Friday, March 23, 2018

Two Books You May Enjoy by Emma Bridgewater

Whenever I am working on a book, I always turn to books to give me glimmers of ideas of how I want to proceed on a project. Writing a book is like one long term paper. It always begins with research. It is a whole lot of work but once I hold my book in my hands, I forget about all the sweat and tears and hours of work it took me.

After finishing writing and illustrating Crafting A Patterned Home, I have remained interested in pattern - maybe even more so than when I began. I have always loved looking at patterns - as a little girl and still now so many years later. A few years ago, I read a Book Review in World of Interiors about a book called Toast and Marmalade and Other Stories by Emma Bridgewater. It was published in 2014 in the UK and I couldn't get my hands on it. Somehow, I remembered it late last summer and looked it up and was able to find a copy of it in the US. 

I have a few pieces of Emma Bridgewater's ceramics and I have followed her company and career as her ceramic range has expanded over the years. Toast and Marmalade is the story of how Emma got into making her ceramics in Stoke on Trent. Emma is not a potter - she doesn't make her ceramics. She and her husband Matthew Rice own a factory in Stoke on Trent. But real people do make the pottery. It is slip cast and decorated by hand using sponge stamps and decals. It seems like their company has changed the fortunes of Stoke - by bringing back a dying industry and giving people work who might have soon been out of a job if Emma hadn't come along. 

Toast and Marmalade is a beautiful book that shares the beginnings, the struggles of an entrepreneur's life but it is more. Emma writes beautifully about her Mom, growing up in the UK, of being a sister and a Mom and wife to Andrew Rice (who is her business partner). She writes about food and serving it. She includes favorite recipes from her family. 

I was so surprised at this book - at how good it was. I guess I thought it might be more like a giant advertisement for the company. It was anything but. Emma writes from the heart. She writes about loss and struggle, about love and children and roadtrips, about remembrance and pattern. It was a really good read - one that I couldn't wait to go to bed for each evening. And it all "circles back" to her pottery. (I hate that phrase "circles back" but it seems to work here.)

The photos were done by Andrew Montgomery. They are gorgeous and interspersed throughout the text. These photos are taken from Andrew's website. He is a fantastic photographer and a look around his website is worth your time

I discovered that there is a follow up book to Toast and Marmalade called Pattern and the Secrets of Lasting Design. I ordered the paperback version which is not nearly as lush as the full color version of T&M. It too was a good read. Emma organized Pattern into chapters about all the different patterns she designs for her pottery - flora and fauna, fruits, veggies, lettering and more.

As I read both of these books, I learned that Emma is married to Matthew Rice - he himself an amazing illustrator and a chicken collector. Matthew now runs the company which now does several millions of British pounds per year. And then I learned that Matthew is the son of Pat Albeck - a longtime textile designer whose work I have admired for many years. For many, many years, she designed tea towels for The National Trust of Britain. You can read her fascinating obituary here (she died in September of 2017), see her house here and read a nice interview with her here. Here is a feature on Pat's house on The Bible of British Taste - one of my very favorite blogs. 

What a talented family who have brought so much beauty to the world. Here is an interview with Emma. You can also watch a TED Talk with her here

Monday, March 19, 2018

Spring? The Story of My Life..... The Peddler

Tomorrow is the first day of spring and we are expecting a snowstorm. Again. We have had more snow in this last part of winter than in the really cold part of winter. And it may not be over - there have been snowstorms here in April and sometimes as late as May. Thank goodness it didn't warm up too much in the middle of winter to cause the fruit trees to leave dormancy and begin making buds. There will still be peaches and apples and pears this summer and fall. Yay. 

Today I want to share something super exciting with you - the cover of Crafting A Patterned Home. If you are a newsletter subscriber, you may have already seen it. This is the first time I am showing it here on my blog. 

I am in love with the cover. When Rikki Snyder (the photographer) and I were working on "cover tries" we both thought this image was the strongest. Just because we did, didn't mean the publisher and their marketing team would. But as luck were to have it -- this time -- my fave won. YAY.

