Monday, June 23, 2008


If you've been following along in this journal, you know that I have developed a recent passion for altering clothes (despite my woeful lack of sewing skills/abilities), or as I like to think of it - my personal contribution to recycling. I have been doing all the sewing by hand, sometimes to things I bought at a thrift store and sometimes to things I actually removed from my own give-away (or throw away) pile. I have also been having trouble with my left shoulder which feels like it is perpetually a little out of joint and makes the faintest of clicking sounds when I move. I have been lucky to have been spared this little inconvenience until now, but I couldn't decide what I was doing to cause it.

Then it hit me! Of course, it's the sewing! (How bad a shape do you have to be in when crafting makes you sore!) I have been self treating it with aspirin and staying away from the sewing and it got immediately better. But with my new found passion, I just had to finish the yellow sweater this weekend. Isn't that pathetic? I just couldn't stay away any longer!
Here's the story on the sweater: I bought it several years ago at the Banana Republic Outlet(which among my friends is better known as the damaged/defective store). You can get some great buys there if you are careful that you do not buy a sweater without arms or a pair of pants with three legs. All BR sweaters were about $6.99 and there is actually a line outside through the parking lot when the doors open at 9:00 a.m. and then a mad dash to try and find items that do not look like they were designed for the freak show at the Carnival. I was lucky enough to find this bright yellow long sleeved cardigan (silk/cotton/Lycra) blend and several other 3/4 length sweaters in various colors (and truth be told, various sizes, I am nothing if not flexible). My haul on that day really made the approximately 200 mile trip worthwhile. I have gotten lots of use out of the sweaters, but the yellow sweater always had sleeves which were too long for my arms and I just dealt with it by pushing them up or cuffing them.

Then earlier this year, I noticed a faint gray mark on the back of the sweater. I tried, but couldn't get it out. Of course, this would occur in a year where yellow is really, really "in." I thought the sweater was headed for the dumpster, when I decided to try "altering it."

I cut off those annoying sleeves to a generous elbow length and the Lycra just made the fabric crawl up and form its own embellishment. I then cut out various flowers from a bright polyester piece of fabric I bought a few weeks ago at Hancocks for $2.99 /yd. I put one little piece of the flowers on the back to cover the offending "spots". Then I sewed on two other pieces on the front and kind of quilted them. They are frayed around the edges, but that just makes them cuter in my opinion. I sewed some vintage buttons into the designs. I did not use anything under the little flowers because it was a very gauzy piece of fabric and you can see the yellow sweater underneath which is fine with me. I think "dyed" a piece of crochet with Magenta Dynaflow for the color. I sewed this very odd citron colored velvet rickrack (yes, Deanne, if you are reading this, I bought the rick rack at Archiver's) and sewed 2 magenta buttons on the outside of each sleeve on top of the rick rack.

I think it made a bright and cheery summer sweater - especially considering that I was going to get rid of it for 2 little spots I have now completely covered. I've included some close ups of the details thought forgive me for posting them in the wrong order.

And - I continued sewing all weekend, even though I am back on an aspirin regimen for the pain. I have a gray sweater dress I have cut off and hemmed (which was a lot of hemming because it was really full and originally went all the way to the floor) and I am working on embellishing it. Then I am going to knock off the sewing (or most of it) for the next t-shirts I am going to embellish with paint and stamps.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


I hope you will not think me foolish or boastful, but I must share this little story with you. Last weekend I bought this new issue of Somerset Memories. I don't always buy this magazine, but I really liked an article on memory boxes by Tammy Kushnir. I had looked at it a few times this week and really enjoyed the articles. While I was thumbing through it again at lunch today, I found this interesting advertisement for one of their other magazines. On page 99:

And here's the surprise! That is my article (the tiny little one next to the tiny little pink cover of the latest edition [published April 2008] of Haute Handbags) next to the page with the pic of my 2 vintage style collage bags. Both those bags are in my banner at the top of my blog and the article is primarily the instructions for how to make your own bags. It kind of freaked me out to see them in this unexpected place. I know it is a small thing, but it was really exciting to me. I wonder how many times I thumbed past them and didn't even notice.I loved so many of the articles and handbags in this edition and I was proud to be among them. And what an unexpected pleasure to see my bags and article used to sell more copies. Thanks, Stampington.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I am always amazed by the kindness of others, especially when I know they have no idea why I feel compelled to alter things. Over a year ago, one of the other totally unrelated offices where I work, came down to see me and said that they were getting rid of some of their office manuals and wondered if there would be anything I could use in my "art." I spied a lot of old green linen three ring binders - faded from sunlight and beat up from use. (In other words, perfect for what I do.) I declared my interest in those and they "retired" about a dozen of those notebooks and sent the retirees my way. I gave a few away to other interested souls and I bought some fabric for one for a nature book I want to make from canvas paper. Otherwise, they just set on my shelf. Last weekend I bought a piece of scrap upholstery fabric I thought was too beautiful to pass up and yesterday I decided to try covering one of the notebooks with it. Above is the result. I also covered the inside (below) with scrapbook papers. Don't know what I'll do with it yet, but I thought it turned out nicely. I glued the fabric with Golden Gel Medium, inelegantly using my fingers to spread it evenly over the notebook. I glued the inside papers with modge podge.

Here's what the original notebook looked like.

Here's what it looked like inside.


Some months ago I signed up to participate in a scrap crow round robin. Each participant makes a crow from scraps and then adds one embellishment and sends the crow on to the next participant who adds one more embellishment and so on until the crow returns home - a new man (crow) so to speak. Each month I receive a new crow belonging to one of the other participants and I add my own flourish and send it on. Each artist may also include a small journal or tag book so that the crow's "flight" can be documented. It is a great concept and a lot of fun, except as luck would have it my crow was "lost" to a participant who dropped out and never sent her on to her next destination. (This is the biggest prob with RR's of all kinds.) I was a little demoralized, although the folks running this event could not have been nicer, and I am just now returning a crow for myself into play. Meet Homer Crow - wantabe crow in silver armour. He is alarmed that no one has heard from his beloved Odeana Raven and he is setting out to look for her. He is fortified by a pic taken just before she left home on her travels and he trying to be optimistic but fears the worst. I made Homer from a piece of muslin painted with black textile paint and stuffed with cotton batting. He can easily be painted on and I have enclosed a few pieces of left over fabric if anyone want to experiment before committing to paint on him. He wears a cloak of mourning I made for him from black tulle. I thought it was somber enough to fit his situation and still resemble feather. I have only sewn the tulle on in one place so you can cast it aside to decorate under it if desired.
Here's a picture of the journal I made to send along with Homer on his journey. There is a pic of his beloved Odeana Raven attached. You can read about her story here.

Here's a page from Homer's journal. There are plenty of blank pages so that each artist who makes improvements to Homer can add her comments.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I've been participating in a fancy scrap crow round robin. It is so much fun when the new crow arrives and I can see what the others have done to embellish it. It's also a really good time to contemplate what I will do to the bird and any accompanying journal before I mail it on to the next participant. Unfortunately, it is sometimes not so much fun to do the actual decorating. I procrastinated in finishing and I am really late with this one. My face is red, but I have vowed to do better. Anyway this bird is now on the wing to the next participant and I wanted to show you how she looked when she left. I put on the fancy smancy print heart with vintage button and decorated her tag book as shown above. The tag book is a really super idea (I made a little journal for mine) because you can paint it, etc and if you make a mistake you can just substitute another tag. I covered the tag with more of the polyester material I am using to embellish an old silk cardigan I'll be showing you soon - so stay tuned.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


