Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Post Holiday Projects

After the hectic holiday season, it was nice to grab my copy of Ever Yours: the Essential Letters of Vincent Van Gogh (a Christmas present) and sip my coffee while I read. Not only was Van Gogh a talented and prolific artist but he was also an eloquent writer. I first became acquainted with his writing two years ago when I received a copy of Dear Theo for Christmas. I couldn't put the book down and was sorry to finish it, so when I saw that Ever Yours was going to be published before Christmas, it went on the top of my list. The letters are in chronological order and include the sketches that he often sent in his letters. For anyone interested in learning more about Vincent Van Gogh I highly recommend reading his letters and Dear Theo is a good place to begin.

In addition to some cards and other studio projects that will be posted at a later date, I'm working on some knits. I love Susanna IC's shawls. They are so beautiful and her patterns are well written and easy to follow. Her latest pattern- the beautiful Shawl for Emma was recently published in the fall issue of Jane Austin Knits. I love Jane Austin's novels and this shawl is stunning so it was a must knit. I ordered the yarn that Susanna used to knit her shawl, Juniper Moon's Findley in Dove, since I wanted my shawl to look exactly like the model. Interweave Knits must have really lightened the photographs because rather than the off-white pictured, the Webs site showed the color as a light pearl grey which I ordered any way.

Shawl for Emma in Dove.

It's not the off-white pictured but the color is very pretty. This pattern starts off by increasing the first row with left and right lifted increases every few stitches. This is not something that you want to do if you are tired. I found myself getting to the end of the row and having too many stitches left and having to pull the entire row out. I had ripped the shawl out so many times that my husband said that he thought I should choose a less demanding hobby because knitting and then ripping out what I had just knit can't be enjoyable. The problem with lace is that once you start ripping out stitches, other stitches slip off the needles and then it's difficult to tell what row you're on even if you are keeping track with a row counter.  After restarting my shawl from cast on for the 7th time I decided to add a life line. My Addi lace needles had the cords that allow life line attachments maybe now is the time to use them.  Once I started the yarn overs, I started using the life line every two rows until I reached the end of the first chart. A couple of times a few stitches slipped off the needles but the life line kept everything in tact while I replaced the slipped stitches. Now I am finally at the short row shaping and 1/3 of the shawl has been knit.

The same day that I had ripped the Emma Shawl out for the 7th time I decided to knit a quick project to build my knitting confidence back up.  Malabrigo has just published Book 7 Rasta in Brooklyn. The book is filled with brightly colored cowls, hats and sweaters all knit in the super chunky Rasta yarn. Normally I am not a fan of knitting with chunky yarns on large needles but I love Malabrigo yarns and after knitting with lace yarn on size 4 needles this might be a nice change of pace. I chose the Dumbo brick stitch cowl. The pattern called for size 17 needles but thankfully I was able to get the exact gauge using the slightly smaller size 15 needles. I was able to knit the cowl in two nights with no dropped stitches or ripping out rows. I really liked the colors used for the model but was a little disappointed when the yarn actually arrived. The actual yarn was not as bright as the model in the photograph. While I really like the colors of my cowl I do wish that those printing the pattern books would not enhance the photographs. If the yarn used in the knitted model appears muted print it that way, so those of us who want to knit that design can see the actual color. Kudos to Webs who both times showed the yarns as they actually appear. Both times I knew that knitting in the exact yarn as the model would not yield exactly the same color garment as it appeared in the pattern book but I decided to order it any way.

Mozart is modeling the Dumbo cowl from Book 7.

This yarn did not photograph as it actual appears.
I am disappointed that the archangel color photographed mostly red instead of showing the actual colors. I wish that the colors of the yarn were actually that bright. The Azules (blue) is a soft shades of muted blue and the Archangel is not mostly red but has muted earth tone fall colors, much like the color of leaves.

Album Cover in Cross Stitch

The day Michelle used an orange crayon to paint our white door I started to channel my children's creativity. After spending hours scrubbing the so-called washable crayon off the door, I decided it was time to purchase some art supplies. We had art time each day in which the kids were encouraged to use watercolors, finger paints, play-doh and markers. The only rule was that everything had to be created in the designated art area on the Little Tikes table. Now that they are much older they are still involved in art, Michelle leans more toward decoupage and crafts and Brittany toward cross stitch and the needle arts.

Dismayed by the lack of commercial cross stitch patterns in our area, Brittany decided to design her own. She really likes the band Slip Knot and made a pattern using one of their album covers. She faithfully stitched the design for the past six years and has finally finished it. I promised her that I would post the finished picture after it was professionally framed.  So here it is.

The finished picture was framed by Michaels.

Several individuals have approached her about selling the finished picture but she can't bear to part with six years of hard work. One person actually offered her $50. While $50 may have sounded like a fair price to the buyer, it does not begin to cover the cost of creating this piece.  The materials and framing alone were almost $400 and that doesn't include the hours and hours of stitching time. More information about this design can be found on Kveldulv Designs.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Happy Holidays!

I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel and Happy Holidays. I hope that everyone has a happy and safe holiday season.

Whenever I look at Santa holding his sack, I am reminded of the line from one of  William Butler Yeats poems-"Take if you must this little bag of dreams, loose the cord and let them wrap you round."

                                                         Joyeux Noel,

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nutcracker Gift Bag

Every year we leave a gift bag filled with cookies in the mailbox for our letter carrier, Bryan. Bryan provides great service, he delivers our mail in winter weather even when UPS and Fed Ex won't attempt to make deliveries. In addition to the cookies, I like to make a card and a gift bag to show Bryan how much we appreciate having him as our letter carrier.

Cricut recently released the Holly and Ivy cartridge. One of the images on the cartridge was the Nutcracker, and of course I just had to have it.  The cartridge contains a lot of other nice images, bells, wreaths, Santa, etc. but the Nutcracker was definitely the selling point for me. The order containing my cartridge spent the last 4 days sitting in someplace in Maryland that I had never heard of and I was holding my breath that it would arrive before December 24, otherwise I couldn't use the Nutcracker for my gift bags.

Finally the cartridge arrived yesterday and I immediately started cutting the images for my gift bags. The Nutcracker is fairly detailed but there are none of the clothing or hair cut outs that I am used to with Cricut cartridges. While I really liked the image cut out of black card stock, it just looked blah on a gift bag and not very festive. I wanted to add color to the Nutcracker but wasn't sure how I was going to do that. I cut the image again in the solid option on white card stock and glued the black outlined image over it. I grabbed my Prisma Color pencils and my Copic markers and started coloring in the Nutcracker. I added a few embellishments and the result was dramatically different from the original.

Original Nutcracker from Holly and Ivy cartridge.
Embellished Nutcracker
Finished Gift Bag.
Cookies wrapped for giving.