The book will be available on April 10th - the official pub date. It's a Tuesday. Why are pub dates always on Tuesday? They always seem to be. 

I am selling copies of Crafting A Patterned Home on my website and in my Etsy Shop. I would love to ship you your very own signed copy. If you would like me to write an inscription, please let me know in the "notes" section of the order. 

For the next few weeks, I will be giving you all some previews of what is inside CAPH along with some backstory to the production and making of the book. 

I'm hoping to sell a lot of books. It is going to be hard to ship as many as I did with the last book Crafting A Colorful Home. It came out in January 2015 and if I remember correctly, there was no Amazon Prime then with options for free shipping. Three years is a long time in our fast paced internet world. A lot has changed - including the public's comfort with buying on-line. 

BUT - I will not take this lying down. I am fighting back against the giant. Here's what I am offering the people (maybe you) who chose to buy from me to support my family, my creative work and our farm......

1. Free shipping (within the USA)
2. An exclusive bookplate designed and handpainted by me.
3. A set of 5 assorted postcards featuring photographs by the lovely + talented Rikki Snyder. 
4. An option to have each book inscribed to someone. 
5. A signed title page

You can pre-order over on my website here.
You can also pre-order on my Etsy Shop here. 

Thank you so much for your support of me, my family and farm, and our work. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

12 Years of Getting Stitched on the Farm And Now --- Onto Year 13

Today is the first day of my 13th year blogging here at Getting Stitched on the Farm. It is a miracle that 12 years have gone by and I am still at it. Think about how things have changed on the internet since 2006. Blogs have morphed into professional websites and businesses employing many people. Children have been born who will never know the days before access to on-line businesses, information (and dis-information), and video streaming. 

Here at our farm, some things have changed and some things haven't. That is the nice part about living on a farm. There is a real routine to the seasons on a farm. We base our lives on what happens around us with our animals, the weather, and the cyclical nature of the planet turning and years going by. In the beginning of this blog, I used to chronicle a lot of the activities that we did and still do. It was my mission to inform people "out there" in the world about the daily goings-ons on a small family farm in western Massachusetts. 

Our daughter Julia was young then - only 7 years old. I was an isolated country woman and Mom - with extremely slow dial up service trying to keep my sanity living away from my family and friends. The blog world was a friendly one back then. Bloggers all over were sharing their children's activities, their baking, their meals, their projects. It was a sweet and innocent time on the internet. 

But with as with all things, the internet has changed. Back in 2006, people were fearful and intimidated by the internet. Now, people aren't afraid to put their personal information on their computers and send it into the ether. The possibilities for on-line business seem endless. I worry that people won't leave their houses one day and just live inside with Amazon delivering everything they need to their door. Will Amazon own us all one day? I think about my sweet little grocery store closing up shop because no one buys toilet paper and cat litter from them anymore. It worries me. How will children be able to learn to communicate with adults if they are just learning everything from an on-line teacher? What will help them with social skills like eye contact and conversation? Will all the small public schools in the country close down because there won't be money to fund them and teachers will become irrelevant? Oh gee, I really hope not.

Don't get me wrong - the internet is a beautiful thing and I take much advantage of it. I mean really - how are you here reading this past middle aged woman's ramblings? I'm trying to stay current - because if I don't - I might as well cease to exist. I want to keep learning new skills. I want to keep sharing them with others. 

This blog - Getting Stitched on the Farm - has given me you dear readers. Those of you who have been here since the very beginning. Those of you who are new here. Many come and go. Some move on. Some return. I really don't know much about you all. Perhaps that is the way it should be. I think about you a lot -- as individuals and as a collective group - my reader friendsWhat would you like to hear about? What can I inspire you with? What can I teach you? What can I share with you that you might be interested in learning? What can I do for you?

