandelion

Step two: store dandelion in an artful ad hoc assemblage during prepping

Step four: assemble tiny vintage perfume bottles

Use tweezers and toothpick to insert wishes into bottles

Bottle one

Bottle two

Bottle three

The complete wish collection

Postscript: A little more about wishes

Wishing on a star: Origins date back to worship of Venus in ancient Rome. Venus is the first bright star that appears at sunset ("Starlight, starbright, first star I see tonight...).

Wishing as You Blow on a Dandelion: Dandelions were known to ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. They were probably brought to America on the Mayflower. They have been used for divination (blow, and the number of seeds remaining tell you how many years until you'll be married or how many children you'll have). Wishing techniques vary. The one I grew up with is to wish and then blow, and whoever catches the seed someplace far away will grant your wish. An alternate method dictates that it is catching a blown seed that grants you a wish. The nicest origin story for this wishing technique is that the dandelion seeds are really fairies or sylphs and they grant you a wish for freeing them to fly away.

Wishing on a Bale of Hay: I grew up with this tradition and assumed it was widely shared until my sisters and I discovered that no one else in the world makes a wish when they spot a bale of hay ("Bale of hay - make a wish!') We now suspect my grandfather made this up. I still make a wish every time I see a bale of hay.

Wishing on the Ocean: Other than the old Vietnamese man I encountered on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, I have never heard or been able to track down any other account of this belief regarding one wish on the ocean.

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