My Monster Book of Monsters

Hey did I ever tell you about the time I turned my day planner (yes, I still use a really real paper book day planner) into the Monster book of Monsters?  I’ve been meaning to show it to you for a while…

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I was sorting through my day planner one day and decided, “you know what?  I probably really need to turn this into that.”  And I did.  And it didn’t take very long!  Its removable, and I can replace the day planner with a small sketchbook if I want.

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It’s incredibly wonky and terribly made, but it works, and it makes me smile.  I started by laying my book open flat on the fabric, cut a big rectangle to size, and sewed the little pockets to the ends, even adding a little side pocket for pens and post-its.   After the pockets were sewn on and flipped, I sewed the fringed tentacles straight to it (thankfully, the stitches are fairly well-hidden because of the fur).

And see that piece of white cardboard on the left hand inside, in the photo above?  I’ll explain that in a moment…

I sculpted lil teeth and gums from Sculpey, heated them up, and glued them straight on.  I didn’t do a bottom set because I wanted it to still be functional, and that just wouldn’t work because I’m right-handed and those teeth would totally get in my way.

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So that white piece of cardboard on the inside I mentioned earlier?  That’s sort of the wonky key holding the top part of the “head” together.  There are probably a dozen better ways to do this, but I just cut a curved section out of the top fur, added some stuffing, glued another piece of fabric that I attached some glass doll monster eyes to, and closed it all up on the underside with the cardboard.  It’s wonky, but it works.  The book slides on top of the wonky cardboard, and everything stays together (fingers crossed).

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I sewed a quick little “tongue” bookmark, which holds my place on the calendar section.

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And there you go!  My favorite projects are not only fun, but FUNCTIONAL…so having something that I can actually use AND that makes me smile is pretty much a happy project for me, all around.

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Technically, it should have the bottom teeth and a belt to close it, of course, but again–I needed it to be FUNCTIONAL, and anything that hinders the function isn’t gonna work.

Finally, I used gold paint on some pleather-like material, and cut it out around the letters, gluing it to the top.  And BOOM!  There’s my Monster book of Monsters day planner!

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It reminded me of the homemade paper bag book covers I used to make for my textbooks ages ago (because that’s what we did a million years ago).  But this was on a much fuzzier scale, of course… ❤

All The Small Things

Last week, I posted about my new tiny obsessions–how they started out as simple fun and have evolved into a frantic therapy of sorts…a calming way to deal with the chaos around me.And they’ve been extremely  therapeutic. I may not be able to control what’s going on, but I can do my best to control this tiny space…

(I’ve been protecting myself from custom orders–I’m just enjoying doing whatever suits my fancy, and it feels good. But as it’s the process more than the end result, I thought I’d gather whatever I have available and release them in a shop drop on April 2nd. So keep an eye out in my Etsy shop for that!)As I’ve had a wicked case o’ the ‘broideries lately, it’d be fairly unusual for the kid not to have noticed.  So she asked me the other day, “hey mom, can I try?”  

I had tried to teach her basic hand sewing before, but it didn’t hold her interest.  And yet now, she was asking to join in on her own, because of my interest.

I started by letting her sketch something small with pens (a tiny drawing of Finn and Jake and Fiona and Cake from Adventure Time), and then she added some stitching to embellish it.It held her attention…and it ended up lovely!  Sure, she made a few mistakes. Sure, I had to stop and help her a lot, despite being mentally tangled in my own work.  And sure, she sometimes stitched over instead of under, meaning I had to completely undo and rethread her needle.  But the look of pride when she’d finished?  So worth it.She started a second piece, of Fern and Finn from Adventure Time…I didn’t give her a plastic kid’s safety needle, she’s learning on the real one.  She’s using the same fabric I’d use, and the same hoops. Although I didn’t have very many of the nice tiny hoops to frame them in (as they were ordered  from Dandelyne online), and although I hoard them greedily for myself, I went ahead and sacrificed a couple for her to use.

Most often, I have to be the “authority figure.”  I’m MOM.  I have distractions, I have things to do, worries to worry.  In short, I’m busy.  The time I take to craft and make art is like fuel to me–I have to fill it up to be able to do the day to day things I need to do.  And a little crafting goes a long way.But giving her the respect I’d give any other artist is fundamental. Taking a few moments to really share with her the things I love to do makes her feel important. It makes her feel included.

And it makes her proud.A few days later, she made me a special mockingbird with my name on it.  She was focused and careful and took her time.  Maybe it’s not something she’d take further, but I think the fact that I didn’t just dismiss her helps build her confidence, and let’s her know she’s capable of doing a great many things.  

I remember being a kid, interested in something a grownup was doing, and being sort of dismissed and told to go play.  I remember getting the feeling that, “well that must be something I’m not capable of doing, I guess,” and even in adulthood I’d hesitate to try.  But I’d like Myla to be able to try things and decide that for herself.  A few days later, her Papa–while busy with his own projects–gave her some scraps of wood and a real hammer and nails, a little bit of instruction, and let her create.  That’s all it takes!She ended the day happily singing me a little song: ” I, I, I love that you love to do the things I love to doooo…”

So give them the good supplies! Let them try the real things!  Show them how, and see where they take it.  It only takes a little time and attention…

Sometimes I need a reminder myself:  Its the small things that mean a lot. ❤❤❤

Tiny Wands

Sometimes I go through phases, where I furiously draw….or sculpt…or sew.  But lately, it’s embroidery, and I’ve been pretty hardcore into embroidery lately (“hardcore embroidery” being a phrase that makes me giggle).

