06
Jan

The Daily ATC Challenge: Day 6

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Today’s theme is: RAIN DROPS

Today is supposed to be the last nice day for a while. We’ll be back to blustery days well below freezing in under 24 hours. Since today is a gorgeous open-the-windows sort of a day, all that snow and ice will invariably melt as it hits creating a very slippery ice layer underneath the later snow. Our theme is those melted drops of water just as the wintery precipitation starts.

DailyATC6 pencil

pencils on sketch paper

DailyATC6 watercolor

watercolor on 140lb cold press watercolor paper

I used the negative painting techniques demonstrated in this video by MyPetiteCakes on YouTube. I need more practice, but it was lovely to get to try out the technique I found a couple days ago while perusing videos about watercolor! I will definitely be doing both watercolor and acrylic galaxies sometime soon too. Those look like such fun!

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05
Jan

The Daily ATC Challenge: Day 5

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Day 4 of the ATC Challenge’s theme is: EAGLES (or your national bird)

Since today is National Bird Day in the USA, I’ll be doing eagle and bird inspired ATCs. Here’s what I came up with:
dailyATC5 eagle

permanent marker and watercolor on sketch paper

dailyATC5 feather

watercolor on hot press paper

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04
Jan

The ATC Challenge: Day 4

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Day 4 of the ATC Challenge’s theme is: SPACE EXPLORATION ROVERS

If it has wheels and it explores other-worldly landscapes, it’s fair game! Today’s theme is in honor of NASA’s Spirit rover landing on Mars on January 4, 2004. I’ll be wearing my NASA t-shirt all day and may have to watch some doctor who since The Martian, which I’m still itching to see, won’t be released until the 12th. Or maybe Guy Pal and I will finally get to go see Star Wars in IMAX! However you want to celebrate humanity’s baby steps out into our solar system today, get drawing, painting, or sketching a rover!

Here’s what I came up with:

IMG_4130

no. 2 0.5mm lead mechanical pencil on sketchpad paper

IMG_4129

PRANG watercolor on hot press watercolor paper

I’m tremendously pleased with both of these. They’re my favorite to date for the #dailyATC challenge. I ran out of space to get the rover’s wheels just right, but it’s still a very detailed yet fast and simple sketch of Spirit. While I’m not fond of the lettering which was inspired by the numbers on the clockface yesterday, the “T” at the end of “Spirit” did come out well and I’ll certainly draw capital T’s like that in the future. It’s a little thing, but it’s a step toward finding my style and becoming an all around better artist.

As for the painting? I love that one so much. I suspect I’ll end up doing a larger painting like it at some point. I love the cool sky contrasting the warm red planet. I enjoyed the watercolor washes to create the soft feeling backdrop for the little rover. While I wasn’t able to get the cracked dry landscape I wanted in this one, the rover tire treads give a great Opportunity (Spirit’s sibling, see what I did there?) to try adding more texture, some shadows and highlights really, to the martian dirt in the foreground. The rover in this painting almost feels like an afterthought when adding it in, particularly compared to the pencil sketch of Spirit, but I love it. Sure, it’s not the best tiny rover painting, but the effect it has on the overall composition just tickles me. Any beginner photography class or portrait sketching or painting class would point out that for a good composition the subject should be positioned so there is more space in front of them than behind. Although we likely cannot see what the subject is looking toward, having more space on their front feels more balanced and comfortable to the person viewing the image. I deliberately placed my rover against the edge of the composition so that we cannot see where he’s headed, only where he’s been. It’s getting pretty deep for a little doodle of an ATC, but I wanted to leave the viewer with the impression that there is so, so much more waiting for us as we explore our universe which we can only imagine.

I did not sign the painting as I feel that it would detract from the overall composition to add my mark. Sometimes on these little ATCs that’s just the way it is. If I were to leave it loose, I’d sign the back. Since it will be mounted in a book with my other dailyATCs, I’m not particularly worried!