Directions for Nutcracker Gift Bag:

Medium size gift bags- available at Michaels, JoAnn, Hobby Lobby or Walmart
White and black card stock
Cricut Holly and Ivy cartridge-this cartridge does not come with a key board overlay and uses the universal overlay available at Michaels. I didn't know this until the cartridge arrived. I was able to use the cartridge by substituting an overlay from another cartridge. The Holly and Ivy booklet shows the position of the keys for the image in a key board diagram for each image. I then pressed the corresponding keys on my the substitute overlay.
Colored pencils, markers or watercolors for coloring the image
Red ribbon
Recollections self adhesive gold beads and small blue crystals
Red plaid tissue paper
Blue brads-4
Cuttlebug Snowflake embossing folder
Embossing machine
Ranger Tim Holtz Tea Dye distress ink and foam applicator
Platinum Stickles glitter glue

1.  Using the Cricut Holly and Ivy cartridge cut the Nutcracker out of black card stock (at 5 1/2 inches). Cut the solid Nutcracker out of white card stock. Glue the black image over the white solid image.

2.  Color the Nutcracker's face and hands with peach color, colored pencils and accent his cheeks with light pink. Burnish over the face and hands with the white colored pencil until the face has a slight sheen.  Color the jacket and the crown with a red marker and color the pants with a dark yellow marker.  Add the gold beads to embellish to the jacket and the crown.  Add the small blue crystals to the eyes. Accent the shoulders, top of the boots and the sleeves with the platinum Stickles and set aside to dry.

3.  Cut a piece of white card stock large enough to fit the Snowflake embossing folder and emboss the image. Lightly apply the tea dye distress ink over the snowflakes to highlight them.

4.  Attach a blue brad in each corner of the embossed card stock. Glue the embossed card stock to the front of the gift bag.

5.  Glue the Nutcracker to the embossed card stock.

6.  Tie the red ribbon around on of the gift bag handles and make a bow.   Fold the plaid tissue paper to make a triangle and place in the gift bag, add the gift and add another piece of folded tissue paper.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Inspirational Book

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. I have spent the last few days hibernating in my studio, working on gifts. One of those gifts is an inspirational book, The Cat and the Moon. This book is truly a labor of love and I vastly underestimated the amount of time that it would take.

Last year my husband gave me a Cinch binding tool as an anniversary present. I love making books and the Cinch makes it a lot easier. My first project was an inspirational book for Brittany. The book contained inspirational quotes, poems and pictures. She loved the book and keeps it on her nightstand. The book was such a hit that I decided to make one for Michelle as a Christmas gift.

Michelle's book contains inspirational quotes, poems and pictures of her cats. I can not thank Brandon enough for supplying pictures of their cats. Without his help there would have been no book. Getting the pictures was the easy part. I spent hours cropping and printing the pictures and then matching them to the quotes.  There were so many design decisions, book size, paper for the book pages, decorative accents, etc.  Each page had to be hand made but the end result was worth it. Once the book pages were finished, I turned my attention to the book cover. I used chipboard for the cover and covered it with card stock. I found a picture on Pintrest and printed and matted it for the cover. I then hand lettered the title (from the Yeats poem by the same name that I used in the book) with black Sharpie. Once the cover was in place, I covered it with two coats of  Mod Podge. I wasn't sure how this was going to work but it ended up giving the book cover the look and feel of a commercial book.

This was a fun but time consuming project.

Book Cover- The title is from the Yeats poem, picture from Pintrest.

I used the Art Impressions stamp for this page.

One of the decorated pages.

Page embellished with paper punched butterflies.

Directions for Inspirational Book:

Chip board- I used two 12x12 pieces
Light grey card stock- 8 1/2 inch x 11 inch from Staples
Cinch 1 inch Antique Brass Binding Wire
Wire Cutters- I used the Cinch Wire Cutters, but any wire cutters will work
Cinch Binding Machine- the Zutter Bind It All will also work
Martha Stewart Butterfly Paper Punch
Assorted card stock and black card stock for matting photos
Assorted ribbons, trims and stickers to embellish the pages and the book cover
Mod Podge
Foam craft brush
Hot glue gun
ATG tape runner or similar tape gun
Scotch Scrapbooker's glue
Photos printed with a laser printer
Quotes and poems printed with a laser printer

Notes:  Personalize the book as much as possible. Use what you have on hand to create the book. Embossing folders, distress inks, stamps, sticker, scraps of paper. Except for the Crazy Cat Lady stamp, which I purchased specifically for this project, everything else came from supplies I had lying around my studio. The butterflies were punched from a left over scrap of card stock that was used on one pages. Do not use dimensional embellishments such as buttons or flowers because they will keep the book from closing properly and give it a lopsided appearance.

1.  Cut two pieces of chip board to 7 inches wide by 10 inches high and set aside.

2.  Cut 15 pieces of grey card stock 6 1/2 inches wide by 9 1/2 inches.  These are the book pages. With a pencil lightly mark about a 1/2 inch border along the edge of the page. The border will be on the right edge of the left book page and the left edge of the right book page.

3.  Cut a piece of patterned paper of card stock, leaving at least 1/4 inch top, bottom and page edge margin. Print photos on multipurpose paper using a laser printer. For this size book I printed the vertical photos using the 4x6 inch option and the horizontal photos using the 3x5 inch option. Trim the excess white paper away from the photos. The decision to mat some of the photos was based on the background paper used. Some photos looked better when matted, while others didn't. Print the picture for the book cover using the 4x6 inch option.

4.  Type the quotes and poems for the book in Microsoft Word.  Use varying font styles and sizes.  Print the quotes and poems using a laser printer. Cut out each quote and mat it with card stock.

5.  Use the ATG tape gun to adhere the photos and quotes to the decorative card stock and to adhere the decorative card stock to the grey card stock book pages.

6.  Use the Scrapbooker's glue to adhere the embellishments to the book pages.

7.  For the book cover, use two pieces of identical card stock. I used medium slate blue textured 12x12 inch card stock. Lay the textured side of the card stock face down on the work surface.  Apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the chip board with a foam craft brush. Center the chip board, Mod Podge side down, on top of the card stock. Press down, brayer the chip board in place, then turn the card stock over and brayer the textured side. Trim the excess card stock from the edges, leaving about 1/2 inch of card stock around all of the edges of the chip board.  Fold the bottom edge of the card stock over the end of the chip board and crease with a bone folder. Open the folded edge and fold the corner of the card stock over the chip board corner. Fold the bottom edge of the card stock back over the bottom of the book cover and glue in place, using the Mod Podge.. Repeat this along the top edge of the book and then the sides.  Book Play by Margaret Couch Cogswell has detailed instructions on making book covers (and hand made books).

8.  Center the picture on the book cover. Keep in mind that the wire spine will take up approximately 1/2 inch of the left edge of the book cover.  Hand letter the title on the cover, using a black Sharpie. Go over the lettering , with the Sharpie, two or three times.  After the Sharpie has dried apply Mod Podge to the book cover to seal it. Let it dry and apply two more coats. After the Mod Podge has dried, attach decorative trim around the picture using a hot glue gun.

