Friday, February 26, 2010

Happy Mailbox Day

If you are a regular visitor to the Magpie's Nest (and thank you if you are!) you may recall that I participated in the Pink Artists Prize Wheel last fall.

Not only did I donate to the cause, I won a prize! It turned out to be a two-parter. First I received this original mixed media picture by Alma Stoller:

Then, in yesterday's mail, I found a copy of her self published zine. But that's not all. Inbetween almost every page there was another surprise. There were six patches of fabric, three skeins of embroidery floss, a couple of inspirational cards, and a couple of texture sheets (for lack of a better word - I'm not a mixed media artist so I don't know exactly what they're called).

One of the "articles" in Alma's zine was a pattern for a doll. I was so inspired by the words I read and the fabric she sent that I sat right down and cut the doll pattern out. Once I had that done, however, I decided I wanted a slightly different size doll. So I drew my own pattern and cut the body pieces out of batting. Using the sew and flip method I enjoy so much I covered the doll back and front with fabric. I even started embellishing before I had to quit for the night.

What you see on the left in the picture above is what will be the doll's back. The fabrics are those sent by Alma. I added the ribbon with the spiders and webs. On the right is the doll front. Her head is another of the patches Alma sent. Most of the body is covered with scraps from my own bags. Again, I added the heart and the measuring tape ribbon. Below is a close up of the stamped bit of muslin Alma included in the zine.

It was that bit of muslin that really got me moving. "I make art because the voices tell me to." Between that scrap and the encouraging words in the interviews in the zine I couldn't hold myself back. Oh for more magical moments like that! Even after I went to bed I was getting ideas for more things I could do to the doll. So now I'm going to go take a shower and get busy!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Little Treasures

Had to go out for groceries yesterday and I was feeling so good I decided to make a trip into the thrift shop as well. I found a couple of books, some gently used toys for the grandchildren to play with when they're here, and this delightful teacup:

No saucer, just the cup. And there was only the one. I love the parrot on it. The cup has been well used; the imagery is partly worn away on the other side. I've thought about making it into a pincushion but I doubt that will ever happen. Right now I'm just using it to hold a couple of small bags of beads I have separated from the rest of my stash for the time being.

Further progress has been made on my "Celebrate" ornament:

Here's a close up of the most recently embellished discs:

Double clicking on the photos should enlarge them for you. The millefiori disc on the left was surrounded by size 11 seed beads in Robin's "Wildflowers" technique. The disc on the right is surrounded by short bugle bead stacks topped with a tiny 5 petal flower sequin and seed bead. The sequin is the red color you see. I was amazed at how indistinct they became as I worked my way around the disc.

I want to get this finished as quickly as possible because I'm getting antsy about my commitment to make a birthday quilt for a little girl in May. The trouble is that I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm going to want to start on my March ornament as soon as I have this one finished!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not Celebratin'

Just a quick post to show you my most recent progress on the Celebrate ornament. I've done something to offend my back and it won't let me sit at the computer for long. Can't sit and bead for very long either for that matter. It's all about laying flat on my back at the moment. I am not a happy camper.

Here's a close up of the two millefiori beads I've embellished:

There are two rows of seed beads circling the yellow disc on the left in the picture above. The innermost row was done all in orange size 11's in sort of a cross between the techniques Robin calls a bump and a petal in her latest book. The outer row was also done in size 11 seed beads but this time I used deep red beads at the top of the bumps.

The millefiori disc on the right is surrounded by some chunky not-quite-cubes. It took me a long time to figure out what to do with them once I had them in place. Then after I'd figured out what I wanted to try I had to audition several colors and sizes of beads to see what would work best. I was surprised to discover that bigger beads worked better than tiny beads. I don't remember exactly what size those purple jobs are but they might be 9's or something on that order. Anyway, that was a very satisfying element to complete because it had me stumped for what seemed like a long time.

At this point I'm not sure whether I'm going to end up covering all of the background fabric on this ornament or not. In the beginning I thought I would; now I'm exercising patience and making every effort to just go with the flow. Last night I had an idea about how to embellish the next disc (whichever one that turns out to be!) and I'm anxious to get after it. I think I'm going to have to go lay down for a bit first though... :-P

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

The twins are doing well, although neither of them have broken the 5 pound mark yet. Baby A's cyst near her tear duct has completely dissolved so that distinguishing feature has been removed. There have been a couple of interesting conversations in the household since then.

While waiting for her mother to collect Clover from the crib Miss M asked, "Mommy, is this Buttercup or Clover?"

"That's Clover."

"Well I want her to be Buttercup so she'll be Buttercup today."

Just so you know, Miss M will be observing her fifth birthday in a few weeks.

And I just heard about this one: Miss M was watching her mother tend the twins.

"When did you change their heads?" she enquired in all seriousness.

"When you were sleeping," her mother calmly replied. (Later she confessed that she hadn't really done so.) Does that crack you up the way it does me?

