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Friday, December 12, 2008

Take a left at the giant candy cane

We used to go to a long-gone, local amusement park called Santa's Village. This old photo tricked me into thinking it was a winter pic, but really it was my sister's birthday in April, 1976. We Californians have this winter business all mixed up.

If you look on the ground you can see my mom's purse — we used it as a chair when there weren't any toadstools to sit on.

Now I use the purse to hold embroidery floss. Alicia Paulson has me jumping through ye olde embroidery hoop as I try to get my handmade presents done asap. Check out Alicia's set of felt ornament patterns here.

This ornament is going to my sister because she just went ice skating for the first time in a long time, probably since 1976. This is where she went. I told you we have this winter business all wacky.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Solstice Calendar: A Work-in-Progress

Bill, Sarah, and Percy are the Owl Babies waiting for their mama owl to come home.
Wet-felted, undyed roving with thread, felt, and seed bead details.

For about a year I've been thinking about making a woodland "advent" calendar. I've been wanting to jump into needle-felting and wet-felting — both techniques I have little experience with — and this seemed like a great way to start. I've been envisioning woodland creatures, mushrooms, maybe a few gnomes, tucked away in little "stone" pockets to be pulled out by tiny fingers to attach to their forest home.

Until now my ideas have been fairly abstract — I've known the essence of what I want, but not sure how it would manifest. Last Sunday, on a floor filled with felt and a pair of sharp scissors, I started the process of bringing my idea to life. I'm not sure how long it will take, what the finished piece will look like, or, how it will end up being used. But, I do know that I'd love y'all to follow along. Here we go:

Day 1 (Sunday, Nov. 9th)
As I sat on the floor cutting out felt, I started thinking a little more about what I wanted and the logistics of it all. How will things stick to the felt? Velcro or not? Will they be too heavy? Too fuzzy? Not strong enough to withstand a toddler? Where do I want things to go? How many pockets should it have? What are we celebrating? What am I counting down to? Do the pockets even need numbers? Solstice came to mind. But, unlike Christmas, it falls on a different day each year — and, there are two Solstices to think about. Hmmm? Do I represent winter with snow even though it doesn't really snow here? Should the tree have leaves? How much of it should be movable?

Since this is a work-in-progress, I don't have all the answers. I'm having fun discovering what this project will be as I'm working on it. It's been a long time since I've done a craft without a pattern or book or directions. It's a familiar process, though — it's how I've done things my whole life. My sister and I always had creative freedom — lots of supplies and nobody telling us how it should or shouldn't be (Thanks, mom!). I didn't realize this was such a large part of my creative make up until I started free-hand cutting into the wool felt with no outline or pattern to follow. The process was so familiar. I figured that if I messed up I could get more felt or make something different, maybe end up with a pink tree instead. It's second nature to me now, this knowing that creative mistakes are not to be feared. If only I could apply this to other areas of my life.


It started to shape up, becoming quite large (about 24 inches by 40 inches). At first I thought it would just be the gold background, but it quickly grew with the addition of the green to make room for the pockets. I prematurely cut the top of the tree, had to move the whole thing down and add a piece at the top. I butt-joined it with the faux wood-grain stitching later on.

Detail of stone pockets before I sewed them with the opening on the bottoms. Whoops! I still need to seam rip the tops out of three rows. To get as much color variation as possible I used 100% wool, wool/nylon and some wool/rayon blends. I'm not against using acrylic, but trying to keep it to as much wool as possible so I can needle felt on it if I want.

Machine stitching a faux woodgrain pattern on the tree with my new-to-me, vintage Brother sewing machine. I tried make stitching that is visually interesting. My goal is to have a nice balance of shapes, not realism.

As soon as I cut the hole for the owls to live in, I knew it needed to have some dimension. I added a flange piece by blanket stitching it to the front, then whip stitching it to the background, making sure to go through three layers to tack it all down: the flange, the dark interior, and the golden back piece.

The front doors need to lead somewhere, so another flange is added. That glob of stitching in the foreground is supposed to be a little critter sitting on the tree.

The doors are whip-stitched on the front side and hinged on the inside.

Each child plays differently with it. Little guy, C, likes to rearrange the leaves, big brother, H, likes to take the leaves and put them in the pockets. He also threw them on the ground since it is Fall. "Get it?" he said.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

On Top of Spaghetti...

all covered with crochet meatballs.

It's what I woke up thinking about today. I think I was inspired by the felt food (check out this flickr group!) that I see people making. My big boy, H, cut all the noodles for me. I wasn't sure how to make sauce. Call it a work in progress.

The meatballs inspired H to want to learn how to crochet. [Jumps up an does a jig of joy] We started with hand crochet, then he did a hooked chain with me doing the work of the left hand. He really got the concept! I can't tell you how exciting this was for me, since he tends to show no interest in anything that involves fine motor skills.

Yesterday I was working up a little Green Kitchen embroidery for a possible new header, and my littlest guy wanted to try it out. He learned how to turn the hoop to pull the needle through the other side. Really, it couldn't get much better than this — both of my children wanting to learn crafts. I thought it might never happen.

