My Growing Design-blog Obsession

Note: This pic is totally random and has absolutely nothing to do with this post. But, really, who doesn’t like a pretty flower now and then??

I minored in photography in college, which means I spent a good deal of time during my college career in the art school, surrounded by some extremely talented artists. Photographers, painters, printmakers, graphic designers, sculptors—my university boasted one of the oldest art schools in the country, and it attracted students with a passion that I could never match.

I never considered myself an artist. I’m mostly a portrait photographer and loved to spend my time in the studio playing with lighting and angles, which doesn’t do too much to endear your work to the hardcore, serious artists. However, just being in that environment—submersed in the vibrant artist culture—gave me an appreciation for the talents of others.

Which is why I think design blogs appeal to me as much as they do. They’re full of ecclectic collections, new ideas, different perspectives and beautiful things. So, for my 98th post (getting close to that milestone now!!), I figured I take a design rule of thumb and KISS—keep it simple, stupid—this post by featuring my three favorite design blogs.

  • mint: Ellie Snow’s blog is really what got me started. From letterpress to architecture to recipies to fashion, mint covers everything. I can spend hours investigating all her links, all the featured artists and all the food blogs she finds. mint is fabulous. Bookmark it. You won’t be disappointed!
  • Just Somthing I Made: OK, a little less design, a little more DIY, but still: Cathe Holden is amazing. I wish my brain worked like hers. She brings DIY to a whole new level and does so with impeccable style. Her faux engraved jewelry project blows my mind. And her tutorial for those little wire bird’s nest jewelry and embellishments that are so popular on Etsy? Superb.
  • Grayhood: Professional designer and artist Dan Gneiding designs for Urban Outfitters and does other commercial work. Uber talented. Check him out.

Finally, this isn’t exactly design,  but I figured I’d share anyways:

  • The Brightside Project: I visit the Brightside Project everyday. Not only do they feature creative people with interesting perspectives, they do giveaways! Everyday, there’s a new chance to answer a thought-provoking question about yourself for a chance to win some really cool stuff. Plus, they provide links to all their featured artists, bloggers and designers, and give you links to shops for the designers who donate the giveaways. And they do it all just to make your day a little nicer, no strings, just pure goodwill. Reading their posts and answering their questions gives me a smile each morning. Go get some sunshine!

So, check out some design blogs. Or, if you already do, tell me what your favorites are! I’m always looking for new inspiration!

And, in closing, because we started with one random photo and might as well end with another, here’s a gratutious Madori shot:

Flat out, enjoying a cool morning breeze through the bedroom window

Such a tough life for such a little fluffball.

Cheers!

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“You’re like the Rainman of knitting”

Survival 101: Always have knitting with you.

Ok, so that probably isn’t really a good survival tip. But when you’re stuck in a crowded, loud, concrete floor convention hall for a day and a half, it’s golden advice. I don’t like to bring work or politics here—my crafty life is my oasis from the rest of my life—but I had to share my latest project, which helped save my sanity this past weekend.

Just keep knitting…just keep knitting…just keep knitting…

It’s another scrappy scarf. I needed something ridiculously mindless that took absolutely no focus whatsoever. This totally fit the bill. Miles of linen stitch worked over 600 stitches on my US 6 circ using nothing but sock leftovers. Perfect.

I also took the opportunity—being held captive for hours on end—to teach my friend, Liza, how to knit. A pair of Boye US 10 straights and a leftover ball of Malabrigo Twist, and she was knitting in no time, despite much cursing and needle dropping on her end. At one point, in the 2X2 ribbing tutorial stage, she had so many yarn overs and extra stitches, that—much to her horror—I ripped the needles out, frogged all the ribbing, put the stitches back on the needles and handed the whole deal back to her prompting the comment, “Dude. You’re like the Rainman of knitting.”

Classic.

I did find time for other fibery happenings, despite all the busy this weekend. I finished spinning and plying this absolute crap silk that Allison bestowed upon me…

I actually met some silk I didn’t like

…effectively clearing off yet another spindle, my Spanish Peacock.

Now, most of the time when I use the term “crap” to describe fiber, it’s overwhelmingly scarcastic. My “crap” taste in fiber. That “crap” called Malabrigo. I need to stop buying that cashmere “crap.”

In this instance, there is no scarcasm. This silk was crap.

Neps and slubs for days…

It’s just tussah, but I originally thought it might be blended with mohair. The top was matted and fuzzed like nothing I’ve ever seen and it just felt…icky. Silk doesn’t usually feel icky.

Right away, the problem with this top became very clear. It was a mess of short fibers, mixed with long fibers, mixed with slubs. It was just crap. But I spun it anyways…just to see what it would do.

Prettier than I expected…but still crap!

