02 februari 2016

Blast from the Past

I used to do a lot of concert photography. I loved taking pictures and loved going to concerts, and the combination of the two seemed a logical next step. And then I stopped!

The Black Box Revelation
I started taking pictures at concerts because I was taking pictures all the time anyway. It turned out to be fun so I did some research on the technical side and just went at it (this sounds extremely similar to the way I taught myself how to sew. Or knit. Or... Most things really). My first pictures were pretty terrible, but I got some lucky shots sometimes and that was very encouraging.

Andrew Bird
Taking pictures also gave me something to do: I was super shy at the time and since I couldn't always find people to join me to a concert the camera gave me a reason to go by myself, something I never would have done otherwise. It gets easier if you have something in your hands and a clear purpose.

Grizzly Bear
I was also attracted to the technical challenges. Concert photography is hard: you have a combination of very low light and potentially lots of movement, which can make things tricky. I always took loads of pictures and was stoked if I had five good ones.

Dez Mona
I posted my photos on my previous blog, and after a while I was contacted by a group of young concert photographers in Antwerp. They had a deal with a local concert venue: free entrance in exchange for pictures, and they asked me to join them. I didn't even think about it!

Absynthe Minded
It was pretty fun for a while. I saw at least one concert a week and got to see a lot of bands I wouldn't have seen otherwise. But then I realised I had another hobby that was slowly turning into work, like drawing.

Vivian Girls
After a while, I just got a bit fed up with it. Sure, I was seeing a lot of concerts, but I had to go home right after the end to edit my pictures. I had deadlines. And if things just didn't work and none of the photographs turned out any good, I just felt bad instead of shrugging it off.

Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
I didn't enjoy my hobby anymore. I wanted to listen to the music and watch the bands play without thinking about light and composition all the time. So I stopped taking pictures at concerts.

Mauro Pawlowski
This whole story is the main reason why I'm wary of turning sewing or knitting into more than a hobby. What if the same thing happens? What if pressure and deadlines make me not like it anymore?

Dez Mona
So, there it is. I used to take pictures at concerts, and I don't anymore. They do make for some nice memories!

like this one!

21 januari 2016

My mother calls my decorating style 'Interesting'

... And I'm totally taking that as a compliment.

So, remember how I started a huge hand-quilting project last spring and then abandoned it because it got too hot? Yeah, logic. I picked it up again a few weeks ago and was determined to finish it this time. My boyfriend and I have been slowly filling our walls with pretty things but I kept reserving this one particular piece of wall for this quilt. Now it's up there!

Woohoo! This is the small constellation quilt kit by Haptic Lab. They have released a large version since this one, but the sheer size of that thing makes me want to lie down. This one already took ages! But fun ages. And with a very satisfying result.

The basic idea is super simple: the quilt template has been printed on a kind of tear-away stabilizer. All you have to do is layer your fabric and batting layers, baste the template on top and go to town. Since this was always destined to be a wall hanging (fancy blankets are a no-no if you have a cat with claws he likes to use) I didn't bother to make the back of it look nice. So no pictures of that, haha!

The top fabric is a lovely soft double gauze, and it's backed in a dark blue cotton. I used four colours of embroidery thread for the quilting: dark blue and light grey for the map lines and dashed lines between the stars, and two colours of metallic thread for the stars and milky way. Metallic thread can be a bit tricky to work with since it frays and splits like crazy, so here are a few things I found helped: an embroidery needle with a larger eye so there's not as much stress on the thread and shorter lengths of thread than you'd usually take.

I didn't have enough fabric left to do matching binding, so I used some black linen from my stash. I made hanging loops from the same linen and just handstitched them to the back. The stick is a broomstick with a bit sawed off. I used this tutorial for the binding and it worked like a charm! I also added a little bit of extra embroidery after the sad events of last week. It seemed fitting.

Both the boyfriend and me love the outcome, and I've been eyeing the World Map... Even though another project like this might give me even more grey hairs. Encouraged by this success I immediately embarked on another decorating project: more personalised IKEA furniture!

I painted a little side table last year and loved the result, so when we were thinking about putting a little chest of drawers next to our front door to keep hats, scarves, keys and all the other junk that just ended up on our dinner table I decided to go that route again. I dragged this thing home one day (along with a shark) and got painting earlier this week. The base colour is a lovely gold that has a really subtle shine in the daylight, and I added a big running hare because I could!

