ACrafty Interview with Pam Harris

Welcome to today’s ACrafty Interview with Pam Harris – multicrafter extrordinare!

Afternoon Tea and Craft on the PatioWhen did you start crafting? PH: I was about 6 years old and I learned to make little Zozobra’s by tying a Kleenex around a cotton ball and sticking on two little eyes. My Mom and I made them as part of a fund raising project for her club during Fiesta de Santa Fe. Most “craft skills” I learned were “useful” – sewing, embroidery, knitting; however, I do recall making little rolled paper beads with my Great Grandmother. I come from a long line of practical women so anything I made or learned to make (even when very young) had to have lasting value. I have pretty much carried that ethic forward throughout my crafty life.

What crafts have you tried and what is your current favorite? PH: You do know I am an incurable dabbler – right?

Knitted/felted snowman.  Pattern from Marie Mayhew Designs.Knitting, crochet, punched tin, polymer clay, beading, wire and beads, quilting, wheat weaving, shaved wood, wet felting, needle felting, weaving, embroidery, temari, soft toys, gourds, English paper piecing, sewing garments and household goods, spinning, decoupage, bread dough sculpture, macrame, paper, hand building and throwing pottery on a wheel….

Current favorite? Besides any craft having to do with Christmas and Winter Holidays you mean? Mostly working with fiber – any and all of the fiber crafts – what I find myself doing most of the time. I like combining techniques – so that several fiber crafts are included in a project

Celebrating St. Lucy Day - St. Lucy, Star Boy, Scandi-gnome and TomteWhat is the biggest project you’ve ever tackled? PH: It is a toss-up between Austrian shades for Diane’s bedroom when she was a girl, re-upholstering a sofa, and a 4 foot by 6 foot embroidery which took forever! I think I have gotten the need for big projects out of the way!!! Now I relish smaller projects and except for knitting and crochet, and I pretty much prefer to use my own designs.

 

First pair of socks!What project are you most proud of? PH: Learning to knit socks!!

Learning to knit socks was a looooong, fiercely fought battle between the part of me who wanted, like everything, to learn to knit socks and the side of me that is intimidated by anything that is not fairly easy to learn the first time. To give you a clue, just casting on required repeated views of “cast on videos!” Can you imagine what I went through learning short rows or picking up gussets? Many “near-tear moments” I’ll admit! (And a bonus – while knitting the first sock, I became an expert at unraveling my work!!!)

I had no one i could turn to for help so I had to rely on the internet. It is a hugely valuable resource for learning to knit or crochet or sew or….. Coming from a time when such a resource did not exist, I totally appreciate how much the easy access to knowledge adds to the quality of and opportunities to learn in our lives.

So, while the socks I have knitted provide welcome and beautiful footwear, they are much more – a constant reminder of the role persistence and unwillingness to give up plays in the process of learning a new skill.

Using Mod Podge to mount fall leaves to small canvasesWhat is the silliest question you’ve received regarding your work? PH: I can’t actually think of a single silly question. I have been frustrated at times by crafters asking me why their project didn’t turn out only to subsequently find out that they did not follow instructions.

 

Filling up mini muffin cups with tiny hexiesWhat is the most common question you receive regarding your work? PH: How do I manage to do as much as I do!!! The answer is that I tend to be very organized and carefully plan my time so that I can accomplish the things I want to accomplish.

 

Fall Leaves, Mod Podge and Mason Jar = Beautiful CandleWhat is your most popular project? PH: Pretty much a three way split between coloring Easter Eggs with Kool-aid, using Mod Podge and food coloring to tint jars to use as lanterns or vases, and using Mod Podge to apply dried fall leaves to jars. While there are several others that drive large amounts of traffic to my blog, these three are by far responsible for the most traffic.

Dutch Canal Houses embroidery to celebrate St. Nicholas Day/SinterclasDo you sketch or plan most of your work before you begin, or do you generally work without a pattern? PH: I use a pattern when and where it is needed – like a quilt or embroidery, knitted piece or a soft toy – however, as often as possible, I like using my own ideas. Some crafts like painting gourds, punching tin, working with shaved wood or beads and wire and while weaving – I tend not to pre-plan but let my muse have her way with me!!

Saori freestyle weaving, Crochet Tooterphant and Winter Solstice Quilt BlockHas a craft or craft project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? PH: I tend to try new things I know nothing about so I often get into trouble – in lots of unexpected ways!!! But I always find a way to make it happen – learn what I need to learn.

 

 

Punched Tin Butterflies massing on my Seasonal TreeHow has crafting affected your character? PH: For me crafting – making – is as necessary as breathing. It is not something I have acquired – something added. It is who I am. It is a natural expression of my predisposition to create. It is how I function on a daily basis. And so, engaging in craft activity brings me joy, fulfillment, satisfaction.

Taking my craft to a blog has brought me in touch with a unique and inspirational group of new friends from all corners of the earth – women (and men) who are authentic, creative, and each brilliant in her/his own way. I am grateful for these connections beyond words. AND I am thrilled that the blog gives me the opportunity to support and share their talents.

Danish Woven Paper Heart BasketsCan you share a story about how your crafting has affected others? PH: Nothing in particular comes to mind. But my heart is made happy hearing from crafters who leave me comments or who write me e-mails and share how much a tutorial I have written has helped them understand the process behind a particular craft.

