It's that time of year again, the time when I disregard all responsibilities in favor of twisting and tying intricate series of knots until they resemble clothing. Yup, knitting season is in full swing and I'm building up quite the inventory of cozy accessories including hats, ear warmers, infinity scarves, and boot cuffs. I have versions of each of these for myself, but still need an activity to curb my tendency to fidget. Knitting season is a perfect opportunity to occupy my restless hands and add some items to the Etsy shop. My goal is to use up the remaining yarn stash in time to be replenished during the Christmas holiday so... family, take note. You can find patterns I've already reported on here and here if you have any interest in attempting them yourself and keep an eye out for others in the near future. I have enough rotating items to keep myself interested, but am always looking for new patterns to throw in the mix so if you have any simple but stylish ideas send them my way! And be sure to check out the shop throughout the chillier months, I will add listings as items become available (as fast as my hands can knit) or contact me if you're interested in a custom order.
Season's greetings and happy knitting!
A huge thank you to my dear friend, Rachel, for modeling my yarn stuffs better than I ever could so I can minimize the number of cringey self-portraits I have to put on the internet 😬
My goal with the intermediate students was to show them ways in which graphic design can be applied to a career. Most of our projects had some real world application to them, this usually required that the students collaborate with each other as well as across departments to get their work out of the classroom and off their laptops. Their assignments required more thought and effort than the intro class, but were also way more fun (at least from my perspective). Because they already had some foundational knowledge, I allowed the intermediate students to play a more active role in the types of projects we did. I was writing the curriculum as the year went along so if a student had a idea they were passionate about all they had to do was present their concept to me and I could usually find a way to make it work. One of these assignments was to create a coloring book by illustrating the pages using Photoshop's drawing tools. This assignment was the result of a student bringing her coloring book to class and letting me play with it.
I first asked them to brainstorm and select a theme for their coloring book; one class chose endangered species and the other chose places around the world (I stupidly forgot to transfer some of the pieces from my work laptop before I returned it so unfortunately the only examples I have below are the endangered species). After helping them set up the format of their workspace, the students used a combination of freehand drawing and scanning and digital pattern making in Photoshop to complete their illustrations. It wasn't the most seamless approach to the assignment, but the experience inspired me to buy some Wacom tablets for the classroom and boy are they game changers. I don't have one for personal use yet, but I do have a birthday in the not so distant future... ahem. Ultimately, the intention was to get them professionally printed and sell them in the school store. If you've followed my journey a little you know that unfortunately I moved away before this came to fruition, but it would have been a wonderful way to introduce the students to the business end of turning your creative pursuits into a career.
Shout out to my lovely students, I still have my copy and yes I use it.
People often conflate being a visual artist with having beautiful handwriting. Unfortunately, despite years of rigorous catholic schooling it is a skill I never developed. So when I was appointed the role of car decorator for my soon-to-be family's weddings I was a little apprehensive. I've done two so far and after realizing this is now my official job, I did some research the second time around. I came across ThePostmansKnock.com and it appears to be a one stop shop for all things calligraphy and hand lettering (a non-cursive form of decorative writing). Ideally, you would use a dip pen to create the varying line weights within your calligraphy strokes, but there are certain surfaces for which a dip pen just isn't practical... a car window is one of them. Thanks to TPK, I was able to achieve the look of dip pen calligraphy with a chisel tipped window marker by using a technique called faux calligraphy.
The first step is to write your chosen word or phrase in whatever cursive font you like. Make sure to leave enough space between each letter so you can add to the line weight later.
Next, draw a line parallel to each downstroke. A downstroke is just what it sounds like, any place you have drawn your pen down the page while writing. It can be helpful to retrace your motions in the air just above the page to determine where your downstrokes begin and end.
The final step is to fill in the spaces on your downstrokes, however you can also stop after the second step for a more stylized look.
That's it! Three very simple steps. The tricky part is developing your muscle memory. The more fluid your hand motion, the better your writing will look. I still have to look back and forth between a sample and my own page so you can clearly see where my hand stopped or hesitated. This technique (and any form of calligraphy really) seems to be a craft in which practice is essential. I'm just starting out so let's see how long it takes me to develop that beautiful curvy handwriting everyone already assumes I possess. If you're interested at all in practicing the art of calligraphy, I highly recommend this Beginner's Guide to Modern Calligraphy. It's what I will be using in my attempt to finally make the educators of St. Margaret's School proud.
After the drawing and selection tools, the third major Photoshop tool group I focused on with my first year graphic designers were the retouching tools (patch, healing brush, spot healing brush, clone stamp, content-aware delete). The retouching tools are always my favorite to work with and teach since they perform the magic that everyone associates with Photoshop. I love showing students how to use them because there's a literal "ta-da!" moment that is so fun to watch. We completed a brief introductory exercise together and once everyone had a handle on the tools we moved into the final project. The students selected genres from a hat and visited that section of the library to gather photographs from cover art and illustrations. Once back in the classroom, we discussed examples of strong compositions in famous works of art. They then used the selection tools to isolate parts of their images and collage them onto one half of their workspace in Photoshop. Students were required to assemble either a diagonal, triangular, or S-shaped composition. Once their collage was completed they merged the layers, copied the collage, and moved the copy to the other half of their workspace. From here they used the retouching tools to complete the following list of alterations:
Can you spot the differences?