9.  Put the book together in the order that you want to present it.  Punch the pages with the Cinch binding machine. Punch the front and back covers separately. Cut a piece of binding wire to fit the length of the book and place on the side of the Cinch machine. Remove the front and back covers and set aside. Starting with the last page, place the pages on the wire. The first page of the book should be on top. Now place the front cover on top of the stack of pages and then place the back cover so that the inside of the back cover is facing up.  Use the binding bar on the back of the Cinch to crimp the wire. Press the handle down slowly and crimp the wire just until the front and back coils meet. Remove from the machine and adjust the covers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Chocolate Butter Cookies

Every year around this time the stores stock tins of Danish Butter Cookies. I came across tins of these cookies in every store and decided to buy a large tin.  Originally, these cookies were going to be placed in small decorated plastic bags and placed in gift baskets. Instead of plain butter cookies, why not dip them in chocolate and make them a little more special?  I melted the chocolate in my Wilton Chocolate Pro and dipped one end of the cookie in chocolate and set it aside on a silicon baking mat to harden. I used about a cup of chocolate melting wafers for a 2 pound tin of cookies. Once the chocolate has hardened the cookies will be placed back in the original tin until time to package them for gift giving.

Chocolate dipped Danish Butter Cookies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Decorated Journal

The Christmas crafting continues. Finally I am almost finished knitting my last pair of socks. Now it's time to turn my attention to other projects. One of those projects is a decorated journal for Brandon. Brandon is a free lance writer so he would probably welcome a journal to jot down his ideas. I searched every outlet that I could find for a unique journal and was about to scrap the idea when I was visited by the Muse. I found a plain cover journal for about $3 on a Black Friday sale. Brandon loves sports especially football and he is a Terps fan. He had the opportunity to cover the Gator Bowl as a reporter and has mentioned the game several times. I decided to make a journal cover centering around this theme.

Here's the finished journal. The turtle and the Terps logos were taken from a book that we had around the house. The Gator Bowl ticket was from a Maryland memorabilia book (last year's present).

Decorated Journal Directions:

5x7 inch black journal
Mod Podge and Mod Podge Sealant
Foam brush
Assorted Maryland memorabilia copied on to white computer paper
Tim Holtz Distress Ink- Rusty hinge, tea dye and vintage photo
Foam blending pads and blending tool
Tim Holtz Distress Tool
Red acrylic paint
Golden Molding Paste
Small paint brush

1.  Print the Gator Bowl ticket at 3x5 inches using a laser printer. Trim the excess paper from the edges of the ticket.

2.  Apply the distress inks with the foam blending tool to give the ticket a slightly aged look.  Use the distress tool to distress the edges of the ticket. The edges should be uneven and the ticket should look worn.  Lightly crumple the ticket into a ball and carefully unroll it. Smooth out most of the wrinkles with your hands.

3.  Brush the back of the ticket with Mod Podge and center the ticket on the journal cover.

4.  Type University of over Maryland in Microsoft Word, using a smaller font than used for Maryland. Highlight Maryland and apply Word Art, using a curved word option. Change the color to red. Print the banner with a laser printer and trim closely around the banner. Apply Mod Podge to the back of the banner and center it above the ticket.,on the journal cover.

5.  Print the turtle and the Terps logos with a laser printer, cut them out and apply Mod Podge and position on the bottom of the journal cover. Cut out a small Maryland state flag and cut the flag in half diagonally. Attach to the corner of the journal with Mod Podge.

6.  Mix red acrylic paint with molding paste and carefully apply the mixture to the Terp logo and to the M on the turtle's chest, using a small paint brush. Set aside to dry.

7.  After the molding paste has dried, apply a coat of Mod Podge. Let it dry and apply 3 more coats, letting it dry between each coat. Once the journal cover has dried apply a coat of Mod Podge sealant and let it dry.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Meet and Greet Gift

I hope that everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. It's always so nice to get together with family around the holidays.

We were invited to a "Meet and Greet" over the Thanksgiving holiday. This was a chance for the Maryland relatives to meet our newest family member from Chicago. With all of the holiday preparations, I had forgotten to buy a gift for the new baby. No problem, I will just pick it up while I'm out shopping. I went to the store and was told that the item is only available on line. Panic quickly set in. It's 2 p.m. on Friday; there's no way that I can place an order an receive the gift by Sunday. I need a gift idea quickly. I had been up most of the night shopping, I was tired, the stores were crowded, so the last thing that I wanted to do was shop for a last minute gift. I walked around the mall hoping that the muse would hit me over the head with an idea. I had given up and decided to give a monetary gift. I headed into American Greetings to buy a money holder card and discovered some stuffed animals for $1.99 on a Black Friday sale. Then the muse hit me over the head. I could make a card and decorative envelope and use the stuffed animal as part of the presentation. I was so proud of myself. I not only have a last minute gift that doesn't look last minute, but now I can finally go home.

Decorated envelope.

Card attached to leopard.
Side view of leopard holding card.

Directions for Meet and Greet Gift:

Stuffed animal large enough to hold an invitation sized envelope
Dark aqua satin ribbon- 1/2 inch wide
Aqua print ribbon- enough to tie a small bow
Martha Stewart Bangle Chain craft punch
Light blue, medium blue, white, green,light brown, brown and tan card stock
Yellow dotted card stock
Cuttlebug Swiss Dot embossing folder and embossing machine
P-touch label machine and white label tape
Piece of light brown hemp
Colored pencils and Copic markers- tan, light pink, brown, white
Stickers-photo corners
Small wiggly eyes
Cricut Baby Steps cartridge
Mineral Spirits and tortillion
Foam dots

1.  Use the Cricut Baby Steps cartridge to cut Toddler 1 at 3 inches. Cut the base out of brown, the top layer out of light tan, the outfit out of light blue and the bib out of white and medium blue. Cut the nose, cheeks and hair out of light brown.

2.  Draw a small circle on light blue card stock and cut it out. This will be the balloon.  Place the light blue outfit and the balloon in the Swiss Dots embossing folder and run the folder through the embossing machine.

3.  Assemble the toddler, do not glue the cheeks to the toddler's face. Color the cheeks with a light pink colored pencil. Color the face and hands with flesh colored markers and colored pencils. Burnish the entire face with the white colored pencil until the face has a slightly glossy look. Color the hair with brown markers and pencils. Dip the end of a paper tortillion in the mineral spirits and go over the face to blend the markers and the colored pencils. Work in a well ventilated room.

4.  Glue the wiggly eyes over the eye cut outs on the face.

5.  Cut a piece of yellow dotted card stock 1/4 inch smaller on all sides than the front of the envelope. Glue to the envelope leaving a 1/4 border, on all sides.

6.  Use the bangle chain craft punch and the light blue card stock to make a border long enough to fit along the edge of the envelope. Glue the border to the left edge of the envelope.

7.  Tie a small bow out of the aqua dotted ribbon and glue to the center of the bangle chain border.

8.  Attach foam dots to the back of the toddler and center the toddler on the envelope and press in place.

9.  Cut a piece of hemp long enough to make a string for the balloon. Glue on end under the edge of the balloon and the other end to toddler's hand.

10.  Apply decorative photo corner to the right edges of the envelope. You can also cut small corners from decorative card stock.

11.  Use the P-touch label maker to make a name label for the balloon. Microsoft Word can also be used to generate a name tag for the balloon. Cut the label close to the name and attach to the balloon.