 

 

 

 

Guess i am going to learn lace knitting!What crafty goodness do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? PH: Weaving bags for Diane (daughter – Craftypod) and myself using all hand spun yarns; designing and creating a primstav (more info) using embroidery; learn simple carving so I can carve my own Christmas elves and Santas; knit a Finnish lace poncho from hand spun yarn; and continue testing cookie recipes for the “Winter Holiday Cookies from Around the World” project!
Sweet Pepperkaker addition to winter holiday baking!

 

Many, many thanks to Pam for taking the time from her busy schedule to participate in this interview series! Pam just celebrated her Five Year Blogging Anniversary (a huge accomplishment), and I know she’s got a lot of winter holiday crafty goodness coming up on her blog over the next six weeks. Just look at those cookies above and how elegantly they’re displayed – can you even imagine how beautiful her whole house must look for the holidays? It’s mindboggling!

You can follow Pam’s adventures on her blog Gingerbread Snowflakes, her Flickr photostream (and Flickr sets with picture guides to all her tutorials), and on Instagram (@gingerbreadsnowflakes).

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with (Pam’s daughter) multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodneedlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpitatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamiltonpotter Nancy Germondbasketweaver Tina Puckettcross stitcher Meredith Cait, the two part interview with textile artist Arlee Barr, and Halloween costume maker Justin Newton.

ACrafty Interview with Justin Newton Costume Maker

Welcome to this special Halloween ACrafty Interview with Justin Newton, costume maker extraordinare!

ChewbaccaWhen and why did you start making Halloween costumes? JN: It was 2005. A group of my co-workers decided to have a Halloween costume party. I bought a Chewbacca costume on line and started tinkering to make it better. First, I made cuts in the mask to allow better movement, added hair, got it tailored to give a form fit, and installed clown shoes into the feet to make then seem real and not floppy. It was a real gradual thing. Since I bought it a month before the party, I had too much time on my hands so I added just one more thing, and one more, and one more. I was shocked when I sold it on Ebay for more than I had put into it. That was the start, but after that it was because my son really liked Star Wars and it was something to do for him and then with him. Loved that time in the garage.
newton

 [Justin working on his first Vader helmet]


boba jangoWhat are all of the costumes that you have made? Do you have a favorite?
JN: Chewbacca, Darth Vader, a Jawa, Boba Fett, Jango Fett, a Lord of the Rings Nazgul (Ringwraith), and Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th – Jason vs. Freddy version). My favorite was definitely Boba Fett for a few reasons. First, the number of hours and different techniques that had to be used to create was mind numbing, so I learned a lot. Second, it was so much fun trying to make something look battle worn, old, and abused. Lastly, every costume is a two year process. The first year, you create and learn. Once you wear it, you learn what doesn’t hold up to a night of wear, what parts don’t move smoothly, and what gets damaged. In the second year I alter all the parts that failed, make the movement better, and improve the durability. But also, you have learned from the first time you did it, so I go back and repaint, reform, and replace many parts to make a more authentic look. The difference between the version 1 and version 2 Boba Fett was tremendous and I was really satisfied with the monumental evolution.
boots detail
vaderWhat do you consider the best, most accurate detail from any of your costumes? JN: Tough question because one of the movie makers from LucasFilm involved in the new Star Wars movies bought the Boba Fett from me for $4500 for his studio. He said it was superior to the original (which he had seen many times) in its authenticity. He said the original looks good on screen but up close could look a little fake. I used a lot of metal parts. He said mine looked dead accurate to the version as seen on screen but with the added benefit of looking and feeling realistic when standing right next to it. So all that being said, I took a few liberties with the paint and effects to make it realistic up close which make it not exactly like the original prop. Considering this, I will rule out the Boba Fett and say the Vader was probably the most accurate, but with the Nazgul a close second. Even the blink sequence of the chest light on the Vader was timed to match the sequence in the movie.
fett const collage 1

[Details from the Boba Fett costume]

Have your costumes won any awards or received any distinctions? JN: Both the Vader and the Boba Fett were certified by the 501st. This is the group that certifies Star Wars costumes to be used in official movie functions, charity events, etc., and verifies they are authentic reproductions of LucasFilm. I got to play Darth Vader at the premiere of one of the new Star Wars films.
vader comp collage

There was a HUGE kids costume contest in Greenville. They had categories for scariest, most heroic, and (I think) princess. I enrolled Carson in the scariest because I though that was the closest thing to a Jawa. He didn’t win. Then at the end of the contest, the chairman announced that they had taken part of the prize package from all the other kids and decided to create a special category for best in show as a result of one kids costume – Carson. Pretty sweet, when your costume changes the rules. So he got the best prize overall, which didn’t even exist until they saw him.jawa collageI over heard one parent say “that’s not even fair, how much money did they spend on that costume.” I spent less than $100 to make it and a lot of time. I had so many parents come up to me and want to know where to get one or if I could make one for them. You can imagine how his Jango Fett was received. Every other kid in the contest was like NO WAY!
nazgul const collage 1

 [Details from the big Nazgul costume, and Justin helping to suit up his mini-Nazgul]

