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  • New Year, New Project Goals!

    Happy New Year!

    I don't have many resolutions for 2016, but there is one that I've been thinking about a lot lately: I need to have a better handmade gift stash this year.

    I like to make things, and I do make a lot of things throughout the year, but it doesn't take much to make you realize that you're woefully understocked when you have more gift events than you do time and you want to give a gift that's handmade and lovely.  Like....say, when three women in your close friends and family decide to have babies in the same month.  Or when your bank balance reveals that you won't be buying Starbucks gift cards for people at your kid's school and you'd best haul yourself to the yarn stash.  Can I knit three cowls and four mittens in the span of a month?  Why yes, it turns out I can! But should I?

    Uh, the muscle at the top of my forearm is telling me I should not.

    I know I'll get caught shorthanded at some point this year, but I'd like for it to happen less often.  My goals for the 2016 Gift Stash include:

    -some baby stuff.  Any ol' baby stuff.  It's all cute, it's all small, and as long as it's machine washable it's all going to be appreciated.

    -some cowls.  Cowls are great, and even noncrafters appreciate them.  I'm working on buying my yarn in a few more neutral colors so I can have some handknits on hand that aren't....generic, but just more readily welcomed by a larger audience.  I might love some handpainted variegated yarn, but not everyone will.  And I want something that just about everyone will love.  Just two cowls all knitted or crocheted up and rearing to go could shave actual metric tons of stress off of my life.

    -a prayer shawl.  I've never made one, and I hope I don't need to give one away.  But I'd like have one ready so that I can quickly wrap it up and give it to someone rather than look for yarns and a pattern while feeling concerned about a grieving loved one.

    -hats!  You can make them big, small, slouchy, cabled, plain, tight, long, short--it doesn't matter.  I feel like there's no wrong way to go with hats.  I've been in an earflap mood, and I've discovered to my unending delight that people who wear hats to keep warm really don't seem to mind if their hats look goofy.  You can't go wrong with hats!  (Unless you give them to someone who's either unappreciative or just not a hat person.  But that's a different set of problems entirely.)

    So!  Here's what I've got to get me started.  This is a baby blanket that I finished earlier this week:


    It's Square #49 from 99 Granny Squares to Crochet.  I've made three blankets with this pattern and I don't know when I'll get tired of the way front post crochet stitches add some texture to these simple squares.  I love this.  I made thirty squares and stitched them together in five rows of six squares.  I crocheted a couple of rows around the edge and now I have a pretty big baby blanket in my arsenal and I don't even know anyone who's pregnant!


    I feel so good right now!

    Next up is the Martha Cowl from Crochet Scarves and Cowls:


    Forget what I said about more neutral colors.  This is a pattern I've wanted to try for several months that looks really great with a mix of colors and I really liked this yarn.  It's the Folklore colorway from Loops & Threads Impeccable Ombre, and it's really lovely in addition to being trusty ol' acrylic yarn that's ready for some hard living and careless washing habits.


    The pattern is pretty easy to keep up with once you get the hang of it.  It did take me a while to get the hang of it, though, which is fine.  This looks like it was fine, right?  It was fine!


    Since I wasn't crocheting on a deadline, I wasn't too perturbed at having problems following a pattern while being interrupted every 15 seconds by my daughter asking questions or saying "Hey, look!" because 1) like I said, I was in no rush and 2) it is impossible to do much of anything when you're being interrupted every 15 seconds by someone saying "hey look!" and then you actually have to look and come up with fresh and inventive compliments for that someone's Lego-building skills.  That's the biggest reason I want to be more intentional with the TV and crafting time I enjoy so much after my little girl goes to bed (although that sore forearm thing is a close second): I have Lego creations to compliment and games of Candy Land to lose.  I've decided that 2016 is going to be the year I enjoy myself and I'm just not the kind of person who enjoys that rush of adrenaline you get from weaving in your ends ten minutes before you give your project to someone.  What I do enjoy is going about my regular mom life while I think about my fabulous gift stash like I'm a dragon with a cave full of treasure.


    I'd better get back to that cowl!

  • There's Always Something More to Color!

    Sometimes when I'm coloring, I get into a rush to hurry up so I can see the finished page.

    But other times, I catch myself wishing the project would last a little longer.

    Flower coloring page

    This was a lovely colored page!  I will miss it!

    flower color page

    But wait!  What are those little circles in the background?

    Orange color flower - Adult Coloring BookI don't know what they are, but I know I'm going to color them and I'm glad this page has a few more details for me to enjoy.

    When you're having such a good time, it's nice when there's always another detail to enjoy.  I'm going to have a lovely time taking a little more time to add a little more color.

  • Coloring Decor for Christmas

    Many of us here at Leisure Arts have been coloring because we truly enjoy it. In preparation for our annual Christmas Celebration Luncheon, we talked about tabletop decorations. As part of our discussions, I'm sharing with you a great idea that combines coloring with the spirit of the holiday season!

    Christmas trees are part of many traditional household Christmas decorations. Many stand-alone trees in yards and inside homes are shining brightly with illuminated lights and ornaments. Smaller ferns, trees and other greenery are incorporated in the seasonal decor that adorn tabletops during family meals and other social gatherings.

