Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Review: The Art of Stone Painting

Recently, I was asked if I'd like to review a book on stone painting. The cover and accompanying materials were so inspirational to me that I said "Yes! Absolutely!" And so here we are, with 'The Art of Stone Painting' by F. Sehnaz Bac.

I know I'm not supposed to judge a book by its cover (metaphorically) but isn't it so stinkin' adorable? The color and pattern play took the express train right to that place within my soul that makes me gasp and think "Yes!!!!! That's the stuff!" 

OK, deep breath. This slim volume contains everything you need to know to successfully paint stones (including how and where to find the best ones, and even make the not-best ones perfectly usable).

That's only half the table of contents. The book kicks off with a review of the necessary materials, all of which can be had quite easily at most craft stores (or perhaps already within your stash).

Each section describes the process for completing that particular design, as well as tips for different looks.

One of the things I like about this book is that while the artist is showing a lot of detail, the process can really be as simple or as fancy as you'd like, making this a great activity for kids and adults to do together. Not an artist? Yeah, me neither. So find an image you like, trace it onto the stone, and color it in. Or follow her simple outlines to improve your drawing skills. 

These can be used as paperweights, as garden decor (properly sealed), and as gifts. They're so very artsy looking that people might think you paid a nice bit for it as a souvenir from your vacation. And the arrangements in the book are so fun to look at. Check some of these out:

Not a fan of having actual cacti in your home? How cute is a pot of painted cactus stones that won't hurt you or your pets, and also don't require any care?

How cute in the garden or on your porch?

Collect rocks and paint them with your favorite theme.

Don't trust your drawing skills? Doodle! Doodling is an art form--just because we frequently do it while 'on hold' on the phone doesn't make it any less so.
With a little bit of drilling know-how and some hardware (and the right sized stone) you can even make pendants. How fun could these be to wear?

I really enjoyed reading the author's story. The Istanbul native studied archaeology, restoration and conservation, and worked for two decades on many Turkish excavation sites. After a long-fought (and won) war with lymphoma, she turned her technical and drafting skills to this art form, inspired by nature and rendered in various media. She currently lives on the Adriatic coast in Italy. She sells her designs in her Etsy shop (and I kind of want all of the things). You can find the book here.

Seriously--doesn't this look hard core therapeutic? I'm very curious how many rocks I'll come home with when I'm out and about now that I 'need' them.

I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book at no charge in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are completely my own based on my own experience. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Potholders: Then and Now

When I was little, I received one of those plastic potholder looms for Christmas or my birthday. I'd be willing to bet that a lot of you had one as well. I remember sitting with my mom and my grandmom, pulling those little nylon loops over and under, making what were surely the world's greatest potholders (out of a meltable substance, mind you--what were they thinking back then?). I, of course, bestowed these upon my mother, who hugged them to her chest and claimed as mothers do "I love them!!!! I can't believe you made these!" For reasons I now understand, she didn't use them often. Actually, I'm pretty sure she only used them when I was standing right there and said to her "Why don't you use the potholders I made you?" She would always say one of those mom things like "I don't want to mess them up" instead of telling you they'd be more useful in a gnome home than a human home.

Even then I had that "I'm pretty sure I messed up but I'm gonna just go with it" attitude. I remember doing the peach and mint combo because my mother loved it, and the blue and yellow because they were my school colors.

I even somehow made the same mistake on both...and still went with it. When you're between the ages of five and seven such things are expected and acceptable.

Fast forward too many years...every year my grandma insists on sending us a wee bit of money for Christmas, no matter how much we ask her to keep it and buy herself something nice. She refuses (as grandmothers do). I usually buy myself something crafty, so this year I put her gift towards the grown-up version of the much beloved potholder loom.

Ignore the part where it says it's a 'best toy for kids.' The term kid is relative. The standard sized loom produces about a five inch potholder; this one kicks them off at about eight inches (which is much more acceptable to someone like me who would wrap themselves in asbestos (if it was safe) just to take a tray of cookies out of the oven).

I stalked the mailman for the package and tore into it like a kid receiving something way cooler than a potholder loom.

I don't remember which my wee little loom came with, but it was either the crochet hook or the other hook (definitely not both). This loom is of nice, sturdy metal and the tools are perfect for the job. The loops even have been upgraded--they're now made out of cotton (which won't melt). The kit comes with a bag of loops, but I also ordered a bag of all white as I knew that I would want to use that as a main color.

