Friday, February 26, 2016

In Which I Discover That Creative Fulfillment Requires Some Studying

These past two weeks have been marked by almost an absolute stop in all creative endeavors. Silly things have halted progress, like running low on paint, needing to get my spinning wheel looked at, running out of yarn for the shawl. Things keep breaking too: microwave, toilet, patience. I've been proactive about getting myself moving again now that Stitches West is over. I took my wheel in (I won't have it for a few weeks), I've removed the broken microwave, I've cleaned surfaces. (Especially around the toilet so that when the landlord came yesterday to fix it, we wouldn't look like slobs. We aren't, but I wanted to make sure that they knew that too.) I even ordered new paint... that was suppose to arrive yesterday. It didn't. Despite that disappointment, I went ahead and emptied out my blue tubes to work on this.

It is loosely based on a photo I took while hiking. I'm doing my best to study light and shadows. I, of course, am impatient with myself, so I have mixed feelings on how I did. But it is a study and I'm telling myself that it is ok not to be a master after three "successful" paintings.
I think this is Hound's Tongue

At least I consider the flower painting to be the third successful painting. The first I posted earlier in the month. The second I did of a sunset. The "unsuccessful" painting got me into researching everything I could about how to paint shadows better. Of course not before I had a meltdown where I was convinced I was going to be bad at everything, always, forever. It's times like these that I'm reminded that it is good to be a beginner at things so you can remember how hard it is to have your skill not match your vision.

At the moment, I'm taking pictures and interpreting them through paint. I think that is a good way to learn. The above painting is based on a photo I took by the stairs of our apartment one evening. It's been fun a challenge to experiment with different lighting situations.

So now I'll go back to waiting on my paint. Breaking news: The mailman arrived just as I was working on this post. I have paint!!! I bought primary colors in two different brands to see how I feel about them. I realized that I bought not quite what I meant to in one of the brands. I didn't realize they had two different lines of gouache. But the paint will get used and I'm sure I will get a good learning experience.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Stitches West 2016

This year at Stitches West was a quieter one for me. I just went for one day. I had an excellent class about calculating sleeve caps with Patty Lyons. (I highly recommend her as a teacher.) And Connor joined me at his lunch break to peruse the booths. He's been on the lookout for a new project ever since he finished his cowl. Also, I had a new experience. In the past, I've gone, worn my knits, and people have stopped me because they have recognized my work. This year, while wearing my badge, I got a stopped a few times because people recognized my name. That was quite a boost to the ego. But lets face it: Stitches West is about the yarn. So without further ado, here is the 2016 damage report.
Why is it that we knitters buy the same colors over and over? I seem to have different color themes each year. This year is green and grey.

In the top left we have two YOTH bags. They came with all the YOTH yarn we bought. I didn't know they were giving out bags to those who bought four skeins. We bought 12. Just to the right of the YOTH bags you can see Connor (top) and my (bottom) selections for sweaters. That's right, Connor is looking into making himself a sweater. We both went with the Father base. He got the Caviar color way while I chose the Kale color way. In a way, I chose the healthier yarn. Kale is healthier, right?
Just below the YOTH bags is a project bag and a pattern. The pattern is the Lambing Mitts pattern, which came with the YOTH yarn as well. (I guess we were really good customers.) Connor is already swatching for a pair. I guess I'm taking too long to get around to making him a pair.
The project bag came from Little House In The Big Wool. It says "Official Sock Knitter." Yes I am, so that came home with me. Moving on to the right hand column of yarn...
Starting at the top we have three skeins of Miss Babs' Yowza in the Blackwatch color way. I've eyed this yarn in this color for three straight years. I now know what I want to make with it. Into the backpack it went.
Below the Yowza is a book called Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom. David is loaning me his Cricket Loom so I can see if I like weaving. I got entirely stuck. Since I often do the best with books, I thought it was a good investment to get this one. It helped when everyone I passed by said that, "It was a good one."
The two skeins in the bottom corner of the right column are both from Lisa Souza's booth. A skein each of Coachella and St Louis Blues in the Hardtwist Petite to make the Hieroglyphic socks. I've been wanting to try out her yarn and I'm excited to have an excuse to do so now. Directly to the left of the Lisa Souza skeins is a skein of Black Trillium's Pebble Sock in the Inkwell color. I've been trying to get a skein of this color to go with my skein of Butterbeer. It is always sold out. When I picked up this skein, there was only one other skein left and someone just behind me picked it up. I got all Gollum-like and immediately crouched over my skein before paying for it. Precious. The skein to the left of the Black Trillium is from Verdant Gryphon. It is Mithril in the Green Water Snake color. I needed it to finish a project, and that is my justification for that.

