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Finished things to share

I have finished the vest I was knitting, but haven’t sewn it yet, nor taken pictures.  I mention this just so you will know that I still am knitting.  I do have some pictures from my online Letter Love 101 class with Joanne Sharpe.  You can spend almost as much money on markers and inks and pastels as you can on needles and stitch holders and stitch markers.  Just so you know.

Tangling with a small quote added.

I really enjoyed doing this over the last few weeks.  I painted the background with every kind of paint I could find around the house.  The acrylic is hard to draw over, but it may just be that I need to thin it.  So much to learn.

Painted with an expired credit card instead of a brush.

This was great fun.  I just squirted some paint several places on the page and then drug an old credit card across it.  You just drag the paint around until it doesn’t drag anymore.  It goes on very thin so dries almost instantly.  (Hair dryer works great here.)  It was so different from anything I had ever done and yet came out looking wonderfully abstract.  I really just laughed out loud the whole time.  Delight–that was the feeling.  You have to try this.  Paint a paper plate.  Get a six year old to help you and laugh out loud.

Lesson 9--writing in circles

First you need a compass–one of those tools from geometry class.  Michael’s has a nice one for $14.00.  I bought the $1.49 one at the drug store.  It didn’t work very well, but I didn’t care.  I want to learn lettering to communicate ideas in a fun way.  You have to be able to easily read the ideas or you won’t be very communicative.  I did learn from this technique, but probably won’t use it very often.  But I do own a compass if you need one.  I also have discovered that Einstein said some really clever things other than E=mc squared.  (Don’t have time right now to look up how to make a superscript on WordPress.  I’ll probably use that technique about as much as I’ll use the compass.)

Lesson 10--Delightfully Doodled Alphas

This was fun.  It is brighter than my picture.  I used one of the credit card pages.  I also used some metallic Gelly pens and my Zentangling skills, such as they are.  The dogwood blossoms are a new thing for me.  I love them.  I think the reason I love them is that I can actually draw them without holding my tongue right and squinting.  The E looks like a Celtic Illustrated letter–sort of.  There are four colors of metallic ink in the vertical bar design.  The point of this was to decorate your letters and have fun.  Point achieved.

Lesson 11-Artfully Abstracted

The directions here were to use your loopiest handwriting and write a word.  Then to write over it several times and begin to decorate using the negative spaces you created.  The emphasis is on the finished piece, not the word.  I learned bunches from this.  I used every kind of art material I own and discovered lots about how they work.  Coolest is the waterbrush.  This is a paintbrush with water in the handle that you can ooze down into the bristles.  Fantastic for watercolors.  No dipping and dripping across the table.  I also learned that my colored pencils will write on top of Sharpie markers.  That is what decorates the orange part of the oval on the left.  Lots of silver Gelly pen and some shading with my Copic marker in gray.  The only thing I don’t like is how big my initials are, but I read in the group digest that I can just paint over them with gesso and redo that corner of the page.   And I have gesso!!

Dropped in on Linda at Rainy Day Creations in Pineville this afternoon to pick up the new bobbins she ordered me for my spinning wheel.  She is maybe more diversified than I am.  Her shop now carries beads and jewelry findings, markers and silk scarf blanks for silk painting, as well as all the yarns, the spinning fibers and the weaving stuff.  It is truly a playground in there for grownups.  I doubt there is an art or craft she doesn’t do.

Speaking of spinnng, the Carolina Fiber Frolic is Mar. 30–Apr.1.  I’m teaching three classes and taking one.  I have extra bobbins so I can learn whatever I can con someone into teaching me and there will be two indy vendors there to tempt me with fiber.  I wish all of you could go with me.  I love the NC mountains.

More later–


An open letter to David McSween

A portrait of me on the back of my classroom door painted by David. I just wish you could see the swarm of students groveling at the pedestal on which my feet are placed. Can you say Irony?

When I taught in the public schools, the difficult, frustrating, maddening days would occur fairly frequently. In those days, behind your classroom door, you could be very alone. The many rewards of my job made it worth it, especially when I knew I truly made a positive difference in the life of a student. I knew this because of the letters.

Some students left notes on my desks; some sent cards; occasionally the parent would write; better were the Thank You notes from college and adulthood. They are still writing, which is the only reason I’m on Facebook. I kept them all. They are still in my studio desk drawer in a file marked “Feel Better.”  And when I doubt myself, I still drag them out to read.