As with any new craft obsession, I jumped in with both feet, full-in, when I first started.  I got a couple of little books on stitches, and practiced those.  I watched stitch tutorials on YouTube.  And then I just sort of “winged” the rest.

Usually, it’s been these large pieces, based around my parallel obsession with the wizarding world and Harry Potter characters…

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But then I discovered tiny embroidery, and have been going at it full-force…

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I found these tiny little blank hoops from a site called Dandelyne, and that got the ball rolling.  Functional art?  I am TOTALLY okay with that.

And since I’d consider myself an intermediate embroiderer, I thought I’d share my wonky setup with you.

It all starts with this totally awesome little travel bag, which I found by chance at our local craft store.  I like it because I can quickly shove everything in there and take it with me wherever we go.

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It opens up to several little compartments, with places to hold my stitch guidebooks, needles, scissors, thread, and anything else I might need.

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WHOAH.  Wait, did you get a good look at that?  I’ll zoom in for you, in case you somehow overlooked it:

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Yep, since I taught myself, I am TERRIBLE at organizing my thread.  I tried those long plastic binder pieces above, and they end up tangled.  I tried putting them on the little keychain tabs, and they end up tangled.  And often, as I’m working with a particular color, I just end up shoving it in this little zippered pouch, tangled for all eternity.

Finally, I’ve tried this other method, which is a little binder:

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And I think it seems to work the best?  Maybe?  I haven’t found an easy way to separate the strands (the embroidery thread I buy comes in strands made up of 6 strings, and since I am sewing tiny things, I often only want to use one string, for detail.  So when I’m getting ready to start a new project, I painstakingly separate them (with a mild amount of swearing) and shove them into little pouches in this strand binder I found in the embroidery section of our local craft store.  That’s the best I can do.

(Do you know an easy way around this?  Should I be embroidering with special thread instead of embroidery floss?  This can’t be the best way of doing things, I’m sure…)

Anyway, as for tools, that little travel case is awesome, because I can carry all the goods:  a leather thimble for tough fabric, little beads (since I often like to add texture), a seam ripper, and a few little books on simple stitches (believe it or not, they come in handy quite often).

embroidery5I just discovered this little blue fabric marker that I can draw with, and when I want my lines gone, I just wet it, and it disappears!  So cool (unless you’re making small sketch corrections, as it’ll take forever to dry the fabric so you can draw over it again).  Another useful tool is next to it, in the photo above:  a little metal threader, for threading problems.  I have trouble threading metallic threads (they’re very wobbly and they fray), and that tool’s saved me from throwing my project across the room in anger more than once.

I show you this wonky setup to demonstrate that I don’t really know what I’m doing.  Meaning, I’m not some super experienced expert who’s been doing this for ages and has all the answers.  I’m learning, and there is always more to learn.  If you’re into something, you can learn a bit about it, and jump in, like I did.

The world’s at your fingertips–literally, on the device from which you’re reading this!  Look up some videos about the hobby you’re interested in–it doesn’t have to be embroidery, it could be ANYthing.  Check out some hashtags and see what other people are doing.  I’m pretty willing to bet you can do it too, or that it might inspire you to do something similar in your own way.

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When I asked Myla what she’d want on one, she immediately requested Fiona and Cake, from Adventure Time (our current favorite show).

And if you try it, and you’ve given it your best, and it’s just not working out, don’t consider it a loss; it might just not be your time!  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried needlefelting with disastrous results.  Doesn’t mean I’ll never try it again, it’s just not my thing right now, and that’s okay.  Maybe some day I’ll get it, maybe some day I won’t.  But I TRIED.

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I’ve actually wondered why this embroidery is such a thing for me right now.  I sometimes find myself FURIOUSLY “IN” to something.  Sometimes it doesn’t last long.  I do it til I just don’t feel like doing it anymore.  Right now, this is what I feel like doing.  I’ve tried drawing recently, and it doesn’t come out right, which happens sometimes, and is a sign that my brain doesn’t WANT to do that right now.  Right now, it wants to poke things with a tiny magic wand, and that’s okay.

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You’ve got to follow whatever you’re into–it helps you get through things.  For me, I think it comes from a tendency to want to control some very out-of-control situations we’ve been going through.  I might not be able to control what’s going on in our lives, but I can control this little tiny space, and that’s okay, too.

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I’ve been asked if I’d sell them, and I’ve decided I will, but I’m going to just sew what I like.  I wish I was the type of person who could do the same design again and again, or that thrived on custom orders, but I’m just not.  I can handle it a bit, and sometimes I really can do it.  But with these, it just feels good to do what I like, and let the chips fall where they may.

So that’s where I am at the moment…holding a tiny wand with my head down, furiously stabbing a little piece of fabric, unable to control the world, but trying my best to manage this tiny space.  Sure, it’s a little obsessive.  Sure, it’d be more productive if my obsession involved housekeeping or making lucrative stock picks or something useful.  