Meanwhile, I've made a little progress on the Celebrate ornament:

The first things I added were the millefiori discs. Then I didn't know what else to do with them. A few hours later it occurred to me to sneak the bugle beads in between the spangles. Now I'm waiting for further inspiration.

You should get bigger images by clicking on the pictures. You may also notice that I used red thread through the yellow beads. I've been using red thread throughout the process so far. Before I went ahead and sewed all the bugles on I tried it with a white thread. It looked flat to me so I went back to the red. Red is an auspicious color in the East, and I've long been in the same camp as Freddy Moran who considers red a neutral. ;- )

I haven't been around to visit my blogging friends much lately. Blame the Olympics and the books I've been reading. I'm not ignoring you, there's just not enough time in my days!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


It took me hours to come up with a palette of beads and a decision about how to begin the beading for my new "Celebrate" ornament. I chalk this up to my inexperience in this particular medium.

The first thing I found that resonated strongly were some spangles. That's what I'm calling them anyway. Basically they're just sequins with the hole punched near the edge rather than in the middle. They are red so I started with my red beads but I tried several different color families. I kept going back to a bead soup of reds and oranges and yellows so it seemed like a good idea to expand on that collection of beads.

The next question was what to do with them. I considered several approaches but just couldn't make up my mind about what would work. In the end I simply sewed the spangles around the charm:

By the time I had that step complete I had a pretty good idea of what I would do next. Rather than mixing my beads into another bead soup I poured out a bit of each one into the various sections of my paint palette. Then I came up through the hole in one spangle, threaded on several beads of various shapes and colors, and went back down through the hole in the second spangle away. Then I went back to the spangle I had skipped, came up through that hole, and threaded on more beads. Skipped another spangle and went down through the next one. So I was doing a giant back stitch essentially. I went around the charm twice that way and got a nice twisted rope look.

The holes in the charm were big enough to allow me to do a bit of fringing through them. I did branch fringe with a sequin at the end of some of the branches.
I'm very happy with what I have so far. Now the question is what to do next?!

Monday, February 15, 2010


I couldn't let the string of holidays and celebrations we're in the midst of go by without marking it somehow. Here in the USA we've had the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl, then there were the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver B.C. Canada, then the Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day, today is Presidents Day, and Mardi Gras is tomorrow. Whew!

While I may not make specific references to any of the observances I've listed above my intention is to make another beaded ornament, one that looks like a party. I want to use saturated colors and do lots of textural beading. I'm hoping this will give me an opportunity to re-connect with my inner child and give her a chance to play. I've been told more than once that I take things too seriously. Hopefully this will be an antidote to that! And maybe it will be something I can work in inbetween Olympic events. :- )

Saturday, February 13, 2010

February BJP Complete

Shortly after my last post I started beading around the button and the heart beads, just backstitching. I used some tiny iridescent beads around the hearts. They're not delicas; they may be something like a 15. I suspect they are some Mill Hill beads I picked up in my travels and repackaged at home because they are not labeled. I used another clear seed bead to bead over parts of the button to hold it in place. It looks better than I thought it would. Later I went back in and slipped a couple of threads under the bead strands to further secure the button in place per Bobbi and Robin's suggestions.

I had two choices in pink seed beads to use for the background areas. One set were slightly smaller and slightly lighter in color than the other. I used the smaller ones inside the button (per Dot's suggestion) and the darker, larger ones around the outside. Unfortunately I discovered that the larger beads were less uniform in size and shape than I thought they were. So in two respects I think the smaller, lighter color beads might have been the better choice: 1) there isn't as much contrast between the button and the surrounding beads as I would like, and 2) the pink beads overwhelmed the iridescent beads around the hearts. I think my soft cotton batting is playing a role in the matter as well. I suspect if I had used paper or some other stiffer interfacing behind my fabric I might not have placed the beads so closely together that they crowd each other and consequently don't lay as flat as I'd like.

As I worked my way around the lower pair of hearts I became concerned about the concentric circles creating an undesirable effect. I also wanted to extend the beading further south somehow to balance out the design. The cool metal rose bead did the job nicely without distracting too much from the real focal points of the piece.

I was so excited about finishing this that I neglected to change the settings on my sewing machine when I went to mount the beadwork onto the backing. Normally I set it to stitch a rather wide and open blanket stitch around the perimeter. This tight close stitching contributed to some puckering of the exposed fabric and made it harder to pull an embroidery needle through the top to add a hanging loop. (sigh) None of these "errors" I've pointed out are worth taking out or doing over. I'm looking at this as a learning experience, even though this piece has so much meaning to me that I'd really have preferred it to have turned out perfectly. Life is not perfect, why should my handwork be perfect? (If I keep saying that to myself maybe I'll eventually come to believe it!)