Today I’m writing my own letter. To a student whom I knew well at the arts school which was my last venue and which provided many challenging days. Students like David were so precious. He, like my students at East Mecklenburg, allowed me to be a human being, not some stereotype of a teacher.  So here goes . . .

Dear David,

I need to thank you for many things: trust, laughter, stories about trees, and an almost finished portrait that I cherish (not the one on the door, the Klimt-esque one.)  But this letter is about the day you made it possible for me to begin to claim that I might could, someday, be an artist.

I was weaving in those days, and one day I brought to school some placemats I had made. They were so ugly, and I had tried so hard. I showed them in class and you, in your boldest 15 year old voice said, “Of course they are ugly. Why did you try to mix those two shades of red and green? Didn’t you know they would be ugly?”

At this point, I need to reassure your family that you would never have used that tone that about an English issue, but art and color were your specialty, and I was obviously the learner here.

You insisted you would be back after school to address my color ignorance and, indeed, you were. You stormed in and began unpacking your book bag. If you weren’t actually shaking your head in sad disbelief, you certainly were doing so inside. I waited.

Out of that book bag came watercolors, a small sketchbook, brushes, a bowl and a bottle of water. You sat down and we began to mix colors. We analyzed what could work and what was mud. You made me keep at it for at least an hour. Then you made me take the materials home and play. You really emphasized the play. And I did.

Because of you, I began to understand that I could learn to see color. It wasn’t easy, but it was usually fun. I still made horrendous errors from time to time, but I noted the error as well as why I thought colors didn’t work. I learned.

Today some of my most admired designs are filled with colors. Students want to make these designs, but are afraid of the colors. Guess what I do then! I tell your story and pass it on. I even tell them, “No black.” You believed black meant you were settling for safe. I hate safe.

I know you taught art for a while after you left college. I have no doubt you were great at it. What you do now, I don’t know. I’m sure it’s creative, communicative, and caring.

Thanks, David, for changing my life, and for allowing me to be a part of yours.  I hope somehow you can see this and that on a really bad day, the thought of it will help a bit.  Have a wonderful life.


Bella’s New Vest

I had to modify the pattern for my plump girl.  This is a size Small Plus.

Fits her pretty well in a Killer Bee sort of way.

As ever, she is not thrilled with fashion.

Where's mine?

Traveler, a brioche beret–Free Pattern

Finally!  I have finished the editing of Traveler and can share it with anyone who is interested.

I designed the beret for a beginning brioche class I was teaching.  It is a bottom up pattern because I felt new briochers needed to start on a lot of stitches rather than a fiddly cast on of 4 or 8.  I also wanted to solve the Fit problem that I encounter when trying to knit for others.

I wanted a band on the beret that was more structured than ribbing would be, but that means you almost need to fit it to the head of the wearer.  Hence, no surprise gifts.  I decided to make the band adjustable by the wearer which takes the onus off me.  (So unselfish, I am.)  Anyway, the pattern has a buttonband, a button, but no buttonhole.  The wearer just tries it on and sews on the button where (s)he needs it–through both parts of the band.  (If you don’t know how to sew on a button, well . . .)

Go to the Free Patterns page tab above and download the pdf of the pattern.  Please send me a picture if you knit this.

If you have never knit brioche, please go to Nancy Marchant’s magnificent site where she teaches the stitches and has amazing free patterns.

More later–

Letter Love 101

I’m taking an online class–my first.  It is Joanne Sharpe‘s Letter Love 101, recommended by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer whose site I love.  Both of these women are from the “Yes, you can” school of teaching art.  Joanne says, “If you can write, you can draw.”  Hmmmm.  We’ll see.

Here’s how it works.  Pay your class fee and you get an invite to a closed group on the internet.  From here, you get access to the video lessons prepared by Joanne.  You also get to join a Yahoo group of the enrolled students to chat, ask questions, commiserate or share discount supplies you’ve found.  Then start the class at your own pace.  The original class start dates were Feb 1-Feb 29 (There are 29 lessons).  I joined it March 1st, but it will be up forever, so you can join it any time.  Joanne will still be monitoring it and will critique and advise as long as she has students.

