Creative Pursuits

Fiber-y Goodness

Many years ago (thanks to the "search" feature here on the blog, I see it was 2013), I went to a workshop and learned needle felting.  I made a sorta-cute-but-also-sorta-creepy ornament thing.  And then I put away my newly-acquired needle felting tools, intending to try it again sometime, but . . . well . . . not trying it again.

Fast forward to the Michigan Fiber Festival last August.  I was shopping the vendors with my friend Karen, and we stumbled into one of the most lovely, inviting, and charming booth set-ups I have ever seen . . . for an Ann Arbor company called Felted Sky.  It was ALL needle felting stuff:  kits, supplies, wool.  And the kits were super cute!

Before I knew it, I had a couple of kits in my hand (this one and this one) . . . and I was checking out!  Totally ready to go home and retrieve my plastic bin of needle felting supplies from the depths of my "craft closet."

Yesterday afternoon, I fiber-sculpted some pumpkins!  Beginning with wool . . . 

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and moving on to shaping and felting with a needle.

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Needle felting is really fun -- and very forgiving.  There are always chances to add a bit more shape, whittle it down here and there, poke it to get just what you're looking for.

And adding the roving makes it kind of magical!

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After a couple of hours, I had one finished pumpkin, one ready-for-the-details pumpkin, and one shaped blob that will become a pumpkin.

Very satisfying.  Kind of addictive.  (Like any craft in the fiber "line!") (And I only stabbed myself once.)  Plus . . . charming little nuggets of fiber-y goodness when you're done!

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Have you ever tried needle felting?  If you've got any little niggling desire to give it a try, I highly recommend the kits from Felted Sky.  They include everything you need to get started (except the foam mat; you'd need to buy one of those separately) - including needles.  The kits come with complete and detailed step-by-step written instructions including color photos --- and links to video demonstrations, should you need them.

I'm hooked!  (Maybe this time I won't just shove my needle felting bin to the depths of the "craft closet" . . . )

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Read With Us

I thank you all for your thoughtful and insightful comments so far for our first Read With Us book discussion I truly wish we could all be together, talking about this book in my living room!  I can see that . . . there are true limitations to replying to comments IN the comments section, at least when it comes to my Typepad blog, so my apologies for the cumbersome nature of this discussion.  Please continue to comment and discuss the book on yesterday's post --- while I figure out the settings to make replying to comments IN the comments work.  (Because I've run into an issue.  But I'm working on it!)

 


Something Different

Big news here.

Each spring, one of our local art galleries sponsors a show for students of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, where I take my art classes.  The instructors get to pick student work to put in the show, and this year . . . my instructor chose two of my watercolor paintings.

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So, that's my cow on top (the final version, sans eye patch).  And the one on the bottom is my egret.

It really is a thrill . . . to walk into a gallery and know your pieces are in there somewhere.  (Also unnerving.  Because what if everyone else's work is so much better than yours and you just look stupid by comparison.)  (Inner critic = super loud and obnoxious.)

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Whatever.  At some point, I just have to get over it!
There it is.  My work on the wall.

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Definitely something different!

(And if you're in the area and you want to see the show, it'll be up through the end of May at Life Story Network/Ignertia Gallery on North Street - near Bells! - in Kalamazoo.)

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Want to see the pieces closer up?

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So Many Ways To . . . Unravel

I have plenty of hobbies in my life.

(PLENTY)

I read.  I knit.  I sew.  I paint.  I draw.  I garden.  I stitch.  I yoga.

I DO NOT NEED another hobby.

I DO NOT.

NOT.

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But there I was, sitting in an all-day workshop last Saturday.  
Learning about Shibori dyeing.

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Gleefully painting a gradient.  
Joyously wrapping and scrunching.

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Totally amazed.

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And, well. . .
completely charmed.

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So much mess.  
So much fun.  

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I think I might have a new hobby.

(Oops.)

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Be sure to visit Kat today to see more Unraveled posts!

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And be sure to come back here on Friday . . . when I'll be ASKING QUESTIONS!


Merry and Bright

. . . and SHINY!

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Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with a friend in her studio making glitter balls.  Fabulously fun and super simple!

(And, yeah.  I don't have a Christmas tree at my house.  But I do have a lighted birch tree.  And these will look very fine hanging from the branches.)

We also tried some ornaments with alcohol inks.  Our results were decidedly mixed.  While this one looks quite pretty. . .

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I think there's a learning curve.  (Because not all of them worked quite as well.)

It was a fun afternoon, filled with mess, laughter, and creativity.  Merry and bright, indeed!

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It's kind of amazing how many "unraveled" posts I can come up with that have absolutely nothing to do with knitting.  I've been knitting a LOT, but can't show you any of it quite yet.  (Because Christmas.)  Stay tuned!

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Be sure to head over to Kat's today for more Unraveled posts.


Sparkle

Stitching Alabama Chanin-style can become rather obsessive.

Once you actually get over the intimidation factor and just make something . . . Well.  You discover it's really fun to stitch by hand.  And the garments you stitch are super comfortable to wear.  And the creative opportunities are just endless.

Earlier this summer I decided I wanted a simple, black tunic.  Nothing fancy.  No stenciling.  No appliqué.

But then . . . I decided to add some beads.

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(the front . . . finished)

And then . . . more beads.
(Because it really is an obsession.)

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(the back. . . finished)

I think I'm done with the beads now.  
(But maybe not.)
(You never know.)

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In the end, I got my simple, black tunic.  

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(Now with bonus sparkle!)


Slow on the Draw

As I mentioned last week, on Saturday I went to an all-day colored pencil workshop.  It was, specifically, a solvent workshop.  Colored pencil is quite a slow medium to work with.  (Many layers.)  (Many, many layers.)  But . . . if you apply solvents, you can work much quicker!  The workshop is designed so participants can complete a piece in one, 7-hour day.

And . . . the first time I took part in the workshop (3 years ago), I did just that!

But since then?  Well.  I've chosen to combine the solvent part with the regular, colored pencil drawing part -- so I can get a good start at the workshop -- but my drawings have been too complicated to finish in one session!  (I started Tom's Mini at last summer's workshop, and that took a long, long time to finish.)

Here's what I accomplished last Saturday:

First, I prepared my board (it's illustration board) and sketched out my drawing.  (You can see the photo I'm using on my iPad there; I shared it here on the blog not long ago.)  I taped out the petals of the lily to protect it from the solvent process, and began the coloring-in (with Prismacolor Art Stix).

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Once I got the background (pretty much) the way I want it (although there's still a lot to be done with it, actually), I peeled off the tape to reveal the lily petals . . .

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and started on the detail work.  (Which, truth be told, is my favorite part!)  I'm beginning with the lily petals, but will also need to do the leaves and the reflections on the water.  (I use Prismacolor wax pencils for the detail work.)

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And that's what I came home with!

Since the workshop, I've been drawing when I can.  (It's easier to find the time right now -- because I'm not knitting anything at the moment, and I can devote my "creative time" to this project.)

But . . . it's slow.  Very detailed.  It's going to take a while!

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I don't mind.  I enjoy the process, and I'm pleased with my results so far.  (I'll show you how it unfolds as I progress . . . but don't expect it to be anytime soon!


Knittin' on the Dock of the . . . Lake

I'm enjoying a relaxed approach to my knitting this summer.  
No mystery knits, KALs, or speed knitting challenges for me this year (tempting as they may be).

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Nope.  
This year it's just me.  
And some lovely linen.  
Locked in a rhythmic design.*

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Knittin' on the dock of the . . . lake.

Watchin' the ships loons roll in. . .
And then I watch 'em roll away again. . .

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This is a perfect summer knit.  Easy.  Soothing.  Cool.

Wastin' time. . . 
(I think not.)

 How about you?  What are you knitting this summer?

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Be sure to head over to Kat's to read more Unraveled posts today.

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*  This is the Albers Shawl from the Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide No. 6 - Transparency.  I'm knitting with Reed by Shibui Knits.  (And I only had to unravel once.)  (So far.)  (Because counting.)