While cruising around the Internet the other day, this party game caught my eye… probably due to my recent dabbling in the world of paint chip crafts. It appears to be a cross between apples to apples and magnetic poetry for the visually inclined. The rules are pretty straightforward: “Players draw handfuls of paint chips and a prompt card, then rearrange the chips to create spontaneous poems out of the color names.” The results are said to “range from profound to hilarious” and are extremely visually striking I’m sure. I’m actually surprised this product didn’t exist sooner since paint color names generally lean towards nonsensical or absurd. Anyone who has ever browsed the paint department of their local Home Depot has undoubtedly wondered how the colors get names such as Skipping School, Hamster Cuddles, Spirit Whisper, Grandma’s Refrigerator, and Stanky Bean (you can thank an AI for coming up with that one). Regardless, they definitely lend themselves to the world of word games. I considered creating a set of my own, but despite appearances my life does require that I leave my house... sometimes.
Upon further investigation, I learned teachers had already been using a version of this party game as an educational activity in their classrooms for years. Below you can see some examples from elementary and middle school students. If the Paint Chip Poetry game is intended for use by adults, I'm sure it could be adapted for the high school classroom as well. Who knew paint chips could be so funducational?!
I'm not a big jewelry wearer for a variety of reasons, my ears are too sensitive for earrings, my wrists are too small for most bracelets, and my fingers are always too messy for rings. If I'm going to accessorize, it's usually a necklace with some kind of pendant on a long chain. This has never really been an issue... until this guy I hang out with some times asked me to keep hanging out with him until we die. And because Tradition, I'm supposed to wear this ring now.
The ring is beautiful and I have no qualms about wearing it, but because I love it so much I want to protect it. I've seen some ring holding necklaces around the internet, but none that fit the form and function I was looking for. Necklaces with an easy clip in design usually feature the not so cute lobster claw clasp and necklaces with an attractive minimalist design have a more complicated attachment mechanism. So I decided to look into making my own. After researching jewelry suppliers, I settled on RioGrande.com. You're required to create an account to purchase any of their products because, "The U.S. Patriot Act requires all suppliers of precious metals to maintain full contact information for all of its customers." (Um...it does?!), but they were the only supplier that sold all necessary components to complete this project. Once I received the goods, the construction of this necklace was incredibly simple. Here's how it's done:
Use your pliers to open, attach, and close two 3.2 mm jump rings on either end of the chain. Hook one end of each S hook to a jump ring on your chain and pinch closed with your pliers. I had a crazy difficult time finding the right bezel to feature a gemstone inside the ring, so my options here were limited. Throughout this process I learned it's not ideal to glue a stone into a bezel, but again I worked with what I could find. I used some light grit sand paper to texture the bottom of the stone and the inside of the bezel so the glue would adhere more securely. Once it was dry I attached two 3.2 mm jump rings to the bezel and looped them onto the other end of the S hooks (making sure to not pinch the S hooks closed this time). To make sure the larger jump rings wouldn't slip off, I also attached two 1.6 mm jump rings to the S hook to act as stoppers (if there exists a better method, I would love to know). To attach your ring(s) just hook them in the same spot as the pendant and the gemstone should sit nicely in the opening.
I fully acknowledge that I am not a jewelry maker (I follow several on Instagram and they amaze me), but if anyone is looking for an easy way to assemble their own alternative method of display for their finger bling this is a great one! Its quick, easy, and pretty inexpensive. Hopefully this necklace will protect my new addition from the muck I usually get into and extend its lifespan a little because I've agreed to a pretty lengthy commitment here...
Now that I've settled into my new digs, I've finally begun to explore the neighborhood a bit. One of my favorite places is a jewelry boutique called Catbird and no it's not solely due to the name... though that doesn't hurt. Located in the heart of Williamsburg, Catbird is one of those shops you find yourself returning to again and again for no obvious reason. Their cases are filled with the kind of tiny sparkly things, beauty products, and home trinkets you just want to spend time around. A while back, I did find myself there for a specific purpose (upon which I will elaborate later), but since then I've returned just because the atmosphere makes me happy. Maybe all these good vibes have something to do with the fact that they employ local artists to create their Catbird jewelry line with ethically sourced materials and conflict free stones, sell cruelty free beauty products, and donate 1% of all sales proceeds to organizations aligned with their core beliefs. Whatever it is, it's got me coming back. Keep it up, Catbird.
