Getting stitchy with it

pjs-fish.jpgI’m sewing up a pair of comfy pjs, using fish-patterned fabric. Unfortunately no serger or attachment for my old Singer to allow me to do an overlock stitch or zigzag*, so I’ve been doing some of the finishing stitches by hand, based on a couture book. But legs are very, very long, as is the outside hem, so I’ve been making up new words for this Fresh Prince classic while I stitch**, and “getting stitchy with it”. It’s taking a while, but better to handstitch on this than work on my knit lace shawl while my gauge is off.

Pattern: Kwik Sew K3602. The fabric is new to me: a stretchy knit cotton. So I’m trying my best to get a hang of it, mostly because I fell in love with the fish.

*Yes, I know I can buy attachments that can go on my model 404 Slant Needle, but part of me wishes I knew where I’d stored the original that came with my machine. I found the buttonhole attachment, and I’m thrilled.

**All apologies to the writer of the original tune. Bet they never thought something as uncool as this could happen, and now I’m imagining a retirement community where this and other music (LL Cool J, Salt ‘n’ Peppa, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Coolio, Madonna and Aerosmith) is piped into the dining halls. Hopefully there will either be a quiet room, or you can upgrade to classical, choral, or jazz on days when you’re not feeling up to 80s and 90s pop. [For those of you who do dystopian fiction, I think that’s a writing assignment in and of itself. What will we grimly to cling to with nostalgia as the world changes, and who else will be impacted by this choice?]

 

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Musical Interludes

piano-bench

“Piano Bench”, by Cory Holt. Benches by the Bay, Sturgeon Bay

I’m in between concert performances with the chorus, although there will be runouts to sing some of the same pieces. There were 2 lovely formal concerts, but I think we left every emotion and bit of energy onstage.

We managed to not weep along with the audience during Ryan Murphy’s “A Lullaby” (link to video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing it is here). I managed not to tear up while singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (thinking about a family member who loved Kate Smith). We didn’t clash while singing the a capella “My Spirit Sang All Day” by Gerald Finzi (in practice it felt like we sometimes verbally collided or tripped over triplets).

Now, I need brain bleach to get the songs out of my head. Between listening to Big Band music, Ola Gjeilo’s beautiful work, and a Fountains of Wayne album (link is to an NPR tiny desk concert), I’m slowly getting out of performance mode and back to normal. I’ll take the tuxes to the cleaners and relax into a sort of post-performance melancholy. While we’re talking about music to kick away the blues, check out Jenny and the Mexicats in this NPR tiny desk concert.

Anyone else in a community chorus? Any ideas how to deal with the let-down blah feeling afterwards?

 

The Power of Art Supplies

scouringrush

Sometimes, during rainy days, I practice using print materials.

Never underestimate the power of art supplies to allow kids to dream, teens to learn, and adults to grow. In college, I started out as an art major then switched degrees (keeping the art minor). I’ve carried what I learned from the classes (skills and a sense of space) along to every workday. I am not a professional artist.

But I still take tiny art vacations that allow me to reset my creative soul / sense of self / internal rhythm.

I’ve suggested taking art vacations to people who felt stressed, and one of the people I spoke with at a conference said, “That sounds interesting, how do you do that?” I had to stop and explain a little, but it occurs to me that busy professionals might want to take a mental vacation from their work cell phones. So let’s all unplug and focus on the page.

Gather your supplies prior to your next work trip, day trip or vacation. Like fishers collecting their gear or a photographer getting her kit together…

  • Pencils (2B are fine, as are colored pencils — but make sure you have eraser and a sharpener)
  • Pens (some people use ballpoints; you can also use markers or a Sharpie)
  • If you have watercolors, a brush, and watercolor paper, bring them along (along with a plastic cup for water)
  • Grab a leftover pad of sketch paper, plain paper, or recycling paper
  • Bring a list of parks and museums near your hotel
  • A bag to carry your supplies

Here’s the beauty of an art vacation: you don’t need to be a serious artist. It’s a vacation, where you use a different part of your brain.

If it’s raining, go to a museum and find something that inspires you that’s close to a bench. Draw what you’re looking at, or jot down images of how a painting makes you feel. Museums often have policies about the use of pen or marker, but you can always play around with your pencils and fill in with ink later.

bee-sketch

Quick sketches don’t have to be perfect; you can also snap a photo to sketch later.

If the weather is good, grab your hat and something to sit on, and sketch whatever interests you. If you want to experiment with watercolors, try wetting the paper with a brush and flowing the colors behind your pencil sketch. If your pen has waterproof ink, experiment with drawing in the sketch in the foreground, once the background is dry.

When I go on my vacations, my kit is normally packed from weekend day trips. My sketchbooks are a jumble of watercolor samples (mixing paint), ink drawings of the neighbors’ houses, colored pencil doodles of flowers at a historical museum, smudgy pencil sketches from a tavern in Europe. I challenge myself to at least a half to full hour of sketching during a trip, so I have a break from driving or talking with family. Experiment with what works for you.

Mostly: Have fun. Borrow your kids’ art supplies, and experiment. No one’s grading you, and you just may rekindle some of the joy from school art day.

Knitting on the Edge

Woodcut1Whenever I work on a lace shawl (or some other project where the design isn’t apparent until one blocks the knitting) I feel like I’m knitting on the edge. Give me a Fair Isle mitten any day for intuitively understanding if you’re knitting to the correct pattern (although possibly not if your gauge will fit the intended wearer).

Did I miss a yarn over? Are my stitches slanting the right way for the pattern? Did I mess up the first stitches that set up the pattern (the ones closest to my shoulders in this case, where they will be really hard to ignore)? I’ll move forward, like I always do, confident that even if I don’t get the pattern just so, I will still use it and learn from the experience. Call it knitter’s faith.

The design is beautiful: a sweet shawl called Woodcut designed by Karie Westermann. The current view of my project is not beautiful. If you’ve dealt with rice noodles in a packet…. that’s what it looks like (only super colorful). A jumble of strands with a small bit of patterning to clue you that I mean it to look that way.

No idea if the whole thing will break when I block it. It’s very fine yarn…. and I know it’s too thin technically for the pattern specs, but I was so curious to see how it would look knit up.

Specs:

  • Yarn: Schaeffer Yarn Company, Trenna
  • Colorway: Rosa Parks
  • Pattern can be found in This Thing of Paper

So, if you knit, do pottery, paint, or otherwise craft: what is on the edge of your comfort level? Do you find yourself re-doing steps, in an attempt to follow your idea, or do you step out blindly?

 

Spring blossoms

crocusesCelebrate first blooms…

Snowdrops gaze while crocuses

Toss their sun-tipped heads.

 

Current status of the world: March is definitely roaring like a lion from offshore. It’s chilly here in the northern hemisphere, even for those of us that have sun. Yesterday we had snow showers that were like moving fog, so I’m enjoying today and going to a park this afternoon, under many layers.

If you want better poetry, try Seelenkarussell’s site (in German).

A Brief Dip into Interior Decoration

Peabody Library, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore MDWhile it’s still too cold to go out and laze in the sunshine (brisk walks yes, but not sitting to sketch yet), I’m doing a bit of fantasy interior decoration. Current ideas: get taller bookshelves to take the place of the smaller shelving units crowding the floor space. I think (maybe) we could sneak the roll-top desk into the living room if there were fewer bits of furniture.

Unclutter, neaten, straighten. Go one step forward, and then regroup with the vacuum cleaner. Get out the graph paper, and work out where to move what we have.

So far, I’ve only begun vacuuming and laundry. Probably that’s as far as I will get today (beyond the graph paper). Once the gale is done, I will get outside again. In the meantime, sieze the day and grab a broom.

And when it gets too dark to see the dust, I suggest browsing the Ikea site, or daydreaming about scenes like this:

Book and Bed in Tokyo

https://inhabitat.com/book-and-bed-offers-a-novel-lodging-experience-for-readers-in-tokyo/

Beautiful University Libraries

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/stunning-university-libraries-slideshow

 

The trouble with kittens

The trouble with kittens — they get unusually large over a short time period. Our 2.5 year old (and growing) cat has developed a rather tugboat shape, and she now shows a little bit of interest in laps (due to the cold). It’s an awkward thing, though… more like having a velociraptor decide she wants to be tame in your lap. I can’t fully trust her during those handfull of times.

But, mostly, Ember is mostly interested in tasting all the plastic bags (bin liners, plastic window sheeting), eating as much peanut butter as possible, and rocketing off the walls. We have a few toys that distract her. When she isn’t sleeping, she’s laser focused on her goals of annoying the eldercat, stealing my seat, and fishing in the water glasses.

It’s wonderful trouble to have, although I think the long-haired eldercat doesn’t agree.

 

 


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