What can I make from a bucket of marbles, a doorknob backplate and 23 inches of furnace chain? (see
I like to make stuff. Starting with the bazillion pot holders that I made when I was seven years old and in bed with the chicken pox--you know, the ones with the stretchy loops on the metal frame. My dad bent the points over on my frame so I wouldn't poke myself. I guess I was a klutz, even then.
I also like figuring out HOW to make stuff, which was why I lasted so long in the costume designing and making business. There's a whole lot of "Fly by the seat of your pants" and "whatever works" involved, there. My first set of hats for the Baltimore Opera (La Boheme in 1976) were made from Ace Hardware wire screening, edged with folded masking tape, because I didn't know where to buy wide buckram. They were indestructible and probably still being used.
When I designed costumes, I never had any specific fabrics in mind. I would just go to Minnesota Fabrics or S.R. Harris and see what they had on their sale tables. That way, I was never disappointed that I couldn't find something I thought I just HAD to use.
So, when other quilters seem startled that I use batiks and commercial plaids together with Dupioni silk in my quilts, I say--"I use whatever it takes to make it match the quilt in my head". If it works, I use it. If it doesn't, I throw it on the floor and put it away later.
I recently made a quilt that was held together with metal paper brads and had hinges all over. It was painted, printed, pieced, punctured and ap--pliqued! I love it! There is silver ironing board cover fabric on the back and, instead of batting, I used vivid pink felt, which stuck out on the edges in scallops. Of course, it was for an unconventional materials challenge, but still, you get my point. Try to keep an open mind in whatever you are making. Don't box yourself in by thinking you have to use the exact same fabrics in your quilt that were used in the picture on the pattern cover. They probably hit the Ben Franklin sale table, last year.
Another thing I like to do is figure out how to use something that nobody else seems to want. My jewelry from injured vintage pieces, the kimono silk yardage, the obi pillows and table runners are all prime examples. At the moment, I'm trying to figure out something to do with those glass insulators from the telephone poles.
So, in the early 70s, I noticed antique lace and doilies for the first time. Every estate sale, junk shop and flea market seemed to have piles of them. Very, very cheap. They were beautiful, they were hand-made--why didn't people want this gorgeousness? More importantly, what could I do with it?? So, I bought a few and made some pillows. My friend, Rosemary, put them in her antique shop and I sold a few, right away. Well!! THAT was fun! So, I bought some more lace and more crocheted doilies. I added pincushions, ring pillows for weddings, roll pillows, round pillows, bridal garters. I officially went into business as "Confections" with a tax number and everything. Oh yes, all my products had FOOD names--Cream Puffs, Sugar Plums, Jellyrolls--no mystery there. "Confections", get it? And I'm easily sucked into any bakery by the wafting smells.
I outgrew my friend's shop and got a sales rep at the Minnesota wholesale market. Then I got another rep out of the Yellowstone area. Pretty soon, I was in 165 stores throughout the Midwest! I had a grandmother, mother and daughter from Barnum, doing piecework for me. I would take them kits with the lace taped to the pillow face and the ribbons, trimming, ruffles, etc all together. I had a UMD college student coming after class to cut all my ruffles. My teenage children were earning their spending money making the pillow forms, stuffing the pincushions, tagging the Jellyrolls--they mostly hated it. They really hated it when I made them go with me "dumpster diving" for shipping boxes.
The UPS guy came to my house every morning and my children would awaken to that horrible ckleeech! noise of the tape machine closing the boxes for shipment. It was no fun, anymore. It had exploded and grown past the creativity level. Shops wanted "two dozen, just like this one".
So, the year we put the huge addition on our old Victorian house, I used the chaos of all that to shut it down. What did I do with all the leftover lace, fabric, foam stuffing? I'll tell you another time, because that's a whole 'nother story. But,every once in awhile, I have people say to me-"Oh, I still have one of your Victorian pillows." Apparently, they last forever, just like the LaBoheme hats!
Don't forget to go to the Tips and Projects page for another installment. And please check out the interesting things in my Shop.
Oh--from the title--TA DA!!