Friday, December 12, 2014

Puppet Cookies make a come-back

    About 40 years ago my creative friend Adrienne Robinson passed on a recipe for puppet cookies. I made them up and Estelle Guralnik wrote up the activity in the Boston Globe magazine and Better Homes and Gardens. Back then, my children were the age of my grandchildren today. Last week, a holiday luncheon request for a recipe made me remember puppet cookies.  I could share these animated magical cookies with the grandchildren and the recipe wouldn't be lost to the Internet! Perhaps I should have let sleeping recipes lie! That was exhausting; and it was easier in my youth.

     I made up the dough, put it
wrapped in the refrigerator overnight and sketched possible designs. You can use gingerbread dough, surely; but I combined 6 C flour, 1 C butter, 2 C light brown sugar, 1 C milk, 1 t vanilla, 1 t salt, 1 t baking powder and 1 t baking soda. I took from the fridge a handful of dough at a time to roll out on floured marble and looking at my designs, drew with a toothpick and cut out with a pointed knife shapes to place on foil-lined cookie sheet. I used a toothpick to poke holes where appendages are attached. I baked for 8 - 10 minutes in 400 degrees. After a break and cooling of the cookies, I made up a decorator frosting or royal icing of 3 healthy egg whites, 1/4 t cream of tartar and 1 lb confectioner's sugar. This dries quickly, so I put it in several small bowls with coloring and covered with a plastic wrap.

    When it was time to paint, I gathered brushes and a bowl of water to keep the brushes damp. After the icing was dry, I cut pipe cleaners about 2.5 inches long, twisting one end for the back of the cookie to go through the holes to be secured on top with gumdrops. Before securing, I carefully put a toothpick through all holes, entering from the back of the cookies, to make certain the opening was big enough.

    Once Joe and I made a gingerbread two-story with wrap around decks to celebrate son's get-away mansion in the Bahamas. We were up past midnight securing walls. For gingerbread houses, I have decided to stick with a simple kit as I did this year. Let me tell you, this is the last time I will make puppet cookies...although I can't wait for Erika to finish up Spiderman, Santa and the family dogs, painting at random, attaching appendages anywhere, when she comes tomorrow to see her treats. She broke her arm so will miss the family ski trip. "Art" will certainly lift her spirits.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Drawing Joe at LindaDrawingTime

      What do you blog about when you have a series of failures? Something else. However, although I still have hope for the botched quilt, I have been getting used to my new computer. I had to exchange the new one and start over. Since my last posting, I did find I could project old Super 8 movies onto a screen, film the old reels with iPhone or Flip, then digitize and edit on the computer. The results were good but not great since the old projector is deficient. I finally took two movies, rolls of The Ram (live action) and Beowulf (claymation) made by son (he just turned 50) when he was in junior high, to Costco to have the short movies put on a DVD. Theoretically, in a month, I can take the .VOB files and raw footage off the DVD to put on my computer for better results, music and more. Do we see hope, or more failures.  And I like visuals in my blog.

      In the meantime, I must not delay a posting. Thinking NYC would be fun for the holidays or sometime soon, I enjoyed reading Deborah Soloman's article in the New York Times on the paintings that the great artist Cezanne made of his wife Hortense, many of which are at the Metropolitan Museum. According to Soloman, Hortense "sat for 29 paintings by her husband and smiles in none of them." Hortense has suffered verbal abuse by critics and artists but Soloman is glad Cezanne's wife and mother of his son is having her day with drawings, watercolors and 24 paintings from over a period of 20 years. "Aha!" thought I. To get into the zeitgeist, I will show a few paintings and sketches that I have done of Joe. I seldom paint anyone smiling and certainly not myself as you may know from my website (which may go by the way with the new computer since Apple no longer supports iWeb). It was great to get back to my wild sketchbooks. Enjoy my favorite model who mostly smiles in real life. Click to enlarge the photos, I hope!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kantha has me IN STITCHES...all unfinished

    Simplify is my temporary mantra! In the car on trips or errands, I love to hand-stitch while Joe drives ~ from improvisation to Sashiko (see my April 22, 2012 post). Friend Donna Jean spent time at Quilting on the Lake and returned with ideas on Kantha stitchery from South Asia and Black Embroidery of Elizabethan times. I had to try my hand. When I could not do a stitch, I tried another. You could draw with white pencil, but inventing was more fun. I felt creative! Everyone feels they can do Kantha. Up and down with a needle and thread. I sew with two fabrics together.

