Thursday, November 15, 2012

Keep Moving Forward

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
-Walt Disney
I was delighted when I saw the I Am the Diva blog post this week with a challenge from guest poster Courtney Frantz! Courtney (A fellow Texan!) challenged us to create a Zentangle to pay tribute to Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, or Walt Disney. This is very appropriate, for I am not only a big Disney fan (my family has a bathroom that is entirely Disney themed! I brush my teeth every morning under the constant supervision of many Mickeys...), but I'm also gearing up to participate in the Disney College Program (which I wrote about near the end of this post). I'm getting very excited as the day draws nearer!

Ever the oddball, I wanted to do something different and unique with my tile. First off, I pulled up a Disneyland map and a Magic Kingdom map to look for string inspiration. The parade routes really caught my attention, red dotted lines twisting and turning across their respective parks. I wound up tracing those parade routes onto my tile for a string, incorporating the Disney parks that inspire me so much into the Zentangle.

Next I started tangling, but I didn't use just any tangles. I chose patterns that would correspond to the name "Walt" - W2, Auraknot, Laced, and Tipple. I had to use a few more to fill in, but you get the idea. I didn't think about it at the time, but Tipple is perfect for this tile because you can often find hidden Mickeys in it. See if you can spot one (or a bunch!):

Of course, as an added tribute to Disney, I had to play some Disney music while I was tangling. My all-time favorite Disney song is "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins. Love it!

Posing my tile with our Mickey photo frame wasn't actually my idea - I have to thank my wonderfully creative mom for coming up with this one!.

As Walt said, "...keep moving forward..."!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rustic Beanie: A Yarn Review

 *This post continues where part one left off*

In part one, I explained how I chose to purchase yarn from 222 Handpun Artisan Yarn. This post will be a review of the yarn and a look at what I made with it.

This was halfway through.
 After inquiring about a custom yarn order, Elysa, owner of 222 Handspun, asked me what colors I was interested in. I sent her links to two pictures for color inspiration: Here and here. I wanted really manly, earthy tones - especially browns and tans, with some gray and cream as well. With that out of the way, I sat back, eagerly anticipating the pictures Elysa promised to send me when the yarn was done. When I saw the yarn for the first time I was very impressed; it was spot on with what I was envisioning and the inspiration photos I sent.

Now to begin the crocheting. I searched around and found a free slouchy hat pattern - just the look I was going for! Hook flying through the variegated fiber with stitch after stitch, a hat began to take shape. This pattern is unique in that it is crocheted in a tube. Once the tube is long enough, you pinch the top and stitch it closed, forming four points. You turn it inside-out, and voila! A hat!
The tube taking shape.

Gorgeous color! Fabulous texture! *drool*
And here's what it looks like "finished":
It matches my coat and gloves!
Doesn't this group look cozy?
I put "finished" in quotations because it IS finished, and yet it isn't. You see, the hat ended up not fitting my head like I wanted it to. I learned that when you crochet with handspun yarn you have to make up for the tightness of the twist by using a hook one or two sizes larger than what is called for. Fortunately I haven't cut the yarn or sewn in the end, so I can undo the hat and re-stitch it. Lesson learned!

I couldn't be happier with the yarn. Going from store-bought to handspun yarn was a breath of fresh air. The different textures of each of the fibers that make up the yarn were interesting to discover - the cream color is very satiny and smooth, the grayish color is a little more coarse, the rust color is soft and plush, etc. The yarn also varies at times in thickness, creating a more rustic, organic finished piece. I highly recommend 222 Handspun artisan yarn! If you'd like to see some pictures of the yarn spinning in progress, check out this blog post from 222. It's really cool to see a project go from a pile of loose fibers to a completed hat!

I do want to point out that 222 Handspun generously discounted the yarn for me in exchange for my review. However, all the opinions I expressed in this and the previous post are my own.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Trying On a New Socc

Socc. A tangle born of an "ah-ha" moment. Wonderfully light and puffy. And the tangle chosen to be the Diva's weekly challenge this week.