I spent a happy morning over Christmas break looping and weaving and grinning.

I used Google Images for ideas on color layouts. I made two before my hands needed a break (as you get towards the end it becomes a bit more difficult to weave the loops through as things become quite tense).

The instructions say to just pull that last loop through and it's done, but I'm inherently distrustful of 'finishing' instructions like that, so I sewed a few stitches in there to keep things secure.

Wanna see the stark size difference? Remember--these recent makes finish at about eight inches square.

So I expected my poor mother to extract things from a very hot oven with these teeeeeeeny little things. The thing about moms, though--she saved these. Not in a box in the attic or in the closet or something, but in the drawer in the kitchen where she keeps her dishtowels and cloths and aprons. And I bet if I asked her she'd say she likes those old things better even though she doesn't use them (and even if she's lying, haha).

I'm going to mail these to my grandma with a note telling her the wherefore and whatnot. She can use them as potholders, trivets, mats for her potted plants, whatever she wants. I'm pretty sure she'll get a kick out of them.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cozy Winter Weekend

I've been trying to be more conscious of being in the moments of my life, of putting the phone down and doing what I'm doing. I'm not always successful, because sometimes I just get stuck in a social media time-suck and emerge from the other side with a "What? What happened?" look on my face. But I try.

This weekend was perfect for enjoying little moments. It started with a Saturday snow storm. We only got a few inches of snow, but it was cold and windy and a great day to stay inside. We took down all of the Christmas decorations last weekend, and this weekend we hauled them up to the attic. We shoveled snow, we lit a fire in the fireplace, I baked cookies (chocolate chip but with butterscotch chips instead of chocolate), my sister practiced her hand-lettering and calligraphy, my mom and dad cooked up a pot of soup--it was all just so very cozy and delightful. Sunday morning we had a big breakfast, I finished my crossword puzzle (!!), and I made gravy and meatballs for dinner (I rarely cook, so when I do I feel like it's worth a mention). 

I didn't take any pictures, because I think if you're trying to embrace hygge you don't stop to take photos. But this afternoon, when I was taking pictures for my next post, the setting sunlight was coming through the curtains in just such a way that I had to snap a photo.

This was at about four this afternoon. I know I'm in the minority, but I do so love the early sunsets of winter. I feel that if you look at things as a thing of beauty you forget the negatives that go along with it (like my aching back from shoveling snow and lifting heavy boxes of Christmas decorations).

I'm off to crochet a bit before I tuck in for the night. Have a good Monday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Trego Cardigan

Hello! I made this sweater last year, have worn it several times, and have just now (again) remembered that I never shared it with you. I absolutely must because it's so comfortable, it was easy to knit, and the color is beautiful.

This is the Trego sweater, found here on Ravelry. My reason for making this was to use up some stash yarn I had (Stylecraft Special Aran (weight) in Silver). The yarn is super soft, and almost has a reflective quality, as it has a very subtle sheen. As it's acrylic, it is quite warm, but it's super soft and cozy and perfect for cold winter days.

The sweater is knit top-down, and then the buttonless button-band added at the end. I tried it on while it was in progress and thought I was pleased with the length, and while it's okay, another inch or two would have made it so perfect (for me--it's a personal fit taste thing, as this sweater is by no means too short; as a matter of fact my mother keeps telling me to knock it off and that it fits just right).

I followed the pattern exactly as written, and had no issues. The only true thinker spot in the whole affair was maintaining the sleeve stitch pattern in the underarm section--I simply followed what I had visually and made any adjustments that felt right. Luckily winging it worked this time. I really like the subtle changes in the stitch textures--they really work together so well without overwhelming anything.

One thing I really liked almost seems silly but it really makes a difference. See that bit of stitching that contrasts with the ribbing? What you do is knit the sleeve down to where you think you'll fold the sweater cuff up, knit a row, switch back to rib, and finish the cuff. That momentary hiccup in the stitch work keeps the cuff folded right where you like it.

I've received some lovely compliments on this sweater--most along the lines of "It looks so cozy!" And it is. If I made this again I would definitely use wool for more breath-ability. If you're an advanced beginner knitter or higher, I definitely think you could successfully give this a go.

