Happy Scrabble-versary!

My lovely sister and her husband recently celebrated their wedding anniversary. My lovely husband and I had an idea for a neat gift for them, which turned out even better than we anticipated.

Anniversary Scrabble gift

Both of them are big fans of Scrabble and are among the most aggressive/skilled Scrabble players you’re likely to meet, so we felt that a Scrabble themed gift would be perfect! I acquired a basic Scrabble game online and picked up a shadowbox frame at Joann. A little E-6000 and drying time later, it was done! K gets the credit for doing almost all the work on this project. He’s just so good at precise layout projects like this one.

Anniversary Scrabble gift

I’m so pleased with it! I think it will be a lovely thing to be displayed in their home and will hopefully bring good thoughts and memories with it. Happy Anniversary, Susan and David!

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FO Friday: Yarnbomb Mount Pleasant

I was pretty excited when ArtReach announced a yarnbomb project to take place in downtown Mount Pleasant this summer. (Did this have anything to do with the fact that a yarnbomb was an idea I proposed at the For the Love of Mount Pleasant workshop last fall?)

Regardless, I was happy to participate. I signed up to create one 24×27″ piece that will be wrapped around a light pole downtown. I felt super lucky that my pal Sam very generously volunteered to share her sizable stash of acrylic yarn, too! I picked out some bold colors somewhat at random and started plotting what I wanted to do.

Plotting my project for Yarn Bomb Mount Pleasant 2014 #dftba

There are some projects for which I prefer to use paper and pencil rather than plotting online – this sort of thing is definitely one of them. I grabbed the good old-fashioned graph paper and got to work! I looked at a bunch of free knitting font alphabets online but in the end none of them suited me so I just made it up myself. I wanted the letters to be a little stylized and I knew that the way that knitting stitches aren’t square would work in my favor. I graphed the letters out so I knew they’d end up looking the way I wanted after being knit up.

Doing a gauge swatch like a good person

I even made a gauge swatch, something I am usually far too lazy and impatient to do. I was really glad I did, though, as my initial gauge wasn’t exactly what the yarn suggested it might be, so I was able to adjust my plans for the whole so that it would come out at the needed dimensions.

For the center column, I wanted to spell out DFTBA (Don’t Forget To Be Awesome, for anyone unfamiliar) and then have some bright colors on the sides to grab attention. For those sides I just went with the colors I had grabbed from Sam and added in a sixth color (white) from my own stash so that I would have easy color-carrying on the stripes. My idea with the stripes is that one side is roughly Hufflepuff (not really, but it’s close-ish) and the other Slytherin, in honor of my love for Harry Potter.

Yarnbomb Mount Pleasant: DFTBA

I am pretty pleased with how it turned out! It’s a lot bigger than I pictured at first, but it is the correct dimensions according to the brief we were given – I just hadn’t really looked at the measurements to see how large it would be. I dropped it off at ArtReach earlier this week and they will be installing them at the end of the month. I’m really looking forward to seeing my piece and all the others decorating our downtown!

movin’ on down

We have officially moved! AGAIN! This time was slightly less painful because we decided that, after three moves last year which we did ourselves, this time we were hiring pros. It was spendy but absolutely worth it. We are so over moving! Hopefully there will be just one more move in our near future, next year or the year after, whenever we are ready to buy our next home. (I know, we said this last time. And the time before that. Hopefully this time it will actually be true!)

The process of moving went surprisingly smoothly and the movers we used were very speedy. Aside from the brief panic I felt when they showed up an hour early (cue mad dash to find and put on pants), they packed and moved everything in record time.

Move in progress

They packed pretty much everything at Castle Greystone, with the exception of a few fragile things that K had packed and taken over to the new place earlier in the week.

Continued progress

I think it would have taken me a week to pack what they did in less than three hours. Granted, there were four of them, but still, I was pleasantly surprised at how little time it took.

Moving

The truck was gigundous! Watching them back it into the not-huge parking lot at The Box Top made me very glad that I didn’t have to figure out how to maneuver it.