Another exciting thing that happened yesterday was a blogger meet up. Bethany, from Bitter Betty (Have you checked out her Gourd House tutorial, yet?), and I got to meet J (I don't think she posts her name), from Ruched, who recently happened to favorite one of my flickr photos > which led me to her blog > where I discovered she was vacationing locally > which led to the meet up. We got to see some nice jewelry work she's been doing, including some PMC pieces that were castings from vintage button molds and other interesting objects. She also has the cutest, mellowest lap-baby I've ever met. Thanks for the visit, J.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Embroidery as Camouflage


Why I left a skirt that only needed a waistband and a hem as an unfinished object for more than a year is a mystery to me. Several times I took it out of storage, putting it in the things-to-do pile in my kitchen work area — so many times, that it eventually faded from exposure to the bright morning sunshine. The hem and waist band took about an hour. It only took a couple of evenings to run the band of flowers and squiggles around the hem to help camouflage the fading. Then, I read a little of the Alabama Stitch book and realized that I needed to tack down all those flower petals. The stitches are bigger than a quarter inch, which is the the longest stitch length recommended to avoid snagging. It took another couple nights just to do the tacking, which gives the once rounded petals a slightly weird geometric look. Now, I'd love to make one of those gorgeous skirts from the book, which at my rate could take about ten years.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

I *Heart* Red & Aqua (pt 2)

The purse is the result of a fascination with graygoosie's crochet bolero. I was wondering how the hell to crochet something with motifs and no real pattern. Then, I sat down and actually read a book, instead of a computer — I know, wacky stuff. I turned to the section about Irish Crochet and had my answer: first, motifs are basted onto fabric templates; then a crochet chain is basted to the edge of the fabric; finally, random lace is worked from the outside toward the motifs.

So, I tried that with this purse, but the lace was *too* much. I had made a spider's web connected to the flower. The weight was too bulky and loose — I knew I'd be catching things on it all the time. So, I frogged the web and embroidered on some western-style loop decoration.

The real breakthrough for me was making a bag. I know, y'all make bags all the time. But, I haven't wanted to make one since my first attempt, which was a sorry lopsided thing made with a reclaimed polyester patchwork quilt, vinyl backing, and polkadot lining. It was a mixed-media nightmare and I never finished it. (see picture at right)

The other blue and red goodness, from left to right: metal bird ornament made by Regina at Creative Kismet; handmade pincushion and imported gnome-ish ribbon from Kristin at Kleas.


Just found this great series of tutorials for making modern clothing with Irish Crochet. Wish I had found this first, but, then, if you don't even know what it's called, it's hard to google.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mini Quilt Swap With Jules Knoblock

Here, finally, is the unveiling of the little bird quilt that I made for a swap with Julie Knoblock. Many moons ago, Jules wrote a post about being inspired by one of my mini quilts. Since I admired her work, I suggested a swap — Jules enthusiastically agreed. I think that was about seven or eight months ago. Yes, I am the world's slowest swapper.

Jules was far more timely, and quickly sent this treehouse-themed beauty. I love it! The colors and motifs really fit our life: dog, flowers, mushrooms, and that awesome treehouse. Now, if I could just get it framed, I will hang it on this wall of our bedroom.

Julie and I were both inspired by Amy and her wonderful small quilts. A double congratulations to Amy on her book and her baby!

More details of my quilt over at my Fabric & Felt set at Flickr.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stripe-y Patchwork Cat

Well, here it goes, my first pattern — and it's free! It is completely untested and hasn't been edited, so any feedback would be great. I'm thinking of it as a group work-in-progress. There are three pages that you'll need to download because I don't have the software to merge it all into one PDF. Two of the pages are pattern pieces, one is instruction.

Thanks to Lisa for combining my pdfs into one neat download.

Stripe-y Cat Pattern Download

This pattern is copyright and the property of Green Kitchen/Michelle Russell. This pattern and project are for home use only, not for resale.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

100 Posts 39 Years

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
NOTE: I call it "mama brain," my husband called it "pulling a lame-o." Did you notice that I never really told you what I was giving away? My grand idea is make another pincushion with chick and flower pins. Sound good? I hope this works for you all. Because of my mess up I'm going to extend the sign up until midnight tonight, Flickr comments included.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! I had a great day.


Well, it's about time for a give-away, no? Recently I found this embroidered trim that I thought had disappeared under suspicious circumstances. It turned up at the bottom of my floss basket. Whoops! So glad I didn't make any accusations.

Do you remember what I used it on? Yep, that chicken pincushion for the swap with Samantha. It remains one of my most viewed photos at Flickr, as well as one of the most common ways to find me through Google. Sometimes I wonder if "chicken pincushion" has some subversive meaning. Anyone?

So, leave a comment today, before midnight Pacific Standard Time, and tomorrow I will draw a name for one lucky winner. And, thank you everyone for being part of this thing that I love.

