I’m Back!

HEY GUYS!!!!

I’m back!  My test is done!  It was on Friday.  It’s a pretty intense experience – 8 hours of testing, 100 questions. It was open-book and you can bring in whatever references you want.  It was pretty wild to see everyone wheeling around their carry-on bags full of books (myself included).  I actually had someone at work tell me I was lucky it was open book, like somehow this made everything easier.  FOR REAL?  That only means that they can test you on pretty much anything.  Doesn’t anyone remember how much harder the open book exams were in school? The failure rate for the environmental exam hovers around 40%. Good times!

So how did it go?  It suuuuucked. I’m pretty sure that I failed and will be retaking the test in October.  There were just too many questions where I was like, “Cool, just gonna bubble in ‘A'” for me to feel good about passing.  But honestly, I’m so elated that it’s over with that I don’t even care that I probably failed it.  There are worse things in life than potentially failing a test.  I am just really happy that I tried.  Now time to wait 8-10 weeks for the results.

And I just have to give a shout out to my family and my fiancé for all their support! They were amazing!

But for real, I don’t know what to do with all this free time and these songs encapsulate my feelings.  And if you clicked on those links, YOU’RE WELCOME.*

Anyway, my Willow Tank is done!! Lookit!

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This was my very first time making a shirt.  It was pretty intimidating but my teacher did a good job of stepping us through the process.  It was also my first time sewing darts.  My darts are really wonky and apparently sewing in a straight line is still a difficulty for me.  But I’m so happy it’s done! I finished sewing the bias tape to one of the armholes and collar this evening since we ran out of time in class.

I must admit I tried really hard to do the “thoughtfully contemplating my shopping list” pose that everyone on Instagram seems to do when modeling their makes.  You can tell I’m trying really hard not to laugh in the photo above!  Fiancé took the photos of me and I had to explain to him why I was staring at the ground like this:

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I hope you all had a great weekend!  Please catch me up on all the crafty things you’ve been doing.  I’m glad to be back.  Talk to you all soon!

* I don’t even like this song all that much, but I just can’t help belting out the chorus from time to time.  THIS IS MY TRUTH.

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First Day of Spring! Inspirations

Spring is finally here! Although it’s been feeling like spring since February?  But that’s Texas weather for you.  Today I was planting flowers I’d purchased three weeks ago tending to my garden and noticed a lovely Texas bluebonnet blooming.

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I have a brown thumb, so I wanted to capture this moment before it dies next week.  ::insert inspirational thoughts about flowers and spring here::

This weekend was pretty great.  My friends and I decided to check out SXSW on Saturday. I don’t go to SXSW every year, but when I do, it’s always fantastic.  I think my fondest SXSW was in 2011, when Brother and I attended the Foo Fighters documentary premiere Back and Forth, and Dave Grohl was RIGHT ACROSS THE THEATER eating POPCORN and it was CRAZINESS.  That was also the year we waited in line for five hours to get into the MTV Woodie Awards just so we could watch the Foo Fighters perform one song.*

This year my friends and I took a more chill approach to SXSW, but we still had a blast.  They are all artistic people and I feel more inspired to create just being around them.  We also caught some really good shows.  I’d been feeling burned out on shows lately but Saturday refreshed my palate, I think.  My friend and I caught this one band called Happy Meals, and it was such a fun set.  But I’m hesitant to look them up now because I’m afraid they won’t sound as amazing when I’m sober.

Now that it’s spring and I’m wrapping up my pincushion project (the review will be ready this week!), I’m already eyeing more projects to add to my queue.  After my test is done, of course.**

PICTURE TIME.

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Wool and the Gang Dylan Tank

Wool and the Gang has all these awesome free patterns, and I’m eyeing this one for spring.  REAL TALK – I would nix the fringe though.

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Two of Wands, Movie Night Cocoon Cardi

I love this cardi by Two of Wands.  It would be a perfect transitional piece for the approximately two cooler days I can expect this spring.

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Lion Brand Afternoon Breeze Shawl

Ditto on this shawl.  It’s so cute! I can wear it to work so I won’t freeze to death in my cube.