As the years have gone by, I am less interested in sharing the day to day life on our farm. Frankly - sharing it bores me because I have written it over and over again. The farm and natural year cycles around. We have lambs. The sap starts flowing. The grass greens up. We move sheep, I plant a garden. We do farmers markets. I develop recipes and take photos. The sunflowers bloom. The leaves turn colors. It starts to get cold. It snows. And then it starts all over again. I feel so fortunate that I get to see it all happen over and over again. 

I have watched friends get older. I think about that a lot now - as I too am getting older. Seriously - how did it happen? This year I am turning 60. I don't feel 60. That seems like a big number. I think about how many more springs I will get to see. I don't dwell on it but every once in a while I think about it. You know - that beautiful day when the sun is shining and all of a sudden the leaves on the trees unfurl it seems in an instant. That color - that beautiful spring green color that makes me feel so optimistic and happy and makes me want to shout and smile and tell everyone who will listen what a beautiful color it is. And I watch my daughter grow and learn more about the world. I try to help but I know I have to step back and let her find her way. It isn't easy letting go. But then if you are a Mom - you know that too. 

This isn't exactly what I had planned to write as I sat down this morning, thinking about beginning the 13th year of my blog. I thought I would write about the release of my upcoming new book and maybe bore you all with self-promotion. But no - this has turned out to be from the heart - my heart - to all of you who have read and continue to read. 

Thank you for coming here. For sharing. For making me feel relevant as I have typed and photographed and rambled. You make my "professional life" possible - as odd as it is. I will continue to write on. Happy 13th year to all of us! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Scrappy Hexagon Crochet Afghan - The FREE Pattern

Kristin's Scrappy Hexagon Crochet Afghan 
The FREE Pattern

I began this afghan on New Year's Day 2018 and finished it just before St. Patrick's Day 2018. Originally I expected it to take me a couple of years but I surprised myself by becoming very enthusiastic about it. We had a long, cold, snowy winter and making the hexies brightened up every evening. It didn't hurt that the Winter Olympics intervened and they offered lots of television time.  

I made extra hexagons and I will probably keep making them and make a second afghan. They are a perfect project to tote along places and make in downtime. Each little hexagon is a study in color. Once you start, it is difficult to stop. 

YARN: Use worsted weight yarn and a size H (5.0 mm) crochet needle. 
I used my Classic Elite Yarns Color By Kristin/Nashua Handknits Julia yarn - 50% Wool, 25% Alpaca, 25% Mohair. 93 yards for 50 grams. 
Each of my hexagons weighs approximately 6 grams. 
Each measures 4 1/4" (10.75 cm) side to side and 4 3/4" (12 cm) tip to tip.

You will need approximately 210 hexagons. I suggest making at least 250 hexagons so that you will have alternate color choices to choose from. 
My afghan is 14 hexies long by 15 hexies wide. 
It measures 53" x 58". I find this to be a good size for using as a blanket on a couch. It is big enough to take a nap under. Of course, you can make yours larger by adding more hexagons. 
The finished afghan is 1260 grams. You will need approximately 1400 grams for the afghan because you lose bits in seaming and weaving in ends. 

I used a selection of colors that were included in my two different yarn lines over the years. Sadly both the lines are discontinued but you may be able to pick up odd balls on ebay or on Ravelry. The most dominant shades are: 

Nashua Handknits Julia Yarn: 
5185 Spring Green, 1890 Peony, 3916 Lady's Mantle, 2163 Golden Honey, 0950 Caramel, 0154 Sunflower, 5178 Lupine Blue, 6085 Geranium

Color By Kristin: 
3215 Spring Green, 3220 Blue Thyme, 3232 Raspberry, 3235 Lady's Mantle, 3243 Yarrow, 3244 Caramel, 3250 Sunflower, 3257 Cornflower, 3258 Geranium, 3278 October Leaves, 3281 Lichen, 3285 Pumpkin, 3289 Julia's Pink, 3295 Anemone

Make several extra hexagons in different color variations so that when sewing together you will have extra pieces to play with. They can be the start to a second afghan. 

