Jan 122011

“2011 probably won’t be the year I lose weight,” writes fellow blogger and BBEST member Myfanwy Hart in her blog, Chittle Chattle. “2011 will be the best that I can make it, and the best that I can make it for people around me.  I’ve joined up to the ‘post a day’, so I’m hoping it will also be the best blogging year too.  (All I need now are some readers),” Myfanwy concludes.

I must admit that I feel very much the same. Though weight loss is always a goal of mine (after all, I am a WeightWatchers® Online member), I have decided it’s not the end of the world if every day is not a perfect day. And this applies to other areas of my life, too. If I have any resolution at all in 2011, it is to balance family, volunteering and creativity—to create a saner year than the previous one by investing more time in creative pursuits, which definitely took third place last year.

“Be creative, in your own way, every single day,” writes Danielle, Etsy’s Seller Education Coordinator in Fearless Creativity. “Schedule it. Make yourself. Sounds boring and counterintuitive, but you’ll never live up to your full creative potential without practice.”

Creativity, like any other pursuit, must be practiced on a regular basis in order for it to be productive. Noah Scalin, the author of 365: A Creativity Journal: Make Something Every Day and Change Your Life!, writes, “A daily project is like a marathon. It’s a ridiculously daunting task, but making an original creation every day gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment. It also forces you to push beyond your mental and physical barriers (especially the ones you’ve erected for yourself). You’ll be amazed at what you produce and what you learn about yourself in the process.”

If you have ever read Julia Cameron‘s books about creativity, then you are probably also familiar with her daily writing exercise known as “morning pages.” Every day, a writer takes 20 to 30 minutes out of the day to write three pages non-stop, without editorializing, about anything that comes to mind. This practice exercise has a way of opening the creative floodgates for any artist, not just writers. In fact, it is the act of regularity itself (which in some ways sounds like it is the opposite of innovation) that cements the creativity habit. And there are many ways in which you can practice the habit of creativity, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. To do so as successfully as you can, keep the following five tips in mind:

  • Make it bite-size. Instead of vowing to take on an enormous, mind-boggling project, break the project down into manageable chunks of time. If all you have of uninterrupted time is 10 or 15 minutes, make those minutes work for you. Ahead of time, organize your tools and materials so that you can be as efficient as possible during the time you have. “Usually there are just a few minutes here or there—10, 20, or 30 minutes, maybe—if I’m really lucky,” writes television host  Nancy Zieman of Sewing With Nancy in her book, 10-20-30 Minutes to Sew. “These precious minutes are a dose of sanity in a far too hectic world,” she adds.  A little bit of planning, in other words, can go a long way.

Estate SALE destash sewing notions in RED and GOLD, by Pruit Supply

Lotus Flower Pincushion, by Asian Expressions

  • Keep it fresh. Learn something new all the time. Challenge yourself to tackle the unexpected. If sculpture is your strength, try writing a poem. Take a sketching class down at the local art center, learn how to make a bracelet at a bead shop, or pick up a book at the library to teach yourself macrame. The point is to expose yourself to new outlooks and approaches. You never know what new ideas will emerge and spill over into other areas in which you are already creative. Liv of The Filigree Garden on Etsy, for example, has been taking weaving lessons, even though on Etsy she is known as a talented jewelry designer. You can read about her weaving adventures on her blog, The Filigree Garden. When Pat O’Neill originally opened a shop on Etsy as Precious Quilts, her interest was in needlework and sewing, but as she explored different forms of art, color and texture, she encountered encaustic painting. This became her new passion, leading to a new shop on Etsy called Art in the Wax. Keep in mind that yesterday’s so-called errors may become tomorrow’s innovative inventions.

Is it a scarf or…, by Olivia Herbert

Lunar Castles – ACEO – encaustic Artist Trading Card, by Art in the Wax


  • Make yourself accountable. Join a group and report back to members, blog about your progress, or keep a creativity journal. Kym of Fabric Fascination, for example, started the 52 Weeks Challenge, which involves group members posting links to photos of completed projects. “Challenges are always more fun when you have company,” writes Kym. If you conduct a Google search using the phrases “create every day” or “creative challenge,”  in fact, you will find many similar group efforts. My own week’s contribution to this challenge is shown below.

Black Crochet Scarf, by Judy Nolan

  • Build on a theme, and play with it. Do you feel like you’re at a creative standstill? Then experiment with themes related to shape, color, or even the materials with which you work. Ask yourself what if, how can I, and why not questions. For example, a potter might ask herself how she can use the same shape in different ways. Ceci of Artsielady does this successfully with leaf shapes, producing such items as leaf tea bag holders, nested leaf plates, and a leaf candy dish.