But it’s been making me feel better, and that’s definitely okay.  ❤

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Taking Time for a Doodle

Sometimes I just have to stop whatever I’m working on and doodle with the kid.  It doesn’t matter WHAT I doodle, she’ll turn it into something fun.  In this case, I started with a simple little head with a helmet–I wanted her to decided: is it underwater or in outer space?  Of course, I always have a few preconceived ideas floating around in my head, but I gently wave those away–because I want to see where she takes it.drawing-1

She very rarely stops to think too deeply about it.  She picks up a pen and starts drawing, like she already knows what she’s going to do.

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She decides quite confidently that it’s in outer space, and she starts telling a story as she draws (which I’ll tell to you at the end)…

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I like to listen and watch her as she tells these stories, because if I don’t pay attention, I’ll completely miss the magic of them, and looking back at it, it won’t make any sense at all.  So I listen.  I ask questions, and watch the story unfold.

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She wanted things painted certain colors, so I got out the watercolors.  Not the kid ones, the nice ones, so I can teach her how to use them the right way.  She wants it to look “old fashioned,” with only a few colors.

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She wants me to finish it by adding more details later, and color the rest “like it’s from a long time ago.”

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And this is how it looks so far…

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And here is the story that belongs to it:  These dragons are blowing a protective force field around the robot woman.  They each have special powers.  They are a team of good guys, and there are bad guys outside the bubble, but they can’t get in…and if they try, the powerful one that looks like a bird will vaporize it immediately.  There are some at the bottom, who have been attacked with arrows.  It would usually be sad, except that they are evil, so you are supposed to be glad, only because it means you are safe.  Each of the good dragons has a weakness, but it’s protected.  The robot woman herself is protecting a litter of alien cats in her chestplate, and it has feeding tubes to feed them.  The “boss cat” is a good guy, and has a powerful foot to attack bad guys, and he has joined in the fight.  It looks like they’re going to win the battle.

I still have to do my part, which sort of ties it all together. But I’m always happy with it at this stage, just because I could never in my entire imagination come up with a story like that.  It’s amazing what you learn when you really listen to a kid unleash her imagination…

So I’ll keep you posted on it!

Fantastic Beasties

A friend and I were having a discussion about why I’ve been so wizard-obsessed lately.  Yes, we recently went on our dream vacation to Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida (we need a do-over, btw), and yes, I’ve been re-reading all of the books (on audio), and we’ve been flipping through the special edition illustrated book.  And yes, Myla and I both LOVED Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  So perhaps all of those things happening at once is why I’ve been inspired artistically.  But in talking with my friend, I think it might also be a lovely distraction from some difficult times we’ve been going through lately.

We got these lovely wands from Ollivander’s when we were at Harry Potter World…

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(That’s mine on the left, which (according to Ollivander’s) represents “persistence and renewal…boundless energy…and a habit of burning the candle at both ends,”  and Myla’s on the right, which is for someone who “delights in helping others…and uses their powerful imagination and resourceful nature to make their dreams come true…”  which seemed to fit us both quite well.)

Recently, I drew a little wizard portrait of her, and she surrounded it with funny creatures and pranks from the Weasley twins…but she was most tickled that I included her skull wand…

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In any case, I’m still wizarding-obsessed, and that’s OKAY.  I mean, my birthday was the 5th and look what my sister’s gift card got me:

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It’s Newt Scamander’s suitcase wallet/purse, from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them!  I absolutely love it, and I just happened to have a tiny niffler keychain to go along with it, which makes me smile.

If you’re not familiar, the movie takes place in America, MANY years before Harry Potter.  Newt Scamander is a wizard interested in the study of magical creatures, and has a suitcase sanctuary (MUCH bigger on the inside), where he keeps all of his creatures in their own little habitats.

Myla is such a fan of magical creatures, she added them to this drawing I did of Newt:

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Would you believe that she even built her own suitcase full of magical beasts?

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(The “MR,” she says, stands for “muggle ready”–a setting on the suitcase (according to the movie) that will allow humans to see just a plain suitcase inside with no beasties…)

This girl is a wiz with paper, and makes the most wonderful things, most of which don’t translate well to photos, as they’re so perfectly 3-d, and often require some sort of action to make them work.  In this case, however, the suitcase is a little “tube” in which she stuffed all her magical beasts…

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There’s a niffler, a murtlap, thunderbird, occamy, and sweeping evil.  (If you’re not familiar, all you really need to know is that they’re unusual magical creatures…)

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Her creativity is impressive, and quite a fantastic thing to be able to witness.

While the normal world goes round, I’ll remain in the deep end, up to my nose in wizarding things, surrounded by lovely beasties.  It’s nice to have a place to step away to when the regular world gets you down….

So enjoy your happy place, and all the lovely things in it!

Noticing the Little Things

The world can be a frustrating place.  Sometimes, it’s all you can do to keep from yelling to no one at the top of your lungs…ARRRG.jpg

I’ll be honest, there are a LOT of things going on in the world right now that I am NOT okay with.  And I’m NOT going to advise others to just pretend they don’t exist, because there are a great many things that need action at the moment.  But it can all be overwhelming sometimes, and you need to find ways to protect your own mental stability.

It can be tempting to just curl up in a ball, huddling in the corner, crying…but you’ve got to fight for yourself.  Thank goodness for a fighting spirit–it’s what keeps me going lots of the time.

