Book Club Updates

Hello little blog, I haven’t forgotten about you.

I haven’t talked about my book club in awhile, so let’s talk about that. I last shared about our January book, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, so let’s back up to February. In February we read a sort of feminist manifesto called Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism’s Work Is Done. It was basically about how the media and pop culture portray women, getting us to believe that it’s totally okay to be objectified since we’ve already achieved equality. My experience and value system and frame of reference is very different from that of the author, and I didn’t always agree with her, but there were many times when we still ended up reaching similar conclusions. The book was chock full of references to TV shows, movies, and magazines, and it was fun to remember specific shows from my youth and look at them from a gender studies perspective. I didn’t end up making any quote art from this book, but here was my favorite quote from it:

“…the wheedling, seductive message to young women is that being decorative is the highest form of power — when, of course, if it were, Dick Cheney would have gone to work every day in a sequined tutu.” – Susan J. Douglas


It kind of reminds me of another quote I love:

“If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you. I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know you’ll make it a better place. ” – Marmee,  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Oh how I love Marmee.

Anyway, after the long, thought-provoking feminist book, we were all ready for a little breather so we picked The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for March. We picked it because it’s so short and kind of geared toward youth so we thought it would be easy. It was not quite as easy to read as we had thought, but still, the length was a nice break. I had read the book before, but only in the original French when I was a student, and I had just kind of glossed over the words I didn’t know. There were quite a few of those words, so really this was the first time I really understood it.

We had a good discussion about what childhood means to our society and how understandings of childhood as a magical time of innocence have been vastly different throughout history. We even got to talking about how our different faith denominations treat children and understand them as “sinners” differently.

The quote I chose from this book was “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” For my artwork I decided to use the French version, “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” but I shortened it to “l’essentiel est invisible.”


l'essentiel est invisible

I embroidered it onto a scrap piece of my own handmade paper. I had been wondering how it might work to embroider patterns and designs onto my handmade paper notecards that I sell in my Etsy shop, so this was my experiment to see if it might work. It doesn’t. At least not if I’m embroidering in small cursive letters. I ripped the paper several times. Oh well, at least now I know.


For our next meeting, we are reading Divergent by Veronica Roth. I bought it one morning a week or so ago, and I finished that night at 3AM. Because it is so deliciously exciting and easy to read! I am now on the hunt for a paperback copy of the 2nd and 3rd books in the trilogy (paperback because the one I own is paperback and they have to match!) but they’ve sold out at half price books. It’s the kind of young adult series that I love to devour quickly like Twilight or The Hunger Games, except I like it much better than Twilight and not quite as well as The Hunger Games.  After our book club discusses it in April I will work on sharing some quote art from Divergent.





Last week my husband had excruciating dental pain and had to get a root canal. We didn’t budget for this unplanned expense, and we aren’t sure if our insurance will cover most of it. I am thankful that we have the money for things like this, but it does mean I have to say goodbye to the “technology upgrade” I had budgeted for this month. We were planning to replace our aging computer and also get Photoshop Elements so I could begin working on some digital designs for printing on fabric and giftwrap.

I’ve been pretty anxious to get started with designing patterns on Photoshop, so this week I have been tempted to feel exasperated by my husband’s stupid tooth and having to wait a few more months to get started. I allowed myself a short time (10 minutes) to embrace that feeling of frustration, and then I chose to roll with the punches and ask the right questions.

1. What can I do right now with what I have? I can’t afford to explore digital fabric design right away, but I can continue to experiment by hand. I have tried painting on fabric with acrylic paints, and I really loved the process. The only problem was that acrylic paint makes the fabric feel stiff, and it looks obviously painted on. So I have ordered some fabric paints and pigment dye and some white scarves and I’m gonna take another baby step toward fabric design.

2. Can I turn this annoyance into something useful? I was excited to try digital design, but in truth I was jumping in pretty blind. So while I have time to wait I am going to use this more hands-on fabric painting project as a way to learn how different fabrics react to dyes and pigments. This will be helpful information to have when I do get a chance to design digital repeats.

In the end, I’m pretty okay with having to adapt my plan.

My fabric paints are supposed to arrive on Saturday, and I can’t wait to experiment with stamping, block-printing, and painting on some lightweight scarves that I can wear this Spring. I will post photos as soon as I have them!



In like a lion

I have been quiet on this blog for a couple weeks, because I’ve been very busy watching TV and taking out the trash and all that. I am not usually the trash taker outer in our household, so there was a learning curve.

