Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jools for Your Needles

I HATE plastic. There, now that I have that off my chest I can tell you why I love, love, love making and using beaded stitch markers. Before all I had was little plastic rings in various sizes. Can I just say: Ick.

Then I bought some beaded bone stitch markers and thought, hmmm, I can make those. (In case you're wondering that's what I think when I see most things.) So I started making them, in several sizes because when you're knitting socks, for example, you don't want huge honking rings and jumbo beads hanging off your needles. And bitty little sock markers won't fit on big sweater needles. I did make one improvement. The ones I bought used jump rings which a) get snagged in your yarn and b) open up thereby allowing your precious bead to fall off (in my case I found it later in my knitting bag, but that was after quite a lot of desperate searching.) I use split rings and find them much more satisfactory in every particular (if you read a lot of Brit Lit you'll be laughing at my last sentence and guess what I've been up to, but for those of you who didn't find that wording odd I'll tell you that I've been reading Susan Wittig Albert's delightful series of Beatrix Potter mysteries lately and find myself thinking in British.)

Since I, by virtue of the fact that sheep and bunnies need to eat, am obliged to sell a lot of what I make I naturally don't get to keep the best ones. I mostly snag the oddballs from sets where I have a few leftover, but not enough to make a complete set. Occasionally I'll score a whole set for myself if I have lots of a particular bead. So my collection is growing and I can't begin to tell you how much FUN I have selecting which ones to use when I'm knitting. Truth be told I use them even when the pattern doesn't call for it. I love their gentle click (like dominoes or Mahjong tiles) and my knitting goes in fits and spurts usually and I find that if I'm interrupted it's much easier to figure out where I am between stitch markers than to count back to the beginning of the row. (And let's face it, I'm a bit ADD and have enough trouble keeping track when I'm knitting along without any distraction at all!)

The bitty little ladybug sock stitch markers above are an example of some beads I found on a recent scouting trip to a bead store on Shelburne Road. I snagged the last 10 ladybug beads she had because they were so darling and they just screamed "Spring is coming!" (Of course, this being Vermont we got dumped on with snow the very next day, but hey, this being Vermont it could all be gone tomorrow too.) I'm hoping to get these little babies onto my Etsy site today, a place I've been sadly neglecting because it's my busy season at my real job.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bohemian Ballerina

I should have a contest to name her or something. I needed a title for the submission. So, this is, let's call her Rainbow for now. Her body is needle felted over a wire skeleton. Which was not as difficult as I thought it might be. I didn't even break any needles. I love her cocoa colored "skin." The face (the head is felted and the face covers the felt) is made from paper clay that I molded over the head and down the neck and a bit of the torso. That was tricky and I'm still experimenting with methods because I think I can improve this. It *was* white so I needed to make it go better with the body. I tried just mixing up some watercolor in a brown tone to match the skin, but it looked green and sickly. Then I thought I'd try Daniel Smith's Quinacridone Gold ( I love Daniel Smith watercolors anyway, they're my favorite, but this color gave Rainbow's skin the color of well-loved and aged parchment . . . very rich and warm. I painted on most of her features with a Van Dyke Brown from Windsor Newton or Grumbacher, I forget.

Her dress is made from a skirt I picked up at a rummage sale and knew would be good for repurposing. Her bodice and the ribbon detail are vintage lace. Her ballet slippers are red wool mixed with red sparkle and laced with sparkly purple laceweight thread.

But her hair . . . oh, her HAIR . . . is made from Bronte's locks. I KNEW they'd make wonderful doll hair and they do. If I could take her hair off her head and put it on mine I would do it in a heartbeat (but then I've always wanted dreadlocks too and I'd soooo get them if Rob wouldn't divorce me for it.) They are needlefelted in place and I actually used them to attach the face using a process that would be too tedious to explain. Anyway, it was brilliant and totally unplanned, as most truly brilliant things tend to be. I threaded some little beads onto her hair like people with dreads do and hung a sort of rustic bead around her neck on some twine.

So, now that my experiment in making an art doll was successful I plan to make another. Just as soon as I get a handle on my wretched knitting!!! And spin 1400 yards of BFL for a cabled sweater.

It's our 25th wedding anniversary on Valentine's Day so you won't hear anything out of me for a bit, but I hope you all have a wonderful day with the ones you love.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So I spent today feverishly trying to photograph my submissions to send to 500 Felt Objects (Lark Books). I'm hoping the juror will be totally blown away and decide to include them in the book. If my photography didn't stink so much I think I'd have a better chance. This photograph was taken in a light box and I still don't like the quality. I'm not sure if it's me or the camera. Tomorrow I'll try to remember to post a pic of my newest creation: Bohemian Ballerina, an awesome art doll I made using Bronte's locks as hair. She came out even better than I thought she would. More about her and the process of creation tomorrow.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Unlikely Amour and Free Shipping on Red Items

People are always sending me pictures of unlikely animals snuggled up together . . . a squirrel raised by a dog, a hen sheltering a puppy under her wings, a cat whose whole head is crawling with mice. Now I present you with Fergal and Max. The Odd Couple.

Fergal has always been interested in Max, but Max was downright hostile at first. Which, I suppose, just proves that love can thaw the frostiest heart. Unfortunately Fergal is beginning to carry his amour a bit far, having developed a crush on Max's tail. (I really wish I was making this up.) Max doesn't seem to mind, though he does get a bit frustrated trying to move around because Fergal also likes to play "hop around the dog as fast as you can" and gets tangled up in Max's paws. Max thought he'd be safe on the couch, but as you can see, height is no obstacle when you can hop and wuv, troo wuv, cannot be denied. Considering Fergal is *supposed* to be our herd sire though it's a bit disconcerting that not only is he gender confused, he's also species confused. I hope this isn't a red flag I should be heeding. Ehm.

However, in honor of Fergal and Max and unlikely love everywhere I thought I'd have a sale. Free shipping on anything that has red in it or on it until Valentine's Day!! May your love be as unique as you are.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oh Me! Oh My! A Midwinter Fiber High!

I was so excited to get this package from International Fleeces (!! The box was STUFFED with cool fiber for me to try out. Primarily I wanted the BFL fiber because I want to spin the yarn for a sweater I've had my eye on in A Fine Fleece and that's the yarn used in the picture of the sweater I covet - handspun BFL. Natural colored with some mohair. But this Humbug BFL , which is a mixture of natural colors, looks a lot like the color of the sweater in my book when it's spun and knit up.

Of course I couldn't stop there. I was placing an order, might as well make the most of it, so I also got a bunch of small amounts of fibers I've heard (or dreamt) about but never been able to find or try. I got Corriedale, Gotland, Falkland, Cheviot, and some kid mohair locks for this dreamy shawl I want to make. I got the BFL in a couple colors and some black Icelandic locks. And I got one bag of Rainbow Blend merino/silk top to make an art yarn for my chemo cap project. More about that later after I've talked to someone about finding a home for the hats once they're knitted. And Talia, wonderful soul that she is, surprised me with some samples!! She sent Portland (which I've also never tried), mohair top, and some raw Merino (I've never seen raw Merino. It washed up beatifully and I already have plans for it.) It was almost like Christmas!!

Deep satisfied sigh.
I've already spun up a test swatch with the Humbug BFL and knitted some swatches with it. That is actually the plan I have for the all of those samples. I want to see how they behave while being spun and knitted so I know for the future what types of qualities they have when I'm looking for something particular in a yarn I'm spinning or a project I'm working on.

Now if I could only carve out a little time to play with the rest!! So much fiber; so little time . . .