Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Acrylic transfers

As I've mentioned before, aside from writing, knitting and crochet, I also paint. One of my favorite techniques to use is acrylic transfer. In short, you make a photocopy of the image you'd like to transfer, cover it with gel medium, let it dry, scrub away the paper and voila! An acrylic skin is made, containing your image.

I learned this technique from two books: Rethinking Acrylic by Patti Brady and Acrylic Revolution by Nancy Reyner. I actually learned much of what I know how to do as a painter from these two fantastic books... I am totally untrained as a painter and have only been doing it for a year. I just made my second acrylic skin for a new painting, and I decided to post about it to help others that might run into the foibles that I did the first time I tried it.

First, you need your photocopy and an acrylic gel. I have tried using good old acrylic medium or gel medium, but with those, I found that my acrylic skins were lumpy and it was hard to get it to dry evenly. I did one where I made multiple layers of gloss medium, but the center layer never dried completely and thus remained cloudy. Oops. The best thing I've found to make the best acrylic transfers is Golden Tar Gel. It has a self-leveling capability that gloss medium and gel medium don't, which makes a nice, smooth acrylic skin.

So, pour some of that on top of your photocopy and let it dry for about 3 days.

Once it's dry, let it soak for 10 or 15 minutes in a dish of water, to soften the paper:

Then, scrub the paper off. I like to get it started with the rougher side of a scrubber sponge, BUT once the paper starts to scrub off, I turn the sponge around and use the softer side, a washcloth and my fingers to remove the rest of the paper gently. The photocopied image is adhered to the acrylic gel, not absorbed. I found that out the hard way the first time I tried this technique and ended up scrubbing away some of my image. Suck.

Once you have all the paper scrubbed off, let it dry for a few hours or overnight and there you are, an acrylic skin all ready to stick onto your painting wherever you want it. I use acrylic gloss medium to glue it on.

Before you stick it onto your painting, you can paint on the back of it for interesting effects. Since it's on the back, you can be pretty sloppy. Here's one I did earlier this year:

This is the first time I've shared my painting on my blog because somehow it's so much more deeply personal than writing, knitting and crochet. I don't know why. It's also the art I've been practicing for the least amount of time, so that makes it intimidating as well. Well, I've gone and opened that door, so expect more posts about painting!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March socks marching late and IK Spring 2011!

Well, I've submitted two more designs to magazines this week and all that furious, deadline-bound knitting means that March's socks are going to be late. Like, really late. I am only knitting the gusset on the first sock right now, and it's already the 27th. Ah, well. As always, I have a plan. The next socks I start, probably somewhere in mid-April, will be in one of the colorways of Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Mediumweight, which is currently my favorite yarn on Earth. It's about a sportweight, making it go a hell of a lot faster, and the hand-dyed colors are so insanely beautiful, I don't ever want to put it down. That way, I'll catch up in April!

I'm working on another shawl design, but it's in worsted weight wool, so that won't take long. I'm also dying to get my Prism Pullover started, which being in worsted weight yarn and heavy on garter stitch and lace, ought to go pretty fast. Then Interweave Knits Spring 2011 landed in my mail box yesterday.

Le sigh, le swoon. So much lovely spring lace, some cool pillows, and this insanely beautiful Rose Lace Stole by Susanna IC. The Rose Lace Stole is next in my queue right after the Prism Pullover. It's just so pretty and I have a gorgeous hank of Lanas Puras Melosa Laceweight that I bought about 4 years ago and that has been just waiting for the right pattern, and this is it!

I need more hours in the day to knit. Now that the sun is coming up earlier, maybe that will get my butt out of bed earlier, so I can knit before my kids wake up! (Yes, I am crazy enough to get up early in order to knit!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mind = blown, soul = fed. My journey to the center of the Earth.

A while back, I blogged about my first encounter with the visual artist Nick Cave's work, when I saw two of his "Soundsuits" outside the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. Saturday, I had the pleasure and the privilege of seeing Nick Cave's exhibit there, "Meet Me at the Center of the Earth."

I knew it would be amazing, but I left there absolutely transformed. Artificial restrictions that I'd placed on my knitting and crochet designs, and even my painting, were removed. I was uplifted by the sheer joy of the Soundsuits, the incredible colors, textures, the second life of all the repurposed stuff that he uses. Ceramic birds and tin toys, among other objects, adorn some of the suits that are otherwise made up of knitted or crocheted fabric. Some suits are made of what looks like animal hair or fur, others are head-to-toe buttons. I was overjoyed to see so many obviously hand-crocheted or hand-knit elements used. There were countless crochet motifs and even an entire sculpture made of "snakes" created by rolling up crocheted afghans.

A giant bear-like creature made of sewn-together sweaters, brand name labels visible, was one of the first things we saw. My three-year-old determined it (and, well, most of the rest of the pieces) to be "scary," despite its benevolent facial expression. However, she was absolutely delighted later on, when we came upon a stuffed animal Soundsuit that was absolutely gigantic and consisted of stuffed toys of every color and shape, including Beanie Babies and to our daughter's delight, Ernie from Sesame Street and Blue from Blue's Clues.

Both my 3-year-old and my 15-month-old really perked up when we got to the multimedia room, which was really wonderful. There we got to see videos of the Soundsuits in action, inhabited by human beings who danced or appeared unannounced in some unsuspecting corner of Seattle, like a flash mob of sorts, or maybe an alien invasion. On one wall was a video that consisted of nothing but images of different crochet motifs... I personally really liked that one, along with another of the artist inside a black and white snake-like creation that appeared to be eating him. The accompanying music was great.

In one room were three beautiful Soundsuits made of twigs. A sign on the wall displayed a quote from the artist in which he discussed having been inspired to make his first Soundsuit out of twigs in 1992, right after the Rodney King incident had occurred. It's uplifting to know that an incident so ugly could have helped to inspire such beauty.

On our way out, I saw the first two Soundsuits that I'd seen at the Picasso exhibit once more. There they were, the flame-headed creature with a deformed body made of grayish sweaters and one of the tin toy Soundsuits. It was really nice to see them again. Also on our way out, a nice elderly lady commented on the busy-printed, cheerful-colored pants that my 3-year-old was wearing, saying, "She wore her Nick Cave pants!" The pants certainly did fit in. Oddly, she had chosen them herself that morning, not knowing what she was about to see!

I didn't want to leave, but we had to get the kids home for their nap. This exhibit is a wonderful, beautiful, uplifting escape from reality, and I hope to go back at least once more. Most of all, it taught me that we fiber artists aren't just knitting and crocheting, they are not just crafts, we are making art... who knows, we might even be making artists' materials!

This is a photoless post because photography is not allowed inside the exhibit. However, here's a great promotional video that shows some of the wondrous Soundsuits in action!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Voila, another towel!

I love it as much as the other. I have enough of the Recycled Cotton yarn to make one or two more, but now I really want to get started on my knitted lace linen towels, especially after I get another design or two submitted.

I got the yarn for the Prism Pullover from Interweave Knits Winter 2010 by Heather Lodinsky, which I scored for $15 on sale at Joann.com. Whoa! A sweater for $15! That is insanely awesome, since they usually cost me at least $60-$100. I am really looking forward to getting this one started because it's beautiful and wearable in more than one season. I got the Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe that the pattern calls for in the "geranium" colorway. Everybody needs a bright red sweater!

I am a big fan of Heather Lodinsky's. About 5 and a half years ago, I made her super-popular Central Park Hoodie in Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted. It is one of my favorite sweaters (knitted in one of my favorite yarns!), and one of very few patterns that I really want to make again. I need two or three of those at least! Being such a huge fan of that pattern, I really can't wait to cast the Prism Pullover on!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I did something that I never thought I'd do years ago, something that I questioned the point of. I crocheted a towel!

The pattern calls it a dish towel, but I think it's too pretty for that. It's a hand towel in my bathroom, and I love it. It's so pretty, and it functions beautifully as a hand towel.

Until I read Mason-Dixon Knitting a couple years ago, I thought knitting and crocheting dish towels was for people who had too much time on their hands. "Why go to all that effort for a towel, never mind one that's designed for a gross job?" Mason-Dixon Knitting extols the virtues of knitting and using things for your home to make your home that much more homey and that much more your own. As I read, I realized they're right.

I bought the yarn for these towels over two years ago when I'd just learned how to crochet, but all I knew how to make were granny squares. I didn't know how to crochet in rows. I had no idea where to even put my hook, it was a mess. So I got frustrated and put it aside.

While stash diving a month ago, I found the Lion Brand Recycled Cotton that I'd bought for this pattern in my stash and since my crochet skills had improved and grown by leaps and bounds in the last two years, I decided to give it another try. This time it went a whole lot better, and I liked the first towel so much, I immediately started on another in the pink colorway, Rose Coral.

