Sunday, July 12, 2020

Watercolor Painting: Supplies and How To Buy Them

So, if you've been around for a while, you may know that I've been very into watercolor painting the past few years. It started with casually watching videos on Creativebug, which lead to me buying a bunch of cheap supplies from Chinese eBay stores thinking I was so smart to beat the system on expensive supplies. I quickly learned that I wasted that money, lol. Friends, I'm the cheapest person alive and I never spend money on the name brand fancy products because I can always thrift or deal shop or just wait patiently and I will always find things much cheaper than I should. Watercolor painting is the first hobby that has proved this mindset wrong for me. Sure, my paint "painted", my brushes "brushed", and my paper was "paper", but it really solidified how much my supplies were working against me when I did the 31 Flowers to Paint with Yao Cheng daily challenge in 2017. My colors didn't mix well and usually looked unnatural, my paper buckled like crazy causing pools of water that ruined many a flower, my brushed never seemed to hold enough water so I would have to re-wet them all the time, which get annoying very fast. Not only was I trying something new that I had zero confidence in to begin with, but my materials were causing my results to turn out much worse than they needed to. Halfway through that challenge, I bought the Kuretake Gansai Tambi 48 Watercolor Set and some Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor Paper, which definitely helped me finish the challenge but both still had limitations of their own. It seemed that no matter what, I was not going to be able to get super far with the supplies I had purchased, and since I wasn't getting the results I hoped for, I stopped painting for a time. 

Fast forward about a couples of years. It was my birthday and I had recently become obsessed with Josie Lewis, a watercolor painter and all around awesome artist you should check out. She released a custom watercolor set, and since it was my birthday I justified the splurge. Friends, this seems to have opened the art supplies flood gates for me. The paints were fine - I loved the colors - but again, I just wasn't getting the results I saw others getting in the online classes I watched and whatnot. SO, I decided to take the leap into professional grade watercolors like they used in these classes. I started off with the Daniel Smith Introductory Set of 6, which was great, and then grabbed the Daniel Smith Secondary Set, and the rest is history...
I am now a collector of watercolor paints and supplies, lol. And it's the nice stuff. Since making the jump to the professional grade, I've never once wished that my supplies could be just a little bit better or easier to work with. Between the various introductory sets I've grabbed to try out different brands (SchminckeDaniel SmithWinsor & NewtonSennelier, etc, etc), I've jumped WAY in to this rabbit hole. I love the Meeden Palettes you can get on Amazon - they are great quality for a great price - and it just feels so fancy to be making my own pans of watercolor from tube paints. I'm still as cheap as possible, so I love to buy the bigger tubes (which makes them more economical in the long run, plus watercolor paint lasts seriously forever) from Blick.com or Amazon - these sites can be great for sets as well like the ones linked above. I price compare between the two places on anything I am interested in buying. I have an "Art Stuff" list on Amazon, where I save things I am interested in buying so I can easily check the prices to see if anything has dropped. This has paid off incredibly for me and I was able to get a set of Sennelier paints for next to nothing. I also love to get my Winsor & Newton colors at  my local Hobby Lobby when it's a color they have in store since you can use the constant 40% off coupon on them, making that the cheapest way to buy them. I also recently discovered how much cheaper Jackson's Art is on Schmincke paints. It's such an amazing difference that it's even worth paying the shipping from the UK and you still get the paints cheaper, plus they have a better selection. Thanks to various YouTube artists I watch regularly and my obsession with getting the best deal, I have been able to try most of the main brands on the market, and my current mixed palette is quite the combination. Collecting watercolor supplies has turned into a separate hobby by itself, lol. So in this time that I have not been sewing clothes, and therefor not spending money on supplies for that hobby, I have replaced it with watercolor paint supplies. 
Word to the wise - until August 7th, Jackson's Art is running a sale on their Schmincke paints. They are already about half the price we get in the US, and now there's an additional discount on top of that, plus there are some new limited editions colors I have yet to see from any of the other online stores and they are on sale too. I just made an order myself on a few colors I've been dying to try but haven't been able to justify the almost $30 per tube I would have to pay in the US. I also grabbed some White Nights tubes (for $3.32 each!) and Aquarius pans because you cannot buy them in the states at all and I've heard they are great. Overall, Jackson's is looking to be another favorite store of mine for certain things. 
So now that I've written an entire post about shopping for watercolors, I'm curious: is anyone interested in more info about watercolors in general? I have amassed a lot of different brands and information that I would be happy to pass on through reviews and whatnot. If you're interested in learning watercolor painting, I cannot recommend the classes on Creativebug enough and they have a promotion right now where you can get 3 months for $5. You can't beat that, and all of the watercolor classes are great (I know, I've watched them all). I'm redoing the flower painting 31 day challenge throughout July for World Watercolor Month now that I have better supplies and more experience. So far the results are much improved :)

