In my last post I mentioned getting my life back in order, a task made particularly exciting with the help of the schnazzy 2018 planner I received for Christmas. I recognize that an analog day planner is a little archaic in the age of iPhones, but I've always been a really tactile person and there's something about having your schedule laid out in front of you and customizing it exactly how you like that can't be replicated with a digital screen. And I'm not alone in this, apparently there's an entire community of likeminded weirdos. With the help of monthly reviews, weekly goals, and plenty of customizable brainstorming space, the Passion Planner "helps people break down their long and short term goals into more actionable steps and gives them a place to incorporate these steps into their daily lives". For me, this planner is a way to hold myself accountable. For various reasons since grad school (usually work-related reasons), it became increasingly difficult to carve out time for creative pursuits. This blog was intended as a way to combat that and if you look at my shoddy posting past, it hasn't always been effective. So hopefully this planner will give me the kick in the pants necessary to dive back into the world of art making and blog posting. Time will tell!
It's the first week of January and we've already seen record breaking low temperatures and a Bomb Cyclone... I'm still not sure what that even means exactly, but I'm intimidated by it. So we're off to a frigid start, but now that we've transitioned from unthinkably mind numbing temps to run of the mill bone chilling temps I thought I would end my unannounced (and unplanned) hiatus. The cold weather tends to fuel my yarn habit so I had several projects in the works during my time away. Hot off the needles is what I consider a pretty notable knitter milestone, my first pair of gloves! Not only that, but cabled and fingerless with a mitten flap. This was no minor undertaking. Admittedly, I became a little obsessive with them. The pattern is broken down into small manageable sections which sounds nice, but the sense of accomplishment I felt from completing one section meant that when I sat down to "just finish the thumb" the next time I glanced at the clock six hours had passed. Probably not the healthiest way to approach this project. Once finished they were quickly shipped off to Philadelphia so the satisfaction was short lived anyway. Something very cool I picked up from this pattern was how to knit using two pairs of circular needles rather than four double pointed needles (a technique I have yet to attempt and probably never will now that dual circular needles are in my wheelhouse). You can find the London Eye Glittens pattern I used on Ravelry (my go to source for patterns) and a tutorial on knitting with two circular needles here (a game changer if you ever make gloves or socks and even great for decreasing stitches at the top of a hat). Now that these glittens are gone (and with the help of my fancy new planner) I can work on putting my life back together. It's a struggle, but I'm just taking it one day at a time.
So wedding monograms are a thing. One of the many things I've learned from the wedding planning process. Wedding monograms basically help you create a cohesive look for the various pieces of your big day. Invitations, programs, favors, place settings, etc. can all be tied together with a wedding monogram. Because every little girl grows up dreaming that her wedding day will be well branded... I didn't think too much about creating a wedding monogram until there was an awkward blank space on our Save the Dates. Once there was a need, I spiraled down a bit of a design hole. Then I developed digital eye strain and had to take a step back. So I'm throwing it to you fine folks for some feedback. Pictured above are three of the many variations I came up with. I've narrowed the decision making down to just the typeface so help me out here. Serif? Sans Serif? Traditional? Modern? Loopy? Let me know what you think in the survey below and put me out of my misery please!
The earliest career goal I can remember (aside from Veterinarian because I'm a child of the 90s and Homeward Bound was a revelation) was to own a storefront selling handmade knick knacks and teaching classes. I abandoned this idea by the time I entered high school to focus on the more practical path to teaching, but whenever I happen upon a place like this I immediately wonder how you actually go about starting one. On one of my neighborhood excursions the other day I found the Brooklyn Craft Company, a successful small business run by two powerful ladies and it's honestly like they used my childhood diary as part of their business plan. The adorable store front with supplies to satisfy all your crafting needs as well as stationary, seasonal gifts, and accessories leads to a large workspace where they hold knitting circles, open sewing hours, and conduct workshops. I want be these women, but the best I can do for now is attend (or hopefully teach?!) one of their workshops. The thought of owning a space like this is still very much a pipe dream for me, but until it miraculously becomes a viable option you can find me at Brooklyn Craft Company... I live there now.
The days in my neck of the woods have been pretty gray lately. My usual coping mechanisms are tea, candles, and crafts, but sometimes the constant overcast weather just gets to me... like, ALL day EVERY day? Come on, New York... you're not selling yourself very well to this new comer. I find flowers are a great way to combat the waning daylight hours, but their brief lifespan means their contribution is equally short lived. I recently had a bouquet of rich fall colors with which I wasn't quite willing to part. Thanks to a suggestion from one of my long lost Philly friends I looked into preserving them. My first attempt was the old school book pressing method, but unfortunately it yielded mixed results. After a quick google, I came across Microfleur. With Microfleur you can dry and press flowers and leaves in minutes rather than weeks and it boasts superior color preservation to traditional methods. You can decide for yourself from the photos below...