Oh, yeah, it's my birthday today. This is what I hope happens: a shower for my grubby self; finishing sewing the Hawaiian tunic to wear (Sounds like a muumuu, huh? One of the benefits of being 39.); shopping for fabric with the Bitter one; letting my four-year-old surprise me; riding the Giant Dipper; eating sushi; having banana cake with whipped cream, getting lots of hugs and kisses from the littles; no time outs.

P.S. Please make sure to leave a way for me to find you. You know Blogger isn't so good about this. I think you need to type the "www" before your blog address for it to work. If you're not sure, leave an email address. Melissa and Kristy, I'm not sure who you are.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Sneak Peek: A mini quilt for Julie Knoblock

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I truly am the slowest swapper ever. Just ask Samantha, Tricia, Alice (not technically a swap, but I did promise that I'd mail her some craft supplies, which took me about five months to do), and now Julie. I don't even want to look back and see how long it's been since Julie and I started talk about this mini quilt swap. I've been enjoying hers now for at least a couple of months. This here is a little sneak peak at the one I'm making for her. It's almost done! Part of my delay is that I started a different one and couldn't get anywhere with it. Finally I gave up on it and made a new one in less than a week. I like how it's turning out. Soon Julie, soon.

P.S. Check out Julie's interactive painting project. You get to help art direct a painting.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

For Carlos Fund Auction, Please Bid

For Carlos Fund Auction
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Claire from Greenjewls is organizing a benefit auction for a young boy who lost his family in a fiery car wreck. Please visit her preview site in anticipation of the eBay auction, which will take place the last week of February. One of my mini quilts will be auctioned off, so I'll be posting reminders.

In addition to organizing the benefit, Claire has made at least two of her very special felted sweater blankies for the auction. I know they are very special because she made one for me right after our baby was born. She didn't even know me at the time. She was just a a person who read my blog. She's amazing! I rave about our blankie all the time because it's so great to use — big, soft, washable, colorful, full of love. So go bid on one of her blankets when the time comes, or find something else. I was just over there. I saw some letterpress notecards; vintage button and bead bracelets for grown ups and kids; and some nice art pieces.

Here's a blurb about the piece that I'm donating:
Dream — A mini quilt (approx: 8 by 16 inches) designed and hand-crafted by Michelle Russell of Green Kitchen using recycled and thrifted materials, including: vintage buttons, felted wool sweater, and a screen-printed napkin. A white cat sleeps amongst a button flower garden under a whimsical orange tree. The word *Dream* rests below.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Grudge Tuesday: The Grudge That Wouldn't Be

Mother and Child
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I have been waiting to grudge about my father for awhile because I didn't want to have every grudge be about my family. This is the man that hasn't cared to meet my children, his only grandchildren, until recently. Like today, for example, he met my oldest son for the first time. They got along well. It was pretty uneventful. Thank goodness a four-year-old doesn't know how weird it is that he had never met his grandfather — a grandfather that lives in the same town! The baby got to meet dear ol' dad a little earlier because he was allowed to go to the reconnecting-after-six-years dinner, since he is still a wee bairn attached to my boob. Hey, at least my father has always been pro breastfeeding. Anyway, it's a long weird story about generational dysfunction, which I won't bore you with. But, damn him for taking the wind out of my grudge.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Stocking Wall

Christmas Stocking Wall
Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
Thirty-eight years of Christmas stockings. Can you spot the decades. Almost all are handmade by family or friends. I think there are four store-bought ones. Can you tell which one my four-year-old had to have?

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Christmas in August

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I've been saving these stockings to share at a time when everyone is not overwhelmed by the holidays. Hopefully they will inspire a whole mess of embroidery projects. I've had close up details posted at Flickr for some time now. I made seven of these for my family Christmas 2004. Looking back now, I remember that they were the beginning of my new craft era, and part of the catalyst for our wacky idea to put on a craft show.

P.S. Have you all been to Getting Stitched on the Farm? I think I'm in love: the painted wall; the socks for Vogue Knitting; the animals. Sigh...

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Embroidered Flowers with Vintage Buttons

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.
I'm longing for spring. Not that California weather is anything to complain about, but, still, I miss the flowers and the leaves and the longer days. I've been wanting to post photos of these stockings I made, but just missed the window of opportunity this Christmas because I started this blog in January. Since I can't wait till next December, I'm posting photos of the details, which are more springtime than Christmastime, anyway.

Originally uploaded by Green Kitchen.

I was inspired by an artist, Linda Solovic, that I found in a Mary Engelbreit magazine (yes, a guilty pleasure of mine). I'm beginning to wonder if I can have any original ideas. I seem to stagnate until I see something someone else has done, then go off and do my interpretation of it. Now, though, as I look back at her work, I can see there is more difference than I thought. I made these a year ago, so it has been awhile since I'd seen Linda's work. The question is: Will I ever pull ahead and create my own ideas/look/style, leaving behind any fears of copycatism?

More detail photos at Flickr.

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