Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cross-Stitch Projects

Miss Abigail has become quite accomplished at embroidery. Besides making the prayer pillow, this year she has embroidered a denim tote bag for me, a baby burp cloth for our Erik and completed two other cross-stitch projects, as well.

The monogrammed flannel burp cloth is an upcoming baby gift (don't look Kate!) The dishtowel with the little cross-stitched colonial girl is one of a set that Abigail is working on for her hope chest. She plans to do a second towel, with green thread, to match her crocheted dishcloth.

Cross-stitch, as a stitch, is a little harder to do well than it might seem. Abigail has found it a challenge to make the crosses even and to remember to always cross in the same direction. It has been a little difficult to learn to plan for future stitches and how to decide where to go next when following the printed design. I think, as she continues to practice the cross-stitch, that she will find it easier and easier to do. I really love to do a printed cross-stitch pattern. I find it relaxing to just follow the pattern, making the same movement again and again.

Of course, doing any project, when it is intended for judging, puts so much more pressure on a person. I sometimes think I shouldn't allow Abigail to enter any of her things in the county fair. It seems that children learn right away that anything but a blue ribbon is a disappointment. I worry that the additional pressure of working up to certain standards will make her hate the craft. Always I wish that I didn't have to be the one to tell her that something must be unpicked or done over. Some days, I am certain that she will eventually end up on a therapist's couch, trying to explain about 4-H standards and scorecards and winning blue ribbons.

However, my husband feels strongly that children need to have experience with competition. He believes that learning to receive and consider criticism is important, even if it is arbitrary or unjust. Since Miss Abigail is homeschooled, he thinks it is good for her work to be evaluated by other people. I agree with these reasons, but still I worry and wonder if this is good. Women are so prone to perfectionism, and as a perfectionist teacher, I can't help but think about how this rubs off. We perfectionist mothers always wish we knew the absolutely right answer for rearing children. How I came to be talking about this, when I merely meant show the cross-stitch, cannot be explained. So sorry, sigh... :o)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tutorial - Fabric Painted T-Shirt

Other embellishing techniques taught by the "Creative Touches" 4-H project are fabric painting and using buttons. One of the categories to exhibit at the fair is a shirt, showing specific techniques from the project. This year Miss Abigail used fabric painting on her shirt. We saw a book at the library on sponge painting and thought that this would be fun to try as a "foliage" background for some pretty flower buttons we saw at the craft store.

The materials included the T-shirt, two colors of green fabric paint, a sea sponge, and the decorative flower buttons.

Abigail placed a sheet of cardboard between the layers of the shirt, so that the paint would not bleed onto the other side. She soaked the sponge in water to make it pliable and then wrung it out well. The sponge should be just damp. She dabbed the sponge in the darker green paint and blotted it off onto a paper towel. Then she dabbed the paint across the front of the shirt. She was trying to mimic a border of leaves and foliage.

She repeated the same process with the lighter green paint.

This sponging technique is really quite simple. Abigail continued to add paint until she felt like there was plenty of "foliage" for the flower buttons.

When the paint was completely dry, Miss Abigail added the flower buttons. Hand sewing assures that they are attached securely to the shirt.

Finished! Abigail really liked the way it turned out. It can be dressy if worn with a skirt, or casual if she wants to wear jeans. The shirt is just what we imagined that it would be. Don't you love it when the actual product comes together as you planned it?

To learn the technique, before doing the shirt, I had Abigail practice on a dishtowel. After painting the foliage, Abigail made simple "dot" flowers with fabric paint, instead of using buttons. I like having another nice dishtowel in my kitchen drawer! Sponge painting would be a quick way to make a cute set of towels for a wedding or shower gift, or to place in the hope chest.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tutorial for Bleached Jeans

I've mentioned before that one of Miss Abigail's 4-H projects is called "Creative Touches." This project helps the kids learn techniques of embellishing purchased clothing. The project covers skills such as embroidery, stenciling, fabric painting, adding trims and buttons, and fabric applique. Abigail has enjoyed this project for a couple of years now. She has become quite accomplished in some of these techniques, especially stenciling. The project also allows the kids to explore other kinds of embellishments and one that Abigail has tried a couple of times is stenciled bleaching on denim jeans.

