Monday, September 17, 2018

Making Lemonade out of Lemons in the Garden

A couple years ago, when I was working on my last book, I had a big oooooopsy with a small pot of paint -- spilling a big stripe down the outside of the shed. You might remember it. I tried to correct the color and because the shed was painted with a stain many years ago, I couldn't quite get the stripe right. I guess I could have but I had other things to do and knew that for the photo in the book, there was always Photoshop! 

This year, as I was planning my garden, I thought about how I could cover up that unsightly stripe. I decided to grow morning glories as they make a nice vertical carpet of flowers and leaves. I planted a piece of woven wire next to the shed and then stuck in some multi colored morning glories. And then I waited. 

Here is what the shed looks like now with the morning glories. I love it. I planned to put a string up to the top of the roof so they went totally crazy but never got to it. Maybe next year. 

Here is an overall shot of the veggie/flower garden in its wild, end of season state. I love all the haphazardness of the plants and blooms falling every which way.

Here are some of the flowers I grew - for bouquets and just for color and their beauty. 

I follow the Floret Flower Blog and watched some videos early in the year that suggested pinching back various plants. She suggested pinching celosia, zinnias, amaranth, snapdragons and cosmos. I decided to take her advice. I can't say I will do it again though. The zinnias did okay and branched out beautifully after an application of Azomite. I have 12 cosmos plants that are huge but only 2 have flowers. Lots of greenery but no flowers. The celosia were set back big time by the pinching and now are just taking off. The snapdragons are a mess - I think that is because of all the moisture and rain. I don't know if I will grow them again. So next year I think I will only pinch the zinnias and just let the others go. 

On a good note - I grew butternut squash and have a bumper crop. Our summer squash and zucchini plants fed us nightly for at least a month and a half. 

I guess the failure of each garden is part of the fun and what keeps gardening interesting. What do you think? I know the weather and the soil has so much to do with it but then there's what you do to the plants. I always start my garden so late but that's what I like to do. I am never too anxious to put stuff in the ground because of frost and because of things I have going on. 

If you are a gardener and have the time, share what were your successes or failures this year in the comments. Pretty soon it will be all over and we will be waiting to begin again. 

Friday, September 07, 2018

Craftsy Changes? + Beautiful New Colors Of Linen in The Shop Now

I'm not sure if you all have heard this news - rather old by now...... But Craftsy - the on-line teaching website where I teach an on-line Crewel Embroidery Class called Stitch It With Wool was sold to NBCUniversal for 230 Million $ in 2017. That's a big chunk of change. There has been a lot of on-line chatter from the many different teachers who have classes on the on-line platform. I know that many teachers made a huge portion of their income from their on-line classes (from what I surmise). My class has never been really popular - just a steady seller. The Craftsy model has changed a bit (they have gone to a subscription model and a pay for a single class). If you bought a class, you still own it and have access to it. This summer NBCUniversal changed the name of Craftsy to BluPrint and redesigned the website. NBCUniversal is a huge company and I assumed there would be many changes. That is what happens when big companies buy smaller companies. Life moves on for all of us little people. 

One cool thing is that NBC is now doing a tv show called Making It. I'm assuming this new show is part of their plan for "craftertainment." The judges of the show are a woman from Etsy and Simon Doonan (of Barney's window decoration fame). It is hosted by Nick Offerman and Amy Poehler. Season One is just done. I watched a few times. Funny story was - I was approached by the producers to interview to be a contestant on the first season a couple summers ago. I wasn't interested in the contest type format and so I said no - much to Julia's disappointment. (She is a huge Amy Poehler fan.) The show was  cute. I picked the winner after watching it a couple times. The guy was super talented. 

When I originally taped my Craftsy class Stitch It With Wool, I decided to add a section to my website for crewel embroidery supplies. It isn't a big business but it is a steady one. It is very difficult to find these supplies now as so many needlework stores have disappeared. Crewel embroidery and embroidery seems to be making a bit of a comeback in general. My little store chugs along. 

Today I want to introduce to you all 6 new colors of LINEN for Crewel Embroidery. Here they are:

You all are going to pretty amused by the next part...... I have been teaching Crewel Embroidery here at the farm for several years. Each year, I ask the students what color fabric they want to stitch on. One year, Lee said to me - don't you have any neutrals? You see - as you would guess -- my original 10 colors were all COLOR, not neutral. 

Here are the original 10 colors:

I never even thought to stock off-white, flax, and brown shades of linen. Never occurred to me! So now, by popular demand, I now have FLAX (natural color of linen fiber), OFF-WHITE, and a pretty brown called FAWN. 

In addition - I have added a gorgeous CORAL color, a pretty GRASS GREEN, and a stunning SUNFLOWER shade.  

Hop on over to my website to order some linen fabric and crewel wool for a embroidery project in your future. 

I'll be sharing a new project that I just stitched in an upcoming post. 

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Around the Garden 2018

We all know the weather has been a bit different this year. We experienced so much rain - for days in August. So much that there is mold growing places it never grew before. I kept saying to myself - this must be what it is like living in New Orleans. 