All in all, it was a good year at Stitches. I was glad to see old friends again. I was also able to show off patterns to some of the dyers I've been working with. I'm looking forward to sharing the pattern releases I have for this year.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Yule Log Cake

Today is my birthday. Last year I was going nuts trying to finish start on the wedding shawl. This year is much more calm. This year the big thing that went on is that I decided I wanted a yule log cake. I know, I know, this isn't the right season for a yule log cake. But I've always wanted one and this year I had a willing victim husband who was willing to make me one. I have food allergies to contend with, so getting a nut-free... and now gluten free cake is a hassle.
It is nut free, stone fruit free, gluten free, but not taste free

So, two days ago he started the cake portion of the recipe. I came in to help a little ways in... but details, details. He started out using the king arthur flour recipe, but we cut out the booze and made the cake cream instead of chocolate.... and made the filling chocolate instead of cream. Apparently we can't leave well enough alone. Also, it was good I came in to have a look. The cake came out twice as thick and wasn't going to roll up right. I used my nemesis, the bread knife, and cut the cake in half. With two thinner cakes, there was only one thing to be done: make two cakes.

The next day we made the chocolate frosting using a betty crocker recipe. Liquid was definitely needed to get the frosting smooth, but water made things grainy. Luckily we had leftover heavy cream, so I added that and it smoothed things out. But that wasn't enough for me, oh no! For the vision to be complete I needed meringue mushrooms. We found great success using a recipe from Natasha's Kitchen.

Look! These are meringue cookies and they look like mushrooms! I love things that look like other things.

The only problem we had in all of this is that we lack certain tools, like, we don't own an electric mixer. So we made the cream filling with a whisk. That went ok. But we also made the meringue with our whisk... and broke it. Both of us were exhausted and sweaty after mixing meringue. But the mushrooms are so adorable! It was worth it.
I plan on gluing this back together, but I think that the design isn't right for us

After the meringue workout, we decided that we clearly needed:
1. A new whisk
2. An egg beater
I'm excited to whip cream and meringue with the egg beater. I imagine it will be a little less tiring.

The only problem we have now is who to eat the second cake with. The first one is coming with us over to my parents' house. The second we were going to share with the neighbors. But most of them came down with the flu yesterday and it doesn't look like things are getting any better over there. So.... who wants to come over for cake?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Searching For Creative Fulfillment

Recently I've found myself creatively frustrated. It has taken me until now to determine that the frustration runs deeper than just not having anything come off of the needles. I realized that I have somehow turned all my creative endeavors into work. Since being creative is what fills me up, and all my creativity has been turned into work, I have felt quite empty. I started abandoning social events because I felt too drained. I've also had a sinus thing going on, which hasn't helped matters, but has forced me to be quiet enough to do some intense introspection.

I realized that when Connor is at work, I make sure I am hard at work all day. (I work at home, so my time is more flexible.) And when Connor is home, I spend time with him. What I need in my life to be fulfilled creatively is time dedicated to doing creative things for the fun of it... when I am alone. After having a good talk with Connor and hearing him say things like, "Of course you should be doing fun things for yourself." I have finally decided to give in and let myself have some time to play.

I've been dying to paint for quite some time now. There are so many ideas in my head, but I've not let them out for fear of not staying dedicated to some arbitrary deadlines I made myself. I've given up those deadlines. (Like having more patterns out for Stitches West.) Patterns will come out when they are good and ready. Today I painted for a bit instead. Because I have such a backlog of ideas, I found myself getting a little intimidated by the time I would need and the fact that I haven't painted in, well, years. So today, in the interest of just starting, I decided to paint a still life.

My Granddad had found this glass Japanese fishing float along the shores of New Zealand after a storm. After my grandmother passed away, the house was sold and he moved to a smaller place. I was allowed to choose one thing from their house to ship home. Dad told me his wallet regretted not having any limitations on the offer since the float isn't small and the shipping was quite expensive. But I'm happy I have it.

So that's what I painted today. Something small and simple.

Here's a close up. It's not perfect, but it's better than I thought I might be able to do after so many years of not practicing. I used gouache paints for those who might be curious.

I'd like to give Ann Wood some credit. She often writes about the difficulties that she encounters as a professional creative. I especially liked her post when she decided that she needed to start sketching regularly. It inspired me to just start and reminded me that it is ok to start small.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mr. Bear Ears Knits On

Connor has finished his second project! He now has a very warm 2x2 ribbed cowl out of Anzula's For Better Or Worsted in the Mariana color way. We used Purl Soho's Lovely Ribbed Cowl as a starting point.

This is the face of a man who enjoys the feeling of wool, silk, and cashmere on his skin. And since he has been wearing his cowl, I've been able to steal use his scarf.

I've also added this to his project page on ravelry. I didn't know that when I convinced him that he should have a ravelry page, I'd be maintaing it. I just tell myself he's Mr. Bear Ears, not Mr. Social Media.

I had bought him the yarn at Stitches West last year. I asked him if he wanted a scarf. He said yes, so I handed him the yarn and told him there was some assembly required. I'm proud that he rose to the challenge and made himself a cowl. (He decided he wanted the yarn to become a cowl rather than a scarf in the end.

We've been talking about what he might want to knit next. He's thinking of making fingerless mitts. I'm trying to talk him into knitting me a sweater. We shall see.
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