12.  Tie a piece of aqua satin ribbon long enough to fit around the leopard's neck and tie in a bow.

13.  Make two small holes at the top of the envelope and thread the hemp through the holes. Thread the hemp so that the end is on the underside of the envelope and make a knot. Bring the hemp around the back of the leopard's neck and thread the other end through the envelope and knot it so that the knot is on the underside of the envelope.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hawthorne Shawl

I have always admired Susanna IC's beautiful shawls, but was never brave enough to try knitting one until now.  While searching for camel yarn to knit a scarf for Brittany, I came across the beautiful Hawthorne shawl by Susanna IC.  I put the Hawthorne on my knitting wish list and forgot about it. Recently I was searching for some yarn and the Hawthorne shawl popped up again. Oh yeah, why didn't I ever get around to knitting that? A quick search on Ravelry revealed that this is one of Susanna's most knit shawls. It seems that everyone who knits has knitted this shawl, so the project can't be that difficult. I'm going for it!

The pattern is available from Ravelry and the Twist Collective as a pdf download.  The original shawl was knit in Spirit Trail Fibers Lyra- a worsted weight merino, alpaca and silk blend yarn. Lyra has been discontinued but there are plenty of suitable substitutes. The most popular choices are Madelinetosh Vintage and Malabrigo Silky Merino or worsted. After days of searching for the perfect yarn I decided to go with Madelinetosh Pashmina, a merino, silk and cashmere blend in medieval (a cross between Bordeaux and plum). 

The pattern seemed straight forward and easy.  The entire shawl is knit, with short row shaping at the end to give it a crescent shape.  The pattern read: cast on the stitches, work the chart once and then use short row shaping until all of the stitches have been knit.  I cast on the required 311 stitches and then hit a road block on the first row. The pattern stated work Rows 1-34 of the chart; 243 stitches remain on the needles. What happened to the other 68 stitches? The chart itself was a little confusing. A block of 18 stitches was marked off by a red box. This is the stitch repeat. These stitches are to be repeated across the length of the shawl. How many repeats? Now I was totally lost, but I refused to let this pattern get the better of me.  Totally confused, I turned to my husband for help with the pattern.  He doesn't know anything about knitting or knitting patterns but he does have an analytical mind.  He suggested that I either contact the designer for help or look at her other patterns for clarification. His theory is that designers often use the same techniques in their designs and another pattern may have a clearer explanation.  I pulled copies of knitting magazines, with Susanna IC's patterns, from my files and read through them. Suddenly everything was crystal clear and the pattern made sense. I'm sharing the clarification for those of you who may want to knit the Hawthorne shawl.

                                 Count the number of stitches in the red box-18stitches.
                                 Divide this by the number of cast on stitches to get the total number of pattern
                                 repeats.. 311 sts divided by 18 sts = 17.27778 repeats
                                 Round this number to the nearest whole number- 17.2778=17 repeats
                                 Multiply the number of repeats by the number of stitches in the repeat
                                          17 reps x 18 sts per rep = 306 stitches
                                 Add the 3 stitches at the beginning of the chart (right end).
                                           306 sts + 3 sts = 309sts
                                 Finally add the remaining 2 stitches at the end of the chart (left end).
                                           309 sts +2 sts = 311
                                  The end result is 306 sts + 3 sts (right) + 2 sts (left)=311 cast on stitches

Now for the 243 stitches indicated in the directions. After working through Rows 1-34 of the chart; 243 stitches are left on the needles before starting the short row shaping. The pattern is decreased by 68 stitches while working Rows 1-34.

Once I got the initial math out of the way, the shawl knit up quite quickly. Some people have knit this in a weekend but mine took a week. The shawl pattern and chart are easy to follow. A beginning knitter with some chart knitting experience could easily knit this shawl. I plan to knit another one as a gift and to branch out and try some of Susanna IC's other designs.

Hawhtorne shawl on needles. The crescent shaping is noticeable.

Lower edge of the shawl, before blocking.

Although I couldn't find anyone who had knit this shawl in Madelinetosh Pashmina, I'm glad I chose it. The yarn is soft and luxurious and the silk gives the shawl a nice sheen. I'm almost finished the short row shaping. Now that the weather is chilly and windy I can't wait to wear this as a large scarf draped over my jacket.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Snowman Ornament

Every year I devote all of my energy to Halloween. I spend weeks working on Halloween projects, decorating, and of course baking Bat Cookies.  Halloween, for me, signals the start of the holiday season and of course I like to get off to a good start.  The problem is that I can't sustain this pace until the holiday season is over. Usually by the time that Christmas roles around, I am so burned out from the baking, decorating and craft projects that I just want the holiday season to be over with so I can go back to working on projects at my own pace with no looming deadlines.  This year, I resolved, will be different! My yard decorations were starting to look tired and a little "ratty" so I opted not to put them out.  The whimsical witch on her flying broomstick will still hang on the front door along with my bats. La Sorciere and her friends are gracing the inside of the house with their presence. Of course Brittany is not on board with this paired down decorating, but it has allowed me time to start working on my Christmas projects. It is nice to be able to knit socks and scarves for gifts without the marathon late night knitting sessions to get them all finished the week before Christmas.

This year I want to work on some of the fun Christmas projects that always get bumped because something else more important had to be done.  Those of you who know me, know that it's not just about the gift but the presentation of the gift. I saw some little wood cut outs in the Christmas section at Michaels. The unpainted wood came in all sizes and shapes. I really liked the square shape and bought several to use a package decorations. I was inspired the snowmen in Snow Buddies Throughout the Year! bu Nancy Smith and Lynda Milligan. This is a book for making a snowman quilt block for each month of the year, but the book does not stop there. It also has ideas for painted decorative containers, appliqued sweatshirts, place mats and more. The book is still available from Amazon and other booksellers on line. My little snowman is inspired by one of the snowmen in the front of the book. The ornaments are drying on a Dry It Board. This board is a great help when painting small objects, all sides of the object can be painted at once and left on the board to dry without marring the paint. How is this possible? The board is composed of tiny, sharp tips that do not stick to the painted surface. These tips are very sharp and you must use caution when handling the board to avoid being stuck. No matter how carefully I move the board, I seem to always get stuck. It's sort of like getting stuck by a sharp needle or pin. The Dry It Board is available from on line craft retailers.

Original wooden square, and painted squares.
Finished snowman with blended fibers for texture.

Directions for Snowman Ornament:

Celebrate It Carved Ornament- available at Michaels
Liquitex Light blue, black, burnt sienna, white, deep rose acrylic paints
Liquitex Blended Fibers
Pebeo Prisme Fantasy paint-buttercup, glossy
Small flat, round and liner paintbrushes
Foam brush
Saral or graphite paper
Embossing stylus or ballpoint pen with a pointed end on the pen cap
Tracing paper
Stickles- Ice Stickles Diamond Dust-glitter glue
Martha Stewart Snowflake Border paper punch
Scrap of White card stock
Craft glue
Craft varnish or sealant- water based

1.  Remove the string from the ornament and set aside. Wipe the ornament with a damp cloth to remove any dust or residue and let it dry.

2.  Mix the light blue and white paint until the paint is the color of a blue sky. Paint the ornament on all sides with the foam brush. Lay the painted ornament on the Dry It Board and touch up any smudges.

3.  Sketch a snowman figure on a piece of tracing paper. I used tracing paper so I could see the image placement on the wood. Once the image is centered on the ornament, place a piece of saral or graphite paper under the drawing. Be careful not to shift the drawing. Use an embossing stylus or the cap of a ballpoint pen to lightly trace around the snowman.