The result is 138 yards of Navajo plied about-sock weight, thick and thin and bumpy—though I haven’t washed it yet, so it might get a little bit better. I’m not expecting miracles, but the skein is balanced, so it could be worse. And it’ll probably make a pretty little something, maybe a cowl. But ick…that was some crap silk, no question.

Madori survived the weekend of craziness relatively unscathed, mostly thanks to a trip to the park with the awesome Kris while I was otherwise indisposed. She’s still obsessed with fresh, clean, just-from-the-wash sheets, BTW…

They’s my sheets, Momma! You no make the beds, cuz they’s my sheets!!

…and with Hedgie, her stuffed hedgehog that *must* sleep with us every night.

The Weekend of Spindling

Despite the fact that annual Busy Time at work is technically officially over, life hasn’t really slowed down for me yet. Such is the nature of being in politics, I suppose, but my extra curriculars are getting in the way of my fiber time lately, so this past weekend I decided it was time for a break.

I literally did nothing. No plans at all. Just a weekend at home with my fluffball, doing chores, catching up on projects and Netflix, running errands, visiting the local park and getting in some serious spindle time. And much spinning was accomplished, I’m happy to report.

First, this fiber…

An ounce of dreamy softness

…became this skein!

Perfectly balanced, great drape and shine and just a touch of a halo. Love it!

This is my Yarn Tree Mongolian cashmere/mulberry silk 50/50 blend, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I spun the light singles on my Two Tails purpleheart and Navajo plied them onto Little Joe. I wound up with 141 yards of absolutely beautiful light fingering weight yarn.

I think my only regret was not buying two ounces of this lovely blend, but I still got enough yardage to make something fabulous. I’m thinking this might get paired with another semi-solid silk blend for either a redux of Selbu Modern (Rav link), since my first one was a total hit, or for another patterned colorwork tam.

Next, I finished up a longstanding art yarn that had been capitalizing the Monster spindle since October.

“Like the Miami Sound Machine exploded all over you.” (A cookie to whoever can name that quote without a search engine!)

I’m calling it “Sari Madness,” because really, it’s kind of ridiculous how crazy this yarn is. This started out as 8 ounces of sari silk thrums from Little Barn that the girls picked out for me at Rhinebeck last year. I spun the thrums together, which was an exercise in patience and careful scissor work as they were knotted and tangled and a big ‘ole mess in the bags.

Not the easiest spin, but possibly the craziest to date!

After spinning all the thrums a little at a time over the course of six months, I let the spun thrums hang out on the spindle to settle into the twist for a while and ordered a four-ounce bag of jet-black superwash merino on the cheap from Dyeing for Colour. This past weekend, I spun a piece of superwash into a semi-fine single on the Spinner’s Lair spindle, grabbed Little Joe and commenced with the plying.

The effect is similar to a thread-plied yarn, without the hassle of actually thread-plying. Bonus!

I don’t even know how many different colors are in this skein…too many to keep track…

In the end, I got 90 yards out of those two bags of thrummed silk. I have no clue what I’m ever going to do with this. It goes from super bulky to sport-weight, as I just kind of let the thrums do what they wanted to—and honestly, I don’t think I could have made them do anything else anyways. But, to me, just finishing this skein was really an accomplishment.

Oh, alright…you can have one more pic…

Finally, I dug out this beautiful surprise sample box of merino I picked up in November from Greenwood Fiberworks.

Adorable little wooly Pig Tails

I’d wanted one of these boxes for a while, so when she offered them again in merino, I jumped on it, then quickly relegated them to the stash. Where they’ve been since November. Until this weekend, when I decided it was time to make these little half-ounce braids into pretty yarns.

So, here’s my first mini-skein, using the “Enchanted” colorway braid:

Voila! Mini-skein!

It’s 93 yards of what I’m calling light fingering weight, even though Allison insists it’s laceweight. I haven’t washed it or set the twist yet (And WPI? Bahh to that…) though, so I think the jury’s still out on the weight  😀

Love the color transitioning

The whole skein—from spinning to plying to skeining on the niddy noddy—only took a few hours. I split the top lengthwise as evenly as I could, then spun the first half on the then-empty Two Tails purpleheart and the second half on the Two Tails prototype. Then I pulled out the then-empty Monster and made a two-ply right off the spindles. I managed to split and spin pretty evenly, too, because I only had five yards or so to Andean ply off the prototype to finish the whole skein.

A sweet little skein

This is my first time working with Greenwood Fiberworks wool, though the Neverending Cobwebby Bombyx of Doom (Rav link) is her handiwork as well. I have to say, I’m impressed with her fibers. This merino was so easy to spin, and the colors are wonderfully saturated and intense.

So, it’s my hope at the end of this little project to retake my sample box photo, except to replace the eight little braids with eight little skeins in the same colorways. The idea of the before-and-after makes me almost giddy, and I really love all the dusting off that my photography skills are getting lately.

