Sunday, April 26, 2015

Don't be afraid and don't be so hard on yourself!

Last weekend I went to my monthly art classes. As always, I had fun and learned something in each class. I always enjoy learning and while actual pain is never involved, sometimes there is discomfort. I'll come back to this in a minute.

The morning class lesson was on pastel color choices and a few techniques. We used Copic markers and a stamped image from Whipper Snapper Designs called "Easter Bunny Basket".  This cute and right up my alley...gosh, that's an old and odd saying, isn't it?
The grass didn't photograph well in this picture, it really isn't neon. This class was fun and the one thing I was aware of while working on this is that I am light handed when applying color, even though I like color. That isn't news to me though.

The afternoon class was mixed media and introduced us to art journals. Know what is scary about journals? Those pages are bound. Bound into a book. Not to be ripped out without jeopardizing other pages in the book.


Initial thought: whatever I do has to be {gulp} perfect.

Instructor Amy said otherwise but like the adult voices in a Peanuts animated TV special, I partially heard her words and partially heard  "Mwahmwahmwah, wah wah mwah" (if I researched that correctly, that faux speech was created with a trombone and a muted bell). This is not a reflection on Amy but on fear overriding senses. 

What was I afraid of? I told myself to calm down and continue. I did continue but wasn't really calm. I finished the pair of pages at home and here they are:
I know what I would do differently now, so I learned something, right? 

I went on to work on two more pages a few days later. I'm not feeling the love there either, but again, I learned something. 

The real AHA! moment came on Friday when I went with friends to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). We went to see the Diego Rivera-Frida Kahlo exhibit. 
Rivera's most famous murals are part of the DIA. They are huge and are my earliest memory of the DIA as a child on a class trip. I was amazed at the size, puzzled by some of what I saw and was too young to understand (symbolism) and frightened by some of the depicted characters. 
The above photo is the Rivera Court. The ceiling is skylights. The furnace shown above on the right and more closely below, is best seen around noon when sunlight hits it and really makes the furnace glow. 
The gas mask figures (working on bombs) that frightened me as a school girl. 
One more picture from this exhibit, Rivera and Kahlo, painted by Frida Kaho:
Finally....getting to my AHA!....I don't know what makes "great art" great. I'm not deciding that today or likely any other day. I am not comparing myself to anyone. Here is my take-away: regardless of whatever style this art is categorized as, I recognize it but don't necessarily like it. I don't like that Frida's feet are impossibly small among other things. Proportion bothered me in many of the works of both of these artists. What I see as flaws didn't bother these artists. Whether they were intentional and symbolic, or just details of less importance doesn't matter. They kept drawing and painting, either because they enjoyed what they were doing and didn't want to stop or had something to say (more likely with these two) and could not stop until they were heard/seen.

I am not seeking to be considered a great artist. I am not seeking to have my work recognized by others because of a signature style or use of color. Who am I worried about judging my work or reason for creating? No one really. 

Like most of us, I am my own worst critic. I am going back to journal to experiment, to doodle, to do whatever pleases me because my art doesn't have a political message. I am not making a living from this, I don't need to please someone else for financial reward. Creating makes me happy and if someone else sees it and smiles too, that is a pleasant bonus. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Knitted "Top This" Hat

Who knits winter hats in April? I do because we still have flakes falling. Grrrrr!

Truthfully, I made this in a few hours the other night because I wanted a fun, quick project and this filled that criteria.
The yarn, cute little topper and directions are sold as a kit from DMC called Top This. The pattern offers two sizes, toddler and adult small. I doubt this pattern would fit my big ole head and for that my husband is undoubtedly happy.

The toddler size is knit on 60 stitches using a circular needle. There are 10 rows of ribbing in this size, 15 of stockinette and then you decrease 6 stitches per round until 6 stitches remain. This was done while watching TV.
I used the yarn from the outside of the ball rather than finding the end in the pull out center. If I had started with that end, I would have had a solid color ribbing and the variegated yarn would most likely have been the middle section. When you look at the link of other styles available, you'll see how some look like mine, others will be banded as I just described.

This link is actually for WEBS, I chose it because it shows all of the kits for this hat:  Top This link

The topper, in my case the flower, is securely attached to two ribbons that you thread to the finished had and tie inside the crown. Included in the kit is a firm piece of foam with two holes in it, like a button. The ribbons go through the holes and then are tied. That piece of foam gives the topper a solid place to sit rather than flopping around on the hat.
I think the pink and white version with the bunny is calling my name.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

It Seamed like the thing to do....

I haven't made much clothing for myself in a very long time. Knitted socks and scarves don't count because they aren't a fit issue. Now that I've lost quite a bit of weight (63 pounds so far!), I've decided to make some things for me.