4.  Use the flat paintbrush and white paint to fill in the shape of the snowman. Next paint the scarf and hat with the deep rose paint. Paint the carrot nose with the burnt sienna paint. After the paint has dried, use a palette knife to apply the blended fibers to the snowman; working around the carrot nose. Let the snowman dry over night.

5.  Paint over the blended fibers with white paint and let it dry and paint a pom pom on the end of the snowman's hat. Add a dab of black paint to the deep rose and shade the scarf and the hat to give them more detail.  Add a small amount of white paint to the deep rose and shade the lighter areas of the hat and scarf.
Using the round brush or the liner brush paint the eyes and the mouth with black paint and the cheeks with a light rose paint. Using the round brush, paint the Pebeo Prisme paint around the indented area on the top of the ornament. Apply 2 coats. Let each coat dry over night.

6.  Punch snowflakes from the white card stock with the snowflake border punch. Scatter the snowflakes around the top of the ornament and glue in place. Add a dot of Ice Stickles to the center of the snowflakes and to the pom pom on the hat. Set aside to dry over night.

7.  Varnish the ornament with the water based craft varnish or sealant. Let it dry and apply to more coats.

8.  Reattach the string to the top of the ornament.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Marie Antoinette Socks

I admit it, I have a sock obsession! I didn't mean to become obsessed, it just worked out that way. I started by knitting a couple of pairs of wool socks to wear during the cold winter months, but it didn't stop there. Soon I would insist on wearing only hand knit merino wool socks and spend hours searching the web for patterns. It was in one of my pattern searching frenzies that I came across sock patterns on the site.

As I scrolled down through the patterns, I came across the Marie Antoinette socks. The socks are knit from the top down with ornate, sculpted stitches and an open work beehive pattern running down the back of the leg to the heel. I must knit these socks!

When I received the pattern, I was a little intimidated by knitting from 2 different charts at the same time. I read through the entire pattern and the instructions were very clear. I have knit several of Anne Hanson's designs in the past and have always had great results, so I didn't expect anything less this time.

I grabbed my Karbonz double point needles and the String Theory BFL yarn that I purchased from the Knitting Sisters and started knitting. The instructions for the cuff were different from the usual sock cuff. The cuff is knit by using a provisional cast-on and knitting over 8 stitches and repeating the pattern until the cuff reaches the required length. The cuff ends are grafted together and the sock is knit in the round.

Marie Antoinette sock.
Beehive pattern on the back of the leg and heel.
Sculpted stitches

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Decorative Pumpkin Bowl

Wow, I can't believe that it's the middle of October and I haven't posted a Halloween project. I want to share one of my favorite projects. Halloween is always a fun event in our house. We love the "spooky" decorations, baking bat cookies and of course greeting the neighbors as they come to our door on Halloween night. Keeping in the spirit of the holiday, I wanted a decorative bowl to hold the candy bars for our guests. You probably know where this is going! I searched several stores and Halloween shops without finding a suitable container. I had seen a cute pumpkin design, in a decorative painting book, that I had wanted to paint, so I bought a large stainless steel mixing bowl at Walmart. Then it was off to Michaels for some orange, white and green craft paint, black Krylon paint and some gesso. I chose only materials that were listed non-toxic on the label.

Since this is a painted bowl it should be used only for decorative purposes.  I like to line it with plastic wrap before placing wrapped candy bars in the bowl.

Directions for Pumpkin Bowl:

Large stainless steel mixing bowl
Plaid non-toxic craft paint- black, white, orange and green
Krylon spray- paint
Delta craft varnish-non-toxic and available at JoAnn
Paint brushes- round, filbert or shader and liner
Foam brush
Transfer paper
Embossing stylus
Fine steel wool (000 steel wool)

1.  Wash and dry the bowl. Once the bowl is completely dry, go over the surface with the 000 steel wool (both inside and out).

2.  Wipe the bowl with a damp paper towel to remove any residue.

3.  Use a foam brush to apply gesso to the inside and outside of the bowl. It may need 2 coats. Let it dry between coats.

4.  Once the bowl is dry spray it inside and outside with the Krylon black paint. Use the paint in a well ventilated room. I sprayed my bowl outside. Make sure that the paint completely covers the bowl.

5.  After the paint is dry, transfer the design to the bowl using transfer paper and an embossing stylus.

6.  Block in the shape of the pumpkins, using orange paint and after the paint is dry, paint in the faces with black paint. Add details and shading to the pumpkins and paint in the vines with green paint. Once the paint is dry, add details to the vines and paint the orange flowers. After the entire piece is dry, use white paint to paint in the details and highlights. Set aside to dry.

7.  Once the paint is thoroughly dry, use a foam brush to coat the bowl with the non-toxic craft varnish. I used 3 coats, letting it dry between each coat.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

There Is Good In Everything!

Bored with just knitting socks for gifts, I wanted to knit something different.  I came across the Ninetta Neck warmer by Nina Machlin Dayton on the Webs yarn website and knew that this must be my next project. This beautiful, ruffled neck warmer is knit in Malabrigo worsted using size US 7 needles. I chose a dark, inky blue with purple undertones called Paris Night for my scarf.  The scarf pattern is easy to knit, a beginner with some knitting experience could  knit this scarf. The pattern is based on a smocked stitch which is easily mastered (the directions are very clear).

I thought the scarf would knit up quickly since it was knit using size 7 needles and worsted weight yarn. I had knit 2 rows the day that I received the yarn and put the project aside. The next day I grabbed the scarf on my way out the door. My car was having a scheduled oil change, so I thought that I would be able to knit for about an hour, not realizing how wrong I would be.  After 3 hours of knitting, the service manager came in to tell me that the oil filter was not in stock but they had sent someone to another dealership to obtain the part. After 2 more hours of knitting, the service manager told me they finally located the filter and the tech was on his way with the part. I had called the previous week to make the appointment and the dealer had 4 days to acquire the oil filter prior to my appointment but the tech who ordered the parts didn't think that my car would actually be coming in so he didn't bother to order the oil filter. Don't you just love it when service people  take it upon themselves to make decisions not based on fact while ignoring the actual data in front of them? Eight hours later, I was notified that my car was finally ready and incidentally so was my scarf. I hadn't planned to sit and knit for 8 hours straight, it just worked out that way. When I told my husband about my day he was very upset with the dealership. I told him that I just chalk it up to experience. At least I was able to finish my scarf. There is good in everything, you just have to look for it!

Finished scarf with key hole opening.

Mozart didn't want to model the scarf so I had to do a "selfie".

Friday, October 3, 2014

Remberance of Projects Past

Brittany has started an on-going post on her, Kveldulv Designs, blog that highlights past projects. These are projects that we made years ago, some we incorporated into our home decor and others (I'm sorry to say) were tucked away in the yarn cabinet. Taking my cue from Brittany, I have decided to make periodic postings of past projects to share with you.  Incidently the name for this post is inspired by Marcel Proust.

When I started quilting, my kids wanted me to make them each a quilt. I found Debbie Mumm's Bowsers and Meowsers book at a local quilt shop and decided to make them each a wall hanging size quilt to hang over their beds. Brittany chose the cat quilt and Michelle wanted the dogs. We decided to use the same fabrics in each quilt so the color scheme would match. The pattern was published in 1996 but there are a lot of copies still available-on Amazon, e-bay and other sites. The pattern is easy enough for a beginning quilter. This was only the second time that I had quilted anything.

