Poking Around the To-Do List

After returning from a long trip away I usually find myself in a creative funk, and this time is no exception. But it’s always a temporary thing. A week after getting home my interest is starting to revive. Through the week, rather than waiting for my mojo to return, I’ve been tidying up my craft room looking at WIPs, checking my to-do list, reading back through old blog posts and noting which projects make me go “ugh” or “I still want to make that”.

Photo albums
“Ugh” was my first thought, despite having found quicker and easier ways to make them. It’s the choosing of images that takes a long time. That, and captioning them. Still, Paul is working on the ones from this trip (I left it to him and didn’t even take a camera) so maybe that’s one album I won’t have to worry about.

Weaving
My first thought on entering the craft room was that I could happily jump on the table loom and finish the collar. And that once I got over jet lag I would be ready to tackle the place mats. Sure enough, I had warped up the rigid heddle for another four before the week was up.

Dyeing
Yeah, well, most of the dyeing I want to do is to improve existing objects and that doesn’t make me leap to the pots. However, the idea of dyeing yarn for weaving a colour gamut blanket is attracting me.

Papercraft & Printing
Oddly enough, I’ve had a bit of an itch to do some printing for a while now. Even while I was on holidays. However, I think I’m officially over bookbinding now. I’ll happily do it in order to make something, but not for the sake of doing it.

Sewing & Refashioning
Cold weather usually dampens my enthusiasm for garment sewing. (All that getting changed to test the fit.) I’m a bit sad I didn’t get as much done last summer as I’d hoped, and there are a few winter weight and non-garment projects on the to-do list, so maybe I’ll whip out the machine soon.

Machine Knitting
I found a reference to thinking about selling the Passap knitting machine on my blog from last August. Hmm. I bought it in Feb 2012. I don’t think I used it after August 2012. Perhaps next August, if I still haven’t used it, or have used it and thought ‘meh’, I will sell it. The Bond doesn’t take up as much room, so I’ll hang onto that.

Embroidery
I’ve been enthusiastic about embroidery for pretty close to two years now, though I seem to have reached that point I get with a hobby where I start questioning what I’m doing and why. I’m still figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t. And the cat. It has to be something I can stitch while the cat is on my lap.

Jewellery
I’ll always be interesting in making jewellery, but the kind of jewellery is what changes. I’m over beading and macrame. I’d like to try that metal clay kit Paul gave me for Christmas a few years back.

Other
There are some whacky ideas on this list. I have an mini fan I bought some years back that barely makes a draft, for all that it buzzes around noisily. I’ve wanted to try making a paint spinner disc since seeing an artist playing with one on a doco. Entirely for the fun of it. I have no idea what I’d do with the resulting artwork! I also have an itch to make sand candles out of some leftover candle-making supplies I’ve got hanging about. That’s where you press an object into sand to make the mould, and the grains decorate the outer surface.

Yeah, the crafty brain cells are definitely waking up.

Turn at last to home afar

A long time away usually has me seeing my home life in a different way, on returning. I notice bad habits I’ve fallen into, or let go of things I don’t really want, or see a different way of doing things. Perhaps it was jet-lag, but I mostly wanted to get back to my old routine this time. (Not the routine I had before I left, where I didn’t get weekends.)

I did see all the small messes around the house that I’d got used to ignoring. The ones made up of possessions that haven’t yet found a home since the move. All the boxes are unpacked (if we ignore those waiting for the new garage to be built) but some of their contents are still sitting in piles, waiting for shelving and cabinetry to be built or picture hanging systems to be created.

The trouble is, at the end of last year I decided that this year I’d concentrate on finishing what we’d started and not begin new house projects. New shelving and picture hanging systems are new projects. Still, there are messes we simply haven’t got around to tackling.

Of the projects to finish, there a lot more outside than inside. No surprise, then, that these are the ones I’ve focussed on first. I’ve missed the ideal planting time, at least for natives, but I can see now that I would have been getting ahead of myself anyway. There’s a great deal of preparation to be done first before planting: weed removal, soil improvement and stabilisation, drainage and mulch.

A great deal of that has to wait until the planning permit comes through for the garage which, while a bit frustrating, at least shrinks the to-do list to something more manageable. The two main tasks left are weeding and drainage. The not-fun parts. But necessary.

So we’ve been spending an hour or so a day getting dirt under our fingernails. Nothing like a bit of sun to help reset the body clock, too.

Not All Who Wonder

We’re back. We’re home.

