Lovely Day

As you can imagine, I’ve been enjoying my patio as much as possible the past few days. Beginning of the week I had migraines so sun was a bad idea, but other than that? 

There’s been a whole lot of this. Cup of tea, a good book (I’m reading Prudence, right now), shade. Perfection. 
And yes, that is hubby’s new grill/smoker. Yummy food is yummy 😉

Oh, remember those lights I showed last week? This is how they look at night.

Aren’t they pretty??

As for crafting, I’ve done a bit of work on my skirt, but it’s hard to tell I got anywhere lol.

So how are you spending your Sunday?

Posted in Books, crafts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

You’re a wizard, Harry!

This year I got to celebrate 20 years with my favorite literary character, Harry James Potter.

I got to grow up with Harry, I was in 6th grade when I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and I’m definitely part of the “Potter Generation”. I prefer that title over Millennial any day.

Hi, I’m Amy and I’m a Potterhead.

Or if you want to be more specific, I’m a Ravenclaw and proud of it.

IMG-1203

I think I what I like most about the series is the JK Rowling writes with intelligence, she has so many multi-faceted themes. Her characters are well developed and real, with many flaws, and she doesn’t dumb down concepts like death, love, and friendship and make it cheesy. It was fun and magical but tough and complicated. Before I read the first book, I never read a “kid” book that was accessible but also real.

This year, I decided that it had been too long since I’ve read the books. I was going to reread the series (currently still in book 6, trying to savor every moment) and finally go to Harry Potter Park at Universal Studios, Florida. We went in April and it was glorious! Best trip I’ve had in a really long time. I remember walking around thinking, all of this came from someone’s head. She thought it, wrote it, and now I’m in it. Isn’t life weird?

IMG-1145

Also, try the frozen butterbeer, you won’t regret it.

It’s 10 years ago today, that the final book was released. I felt very conflicted – I wanted to rush through the pages to find out everything that happened, but also wanted to savor every thing that happened, knowing it would be the last time I would read it for the first time.

Now, I get to look forward to when my daughter is old enough to read the books. I hope she loves the book as much as I do.

So what does Harry Potter have to do with knitting?

“Oh there you are Albus,” he said. ‘You’ve been a very long time. Upset stomach?’ ‘No, I was merely reading the Muggle magazines,’ said Dumbledore. ‘I do love knitting patterns.’

Why do you have to be so awesome Dumbledore, why?!?

Well, not just that…I first wanted to learn how to knit around 8th or 9th grade. I had to have a Gryffindor house scarf so I could be Hermione Granger for Halloween. This spurred my love for crafts and creativity and melded my love for Rowling’s magical world into my own. It took me all summer to finish the scarf, it was long enough to double dutch! And is still my favorite item that I’ve ever knitted.

One thing about crafts, is that I love many! I’ve learned how to knit, crochet, sew, counted cross stitch and probably a few other random things. But I also have a PhD when to comes to crafts: projects half done. But here are a few completed and WIP…

Currently, I’ve been a doing counted cross stitch from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. I love the whimsy feeling these patterns have to them. I’m hoping to get one finished soon to show off. I’ve been working on this one, below, while listening to my Harry Potter audio books.

2017-07-21_12-27-09

Thank you Karin.

All was well.

Posted in Books, crafts, Guest post, Knitting, Needlework | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Different Kind of Quilt Block

This week’s been one of hard labor. Why? Because we decided to turn our garden into a patio since actual gardening is kind of out. Of course, that meant a whole lot of digging and leveling and… well, hard work. Took us several days and we’re not all done yet, but the biggest parts are done. See?

We had some help from family with the laying of the tiles. A friend commented that it looked like a quilt block, which… it does. Not the intention but I really like the idea lol. I’m so happy with it :-). Just spent a couple of hours simply sitting down and enjoying the setup.

We managed one small addition yesterday:

Aren’t they pretty? Solar lights. Apparently, they need a couple of days to fully be charged, but I can’t wait to see them glow. They’re pretty as they are, though, and I love them.

The idea is to eventually get plants to go between them, but I haven’t figured out what kind I want yet.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Go big or go home

Hi, I’m PickingupEllen, teacher of the fundamentals (English, maths, social skills…), fanfic writer (I have a website), musician, artist and crafter, and  I have an issue with keeping my crafts small…

When Karin invited me to write a guest post I accepted with a wave of excitement at getting to show off the things I have made, but as time went on and I started to gather my thoughts I realised that would be difficult. You see, I have this tendency to work on giant projects that I then have to give away to avoid being trapped in my flat by a wall of fabric and wool. And so, I present a post filled with pictures of half finished things!

