23 October 2013

Trying Out "Paper Blooms" by Jeffery Rudell

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Lark Crafts (April 2, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1454703501

I was, most thankfully, provided with a copy of "Paper Blooms" by Jeffrey Ruddell and Lark Crafts to read and review. My review is long overdue, but I really had wanted to take some time to play before I reviewed the book. I also happen to be on a design team for Niji/Yasutomo, and I decided t pair up my paper bloom explorations using some of their "Fold'Ems Origami papers.  I have never done origami, but this paring of blooms and paper seemed like a good match to me! I thought that having some color around the house might make the approaching time change (remember it's on November 3rd!) easier for me. I always hate the change in time because it always manages to throw me off for a bit.
I really enjoyed this book a lot, and I have enjoyed going through the pages, reading the directions, and then altering them a bit to suit my own needs. The author makes beautiful use of paint ships for flowers, and I will have to give that a try. The origami paper works well though.  These flowers are made based on the author's work, but my process is just a bit different due to the fact that I tend towards a bit of impatience!

Here is the package of Yasutomo Origami paper.
The paper that I chose for this project are plain, solid colors
 but Yasutomo also offer a variety of beautiful prints

I stacked a colorful selection of full size papers and taped them to my cutting mat
using painter's blue tape for delicate surfaces (using the tape made for delicate surfaces is important because when you remove the tape you don't want to tear the paper). The tape also provides you with a good start and stop place for cutting (see below)

Using your favorite Exacto or craft  knife cut the paper(s) every 1/8 of an inch across the width of the paper(s); starting and stopping at the line of tape.
Carefully remove the tape.

Add roll on tape, double sided tape, glue or glue stick to the bottom
edge of the paper.

Carefully fold the paper from the top down to the glued edge, being careful not to
tangle the loops as you do so.
Using a stick or a paint brush, carefully roll the bottom of the paper.
Add a dab of glue at the beginning and end of the roll.
I used hot glue here, but most any glue would work I think.
If you want to add a small 'collar' of another paper to the bottom of the roll.
Roll up a scrap piece of paper and insert it into the bottom of the bloom with a
piece of floral wire (or other type of wire) in the center. Fill it up with hot glue. I had never much used hot glue before, so I must warn you to be careful when you use it. It really is HOT glue. Ask me why I had to add this caution! Let is set up briefly, and then set aside to cool thoroughly.
Make some leaves if you want ! This particular leaf pattern is in the book, but you can just as easily free form cut leaves. Make sure you leave some sort of 'tail' on the bottom of the leaf so that you can attach them to the 'stem'.
Wrap floral tape around the wire, carefully attaching the 'tail' of any leaves that you may have chosen to add in the process.
Voila! Instant (well, almost instant), colorful gratification! 
Fast, graceful color for a grey day or a special day!

14 October 2013

Stars In A Midnight Sky Shawl

The yarn that I used for this shawl is called Midnight, and it is hand dyed on an UltraLuxe(15% cashmere) base by Dani at Sunshine Yarns.  I have become a devoted fan of Sunshine yarns since I discovered them. Dani, who was affected by the floods near Boulder, Colorado, has a color sense that suits my tastes perfectly, and her base yarns are divine. Her yarns have become my favorite yarns of all time, and I am carefully gathering a stash of them. This is what Dani says of this UltraLuxe yarn base:

"A delicious single-ply blend that you are sure to fall in love with! With 75% superwash merino, 15% cashmere and 10% silk, you will get incredible durability, softness and sheen. Needle size 2-4 US or 2.5 to 3.5 mm, and 6-7.5 stitches per 1 inch. Each skein is approximately 420 yards/100 grams. Handwash delicate and dry flat."

It was difficult for me to get a good image of this yarn because it is so dark and rich. A true, deep midnight blue with hints of lighter color that reminds me of stars. The image below is probably the closest to reality, but reality is darker and richer looking
Fairly close to the true color, although it is still darker - it's almost black it is such a dark blue.
The pattern is called the Geology Shawl by Very Busy Monkey, but I have to admit to doing a bit of "changing-it- up" in places. I had tried this shawl earlier this year, and it was a frustrating business for me. There were so many different stitch patterns involved (6), and many that I had never done. Of course, I like a challenge too, and so it did not take me long to give it another, much more successful go. I think loving the feel of this yarn was a big help. I couldn't put it down! It looks really nice on, but I have not decided if it will stay here or be a gift. We'll see. In the meantime I am finishing up a new cowl made from an interesting yarn called "Patina" from Skacel yarns. It's rayon content makes it shimmer. More on that soon!
A bit too much purple in this image- and not dark enough, but the patterning shows up well!

A bit too light as compared to the real thing, but it's a good general idea if you can imagine a much deeper midnight color.

12 October 2013

Samhain or Day of The Dead ATC's

The theme for the trading at heARTist Trading Cards this month is "Day Of The Dead". I  lean more towards the celebration of Samhain. These are the cards that I will be sending. I have recently discovered a 'new-to-me' pleasure of using masonite elements from Retro Cafe Art. I've made small purchases from Retro Cafe Art in the past, but always questioned whether or not their masonite shrines and elements would really work for me. Well, I have answered that question with a resounding "Yes! They more than interest me. I think I have found a new addiction. Oh no!

The surface of the masonite is a real pleasure to work on. It's smooth and accepts all manner of paints and potions. I love the smell of these things too - I know that sounds strange, but it is sort like how I enjoy sniffing the inks in books I guess. The most important thing to me is that I really like the 3D and layered effects that can be achieved by using these cool masonite pieces. I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head now - some will, hopefully, become holiday gifts, but in the meantime, as experimentation continues, I hope that my friends will enjoy these seasonal ATC's.

I added a quote to the back of the card. It is from the novel "Once A Witch", by Carolyn McCullough, and it reads:

when the barrier between the worlds
 is whisper-thin and the magic, old magic, 
sings it's heady and sweet sound
to anyone who cares to hear it..."

09 October 2013

My Search For The Best Mechanical Pencil

Many of you know that I like tools, and I believe that you need to have the right tool for the job at hand. For me, this even carries over to mechanical pencils.

I was looking for some specific qualities in a mechanical pencil; 0.5 size, darker and softer than normal lead.  I wrote to one of my two favorite companies, JetPens, for their recommendations. In a very surprising move they wrote back and said that they would send me what they thought would be a good match if I would do a review for them. Review?! Heck yes, I can do that!

They sent me a Pilot "Play Border" Dr. Grip Shaker pencil. I was very surprised that from looking at my blog, Elaine, was able to even choose the color I would most likely enjoy! I was also provided with some Pentel silica enhanced 0.5 4B leads to go along with the pencil.

There are a few of the of the unique items about this pen, aside from the "shake-to-advance" lead option which is pretty darn cool. The Dr. Grip is larger than normal. I have small hands and it may be just a smidge too large, but, that being said, I really do find that the rubberized 'grip' section is very comfortable to hold and makes the size more of a non-issue. The comfort is worth the extra size I think.

This pencil also has a distinctive "shaker" feature. You can advance the lead simply by shaking the pen. I was surprised to find that it works very well too. It advances just enough - not too much and not too little. I had to get used to the 'feel' of the shaker thing inside the pencil, but that did not take very long! You also have the option to advance and retract the lead in the "old fashioned" way, by holding down on the top of the pencil .It's a win-win situation.

Although I personally do not have the need or desire to re-arrange the colored sections or to add a personalization to the clear barrel, I can see where this would be a very good feature to have in a family situation (where more than one person might like the same color pencil!) or in a school where the personalization would help identify the pen's owner if it was left somewhere. It was a good design plan for the pencil! Pilot is one of my favorite fountain pen makers too, so I am, in general, a fan of their products, and they did not disappoint with the design features of this lowly mechanical pencil!
When I am reading a history book I most often make notes and use a highlighter.
The lead that comes with most mechanical pencils s too light and too soft for my taste.
The 4B lead is a perfect match for me.
As with all wonderful stationary things from Japan the instructions, although written in Japanese, are always easy enough to follow based on the excellent pictograms.
Th pencil also features a handy, soft, replaceable, eraser. I am ordering more!
Elaine understood exactly what lead I would like.
This is now my new favorite lead.
 It's soft, dark and really resists breaking because of the silica

Below: This is the little gizmo that I use to hold my pencil and highlighter. The Dr. Grip pencil is about the same size as a 'normal' highlighter, but it manages to still fit in my holder as long as I put the non-rubberized end in first.

Jetpens pretty much hit the nail on the head for me. If you have not checked out this very cool company - you really should. I have been a modest customer of theirs since they began their business. Their growth has been steady, and measured. They feature all of the best in pens (of all types), markers (of all types), pencils (of all kinds), stationary and crafty items from the Japanese market, and we all know how cool these things can be! Jetpens has always carried unique products, they ship very quickly, and they have kept their customer service a top priority. I am not affiliated in any way other than as a happy customer ,and ,in this instance, as the happy owner of one great pencil and some superior pencil leads for my copious note taking!