What are all of the skills (or crafts) you have practiced to make your costumes? JN: Several skills, but by far the biggest one is painting. The variety of techniques to recreate the Boba Fett was a challenge. Also, coming up with new inventive ways to create the mechanical joints and connections to allow movement of the costume while remaining durable. Also, to a lesser extent electronics and fabrics distressing.
const collage

[Construction details from the Vader costume]

nazgul const collage 2

[Details from the Nazgul costume]

jasonHas making costumes affected your character? Do you really enjoy making your costumes or are you more focused on the end result? JN: I don’t think it has affected my character, but I really enjoy getting into character to make an experience others will remember. I watch the scenes from the movies to get the mannerisms, body movements, and speech meter. I want people to forget it’s a costume and think it’s actually the character from the movie. So I really get into it. I went to three or four Star Wars events, and it was awesome to give that experience to the kids there. Also, I remember last year for my first version Jason Vorhees a person was telling their friend that the costume was creeping them out. The friend replied, “I’m not so sure it’s a costume.” I just love it when people have that fun. So in short, I do enjoy the challenge of making the costume, but I do it for the end result of the memory you can give to people. By far the best part.
group

Can you share some stories of reactions you’ve received to your costumes? JN: Outside of what I shared in some of the other questions, lots of smiles from kids, autographs and stuff like that. But I can remember, putting on the Vader costume one day and standing by the interstate hitchhiking with a sign that said “Clone War Vet – Please help” and another that said “Will Terrorize for Ride.” The looks from the traveling public were hysterical. Every car slowed down for about a hundred feet after they passed, just a freeway full of brake lights, and I can only imagine people were thinking “Did I just see that?” Usually people just want to touch the costumes to see if they’re real.
vader public collage

nazgulsThe Nazgul was cool because I did a LOT of research. Just like the movie I used 55 yards of various textures and custom dyed fabrics to create the look. I had the scabbard custom made and then I weathered and painted it to get the underworld effect. The armor was all hand made using medieval techniques with hammer and anvil. Everything about it was legit. When I wore that out in Salem, Oregon, people would literally stop their car in the middle of a busy main street, get out and take a picture. Also, at Halloween some children cried and others would not come to my side of the street. I used a prosthetic hollow head and under skeleton to make myself 7 feet tall and deformed. The Nazgul and Jason were fun because you also get reactions from some adults that are wary about getting too close.
nazgul public collage 2

What’s the silliest question you’ve ever received about your costumes? JN: “Is that real?” Although I had a (drunk) guy approach me in my Vader suit and say “I can kick your ass Darth Vader.” Then he pushed me in the chest and said he “wasn’t scared of me.” I turned off the voice synthesizer and said, “Dude, you do know that I am just a guy in a costume, there is no Darth Vader.” That seemed to assuage the drunkard. Another classic question, “where did you buy that?” Or, “does that jet pack really work?”
fett const collage 2

 [Construction and details of the Boba Fett costume]

What costume are you working on now? Beyond that, what are you looking to create in the future? JN: Right now, I am just finishing version 2 of Jason Vorhees and my wife will be Mrs. Krueger. Since my son is getting older and out of Halloween, I suspect I may slow down or stop altogether. If I do make another costume, I’ve thought of a Bram Stoker type vampire, the Dark Knight, and Frankenstein (but not the green flat headed version).
jason const collage

 [Details of the Jason Vorhees costume]

Many thanks to my good friend Justin for participating in this ACrafty Interview! Justin is a project manager for a large international engineering and construction firm. We worked together in the same department in Charlotte, North Carolina during my previous career at the same firm. I was at the party when he debuted his Chewbacca costume, and have been in awe of his costume making skills ever since. In fact, I’m considering challenging him to make a Vorlon encounter suit from the sci-fi show Babylon 5…  

It’s been a great treat to share this look at his work, especially on this Halloween! If you have any questions for Justin, please send them to me and I’ll be happy to pass them on to him.

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodneedlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpitatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamiltonpotter Nancy Germondbasketweaver Tina Puckettcross stitcher Meredith Cait, and the two part interview with textile artist Arlee Barr.

Five Books I Made Something From

This week’s Link Love theme is “Five posts you {actually} made something from.” Well, I have yet to make something from a post, but I have made projects from five books!

The only difficulty with this post is that I don’t have photos of most of the projects I’ve completed. This is silly, I know. Someday soon, I hope to tackle my collection of old photos. I’m going to toss out unnecessary photos, and digitize and organize the remainder. Then, hopefully, I can create a kind of craft portfolio.

In the meantime, here’s a little bit of info about these five helpful and project inspiring crafty books:

#1 Beth Russell’s William Morris Needlepoint

This book is just plain gorgeous, cover to cover. Beth worked at the Royal School of Needlework in London, and her designs certainly are a faithful interpretation of William Morris’ works.

I needlepointed the Artichoke pattern you can see below. Whereas the photo was finished into a cushion, mine is finished into a framed wall hanging. The two projects are nearly identical and they’re absolutely beautiful!

 

#2 Danish Cross-Stitch Zodiac Samplers (Dover Needlework)by Jana Hauschild

I purchased this funky tome not necessarily for the zodiac element, but more for the flower border patterns. Every month has a different featured flower and they’re all very pretty without being too cutesy.