The pattern is Tropical Tee by Oat Couture, the yarn is Baby Beenz by Plymouth yarn. The problem was me.  I am doing ok looking at appropriate sizes when shopping, but when it came to selecting a size to knit this top, I went big. Way too big.
The top is two pieces, each knit from the bottom up with the sleeves cast on and continued with the front and back pieces. After joining the shoulder seams, stitches were picked up and knit for the ribbing at the sleeve edges, and lastly, stitches were picked up around the neck to knit a ribbing there also. By the time I was picking up neck stitches, I could see that the neck opening was going to be extremely large. I picked up a few less stitches and used a size smaller needle while doing this. On the next round I went down another needle size and randomly knit two stitches together to draw in the neck. Because this was ribbing, a K2 tog was followed by a P2 tog to keep the ribbing looking somewhat normal. The flecks of color in the yarn helped hide what I did.

When done with the neckline, I tried it on. Holy cannoli.....I think it would have been too large even at my heaviest weight. What was I going to do? I wasn't going to undo the whole sweater and re-knit it at a smaller size.  Instead I got the sewing machine set up. First I tried the sweater on inside out and pinched out the excess, noting the amount in inches. I used white yarn to baste the side seams (which include sleeves) two inches smaller. Because the white yarn didn't show up well to photograph, here is the sweater with tape measures marking 2" on each side. Yes, a total of 4 inches on both sides were coming off!
I used a green temporary marker to sketch my new seam line and used an even feed foot (walking foot) to stitch this while holding my breath.
One side done. You can barely see the seam line along the green mark. Because I didn't want to risk losing any stitches, I sewed a straight line twice and a zig zag once on each side seam.
Now came the real gutsy part...cutting off the knitting!  For the record, I did try it on first after one single line of stitching on each seam.
Here are the cut off pieces. I picked out loose clippings from the seamed edges, then tossed the sweater in a dryer for a few minutes without heat. The lint trap wasn't bad at all, but there was general fuzz and a few pieces of identifiable yarn clippings.
I should have asked my husband to get up from watching TV to take the picture with a less cluttered background, but here I am with a workable sweater. It could still be smaller but I'm ok with this. It isn't meant to be an heirloom and hopefully by fall, I will be smaller still.
Lessons learned:  Measure my current body against pattern before selecting a size to knit, but if you know you aren't going to undo something and start all over, the sewing machine can be your friend. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Paper Crafted Tea Box

If you want to let a friend know you are thinking of them, you could buy a box of assorted teas, tie a bow on the box and pop in for a visit.

But if you have a craft obsession, you might want to dress things up a bit.
I didn't know that I wanted to make a tea box until I saw this on Stampin' Up demonstrator and blogger Connie Stewart's site Simply Simple Stamping
During the month of April 2015, directions for this box will be sent to you with an order of $20 or more. Besides a PDF file, there is also a link to a video of Connie assembling her tea box which looks like this:
Connie is great about reminding people to work with what they already have. I had some of the tools she used and some that were similar. I already knew how to create a basic box, but appreciated learning how to make the dividers which I probably would not have thought of on my own. There were a few techniques that she explains in her video that were very basic but I had never seen them before. Those "Aha!" tips will be used in many future projects. 

The large flower was changed multiple times before I settled on this layered effect.  There is a green stamped image at the base, seen best in the first photo where the box is on an angle. I colored the next image with pencils, selected colors used in the upper layer of the small flowers. I added that with pop dots over the green layer. While the flower itself was pretty, it just didn't please me. I stamped two more images, one in white and one on the patterned paper.  I decided to use just the center from the patterned paper, adding it to the white image which has just a bit of orange pencil added. I used Stickles around that center, the same shade as the center of the small flowers.
One more small flower was added to a tag that I tied to the ribbon. This is ready to be given to my friend.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

McBirthday Fries

Another birthday in the family, another young man (age 10) will receive money from us. If you follow me here, you know I am not content to stick cash or a check in a card. Without further ado, here is my version of McBirthday Fries.
I used Stampin' Up's Fry Box die to create the box. I know it isn't in proportion to the length of the dollar bills, but I don't think the birthday boy will mind. The Happy Birthday is from a Martha Stewart punch with part of the design element cut away. The "Mc" is supposed to look like the corporate golden arch. That was done freehand.

I ironed the cash, folded each bill in half, and half again, pressing each time. There is some crinkled up scrap paper in the bottom of the box to help keep the bills standing up inside the bag.
I saved a bag just for this gift. Here is a tip if you don't want to make the fry box yourself: The fast food establishments will very likely give you an unused fry box if you ask. You could ask for the super size box and the scale would be better for your dollar bills.
I folded the top of the bag down, punched two holes through both thicknesses, ran a ribbon through and tied it. This was possibly the quickest gift wrapping I've ever done!
The inside of the card was printed from the computer with a font I found on Pinterest.
I think I smiled the whole time I assembled the cheeseburger on the front of the card. It was made with scraps of paper and Stampin' Up punches (large oval, 1 3/4" scallop circle and 2 1/2" circle) but you could certainly cut this without punches or templates.

I but two ovals for the bun, one for the burger and one for the tomato. A square became the cheese and the scallop punch created the lettuce. The large punch made the plate. A handheld punch cut the small circle sesame seeds.
I used small stamp pads to add some shading to the edges of these components.
I'm sure the birthday boy will like his fries, but I have to say that cheeseburger still has me smiling. Maybe I'm hungry?