The dog quilt was the easier of the two quilts.

Dark grey, light grey and taupe print fabrics were used for the cats.

Delicious Fried Oysters

Living in Maryland we are blessed with a variety of fresh seafood. Once again it's oyster season. Recently while having lunch, I opted for the Oyster Po Boy sandwich. I really like fried oysters but have found restaurant fried oysters disappointing. The restaurant we were dining in was upscale and very popular, so I decided to give the Oyster Po Boy another chance. Surely the chef in this restaurant would know how to fry oysters! When my sandwich arrived, it looked appetizing, fried oysters on a chiabatta roll with lettuce and tomato. I was very disappointed when I took my first bite, the sandwich didn't taste as good as it looked. The fried oysters were coated with bread crumbs and had no flavor. The breading acted as a sponge that had soaked up the oil, making the oysters soggy and greasy instead of crisp. I have come to the conclusion that although Marylander's have fresh oysters readily available they just don't know how to fry them.

It's really so simple to make delicious fried oysters. The recipe is so easy to prepare that I feel a little guilty when my husband raves about my fried oysters. So here is the "recipe".

Delicious Fried Oysters:

1 pint of Select Oysters, shucked
1-2 sleeves of Saltine Crackers- the store brands work just as well as the name brands. Don't use crackers with low salt or no salt. The salt in the crackers is your only seasoning.
1 egg
Flour-approximately 1/3 cup
Shallow dishes or pie plates

1.  Place the crackers in a food processor and pulse until all of the crackers have been ground. The crackers should have some texture and not ground to a powder. Empty the crackers in to a pie plate, or shallow dish.

2.  Put about 1/3 cup of flour in another pie plate, or shallow dish.

3.  In a small bowl, large enough to dip the oysters, whisk the egg and milk together. You want enough egg mixture to be able to dip all of the coated oysters.

4.  Place one oyster in the dish with the flour, coating the entire oyster with flour. You want a light coating of flour to help the egg mixture stick to the oyster. Next dip the flour coated oyster in the egg mixture, allowing the excess liquid to drain from the oyster before putting it the cracker crumbs. Place the oyster in the dish with the cracker crumbs and generously coat the entire oyster. Place the coated oysters on a baking tray and set aside.

5.  Repeat the process until all of the oysters have been coated with cracker crumbs. Place the baking tray in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. This allows the coating to adhere to the oysters, making them easier to fry.

6.  Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan ( I use cast iron) until the oil is hot. I like to drop a couple of cracker crumbs to test the oil. If the crumbs start to sizzle and fry immediately, the oil is hot enough to fry the oysters. If your oil is not hot, the breading will act as a sponge and soak up the oil. Fry the oysters, turning once, until golden brown. Remove the oysters from the oil and drain on a paper towel covered baking rack.

Bon Appetite!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Purple Mystery Scarf

Recently, I met my friend Diana for lunch and she mentioned how much she loved the knitted gifts that I had given her. Cowls, scarves and socks, she told me that she uses them every year and that any time I need a gift I can always give her socks. Hmm! That gave me an idea! I needed a gift for my friend Cindy but couldn't think of anything. Cindy is an avid Baltimore Ravens fan. She wears purple to the office on Fridays, during football season and she has season tickets to the games. She probably gets really cold sitting in the stadium in the winter and I'm sure that she owns all of the Ravens' cold weather gear (hats, gloves, etc.). This year for Christmas, Cindy will be getting purple knits--socks and a scarf--to combat the cold weather. The great thing about the scarf is that it can also be used for occasions where she wants to show her "colors" but doesn't necessarily want a team piece with a logo.

After perusing through the volumes of commercial scarf patterns I couldn't find what I was looking for ( a worsted weight scarf with a tight weave to block the wind).  That means I am going to have to design the scarf.  I grabbed my knitting stitch dictionaries and spent the next several days choosing patterns and knitting swatches. After several days of knitting swatches, frustration finally set in. I have a beautiful merino wool (Malabrigo Worsted) but none of the patterns that I chose seem to work with the yarn. The wool is soft and luxurious and it needs a textured pattern to highlight those characteristics. Finally I decided on the Little Boxes pattern in the Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook by Melissa Leapman (available from Amazon) and was happy with the result.

Scarf in progress.

I wrapped the scarf around Mozart to show the drape.

I love everything about this scarf!  It's soft, warm, drapes well and the color is an amazing rich, deep purple. I keep telling myself that this is Cindy's scarf and I can always knit another for me.

Directions For Purple Mystery Scarf:

The Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook by Melissa Leapman (available on Amazon)- Little Boxes pattern- pg. 25
2 skeins Malabrigo Worsted in Purple Mystery-skeins are 100 grams and approximately 210 yards
Size 7 (US) Knitting needles- I used Addi Clicks Lace with a 24 inch cable
Yarn needles

1.  Cast on 36 stitches using your favorite cast-on method. I used the long tail cast-on.

2.  Follow the pattern beginning with Row 1. This is the right side of the scarf.

3.  Repeat Rows 1 to 4 of the pattern until the scarf measures approximately 70 inches or the desired length. End the pattern with Row 4 (wrong side).  I chose 70 inches because I want Cindy to be able to wrap the scarf a couple of times around her neck and then tie it for warmth. 

4.   Knit Row 1 one more time (right side) and then loosely bind off all stitches.

5.  With dark colors I like to set the dye so that the wool doesn't bleed when the garment is washed.  The thought of the color bleeding out the first time the garment is washed makes me cringe, especially when it's a gift.
To set the dye, soak the garment in 1 cup of white vinegar and luke warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Don't use hot water or it will shrink the wool and felt it.  Gently squeeze out the excess water. Do Not Wring or Twist The Garment! 
Fill a basin with cool water and a mild detergent, preferably one made for wool knits. Soak the garment in the detergent for about 5 minutes and then gently swish it around in the water with your hands. Rinse the garment in cool water, then add 1/4 cup of vinegar  to a basin of cool water and place the garment in the basin and swish the garment around in the water to remove the final trace of soap. Gently squeeze out the water. Do Not Wring the Garment!
At this point I like to place a large bath towel on the floor (tile floor) and lay the knitted garment on the towel. Starting at end, I slowly roll the towel and the garment, pressing down with the palm of my hands to squeeze out the excess water as I roll the towel up. After the towel has been rolled, press down on the towel a few more times to remove the excess water. At this point the towel should start to feel wet. Gently unroll the towel and remove the garment and place it on a dry towel. Avoid stretching the garment during the transfer. Dry the garment away from any heat source.   

6.  Lightly steam the scarf with a steam iron to relax the yarn so that the scarf will lay flat. Hold the iron a few inches above the surface of the scarf while steaming so that the iron doesn't flatten the stitches.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Da Vinci Birthday Card

Several years ago, stamps were the craft item of the day. They were everywhere. Almost every craft store had a large selection of stamps, inks and embossing powders. Now these same stores have a small area devoted to stamps and a limited supply of inks and most of us have a drawer full of unused stamps. Inspired by some of the mixed media projects using stamps, in Sommerset Studio magazine, I went searching on line for stamps. I came across Stamp Francisco. They had a large variety of unique stamps. I just had to order the Da Vinci woman. Her classically beautiful face seemed perfect for my projects, especially cards.

