Swings & Roundabouts

I’ve had a mild case of finishitis lately. The part of me that wants to get current projects done is winning the battle against the one that wants to start something new. So what do I have in progress?

The Handwoven Skirt
Currently stalled because my back has been cranky, and sewing is worse for it than weaving.

The Krokbragd Rug
Stalled because I’m waiting to see if I can buy some more carpet yarn from a weaver.

Clasped Weft Fringe Scarves
What I’ve been spending most of my craft time on. It’s been… interesting. Is there such thing as ‘anaesthetic brain’? Because my short term memory was atrocious after the second eye operation. I was incapable of following the draft, and after a number of sessions in which I unwove almost as much as I wove, I gave up and just started making it up as I went. Thankfully, the result is good. Kinda groovy.

Taupe Jacket
Mainly weaving this one in the evenings, while watching tv. I’m warping up the Knitters Loom with a natural wool and for weft I’m using stripes of natural through to brown coloured yarns. I’m intending it to become a jacket. We’ll see.

Eye Embroidery
It’s been the project I grab when I need something portable. However, I may regret not finishing it before now, if my eyesight remains bad for close work.

Swimmers Clock
I need to get back to this. It wasn’t warm enough to work out in the garage, and now it’s too warm.

Weaving Bits and Pieces
I’m making a weaving sword, or wavy beater, inspired by a recent demonstration by Mr Tanji at the Guild. Which I didn’t get to, but the Weavers Matters gals showed me the ropes at the next meeting and it was a lot of fun. Also, working on the idea for the Vari Dent Reed.

Spiral Mosaic Sphere

For my second mosaic sphere, I initially wanted to do one in black and white, with six spirals connected in pairs. But while browsing through the results of “mosaic sphere gazing ball” on Google Images I saw a sphere that was one continuous spiral using two rows of tiles:

I realised that this would require no measuring up. All I’d need to do was start the spiral and each row of tiles would sit next the last, until they reached the opposite end I’d started on. Easy peasy.

My intention is to use up leftover tiles on spheres. The only kind I had enough of for this design were the glossy black glass ‘mosaic’ tiles left over from our bathroom renovation. When I found I could easily cut these in half at an angle with my glass cutter, I knew they were the right choice for this project. For the narrow row of tiles, I decided to use the larger batch of millefiori I’d bought not long after I’d done the mosaic class because they were pretty, without any idea what I’d use them for. So far I’ve only used a dozen or so millefiori, and mostly ones I’d bought later because they were star shapes. This looked like a good way to use a larger quantity.

So I began with a black droplet, then cut one black tile in half and stuck it down. I worked backwards to taper the tiles back to the droplet, then I got the smallest millefiori and glued it at the opposite point to the tile starting place.

From there it was a matter of swapping from millefiori to black tiles and back again, going around and around. But because of the curved surface, I had to do it in batches or the tiles might move or fall off. Later, Barbara from my art class, who also does mosaics, suggested I stick dressmaking pins in to hold the tiles in place, which allowed me to do more each time.

However, when I reached the middle, I ran out of millefiori.

A hunt for more started. I thought I’d bought them from Bunnings, or Zart Art. But both had a different kind of millefiori in stock – all opaque wheras mine were transparent. I was fairly sure the brand I’d bought was Mandala, so I called them and it turned out that yes, they’d recently changed their millefiori as the transparent ones were more prone to breakage.

Fortunately they still had two packs of the old style ones, so I bought those. When they arrived I got back to work. A few more rounds and I was able to ditch the pins, as all the tiles were now resting on the previous ones, and I got the last 25% done in one sitting.

After letting it dry for a few days, I grouted it with black grout.

I bought a few more polystyrene balls when I went looking for more millefiori at Zart Art, but the vague idea I have for the next one might require me buying more tiles. And now that the weather has warmed up enough to spend time in the garage I’d like to get back to the swimmers clock. And then there’s the ventilation floor patches to do in the kitchen. And I’ve bought enough tiny ceramic tiles to do a matching wave pattern frieze around the bathroom. And I have a large bowl I want to do as well…

They Call them Gazing Balls

I prefer ‘mosaic sphere’, but I do like the irony of choosing to make a ‘gazing ball’ while recovering from eye surgery. It just happened that I found some polystyrene balls at Zart Art in Box Hill – and their special ‘will glue anything to anything’ Supertac glue – a few weeks ago. After the surgery I decided to give the mosaic sphere thing a try. It’s much easier to see tiles than warp threads at the moment (not that this is stopping me weaving). Since the spheres aren’t going to be touched or walked on, I could happily use broken tiles with sharp edges and glass tiles with the colour on the surface – which gives me a good use for the tiles I’d bought for the ventilation hole patches that turned out to be unsuitable.