In my constant pursuit of the Hotel Tivoli aesthetic, I decided to use this glass top coffee table as an opportunity to infuse my living space with, you guessed it, more color. After some brainstorming to determine how to create a color blocked design, I landed on this paint chip technique. I like to keep these types of projects reversible if possible that way if I change my mind (likely) all is not lost. I know paint chip crafts are so 2012, but I never got to take advantage of the trend while it was hot so... humor me. I entered Home Depot under the guise of repainting... something and it got me thinking: How often do employees need to replenish the paint chip stock? Has there been a noticeable uptick since the invention of this low budget craft trend? How does it effect the paint department's budget? Can anyone provide some insight on this? Apologies for the digression, but I'm actually very curious. Moving on! Basically I just waltzed into the paint department and took an entire row of sequential paint chips and would figure out the design later. I know ombré is also a passé design trend, but paint chips are already organized that way so what can you do? Here's how it's done:
First choose your composition, laying out your paint chips will help you determine if it requires any of them to be cut or glued.
Next, cut a piece of clear contact paper to the size of your glass pane. Remove the paper backing and attach your paint chips color side up. Make sure to keep them evenly spaced, once they're stuck it is difficult to readjust them.
Lay your glass bottom side up, align, and stick your contact paper. Smooth down, a credit card works well for this.
Lay your glass in place and you're done! In case you haven't noticed, teal is my favorite color... I recently decided that some variety needs to be worked into the space because things were getting too Under The Sea, but clearly I had a mental lapse when choosing my color palette for this project because... surprise, it's teal. It must have been the intense pressure and guilt of robbing Home Depot of their precious paint chips. Going forward, I will make a more conscious effort to avoid turning my apartment into a beach side cottage. Regardless, this project is a super cheap and reversible way to add a pop of color to any room!
Welcome to the latest installment of Crazy Cat Lady Crafts! Modcloth stylists have always had my heart, but this time they outdid themselves. I happened upon this sweatshirt a while back and immediately added it to my "Love List" knowing full well I would never buy it due to the $225 price tag, but if it were to become 90% off at any point I wanted to be ready. Shockingly, that never happened and the item is now sold out. However! This is an opportunity to get back to the original purpose of the blog and use the adorable sweatshirt as inspiration for something more affordable. Here's how I did it:
First, I used another shirt with a pocket to determine placement and size. I then marked it out with a disappearing marker. If you've never used one of these before, they are amazing for any fabric based craft. Just don't get your material wet before you're finished, you will lose all of your work.
Based on my decal and my sample shirt, I sketched my pocket at 5 inches all around so I still had space to hem the raw edges. To make sure the design was symmetrical I sketched and trimmed one side, then folded and trimmed the other (you can see this technique in the T-shirt Tailoring post as well).
I laid out my pieces to check placement before making any permanent decisions and then ironed on my decal. I created custom Wallace decals with stickeryou.com because given the option I would put Wallace's face on anything. Sticker You includes parchment paper and detailed application instructions with each order. The only tricky part was that the decals had a white border so I took the time to trim the edges before ironing to give it a more seamless appearance.
From here I just followed a sequence of fold, pin, and sew until I had my desired pocket shape. As you can see in the photos above, I started with about a half inch hem at the top, did the same with the sides, then the corners and the bottom. I was just winging this part tbh, but I think it turned out well.
After that, the only remaining step was to attach the pocket to the sweatshirt which also proved to be the most difficult step. I pinned my pocket in place making sure to only pin the top layer of fabric and then attempted the awkward bunching and scrunching required to sew only the front layer of the sweatshirt (see photographic evidence of this below). In my limited experience, the most important thing is that the material not be stretched or pulled awkwardly when sewing. If it is stretched, the sweatshirt will return to its natural shape after the pocket is attached and the pocket will not follow... resulting in a wonky pocket.... pocket.
And there you have it. Now I can take my pet everywhere! And publicly declare my insanity at the same time! My version looks a little more menacing than the original, but it captures Wallace's true nature accurately. I think the result is so weird and cute and, as a perpetually cold person, I am looking forward to living in this for the next several months. Next up, pants to match!
P.S. I'm also considering making a few available for purchase on the Etsy shop since the decals came 6 to a sheet. Anyone want to wear my pet cat on their person?!
For my Intro to Graphic Design classes' second Photoshop assignment, I focused on studio lighting, Photoshop's selection tools, and typography. We completed a brief tutorial together on each selection tool and how it can be applied before jumping into the final project. I then randomly assigned each student a location around the world. After compiling research and downloading fair use high resolution images from a class-wide Pixabay account, we had a photoshoot during which the students photographed each other posing as if they were in their chosen background images. They then used Photoshop's selection tools to remove themselves from the original and insert themselves into the new background image. Each student created a set of 5 postcards illustrating themselves visiting their assigned location overlaid with typical postcard greeting text.
I wasn't able to find the exact references I used for studio lighting techniques, but Phlearn.com is a great resource for both Photoshop and photography techniques if you're ever in need of one.
I was definitely lucky that my students were willing to humor me when I asked them to pose with nothing in front of a blank backdrop, but I think the resulting cards are so fun. One of my students even used them to trick her relatives into thinking she had traveled abroad which I think signifies a job well done on her part.