Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Yarn Along: Linen Vest

It's Wednesday so I'm joining Ginny at Small Things.

The vest is coming along.  There's a nice little detail on the side (that you can't see - sorry) that got all messed up after I connected the armholes, and I had to deal with the not-uncommon dilemma: do I go back 5 rows and fix or do I proceed and hope that it won't be so bad?

Oh, I wanted to just proceed.  I was dying to let it go.  I came up with all sorts of "tricks" to fix the problem without actually fixing the problem.  But in the end, I decided that I didn't want to spend my time making a garment that I would be embarrassed to wear.  So I bit the bullet, went back 5 rows (which was tedious but not difficult) and fixed it.  And I'm SO HAPPY I did.  It really looks so much better now.  It was a good little exercise in un-knitting as well.  (The pattern is free on Ravelry.  Here's the link.)

I'm currently reading WHERE THINGS COME BACK, although nothing has come back yet.  It's kinda a slow starter.  I'm sticking with it because it has not one, but TWO fancy round stickers on the front cover, but it's going to have to get interesting pretty darn soon or else back to the library it goes.  I enjoyed SHIP BREAKER but I thought the ending was a little unsatisfying.  Then I noticed that it's the first in a series - so if I think of as part of an on-going story I think it ended just fine.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday Art Class: Watercolor Pencils

Curly and Mo got watercolor pencils for Valentine's Day and were eager to try them out so I crafted a lesson for watercolor pencils.  I have a set, but honestly, I rarely use them.  I suppose they are good for on-the-go creating, but when I'm home I'd rather use my tube watercolors.  So I went ahead and looked up a how-to lesson on Google so I could teach the basics of the medium.

The tricky thing with these art lessons is that the boys will get bored if I spend too much time on solid art fundamentals like hue, tone, contrast - stuff like that.  My goal is always to have them make a fun project and sneak the basics in.  Kinda like sneaking carrots into spaghetti sauce.

Sometimes it works.  Sometimes not so much.  This was a not-so-much time.

It started off well and good.  I whipped out the lightbox out so the boys could trace the birds onto their watercolor paper.  As I told them, people often trace onto watercolor paper so they don't rough the texture of the paper up with eraser marks.

Then I showed them how to lay down the color with the pencils and that the object was to make layers of color to darken something and not just press the pencil down really hard.   I also tried to show them how to mix the colors a bit.

 The tricky thing about watercolor pencil is you have to have some skill in colored pencil AND you have to have some skill in manipulating water - so it's not the simplest thing to do.

They were all doing a fine job, but it was one of those lessons where I needed to come around and try to guide them individually.  You might want to add a darker color at the crown to get a good gradation of color.  You might want to darken the tip of the wing to make it stand apart from the body.  Stuff like that.  Magoo was having a hard time with it.  It wasn't going exactly as he had hoped and he was getting frustrated.  Then he took my guidance as criticism and he really started to get stormy.

At a certain point, I've learned, it's best to just back off and let him deal with it.  So I focused on Mo and Curly.

I think they all did a great job, but ultimately, I don't think watercolor pencils was a slam dunk for any of them.

That said, hopefully they can take some of the things they learned and then go off and experiment on their own.

(Curly did the red bird, Magoo did the brown, & Mo did the blue.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Magoo Goes to the Birds

The other day I had some India ink out and Magoo took an interest in it.  He wanted to paint with it.  And he wanted to paint birds.   So we pulled out a book with birds in it, I gave him some paper and some brushes, and he went to town.

(Above) A Kiwi bird.  (Below) A Marine bird.

I'm so impressed with his birds.  I love them!  (And I didn't give him any guidance at all.)   I could tell he was pretty darn proud of them as well.  So we decided that these little birdies needed a proper home.

I think they look pretty swank all matted and framed.  Nice work, Magoo!

In other news:

-It snowed!  Not a lot.  But enough to have a school delay.  Mr. Sicko is still a little sick but he made it through school yesterday and I imagine he'll make it through this shorter day just fine.

- I'm busy gluing my collages down for my picture book.  I can only do so many in one day or else the glue fumes get to me.  It's kinda too bad though, it was really nice being out in the fresh air yesterday gluing.  It will be a little more difficult (and cold) today.  But glue I must!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yarn Along: Fuzzy Lamb

Hello!  It's a sunny Wednesday morning and I have a little Mr. Sicko in bed upstairs, but I thought I'd jump into the Yarn Along for a quick sec.

