Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Making Copper Leaves, A Picture Tutorial (Yay it's finally Fall!)

Last night we had a spectacular sunset with the sky looking like molten lava.  This morning, I can't tell you how excited I am that it is cloudy....and I'm wearing a sweater!  At the weekend it was still in the mid 90's but today it is definitely Fall.   Finally I can legitimately think about pumpkins and pretty leaves!

This morning I've been making some copper leaves for a small garland to decorate a frame I bought at our local Hobby Lobby store.  The frame is half chalkboard and half chicken wire and it is destined for the mantel in the living room. 

I've worked with this copper sheet before and I love how it looks.  The copper cuts easily with regular scissors.  The cut edges are sharp though, so if you try this be careful.  I got the copper in my local Michael's and they sold gloves next to it but I like to live dangerously!

Use a cutting mat to protect your surface.  Carefully remove the copper from the box and un roll it.  Cut out as many freehand leaf shapes as you need.  Using the embossing tools below (Martha Stewart, also from Michaels or you can use a blunt pencil) practice making marks on some scrap copper.  You'll find the copper is pretty easy to work with. 

I press quite firmly to get a fairly deep line but you have to experiment.  Remember to use a mat to protect your table.  

Once all your leaves are cut and embossed with their patterns, take them over to your gas stove and turn on a large burner.  Using tongs, dip the leaves in and out of the flame and watch as the magic happens.  The copper will change color.  Do it slowly and cautiously and don't leave the copper in the flame.  Practicing on some scrap copper is a good idea to get a feel for how many times to put it into the flame.  Leave the leaves on a heat proof counter to cool before touching them - yes really, go check email or something - you don't want to burn yourself.

Aren't they lovely?  The range of colors is so pretty.

My goal was to make these leaves into a garland strung with rustic twine so I used a small hole punch (the copper punches easily) and made two holes in the end of each leaf.  The twine was threaded through those holes and tied to the frame.  I wound some tape around the end of the twine to prevent it from fraying when threading it.  Using two holes in each leaf gives you more control over how the leaves hang.  When the garland is complete you can gently curl and manipulate the leaves to make them hang exactly how you'd like them.  

On the chalkboard portion of the frame, I drew some loose hearts with little leaves and flowers and then wrote "home" in the center.  Pinterest is a great place to look for chalkboard inspiration but I had an image in my head of what I wanted.  

As you can see below, I simply tied the twine to the frame.  

I love how this looks on my mantel with that little ceramic pumpkin that my daughter made at school.  I also have several real pumpkins on the mantel too.  I love Fall........

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Some Finished Pincushions and Butte Fire Update

First things first.  I finally made a decision about what to use to hang these little mini stockings with!  I usually use rustic jute for my hanging pumpkins and ribbon for my owls but neither of those felt right for the stockings.  Last year I used red ribbon but the knots kept slipping and I had to use a dab of glue on each which took ages.  This year I have used a sturdy but soft, tightly spun cotton yarn.  It doesn't unravel at the ends and drapes nicely.  

I also stuffed the four cherry blossom pincushions and four magical tree stump pincushions with the little fairy doors.  In addition to finishing up those, I also made six little tree stump pincushions.  To mix things up I used some different flowers and color combinations on some of those.

Today I began working on some hanging owls.  

Butte Fire Update
This fire has grown to almost 72,000acres and incredibly is 40%contained as of this evening.  166 homes have been lost and 116 other buildings.  The fire is spreading south and east and is about 10 miles (as the crow flies) from our cabin.  The area where our cabin is has been taken off the Evacuation Advisory list but the little mountain town, 8 miles down the mountain where we do our grocery shopping is still on that list and everything could change with the wind.  We are so grateful to the almost 5000 firefighters for doing this most dangerous of jobs.  These two photos are from a local news channel. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Butte Fire, Sierra Nevada California

All this week we've had triple digit temperatures.  The heat has been relentless and exhausting.  It hasn't cooled off at night and I haven't been at my best!  The thing that kept me going was the promise of a cooler weekend in the mountains.  After school on Friday we set off, noting two things as we drove over the pass to reach the Central Valley, one - how low the water level was in the huge San Luis reservoir and two - that there was brown smoke hanging in the air.   

San Luis reservoir

Smoke in the atmosphere usually means beautiful sunsets like this one.