I think it's pretty clear that I would recommend the Microfleur over traditional methods of flower pressing. With it I was able to press, arrange, and hang my flowers all in one day. Being an impatient person, this was ideal for me. Here's how I did it:
The Microfleur comes with two plastic plates, fiber mats, linen fabric, and plastic clips. To use it is pretty straightforward. You simply place the flower you want to press in the center with fabric, mat, and plate on either side, clip it shut, and microwave it for the specified time. I do, however, have a few caveats for you. Well... one really... try not to set the thing on fire... the reviews did warn me of this and I did really well avoiding it until I got too cocky and the very last flower went up in flames... I have some theories as to why this happened. I microwaved each flower several times in very short bursts based on my microwave wattage like the instructions indicated, however moisture levels vary from flower to flower, different moisture amounts are removed with each burst, and different parts of the flower retain different levels of moisture so it is difficult to pin point when exactly you've gone far enough. A pretty good sign you've gone too far is when a literal fire has started. So, you know... be careful. Microwave in 10-15 second bursts and allow to cool completely between bursts and you'll be fine! Maybe keep a fire extinguisher on hand just to be safe...
Also thanks to my dear friend, I found these vintage looking specimen frames at World Market. I thought tension would be enough to hold the flowers in place, but I was very wrong so I broke out my trusty E6000. Once I arranged the flowers in a composition with which I was happy, I used a dab of E6000 to secure them in place. I allowed them to dry before closing up the frames and then hung them on the wall. The space above my TV was the only viable wall space remaining in the apartment and luckily it doesn't receive any direct sunlight throughout the day so hopefully these flowers last long enough to help fight my S.A.D. symptoms until spring. They bring a nice pop of color to the largely empty wall and because I watch more TV than I should, I get to look at them all day!
In my never ending attempt to exhaust my craft supply, I decided to break out some old wool roving left over from college. I posted a few times about felt as a medium way back in the archives. You can read about them here, here, and here if you're interested in some other methods, but this time I will be focusing on needle felting. Out of all the techniques, needle felting is my personal favorite because you can work with more precision than wet felting. My fiancé won't come within several feet of me while working however, since it requires that I wield a very pointy needle in a very stabby manner. I admit that I did draw blood twice throughout this process, but don't let that deter you! It really is so fun when you're not bleeding... promise. Traditionally, you would felt wool roving together to create a distinct piece of fabric, but I also had some old stretcher bars I was looking to get rid of so I brought the two together to create a felted image on stretched linen instead. Here's how:
The technique is pretty simple as long as you avoid impaling yourself in the process. Just place your backing fabric on top of your felting pad, place your roving in the design you like, and poke it repeatedly until the fibers become matted together. Blending different colored roving together before adding them to your design will create a subtle transition of color and give your image a more realistic appearance. Felting needles are particularly heinous because they are covered with backward facing spikes that draw the fibers up and through on the way back out of the fabric. This unique design is what creates a strong bond between the fibers. So to review: place, stab, and repeat until you have your desired image.
Once your image is to your liking, stretch it around a wooden frame. Start in the middle on one side, stretch and staple, then move to the opposite side and repeat one staple at a time moving outwards until you reach the corners.
To create a nice clean corner fold fabric diagonally from the corner, staple, and wrap the excess parallel to the edge and staple again. This is a skill I learned years ago in a college painting class, my apologies to my professor for not doing a better job... I'm out of practice.
To add a more three dimensional element, use a crochet hook to push aside the fibers of the backing fabric and thread a piece of twine through it on either side of the bouquet. Tie the twine in a bow and you're done! This piece is getting shipped off as a gift, but it was fun to make so if you like it too keep an eye on the Etsy shop or hit me up for a custom piece!