Honestly, though, I haven’t blogged because I’m kind of in the late-winter doldrums of creativity. I made some new curtains for our downstairs bathroom, which I will show you sometime (the one I blogged about here was the upstairs bathroom), but the new curtains aren’t as great as I had hoped. I made some handmade paper the other day, and same story. Kind of meh. I don’t have a current art project I’ve been working on that seems blog-worthy. I am definitely still studying up on fabric design and I’ve even practiced making a couple rough repeats on paper (repeats are designs that, when repeated, flow seamlessly together) but I don’t have much new to share about the fabric design endeavor at the moment.

Instead, let’s talk about Lent!

It’s March already. My theme for March (which I chose at the beginning of the year) was supposed to be “Reflect.” Because I wanted Lent to be meaningful. (I’ve never done Lent before, so this will be the first Lent during which I actually give something up. I’m giving up sugar. At least on weekdays, maybe weekends too, we’ll see how I feel about it on Friday.) Well, now I’m thinking maybe I picked the theme word too soon. Or maybe having a theme word each month is stupid? Jury is still out. I’m not saying I won’t be reflective at all this month, but March is turning out to be way busier than I thought, and a whole month is a long time to be reflective. I’m just not in a reflective mood. Isn’t that what Good Friday is for, after all?

I must confess that my motives for giving up sugar are much more vain than spiritual. My kid is nearly 3 1/2 and despite running fairly regularly with the high school cross country girls I haven’t lost a single pound of “baby weight.” So that’s my main reason for doing no-sugar Lent.  Also I hijacked the idea from my twin sister. She was already planning to give up sugar for Lent, and I kind of just wanted to do it because she was doing it.

There definitely is a spiritual aspect of it too, though. You know, gluttony, and sacrifice, and all that. I won’t get into it here, but I’m really looking forward to the spiritual benefits of learning a little self-control.

Happy March, everyone!




Painted Toddler Shoes (OR: Regrets of an Over-Zealous Crafter) {Wardrobe Wednesday}

I often talk about the benefits of just jumping in and doing a creative project. I’m all about doing SOMETHING, even if it’s not Pinterest-worthy, doodling if I can’t get into my painting sweet spot, sewing even if I don’t have measurements. Sure, it might only lead to something mediocre, but it’s a first step. With my personality (I’m a dreamer, not a doer), in my current stage of life at home with a toddler, that is how I manage to take that most difficult first step into creating something.

That just-do-it mindset really helps me.

Except when it doesn’t. Maybe it’s the time constraints. (When I’ve got a two-hour block of time while my girl is at preschool and I feel I MUST produce some artwork in the next two hours, hurry hurry!) Or sometimes just an excess of creative energy without a plan to guide it. Whatever the reason, sometimes I get over-zealous and I jump right in and live to regret it.

Case in point, these cute little toddler boat shoes.

Sperrys unpainted

I found them cheap at Once Upon A Child, and I really liked them just the way they were. They’ll fit perfectly this spring and summer. Classic, preppy, loved the color, loved that they weren’t too girly and would match everything.

But my creative juices were flowing, demanding that I produce something, anything. And I was really happy with my previous shoe-painting project. And my daughter thought they looked too boyish and wanted them to be purple. (Our tastes differ greatly. Because she is three.) I had reservations about painting a non-white shoe, but I ignored them. For my daughter’s sake I busted out the bright colors and proceeded to make them girly, despite my good sense.

Sperrys painted

I wasn’t happy with the color combination on the blue-grey background so I painted over it multiple times and got this:

Sperrys painted

Still, that pink was too saccharine. By this point I was wishing I had just told my daughter no. You can wear normal classic shoes. So after layers of paint (most of the layers I did not photograph), I figured the next best thing to the original plain shoe was to just paint it all one color. There was no going back to the grey-blue, and I DO prefer to avoid battles over what my daughter will wear, so I just painted the whole thing purple.

Sperrys painted

Sperrys painted

Sperrys painted

I’m okay with it. It’s a nice color for a kid’s shoe. She likes them and she’s looking forward to warm weather when I’ll let her wear them out of the house. The good thing about this project is that if I hadn’t painted these shoes she might not have wanted to wear them, but since they’re purple I know she will. Still, I can’t help feeling a little meh, like I wasted a lot of time and a lot of paint only to end up preferring the original unpainted shoes.

Well, lesson learned.

Do you ever get over-zealous and regret putting your “creative stamp” on something that was just fine the way it was? With all the monogram-crazy Pinterest projects out there, I can’t possibly be the only one.