Finally, I want to make this:

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Fancy Tiger Crafts Sailor Top

I wish I had known about Fancy Tiger Crafts when I visited Denver two years ago, because I would have been ALL UP IN THAT.  I really have been wanting to go back to Denver because Rocky Mountains, the crepes place, Garden of the Gods, it’s amazing, etc etc etc, so this is just another reason to visit, right? Anyway, I got a little sidetracked…this top is really cute and versatile, and it’s supposed to be beginner friendly.  I really want to make it.  And also move to Denver.

I need to be responsible so I should probably sleep. Good night!

*I’m very done with waiting in line for hours and hating my life, but I’m really glad I did it then and have those memories.

** I splurged on a review course so my attitude has gone from “I’m going to fail” to “I might pass, maybe!”

GUYS I RAN OUT OF YARN

The other day I was thinking that I hadn’t posted my February makes.  I looked through my pictures and…realized I had only completed these:

Now to be fair, I had been in the field for two weeks last month…but still! This is hardly anything.  It was a good reminder to me that staying focused on projects is important.  It’s completely normal to feel burned out by a project – and when that happens, I think it’s necessary to move on to a little side project to take a mental break.  But my problem last month was trying to start too many new projects at once.  It doesn’t give me the chance to sit down and focus on completing a project.

I have a frustrating update to my Calvin Top project. I focused on this project ALL WEEK and didn’t work on any other projects.  I am so close to being finished with the second body piece! But, as I feared, I ran out of yarn.  Hence the overly dramatic post title.

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I actually did the tension swatch prior to starting the project, and remember thinking that my stitches were too dense. But I decided to plow ahead with the project anyway.  Lesson learned!  I ordered another skein from Wool and the Gang.  And since it is pay day, I ordered this project too:

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Brooding model not included.

I’ve been interested in making and wearing my own clothes lately, and this seems like a fun project to try my hand with.  It says EASY and it looks like it’s all just stockinette stitch?  Which I can do.  Knit, purl, knit, purl. I got this.  But the Calvin Top was supposed to be easy too, and I suppose it was, but it’s still going to look like a circus tent when I’m done with it.  In my humble opinion.

I also ordered this from Sublime Stitching because pay day, I have no children so my disposable income is all mine, life is short, etc etc.

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The saying on the pillow is “Vita Brevis Est” which translates to “Life is brief.” It’s so morbid. I love it.

What else is going on?  I’m keeping busy at work, which makes me happy.  Consulting is so stressful when there aren’t any projects to work on. I have a lot of projects right now so I feel like I have a purpose yay.  OR SOMETHING.  I had a very quick trip to Houston this week to sample one well, which was fun. I wish all my sites just required sampling one well.  My test is in six weeks and I’m freaking out.

I also enrolled in a garment making class. I mentioned I’m interested in making my own clothes, but it’s been hard to find the motivation to teach myself.  Fiancé has band practice on Saturdays so I thought it would be good to find a class during that time.  Every once in awhile I need to get myself out of my default reclusive loner introvert mode and actually socialize with people.  And learn to make something. I am taking a class in April where we are learning how to make Grainline Studio Willow tanks!

I’ve been following Grainline Studio for while on Instagram, so I’m excited to try my hand at sewing one of their patterns! Again, it’s supposed to be a beginner’s level class, but we’ll see.

Okay. I need to go be a productive member of society and show up to work and stuff. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  If you are stitching up something crafty this weekend, I’d love to hear about it!

Making Mistakes to Grow

One of my roles at work is being a safety rep.  For the next several months, I’m giving focus topic meetings on different aspects of being a safety rep since we have a lot of new safety reps in the area.  For my first focus topic yesterday, I decided to discuss the aspects I’d found most daunting about being a safety rep when I first started – like dealing with difficult project managers and people assuming that I was suddenly an OSHA expert and asking really detailed safety questions.  My area safety manager told the group that it was okay to make mistakes and encouraged people to get out there and try, even if they failed.

This maxim, that it’s okay to make mistakes, is one I constantly remind myself.  I made one that my team member gently reminded me of via email.  I was so frustrated!  I should have known better! I went home and felt better after eating my feelings and walking my dog.  But making mistakes just helps us grow, and part of working on a team is having other people holding you accountable and ground-truthing your work.

