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.