 

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03
Jan

The ATC Challenge: Day 3

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Day 3 of the ATC challenge’s theme is: CLOCKS

That’s right, another new year sort of a themed picture. Maybe draw the alarm clock you’re dreading on Monday morning or a famous clock tower you’ve always enjoyed seeing. Or a cuckoo clock. Or a grandfather clock. Or a watch or a sundial. Even your cell phone could count! Just draw, paint, or sketch a time-keeping device. Here’s mine:

dailyATC day3 clock_face

no.2 0.5mm lead mechanical pencil on sketchpad paper

IMG_4126

Multimark marker and PRANG watercolor on sketchpad paper

I really love most of the marker and paint alarm clock. While the bells and ringer up top leave a bit to be desired, I adore the clock face and feet particularly. I’m thrilled with the style as a whole. It feels like it would be wonderful for  children’s book illustrations or possibly some note cards which I could have printed. I will definitely continue to experiment with this marker and paint combined media on more cards this year. Interestingly enough, all the colors used on this clock were directly from the paint pots in my watercolor set. I didn’t do any color mixing here and I wonder if those pure colors are part of what makes it feel so clean, crisp, and perfect for children’s books or even printing onto quilt fabric.

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02
Jan

The ATC Challenge: Day 2

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Day 2’s theme for the ATC challenge is: TREES

Today is Ancestry Day in Haiti, so let’s create some trees, family trees or coconut trees. Autumn trees or blossoming cherry trees, just draw, sketch, paint or even work up a collage tree on your ATC for today! Here’s what I came up with.

dailyATC 2 palm tree

A palm tree near the ocean drawn with a standard no.2 mechanical pencil on smooth sketch paper.

dailyATC day 2 blossoming tree

 

A blossoming tree done with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and a smidge of some red-orange PRANG watercolor on the same sketch paper. I also did one on some watercolor paper, but I didn’t like the result nearly as much as my branches were a bit wonky.

 

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01
Jan

The ATC Challenge: Day 1

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Here it is! Let’s get creating and start our journey toward being better artists with the daily ATC (artist trading card) challenge. Here’s the rules:

  1. Make art every day. No excuses. Even if it’s a sketch on a napkin at a restaurant with a terrible quality crayon. Do SOMETHING. Those few moments a day are sure to improve your skills over the course of the year.
  2. Sharing is encouraged! Please use #dailyATCs I’ll post and link as many folk’s ATCs here as I can.
  3. An ATC measures 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. If you do your work this size, you can find wonderful display cases and it makes actually trading your work easier.
  4. Any media. Use what speaks to you for the day.
  5. Prompts will be posted here daily.
  6. Start anytime.

And that’s it! Here goes day one. Create an ATC around: FIREWORKS

I made two for today. One took under 5 minutes and is a sketch done on some scrap paper using a 0.5mm no.2 lead mechanical pencil, the exact kind I’d use on math homework or sketching woodworking plans. It may not be anything fancy, but it was a good chance to practice sketching and shading some relatively simple geometric shapes. It might not be something I want to hang on the wall, but it served the purpose, I learned from it, I got good practice in, and instead of making excuses, I made some art!

pencil sketch of small firework rocket

The second one took probably about 30 minutes not including the dog walk I went on with Kaizie while waiting for it to dry between watercolor and ink applications. I used some terrible watercolor paper which I assume is hot press. I’ve had the paper pad since my age was in the single digits and I believe it came in one of those 100 piece art boxes for kids. I used some cheap PRANG watercolors I’ve had since I was a kid as well. I despise Crayola watercolors, but the PRANG semi-moist watercolors are pretty decent for the price. After the very wet sky with fireworks had dried, I used a Faber-Castell Multimark M ink marker to add the silhouettes of the couple watching the fireworks show. I’m incredibly happy with how this ATC came out. I’ve never done anything like it before and I’m definitely feeling inspired to try some more night sky and galaxy sorts of watercolor paintings.

Inked silhouettes watching watercolor firework show

Neither ATC is anything too fancy, but I sat down and I made them. I already feel like I’ve made improvements given how far outside my box I stepped to do the watercolor and ink picture of a couple watching a fireworks show. It’s time to go get on with the rest of the day here, errands, cleaning, and probably a bit of work on a crochet pattern I’m typing up, but after spending a few moments creating art this morning, I feel much more ready to take on the day and tremendously satisfied that I made something beautiful! I think I may need to pick up a scrapbook to hold the year’s ATCs so I can flip through the progress this time next year.

 

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31
Dec

Daily Art Challenge!

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For Christmas I received a sketchbook with 500 drawing prompts. I love it and am working my way through it. As cool of an idea as this book is, it falls a bit short of what I want for daily artistic practice and inspiration.