At first I had painted the original wooden knobs black but it looked a bit cheap, so I switched them for these cut glass knobs. Wayyyy better! I'm really happy with how this turned out, and so is the boyfriend! It suits our appartment pretty well.

I'll be back soon with some sewing! There's an Inkodye workshop at Pauwels Stoffen next week and I'm already excited about the possibilities!

09 januari 2016

It's got me written all over it. Well, not really, but give me time and a crayon.

I've been doing some drawing lately, and thought I'd post a few things I've been working on! It's very strange, I don't get around to drawing nearly as much as I'd like to, and everytime I get into it again I'm kicking myself for not doing more of it. So to motivate myself a bit more I'll show some things that did get made!

I've been trying to spice up some storebought (omg!) clothes lately, and find that painting something on them is a really nice way to do so. This sweater was bought in a wardrobe emergency (I went to a party on a Friday night and would spend the night there, going straight to work the day afterwards, but stupidly forgot to pack a clean shirt for that next day. WOOPS.). It was a bit too big (no time to try it on!) so I took in the shoulders a bit and then painted a cat skull on the front. It's quickly become a favourite!

The black thing is a basic viscose maxi dress which I adorned with a stag head and some leaves. It's more of a summer thing though, so it's been packed away in the closet for now. I made both of these in the same way: sketched a design on printer paper, used carbon paper to put it on the garment and then used Setacolor fabric paints, small brushes and some patience (+ a few Night Vale podcasts) to get the job done. Both of these are holding up really well in the wash as well!

Next up is a birthday card for a new friend. He likes snowboarding and white tigers, and I think I managed to cater to that! This was made in my usual way: cut things out of paper and glue them together. Sometimes I'll just scan all the pieces separately and put them together in Photoshop, but since I was going to give the original (more like, didn't have time to get it printed, cough) it all had to fit together on the page. It only took me an evening, although those tiger stripes were the cause of some swearing!

Last but not least: another birthday present! My friend St├ęphanie had her birthday in December and invited a bunch of sewing people over to her house for food and fun times. I decided to make her something to decorate her sewing room with! Again, everything has been hand-cut from coloured paper and then glued together. I was super happy to hear she loved it! This is not the only drawing I've made for her recently, but the other one is SUPER TOP SECRET at the moment, hehehe...

I'm currently back on working on that quilt I started ages ago (embroidering all those stars with metallic embroidery thread seemed super daunting but I'm getting the hang of it- short pieces of thread and a needle with an even larger eye than usual), but I do think I'll make some more time for drawing!

05 januari 2016

All of Time and Space, Every Star that ever Was

Hooray! 2016! I survived New Year's Eve (it was pretty awesome) and now I'm back with a finished project and some cool news!

Ok, the cool news first: my dear friends Hanne and Caroline took their Sew it Up project a step further and opened an online shop! They sell specialist notions that can be hard to find in Belgium (hair canvas!), and now they sell postcards drawn by yours truly! Hop over here to take a look...

Now for the finished project! Remember how I printed my own fabric for Draw all the Things? I couldn't wait to make something out of it, so that's exactly what I did:

I only had about a yard of fabric (a black linen) so I decided to go for a super comfortable and super simple skirt. It turned out to be perfect for a few festivities (ELASTIC WAIST!)

New Year's resolution: pay more attention to posture. Noted.
The pattern (if you can even call it that) is too simple for words. I cut two rectangles, using the entire width of the fabric, sewed the side seams together, gathered the top to be slightly larger than the widest part of my hips and attached that to a piece of elastic that fit me around the waist. Bam! Skirt done in two hours. Hand-sewing the blind hem too as long as everything else together.

The print turned out so nice, and I love how there's no real pattern repeat in it. The ink I used didn't have to be heat-set, so I just let my yardage air dry for a few days, wiped the cat hair off and went to town. The waistband elastic is some sparkly stuff they started selling at the shop I work at, so now my boss is happy too, haha!

It's a very easy skirt to throw on and dress up or down, so I expect this will get lots of wear!