You may have noticed that when I try a new tangle, I always exclaim over how much I enjoyed it. When I say that, I mean it! It's one of my quirks - I really like to try new things. Tangles, food, music, experiences, hobbies, etc. As long as it isn't directly harmful to my health or out of line with my convictions, I'm game. Last weekend I tried fried alligator and calamari. That was fun! This weekend I'm going to try studying, for my first time. Okay, not really. It will be something along the lines of my four-millionth time. But hey, I've never studied four-million times before, so I guess it really is something new to try!

Now you know that when I say I had a blast tangling Erin Olson's tangle Socc, I am absolutely sincere. I didn't fill in the middles of the sections like Erin does, and I think next time I use Socc I'll do that. I tried to get a fading out effect, where the lines that form Socc become lighter at the edges. Cubine got in on the fading action too. Not sure how successfully I pulled it off, but it is what it is. Take a look:
Tangles used: Cubine, Ix, Auraknot, Crescent Moon, Hollibaugh, Paradox, and, of course, Socc.
I got some funny stares from passersby as I took this photograph. I just tried to look like I knew what I was doing, and that it was perfectly normal for someone to crouch on the ground with an optical light-recording device pressed to one's face. Yup. Normal as seeing Bigfoot in pink and purple polka dot footy pajamas (I love the fact that spell check made me capitalize Bigfoot!).

At least I was able to find a manhole-type cover that wasn't in the middle of a street! That would have been interesting...

Hey, before I sign off, I just wanted to give a quick little reminder that if you'd like to support me in my blogging efforts, there are multiple ways to do it. You can read posts, like you're doing right now! Thanks, by the way. You can comment on posts - it encourages me to keep going! You can tell your friends about the blog. You can even support financially by buying an original piece of art from the Designed to Create Store or by utilizing the Donate button on the left column. I appreciate you, my readers. Y'all are the best!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Road Trip

Road Trip

Whoo! That picture looks like a road trip - pavement stretching as far as the eye can see, overpasses periodically punctuating the desolate landscape, all things draped in the yellow glow of a sunset. For me, that was last weekend! I'm blessed with such a great life!

My family and I didn't just drive around aimlessly, however. No, we had a definite goal. We traveled the six hours to Fort Worth, Texas to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Our church's youth group planned the trip, and we decided to make it a family expedition. We stayed with our wonderful grandparents, who properly spoiled us (thanks Chi Chi and Nana!). While it was only a quick weekend trip, it was a welcome relief to the monotony of school, not to mention a wonderful chance to see an important piece of history - especially since the scrolls are typically kept in Israel. 

Faithful readers may remember how I went on vacation in August and took lots of double- and triple-exposure photographs, where two or three photos are merged into one. I called that post Sabbatical Doubles, in case you want to go back and look. In my mind a road trip presents a perfect chance to get artsy with my camera, and this trip was no exception. Sitting in the back seat, my camera pointed out the window at the wonders passing by, I snapped away. Here are some of the results:

Okay, I compiled a few photos in Photoshop for this one; it's not straight
 out of the camera like the others. But I like it!

Reminds me of Genesis 1:29:
"Then God said, 'Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed
 that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit
yielding seed...'

Hydrant Ring
And if those weren't surreal enough, check out the next pictures. Last vacation I stopped snapping when the sun went down. Boy, did I miss out! You can do fun things with a camera at night! Take a look:

Let There Be Neon Light

Web Tunnel


Southwestern Lights

Finding Neon
See the purple light? That's actually from a travel DVD player,
playing the jellyfish scene of Finding Nemo!

Emerald City

Light Up the Night

Faux Sine
These were fun. I developed several different techniques for moving my camera to create interesting light patterns: bobbing it to music, spinning it around, and allowing the car bumps to direct the lens.

Another interesting fact about these photos is they are the first I have shot in the RAW image format. I had been shooting jpegs, mainly because I previously had no way of editing RAW files. Now that I have added Photoshop to my arsenal of creative tools, I now have RAW capabilities. Just with these photos I am convinced that shooting RAW really is all that it is cracked up to be. The quality of the images just seems better  - and they were even easier to edit. The only drawback is the increased file size. I shot nearly 2GB of pictures on our jaunt, and that was only about 250 pictures! Shooting jpegs would have hardly made a dent in 2GB. I guess there are pros and cons to everything. I think I see an external hard drive in my future...