Inspired by my friend Angela's knitted penguin, I scoured the Ravelry pages for a little knit softie I could make as a present for my cousin's baby, due in April.  I found Fuzzy Lamb!  I'd never made a creature before, so I learned a few new skills.  It was pretty easy.  Only took a few days.  And the lovely thing is that it's not being worn against the skin - so I bought soft yarn but not $20/skein soft yarn, yanno?

I'm reading Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.  It's set in the not-so-distant future on the Gulf Coast where a bunch of beach-rat type folk work on scavenge crews breaking down the big oil tankers that have washed up on the shore.   The main character, Nailer, has a pretty crappy life; poor, dangerous job, violent father, and he just had his shoulder ripped apart.  He realizes that his only way out of his dead-end life is a lot of luck and a lot of smarts.  After a big storm, a fancy ship washes up on the beach (luck) but he has to use his wits to help save the swank girl that survived the crash in hopes that saving her will help save himself.   I'm really enjoying it.  I like worlds that have one foot set in my reality and one foot in fantasy.  Nailer is a great character.  He's a good young man in a savage world.  The plot moves quickly.  The characters are colorful.  The stakes are high.  Just my speed.

Now back to knitting...

The weather is changing and I needed something I little more Spring to knit and I found this lovely loose vest. I'm knitting with a linen/cotten mix yarn, which is definitely a different sensation, but the good folks at Ravelry say it softens up nicely after a wash or two.  But again, this will have a layer of clothing between it and my skin so it doesn't have to be the softest thing ever. 

Man oh man, do I love having this mannequin body to drape stuff on!

Happy Wednesday!

(Joining Ginny at Small Things.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ski Sundown

It's February break here in Connecticut, so Magoo is home from school for two extra days: yesterday and today.  It's dry as a bone around here, brown lawns galore, but we still thought we'd try a little skiing.

In the past, we have gone up to Vermont to ski.  But there's actually some lovely little mountains close by.  On Sunday we went to Ski Sundown which is only about 40 minutes away in New Hartford.  It was kinda funny to see all the browns and greens as we drove to the resort and then slivers of pure white slinking down the slopes. 

You know, our last ski adventure was not a fun experience for me.  We thought Magoo would be OK with just a few pointers and "mom's ski school" was not getting it done.  It left us both frazzled.  So this time we shelled out for a real lesson.  Magoo did a couple runs on this cute little conveyor belt lift and then he went off with the instructor.

While Magoo learned proper ski technique,  Mike and I hit the bigger slopes.  Not the advanced ones, mind you, just the bigger ones.

Ski Sundown has a lot of "freestyle" equipment  for doing snowboard and skiing tricks - which is very entertaining as you ride the ski lift.    Look at this kid getting some air.  You go, kid!

This was our first time at Ski Sundown and I quite liked it.  There were a lot of nice easy runs for me.  I'm not a thrill seeker by any means.  All I want is a lovely ski run.  I want to enjoy myself.  I don't want to grit my teeth as I try desperately not to fall or run into someone.  Nice and easy.  That's me.  And they had that - at the top.  My qualm is that there are, like, 5 easy trails at the tippy top of the mountain, but then a whole bunch of trails merge together at the bottom and morph into an intermediate trail.  You HAVE to go down the intermediate trail to get to the bottom.  So its, la la la - nice and easy - then, at the end - HOLY CROW I'm going fast!!!

After four runs down, I was getting used to it.  But still. 

After an hour and a half of lesson, Mike and I went back over to the beginner area and picked up Magoo.  He was doing GREAT!!!  We spied him going down the trail with his class.  He was turning, controlling his speed and direction, and didn't fall once!  We were mighty proud.

Here's another good thing about Ski Sundown: they have a whole section that's a beginner section.  So you're off on the side of the slopes and you have your own ski lifts and shorter, easier trails.  It was lovely.

Here's Mike and Magoo going up the lift.

We probably spend another hour just letting Magoo choose the trail and following him down.  He fell.  But he never got frustrated by it.  And he could handle himself getting back up again.

It hasn't been much of a winter around here, but I'm so glad we got to have a really positive ski day and I'm glad that we found a nice mountain that's so nearby.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Penguin Softie

When I saw the cutie little penguins on the PurlBee site, I really wanted to make one.  And lucky for me, my niece's third birthday is in March!