New on Etsy: rainbow color embroidered notecards

New in my shop: these colorful embroidered notecards are blank inside. I love tactile art, and stitching on paper is a simple way to engage the sense of touch. Lately I’ve been challenging myself to add more small items to my Etsy shop (instead of just wall art). Embroidering a few notecards while I watch the Olympics in the evening is my current solution.


rainbow embroidered cards rainbow embroidered cards rainbow embroidered cards rainbow embroidered cards rainbow embroidered cards rainbow embroidered cards

Hand-printed textile project: a child’s apron

I am not much of a sewer (sewist? seamstress?) but I love fabric, especially interior design fabric. And I am still holding out hope that someday I will develop the discipline to actually measure things and maybe someday make a quilt.

But today is not that day and I am still too lazy to measure anything. Yet I’m not going to wait until my latent detail-oriented characteristic (I am hoping it exists and is just dormant!) kicks in before doing anything. I needed to use up some fabric scraps I had practiced stamping on with acrylic paints.

So I just made this little kid apron using the hand-stamped fabric I showed you in my last post. Refresher: it looked like this:

stamped fabric

Well now I have turned it into something! A child-sized apron, to be specific. I laid out a child-sized apron my daughter already owned as a vague sort of pattern, and then just kind of eyeballed it to cut the fabric pieces. It is a little asymmetrical and FAR from perfect, but it’s comfortable and it serves its purpose, and if I had felt like I had to measure and do things carefully, I never would have gotten started. So I’m glad I just jumped right in.





I said in my last post that I was getting interested in textile design. I’m figuring out how to get started with digital design and digital printing on fabric, and I’ll need to buy Photoshop or Illustrator, and some other technology upgrades. But I won’t be able to afford that until probably April. So in the meantime I am experimenting with hand-printing methods and reading all the beginners’ books I can get my hands on.  I’ll share more as I learn more. Thanks for following along with me!

Getting Into Textile Design

Textile design has been a “dream job” for me for quite awhile. It would have been my dream job even in high school, except I didn’t know it existed. Now I’m ready to figure out what it’s all about.

I have zero formal education in art or design. My degree is in English. If you’re looking for a post filled with practical design tips from someone who knows what they’re talking about, I am not your girl.

But if you want to follow along as I teach my clueless self how to design my own fabric, wallpaper, and giftwrap, stick around! This is going to be a long process over the next several months (years) but with the help of my local public library I am hoping to learn as much as I can about turning my fine art paintings into digital patterns and getting them printed on fabrics and other surfaces.

I recently read a book by Kim Kight called A Field Guide to Fabric Design. It was a great introduction for me, and I’ll tell more about it in a future post. But from what I’ve gathered so far, I need to buy some software. Either Photoshop or Illustrator.

I mentioned above my lack of design education. Well my lack of technology education is equally as daunting. I have never used Photoshop or Illustrator. (Or a smart phone, or a tablet…) Computers are scary. This blog is the most current and complex tech experience of my life. I’ve pretty much allowed myself to be left behind the digital revolution. Most of the time that’s okay with me. But when it comes to design, being tech-illiterate is limiting. So beginning a journey into the world of textile design for me also means figuring out technology.

I’m looking into getting Photoshop Elements so I can get started ASAP.

But to get myself in the spirit, I went ahead and designed some fabric using technology I’m perfectly comfortable with: acrylic paints and potatoes.

Martha Stewart Craft Paints

I cut a potato (that was too old to eat)  in half and carved some shapes, to make a stamp. I don’t have a photo of the exact one I used for the fabric, but here’s what it looked like when I did it on wrapping paper at Christmas:

potato stamp

And then I stamped. I used the carved potato stamps, and I also used the flat back end of a colored pencil to make small circles, and the end of a magic marker cap to make rings. First I tried it on some napkins I sewed myself. The stamping worked well, but I discovered that painting on napkins makes them not very soft. Womp-womp.


I wanted to keep going, so I scrounged up some old fabric scraps to use. These are a bunch of various-sized pieces cut from a canvas-y cotton. I’m not exactly sure what kind of fabric it is. It was the ripped liner from my old wicker laundry hamper.

stamped fabric stamped fabric stamped fabric stamped fabric stamped fabric

I think it looks pretty cool, but I’m not sure what I’ll make from the fabric scraps. I’m thinking a little kid’s apron, maybe? Do you have any ideas?

I can’t wait to learn a new skill. I have no experience, but I think I can find the resources I need by reading books and seeking out people who know what they’re doing. As I learn more about fabric and how to turn my fine art into digital patterns, I’ll share more on the blog. Stay tuned!

– Gwen