This Christmas turned out to be a lot more wet than white. We've had strong winds, and the water level has kept on rising for days. At the moment we have water on three sides of the house. The house itself is fairly safe, but mum's flower bed is worse off.
Fa la la la laa, la laa laa laa. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, even though there's not much snow in sight this year, at least not in this part of Finland. I'm visiting my parents in Ostrobothnia, and have enjoyed a walk with Fia the terri(fi)er, followed by a traditional Finnish Christmas sauna. Dinner is in sight, and Faith, Hope and Charity (or Love, as it's called here) is lighting up the darkness. These lighted symbols are very common in these parts at Christmas, and have become almost synonomous with the town of Jakobstad/Pietarsaari.
As you can see below, the Doodlendar is finally completed. Working on a small scale like this worked very well for me, so I will continue in a similar manner for a while. Perhaps that will help me form a habit of drawing regularly. I'm also thinking of making a small stamp a day in January, unless that's too ambitious. But first I'll enjoy a Christmas holiday with lots of rest.
To all my friends and readers:
Thanks for visiting my blog and hope to see you again soon!
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk
These are a few lines from John Donne's A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day (1627). St. Lucy's Day is on 13 December, but the poem deals with the winter solstice. It was formerly believed that St. Lucy's Day was the shortest day of the year, and as such connected with a lot of magic beliefs. I confess I don't understand half of this poem, but I find it strangely haunting. The line that I chose for the title is one of my favourites. The idea of the winter solstice as the year's midnight makes a lot of sense when you live in a northern country. The sun rose at 9.24 am and set at 3.13 pm, so it was scarce six hours that the sun unmasked himself here in Helsinki. North of Rovaniemi the sun doesn't rise above the horizon, so I'm quite happy I saw a few rays of sunshine during my lunch break.
This past week has been pretty awful. Last Sunday I felt a bit dizzy in the evening, and the next morning when I got up for work I was so dizzy that I had to take support from the walls on my way to the bathroom. I went to see a doctor, who ordered a few days of rest. By Wednesday, however, the dizziness was even worse: the whole world was spinning, I couldn't focus my eyes and I could hardly stand on my own two legs. Back to the doctor I went and was diagnosed with BPPV - benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Next I went to a psysical therapist, who said that the muscles in my neck and jaw are so tense that they press on the balance organs, thus causing the vertigo. By now I'm much better, my world is only rocking gently, as after a couple of days at sea, and I don't experience any motion sickness any longer. I'm going back to the therapist a couple of more times before Christmas. But listen to this: the therapist told me there shouldn't be any knitting, crochet, sewing or embroidery for a while, as I need to rest my neck. Wha-wha-wha-what-WHAT!?!
Well. Ok. Wednesday was such a nightmare that I'm going to take her advice seriously. If I want to be creative, I'll just have to come up with ways to do it without straining my neck. Or I could just decide to catch up on my reading. That's not bad either.
My Mum, bless her, came to the rescue on Thursday, and spent the weekend with me, as support. We ventured out for a little walk on Friday and cut a few sprigs of fir for a tiny Christmas tree.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blätter!
I haven't let vertigo stop my progress on the Doodlendar though:
We're halfway to Christmas Eve already! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Finnish Christmas traditions, Christmas Eve is the day when Santa brings us Scandinavians our presents. I guess he needs to start here if he's supposed to make it in time for Christmas morning in other parts of the world. Everybody knows of course that Santa lives in Finnish Lapland (in Korvatunturi, with a second home in Rovaniemi, on the Arctic circle), and let no one tell you anything else.
After 12 days, my Doodlendar is starting to look interesting, and I'm enjoying it. I try to vary the patterns and to avoid the ones that I usually doodle, in order to make new discoveries.
On Saturday I went to a Christmas fair in Ekenäs, in the southwest of Finland, an hour by train from Helsinki. It was raining all day, so the spirit of Christmas wasn't very strong. I found this cute dish cloth, designed by Lotta Glave. I fell for it immediately, but it wasn't until today that it dawned on me to take a look in the broom cupboard. I have two dish cloths from before designed by the same artist! Without knowing it myself, I seem to be her biggest fan.