Box Top FloorPlanner photo Floorplanner_zps980cc0c3.png

K did an excellent job with planning for the new place. Thanks to a site called FloorPlanner and his careful measuring, he was able to lay out our furniture in advance so that we could tell the movers exactly where to put things so we had as little moving-around to do after they were gone. The site even had green chairs that look pretty much exactly like our vintage pair!

Things are starting to come together at the Box Top.

The space in the new place is pretty similar to that of the old place, so that made things easy. We also streamlined a little bit and decided to store a few more pieces of furniture that aren’t needed in the new space (mega thanks to Susan and her hub for being our storage until we buy our next home!).

Moving

Despite the easy arrangement of the furniture, of course, there was the matter of the 50+ boxes of crap we own. MUST GET RID OF MORE STUFF.

Moving

UGH. If we had moved all of this ourselves I am not sure I would have been up to facing the unpacking so quickly.

Moving

As it was, though, we got all the boxes unpacked (with the exception of those that are pretty much in stay-packed mode right now, such as those holding holiday decorations) by the following day around lunch time.

Moving

This photo does not do justice to just how much packing paper this is. I did not even attempt to count it.

Moving

Somewhat unpacked! I did not use any sort of organization while unpacking things like books and media. K started out being super careful but I felt that it was taking too long so I just unloaded boxes and threw things up on the shelves in whatever order I found them. We’re in the process of divesting ourselves of a lot of our books and media so I knew we’d be going through it again anyway. Getting rid of all the boxes that were in the middle of everything was a much higher priority for me.

Moving

Feeling pretty decent about getting things unpacked so quickly! We also felt great about the fact that some friends were able to pick up the boxes and packing paper for an upcoming move so those were gone on Sunday morning. That freed up a significant amount of space, too!

Moving

We’ve made even more progress that I haven’t yet taken photos of. Since we got unpacked on Saturday, we spent the rest of that day organizing things. We have a little less kitchen cupboard space than we did before, so that’s a slight challenge, but we’re making it work. Then on Sunday we started hanging photos and artwork and ran internet cable before having a lovely lunch with Susan and her hub and my folks (and then filling their vehicle with our extra stuff to be stored at their place). All in all, a very successful weekend!

latest late quilt update

Despite my blog silence, I’ve still been working on my latest art quilt project, tentatively titled Modern Venus. Last I checked in, I had put together a rough outline of my general plan and was picking out fabrics.

Modern Venus art quilt in progress

I chose blue fabrics for the sky and used an hourglass quilt block. I tried to stick with soft true blues for the sky, since I will also have greenish blues in the water and I want them to stand out from each other.

Modern Venus art quilt in progress

I also divided up the sky into three rough sections of lightness. I want it to get darker toward the moon, though in a very subtle way. You can see here that I use (beloved office supply) graph paper to figure out how many quilt blocks I’ll need in each area.

Modern Venus art quilt in progress

And the same goes for the moon itself. I took a photo of the moon and determined which parts were lightest and darkest, so that I could create a lot of contrast in this section. The colors will range from white to black, with grey in between.

Modern Venus art quilt in progress

For this section, I’m using a simple two-color diagonal quilt block. I like the look of this relatively basic design and I think it works well with the variations in color I’m using. Here I’ve assembled the individual quilt blocks and arranged them in the shape of the moon. The three columns on the left have been pinned together to create strips, while the rest of them are awaiting that preparation.

Modern Venus art quilt in progress

Modern Venus art quilt in progress

And here they are all sewn into strips and waiting to be arranged together with the sky pieces. I’m really making this up as I go and I’m not sure how a professional would do it. This technique of organization works for me, though, and until I read about a better one, it’ll do.

whelmedness

Specs on keyboard

Things have been super overwhelming lately. I have a lot going on in pretty much every aspect of my life and it all gets a bit HOLY CRAP HOW MUCH MORE CAN I HANDLE at times. Even making time for blogging has been challenging, even though it’s a thing I love to do and actively want to spend more time on.