This second one is also for my bathroom, but I have plans to make a whole bunch in the yellow colorway, Sunshine, when we remodel our kitchen.

This is the reason I love knitting and crochet so much. You can make anything you want, exactly the way you want it. You aren't dependent on the right fabric existing, you make the fabric, stitch by stitch, and you have total control over everything, right down to the last stitch. You don't have to hunt for just the right thing to match your new kitchen, you can just make it.

As the weather gets warmer, I have plans for a whole lot of home decor items. Filet crocheted curtains for my kitchen (which will match now and post-remodel!). A crocheted tablecloth. Knitted lace linen towels for the bathroom. All fun, all exactly the way I want it!

Speaking of warmer weather, the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Vogue Knitting landed in my mailbox yesterday. Usually, I don't find anything I want to make in the spring/summer issues of the magazines. I don't know why. Maybe it's the lack of wool, maybe it's the fact that so many of the short-sleeved, lacy tops wouldn't work on a busty girl like me. This issue, however, contains quite a few things that I'd like to make, such as the cover sweater by Rebecca Taylor:

I could see wearing that most of the year. The only thing is, the smaller size (the one I'd make) of the pattern calls for 22 balls of Rowan All-Seasons Cotton. At $8.95 a ball, unless you catch one hell of a sale, that's
$196.90. That's one expensive cotton hoodie. The larger size calls for 28 balls! Crazy!

This pattern isn't even on Ravelry yet. I bet most people looked at the amount of yarn called for and said, "Hell no." I like the pattern enough that I am thinking of sometime later this year making a ghetto version with Lily Sugar n' Cream. That might sound like blasphemy, to substitute Sugar n' Cream for Rowan, but who cares? I think it would be a great substitute for this particular pattern. I regularly see Sugar n' Cream on sale for 4 balls for $5, which would take this from being a $200 pattern to a $25 pattern. And I could make dish towels with any leftovers.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Pit and the Pendant Knot

After finishing the 50 inches of I-cord needed for Nicky Epstein's Pendant Knot necklace design from the "Learning the Ropes" article in Vogue Knitting Winter 2010/11, I let it sit for over a week while I worked on other things. Last night, I decided I wanted to finish it and asked my husband to watch our 14-month-old for 5 minutes so I could do so.

His idea of watching her was to let her follow me right into the kitchen, where I planned to perform the "bit of looping and twisting" that the "Learning the Ropes" article describes as all that's necessary to finish the necklace. Needless to say, that didn't work. I laid the I-cord on the counter and tried to follow the tiny, maddening diagram that serves as the only instruction for making the knot while my 14-month-old screamed and demanded to be picked up. I swore and gave up on that, bringing her and the I-cord and magazine into the living room. There, I made a couple attempts at the "looping and twisting" diagram, this time laying it on the couch. That didn't work, either, and after a couple attempts that resulted in something that looked like a colorful coil of dog poop, I gave up for the night.

This morning before my kids got up, I had a new plan of attack. I had learned last night that simply laying the I-cord down and trying to follow the diagram with the entire I-cord dangling free really was not going to work. As soon as I tried to get past the very bottom loop, the whole thing would move and I'd lose my place. So I went and got a handful of safety pins and a dish towel from the kitchen. I put everything down on the bed and finally this method worked.

I started at the bottom, with the very bottom loop. I pinned it in place. Then I followed the evil little diagram to see where it went to the left, then pinned the next loop in place. Then I figured out where it went to the right and pinned that loop in place. I figured out where it went over, where it went under, where it went through and pinned each part in place as I went. I ended up with this:

It looks like some kind of dead butterfly, all pinned like that, but it worked! Pinning it in place as you go is definitely the way to go. I unpinned it and tightened it and finally, voila, a necklace:

I like it! I haven't sewn it in place yet with sewing thread. Perhaps I'll do that tonight.

Before I tried the knot last night, I Googled a bit to see what others were saying about it. I was not the only one that had trouble with the knot. It's no accident that the "Learning the Ropes" article's tagline is "Tie One On!" You will want to when you're done with this knot!

The instructions for the knot are simply "foll diagram to make knot." What it really needs to say is: "foll diagram to make knot, but not before gathering the following items: 1 towel, a handful of safety pins and a stiff drink."

I would recommend saving the drink for after you finish the knot, because trying to follow that diagram while impaired would not work very well.