Tricolor Elephant

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Have you ever seen something and instantly thought of someone? The first time I saw the elephant cross stitch from Red Gate Stitchery I thought of my friend Cece. My second thought was that I absolutely had to make this for her. She loves elephants and I enjoy cross stitch so everyone wins. 

The stitching was easy once I choose the colors and seemed more like moving meditation than handwork. After concentrating on one small segment of stitches and than another, my eyes would zoom out to see the pattern and the elephant slowly forming. Almost seemed like the thread was stitching itself. Almost.

Part of the reason this project was so easy was because of the chart. It was easy to read and took up most of the page. Also helpful was the 4 pages of tips, tricks, and tutorials that came with the pattern. I’m still pretty new to cross stitch and those pages answered several nagging questions I didn’t even know I had. Plus, the whole thing arrived quickly to my inbox. What’s not to like?

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Presented for your inspection, the wrong side of the piece which I think is just as interesting as the front. The back is messy with ends sticking up everywhere but the pattern is still visible.

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The hardest part of this project was making myself iron the piece and figuring out how to frame it in a hoop. I managed to cheat my way out of ironing with warm water, a sponge, and colorfast thread. As for finishing the back, I did a little research and then promptly did my own thing with some leftover thread and wool felt.

Now that the elephant has arrived at his new home, I’m on the lookout for a new project or I could just finish the last one I started. Decisions, decisions. 

March is for Photography: Recap

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Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Hundreds of photos. Untold megabytes of hard drive space filled. Hours spent reviewing photos. Even more hours spent editing. A few dozen photos that I’m proud to show. My incremental project studying photography in March went pretty much how I thought it would. Except that it didn’t. I thought I’d read up on photography terms, learn about ISO and f-Stops, peruse photography blogs, and study lots of technical details. I didn’t even crack open the manual for my camera. Shame on me. I thought I was going to do all all those things because I thought they were what I really needed to become a better photographer. 

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Almost a month later, I’m sure that I still need to learn more about the technical side of photography. I just skipped over an important first step during my planning - becoming comfortable with my camera. I was fine taking photos on the back deck or the porch during the day, areas that I had decent control over, but I was really self conscious outside of those spaces. So, I started hauling my camera around everywhere I went. Didn’t always bring it out but I got used to the idea that I could snap a photo if I wanted to. 

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Always having my camera at hand has led to some of my favorite shots. During spare moments, I’d look around for the small details, the Everyday Magic as Tammy Strobel calls it, and try to capture the moment. I started to document my days like going to knit night or doing late night cross stitch. I’m seeing things that were passed over before, like this tiny and therefore adorable pinecone, because I wasn’t paying attention.

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There’s still a lot for me to learn about photography but I’m happy with the first step I’ve taken. Maybe I’ll finally get around to studying some of the technical details in these last few days of March.

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Previous March is For Photography Posts

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

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March is for Photography: Week 2

March 3 - Key

March 3 - Key

The March photo-a-day challenge continues and the challenge part is definitely right. It’s a lot harder than I thought it’d be. Somedays, the prompt is no help - fear, I mean you - and I have no idea what to photograph. Then there’s catching the right light, arranging a nice composition, and the final editing. Never mind any technical mishaps. Maybe I’m just over thinking the whole thing. 

Annoying as they are, the difficulties did lead me to a photography epiphany. Most of the photos I post here and the great majority of photos I take are posed and stylized. For every photo you see, I took at least 5 other variations that didn’t make the cut. I edit and crop and resize them just so. The photos don’t always turn out like I hope but they do get the point across. What’s more, is that I’m comfortable with them. March, I’ve discovered, isn’t about taking comfortable photos. I do want to learn more technical details and better understand my camera’s inner workings; however, I want to break out my box. I want to tell stories. I want to capture the small, daily details. I want to pic up my camera and be spontaneous. Not be chained to the regular, stylized routine. 

I didn’t even realize that I was stuck in a photography rut until I read a post about capturing unprompted moments on camera from A Beautiful Mess. Following other people’s daily photos helped too. The ever talented Leethal has been posting photos on her Tumbler. It’s inspiring and makes me keep trying.

March 5 - Under

March 5 - Under

March 6 - Chair

March 6 - Chair

March 8 - Favorite

March 8 - Favorite

March 10 - I Want

March 10 - I Want

Three

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Three is the magic number. It’s the number of dedicated projects I can focus on at one time and still get things done. Anything more than that and things start to go off the rails. I lose focus, get bored, and generally accomplish nothing. Eventually, I’ll come to center and shove all the extra projects off to the side. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of thing. When I do finish something, it’s time pick a new project or come back to something on the to-do list. Then the cycle begins again.

Right now the three major projects are daily photography practice, the sixth Sapling Hat, and a bit of covert cross stitch. Putting a concerted effort into improving my photography throughout this month is still a very new project. I’m researching and experimenting. I’m also trying to find the timing of how to fit regular photography into my day. We’re still getting to know each other. 

The other two projects aren’t so long term. The hat is bound off and drying after a good bath. The cross stitch just needs a bit of finishing and a frame. Can’t wait to be done with both of these projects because I’ve already got a few more lined up. There may or may not be a few more knitting patterns, tutorials, and random goodness coming up. 

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Little Things: Scissors

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Little Things: Celebrating the tiny, sudden joys in life

I’ve never understood the need for teeny-tiny scissors. Well, until I started dabbling in cross-stitch and temari, that is. I had my craft scissors and the ubiquitous pair of scissors that seemed to spend 20% of the time in the junk drawer and the remaining 80% gallivanting around the world. At least, I like to imagine my scissors out having a good time. Takes the sting out of not being able to find them more than once a week. My scissors were good for cutting paper or attacking those annoying, plastic clamshell packages that seem to have a death grip on their contents; however, those same scissors always seemed a little hungry for fine threaded handiwork. 

So, I broke down and bought a small pair of embroidery scissors and finally understood the need for them. The smaller scissors allowed me to more precise and get to closer to the surface of my work. No more worries about hungry scissors eating all of my stitches. That first pair didn’t stay sharp for very long and I eventually splurged on the beautiful Lantern Moon Rococo Embroidery Scissors. They’re sharp, fit well on my fingers, and work wonderfully in either hand. Plus, I am absolutely smitten with how the scissors feel when I cut yarn or embroidery floss. It’s very satisfying. 

If you’re on the fence about the usefulness of tiny little scissors, I recommend trying out a pair. You might just be surprised at how handy they are. 

Have any notions or tools that you enjoy using?

Little Things: Starting Out

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Little Things: Celebrating the tiny, sudden joys in life

I love starting new projects. I love researching ideas and variations and all the little details that make up the whole. I love picking colors and gathering supplies. I love finally committing to something and jumping in with both feet. I love casting on, drawing the first line, making the first stitch, and taking the first step.

In the thread, the pencils, the yarn, and the paper, I imagine all the potential just floating around in the ether. When I make that first step, it’s like plucking a bit of that wonderful possibility from the air and solidifying it with my actions and my intent. Doesn’t matter if I’m going for a walk or knitting a new hat, acting on that potential is an great and happy thing.

My latest project is some covert cross stitch. There are just 3 colors but this checkered pattern will be the largest cross stitch project I’ve attempted. Can’t wait to see it finished because I like finishing things just as much as I like starting things. 

So, have you started anything new lately?

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Incremental January: Week 4

Every month I’m picking one skill to practice everyday for a month and updating my progress every Monday. I call it Project Incremental. Read up on how it all got started. 

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Last week was all about clearing up the digital clutter - no more unnecessary emails, unsubscribing from overwhelming RSS feeds, and gaining more hard drive space - but I’m back to the physical world this week. I’ve sorted and donated and trashed a lot of stuff to meet my January goal of de-cluttering and prepping for the rest of the year. Lots left to do but the list is shorter.

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Now that I have less stuff to worry about, I’ve started thinking about how to hack the stuff I have to work better for me. I encourage you do this too. One, you get to make things. Two, you can personalize and upgrade your space. Three, you get to have some fun. 

Over the course of a day, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer which means I spend a lot of time at my desk. It’s a nice desk with lots of drawers, space for all my tech, and enough room to make something when I feel the need. There’s even a raised section with two more drawers and two open spaces that I barely use because they are not drawers. Well, I’ve fixed that.

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I’ve made drawers for my “Things” and for my “Stuff”. The drawer of things holds all the crafty stuff I need on a regular basis: scissors, buttons, a knitting needle gauge, a tape measure, and random tapestry needles. The drawer of stuff keeps pens, pencils, hair ties, lotion, lip balm, and a needle felted heart. You know, the necessities. Everything I need is at hand and easy to find.

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To make the drawers, I measured the dimensions to be filled and adapted this handy stiffened felt box tutorial from How About Orange to fit. Next, I drew up the cross stitch charts, stabbed the necessary holes in the felt, and got to stitching. The last step was gluing the sides together to finish the boxes. As a bonus, whenever I move to a new desk, I can just make lids for the drawers and use them a boxes instead. Win win. 

Just in case you feel like labeling any of your possessions with a bit of cross stitch, here’s “Stuff” and “Things” to the rescue. 

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A Happy Diversion

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I have grudgingly come to terms with the fact that Christmas and all the deadlines associated with it are less than a month away. All of my knitting, spinning, and general crafty time has been dominated by holiday making. My needles are full. My spindle is heavy. My hands keep cranking out ornaments. As all consuming as it is, I’d rather be working on all this now when I’ve still got some time to spare than waiting till the last minute. Still, my brain rebels every once and awhile and I make something for myself just to take the edge off of the ever looming deadlines. 

Say hello, again, to the little robin cross stitch. He’s not an amorphous blob this time and actually looks like a bird. No name yet but he’s been great at keeping my hands busy during audiobook and podcast sessions. Best of all, no deadline. If I finish him in December, great. If he doesn’t end up on the wall until January, that’s great too. So, if you’re like me and already feeling a bit burned out by the holidays, do something fun for yourself before diving back into the mess. A happy diversion really helps.

Thanksgiving 2012

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A few day ago I bought a magazine and a kit to cross stitch a cute, little Robin in a round felt frame. With an audio book for company, I’ve worked on it intermediately starting with the pink, then the red, and, next, grey and white. I know it looks like an amorphous blob right now but every stitch makes the small bird perched on a branch more visible. With a little patience, dedication, many more stitches, and some blood - the needle has a taste for my blood, I’m sure of it - there will be an adorable Robin decorating my walls.

This Thanksgiving, which is traditionally a time of reflection, family, and stuffing oneself with food; I’m thankful for my family and friends along with the goodness that is yarn, the internet, burritos, and a cosy knitting nook. What’s near the top of the list though, is the chance to start fresh. I’ll be taking a lot of small steps which, like the Robin, will look like an wiggly blob at first but eventually turn into something great. I’ve got patience, dedication, and people to back me up. Hopefully, I’ll keep all of my blood.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving or Thursday, where ever you be. If you’re working “Black Friday” on Thanksgiving, from someone who’s gone hoarse working the registers at 1AM, I wish you patience, caffeine, and a powerful 1000 yard stare.

So, It Begins

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Last Saturday, September 22nd, was the Fall Equinox and the official start of Fall. Not that you could tell from the weather around here. Yesterday was a bright and sunny day with a temperature of 84° (29° C) which doesn’t seem like Fall to me in the least. Cooler temps or not, I’ve decided to suck it up and start with the dreaded Halloween, Christmas and Birthday Season making or, as I’ve come to call it, The Gauntlet. If you’re trying to hide from this bit of crafty timing, I apologize.

I’m starting off The Gauntlet this year with a bit of creepy cross-stitch for Halloween and working out the crafting plans for the rest of the year. Anyone else starting the holiday making with me or am I just the bearer of bad news?

For Mom

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Pattern: Doublish by Alexandra Tinsley

Yarn: Noro Taiyo Sock

Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm) circulars

Dates: April 4 - 24, 2012

@Ravelry

Wandering around my LYS back in September, this yarn was the only thing that caught my eye. I imagined it as a cute little shawl that would match most of my shirts and and upgrade my usual minimalist style. This idea lingered through Holiday Knitting 2011 and through a prolonged bit of finish-itis. Several projects fewer on the needles, I cast on for this shawl. After I got through the first few rows, I was a woman obsessed. The colors were gorgeous and the pattern was easy enough to knit around town; however, the more rows I knit, the more I knew this shawl wasn’t for me. It was for my Mom. I think I knit a little bit faster after that because my Mom is awesome and totally knit worthy.

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I also made one other thing for her and it stole the show. I’m going to have a hard time topping this one.

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