Pumpkin Barn Quilt…Voila!

Fall Pumpkin Barn Quilt

Fall Pumpkin Barn Quilt

While it didn’t take as long as I thought, I learned much from working through this project.  Number One:  Painting BIG is difficult.  Aside from my short arms (which go with my 5’1” height) 42” X 42” is just a big painting.  I see big paintings on restaurant walls and wonder who might own enough interior wall space to hang such a thing.  But now I have more respect for those who can handle such projects as well as those who buy them.

This project was about 6 days work, if only a few hours a day.  Drying time is annoying but necessary.  One tip I learned for those who paint these on a flat surface: put two large PVC  pipes under the board so you can roll it both toward and away from you.  Bringing it closer gives you access from the side to paint more easily in the middle.  Also, turpentine (very stinky) on your brush thins the oil paint enough for some shading.  I was not happy with the starkness of the pumpkin.  Even at a distance (the “300 foot rule” taught in the barn quilt class) this was too linear and bright.  It needed some softening and depth.  I even thought of painting in some stitching (little lines “in the ditch”) to tone it down, and may do this later after I’ve framed it.  (I’m thinking orange for the frame.)

Anyhow….I’m still on board (pun intended) with these and today I’ll buy my wood for next week’s winter barn quilt.  Because these take up so much space in my studio, I’m going to knock all the seasons out at once, clean up and move on to the next obsession.

 

Posted in Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Barn Quilts Aren’t Just for Barns

A few weeks ago my friend Robin and I took a class on painting barn quilts.  It was just for fun; something to do on a hot summer day.  But in fact, it turned out to be more than fun.  Since I made my small Ohio Star barn quilt in the class, I’ve spent some time learning about where these came from and why.  Also, they’ve become somewhat trendy; a way for farmers or even simple homeowners such as myself to show off their talents and interests.  Barn quilts don’t have to ward off bad luck, or enhance prosperity or fertility as they once did, but rather they can be simply ornamental.  Twenty-six states now have barn quilt trails and maps.  I actually saw my first one in NC on the way to Mt. Airy this weekend (which should be another post because that was incredibly fun too.)

So I just finished my first large (42″ X 42″) barn quilt.  Robin painted this same stylized American flag and I instantly regretted painting the Ohio Star.  But now I’m glad because the one we did in class was too small for my large shed.  I’m happy to have this big one!

In retrospect, no one “needs” a class.  Sanding the board smooth and taping off areas you’re not currently painting are pretty simple.  I chose to use oil based paint instead of an acrylic.  It dries quickly with a fan, and the colors are deeper and more true.  I bought red, yellow, blue, black and white, and have been mixing my own custom colors.  Oil paint will last longer in the sun, if that’s where you plan to put it.  My flag has a different configuration of red and white stripes than the original, which I am happy with because now it’s unique.  (That’s what I always say when I make a mistake….it’s “unique.”)

So I’ve decided to make three more…actually four more.  One for each season of the year, and these will go on the front of my house instead of on the shed.  Installation is easy by just putting up two by fours with a level and then screwing the quilt onto them.  Using screws will make it easy to change them out with the seasons.

I’m working on this fall’s pumpkin with vines on a checkered “quilted” background (preview at left). Wish me luck, and by all means, give this a try.  It’s fun!

TIPS:  Save some small glass jars (I used Cracker Barrel blueberry syrup jars) to store your custom colors for touchup.  Also, use small jelly jars to hold some black and white so you’re not opening up the big cans all the time.  This will make your paint last longer and stay cleaner.  Use small rollers from the dollar store (2 for $1) for the larger areas, and foam one-inch brushes for the smaller ones.  I wrap my brushes and rollers with plastic wrap between coats and reuse them several times.  The blue painters tape is essential, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.  I found that the sooner I removed the tape, the cleaner the line.  Once the paint is tacky, remove the tape.  Do not let it sit overnight.  Remember to prime your wood with Zinsser.

Posted in Painting, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Punch Needle and a Very Big Frame (or A Solution to Punching a Large Rug)

An old table turned rug frame.

Not everyone knows that you can “punch” a rug.  Many punch needle enthusiasts have not looked beyond the  5” x 6,” or thereabouts, patterns for small decorative projects.  I sell them on my Etsy site (PLEASE VISIT), and none are larger than a two-slice toaster.

