Category Archives: Crafts

Come meet my friend …

Braided SistersThere’s a new gal in the blogosphere and I thought you might be interested in following her Year in the Studio. Her journey has just begun and I think it’s going to be a fun one, with some surprises along the way. She’s super talented, funny, and a dear friend. When you meet her, you’ll understand why I wanted to introduce you. Happy visiting!


Photography Workshop for Knitters with Gale Zucker

On the spur of the moment, after reading this blog post, I knew I had found the next-step solution for taking my photography up a notch. (This was on an unofficial summer list of things to do.) But on the Big Day, the temperature was climbing steadily towards triple digits, and the workshop called for photographing handknits in natural light settings. Yikes! I called WEBS, (Northampton, MA) where Gale Zucker was scheduled to give the Photography for Knitters workshop. No, there was no cancellation due to weather! In the infamous words of Tim Gunn, “Carry on!”

Gale took us a through a terrific slide show on color, lighting, and composition. My favorite thing was how she talked us through photo examples from her own files, pointing out what could be improved upon, and comparing these to final images. Very instructive.

Gale’s only prerequisite was that we be familiar with the manual settings on our digital cameras. In the old days (of film), manual was all that I knew, but I confess that since making the transition to my Nikon D40 I have been lazy and relied on the automatic option. Time to change that! After shifting back and forth between the Shutter and Aperture settings, experimenting  as quickly as I could before the model changed her pose, I realized that perhaps my over-the-counter reading glasses need a custom prescription upgrade. Out of more than hundred frames shot that afternoon, I ended up with only five that I like.

A cool little side note: while introducing myself to Adrian, one of Gale’s workshop models, I thought I recognized her flickr profile name. Turns out we’ve been flickr photostream friends for a while! That was fun.

The workshop was fantastic and honestly, I was so focused on what we were doing while we were shooting outdoors that I forgot about the heat. Here’s where you’ll find Gale teaching next:
Fiber College, Sept. 8-11, 2011. Searsport, ME
Creative Connection Event, Sept. 15-17, 2011. St. Paul, MN

“Keep shooting — pixels are free!”  –Gale Zucker

Artist Date: Western Avenue Studios

This is a still life I used as inspiration, back in the day when I was designing custom placemats. The delicate balance between two complimentary colors has always intrigued me. How much orange can you mix with a handful of purples before the combination turns unsavory?

A field trip to Western Avenue Studios (Lowell, MA) last Saturday ignited my creative engine like a double-full-strength espresso, and I was reminded of these photos taken when I, too, rented studio space in a building filled with a dozen painters, a basket weaver, a jeweler, and a mixed media artist.

These placemats were for a family with younger children; the deep colors were intended to mask food splatters. The color scheme was pulled from their Sunday dishes.

All of the artists in our building came together and put on a one-night open studio extravaganza. In a three-hour period, five hundred visitors toured our studios! This panel of placemats (pre-cutting and -sewing) was on display outside my room. Sadly, the effort required to maintain a cohesive, organized group was unappealing to some of the artists, and any future plans were abandoned after our first and only event.

This 12-harness cotton and silk fabric was inspired by Gustav Klimt‘s painting “The Kiss.”

My loom was given a new home years ago, and now I have a crafting space in my home. But walking through the Western Avenue Studios building had me thinking about the energy generated by a creative community. I like to think I brought a bit of that home with me, and it wasn’t even Open Studio Day (12noon-5pm, first Saturday of each month). The processes of making and writing are solitary. But an afternoon spent admiring the work of others, engaging in conversation with kindred spirits, are bound to revitalize and inspire.

Mitered Knitting Marathon

Blanket SquaresI’ve got my eye on the prize

No, I'm not moving!

'No, I'm not moving!'

and so does Corabelle! She is a kitty-gone-wild with the scent of Noro Silk Garden and cannot be trusted alone with this project. See what happens when I turn my back?

As someone who enjoys the excitement that comes from the launch of a new project more than what often feels like the tedium of finishing (all those tendrils that need to be woven in or whip-stitching miles of seams), I am particularly pleased to have completed seven of the ten required squares for the Mitered Crosses Blanket. Yesterday was a marathon knitting fest here. And now I feel the downhill momentum!

Domino Effect

yellow roses by Lisa Allen 2011This past week I completed an item that’s been hanging around my to-do list for a year: write a query letter for my memoir manuscript. After twelve months of procrastination I even surprised myself at how quickly the first draft came together. With feedback and suggestions from a circle of writerly friends incorporated, the final draft was good to go within a couple of days. But the unexpected bonus has been the jolt of energy that showed up on my doorstep once I crossed the long-suffering task off my list. I had no idea the drag on momentum that was caused by the ‘should do that’ message that had been running like a ticker tape through my mind. Every time I noticed the manuscript and copy of Thinking Like Your Editor  on top of the filing cabinet, there was that voice incurring a fresh rush of guilt and shame.

But once I had that first draft out of my head and on paper, I became unstoppable: picking fresh bouquets from the garden, snapping photos, cleaning the fridge (not very glam, I know, but the sparkly results are such a reward).  In fact, I felt I’d earned some additional blog browsing time. Here are some of my favorite virtual stops this past week:

  • the Purl Bee blog – visually delicious with fun, colorful fiber/fabric projects for all skill levels
  • Author Mary Johnson’s site – her book “An Unquenchable Thirst” is due out in August. In a prior life chapter, Mary was a nun and worked with Mother Theresa!
  •  An article about curating one’s interests online confirmed my interest in Pinterest and Etsy treasuries – even if it has to go on my backlist.
  • One of my daily favorites is from the Brooklyn-based Swiss designer, SwissMiss. She’s always got her eye out for innovative design; guaranteed her blog feed will make you smile.
  • Out of anyone in our knitting group, “Cora Brown” easily takes the title as Most Meticulous Crafter. This scarf had me swooning and wanting to make one of my own.
  • And last but not least, my pal over at My Fantastic Life has been entertaining me with photos and posts as she tackles a 30-day blogging challenge.

Fairy Gardens for Grown-ups, another how-to

Last Sunday afternoon I went over to my friend J’s house to help make a fairy garden. In spite of so much off-the-shelf cuteness available for purchase, we both agree that a heavy dose of handmade is key. Another consideration is shelter from extreme elements, so I suggested a container that could be moved about. After a half dozen drainage holes were drilled into the washing tub’s bottom, we filled the base with about 6″ worth of old bubble wrap and plastic grocery bags. On top of this we poured a large bag of container potting soil.

The finishing touch

In anticipation of our gardening date, these lovely polished rocks, just the right size for fairy footsteps, and the miniature tree, had been ordered from Two Green Thumbs. The teeny tiny leaves of the baby tears fern are the perfect proportion for a fairy garden and moss from the back yard lend a homey, lived-in feel.

Follow my instructions here to make your own wattle fencing. Multiple sections arranged around the perimeter of the garden would be darn cute, wouldn’t they? Amongst her crafting supplies, J found the miniature bricks, clay pots, and gardening tools.  The fairy residents have already filled their acorn tops with woodland treasures! Always one for party lights, I didn’t want the fairies to go without, so between two willow stalks I strung silver flower-shaped beads on repurposed silk twine, adding a few knots on either side of each bead to keep it in place. Can’t you just imagine the moonlit festivities?!

There’s room for more plants, such as a cluster of creeping thyme or a miniature fuschia. And I think those diminutive woodland gardeners need a bench for resting, don’t you? The possibilities are endless. Tell me about your fairy garden – I’d love to see pictures!

Excited Contestant Needs *Your* Vote!

My submission qualified (hip-hip-hooray!) and now the voting has begun over on Stumbles and Stitches for the fan favorite Spring Zig Zag Table Runner. The sew-along was inspired by the table runner in Rashida Coleman-Hale‘s book  I Love Patchwork.

It would be very cool to rack up a few votes, even if I don’t win (a copy of I Love Patchwork and some fabric from Rashida’s new product line!).  I hope you don’t mind that I’ve asked for your help.

In advance, thank you!