Monday, November 05, 2012


Way back in August I posted about how I taught myself how to crochet. I showed how I used a store-bought yarn to make a hat and felt it, which was really fun. That hat didn't turn out too well, but it did teach me a lot. Shortly thereafter I found another hat pattern that I wanted to try, and I also wanted to try out some different yarn. I looked for and researched yarns, and fell in love with the handspun yarns I saw on They're so much more unique and interesting than almost anything you can get from your local craft store. After going through and oohing and aahing over each Etsy offering, I finally came to the decision to buy yarn from 222 Handspun. I contacted Elysa, the owner of the business, to inquire about a custom order. She enthusiastically took on the project of making a beautiful earth-tone skein for me, based on some inspiration pictures I sent her.

I'm going to review the yarn itself and show you the hat I crocheted with it in a post next week, but I do have a treat to share with you right now! Elysa was kind enough to grant me an e-interview, which I present below. It was so interesting to me to learn about the processes at work behind a handspun yarn - and about the background and creative process of a fiber artist. I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I do!

Zach (That's me!): Tell me a little about yourself (where you grew up, where you live, what other hobbies/interests you have, etc.). 
Elysa: I'm originally from Barrington, Rhode Island, but I've lived in Northern Virginia for about 16 years. I'm from a pretty artsy family - my Dad is a photographer and my mother is very crafty, so naturally I take after them. I studied photography and do that when I have time. I'm pretty much into anything crafty and have tried everything from soap making to quilting to jewelry making. I'm definitely more of an animal person, and I've volunteered in the past with a no-kill animal shelter and help support spay/neuter and feral cat TNR programs. My dream would be to have a hobby farm with some sheep, alpacas, bunnies, and a white pony (or unicorn if I can get one). I'd also grow flowers and vegetables. In fact, I just recently got in trouble with my Home Owner's Association for growing pumpkins in my front yard. I'm kind of an outlaw gardener I guess.

Zach: How/when were you introduced to fiber arts?  
Elysa: When I was a kid, maybe about 8 years old, I attended a summer camp run my a friend of my parents. It was just me and two other kids learning how to garden, weave, make a loom, use natural dyes, and other hippie kind of stuff. It was amazing. I still think back on that experience and how much it influenced me and introduced me to making things by hand and working with natural materials. I was always entranced with weaving and textiles for some reason. My mother had unsuccessfully tried to teach me to knit, so weaving, sewing, and macrame were the things I could do. My mother and the women in her family were good seamstresses and she taught me how to sew. She made lots of clothes for me as a kid and taught me how to sew clothes for my barbie. I wish I still had the poncho and some of the great 70's stuff she crocheted for me. I'm blanket obsessed and one of my biggest fiber-related regrets was giving away a mohair blanket I got at the Blarney Woolen Mills in Ireland to an ex boyfriend.

Zach: Do you knit or crochet?  
Elysa: Ha - see answer above! I'm totally dyslexic and have difficulty coordinating left/hand right hand movements and counting or remembering sequentially, so knitting is a huge struggle. I admire people who can do that! But I really don't have time with all my spinning so I'm OK with letting someone else do it. I just wish I could have someone make the designs I have in my head though.

Zach: Describe the process of yarn making (where you get the material, what type of dye you use, how long the process takes, etc.). 
Elysa: I buy a lot of wool from local farms in Loudoun County, Virginia or when I go to fiber festivals like Maryland Sheep and Wool. I'm very lucky to have tons of sheep and alpaca farms close by to where I live. Lately I've been lazy and buy a lot of already washed fleece, but when I see a good raw (unwashed greasy fleece) I will take the time to scour it and skirt it which means picking out all the yucky stuff like bugs and dung. I don't think people realize when they buy handspun how much work can go into processing the fiber even before it's spun into yarn. It takes days to wash and dry a fleece which on average is about 5 pounds of fiber. I dye the fiber in a large roaster pan using acid dyes (which is less scary then it sounds). Acid dye is powdered dye that reacts to an acid like vinegar or citric acid and binds to the protein in the fiber. Once the fiber is dyed and rinsed, I set it out to dry. You have to be very careful or wool will felt when agitated or exposed to extreme temperature changes when wet. When everything is dry, I either spin it on my wheel directly from the loose fiber, or I create a batt on my drum carder. Running it through the carding machine into a batt aligns all the fiber in the same direction so it is easier to spin. I spin the fiber on a wheel much in the traditional way spinners have done for centuries. The whole process of creating yarn can take weeks to complete.

Zach: Do you have a studio? What is your work space like?  
Elysa: I have a spare room which serves as my studio and packing and shipping central. I've completely outgrown my space though. Most of my fiber is organized by color and type into large stackable bins. I just recently sold my first spinning wheel and drum carder to make room for my second generation of equipment.

Zach: Do you have a "day job"?  
Elysa: I'm a User Experience Designer for an online education company during the day. It's like a Web Designer - I make sure that the site and applications are intuitive and easy to use. I feel lucky because I'm in a creative field for my day job, but my yarn business allows me to do what I want to do and have complete creative control.

Zach: Where do you find inspiration for the color palettes you spin?  
Elysa: I'm really a color addict but I go through phases. Recently I've been using a lot of neon and it sells very well but sometimes I'd like to use subtle or more natural tones. There are only a few colors that I really just don't like and stay away from like bluish greens (unless it's pale aqua which is my favorite color). I tend to go for unusual colors and contrasting palettes like lavender and orange together or acidic tones like mustard and chartreuse. Sometimes I see palettes in a JCrew catalog or on Pinterest and I try to match my dye to it. I doesn't always come out the same, but I find it gives me a boost in new color direction. Mixing dye is so much fun but it can be tricky to reproduce certain colors. I don't take dye recipe notes even though I know I should.

Zach: What is your favorite fiber to work with (spinning or knitting/crocheting)?  
Elysa: I love Cormo or any really soft, bouncy wool. I also love mohair for its distinct fuzziness that reminds me of a favorite blanket from childhood. Alpaca is lovely to work with also.

Zach: What is the best and worst part of the process?  
Elysa: I think the best part might be when I get to see what people make with my yarn and fiber. I love it when someone makes something really wonderful and interprets it into something that I never could have imagined. Just the fact that someone would buy something I made is the most rewarding and validating thing for a creative person like myself. When someone really appreciates the work that went into making it and is willing to spend a bit more for handmade it's the biggest complement.

Zach: How/when did you get started selling on Etsy?  
Elysa: I've been selling on Etsy for a couple years now but I was a customer long before that. I love to buy handmade and always get inspired by what other people make. I've met some of the coolest people on Etsy and in the fiber community and I think it's a testament to the type of people it attracts.

Thank you so much, Elysa, for the great interview! If you have a question for Elysa, I bet I can get her to answer. Just leave the question as a comment below. If Elysa is willing, I may just post the question/answer next week in my yarn review post. Until then....

Friday, November 02, 2012

Snake String

Rick and Maria have done it again! The founders of Zentangle released a new tangle last week. It is called Bunzo, and I absolutely love it!

The Diva's challenge this week was to tangle a tile utilizing Bunzo. I'm always up for trying a new tangle, and since Bunzo consists of only one shape, how hard could it be?

Here the writer would normally state how difficult the seemingly easy task he just mentioned was, but in this case it actually was that simple, and I'm no normal writer! So if you haven't tried out Bunzo already, go do it! Now!

Last weekend I was watching my little 3-year-old brother, and he sweetly drew me a picture of our pet snake (the one featured in this post). It reminded me of a Zentangle string, especially since he drew it on a square piece of paper. So I adapted it into a string for my tile:

Thank you for the string, Seth!

I think my enthusiasm for this new tangle is evident in my final tile:

Tangles used: Bunzo, Paradox, Knightsbridge, and Bales.

I mentioned recently on Designed to Create's Facebook page that I wanted to do some night photography with my Zentangle tiles. Halloween offered the perfect opportunity! Of course, you need some light when you take photographs in the dark, or else you wouldn't be able to see anything. Desiring an unusual light source, I ended up using a candle's flame as my illumination. The long exposures required for the darkness allowed me to play around with the candle, moving it around while the shutter was open. Here is the result: