Wednesday, December 28, 2005

And the Beat Goes On

Hope everyone's holidays were happy and that the New Year will bring good health and happiness to everyone.

Sometimes the holidays just get in the way. Don't get me wrong, I love the feeling of good cheer that tends to accompany the times. It is just that there are so many little things that make life more difficult. For example, the 6 christmas gifts that didn't arrive before we left for the holiday visit. Then there were the package of spangles that didn't arrive in time for me to deliver The Project to the dressmaker before we left. Fortunately everything arrived while we were gone and so I am frantically sewing to get the project done.

Went to Disneyland for 3 days with friends. Managed to leave late, but arrived in time to check in and get some sleep before getting to the park at opening. The crowds were huge, but that first hour (8 am) you can get on most of the rides you want. Did park things for a couple hours. Ate a late breakfast. Then more park stuff like exhibits that don't have the long lines of kids with parents. Went back to the hotel for a couple hours rest then back to the park for dinner and the evening. Did Downtown Disney - shops and restraurants that don't require tickets. Did California Adventure - it lacks the depth, but then the husband reminded me that Disneyland is 50 years old and there have been lots of time to build the depth. It does have the Electric Light Parade, or at least a version of one.

The neat part about going at Xmas is that Disney does Xmas big! Small World is decorated with holiday themes from around the world and holiday music is intertwined with "It's A Small World". Also they use the front of the building as a backdrop for a fun lightshow after the "15 minutes" clock show. Haunted Mansion becomes The Nightmare Before Christmas. Each area is decorated with garlands and wreaths that reflect that area. Even the Golden Gate Bridge is decorated with gold garlands and wreaths. Then to top it off it snows in certain areas of the park at the end of the fireworks display.

The food was pretty good, if you were willing to hunt for it and pay the prices. The River Belle serves a decent breakfast. The Main St. General Store coffee includes all day refills. The Blue Bayou serves LARGE portions and reasonable quality meats. Catal was very good in Downtown Disney - I'd go back just for the Appetizers. We treated ourselves to a fancy dinner at The Vineyard. It was a 4 course dinner with wine pairings. We hadn't had the time or health to go out and celebrate the husbands big install in Nov so this was it. Dinner took about 2+ hours and then had a perfect view of the Electric Light Parade. A very nice way to end the Disney portion.

Hope to do a photo page off the personal website, but that will have to wait until after 12th Night. Saw the family, but the trip home was cut short as the husband was coming down with a nasty cold. The presents were well received and we were well "presented" in return.

With the weather, the lighting on the California foothills, on the ride home, really reminded me of the Sharon B's blog - In a Minute Ago. She was commenting on the need for artists to have a sort of reference design folder. You put in this folder things that call to you from any source - magazines, photos, etc. Linn Skinner has also commented that you find design sources everywhere you look. You just need to look with that "artist's eye".

Now back to spangles and pearls. Need to find an upbeat film to sew to today. Hm....

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Design Talk

Being sick puts a crimp on everything. The brain does want to work right. The fingers aren't as deft as usual. Food doesn't taste good. Grump! But it really puts a crimp in designing. Hard to make the creative juices flow when the rest of the brain is out of sync.

When I started "THE PROJECT" I had a design in mind. I don't draw, but had mentally sketched the piece out. Developed templates for the felt bases. Grabbed all the coral and pearl beads in related sizes and colorations I could find. Then went looking for my bead trays to try laying stuff out in patterns.

Awhile back I took a class from Joyce Lukomski on beading. As a bonus she gave us a bead tray which has stickie bits on it. It is primarily to hold small beads in place when you are traveling so you can work in odd places - hotels, coffee shops, airports... But I've found another use for it -- designing. It holds my beads in place so that I can layout some of the designs - anything 3"x3" or less. Then I can transfer the design - bead for bead to the fabric.

While this helps lots, it still doesn't always account for how something will look once it is on the fabric. I hate frogging, but at least with beads you can clip the threads. Finally have a design I like for the leaves and the rose. A lot has to do with perspective. If you plan on viewing the piece close or from across the room. In this case, it needs to meet both needs. Also, mass, seems to make a difference. Yes you can get the feel with shading the beads, but you lose the feel when you get a couple feet away. Sigh. It is also interesting that the pearls I thought would work best are actually being the ones least used. They looked good in mass, but are almost too good quality to convey the design. I've had to work down a level and use the best pearls as accents.

Adding another layer of complexity is the felt padding. I've been working on layering parts of the felt to get even more perspective. For example, you look down into the center of a rose or the center vein of a leaf.

The project is being done with beads and spangles ranging from 2 - 5 mm. It is interesting looking at the portraits. You begin to get a scale when you can see things like 5 pearls along the edge of a collar which is approximately 1 - 1.5" high. The leaves range across half the arm, but only have around 20 pearls from tip to tip.

All in all very challenging to make happen. Now if only my shipment from Benton and Johnson will arrive with the several thousand spangles. I've already had Joady at Hedgehog Handiworks send me around 700 real gold ones and I had 1000 gold colored ones from a prior shipment - fortunately.

Back to stitching. But wait my column is due is 2 weeks, and and and.... Guess no home baked goodies this year.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Thread Control and Bead Control

Been spending lots of time on my beading project. Actually it is pearls and coral bits on velvet. Some of the designs are on felt, either single layer or padded. Either way, when you are placing beads down into a design, if placement is an issue, you want them to stay. Well at least the control freak in me wants them to stay put.

Over the years I've taken lots of classes that talked about using the "cross stitch" to hold beads in place or other methods. I heard lots of horror stories about working on velvet. I've heard lots of theories about working with different threads or needles. After hearing all this I have been putting off this particular project for some time time and was approaching it with lots of trepidation.

In short, I'm finding that the real key is tension. I placed the muslin on the frame. I sewed the velvet to the muslin. Then I outlined the sewing lines for the sleeve and collar pieces in a bright colored thread. Next was placing the felt bits on the areas that needed to be built up. Then came the beading. I am using the thread doubled at all times for the main work. For the larger beads I am using a linen thread so the hole is relatively full. For the smaller beads and pearls I am using silk.

If the beads need to be done in a smooth row, they are first threaded on a strand. Then they are attached with a back stitch and couching. I sometimes go through 2 or 3 pearls then pick up the last pearl for the next 3. Periodically I will do a couching stitch to keep the "strand" in place. If the pearls or beads need to be done in a more random formation, I approach it like you would chipwork. By keeping the threads coming from different angles, I can keep a good tension going to hold the beads down. If I need to do a more "fan" formation, I may do one side, then the opposite side, then return to the original side - and so on. This allows me to have tension and place the beads closely without having the thread cut through. Using these techniques the beads are staying in place and it doesn't matter whether I am working on the velvet, single felt or padded felt.

The beading is done on the collar and about half done on the sleeve. Next come the spangles. Probably about 1000 of them. Haven't counted the coral or pearls, but there will be easily a couple thousand by the time I'm through. I'm doing some shading with the coral. Don't know if it is period, but the result is fantastic if I do say so myself. Yes I'll post pictures, but not until I'm done.

Just had to share! Now back to the beading.

PS Now I need to go buy some more movies. Of course watching 3 different versions of Pride and Prejudice back to back was interesting. And Emma. And Sense and Sensibility. And...