Tuesday, January 30, 2018

2017 Christmas Projects

The decorations are all packed away, the post-holiday dust has settled, and a slew of home repairs have been accomplished.  Time to catch up on some project blogging!


Though my mother taught me how to crochet when I was a kid, I never did learn how to read a pattern.  I could make wobbly squares and long strands that looked like worms (which I gave to friends as bookmarks.  Get it?  Book worm?) but that was the extent of my yarn experience.  A few years ago I picked up a pattern for an infinity scarf, which I was able to complete, but once the arthritis began to set in to my wrist joints, I figured I'd have to give up on the idea of crochet all together.

Then I discovered they make hooks with padded handles for arthritic crafters.  So I owed it to myself to pick one up and see what I could do with it.  Also, the Seahawks colored yarn was on sale.  With the help of YouTube I was finally able to decipher the pattern for a simple granny square.

The hook works great!  Though I failed to take a photo of the end project, I ended up putting about 9 granny squares together into a scarf, which was given away as a Christmas gift.

In my early season "look how much time I have!" days, I attempted a few "simple crochet snow flake" patterns, which I had intended to stiffen up with starch and give away as ornaments.  I completed a few, but upon realizing those patterns required tiny stitches and precise counting, and as I ran out of craft time, I put them aside and concentrated on larger gifts.

This scarf was from a pattern called "Shawl in a Ball" - once the first row was completed, it was just turn, repeat, turn, repeat until I ran out of yarn.  

My daughter had actually picked the yarn out while we were shopping together, so I made this for her for Christmas.  She was very surprised when she opened it, as she'd seen me work on it all season.


Speaking of my daughter... she taught herself how to knit this fall, so I found a pattern for a knitting needle holder and picked up some specially printed giraffe fabric (giraffes are her favorite animal) as another Christmas gift for her.

I have a friend who loves - and collects - pink flamingos.  When I saw this fabric in October I immediately thought of her.  I wasn't sure what I would make out of it, but I bought the whole remnant and took it home.  I started out by making the tote bag, and originally thought I would make a whole series of bags, but as holiday deadlines loomed and I had a solid 2 yards of fabric leftover, I decided to put it together in a big table cloth/blanket.

The tote bag pattern was so fun to make, I decided to buy specialty fabric and make bags for some of my other friends... one is a math tutor, one is a Zentangle teacher who loves otters.

 About a decade ago I made a quilted wall hanging for my bedroom, using a technique called "Stack N Whack".  The technique creates a kaleidoscope effect in the printed fabric.  When my sister saw my wall hanging she said she wanted one too.  I had actually pieced the top shortly after she had requested it, and I had intended to give it to her for Christmas that year - 2012 - however due to our move I had to pack the quilt top away.  It was buried among my unfinished project for years, unearthed last summer during my art room reorganization.  This fall I finished the quilting, binding, and sleeve for it in time to give it to her for Christmas.


When I found that my soldering iron needed to be replaced, I decided to pick up a multi-use tool, one that could also be used for wood burning.  Inspired by ideas on Pinterest, I decided to do a series of wood-burned ornaments as gifts and as my Bunco ornament.  

I started with a pile of wood discs, and a couple of designs... landscape and birch trees.

I penciled the designs on the discs, incorporating any interesting wood knots etc... 

After finishing the woodburning, I then painted features with slightly thinned white acrylic paint.

Most of these ornaments were given as gifts to friends and family.  I saved one of each design for my family.

Speaking of ornaments... this is officially the year where I amassed enough bird ornaments to have a whole tree dedicated to just birds.

I made this drum ornament to commemorate D's experience marching in the Santa Clara Vanguard Alumni Corp.  The original drum was red, I covered it with copper paper to match the drum he marched with.  The sticks are painted to match how his were taped for the performance.  The Vanguard star is made out of Shrinky Dink, which I punched with a large 8 point punch, then colored, then shrank.  I made the Aussie (hat) by taking a pattern for a toy's cowboy hat, I shrank the pattern to scale, then cut the pieces out of green felt and hand stitched it together.  The star on the side of the aussie is made from two sequins and a bead.  I painted the top of the drum head black, to match his marching drum, and the bottom reads "2017 SCVAC"

 Christmas Village

Having been so busy with gift projects this year, my village additions were not completed until after the New Year.  This year I painted the kids sledding on the hill, the ice house and ice salesman, and a little bridge.  The sled hill and ice house are the final larger pieces I have from the original set that I purchased about 15 years ago.  I have two sets of village people with some overlapping characters, so next year I will sort those out and probably just finish the people I haven't painted yet.  A couple years ago I came across another brand of unpainted village buildings that are the right scale for my village, though a slightly different style, so I'll begin adding those to my little town next year.