For my first sphere, I had no plan. I just made it up as I went. First some yellow lines to break it into quarters, then flowers out of orange, green for leaves, and lastly filling in the remaining spaces with blue and green. I used up most of the triangle and square glass shapes in those colours, and added some cut glass tiles from Bunnings. I only needed to cut tiles smaller at the end, when I was filling gaps.

The grouting was, er, educational. One day I’m going to learn not to make two to three times as much grout as I need. I also made it a bit too wet, so at first it sagged out of the cracks on the underside of the ball. But I kept adding and smoothing and wiping until it had stiffened up enough to stay put. I did a second coat when the grout had thickened a bit more, too.

I’d watched YouTube tutorials that said the ball should be covered in mesh and mastic so the tiles have something to stick to. I tested the Supertac glue by sticking one tile on then holding the tile and seeing if I could shake it off the ball. It held, so I figured it was worth the risk just using that. The one time I tried to remove a tile that had shifted, I couldn’t even carve it off with a knife. Eventually it came loose, but only by taking a chunk of polystyrene with it. Fortunately the glue stuck it back on just fine. The grout wasn’t inclined to stick to the polystyrene where the gaps between tiles were wide, so for my next sphere I’m making sure all the surface is covered in glue.

Yes, I’ve started another one.

It’s rather addictive.

Ventilation Patch Mosaics – Day & Night

The holes for the old under floor heating in the entertainment room were different sizes and not very square. I guess the installers figured that the covers would hide any inaccuracies. The mosaics didn’t have covers to hide the flaws. We tidied one up as best we could with a dremel, but mostly I figured we’d have to live with the crookedness. Thanks to the thickness of the floating floor, the holes were actually quite deep. We added 9mm thick pieces of wood to bring the mosaics up to level with the floor, but that still left quite a bit of space for the grout to fill.

The daytime one is on the south side of the house, which is the side that faces the pool:

The nighttime ones is on the north side, near the bar we made from an old organ.

I love the nighttime one, but the daytime one came out a bit dull. I used mid-grey grout on both, and maybe it’s a bit too light for the pale blue tiles.

This leaves three ventilation holes to fill in the kitchen. I’ve still got a few trials using slate and cement mortar to do before I attempt a final mosaic. That’ll have to wait for the weather to warm up, as it’s going to be waaay to messy to do in the house.

Ventilation Patch Mosaics

When I did the mosaic workshop earlier this year I came away full of enthusiasm. But I did wonder if, like basketry, that enthusiasm would wane. With basketry, I thought the difficulty getting materials was part of the reason my focus shifted away. But I’ve had enough troubles getting supplies for mosaics that I don’t believe that any more.

I certainly have a lot of tiles now, bought for projects then rejected as unsuitable when they arrived. I learned quickly to get a sample pack before investing in lots of colours. I’m sure I’ll use all the rejected tiles, though. I have projects in mind that they’ll work fine with.

The swimmers clock has been sitting out in the garage untouched, because it’s been too cold to work out there. That’s fine. I’m happy to wait for warmer weather.

Instead I’ve been working on ‘inside’ mosaics – ones that don’t require breaking tiles. That brings me to the ventilation patch project…

When we replaced the old ducted heating here, we wound up with lots of redundant floor vents. Even when shut, they let in cold drafts (and mosquitoes, I suspect). Paul blocked them all off earlier this year. We’ve left the covers on the ones in carpeted areas, which is just the four bedrooms. The rest I want to patch with mosaics.

They need to use a material without sharp edges to cut socks or bare feet. They need to be tough enough to survive being walked on. That means no tesserae, stained glass or broken ceramic. Fortunately there are other options.

The bathroom only needed one patch. I did a classical inspired wave design in blue, burgundy and pink, using small ceramic tiles:

I’d like to do a smaller version as a frieze around the walls, but I had a lot of trouble getting hold of the right amounts of the colours I used just to do the patch. I might see if I have enough left to do a sample strip, then contact the tile seller to see if she can do larger orders.

The entertainment room has two ventilation holes, and it has a floating wooden floor. I designed ‘day and night’ themed patches. Initially I thought I’d use irregular coloured glass ‘melts’ which have smooth edges, but when my order arrived I was disappointed to find they only came in square and triangle shapes, with a couple of bigger trapezoid ones. I laid them out without gluing and didn’t like the result. I considered the Mandala art version of irregular glass tiles, which come with greater variety of shapes, but these, like the ones I bought, had the colour on the surface rather than base of the tile, and I reckon it’d wear off under foot traffic.

A bit more searching and I found 8mm opaque square glass tiles, which were small enough that I was able to get enough detail into the design:

I’m hoping to get them glued in and grouted this week.

The kitchen needs three patches, in something to match the slate floor. I figured… why not slate? So I bought a couple of pieces, smashed them up and made a test patch by pressing pieces into a shallow container of cement mortar, sealing it when dry. I’ve been doubtful at several stages of the test, but the result is better than it first seemed like it would be so I’ll be going ahead with this idea…

… when it isn’t so cold in the garage!