Last night, I started thinking about making mistakes in my own creative work.  I still consider myself a beginner with crafting which holds me back, because naturally, I don’t want to make mistakes. I just want to make a perfectly Instagrammable piece of art. But that inclination keeps me from trying riskier stitches because it will “look bad.”  Staying inside the box all the time can really hinder creativity, and I’ve definitely always been a rule follower. I can’t even purchase any of Keri Smith’s books, like This is Not a Book, because the idea of tearing pages from the book or destroying a page by pouring milk on it (or whatever the creative prompt actually is), is just so foreign to me. (I know! That’s supposed to be the point! BUT I CAN’T, YOU GUYS).

I’ve been working on a Studio MME Super Stitcher’s Club piece.  What I love about Megan Eckman’s work is you can stitch the piece as simply or as elaborated as you’d like.  It’s designed for stitchers who don’t like the crazy fancy stitches like French knots, but allows enough room for improvisation in case you decide to go crazy and plop a couple on there.  I’ve decided to go outside the box and play around with some extra stitches on the piece.  It’s made me uncomfortable, if I’m being honest.

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My brain is like, “STOP IT. YOUR STITCHES ARE UGLY.” But I know that I need to at least try this idea and see where it takes me.  Maybe my stitches will continue being ugly.  Or maybe I will end up with a piece I’m really proud of.  I’ll never know if I don’t try, or if I just continue doing the same back and running stitches and nothing else.

Making mistakes is a sign that you are growing and if you stumble a little, it means your path will be smoother in the future.  I proposed a risky little strategy at work several days ago and to my shock, the team decided to accept it!  There’s no way I would have had the gumption to propose it without the stumbling blocks I’ve had over the past year in this role.  And I know if I continue pushing myself with my creative projects -instead of restricting myself to the ones I already know I can do – I know I’ll continue growing in that aspect, too.

I hope you all have a great weekend! I’ll be indulging in a lot of crafty time while Fiancé is at band practice.  Need to buy some flowers and plants since the one hard freeze we had this year killed all my succulents.  The house needs to be cleaned because it’s looking cluttered and I feel stressed when it’s cluttered.  I’ll need to do some yoga and maybe a run, because I haven’t run since the half-marathon and now I feel that pent-up crazy lady feeling when I haven’t been able to run in several days.  Maybe watch more of The People v. O.J. Simpson (not sure how I feel about it yet – and those fake Kardashian kids take me out of it every. single. time) and listening to a lot of this song, which is a current obsession.  See you Monday!

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Crafty Christmas – Part Two (Craft Kits)

“JENNY!”

It’s okay. Just sit down for a min-

“CHRISTMAS IS IN TWO DAYS AND I DON’T HAVE A GIFT!”

 

Deep breath.  There you go.  We got this.

Welcome back to Part 2 of my series tailored especially for procrastinators like myself.  In Part 1, we discussed the different books you can purchase for the crafty people in your life.  If you’re looking to go a little above and beyond just a book – maybe you’ve got a crafty significant other or in-law and you want to make Christmas extra special – then you’ve come to just the right place.  I’m going to show you what materials you can purchase to  assemble your own crafty kits. At the end of this post, I’ll show you a perfect example of one I just received!

Just a quick note – you can find most of the items I’m suggesting at a chain craft store like Michaels or Jo-Ann.  Don’t forget to give your local craft stores some love too, though.  Here’s a shout out to some of my local Austin faves, like Stitch Lab (closing in February…sob) and Hill Country Weavers.  If you’re in the Tucson area, stop by Sew Hip and Birdhouse Yarns.  And if you’re spending New Year’s in Vegas, then you’ve got to check out Sin City Knit Shop.

Cross-Stitch and Embroidery

If you’ve got a cross-stitcher or embroiderer in your life, you have a couple of options.  You can’t go wrong with buying a counted cross-stitch or embroidery kit.  A word of caution if you are buying patterns or kits from a chain store – many (though not all) of these designs tend to be more traditional.  Which is TOTALLY FINE if that’s what you’re into, but maybe not so much if your crafty person is a fan of more contemporary, modern designs (like myself).    For me, the line between cute kitsch and “omg no never hanging in my house” kitsch is very fine.  Cross-stitch a deer?  Sure. I’ve cross-stitched a deer before.  Cross-stitch a hedgehog? But of course.  Cross-stitch a teddy bear or angel?  NO. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT $200.

If you’re not sure where on that line your crafty person falls, then let me suggest some patterns for you.  Don’t worry – you can purchase these as instant PDF downloads.  Just hit print and slip into your gift basket.

  • CozyBlue has gorgeous patterns that your stitcher will love.

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  • Satsuma Street has the most fantastic cross-stitch designs, and if I didn’t already have a ton of projects in my queue, I would download at least three of these gorgeous patterns like TONIGHT.satsuma-street

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To wrap up your craft kit, take a look at the instructions.  Does it recommend colors of floss to purchase?

And in case you’re like “….floss?  Huh?”

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The most popular brand (or at least, the one I always work with) is DMC.  Cross-stitch and some embroidery patterns will list what colors correspond to the pattern.  Pick up enough for your stitcher to use for the project, along with a set of needles and the cloth that the pattern recommends.  If it recommends Aida or evenweave, then no worries. That will be in the aisle with the embroidery floss.  You’re all set.

Knitting/Crochet

Picking out yarn is so much fun and I can spend a long time in the yarn aisles. If you want to buy your knitter or crocheter a pattern, it would be good to know what their skill level is.  But what’s great about a knitting/crochet kit is that you don’t even NEED a pattern, really.  Chances are your crafty person already has a list of projects and will welcome the addition of yarn to their stash.

What kind of yarn to purchase?  Luxury yarn is great to work with (and it spoils you), but it’s luxury for a reason – it can get pretty pricey!  If I’m being honest, most of the yarn I use and purchase is budget.  There’s pretty fantastic budget yarn available that does a solid job at mimicking the higher quality yarn.  The most popular budget yarn brands include Lion Brand, Caron, and Patons.  My personal favorite is Lion Brand.  I really enjoy working with their yarns and have made several larger projects with them.

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With Scarfie, you can make a scarf using one ball of yarn.  I have two in my stash waiting to be used!

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Homespun is sooooo soft.  I used the Thick & Quick yarn for a project that ended up being a doggie blanket.  It’s so warm and cozy, and Apollo loves it.

Some other fun and trendy yarn is Michaels’ Caron Cakes and Jo-Ann’s Sweet Roll.  I have each in my stash and am excited to try both.

Sewing

I consider fabric to be a really personal choice.  Same with individual sewing patterns.  Certain kinds of fabric are really difficult for beginners (like jersey or silk), so you don’t want to overwhelm your crafty person if they just started sewing.  Unless your crafty person has been very explicit on what fabric they want (“I can’t wait to try those new Alexander Henry prints!”), then you really can’t go wrong with a gift card here for fabrics, along with one of the books I featured from part one.  Cute sewing supplies are also fun to stash in your craft kit.  Tula Pink Hardware  is a popular choice, though I don’t own any of these products myself.

Putting it all together

I’ll end this post with a pitch-perfect example – an early Christmas gift I received from Boyfriend yesterday!

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Boyfriend did a great job in selecting treats he knew I would both need and enjoy.  I’ve been looking for a cute sewing box to store my materials but I dislike a lot of the frillier ones out there – so the one he got for me is perfect.  I always, always welcome a ball of yarn into my stash, and I’m really digging the color palette for this Sweet Roll.  Apollo chewed up my knit counter the other day, so the sturdier one that Boyfriend purchased will (hopefully) withstand the teeth of a willful dachshund (also if I, you know, actually store it somewhere other than my coffee table).  Boyfriend knows I want to start my craft business one day, so I’m really excited to dig into this book.  And finally, a gift card!  Thank you Boyfriend! You’re pretty awesome. 🙂

And that, my friends, is it!  Good luck with your shopping and let me know how it goes!  I’ll see you Monday! Happy holidays!

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Crafty Christmas – Part One (Books)

Say what you will about procrastination and how it’s something that we all need to ~rise above~, but it can be a really effective motivating tool.  I mean, what? I never procrastinate, coworkers who accidentally stumbled across my blog.  But let’s be realistic here.  If your week is anything like mine, you are struggling to get four different deliverables out the door before Christmas, and then one of your clients is like, “Hey, how’s it going? Sooooo even though I’ve been seeing some version of this deliverable since SUMMER, I’m going to wait a week and a half until this report is due to make MASSIVE CHANGES because YAYYYY.  MERRY CHRISTMAS.”  And you are staying at work late and Christmas shopping has slid very far down your list of your priorities.

Or due to your job/election/XBox/dachshund farm responsibilities, Christmas just snuck up on you. Your girlfriend asks you when you’re doing your gift exchange and your mind is going, “Wait, when is Christmas? It’s-it’s in a couple of weeks right OH MY GOD IT’S SUNDAY.”

Assuming that the mother/father/girlfriend/boyfriend/friend/coworker that you are scrambling to get a gift for is crafty, I’ve got just the solution for you.  In this two-part series, I’ll help you get a gift pulled together in no time.

Let’s start with books.  Books are a perfect gift if selected with care, and assuming you live within a ten-mile radius of a bookstore, easy to purchase.  There are so many beautifully designed craft books out there.  Which do you choose?  Where do you start?  I’ll help you find one that’s just right. I own each of these books I’m about to recommend and love them. I’ll also tell you of my progress for each, because if your relative or friend is anything like me, they’ll wait three years to actually start a project in one of them.

Sewing

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This book is gorgeous.  Lotta Jansdotter takes you through her design inspirations, which often come from her travels.  Her inspirations are separated by season and each season features some beautiful projects to complete, like pretty tunics and scarves.

Jenny’s progress – I’ve read it.  It’s sitting on my coffee table, so that’s a start.  No actual projects completed.

ishida

I bought Sanae Ishida’s book when I was on vacation in Arizona earlier this year.  I was having  a rough time in my personal life, so her book – about how she turned to sewing after a tumultuous experience at a start-up – really resonated with me.  The book is separated by seasons, and each season starts with a personal essay of Ishida’s progress in renewing her life and spirit.  She then offers simple, beautifully photographed projects to complete. Sample projects include yoga pants and an origami pillow.

Jenny’s progress – I bought fabric to make the yoga pants.  Four months ago.

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Tilly Walnes presents simple sewing projects that increase by difficulty.  Each project teaches you a different skill and she provides very crisp and easy to follow instructions for the projects.  Projects include the skirt shown on the cover, comfy pajama pants, and pretty dresses.

Jenny’s progress – I’ve bought fabric for the pants and copied the patterns for the pajama pants.  Four months ago.

Crochet

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What really drew me to this book was the fresh, contemporary projects presented within it.  I probably speak for a lot of new crocheters that I get really bored of all the basic projects presented to learn a stitch.  You can only make so many washcloths.  Marion Madel presents scarves and hats for the beginner, all without making the effort too challenging or overwhelming.

Jenny’s progress – I haven’t made a project from this book in awhile, but I did make a scarf and attempt some of the smaller-scale projects, like the little pouches and cloche hat (which did not turn out well. Haha).

Knitting

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If you’re anything like me, knitting is just a different LANGUAGE.  I grew up learning basic crochet stitches, but I only started knitting this year.  While I enjoy it, some of the concepts are challenging.  I bought this book to help me wade through some of the more head-scratching stitches.  It presents easy-to-follow guides on stitches that so far has been helpful to me.

For Future Crafty Entrepreneurs 

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I’m reading this book now and I LOVE IT.  It’s chock full of advice from intelligent, badass women who are artists, entrepreneurs, and artists.  It’s been my go-to lately for inspiration.

I can go on and on, but these books are really my favorites and I think it’s a good starting point for your shopping endeavors.  Let’s meet back on Friday, and I’ll help you pull together some last-minute crafty kits for your loved one. I’ve just got to go to work now.  Oh, and I still need to get a Christmas gift for Boyfriend too.  🙂