My husband's Aunt Marge had a birthday coming up and the Da Vinci woman seemed like the perfect image for a memorable birthday card. Armed with a variety of inks, a spray bottle of water and colored pencils, I went to work.

Finished Card

Close up of image.

Directions for Da Vinci Birthday Card:

White, deep purple, scrap of green and parchment card stock
DCWV Old World paper pad-purple print card stock
Prima purple rose
Stamp Francisco Da Vinci woman stamp
Prismacolor colored pencils
Tattered Angels Diamond Dust spray ink
Spray bottle filled with water
Imagine Walnut Ink-Terracotta spray ink (available at Michaels)
Tim Holtz Tea Dye and Rusty Hinge distress inks
Memories Coffee colored ink pad
Martha Stewart  Leaf paper punch
Foam dots
Purple ribbon

1.  Print the birthday sentiment on the inside of the card. Print on parchment card stock, using the half fold option.

2.   Stamp the image onto white card stock with the coffee colored ink. When the ink is dry use colored pencils to color the image.  Lightly distress around the image with the tea dye distress ink.  Lightly spray the entire image with the terra cotta  walnut ink. Let the ink dry and then lightly mist the image with water. Let the water drops dry on the image to create a mottled effect. Apply rusty hinge distress ink around the edges of the image, darken the sides and the corners of the card stock. Spray with Diamond Dust spray ink and let it dry.

3.  Cut a piece of the Old World card stock approximately 1/4 inch larger, on all sides, than the image. Attach the image to the card stock with foam dots.

4.  Cut the deep purple card stock 1/2 inch larger, on all sides, than the Old World card stock. Glue the layered image to the purple card stock. Cut another piece of Old World card stock approximately 1/2 to 3/4 inch larger, on all sides, than the deep purple card stock. Glue the layered image to the larger card stock.

5.  Cut a piece of purple ribbon 1/2 inch longer than the length of the card. Center the ribbon on the card, tuck the edges of the ribbon under the top and bottom of the card and glue in place. Center the matted image on the card over the ribbon and use foam dots to attach the image to the card.

6.  Punch two small leaves out of green card stock using the leaf paper punch. Glue the rose to the top left of the matted image and glue the leaves under the edges of the rose.

Over Run with Apples

My husband planted an apple tree with the hopes of having some apples to eat and maybe even have enough for an apple pie. Most years the tree didn't produce enough apples to eat, let alone bake a pie. This year he decided to devote a lot of attention to the tree. He pruned, sprayed and fertilized the tree regularly and we were "rewarded" with an abundance of apples. What do we do with all of these apples?  My husband made several jars of applesauce and apple jelly and still we had apples left.  I looked to my French cookbooks for a solution. I decided on a recipe for Tarte Tatin.  It uses a lot of apples and easy to make.  I chose the recipe from Chocloate and Zucchini by Clothide Dusoulier. The first tarte was delicious, although it could have used a few more apples (my fault not hers). I failed to compensate for the fact that my apples were probably much smaller in size than the apples used in the recipe. For the second tarte I filled a cast iron skillet almost to the top with apples.

In an effort to use up the rest of the apples that we had picked, I made a tarte for Michelle to have for dessert. She and Brandon loved it! A shortbread crust, caramel, apples- what's not to love? After all when one thinks of French desserts, Tarte Tatin usually comes to mind.

This is the second tarte.

Paintboxes Cowl

A few days ago I received an e-mail from a local yarn store, highlighting upcoming classes and new projects. The Paintboxes Cowl caught me eye. The next day Brittany and I drove out to the yarn store in search of the cowl and other "interesting" projects. Brittany ended up buying Yak yarn-so soft-to knit Susie's Reading Mitts (free on Ravelry) and I bought Malabrigo Rastita to knit a pair of Louisa Harding fingerless gloves. While there, I bought Madeleinetosh DK in jade and Crystal Palace Moochi in English Garden to knit the Paintboxes Cowl.

The pattern is available on Ravelry for about $4.00 (US).  The pattern is straight forward and easy to follow. I wanted my cowl to have a subtle contrast so I chose the jade as my contrasting color (slightly darker than the green in the Moochi).  The pattern recommends using yarns that contrast so the pattern doesn't get lost.

This  is a great beginner project. Especially for knitters who want to try color knitting. It allows the beginning knitter to work with two yarns for color changes, but the changes of the main color and contrasting color take place at the beginning of the rows, so there are no yarn floats or carrying colors to mess with. The yarn does all the work. The main color is usually a solid color (mine is jade) and the contrasting color uses variegated yarn (the Moochi). The pattern is a little vague when it comes to needle size, number of stitches and yarn weight. The pattern uses fingering weight yarns and 60 stitches. The store sample was knit in DK weight yarn and I was on my own to figure out the rest. I cast on 60 stitches and knit with size 7 needles, as the pattern guidelines suggested. I liked the result so I kept knitting.

Here's the cowl after one evening of knitting.

This spring my husband started several sunflower plants for me. He placed them outdoors in the sun, near the garage door. I mistakenly thought that they would be safe from the rabbits since they would be afraid to come that close to our house. We went out one morning to find most of the sunflowers had been eaten. We moved the one remaining plant out of the reach of the rabbits. I planted the sunflower next to the house, in between the hydrangeas and behind the statue of the Sacre Coeur. The sunflower thrived, grew tall and had several blooms. A sudden hail storm broke the plant, leaving only a small piece of stem holding the plant together. I left it to see what would happen. To our amazement the sunflower not only bloomed but the blooms were growing behind the Sacred Heart. Even though I was doubtful that this sunflower would survive, I am reminded that all things are possible with faith.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Snow Bunny Sweater

When my kids were growing up I often knit sweaters for them. Since most of their friends' mothers didn't knit they were able to wear one of a kind creations. Brittany loved wearing unique sweaters that her friends couldn't have but Michelle was embarrassed by this. She didn't like wearing hand knit sweaters and wanted to wear the sweaters from the mall that everyone else was wearing.

I found a Paton's Winter Fun pattern booklet featuring cute sweaters for kids. Brittany wanted the Snow Bunny sweater. The sweater was fun to knit and the charted design was easy to follow.  When I finished the sweater Brittany proudly wore it to school the next day. She got a lot of compliments but she also was accused of making up a tale. Her teacher wanted to know where her Mom bought the sweater? She proudly told the teacher that her Mom had knit the sweater. Since none of the other mothers in the class knew how to knit, the teacher didn't believe her. After all, color changes and a design; home knitters didn't do that. Finally one of the teachers' checked the inside of the back neck for a tag. When she saw that there was no tag she dropped the subject. Later in the day I received a phone call from the teacher asking me if I had knit the sweater? We all had a good laugh. We had no idea that this cute little sweater would cause such commotion. Recently I found the sweater on the shelf of a closet and Brittany and I laughed about the commotion that this sweater had caused.

