Sunday, April 10, 2022

Make do and mend - terrible photography edition

I've been sparing you any number of things since my last post, and one of them is the slow, sad decline of my cell phone battery, which has severely hampered my efforts at photography. So let's open with some throwback photos of socks I've practically worn out the last few weeks, from their playful infancy:

I love sock knitting so very much.

But I also love a new-to-me art project, and this one features universally applicable positivity:

Recently I watched a planner-setup video from Quoth the Crow which ends with the use of tracing paper for letter stamps. Spoiler: the video is MUCH more inspiring than my washed-out cell phone phone might make you think. I saw it and thought, I can do that - I just spotted all those items in my last stationery cupboard overhaul! (one of the things I've spared you - it took TWO DAYS). Admittedly, the ink pads in the stationery cupboard have seen better days, the last of which was probably five years ago, but it still mostly worked. I liked that the messages can be compiled or viewed individually and still make sense, assuming a person can make out the words.


Another fun item I've been sparing you: my Filofax obsession. Oh how my family longs to be among your number. Here is a small assortment of my small-size planners, which I am using as reference books for story ideas, characters, research, submissions, and so on. 


There are more. One of them is actually in service as a planner, and I'm finding it incredibly helpful in keeping me on top of real life while my brain is mostly writing. This is a third thing I've been sparing you: my winter of writing, which turned into three months of incredible productivity. I've been using a larger Filofax to keep track of it all and Wow! So many short stories and submissions and progress on longer projects.

The larger-format Filofaxes are also accumulating, though I really only need two at most, one for work and one for the house. One of the extras isn't officially out in circulation yet... I think I justified its purchase as an Easter present, in lieu of chocolate, which I am trying to avoid. I should probably be avoiding Filofax shopping. Thing is, it's just so darned fun to create my own books, without going to the trouble of learning book binding. And creating a reference volume is not as time-consuming as knitting socks. In fact, I've bought most of these planners for less than the cost of a skein of good sock yarn. 

Huh. That hadn't occurred to me, and now I feel like I have license to buy more planners. 

I think I'd better slowly back away from this section about Filofax now.


One day in the winter, after a series of heavy snowfalls, I spotted my chance to fulfill a years-long dream. So I went outside with a shovel and built a snow fort sofa. 

Clearly, I didn't finish it before the sun dipped below the roof of the house, but the sun patch almost hit my teacup, so I still call this a win.

The sofa turned out to be surprisingly uncomfortable to sit on, so we never used it as a venue for hot chocolate consumption - that was the hoped-for outcome of my snowfort dream. But after the next snowfall covered up the grey and icy bits, it looked very attractive from the living room window. Yay!

And now it's all melted away and that's another Yay because it means hammock season is on its way. Hammocks are VERY comfortable.

Okay I am wrapping up here - just wanted to let you know I'm still in one piece despite the long silence. Hope you are too! I'm going to close with another throwback photo, then go make a note in one of the Filofaxes to sort out my cell phone soon. 


Happy spring, and take care till I see you again!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Happy Creative New Year

... and I hope it is a happy and productive one for us all!

I have been swept up in so many projects the last few months, thankfully none of them in any way related to being sick. There has been some rearranging of mantelpiece decor, as above (see the sock blockers in the corner there? compliments of Trish, who spotted them years ago at a rummage sale I had just left, and missed seeing - they have walked around to different display areas here ever since.)

Lots of watercolour planning and painting, none of it very impressive but always enjoyable. Though, for the record, this snowman looks much more polished in his actual size of Tiny.

SO MUCH FICTION WRITING. In 2021 I wrote and edited a novel, revised another, started a new one, and wrote a short story and started two others, despite all the other pressing crises including my beloved older relative's broken hip and subsequent move, which Pete and I coordinated. (She is doing great!)

A little knitting, not as much as I would like... Omigosh though, I was late to the party discovering that Emily Foden (Viola yarns) has written a knitting book. Naturally, I hesitated zero seconds before purchasing a copy. It arrived in a mailer with one of her quirky/adorable drawings on the back, and inside that was a brown paper wrapper with another drawing by her which I am not throwing out ever, 

and inside THAT was the book. Which is amazing. Emily is one of the most creatively talented people I have ever met and I highly recommend Knits About Winter for the patterns, the photography, the words, and the general feeling of potential while holding it in your hands.


(also, this vest.)

Actually a lot of what I'm doing now is about getting at a feeling of calm and possibility, go figure. But Januaries are always like that, aren't they? Even when we're not in a plague year. 