I love to make things that are highly textured when you are done so when crafting I mostly stick to:

Wirework, I create trees and other plants – (to give you some scale the bundle of wires that make the trunk of this tree is roughly 15mm wide and the branches spread over an area just shy of a foot in diameter. It is tied to a lump of quartz larger than my head, each gem/glass chunk is about the size of a thumbnail and it is worked with 18 gauge wire.) DSC_0020 copy

Crochet, the photos here really don’t do justice to the textures going on. This is the first quarter of a UK queen-sized bedspread.

Quilting with reclaimed fabrics, I wish I had photos of my patchwork leather quilt to show you (made from reclaimed leather from sofas I found over several years on street corners and that the kind gentleman at the tip would keep to one side for me, all of it worn to the perfect state of softness) but it was given away as a housewarming present to a friend who had always wanted to steal it. Instead, I dragged one of my first quilts out to take photos of.

DSC_0272

I tend to collect materials obsessively with no project in mind until one day I turn to my stash to discover that I have collected so much of something that I have no choice but to make a thing. This process of collecting and hoarding means that when I’m struck by inspiration and set to using it all up I end up with an end product twice or three times as big as I originally planned.

When I’m not wrestling with overgrown, half-made, crafty things or teaching you can find me with me writing fanfiction or reading.

I’m currently reading (re-re-re-reading to be more accurate) – Race_the_ace’s Becoming Connor Davids (You can find this story here!) It’s one of those stories that hits you a little oddly and just sticks in your heart, or at least it is for me. I wrote a… thing? on this story, a while back to explain why it meant so much to me and a lot of it still stands. I’m still a little broken, still a little lost and it remains that the ease Connor shows, as he comes into his own is this ethereal, chimerical ideal that I have always felt I have no hope of ever reaching (embarrassingly for me, if you google this story my website often comes up before the actual author’s page which was never what I intended).

My bedtime books (got to avoid that blue light!) at the moment are Garth Nix’s Aberhorsen series (Author’s website), he’s started to release some more books in a follow-on series so I’m taking the opportunity to have a re-read while I wait for the next book to come out.

My favourite story… what a cruel question! I have always thought of favourite things as the thing you go back to time and again, regardless of where you are in your life or how the world has treated you. If I stick to that philosophy then my favourite story must be Lord of the Rings or the Dragon Riders of Pern. I’ve read both an equal amount of times and I go back, over and over, to be absorbed in those worlds without skipping a word or flicking through the sections I know a little too well (Except for Shelob’s lair! I read it once and that was quite enough to give me nightmares).

That’s kind of it for me, so with heartfelt thanks to Karin for inviting me, thanks for reading!

Posted in crafts, Crochet, Guest post, Sewing, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Stitch Here…

A stitch there and we’re making progress on one of my Christmas projects (hush, haven’t you ever heard of Christmas in July?).

Not that that’s why I’m working on this, mind. It’s just so close to done I want it moved from my WIP-pile ;-). Haven’t decided if it’s going to be framed or if I’m doing something else with it yet.

I’ve been enjoying reading the stories coming out of Rough Trade so far. Not participating again because no bunny bit, but I’m actually okay with that. There’s always next time, right?

Posted in Needlework | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

the beauty and nobility, the august mission and destiny, of human handwriting

Greetings and salutations, readers!

My name is Alison and I’ve dropped in to discuss calligraphy, which is about as arty and crafty as I get. I’ve tried embroidery, knitting, counted cross-stitch, quilting, tatting lace, and while I love them all, I usually don’t have the patience to finish, or my cat decides to “help” and there goes my string. (But he just looks so happy!) I cannot draw or paint or sculpt or anything that requires artistic talent in that way; I have issues drawing stick people. But calligraphy! Something about it soothes my soul, to watch the ink flow and create these beautiful letters and words and sentences and I feel like we’ve lost something over the years in our handwriting as a society and the vintage-lover that I am, it just works for me on many levels. (That and it takes way less time to ink a phrase than it does to knit an afghan.) My grandmother had perfect Palmer handwriting. (“Had” because she’s got Parkinson’s and now she shakes too much.) My mother, who can fit more on a page if she handwrites it instead of typing it, also does calligraphy and as a kid I’d pour over what I called her “font book.” I have no idea the actual name of this book, but it had sections for every upper case letter in each font, and every lower case letter, and then the complete alphabet for each font, and I would spend hours looking at this book. I think part of why I enjoy it so much is that it’s very repetitious and orderly to learn, yet so wildly creative to actually do. The dichotomy is appealing. I do my calligraphy for me, mostly. I can’t really think of a time when someone’s asked me to ink up something for them, but I have a few ideas for Christmas presents for friends. I did design one of my tattoos, however, using one of the fonts I found in the font book.