But you can punch a rug.  A big rug.  And it’s just as easy as punching something small; maybe easier.  I use frames for punching my small designs, so I’m not really traveling with my projects. I have a set up in my studio next to my computer and surrounded by my kitties. I listen to Ted Talks and music.  I value the time of just sitting and zen punching my current design.

But I needed a solution to framing a rug for punching.  I went “yardsaling” with a purpose a few years ago.  I was looking for a table with a large lip and a removable tabletop, which was easily found and incredibly cheap given that the condition of the top was not an issue. I threw that out.  It was the lip and the rock solid legs that were important.  Once the top was tossed I tacked carpet strips onto the rim of the lip.  These are thin strips of wood with sharp tiny nails protruding through at a slant.  This holds the carpet, or in this case, the fabric drum tight.  I have to use a protective pad on top of the rim so I don’t scratch myself. But once these were nailed on, I had myself a gigantic rug frame.

Closeup of rug tacking strips and kitty screen.

I put the table on wheels so I could move it to the window across the room when I knew it would snow or the hummingbirds were back.  It’s also nice to have my big window open so that it’s almost like rug punching outside.

You don’t have to waste monks cloth by covering the entire table for a smaller than table-sized project.  For one dollar, Goodwill will sell you a top bed sheet. Place your ready-to-punch rug pattern-on-monks cloth onto the middle of the sheet and machine sew it into place along the edges of the monks cloth.  Then sew it again to assure it will hold tight.  Then cut away to expose the pattern, leaving the sheet to bind to the carpet strips and hold everything tight.  It’s just like enlarging the rug size.  When you’re finished punching the rug you can fold that sheet back onto the underside of the rug for even more protection when finishing it off. Nothing will go to waste.  I use Amy Oxford punch needles.  I have the entire set, and I am in love with these. Check out her site.  You can see two of my rugs in her “Gallery.”

This large window is handy for several reasons, but I love to roll the frame over here, open the window, and watch the hummingbirds.

Hope this whets your whistle on punching a rug.  In my next post I will give you a very easy way to enlarge your small punch needle pattern into a rug size of your choice.

Please visit my Etsy site for smaller patterns, and subscribe to this blog for more tips and thoughts on punch needle.

ps:  That blue and white striped sheet under the frame is to keep the kitties from pulling on the rug loops and tails, once their favorite activity.

 

Posted in Needle Punch, Needlework, Punch Needle, Punch Needle Threader, Rug Hooking, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Hold a Punch Needle Tool

CLICK PHOTO
FOR PATTERN

Since I have now been asked this question twice, this would be a good place to start with my “advice” column for punch needle. Just so everyone remembers:  I didn’t invent this craft, and I am no expert.

I’ve seen dozens of videos and read numerous posts showing the user holding the punch needle tool straight up.  “Always punch away from the thread, and never turn the tool, but rather turn the hoop.”  I agree with half of this.

I punch sideways now, though I did start the learning process doing my level best to mimic the instructions exactly, coming in at a 90 degree angle.  But the more I punched, the lazier I got, and in the process realized that bringing the tool in at a 45 degree angle, almost exactly how you might hold a pencil, gave me an easier punch. Furthermore, I don’t have my lumen (that’s the hole in the needle where the thread comes out of the handle before it goes into the next hole) facing up, but rather I have it facing me. This means I am punching sideways, with the thread always on the other, away, side of the needle.  I can move this from left to right, and then come back from right to left, if I wanted.  I usually like to swirl my way around the pattern.  And while I have not done the math with the amount of thread I’m using by doing it this way, my stitches are smoother but there is definitely more thread in the back.

Also, I make an attempt to punch AWAY from an adjacent stitch so as not to catch it.  This normally works.  The greatest aggravation in punch needle is hooking an adjacent thread in such a way that you push it out of alignment and you wind up with a orphaned long loop.  You can feel this happening.  It’s a sinking feeling, and I used to have the tendency to ignore these until the end.  I have mentioned that I don’t like simply cutting them topside, and the reason for this will be made known in another post, but I have learned that if I stop immediately, turn the frame over and see the origin of the long loop, I can tell exactly where it is on the back and pull it back into correct position.  If there is a long loop, there is a short one next to it.  I fix them BOTH right then and there, and then continue to punch.