NOTE: Depending on my mood (uptight and frazzled or happy and relaxed) my hexies turned out different sizes. It doesn't matter much because they even out when sewing together. 

(NOTE: These are American instructions.)

To Begin: With Color 1, chain 6. Work slip st to join in a circle. 

Round 1: With Color 1, [Chain 2 (counts as 1 dc), 2 dc, ch 1], 
*(3 dc, ch 1)* - rep bet *'s 5 times,
join with a slip st to complete round. 
Break yarn leaving a 6" tail. 
You will have 6 spaces created by the chain 1 between each set of 3 double crochets. This space is where the pattern will build out. 

Round 2: With Color 2, join yarn in one of the chain 1 spaces, 
[ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc, ch2, 2 dc - work these sts into the open space created by the ch1 in first round], 
*(2 dc, 2 ch, 2 dc)* rep bet *'s 5 times, (this sequence is worked in each of the ch1 spaces created in the first round),
join round with a slip stitch to complete round. Break yarn leaving a 6" tail. 
The piece will begin looking like a hexagon.

Round 3: With Color 3, join yarn in one of the open 2 chain spaces. 
[Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc, ch2, 2 dc - (work these sts into the open space created by the ch2 in second round), - then work 2 dc in the next open space], 
*(2 dc, 2 ch, 2 dc) in each ch2 spaces, 2 dc in next open space)* rep bet *'s 5 times around the hexagon,
join round with a slip stitch to complete round. Break yarn leaving 6" tail.
Hexagon is complete. 

My hexagons are 3 rounds. Use this same pattern and keep adding rounds of crochet to enlarge the hexagons to your desired size. Each "corner" will be worked the same but there will have more "2 double crochets" between each corner as the hexagon grows larger. You'll get it once you begin working - trust me. 

Finishing: I chose to sew my hexies together using whipstitch. I like to sew and found it relaxing piecing it all together. 

Here is a link to a short video on Instagram showing me steaming the individual pieces before seaming them together. You can read about my steamer here

Here is a longer video discussing how to put together different colors and how to seam the pieces together. 

For seaming, I use a simple whipstitch and sew with a large eyed blunt point tapestry needle. If you prefer, you can join the hexies together with single crochet. It is up to you and your preference. 

Optional edging: If you desire, work a row of single crochet around the entire edge of the afghan using different colors of yarn. This will make the edging stronger. 

March Snow and My Finished Scrappy Crochet Hexagon Afghan

This has been a very long winter. A few weeks ago, it hit 70 and we thought it was close to over. The maple farmers were tapping their trees and the sap was running. Sugaring season is always a sign of the coming of spring and as a country person, I always look for the signs of smoke coming from the various sugar houses around our little town. 

We have had three snowstorms over the past 2 weeks. And there is supposed to be another one next week possibly. Snow sure does make everything look pretty but it complicates farming. Mud season seems to be lasting forever - the ground has been freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing. Every time it snows, the barn gets wetter because the sheep bring the snow inside and shake or it melts. I'm not sure they mind it but the humans do. 

Here are a few photos from the latest snowstorm. The black, white and gray tones are what we have been looking at all winter. 

Maybe that is why I have had such fun working on my Scrappy Crochet Hexagon Afghan. Originally I thought the project would take a couple of years. I totally surprised myself and now it is done! The other day when it was snowing, I did a quick steam job on it and headed out for some snowy photos. Here they are.  

I love this one of it lying on top of the snow. 

I am working on the pattern and hope to be posting it here on the blog this weekend. Come back and check it out in case you have lots of odd balls of yarn just waiting for a scrappy project. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

New + FREE From My Friends At Classic Elite At Your Local Yarn Store

Earlier in this week, I wrote about changes -- about how they are constant and how things keep changing and morphing and how it seems impossible to keep up. Any business now - to remain relevant and in business - has got to have the ability and where-with-all to change. The yarn and craft business is no exception. Lots of times it takes thinking outside the box to stay in business, stay a leader, or become one. 