Wednesday, January 03, 2018

A new year, a new update

As per usual... once September hits and the Halloween costumes are complete, I tend to fall into the trap of "look how much time I have before Christmas!  I can make gifts for EVERYONE!"  I make a list of projects I want to make, I gather up supplies, I add ideas because I believe I have *so much time!*, and I put aside all personal projects in the blind belief that I can Make All The Things before the holiday deadlines.

This year was no different.  Although I will say that my initial list of projects was completed, thanks to having family come up just after Christmas, which gave me an extra couple of weeks for their gifts (normally I need to mail their stuff by mid-December).  I didn't have time to do extra projects beyond my initial list, but there is always next year.

In all the holiday hustle and bustle, some things fell by the wayside, including updating this blog.  As I still have a couple of gifts to deliver I'll be holding off on my Christmas Project update, but for now I can come up to speed with a couple of other creative endeavors I worked on over the last quarter of last year.

Sewing Projects:

October - my daughter's homecoming dress.  She had a very specific look she wanted, so I found a pattern and we headed off to the fabric store.  The skirt has an overlay of tulle - probably the most difficult "fabric" I've worked with.  The top has a black lace overlay which is difficult to see in the photo.

My daughter's Halloween costume: Blue from Blue's Clues!  I bought a pattern for a generic animal onesie (with the options of rabbit, bear, or cat) which originally had a separate headpiece that would velcro around the neck.  She didn't like the feel of that, so I altered the pattern by tracing the hood from one of her favorite sweatshirts.

I drew the pattern for the ears and tail free-hand on butcher paper, and hand-stitched the spots based on photos of Blue.  

Photography projects:

 I made it to one of my pinhole group meetups, where we were photographing in a garden where we are technically not supposed to use tripods, as they believe it "detracts from the peace of the garden."  I can understand not taking up space on paths or pushing other garden viewers out of your frame, however I take issue with their reasoning.  I fail to see how me standing off to the side of a path quietly contemplating the view while counting down my pinhole exposure is "distracting" while other guests can walk through the gardens with their iPhone extended on a selfie stick, filming themselves with a loud, ongoing commentary.

As monopods are allowed in the garden, I compromised and borrowed my friend's hiking monopod.
This is not a tripod, it is a monopod with a built-in stabilizer. 

The following week I spent a couple hours in a different botanical garden, where tripods are allowed, and I captured enough images to make my 2018 calendar entirely from color pinhole images.

Also in October, my birthday present arrived!

This beauty is a hand-made 120 degree pinhole camera.  The shutter construction is brilliant - squeeze the bulb to release the shutter with zero camera shake.  For long exposures, I hold my thumb over the end of the bulb and squeeze, and the shutter opens and stays open, then squeeze again to close it.
Thus far I have only taken it out to a local park for a couple of test B&W rolls.  I believe I have the exposure calculation figured, and it looks like I'm capturing about what I expect to capture in terms of framing.  My first couple rolls did have a weird "shadow" on the upper edge of the film, which I narrowed down to probably being a lack of tension on the film (it would show up on the first couple shots, but not the last couple)  Turning the knobs opposite each other to tighten the film for the first couple of frames seems to have resolved that.  
Here is a shot from my last test roll.

Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts and weather I missed the last couple of pinhole group outings, and have yet to take this baby out for a real spin, but as I work through the post-holiday clean up/catch up, I'm keeping my eyes on the forecast.

Artsy Update:

Usually I spend some project time in December working on painting at least one piece for my Christmas village along with an ornament or two.  This year we traveled just before Christmas, which - while incredibly fun! - cut into my project time.  I devoted all free time to gifts and figured I could paint village pieces during the Christmas-New Years down time.  Then our house came down with bugs, so "down time" was truly down to just bundling up in front of the TV with mugs of hot tea.  Thus, I did not start my village work until New Year's Eve.  I'm hoping to be complete by Epiphany (still technically part of the Christmas season, right?)

The mug was one of my gifts from my daughter this year... it is actually helpful!  I've decided to paint 3 pieces for my village... kids sledding, the ice house (and ice salesman) and a little bridge.  The bridge will be painted to be similar to the actual bridge down the street from our house.

Lastly... I received a Pentel brush pen as a Christmas gift from a friend.  After loading the ink and testing a few movements, I did a quick sketch of a Great Blue Heron.

I love the way this brush moves, and the style of quick sketchy-lines I can make with it.  I'm thinking I'll be taking it in the field with me, when I have long pinhole exposures I'll sketch the parts of the scene that draw my attention, then I can compare the sketches to the actual images.