Just a Bit of Messing Around

Earlier this month, I had a notion to make myself an Alabama Chanin tunic.  Just plain-vanilla.  A single-layer black tunic using the Factory Dress pattern.

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It was my first project using Natalie Chanin's new book, The Geometry of Hand-Sewing, and the Really Useful Stitching Cards that come with it.  (Those white dots you can see on my edging above?  I used a chalk pencil to mark my binding strips so I could make uniform stitches.  The dots will wash off, leaving near-perfect stitches that make me look like a better hand-stitcher than I actually am.  Highly recommend.)

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I finished the tunic in record time -- but decided I wanted to mess around a bit with those Really Useful Stitching Cards and some beads. 

So I marked up the front edge of my tunic . . . 

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dumped out a bunch of beads . . . 

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and started messing around.

The trick here is . . . moderation, mixed with a bit of random.  I'm working slowly, just a little at a time.  I want to be sure I strike the right balance of bling here -- nothing too uniform, and nothing overdone.

So far, I like it . . . 

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this particular kind of messing around!

What are you working on this week?

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Be sure to stop in at Kat's to read other Unraveled posts this week.


Unraveling . . . On Paper

Although I am tempted to share my progress on my mitered-square project, I've realized that I'm close enough to the actual finish line now (10 squares to go!) that I might as well wait until next week when (I think) it will be finished.

So today, I'll share another kind of finished project for you . . . 

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This is a rather large (16" square) colored pencil "portrait" of Tom's Mini, based on a photograph I took while the car was parked in our driveway.

And it has taken me months to finish!

Agonizing months.  (So many times I just wanted to trash the thing.)

In the end, though, I think it turned out just fine.  And I certainly learned a whole lot in the process.  Which was really the point.

I thought you might enjoy seeing the drawing . . . unravel.  Back to the beginning.

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We're really fortunate here in Kalamazoo to have the Kalamazoo Institute of Art.  Not only is it a fine art museum, but it also has a wonderful art education program for both adults and kids -- with classes offered year-round in pretty much any art medium.  The classes are semester-based, and the teachers are excellent.

I loved art class in high school, and I even took a few classes in college, but it had been years and years since I'd done any real "arting," and it took a while before I finally decided to face my personal demons (the not-good-enough and who-do-you-think-you-are voices are loud) and sign up for a class at the KIA.  I was totally intimidated to walk through those doors that first time . . . with my little bin of drawing tools!

It's been a great experience, though.  I've taken colored pencil drawing and watercolor and printmaking classes -- finally settling on colored pencil as my preferred media.  (I'm a much better "drawer" than I am a "painter.")  I've made a whole crop of new friends -- and the environment is supportive and encouraging from both the instructors and fellow students.

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Although I draw and doodle all kinds of this-and-that at home, for my classes I like to choose more challenging subjects -- so I can learn new techniques and stretch myself a little.  I've done marbles and soap bubbles and a glass of beer with foam and a trout rising out of the water, for example.  Each time, I've frustrated the hell out of myself!  But each time, I've also learned a lot.

This time, I wanted to draw something shiny.

So I chose Tom's Mini.

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In retrospect, I really didn't know what I was getting into.  Cars . . . have a lot of detail!  Really specific details.  (And really specific details that . . . say . . . the car's owner notices.  Just sayin.)

The entire time I worked on this drawing, I felt like one of those boys back in junior high school who were always drawing highly detailed dragsters on their notebook pages.  (Remember them?)  

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There were many (many) times along the way when it was just too overwhelming.  It felt . . . too daunting.  How would I ever make this red blobby thing look like a CAR?

I whined.

But I also kept going.  And I had a lot of encouragement along the way -- from my instructor (remember this?) and my fellow classmates, and from Tom and my dad at home.

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And . . . eventually . . . I had a drawing of Tom's car!

Colored pencil drawing is s-l-o-w.  It's layer after layer of color.  Nothing speedy about it!  

Kind of like . . . knitting.  Y'know?

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Even though this post has nothing to do with stitching, I'm still playing the "unraveled" game along with Kat and friends.  Hop on over to Kat's to see what others are unraveling this week.

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Want to see the original photo of Tom's Mini?  Here it is . . . 

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