Leaf Tea Bag Holder, by Artsielady

Leaf Nesting Plate Set, by Artsielady

Maple Leaf Candy Dish, by Artsielady

  • Don’t try to be perfect. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb after many so-called failed attempts, said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  This is the attitude with which you should approach creative endeavors. Treat every artistic experiment as a learning experience. Keep a log book of ideas and creative journeys, learn from everything, good and bad, and move forward. Myfanwy of Sassa Lynne, for example, keeps meticulous records of all her dyeing experiments, which you can read about in her blog, Nuvo Felt. Through experimentation, in fact, Myfanwy develops one-of-a-kind dyed threads that she calls her “Serenpidity” collection and which form the basis of her shop.

Dyeing Records of Myfanwy Hart

Perle Fine Yarn, 5 pack (Apple, Lime, Peach), Serendipity, by Sassa Lynne

Other creative challenge sites that may interest you include:

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.

Oct 222008

Much like the ebb and flow of the sea, many handcrafts surge and recede in popularity. Today there is a high level of interest in the art of felting, but in reality this craft goes back as far as the history of man. Asian nomads used felt for their tents, their clothing and their floor coverings. Brides got married while sitting on a cloth of white felt, animals were sacrificed on a felt blanket, and Mongolian horsemen hung felt figures inside their tents to bring them good luck and ward off evil.

Felt in the traditional sense consists of wool or animal fibers that, when washed in hot water, shrink and lock together to form a sturdy, thick fabric. This is known as wet felting.The fabric can be cut without the edges unraveling, and is relatively resistant to moisture. This makes felt perfect for domestic uses such as hats, coats, shoes, blankets and much more.

Today artists can take wool roving (yarn that has not yet been twisted or spun into strands) and felt it with their hands using hot water and soap. When the wool is laid out in layers going in different directions, and those layers are rubbed or agitated, this causes the barbs of the wool fibers to grab onto each other and permanently interlock. When you crochet or knit with wool yarn, and then wash the final product on a hot cycle in the washing machine, you are doing essentially the same thing, except that this is known as fulling. Cutting up wool garments and shrinking them in the washer is also fulling. Sometimes artists will combine synthetic (acrylic or nylon) or plant-based (cotton, linen or hemp) fibers with animal fibers, but the best fulling results take place with protein-based animal fibers. Traditionally felt is created from sheep wool, but technically you could full fibers from rabbits, cats, dogs or even your own hair.

Needle felting is the commercial answer to dry felting, or interlocking wool fibers without the use of water. Barbed needles puncture wool fibers repeatedly, causing them to interlock. Fabric can be formed in this way, and fibers can be permanently attached to other fabrics as well. Needle felting can be accomplished both by hand, or with a special sewing machine tool. Clover makes a range of hand needle felting tools that are available in many fabric and craft stores. Commercial felting machines like Baby Lock‘s Embellisher or Nancy’s Notions Fab Felter speed up the needle felting process considerably.

Boomer artists have explored both wet and dry felting, producing a wide range of products. Chrissie of makeyourpresentsfelt, for example, has created this adorable Felted Egg Cosy.

Felted Egg Cosy

Check out this lovely Needle Felted Daisy Brooch by Lori of DreamWhimsey.

Needle Felted Daisy Brooch

Sue of Felt4Ewe wet felted this beautiful Inlaid Flowers Hat.

Inlaid Flowers Hat

Evelyn of creationsbyeve utilized hand felting to produce her Purple Dahlia Bag.

Purple Dahlia Bag

Nothing could be closer to the traditional wet felting tools of soap and water than Cross My Heart Felted Soap, created by Kimberly of thewildhare.

Cross My Heart Felted Soap

While Carol of SandFibers is usually known for her beaded creations, this Fiesta Swirls Felted Cuff features needle felting.

Fiesta Swirls Felted Cuff

Liz of lizplummer made the foundation felt of her Cocoon Small Textile Wall Hanging by hand.