  • I feel constrained by the variable size spaces given to each prompt.
  • I struggle working effectively with the spine in the way. I’ve only done two drawings in the book and already I’ve torn the first two pages away from the binding along the top of the spine.
  • The prompts are on both sides of the pages too so the graphite transfers between drawings. Since the paper is thin, you can also see the drawings through one another a bit. I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I were using ink!
  • The paper is not suitable for any wet media. I definitely need to work on my pencil drawings, but there really isn’t much in the way of media options for this book.

So that got me thinking, why can’t I do something better? And couldn’t it be free for everyone instead of requiring a specific sketchbook? Of course! For Inktober 2015, I used artist trading card size sheets of paper cut from some leftover cardstock I had. I loved working with that size sheet. It’s not too intimidating, and if I wrecked a page, oh well! It’s not like I’m throwing away good art supplies nor spending too much of my day laboring over a picture I’m just not really feeling, you know?

So that’s what I’ll do. Instead of just a month of ink sketches as for Inktober, I’m going to do a whole year of prompts. I’ll use ATC size sheets of whatever sort of paper or board is most appropriate to the media I want to use that day. There’s super heavy oil & acrylic canva-paper or just plain printer paper. There’s textured papers for charcoal and pastels and glossy smooth papers for markers.

Sketchbooks

Any paper, any media in an ATC-sized piece of artwork. The goal will be just to make a little bit of art every day for a year. To step outside our comfort zones. To practice our skills. To learn new ones. To stop hiding behind excuses and let loose the artist we all have inside, even if just for as little as 5 minutes a day. Stay tuned for the details tomorrow morning as we start a year of art! Each day will include a prompt to get you started thinking about what to do and a sample or two from Maple Wool Farm.

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27
Feb

Why You Should be a Knitting Needle Snob

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It’s all just sticks and string, so why hunt down the ‘best’ needles? Why not just use what’s most readily available? Or those vintage needles you came across? People have been knitting for hundreds of years on all sorts of things. Some of my favorite traditional knits are the Andean chullos traditionally knit on hook ended needles made of baling wire. And I’ve personally knit on toothpicks, paperclips, large dowels, and even porcupine spines! If any old stick will work, why pay more for those needles? It’s the yarn that goes into the finished piece, so isn’t the yarn the only thing you should be splurging on?

NOPE. Your needles and pattern are just as important and very much worth spending a few extra bucks to have quality because it will very much show in your finished object, even if those needles aren’t going to be a permanent part of the project, they’re just as important as the yarn. Good needles can make a bad knitter’s work look better and a great knitter’s work look horrible, just by being good or bad needles!

I’m currently working on designing a new hat using a stitch I’ve created. It’s a lovely hat and I’m sure you’ll all want to knit it when it’s released. The first hat was knit from a ball of variegated bulky weight yarn, a long on color yarn that when used with such a stitch count creates beautiful stripes. I do love the stripes, but it makes it a bit harder to appreciate the detail of the new decrease and how well it works in ribbing. As such, I purchased a new ball of yarn, the same exact brand, but in a solid color.

The first multicolor hat was knit on a set of double pointed needles and I had a bit of trouble with stitches popping right off the ends of the needles until I hit the crown decreases. It was just too many stitches for the needles. When I was out in the snow picking up the solid colored ball of yarn, I also grabbed a set of 16″ circulars in the same size. Of course I had to get a different brand as no big box shop carries the brand double point I’d been using.

The second I got home, I cast on for the new solid color hat. I’d like it done and photographed as soon as possible so I can share the pattern with you all. When I got into the knitting a ways, I stopped. Something didn’t look right at all. I compared the in-progress hat to my completed one. YEP. Something’s horribly wrong. The stitches are all correct and the new color has much better stitch definition than the multicolored yarn,  but the new needles ruined it! I was over halfway through the body of the hat section too, so it’s a bit sad to rip out. That’s probably an hour and a half of work.

Here’s a close up of the first hat’s stitches. This bit is plain k1p1 ribbing.

Multicolor hat stitches

It’s beautiful, right? The stitches are even, uniform and straight. Now, here’s the same exact pattern and size hat knit in the same brand of 100% acrylic yarn one day later by the same knitter on different needles. Neither piece has been blocked.

solid hat stitches

 

Can you see the differences? The blue one looks horrible. The stitches are crooked with the left leg dominant. It’s wider and sticks up from the fabric more than the right one. Some stitches are more squat, some are taller, and some are just plain wonky.

The needle change also affected gauge in addition to the shape of individual stitches. The multicolor hat has 9 ribs in 4 inches where as the blue one has 8 ribs in 4 inches.

Gauge of multicolor ribbed hat

Gauge of solid ribbed hat

Changing needle brands means redoing your gauge swatch. Changing brands of knitting needles, particularly if that includes a change of knitting needle material, requires redoing your swatch. While only one rib, two stitches, in four inches doesn’t seem like much, in bulky yarn over enough stitches for an adult sized hat, that equates to adding about two and a half inches to the circumference of the hat. That’s huge!

Ribbed Hat difference with ruler

I know the ruler here only shows one and a quarter inches difference, but you’ve got to multiply that by two since there’s two layers under that ruler. Even if it were only an inch off though, that’d surely be enough for a strong wind to carry your hat away while out walking the dog on a brisk winter day.

What are the things that matter about a pair of needles? Generally the tips and the material. How sharp are the needles? How smooth are they? Do the cables have good flex yet aren’t too soft if they’re circulars? Here’s the needles I used for these hats.

Sharps versus Clover

 

The taper on the tip is nearly identical between these needles which is why I was willing to give the cheap and most importantly immediately available ones a chance. The metal ones have a slightly sharper tip, but almost imperceptibly so. The big failure here is that the bamboo needles are a little sticky. Not sticky like they were covered in toddler hand goo, but more in that the yarn doesn’t slide freely down the needle. You’ve got to stop and readjust the knitting to move more stitches to the top. The stitches don’t slide over the join from the cable and back up over the needle well either.

So, what are these needles of win and doom that are making and breaking such a hat? Surely one cost four or five times what the other did, right? Not at all actually. At regular prices one is $8.99USD and the other is $11.50USD with the $11.50 ones being the better ones. Of course given that the cheap ones are from a big box shop though, you could use a 40% off coupon on them which is exactly what I did as it was the only thing I was buying at that shop. That drops them down to $5.40 which means the better needles still are less than twice the cost of the bad ones! Here they are, the hat-ruining Clover bamboo needles and the wonderful but harder-to-come-by HiyaHiya Sharps made of stainless steel.

Clover and Sharps

So what are your favorite brands? What needles will you avoid at all costs? Do you have any problems with allergies to knitting needle materials? I adore the Addi needles, but I have trouble with the nickel in them. I’ve tried their brass line as well, but the smell drives me bonkers!

Lastly, keep in mind that yarn can vary in thickness even within the same brand and weight, so when changing between colors, you might want to redo your gauge swatch too, even if you’re using the same needles. Multicolor acrylics are notoriously thinner than their solid counterparts. If anyone knows why this is, I’d love to know!

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22
Feb

Fair Projects for 2015

Posted under Charity, Crochet, Knitting, Life, Models, Paper Crafting, Sewing and Quilting, Woodworking No Comments

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It’s getting to be the time of year when you’ve got to start thinking about what projects you’re going to be making for your county and state fairs. Ideally you’d start too as working right up to the deadline is never fun, though it seems to happen more often than I’d like!

So far, most of my projects are rather bland looking, but I promise there are colorful projects coming too!


natural colored projects

Here we have a lace baby sweater which will ultimately be part of a three-piece set, a knit lace doily, and a crochet lace bag all in progress.

I’ve also been working on filling the first of three bobbin lace pillows I’m making for myself. I really enjoy the bobbin lace beginners kit I got for Christmas, but the failings of a beginner ‘pillow’ are more than apparent. I done some research on the best and longest lasting bobbin lace pillows and how they’re made. Then, I presented this information to my physical therapist and we worked out a stand set up to prevent any undue stress on my body. Now I’m building that stand and pillow set up! This is the first pillow in progress.

bobbin lace pillow stuffing

 

Kaia seemed rather displeased with my pillow stuffing as a few bits of straw landed on her in her bed!

dog with straw

The pillows are filled with natural straw cut into 4″ or shorter pieces. Cutting the straw is a painful and dull process, and stuffing the pillows is painful and slow going as a result, but when they’re done, I’m going to have fantastic traditional bobbin lace pillows, a standard 24″ cookie pillow and a more rectangular pillow with a roller in the back for making yardage. The pillow above is the roller that will go into the rectangular pillow. The exterior is a natural canvas material sewn into a tube with drawstrings on either end. Inside, there is a dowel running the length and I have two discs cut from 1/4″ plywood. One disc is already in place at the bottom of the pillow and the other will go in just before cinching up the other drawstring. The dowel sticks out a few inches on either side which is how it will connect to the support pillow.