I'm still waiting to hear back from both the art director and editor of book #3, so it's the perfect time to do a little crafting.  So, yesterday, I headed down to the fabric store, got my supplies, and got crackin'!

It probably only took about 90-120 minutes to make this little guy [who's about 9" tall, btw].  So I'm going to make a slightly taller companion for him today.

The pattern is great and they have a ton of step-by-step photos.  The only thing I did differently is I filled the feet with rice instead of polyfil to make them a little heavier to help him stand.

You can find the pattern here.

In other news:

I frogged my honey cowl.  I realized that I had an unintentional twist in the thing.  D'oh!   But I'm happy that I've reached a point in my knitting practice where I don't feel defeated if I have to rip something out.  I still have the yarn.  I still have the needle.  I'll just take a short break and start it up again.

I've seen a few of the films on the Oscar roster: Albert Nobbs, Tinker Tailer ..., The Artist, and The Help.  Moneyball is on my Netflix queue so I don't think I'll see that before the big night.  But I'm hoping to get out to see The Descendants on Saturday while Magoo is at Inventions Camp.  Maybe I can take Magoo to see HUGO over the break?

Out of the ones I've seen Albert Nobbs was my favorite.  But it wasn't a WOW movie for me.  Honestly, probably my next WOW movie will be The Hunger Games!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sunday Art Class: DIY Mugs

I've seen a few posts on people designing their own mugs lately, so when I was at the Goodwill a couple weeks ago and saw a bunch of white ceramic mugs, I thought I'd better snatch them up.
Then I picked up some Porcelain markers at Michael's.  (On clearance!  Whoo-woo.  But then 2 didn't work, so BOOO!)

I started the boys out by showing them some examples of mugs that I pulled off the web of cool mugs.  I tried to show them how to make big designs - not too much detail - and not too much color.  I found some great mugs here that do a lot with only two colors.

Then I gave them all mug templates to practice their designs on.

When the designs were approved, then got to draw them on the mugs.  See Curly's in the lower left.  You can see his devil face design on the template and how he's drawing it on the mug.

One of the nice things about these markers is that you can wash the ink off if you made a mistake.  It's not permanent until you bake it on the ceramic.

And here are the boys with their mugs.

Here's nice tutorial if you want to try it yourself.  And (below) here's the template for sketching mug designs.

The boys had a really good time with this project and I think they're super psyched to use their own, personalized mugs. (Sorry boys - I have to bake them first!)

I only had three mugs so I didn't get to make one - boo.  I'll have to run back out to the Goodwill and gather more mugs.  I think these could make excellent teacher gifts!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Waiting Game

A couple of weeks ago I pulled out all the illustrations for my newest picture book, laid them out in the dining room, and made a list of 'things to fix.'

That's all done now, so I'm in that terrible, horrible place where I have to wait.  I'm waiting to see what cover design the publisher wants to go with.  I'm waiting to see if they like any of my mock-ups for end-papers.  I'm waiting to find out if there are illustrations that need tweaking.  And if not, then I'm waiting to get the 'go ahead' to glue everything down.  (It's only taped in place right now.)

Tweedle-dee, tweedle-dee, dee....

Of course, I'm working on other projects.  But it's great when I get momentum going on a project and so hard when I have to stop - cold - and just wait.

In other news: Magoo is working on a biography of Sitting Bull.  Part of the project is a timeline - a timeline with illustrations!  

I present The Battle at Little Bighorn.

My favorite part is the expression on the army guy's face.  Like OH [bleep]!

Have a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Yarn Along: Honey Cowl

My newest project on the needles is the all-too-famous Honey Cowl that it seems EVERYONE is making (or has made) on Ravelry.  Well, I just gotta have one too!  In Tosh DK Moss.  I think this will be my last cowl of the season.  Then I think I'll be all cowled-out for awhile.

I'm reading (and about 120 pages into) The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton.  I read about it on an author's blog that I frequent and she loved it!  I can see why.  It hooked me by page, like, 13.  The basic story is that the MC, Mike, survived something unspeakable when he was eight years old.  We, the readers, don't know what it is because he can't quite bring himself to say it.  In fact, he doesn't say anything.  At all.  He's a psychological mute.