The pattern is out of print but a few copies are still available on ebay. I found it by searching for Paton's Winter Fun sweaters.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Camel Painting

Brittany has been looking for art to decorate her walls, not the mass produced prints available at large department store chains, but nicely framed paintings, preferably original works. We are fortunate to live in an area with several small galleries that carry paintings by local artists but these pieces are not within the budget of someone who has just finished grad school. 

Brittany loves camels, they are her favorite animal and she has a small collection of camels. I decided to give her an original camel painting in a decorative frame for Christmas. I have been working on the painting for several weeks and now it's almost finished and ready to frame.

It's almost finished! Just a few final touches and some shading.

This painting is based on a sketchbook sketch that I developed into a drawing. The painting is acrylic on an 11x14 inch canvas. I primed the canvas with two coats of white gesso and let it dry. I transferred my drawing to the canvas with Saral paper.  I mixed Unbleached Titanium, Raw Sienna, Naples Yellow Hue and Burnt Umber together on a ceramic tile using a palette knife to blend the paints. I applied a light coat of paint to the drawing. Once the camel's basic shape was on the canvas, I began to paint in the background. The background is painted in three steps. I mixed Windsor & Newton Galeria Deep Turquoise with Liquitex Resin Sand (on a ceramic tile with a palette knife) and used the palette knife to apply the mixture to the painting. I let it dry overnight. The resin sand gave the painting a deep almost metallic color when the paint mixture dried. Cool, but a little to harsh. Definitely not the effect that I was going for.  For step 2, I mixed the Deep Turquoise with Golden Molding Paste and a touch of white acrylic paint and mixed them together. I applied the mixture randomly, with a palette knife over the resin sand background. I wanted the background to have a stucco like texture. I let some of the darker paint show through in areas. For step three, I will shade areas of the background with a mixture of Deep Turquoise and a touch of white.

One Pattern, Three Yarns

On a recent trip to Williamsburg, I stopped by my favorite yarn shop, the Knitting Sisters, to buy some yarn. The Knitting Sisters stock a large variety of yarns and it usually takes at least 30 minutes for Brittany and me to browse through the entire store and make my selection. My husband joined us to escape the afternoon heat and the Knitting Sisters invited him to sit in the comfy, over stuffed "husband chair" in the corner of the store. This chair was placed there so that men would have a place to sit while their wives shopped for yarn.

I found a copy of the newly released Sockupied by Anne Merrow. The book contains "20 Knit Projects to Satisfy your Sock Obsession" and after browsing through the book I wanted to knit most of them. Besides the patterns the book has a lot of useful information on sock construction-like stranded color knitting, cast-ons, and sock conversions and flipping stitch patterns when converting from toe-up to top-down knitting. My copy of Sockupied in hand, I went off searching for yarns. I found Crazy foot by Mountain Colors in Sun River color, Tosh Sock in Fathom (deep blue) and Vishnu (blue and purple), Malbrigo Sock in Impressionist Sky (deep blue similar to the blue in Van Gogh's Starry Night), String Theory Bluestocking Blue Faced Leicester in Laguna, and String Theory Caper Sock-a merino/cashmere blend in Cobalt.

 I couldn't wait to start knitting one of the patterns in Sockupied so I chose Cookie A.'s Passerine pattern and Dream In Color Smooshy in Dusky Aurora. The pattern is easy to knit and it knits up quickly even on size 1 needles. I really like the finished result. I like the three dimensional design and the way the sock fits, especially with my clogs. In fact I liked the pattern so much that I decided to knit two more pairs of socks in different yarns for Christmas gifts. The first pair was knit in Dream In Color Everlasting in Galaxy and Malbrigo Sock in Tinzano Red.

Bottom: Dream In Color Everlasting; Middle: Malbrigo Sock; Top: Dream In Color Smooshy

Passerine Pattern knit in Smooshy.

Close-up of Passerine Pattern.

So which yarn is my favorite? It's hard to pick one because each yarn has it's own attributes. Smooshy is thicker than the other two yarns and feels cushy. The thickness of the yarn shows off the three dimensional effect of the pattern. Everlasting is not as thick as Smooshy so the three dimensional effect of the stitches is more subtle. The variegated deep purples of the Galaxy color give the sock a rich sheen. The Malbrigo yarn is so soft and joy to work with. The yarn is thinner than the other two and the lace pattern of Passerine is more pronounced, when stretched on the foot.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Fashion Icon Card

Several years ago I bought the New York Socialite stamp. I use this stamp quite a bit for birthday cards, especially when I want a card that has an air of sophistication and is out of the ordinary. While the woman's outfit and hat can be colored any color, I prefer to use black with pink accents. Lately I have been experimenting with Copic sketch markers. I really like the deep saturated colors of these markers. When using Copic markers to color an image, I like to stamp the image on Bristol paper using Staz-On Ink. I like the way the Bristol paper holds on to the ink, giving a crisp image and the markers tend to glide over the smooth surface of the paper, making it easy to blend colors.

Directions for Fashion Icon Card:

Strathmore Bristol paper
Black and white card stock
K & Company 8 1/2 x 5 Designer Paper Pad- pink print
Copic Ciao Markers- skin tones
Copic Sketch Markers- Black, RV 17-Deep Magenta, RV00-Water Lily (pink), C5-Cool Grey
Stamps Happen, Inc.-New York Socialite stamp
Staz-On Ink pad-Jet Black
Tim Holtz Distress Inks-Tattered Rose and Tea Dye
Small pearl, gold and crystal embelleshments
Stickles Glitter Glue- Pink and Platinum
Pink ribbon with black dots

1.   Fold a piece of white card stock to make a half-fold card.

2.  Stamp the Socialite on Bristol paper using the Staz-On ink. Let the image dry before coloring.

3.  Color the lighter areas of the image first. Color the face and hands using the skin tone markers.  Use E000 to color the face and hands and then shade with E11.  Color the lips with RV00, highlight with RV17. Add blush to the cheeks with RV00 (go over the area until you notice a faint blush).

4.  Color the gloves with RV17 and the center of the bow with RV00 and then use RV17 to color the bow. Color the inside of the hat, ruffle on the jacket and highlights on the outfit with C5.  Color the hat and outfit with black.  Go over the highlighted areas again with C5 to blend with the black.

5.  Add pearls to the center of the bow, the necklace and earring.  Place a small crystal on the hand and a gold bead on the cuff.  Color the dog with a mixture of E15, E93. Add highlights with C5 and E18. Color the dog's collar and bow with RV17. Apply the pink and platinum Stickles randomly to the pin on the jacket.

6.  Lightly apply the Tattered Rose distress ink around the image, leaving areas of white showing. Lightly apply the Tea Dye distress ink in the white areas and blend.

7.  Cut a piece of black card stock 1/4 inch (on all sides) larger than the Bristol paper with the stamped image.  Cut the pink print paper 1/4 inch larger than the black card stock and cut another piece of black card stock 3/8 inch larger than the pink paper.  Glue the Bristol paper to the smaller black mat and then glue this to the pink print mat. Finally glue the pink print mat to the larger piece of black card stock.

8.  Cut a piece of pink dotted ribbon 1/2 inch larger than the length of the card, fold the edges of the ribbon under the top and bottom edges of the card and glue in place.  Attach foam dots to the back of the matted image and center on the card.