Ok, so it's not shibori as such, but I'm sure you'll agree with me that these baby wipes are quite shibori-like. They were created during my playful session with gesso and acrylic paint a few days ago, when I was applying and wiping away paint. They are so pretty, I can't bear to throw them away. I'm sure I'll be able to use them for collage or something else. I just had to share them with you!
I've had four days off from work, two of which I spent with Mum, and the other two were meant to be an art retreat arranged for myself by myself. Well... On Monday I seemed to have alls sorts of things going on except for arty things. In the afternoon, when I finally got my art supplies out, I was struck by the most awful creative block. I just couldn't bring myself to do anything. Performance anxiety rampant. At last I pulled out my cheapest sketchbook (the one with the awful paper) and drew an unplanned and ugly portrait of myself spewing fire. I coloured it with coloured pencils and didn't care whether I stayed within the lines or not.
The ugly self-portrait did the trick. I remembered what I always tend to forget: it's better to draw SOMETHING or ANYTHING than nothing at all. It doesn't matter if it's ugly. It's a start, a warm-up. The good stuff comes later. I put on Paula Phillips' workshop 'Textured & Layered Backgrounds' and started messing around with gesso, Inktense pencils and acrylic paint. At the moment my hands have what has been called a "mixed-media manicure". My nails are both purple and silver. My arm is tired from rubbing off layers of acrylic paint. My pants are in the wash, as I managed to splatter white paint on them. You can probably tell I had a good time.
Here are two of the backgrounds I started on yesterday. There are more layers to come. The technique is basically to add layer after layer of paint, and each time you add a new layer, you remove some of it to reveal the underlying layers. It's very exciting, and a good workout too, as you really have to put some back into it, as Paula says.
Sunday evening again - a weekend passes by so quickly! (Lucky for me, I have two more days off from work. That suits me very well.) This weekend was spent in the company of Mum, who came down for the traditional Women's Christmas Fair in Helsinki. Last year we sold our own artwork there (read about that here and here), but this year we just went as customers. I wasn't really in a shopping mood at first, but then, just before we'd gone through everything, I was charmed by a herd of angels, and bought three pieces from the same ceramic artist, Mette Helve: two angels and a soap dish. I like the way she's used a crocheted doily to pattern the clay. I only bought the soap dish and the big angel with the candle at first, but after a couple of minutes I rushed back and snapped up the little angel too. I just love the mischievous look on her face and the way she leans a little backwards! I couldn't risk anyone else walking away with her.
The Dynamic Angel Duo
Apart from shopping, we spent most of the weekend crafting. Mum has been knitting wrist warmers to sell at a the Women's Christmas Fair in Vaasa on Tuesday 6 December and, when I haven't been busy with my Doodlendar, I've been working on an Alabama Chanin Market Bag (see Alabama Studio Style for directions and inspiration).
One of the leading ideas in Natalie Chanin's books is to recycle old t-shirts for cool projects, instead of throwing them away when they're past their best. This struck a chord with me, and I've been saving my t-shirts for a while. A few weeks ago I made a stencil in the shape of a peony and printed on cotton jersey pieces that I'd cut out of my old t-shirts.
I've also learned to be more frugal with my paints, and I flipped the wet stencil over onto white fabric after each print and got a second print from the same application. I haven't decided what to do with the negative prints, but they would look cool raw-edge appliquéd onto something like a skirt or bag.
Although I'm using just red and burgundy, I'm trying to vary the colour combinations as much as possible. I have 8 blocks in total, and I want each block to be different.
Today is 1 December and, as promised, here's the first square of the Doodlendar filled with pattern. From now on I will upload the Doodlendar only to Flickr, where you can follow my progress by clicking on the thumbnails in the upper left hand corner, or by following the link to my Flickr photostream, which is located under the thumbnails. I have also created a separate set for the Doodlendar, where the pages will appear together in an orderly fashion.