I have recently mastered FaceTime to speak with my surrogate son’s children in England. I love it.  But even more impressively, I am emboldened to try to make a video of my own and demonstrate my techniques for punch needle.  That’s on my list for 2018.

That lobster pattern above is available in my Etsy Shop.  Just click on the photo to see it.

Posted in Needle Punch, Punch Needle, Rug Hooking, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Punch Needle Focus

My byline for my weekly crafting column in The Stafford Sun during the ’90’s.

On December 3, 2010 I started this blog with “Whimseytopia:  Ready For Prime Time.”  That seems like eons ago, and yet it also feels like yesterday every time I pull up a fresh page upon which to leave my tidbits of unsolicited wisdom.

Much of the time I didn’t say what I actually wanted to.  I kept to my own good advice about keeping blogs politically neutral, and making every attempt not to offend anyone.  Often that made for a very dull post, and other times I think it was a savvy move during some of the more fractious moments of the past decade.

However, the one thing my readers could count on was that they could not count on what I was about to say.  There’s never been a rhyme or reason to my posts.  No continuity lasting more than a few months.  The reason for this is that my posts followed my crafting or my latest passion, and there’s never been any continuity to that either.

But now having put up my Etsy shop, and embarking on the gargantuan task of writing a punch needle book (did I mention that yet?), I’ve decided to stick with this punch needle genre, or at least try to, by promising a weekly tutorial on something I have learned about the craft that might help others.  I’m not a genius at this, but over the years I’ve punched my way out of enough punch needle predicaments, to have a few posts of wisdom to share.

So I’m about to cull some of 363 previous posts into something more manageable.  Unlike saving every copy of “Pastimes,” a weekly craft column I wrote in The Stafford Sun in Virginia for a couple of years in the 90’s, I won’t be saving hard copies of these Whimseytopia posts, but instead putting them to bed, which I’m assuming  is “draft” on WordPress.  That’s just in case I want to resurrect them someday.

I hope you’ll come back and benefit from my reviews, tips, solutions, and even some inventions I’ve accumulated over these many years.  They have helped me make my punch needle(ing) faster and more enjoyable.  I hope they will help you too.

Posted in A Day In My Life, Needlework, Punch Needle, Punch Needle Threader, Rug Hooking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Punch Needle Prospects Revisited

Running Rabbit Recipe Box

On January 15, 2012 I wrote a post entitled Punch Needle Prospects. Moments ago, on the auspicious occasion of opening my new Etsy Shop Whimseytopia, I, inexplicably, went back and read what I’d written so long ago.  Really?

That I am still a “glutton for punishment” is obvious, but this should be a day of celebration for me.  For the first time in several months I have not run down the basement steps in my bare feet and pajamas to work like a freaking fool until light-headedness from starvation brought me back upstairs to eat, shower, and check my emails.  Then I’d head back down and work until I’d realize even the cats were asleep for their long night’s nap.  I looked in the mirror this morning and can swear I look 10 years older.  Definitely paler.  Basement life will do that to you.

I can barely hold a thought in my head other than those surrounding my patterns:  Are they good enough?  Will anyone buy them?  What if I’ve made an error – a glaring error – an error so glaring that anyone who finds it will think I’m …….stupid!  Then I turned on the morning news and breathed a sign of relief.

So, after reviewing my zeros on my stats page, and finding the majority of my products dead last in virtually every category they appear, I started thinking about how some people read the last page of a book before they start it.  I guess the rationale there is in case they die before they finish it, they will at least die knowing the ending.  So I am going to operate on the principle that there MUST be people who punch needle AND are those people who like to start things at the very end.  And there I’ll be….waiting for them.

 

Posted in A Day In My Life, Needlework, Punch Needle, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Punch Needle Project: 27 Days to Go

Whimseytopia traffic has dramatically increased since I published my announcement about my new Etsy site.  I’m surprised and thrilled that there’s interest in this art form and my patterns.

I have high hopes.