This coming weekend won’t afford much time for spinning, but I did start a new and completely mindless project to get me through the weekend. More on that later.

Also, I’m approaching a major milestone: My 100th blog post! And I’m planning a contest, too! I know someone out there’s reading this silly thing—you can’t hide from WordPress stats!—so get your commenting fingers ready, because I have some great prize ideas in store!

My Awesomely Talented Friends

I have awesomely talented friends.

Some of these awesomely talented friends have awesomely established shops that have been providing the world with pretty pretty things for a while now, like my friend Kris, The Painted Sheep.

Her work is beautiful, her color sense is wonderful and her fibers…

Hi, there! *wink, wink* Remember me?

…well, they’re just plain sexy. Go get some. You know you want it.

Next, is my friend Mark, who got a little mention in my last post, but didn’t get all the attention he deserved. Mark is the one-man-show behind Two Tails Woodturning (Etsy shop is still coming…I promise!) and is one of my favorite co-workers. One day, we were talking about spindling, something that usually makes non-spinners’ eyes glaze over. But, not Mark’s. We had an in-depth conversation about the dynamics of spindle spinning, which was followed up with a text that night that went something like, “Hey, can you bring one of your spindles in tomorrow? I think I can make one.”

And thus, it began.

If the prototype is like the pretty girl next door, his latest works are supermodels.

My birthday gift: purpleheart on macassar ebony, three-inch whorl

But, they’re the most affordable supermodels ever. When I say “affordable,” by gum, I mean it. His prices are more than reasonable.

On top of that, his technique is improving with every spindle, and he’s developed a signature style.

His first sale, cocobolo on zebrawood. You can see how his turning style has evolved since then.

They’re also getting lighter and thinner, and production is getting faster. It’s really cool to watch his work evolve, and it’s fun to be his go-to test spinner.

A custom order: 2-inch zebrawood on macassar ebony, laceweight. Took some hook tweaking, but now she spins like a dervish! And notice how small and thin the whorls are getting!

Mark’s working on a bunch of custom pieces now…and designing a new bottom whorl, too…and then he’s planning to build stock for his Etsy endeavor. So, stay tuned for more from Two Tails!

Finally, there’s Tracy. While Tracy knits, and has recently taken up spinning as well, she also makes jewelry. Really, really pretty jewelry. 

One of my all-time favorite Tracy pieces…I may steal this one from her personal collection when she’s not looking…shhhh, don’t tell!

This weekend, we had a little photo shoot (it was totally fun to dust off my old photography skizzilz) and Tracy officially launched Post Call Jewels.

Can’t have this exact one either! But isn’t it pretty?

Her style is impeccable, color choices are wonderful, her craftsman ship is fantastic, her prices are super reasonable and she loves custom orders. Plus, she’s a doctor (and, hey fellas, she’s single!). Um, hello total package!

I love her Trinity Pearls, a signature custom design available in tons of colors and three (or all the same) diameters. Don’t like the ribbon? Get a toggle clasp instead!

Tracy’s looking for her first Etsy sale, so get over there and show a girl some love! And in case you need more encouragement…

More Trinity Pearls. Can’t you just imagine them in every color?! So stylish…

….here’s a bit more…

I’m for sale! And I’m beautiful! Don’t you want to bring me home?

Post Call eye candy for ya…

Taking the classic pearls to a new level! Visit the shop and check me out!

…because you can never have too much pretty pretty eye candy! 

Sorry, I belong to Allison. But Tracy can probably make my twin as a custom order!

And check out her blog, too, while you’re at it! 

Go, Green Racer, Go!

My latest finished spinning project involved these Corgi Hill Farm Shimmer Batts…

“Green Racer” batts: 3.7 ounces of merino wool, silk and sparkly nylon firestar

…and this prototype top-whorl spindle thay my good friend Mark made.

My burl-on-zebrawood prototype

Put ‘um together…

Go, Green Racer, go!

…and I got this 500-yard skein of light-fingering 2-ply.

Now, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with this yarn. None. Zip. No clue. However, the spindlemaker—who is a Renaissance man if there ever was one—at one point was a motocross racer. So, it was imperative that the first yarn I spin on one of his spindles be these “Green Racer” batts. The name was just too fitting.

Don’t get distracted by the sparkly…

The finished yarn is light, soft and nicely balanced. Even for a prototype, the spindle turned like a dream: Fast, steady and true.

So lovely

I’ve since sent the prototype back to the spindlemaker for a new hook—the only negative thing about this one was the hook, something easily fixed—and have picked up a new beauty as a birthday present. More on my new pretty later, but if you’d like to learn more about the newly launched endeavor known as Two Tails Woodturning (Etsy shop to come…promise!), check out Allison’s post about her new bloodwood-on-macassar ebony beauty.