Some of that is coming from shopping, which I'm trying to resist or at least restrict to work-related purchases like pens. Have I mentioned Wonder Pens here? Their website is so welcoming and their photographs so alluring, it's a real delight to spend time with. I usually take my time thinking about what I would most enjoy having and sometimes that means missing out on something very cool. Not always though, heh.

For Christmas I received a Pilot Kakuno fountain pen and it is rarely leaving my hand. 


I've already had to order new ink cartridges... plus a second pen with a fine point because I like both fine and medium points, and take notes upstairs and down, so two pens is perfectly logical. Even practical. Ahem.

The Kakuno is a starter fountain pen intended for children (which I still basically am) and has a smiley face on the nib, but adults like it because it is inexpensive and safe to throw into the bottom of a bag and maybe even lose, unlike a $1200 fountain pen because apparently that is a thing that exists. I, however, would cry if I lost mine. It is ergonomically ideal and glides across the paper I'm writing on. 


The paper is another Yay... I was reading a review of 'best annual planners' and was reminded of Filofax, a mini version of which I carried for quite a long time pre-cell phones and stumbled across again recently while tidying a bookshelf. Being a diehard shopper I went to their Canadian website and looked at what they're doing these days, then immediately bought myself an A5 size notebook


The paper is like glass, it's so smooth. But also not like glass because even my beloved new fountain pen doesn't really show through on the other side. And the pages are repositionable, which is perfect for planning a novel and making notes generally. I bought the hole punch too, thinking I would mix and match papers, but I really only want to write on Filofax paper now.


My cousin sent me a very enjoyable mystery to read on Boxing Day, aka Mary's Annual Holiday, and I enjoyed it very much alongside my tiny snowman bookmark and tea in a mug I bought myself. Anthropologie has the funnest monogram mugs! But I especially love anything with illustrations by Nathalie Lété. (please note: no watercolour painting took place on my day off, though a Q-tip and my brush cleaner did manage to stay in view at my painting perch.)

 The book, The Secrets of Wishtide by Kate Saunders, was perfect for a lush day off... very well-written and perfectly paced to keep the pages turning. It's always a treat to come across someone delightful you hadn't read before, isn't it. I followed that up between Christmas and New Year's with The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves, and enjoyed that enormously too. An excellent reading vacation all around.

Now I am back to cooking every day, which means weekly pizza using a recipe I adapted from this one on the BBC's food site, because the bags of double 0 flour I can buy divide neatly into 500g portions and it calls for 650g. I supplement with 150g of semolina flour and all is well. Also I cheat and use a sheet pan and nobody here cares they're not getting a slice from a circle, but the last time I made it I was struck by the texture on the parchment paper I use for ease of removal and thought I'd share. it's like one of those high school geography class elevation maps, don't you think?

Or maybe I just imagined that. 


Here's something more useful to you, perhaps: a project I did for some small Christmas presents and didn't get to share in time. It would work equally well for Valentine's Day or Easter or any other day you wanted to tie a bookmark onto a bar of organic chocolate. Especially if you have an excessive amount of art supplies.

First, I scribbled with a Derwent Inktense pencilcrayon onto a gritty board (you can use a plastic cutting board but I have the Caran D'ache Palette) and wet the marks to get a nice smooth inky paint, then brushed it over a big sheet of watercolour colour. Inktense doesn't reactivate once it's been wet and dried, so this gave me a nice streaky background colour to work with. 

Gosh, even after parking the dried sheet under some very heavy books overnight, the paper still curled a bit... but never mind, it all works out in the end.


Then I painted a lot of circles over the sheet, in a very limited watercolour palette of red, turquoise, and a deep shiny purple from Daniel Smith. I outlined some of them, and I left others plain. To liven things up I did a few circles in sparkly white from the Kuretake Gansai Tambi Starry Set. The great thing about those paints: they glisten, but don't rub off as sparkles all over everything you touch.

When all that was dry, I sliced up the sheet with my cheapie Fiskars paper trimmer and voila! 

Pretty bookmarks to slip under the ribbons I used to tie tags onto the chocolate bars. With a gift card or an actual volume, it's an instant book-reading vacation.

There, that bookmark thing alone was supposed to be a whole post of its own back in November. I need to be less busy, I guess.

As it stands, though, that's quite enough from me for today. I will try - I always do try - to check back in more regularly but if you don't hear from me, rest assured I'm still writing away at something you might see at some point. And I will hope all is well with you, too. As a sendoff, let's revisit some more snowmen I did after watching an excellent tutorial from Harriet de Winton on Youtube:

See you soon, hopefully before these two melt away into springtime :^)