Absence makes the heart grow fonder???

FIVE MONTHS??? How did five months go by so quickly???

I’ll tell you how. A cruise to Mexico with my husband, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then a cruise to the Caribbean with my best friend. Then my birthday and Valentine’s day. Throw a couple of chemo appointments in there and winter just flat got away from me!

It’s been a busy few months as you can see. In addition, I’ve taken on the internet marketing and some proof-reading for my husband’s book publishing business. We had so much fun on the cruise to Mexico, we decided we need to increase our income so that we can take more cruises!

But on to the creative bits! I’ve been busily crocheting. A new grand-daughter is due in July, so she got a blankie for Christmas. I’m working on a couple of shorts for Greg. And he’s finally getting an afghan of his own for TV night cuddles. Of course, a couple of chemo caps are in the works, too. And today I tie-dyed some fabric to make me a shirt. I also dyed a slew of yarn samples. I may start a business hand-dying and selling non-animal yarns. It’s very hard to find pretty yarns that contain no animal fibers, and I KNOW I’m not the only person with allergies, so that may happen some time in the next few months.

Whew. No wonder I didn’t get around to writing the blog. And I didn’t even take pictures of the crafting! I hope you’ll all forgive me.

On to this month’s book review:

“Knitting Block by Block” by Nicky Epstein
(150 Blocks for sweaters, scarves, bags, toys, afghans, and more)

This lovely hardcover book was sent to me by Blogging for Books. It is a very versatile book. All of the patterns are for squares and it contains cables, color work, embroidery, entrelac, beading – almost any kind of knitting you can think of! It also includes patterns for items that can be made from the squares – toys, bags, etc. I like the idea. You can make a square to see if you enjoy the pattern before committing to a huge project. Squares can be put together into a blanket or turned into pillows. Every page has a color picture with written instructions and graphs, so if you’re just learning to read graphs, this could be a great teaching tool. The only real complaint I have is that the book doesn’t lay flat. I prefer stitch books to be spiral-bound or binder-bound so that I can lay the book open and it will stay that way. But if you’re looking for some new ideas for old stitches or some altogether new stitch patterns, here’s a book chock-full of them. Check it out!

ISBN: 978-0-307-58652-0

I’ll try to do better moving forward… Got to get back to my once-a-month posting at least. I hope you all had a joyous winter and are starting to see Spring peeping around the corner of your world.

Let’s go create something!

Crafting Art

I know I’m a bit late with this post… I do try to get one out (at least) per month, but nothing much happened in September. I didn’t want to write a so-busy-but-here’s-what-I-made post again… So I was waiting for inspiration.

Today it struck.

Someone posted a picture on Facebook of a local crafter/artist’s work and I got to wondering… What’s the difference? What makes it art? When is it a craft? Is there a difference between the two?

My first instinct was to say that art exists for the aesthetic while a craft serves some sort of purpose. But then what about a wall quilt? I’ve seen some amazing quilted wall hangings that I consider art… It’s certainly not keeping the wall warm (although I guess it could if you lived in a really drafty house), but it’s really no different than the quilt on the bed. The construction and techniques are the same. But there are also quilted potholders, which seem “crafty” to me. Where is the line? How do we tell the difference?

Of course, I went searching for the answer. Most websites defined “art” as something that is open-ended and freeform, coming from the imagination of the artist, while “crafts” are about following a prescribed formula or recipe to achieve a finished product. Therefore, “art” is unique while “crafts” can be reproduced.

But I’ve been in quilt classes where everyone used the same pattern with different fabrics and some turned out to be works of art while others did not.

If we give a creator paper and paint, are we not prescribing that they paint a picture? What then, makes it art? Is it the intent? Why is Jackson Pollack considered an artist while your average three year old is not? They turn out similar work…

I don’t have an answer for this quandry. I’ve always thought of myself as a crafter rather than an artist, yet other people have told me that my finished products are art.

What are your thoughts? Have you created art? Crafts? Can you tell the difference?

My husband says the only difference is in the attitude and the price tag.

On another subject, I have another book to tell you about. “Knockout Knits” by Laura Nelkin. (I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.) Laura has designed some YUMMY knits with all sorts of fun techniques including beading and lace. These patterns are ART by my definition. And she makes it look so easy! I like the way the book is laid out, with the easier projects first so that you can get an idea of what you’re doing. The book contains patterns for cuffs, mitts, scarfs, hats, and shawls – all my favorite accessories! Laura writes as though she’s talking to her friends over a cup of tea — warm, friendly, and encouraging. Some of the patterns include charts, so if you’ve never read a knitting chart, this is a nice way to learn. The color pictures are gorgeous and there are instructions for all the stitches in the back of the book. I wouldn’t recommend this book for a novice knitter, but if you’re getting tired of K1 P1 and want to stretch your skills, this could be the book for you!

So grab a book (or twelve) and go create ART! Or CRAFT! Or something!!!

Winding down and winding up!

Some people like their yarn in skeins. Some people like it in cakes. But I often wind mine into balls. Even if I start with a center-pull skein, eventually it gets tangles and the easiest thing for me is to wind it into balls. I can watch TV and wind yarn until I’m done. And I’ve gotten pretty good at it! They’re usually fairly spherical when I finish. Now if only I had a yarn bowl…

This month has been crazy busy! But the main project I’ve been working on is a knit sweater. I’ve never knit a sweater before and it’s going pretty well. It’s a simple pattern – rather like a T-shirt – and I made it so I didn’t have to purl, just knit. The bottom part is knit in the round and the top part is in garter stitch.

And it’s made out of dishcloth cotton yarn!

new sweater

new sweater

The blue is trim around the hem, the cuffs, and the neckline. I’m on the last sleeve and very anxious to finish it!

Go out and push yourself. Try a craft you’ve never tried before. Paper mache? Beading? Quilling? You just might find a new favorite obsession!

Let’s go create something.

Summertime… and the living is…

FRUITY!!! It seems I just can’t get enough fruit this summer. We’re going through nectarines, strawberries, blueberries, plums, and cherries (OH MY GOSH, THE CHERRIES!) as fast as we can get them into the house! This is actual good news, as fruits and veges are an oft-neglected part of my diet. I just hope to ride the wave through the autumn and into winter! I know all the good food is good for my immune system, and that’s important for those of us with chronic illness.

We joined Weight Watchers a couple of months ago and it has been working great! DH and I have lost almost 15 pounds each! He’s walking a lot more and I’m feeling better, so I’m glad we’re doing that. I also ordered a new cook book recently. (I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.) It’s called GO FRESH by the American Heart Association. Although I don’t use cook books often (I’m more of a by-the-seat-of-my-pants cook) this one looks really interesting! It’s well organized, with color pictures in the middle. The recipes sound really yummy. I like that it covers a lot of different cultures – Mexican, Greek, Southern, etc. That way we don’t get bored with what we’re eating. I mean, you can only eat steamed broccoli and grilled chicken breast so often, you know?

The book has a lot of tips in it for how to buy your food and how to store it so that you get the maximum nutrition. Too often, we wind up wasting food because we forget it in the back of the ridge, so it’s good to be reminded about how to store it properly. One of the things I like the best about the book is that it uses common ingredients. Sometimes, when I look at cook books, the authors seem to think that everyone lives in a major metropolitan area with access to specialty grocery stores. For those of us in small town America, it’s refreshing to find ingredients that I can pick up at the local store and still have so much variety! I’m sure we’ll be trying out some of the recipes soon. I’ll keep you posted!

I’ve also been creating a lot lately. I had a treatment at the first of the month, adn it knocked me flat for a couple of weeks, but I’m bouncing back now. I’ve made several bags, a couple of shirts, most of an afghan, and have started working on items for the local Haunted House.

The bags are really fun! They’re called “Mondo Bags” and the’re made out of patchwork squares. A quick internet search should turn up directions if you’re interested. Here are a couple of the ones I have made:

elephant bag for me

purple bag for a friend

The afghan is not going as well as I had hoped. It’s a challenge from “The Crochet Crowd” called “Stitch-Cation.” It’s coming together, but it has driven me nuts! Apparently, I am no longer able to count to 35 or to do basic addition. This has caused much ripping out and swearing. But I’m finally working on the borders and the end is in sight. And the fact that it’s not really square is just going to have to be OK. These are the blocks before I started joining them together:

Stitch-cation afghan

As for the Haunted House… It’s really a Haunted Mill. The local community theatre works with a local mill to create a spectacular haunted mill as a fund-raiser for both entities. The mill is an old mill with much of the work being done by hand. They teach classes in woodworking, ceramics, weaving… all sorts of things. And the local theatre is an organization I have been involved with for quite some time. So we like to support both organiaztions! This year, I’ll be setting up a room of my own in the Haunted Mill. I’ve got lots of work ahead of me, but I’m starting early so that I don’t get too tired. Here’s a pic of the sewing room in its current state! LOL!

haunted mill items

It looks like I’m doing a lot more than I actually am. I’m still not back to 100%, and I still spend quite a bit of time on the couch, but things are looking up. I have hopes that I will continue to improve and continue to be able to create!

Now, let’s go create something!

Summer breeze…

“… blowing through the jasmine in my mind…”

And apparently taking my mind with it. June went by so quickly I didn’t write a single post! So here it is July…

This month I want to let you know about a book I was sent for review. It’s called:

Super Stitch Sewing by Nicole Vasbinder

This is an interesting book for sewers with some experience. It doesn’t cover the basics of sewing, but it does tell you what all those “extra” stitches on your machine can be used for — from the basic straight stitch all the way through to the decorative stitches. There are diagrams for each stitch and written explanations of how they work. I found it especially helpful for stretch stitches used on knits. I sew a LOT, but I don’t sew on knits very often, so a reference book for those stitches could come in handy.

That’s what this is. A reference book. It is not an instructional book.

What’s the difference? Well, to me, an instructional book is meant to be read (and used) from front to back with each lesson building on the one before. A reference book is meant to be opened up to a specific section when that info is needed. Nitpicky, I know, but it caused me a bit of confusion. This book tells you all the machine stitches first, followed by the hand stitches, followed by the presser foot and needle information. As a reader, I think it might have been less confusing if the sections had been reversed — presser foot and needle info followed by hand stitches followed by machine stitches. That makes more sense in my head – starting with the basics and moving towards the more complex. As it is, when you are reading about a machine stitch, it will refer to a presser foot that you haven’t heard of before because the presser feet are in the back of the book and you haven’t read that far yet. Perhaps my error was in sitting down to read the book rather than just pick it up and use it for reference.

There IS a decent index and table of contents, so using the book in future for a specific task should be simplified.

The book’s descriptions are accurate with helpful expert tips included along the way. The diagrams are clear and easy to read. There is a photograph of each stitch so you can see what it will look like when you’re done. On a few stitches, more photographs would have been helpful. I don’t process spatial images in my head very well and being able to see the actual blind hem process (for instance) would have made it clearer for me. Also, the diagrams and graphics are mostly red and a green-ish gold. This may cause problems for folk with red/green color-blind issues.

The book discusses stitches found on sewing machine since the 1950s. If you are interested in stitches available on older machines, this book might not be what you’re looking for. Of course, every sewing machine brand is different, and your best resource is often the manual that came with your machine. But if you have misplaced it or need further information on a specific stitch, and have a more modern machine, this book might come in handy.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Now, blow the dust off that sewing machine and go create something!

Where did the month go???

I can’t believe it’s the end of May already! We took our first trip away from home since my diagnosis. Unfortunately, it was to attend a memorial for the mother of an old friend. But we got to see a lot of people and share some laughs and memories. Before the trip, I made two shirts for my DH, finished adress for me, made a blouse for me, and did all but the hand work on a skirt and blouse set. It felt so good to be back at the sewing machine!

But that trip wiped me out. I spent the next week just laying around not doing much more than some crocheting. Thank heavens for reruns on TV and old movies.

I’m working on a sweater with some silk blend yarn that I snagged at a sale. This is the pattern:

http://www.yarnspirations.com/pattern/crochet/crochet-motifs-tunic

The yarn is a burgundy tweed. I hope it will look good when it’s done! I plan to put it over a black tank top and wear it when we travel.

Yes, we’re travelling again! We’re headed to our favorite bookstore next month in Gold Beach, Oregon.
http://www.oregoncoastbooks.com/

This place is fantastic! The top story is all used books and they usually have a rack or two of 25 cent books, so we really load up when we’re there.

Speaking of books…

That’s my next creative project! After planning for 7 years, I am finally going to write my first novel. It’s a murder mystery set in a college theatre department. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/death-plays-a-part-a-mystery-novel/x/612921

I’ve written the first few pages and really like where it’s going so far…

Wish me luck!

Now go create something!

April showers…

… have left us with a beautiful front yard! We are being overwhelmed by freesia, azaleas, roses, lilac, camellias… I often bless the prior owner who put in so many lovely plants for us to enjoy! I, unfortunately, have a black thumb. It’s true. I can kill any plant if you give me enough time (usually a couple of weeks), but my Darling Husband is fantastic! He keeps our indoor and outdoor plants happy and healthy!

We had such a cold winter, we thought we had lost a lot of our outdoor plants. Many of our shrubs looked dead, but they have all fooled us! The geraniums turned brown and brittle and frozen. But now they are sending up new green shoots from the ground, so we are optimistic that even they will make it back.

Springtime has finally arrived! And I am so glad!

Springtime here means a couple of things (besides all the lovely flowers). It means that I only have a couple of months left in my chemo! YAY! And it means I switch my crafting to brighter colors, lighter projects, and that I take the time to clean out closets and drawers — to make room for even MORE fabric, yarn, and thread!

I’ve been using up scraps. Lots of little projects have been going — I made five chemo caps this month and took them to the hospital last week. I crocheted some fuzzy yarn around the straps of a new pair of flip-flops to make sandals that match my jeans. This week I have been working on getting the wedding photos into a scrap book. And, finally, with my birthday money, I bought a drop spindle and plan on trying to spin some silk yarn.

My blood work shows that my white counts are too low for chemo right now, so I’ve been given a couple of weeks off to try to get those numbers back up. Going without the meds means I have a bit more energy, so I have even been able to sit at the sewing machine for a while. I’m working on a new project bag for my knitting with fabric I found on our honeymoon.

Oh, and Greg reminded me that I need to hem up his new pants this week.

Sometimes, I really enjoy having a bunch of small projects that I can get instant gratification from when I finish them. Sometimes, I like longer projects that take several days/weeks/months to complete. I try to always have a couple of each kind in the works so that I can do whatever seems like fun at the moment.

Crafting is a joy to me. It should never be a “yadda.” You know – “Yadda wash the dishes.” “Yadda pay the bills.” Yadda, yadda, yadda… Crafting should be for fun. It’s like playing for grown-ups!

So treat yourself. Craft something you love. For someone you love. FOR YOURSELF!

Let’s go create something!