Sunday, March 27, 2016

Flowery Bits

Hello, and happy Easter! It has been one busy, but super fun, long weekend. There's been egg dying, shopping, a birthday celebration, Easter mass, Easter brunch, and Easter dinner is on the horizon. The food is cooking, I feel like I got some things accomplished on this long weekend, and as soon as I click 'publish' I'm making tea and doing some knitting until company arrives. I have some sewing I could be working on, but while I feel like making a mess I don't feel like cleaning it up right now, so I'll work on that during the week (I wish I could show you what I'm working on right now but I can't).

Anyway, this has been a flowery sort of week, as one would expect from Easter, I suppose. I'm starting off with a few doodles from my drawing book, just so there's proof that I still make things in some fashion.

This is a simple, repetitive design made with a hot pink Papermate Flair pen. The first few rounds are a bit haphazard, but the petals look a little more uniform towards the outer bits. I eyeballed where to draw the center circle, which is why it's not in the center, bwahaha. This was actually relaxing to make, even though it's a bit manic and dizzying to look at directly.

This one came about because I wanted to try and draw dandelions, and I've always loved this quote. I find the seed-to-flower transition of dandelions quite interesting. Lawn mowing folks hate the former, but moms everywhere love the latter (according to my mother, they're the first flowers your children give you and can go nowhere but a juice glass on the windowsill, in full and plain site).

But now for some real ones. One week ago, this was the hydrangea bush out front:

And now look at all the green things growing!

Last week we had a birthday party for my mom. She was *29* years old. Again. We decorated with lots of yellow and white, her favorite color combination. The flowers are still going quite strong:

Every year around this time my neighbor's white pear tree starts to bloom, and every year I take pictures of it. I'm always afraid they're going to come out and ask why I take pictures of their house at various times of the year, and I'll have to tell them it's because they have a flowering tree and I don't, and they have a holly tree, and ours isn't grand enough for photos yet. I don't know how that would go over since they're not the kind of neighbors that are friendly--they're not rude or nasty, they're just ambivalent. They don't seem like the type of people who would understand taking pictures of a flower for the sake of it. But look at this--how can I not?

And on Friday, someone gave me an Eastery present that they thought was so me there was no hesitation in deciding that I must have it. I really couldn't argue. It couldn't be more me unless that flower had polka dots (but it has a little glitter sprinkled on it so that's like the same thing).

It's an Easter mum (which I didn't know was a thing). The little bunny ears are pipe cleaners on a green floral stick. And the face is googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and pom-poms glued to a green floral stick. How cute is that for a little craft project??? Upon giving it to me, and watching me twist and turn and pull at it, he said "Are you mad you didn't think of it?" And I told him "No, I'm just figuring out how I'm making these in the future."

Well, chickens, the tea kettle is whistling and I've got a scone with my name on it to go with it (or half of it, anyway), so I hope you have a lovely day and a lovely week to go with it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: Your Sharpie Style

Recently I was sent a copy of a new book to review for you lovely folks.

Your Sharpie Style by Deborah Green popped through the mail slot in a timely fashion--as you know I've been dabbling with doodling lately and this book is chock-full of ideas and inspiration. There is a wide variety of projects, from bowls and glasses to boxes and gift tags, and lots more.

Now you would think I would know of the huge variety of Sharpie markers available as I'm in charge of ordering stationery at work, but you would be wrong. I thought there were a lot of colors and tip shapes, but there are also fabric and oil-based markers for drawing on a variety of surfaces.

I didn't do any of the projects in the book (yet) as I've been quite busy lately, but I do have a few favorites. I did read through the directions, though, and they are clear and simple to follow, with little tips and hints scattered here and there for ways to customize your project or finish it off just right.

I don't know what it is about this, but I think it's super adorable. I think it's because it reminds me of this Korean girl I knew in seventh grade who used to have the cutest stationery doo-dads, things you just couldn't find anywhere. When you asked where she'd got it, she'd always say "Korea," like one might say "Target." I do love a cute little zippie case (you could actually make something similar by following this tutorial), but I love this quick and easy way to personalize one.