Now I am not much of an artist with pen and paper, but Zentangling has really improved my control of the pen.  I’ve also discovered people like Joanne, Julie, and Alissa Burke who machine quilts with “messy stitches.”  I’ve preached to those of you who read this blog that it doesn’t matter if you are good at something, you can still have fun.  Living my words.

My first real creation for the class — at Lesson 5 — was hard to start.  The clean white page in a new mixed media journal was intimidating.  So was knowing that this is supposed to be a finished piece—-sort of.  Lots of people in the class are not new to either lettering or art, so that is a factor.  You can look at the pictures on the flickr group if you are curious, but I stopped doing that when the old “I’m not good enough” thoughts started up.  But Joanne just keeps saying to play with the ideas and your materials and have fun.

This is my practice for the first assignment.  It is just words that I associate with art.

I like this.  I really like the messiness.  And I used the notepad that Kate brought me from MIT.  (I collect college notebooks.  Yeah, I know it’s weird.)  I was downstairs and lazy, so I colored it in with Highlighters and the two Sharpies in my pen bag.  When I took it upstairs, I used a stamp pad and stamped the top.  I see some Tangling influence and really like the word EXTEND.

Here’s my submitted project.

First, I want to say that I have never been in a book club.  I’m a former English teacher and no one wants me there.  This was inspired by my friend Katherine who IS in a book club and always seems to be worried about having enough wine when it is her turn to hostess.  In fairness, Katherine does read the books and even recommends some to me.

I like the humor.  I like that I named the wine after the author of one of the most difficult reads ever written.  I love that I did not have the materials  Joanne recommended (Pan Pastels) but I used my noggin and colored some of this with Eye Shadow. [ I actually own three shades which will startle many of my friends who never see me in makeup.]  The rest of the color is marker and watercolor pencil without the water.  Steve liked the wine stain; I was just elated that he knew it was a wine stain.  I don’t do perspective.

This was fun.  What have I learned?  I may take some other online classes.  Hmmm. I wonder if I could teach this way . . .

More later.

Art or Craft–It’s a journey.

Every knitter started with the same stitch, probably even the same dishcloth pattern.  And we are all still on the journey learning new things, trying new yarns, buying new toys.  The more we knit, the better we get.  Seems that practice does make better, if not perfect.  So why do I bring this up?

It’s about drawing.

I can’t.  Draw.  My students used to hoot when I would draw stick figures on the board and then have to label them “People.”  Here is a picture I drew in 2010–and I was trying hard here.

This is what a design looks like when I sketch.

You can click on the thumbnails to enlarge them, but I don’t recommend it yet.

Then I discovered Zentangles.  Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas, the inventors of Zentangling, describe it as a way of creating beautiful images from repetitive patterns.  All you need is a piece of paper and a pen.  There are some suggestions, but no rules; nothing you draw is wrong.  How can you not take a look at this?  The official website is here.

I love black and white (and Turner Classic Movies); I love patterns; I love feeling zen.  This is clearly my kind of sport.

My first Tangle attempts

I started just copying some of the simpler stuff I saw on the website.  It wasn’t so good, but I kind of liked the last two sets of lines.  Then I bought a real drawing pen and nervously practiced some more and then drew this.

Nothing compared to what I saw on line, but it was mine and drawing it was a really focused and enjoyable period of time.

I kept at it.


After a few months, my tangles seemed to get more confident.  At least it felt like it.

A year of practice and this is what I drew.  Definitely some improvement.

I still can’t draw a picture, but I don’t care.  The bird above is clearly some kind of bird and I am having fun.

I subscribe to some blogs that Certified teachers post which teach me new things and sometimes I come up with something on my own.  Like knitting, this requires minimum supplies, is very portable, invites me to forget about the real world for a while and makes me feel good.  If you do any embroidery or quilting, then this will be very familiar to you.

Linda Farmer‘s site is a great jumping off place to look at how Tangling is spreading and evolving.  Suzanne McNeill’s is also awesome.  Suzanne even has a book of tangles designed for machine quilters.  Check out amazon.com for a bunch of books if you are interested.

But like knitting, the amount of free instruction or free Tangle patterns available on the net is huge.  All you need is paper and pen–or pencil.  No artistic talent is required.  Honestly.  And it is such fun.

Oh, don’t look on flickr yet.  Some of the folks doing this ooze artistic talent.  Wait til you are having fun or you’ll be intimidated.

More later–

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