This week, a big thing I’ve been devoting a ton of time to at work got resolved, so that is a huge load of stress that I can hopefully wrap up and move on from. We’re still getting everything worked out for our upcoming move, though, which means a ton of things to plan and figure out (not that K isn’t doing the lion’s share of the actual work on this – he totally is – I just can’t let go of a big project like that enough to avoid the stress/anxiety that necessarily comes with a move).

And then yesterday’s hugely disappointing SCOTUS news – it’s enough to make one despair for more than a moment!

HOWEVER, I am doing my best to remember the importance of breathing and taking a moment to put things in perspective. I found this post about mood regulation to be insightful and a helpful reminder, too. It’s so easy for me to get into a low mood (usually exacerbated by low blood sugar) and then lean right the eff into it. Consciously reminding myself that I *am* capable of letting it go and not getting sucked in is something I need to do more often.

I’ve also been trying to create more treat yo’self time.

Scully, Wampty's newest resident

Which means that I created a second character in Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Here’s Scully! She is mostly bug farming on the island right now, in the pursuit of building up her house so she can house additional furniture collections that don’t fit in my first character’s house. Small pleasures, people.

CMU: New Acquisitions art show

My goodness! So much has been going on lately that I have a bunch of stuff to post that has just been waiting for me to make time to sit down long enough.

We found out (through a careful reading of our new lease documents, NOT through the direct questions we asked the office staff, mind you) that the new owners of our apartment complex decided to raise the rent AND give us the bill for a number of things that were previously covered in the rent (water, trash, etc.), which has effectively priced us out of living here. In addition, our current non-smoking community will no longer be such, and that is a big issue for me (remember when we had to move to a new building here, only a month after moving in the first time, because our neighbors inside the first building were smoking a lot and it was invading/permeating our unit? I am NOT doing that again). So, we’re going to have to move AGAIN before our next, hopefully final for the foreseeable future, move when we buy our next home. We are, as you can imagine, not thrilled about this, but we are trying to see the bright side (even after paying movers, we will still likely save money in the long run due to paying a much lower monthly rent at the new place) (*fingers crossed* that we get the place we’re looking at). We also have to go through all the hassles of moving, having our mail forwarded, and so on – it’s just a huge time- and energy-suck that we were not anticipating.

ANYWAY! On the bright side, I recently went to see an exhibit of new art on CMU’s campus, in the beautiful Baber Room at Park Library.

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Paint by Number (ceramic) by Amy Dziesenski (2014)

I love the juxtaposition of something ephemeral, generally considered to be “low art” with a fine art like ceramics. This piece is really fun (note: all my photos from this show are TERRIBLE and should not be considered to be accurate representations of the artworks).

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

The Spirit: Graham, Dickenson, O’Keefe (multi-media quilt) by Ann Kowaleski

I was really excited to see that CMU acquired one of Ann Kowaleski‘s art quilts from her show earlier this year. I am a fan and admirer of her work.

 

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Batman (ceramic) by Brett Sauve (2013)

This piece was an unexpected delight. It’s Batman, of course, but it’s also a lot more than just that. I really like the artist’s interpretation of the character. I feel like this piece highlights the humanity of the character (rather than focusing on the brutality or sex appeal, as the movies so often do). For me, the eyes especially convey the haunted, lonely life that led Bruce Wayne to take on the Batman mantle. The ears are almost dog-esque (this may just be me – given my love for bat-eared dogs) and their waver-iness gives a feeling of vulnerability. The way his cape is tied reminds me of how a child would tie on a cape, which also leads to that feeling. At any rate, this piece is also just really cool.

This show will be up through July 18 and I highly recommend checking it out.

FO Friday: softies

I recently went on a kick of knitting some softies, AKA stuffed animals. I have some unassigned acrylic aran weight yarn in my stash, and that’s prime fodder for this type of project.