I knew there was a fire further north in the "Gold Country".  What I didn't know is that because of the conditions in the parched Sierra foothills, the "Butte" fire had exploded to nearly 64,000acres and was only 5% contained. California Governor Brown had issued a State of Emergency for the fire area.  As we drove the smoke became worse and as we reached Angels Camp in the dark, we could see the fire line and the huge orange glow of the fire to our left.  I've seen this before several times in my years in California but I was shocked at how long the fire line was and how far the glow spread.  When we got to our cabin and checked online we learned that pretty much everywhere north of Angels Camp was on mandatory evacuation and that where our cabin is, was under an evacuation advisory.  An evacuation advisory means be ready to leave.  

We didn't unpack and had everything ready to go should the emergency services come and tell us to go.  We left a light on, so they would know we were there.  It was after 11pm and we were all exhausted.  Our neighbors through the trees were also there, also with a light on, also ready.  

This morning there was some smoke drifting between our trees but we could see patches of blue sky.  The advisory, however was unchanged.  We loaded the rest of our things and left.   The drive down was extremely smokey and we saw lots of bulldozers being transported up the mountain along with other fire vehicles.  We are hoping our mountain will be spared. The fire is not many miles away but there are 3300 firefighters working there, 383 fire engines, 8 air tankers, 17 helicopters and over 60 bulldozers.   We feel immense gratitude for these brave firefighters.  

Near Angels Camp.

 This is from a local tv news station.  This is the  official website for the fire and what we are using to monitor what is happening.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On My Worktable This Week

I've been working on pincushions this week and have four cherry blossom and four magical tree stump ones ready for stuffing.  Today I cut out and started on some tree stump pincushions.  These have sold well at the shows I have done so I thought I'd make a few for the up-coming quilt show.  I have a box full of mini stockings and I am trying to decide what to use as the hanging ribbon.  Last year I used narrow red ribbon but I wasn't 100% happy with how that looked and I had to use a tiny bit of glue on each knot to stop the knots from slipping open.  I'm thinking that I will use some kind of fine natural twine, nothing too chunky though.  I'll be working on the tree stump pincushions over the weekend.  

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Printing Paper Bags

I had a printing session one morning this week to block print my bird design on the brown paper bags I use as packaging.  The bags are the small size paper lunch bags that I buy at Target.  The bird image is a lino block I made a couple of years ago and it has become my signature bag.  I love everything about the printing process from the smell of the ink to the soothing repetitive motions.  Plus, you never really know what you are going to get!  I printed about 60 bags before running out.  I will need to spend another morning printing some more after I have bought more bags.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Embroidered Hanging Pumpkins

I finished a whole lot of these pumpkins.  This batch is for the quilt show that I will be selling at at the end of September.  Any left after that will be added to my shop and I will likely end up making more since I sold lots of these last year and sold out.  This year I have made some with embroidery and some with little appliqué flowers and leaves.  When I display them at the quilt show I use a metal jug filled with tall branches that I harvest from my tree.  I hang the little pumpkins from those branches.  It adds some good height to the table in my booth and the pumpkins look great hanging there.  

Yesterday I started on some tiny Christmas stockings.  These are for my booth at the quilt show too.  Again, I made a few of these for the show last year and sold them all.  I then made lots for my shop and this blue one is the only one I had left.  They are really small, perfect for a candy cane or a rolled up dollar bill!  I'm making them in bright, mostly non-traditional colors. Last year, a customer bought a blue one and a pink one and used them to announce the sex of her baby!  Such a cute idea.  I'll be sewing these little stockings today whilst watching The Big Blue Live on PBS.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Does Anything Grow?

Today we drove to the ranch where my daughter takes riding lessons.  It was 105F outside and incredibly windy, even more so than usual.  The hot wind was stirring up the dust and sweeping it along the valley, depositing it in a thick film over everything.  I totally get why cowboys in the old wild west movies always wore bandanas.  I could have used a bandana today.  

On the way, we did slow down and take a picture of the pumpkin field but the leaves are, unbelievably, still green and hiding the pumpkins!  How is that possible?  Look how dry the ground is.  The pumpkins are going to be really big ones.  You can't tell from these photos but they are the ones you can hardly get your arms around and pick up.  The ones you can carve into elaborate designs for Halloween.  I love pumpkins.  

Usually I park in the shade at the barn and sit in the car and sew while my daughter rides.  I don't run the engine because I don't want to spook the horses.  Even when it is hot outside, it is usually ok in the shade with all the windows open to catch the gusting afternoon breeze.  Today I tried because I have those little hanging pumpkins I'm enjoying working on but it was unbearable.  Eventually I gave up and went and hung out inside the barn and watched the lesson from there.  I think it was even hotter in there but I made myself useful getting drinks of water!

Seriously, I think this horse has a magical, invisible unicorn horn.  He is so beautiful!  

I'm still working on these.

"Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning....." right?  Ever the optimist!  I'm so looking forward to crisp, cold Fall mornings.