We took these pictures during a visit to the MAS in Antwerp, so of course I had to ask my friend to help me with this tough task of modelling, just like our previous museum visit together. (I just noticed I was even wearing the same shoes back then. Are these my museum shoes now?)

She then managed to snap a rare behind-the-scenes picture of me and the boyfriend. The things he's willing to do to help me blog!

26 december 2015

Queen of Peace and Tons of Food

Well hello there, I'm back with a sewing post after this whole drawing extravaganza! I hope everyone has had a great Christmas. I spent two lovely days with family, there was loads of good food and talk, and we even managed to squeeze in some picturetaking!

Some time ago I was alerted to a selection of Christian Wijnants fabrics that had appeared on Mondepot, and after spotting this particular fabric I couldn't get hold of my wallet quick enough. It looks like textured super dark green scales on a black background, it's super drapey but not that lightweight and it just screamed at me. "Make me into something swishy and comfortable! Let me SHINE!"

The occasion for this project arose when Lieke and me (and our loved ones) went to see Florence + the Machine in concert. I had been looking forward to this for ages and thought it warranted a new dress, but with an unexpected trip to Berlin right before that (and some warmer sewing being necessary) I had less time than anticipated. The solution? Turn to a pattern that has worked out really well before and sews up quickly!

I had sort of drafted this dress for Oonapalooza a while ago, and always thought a second version would be awesome (the first incarnation gets worn loads of times and is still going strong!). The pattern is super simple: I started from a bodice block, added a bit of length and width for swishiness and did some cutting to make the contrast panels at the neckline. This time I used a sort of matte viscose for the neck part, which contrasts nicely with the slight shine and texture of the main fabric.

Everything went together smoothly, and the fabric was surprisingly easy to sew (I have no idea what it's made of- my only gripe with Mondepot and the reason I often pass on their fabrics is that they rarely provide fabric contents! This is especially important with online shopping in my opinion... If I can't feel a fabric I want to at least have an idea of what it'll feel like. End rant. I set a piece of this on fire and think it's a mix of silk and poly.) I did cut the hem a bit short, the fabric is a bit stretchy due to the texture and I think the weight of the excess fabric pulled it down more at first, if that makes sense. But hey, my look for this winter appears to be 'did she forget to put on pants?' so I'm just rolling with it.

I'm going to spend the rest of 2015 eating with family and friends, drawing for friends and doing a bit of work, so this will probably be my last post of the year. A very happy new year to all of you lovely readers, and see you in 2016!

20 december 2015

Draw all the things: I think I can see a pattern here

Wow! How time flies! We have arrived at my last post for this year's Draw All the Things! Don't zone out just yet because tomorrow Hanne will officially close with a post on textures, but today I'm talking patterns!

Maybe you've wondered before about fabric designs and how they're made. Maybe you've wanted to have your own fabric printed! Simple repeats like square repeats, half drops, half bricks or mirrored patterns aren't hard to figure out, and most fabric printing sites have a built-in feature to design those basic repeats. But what if you want an all-over pattern? In that case, you need a tile, and I'm going to show you how easy it is to create one!

First you start with a piece of paper. Any size works, really. I chose square because it's a tiny bit easier. Draw something on the center of the page. You can go big, but make sure your drawing doesn't touch any of the edges!

Next we are going to create a new page with space to draw what will fill up the gaps between the repeats of the first drawing. To do this, we will have to cut up the original. Draw a horizontal and a vertical line through the center of the paper, like so:

Next, cut along those lines and rearrange your pieces. This is a little hard to explain, but you basically switch everything around. Bottom left becomes top right, and the other way round. This should make it clearer:

What you should end up with is a drawing with edges that meet up seamlessly when they are tiled and a nice blank space in the middle to fill in. You can do whatever you want here, but again, make sure none of your drawing touches the edge of the paper! I went with a bird:

In this case (and since it's just a demonstration) I didn't bother working on a fresh sheet of paper for this second part of the drawing. Normally, I'd layer a new sheet over the cut-and-pasted one and use a lightbox (or window) to see the first drawing, then scan and put the whole thing together in Photoshop.

But what if I told you the whole cutting and pasting isn't even necessary! You can use Photoshop to do this very quickly and more accurately:

Open your file in Photoshop. I gave it a little bit of colour because pretty. Take a look at your image size, and make a mental note (or a real one) of the height and width in pixels. This is going to be important!