I've thrown a lot of affiliate thinks out there, but please know that every single one of these things I've linked is a product that I have purchased with my own money and enjoy so much that I want to share it with others. If you're anything like me with learning to paint with watercolor, my advice would be to skip the student grade and cheaper products and just try to get the professional grade supplies at the best price possible. You will be much happier with your progress because your tools won't be fighting against you. And please, if you have any questions about supplies, don't hesitate to ask and I will try to point you in the right direction.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

FO: Copycat Jaywalker Socks

This is a sock knitting tale of epic proportions (for me) (as much as a sock knitting tale could be, I guess, lol). But first, let's start by gawking at some pretty cool socks...
This project started years and years ago when I saw this project by Shilao on Ravelry. I saw it in passing and thought it was a super cute color combo. Then when I saw Knit Picks was having a sale on their Felici sock yarn and this colorway was part of the sale, this project officially came into existence. Knit Picks is a great yarn company that I've bought from for years, but at the time they were discontinuing their Felici yarn and selling it off. That was back in 2017 and happily they have brought their Felici yarn back since then, but since it seemed the yarn would be no more and I had always hear people sing its praises, I bought a bunch of different colorways for my stash. This is the Jamboree colorway. The original inspiration used the Jamboree and Salt Water Taffy colorways, but I knew this pattern would still look cute with only the one colorway. Anyway, I happened to have Cascade Heritage in Dark Plum on hand, so this pair of socks was born.
I started knitting these in February of 2018. At first, all was well. I knitted the ankle of the first sock, used my beloved Smooth Operator Socks pattern for the heel to keep the stripe pattern uninterrupted (I also used this for the toe), and then continued knitting down the foot. I was almost to the toe of the first sock when I tried it on ... and realized that the double decrease that makes the chevron pattern put a line of bumps directly down the center of the bottom of my foot. It wasn't outlandishly painful or anything, but it was a bit uncomfortable to walk on. I knew this would be a problem with wearing these, so I made the decision to pull out the entire foot of the sock and try again with making the bottom of the foot plain. This took some finagling of the pattern. I thought I had it figured out, but honestly I was always just trying things on the go since this was my take along project for a while and I never sat down to really count the stitches and decide the best course of action. So I knitted along, got to the same part just before the toe, tried it on ... and I had been subtly decreasing the entire foot :/ As in now the sock was too tight. This was a rookie mistake and I should have known, but even so I had to pull it out AGAIN and reknit the foot. This third time, I figured out that on one side of the upper foot I was decreasing, so on the opposite side I had to increase to compensate. This made the sock stay the same size, but it caused the design to spin around the foot, lol. In the end, I figured no one would notice it but me, so I just kept knitting and finished the sock. I DID NOT want to pull it out yet again. I doubt anyone will see it when I wear the socks anyway. But now that I tell you, I'm sure you will see it in the photos.
For the second sock, I figured it out before I started knitting the foot. What a novel idea, right? I'm a lazy knitter, what can I say. So the second sock basically turned out perfectly, while the first sock actually leans to one side when it's not on a foot, lol. I'm just happy that the chevron design stands out like it does, which I think hides my little adjustment, which looks like this:
When I noticed that the pattern was swirling, I had to compensate to prevent the pattern from ending up on the bottom of my foot again, so I moved the decrease over every other line as I went for a time. One of the times I moved the decrease, I went one stitch too far and I wound up with an odd little jog in the line of decreases. Again, I had ripped this out enough times and it wasn't bad enough for me to rip it out again. It's on the side of my foot. I will be the only person seeing it. Done is better than perfect!
Lol eventually on the swirling sock, the pattern did wrap to the bottom of the foot a little. It's no big deal, folks. The socks are finished. I do love the stripes of this yarn though and they look so clean on the bottom of the foot. This yarn is also very soft - more soft than their Stroll yarn, which I have knit before as well. 

So that's my copycat pair of socks :) Socks are one of those things that I enjoy making in theory but really aren't super practical for this Floridian life. I will definitely make more in the future thought. I'm up to 4 pairs now, I think. Not a shabby representation for a knitter. Now I have another cuddly soft pair of socks for the few months when it's chilly enough to want to wear them to bed! Yay, socks!