He grows up with his uncle and has a pretty miserable childhood, until he discovers two things about himself: he has natural art skills, and he's awesome at picking locks.

The story jumps back and forth in time between the kind of trouble he gets in in his youth and to the kind of trouble he gets in as a "specialist-for-hire" for professional criminals.

It's told in first person and Mike's voice comes through loud and clear as he recounts his adventures and how he fells about having participated in them.

I'm really enjoying it.

And guess what?  I finished my first sweater!!!  Da, da DUUUUUUUM!

I haven't actually blocked it yet which is why the trim (seed stitch) is still a little puffy.  I'll give it a bit of a steam blocking today.  But all in all I'm pleased with it and I'm so impressed with myself that I was able to make an adult sized sweater in less than two months.

(Sweater is Frances Revisited, pattern on Ravelry.)

So now I'm onto garments and it's a brave new world!

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

(Joining Ginny at Small Things.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sunday Art Class: Watercolor Landscapes

Last year, the boys did very well with watercolor, so I decided to introduce it earlier this year and maybe we'll do more than one.  

I like to teach the boys watercolor step-by-step.  So I'm not really teaching them concepts.  I think they'd get bored with that.  Right now it's all about results.  So we just take it one thing at a time.  We're painting a sky.  Then painting some bushes.  Etc.  I try to encourage them to use different colors, paint wet-on-wet, and other things of the like, but I also find that I can only throw one or two things at them before it becomes too much.  And even then, they are usually so gung-ho to get started that I only have half their attention.

Here's Magoo working on the shrubs at the horizon line.

And Mo.

And Curly.

Here are the finished paintings.  Didn't they do a good job?

I worked from the book The Watercolor Painting Book by Wendon Blake which is a great book for step-by-step landscapes.  It's out-of-print but it looks like Amazon has a few left.  It's not a children's art book, it's just a standard watercolor book.  It's not as glossy as a new watercolor book, but it really has some sound lessons in it and I find it's one of the books I refer to the most.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Tra-la-la Friday

Nothing blog-worthy going on today.  Not really.

I'm waiting to get feedback on the art for the picture book, so there's nothing I can do for that right now.
I spoke to my editor about a title change.  See the book was called Monkey Ho Ho after the stuffed monkey that my sister-in-law had growing up.  Isn't that the best name?!  It is!  BUT there is a show on Nick Jr. that has a small monkey named Ho Ho.  I kid you not.

So ... title change.  Booo.

I think we've got a solution to the problem, but I don't want to share it until I know for sure.

In the meantime I'll work on a new painting, knit the cowl of my sweater, and start illustration ideas for another proposal.  And clean.  The house needs cleaning bad.

That's my day.

Hope you all have a lovely Friday and a great weekend.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Yarn Along: Francis Revisited Sweater

The sweater is progressing nicely.  I was hesitant to start a sweater because I thought it would take me the better part of a year to finish it - but I have to say this is such a lovely, simple pattern that I'm happily cruising along.  Of course, I had a bit of a cold last week so I spent more time than usual sitting on the couch, watching TV, and knitting.

I started the first sleeve with US10 dpns and I. HATED. THEM.  Ug - how awful to have to jump from needle to needle.  It was like having a commercial every 2 minutes throughout a show.  Choppy.  Frustrating.  So I bought a 16" circular US10 needle and I'm so much happier. La, la,la!

I know some people love their dpns - but those people are weird and foreign to me.  ;)

I continue to love the yarn which is Nashua Handknits: Julia.  50% wool, 25% Alpaca, 25% Mohair.  It's very soft and has a nice drape to it.  I think it will be the perfect weight.

I'm currently readying IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma.

I'm about 100 pages into it and the story is intriguing.  It's basically the story of two sisters, eldest Ruby who practically runs the town with her flirting.  She's kinda like Austin Powers; men want her and women want to be her.  And Ruby's younger sister, Chloe, who finds the body of a dead teenager while night swimming in the reservoir - which, naturally, freaks her out quite a bit.  Well, it seems there's lots of freaky stuff going on in the reservoir - but I haven't gotten to all of it yet.

I like a plot-driven narrative.  Tight.  So I have to admit that this story is a bit over-written for my taste.  I'll skim paragraphs of description.  But I like it.  I'm wanting to get back to it.  So that's always a thumbs up for me.

Happy Wednesday!

(Joining Ginny at Small Things.)