Take a look at your filters and select 'Other', then 'Offset'. Now for the crazy stuff!

Remember the correct amount of pixels? Divide those by two and enter them for the horizontal and vertical values. Make sure to select 'Wrap Around' and see what cool things your drawing is doing!

If you are working digitally, you can just fill in the blank space in your file right there and be all set. If you are working on paper first like I am, it's easiest to print the image and use it as a base for your further drawing:

I did it on a separate sheet of paper (putting it on top of the printout) so I wouldn't have to remove the printed areas later. Scan this second page, edit it the way you want to and paste it into the first file. You now have a tile! This is what mine looks like as a repeat:

A few final things to keep in mind: the bigger your individual drawings are, the more obvious your pattern repeat will be. If you fill up a page with tiny doodles it will be harder to see where the tile repeats itself! This all comes down to personal preference or what you want to use your pattern for. It looks like a whole lot of information, but once you get the basic principles it's really not that hard to create your own repeat patterns!

18 december 2015

Stamp all the things!

As far as this drawing series goes, Hanne and I thought it would be fun to show a few easy ways to apply your new drawing skills to something even more practical than sketching figures and designing clothes: printing your own fabric! I'll show the fancy way to block print today, and tomorrow Hanne will tell you about a more low-budget way, using things you might already have lying around.

First up: tools! The main things you need are something to carve your stamp from, carving knives, ink and a brayer to roll your ink. You can find materials for stamp carving in almost any craft store, and I'd definitely recommend the softcut type over the harder lino for hand-stamping. It's a bit tougher to cut, but wayyy easier to print if you don't have a press!

(I ended up going with a different design, as you'll see further on)

As for knives: you only need a few (I use a v-shaped one and two sizes of u-shaped blades most of the time) and if this is a sometimes thing there's no need to buy expensive ones. My knives are a dirt cheap set that were sharpened by my teacher in my first year of college, and they're still going strong! Same goes for the brayer. A small one is fine since you'll probably be making small stamps anyway!

Just a heads up about ink: block printing ink will work best with this type of printing. Other inks or paints are usually too runny to make a good print. Oil-based printing ink should be fine for fabric that is going to be washed once it's fully dry, but Speedball makes a block printing ink for fabric that is pretty great, especially because you don't have to heat set it! (I've never seen it sold in Belgium but I've ordered from here before and had no problems!) No more ironing fabric for hours at a time! You could also use a thickening medium with regular fabric paint, but I have no experience with that personally.

Now, on to the actual doing of things! First, you'll need to decide on a design and carve it out of your stamp. I use pieces of softcut material that are already mounted onto a block of wood, which works pretty well. You can always glue your stamp to your own block of wood of course, which is easier to stamp with! I would recommend a simple design, using mostly large shapes and not too many fine lines. Use your carving tools to carve the stamp (I use the small v-shaped knife for outlines and then remove all unnecessary material with the u-shaped ones), making sure that the area that's supposed to be blank is carved down and smooth.

Next, we'll get printing! Protect your floor or table with a plastic tablecloth (or good old newspaper) and find a piece of smooth cardstock for your ink. Start with a small amount and spread it around with the brayer until it's smooth and makes a nice sticky sound (you'll know it when you hear it!)

Next, roll the brayer all over your stamp. Don't be stingy with the ink! It's best to do a few test prints on scraps of fabric to see how it turns out. I had a different fabric (lighweight denim) picked for this but it turned out the ink barely showed up, so I went with black linen instead.

Now print! And do some yoga while you're at it. You need to put some weight down on the stamp, but not as much as I'm demonstrating here, I promise. This was more being silly.

I chose a random pattern of moons, stars and comets, but you can do anything. If you're doing something with a repeat, I would advise to put down a few guidelines in chalk first, to make things easier to line up. It's easy to lose track of a straight line when you're dealing with a big piece of fabric!

I decided my print was still missing something, so I got one of those pencils with an eraser at the end and added a load of small dots. Done! Now all you have to do is let the fabric dry, set the paint according to instructions and think about what to make with your personal yardage!

Here's how my fabric turned out! I'll probably make this into a skirt.