I rearranged parts of about 9 of the borders to make an all-flower cross stitch project and gave it to a friend as a housewarming present. I hope I can find a photo of it as it was really lovely and cheery.

 

#3 101 Needlepoint Stitches and How to Use Them: Fully Illustrated with Photographs and Diagrams (Dover Embroidery, Needlepoint)by Hope Hanley

This is one that yes, I do have a photo of the project I created. The book doesn’t include this sampler as shown – I just created the sampler, as I remember, on the fly with a scrap piece of small gauge canvas. The piece is only about 8″ x 10″. I would love to remember how I came up with the layout!

Needlepoint Stitch Sampler - 1996

 

celtic#4 Celtic Charted Designs (Dover Embroidery, Needlepoint)by Co Spinhoven

This book contains animal patterns (as you can see by the cover), geometrics, knotwork, and then some spiral patterns. One of the biggest spiral patterns I needlepointed in green, gold, red, and purple for a friend’s wedding. Her wedding had an Irish theme, so I thought it was appropriate.

My friend recently told me this great story about the project. “My aunt, my mother’s sister, came to visit on her way from Iowa to the LA area. When she came in the front door (huggy-huggy) she saw the wedding gift artwork/[needlepoint] you did for us. She touched the glass and said all sorts of Kansas-Missouri things, and then carried it with her when I gave her a tour of the house.” How cool is that!?!

samplerquilt#5 Design and Make Your Own Contemporary Sampler Quilt (Dover Quilting)by Katie Pasquini

If you have never made a quilt before, this book is a great place to start. The book includes instructions for three different sizes of quilts, including everything from how much fabric to purchase to how to finish the edges. I made my first quilt using this book.

I wish I had a photo of this quilt project to share. Not so much for the patterns, but for the fabrics I picked out (I’m still proud of my choices, 15 years later!). Fortunately, this quilt is still in my possession and I’ll get it photographed sooner rather than later.

 

 

Disclosure: Ancora Crafts is an Amazon Associate – your purchases from the links above will help support Ancora Crafts. I own every linked book in this post. I will only endorse products that I believe, based on our personal knowledge of the products, are worthy of such endorsement.

Colorado Flooding Benefit – Cross Stitch Pattern and Kit

To benefit the volunteer efforts for the recent Colorado flooding, I’ll donate $1.00 to the Colorado Red Cross for every sale of my Colorado cross stitch pattern and kit!

Colorado Highway Sign Cross Stitch

I first posted about this Colorado Highway sign pattern in July of this year, when the Black Forest, Royal Gorge, and West Fork fires were still burning. But recently, astounding amounts of rain have decimated Coal Creek Canyon, Boulder Canyon, Four Mile Canyon, Big Thompson Canyon (again), the South Platte and St. Vrain rivers, the towns of Lyons, Estes Park, Salina, and thousands of acres of farmland in northeast Colorado.
People look at the overturned car near the fast moving water during the heavy flooding on Thursday in Boulder. For a video of the flooding go to www.dailycamera.com Jeremy Papasso/ Camera

 [Flooding in Boulder on Thursday – via the Boulder Daily Camera]

The South St. Vrain River roars through Lyons on Thursday, 9/12/13.  Photograph by Kenneth Wajda

 [The St. Vrain river flooding Lyons on Thursday via the Boulder Daily Camera]

Lefthand Canyon Drive is in ruins seen here on Saturday, Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder. For more photos and video of the flood rescue go to www.dailycamera.comJeremy Papasso/ Camera

 [Lefthand Canyon Drive on Saturday the 14th via the Boulder Daily Camera]

All of this hits close to home for me as I have friends and family all along the Front Range of Colorado. My Mom and her numerous siblings grew up in Boulder. I went to high school in Colorado Springs and then went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. I’m so fortunate that no one I know has been seriously affected, but there are THOUSANDS of people who have lost everything – houses, pets, livelihoods, and peace of mind.

Suzanne Sophocles shows her joy after being reunited with her dogs after they were all rescued from her severely flooded home on Friday, Sept. 13, on Streamcrest Drive in Boulder. For more photos and video of the flood rescue go to www.dailycamera.comJeremy Papasso/ CameraI’m donating $1 from every sale of the pattern and kit through December 31, 2013. On New Year’s Day, I would love to write the Colorado Red Cross a big fat check! So if you’re a Coloradoan, a frequent visitor, or just a fan of the state, this pattern would be a great way for you to show a little Colorado pride. Please spread the word about the Colorado cross stitch pattern and kit and how they will help disaster relief efforts!

[Photo is of a happy reunion, thanks to rescue workers via the Boulder Daily Camera]

ACrafty Interview with Meredith Cait

Welcome to today’s ACrafty Interview with Meredith Cait, embroiderer of Hardcore StitchCorps.

When did you start crafting? Did anyone help get you started or did you find your own way? MC: We were always an artistic family in general, but I wouldn’t say I started seriously crafting until I was 17. I’ve pretty much always found my own way with craft. My mom taught me to thread a needle and make a stitch when I was a kid, a friend showed me how to cast on, knit, and purl, and after that I work out the rest for myself. With cross-stitch and free embroidery it was very much on my own. A felted knitting pattern I did involved embroidery, and the book showed you how to do stem stitch. After that I just tried to mimic embroidery I’d seen before. When I found a piece of Aida floating in my craft supplies I decided to give that a go.