The rain abated and now we have had lots of very hot and dry weather - for over a week. My garden has rebounded and it is looking a lot like late summer. The sunflowers are beginning to bloom. The zinnias are starting too. 

I love this time of year - when everything is so bountiful. Plants loaded with flowers and seed heads, the days getting shorter and the light beginning to change. On the hill behind our house, some trees are beginning to turn a golder shade of green - this means autumn isn't far away.

I am a little sad that I won't be having the Fall knitting retreat here this year. I love to share our farm with knitters and color enthusiasts. Maybe next year. In the meantime, I am going to take this time to start making pottery again for the upcoming holiday season. I am looking forward to getting back into the mud (clay - not muck) and seeing what I come up with. It seems that my year gets broken into different timelines and processes and things that I do. Last year I participated in a nationwide Clay Event in October but I do not think I can commit to that this year. I'm going to try to keep it simple with a Holiday and On-Line sales only. 

I have also been designing a bit more fabric. Hope to share some of the samples with you soon. And, I am updating my website and adding some new items for sale. It is keeping me busy and a bit stressed. Julia started school this week. The Farmer is still healing and trying to take some nice long walks to build his stamina. The sheep are surviving. It's all good. 

Here are some photos from around the farm. Enjoy them everyone. I hope your life is going well. 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Update - End of August 2018 + Some Guests (OK - 27 of them!)

It's been a hectic summer and now it is almost over. Julia starts her classes next week at the local community college. I am looking forward to getting back "to normal" life although it will not quite be. The Farmer has had some complications with his hip surgery and he is not close to being back to "normal." I have to be patient and hope for the best. I will fill you in on that when I know more. 

I decided to do something drastic and cancelled the last of my Creative Retreats for 2018. It was my Knitting and Color Retreat and I only had 2 students signed up. One of them was having some family problems and so I decided -- after checking with the other student -- to just cancel instead of trying to find some other students to come. It was weighing heavy on my mind - not wanting to disappoint the students who had signed up - but in the end I feel a bit relieved that I don't have to clean up my studio and house again. 

Speaking of cleaning the house....... Last weekend (was it only LAST weekend? it seems so long ago) I was a part of Interweave's Knitting Retreat. My friend Doreen is the organizer of this fantastic series of Knitting Retreats which she describes as 
"exclusive knitting retreats to fun destinations!"
She has taken knitters all over the world and for this one, they were based out of Deerfield, Massachusetts which is only 25 minutes from our farm. 

Twenty-seven knitters arrived in the afternoon. It was quite something to see them all come through the door. Lovely ladies - all of them (and one gent who was a husband of one of the attendees). I did a little intro on the porch -- I have never had so many people on our porch ...... 

...... and then we broke into two groups. Because the group was so large I asked my friend Gail Callahan - aka The Kangaroo Dyer - to teach a color exercise down in my studio while I toured the group through the house and the outdoor shed and garden. Here is Gail teaching in the studio.

My great friend Linda Pratt (also a friend of Doreen's) came to help me with writing up sales tickets. I didn't tell Doreen that Linda would be here so she was over the moon to see her. What a fun surprise. Here are the 3 of us in front of my giant hydrangea bush that seems to be taking over the entire garden - pretty as it is. It was a great day - and I guess the last of visitors for 2018 until my Holiday Sale. Thank you so much Doreen for including me on your trip. Thank you Linda for helping and Gail for pitching in and doing a great job on the color exercise. Photos from Doreen's Instagram account here

In case I don't get to post before the holiday weekend here in the States, enjoy that last hurrah of summer 2018 you all! 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Creative Retreat #2 - 2018 Fabric Printing and Stamping

On Day Two of our Creative Retreat last weekend, I taught Fabric Stamping and Printing. It was a smaller class than Day One but so much was accomplished. Unfortunately I didn't remember to take as many photos as Day One. Oh well. 

I envisioned this day as teaching Fabric Stamping in the morning and Linoleum Block Printing in the afternoon. With only three students there was more leeway to design the day to capture their interests.  In the morning we did do Fabric Stamping. I have a photo of 2 of the 3 projects. 

Stephanie has been here several times. She designed a pillow top that she will embroider to match the pillow top she printed and embroidered last year. Here is her foam stamp and the finished pillow top. She used a cork to make the circles.  

Here is a photo of Stephanie's stamped and embroidered pillow from last year and the new pillow top. Stephanie travels a lot so she is finding the embroidery a great thing to take to do on planes and public transport. (I'm with you on that Stephanie!)

I don't have a photo of Jan's bag she made - oops. 

Here is a project Cynthia has been working on for a couple of years. She is printing on navy and white ticking. I love how the shapes play together and how the colors overlap. I think this would make awesome fabric for upholstery (but that would take more time than I know Cynthia has). 

Just after lunch I showed everyone how to take a photo of a stamped motif and bring it into Photoshop. In PS, I tweak it a bit and saved it. Then I brought the image into the Spoonflower website and showed everyone how to use the program. I know there are many people who are very adept at Spoonflower but there are also folks who would like to try it and don't know how to start. 