Today I want to share with you what the fine folks at Classic Elite Yarns are doing now to remain relevant in this ever changing world. They have published a sweet print magazine called The Hub. The name comes from the first building that CEY was housed in in Lowell, Mass called The Hub Hosiery Building. I worked for 16 years as the Creative Director at Classic Elite and the company will always have a place in my heart. 

I have watched from the sidelines since the early 2000's as the craft yarn business has changed. Local yarn stores are now competing with on-line sales and it is a struggle for any yarn store to stay in business. That said, there is nothing like visiting a yarn store and seeing, touching, and smelling (yes I said smelling - I always lift yarn to my face and give it a good sniff) yarns of different fibers, plies, and twists. The tactile qualities of yarn is something a computer screen cannot provide. 

I applaud Classic Elite for helping to promote their customers - your local yarn store. Here's more about their new project.  

The Hub Magazine is available exclusively at your local yarn store. The Hub features so much. I've included some not so great photos here. You are going to want to head down to your local yarn store to pick up your very own copy. It is 48 pages long and every page is full of beautiful glossy color. 

There are several free patterns that are only available in print in The Hub. The first is this beautiful Aran called The Monument Mountain Pullover in their Vista - a gorgeous blend of wool and alpaca. Beautiful cables have always been a big part of the Classic Elite look and this pullover is stunning. 

Classic Elite has always been known as a leader in trending colors. The Runway Wrap uses 8 colors (in 4 different types of yarn). The striping and color blocking looks current and I like the stair step edge. 

The Hub isn't just about free patterns. There is a lot of great content to this magazine. There are features on designers in the biz. 

Classic Elite Yarns is promoting their yarns and their local yarn store customers by hosting Knit-Alongs. The Hub features 2 different pretty and easy shawl Knit-Alongs. You can follow along with them on Instagram too where they share what many of their LYS customers are doing. 

There is a feature on linen and knitting with it (always a little tricky). And  a feature called "The Legacy of La Gran Mohair." If you have followed my work for years now, you probably have seen many of my designs over the years in this beautiful basic brushed mohair. It was/is a dream to work with. So soft and lofty. I love that CEY is still using the label I designed so many years ago. There is a cute little "Modern Mohair Pullover" design featured and a timeline of many of the past classic La Gran patterns. You can find many of them only on Patternfish

There is a feature on washing and blocking sweaters and shawls. If there is step that I know that many knitters skip - it is the blocking. For me - that has always been the most important finishing step to any project. 

So there you have it - The Hub. To get your very own copy, you will have to visit your local yarn store. Classic Elite has shipped the magazine to local yarn stores all over the country - whether or not the LYS carries their yarn or not. If your yarn store doesn't have it, tell them to call Classic Elite and they will send several copies to them to disperse amongst their customers. It is totally FREE - for local yarn stores and their customers. The patterns are not available anywhere else - not on-line or in print anywhere. 

I applaud Classic Elite for taking the chance on this new way of marketing their yarns and promoting the Local Yarn Store. Let's hope it is a step to help Local Yarn Stores stay in business a few years longer. 

Check out their website here and sign up for their weekly newsletter which always includes a free pattern. 

It's Saturday - why not visit your Local Yarn Store? 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Hexagon Update, Remembrance, + A Video How To on How I Seam the Crocheted Hexagons into a Blanket

When I began my Hexagon Crochet Afghan, I thought it would take me a couple years to finish. I have surprised myself. It is rolling along - thanks to all the sports watching during the Olympics. And to the Oscars. I'm deep into the sewing together phase of the project now. 

The afghan has gotten mighty big. It is a bit unwieldy to handle and it is tricky to see how and where to attach new pieces. I moved the furniture in the living room to the walls and I've got a big open space on the floor to check on my progress. During the Oscars the other night, I sewed and sewed and sewed. And then I had to rip a bit. I couldn't figure out why pieces weren't fitting correctly. It was looking a bit wonky. 