Oh, and just so you know, the lady represents my daughter and each heart represents one of her children. The firstborn at the top, the second one just below, and the twins side by side at the bottom. The layout of this design is probably the part I'm the happiest with. All I need now is a title. :- )

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Slow Progress

I've had a hard time getting motivated this week. I suspect it's due to the suspense of waiting for the twins to arrive and then monitoring their progress. Now that things seem to be on an even keel for them (they're gaining weight nicely) we can all breathe a sigh of relief. In my case, for several days apparently!

I did get the 4" blocks sewn together into a panel or medallion. Then I framed it up to 18" by adding a one inch strip all the way around. Now I'm playing with the 6" blocks to see how I want to use them around the medallion.

Meh. I'm still not particularly inspired. I'll probably keep making 6" blocks, maybe as leaders and enders, and see how this develops. It's not like there's a deadline for it or anything. But I do have a quilt with a deadline coming up. I have committed to making a birthday quilt for a little girl who is going to be 4 in May. She has requested puppies and/or kitties in her quilt. No problem! All I have to do is decide on the type of quilt I want to make for her. It will be something quick and simple, that much is certain.

A few days ago I pulled fabric and a few beads for my official February Bead Journal Project ornament. Last night I assembled the foundation and played around with ways to arrange the beads I had selected. My goal is to memorialize the big event of my month, the birth of the two new granddaughters. I had tiny pewter heart beads to represent the granddaughters but they seemed lost on the big ole diamond. Then I found a button in my stash that made the whole concept come together: my daughter and all four of her daughters.

I cut the shank off the button so it would lay flatter against the foundation. My challenge now is to figure out how to secure it without obscuring it or making it look clunky. Normally I would just use my gray beading thread to stitch it in place but in this case that would show. I may end up holding it down with a few stitches and then beading over it to cover the threads. The question is what color beads to use. When I was planning this piece in my head I didn't think beyond pink for the background. Guess I'll just have to rummage around in my beads some more and see what feels good!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Back to Quilts?

While we were waiting for the twins to come into the world I played around with my 1930's repro prints. I had a few blocks I'd made many, many years ago that hadn't made it into a quilt yet and I'd been reading Gwen's latest liberated quiltmaking book. So some of the blocks are precision pieced and some are more liberated.

Sharon over at Indigo Threads tried out the liberated windmill blocks and had the same experience I did. Eyeballing the cut that creates the blades of the windmill doesn't automatically make the blocks look wonky. It helps when you make the block big enough to trim it down to another size. Then you can cut the whole block on an angle.

I also had the experience of some of my blades turning out looking rather fat and clunky. More so than Sharon's I think. Oh well. That's what makes them wonky!

I'm planning to sew this batch of blocks together and making it the center medallion for a quilt:

I was originally thinking a toddler size quilt, using up as much of my Depression-era repro prints as possible. One of the gals in our local quilt guild is putting together another box of preemie quilts though, and I could easily turn these blocks into a quilt that size in no time. So we'll see what happens. To be honest, I'm already bored with these fabrics. I don't know why, they're lively enough. They're just not me I guess. Another hazard is that it's a new month and I want to make a new ornament for the Bead Journal Project. I'm in the mood to play with beads more than fabric at the moment. So it may be a little bit before I do more than whip up a preemie quilt or two.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Baby Pictures

Thank you, one and all, for your congratulations and well wishes. I'm a pretty happy grandma!

Here they are, our newest little bundles of joy:

They are swaddled in about 3 blankets each because they are having trouble keeping their body temps up. They have next to no body fat to keep them warm. Other than that they seem to be perfectly healthy and will be released from the hospital as soon as they can maintain acceptable temperatures for 24 hours.

"Baby A," the first one out:

And "Baby B:"
They are most likely fraternal twins, not the identical ones we thought they might be. I see elements of DH's mother in Baby B's face, although not necessarily from this angle.

DH and I had the whole afternoon with DD and the babies yesterday. It was heavenly. Because there were so few other people in and out of the room I was able to hold up pretty well. I feel very tired today but it could have been so much worse! I don't know when I'll get to spend that kind of time with the babies again. DD and family will probably be staying with other family until their check-ups next week. After that they may finally return to their own home. The problem is that most baby gear is scented in a way that is too much for my system to handle and DD's house will be full of it. {sigh}

And now I have an idea what I'm going to do for my official February Bead Journal Project. I'm just not sure how soon I'm going to tackle it. ;- )

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

They're Here!

My two newest granddaughters have arrived! They were delivered by C-section yesterday afternoon. The first one weighed in at 4 pounds 6 ounces and the second one was 4 pounds 3 ounces. Both are about 17" long. I've seen a few cell phone photos of them but don't have anything I can post yet. I also have not seen them in person yet nor spoken with my DD since before the procedure. I want to call her to see how she's doing but I know she needs what rest she can get and is probably pretty busy inbetween times.

I'm debating about whether or not to risk the trip down to the hospital on my own today. If DH can take a personal day from work we may just go down together tomorrow. We're waiting for a second car seat to be delivered too. If that comes today we can just take it with us tomorrow and save ourselves an extra trip.

My oh my, so exciting!