Tomorrow's Friday, my Mum's coming over for the weekend, and I have 4 days off from work to enjoy. Great!
I’ve been thinking about getting an Advent calendar. I’m childish enough to enjoy that sort of thing. “But what type?” I ask myself. I have been assuming that it should be one that contains chocolate, but I haven’t been able to make my mind up what to buy. The chocolate in the kiddy calendars isn’t very good, and I felt that an ordinary box of chocolates was a bit boring. I’ll get enough of those anyway before Christmas is over. And then I had an idea: I’ll make a Doodlendar, i.e. a calendar with a doodle a day until Christmas. Next I remembered one of the exercises that Melanie Testa suggests in her book Inspired to Quilt. In the exercise you draw a grid on fabric and fill the squares with quilting patterns. Some of the areas are left blank, and those areas form a figure (in the book a flower stem). I’m going to apply this exercise with paper and ink, and fill a square a day until Christmas. By 24 December I’ll have a completed page with patterns and an image formed by blank spaces. I haven’t drawn much since July and this will be a simple and fun exercise for me to get accustomed to holding a pen again. I will upload the Doodlendar to my Flickr account daily, where you can follow my progress day by day if you wish. That’s my Advent calendar to you, my reader. I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Here’s the Doodlendar waiting for its first square to be filled with pattern:
And now, to offer you something more to look at than an empty paper with a grid, I also offer you these crocheted cuffs that I recently finished. They’ve been living in my UFO-basket for quite a while, until I took pity on them and finally completed them. The pattern is from the book Virka muddar! by Maria Gullberg - a book filled with cuffs inspired by the crocheted wrist warmers that were used by both women and men in 19th century Scandinavia.
Thanks for visiting and see you again on 1 December!
In this part of the world we celebrate 'Little Christmas' (lillajul in Swedish and pikkujoulu in Finnish) on the Saturday before Advent Sunday. I celebrated Little Christmas by making this little bunch of mistletoe according to Susan Brubaker Knapp's directions in Quilting Arts Gifts 2010-2011, and by having a healthy helping of chocolate, nuts, my favourite cheese and mulled wine. The mistletoe is now hanging from the door frame, ready for some smooching, if a candidate happens to pass by.
My computer has been threatening to give up on me for some time, and today I finally got round to backing up my files. By gosh and by golly, there's stuff in there.... While the DVDs were burning away, I was bending wire. It was a bit fiddly at the beginning, as I haven't done much metal work before, but I got the hang of it eventually. I strung the snowflakes that I stiffened with sugar last week together with the wire, and added some beads for further embellishment. Now it remains to be seen whether the sugar will be able to hold the weight of the snowflakes, wire and beads. I might have to disassemble the mobile later and stiffen the snowflakes with another medium. It's an experiment. This is what the snowflakes look like strung together:
And here they are hanging in my kitchen window. Look at the weather: not were Christmasy yet, huh? There hasn't been any daylight to speak of today. I wish we'd get some snow soon. It brightens things up considerably.
I enjoyed a whole day of adventures on my own yesterday. I got up early, boarded a train and went to Tampere, where Finland’s biggest handicraft fair was held this weekend. I’ve never been to this fair before, so I was quite excited. I even brought my camera, but there were signs that asked visitors not to take photos. So I’m afraid I don’t have any images to show you. But it was huge. At least in Finnish terms. I spent five hours wandering around in the throng. I was quite dazed by the end.
And the loot? To be honest, there isn’t as much as I had expected. It may be that the thought of the dentist’s bill lying on my desk put a damper on my eagerness to shop. (Almost two weeks ago I had a wisdom tooth removed surgically. Yikes.) But the main reason for the meagre shopping result, I believe, is that they didn’t really have the things I wanted. There were very few things related to quilting there, and as for dyes and PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabrics, these were practically non-existent. Art supplies such as paints and pens were also pretty absent. So I was rather disappointed in that respect. But I had a good time anyway, got some new ideas and some advice, and made a few bargains, so I’m glad I went.
I bought a few fat quarters of fabric at the fair. I love the batiks, the blue fabric is for a future sashiko project and I’m planning to overdye the white fabrics.
On the train to and from Tampere I worked on a crocheted snowflake mobile that I started a couple of years ago. I finished the snowflakes and today I dipped them into a solution of water and sugar to stiffen them. I’ll string them together with metal wire when they’re dry.
After frosting the snowflakes I finished a sock I started a few weeks ago. The pattern is from a book titled Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden. It should be titled The Rolls-Royce of Knitted Socks. I never knew knitted socks could look like these. The socks in the book are so gorgeous, I didn’t know where to start. So I started with the first pair in the book.
The sock is on the wrong foot, as the clock pattern should be on the other side of the ankle, but it was easier to photograph it like this. I don’t want to twist my ankle again.
The cable pattern travels over the foot. Ingenious.
I have a lot of smaller projects going on right now, and will save some of them for my next blog entry, so please stay tuned. Have a great week!
It’s been quiet on my blog for a while, and the reason is that my life is going through a turbulent phase at the moment, and I’m trying to find my bearings. I bought myself a bunch of flowers, and after having spent ages trying to choose the right colour, I picked these white carnations. They have such a fresh and crisp whiteness to them that I decided I will let them symbolise a new page, a fresh canvas. For the fun of it, I also looked up the meaning of carnations in the Language of Flowers and, lo and behold!, they symbolise: health and energy, alas for my poor heart, woman's good luck gift. Excellent choice.
And then I finished my Passiflora cushion, which I’m very pleased with.
I learned this rhyme from a young girl while I was living in Scotland. She had a turnip lantern and was dressed up as a witch. She remined me of a similar custom we have in Finland, but at Easter. Halloween isn't a traditional festival in Finland, although we do celebrate All Hallows' Day. However, Halloween has slowly been creeping in among our festivals over the years, and why not? We need a little fun this dreary and dark season. Therefore I decided to embrace Halloween and make myself a pumpkin to cheer things up a little. I found the pattern in Anne-Pia Godske Rasmussen's book Sy liv i lapparna (From 2002, so probably out of print).
It's time for another quick Franka update. By now I've added the flowers and the fish and started working on the thought bubble.
All those tiny spaces inside the letters... They were a total surprise to me. I hadn't noticed them before I drew the outside of the letters. It's probably just as well I didn't. :D
Behind the thought bubble you can catch a glimpse of another project, which turned out to be a little more ambitious than I expected. That's perfectly normal in my world. I still haven't learned that whenever I think "That shouldn't be too hard" or "That shouldn't take too long", an alarm bell should go off. But it's probably just as well it doesn't. :D
... by the clicking of my knitting needles. In an earlier blog entry, I wrote that knitting is something I regress into when my energy levels are low. I also tend to knit more in the autumn, as the cold weather inspires warm accessories. I found a fun yarn in my stash and figured that a pair of socks would be a useful project for my recent train journeys to and from Ostrobothnia.
Socks in progress. Yarn: Nalle Marjaretki by Novita.
This particular yarn is probably no longer available,
Creatively speaking, I haven't been up to much lately, as I've been both tired and away from home. But I have kept myself busy with a few small projects. Two weeks ago, I came up with an idea for a little jewellery pouch, and made 9 in one sitting. (They're really quick to make.) I'm planning to write instructions for them for this blog. They're made from organza, which gives them a luxurious feel, and since the fabric is transparent, you can easily see which piece of jewellery is in which pouch. They're great for necklaces, which easily get tangled up in the jewellery box.
Another project that I've been working on during train journeys and in front of the TV is the pillow cover that I blogged about here. By now I've finished all the embroidery and appliqué...
... and started beading it. I really like the way it is turning out.
And dreaming about my next visit to a warmer climate and the Home of the Boxfish, I've bought a book about snorkelling and free-diving. Inspired by Mrs Eider's and Mrs Merganser's Diving Schools for Ducklings, I've decided to teach myself some simple diving techniques. I'm definitely not planning to learn any advanced free-diving skills, as I'm happy just to be able to pop down under the surface for a few seconds to say hello to my finned friends. So far, however, I've just been practising holding my breath out of the water: on the bus (between bus stops) and walking (between lamp posts). It's quite exciting, and a little bit scary.
