Blogs: Crafts

collageMCL Makers is a DIY series that highlights Multnomah County Library Staff who make things in their spare time. In the past we have featured soapmaking with Anne and handspinning with Donna. Our next featured MCL Maker is Library Assistant Laura Simon.  When she's not using her talents at her branch to create lovely bulletin boards, flyers, and displays, Laura likes to make mixed media collages and handmade books, among other crafty things. Here she shares with us about mixed media collage.

How long have you been making mixed media collages?

I feel like I've been making collages my whole life! My mom taught me to see the creative potential of every tiny scrap, shiny bit and broken shard. She saved these things in a giant cupboard in our garage. That Craft Cupboard was my boredom buster. My sister and I could spend hours slathering glue onto old buttons, tissue paper, sequins and sticks.

How did you learn to collage?

As an adult, art wasn't really a part of my life. I realized how much I missed the process after I celebrated my 40th birthday by taking a mixed media class at Collage on Alberta. I went straight home and started my own Craft Cupboard, now an entire Craft Room, filled with all sorts of inspiring junk.

Have you used any resources from the library to further develop your craft? 

The strongest connection between the library and my artistic endeavors has always been the creative people I work with. There are so many makers in the library community! Of course there are also some amazing books that have passed through my hands over my  years working in libraries. A few of my favorites are 1,000 Artist Journal Pages: Personal Pages and Inspirations by Dawn DeVries Sokol; Pretty Little Things: Collage Jewelry, Trinkets, Keepsakes by Sally Jean Alexander; and Collage Discovery Workshop by Claudine Hellmuth.

Have you taught others how to collage or shared your skill in any way?

I have regular get togethers with a couple of my crafty librarian friends. For me, the process of creating while spending time with close friends is very therapeutic. I am often surprised by the artistic result. 

What advice do you have for the new crafter just starting out?

Don't overthink it! Jump in, get messy, embrace the chaos. 

For more information on mixed media collage and other creative exploration, check out this curated list

 

Feeling creative?  Needing inspiration?  Check out the OMSI Mini Maker Faire this weekend!  

Who are these makers, anyway? As the OMSI website says. "Makers range from tech enthusiasts to crafters to homesteaders to scientists to garage tinkerers.  They are of all ages and backgrounds.  The aim of the Maker Faire is to entertain, inform, connect and grow this community."  

At the library we are big fans of makers!  We have programs, books and other resources to support our maker community.  We even have a Makerspace at our Rockwood Library for teens.  Because we love makers so much, we'll have a booth at the Maker Faire from 10am-5pm on Saturday (9/10) and Sunday (9/11).  And we're bringing a lot of cool stuff with us!  Stop by to sign up for a library card or to make a rubberband helicopter!

Hope to see you there!  If you can't come, make sure to check out the booklists below for some creative inspiration.

 

Subversive Cross Stitch book coverAhhh...summer is finally here. For some (lucky) folks that means time to relax, enjoy the sun, read, binge watch Netflix, and maybe take up a new craft. But what new craft should I get into, you ask? This is where Subversive Cross Stitch comes to the rescue. Of course cross stitching isn’t a “new” craft, and maybe you have already dabbled in stitchery, but hear me out on this. When I saw this book sitting on our new book shelf, opened it up and saw beautiful cross stitch patterns with sayings like “Cheer Up, Loser”, “Too Bad So Sad” and “Kiss My Grits” (and these are just some of the more rated-PG patterns), I knew that I had found my new summer craft. That night I found myself in the craft store loading up a basket with embroidery thread, wooden embroidery hoops, needles, canvas and cute little scissors. Over a weekend, while binge watching the newest season of Orange is the New Black, I proudly finished my first cross stitch. I would post a picture for you, but that might get me fired, so instead you can feast your eyes on the censored piece that I started a few days ago. Half done cross stitch
 
The patterns in this book are fantastically snarky, fun and easy to follow. Plus the author starts the book out with basic cross stitch instructions and techniques. Perfect for the novice cross stitcher, like myself, and the experienced needleworker who wants to explore their “sassy side”.
 

Upcycling is the transformation of an object from one use to another. A man’s shirt might become a little girl’s dress, for example. The best upcycling is when trash is transformed into treasure. Crafty people see potential where other people see waste, so the next time you wonder if there might be another purpose for an item that you are about to throw out, take a few minutes to search online first to see what’s out there.