Summary:
Yarn: 1.6 skeins Knit Picks Felici yarn in Jamboree - $7.68, 19 grams Cascade Heritage in Italian Plum - $4.95
Pattern: Jaywalker by Grumperina - Free
Time: 2 years, 4 months
Total Cost: $ 12.63

*This post contains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own and all items were purchased with my own money.

Monday, June 22, 2020

FO: Bright and Sunny Granny Square Blankets

I feel like every one of my posts lately start out by saying something about how old this project is, and this one will be no exception! lol Sorry, not sorry. This is another good competitor for my oldest UFO, and other than my Hostess Apron I think it is. But holy cow it's done! Let's take a look.
I learned to crochet in August of 2012 when my lovely friend Leigh taught me how to make a baby hat. So I started off making circles (which I'm super grateful for) and progressed to making amigurumi shortly after that. By the time January of 2013 rolled around, I was pretty well versed in crochet, but I kept seeing all these things called Granny Squares when I looked for new projects. Turned out that most people make granny squares as their first project when learning to crochet (or so it seemed), so when I saw a cute blanket design that was granny square I decided I should make it up almost as a rite of passage since I hadn't ticked that style of crochet off my list yet. I thought it would help me grow better at crochet... or something...
In truth, the yarn came before the project. After learning to knit and crochet in 2012, I became a yarn stashing fiend. Craftsy was a newer thing and they had all kinds of supplies from companies that seemed so fancy, one of such products was this Cascade Cherub Kaleidoscope Aran yarn in the Sunripe colorway. They had a sweet deal on a bag of 10 skeins and I jumped at it, not knowing anything about this yarn or what I could use it for. Shortly after it arrived, I decided a blanket would be a great way to turn that bag of yarn into something usable since this was a soft acrylic and it was variegated (which I know I don't like to wear).
When I came across the free Traditional Granny Square pattern by Donna Higgins, I just started making squares. I would make few, get bored with doing the same thing over and over, and switch to another more exciting project. This trend went on for YEARS. I would be all determined when I picked up my bag of squares only to fizzle out within a few days and set it aside to make something else. When I picked it up back at the beginning of May, I had maybe 20 squares done. Shameful, I know. I just didn't love making granny squares since I was able to make much more complicated projects. Anyway, in the vein of finishing old projects during the lock down period, I sat myself down and started churning out blocks again. What was originally intended to be a large blanket for my bed became the perfect opportunity to make blankets for my lovely girls instead. I wound up just making squares until I got down to the last skein and a half of yarn. I had no idea how much yarn it would take to add a binding to the two blankets, so I stopped making squares and started joining them together at that point.
I wound up with 2 blankets that are 6x7 squares each. I also used a HUGE white skein of yarn I got at a thrift store to bind the squares together. It was one of those 1 pound skeins (I'm pretty sure it's Lion Brand Pound of Love but it had no label) and I knew this was the perfect opportunity to use up all that yarn so I had it earmarked all this time for just this project. 
Once I had all the blocks combined, I started on the borders. I did 2 rows of the white all the way around, and I actually ran out of my white ginormous skein with about 1/4 of the final row left on the first blanket binding. Happily, I also have a bunch of Lion Brand Vanna's Choice in white that was given to me, so I used that on the second blanket and to finish the first. Then I just did a basic scalloped edge in the pink yarn around both edges. Turns out that I could've done 1 more row of blocks on each blanket given that I have almost 2 full skeins of the pink variegated left over :/ Which I find ironic considering this project was contrived solely to use this yarn up. Oh well. By the time I saw I was going to have that much excess, there was no way I was going to pull out all that work and add more. So now I have some extra yarn to make pillows or something in the future, lol, at least that's what I tell myself.
This was the pile of ends I had to weave in! Isn't that crazy? That's like 1/2 a skein of yarn right there. It took me a few hours to do all the weaving in, but it wasn't bad, just time consuming.
All this was worth it to see the smiling faces of my girls when I gave them their new blankies! I'm not sure how much they understand about me making these for them (though anytime they seem me knitting anything, Penny points at the project and says , "Mommy, blankie?"), but they LOVE their new blankets. They love blankets in general, to be real, but they particularly like these. Maybe it's the fun color, maybe it's the soft yarn, or maybe they actually know what it means that their mommy made it for them :)
So even though this project took 7.5 years to finish, I'm really glad it took that long. If I had finished this sooner, it would be a big blanket for me, which would be used occasionally I'm sure but wouldn't be as loved or meaningful as it is now that I was able to make 2 blankets for my little ladies :) These have become their blankets in their crib every night - quite the distinction. I'm glad to have this project off my mind, but even more so glad that it can be enjoyed for years to come by my favorite little people!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

