frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm Feeling Quiet

I haven't been posting, or even commenting on the posts of others. I feel a little exhausted. But it's weird, because I don't feel bad, just like being quiet.

I have been pretty busy. At work, there are things to do to get ready for the end of the year. I just finished my personal performance grid. How corporate is that? This is the document that states my goals for the year, if I completed them, and how I accomplished everything, and why I deserve a nice raise and bonus.  Everyone hates doing this but there is no way around it. It is due December 1st and I have had several people sneer at me with envy and disgust when I announced I was finished. Also, I've been acquainting myself with all of the websites I will need to use in connection with Drexel University. I usually end up confused at first, somehow screwing up or forgetting my username, password, ID number, etc. I am already on a first name basis with one of the tech guys.

Over the weekend I dug out and reposted on Etsy some things I did for Christmas last year. It would be nice if I could sell them. I also made more prints of antique Christmas postcards on fabric. I will make something out of all that soon. I'm almost done with another woodland postcard. I did some experimental stove top dying over the weekend. I used RIT cocoa brown. Man, is it ever brown. I have no idea what I am doing with all that.

I'm feeling a little bit Christmassy. Looking forward to digging into the decoration boxes. I agreed to go to Cape Cod over the weekend with Joe. He used to live there and has a lot of friends he misses. Thanksgiving weekend is normally decorating time, but I guess I'll just do it when I get back.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

(Catchy Title Needed Here)

I just have some scattered thoughts to put out there today.

First of all, the question was put to me, what are you going to do with the snake? Well, I was thinking I would make a hundred of them, all out of different fabric, make up little stories about them and put them all on Etsy. It will be the next Beanie Baby-like craze, and I will make millions. Cool fantasy? By the way, did you notice I put a rattle on his end? Made of stacked buttons.

On Sunday, we worked on the attic. Joe is still working on the small section over the addition. This is the section that you can't stand up in, but will create a lot of new storage space. He was building out the studs on the wall, because they are too shallow to contain the insulation. If that doesn't make sense, don't worry about it, it is just a dreary detail. Next he will put a moisture barrier over the whole thing, then sheets of particle board so that no holes accidentally get poked into the moisture barrier. I expect this stage to be done sometime in December, because Thanksgiving is bound to interrupt.

While he was doing that, I was prying "cymbals" out of the roof joists in the main part of the attic. You may remember me describing the weird, old, filthy insulating paper someone had put up sometime during the last century. Well, they nailed up a hundred or so of these metal disks, that look like little cymbals, to hold up that paper. I already ripped off the paper, but these things remain, and they need to be removed before Joe can do anything else. I was bending the edges with a pair of needle nose plyers, and them prying them the rest of the way off with a claw hammer. It was miserable. I had emptied out this part of the attic, but it is now partially filled again with building materials, such as giant bundles of insulation, so I could not get to every "cymbal." I must have pulled 50 of them, and this is just one side of the attic!

In other news, I started feeding my Christmas addiction again. I've decided that my favorite part of Christmas is decorating for it. I've been collecting old ornaments. I have some that are very old, but mostly, I'm collecting 40's, 50's and 60s. I can actually afford the things from that era, and I don't have to get angry if they get broken. I like the old glass Shiny-Brites, but I've also become intrigued with some of the plastic ones. I like to see how designers started playing with these new materials. It would be hard for me to describe exactly what I look for, but it does need a certain quality, I don't know... naive space age?  I guess I will need to post some pictures at some point.

Anyway, we had another nice day yesterday, so after working in the attic, Joe invited me to come along for a motorcycle ride. I went, even though I would rather we just worked longer in the attic. I find that there are rewards for indulging him. Like as we were riding past one of my favorite antique stores, he said, "You want to stop?" You bet I want to stop. This place was just starting to put out their Christmas stuff. I found a couple of good things and I started my routine: "Oh my God, I have so much stuff, I really shouldn't. It's crazy, blah blah blah. Joe then responds, "Awe, come on honey, go ahead and enjoy yourself." "Nuff said. He's an enabler for sure. I added an ornament with a funky shape, but the paint is not shiny. These were made during WWII, when they would not spare the metal for Christmas ornaments. I also got a funky as hell blue tinsel tree. Oh, I also have a collection of little trees, and little houses (the made in Japan kind) and little plastic deer...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


New work by Kate on Etsy

Here is Kate's latest art quilt, finished not one hour ago. Hot and fresh!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

No Snakes, Yet

I was all set to make snakes today, then I thought that maybe I should start working out the next project I have planned for Art Club. I decided we could make snowman wallhangings. I am scheduled to do it December 1st, and that is coming up in a hurry. I made a sample today to be sure my ideas were sound. I intend to do most of the work up front. I'll have the background ready, I'll iron fusable onto all the different fabric components. I will draw the shapes and let the artists cut them out and fuse them. I 'll let people decide whether or not they will sew buttons or use fabric markers to put on the details of the snowman. Hopefully we can manage this in the 2 hours we'll have.

I actually did start a snake today. I need to figure out how I want to do the eyes. It's not in the pattern, but I want to make a tongue. I think my snakes will all have rattles. I'll show you tomorrow

Friday, November 13, 2009

Making Snakes

This morning I became aware of Drew's alarm going off. His alarm is an i-pod, blasting the most insane music. He wakes up at 4:30 am to go to work, and he needs nothing short of a bomb to get him up. He tells a story of sleeping through a rocket attack once when he was still in the Marines.

Anyway, sometimes I don't hear it at all, but this morning I did. When he didn't turn it down after a while, I thought maybe he wasn't waking up. I went to his room, but he was awake, and he said to me, "Do you know we have no milk?" Being out of milk in the morning at my house is like a tragedy. Everyone NEEDS milk for their coffee. So I left $5 in the bathroom and told him to buy it. He did.

I was glad the exchange took place, other wise I'd have woken up to no milk, but just the same I remained awake from then on. I was laying in bed thinking about making snakes.

Yesterday evening I was to take Kate to social group, as is normal on a Thursday. This week it was cooking, and it was Kate's turn to bring a guest. Usually I end up being her guest, but this time she invited her job coach who still checks in with Kate at her job at the supermarket. Joe mostly does his own thing on those evenings, but this time he wanted to come with me and offered to take me out for Thai food. AWESOME! After a delicious dinner, he and I went to the Library to chill for a while. He took out a biography of Groucho Marx. I took out a bunch of books, a big one about fabric designs, an art quilt picture book, a book about piecing techniques and one about making stuffed toys. I previously had no interest in making softies, but I was flipping through and came across a pattern to make stuffed snakes. I don't know, they looked so funny, and so simple to make, that I decided I needed to take out the book. That brings us back to me lying in bed thinking about making snakes. I have some ideas about how to make the snakes "Mundy style." I showed it to Kate and she is down with that, but she also pointed out a little bird pattern. I would not exactly call it difficult, but way more involved than that snake. She thinks we should sell them on Etsy

I'm looking forward to another weekend with nothing particular to do. Joe plans on working in the attic some more. Slow but sure, I guess. I've been having a fantasy about having an open studio when it is finished, and inviting people like it was a party. I'll have plenty of time to plan it, apparently.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Son, the Veteran

Today is veteran's day, so I thought it would be a good day to talk about my son. When he was 5 years old he began to request military haircuts. At that time it was popular to not let your children play with toy guns. Drew would make his own gun, out of a banana, his LEGOs, a branch from a tree. When he was 6 years old he would make me read him articles from Time magazine during the gulf war. He had wanted to join the Marines since he was 12. I honestly did not think he was the type; he was one of those people that just always marched to a different drummer, so to speak. I tried to buy him any books I could find that I thought would give him a realistic idea of what he was getting into, but, it didn't change his mind, so, in he went, 2 weeks after his 18th birthday. I remember the recruiters picked him up at some ungodly hour, like 3am, to take him to Paris Island. My parents were there to say good bye.

I downloaded a chart that showed you what he would be doing every day for the three months he was at Paris Island. I wonder if I still have that anywhere? I would think, today Drew will be rappelling off of a 20 foot high wall! I didn't speak to him for all that time, but we did have a lively exchange of letters. I still have all of them. If I had thought of it, I would have scanned one to show you, some of them were down right hilarious. He's a good writer.

When he was done with Paris Island, we went to see him graduate. It was a great proud moment. Especially considering there were people in my family that had doubts that he would make it. After Paris Island he went to North Carolina for infantry training, then to Fort Sill in Oklahoma for MOS training. Finally, at the end of January he arrived at Camp Pendleton where he was to be stationed. As soon as he arrived he called and told me he was being deployed to Iraq. I told him it had to be a mistake, he just got in! No mistake, he was going in early February.

This picture is from his first deployment. We would send him disposable camera's, and he would send them back and we would have them developed. I remember seeing pictures like this one and not being able to believe it was my son!

He ended up going to Iraq three times during the 4 years he was in the Marines. Slowly you hear stories of the things he had seen. Some funny, some some really painful to hear, knowing how difficult it must have been for him. If the stress of deployment was not enough, he really didn't fit in that well. In the end he decided not to re enlist.

Even though my son was shot at, had a convoy he was in attacked with a roadside bomb, even though he had to shoot someone, he actually believes his service was unremarkable! Anyway, on veteran's day, I salute my son, I am so proud of him!

Here is a picture of Drew watching his sister Kate play tennis for special Olympics. He has been home over 2 years now. I can honestly say that he was not quite right until maybe 6 months ago. It was not anything really obvious, nothing where you would say, he's got PTSD. He bombed out off college, couldn't hold down a job, had no direction, seemed restless, had trouble sleeping. I was pretty worried, but slowly he is coming around. He has had the same job for a year, he trained to be an EMT and did really well and now volunteers for a local rescue squad. He is talking about going back to college.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New on Etsy

Here is a quilt that has been hanging around for a while, waiting for more shell beads. I could not really describe this when I was putting it up on Etsy. It really is about an archeological discovery. This is an ancient grave site. That little whale bone doll is the body. I've used this little guy in a number of collages from back in the "old days." That would be the late 1990s.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pokeberries: Don't Bother

I performed my final pokeberry experiment this morning. I had a variety of alum-treated fabrics at hand, a small bucket of pokeberries simmering in an enamel stock pot purchased for this purpose. I put lace, muslin, and cotton prints into the mix and cooked them for a couple of hours with soda ash. The result? A bunch of fabric that looked vaguely dingy. Do yourself a favor and don't waste your time natural dying with pokeberries. They look promising, but you get nothing for your efforts.

I did  have a couple of boxes of good old fashioned RIT dye on hand. I know this stuff isn't great, but it is easy to get your hands on. I cooked up a mess o' that on the stove and put a bunch of fabric in this new dye bath.  I happened to use pink again and I have some very pretty fabric drying on the line right now. It came out very uneven, which I think is a problem with the stove top method, except for me it is exactly what I wanted. I over-dyed some blue and white and black and white checks and they look great. I have brown dye that I plan to use next. Some of it will go over the pink.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Book My Ass

I e-mailed the book editor and she has not e-mailed back. This is the part where I feel discouraged. This is the part where I think, that was just a dream. Even if she never gets back to me, I think I will send them a pitch for the book idea this all sparked me to think up.

Here is my latest feed sack quilt, now on Etsy. It occurs to me that I have enough art quilts made with feed sacks that I might make it it's own catagory.

Here is another example of my flower pounding experiments. I really like the colors on this one. I'm not sure what I will do with this fabric. I've been looking at ATCs lately. I see some people sell them on Etsy, but when you read about ATCs on the web, they are supposed to be traded, not sold. I thought briefly about joining a trading group and then snapped out of it. The thing about joining a group is you end up with some kind of obligation.

Last year I made a few things for Christmas, but did not sell much. I was thinking that I could make ATC size items that could be thought of as ornaments. I have 2 half finished pieces going right now. I'd like to finish them before I start up something new. Unfinished objects make me a little crazy.

Joe and I are going out with friends tonight. The National Hotel had it's grand re-opening in Frenchtown on Tuesday, and we are very happy. The National Hotel is a very old establishment. Naturally it has gone through a number of owners, but the place closed down a  year or so ago and they boarded it up! It really looked horrible, like a crack house or something. Maybe I'll take some pictures if I think of it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Crazy Good Things

I can't even think today. I haven't been too busy here at work, and that makes it hard to get anything done. I realize that might sound crazy, but that's really how it is. There is enough free time to mess around on the internet, and I get distracted by interesting things.

Anyway, today 2 things happened to make that situation double worse. Remember how I have applied to Drexel University to  get a BS in Communication? Well, I signed up for an online seminar where one of the professors spoke about the course, what to expect, and where you can use a degree like this. (Answer: anywhere) When I was finished, I ran down to get lunch, came back and had an e-mail saying I was accepted! I'm excited and scared.

If that's not distracting enough, I had a convo on my etsy site from a woman who says she is the acquisitions editor for C&T publishing. I looked that up and found it is a ligit publishing house that concentrates on needle arts and mixed media books. She says she loves my work and wants to know if I had ever considered writing a book. Well, not up until now. She offered to chat more if I sent her an e-mail. I did, but haven't heard back yet. Meanwhile I looked at their book propsal form, and started writing a book proposal on the spot!  It's a pretty big deal, I have to write a sample chapter and a complete set of instructions for a sample project.

How could all this happen at once? If somehow this book thing really happens, I'm going to blow off going to Italy this year. How many things can one person do??????

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Work is Getting Done

It's been a pretty fruitful weekend. I quilted 2 small things I started last week. Kate is right now embroidering something she has been working on. Some progress was made in the attic. I've got various scraps of fabric soaking in a pot of water with alum. I finally got some of it, they had to order it for me at the pharmacy. I took the fabric that I dyed by smashing berries into it, scraped off the excess seeds and pulp, and heat set it with an iron, Then I rinsed it. Pretty much everything washed out. I now have a light pink and brown mottled fabric. I still have a bucket of poke berries I picked last weekend. I have been reading up on dying with those berries, and I have learned that they are POISON. I am going to buy a cheap pot and reserve it for dying experiments. I have also learned that the dye is famously fugitive. In other words, it's hard to get it to stay in fabric. I want to try another method of natural dying I heard about, which is pounding flowers. I think that might be cool.

I haven't gotten around to take any pictures of anything lately. Maybe later? We are going to the home depot in a while. We'll see after that.