But the best part is that I am in my element designing these patterns.  While I’ve been punching for over five years, I have not had a way to share my work other than place it on WordPress.  Now I may, or may not, get the validation I so crave (and maybe a little cash!)   For me, building an Etsy site was like building the Lunar Lander.  I started this project thinking I was pretty tech savvy.  Surprise.  I’m not.  And learning the postal system and starting PayPal, opening a bank account, and dedicating a credit card for the site were all more time consuming and complex than I expected.  Tax forms and pricing, and the thought of the future math and filings are daunting.  Editing and uploading photos weren’t the most difficult tasks, but getting supplies, fabrics for stamping; ordering stamps for each pattern, shipping materials and labels didn’t quite fly off my to-do list.  It’s all been an enormous task, but I am on track for the February 1st launch. I’m posting three of the ten patterns here, just to give you an idea of where this is headed.  All my designs are original, and once my site is open, future patterns will be seasonal and monthly.

There are many just like me entering into a foray of selling needlework patterns on the Internet.  There are dozens and dozens just on Etsy alone.  But I hope the Whimseytopia name and the thousands of previous visits to my “textile art” pages will help me.  Only time will tell.

To my friends who thought I dropped off the face of the earth, this is why.  I’ve been reading you daily, if not commenting, and to many of you, know that you are the “Joneses” I’m trying to keep up with.

Happy New Year everyone.

 

Posted in Needle Punch, Needlework, Punch Needle, Punch Needle Threader, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Happy Endings

On the heels of two very bad days of broken phones, lost credit cards, and a litany of other mishaps that I will spare you the details, life handed me a little miracle.

When I opened my back door this morning a cute but clearly exhausted dog was sitting on the step, looking like that RCA dog, only peering into my kitchen instead of a Victrola.  He wasn’t bouncing around, but rather waiting, like waiting for me to do something about his predicament.  Clearly he was lost and tired of trying to make his way back home.

This was not my first animal encounter in my little town, and frankly there could have been many more because I see a lot of loose dogs around here.  Being a city girl, free-range dogs are an unusual sight.  Here, well let’s just say that things are a big more laid back.

So I called animal control and here’s where the miracle happens.  Someone had JUST called about their missing dog; a dog who, last night, extricated himself from his collar and zapper and was off for his Jack London adventure.  But after a night on the town, he spent the last few hours in my screened porch reevaluating his decision and waiting for his family to arrive.

Reunions of lost dogs and their owners are definitely Hallmark moments.  Getting my phone service fixed would be another one.

ANOTHER LOST DOG STORY

NOT-QUITE-DEAD-YET CAT STORY

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Christmas Jewelry Pendant Project

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Copper can be either rough and tumble, bright and flashy, or both at once.  That’s what I went for in this piece…both.

I chose as many metals as I had could find laying around. Most of the beads are recycled from old junk jewelry.  Stark contrast between the shiny and dull was my goal.  I took my inspiration and the instructions from Mary’s book Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet.  If you’re interested in this art form, you need this book!

Fun to make.  Fun to share.  Merry Christmas!

 

Posted in Jewelry, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Annealing Copper

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The copper I use is 24 gauge, and it is not-quite-dead-yet soft.  Hobby Lobby sells metal in their model kit department.  With a coupon it is reasonable, and you can get nice rods, planks, and sheets in both copper and brass.  None of it, to my knowledge, is coated.  I’m still looking for bronze, but coloring metal with heat or paint and metal stain is an alternative to buying metals just for their appearance.

I use a Bernzomatic Self-Igniting Propane Torch.  With a little practice, the fear will dissipate and you’ll eventually get comfortable about leaving it in the house overnight.  Go for the clearly visible “V” in the flame for the hottest area, and you’ll be drawing beads on your wire in no time.  Annealing (heating) makes the metal softer and more pliable if you cool it quickly by dropping it in water after getting that glow.  It can be hardened by hammering and then annealed again. With copper, the more you go back and forth from soft to hard to soft, the redder it gets.  I haven’t gotten to the point where the metal snaps, but just the residue in my brain from high school science class tells me that there must be a point that the metal can’t take the strain.

I went for something lighter and brighter with this piece.  I soaked it in gel flux before annealing it after it was completed, and hardened it with a rubber hammer.  It’s super shiny and fun.

Posted in Jewelry, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments