Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Deb's embroidery and tapestry

Last Spring I visited a friend of mine, who is an embroiderer, spinner and dyer. Deb has been developing a new line of work, and was setting goals for herself, taking her work in a new direction. We talked at length about how one does this; the new direction is often awkward, at first. Some of our habits from creating anything will apply, such as color choices, image choices, thread choices. So some aspects of the new work are present from the old work and do not need to be learned anew.

But some things are new: new materials, new ways to use old materials, new tools.

She told me about a friend of hers, a painter, who was learning a new medium, and decided to paint 100 small paintings in the new medium, experiments, quick studies, just 100 paintings, to become comfortable with the material, and test the media out to see how to incorporate its qualities into her work.

This seemed like a grand idea on "how to train yourself". I do not know if it is an original idea (off to google: can't find it in the first few hits of "making 100 things", most were about a 100 things challenge to de clutter!) (I laugh because making 100 *new* things will only add to my clutter!). At any rate, Deb decided she would make 100 small embroideries, and I took on the challenge of making 100 leather bags.

I am not starting from scratch. I will count, but offhand I've made (or am in the process of making, some are still unfinished) 13 leather/textile bags already (If, and I do, one counts the Pink Suitcase). This is in addition to the many all-textile bags I have made, and the beaded bags, which number in the "over 50" category. Some day soon I will do a few posts about the "old" bags, those in beads and knotted pile.

So! I have about 87 leather & textile bags to go. IF! I do make 100 bags, I will have learned a great deal. My hands will be more able, I will know the materials better, know the tools, I will have refined the tools I need to do what I want to do, my mind will be able to think more clearly in this medium, and my eyes and hands will see which designs worked or did not work.

I may feel competent well before 100 bags, and get bored. This is a goal, not a life sentence. I can change it at any time, if I feel I have reached the ends I wish to achieve. I am energized by the idea of 100 bags, big and small, some will be very small, and some, like a few of those first 13 bags, will be taken apart after construction, the parts re-used, the textile re-applied to another bag, so that I waste less, and have fewer bags when all is said and done.

After all, how many bags does one need? I am using them as teaching tools, samples, and the losers will be cut up and re-used.

Deb and I worked on our dyebooks a few weeks ago, Color By Number, then we took some time to make a few things. I made three knotted pile panels for 3 separate bags:

Deb's embroidery and tapestry

I also made her finish the small embroidery above (which she does not care for, but which I love!) and she gave me the little tapestry above, which she says has hung around her studio for years.

So I have 5 (!) more bags in the queue. See how easy this is? I am anxious! to get started. I can't wait to see how these come out. I have planned and changed plans already in my head several times, it is so much fun to think about!

And that's why I do all of this to begin with: I totally love doing it. I love thinking about it, planning them, not necessarily having them, but having the joy of making them. 100? We shall see :).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Pink Leather!

What does one do with pink leather?

Why make a doll case, of course!

Pink leather doll case!

And what does one put into a doll case?

why a doll, of course!

Doll, in case!

Meet Flower! Someone is six now.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Botanical print tote

A new tote bag! No, I am not that fast. Yet. This was in progress, along with a few others, for a while. I am just in a finishing jag :).

This tote has a pocket-panel of a botanical print done by a local friend. I have a stack of fabrics from her, and will be using more of them as pockets like this. They are so beautiful!

I totally love this bag. It has the requisite open pocket in front, zippered pocket on the back, the handles are "just the right length for me"(tm), the leather feels good, is a good weight, even with the lining, and the stitching is good! Not perfect mind you, but "man on a running horse" good enough.

Leather takes time outs, for glue to dry, for hardware to arrive, for lining to set, whatever. So I have several projects going at a time. Which is annoying because as I learn things, I may have already passed that part of another bag, and yet? I still need to finish it. Move on. I am going back to repair, replace do-over on some of the earlier bags, but some are just...learning experiences.

But this one? Totally fine :).

Friday, July 01, 2016

Maiden Voyage

So the newest leather bag went on a trip:

Travel bag

Apparently I have a standard for "what makes a good bag". I'm guessing we all do, but here's mine: open pocket in the front (may have a magnetic closure). Zipped pocket along the back, zipped top, open pocket inside (and now I will add also a zipped pocket inside...ahem), adjustable strap, and zippers all opening the correct way for a right hander to be carrying the bag on her right shoulder (i.e. from the front, to the back, in that orientation).

This bag met all the requirements except two: I wanted another zipped pocket inside for essentials but not essentials that need quick access. Also: the very last piece sewn in was sewn in backwards... ::sigh:: ... so that the zip opens the wrong way. It opens the way a person who carries their bag on their left should would want.

In my defence? It was one of those pieces that is sewn on inside out and backwards, then turned, and, much to my chagrin, I apparently messed up on the visualization of how this would all work right side out. Darn! So, I carried it on my left side. Huh. A little odd, but doable. Easy fix!

But :)! It's a comfortable size, not too heavy, much more was learned about stitching and construction and leather and and and. I have a fully lined handstitched bag about 11" x 13" with a front pocket big enough to hold a book, my phone and glasses, an outside zip pocket for my boarding pass and ID, and a center section capacious enough for tablet, headphones, and other travel essentials.

And! I like it! The pile on the pocket is Gila National Monument (to me, not literally), so it's also a memento of a trip to the Southwest. Go Me!

What trip did I take? A short jaunt to see some munchkins:


So we played and swam and climbed and slid!



Sometimes, playing in the dirt is just the best thing. Therapy for child and Grandma both :).

Monday, June 13, 2016

Park Pouch

So! I finished a small bag:

Park pouch

When I visit my grandchildren, we take a walk to one or the other of two local parks. We also just walk around the neighborhood, sometimes stopping for such diversions as back hoes, dump trucks and skip loaders. Sometimes some of us are on bikes, or scooters or in the double or single stroller, and the others of us push or carry or haul these things around in various ways.

I don't need to also haul my purse around, but I need sunglasses, hand wipes, my phone and lip balm: a few necessities. I used to stuff these things in various pockets, and they are heavy and bulge-y, so this small pouch was born:

Park pouch 2

Cross body strap, adjustable, pocket in front for phone (which doubles as a camera and must be easily accessed), inside pocket for glasses, lip balm, tissues and wipes, and ... band aids. Everything a grandma should need (save for water and snacks) for a walk around the block (or 2 or 4 blocks)with two small children.

It's full now, loaded with all the things. Ready for the next walk! later this month.

Park pouch

And the post script? The family is moving.

Maybe there will be a park near their new house?

Friday, May 27, 2016


So, months, nay years ago now (May 2014) I took a cotton spinning class from Joan Ruane. (if you get a chance to take her class, do it!) At any rate, I spun some cotton, and wove the first bit up into a shawl:

cotton fabric 001

I like this shawl, the fabric is nice, it's soft and drapey, just what a shawl should be.

I wanted to make myself a jacket, in the standard style I make, and for that, I wanted a sturdier fabric. I began by spinning the cotton with more twist. When I had enough spun, I ran the warps and dyed them, theoretically a dark blue and red. BUT!!

I omitted the boiling part of the "before dyeing" with cotton. As in, I soaked the warps in very hot water with detergent, but did not boil them.

The result? was less than stellar:

Hs cotton thrums and discharged

What I have left of that original color is in these thrums. The theoretical dark blue was "baby blue" and the red was decidedly pink. The gold was nice, but could not save the other colors. Ick.

I set up the warp and started weaving anyway. I tried to tell myself that I would like it woven up. I could hardly weave the thing it was so annoying. I stopped weaving, I started again, I stopped and started again and again, until finally I just got over myself wove the thing off.

I did not like it.

SO! I dipped the whole fabric in discharge solution. That's it, under the thrums, in the photo above. It was acceptable, pale colors, almost neutrals, and I could stand it. I sewed up the jacket.

Turns out, I could not wear it. Or rather, I would not wear it, never chose it to put on. Being almost all white, it just did not look good on me, too pale, too white, too, I don't know: insipid?

So yesterday, I over-dyed the whole garment:

Cotton jacket dyed

It came out a great blue: easy to wear with denim and jeans, and even the stripes of former-pink look good, subtle, but evident, and ... not pink!

Now I think I will be wearing this more. If I were standing in line at the grocery store, no one would ever guess the trauma this yarn and fabric havesendured. No one would ever really guess that this is handspun, handwoven, and (hah!) hand-dyed cotton.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Learning, Practicing, Perfecting

I have been packing and unpacking samples for recent and upcoming series of classes: pack for this class, come home unpack, re-pack for this class, come home unpack and re-pack: lather, rinse, repeat.

ranch fabrics

Also, if you have been reading for any length of time, you will remember that I am learning a new set of skills: working with leather. It has been a little frustrating to stitch leather in small chunks of time. I need longer stretches in the studio, to develop a rhythm to the process. As I sit and stitch in those rare moments these last few months, I know I am improving: my hands move more fluidly and without thought, my stitches are more even, I am more often than not able to stitch a straight line, and a straight line in the correct path, using the right size needle, the right size thread, and sometimes even consistently the right color of thread. The things I did not know until I started down this path are legion.

As it is with every hand craft, it looks easy enough from the outside. Once one starts down the path of learning anything, really, one realizes how very much there is to learn. In making, there are tools and supplies to consider, and then there is the actual handwork: movement of the hands, proper holding of and use of tools, finishing of materials, tips, tricks and alas, simply time, producing a body of work, which one hopes shows signs of improvement as one works. Individual pieces making up the body of work are not guaranteed to improve, or even materialize, merely with the passage of time. One has to put in the hours.

Silk scarf

At some point in my weaving path, I realized I no longer thought at all about the process of weaving: how to set up the loom, which tools I'd need, which steps proceed in what order, what threads I'd use and how to sett them, how wide and long a thing needed to be, which weft would work for the effect I wanted, etc. All of these parts melded into a seamless process of spinning-dyeing-weaving-finishing. This took about 20 years.

That's about the point I started beadwork:
celtic carpet bag in sun

beach bag2

It was easier to become adept, and build up a body of work, because I more or less knew how I wanted to work with color and material, it was a matter of learning the process, then repeating it until it became second nature, and I could instead think of the product's look, form, function, style, color and utility. I was seriously involved in this process for about 10 years.

Then, I started weaving knotted pile:

silk bag front

Much of the graphic imagery I'd learned translated from beadwork, but I needed to learn new hand skills, and which yarns would be best used at what sett, how colors worked in this technique, and refine a few processes of bag construction:

pile bags

I've been at this for 16 years now. I feel pretty confident that I can do the work I want, know the materials and the process well enough.

I got sidetracked for a few years writing a few books. When I got back to doing my own work, I had to ease into it again. After spending several years thinking about how to tell people what I do and why, and then traveling a bit to show them how I do what I do and why, I have to find my own path once again. I am going to close a few doors, stop doing a few things, in order to focus on this.

I realized this month that I have a standard for leather bags now. I did not know that I did, nor was I conscious that I was producing the same bag wearing different colors over and over. Apparently a good bag has to have a front pocket, a zipper top:

opulent leather FB

also a long handle, cross-body and or shoulder strap, preferably adjustable:

borderline knotted pile

and a zippered secure pocket in the back and an open pocket inside:

virgo pisces

Now that I know this about the bags I apparently want to make, I can focus on the process: how to make the bags I apparently want to make: which leather to choose, which thread to use, what materials I should use for the embellishments, how to make the strap just right: the right gauge and length for the project, how to make the pocket(s) big enough, secured or not, and where to place them, etc.

Learning new things is energizing. Being an adult learner can be hard: we are accustomed to being adept. Being a beginner means accepting "less than perfect" for a while. But I know perfection in working. It is that moment when the making just flows through you, without thought. It is then that one can create, be creative with the materials, produce individual work, from oneself, not following instructions or patterns.

Until then, I practice. It's been a couple of years now. I expect a few more in the "practicing" stage before I can "not think about the process and materials", until, in essence, I know the path and my hands know the process, and I make something that is mine. I've been there before. I know how it feels and this is not it, yet. It's still exciting and fun, an adventure and a way to open new doors, if only in my head.