I took pictures this time as she completed her fair project, so that you could follow along and try it.

Miss Abigail used an inexpensive pair of jeans, a Clorox bleach pen (look in the laundry aids aisle of the grocery store), a regular plastic stencil (although the self-adhesive type gives a better result) and masking tape to hold the stencil in place.

The first decision is where to place the stencil. Abigail decided she wanted the design to be on the outside of each leg.

She taped the stencil securely to the fabric and placed a piece of cardboard between the layers. This is to prevent the bleach from soaking through to the other side of the pant leg.

She used the large side of the bleach pen to add the bleach gel just as if she were using paint. You have to use quite a lot of the gel when you are bleaching denim. She went over the design a couple of times. Depending on the stencil, you have to be careful to hold the plastic firmly against the fabric. You don't want the bleach to "bleed" underneath the stencil. If you are sloppy about this, the design will be muddy around the edges.

After she had enough bleach applied to the stencil, Abigail allowed it to sit for 90 minutes. You would think that would be too long, but this denim seemed to need that. I actually think it could have gone longer. We've experimented some and discovered that the heavier the denim, the more bleach must be used and it must sit for a longer time. When the time was up, Abigail thoroughly rinsed the bleach from the jeans and then dried them.

After the jeans were dry, Abigail used silvery glitter fabric paint just on the edges of the design. Miss Abigail loves all things sparkly! This extra touch added a bit more pizzazz and dimension to the "flatness" of the bleached design.

You can't see the glitter at all in the picture of the legs, but the design turned out cute and Abigail was happy with it. The pockets were difficult for some reason. The fabric on the pockets took the bleach a little differently than on the legs. Abigail tried to add more bleach, but the design became blurred. So she added the glitter paint a little more heavily to the pockets and that helped some.

We've not tried bleaching fabric other than denim, but I want to try this technique on a sweatshirt. I think the dye would lift better. If you do any bleaching, be sure to let us know how your project turns out!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Market Lamb Show

Well, Miss Abigail actually does more than sew a fine seam and craft beautiful things. She also loves, loves, LOVES animals - of all kinds. We live on a small homestead where we have a number of different animals, including sheep and dairy goats. We have a small flock of sheep which we raise for meat. We also have another small flock of fine wool Shetland sheep, with a couple of gorgeous Finn sheep. We raise these animals for their wool fleece. Abigail really enjoys working with all these animals.

This year Abigail entered a market lamb in the Southdown class at the county fair. The Market Lamb project helps the kids learn how to take a small lamb and feed, exercise, groom, and show their lamb in the livestock show at the fair. The lamb is then sold, hopefully for a profit. Abigail started with one of the lambs born in February on our farm. She named her Willow. Willow was a cross between one of our Suffolk ewes and a Southdown ram. Abigail also purchased a second Southdown lamb from a nearby ranch.

Abigail did very well showing her lamb and was so excited to win fourth place. Of course, she would rather have won first place, but the competition is pretty stiff. There is just one class for this breed, so Abigail was showing against senior 4-H kids who have shown market lambs for a number of years. Happily, fourth place still gave her a chance to sell the lamb in the livestock auction.  Here are a few more pictures.


Friday, August 5, 2011

At The County Fair

All this week we have been busy at the fair. Abigail had 37 exhibits for indoor projects, plus 2 breeding Finn sheep and a Southdown market lamb in the livestock show. I took some crochet and a set of embroidered dishtowels. My husband makes walking sticks and he entered 2 of those.

Abigail has done remarkably well. She earned a lot of blue ribbons, several reds and a couple of white ribbons. She also was awarded a few Best of Show rosette ribbons! She especially likes those. One of the Best of Show ribbons is on her lady bug outfit! Her canning all won blue. She also earned the reserve high point award.  Her market lamb won fourth place out of a class of eight and she showed the lamb very well. The breeding sheep each won blue ribbons, but they were in a class by themselves. Still, they are beautiful sheep.

I'm so tired and will be happy when I can catch up on sleep and housework. Our son and his wife brought my new grandson last night, late. I'm on my way home now for some Grandma time. I'll post pictures as soon as I can. We took pictures for several tutorials while Abigail was working on fair stuff.  I'm anxious to post these in upcoming days.
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