Friday, March 25, 2011

Crafting Deprived, No More! – Round-Up

Ok, I haven’t truly been craft deprived. Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve still been playing around with crochet and dabbling in other things. I can’t help myself. It’s a need. Blogging is a form of crafting and I’ve been doing that. I also feel that gardening is crafting and I’ve been trying to do that whenever I can. It wasn’t very easy when we lived in Cairo and had no decent place for plants, but we did our best.

image I also dug my sewing machine out in Cairo and attempted a few projects for the kid’s school. I’m sure the poor machine was confused. It had been put away when my first child was born, and it didn’t see the light of day again until he got to 2nd grade. We turned him into Benjamin Franklin fairly successfully. The coat was a bit big, but it turned out pretty good for me just winging it. That’s my point though, most of my crafts have been ‘winged’. More doodles than anything. Easy hats, simple scarves, toys that the kids have requested, ie. “Mom will you make a sleeping bag for my doll?” Things like that. I’ve had fun with this messing around, but I’ve been wanting to do more. I’ve wanted projects that I actually have to plan and focus on, that force me to pay attention to a pattern, etc. 

Here’s one project that I picked up recently from this pattern book: Leisure Arts, Leaflet 2801 Touch of Romance. Not too complicated, but I am making a full-size project from an actual pattern! I’m almost done with it too. Of course, I altered that pattern. Brian is the one who asked for it, and he chose the colors. I’ll probably add to the border and leave off the fringe. Fringe in a bit girly for a boy’s afghan.



I like Leisure Arts pattern books and am thinking I’ll help myself to a few more in the near future. There’s one I made, years and years ago, which is a sampler piece with 63 different squares, each a different stitch. I had fun making it, and it is a good learning piece. There is a crafting group here at the Embassy that I have recently joined and one of the ladies had the pattern book… I’m thinking it might be fun to make this afghan again.

I have another sampler leaflet, a project that I started … yikes!… about 15 years ago?!? I need to finish it! This one is associated with another craft I put aside long ago, spinning my own wool. When we lived in the UK in the early 90’s, I joined up with a Spinning, Weaving and Dying guild and learned to choose fleece, at actual sheep fairs, clean it, card it, and spin it into yarn, using both a spindle and a wheel. I had to put my gear in storage and I miss it. One day…

(My favorite sheep – Wensleydale. Aren’t they adorable?!)


Anyway, I was pleased to find that Leisure Arts has a website where they sell resources for many crafts. It means that I am not limited to skimming through what just happens to be available on the shelves at JoAnn Crafts during the short time I’m in the US on R&R.

For yarns, I was also pleased to find that Red Heart also has a good website. Crafters have different opinions about acrylic yarns. I prefer the softer blends myself, but acrylic can’t be beat for washable kid stuff. The Red Heart acrylic is much softer than others, imo, also, no dye lot is a selling point for me. I can’t just run around town, digging through yarn supplies at multiple craft stores if I unexpectedly need more skeins… it’s good to be able to go online and simply order more of exactly what I need. Red Heart carries a huge variety of yarns too, not just their famous acrylics – they have Alpaca/wool, Bamboo/wool,  100% wool and even ‘green’ products made from recycled materials or bamboo. I ordered some of the Eco Ways just to try it out (colors: bark and peacock), and I’m impressed. It is pretty and very soft.

I mentioned that our Embassy has a crafting group. They actually have a couple of groups getting together on a weekly basis. I am not sure who started it, or exactly how it began, but it’s a wonderful idea! One day during the week, crafters get together at one member’s home and share their crafting. This month has been focused on crochet and I was surprised (pleasantly) to be drawn in to help teach even though I am very new to the group. It’s also a lovely social event with much chatting and lunch.

Another night during the week is reserved for quilting. In the past, I played around a little with piecework… scrap quilting based on ideas I saw in books. I had no mentor or teacher. I made a couple of nice floor pillows with the piecework, but have never actually quilted. A good friend took me along with her one evening and I decided to give it a go. I haven’t progressed much. I chose some fabrics …um … actually I got out-voted and my family chose the fabrics. It was cat approved.


I’ve got some tools, and done some cutting. The pattern is the one on the cover of the book (above). I’ve also learned a new word – Thangles. They are paper pattern pieces to help you make precise triangles… pretty cool!


As I progress in this craft and my project, I’ll be sure to take photos and share more. I’m enjoying it!

If this isn’t enough to keep me busy, I have recently dug out my Wacom tablet and Corel Paint Shop Pro and have been messing around with that some more too.

I especially enjoy what can be done with photo-art using paint shop. I am a very random (meaning not very accurate at times) photographer. I point and shoot even when everyone tells me ‘That will never come out’… well, sometimes it does. Often it does. So I won’t stop doing it my way. However, sometimes the photos are blurry (yay for digital and no crazy processing charges for crappy photos), but even the blurry ones have potential. I made this from a photo…


I was snapping photos from a moving bus in Cairo, through dirty windows and caught this flower shop. The photo by itself was trash, but I love how I was able to use Paint Shop to transform it.

Another computer toy that plays well with Paint Shop, is my Wacom tablet. Again, this is something I got years ago, but recently had to dig it out of its hiding place and dust off. I pulled it out to rework some illustrations I drew for a book that I wrote for my kids when they were little. I’m playing with getting it published.

new12_1  new11_1new5_5   new10_1

I painted a flower garden around my couch as a joke entry for Zoe’s Best Disguised Foreign Service Couch Contest, and I also helped the kids with their recent science project. They designed this bit for their poster. It was 100% the kids’ idea, but I made it for them. One of these for each of the kids in the group.


I’m not progressing on any of these projects as fast as I feel like I should. Sometimes I feel guilty for taking the time away from family in order to go to meetings, or simply to sit around and crochet, and sew, or dig in the garden, rather than bake cookies or sort socks or whatever. That’s ridiculous. I’m entitled to play time, just as much as everyone else in our home is! I guess it’s a mom-thing though and I’ve spent the last few years so entrenched (happily so) in taking care of little ones who needed so much of my time, that I got used to not taking my share of the ‘me time’. The kids are bigger and more independent now. So, I’ll wrap up by saying that one of my favorite ‘new hobbies’ is crafting a workable schedule that includes a fair share of ‘me time’ , and trying not to feel so guilty about it! I’m getting there!

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