What crafts have you tried and what is your current favorite? MC: In high school I did a lot of collage with found objects (I eventually ran out of small, interesting trinkets) and had a stint making earrings. I used to be an extremely prolific knitter, and had a recent period carving linoleum stamps. Embroidery probably is my favorite though, in part for the ease of creativity. You can do SO much with counted and non-counted embroidery. People are also really easily impressed with embroidery!

Unlikely Small AdsWhat is the silliest question you’ve ever received about your craft? MC: Other than “How do you get the back so neat?” I don’t really know that I’ve received any! I don’t talk to many people about my crafts, and never have much opportunity to do it in public. I’m also sort of rubbish at making friends online (especially for someone who grew up using the internet), so I’m still in that “How do I befriend these other crafty folks, oh no I’m sure I’m annoying them, run away” stage.

 photo embr_zps514cdfdd.jpgWhat craft project are you most proud of? MC: It’s a pretty old piece, but I’m so proud of the Mercer Mayer illustration I did on a onesie. I didn’t have any transfer materials back then, so I just looked at the illustration, penciled it on the fabric, and free-handed most of the details. I’m also proud of my Roman mosaic, since it’s the first pattern I made from an image (granting that image was a mosaic…).

 

 

 

 

It Gets BetterWhat’s the largest craft project you’ve ever tackled? MC: I haven’t done much that’s very large. As far as most stitches my Roman mosaic had 12,000. Because I’m disabled and not able to work, I tend to use crafts as my sense of being productive. This makes me focus a little more on the number of pieces I can finish, since that generally lifts my mood when I’m down. I’ve got the most immense pile of finished pieces just sitting around.

What is your most popular (or bestselling) project? MC: Bestselling is definitely my Dalek pattern. It was one of the first in my shop. My most viewed on Flickr is the Robert Frost piece “Never be bullied into silence” with a rainbow border, which makes me quite happy.

 

 

frida photo frida.jpgHas a craft or craft project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? MC: I’m the first to admit that I’m a lazy crafter. Since my focus is generally keeping occupied and finishing things, if something’s hard I often don’t attempt it. I have a piece of non-counted embroidery that’s a portrait of Frida Kahlo. I started it after learning more about her, and feeling like after one of her surgeries she might have developed the same nerve pain disease that I have, given the descriptions. My usual reluctance to tackle more involved stitches or designs was forced to take a backseat because I felt so strongly about working on a Kahlo piece, and had such a strong vision of how it should look. Of course it’s still unfinished, but I’m getting there.

DMC color project finished!How has crafting affected your character? MC: People think that embroidery must require patience, and if I weren’t disabled maybe it would have made me patient, but I do literally have all the time in the world. For me I think it’s helped me calm down or slow down a little. I put on an audiobook, start stitching, and that’s meditation for me and it’s very much a way to help control the pain. I think maybe it’s made me more sharing as well. I want other people to feel the joy of creating their own patterns, even when it means less business for me.

May Cthulhu Devour This House LastCan you share a story about how your crafting has affected others? MC: I have a niece and nephew who live in the same town I do. I mostly give them homemade gifts, and my sister emphasizes it to the kids when something was handmade. When they come to my house they see even more handmade things. The last few times they were here they asked if I’d made pretty much everything they touched. I love that this is their first thought, versus “where did you get/buy this.” Long before kids know how much work goes into something, they do value the handmade, and I’m hoping to start knitting or stitching on canvas with my nephew this winter.

Rice pudding...What is the one question you’ve never been asked about your craft that you’ve always wanted to answer? MC: I suppose it’s maybe WHY I craft. Crafting really has saved my life over and over since I got sick, in a lot of ways. When I had literally no disposable income, opening an Etsy shop meant I could still buy new socks and underwear, afford cleaning supplies and Christmas presents. Having something to keep my hands and brain busy helps cope with the day-to-day tedium and pain. I can’t draw anymore really, and embroidery helps me let out creative energy. Making things lets me feel productive and that’s really important to me.

 photo blackworkquiltfini01.jpgWhat crafty goodness do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? MC: I have the start of a series of traditional quilt block designs worked in blackwork going, and I’m hoping to expand on that again soon. I’d love to eventually make a proper quilt out of them. I’ll never be able to become a quilter, as you really do need a lot of sitting up for that (and precision is not my strong suit), so I keep thinking of ways to cheat that. I have plans for a patchwork piece, made of scraps of evenweave fabrics of different counts, colors, and sizes as well.

Thanks so much to Meredith for participating in this ACrafty Interview series! I’ve admired Meredith’s work for a while now through her Flickr Photostream. Her pieces are definitely the kind of pieces I would stitch! She beat me to the punch on the DMC sampler (8th photo down), and I was also inspired by her hilarious “Unlikely Small Ads” (third photo down). That project, based on a segment from the UK TV show “Mock the Week” was one of the reasons I tackled my recently completed “Blazing Saddles” project. I always look forward to seeing what beauty and/or snark she will stitch next!

You can follow Meredith’s adventures on her blog and on her Etsy shop

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodembroiderer Ellen of Schindermania!needlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpitatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamiltonpotter Nancy Germond, Tina Puckett of Tina’s Baskets, and quilter and pursemaker Linda Martin.