The trip went well. Exploration of Paris during the jet-lag recovery week was hampered somewhat by my ankle and plantar fasciitis, but we got to see some sights we might not have if we’d been more mobile, including the Musée des Arts et Métiers, which was like going back in time to one of the Great Exhibitions, or being transported to a Lilliputian steampunk world.

The work-related days in Belgium and Poland were exhausting but productive and a lot of fun.

The river cruise along the Rhine that was supposed to be our “recover from the work-related days while watching the world go by” part of the trip didn’t fulfil either expectation, as the ship travelled at night mostly and the shore trips were too rushed, but everything else about it was wonderful. We’d not done a cruise before, so I now know that I would ask a whole lot of questions that hadn’t occurred to me before if I was to consider doing one again.

The up side to my sore feet was that stopping to rest them meant I did more sketching. I took on a few subjects I’d have avoided as ‘too difficult’ or ‘too time-consuming’ and was pretty happy with the results. Pics to come.

The beetle pendant was the only craft project I finished. I’m halfway through a second pendant, but I’m not 100% sure if I like what I’ve done so far. I’ll keep going and start over if I’m not happy with the final result.

In a gallery shop in Paris I stumbled upon lots of colouring books for adults, and bought one and a set of pencils. I spent a couple of evenings with my feet on a bed of ice wrapped in a towel, filling in designs. Some of them looked like an image had been run through a program to create a vector file, but the result did not always make a design suitable for colouring. It got me thinking about what makes a good design, and wondering if I could produce my own. But colouring in isn’t all that satisfying, like art or craft is, in that I don’t produce something useful or improve my artistic skills. It’s more like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

And I don’t need another hobby.

Travelling Stitches

Thing I was right about: I stitching during bumpy flights and train journeys doesn’t produce accurate work.
Thing I was wrong about: That a certain stretch of rest time I’d planned to do stitching in would actually be restful.

However, I did eventually finish this:

beetlependant

And half of the second piece.

Kitted Out

The first embroidery kit I took overseas contained lots of little embroidery projects. I far overestimated how much time I’d have for stitching and didn’t even finish one. Having learned from that, I took a smaller kit for the next trip. I was only away for 10 days so all I managed was to embroider eyes on a sleep mask.

This time there’s a bit of relaxation time built into the trip, so I might achieve more. But I am only taking two tiny projects, my usual card holding pre-cut lengths of thread in a range of colours, some fabric and some blank pendant bases. If I run out of stitching to do I’ll attack another sleep mask. Or something else in my suitcase.

creativefidget481

The pros of traveling with embroidery over knitting is the materials and tools are so much smaller. The cons are that bad light and being jostled make it difficult to stitch well. Since I was able to knit mostly without looking, so long as light was good enough for occasional checking of progress I was fine, and the rocking of a train or turbulence of a plane had to be pretty bad to bother me. I have a little clip-on light, but there’s no solution to stitching in rough transport and those needles are sharp!

Ball & Change

For the first two to three months of last year I had to stay off my feet thanks to a bout of plantar faciitis. Fortunately it settled down enough that I was able to move house in the second half of the year with no new flare up. However, the sprained ankle has stirred up the plantar facia again, because when I was limping more force went into the non-sprained side, which was the most prone to pf.

I’m off overseas again soon, and my old multi-purpose mary janes aren’t going to cut it. I needed shoes that were not just going be robust, able to be worn with a skirt, nice enough for an evening out and taken off quickly at airport security gates, but they had to be supportive and impact-absorbing. I went to Gilmores, a local shoe specialist for people with problem feet, and the only shoe that came close to filling my requirements were, well, not exactly pretty.

creativefidget478

Paul calls them ‘old lady shoes’. I think they’re just boring.

This moccasin style of shoe usually has a few more features. A buckle or bow across the top. A thin leather cord tied at the middle. A bit of leather fringe. Heck, I’ve seen them in a street fashion photo with fur and a chain. Looking at the website of the shoes’ brand, there are plenty with these embellishments, but perhaps only this one had the extra-good-for-plantar-faciitis internal structure.

Still, this did mean I ought to be able to decorate my shoes without it looking odd.

What to do, though? I experimented with all of the above, cutting up bits of leather and experimenting with buckles and cord. I realised that if I could somehow attach some loops to either side of the shoe I might be able to switch around embellishments as I pleased.