All-in-one Bear

This one is the All-in-One Bear by Kate Turton. This guy is knit, as you might guess from the pattern name, all in one piece. It’s a pretty easy pattern to follow and knit up really quickly. It’s got an old-school feel and I like the proportions of the limbs to body and so forth. If I make it again, I might do the ears slightly differently so that they’re less triangle-y, but overall I’m quite pleased with this bear.

Grey Teddy

Here we have a Grey Teddy Bear, pattern by Lucy Sinkler and Chrissy Gardiner. This guy is a little larger than the first bear, and he has more shaping in his arms and legs. In theory, this is a good thing, but in practice I feel like the limbs just ended up looking a little lumpy. I do, however, like the ears on this bear.

Little Lion

And, finally, the Little Lion, pattern by Lion Brand. I think that this little guy turned out very well. I happened to have the right yarn colors on hand (look familiar?) and he knit up quite quickly. The pattern called for sewing on felt eyes and nose, but I prefer the look of yarn, so I just did it my way.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with how these all turned out. All of these are from free patterns I found on Rav, but I have a few books of softies patterns on hold at the library, so I’m hoping to make a few more. This is part of a renewed de-stashing effort as well as an attempt to knit different types of projects that I haven’t done much before. The lion will be a gift, but I’m looking for homes for the two bears. Any takers?

FO Friday: Star Trek Macbook Air Gadget Guard

I end up taking my laptop to work with me on a fairly regular basis and I wanted a sleeve for it that would fit into my purse and protect it a little bit. I looked around online and didn’t see any ready-made sleeves that were cool, so I looked for patterns instead and came up with Dog Under My Desk’s Gadget Guard. Susan has often recommended DUMD and assured me that her patterns are super-detailed and really work. The pattern was even on sale!

I picked out some fabric from my stash, made a trip to Joann for some zippers and interfacing, and placed an order online for Soft & Stable batting alternative (sadly Joann doesn’t carry it in our local store and I wasn’t able to reach anyone at the local quilt shop to find out if they had any in stock). I debated on fudging the batting with something I could buy that day or had in my stash, but it seemed important to get something with some shape, and I’m glad I did. The case is fitted exactly to the shape of my laptop and I can see that if the sleeve was squishier/had less structure, the lappy wouldn’t slide in and out as easily as it does.

MacBook Air Gadget Guard - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

As you can see, it turned out really nicely! The front pocket has a double-pull zipper and a pleat, so there’s room for something a little more than flat to fit into it if desired. And the top zipper is also double-pull, which I just find really handy.

MacBook Air Gadget Guard - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

I used a geometric design for the lining and I think it is a nice contrast to how busy the exterior fabric is.

Gadget Guard in purse

As you can see, it fits! It’s snug and sticks out the top a bit, but that is fine with me. I like that it’s a snug fit – the laptop sleeve isn’t going to slide out by accident – and I sort of like that it shows off the fun fabric a little. If I’m going somewhere that I need to have “invisible” devices hidden in my purse, I can go without the sleeve or just take my tablet instead.

Gadget Guard in purse

OH! And the best thing is that this pattern uses a formula, so it’s easy to make cases for any gadgets you have. I will likely make one for my iPad as well, since it travels with me quite often. The pattern was, as promised, VERY detailed and really nice to use. There are step-by-step instructions and photos all along! I haven’t ever used a pattern with such clear instructions, actually! I highly recommend Dog Under My Desk.

like sands through the hour glass…

…so are the days of my quilting. Time always rushes by when I’m sewing and I can never seem to make enough of it.

