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Welcome Back

November already! Where has this year gone! Now the evenings are drawing in, I hope you will join me for some mixed media fun with the latest stash dive.

Stash Dive #3 Mixed media meets texture

Stash Dive #3 Mixed media meets texture

In this months selection we have;

  • Stencils. Mine are Tim Holtz Layering stencils but find your favorites
  • Acrylic paint
  • Texture paste
  • Texturing Comb but time to experiment with anything you can find to create texture in your projects
  • The DVD is Seth Apter’s Mixed Media Surface Techniques

This challenge isn’t about acquiring new stuff but having a search through the cupboards for all the lovely materials you have but perhaps haven’t used in a while. Let have fun discovering the wonderful world of texture.

Will you join me for this months challenge? I’d love to see what projects this challenge inspires. Do share a link to any creations that you make from these kinds of materials.

Best wishes and thanks for reading see you soon

Billie :)

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Adventures in Crochet

Welcome Back

One of the things I promised myself I’d like to try this year, has been crochet. I kept seeing such nice projects made with it, that I wanted to try it. I’d seen Wendy Poole on C&C recently, with a DVD on how to crochet, then just after Christmas there was a series of collectable magazines; Knit & stitch, which included knitting & crochet, so I gave the first couple of issues a try.

The DVD that came with issue one of Knit & Stitch magazine was excellent and covered (albeit a little too quickly) the key stitches and about increases and decreases. Issue 2 came with a crochet hook so I gave bought that too and decided to give crochet a go.

My First attempt at crochet

My First attempt at crochet

As you can see, I managed the first square but due to RSI issues, I had a lot of trouble with using the metal hook. Now on the knitting front, the right needle made all the difference, so the search began for hooks suitable for people with dexterity issues. My short list of hooks to try was as follows;

  • Clover Soft Touch
  • Tulip Etimo
  • Cushion grips to use with normal hooks

In the past, I learned with knitting that plastic needles gave too much drag on yarn, so other than the one Tunisian hook that was in my late mother’s collection, I didn’t try any more plastic ones. Metal needles and hooks made my hands lock up because they are so cold. Because of the poor dexterity, I really needed something with a thicker handle, which led me to the options above. On to Ravelry, the font of knowledge on all such things and I had a good read of what others were saying about their experiences of those brands of hooks. A quick trawl through You Tube, for possible demos and the flat nature of the Clover soft touch, finally put me off. After trying a totally unsuitable pencil gripper (NOT suitable as it’s designed to put your fingers in a writing position, which was wrong angle for crochet). I ordered a Tulip Etimo hook from a seller on Ebay, who beat even Amazon prices!

The Tulip Etimo hook has a metal area where the hook is, but the handle is made of a special cushion grip, which is smooth and rubbery so not cold and not slippery. I’m posting a full review of it on a later date.

Tulip; Etimo Crochet Hook

Tulip; Etimo Crochet Hook

Results

To try to limit the amount of twisting I needed to do, I used the knife style of grip on my hook. Also to reduce the twisting and bending on the wrist, I tried rotating the hook just in my fingers, instead of using my whole hand. This worked on not having to twist my hand around but sadly it seems crochet is not for me. I feared it would come under the heading of self harm with the dexterity issues I have, and at least in the winter this turns out to be the case, it was always going to be a long-shot. Even with the soft and lovely handle of the Tulip Etimo, the way I was spinning the hook, made not just my hand lock up, there was a lot of pain across the back of my hand and up my forearm to my elbow, I learned the hard way in the past NOT to ignore this kind of pain and it took over a week to settle back down, so sadly it looks like crochet isn’t for me.

Learning Curve

I’m quite sad that I couldn’t crack this, as I’d love to have made some snowflakes and some granny squares but its not worth the pain it caused and after over ten years of recovery after two operations on my wrists, to get even some of my dexterity back, I’m certainly not going to risk further tendon damage, again.

What all this has taught me, is to be wary of people who say; ‘This is suitable for people with dexterity problems’. I am guilty of making that remark myself too. Everyone’s dexterity problems are unique to them, it could be that your hands don’t function well but that fact doesn’t cause you pain, so you just need a tool that you can get hold of easily. In my case my dexterity issues not only make gripping and fine motor skills difficult, but also very painful so different tools can help but not every time.

At the end of the day, I am glad I tried crochet. It might not have worked but I am still very lucky that, at least for short periods, with long breaks between sessions and with the right materials, at least I can still knit occasionally. In future, I will try to make sure I use comments like; ‘If you have dexterity issues, these are worth looking into’. Rather than, ‘Are great for people with dexterity issues’. I’ve still got a bundle of Knitting magazines that gave details for making a blanket. So maybe over a lot of time, we still will get our hand-made blanket. Ten years DH & I have been married and only recently when we were talking about crochet, did he say he’d always liked the idea of a blanket like that :) Who knew? :)

Links

For those who would like to find out more about the hooks from my shortlist, here are links to the manufacturers.

For those wanting more information on getting started with Crochet, check out these sites.

Amazon is a good place to look for feedback others have left about these brands and joining Ravelry is not only a great way to meet fellow yarn-a-hollics but also find out more about knitting & crochet, share patterns and discuss your questions too.

For others who find this article for research, have you found any hooks that work great for you? If so do leave a comment so others can find them too.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

In today’s post I will be reviewing;

Knit Picks: Options; Sunstruck Wood. Interchangeable circular knitting needles

Knit Picks: Sunstruck; Options. Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needles

Knit Picks: Sunstruck; Options. Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needles

Product Details

  • Manufacturer/Brand; Knit Picks: Options; Sunstruck wood
  • Item number: 90613
  • RRP at time of writing: $84.99

Contents

  • Needles: These are the sizes in US measurements and mm rather than the old UK sizing but there are lots of charts that will convert the numbers for you ;)
  • UK: 3.50, 3.75, 4.00, 5.00, 5.50, 6.00, 6.50, 8.00
  • US: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10.5, 11
  • Cables: 2 each of the following sizes; 24″ (60 cm), 32″ (80 cm)
  • End Caps: 8.
  • Cable keys: 2

The case they come in can be used to store the needles and has a separate pocket style case, for the cables and end caps. This smaller case will easily fit inside the main one and there are plenty of extra pockets in the walls of the case, to add extra needles as you collect them over time.

Knit Picks: Sunstruck; Options. Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needles

Knit Picks: Sunstruck; Options. Interchangeable Circular Knitting Needles

Reason For Buying

I find metal needles too cold and because of RSI issues this makes my hands lock up. Plastic needles gave too much drag with the yarn, so the search began for wooden needles. I have enjoyed knitting with light coloured birch wood needles (straight ones) in the past  but REALLY wanted to get an interchangeable set of cirular needles.

Circulars were a good plan because the weight of the project is in your lap, rather than on the needles but all the ones available in the UK were bright swirling colours (Harmonies/Symfonies depending on the branding). These too were unsuitable because of vision issues, which makes bright colours strobe like optical illusions.

I continued my search and found these Options in Sunstruck wood, on the Knit Picks website and fell in love with them.

Pros/Cons

Pros

  • Birch wood
  • Light coloured, no more optical illusions from multi-coloured laminates
  • Smooth finish to wood and metal joints
  • The metal connectors between needle and cable are super smooth and because they are in constant contact with your hand, warm up and have given me none of the chilling factor that I get from metal needles.
  • Versatility. Wide range of sizes to cover many yarn types. You can also get cable connectors seperatly that will join more than one cable to another, to add even more length options, if you need to.
  • End caps, so you can take the needles off when you travel or to store a project.
  • The needles are small in size which makes them easy to store.
  • Very light and comfortable to use

Cons

At the time of writing I have found no suppliers or importers are bringing them into the UK :(  Knit Picks only deliver to USA and Canada. It was only because someone I knew was going on a trip to the USA that I was able to get these. {You know who you are and that I am eternally grateful}.

Build Quality

Fantastic. The needles are superbly finished, totally smooth wood. They feel silky in the hand without having a high gloss finish that could be distracting. To describe the colouring, I’d call them standard birch colour with visible but not raised ginger in the grain.

Value for Money

Excellent. If you are lucky and live in the places they are delivered to, you have the option of buying individual needles so you can try them out to see if you like them before you get the whole set. That option also means that should you suffer any breakages you could get extra ones. I love the full set as all the sizes are so useful, now I can choose whatever yarn I fancy rather than having to remember which needles I have and only buy yarn that I could use with those.

Would I buy it Again?

YES YES YES. I desperately want to get another set as I’ve got on so well with these. I haven’t got the hang of magic loop and prefer to use the two circulars method for smaller projects.

Summing up

I know I was in love with my Brittany needles and if you want a comparison for coloring and smoothness these would be very similar. I ADORE these Options in the Sunstruck wood, because of the type of dyslexia that I have the highly coloured woods of Symfonies/Harmonies were never going to work for me. Also because there is such low light here in the winter or if you knit in the evening, the lighter coloured wood is so much easier to see to knit with.

Each needles is 4.5″ in length and the sizing listed on the cable is the final length with the needles attached to the cable.

These needles have been pure joy to knit with, so far I have used them with acrylic yarn and half acrylic / half wool both of which have been wonderful with no negatives. Fantastic with cotton which is another favorite  material.

An important point also, is that although they are intended for circular knitting because of the cable styles, there is no reason why you can’t do regular straight knitting on them. Instead of joining the work in the round, when you get to the end of the row, pass the needle to the other hand just as you would with straight pins and continue knitting. If you wanted to, because you have two of each of the cables you could attach one cable to the needle and add a cap to the other end of the cable if you still want to preserve totally separate needles for each hand.

Knit Picks: Options Sunstruck Wood.

Knit Picks: Options Sunstruck Wood. Needle attached to cable & end-cap

Links

Please, please Knit Picks send these to UK importers. UK importers of Knit Picks, please bring these to the UK – they are amazing. I ain’t too proud to beg ;)

Horray! Found a supplier that will ship to the UK. Check out Happy Knits from Portland OR

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

PS: Another option for lighter coloured needles that are available as fixed circulars are Knit Pro Basix. These are also pale in colour but so far they have only been available as fixed length circulars not interchangeable needles.

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Welcome Back

Over the last few months I’ve been making gift boxes and cards, this month I’ve been sharing the results with you. Here is a quick pic of the projects all together, and some links to the posts where you can find more details of how to create your own versions.

2012 Christmas Collection

2012 Christmas Collection

Links

  • 2012 Card
  • Small Gift Box; suitable for fairy cakes or mince pies/sweets etc
  • Tall Gift Box: Great for hand-made gifts

Later this week I’ll share details about the gift bag seen in this picture and add a link back here.

Hope you have a peaceful, happy holiday

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

After my review in the last post, today I’d like to share a video with you as part of the online workshop series Adventures In Acrylics. In the film I’ll show you around the interference colour palette and some of the amazing results that you can achieve with it.

You Will Need

  • Daler Rowney; Shimmering Colours. Interference colour of your choice
  • Jar of water
  • Cotton Rag
  • Dark and Light card stock

Here’s a few examples of items that feature Daler Rowney Interference Colours

Interference Colours; So many possibilites

Interference Colours; So many possibilities

Links

Quote: Daler Rowney Site: EFFECTS

Shimmering Colours (Interference Mediums) Available in six colours: Shimmering Gold, Copper, Violet, Red, Blue and Green. Used straight from the tube and applied to a black surface they produce a magical shimmering, metallic, transparent lustre. The most dramatic effects are on black, where colour shows with electric intensity. – Gold  Code 128 075 709 – Violet  Code 128 075 710 – Blue  Code 128 075 711 – Copper  Code 128 075 712 – Red  Code 128 075 713 – Green  Code 128 075 714

Shimmering Colours Set  Gives a shimmering pearlescent metallic lustre when mixed with pure acrylic colour. – Code 128 900 125

End quote

Hope you will give these Shimmering Colours a try, they are stunning on dark surfaces. In the coming weeks I’ll share some techniques using them, and I’ve got plans for a Christmas project with them later in the year. As I mentioned in the film, if you can only get one colour, I’d go for the Shimmering Gold, its the one I use the most and I find the most versatile.

If you already have these paints, I’d love to hear how you use them and see your projects with them too.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

As part of the online workshop series Adventures in Acrylics, I’d like to share a tutorial to help you get the most from your choice of colours, whether you have been collecting them for years or have a shiny new box of gleaming tubes in front of you. After this you will know just what colours you have and be able to find just the one you want from a huge pile, every time.

Do you know what colours you have? Make a colour chart and discover your full palette

Do you know what colours you have? Make a colour chart and discover your full palette

You Will Need

  • Acrylic paper or piece of white mount board
  • All the acrylic paints you have
  • Brush
  • Water pot with water
  • Rag
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Pen

Method

Do have a new box of paints? Then if the tubes are still in the box they are lined up ready to go. Perhaps though you have been collecting your acrylic paints for some time. If that’s the case, go rummage, find every tube/pot/jar of acrylic paint you have. If they are all in one place together you are more likely to use more of them ;)

Some acrylic paints are flow formula (ie more fluid) others are heavy bodied (more like toothpaste in consistency). Separate your acrylic collection into two boxes so you can easily home in on the different kinds when you want to.

  • Separate your chosen paints into colour families, reds/yellows/greens/ blues etc. Lightest to darkest within those groups works well.
  • Because paints often dry to a slightly different colour than they look on the tube/packaging, you are going to paint samples of each. In the interests of only doing this once ;) Try to paint your samples on to something sturdy like white mount board as it will last longer.
  • Next to each patch of colour that you paint, write the details from the pot/tube. That’s the colour name and number and if you have a selection of brands the brand name too. You can shorten the brands to initials as long as you write yourself a key ;)

Make sure you wash out your brush well between colours and keep changing your water so the colours stay true.