ACrafty Interview with Linda Martin

Welcome to today’s ACrafty Interview with Linda Martin, quilter and pursemaker!

acrafty interview - linda martin bargello quiltWhen did you start crafting? LM: I think I have always worked on craft type projects. I remember as a child getting craft kits as gifts. Making collages, animals, painting, knitting, sewing, and crochet were always something I did. My Mom and Grandma always worked with me on them and taught me many useful skills along the way.

acrafty interview - linda martin painting of son jasonWhat crafts have you tried and what’s your favorite now? LM: I probably have tried most every kind of craft. In addition to those I already mentioned I have made many clothes, curtains, tablecloths and pillows. For many years I painted with oils and acrylics. I made many landscapes, portraits and animal paintings. Working with color and design was always part of my life. My favorite now is quilting. It’s been a natural progression of my interest in color and design projects.

 

 

acrafty interview - linda martin musical quiltWhat project are you most proud of? LM: Right now I’m very proud of a project I created this summer. I was asked by a friend to make a “music” quilt. I thought a lot about it and came up with a very free form kind of create as you go project. Of course I had the help of a friend as we brainstormed ideas back and forth. The quilt took me outside my normal comfort zone of making quilt blocks and putting them together.

acrafty interview - linda martin purse 2Have you ever started a project without a pattern or a plan? LM: I can’t think of a time when I didn’t have some kind of a plan, pattern or design in my head. Sometimes things change along the way, but I have a picture in my head.

 

 

 

 

 

acrafty interview - linda martin seaside quiltHas a project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? LM: Some projects have challenged me for sure, but I have always found a way to complete them. Sometimes I will put a quilt away for a while and let it rest! Really my head usually needs a “vacation” from it while I figure out a way to make it work.

 

How has crafting affected your character? LM: Since I have been making some kind of creative projects most of my life, it’s hard to tell if my character has developed because of my life experiences or creative experiences. I suspect it’s both.

acrafty interview - linda martin purse 1Since I was an elementary school teacher for over 30 years my organizational skills from teaching have certainly help me be better at my creative projects. When I began teaching we had to create our own classroom environment. That gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to draw and paint. I had always been too reticent to to take art classes because of fear of criticism. But as I got compliments and “oh wows” on my work from fellow teachers, my confidence grew. I gradually began painting. This taught me lots of perseverance because painting is very much a developmental process. Observing details is also important to a successful product. (whether it’s painting or quilting). Color and patterns in nature transfer to the finished painting or quilt.

acrafty interview - linda martin regatta quiltEven though I’m no longer painting, many of these skills apply to my sewing and quilting. The balance of color and design elements are also very important. This is often the most important part of the quilt. Without the right balance the quilt will not work. When I finish a project whether it’s a purse or a quilt I’m really proud of it. Sometimes I look at the result and say wow, I did it!

As I’ve gained confidence in my work, I’ve definitely become more adventurous to try new things. This summer I made a landscape and a portrait quilt (wall hangings really)! I guess I was brave to try those things.

acrafty interview - linda martin quiltCan you share a story about how your crafting has affected others? LM: Some of my friends who are not quilters have been curious about what I do. I have shared my skills with them as well as the process of creating a quilt. I helped and encouraged one to make a purse and a pillow! I have also given many quilts and purses as gifts.

acrafty interview - linda martin purse 3What crafty goodness do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? LM: I’d like to continue with making purses and quilts, trying to expand my horizons with new kinds of projects. Another goal of mine is to do more free hand quilting on my long arm quilting machine. That’s a whole other learning curve!

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Linda for taking the time to participate in this ACrafty interview series, and thanks to previous interviewee, jeweler Ron Buhler, for recommending her for the series! Best of luck with the free hand quilting…

Would you like to be a part of the ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPodembroiderer Ellen of Schindermania!, needlepointer Haruhi Okubo of Cresus-Parpitatter and chainmailler Jeff Hamilton, stone artist Jerry Locke, potter Nancy Germond, and Tina Puckett of Tina’s Baskets.

Book Review: Crochet Saved My Life by Kathryn Vercillo

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of finding the CrochetConcupiscence blog. Kathryn’s work on that blog, rounding up the best of crochet from around the web, is to be lauded. Not only does CrochetConcupiscence cover the best in patterns and projects, but also the best in what crochet can do FOR crafters.

Her book, Crochet Saved My Life, is a thorough summary of the benefits of crochet. Through a combination of interviews, article research, and her own personal experience, Kathryn explains the benefits of crochet for mental conditions including depression, anxiety, OCD and addiction, PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, and dementia, for physical conditions such as chronic pain, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease, restless leg syndrome, and Menière’s disease, and as a tool in occupational therapy.

The book isn’t “light reading,” but Kathryn keeps the writing interesting and direct. The stories around her own experience as well as the two dozen other people she interviewed are presented matter-of-factly – as a way to demonstrate how crochet has benefited their particular situations. And the benefits are many: calmness, focus, relaxation, creativity, productivity, generosity, and increased self-esteem just to name a few.

a crochet hook heartAlthough the book focuses on crochet, as a needlepointer and cross stitcher, I know that I definitely experience the same benefits as Kathryn’s crocheters. Fortunately, I do not suffer from any of mental or physical conditions mentioned in the book, but I still benefit from my craft. Indeed, I tend to think of my needlework as a bit of preventive medicine! I can easily see how many of the same benefits apply toward other crafts – knitting, scrapbooking, woodworking, gardening, pottery, beading, weaving, jewelry making, quilting, just to name a few.