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My mom used to say, “if it helps to worry about something, if it helps give you a good idea for a solution, then worry.  If it doesn’t , then just let it go.”  Whether your struggles are literal or perceived, you can’t let things overwhelm you forever…

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You can take some moments to yourself to relax and strengthen up.  Feel bad a bit, allow yourself to cry and rest up….but then you’ve got to take a deep breath, huddle up, strap on your armor, and dive in…

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(Little animation created by Myla from the Goldie Blox app)

When things get like this, I try to focus on taking joy in little things.

Like new perspectives…like chilling on the ground, or on the floor with the kiddo…

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I read once that to keep yourself in the here and now, and to REALLY feel gratitude, start with your own senses, especially your breathing, because if you’re breathing (and I’m assuming we all are), you’re still alive…Don’t think about what’s GOING to happen, what COULD happen, what MIGHT happen.  Think about what is happening right NOW.  You’re breathing, for starters.  You’re alive.

There’s joy in watching someone do something they’re passionate about.  Any kind of art, any singing, any play, any museum…myla drawing.jpg

Trying new things helps.  I have found myself lost (which I realize is a funny oxymoron) in the world of embroidery lately, and I can’t stop at the moment.  It’s all I want to do, creatively speaking.  I’ve dabbled in it before, but now I’ve found new challenges, new things in it to explore, so I guess I’ll keep doing that for a while, until I don’t feel like doing it anymore.  And when I don’t feel like doing it anymore, it’ll be okay–I’ll do something else.

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I have been finding a great appreciation for things that make me smile, things that make me laugh.

Like doggo and pupper memes.

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And there are even snake ones!

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(For some reason, these CRACK me up, and no one else seems to get it.)

Doing projects with Myla usually helps.  When I am feeling down, I sometimes set up a project or a posterboard for us to draw on when she gets home from school.  No matter what’s going on, it nearly ALWAYS makes me feel better.   (Did you know she even included a cutout project in the book we made together?  You can get one too!)

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It’s a bit symbiotic, because I get to live in the mindset of a child again with her, and she gets to spend time doing something we both love.

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(Beautiful photo by the lovely Molly Thrasher)

Cuddling up is also a good option.  “Cuddling up” is simply grabbing a soft cozy blanket, getting your favorite stuffed animals (yes, even if you’re a grownup) and plopping yourself in front of a good movie on the couch.

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(I may be a bit biased, but our fuzzy blankets from S6 are my FAVORITE…)

And since I can’t JUST sit and watch a movie, I like to multitask by grabbing a sketchbook with the monkey while she cuddles up with me.

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It’s VERY important to keep fighting for your own sanity–if you’re still trying, then you’re still alive.  But it’s also okay to relax a bit, take care of yourself, and take some comfort in the little things.

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And don’t push it to the side!  Don’t disregard it as unimportant.  Don’t ignore that little voice that tells you NEED little things.  That voice is important.

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Nothing lasts forever.  This is true for good things AND bad things.  The bad things will pass…but the good ones will, too–so appreciate all the little things in your life that make you smile.  Appreciate the fact that you’re here RIGHT NOW and you’re breathing.

And you can even try to find some small appreciation for the unpleasant things, because they’re also there for a reason, even if it’s just to make you better appreciate the good.

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And, as I always say, if you’re looking around, and things seem so bleak that you CAN’T seem to find any good things, then BE the good thing.  Do something nice, say a friendly thing, hold a door, help a stranger.  Put yourself aside for a moment, and give someone else a hand.  It helps.

Make something, even if nobody sees it but you.  Because while you’re doing all this for your own self-preservation, you’re also putting some good out there in the world, and goodness knows we could all use a little more o’ that.  ❤

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(Lovely words by Shel Silverstein)

 

 

 

Dumblebroidery

Yes, that’s a word I just made up:  Dumblebroidery.

I swear I’m not strictly a Harry Potter blog, so I apologize if Potter’s not your thing….but I can’t say I haven’t been reignited in my love for all things wizarding by our trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter mid-December, as well as by the fact that I’m rereading all of the books from scratch by listening to them on Audible, so I can “read” while I craft.

Between the beetles I love to paint, the Stuff Myla Says, the Dream Creepers, and the other random doodles I do, I sometimes like to try my hand at embroidery.

I’ve done several hand- and machine-stitched portraits on paper, but “real” embroidery has often eluded me.  I have been known to lack a great deal of patience, and swear under my breath a lot when my threads get tangled.  But (as I frequently do), I still had a sudden urge to embroider a Dumbledore one day last week, and immediately set to work.

Thankfully, as I have dabbled in nearly every craft imaginable, I had some embroidery tools on hand from a forgotten project long ago.

First, I gathered some photos of Dumbledore from online.  Although I was working mainly from movie Dumbledore #2 (Michael Gambon), I also wanted to include a hint of Dumbledore # 1 (Richard Harris), as well as the descriptions of the professor from the books.

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I started with some plain muslin I had lying around, and did a very rough sketch with pen (I hear they make disappearing ink pens for such tasks, but I didn’t have one at the time, so I just did my thang), and started stitching with the threads I had.

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Some people have described it as “painting with thread,” which seems fairly accurate, as I went about shading it as I would a sketched portrait.

One of my favorite things is to embellish with beads and metal jumpers, so I had a lot of fun adding those details to his beard as soon as I possibly could.

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It soon became apparent that I didn’t have enough variations of colored thread to contour his face, so after a quick trip to the craft store, I was able to get a wider variety for shading and highlights.