    From pockets to pocket books! What to keep my needle, thread and scissors in on a trip for easy access? I happened on Abigail Adams' pockets at the RISD Museum in Rhode Island. I took this photo and sketched a similar pattern about 14" long. These pockets were worn inside and outside skirts. I don't have to unzip  or unsnap anything, and the pocket holds my tools and fabric as I run out the door, am in the car or at a meeting. I used an upholstery remnant, crewel needle and #5 or #8 thread. I am regularly amazed these days that what excites me is of little interest to others; but I wanted to share. At least Hannah (10) wanted the floral effort, and Erika (8) started on skeletons.

     While in NYC last week, we saw the fabulous Matisse Cut-out show. I had, just before leaving, spontaneously cut out fabric for a Boston slice quilt (that is as far as I got) what to do? Fix the goose's head for one. I just read in my novel about "coincidence's being a messenger of truth." And NJ we saw Yvonne Well's contemporary narrative quilt cut-outs at the Montclair Art Museum, a magnetic board of fabrics for children/adults to make and quilt and Rayna Gillman. That is half the story, a wonderful experience. I am not mentioning Shiele portraits, The Boys in the Boat, the New Haven museums, Roz Chast in Greenwich, CT. Click on photos to enlarge.

Yvonne Wells'

Monday, September 22, 2014

Family Stars

     Before my baby brother Steve and wife Lynn arrived from Texas, I needed to make our house habitable. I found lots of treasures. One was unused fabric from The City Quilter showing the constellations in NYC's Grand Central ceiling. I took off an afternoon to make sausage pillowcases. I made three regular size pillowcases which fit perfectly across the top of a king size bed welcoming one to heavenly sleep. Not only do I LOVE homemade pillow cases, but I have three grandchildren that might enjoy them on sleepovers. Also, the stars remind me of my Amarillo reunion in NYC where one day we toured the Grand Central. I love reunions.

      I have blogged on these pillowcases before, but I still made mistakes after watching two excellent YouTube tutorials and taking notes.Never give up! I cut the body of the fabric 23 or 24 inches by whatever the width of the fabric is (approximately 45"). I cut the accent strip 2 inches by the width of the fabric. The cuff is cut 12 or 13 inches x 45. Google "sausage pillow cases" or click on these links
Note how rested Steve and Lynn look!

        Last summer their children came from Texas and I sketched them on the Summer Shack paper table cloths. Lynn reminded me of other sketches I had made with Alan: See my blog archives, March 23 2010, August 6, 2013. This month and last year went by fast!


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Organizing and discovering old crafts

     Although Joe and I moved far away from Texas and Arkansas, thankfully our relatives drop in to see us. To make the house more habitable for brother Steve and wife Lynn, we are trying to clear a path and organize after 25 years. One makes discoveries. As you may know, people who craft and paint fill the house with materials and creations.

     More than 25 years ago we moved to London; but before we left, I asked friend Catherine who came to America from London as a youngster during WWII to tell me what she knew. She put me in touch with her sister Judith who with her husband invited us to the country for a weekend at their beautiful Nettlestead. I took photos and with more eagerness than training decided to paint the hosts for a surprise gift. This week I just found those two old oil  portraits. Years ago, I probably decided they were not good enough to send.

     The other day, I phoned Catherine and told her about the portraits, that I wanted to give them to her and she could do what she wished with them. I also passed on the photos. A special treat was finding that Catherine has been making beautiful quilts which I should have photographed to show you. 

     First is the photo of Catherine's visit to see me in London. I found this place on Royal Avenue for the law firm and designed the pattern we are standing on after wandering the neighborhood to crib ideas. Judith, at Nettlestead, was such a dynamo in the kitchen I gave her three bodies in action, faces taken from the several photos. I placed Tony in front of the home with his cap and coat, our car in the driveway. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Some Summer crafts

    Time to post! I have made a few things this summer to share..