So I got stitching. A bit of black leather and waxed thread later I had the loops on.

creativefidget480

After applying a bit of boot polish to make sure they blended in with the rest of the shoe, I considered all my decorations and settled on the simplest: a chain.

creativefidget479

I figure if I get the time between now and leaving, I’ll make some more embellishments. Maybe some black bows. And I rather fancy a strip of leather with studs in it. Hmm.

Warped Up

The placemat and table runner project is coming along nicely:

creativefidget482

I’ve made four. My sums seem to suggest that I have enough yarn to make eight placemats and a skinny runner. I figure I’ll do the placemats first then see how much yarn I have left over.

The collar/scarf is nearly done:

creativefidget483

I won’t know until I finish and start experimenting with the length of fabric whether I’ll attach it to the ruanna or just use it as a very long scarf, or cut it into two shorter scarves. It’s kinda nice to have options.

Stitchy Shirt

At last! Some craft!

This shirt has gone through a few transformations now. It was one of Paul’s shirts. The first refashion saw me taking the sides in, ripping the arms out and reset them as short sleeves, then beaching the whole thing.

But the fabric was a bit heavy for a summer top, especially as it was double thickness at the yoke. I decided to take the sleeves off completely in the summer just past. Before I had a chance to wear it, though, I decided to try some kantha-ish embroidery.

creativefidget484

I was going to stitch all over it, but I found stitching on a single layer of cloth not as easy without a hoop as stitching into the top layer where there were two or more layers. It’s also much easier to deal with thread ends when you can hide them between two layers.

creativefidget485

It was very relaxing. The stitching didn’t have to be perfect. Good tv stitching.

creativefidget486

I like how it has come out. There’s a nice quilted texture to the areas I stitched.

creativefidget487

And I suspect stitching over the whole garment would have taken long enough for it to go from a fun to a tedious project. This was enough.

Books Read in 2014

Okay, so this one’s a little late…

I gave up on trying to get my to-read pile smaller in 2014. Yet I did keep down the book purchasing to a minimum. As for what I read, I was doing okay until mid-year, when deadlines began to loom and I only had text-dealing brain space left for writing, and spare time was spent packing and planning house things.

I consumed:
The Blade Itself Joe Abercrombie
Cold Fire Kate Elliot
In Fabula Divinos ed. by Nicole Murphy
The Fall of Ossard Colin Taber
Shadow in the Empire of Light (ms) Jane Routley
Realmshift Alan Baxter
Cold Steel Kate Elliot
At Home Bill Bryson
The Ocean at the End of the Lane Neil Gaiman
Daughter of Smoke and Bone Laini Taylor
This is Modern Art Matthew Collings

At the same time I read 3/4 of a friend’s work in progress, which I’m currently rereading in a more polished state.

In the last few years there’s been a shift in fantasy away from the kind that I like, at least in the top sales lists. Australian authors in particular are not being re-signed by publishers now that the local imprints have been replaced by global ones and must satisfy the tastes of bigger markets – most often the US. I’m starting to worry that I should stock up on the paper versions of my favourite authors before they go out of print.

I do like reading ebooks, though. But I like to possess paper copies of my favourite books. In my perfect world I’d read the ebook and then, if I absolutely loved it, I’d order a print-on-demand small hardcover, with a slip cover of my choosing. And everyone would get paid fairly for their work, too.

Twist & Shout

I had this unrefined plan in the back of my mind that when I finished with work I would do a whole lot of gardening. And craft. But gardening most of all.

An hour into the first day, stepping from the paving onto the grass, I rolled my ankle. I heard and felt a snap. When it stopped hurting like hell I managed to get on a chair so I could elevate and ice it. And like a proper modern woman on social media, take a photo:

creativefidget476

The doc at the hospital said something about the x-ray showing no bone damage only ligament tears. I’m not entirely sure, because though I wasn’t in much pain they insisted I take enough pain killers to make me a little high (it doesn’t take much). He was more excited about the heel spurs I have from plantar faciitis, but suggested I ice and elevate it, and see a physio.

A couple of days later it looked like this:

creativefidget477

With a smaller bruise but just as dark bruise on the other side. The physio, my regular, was most impressed. The good news was I could get rid of the crutches and start hobbling around, because moving is better than being stationary. The bad is that I’ve done a good job of it and have probably completely severed a ligament or two and torn the rest.

Permanent damage. Just from walking on grass.

Still, it’s not quite as dramatic as the last gardening accident I had, where I stuck a gardening fork in my foot. That was back in the 90s. That’s one gardening accident every 20 years or so. Not so bad when you think of it that way.