And while we're speaking of knitting, I've uploaded all of my yarn projects to my Ravelry page and added a button at the top of my side bar in case you'd like to check it out. I feel like I should really have a lot more things to list, but I think a lot of the afghans and other things I've made were way back before I blogged and took photos of everything. It seems for all the stitching I do I should have hundreds of items up there...

Anyway, that's all I've got for now. I had some dental work done today so I'm going to go hunt down some ibuprofen. Cheers!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Twenty Seventeen

Hello! As I write this, depending on where you live, you're either sleeping in the new year, or getting ready to welcome it. As soon as I publish this I'm going to put on my fancy pants and head out for New Year's Eve.

If you've been here a while, you'll know I find this to be a sad holiday, one I've gotten away from celebrating, one that causes me to look back on the previous 365 days with a feeling of un-fulfillment and sometimes regret (I haven't done this, I haven't changed that, this isn't how I wanted the year to go so I don't want it to be over yet). But 2016 was different.

When I think globally, I think I would say it was not necessarily a good year--contentious politics, a world gone mad, worries about the future regarding jobs, taxes, and so on. Of course that is all balanced out by the world of good that we don't see on the evening news, but still--the world can make you weary.

When I think personally, however, I have had a very good year. I've had a few relationships that didn't work out, but I was able to pull positive things from all of them that have left me feeling more confident and sure going forward. I've made that extra push to get myself out there, to do things that I want to do, to embrace those words 'no time like the present.' As a result, I'm ending this year thinner, healthier, happier, and more sure of what I want in life than in many previous years. For the first time in a long time, I am not ruing the passing of another year with tears (yes, literally--Auld Lang Syne makes me cry), but am actually looking forward to celebrating the arrival of the new. Instead of looking around in wonderment at 12:00:01 and thinking "How are all of you so happy?" I plan on being one of those whooping in 2017. I have a whole new year of blank pages to fill, and I'm so looking forward to seeing how my story continues. It thrills me to my toes to be able to say that.

It seems I've passed the torch, however. My sister texted me yesterday, and told me that A-train asked what New Year's Eve is. She told him it's when we say goodbye to the old year, and celebrate the new one. And he started crying. Oh he is my nephew for sure. January 1, 1985 is still one of the most vivid memories I have.

When we meet again all of our feet will be planted in 2017 so I thought I'd share one last make from 2016. It's a knitted Christmas bauble. I had a plan to make tons of these, but one turned out to be plenty, and looks just perfect in the twilit window. Ignore the visible floats and bobbles and just focus on the adorable heart. It's kind of a metaphor for the past year, eh?

So anyway--happy new year to you and your loved ones See you on the flip side!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Hi, kids. It's almost Christmas here (and might already be so in your neck of the woods). The house is quiet, I've had my tea, and done some crochet. The gifts are wrapped, scones are ready for breakfast tomorrow, and my cold is on its way out the door. I went to church, where the cutest little family sat in front of us (four little boys who behaved as good as gold and sang their little hearts out). I watched a movie afterwards while eating cookies. I've done as much Christmassing as I can this year, and it's been a joyful season. This is well and truly my favorite time of year, and I'm glad I can eke out a whole month of pure joy from it. I am perfectly content right now.

In order to let you get on with your merry-making (or your recovery from it) I just want to wish you a merry, merry Christmas. And to share my mostest favoritest Christmas commercial ever. Happy holidays, loves!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Murder Mystery Quilt Along: Block 12

If this is incoherent it is because my sinuses are so inflamed they are literally compressing my brain tissue and rendering me incapable of writing anything close to a proper sentence.

At what I can't believe is a year already, I've got my final quilt along block finished. It was a mirror image of the month before, but I still managed to use my seam ripper quite often. So here is almost the same block you saw a few weeks ago:

I took my notes, and the clues, and all of the blocks, and really tried to lay things out properly. I think this might be right, but I have no idea. Right or wrong, I still don't know what I'm looking at. We get the answer at the very beginning of January, and there are supposed to be some great goodies for the winner.

I feel like this shouldn't be correct as that one dark block in the corner irks me, but there's no way it goes in the center which is where I think it should belong. My anal-retentiveness for symmetry will just have to relax and let this one be. I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with these blocks right now. Maybe I'll think it's a lot more interesting when I find out what it is.

I am going to guzzle some Nyquil and bury myself in my bed. I'm hoping this doesn't linger too long--it's just a few more days until Christmas, and I wasn't a busy elf all December long just to spend it with a stuff head, sitting upon a pile of tissues.


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