         I got nostalgic this big birthday year and upgraded my baby book. The black pages were fraying, so I cut out all the photos and put them on new black pages in a new book. I moved quickly with scissors and Aleen's original Tacky Glue. I preserved Mother's white ink and just LOVE it. Some of the photos were so small that I enlarged them to add toward the end. I will fix Joe's next!

          Summer is a time of trips and crafts, so I got out my old books with essays about Winston Churchill's taking up painting.  I even tried to paint David (not easy) with my alkyds (oils with a fast drying resin). I only spent a couple of hours, a few evenings, and there is more to go. "If you don't use a talent, you lose it" I am finding is true. But I will keep trying. So glad to paint again. In that spirit, I mailed to traveling Trilla, A Traveler's Guide to Painting in Watercolors since it is fun to sketch or paint to remember more. Connie says she sketches stick figures rather than takes photos because it makes indelible the moments. I agree. For me, a .05 permanent black marker, water soluble colored pencils and a watercolor brush with a water holder in the handle fill the bill. I scribble and color while Joe drives.

         The girls were playing with gimp but never braiding the old fashioned lanyards I made at camp. Rather than explain, I got more hooks and gimp spools at Ben Franklin. I found I could secure the strings of gimp under the top of a clipboard, keep it in my lap at first and as the lanyard got longer, move the board to a drawer. It was not easy, since the specific long lanyard pattern was not on-line, but I made one and attached a flashlight to it. I improved immensely on Erika's pink and white one...but no photo! There are patterns for gimp keychains, square and diamond patterns on line. Patience is required: a two hour job, I think.


           One more thought: Before going to the beach the next time, check out all the tricks for clever and detailed sand sculpture on line at YouTube. I love YouTube and Google! So much to learn, so little time.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Links to Making Birds and Balls...and journal quilts

     Seasonal fun! Two journal quilts reference my recent obsessions: stitching birds. baseball and soccer balls. I made another bird for Hannah's recital, the baseball for David's graduation and the soccer ball for Erika's performance. Serendipitously, it is the time of the World Cup. Be sure to check the links that interest you after reading the blog.

     A mad determination hit me to stitch a soccer ball and a baseball after Hannah bought one at the quilt show. Could I interest the grandchildren? I found several tutorials on-line:  Mitali Ruths' and Lorie Hanson's. First, I made the "baby soccer ball" using hexagons and! 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons. This former medical student at Baylor College of Medicine is into details. She had a quite a helpful diagram to follow to sew the pieces. Wanting to make more balls, I realized it might be fast to make a 12 hexagon ball from Lorie's blog. I printed up Tim van de Vall's pentagon templates to freezer paper and ironed these to fabric for easy cutting out.

     For Lorie's 12 hexagon ball, I used a pencil to mark each side 1/4" from all the five sides, stopping 1/4" from each edge! I did not pin or use papers, but was careful in the stitching (wrong sides together. The two sides of the ball came together fast, except I made a big mistake to the children's great amusement. In sewing the two halves of the ball together. I misplaced the points and as I stuffed it with fiberfill, the ball turned out to be a star. I was glad the fabric had stars. Quickly, I made another easy soccer ball.

    How to make the baseball! On to print a pattern for the baseball and stitching technique, again finding both on-line. I used fleece and a crochet thread. It helped to mark the holes 1/4" from the sides and use a curved needle. I used Hub Pages for a terrific baseball pattern and then searched for another sewing stitch. Maribel was clever to find one example at an aviation manual site. There are several versions on line. Typically, I did the opposite. I sewed from top down everywhere Maribel goes from bottom up. Hannah caught on immediately and we shared a big laugh when I demonstrated the stitch sewing the two ends of the fabric together...No, she finally convinced me, they have to be placed ends to centers to make a ball.

      The journal quilts speak for themselves. The bird quilt was collaged. I chose the striped fabric and spray-glued the birds, leaves and stars to attach, finally, with a machine blanket stitch and invisible thread. The backing  is the same stripe, folded over on the edges and hand sewn for a border.

       The second one is a fragment of a grandmother's garden quilt I found from my grandmother. I appliqued the hexagons! onto a more modern fabric. The hand-sewn hexagons were so sad and worn looking I added white rik-rak cheer up the piece. I used muslin under the batting and left the sides unfinished with a pinking shear edge. It was a UFO, unfinished object in Big Mom's chest. I am so glad to have this memory.

        I made another bird in her chosen colors to take to Hannah the evening of her violin recital. I used a hot glue gun to attach the bird to the branch.

Hooray... I just figured how to re-enable my Comment section after losing it.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Birds on a branch make me smile

     Every time I walked from the study into the front hall today I almost laughed, or certainly smiled big. Joe as well. Last night he hammered a branch in the top of the door and I hot glued three birds to the clean, washed branch (one bird for each of the grandchildren, fabrics chosen by each of them) . I had found this Spool Bird pattern on-line at and thought the children might have success sewing their own bird. So...when they were leaving the house the other evening, I told them to run upstairs to my sewing room to choose two fabrics for their bird from my fat-quarter stash. Of course, after they left,  I just had to cut out the pieces and then sew them together.

    Abby Glassenberg posted a story about the Spool Bird. The Spool Bird was a free pattern designed by Michael Fulkerson around 2008 for Spool Sewing, a fabric store which no longer exists. His pattern ended up on the Internet and many copied the pattern to sew colorful birds by hand or machine. He won an award from Martha Stewart. I had never seen the bird or the pattern, but I thought my grandchildren would like the softee project. I follow or subscribe to Abby's rich blog. She is a friend of my daughter-in-law and was the person several years ago who encouraged me to blog since it stimulates productivity!

     I was having so much fun and frustration sewing the bird and mounting them, I did not take photos of the process. I printed up the pattern I found in Abby's blog (perhaps Copy and Paste or Drag) and reduced and enlarged the size. The only thing I would add to the instructions is to iron down the tail's 1/4" seam allowance to make closing the bird's tail easier .

     In the meantime, Joe is having a success of sorts with his cactus...a real yellow flower bloomed from one of them (it opens more when the sun hits) and the octopus cactus (please let me know the name!) keeps growing and producing babies as well. As usual, click on the photos to enlarge!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cooking Clay for Jewelry

      Joe and I were lined up to keep the grandchildren for 3 days while the parents went to a law firm retreat. I saw a big container of polyform clay in my studio, the pasta rollers on the edge of the table, books on the subject and thought it was time to go to a new level. I got out the "bead rollers." I read the directions, conditioned some Sculpey III in my hands and felt the girls would find making the beads magical as I did. Click on all the photos to enlarge.

      Hannah chose a package of blue Sculpey and Erika chose pink. They decided to share. I restrained my need for a green bead necklace until today. They strung theirs with Stretch Magic and tied two square knots. I put a bit of glue on the knots. They wore and slept in them for two days here and the beads held up. So I decided I must make my long-wished-for green choker for which I could never find beads. See below for how I made the beads.

      First I consulted Making Polyform Clay Beads by Carol Blackburn. I got out my bead rollers and soft green Sculpey which I conditioned by squeezing in my hands.  

        I have two types of bead rollers. One involves pressing a snake of clay into the top part and slicing off the sides and bottoms. After I mark every 3/4", I pull the clay out and cut the pieces. The secret of same size beads is careful measuring. You put the top on the bottom and roll back and forth a few times and VOILA! The other bead roller has you push pieces of clay through a hole, slice off the excess and extract the clay using a pencil. Again, you move a fitted top back and forth a couple of inches over and over.  These beads will also be the same size. Erika wanted the cone look from the latter.

       After  I gathered all the beads in a box lid, I pushed the thin metal wires through them. The ends of these rested on a tray in the little polyform clay oven I bought w a coupon at JoAnn's. The beads cook for about 30 minutes at 275. Magic. Then I strung them today and made earrings...not matching. I am looking forward to making more beads depending on what I need and sharing the technique with friends.