Last week, I posted about my new tiny obsessions–how they started out as simple fun and have evolved into a frantic therapy of sorts…a calming way to deal with the chaos around me.And they’ve been extremely therapeutic. I may not be able to control what’s going on, but I can do my best to control this tiny space…
(I’ve been protecting myself from custom orders–I’m just enjoying doing whatever suits my fancy, and it feels good. But as it’s the process more than the end result, I thought I’d gather whatever I have available and release them in a shop drop on April 2nd. So keep an eye out in my Etsy shop for that!)As I’ve had a wicked case o’ the ‘broideries lately, it’d be fairly unusual for the kid not to have noticed. So she asked me the other day, “hey mom, can I try?”
I had tried to teach her basic hand sewing before, but it didn’t hold her interest. And yet now, she was asking to join in on her own, because of my interest.
I started by letting her sketch something small with pens (a tiny drawing of Finn and Jake and Fiona and Cake from Adventure Time), and then she added some stitching to embellish it.It held her attention…and it ended up lovely! Sure, she made a few mistakes. Sure, I had to stop and help her a lot, despite being mentally tangled in my own work. And sure, she sometimes stitched over instead of under, meaning I had to completely undo and rethread her needle. But the look of pride when she’d finished? So worth it.She started a second piece, of Fern and Finn from Adventure Time…I didn’t give her a plastic kid’s safety needle, she’s learning on the real one. She’s using the same fabric I’d use, and the same hoops. Although I didn’t have very many of the nice tiny hoops to frame them in (as they were ordered from Dandelyne online), and although I hoard them greedily for myself, I went ahead and sacrificed a couple for her to use.
Most often, I have to be the “authority figure.” I’m MOM. I have distractions, I have things to do, worries to worry. In short, I’m busy. The time I take to craft and make art is like fuel to me–I have to fill it up to be able to do the day to day things I need to do. And a little crafting goes a long way.But giving her the respect I’d give any other artist is fundamental. Taking a few moments to really share with her the things I love to do makes her feel important. It makes her feel included.
And it makes her proud.A few days later, she made me a special mockingbird with my name on it. She was focused and careful and took her time. Maybe it’s not something she’d take further, but I think the fact that I didn’t just dismiss her helps build her confidence, and let’s her know she’s capable of doing a great many things.
I remember being a kid, interested in something a grownup was doing, and being sort of dismissed and told to go play. I remember getting the feeling that, “well that must be something I’m not capable of doing, I guess,” and even in adulthood I’d hesitate to try. But I’d like Myla to be able to try things and decide that for herself. A few days later, her Papa–while busy with his own projects–gave her some scraps of wood and a real hammer and nails, a little bit of instruction, and let her create. That’s all it takes!She ended the day happily singing me a little song: ” I, I, I love that you love to do the things I love to doooo…”
So give them the good supplies! Let them try the real things! Show them how, and see where they take it. It only takes a little time and attention…
Sometimes I go through phases, where I furiously draw….or sculpt…or sew. But lately, it’s embroidery, and I’ve been pretty hardcore into embroidery lately (“hardcore embroidery” being a phrase that makes me giggle).
As with any new craft obsession, I jumped in with both feet, full-in, when I first started. I got a couple of little books on stitches, and practiced those. I watched stitch tutorials on YouTube. And then I just sort of “winged” the rest.
Usually, it’s been these large pieces, based around my parallel obsession with the wizarding world and Harry Potter characters…
But then I discovered tiny embroidery, and have been going at it full-force…
I found these tiny little blank hoops from a site called Dandelyne, and that got the ball rolling. Functional art? I am TOTALLY okay with that.
And since I’d consider myself an intermediate embroiderer, I thought I’d share my wonky setup with you.
It all starts with this totally awesome little travel bag, which I found by chance at our local craft store. I like it because I can quickly shove everything in there and take it with me wherever we go.
It opens up to several little compartments, with places to hold my stitch guidebooks, needles, scissors, thread, and anything else I might need.
WHOAH. Wait, did you get a good look at that? I’ll zoom in for you, in case you somehow overlooked it:
Yep, since I taught myself, I am TERRIBLE at organizing my thread. I tried those long plastic binder pieces above, and they end up tangled. I tried putting them on the little keychain tabs, and they end up tangled. And often, as I’m working with a particular color, I just end up shoving it in this little zippered pouch, tangled for all eternity.
Finally, I’ve tried this other method, which is a little binder:
And I think it seems to work the best? Maybe? I haven’t found an easy way to separate the strands (the embroidery thread I buy comes in strands made up of 6 strings, and since I am sewing tiny things, I often only want to use one string, for detail. So when I’m getting ready to start a new project, I painstakingly separate them (with a mild amount of swearing) and shove them into little pouches in this strand binder I found in the embroidery section of our local craft store. That’s the best I can do.
(Do you know an easy way around this? Should I be embroidering with special thread instead of embroidery floss? This can’t be the best way of doing things, I’m sure…)
Anyway, as for tools, that little travel case is awesome, because I can carry all the goods: a leather thimble for tough fabric, little beads (since I often like to add texture), a seam ripper, and a few little books on simple stitches (believe it or not, they come in handy quite often).
I just discovered this little blue fabric marker that I can draw with, and when I want my lines gone, I just wet it, and it disappears! So cool (unless you’re making small sketch corrections, as it’ll take forever to dry the fabric so you can draw over it again). Another useful tool is next to it, in the photo above: a little metal threader, for threading problems. I have trouble threading metallic threads (they’re very wobbly and they fray), and that tool’s saved me from throwing my project across the room in anger more than once.
I show you this wonky setup to demonstrate that I don’t really know what I’m doing. Meaning, I’m not some super experienced expert who’s been doing this for ages and has all the answers. I’m learning, and there is always more to learn. If you’re into something, you can learn a bit about it, and jump in, like I did.
The world’s at your fingertips–literally, on the device from which you’re reading this! Look up some videos about the hobby you’re interested in–it doesn’t have to be embroidery, it could be ANYthing. Check out some hashtags and see what other people are doing. I’m pretty willing to bet you can do it too, or that it might inspire you to do something similar in your own way.
When I asked Myla what she’d want on one, she immediately requested Fiona and Cake, from Adventure Time (our current favorite show).
And if you try it, and you’ve given it your best, and it’s just not working out, don’t consider it a loss; it might just not be your time! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried needlefelting with disastrous results. Doesn’t mean I’ll never try it again, it’s just not my thing right now, and that’s okay. Maybe some day I’ll get it, maybe some day I won’t. But I TRIED.
I’ve actually wondered why this embroidery is such a thing for me right now. I sometimes find myself FURIOUSLY “IN” to something. Sometimes it doesn’t last long. I do it til I just don’t feel like doing it anymore. Right now, this is what I feel like doing. I’ve tried drawing recently, and it doesn’t come out right, which happens sometimes, and is a sign that my brain doesn’t WANT to do that right now. Right now, it wants to poke things with a tiny magic wand, and that’s okay.
You’ve got to follow whatever you’re into–it helps you get through things. For me, I think it comes from a tendency to want to control some very out-of-control situations we’ve been going through. I might not be able to control what’s going on in our lives, but I can control this little tiny space, and that’s okay, too.
I’ve been asked if I’d sell them, and I’ve decided I will, but I’m going to just sew what I like. I wish I was the type of person who could do the same design again and again, or that thrived on custom orders, but I’m just not. I can handle it a bit, and sometimes I really can do it. But with these, it just feels good to do what I like, and let the chips fall where they may.
So that’s where I am at the moment…holding a tiny wand with my head down, furiously stabbing a little piece of fabric, unable to control the world, but trying my best to manage this tiny space. Sure, it’s a little obsessive. Sure, it’d be more productive if my obsession involved housekeeping or making lucrative stock picks or something useful.