Here is the photo of my stamp. 

Here is the page from Spoonflower where I demo-ed how the site works. 

Later in the afternoon, we went back down to the studio and Stephanie and Jan kept working. Jan continued work on her painted tabletop. Stephanie had brought a very cool project to work on.....

Stephanie's husband David had use of a laser cutter at his office. Stephanie asked him to cut out a series of different size ovals and circles out of a piece of adhesive foam. She brought both the circles and the piece of foam from which they were cut. We were all so excited about the possibilities of a laser cutter. I have never had the use of one and perhaps one of my readers might be able to give me a headsup to a scaled down home version vs the $5,000 model. Julia used a laser cutter and engraver in her woodshop class a couple of years ago and I was jealous. 

Stephanie mounted the circles and ovals onto foam. She used a brayer and block printing inks to apply the ink.

Here is her block and a piece of fabric which is printed with 4 of the blocks. 

Next she mounted the sheet of foam that the circles were cut from with the laser cutter. She inked that block and printed on the same green linen and on a canvas bag. 

Imagine the possibilites! I was so excited about her project. Maybe the laser cutters will come down in price so that individual artists can use them. Maybe they already have. For any of you familiar with the Cricut machine - does it cut adhesive backed foam that is about 1/4" thick? 

As with each Creative Retreat* - we had a bit of a hiccup when the plumbing pipe from the kitchen clogged and the basement sink filled up. Ooooppps. This has happened to the sink one other time in the 20 years we have lived in our farmhouse. Of course it had to happen when I had guests! Cynthia tried to plunge it out. No luck. I put some high power plumbing green blaster down it. Still no luck. Stephanie called her hubby David who was staying in the area with her. He went to Home Depot, bought a snake and was a real hero. After lots of work, 20 feet of the snake and a change of clothes, David cleared the drain. Thank you David. I do need to call the plumber who cleared it once before so I don't have the same problem this winter. I guess the clogged pipe will be a memory for everyone! 
*In past retreats, Nessie, the Border Collie, got skunked the night before and the toilet clogged on the very first retreat. Country living! 

Thanks to everyone who came to the second Creative Retreat of 2018. It was such a great weekend and I am still reeling from all the conversations and ideas that were floated around. I hope some more of you might be able to come to a future Creative Retreat here at our farm in western Massachusetts. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Creative Retreat #2 - 2018 Day One Furniture Painting

I hosted another great "Getting Stitched on the Farm" Creative Retreat this past weekend. This weekend's class featured one day of Furniture Painting - inspired by the Bloomsbury Table project in my new book Crafting A Patterned Home

Each student brought their own small piece of furniture painted in a base coat. The day was spent figuring out how they want to decorate their table and then doing it. I supplied many colors of latex paint. 

Here are their projects before they were attacked with pattern and color. 

Here the students are cutting paper, making sketches and figuring out how to work with their individual pieces of furniture. 

Jan looks to be in intense concentration. 

Now I will share photos from each person's project as the day progressed. 

Stephanie's project was a navy blue wooden tray. You can see her original sketches and how the design progressed over the day. We used hair dryers to speed the drying. 

This is Stephanie's tray at the end of the day. She has further plans to add lines and shading to the flowers and decorate the sides of the tray with stripes and polka dots. 

Cheryl brought a sweet little side table. She designed a water lily motif. She lives on a lake and is painting a room with a mural of undersea designs. She used sponges to create the texture. 

Here is the side of Cheryl's table with Jan poking her face through. Doesn't Jan look like she is having a blast? 

The finished top. She took the table home and will be coating it with some polyurethane to seal it. 

Gail's project was a colorful bench for her granddaughters. Gail is an author and has a hand-dyeing business called the The Kangaroo Dyer. I love how her design is reminiscent of the mottled colors that her yarn is dyed in. And it is bright and cheerful like Gail. 

Gail plans to add some glitter and sparkly bits which I can only imagine will make the bench a favorite place for her granddaughters to sit when they visit. Someone in the class named it "The Sisters Bench."  

Jan who came the furthest - all the way from West Virginia. She has an antique store and also sells painted furniture. She brought a cute little side table. Here are her process photos. Her design was inspired by a rug she saw at a hotel. In order to fit the motif onto the oddly shaped table, we cut a pattern to fit it. She has more work to do on it when she gets home including outlining the shapes and adding more dots and spots. 

We enjoyed a gorgeous lunch cooked by friend Cynthia. 

The tablecloth is made from one of my fabric designs. You can purchase a tablecloth made by the folks at Roostery (a division of Spoonflower) here. The fabric design is available in my Spoonflower shop here. You can purchase the design printed on 26 different fabrics, 2 types of wallpaper and gift wrap.  

It was a great day of sharing ideas and stories. I love hosting these retreats because even though each student comes knowing none of the others, by the end of the day they are all friends. For me, it is so rewarding to see the projects and each person's confidence develop as the day goes on. And meeting fellow creative spirits who are brave enough to come to our farm is one of the best parts of each year here at our farm - at least for me (maybe not my family :) ).