Polymer Clay Crochet Hook HandlesI would recommend this book to anyone dealing with any of the mental or physical conditions listed above either with yourself or with a loved one. I would also go as far as to say that psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, counselors, gerontologists, life coaches, and other professionals in mental and physical health would find this book a very valuable resource in their toolkits.

One final, rather curious, comment about this book. In her chapter on depression, one of the topics Kathryn covers is the sense of touch. She mentions that “a fuzzy pet can be a great comfort,” and that “the feel of working with yarn can be one of those healing touch options” as well. Well, I found the book itself to have a similar beneficial effect! To be specific, the feel of the edge of the book and quickly flipping the pages with my thumb had a very calming effect. In fact, I found myself thumbing the pages almost unconsciously while I was reading. Fascinating!

Visit CrochetConcupiscence for the latest in crochet trends and benefits. And visit CrochetSavedMyLife.com for more about the book and Kathryn’s work.

Colorado Cross Stitch Pattern – Highway Sign

This Colorado Highway sign cross stitch pattern has just been added to my Etsy shop!

Colorado Highway Sign Cross Stitch
colorado highway 149 road sign

The stitched example, Highway 149, is a gorgeous road in southwest Colorado that goes through the lovely little town of Creede. I was fortunate to drive this road earlier this year as since then, the still-burning West Fork Fire has threatened Creede. Highway 149 was even shut down for a while.

 

 

SO, to help the wildfire relief efforts for this fire, the Black Forest fire, the Royal Gorge fire and all the other fires burning in Colorado, from now until September 30, 2013, I will donate $1.00 from every sale of this cross stitch pattern to the Colorado Red Cross!

I can easily customize this pattern for any of your favorite Colorado Highways, and man there are a ton of beautiful drives in the state.
Echo Lake along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, Colorado-1

[Echo Lake on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway by Nature’s Images via Flickr]

Some of my other favorites are Highway 93 from Boulder to Golden, Highway 9 through Breckenridge, Highway 7 around Estes Park, Highway 119 from Idaho Springs to Nederland… there’s really too many to list.

If you’re a Coloradoan, a frequent visitor, or just a fan of the state, this pattern would be a great way for you to show a little Colorado pride. Please spread the word about this Colorado cross stitch pattern and how it will help wildfire relief efforts!

What are some of your favorite Colorado highways?

Update 9/7/13: The cross stitch kit for this pattern is now available on my Etsy shop as well!

Linky Goodness – Embroidery, Fabric, and Knitting x 2

In my ongoing mission to demonstrate how crafts can make us better people, here’s the next installment of linky goodness!

Schindermania at Aviva House

photo-7Sometimes the good isn’t in the crafts you make – the good is in the crafts you help others make. Ellen Schinderman volunteers teaching needlework to girls who are in the justice system. She sums her feelings up well in this post when she says “Not only do I get the selfish joy of giving back – and feeling ‘there but for the grace of God go any of us’ when I see the situations these girls are in and from – but I adore my girls!!” I’m left wondering if the teachers at Fine Cell Work get the same type of buzz from helping their inmates.

“Why Knitting and Yoga are Perfect Bedfellows”

Yoga Wrap and Legwarmers_Page_1The Guardian published this excellent article which shows how knitting and yoga complement each other. Some knitters use yoga to help solve some of their repetitive motion problems. Knitting is also very calming, producing effects similar to yoga and meditation. The article cites some impressive statistics about the benefits of knitting on thought and concentration.

Make Time to Play!

fabric scrap storage I love this post by Melissa at 100BillionStars about the value of play. She always has some fabric scraps around, and for her “this is where the ideas come from, where the sparks of creative fire reside.” She also says that “play has no hard and fast rules, except one….let go… of every negative and critical thought.” A way to tackle this rejection of judgment can be found in this article that I posted previously. This is excellent advice for people working in any craft.

A Free and Powerful Mind

This interview with Annie Modesitt was published when her book, Romantic Hand Knits, was released in 2007. When asked how knitting has brought romance into her life, she answered: “When my mind is free—and powerful—the way it feels when I knit, then my soul soars a little and all of this adds a layer of joy to my life. Not to put too fine a point on it, this makes me love life, and love love, in a much deeper way, which in turn makes me more lovable. Nothing is more attractive than a quiet self confidence, which is what I get from knitting.”

She goes on to say some great things about brilliance being in all of us, and also shares some constructive thoughts on women’s body image issues. An outstanding, positive interview!

What do you think of the links above? Do you know of any inspirational craft blogs or posts that you would like to see in a future edition of linky goodness?

ACrafty Interview with Apockylypse

Welcome to this ACrafty Interview with Apockylypse! Today we’re peeking into Kelly’s viking-helmeted skull and her knitting goodness.