About a week and a half ago, Wallace and I embarked on a very special journey. It's been a rocky one at times, but I feel it has made us closer. I now spend most of my time monitoring the state of the bathroom and sniffing all plush surfaces in my apartment and Wallace pretty much does the same thing, but with the opposite purpose. That's right, we're toilet training... add this to the ever growing list of reasons why I am an insane person. Litter Kwitter is a product designed to gradually transition your cat from using a litter box to using a toilet. The website has a number of testimonials and if you watch their promotional video, you will not be disappointed by the amusingly outdated soundtrack and graphics. It might be a huge cat parent mistake, but if we are successful I will have more reason to brag that my cat is a genius and spend less time handling his waste so the benefits are significant. I will spare you any photographic evidence of our experience so far because it's not pretty, but I will update you once we are successful. If you never hear me touch on this subject again, you know what happened. I'll leave you with this:
This week the powers that be have decided that, despite being early November, winter is upon us. Yesterday night temperatures in New York actually dipped into the 20s... the 20s! Don't get me wrong, I love curling up with a fuzzy blanket, cup of tea, and craft project like the true granny that I am, but unfortunately life requires that I go outside. As previously stated, I don't do well in the cold. My nose and ears fall victim to temperatures below 50 almost immediately and if there is any hint of wind, forget it. So I have amassed quite the collection of ear warmers. They keep the most critical part of your head warm and create minimal hat hair, a win-win. From a knitter's perspective, they are great for your left over yarn stash; they are quick, easy to make, and don't require much material. I found three patterns around the web, two crochet, one knit, all incredibly easy to make. All three patterns are slight stylistic variations on each other. The twist headband is made using the moss stitch, the cinched headband is made using alternating double crochet and half double crochet rows, and the bow headband is made with a seed stitch. You can find them here, here, and here. You can also find them available for purchase on the Imitation Retail Therapy Etsy shop. Fortunately, temperatures should be returning to manageable levels in the next few days, but yesterday was a sufficient reminder of winter's wrath and I will be prepared this year. Stay warm out there, kids.
About a year and a half ago, I bought my fiancé a birthday present that I (and he... because I spilled the beans before I even bought it) thought sounded super fun. It was a build your own mechanical clock kit from Abong. Having expressed some interest in woodworking at the time, I thought this would be a nice introduction for him. Some relevant back story: he has a habit of declaring newfound interests and hobbies that he never actually pursues... I didn't realize this at the time. So I presented the idea of this mechanical clock kit to him and he seemed enthusiastic until the gift arrived and he had trouble getting around to opening it. Being pretty handy myself, I offered to help build it. Some time passed, his birthday rolled around again, and the clock was still unfinished... mostly because I only visited on weekends and, if we're being honest here, I was the only one working on it. We joked that gifting the kit was one birthday present and building it was the following year's, but it was pretty ridiculous how long it sat in the box partially assembled. So I resolved to finish it by his birthday this year and I did... except hanging it turned out to be unexpectedly complicated so now here we are 6 months post second birthday and, after creating more holes than I'd like to admit, it made it onto a wall just in time for daylight savings. Both the concept and the physical clock are just as cool as I initially thought. The kit comes with laser cut gears and dowels and a lengthy instruction manual. Assembling it is 90% of the fun and the result is a kinetic sculpture that happens to tell time. TBD on if it tells time accurately. In my opinion, if it moves we've done our job. Whether it's functional or not, it still looks awesome. My biggest concern going forward is that Wallace will decide the swinging pendulum is a toy because... he's a cat... and knock the whole structure to the ground shattering it. Time will tell... get it? I'm sorry... I'll just go.
If you've been keeping up with things, you might have noticed that I haven't had many traditional DIYs lately. One reason for this is outlined in my previous post, the other is related to my last DIY and a particular piece of highly symbolic jewelry. Because I accepted the ring, I'm now required to plan a big party for all my friends and family (I've heard there's some sort of public declaration of love and commitment involved as well). Apparently, the planning process will be eating up a good chunk of my free time for the better part of the following year so I figured I could chart my journey here. Who knows, there might even be a few wedding related DIYs to share. Today, I am featuring the venue we booked a couple weeks ago.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is the country's oldest art museum and school. It houses an impressive collection of American art ranging from colonial to contemporary, the bulk of which is displayed within their Historic Landmark Building. Constructed in 1876, the ornate Victorian Gothic structure was designed by Frank Furness and features "fanciful floral motifs... richly tiled floors... [and] gothic arches carrying gold rosette-studded walls". It really is a beautifully designed building plopped among the towering concrete structures of center city. I could spend days studying the building itself before even glancing at the collection inside. I know this because I did, PAFA also happens to be my alma mater and former employer. I had countless opportunities to get to know the intricacies of the museum and I still feel like I notice something new every time I visit.
I was never one for planning my hypothetical future wedding at a young age, but I do remember fulfilling that stereotype once when I stumbled upon PAFA's events page at around age 16. I then quickly reminded myself that you have to actually date someone in order to have a wedding and that didn't happen for me until a couple years later so I tabled the idea. I did not considered it again until I actually had a reason to this past summer. My fiancé and I both wanted to get married in the Philadelphia area since it is close to our families, but also because the city itself has special significance to our relationship. After touring a few venues, it didn't take much consideration to land where we did. Despite being a somewhat untraditional venue, the decorative architectural elements along with my personal regard for the arts and our association with Philadelphia make the space feel sacred to us. Step one was a pretty easy decision for us, but I've heard horror stories about wedding planning so stay tuned to witness the slow deterioration of my sanity as this process continues. Should be fun!