The last big WIP keeping me busy lately is a paper craft project. Some friends asked me to make a 4′ tall LEGO minifig as a decoration for a Boy Scout party in March. After that party, the gigantic LEGO man will be a county and state fair entry for me before finally being sold to the highest bidder to fund some new LEGO sets for me! The main framework of the minifig is cardboard sheeting from Costco. Some of guy pal’s friends from work taught me how to use anti-fatigue mat foam to create the complex curves and gave me some foam to use for the project. Atop the cardboard and foam frame is paper maché. This will create a surface I can sand to a perfect finish. With the glossy paint a LEGO minifig has, any imperfections in the body will show. That’s why I’m doing the paper maché coating. There will likely be some spackle to help fill any gaps prior to sanding as well. Here’s the first two pieces being coated in paper maché, the head (which is upside down in this photo) and one of the arms. They’re the most curvy pieces and thus require the most paper maché to get perfectly smooth.

LEGO head and arm WIP

 

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07
Jan

Knit Your Stash 2015

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This year I’m trying to use more yarn from stash rather than purchasing yarn as needed or worse, just because it’s on sale and I’m walking past. I generally have pretty good self-control driven by my shoestring budget, but I do have a tendency to think I still have the stamina of a healthy person and can complete all the projects my head can think of. Thus I tend to purchase yarn for specific projects that don’t get completed.

There is also this trap you can fall into when shopping for yarn. Let’s say you really want a pair of hand-knit socks for yourself. You buy yarn. Time passes and you never got to knit them because you’ve been too busy with everything else in life, chores, knitting gifts, dog walking, writhing in pain, whatever. Then you’re at the store and you see some stunning sock yarn and you really want a pair of hand-knit socks for yourself. So you buy the yarn somehow of the belief that purchasing said yarn will magically give you the time and energy to knit yourself that pair of socks.

Alas, you cannot purchase more hours in the day. But clearly I really want some socks and/or shawls in these colors!

3 Sock Yarns

The furthest back yarn is the oldest and the cheapest. I bought it at a little yarn shop way up in the mountains of Colorado during the 2013 Yarn Along the Rockies yarn crawl which I did with my mom. Of 23 yarn shops in 2 days, this was one of the two balls of yarn I purchased. Both were sock yarn incidentally. The middle yarn was purchased on vacation in 2014 in Southern California while visiting with another Chronic Bitch I met on Ravelry. She took me to a cute little yarn shop in the Claremont Village, Colors 91711, and I just loved these colors. None of my local stores carry the brand and I was as intrigued by the blend of fibers as the color. The closest to the front was purchased fall 2014 during a anniversary sale at Table Rock Llamas in Black Forest, Colorado. I knew I had the middle one when I purchased the third, but I’d completely forgotten about the first ball from 2013 until I took it down tonight!

Clearly I really need to take some time to knit myself something with at least one of these gorgeous balls of yarn this year! They’re all in my top 10, and probably top 5, favorite sock yarns from my stash. I keep my sock yarn up high along the ceiling on a long shelf above a sliding glass door. Until I took it all down today to photograph it, I honestly had no idea just how much yarn was crammed up there! I shouldn’t NEED to buy much sock yarn this year!

Here’s the entire sock yarn stash on my bed. This doesn’t include 100% wool or 100% alpaca fingering weight yarns as those are stored elsewhere. This is just yarn that is intended for socks but may well become a shawl instead.

Sock Yarn Stash

And this is after I used up a few balls of yarn from the shelf of fingering weight sock yarn to make Christmas gifts! I used up two balls of orange on dad’s crazy cat. That orange was purchased for only $1 a ball back in 2010. The blue on the upper right was $3 a ball and is much nicer stuff than the orange. It’s destined for shawls. I may be broke, but at least I know how to shop right!

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