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Friday, December 12, 2008

A Bird of Different Sort: Watercolor Rooster

This is an older painting from several months ago that was never posted. He's actually the first bird of the sort that I've been doing lately. I was so pleased with him; it gave me the push to try the other birds.

He's a little larger than 5 x 7 and painted only with Quinacridone Gold, Indigo, and Quinacridone Red. The green in the tail is from the Quin. Gold and Indigo mixed - I love that color every time it appears!

His face is sharpened with a touch of Prismacolor colored pencil that looks like Tuscan Red and Goldenrod. I didn't write them down and don't remember now which ones they were.

I hope you like him - he was a first of a kind!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Western Red Tailed Hawk Drawing - Colored Pencil on Dark Paper

I enjoyed drawing the hawk in the earlier post so much, I thought I'd try again. Here's a 5 x 7 Western Red Tailed Hawk drawn on Mi Tientes paper with Prismacolor pencils. Again I used a minimal palette of Indigo Blue, Dark Umber, Light Umber, Goldenrod, White and a touch of Black. I don't know the color name of the paper, but it is very dark and cool toned.

In hindsight, I would have done this differently. This color is incredibly hard to see to draw! My initial sketch lines - which are usually very light as is my habit - were nearly invisible. Also, the colors I chose harmonize well with the subject and the paper, but seem to lack sparkle.

There's some of this paper left and next time, I'll try a white bird for that lift it seems to need. Either way, I'm still pleased with how the hawk turned out, especially the expression, and it was really fun to do.

I'm still experimenting with watercolor toned grounds, but it looks like an art supply order for more colored paper is in the making!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Red Tailed Hawk Drawing

I haven't done enough drawing lately and was feeling the lack. So, here's a Red Tailed Hawk on gray paper. I think it's Canson but it was in a stack of miscellaneous paper with no marks or labels so that's a guess. This hawk is actually a warm toned bird in shades of brown, golds and cremes so my choice of cool colored pencils makes it look much starker.

I sketched the bird lightly with a fine point pencil, then used four Prismacolor colored pencils for the body and beak: Black, White, Indigo and Warm Gray 50%. Two more colors were added to enhance the eyes: Light Umber and Goldenrod.

This was a relatively fast study and, for what it's worth, fast for me means around 30 to 45 minutes. Overall, I'm pleased with it but, as usual, there's room for improvement.

Working with the pencils on the colored paper did start me thinking about using watercolor to tone and drawing on that. SO, I've got a couple of those lined up to experiment with. Let's see where that goes!

On a painting note, a new cardinal is available at Etsy. I think he looks festive, so he's a Christmas Cardinal with the name "Waiting."

Christmas Cardinal
5 x 7 Original Watercolor Painting

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Let's Knit! Contest Giveaway

Imagine my surprise yesterday when Google found me over at the Junk Creation blog where you can enter to win a Christmas for Crafters gift package.

The prize package includes a copy of "Let's Knit!", as well as "Easy Birthstone Jewelry", a 2009 Beadstyle Calendar and the latest issues of Beadstyle, Art Jewelry and Bead and Button magazines.

It's simple to enter and the contest is open to everyone including international readers. Just go to Junk Creation and leave a comment. Be sure to tell Peggy about your Christmas craft projects as well.

If you win, let me know and I'll send you an autographed book plate for your copy of "Let's Knit!". Good luck!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Watercolor Painting: A Green Beetle!

This is a little different subject, but I've always been fascinated by bugs. Not just the pretty ones like butterflies either. Maybe a new series here, there's surely a lot of interesting bugs out there! What do you think? Any favorite bugs?
If you are wondering about the birds, I'm still working on birds of prey. As usual, the first painting is not what I had in mind so am working on more that I'm happy with. Currently in progress: American Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon and Coopers Hawk. I'll post soon with news on those.
In the meantime, there is a set of 4 note cards available at Etsy or directly from me if you prefer.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Watercolor Bunny Notecards

Finally! After quite a bit of searching and fussing, I've been able to make the bunny available as note cards. The first printing was disappointingly pale and that's not how I want my work to be seen. SO, after persevering with local printers, I was able to get them printed to my satisfaction.
They are available at my Etsy shop or directly from me. Special requests and your thoughts and comments are always welcome!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Candy Sketch

Having been inspired by Leigh and her blog where I've been enjoying her daily catalog of Halloween candy and curiosities, I made a quick sketch of a treat that caught my eye.

It's a large lollipop that doubles as a mask! See the moon shaped eye holes above the weird candy eyes? I cannot imagine the mess this would make but it looked like a lot of fun.

I didn't actually buy it but just stood in the store and drew it. I added the color later to liven up the drawing but the actual pop was much more vivid even than this. The wording is directly from the packaging - Eat It! Wear It!

Well, I really enjoyed it and thought it was funny. Happy Halloween to all!

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Watercolor Bird Paintings - Chickadee and Wren

Original Watercolor Painting
5" x 7"

Original Watercolor Painting
5" x 7"
These two are already in my Etsy shop if you are thinking of Christmas already.
Oh and there's a cardinal too, but he's being held off for a bit. The colors and layout are unconventional so I'm giving him some breathing room to decide if he's OK. Here's a sneak peek; any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Knitting in the Heat of October

In case you’re wondering if I'm knitting right now – of course I am! I’m just not talking about it much. Here’s the sleeve bottom of a cropped cardigan with three quarter length sleeves started almost a year ago. The yarn is Moda DEA 100% washable wool in a rich plum.

It may cool off enough here to wear this by sometime in November. The fabric is worked in a knit and seed rib of knit 5, seed 3 so it lays flat. I don’t really like ribbings on my sweaters so usually design for a self finishing edge. Here’s a peek at my design notes and sketches.

Apparently, I wrote one thing and did another for the sleeve cap shaping. When I worked the second sleeve by my notes, it didn’t correspond to the first sleeve cap shaping at all. That sleeve is fine and fits the arm opening perfectly. So, RIP the second one out and do it over. No matter, there’s plenty of time before sweater weather.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Copies of Let’s Knit! Have Arrived

Isn’t it beautiful? I can say that because I’m not the one who made the final book look so wonderful. That was done by a great team of people at Kalmbach Books and my editor who blogs too. Designing projects and writing the manuscript was plenty for me.

This book is for beginners to learn and gather confidence with 20 basic projects from functional to just for fun. Just looking at the book is a real treat to the eye as well. The layout is clean and modern but with a little edge thrown in. There are even a few of my own drawings in the instructions!

When the copies arrive here, it means they are ready to go and will be shipping soon from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a Million and other booksellers. If you’ve got an idea you want to learn to knit, have a look. Let me know what you think; I love hearing from you!

Friday, October 10, 2008

More Original Watercolor Bird Paintings - Wren and Oriole

I've been working on more birds and will have new paintings to post soon. In the meantime, I've been remiss in keeping updated as someone close to me pointed out that she had not seen several of the completed paintings posted. Sorry!

Here are two previously finished works. The Oriole is one of the backyard and best loved birds. I just love that he is orange and black and looks mischievous. Perfect for Halloween.

"Notorious", 5x7 original watercolor, Male Northern Oriole, Available

In painting this series, I seem to have an affection for Wrens. I'm happy to say that this Marsh Wren has a wonderful new home but I am working on one or two more.

"Songster", 5x7 original watercolor Marsh Wren, Sold

Monday, October 6, 2008

More Thoughts on Keeping a Sketchbook

In an earlier post, were musings on my sketch book and what it means to me. Over lunch with a friend, I pulled the book out to jot down a quick idea – words only mind you – and realized that I never go back to the book to retrieve those ideas. So why bother?

Of course, the next thing to do was go back through the book and see just what it was that was so important. I found that the notes of ideas, lists or even basic outlines, are still valuable and could be developed into posts, articles or even books. However, it’s obvious that remembering to go back and look for them when the time comes will be a problem.

The pages that have sketches only or sketches and notes were much more interesting and memorable. They were so much more enjoyable to look at and the memories of those ideas were much clearer. Many of those pages were solely for my own amusement and pleasure or to document something encountered along the way. Like the one above.

My sketch book is a repository of ideas and images but not necessarily a specific reference. That doesn’t bother me because I enjoy the act and process of keeping the book. The one thing this exercise has made me aware of is the benefit of indexing to be able to find those ideas later when I want to use them. Any thoughts on using your sketch books and retrieving the information later?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Watercolor Bunny Postcard

Here's a 4x6 watercolor postcard painted to send as a thank you note to a friend for a wonderful birthday present. She was so thoughtful and gave me four - FOUR - books from the Artist's Photo Reference series published by North Light Books.
This little fellow is from page 75 of the Wildlife book. He's painted with French Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and a touch of Paynes gray for texture. Not too bad for my first bunny!

An Award? An Art Blog Award? Me?

Well, yes, it's true kazumiwannabe has sent me this award for arty blogs. Having just returned from a quick trip out of town, this was a wonderful surprise waiting for me.

Her blog is full of lovely art and I am so honored to have been sent the award. I'll pass it on too as soon as I get moment to catch up. Look for that post soon!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I've been Following Blogs

But it's not as creepy and stalkerish as it sounds.

Call me slow, but I just got around to finding out what's up with the little widget on the left there called "Followers." That's the number of people who have listed my blog as one they follow. Right now that would be - not too many but hope always rises.

Now, there are other blogs out there that have me listed as one of their followers. They get to see my little picture and have the satisfaction of knowing I am watching them. Always watching...

Anyway, you are invited to follow my blog through blogger or subcribe via email. To subscribe just enter your email in the other little widget on the left and new posts will be delivered to your mailbox.

I do see your email address but I promise not to do anything unpleasant with it like send you junky emails or broadcast it over the web. Occasional messages and postings directly from me personally is all you're signing up for.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Meet the Author of Mostly Metals

If you are close to Cape Coral, Florida on Saturday, September 27, plan to go to the grand opening of the AC Moore on Pine Island Road.

There, you will get to meet my friend and editor as well as author Karin Buckingham who will be signing her book Mostly Metals and demonstrating a project from the book. Check her blog for the details.

Karin is talented and generous and wonderful to meet. She has edited my books (Knit & Crochet Combined and Let's Knit! ) from Kalmbach Books. I can't express how helpful and encouraging she is. When you meet her, be sure and tell her I said hi!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Derwent Graphitint Colored Pencil Lightfastness Test

Graphitint pencils – graphite with color – seem like a perfect marriage of the wonderful qualities of working with graphite pencils with the excitement of color. Granted, the colors are muted and complex but those are some of my favorite colors.

Anyway, there I was all excited about them and then heard of a problem. In response to a comment from another artist who used the pencils in a journal where they had faded, I decide to perform my own, completely non scientific, lightfastness test.

The test was performed on a set of twelve Derwent Graphitint colored pencils. The color names in the set: Storm 18, Midnight Black 20, Chestnut 13, Port 01, Ivy 11, Aubergine 03, Coal Grey 23, Cloud Grey 22, Dark Indigo 04, Cool Brown 15, Slate Green 08, Cocoa 16. (Sorry they’re not in numerical order – it’s the order I put them on the sample card.)

I started August 17, 2008 by placing the sample, with the left side covered, in bright light from a south facing window but no direct sunlight. It was allowed to rest in the window for 14 days. During this time, there were a few more cloudy days than usual due to tropical storms in the area. I live in east central Florida where we have sunshine and bright light most every day of the year.

At the end of this first phase, there appeared to be no change in color of any sample. That’s a good start, but I then decided to subject the sample to direct sunlight for the same time period. While most people don’t display artwork in these conditions, it seemed an extreme test might be useful.

After 14 days of daily exposure to direct morning sunlight, there were two colors that had faded markedly – Chestnut 13 and Ivy 11 – and one that had faded somewhat – Cocoa 16. The two colors that faded the most lost all the apparent color and left only the graphite. The third color, Cocoa, faded some but the original brown color is still discernible. The other colors were unchanged to my eye.

In reviewing my results and the official lightfastness ratings from Derwent, I noticed significant differences in some of the colors. The colors that faded the most in my test are rated as lightfast and one of the colors that they rate quite low on the scale (Aubergine 03) did not fade at all in my test. Also, other colors (Dark Indigo 04 and Storm 18) are rated as not being fully lightfast by Derwent but they also did not fade in my test.

To conclude, I will say again that my method was completely unscientific though it gives me enough confidence to use the pencils in my own artwork. I will take some care with color choices and stay away from those that faded in my test. I’ll also use the ones with the lower Derwent ratings with care. If you are using these pencils and are concerned about fading, please conduct your own tests and review the manufacturer’s ratings for yourself before proceeding.

Now, it’s time to actually make some art!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

More Birds! Watercolor Paintings Cardinals and Oriole

Original Watercolor
For Sale: Etsy

I just finished another set of birds with a pair of cardinals and an oriole. They are all posted on Etsy if you want to see "Red" and his mate "Little Red" as well as "Notorious" a northern oriole.

I had the idea to make a mini demo of one of them to share how I paint them. You know, scanning it at various stages of WIP and explaining what I was doing. Of course, the one that I chose to document, a male ruby throated hummingbird, is the one that just did not turn out well! Funny how things go that way. I’ll try again next time.

If you've got a favorite bird you'd like to see or any thoughts on these, let me know. I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thoughts on Keeping an Artist's Sketchbook

Do I keep a sketch book? Yes, but I’ll bet it’s not what you expect. There are as many lists and words as sketches. I use my journal for everything from notes on book and article ideas to sketches of people, places and things. Sometimes, I go for days without an entry and then other times several pages are gone in one day.

I’m hesitant to share the sketches because people seem to expect a work of art and act a bit let down when the sketches aren’t as finished or polished as they expected. Some pages are more colorful and attractive than others and that usually depends on how much time I was able to spend. The fast and messy pages are more valuable to me because the ideas they contain were important. The sketch posted here was made very quickly while waiting at a parking lot because I liked the way the breeze was swishing the fronds and how the sun glinted off them.
To me, painting, drawing and sketching are different skills and may be accomplished in different styles. Some artists are more consistent, but I’m not one of them. My sketch style is abbreviated and messy while my drawings are much more precise and detailed. In comparison, my painting style is closer to my sketching style but doesn’t resemble it much because of the difference in mediums.

I really like to see other artist’s sketches. It’s like getting a peek at the thought process behind the scenes. Karen Winters, a truly accomplished landscape painter, posed a thoughtful question on her blog about drawing, sketching and sharing that process. I’d love to hear what you think.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Crochet Project for a Change - Fall Feeling

It's still pretty warm here in Florida, but I'm working on the Fall Feeling with this new project. I had an urge to crochet and found this loden green yarn in stash as well as the brown. It's woolease from Lion Brand so is nice and sturdy and washable - perfect for a throw.

As for the colors, I don't know why I bought 10 balls of this green. It's a pretty color, but I sure can't wear it as a sweater - it makes me look sick. The brown, left over from earlier projects, is called Mink Brown and is a really lovely flecked and "fibery" color. Again, it's not a good color for garments on me. SO, the next best thing is to make a warm and cozy blanket sort of project.

The hexagons are modified from an octagonal block found in one of my stitch dictionaries and they are simply edged with the brown. Single crochet holds it all together.

The hexagons don't take very long to make but I figured out that I'll have to make somewhere between 120 and 192 of them to make a fair sized throw. We'll see if I chicken out early and it ends up more like a scarf!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Another Watercolor Painting - Serene Cardinal

Another cardinal - number 8 in the trials mentioned in the previous post. He is more serene than the first one. Painted the same way but with an entirely different result!

It's amazing what can happen if you just try a little. After so many wonderful people, both online and off, encouraged me to continue with the birds, I was bold enough to paint a few to list on Etsy and have had the good fortune to sell a chickadee. You can see the remaining listings over there on the left.
Of course, I'm just as excited as a kindergartner at a carnival! I'm planning more small paintings and have a notion for birds of prey in larger formats. Any thoughts or ideas?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Painting - Watercolor Cardinal

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged the birds, I hope this is appealing. It's loose and sketchy in feel, but hopefully captures the right details and says Cardinal.
This is number 7 of the trials that I did. It took me that long to get one I was pleased with - it's on the back of an earlier one that was unfinished because it was too bad to proceed! There are three that are finished and I'll post the others soon.
The process for painting these is very straightforward. I sketch the bird lightly in pencil and then paint the first loose layer of watercolor. This layer is painted in a combination of wet on wet and wet on dry methods. I moisten the paper in some areas of the background and then paint the bird letting the colors mingle in the body and the colors spread into the background. This first paint application is the most important as well as the easiest to make a mistake.
After letting it dry, I add the spatters for texture and dry again. The last step is to add the small details and harder edges where necessary as well as modifying the body forms to look more realistic. After painting, I sharpen the eye, beak and feet with colored pencil, if necessary.
Materials & particulars- Finished size: 5x7, Winsor & Newton watercolors on Arches 140lb cold press paper, Prismacolor colored pencils

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Bit of Black

Another bird! This mockingbird drawing was lightly sketched with graphite and finished with colored pencil. Colored pencil is nice for the detail it allows, but fairly time consuming to lay down the pigment.

This little (5x7) drawing has only a limited color range - blues, grays, a little yellow and a bit of black.
I'm finding these birds to be extremly enjoyable so have started more for watercolor sketches. We'll see how those go.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Flash of Blue

This is a quick drawing from yesterday. After getting the initial sketch down and starting to put in the dark eyes, beak and feathers with graphite, I wanted more. He is a Blue Jay after all. So, I added pastel chalks and was much happier.
This is one of a very few bird drawings I've done and it was very enjoyable. Maybe there are more in my future!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two Color and Pattern Studies

First, I did this:

Then this:

These are both painted with the exact same colors -Permanent Rose, Winsor Lemon and Manganese Blue. I did add a little Cobalt Turquoise to the second one in some of the leaves.

These are preliminary paintings for a portrait. It seems like a good idea to make them as paintings on their own so these are finished 5 x 7 pieces.

Thoughts and comments are welcome. The portrait is underway, but I'll let there be a little mystery about which way it goes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Portrait and Color Study for Swap

This is a portrait of Nadine (her blog here). We did a portrait swap where we each worked from a photo (which I have misplaced or it would be posted too -sorry!) of the other person. It was both interesting and challenging for me as I don't normally use this type of photo and had not seen her in person. It's amazing what you learn about someone's face!

It's watercolor, 8 x 10, Arches cold press with a touch of colored pencil here and there to finish. Three colors used, all Winsor & Newton - Ultramarine Violet, Permanent Rose and Winsor Lemon. The scan has obliterated some detail in the eyes.

When I do these portraits, I often do a small (5 x7) color and pattern study concurrently to help me work out the details. That's here:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gnome Craft – In My Garden!

I took a little break from finishing up the latest book, Let’s Crochet! and did something completely different. This is a little gnome doll made with a wire armature body and wool felt clothing. He posed in my potted plant
and then had to take a stroll in the garden.

The inspiration was a book called The Gnome Craft Book" by Thomas and Petra Berger. I found it at my local library and thought it looked interesting. Turns out it was first published in Dutch and translated into English. That explains a lot.

It’s not like the craft books we’re accustomed to. There are lots of techniques and the authors assume that readers know how to do quite a few different things from knitting and embroidery to simple wood carving and wire work. Even the little fellow here would have been quite difficult if I hadn’t already known how to make wire armature dolls and had the proper tools.

The dolls eventually suggest their names but he doesn’t have one yet. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Hummingbird in My Garden

A hummingbird came to my garden for the first time!

It was here yesterday and checked the feeder my friend Carolyn gave me. Naturally, the feeder was empty because I've never used it for that. It's been for decorative purposes only.

So, maybe 10 minutes after I saw the bird, I had hummingbird food made and the feeder cleaned out. (Got to love the Internet for getting information quickly.)

That included the time it took to chase a garter snake out of the back screen porch. I found him when I bolted through the porch to retrieve the feeder.

Well, the food had to cool and then it rained, so I figured the little hummer wouldn't be back. But, I was wrong. It's been back a couple times today too. Now, I can't stop looking out the window every two minutes or so.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spray Paint - What's not to Love?


Yes, you saw that correctly. Glitter that comes in a spray can. I love this stuff.

From Krylon, it comes in five colors. I have the gold but am just aching to try the "Magical Multicolor".

It's a sparkly glitter with small particle size (as you would expect to come out of a spray can) and works very well. My can has never clogged and the spray dries very quickly.

It does smell, much more so than most spray paints, so heed the instructions to use in a well ventilated area. The finish is a little rough due to the glitter particles so if you want a super smooth surface, it would require a sealer or varnish.

Of course, the best part of using this, or any other glitter, is the little bits of sparkle that cling to you the rest of the day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Postcards from My Garden

A card for a friend - it's ready to go in the mail tomorrow. These little 4x6 postcards are just the thing to keep in practice with paints and such when time is short.

I sketched the plant and flower head in pencil, quickly painted with watercolor, lettered and inked with a black gel pen. Overworking with the pen is always a danger, so I let it rest a bit before finishing up. It took hardly any time at all from the garden and my back porch.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What is it with Starting Projects?

We’ve talked about UFO's , those unfinished objects lurking in tote bags and closets, now let’s have a look at the other side of that story. Starting projects is fun, fun, fun, but it does have a dark side. Many of them turn into UFO’s with time passing and interest waning. So, why start so many projects when they can never all be finished?

Temporary Infatuation. What else can I say? It’s a crush on some new yarn, material or technique that just has to be tried. So, there’s another project started and the first hours or days are wonderful and exciting. Then, the crush dissipates, reality sets in and the faults and flaws of the thing are obvious. The color’s wrong, the technique is boring or truly aggravating or the finished item just isn’t something worth having. Here’s a UFO newly born and one that probably won’t ever be completed.

Simple Projects. These are the projects I like to call “mindless”. These are the ones that travel to the in-laws and the meetings to keep the hands busy and just enough of the brain occupied to keep from going nuts. These are useful and necessary projects. Very seldom do they age into UFO’s even though some take quite a while to finish.

Real Love. This is the prize in projects starts. These are things that the end result is something I love and truly want in my life. These projects can vary greatly in difficulty and time commitment. The materials and techniques are secondary to the item itself so learning something new or working with not so favorite materials is often worth it. The UFO danger here is taking too long to finish the project. If that happens, changes in taste or lifestyle can make it obsolete before it’s done.

There are just a few of my excuses to start a new project. I’m sure there are countless other explanations waiting to be discovered and used. So go ahead and start something new, you’ve got a good reason.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Finally- Perfect Pom Poms

Maybe it’s just me, but making pom poms has always been an ordeal. Wind, cut, tie and then trim while hoping for the best. It’s the trimming and shaping part that always gets me. Lots of snipping and fuzz everywhere, but never a nice round little yarn ball. With all that trouble, I’ve never used pom poms very much for decoration. Well, that has finally changed because I’ve discovered the Clover Pom Pom Maker.

Just wind, cut and tie. Then a perfect round ball of yarn pops out of the ingenious folding plastic device. The principle is the same as the old fashioned circle of cardboard method, but this works so much better. The best part is there isn’t any snipping and fussing with the final shape. Perfect for me!

They come in sizes extra small through extra large, two sizes per package except for the extra large. I have the small size which makes pom poms 1⅜ and 1 ⅝ inches. Extra small is ¾ and 1 inch, large is 2 ½ and 3 ⅜ inches, and the extra large size makes a 4 ½ inch pom pom. See all four makers here.

The instructions are clear with excellent photographs and are inside the folded packaging. The photographs are clear enough to follow without the written instructions. That’s how I made the first couple pom poms because of not looking at the packaging carefully.

This is such a clever notion for the pom pom challenged. Now, I’m off to make more perfectly shaped pom poms.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Favorite Crochet Stitch

It’s called “Shell Stitch” or “Shell on Shell” or “Solid Shell” or what ever you happen to call it. No matter the name, it's one of my favorite crochet stitch patterns and I use it a lot when designing projects.

As the name Solid Shell indicates, it is solid, not lacy, but has a light look and lovely texture. Fabric made from a lighter yarn, such as sport or fingering weights, in this pattern drapes beautifully.

Another reason I like it is simplicity. Only three stitches, chain, single and double crochet, make the entire pattern. The rows alternate in a half drop pattern so, once established, it’s easily memorized. Shaping in solid shell is straight forward as well. The shells are easily adjusted for half shells when decreasing or added stitches when increasing.

Another of its wonderful properties is the ability to tame variegated yarns. Variegated yarns can have some disturbing color effects in the most unexpected ways. They are lovely in the skein but can become “jittery” or “clumpy” or just plain unattractive when worked into fabric. I’ve had success with the solid shell pattern with several variegated yarns.

Try this pattern. Here are the written directions and the chart. Start with some leftover yarn and make a pillow or throw. See what happens and have fun.

Solid Shell

Multiple of 6 + 1 (add 1 for beginning chain)

1st Row: 1 sc into 2nd ch from hook, *skip 2 ch, 5 dc into next ch, skip 2 ch, 1 sc into next ch; repeat from * to end, turn.

2nd Row: 3 ch (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc into first stitch, *skip 2 dc, 1 sc into next dc, skip 2 dc, 5 dc into next sc; repeat from * ending last repeat with 3 dc into last sc, skip turning ch, turn.

3rd Row: 1 ch, 1sc into first stitch, *skip 2 dc, 5 dc into next sc, skip 2 dc, 1 sc into dc; repeat from * ending last repeat with 1 sc into top of turning chain, turn.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 for pattern.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The UFO (Unfinished Object) Problem

I have lots of UFOs because starting projects is my favorite thing. The thrill of new yarns, fibers and fabrics and the shining possibilities of the finished projects – that’s heady stuff.

Of course, reality is somewhat different, isn't it? Like many, my expectations are often higher than my ability to finish them all. I’m usually happy with the finished projects and they are very often as nice as or better than I envisioned. It’s just so darned difficult getting to that point. In my own land of the UFO, I’ve decided that there are three methods of dealing with them.

First, just drag it out, grit your teeth and finish it. This works very well for things that are almost done and for the projects that are going pretty well to begin with. Usually, I find that it’s enjoyable to work on a long put away project and the extra bonus of finishing is wonderful.

Second, repurpose it or condense it and make something new. Because this usually takes more thought and planning, it works better on projects that aren’t going very well, aren’t turning out as planned, or are just way too large to finish as started. This reworking is good for projects that you like the materials and are still interested in. Of course, the new project may run the risk of becoming another UFO.

Third, admit to yourself that you no longer even like it, will never finish it and then get rid of it without any guilt whatsoever. This option is the fastest but not always the easiest because we all agonize over the guilt part. It’s as if we’ve asked the project to go steady and now want to break up. Try having a UFO swap with friends – one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure – or donate them to charity. Either way, get it out of your life and see how much easier you breathe.

The best part of tackling the UFO problem is the twin rewards. You’ll have many lovely finished projects that make you the envy of your friends and associates. And, better yet, you can now start even more new projects!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Fastest Apron in the World

OK, so the whole world may be an exaggeration, but this is the fastest way I know to make a utilitarian apron. These are the kinds of aprons that you can actually use to cook or clean or craft in and if you wipe your hands on it, well, that’s what they’re for.

Start with a tea or dish towel around 18 inches by 30 inches and a 72 inch length of 1 inch wide grosgrain ribbon. Center the ribbon on top of the long edge of the towel and pin in place. Sew the ribbon in place on both long edges. Trim ribbon ends at an angle. Apply fray retardant to the ends if desired.

That’s it, apron finished.

If you’re like me, here’s where you start thinking “I sure would like a pocket or two on this and maybe I could just add a bit of trim.” Well, yes, those things would be good, but then, it’s become another project and will be too nice to use when you finally search out the perfect trim, buy it and get around to attaching it.

Now, tie it around your waist and get to work.

Friday, May 2, 2008

New Blog to Check Out

I just found out that my friend and editor, Karin, has her own blog where she talks about artful crafts.
Of course, blogs have a way of veering off here and there and hers does so beautifully as she is a wonderful writer as well as a talented artist.

So, go, see her work here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Interview on YarnCraft

Wow! I've been interviewed by Zontee on Yarncraft by Lion Brand Yarn Co. Listen in here

I was really worried about how I would sound - Yikes! It is strange to hear your own voice as if it were a strangers. But, they did a great job making me sound good.

Give it a listen and let me know what you think, I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More travel sketches on the way to CHA

Still gathering my thoughts on the Craft and Hobby Association trade show. To stretch things out a bit more before I make a report, here are a couple more quick sketches from the trip out.

The view from the gate in the Atlanta airport. I arrived from my inbound flight with no time to spare - they had started boarding already!

A few quick bits from the flight out to California. It was a long flight but that is all I could get done as I started to feel a bit off.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Back from a Very Long Trip

Have just returned from a long trip - Florida to California - where I was given the opportunity to attend the craft and hobby industry trade show to help promote my first book Knit & Crochet Combined.

That's a long way to go away from home for me. I'm very much a homebody but this was too good to pass up. Having just returned home this morning around 1:00 AM, I'm still a little tired and fuzzy so this post will be short. I'll elaborate on the trip and what I saw and learned in future posts.

To spice things up a bit, I tried to keep a sketch diary of sorts as I traveled. Due to a full schedule, it didn't get used as often as I would have liked, but I did manage a few things.

To start, I left home at 5:15 AM on Sunday morning to make sure to sit at the gate in our regional airport. The transportation service I used gave me that pickup time which allowed me about an hour to check in and go through security. That all took around 10 minutes so I was in no danger of missing the plane.

With plenty of time to draw, I also got a nice sketch of the carpet patttern at the gate too.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Trip to Joann Fabrics

Now, that's always a good thing! Of course the nearest store is a half hour drive down a busy interstate, but that's what it takes. Today's trip was to find trimmings to finish some of the projects for the beginner knitting book.

I got FEATHERS! Now, doesn't that make you wonder a little bit? Then, there are sequins and tassels and pom pom fringe and decorative chain and beads. What a bag of goodies!

I also found this copy of Australian Stitches. I've not seen this magazine before. It is a fashion/sewing magazine with the unmistakable look of Australian needlework. There's even a bonus Cleckheaton knitting pattern.

It seems that there is more and more of a cross current between the US and Australia and some of the needlework coming out of there is just wonderful. I'm always excited to see something new like this.

Monday, January 7, 2008

STILL Making Swatches

And, I should really be done with that by now. But an earlier bit of procrastination has now added a little excitement to my days. Actually, I was mulling the whole thing over - letting my subconscious work on it. Yeah, that's it.

After spending most of today knitting bits of fabric, measuring them in all their different dimensions and what seemed like hours of fiddling with arithmetic and schematic diagrams, I am finally happy with the idea. Now, part of tomorrow is set aside to actually draft the instructions.

This one is a sweater and is worked in 5 colors of Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash. I've not used this yarn before and it is wonderful to work with. It is everything you would look for in a good basic yarn. Easy to work with, good stitch definition, huge color range, 100 % wool and washable too!

It works to about 5 stitches to the inch on size 7 needles. So far, I haven't found anything not to like about it. We'll see how it works into an actual project.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Problem- Made Better by Chocolate and Yarn

I've spent a good part of the morning just trying to figure what order to start pulling all the projects and various parts of the book together. That often turns into serious procrastination so, I do what any sane person would do:

Eat some chocolate and do the very easiest thing first.

That usually works to get me going and it did. I started with double checking the abbreviation for the word "inch" to make sure it is consistent throughout. It's a start and it allowed me to put off dealing with a much more unpleasant problem.

One of the projects has to be reworked. Never a good thing - I goofed with the original pattern measurements and it didn't felt like as I planned and is absolutely the wrong size and shape. There isn't enough yarn to make it again and I can't get that particular yarn quickly. That means I'm off to the store this evening to get more yarn and will have to completely redraft the pattern in addition to the rework. This is why samples are made and instructions tested - to save innocent knitters from this sort of aggravation.

Even with that problem, there's a bright spot. I get to go buy yarn!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Changes and Phases

I took a little break from working on the books over Christmas. It was nerve wracking to just set everything aside but has proven to be just what I needed. When I returned to it (so very much closer to the early February deadline) it was very clear that the beginner knitting book had moved into the next phase of the process. While that sounds like a simple statement, the division isn't so clear from the thick of things.

That got me to thinking about the whole process and why it was suddenly in a different mode and why. So, I puzzled out my own structure for what writing a book involves. For me, the process of creating a book divides into roughly three parts (with a lot of overlap):

1.The generative phase where new material is generated. This is where the ideas for projects are thought up, actual designs are created and many, many notes are scribbled. Imagination and creativity are hallmarks of this part.

2. The organizational phase. This is as you would think. All that loose, voluminous and messy material from the first phase is marshaled into a logical and coherent form. Not so easy as it sounds! There is a lot of concrete and analytical thinking going on here.

3. The finishing phase. This is what goes on after the manuscript has been sent to the publisher. There is a tremendous amount of work going into the actual making of the book and questions inevitably come up or more material might be necessary for a spot or two. This phase is highly collaborative and requires commitment and quick thinking.