Creative Pursuits

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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Sewing. So Much Faster Than Knitting.

I'm, basically, a tunic-and-leggings kind of gal.  It's what I wear about 90% of the time.  Often with some sort of sweater thrown over the top.  So when I first heard about the Knit & Sew Uniform book (published by Madder), I got myself on the pre-order list right away!

A variations-on-a-theme book of patterns for tunics (the "sew" part of the Uniform) and cardigans (the "knit" part of the Uniform), the whole concept is really perfect for me.

I whipped up a tunic for myself over the weekend.  

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I opted for the tunic version with pockets, no sleeves, and the rounded neckline.

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I pretty much love it.  (Although I have a few issues with the placement of the darts.  And from what I see from photos of other finished Uniform tunics, this is pretty typical. They're just . . . too high.)

The size options are good.  The directions are very clear.  The sewing is straightforward.

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I gave myself contrasting pocket linings.  Mostly because I like pops of color -- and a "surprise inside."  But also because I wanted to cut down on the bulk of fabric over my middle section (ahem).  (Because who wants four layers of heavy-ish linen over their middle section?)  So I used a lightweight cotton print for the pocket linings.

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I also used the cotton for the armhole bias facings.  Again, pop of color.  AND it really cut down on the bulk around the armholes.

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I'll probably make another tunic, as I really want to try the split-hem variation.  But I'm going to have to think about those darts for awhile first.  (It's such a pain to move darts.)

One thing is certain -- don't expect to see a completed knit Uniform cardigan around here anytime soon.  Someday, sure.  But not this summer.  

(Sewing.  So much faster than knitting. . . )

 


Makin' Stuff

Now that my dining room is finished (you just can't belive how nice it is to type those words), I've got a few other projects going on. (For rainy days like today, y'know?)

1 - Some are ongoing.  

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(And, yeah, I'm sparing you yet another photo of the still-not-finished-but-growing-in-the-expected-manner shawl.  But there is a pile of evidence that I'm making progress.)

2 - Some are just beginning.

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(But promise to be pretty quick and easy to complete.)  (Although it looks funny in the light, the fabric is a nice chocolate brown linen.)

3 - Some are being resurrected.

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(This is an Alabama Chanin swing skirt -- half finished.  I put it aside over a year ago because I really don't like the color.  It's called "denim," but really looks pretty purple.  Vicki suggested over-dying, so I've dragged it out again.) (I can also see that I learned a few tricks at the AC workshop last fall, so this old work looks kind of messy.  But, oh well.)

I've always got something going . . . to keep my hands busy.

How about YOU?  What kind of stuff are you makin' today?

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Head on over to Carole's to read other Three on Thursday posts.


A 3-Point Pact

A couple of years ago, I started taking colored pencil drawing classes.  (We have a great art school program here in Kalamazoo - for adults and kids.  It's a year-round program with a huge variety of class offerings.  I'm so grateful.)  I've learned a lot over the years, and I've created some drawings I'm really proud of -- and some real duds, too.  

I like picking out challenging projects for myself in my classes -- because I'm there to learn and develop my skills.  Last fall, I decided I wanted to try to draw something shiny.  Something with a lot of metal in it.  (Because there is a colored pencil technique called "burnishing" that makes wax-based colored pencil drawings "shine" like metal.)

So I decided I'd draw Tom's car.

And it has been the bane of my drawing-life ever since.

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Because it is hard.  And my drawing is big.  And I'm not actually all that fond of drawing cars.  And it is taking me so very long.  And I have wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

But then, something interesting happened.

My instructor (who is also a friend) asked me to teach her how to knit.

So I did.

And she is determined to make (as her first project) Jared Flood's striped scarf in two contrasting colors of Noro Silk Garden.

Although she caught on to knitting immediately (she had tried it once or twice in the past, so wasn't completely new to to the task), she struggled a bit.  Because it is hard.  And she can't fix her mistakes.  And she wasn't completely sold on the colors she chose.  And it is taking her so very long.  And she has wanted to throw it in the trash and just be done with it many, many times along the way.

Sound familiar? 

Over a glass of wine, we laughed at ourselves . . . old dogs learning new tricks.  And we made this 3-point pact with each other:

  1. We will allow ourselves time and space to learn and improve.
  2. We will ask each other for help without apology.
  3. We will throw perfection out the window (instead of our projects).

I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish my car drawing before the end of my next "semester" of colored pencil drawing class.  And she is hoping to finish her scarf in time to wear next winter.

I'll keep you posted!

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To read more Three on Thursday posts, be sure to hop on over to Carole's!

 


Shaking It Up

I'm taking another drawing class this semester.  This time, it's a colored pencil technique class, and the whole point is to stretch our drawing in new directions.

Here is a little something I did in class last week.  It's a Lake Michigan sunset using wax-based colored pencils on sandpaper.  

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Yep.  Sandpaper.

Sometimes it's good to just shake things up a bit and try something completely unexpected.  
In art and in life!