I’m continuing to work on the Modern Venus quilt, specifically the hourglass quilt blocks for the sky.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I cut the squares using a rotary cutter and included room for seam allowances. Then, for one hourglass block, I selected two fabrics. It helped me at first to press one of the blocks diagonally so I could really see the line. After making a bunch of them, though, I found I didn’t need to press anymore. After cutting and pressing, I placed the squares right sides together and made sure the corners were matched up neatly.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I sewed 1/4″ on either side of the pressed diagonal line. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the other.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So I ended up with a piece that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I then used the rotary cutter to slice down the center, on the pressed diagonal line, cutting the block into two equal (identical) pieces.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I pressed each of these two pieces open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

After that, I matched up my new two blocks so that the contrasting fabrics were facing each other, right sides together. I made sure to align the center seams very precisely to ensure a neat result.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

Then I repeated the process of sewing 1/4″ to either side of the diagonal. First one side…

Making hourglass quilt blocks

… and then the second side.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

So then I had a block that looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I sliced it in half with the rotary cutter and pressed the block open.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

The back of the block looks like this.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

And the front of the block looks like this! An hourglass pattern, as you can see, very precise and with a crisp spot where all four points meet in the middle.

Making hourglass quilt blocks

I need to make approximately 300 of these for the sky, and I’m almost done with that process. After that, I’ll make a final decision about what quilt block I want to use for the sea and select my fabrics for that section. I know I’d like a fairly simple block pattern since I’ll be making a lot of them, but I’m not sure exactly what it should be yet.

Have you ever used a particular technique to make a specific quilt block? I’d love to know what your favorites are!

next song! I mean quilt.

My next art quilt is underway! And it will be more than one note, I promise. As usual for me, I’m working from a fairly ambitious idea and figuring out how to do things as I go along. So there will be lots of notes, including some wrong ones, but I’m comfortable with that.

My inspiration for this quilt is Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It’s a massively famous painting and I selected it because it’s very recognizable, has a lot going on in it (plenty of things for me to riff on), and the main focus is a woman. I also like that it has been interpreted in many different ways by different scholars and critics.

Working on a pattern for my own quilt, which at this point I’m calling Modern Venus (that may change), I started out by just looking at the original and noting the various components and details. Then I work to create an outline using Pixlr (it’s free! And you can use layers to isolate various parts of a collage which makes this kind of image manipulation easy) as well as making a graph paper outline by hand so I can be sure of the scale and dimensions I’m planning.

WIP: art quilt

As you can see, these are very rough outlines that don’t have a ton of detail in them. They’re also what I would consider a rough draft in that I haven’t for sure decided on all the specifics yet – I’m just playing around to see how things look.

Modern Venus pixlr photo ModernVenus_zpse0d4c3c2.png

I make sketchy outlines of the figures in Pixlr so that it’s more like a coloring book than a photograph or drawing. It’s easier for me to see the shapes that way. As you can probably tell, I’m not going for super crisp outlines, though, as I don’t want to spend too much time on that, especially since I’ll likely make changes along the way and things won’t end up just as pictured anyway.

Right now I’m looking at Venus having a Blythe-esque head again. I do want the body to be less skinny than the Pullip doll body I have in the collage above – it’s just an easy model to use since I have it handy, and it’ll do for the moment. I’ve also switched out the shell for a book, and the trees will be White Pine trees, which are native to this area and where I grew up. One of the themes I’ve been thinking about is mental illness/stability, so I want to include some symbols related to that theme. The full moon and moths are in my outline at the moment, though I’m still exploring other symbols and we’ll see what I end up with.

Using the graph paper outline, I calculate how many quilt blocks I’m going to use for the various major sections of the quilt as well as making a decision about the size of the background quilt blocks for the piece. For this quilt, I decided to make 2.5″ quilt blocks for the background including sky, sea, and land.

I also selected what quilt block patterns to use for the various areas. I am using a traditional hourglass quilt block for the sky, using mostly pretty traditional quilt-y prints. My goal is to have the quilt contain a lot of traditional quilt design and features, even though it will be an art quilt and not super traditional as an overall product.

Then I went through my fabric stash to see what I have that fits the colors that I’m looking for.

WIP: art quilt

Here I’ve got my blue fabrics and am grouping them by tone as much as possible. This process usually takes me a little while and involves me moving things back and forth from one pile to another and back as I decide what looks best with what else.

Then comes the selecting of the actual fabrics for each section and cutting out squares to make the blocks. Another post will be coming soon on that!