Try a Google search using the words “upcycle”, “reuse”, or “repurpose” with the name of the object to be remade (for example, “tin cans upcycle”). One of the top results will generally be images for your search words, so click on these words to quickly scan for appealing ideas. There may be many ways to repurpose common objects and fewer for less common items. Some of the ideas are brilliant and some are daffy, but these might stimulate ideas of your own.

Many of the top results will be from Pinterest, the visual bookmarking tool. Of course, you can go directly to Pinterest and search using the same search terms that you used in Google. However, the search will generate slightly different results depending upon whether you use “upcycle”, “repurpose”, or “reuse” so be sure to play around a bit. You must have an account to search Pinterest but if you do not, it is easy to create one since all you need is an email and a password. The only personal information that you provide is your name, age, and sex.

Of course, the library has many books featuring upcycled projects and the best way to find these is to search by subject using the words “salvage waste” in either the Classic Catalog or My MCL. Alternately, you can do a keyword search using “upcycling” or “repurpose.”

It’s that time of year when I start thinking about what I could make as holiday gifts. Do you make gifts? Host a cookie exchange?

I have been part of a craft group for more than a decade. We get together about once a month to eat, work on projects and discuss the world. They have inspired me over the years to make liqueurs, cookies, jewelry, cards and photo books. I've created a list of terrific books for any of these endeavors. Hope you like it and are inspired to create.

Sweater selfie of Cathy Carron's belle curve cardiganFall, It took you long enough to come around, but all is forgiven now that you’re here.  Let’s not waste another moment. It’s time to break out the yarn stash and get knitting! I know you year-round knitters are out there, but so far my knitting habit is strictly seasonal. It comes on strong only when the temperature drops and holds steady through the winter, though admittedly, it’s been slow to progress.  

The first year I did scarves: messy and uneven, with lots of irregularities that I tried to pass off as design features. They were presented to family who had the good sense to politely tuck them out of sight. Next it was hats: ribbed hats, striped hats, much too itchy baby hats, and one unintentionally slouchy Rastafarian hat.

Last year was known in my house as the year of the snood, and so this fall I’ve been determined to make a great leap forward: sweaters.  That was until I picked up Short Story: Chic Knits for Layering by Cathy Carron and my great leap has started instead, with an enthusiastic hop.Book jacket: Short story by Cathy Carron

The belle curve cardigan on page 82 proved to be the perfect middle step between knitting circular accessories and piecing together a sweater with sleeves.  It was relatively quick to knit up, has no seams and was knit on circular needles.  Most important, it passed the test of withstanding frequent interruptions and a five year old ‘helper’ without resulting in a wooly meltdown.

Carron is known for her knitting books, loaded with innovative patterns, ranging from basics with a twist, to over-the-top looks for more daring souls and this one is no different. So if you’re not quite ready to knit a sweater, but can’t in good conscience bestow another hat upon a family member, check out Carron’s Short Story and she’ll get you halfway there.

Looking for more tried and tested books for the novice knitter? Check out my list.

Recently, I recommended some bead jewelry making books to a patron.  This inspired me to write about them.

Beads called my name back in 1992. They beckoned me over to look at them and dress them up with wire, filigree and clasps or earhooks. They are a comfort to me. Hours of joy is bestowed upon me when I spend time with them.  A friend taught me how to manipulate wire, beads and findings together to make necklaces and earrings when I visited her in San Francisco.

Over the years I have heard people talk about their bead obsession: they call it an addiction, a hobby, and a disease. I think of it as a healthy hobby. A hobby that lets the mind relax and stay in the present moment while crafting.

I am mostly a jewelry maker that likes to wire wrap. I essentially connect beads together with wire and connectors. I have also worked with crimp beads and soft flex wire (a type of string) and strung beads together.  And the newest thing I have tried with beads is bead embroidery which is stitching or hand sewing beads onto fabric or fabric forms.  

So of course, I have a list for you if you want to explore the world of beading and wire-wrapping. Have fun!

Feel like moving some paint?  Want to splatter some alcohol inks?

One of my current obsessions is learning how to do mixed media visual art.  To get started I looked at books by Seth Apter. I took classes at the local mixed media center: Collage and with Serena Barton and Chris Cozen.  I also like to follow the blogs of Pam Garrison and Mary Anne Moss for learning mixed media tips and tricks.  

To continue learning I started a mixed media club with a couple of friends. We meet monthly. We share and try new products.  Basically, we cheer each other on!  I have found the best mixed media foundation recipe from the Jenny Doh’s magazine Somerset Studio. Don’t be fooled by the lack of a cover image in our catalog - this magazine is visually stunning. Most importantly I am having fun and I wanted to share some of these resources so you can have fun too!