When did you start crafting? K: In all honesty, I would probably say I’ve been crafting my entire life. I’ve always been the creative sort, whether it be drawing pictures for parents/grandmothers or taking objects to create something else. I had quite the imagination as a little girl. /* who am I kidding, I still do! */acrafty interview with Apockylypse viking hat photo two

But if I had to give a specific age of my first memories of crafting, I would have to say the one that stands out is when I was 4 or 5 & played “Pins and Needles” with my Mimmy. For crafty sorts you would more commonly know it as cross stitch. That was actually my first experience with designing too!

We took a plain white cloth and I told Mimmy what I wanted to make. She drew, ever so neatly, x’s in the pattern I described. Gave me a threaded needle in the color I picked & then I was set loose. Poking the needle up until I found the right mark. /* hence the name “pins and needles”. */

What crafts have you tried and what is your current favorite? K: It might take up less time if you had asked me what crafts I haven’t tried. You see, I’m a bit of a craftaholic and I love to learn new crafts any chance I get. But I guess I’ll give you the answer you are looking for:

  • Cross Stitch
  • Sewing
  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Macramé
  • Felting
  • Drawing
  • Beading
  • Loom Knitting
  • And there are probably some others that I’m forgetting at the moment, but if it’s not on the list that just means I haven’t had a chance to learn it yet.

My favorite? Yikes! That’s almost like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. But I guess I would have to say knitting. It’s my crafting paradise because I can always seem to get lost in the stitches and escape all the crap the zombie job sticks in my head after hours. Plus I just love sweaters!

What craft project are you most proud of? K: I would have to say any of the sweaters I have made as gifts for family. For the most part I stick to hats since most of my friends and family love the hats I make, but I wanted to challenge myself and do something for family. I was proud not only because they turned out well, but I actually finished them. It was quite the project! If you’ve ever hand knit a sweater, you know what I mean.

If you’re a seller, what is your most popular project? KM: I don’t have an online shop yet, but I have sold a few things to friends and at a few local craft shows. So far the biggest seller has been my plain crocheted beanies, but that’s starting to become a close second to the Viking beanies I’ve been making lately.

My mister wanted one to wear to various cons and once I posted pictures of the finished product I started getting messages from people I didn’t even know that saw it on his page or through a friend. And I have to say that the Viking hat has definitely become one of my favorites to make. It’s just so darn epic!acrafty interview with Apockylypse viking hat photo

Has a craft or craft project ever challenged you in an unexpected way? K: Oh I’ve been challenged, but the way I look at it is that it’s just another awesome puzzle to piece together. And boy do I love me some puzzles!

There was one project I was working on where the gauge (stitches per inch) was incredibly important to be spot on. I knit up a swatch that matched perfect, but when I cast on for the actual project and got a few inches in things didn’t match up. But I wasn’t going to let this project beat me!

Instead of sitting it aside, I started scouring every craft book and site I could think of…trying to learn that one secret that would help me understand it all better. See? I told you I always want to learn more about crafting!

How has crafting affected your character? K: I can’t really say that crafting has changed me because I really can’t remember life before crafting. But I will say that it does have a wonderful effect on my mood.

There have been many times when the zombie job has stressed me out or frustrated me so incredibly much. And while coming home to my mister and furbabies definitely helps calm me, nothing seems to do it quite like crafting. Like I said before, it lets me escape to another world that is my happiest of places. And depending on the project, it could be a fantasy world where anything is possible.

I’ve seen many a knitter say “I knit so that I don’t kill people” and there really is some truth in that. I honestly think I would be in the looney bin if it wasn’t for something as simple as sticks and string. It’s almost as calming to me as meditating.

I also believe I can thank crafting for my thirst for knowledge and amazing puzzle solving skills. Some may say it’s my math brain that allows me to do a book of Sudoku like it’s nothing, but I think crafting might have a little bit to do with it too! You are always piecing things together. Matching things up. Or finding ways to fix little mistakes or mishaps.

Another funny thing about knitting. You hear so many people say that they aren’t patient enough for it, but you know what? Some of the most impatient people I know are amazing knitters!acrafty interview with Apockylypse knit needle yarn scissors

Can you share a story about how your crafting has affected others? K: Well I have been told by many friends how I’ve inspired them to learn to knit or crochet. Sometimes it has to do with the projects I’m making, but a lot of them see how excited I get about making things with my hands and they want to give it a go. I have to say that I am a creativity advocate. There is nothing that makes me happier than being able to watch my loved ones express themselves through handmade things and see all the amazing pieces that are a product of that. So what amazing project do you have inside you? I know there is one!

That reminds me! I need to go grab some sticks and string to take over to my in-laws house. My mother-in-law has asked me to teach her to knit. She expressed the desire to find a hobby and is always intrigued by my knitting.

What crafty goodness do you have coming up in the future? Why is it appealing to you? K: I have a few more Viking hats to make, but one thing I’m super excited about is my future online shop. I have dreamed of the day that I could quit my zombie job and do the craft thing full-time. I mean, it is my passion! I don’t have an exact date of when that will happen because I’m working on designs and acquiring some funds to get it going, but if you keep your eyes on my blog or other social media I know you will be hearing about when that day comes.

Thanks so much, Kelly! Best of luck with your future shop…

You can follow Apockylypse’s adventures on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest

Would you like to be a part of this ACrafty interview series? Just contact me! You might also be interested in reading some more ACrafty Interviews with knitter Sabrina, cross stitcher WhateverJames, and multi-crafter Diane from CraftyPod!