My drawing and paiting has been to a near standstill, but I did this doodle recently, inspired by my day-dreaming about diving and snorkelling. I've picked up a few tips along the way about Zen doodling and Zentangle, so I thought I'd give it a try. I've always done pretty boring and unimaginative doodles, so I decided that it's time I shook them up a bit and tried to doodle a bit more creatively. That way it's not just a doodle, but something that I actually might be able to use somewhere. And it's a lot more fun!
I'm sorry that it took me so long, but here, finally, are the directions for the needle-felted heart ornaments that I wrote about just over a month ago in this blog entry.
Needle-felted heart ornament
2 pieces of craft felt, approximately 12 x 12 cm (4.5” x 4.5”)
scraps of yarn, embroidery thread, embroidery floss, etc.
sewing or machine embroidery thread
1 piece of batting, approximately 10 x 10 cm (4” x 4”)
22 cm (9”) of narrow ribbon
Print the template in 150 dpi to ensure that the size is correct
1. Arrange the fibres that you wish to needle-punch onto the felt on top of one of the felt pieces. If you use snippets of machine embroidery thread, it is best to place them under the wool, as that makes it easier to secure them.
2. Punch the fibres into the felt with a hand felting tool or a needle-felting machine. You just need to punch them until they stick reasonably well to the surface.
3. Secure the fibres with free-motion stitching or some other form of machine stitching.
4. Trace the heart template on the back of the needle-felted piece, but do not cut it out yet.
5. Place the felt pieces right sides together and stitch along the heart-shaped line, making sure you leave an opening that is approximately 5.5 cm (2 ¼”).
6. Cut around the heart and clip the corners and curves. You can also use pinking shears, in which case you don’t need to clip the curves. Turn the heart right sides out.
7. Trace the heart template onto the piece of batting and cut out the heart shape.
8. Poke the heart shaped piece of batting into the sewn heart through the opening. A tool such as haemostats or tweezers is helpful to get the batting in the right position.
9. Fold the ribbon in half and make a knot close to the raw edges to form a loop. Thread the looped end of the ribbon through a big needle and bring the needle inside the heart through the opening. Poke the needle through the fabric in the indentation on top of the heart and pull the ribbon through. The knot is now hidden inside the heart.
10. Whip stitch the opening closed.
11. Finish the heart with beaded blanket stitch, which is worked like this: take a stitch, thread a bead onto the embroidery floss and push it as far as it goes, take a new stitch, making sure that the bead sits on the loop that forms along the top edge of the stitch.
The finished needle-felted heart ornament
Good luck with your heart ornament!
PS. Please let me know if you find errors in the directions so I can correct them!
Today it is exactly one year since I started blogging. Here's a link to my first ever blog entry. I didn't have much to say, did I, but I had some cute boxes to show.
At first I regarded the blog as an experiment, and I didn't have much of a plan for what I was going to do with it. However, I knew that I needed something that would activate me into trying things out instead of just reading about them and planning to do them "later". I'm an information hoarder, and for me there's a real danger that I never get round to trying things out in practice, as it seems to be easier to read about them than to actually do the job. The past year has taught me that there isn't any substitute for experience. You can read every book there is on a subject, but actually trying it yourself is the best teacher.
Having a space where I can share my experiments and projects with other kindred spirits has really helped me activate myself, and I love sharing my discoveries with you readers. A year ago I thought it was such a shame that I had hardly anyone to share my discoveries with and perhaps to inspire. By now my blog has had visitors from over 50 countries from every continent except the Arctic and Antarctic. Amazing!
A big thank you to all my readers! Please don't hesitate to leave comments and suggestions on the blog, and if you don't want to leave an official comment, you're welcome to e-mail me on the address provided to the left. I'm looking forward to hearing from you! And please continue to visit my blog, as there is plenty more coming this way. I have big plans and I'm bursting with ideas.