And then I discovered it - one of the hexagons was 7 sided - a heptagon. It wasn't  6 sided at all and it was throwing things off. Rip rip rip and re-sew. It is going better now. 

And here I thought I might finish it during the Oscars. Not a prayer. As it is now, it will take several more nights of sewing. 

I haven't made a project like this in a long time. Lately the things I have been making have been projects that don't take days and days and days and evenings (unless you count my book which took 1 1/2 years). They have been pieces of pottery or painted walls or tea towels or ...... This has felt like a marathon. It is a bit addicting and I am thinking of starting another afghan. I seem to have caught the crochet bug. It really is super portable and playing with the colors is such fun. 

As I have been crocheting in fits and starts all over creation - at the Saturday Farmers Market (one more week for me - it is at the Hadley Mall just outside Target), taking Julia to the doctor and in the evenings, I've thought back to my grandma Frieda. She is the person who taught me to crochet when I was young. I am trying to remember how old I was but for the life of me, I cannot figure it out. I do remember that Gram was always crocheting or quilting or baking or cooking or cleaning or gardening, arranging her dried flowers or making something. 

The last big project of her life was making every single one of her grandchildren a crocheted afghan. My Mom procured the pure wool and she made 8 zigzag afghans - one for my 4 sisters and me and for my 3 Nicholas cousins. 

(BTW - Kim Werker has a new Zigzag Crochet Class just available on Craftsy. She is giving away 3 classes for FREE - check it out here to sign up to win.)

Gram was a huge part of our lives - how lucky was I? Gram frequently came to our house and babysat for us. We frequently were dropped off at her house. She lived on Conger Street in a 4 square house she and her husband built in 1927. She was a composter before it was cool (for her - it was just right and what you did). She grew all kinds of flowers and veggies. There too she was before her time - she mixed the veggie plants in with her gorgeous roses and flowers. Behind her garage, she planted lots of vegetables. One of my favorite stories from Gram was about when the circus came to town. (Yes - that really did happen in Dover.) The big thing with all the German immigrants was not the circus - it was when the circus was leaving town. They would all be waiting for the elephants to leave and would be there with their buckets to pick up the elephant poop. I can just picture it. 

One of my strongest memories of Gram is popping in to visit her on a Sunday evening. She would be sitting in her chair crocheting and watching Masterpiece Theatre. If you went to visit her on a Sunday, you could not talk to her until "her show" was over. I realize now that I have followed in her footsteps - don't bother me until Victoria is over. When I was little, I didn't really "get the drama" of those shows but I sure do now. 

On Gram's couch, there was massive green afghan made in wool. It had color blocks of some tan and another green - at least that is how I remember it. On it, there were crocheted flowers and leaves applied. It always looked so beautiful and untouchable to me.  I couldn't believe that someone had had the patience to make such a huge textile by hand with a hook and yarn. I don't know if anyone ever slept under it - it was more of a showpiece in my eyes. Perhaps it was a subliminal piece of work and history that inspired the crocheted flowers I made and included in my floral knit and crochet pattern - Olympia's Knit and Crochet Felted Flowers.

When Gram was in the nursing home at the end of her life, we would visit her. She didn't know us and really couldn't communicate. I found it so incredibly sad to see her like that. I try to remember her as I described above. The one thing I do remember from her days in the nursing home is she would hold the hem of her sheets and she would work the edge like she was crocheting. She couldn't communicate but she still had that motion in her fingers. 

Last week, I made a little video that I have posted to YouTube. It is a little long -- 11 minutes - sorry. In it I talk about how I choose which color hexie to put next to another. I also demo my method for sewing the hexies together. I've posted it at the bottom of this post or you can see it on YouTube here

If you want to see a quicker video - check out this one I posted on Instagram

While you are on YouTube - do me a favor - sign up to follow my channel. I am trying to build up my following there and it would help me out. Thanks! The more followers I get, the more apt I am to make more videos.

Feel free to ask questions if you have any while watching and I will try to answer them in the comments or in a future post or video. 

Monday, March 05, 2018


That is an understatement, isn't it? The world is changing at such a remarkable pace it seems so impossible to keep up. Try as I might, there is always some new platform to sign up for, some new program to learn and master, always something new but it seems that we still have to keep up with the old. Being self-employed there are so many possibilities but it is so easy to get scattered - to try to be all over the place. But if "I don't keep up", I may miss the newest latest greatest marketing thing or whatever else there is out there. 

Being all over the place - does it work???? By jumping on the next bandwagon, do you drop what you were doing and forget all the people who follow you on an established platform? Do you try to keep up with it all - and add another thing to the to do list? It is overwhelming thinking about it all.  At some point, it seems the best tact to take is to wait it out and to see if some of those who first jumped on have success with a platform. Although then you risk losing out on being a leader. 

I have thought many times to stop writing this blog. It takes a crazy amount of time to create a good post, write, photo, process, post, proofread, etc. I have stepped back on the frequency of blogging compared to what I used to do. It is true that so many people have completely stopped blogging (and yes - I miss them, do you?). Many former bloggers have turned to Instagram to post a quick photo. Or they are do "stories" on Instagram or film Facebook Live posts. I have not caught on to either of those things. I think of my on-line life as a part of my business and I don't want things I do to disappear after the amount of work I put into them. 

Me, I do continue to blog. I still find it a relevant platform. I can't say absolutely everything in a small photo someone sees (or doesn't see because of the algorithm changes) on their phone. (BTW - if you are on IG, have you noticed that every 4th or 5th photo is now a sponsored post/ad?) With the crazy -- seems like weekly -- changes Facebook and Instagram seem to put out, it seems like my blog and my newsletter (sign up on right sidebar please!) are two places that I can control. I can't control who comes and reads here but at least it is a place that I can put what I want readers to see. And this blog is a place to page back through and look at what I was doing at what month and year in the past. I am coming up to my 12th blogging anniversary in a couple weeks and it is kind of amazing to think that I have been doing this for over a decade. 

In my world now, it is a great big jumble --- my head is literally spinning around. I have an book coming out, I have some great things planned - now to put them into work, classes to plan for this summer and I have my family, home, and life to keep up with. Wish me luck - but then your life is probably the same. 

Here's what my studio looks like now ---- UGH - such a mess. The big table is split into sections - 
1. pottery glazes and a small place to paint
2. computer space for writing, processing photos, and designing patterns on my wacom tablet and Ipad Pro with Procreate
3. Overhead rigged tripod with a set up for shooting video
4. Sides of the room are piled with crap and inventory waiting for orders
5. The floor needs a good sweep and wash but I never seem to find the time nor the need because it is just me.

It really is a nightmare but I just try to focus on what is in front of me so I don't look at the rest of the piles until I need to. I don't find it necessary to clean it all up - as my friend Sally says - we just work amongst the squalor. 

That's what I am thinking about today - random ramblings. I hope you (and I) are off to a good productive start to the week. 

p.s. Opening photo is of test prints of new digital patterns I am working on. Lots to come on that soon.

Friday, February 23, 2018

My New IPad + Procreate + Skillshare + Learning Forever

In November I purchased an Ipad Pro (I got the 12.9" model). I had been hearing about the Pro for a while and thought it would be helpful tool for my work and art. II also purchased an Apple Pencil so that I could draw on the Ipad. 

I bought the app from the App Store called Procreate for $9.99. I had also been hearing about Procreate too via many of the artist accounts I follow in Instagram. I figured I would give it a go. Over the past couple months, I have been watching YouTube videos to learn more about the Procreate app. (You can also get Procreate for the Iphone for $2.99.) 

I have found the channel "Stayf Draws" on YouTube. Stayf is a Dutch artist, illustrator and animator. His videos on drawing in Procreate are really good. 

There has been a bit of a learning curve to master Procreate. I am by no means mastering it but it feels really good to be stretching my boundaries and learning something new. My main reason for learning Procreate was to make the workflow on my pattern illustration a little easier in Adobe Illustrator. (I have been designing a lot of surface patterns lately - more about that soon.) I have figured that out somewhat with the help of an on-line teacher named Bonnie Christine. This woman is something else. She just relaunched her website and you can check it out here. Last year I took an on-line class with Jessica Swift. I am finally putting it all together. 

I discovered Bonnie Christine on Skillshare after I took one of her classes. She has several classes on Skillshare. Do you know about Skillshare? It is a fantastic on-line learning site. There are over 18,000 videos which are produced by people just like you and me. Most of the classes I have watched aren't fancily produced. Teachers are from all over the world. Sometimes the lighting and sound is less than professional but the general learning experience is decent. 

The way Skillshare works is you can buy a monthly membership ($15) and watch any of the videos you want. They also just offered a yearly membership for $99. The teachers are paid by the number of people who watch their videos and the number of minutes watched. They also have some FREE classes.

Right now, I am watching videos by On Mar Win - a British illustrator. She is a good teacher. Check her classes out here. I also watched a video on Designing Repeat Patterns in Procreate. It was a good class but I decided that I would rather design in Illustrator considering I know it and I get the outcome I need. I have been working in Illustrator since the 1990's or so. I am by no means a pro but I know what I need to know to get my work done.

Adobe Illustrator is difficult to learn but once you learn it, there are all kinds of uses for it. Illustrator is perfect for pattern design because it is vector based. That means that any digital design can be increased in size infinitely and will always look good. (Photoshop on the other hand yields digital files that will look pixelated if they are increased in size.)

The main thing I am using Procreate for now if drawing outlines of shapes and flowers that I am bringing into Illustrator and then making into patterns that I can upload to Spoonflower. It has made things a little quicker for me but it is still not an automatic thing that I am quick at. 

I am sharing all of this with you because I want to encourage you all to try to learn something new - whether it be art, textile crafts, baking, gardening..... You are never to old to learn. 

Learning a new skill opens up all your senses and makes you think differently. Looking at things I have always looked at with a new slant is good. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Crochet Hexagon Update

Have you been watching any of the Olympics? I've been working on my Crochet Hexagon Afghan most nights while watching. The afghan is coming along. 

I am attaching the hexagons together with whip stitch using a blunt point tapestry needle. It is not a fancy technique and I prefer it to crocheting them together. I like to do hand sewing and it is quite relaxing to piece the hexies together. I wasn't sure how it was going to look. The edges of each hexagon are different colors. I am choosing one of the colors and sewing it to the next. I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be up to snuff but with all the colors, the different colored sewing yarn isn't really noticeable from far away. The overall feel of the afghan is crazy colorful and fun. 

It feels good to not be looking for perfection in a project. I am not going to enter this afghan in any fair or contest. I am defintely not what you would call an expert crocheter - I just get by. My family - who will be fighting over this blanket - could care less if the sewing threads don't match. So I am just going with it and enjoying the process. It feels nice to just let go and see where it takes me.

The other day, I posted a video on IG of me steaming my hexagons using a steamer. Here is the link. I have had this Jiffy Steamer for over 20 years ago. It is still going strong. I think it cost $115 back then. I have gotten my money out of it many times over. You can buy one now on Amazon - here is the link. It is a real miracle worker. I remember using a similar steamer at CEY to stretch sweaters out in size by almost 8-10" when they came in too small from our sample knitters (those were the days of oversized sweaters). You really do need one if you do a lot of knitting or crochet. It makes any piece look more professional and finished.

As you can see in the video, before steaming the hexagons were curled up and quite uneven. After steaming - they are nice and flat and easy to sew together.