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I wasn’t going for realism, but a more illustrated approach.  I wanted him to have lots of hands, one of them holding the Elder Wand, with some beads to accentuate the gnarled wood bumps in his wand.

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I’m no pro with embroidery by any means, but whenever I start working with a new medium, I like to research it a little.  People tell me this is called “crewel” thread?  Just the simple thread from any old embroidery store (are their fancier threads?  I’m sure there must be, and now I’m curious…), and each is made up of 6 threads, so I split them in half by hand (another process which causes some occasional swearing), and used 3 thread strands at a time.

A good tool to have on hand has been a laminated embroidery card with directions for a few basic fun stitches, which I found in the embroidery section of WalMart ages ago.  So aside from a few basic stitches, I tried to pay attention to the direction of the thread to accentuate whatever part I was working on (like trying to keep the lines in his collar going in one direction to avoid attracting attention from elsewhere).

People reminded me about his half-moon glasses, which are mentioned in the book SEVERAL times when describing him (although Albus #2 rarely seemed to wear them in the movie).  So I got a little metallic thread, and added his spectacles.

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The “magic” above was a simple chain stitch, with a few clear and metal beads sewn in.  Next was finishing his beard, and working on the second set of hands…

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And finally, the finished Dumbledore!  I’m still not sure I like the hands floating randomly like that (I may paint a background, or add some more “magic” lines around them).  I think it’d work really well in a drawing, but in an embroidery piece, it doesn’t translate as well…

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I wasn’t quite sure what to do with him next, though, and I got several great suggestions online, such as making a pillow, displaying him in an embroidery hoop, and turning him into a patch.  But then someone suggested an embellished frame, and another posted a link to this:

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…which I promptly picked up on Etsy for around $20 and it’s sized just perfectly for him.  Woohoo!  Another reader–a former framer–suggested pinning the piece to foam core before mounting it, and another suggested sculpting additions to the frame, BOTH of which I’m going to try, and you can be sure I’ll post it when I do!

For now, since Dumbledore’s done, I’ve started my next one:  Luna Lovegood, which I plan on placing by our entryway, along with the phrase, “Weirdos Welcome.”  I have a Snape in the works (in my mind), and even a Newt Scamander (from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) with his case.  Maybe I’ll get to them all before running out of steam.  For now, I’ll keep doing them for as long as they’re fun.  I can’t wait!

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Accio, Potter Projects!

So, last week, I told you more than you probably ever wanted to know about our family trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida.  Naturally, I came home with a fierce desire for all things Potter, and got right away doing some related projects.

First project:  The Dobby doll!  My big souvenir from our trip was this wonky little Dobby.  I knew he wasn’t the greatest looking thing…

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He looked pretty purturbed, actually.  Like he just ate something sour and is a bit miffed by it.  But I figured I could do something with him.

He’s got a wire poseable frame, and is made of a foamy sort of material, so there’s no chance of changing the face sculpt at all.  All I could do was try my best to give him a new paint job and brighten him up a bit.

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I tried turning his wonky lips into a bit more of a smile, and made his eyes quite a bit bigger.  I also took off the nylon fabric they had wrapped around him, and exchanged it for some paint-stained muslin scraps I had in my craft room.  And I love him!  Myla likes to make him hold his arm up and say, “You must not harm Myla Hendricks!!” which is good for a giggle.  I suggested we replace the Elf on the Shelf (which I got suckered into last year) with Dobby, but she didn’t think that was funny.

For Christmas, I had gotten almost the ENTIRE Harry Potter Funko Pop set (I have a bit of a Funko Pop problem), which I happily painted with a bit more detail (because I have a bit of a Funko Pop problem)…img_9477

In a geeky facebook group I’m part of, one member told us she used her Ollivander’s wand boxes as display shelves.  WHAT.  Mind. Blown.  So, along with a snitch and a couple of other knick-knacks, my Funko Pops are housed atop ours, and they sit on our wall, making me smile a bit each time I pass them.

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As for the wands, my dad (being pretty crafty himself) said he’d be willing to make us a scroll display, but for now, I built a temporary one.  I took an oval natural wooden plank, screwed in several cool-looking drawer pulls from the hobby shop, added some cup hooks, and a string to hold it up (the rusty star isn’t part of it–it’s a wall decoration we already had, but it fits well with everything).  I bought the leather pull hoops at the bottom intending to have three, but when I got home, I realized I had only grabbed two…and then decided it was perfect for holding the map of wand spells that comes with each wand!  It needs some work (never mind those holes I mislined), but I love the basic idea of how it turned out.  It seems very homemade, put-together and “Weasley,” and I’m pretty happy with that.

display1

Most likely, I’ll re-do it with a nice piece of wood (and balance the wands BEFORE I drill), but for now, this works.

And speaking of my dad, I thought I’d give you an update on his backyard garden train Hogwarts he built by hand.  If you haven’t seen it, I wrote a whole post on it here, but for now, this photo shows you the basic idea:

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And now he’s working on Diagon Alley!!!  Look at the figure for the Weasley shop!  I’m so excited to see it.  He sort of went off the map for Diagon Alley, enjoying putting his own little shops in there, but it’ll have the main shops, including Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, and a Gringott’s with a dragon on top!  I can’t wait to see it!

For Christmas, I made him a few signs he could hang from some of the storefronts he’s building…

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Then I got a bit obsessed by making these tiny corked mandrake seedling bottle pendants!

mandrake

I was inspired once again by a tutorial on one of my favorite blogs, Epbot, for building a large mandrake bouquet.  These were SO much fun to make!   I made teensy ones, and tried different versions that were a little more involved, and ultimately didn’t work out as well.  But after a bit of trial and error, I came up with the more simple design above, and made so many that I put them up in my etsy shop.  We couldn’t decide if we liked the moss or the dirt pebbles better, so I made several of each.  Now I want to make other tiny things to put in necklace bottles!   (But I get the feeling that’s been done for a long time by miniature sculptors  much more coordinated than I….)

So there it is!  Potter-brain for sure.  Along with the Butterbeer lip gloss I found on Etsy, a couple of patches for our patch collection (this one and this one), I’m fairly sure we will never tire of wizarding things…<3

dubble-dore

harry-potter-doodle

All Things Potter!

This week’s post won’t be so much crafty, but chock-full of Harry Potter goodness, as I take a LONG walk through the finer points of our magical trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida!

Well, it didn’t start out magical.  Thanks to a ton of airline transfers, delays, cancellations, and all-out rude customer service (don’t get me started on my utter disappointment in American Air…), we ended up spending the night at a freezing cold Dallas airport, and spending the better part of ONE of our TWO park days of our first vacation in FIFTEEN YEARS waiting for stand-by flights to Orlando.  But we made it, and once we FINALLY got there, it was AWESOME.  I will tell you that we were not at all interested in Disney or any other part of Universal–just Harry Potter World…!

We arrived late on the first day (after stopping by our hotel to deposit our suitcases and freshen up after our terrible ordeal), late in the afternoon.  Despite it being mid-December, it was surprisingly not that crowded at first, and we were able to see much of the park in that first day.

The first step was walking through the broken brick wall into Diagon Alley, which filled me with as much excitement as Harry must’ve felt seeing it for the first time (yes, I realize he’s a fictional character, but just go with it…).  All the wonky buildings and wonderful signs, advertising, and storefronts made me giddy.

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(There’s me and Myla, bottom right, her probably thinking, “dang, mom’s more excited than me.”)

The first thing we did was head straight to Ollivander’s for wands.  Surprisingly, probably because of the lateness of the evening, there was no one in line, and while we didn’t get chosen for the little show (only one person gets picked per “show”), it was fun to watch, and afterward, we chose our own wands out in the shop section (if you don’t mind missing the show, you can skip the line by going straight into the store side).   You can also get wands in another Ollivander’s on the Hogsmeade side, as well as Gregorovitch’s wand stand in Diagon Alley.

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You can either choose an interactive wand (that “opens” little spells throughout the park) or a plain wand, and one of either a famous wizard from the series, or a unique one from the wall.  They’re quite solidly made, heavy, seemingly out of some sort of thick resin.  We chose our wands based on the writing on the wall, and each seemed to fit us quite well:  Myla chose one of Rowan, which mentioned the bearer might use their “powerful imagination and resourceful nature to make their dreams come true.”  Mine was Vine, which mentioned someone who is prone to “burn the candle at both ends.”  And my husband’s was Ivy, which has the power to “easily overcome obstacles.”  They each came with maps of all the “spell” spots throughout the park, and seemed to match us well!  (I only wish they had these descriptions inside the wand boxes!  We went back later to get a photo when I realized they weren’t inside the box…)

8We set about doing “spells” throughout the park.  The markers on the ground (as well as the map) tell you what spell to use, and what gesture to make (see the marker on the ground by the fountain, on the right, by Myla’s feet?), and there was nearly always a park wizard around to assist.

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The dragon on top of Gringott’s went off quite often, blowing a quick burst of fire, which was awesome to see.

We stopped by Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, where Myla instantly squealed over a purple Pygmy Puff.  A lovely witch at the register performed a “naming ceremony,” which she had her put it on her head, announcing that Myla was the new owner of a Pygmy Puff named “Puff,” who eats earwax and small spiders, which made Myla laugh. (Similarly, some of the cashiers would say things like, “Here’s your muggle plastic,” upon handing your credit card back.)

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It was late the first night, and we took the Hogwart’s express to the Hogsmeade side (you have to have a park-to-park pass to be able to go to both sides).  The train personnel on the muggle side ACT like muggles, and react as if you’re crazy if you question them about platform 9 3/4 when they take your tickets.  They ask things like, “what kind of dog is that?” about Puff (because they’re muggles, and wouldn’t know anything about wizard things, right?).

I had an app that showed wait times for rides, and since it was late in the evening, we were able to go fairly quickly through the Hogwarts castle line for the Forbidden Journey ride.  It was such a short line, in fact, that we didn’t really get a good look at all the fun things inside the castle!  (By the second day, that same ride was SUPER crowded, and we waited nearly 45 minutes in line, which was a good time, actually, and we could enjoy looking at the castle details, and hear the talking paintings.) 

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Since we had done so much the first day (despite spending half the day at the airport), we slept in a bit the second day, and took our time getting to the park.  It was a Monday, the first “official” day of winter school vacation, so it was MUCH more crowded than the day prior, but we were able to spend a lot of time around the park.

Again, we started in Diagon Alley.  We chugged many, many foamy butterbeers (which come in frozen, chilled, and hot forms–ALL of which are amazing).  We revisited the little shops, and doubled back on some of the details we didn’t get to the night before.

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We saw a few of the shows we didn’t see the night before, like Celestina Warbeck and her Banshees, which sang classic songs like “You Stole My Cauldron, But You Can’t Have My Heart.” Later, we saw a wizarding theatre troop perform the Tale of the Three Brothers on the same stage.

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We stopped in the Gringott’s Money Exchange, just because you can ask the goblin questions like, “Have you seen Harry Potter?” and he’ll reply, “That’s not my area of expertise.”  (He also gets testy if he sees too many cameras pointed in his face.)  We rode the Gringott’s ride (whose line was SUPER long the second day–and quite an uninteresting wait until you get inside–but it was worth it!).  (Incidentally, for the rides, you have to store your things in a locker room near the ride entrance, and they’re only so big (our wand boxes barely fit), so you have to keep that in mind if you have large items!).

Everything was so awesome to look at!  Even the building fronts that didn’t contain shops (like the House Elf Placement Agency, above right) were so beautifully designed.

We enjoyed Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream shop and got ice cream with crystals.  We ate at the Three Broomsticks and the Leaky Cauldron.  We drank more butterbeer.

Next, we took the train back to Hogsmeade, to explore that side a bit more.

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Since Myla’s a kid (and gets her clumsiness from me), she dropped her wand a couple of times (see the chip in the skull’s eye on the left up there?), and when it wouldn’t work anymore at one of the spell sites, a wizard helper advised us to swing by the Owl Post for a FREE wand repair!  At no charge, the wizard there took it to the back and got us a brand new one, which (for a clumsy wizard like myself) I thought was AWESOME.

We waited in the super-hot sun under my tiny umbrella to see the Hogwarts Toad Choir perform songs like “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”  (There were only two performers with toads, though–I thought they should’ve all had them!)

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I decided that despite being a grownup (and despite his lackluster paint job) I needed a foam poseable Dobby, so that was my big souvenir.  We rode the Hippogriff rollercoaster ride, which (because of the much bigger crowds) was a very long, hot wait–a bit over an hour, with not much to look at in line.  It’s primarily a kid’s ride, but as we had a kid (and we’re big kids ourselves) we had fun.

The shops, much more crowded the second day, were similar to the other side, but one of the bookstores had a great window display of several caged and chomping Monster Book of Monsters books, surrounded by shreds of paper.  Most of the spell sites were crowded with lines of kids waiting to do the spells, so often we would just watch what they did without bothering to stand in line.

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And then, sadly, it was time to go back home.  But–SIGHHHH–I loved it there.  I wanted to LIVE there.  Not in Orlando, exactly…but in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Myla and I decided we should probably just move in.  No one would notice–we’d just sort of set up in Knockturn Alley (which is in a dark and cool shady tunnel of shops in Diagon Alley).  People would just assume we worked there, wouldn’t they?   …It could work, right?

Well, anyway.  Goodbye, Weasley Shop.  Goodbye, Gringott’s Dragon.  Goodbye, Hogwarts.  Goodbye, Harry Potter World.   Hopefully we’ll be back again soon.

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I, for one, have been in a renewed Potter daze since our trip.  My husband and I once read the ENTIRE series of books ages ago, and I’m I’m revisiting them by listening to them again on audiobook while I do my crafts.  I forgot how GOOD they are and how very different they are from the movies!  (We read the majority of them before seeing most of the movies.)  Did you realize that there are nifflers and bowtruckles in the Potter books??  After seeing them in the Fantastic Beasts movie, I didn’t realize I had already read about them ages ago!

So join me next week for some Potter crafts from after our trip–where I’ll update you on my dad’s backyard garden train Hogwarts castle, show you my repainted Dobby, and feature our wand and wand-box wall displays.

In the meantime, check out these grumpy little mandrake seedling necklaces I made, for sale in my Etsy shop!  I’m pretty sure they keep bad things away.  At least that’s what the shady dark-robed wizard in Knockturn Alley told me…. 😀

mandrake

‘Til next week!

 

 

 

Going Away and Returning

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve been away.  I had lost my voice a bit.  I needed to take a little time to remember WHY I was making art, because for some reason social media slipped in, and I started rating myself against others, and feeling down because of it.  A little inspiration and competition is healthy, but when you start basing your entire self-worth on what other people think of you, that’s when it gets sticky.

So I took some time, and reminded myself that I love making things.  I’d make things even if no one was looking, because it makes me feel good.

art

So I’m back now, and I’m happy for it!  And I thought I’d share a bit about what I did while I was gone.

We went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

harry-potter-world

I’ll do a full post on this next week, but it’s safe to say I LOVED IT THERE.  We had a day to travel, and two full days scheduled at the park.  But thanks to some MAJOR messups on the part of American Air (not helped by their VERY bad attitudes), we had to spend the night at the airport and didn’t get to Orlando til the late afternoon of the first park day.  Yes, that’s right–we had TWO DAYS to enjoy the park, and one of the days was spent getting there.  Anyway, we had so much fun while we were there.  We’ve decided we’d like to live there.  Not in Orlando specifically, but in Harry Potter World itself.  No one would notice us, I’m sure.  We wouldn’t bother anyone.  We’d dress in wizard robes and carry wands around, and people would just assume we were part of the ambiance.  Please, can we make this happen?