But it’s been making me feel better, and that’s definitely okay. ❤
Yes, that’s a word I just made up: Dumblebroidery.
I swear I’m not strictly a Harry Potter blog, so I apologize if Potter’s not your thing….but I can’t say I haven’t been reignited in my love for all things wizarding by our trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter mid-December, as well as by the fact that I’m rereading all of the books from scratch by listening to them on Audible, so I can “read” while I craft.
I’ve done several hand- and machine-stitched portraits on paper, but “real” embroidery has often eluded me. I have been known to lack a great deal of patience, and swear under my breath a lot when my threads get tangled. But (as I frequently do), I still had a sudden urge to embroider a Dumbledore one day last week, and immediately set to work.
Thankfully, as I have dabbled in nearly every craft imaginable, I had some embroidery tools on hand from a forgotten project long ago.
First, I gathered some photos of Dumbledore from online. Although I was working mainly from movie Dumbledore #2 (Michael Gambon), I also wanted to include a hint of Dumbledore # 1 (Richard Harris), as well as the descriptions of the professor from the books.
I started with some plain muslin I had lying around, and did a very rough sketch with pen (I hear they make disappearing ink pens for such tasks, but I didn’t have one at the time, so I just did my thang), and started stitching with the threads I had.
Some people have described it as “painting with thread,” which seems fairly accurate, as I went about shading it as I would a sketched portrait.
One of my favorite things is to embellish with beads and metal jumpers, so I had a lot of fun adding those details to his beard as soon as I possibly could.
It soon became apparent that I didn’t have enough variations of colored thread to contour his face, so after a quick trip to the craft store, I was able to get a wider variety for shading and highlights.
I wasn’t going for realism, but a more illustrated approach. I wanted him to have lots of hands, one of them holding the Elder Wand, with some beads to accentuate the gnarled wood bumps in his wand.
I’m no pro with embroidery by any means, but whenever I start working with a new medium, I like to research it a little. People tell me this is called “crewel” thread? Just the simple thread from any old embroidery store (are their fancier threads? I’m sure there must be, and now I’m curious…), and each is made up of 6 threads, so I split them in half by hand (another process which causes some occasional swearing), and used 3 thread strands at a time.
A good tool to have on hand has been a laminated embroidery card with directions for a few basic fun stitches, which I found in the embroidery section of WalMart ages ago. So aside from a few basic stitches, I tried to pay attention to the direction of the thread to accentuate whatever part I was working on (like trying to keep the lines in his collar going in one direction to avoid attracting attention from elsewhere).
People reminded me about his half-moon glasses, which are mentioned in the book SEVERAL times when describing him (although Albus #2 rarely seemed to wear them in the movie). So I got a little metallic thread, and added his spectacles.
The “magic” above was a simple chain stitch, with a few clear and metal beads sewn in. Next was finishing his beard, and working on the second set of hands…
And finally, the finished Dumbledore! I’m still not sure I like the hands floating randomly like that (I may paint a background, or add some more “magic” lines around them). I think it’d work really well in a drawing, but in an embroidery piece, it doesn’t translate as well…
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with him next, though, and I got several great suggestions online, such as making a pillow, displaying him in an embroidery hoop, and turning him into a patch. But then someone suggested an embellished frame, and another posted a link to this:
…which I promptly picked up on Etsy for around $20 and it’s sized just perfectly for him. Woohoo! Another reader–a former framer–suggested pinning the piece to foam core before mounting it, and another suggested sculpting additions to the frame, BOTH of which I’m going to try, and you can be sure I’ll post it when I do!
For now, since Dumbledore’s done, I’ve started my next one: Luna Lovegood, which I plan on placing by our entryway, along with the phrase, “Weirdos Welcome.” I have a Snape in the works (in my mind), and even a Newt Scamander (from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) with his case. Maybe I’ll get to them all before running out of steam. For now, I’ll keep doing them for as long as they’re fun. I can’t wait!