Cooler with Kuler

Every trade has its tricks. And it’s not very often that one trick can carry over into another trade. So when I found a trick that carried over, I was pretty excited.

As a graphic designer by trade, we have all sorts of tools to help us out. Like a writer, we can sometimes get blocked. That’s where a few tricks can come in handy.

Some days colours never seem to work. In that case, Adobe Kuler is the place to go. You can create your own colour palette or check out what other people have been working on. It’s a never-ending site of inspiration for anyone who works with colour at all.

I was browsing the site the other day and came across this palette:

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I love the deep chocolate brown with the teal and vibrant red. Rather than open a design program, I dove into my yarn bins. This is now what’s warped on my loom:

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Dollar Store Delights

Yesterday we looked at the benefits of hunting for supplies second hand—whether at a store, grandma’s attic, or your own forgotten stash. Today, let’s jump down another rabbit hole—the dollar store.

Once (and maybe still) considered a shop for only the down-and-out or low-income, the dollar store is a haven for crafters of all sorts. I find most of my card-making supplies there along with beads, bubble bath, and books. A nice (or nasty) thing about dollar stores is that their inventory turns over faster than many other stores and they often won’t get the exact same stock when it’s time to refill the shelves. And every store—even if they’re a part of the same chain—doesn’t carry the same variations of each item.

I’m a Dollar Tree fan. In Canada, the only price you need to know is $1.25. No matter what the item, the price is the same. It makes yarn shopping easy. If I go in with $10, I’ll come out with seven balls of yarn.

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Are these the best quality yarns? Nope. But the colour selection as well as variety in size and texture is what draws me to these little bundles of joy. From the soft, fuzzy chenille to the shiny eyelash yarn to the wide, lacy, ribbon-y I-don’t-know-what-the-heck-to-call-it, little bits of this stuff can go a long way to adding visual interest and physical texture to any project.

The best part is that you don’t have to break the bank to get it! And while you’re there, pick up a few baskets (like the pink one shown) to store your stash.

The Second Hand Score

You’ve got a fantastic project in mind and most of the materials to finish it, but there’s that one elusive colour. You only need a bit. Maybe a little more texture, but those luxury art yarns, while perfect for your piece, are a little pricey for your liking. You only need a few yards, after all.

Second hand store to the rescue.

I’ve discovered some of my best supplies in bags and bins. These fabulous finds once belonged to someone else and, for some reason or another, never got used. Maybe tossing through shelves of old, smelly yarn isn’t your favourite passtime. Maybe it is. Whether you enjoy it or not, don’t overestimate the power of a great find. All of the items shown here are second hand. In many cases, I’ve paid less than a dollar for them. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve completed a project to date that was finished using entirely newly purchased supplies.

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All fibre shown here was purchased second hand.

If you really hit the jackpot, you may hit the store in time to score an old lady’s stash that her relatives didn’t know what to do with when they moved her into a home. (If you’re really lucky, you’ll know that old lady and she’ll give you her stash before it ever gets to the store.)

Other great places to find those missing bits and pieces may include:

  • local guild jumble sales (usually for members only)
  • garage sales
  • grandma’s attic
  • mom’s storage unit
  • a friend’s fibre stash
  • the box you packed 10 years ago and forgot you had

The only thing to keep in mind if you’re buying second hand goods is to check for damage or wear. I’ve had a few duds that had been affected by time or, worse, bugs. If there’s a smell that you find too bothersome, you can always skein it, wash it, and wind it back into a ball before using it. Otherwise, a good wash of the final piece is sufficient.

Happy hunting!

Busy Little Bee

Nice weather does not equate to inactivity! In fact, I’ve been keeping quite busy. So busy, that I haven’t posted in a while.

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The inspiration for the scarf/wrap/wall hanging.

After putting a request out on Facebook for colour selection, I received many responses for “Sunrise”. That could mean pretty much anything, but I found a photo and decided to go for it. The results were even better than expected.

It’s difficult to show the full effect because I really have nowhere or no way to hang it at the moment, but hopefully these photos will give you a bit of an idea of what I was able to accomplish with a vision, many threads, and a lot of time.

Work What You’ve Got

I have no shortage of fibre goodies. Some may say I have too much. Pfft! Like that’s a thing. Even if you have more than enough, sometimes you just need to put a different material in your hands.

Lately, I’ve had the dilemma of where to store all my yarns. I could go out and buy baskets or materials to make baskets, but why bother when I know I’ve already got tonnes of stuff spilling out of my shelves and closets.IMG_20170510_145432.jpg

I decided to try my hand at plarn. Yes, plarn. Or plastic yarn. Or plastic grocery bags cut up and looped together into a long chain that can be used like yarn. This material has been used to make and supply water resistant sleeping mats for the homeless. I wasn’t feeling so philanthropic and my efforts were entirely selfish.

It was an interesting experiment in patience, materials, and trial and error. The end results, though, were pleasing. I thought the finished product would be more stiff and scratchy, but for plastic, it’s surprisingly soft and springy. I didn’t count, but I estimate that this one basket used about fifty bags. Thought the bags were all taupe, the variation in tone added an interesting effect in the final outcome.
Whether I make another attempt is yet to be seen, but now I have one more storage basket for my yarn!

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My Favourite Part

I just pulled a piece of the loom I wasn’t thrilled with. In fact, it took me four whole days to get up the motivation to finish. I’ve learned though, that just because I don’t like something, it doesn’t mean someone else won’t, either. I’m sure I’ll find someone to love it for me.

But now that that is done with, I can move on to other things. Like my favourite part—throwing a bunch of yarn into a pile on the floor.

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I go through bags, bins, boxes, and baskets looking for bits and pieces that may or may not go well together. I arrange and rearrange in my pile until I’m satisfied with the over all look and feel. It’s all about colour and texture. Since most handwoven items are hand wash only to begin with, I’m not very concerned about mixing different types of fibres. (Anyone who wants to put one of my finished pieces in a washing machine doesn’t deserve to have one.)

So now I’m off to the warping mill and then the loom. Only time will tell if my pile has paid off.

Music and Missions

I was recently asked by my friend and director of the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra, Paula DeWit, if I’d be willing to partner with the organisation to sell some of my original work sharing profits with both the CSO as well as Chilliwack Victory Church missions. Never one to give up the opportunity to support two of my passions—music and missions, I got to work right away!

I’ve donated  similar cards to the CSO on previous occasions, but not like these. Last year I discovered the stunning capabilities of Chameleon pens and decided to apply them to some antique sheet music I picked up at a used bookstore years ago. Each card is one of a kind, never to be replicated.

These along with others will be for sale at the next Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra concert on May 27.

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5 Ways to Get the Glam Shot

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The camera shown takes film, but the photo was taken with the digital camera I use for my project photos.

After snapping a few photos of my works in progress with my phone, it was time for the glam shot. These days phones can take great photos, but I’m still a fan of my nice, big DSLR (digital single-lens reflex).

There are a few photography tricks than can take any handmade project and make it look like a professional product.

  1. Get outside. The odds that you have a professional photo studio in your home are slim. The lights you have in your house aren’t very bright compared to studio lights and tend to cast a yellow pallor along with heavy shadows. If you can take your photos outside on an overcast day, you’ll be happier with the outcome. While a bright sun is great for getting a tan it—like the lights inside—can cast unwanted shadows. A fully clouded sky diffuses light giving you even coverage while still being bright enough.
  2. Get close. If you have digital zoom on your camera, don’t use it. Digital zoom only takes what your camera can do and artificially increases the size of the photo. You’ll end up with blurry, grainy photos. Instead, frame your shot and get as close to your subject as your camera will allow while still able to focus. You shouldn’t have to do much cropping after the fact.
  3. Get multiples. Take more photos than you’ll think you need. Since everything has gone digital, there are no longer exorbitant costs involved in taking extra shots. Go nuts if you want. The more you take, the more you’ll have to chose from in the end.
  4. Get software. There is free photo editing software out there. You don’t have to be a computer genius to figure it out. I’ve used Photoscape in the past with good results. Simple things like colour correcting and adding a bit of saturation and contrast can take a good product photo and make it a great one.
  5. Get creative. There are no rules when it comes to taking photos of your own projects. Try different ways of displaying your work so that you can present it in the best way possible. Avoid adding unnecessary items that clutter a photo, but go ahead and use props that help to enhance your product.

Above all, have fun! I spent an hour or so outside yesterday playing with my camera and my most recent projects. My background was the old backyard fence and, to hang my wraps, I used twine and an empty wrapping paper tube. A simple setup can go a long way!