We had family time.

My husband’s family came for the holidays, and we had such a great time!  My little niece Sophie (who is 3 years old) even doodled some “magic” in my sketchbook drawing of Dumbledore.

dumblydore

It seemed we had Potter on the mind, as Myla turned herself into a wizard in this doodle, surrounded by several characters from the various wizard movies.  (Can you tell who they all are?)

harry-potter-doodle

Here’s Myla using a stick as a wand while she holds her pygmy puff (which she got at the Harry Potter park), while we wandered around our favorite walking area back home (which is also Bigfoot’s stomping ground, we’ve decided).

bigfoot-walkHere’s another little doodle we did together, of Myla the animal adventurer, taming some wild sloths.  Like one does.

sloths

Myla and I also entertain ourselves back home by making on-the-spot stories about a long-bearded goat named Clyde, and his best goat friend Amie, who came from a science lab and can teleport.

clyde

We filled our patch shirts.

patches

Myla and I have been collecting patches, and we’ve finally decided these shirts were fairly full, and we each started another jacket, both of which are olive green.

I made tiny Mandrakes

You know those ideas where you just have to run directly out to the craft store to buy all the supplies to make them happen?  That’s where these little mandrake seedlings came from.

This first batch had loose dirt inside, which I found got sort of stuck on their tiny faces so you couldn’t see their grumpy expressions, which didn’t work for me.

mandrakes

It took some tweaking, but I finally figured out to put glue in the bottom so the sand would stay put, and sealed the corks so they wouldn’t come loose.  I made them mostly for friends & family, but once I make a few more, I was thinking of putting a few in the shop.  They have real dried plants on their heads and rough string “roots” on their arms and legs.  They’re frustrating but so much fun to make!

mandrake-seedlings

I sewed.  A LOT.

sewing

Okay, I always sew.  But this time, I’ve got a goal.  I think I’m going to try for a large convention this year, and sell the Dream Creepers.  It’ll be fun.

I put some things in the Etsy shop.

beetles

I thought it’d be fun to make a few things to put in the shop for fun, instead of by request.  I painted beetles, and drew tiny moon necklaces.

little-moon

I even painted a color version of the Newt doodle from Fantastic Beasts

fantastic-beasts

They’re all in my Etsy shop…have a look, if you like!

I did some projects I’ve been waiting to do.

diterlizzi

Since I was busy with commissions and requests and gifts, I didn’t have time to do a few “me” projects.  So I used this time to do projects like this Tiefling plastic sculpture kit by Dark Sword Miniatures that was sent to me by Tony DiTerlizzi.  It was so much fun gluing the tiny pieces and painting them.  I finally displayed it by gluing it to a clear frame with a print of the painting the sculpt was inspired by.  So much fun!

I needlefelted.

felted-moths

Hm.  Jury’s still out on this one.  Just because I learned how to needlefelt by watching YouTube videos doesn’t mean I’m an instant pro.  I’m not sure I even have the patience for it.  But it was fun trying!  After finally learning not to jab myself repeatedly, most of the things I needlefelted I wanted to burn with fire afterward.  Thankfully, Myla’s not as critical, and was excited to wear the moth clips I had made for her.  (Hopefully my terrible felting won’t traumatize her for life.)

I learned a new (old) thing.

You know how I hate pencils?  Maybe you don’t.  I always HATED the way rough pencils felt in my hand, and on the paper.  Somehow, the grating of graphite on paper was like nails on a chalkboard with cold hands–it’s a textural thing that’s always made my spine shiver.

But over the holidays, our good friend Mab Graves gifted us some of her lovely pencil sets by Alvin Draftmatic.

mab

Aren’t they BEAUTIFUL?!?  From time to time over the years, I’ve keep TRYING to enjoy pencils, but I just couldn’t get past the feeling.  But when I got these, I decided to give it a really real try.  I got a blending stump and an electric eraser (thank you, Christmas gift cards!), took a deep breath, and gave it a go.

And can I tell you, it was like realizing there was a little magic door right in front of you that you hadn’t noticed before, and you happened to have a little proper key, and it opened up into a lovely little forest fairy pixie world  you always suspected was there.

makingfriendswithmonsters2

It was so much fun, I filled a sketchbook full of little doodles of Myla with monsters, and decided I’d make a book of it, calling it Making Friends With Monsters.

makingfriendswithmonstersIt’s just in the doodle phase for now, and it won’t be anything fancy, but maybe I can make something fun of it.  In any case, these pencils have been the magic keys I needed to open up that little door and I’m so grateful to Mab that she sent them to me.  So I’m going to keep visiting this little world.  I like the things that live there.

But never fear!  I will never give up my trusty ballpoint pen.  Ballpoint is and will always be my “true love” of art supplies.  It’s not going anywhere.  It’s been my loyal and faithful magic wand for the doodles I like to make.

pen

So that’s what I’ve been doing!  The break has been quite nice, and I’m happy to be back.  It’s been such a gift not to place so much mental value on sharing with others, and just draw and create what makes me happy.  I need that from time to time, and I need to remember that for the future.  So thank you for sticking by me, and giving me the time to grow, and the time to rest.  I appreciate that you all read these words and look at my doodles, and I’m so glad to have you around!

❤ ❤ ❤

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