(A picture of the ink! It says, “be a perfectionist / you’re nothing if you’re just another” from The Birthday Massacre’s “Goodnight.” Great song.)

ink

A brief history of calligraphy: it’s predominantly found in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, although the Mayans had calligraphy, as well. The word itself comes from the Greek and translates into “beautiful writing.” Western calligraphers traditionally use a pen with a nib, and Eastern calligraphers tend to use brushes, although depending on where you are in Asia, that can vary. Calligraphy is a gorgeous and highly valued element of Islamic art, and Islamic cartographers use pens made from reeds. Calligraphy started to fade in importance once printing became standard, but never truly passed into history. The modern revival began in the late 1800s, led by Edward Johnston as a part of the Arts and Crafts movement. Wikipedia has a long article with lots of links to the specific kinds of calligraphy (Western, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Islamic, Indian, Nepalese, Mayan, etc.) for those of you interested. (There’s a Links section at the end of this post.)

I’m currently working on teaching myself Spencerian script. Back when our great-great-grandfathers were trudging through snow, uphill, both ways, to get to school, handwriting was still a subject actually taught in school. Platt Rogers Spencer developed it in the 1840s as an oval hand which could be quickly written yet remain legible, to be used for business and personal correspondence. (The logos for Coca-Cola and Ford Motor Company are in Spencerian script.) Spencerian script was the standard until typewriters became common, and was gradually replaced with the Palmer method in the 1920s. The Palmer method was replaced with Zaner-Bloser, which was almost immediately replaced with D’Nealian, which is what I was taught in school. (Does my day-to-day handwriting actually look like it? Heck no!) D’Nealian was first introduced in 1978 and is still being used today, I believe. But I digress. Back to Spencerian! The Spencerian script wasn’t just how to form the letters; it included a fair amount of theory on proper penmanship. For example, students were taught how to properly position themselves at a desk (using either the front position or the right position, you lefties are screwed); how to properly hold a pen, including very precisely exactly where fingers are placed; and how to properly move one’s hand and arm. (I don’t remember being taught any of that under the D’Nealian system.) The theory also covered definitions of lines, kinds of lines (straight, curved), styles of lines (right curve, left curve, vertical, horizontal), angles, measurements of angles, and students had to draw examples of all of these and indicate the angles on graphs. There are Seven Principles according to the Spencerian System: in order, they are straight line, right curve, left curve, extended loop, direct oval, reversed oval, and capital stem. There are different kinds of letters: small letters and capital forms. There are classes of each kind of letter, divided by letter height. Students were required to measure and analyze every letter, small or capital, and say which Principle applied to each stroke of creating the letter. Letter and word spacing was specified in detail, as was creating shades (the thicker bits of a letter) and how to create figures (i.e., numbers).

A few examples of the instruction:

On the Capital O

How is the Capital O formed? Begin three spaces above the base line, and descend with a full left curve, on main slant, to base line; unite in an oval turn and ascend with an opposite right curve to within one-fourth space of top; unite in another oval turn and descend with another left curve within one-third space of the first and similar to it, ending one-third space above base line.

On the small N

How should the small n be formed? Begin on base line, and ascend with a left curve on connective slant, one space; turn short and descend with a straight line on main slant to base; then unite angularly and ascend with a left curve on connective slant, one space; again turn short and descend with a straight line on main slant to base; finally turn short and ascend with a right curve on connective slant, one space. Let the curves be equal, the turns equal, and the straight lines parallel.

And et cetera. You get the idea. If you don’t get the idea, here are my attempts at Os and ns! (Although technically, the Os are “Omen” and the ns are “ni” – perhaps Spencer was a time-traveling fan of Monty Python and the Holy Grail?) (Also, prime opportunity for a “bad omens” joke.) (In my defense, I did skip ahead to Copybook the Third for those Omens.) (Wow. Many parentheses. Much grammar.) My nis aren’t too bad, actually; you can see where I switched my position a little and I think I got a huge improvement in quality from that switch. Must reread front and right positions! My Omens need work, but I’m reminding myself I skipped a copybook to have the example. The slant is incorrect – I’m far too upright – and my letter spacing is too narrow. However, I did notice when writing out those Omens that practicing proper letter creation gets easier when you’re in the rhythm of using the (writing with the?) script. I can see how it lives up to its ideal of being written quickly yet legibly.

Students had five copybooks with which to practice their penmanship. The first copybook, which I’ve just started, covers all the short letters (letters which neither ascend nor descend, like e, r, s,  or a; there are thirteen). Only four principles are needed to create these letters. The second copybook adds t and d, and the figures 1 through 9. Book 3 completes the lower case letters and adds most of the upper case letters. Book 4 completes the entire alphabet and starts introducing the letters as they appear in words. The final copybook practices sentences and sayings, such as, “Promise little and do much.” (Oh, the manners of the 1800s!)

