Friday, August 28, 2015


I could have - and probably should have - chosen the easier route for this commission. There were two photos of a young black cat to work from, one of which would lead to a pretty straightforward print, requiring only a bit of fiction to make the background carve-able, and the other, which looked more complicated every time i peered at it.

Naturally, i picked the more complicated route, a neat shot of the kitty perched on a section of worm fence. It ended up needing four separate blocks, printed in layers - light green, then dark green, then grey-brown, and finally black. It was fussy to do, and there were inconvenient hitches like an arm injury that set things back, and it ended up taking far longer than i'd expected, based on the original plan of a simple, single block print. Feeling a bit guilty for getting the timeline wrong, i decided i ought to do a print from the other photo, too (and in fact, that was something i was able to put together pretty quickly, while finishing the last stages of the original choice). I finally drove out and delivered both today, and was relieved that they were greeted with oohs and aaahs - commissions, while they're fun challenges, are always a little nerve-racking, and this one was for friends, the proprietors of my favorite little used bookshop.

There's an edition of each, so they'll be making their way to the shop sooner (for the simpler one) or later (for the four-color monstrosity, because i haven't even completed the edition yet, and i'm going to need more ink).

And i think i've had enough of carving wood grain for a while...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Done, mostly.

We had a family wedding to go to, in southern Virginia, at the back end of June. That's a recipe for miserably hot and swampy, and i decided to play it safe and make something cool and breezy to wear. It's not a vintage pattern (it's a current McCall's issue, in fact, and if i get organized enough to remember, i'll slip the pattern number in later for folks who are curious...). [update for the curious: the pattern number is 6954]

What with travelling down there, and lodging and whatnot, there wasn't really room in the budget for a fabric splurge, so i started rummaging in the stash: the first thought for hot and sticky weather, of course, is linen, and i had a length of uncommitted linen sitting around from a crazy clearance buy. That had promise, but the piece proved to be scandalously sheer, and i knew i'd have to put something either over or under it.

After a bit of head-scratching, i thought about a piece of embroidered cotton batik i had: i'd bought it (online, following one of those seductive you-might-like-this-one-too links), thinking it was rayon and not realizing the link had led me away from the rayon batiks into the cotton ones. The crisper cotton was totally unsuitable for the original project, but since it was my own damn fault for not reading closely - and it was a pretty piece - i tucked it into the stash, trusting to find a purpose for it eventually. I cut the batik on the bias, hoping the more relaxed drape of the cut would make up for the difference in the body of the fabric.

Since i had the pattern on hand from one of the pattern-for-a-buck sales, the only thing i had to buy for the project was thread to match the linen, and that only because i needed a closer match for topstitching.

I finished in time for the wedding (although i admit there was hemming going on the morning of - that curve in the hem makes it a heck of a lot longer than you'd think from the fullness of the dress), and it was fully inspected by several sisters-in-law, at least one of whom sews for a living, so i figured i might as well enter it at the county fair this summer. Honestly, i'd have been a little cranky not to have scored a ribbon, but i was chuffed to get best in show as well.

And the mostly done part? Well, some of the chain-stitched embroidery on the batik didn't catch properly, and since i was already pushing my luck for what i could get out of the yardage on hand by cutting on the bias, there was no working around it... it's not too obvious, but at some point, i'll go back and rip out the fouled-up spots and re-do it by hand. I've saved a pile of the floss from the scraps and the facings, and at least chain stitch is sort of pleasant to work by hand, if you're not in a mad rush.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer date

Steam show, mule jump, flea market junk to peruse (passed on a treadle with really interesting irons, but lacking its coffin top). Milkshakes for lunch, and sweet corn for dinner.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Fruits of today's labors

I figured i ought to do something start-to-finish at the demo, from first sketch to finished print, so this is what i came up with: a wee pear, a block that's just a couple inches wide. I'm thinking i'll print a few up as ACEOs, once i've had a chance to play with colors in the oil-based ink (i stuck with water-based for the demo, for ease of clean-up, but i do like working with the oil-based stuff better).

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dog and pony show

If you find yourself in the vicinity of Shepherdstown, West Virginia this Saturday (July 25) - for the Contemporary American Theater Festival, say, or to hike, or to play in the river - stop by O'Hurley's General Store between noon and 3:00... i'll be doing a block printing demo in the Great Hall at the shop. (There will, in fact, be both dogs and ponies - or at any rate, a pony mule - among the available prints, too.)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When life hands you apricots's time to start the canning season. After a thrift store stop that left me empty-handed, i thought i'd check out the nearby grocery outlet, to see if i could score on provisions, instead. And score i did: among the odd bits of produce on offer was a small box of apricots at 99 cents a pound. I left with all the ones that weren't too squishy already, a total of about a pound and two-thirds. Not enough for a real batch of anything by themselves, so i set about looking or something to pair them with.

Raiding the trees and bushes at the barn (because free fruit is even better than cheap fruit), i came up with a few sour cherries and a few red currants, and after an evening of hunting recipes - which left me wishing i had lots more apricots, so i could try a few of them - i settled on this jam. I worried a bit about the set, because even with cutting the recipe in half, the proportions were a bit off: more apricots and fewer currants, and i knew the currants provided most of the pectin. In the end, though it took forever to gel, it was fine, and the color is simply glorious. Aside from the apricot/currant imbalance, the only alteration was a wee splash of brandy as it cooked. I ended up with four half-pints, and one of the tiny little four-ounce jars - plus just enough extra to slather on an English muffin for quality control. It's tart and sunny, and if you have the good fortune to find both apricots and red currants at the same time, i suggest you pounce.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Wee shirt

I was talking with a friend a few weeks before she had baby number three due, and asked if she had everything all ready... she laughed and said that between moving to a new farm, closing her store and opening her home studio, she pretty much hadn't done a thing.

"So, everything's normal, then." But i took it into my head to make something to send, and after rifling through the patterns that were on hand, came up with Simplicity 6259, a vintage-ish (1983) layette pattern, some super-soft cotton chambray (actually a set of thrifted sheets), and a cotton with a tiny, tiny print to make into scads of bias for the trim - all carefully chosen to be highly washable and also gender-neutral. As a bonus, the wrap can go in front or in back, and either side can be lapped over first - a virtue, when dressing a wriggly baby.

Fiddled about with the pattern a little bit - topstitching, and shortening a tiny bit in order to replace the hemmed bottom edge with one that was simply bound - and fought the binder attachment quite a lot (the inside curve of that tiny neck edge is a bear), but got the thing done and shipped off, only a few days after the kiddo made her appearance.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Springtime walks

I dug this little Victorian engraving out of a postcard bin in a junk shop - i was charmed by the scene and the location and the fact that the registration is slightly wonky (i feel a bit of sympathy for the unknown printer...). I've hunted around the Internet a bit to see if i can spot the same view, but with no artist, engraver, or publisher listed, there's not a whole lot to go on, just the image itself.

I've never been to Scotland, so i know the location only from the old tune, "Roslin Castle" - there's a snippet, here, played on viola da gamba by Tina Chancey.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Shhh...'s a Mother's Day present:

The hand-colored version of the tiny little cat nose - the printed image is just two inches square. The frame is a made-to-order job from fellow Etsy shop signedandnumbered.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mini Scrap Exchange

Print exchanges are fun - you get to see what other folks are making, and get artwork you might never have found otherwise - and using up odd bits left over from other projects is satisfying, so when i saw a note about an exchange that combined the two, i signed up right away. This one hadn't really very many rules, except that your prints had to be on two inch by two inch or three inch by three inch pieces of paper.

I haven't had a chance to photograph the goodies that arrived in the (wee tiny) portfolio, but here's a print from one of the editions i submitted, all framed up as a birthday present for a friend... and if you think you need one for your very own, i have a hand-colored version in the shop (one less than i started with, though: there was an unmistakable Maternal Hint that i should send one to Delaware for Mother's Day).

Monday, January 26, 2015

Another stray that stayed

This is my current go-to sewing machine, a Singer 500A - i haven't looked up its exact date of manufacture, but early 1960s is a safe bet. I wasn't going to hang onto it - i've got a Singer 403A that i've had for years, which has similar capabilities (without the swoopy Space Age styling that gives the 500 and 503 models the nickname "Rocketeer"), but it's been so lovely to use (and quiet!) that i keep going back to it.

I recently saw a picture of an old Singer ad, from 1963, with this model as their top-of-the-line domestic machine, with a retail price of $329.40. Just for grins, i fed that information into an inflation calculator, and came up with a price in today's money of $2545 and change.

It still sews like a dream; no attachments, but i've got a set that will fit from the 403, and the cabinet is waiting if i want to set it up more permanently... i'm feeling pretty good about finding it for $10.