From the time I was very young, I had a favorite book: The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell. The actual book belonged to my older sister and had been given to her as a gift. It was kept wrapped in tissue paper in my mother's bureau and was never on the shelf of any bookcase in our many homes. I dearly loved that book and I would beg my mother (or anyone else) to read it to me. It is the story of "The Littlest Angel" who presents himself to the "venerable Gate-Keeper" at the age of "exactly four years, six months, five days, seven hours and forty-two minutes." I have seen many copies of the story through the years, but yesterday at a little thrift store, I found a replica of my sister's copy. It is illustrated by Katherine Evans: copyright, 1946. I bought it for the sum of $1 and it still has the original store price tag: "Millers $1.00" stuck to the inside front cover. Quite a bargain to buy it for the same price it sold for in 1946. This copy of the book is in pristine condition suggesting that maybe this family, too, kept it in a drawer wrapped in tissue paper.

The littlest angel is unhappy to be in heaven, oh, he explains to the "understanding angel" that "Paradise was beautiful. But the Earth was beautiful, too! Wasn't it created by God, Himself? Why, there were trees to climb, and brooks to fish, and caves to play at pirate chief, the swimming hole, and sun, and rain, and dark, and dawn, and thick brown dust, so soft and warm beneath your feet!" The "understanding angel" in order to keep the littlest angel from continuing to get into mischief in Heaven, and from being so homesick, agrees to fetch a small box of "treasures" the Littlest Angel left under his bed back on Earth. After the arrival of the box, everyone in heaven marvels at the great change in the Littlest Angel: he was happy now and his conduct was beyond reproach.

Then it came to pass that Jesus was to be born and all of Heaven began preparing their gifts for the Christ Child. The Littlest Angel was worried about what he could give the child: He dreamed of writing a hymn, but he wasn't musically gifted; he was excited over writing a prayer, but he wasn't literary. On the "Day of Days" the Littlest Angel placed his little box of treasures before the Throne of God. Then when he saw the splendor of the other gifts brought to honor the child, the Littlest Angel was ashamed and even tried to "hide it away from the sight of God before it was even noticed." Too late!

The box contained these gifts to the Child: "a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright summer day on the high hills above Jerusalem, and a sky-blue egg from a bird's nest in the olive tree that stood to shade his mother's kitchen door. Yes, and two white stones, found on a muddy river bank, where he and his friends had played like small brown beavers, and, at the bottom of the box, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap, once worn as a collar by his mongrel dog, who had died as he had lived, in absolute love and infinite devotion."

In the end, of course, God treasures the gift of the Littlest Angel above all the others and the box begins to glow and appears above the stable where a child was being born and it was ever after known as the Star of Bethlehem!"

So, today the Cosmos sent me back another gift from my childhood - very fairly, for the same price as the original. I wanted to say thank you to the universe and I hope you enjoyed the story of the Littlest Angel.


Here's are pics of my finished shoes.

I'm sorry I didn't take a pic of them before I began working on them, but they were originally a pair of tan Keds with a rusty color stain on the toe. I was lucky enough to refurbish these with paints, ink, stamps and ribbons and I already owned from a pair of shoes I was going to throw away! so they are also environmental friendly and it was a lot of fun.

I went back to my fav thrift store yesterday in search of more clothes to alter. I bought an old gray knit jumper and the big black dress with pink roses. Stay tuned to see what I do with them. Hmmm....I think I have a few ideas.

Monday, June 2, 2008


The sew/no sew alterations have been going so well, I decided to try my hand this weekend at altering my Keds which had some kind of rust stain on one of the toes I couldn't get out. I painted the tan Keds black and silver with Jacquard Black textile paint and silver lumiere. It worked just super. I have some more ideas for how to complete the shoes, but I'll save that for later.

Here's a closeup of the birds I stamped on the shoe. I used a clear plastic stamp on my finger instead of on an acrylic block and it was easier to roll the image onto the painted fabric. Then heat set it with a heat gun.
This altering stuff is so much fun I visited 2 thrift stores on Sunday to look for more things to alter!