Now you have a beautiful chart that can live in the box with the paints, when you are creating a project you can use the card to choose just the colour you want, and know which one it was. Drawing a pretty grid to paint inside is optional, but it can make it easier to scan across later on.

Here is a picture of my paint chart, the quick one I made when I first got my paint (on the mount board, shown above) and the detailed one on the acrylic paper. You could also glue this sheet onto mount board, if you want it to last longer.

Detailed Paint Chart

Detailed Paint Chart

Options/Added Extras

If you prefer a more mobile colour chart.

  • Cut a piece of mount board for each paint you have.
  • Write the brand, colour name and number on the back of each tile, before you paint your swatch on the front.
  • Punch a hole in the cards and string them together so you can keep them in colour families, but still have the options of adding to the collection as you buy new paints.

This version will also allow you to pull colour schemes together from the cards and encourage you to experiment with more than just your favourites.

Links

Check out the Art Supplies tab at the top of the blog, you will find links to the main manufacturers there. At the paint manufacturers sites you will often find downloadable colour charts, although these are only guides as the printed colours will vary depending on how your printer is set up (and how much ink is left in it ;) )

The manufacturers charts are very helpful for identifying the colour names/numbers and for newbies which paints are opaque, transparent or semi opaque or semi transparent. This is very helpful when you are just starting out and haven’t yet worked out which colours will  have which opacity. It makes a huge difference to the success of your experiments, when you know the opacity of your paint colours ;)

Hope this tutorial helps you discover just how many colours you have, and now you know what you will have, perhaps it will tempt you to use more of them, rather than just sticking to your favorites. I’d love to see your finished results.

Best wishes and thanks for reading see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

In today’s post I would like to introduce our new Featured Artist, a few days early. Our Featured Artist of the month for June 2012 is:

Gina Barrett

Gina Barrett

Gina Barrett; Featured Artist of the month June 2012

I discovered her work thanks to her ‘Button It’ shows on Create and craft, and was fascinated by the intricate buttons she made from basic materials, sadly I’d never have the dexterity for making those, but more recently she has also show people how to create wonderful braids,  I adore anything historical, and would love to make some finger loop braids as book closures.

If you have seen Gina on TV and for those of you who haven’t yet found Gina Barrett, here is a little more about her and her amazing  work.

Who you are:

Gina: Gina Barrett, textile artist, illustrator, crafter

Where you are (which country you are based in)?

Gina: I live in the Midlands – (United Kingdom) but I am originally from   the US.

What you do:

Gina: Although I am an illustrator by trade, most of what I currently do   revolves around passementerie – making trimmings for clothing and interiors.   Part of this involves a range of DVD (which are still being made) showing   step-by-step the techniques involved in this discipline. I also do specialist   commission work for costumiers, theatre and film.  On ‘rest’ days, I like   to dabble in sewing and mixed media projects

What got you started in your creative journey?

Gina: I have always wanted to be an ‘artist’ – when I was little I made   books so that I could illustrate the stories! This was always paired with a   fascination for costume, (I had toyed with the idea of becoming a costumier)   and my journey took many paths in the beginning, including   historical illustration. In studying costume, I became fascinated by the   detail – which led to learning how these wonderful trimmings were made.   Initially my study was all about medieval trimmings, and in particular weaving   narrow wares (ribbons) and making tassels and braids. This expanded into   learning as many techniques as I can. I am still learning, and hope to always   learn.

What inspires you:

Gina: History, colour, skilled workmanship, historic portraiture.

18th Century Tassels. Before and after. Restored by Gina Barrett

18th Century Tassels. Before and after. Restored by Gina Barrett

Gina: The image is of a pair of 18th Century tassels that I restored for a stately home – one after the  restoration, one before

If money,time and obligations were no object, what you would most like to do?

Gina: Spend time studying museum collections of passementerie items first hand, buy examples at auction to study, and just make…

What do you enjoy most about your creative work/life?

Gina: Working for myself. It is full of stresses (and they aren’t always   great!) but the satisfaction of being able to devote time to create is a   wonderful thing, and I am very lucky that I can do this. I am also learning that I am really enjoying teaching/sharing the techniques, both through writing articles and books, and trough making the dvd’s. Showing others how to do something that I had to figure out without help is very satisfying.

Links

To find out more about Gina Barrett and her work, please visit her blog and website, details below.

Gina: My website is www.gina-b.co.uk where you’ll find links to  my blog, Facebook and twitter

Thank you Gina Barrett for being our Featured Artist of the Month for June 2012. Do visit her site soon to see more of her wonderful pieces, her DVDs are available from her website and also on Create and Craft.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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