Cocoon Small Textile Wall Hanging

To learn more about the art of felting, you may wish to explore the following books:

  • Crocheted Pursenalities: 20 Great Felted Bags, by Eva Wiechmann
  • Fast Fun & Easy Needle Felting: 8 Techniques & Projects–Creative Results in Minutes, by Lynne Farris
  • Felted Crochet: Bags, Pillows, Bowls, Hats, Throws, by Jane Davis
  • Not Your Mama’s Felting: The cool and creative way to get it together, by Amy Swenson
  • Pursenalities: 20 Great Knitted and Felted Bags, by Eva Wiechmann
  • Quick & Clever Felting: Over 30 Stylish Projects Using Felt Applique, Needle Felting, Wet Felt and Other Easy Techniques, by Ellen Kharade
  • The Embellisher: Let’s Get Started! by Myfanwy Hart
  • Warm Fuzzies: 30 Sweet Felted Projects, by Betz White

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.

Oct 082008

Buttons. We fasten our garments with them, wear them to proclaim our political views, push them to open doors, drag our cursor, activate software icons, and turn on car radios. A buttoned-down person is presumed to be conservative and narrow-minded, whose buttons can be predictably pushed to evoke a specific reaction. If that person refuses to talk to you, you’ll probably call her buttoned up. When you need to discuss a raise with a busy boss, you might buttonhole him to get his attention. The protective covering on the end of a fencing foil is called a button, as is the head of a mushroom. And the flower your date wears on his lapel? It’s a boutonniere, of course, from the late 19th century French word for button, bouton.

Buttons have a long and interesting history. During the Bronze Age, people simply wore pieces of bone, wood, metal or seashells as forms of decoration. Eventually, however, the ancient Greeks decided to run a button through a loop of thread to fasten garments. A few centuries later, in 1200, the Crusaders brought back from the Turks and Mongols the idea of a buttonhole. French garment makers took the bouton and the buttonhole to new heights in 1250 by establishing the Button Makers Guild. Their artistry was so developed that not only was the button used to fasten garments prized by the aristocracy, but it once more became a form of decoration.

Over the next few centuries, button mania ran amuck. Buttons were created from diamonds, gold, silver and ivory. A report from 1520 states that King Francis I of France once greeted King Henry VIII of England wearing 13,600 buttons, both men similarly attired. The Church tried to tone things down by calling the buttons used to fasten the front of women’s dress “the devil’s snare,” and of course the Puritans got into the act by condemning such button excess as sinful. Then in the 17th century a button war, la Guerre des Boutons, was begun by French tailors who enraged button makers by making thread balls that worked just as well as traditional buttons. To protect their turf and their livelihood, button makers secured the French government’s agreement to fine the tailors for their ingenuity.

By the 17th century, French button makers no longer had a stranglehold on the button market because America, Germany and the United Kingdom began producing large buttons that required fewer of them to fasten garments. Buttons began to be mass produced beginning in the 19th century, using more expensive materials like brass, glass, pearls and ceramic, but also more common materials like thread, bone and metal. Families began keeping button boxes to recycle buttons for re-use, which bring us to today’s buttons, which are made from all of these materials in all sizes and shapes, and for all kinds of products.

Our lives revolve around buttons, which you’ll find everywhere on Etsy, and for which BBEST members have developed all kinds of uses. Rose of Big Island Rose Design, for example, recycles buttons to produce her Framboise Button and Yoyo Pin.

Framboise Button and Fabric Yoyo Pin Brooch

Dena of The Buttonhole has based the entire premise of her shop on buttons. One of her products is the Brass Bookmark with Vintage Buttons Black and White.

Brass Bookmark with Vintage Buttons Black and White

Pearl of Fehu Stoneware, on the other hand, fires porcelain buttons in her kiln. She uses them to embellish her journal covers, but encourages others to find other creative uses for them.

Zuda of ZudaGay fashions fantastical flowers from polymer clay, recycling buttons as the center of her floral creations. Her Coral Red Flower Pendant, for example, features a silver tone button.

Coral Red Flower Pendant

Carol of Sand Fibers often uses buttons to fasten her beautiful bead bracelets. Take a look at her If You Love Copper Like I Love Copper Peyote Cuff Bracelet.

If You Love Copper Like I Love Copper Peyote Cuff Bracelet

Kym of Kimbuktu uses a button as both a practical fastener and a decorative embellishment for her 1000 Cranes Foldable Tote.

1000 Cranes Foldable Tote

Finally, says Joon of joonbeam, “Environment is everything.” Her Earth Day Every Day Pinbacks encourage us to preserve the earth with her version of the button.

Earth Day Every Day Pinbacks

Feel free to click on any of the photos above to learn about purchasing details of these button creations by Boomers and Beyond Etsy Street Team members.

To learn more about buttons, read Roy Earnshaw’s “A History of the Button.”

© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.