Here are a few pictures of the theory and copybooks. You can (kind of) see my pencil-based attempts! Rest assured, I will be filling in the remaining black spaces. I will probably also order another set of copybooks to practice with my pen & nib once I feel comfortable with forming the letters.

And since I feel like I’ve typed up a wall of text: here, have a link to a video of the theory and copybooks!

Hm, what else. I’m currently reading quite a few things, actually. I enjoy fan fiction and I’m on a Kingsman kick and a Teen Wolf kick with twenty-some stories open across various tabs on various electronic devices with internet access. I’m also rereading Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle for the I-don’t-know-how-many-eth time, and I’m studying Irish pub cookbooks and Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” cookbooks for ideas and concepts. I’m trying to eat healthier but woman does not survive on kale alone. (And kale tastes horrible, anyway.) My favorite book, and here we’re defining “book” as “a specific physical object Alison can hold in her hand,” is a copy of the collected works of Oscar Wilde that my grandfather gave me one year for a birthday present, bookmarks carefully placed to indicate his favorite stories. I have never removed those bookmarks, and out of all the things I own, I would reach for my cat and that book if I had to evacuate in an emergency. But if we’re talking “book” as in “story,” well, we need a few categories on that! Favorite authors include (in no particular order) Jane Austin, Georgette Heyer, Oscar Wilde, Rex Stout, Robert Frost, Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A Heinlein, Edgar Allen Poe, Daniel Silva, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, James A Michener, Rudyard Kipling, and Bill Watterson (he of the most excellent Calvin & Hobbes). I cannot possibly list my favorite stories, but along with the majority of the works by the previously mentioned authors, I also enjoy the traditional folk and fairy tales from around the world (not just the Western stuff, y’all) that have no author, only gorgeously illustrated retellings.

Links!

First and foremost, I copied heavily from Mott Media’s edition of Theory of Spencerian Penmanship, copyright 1985, in my paragraphs about Spencerian penmanship. My pictures are of their theory and copybooks, too. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Spencerian-Penmanship-Theory-Book-copybooks/dp/088062096X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1499139428&sr=8-2&keywords=theory+of+spencerian+penmanship

Originally published and copyrighted in 1874 by Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Co.

(Not a link, but credit must be given: the title of this post is from George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” which is the play “My Fair Lady” is based on.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calligraphy

Why Write? Penmanship for the 21st Century (TEDxMileHigh with Jake Weidmann, Master Penman) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85bqT904VWA

Jake Weidmann https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvSyQDu49pI

Seb Lester (Famous Logos) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNfbfLahm1E

Islamic Calligraphy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg1_DGzTluM

Tibetan Calligraphy (Master Calligrapher Jamyang Dorjee Chakrishar) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwpENOPbjYA

IMG_7305

Posted in crafts, Guest post | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Is It Sunday Again Already?

This week seems to have run away from me completely. I honestly don’t recall very much of what I’ve done. Certainly haven’t managed to get any crafting done, though we did catch up on housework, so there’s that.

Since I don’t have anything crafty to share (I did finally get a new hook, so I can at least resume work on my skirt), I figured I’d talk a little bit about the compression gloves I bought a while back. I’ve been using some form of compression gloves for years now. The first ones were bought from a craft store and they helped some, but weren’t really all that great.

It didn’t take them long to lose their ability to compress, and with my hands and wrists becoming more painful over time I started looking for a new, better pair.

In my search, I ran across these. They’re infused with copper which supposedly promotes healing. Cool, I’m all for that! So I bought them and tried them out for a while before sharing my experience with you.

They fit nice and snug, the way they’re supposed to. It took me a bit to get used to the fingers as my old ones didn’t have them (they were cut off and basically just had holes), but once I did I loved them. There’s a version out there with fingers that go to the second knuckle, but that would be too much for me, I think. These are just right – for me. I love that they have grip-stripes. The only slightly downside (sorry, no pic. I’m a righty and couldn’t keep the camera steady enough with my left hand to show you) is that they do come loose. Mind, I’m sure that has a lot to do with how I hold my crochet hook since it catches right at the edge of my palm/thumb.

They’re very comfortable and they definitely make a marked difference in my pain levels while I knit or crochet. Yay for that, right? While I haven’t had to use them during a heatwave, we have had warm enough weather for me to know that I’m sweating a little less in these than in my old ones, so another bonus. We’ll see how comfy they are when we hit triple digits, though.

Do you use anything to help you craft, healthwise?

(also, I make no money off links or reviews or anything. I just wanted to share something I really liked).

Posted in Crochet, Knitting | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment