This is my plan for the fabric portrait (traced onto a transparency first)   

This is my plan for the fabric portrait (traced onto a transparency first)


Hi, my name is Joan Frantzen, and I’m a life-long crafter, sewist, musician, knitter, beader, and pursuer of all things creative.

This is a portrait I made of myself using fabric.  It was the result of a fantastic online class I took from Craftsy, taught by Carol Ann Waugh, called Snazzy Stitched Portraits.  She takes you through the steps to create your own quilted portrait.  I designed my portrait a little differently than Carol Ann did, but it was a fun, informative class.  The glasses in the portrait were cut with a die from Papertrey Ink (it was part of their "super-hero" collection; they do look a little like Clark Kent's glasses). I just sized my portrait to fit the proportions of the die.  I look about 30 years younger in this cloth version of myself.  (See the real me directly below.)

About two years ago, I discovered paper crafting and die cutting.  After many years of quilting, sewing garments, and fiber art, my sewing machine desperately needed some major repair and I didn’t have the money to do it, so in true Midwestern tradition (make do with what you have) I simply switched hobbies for a while.  I thought I would be saving money; silly me!  After I had my sewing machine repaired, I returned to doing artwork with it.  One day I needed a small fussy-cut shape for the fabric postcard I was making, and I had an ah-ha! moment:  I bet I could cut this out with my die-cutting machine.  All the packaging on my dies said they could be used to cut out fabric.  I had only seen people cut out large shapes for quilting or felt using steel-rule dies, but I figured the smaller wafer-thin ones might work on regular fabric, too.  Lo and behold!  It worked beautifully!  So I ironed some heat-sensitive adhesive on the back of a piece of fabric and tried it again.  Success again!  I couldn’t believe how easy it was to have small, intricately cut shapes of fabric, ready to apply to my quilts, garments, or fiber art pieces.

Immediately, I began to eye my dies with a little more interest.  Ideas started churning in my head about how I could incorporate all the dies I owned into my fabric artwork as well.

So this blog will take you with me on my new adventure.  Not everything I do uses dies, but they have opened a whole new world of possibilities that paper doesn’t afford me.

My journey as a crafter really started with my love of Creepy Crawlers as a little girl.  It was a magical “toy” made by Mattel, created for kids like me who loved to make messes, consisting of an open-face electric hot plate oven that got so hot the element glowed red.  (An exposed heating element and unsupervised kids -- what could possibly go wrong?)  Plasti-Goop, an opaque fluid about the consistency of Elmer’s glue that came in a rainbow of colors, was squirted into die-cast metal molds, then placed on top of the heating element, and a few minutes later the heat turned the liquid into a rubbery shape.  I saved all my babysitting money, and when we made our monthly trip to Target (50 miles away in Minneapolis), all my hard-earned money went to yet another mold or a new color of Plasti-Goop.  Hours after school every day at an old, oversized desk in my bedroom, I tried new color combinations for my creatures.  A few burned fingers or wrists along the way was the price I was willing to pay for my foray into creating something new and different.  The transformation from liquid to solid before my eyes was like magic every time it happened.

I was a mess-maker (Mom called me her "little mess-head") and lover of glitter, sparkles, clay, beads, paint, yarn, threads, and basically anything that allowed me to play.  I spent hours when I should have been practicing my piano lessons, instead singing silly made-up songs to our cat and parakeet.  I loved playing with my baby dolls, happily knitting or sewing them outfits to match mine, and never passed up an opportunity to dress up in costumes (always homemade).  I was a happy little Susie Homemaker.

(As an aside, my husband also had a “toy” when he was a kid that appealed to his interests:  a mini-chemical factory, complete with toxic chemicals, that boys could set up in their basements to produce many useful items like DDT and compounds that exploded or foamed.  The instruction book included in the set chirpily mentioned that all the chemicals a boy needed could be easily obtained by his mother at the corner drugstore.  I’m constantly amazed that any of us survived our childhoods!)

I came to motherhood later in life (I was 37 when my oldest son was born, and a year later my youngest son came along).  It has been difficult at times to hit my 60’s with two sons still in college, but that’s the way my life unfolded.  I was able to stay at home with my kids for about 5 years, and have since worked in the public schools they attended, first as a sub, then later as a library paraprofessional, and finally now as a reading para.  I’ve loved every minute of being a mom, volunteer, and overall jack-of-all-trades with what needs to be done when you raise children.

My two sons have now launched successfully into their lives, and my husband of 35 years is doing his thing (he’s an environmental consultant).

Now it’s my turn to find myself.

“Find myself” isn’t quite the best term for it, since I don’t feel like I ever really lost myself.  My internal compass always points toward creative pursuits, and my mind constantly returns to my next project, a technique I’m developing, or my next learning experience.  Anything that engages my heart, my head, and my hands is ultimately what I enjoy doing.  Give me a pile of supplies and no instructions, and I'm happy as a clam.

I’m fascinated with how the human brain functions.  My thought style is concrete/sequential, but I express myself in creative pursuits.  My husband thinks much more creatively and randomly, but as a scientist he has chosen as an occupation one grounded in the concrete natural world, where everything must be verifiable and reproducible to be taken as fact.  Those combinations of styles are what make us each unique, and add infinite variety to the human species.

When my boys were little, I made pin money teaching quilting and sewing classes at local shops and quilt guilds.  I entered contests with my wearable art pieces and quilts, and have won a number of awards for some of them over the years.  Classes I taught were always project-based (everyone makes the item using their own sewing machine) and designed by me.  Copyright laws prohibit simply copying and distributing others’ patterns without their permission or compensation to use in teaching classes, and it also keeps me learning new things and developing new techniques.

So that will be the emphasis of this blog -- exploring new ways to express myself creatively, especially using materials and tools found in both the paper-crafting and fabric worlds.  I already have a bunch of ideas swirling in my head.  Think of the possibilities:  using die cuts on clothing, home dec items, cards, albums, boxes, even wood projects.

I hope I can inspire you to come along and join in.