FO: Science Pillow

Back in 2015, I had grand plans to make the Geek Along blanket. It's a bi-monthly blanket square project that you can make throughout the year and each year has a certain theme. Back then, it was Mad Scientists, and it included designs to represent both real and fictional scientists. I started out with the Tesla square, then made the Muppets square, then realized how much I greatly dislike tapestry crochet, lol. It was thick and heavy and annoying to make. I didn't think it would be a very comfy blanket given how stiff the squares turned out. So I completely lost steam on the whole idea, but I had these 2 finished squares just laying around for years waiting to be turned into anything at all. Sometime in there, I got the idea to turn the 2 squares into a pillow. I'm not sure exactly when, but it was at least a few years ago. The squares still sat simply because I never really felt like doing it :/ so lazy. Fast forward to now. My boyfriend's birthday was coming up at the beginning of May. I had a present on the way (which was a big success), but it wasn't going to get to my place while he was visiting before his birthday and I wanted to have something to give him. And suddenly I was struck with genius as to what that could be! The science pillow! He's a science-y guy who likes Tesla a lot, so I knew it would be an entertaining gift at the very least and it would mean this project finally had a purpose to its existence. So I stitched it up!
When I picked these up out of the abyss of random things in my sewing room, they looked like this. They looked like this for 5 years! Craziness.
All I did was lay the two blocks wrong sides together, pick a yarn I liked for the edging, and did a single crochet border all the way around, making it (sc, ch1, sc) at each corner. This seriously took maybe 20 minutes to do which is so sad considering how long these blocks sat. When it was almost enclosed, I stuffed the daylights out of it with playful and continued to finish the edging. My bit of advice with making anything stuffed - stuff the living crap out of it in the beginning because the fluff will compress and be floppy over time otherwise. Now it is a fun and hug-able pillow at last!
The yarn I used around the edge was just the first one I came across in my stash that I thought looked good with the various colors of the blocks. It's Red Heart Super Saver in Gold. The Tesla coil block is made in Loops & Thread Impeccable in Yellow with Premier Everyday Worsted in Aubergine while the Bunsen & Beaker block is made of Red Heart Super Saver in Spring Green and Red Heart With Love in Mango. All of these were stashed acrylic yarns I had on hand for making stuffed animals. 
I will say - I may want to try tapestry crochet again now I've had 5 years to cool off after making these, lol. At the time I found it super tedious, but let's be real - I've made much more tedious things than this over the years, so I should be able to handle it now just fine. It's pretty neat, really. You crochet around the color you are not using and just switch out the colors to make the color work designs. But this does make the fabric itself much thicker since you have 2 strands of yarn in every stitch. 
I think what I disliked so much about it was following such an involved chart. Even with the crazy lace charts I've knitted, they generally have a repeated pattern to them and don't change every single row like these color charts do. So I think that's what put me off back then. I'm willing to give it a try again now though.
And since this was a gift, I had to add my custom tag :) just on principle. Aren't I fancy? So we had dinner and cake with my family a few days before his birthday and I gave him this pillow. It seemed to go over well, lol. 
His REAL present came the day after he left :/ Isn't that always the way? And then another 2 weeks passed before I could see him to give him the main event of his gift. In that 2 week waiting period, I decided to make something else for his gift. I've been making more resin over these months and I realized that my petri disks were the perfect size to act as a fancy stand for his present. I made up a batch and picked this one because I thought it looked like a virus in a petri dish, lol, plus the colors look cool with the colors of the gift. I used drops of silicone oil to make those more clear sections and it turned out really neat, in my opinion.

So here is the full gift :) He let it drop once that he always wanted one of those closed ecosystem orbs but never got one (he's very interested in hydroponics), so I kind of had a cheat code on what to get him. I settled on this Shrimp Bubble because it had better reviews as far as the shrimp living, plus if you do accidentally kill them you can get into the bottle to put new little shrimpies in there. Some other brands are completely enclosed and those apparently have a higher rate of them dying off. For the record there are 4 tiny shrimp swimming around in there. Looks like they were camera shy when I took these.
So I think the combo of the blue petri stand and the yellow sand and the green algae looks really good. I'm glad I was able to not only give him something I knew he wanted but also give it a personal touch. 

And that's his birthday present :) He says he really likes it, so I take that as a win. Yay for making something with those blocks and showing I care about someone in the process, right?!