Do you remember those plain white sneakers they used to sell for a couple dollars back in the day (we used to call them bobos)? My mother was loathe to let me wear them as they were just not good for your feet, but when you're in middle school and everyone is wearing them with their scrunched socks and pegged pants you begged until she caved. We even used to sing this silly song about them (to the tune of Bridge Over the River Kwai): "Bobos, they make your feet feel fine. Bobos, they cost a dollar and a dime." But aren't these so much cuter?

But this one here might be my absolute favorite--decorated sunglasses and a matching case (I will always be twelve years old on the inside).

This is just a teeny sample--there are projects for paper, wood, plastic, fabric, and glass (scroll up to the photo of the cover for a teeny sampling). The directions tell you which type of marker to use for best results, and how to set the ink if necessary (sometimes heat sealing it in the oven, sometimes applying a sealant). And there are cute little doodle break-downs to show you how to create the figures used in the samples:

Sharpies are widely available in stores and online, and have a crazy amount of colors available. The one thing with Sharpies, though, is that they're not exactly odor-free, so if this is something you're interested in make sure to do this outside or in a well-ventilated area.

You can find Your Sharpie Style here.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Do and Redo

I had told you folks before about how much I'm enjoying the Creative Bug website. For a low monthly fee you can access ALL of their classes, instead of buying each one individually. I have yet to find time to do the beginner watercolor class, but it's on my list. Mostly, so far I've been doing the 31-day drawing challenges, and Lisa Congdon's sketchbook and line drawing classes.

In one of the sketchbook exploration classes, you create a marker background and then draw over it. The package of brush markers I bought is the smaller one, though I wish I had splurged on the larger set (or had the patience to wait until my birthday) so I could have more pastel options. As such, my first background came out a little bit darker than I would have liked to make the drawing stand out, but I still like it:

The pink bits on the black flowers are done with a neon gel pen that lays on the ink instead of soaking into it. The ink is a bit creamier than the standard gel pen, and lays really well on black paper and dark ink. I wanted to try this again with a lighter background, so I went with three colors, and made a patchworky looking pattern.

Things do stand out much more with this one. But you want to know the one thing I don't like? I didn't mean to use the green gel pen. I meant to use an awesome neon orangey-red color, had a brain lapse, and didn't realize until too late. However, I do like the background much more. It looks kind of watercolory.

Then I decided to try a similar layout but with a white background, and one color of ink.

This one was done with a regular gel pen, a brush tip marker, and a green souffle pen. The greens don't really match up, and I made a placement error on the one leaf on the flower on the left, but otherwise this was kind of fun.

I'm not very good, but I am enjoying the process. I like the experimentation and seeing how different markers and pens react together, and how they behave on different kinds of paper. My eye is getting a little better at seeing how to balance things, and my hand feels more confident and steady. But even if they weren't, for a few dollars worth of paper and pens I'm finding something I can enjoy doing a few minutes out of the day when I don't feel like knitting, or making a big mess to sew something.

In case anyone is interested, here are the links to the things I'm using in my drawing misadventures. I'm giving Amazon links, but many things can be bought at your local craft store (with the benefit of coupons).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Video Suggestion

Back when I first started blogging and sewing, I followed bag-making blogs like a fiend. I was eager for knowledge and inspiration (and liked to drool over pretty fabrics that I wasn't willing to splurge on yet). I churned out sample after sample, and sought out every which way to do something so I could find the technique that worked best for me. One of the first blogs I followed was Sew Christine. You may even remember that I tested this bag for her when it was in the works (it's still one of my favorites).

Anyway, a bit of time ago, she opened a small online shop to sell some bag-making bits. It's all good quality stuff in there. But what I really wanted to mention was that, in addition to your traditional tutorials, she's recently launched a YouTube channel to highlight various techniques. You can find her channel here (subscribe to get any updates), and her blog post about it here. You get some sewing know-how and a delightful English Aussie accent as well. So head on over and give a peek and a like to her new sewing adventure. Thanks!

I, for one, am off to investigate the snaps and setter she uses in this video.

See you soon!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Murder Mystery Quilt Along: Block 3

When I was in school I would come home and do my homework right away, and then find other things to do. Then, close to the last minute, I would work on long-term projects that were assigned. As I went through college I got much better at doing a little here and a little there so when it was the night before an assignment was due my mother wasn't plotting my murder and wondering how Mrs. Get-it-done-early conceived such a procrastinator. Now I have proof that sometimes it's better to wait.

The second Wednesday of every month is when the new block for the Murder Mystery Quilt Along is released. This month I shot home from work, got my workout in (I have a weight-loss bet going on so I have to be more diligent about it), and promptly assembled my quilt block. The next day there were a few comments in the Facebook group from people saying the applique didn't match the diagram, and was it correct? (I was so eager to sew I didn't pay any attention to it). Turns out it wasn't, and as I had fused my applique down (and it was leaving residue behind when I tried to peel it off) I ended up having to redo a small section of it. See, Mom? Waiting a few days would have been better (please note this is the first time in a trillion years I've been able to make this contrary argument).

Anyway, all is now well, my block is finished, and while I'm not wishing time away I am eager for the next block (this is surely a lesson in patience). So here it is (this one is called 'The Log Pile:')

For some reason I'm having a wicked time getting the green to show up correctly, but it's a nice limey-moss green, much brighter than the photo shows.

As you can guess the brown strips represent the logs (I think. I mean, in this block they do but in the overall layout I don't know what they represent). I had the center wood-grain fabric in my scraps, but I did have to buy a few fat quarters for the other two. I like how they have a little bit of a tree bark look to them. I was trying to make this entirely from scraps, but I did end up buying those and some more green. The background color looks like it will be quite dominant and I didn't want to have too many greens in the final quilt as my stash is quite slim.

In other news it was quite a downer of a Sunday--nephew number one (who is now FOURTEEN!!!) is officially taller than me. In inches. I have to look up at him now. And then, of course, no more Downton Abbey. Ever again. I did get my tax refund, though, so it wasn't all terrible.

Here's hoping for a happy Monday, surrounded by people shorter than me, and plenty of tea and flapper dresses (wishful thinking).

Monday, March 7, 2016

Make Something

March is National Craft Month. I think it's safe to say that if you're a crafter or a maker or a doer of any sort that your efforts are spread throughout the year and not contained within a single month, but hey, this country thrives on national this day and national that week, so why not, right? I think it's vital to one's existence to have a creative outlet of some sort. Obviously that's just my opinion, but let me digress. And you know how I love to digress.

Long ago (OK, maybe twelve years or thereabouts) I had started grad school. I used to read like I got paid per word, but in grad school I read so much mind-numbingly boring stuff that I didn't feel like reading my fun stuff. So I asked my grandma to teach me to knit. Knitting was the perfect relaxation activity. After studying lots of gibberish on employment law and organizational communication, my hands would eagerly grab for my needles, my face would contort into interesting expressions of concentration, and I would eventually churn out a scarf or a dishcloth. Same thing with crochet. The rhythmic motion of needles and hooks through and around the yarn was calming. The learning of new things was exhilarating, and I wanted to buy every ball of yarn I saw.

Fast forward a few years, and my mother bought me sewing machine for Christmas. It sat in my closet for a while, never even opened. And then I decided I was going to learn to sew, found a place that offered lessons, and that was that. The same thing took hold of me--I couldn't wait to get home from work to cut into whatever cheap fabrics I had bought for practice. My first pair of pajama pants was a triumphant project that required much strutting around the kitchen and grinning at crotch seams (isn't that a terrible word? I hate that word. Crotch. Ugh. Anyway...). This time set aside to indulge in making things was my reward. For what, I don't know, but I had come to physically crave my crafting time, and would rush through everything else to get to it, staying up way too late and hunched over a sewing machine because "I just need to finish this one part, then I'll go to bed."Needless to say, I wanted to buy all of the fabric I saw.

I'm sure you can relate to that on some level. But for me, it goes deeper than that. I don't exactly shout this detail about myself from the rooftops, but I suffer from anxiety. If you've ever had chronic anxiety, you know how the involuntary worrying about things you know that you have zero control over can dominate your psyche, and suck the joy out of a lot your life. I have tried a lot of different things over the years to deal with this, but one of the things I can absolutely attest to being very beneficial is having a creative outlet.

A lot of people might say that knitting is relaxing, but I can literally feel it soothing me. My shoulders relax, I'm less aware of my heartbeat, my mind calms down--all I have to worry about is knitting this next stitch. Then this one. Then this one. And so it goes, until I'm nice and zen (and with something to show for it, to boot). The same with my sewing--I love cutting into a pile of lovely fabrics and jumping right into the project, with that being the only thing on my mind. Cut, stitch, press, repeat.

Lately, I haven't felt much like my usual fiber-inspired pursuits are doing it for me--there are only so many bags or quilts I can force people to take, and only so many hats or afghans or sweaters one can conceivably use at one time. But this lack of creative endeavor made me feel fidgety. So I bought some different art pads, and an assortment of markers and pens, and purposely set aside some time to sit and draw (I've shown you some of my practice doodles here). Am I an artist? Not by a long shot. Maybe a long shot squared times infinity, but that's about the closest I get, hahaha. However, I find that taking pen to paper can have the same soothing affect as taking yarn to needles and fabric to presser foot. Especially if you work repetition into the design.

I'm only slightly ashamed to say I made this during a Fuller House binge.

The paper is a plain mixed media book from my local craft store, and the pens are gel pens and some markers I bought at Target. The repetition of drawing those concentric flowers is just as soothing as knit one purl one.

I had an idea to cover a whole page in these flowers, and started off not too bad. But then I had enough and just couldn't anymore, so I added a quote instead.

Both of these pieces are very full and very repetitious, and look quite busy and manic. But the rhythmic lines that emerged from the tip of my wee felt-tip were a tonic to my unsettled psyche.

So what am I trying to say? Make something. Anything. You don't have to be good at it, just start. Encourage someone else to learn with you. Crafting with buddies is much more fun than doing it alone. You don't need fancy materials. You don't need a dedicated area in which to create. You don't need to pay for classes (I'm pretty sure if I google it I could find free instructions on how to perform brain surgery on myself, so I'm quite confident any skill you want to learn is a few keyboard strokes away). Just set aside a few minutes each day to try your hand at something new and fun. Experiment. Be bold. There are no mistakes. There are only learning opportunities.

Make something. It's good for your health.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Arabella Shawl

Since spring is almost here, I decided it was a good time to show you the lovely shawl I made last summer that I wore through fall and winter. Makes sense, right? I knitted this while watching 'The Wire' on my Amazon subscription, so I've got this beautiful shawl whose making I associate with a pretty brutal show. But this is one my favorite things I've made--the colors are lovely, it's not overly warm and stifling (even though it's wool), and the size is just right. No photos of it on, sorry, but I'll give you a few links so you can see what it looks like if you're inclined to make one.

The colorway for my kit was called 'Wood,' and it reminded me of autumn--those vibrant yet deep colors of flowers and leaves that abound in October. I bought this as a kit from Skeino, and it was an absolute, one-hundred percent unnecessary indulgence, but one that gave me plenty of pleasurable knitting hours. The stitches were so simple--short rows that don't need wraps picked up, a few unworked stitches at each edge and some newly cast-on ones at each color change, and some simple yarn-over lacy bits. Very Pink Knits even provided a video tutorial for any parts that might seem a little tricky.

It was even fun to receive the yarn braid. Look at this--doesn't it look like pull-apart bread?

Each is a wee mini-skein (about 100 yards each), all looped into each other. As I pulled apart and wound each one into a ball, I placed it into a Ziploc bag and labelled it with its number so I could keep them all in order. I kept the scraps in there, too, and then knit those in reverse order when it came time to do the edging. There is so very little waste with this kit and pattern, so you get your full money's worth. Skeino now even includes a project bag with each kit that you buy (but not when I bought mine).

I washed this on the gentle cycle, and gently pin-blocked it. It has kept its shape well, and still has a beautiful drape and sturdiness, even though it's not a heavy or thick piece.

This is definitely a project I'd recommend--the skills are placed in a way to keep things interesting, and the colors change just when you're getting that "Oh, that's enough of this, then" feeling. The kit is kind of pricey, though, so you can put together your own colors (one? two? three? twelve? to make one of these out of more economical yarn options, as the pattern is free, and can be found here on Ravelry. Ta for now!


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