Cover image: Growing up sew liberated by Meg McElweeOne day a young boy around the age of four, marched into the library dressed in the most adorable vintage sailor suit, paired with very Pacific Northwest Photo of little red riding hood cloakpractical and fashion forward leg warmers.  As he came up to the desk with his books I said, "I love your outfit!"  His reply? "This is not an outfit. These are just regular clothes."
 
That kid had it completely right. Some days you're a hulk-princess-mermaid and other days, you just want to wear head to toe brown. It's not a big to-do, just regular clothes because that's what the day calls for.
 
When I saw the hooded cape in Growing Up Sew Liberated: Handmade Clothes & Projects for your Creative Child by popular blogger Meg McElwee, I knew I had to make it.  Superhero capes were a big hit at my house when my son was younger, but they haven't been Photo of child in brown hooded play capegetting much use lately.  Add a hood and a little imagination however, and the possibilities open up to endless.
 
As with most all of McElwee's patterns, this one is crazy simple, even for the novice or impatient sewer.  Thus far I've sewn a little red riding hood cape for my niece, to gift along with a copy of the Grimm classic fairytale and a solid brown one for my son, which does double duty as either a Jedi or Robin Hood cloak.  I see a Harry Potter invisibility cloak on the horizon, just as soon as I find the right fabric. No big thing. Just regular clothes.
 

Where do you go once you’ve mastered sewing basic items of clothing and are ready to branch out into more challenging fashions?  

Step one is to make sure you are getting the best out of your sewing machine.  The Sewing Machine Classroom is more than just information about your machineIn the first chapters, Charlene Phillips talks in-depth about needles and thread. Think of it this way -- you can have the best car (sewing machine), but if you use the wrong tires (needles and thread), then the only thing between your car and the road (fabric) won't perform well. And may crash--badly.

Picking out a more advanced pattern can be intimidating, but the website PatternReview.com helps you get the scoop on which patterns work and which don’t. The site is a little clunky and cluttered, but there is a wealth of information there. You can create a free profile to access sewing pattern reviews, get reviews of sewing machines, visit forums, find tips and techniques, register for classes and the list goes on. If you need help with anything to do with sewing clothing, you can probably get your answers here.

You might be intimidated by trying a more complicated garment because you are worried it might not fit and you will have spent all that time creating something unwearable.  Check out Fitting & Pattern Alteration by Elizabeth G. Liechty. I’ve found fitting solutions in here I’ve never seen anywhere else.

So now you’ve got it to fit, how do you give your garments that extra special touch?  Try some couture techniques.  Claire Shaeffer has really studied couture garments in depth and has stellar techniques in her book Couture Sewing Techniques, as well as interesting histories of some garments from couture designers. Made a v-neck top that gaps? She’ll tell you how to fix that.  Know all about closures? This will tell you even more.  Claire is also featured on the Couture Allure Vintage Fashion Blog.

If you are making a shirt, take a look at David Page Coffin’s book, Shirtmaking:  Developing Skills for Fine Sewing, and companion DVD, Shirtmaking Techniques, in order to get seriously professional results:  well-turned collars, perfect plackets, and impeccable hems.  I would recommend these techniques even if you aren’t sewing a shirt. They can be applied in other areas of other kinds of garments. For example, I use his instructions for attaching a sleeve cuff to attach waistbands to pants as a way to avoid bumpy corners.

If you’ve gotten to this point, you’re probably ready to try some tailoring. Tailoring, a volume from the Singer Reference Library, goes over classic tailoring techniques, but gives you the option of shortcuts with modern fusible stabilizers, too, making the process a little less daunting. 

Maybe you’re still not sure what you want to sew next. Look for some inspiration in the form of online blogs.  Two standout blogs I regularly visit are Gretchen Hirsch’s blog, Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing and Peter Lappin's Male Pattern Boldness. Gertie sews her own clothes with a vintage flair, and has transformed that into a successful teaching business, a book, and even her own line of patterns.  For every creation, Gerie provides tutorials or photographs of the process.  Peter makes dresses and suits and everything in between.  He also takes photos of his sewing process which are really helpful, and his writing style is a joy to read, even if you don’t sew.

And, lastly, if you’re feeling really adventurous, check out this drool-worthy blog of period costumes at Before the Automobile. Wow!

Rebecca is a library clerk at Belmont who has been sewing since a very young age, but recently realized she was resting on her laurels and needed more of a challenge.

 

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