    Sprucing up the tables for Leisure Arts' Christmas Celebration Luncheon was discussed as part of the preparation -- and using some coloring book pages to help with the decor seemed like a natural thing to do, too. 

    To start, choose a page from the stash of coloring books, and color it. You would be surprised at how many pages come to life after they are colored. Look at the difference coloring made in the before and after pictures below. I like the design "before", but wait until "after" it's colored... 

    Kaleidoscope Wonders     Kaleidoscope Wonders  (Click photos to enlarge.)

    The page has come to life! This page comes from Kaleidoscope Wonders; it was colored by my co-worker, Marsha. It looked like Christmas ornaments to my other co-worker, Tina, so she decided to try out a decorating idea that she had.

    A tabletop Christmas tree could be created by using layers or rows of strips of paper; it was an idea similar to the Ribbon Tree project found in the leaflet Crafting with Buttons and Ribbons. Tina experimented with a selection of materials. Once Tina decided on her material choices, she then got everything prepared.

    Kaleidoscope Wonders Coloring Crafts  (Click photo to enlarge.)

    The supplies included a floral foam tree shape (7" tall), strips of paper (a page from Kaleidoscope Wonders) plus solid and patterned paper (all strips were 0.5" w x 6" long [or shorter, as needed for design]), straight pins, Snow Writer by DecoArt (for the decorative snow at the top of the tree), and a star ornament (with its hanging bell removed).

    After all of her strips of paper were cut, Tina started by securing each row of paper to the foam tree with straight pins; Tina started with the bottom layer first and worked her way up to the top of the tree.

      (Click photo to enlarge.)Kaleidoscope Coloring Christmas Tree

    The beauty about using straight pins to hold your strips of paper into a foam shape is that you can reposition the strips if necessary. Or, you can swap out an entire row changing from one color to another all together!

    Tina worked quickly once she decided on the placement of her colors. Near the top of the tree, she cut her strips of paper in half to 3" long -- use your judgment to decide what length is right for your size tree. Then, the star ornament that had its bell removed, was jabbed into the top of the foam shape. Once the star was in place, Tina added Snow Writer by DecoArt (the dimensional snow) and let it dry for at least 24 hours -- please read the label for full instructions.

    I've never seen a tabletop tree quite like this one; it's beautiful! Coloring can be incorporated into your home as part of a 3D project. Now my coloring book pages take on a whole new future -- glass plates, book covers, furniture... What will you do?

    Kaleidoscope Wonders Christmas Tree  (Click photo to enlarge.)

    Special thanks go out to Tina and Marsha for this piece of holiday decor. Merry Christmas!


  • Make Coloring Book Pages into More

    As I have said over the years, I love to color! It is a natural outlet of creativity for me. A new box of crayons, pencils or markers always made me smile.  Coloring was never a phase for me; it was something that made me, me!

    Paper pumpkin from coloring book pages. Paper pumpkin from coloring book pages.

    The mass appeal of coloring has reignited! You know you can color by yourself as a means of entertainment or meditation. But don't forget coloring can be done in a group as a play date or coloring party. Whatever your preference, just relax, be imaginative and have fun!

    Holiday crunch time is here with Thanksgiving right around the corner! Families and friends will gather. They may need an outlet for their pent-up energy and excitement, especially if the weather is uncooperative for outdoor play. Coloring fits the bill. It is an activity that is not too demanding, does not require an organizer, and is not food-related.  Added bonus -- it can be done in a group setting! What a great way to offer your group gathering a stress-free, decorative and interactive activity!

    I saw similar projects to my finished paper pumpkin posted on Pinterest. I kept playfulness in mind, as I experimented with pages from my adult coloring books to make decorative paper pumpkins. After I had fun coloring, I found what worked best for me and now I'll share my steps with you.

    I used two pages from Jungle Wonders Color Art for Everyone; one page had areas colored with markers, the second page was uncolored. I'll show you how I made my paper pumpkins.

    Colored page using markers. Colored page using markers.

    I knew that I would be cutting my two pages into strips so even the colored page did not have every part of its design filled with marker. I used colors that were more fall-like to match my other seasonal decor.

    Uncolored page. Uncolored page.

    Getting my pages ready...

    Pages cut into strips - see other image for dimensions. Pages cut into strips - see other image for dimensions.

    Each coloring book page would yield five 2-inch strips, measuring the page when it was turned horizontally (landscape mode). I used two pages to make one paper pumpkin.

    Two-inch wide strips. Each with two centered punched holes, one at top and bottom respectively, one-half inch from edge. Two-inch wide strips. Each with two centered punched holes, one at top and bottom respectively, one-half inch from edge.

    With the cutting done, I marked where my punched holes would be on either end of each strip. Next, I stacked my strips and got a 12-inch long pipe cleaner ready.

    Two stacks of coloring book pages; uncolored on left, colored on right. Plus, a 12 inch long pipe cleaner. Two stacks of coloring book pages; uncolored on left, colored on right. Plus, a 12 inch long pipe cleaner.

    Making a spiral at one end of the pipe cleaner helps to secure it as the base of the pumpkin. All strips will then be placed on the pipe cleaner.

    Make a spiral base at one end of the pipe cleaner. Make a spiral base at one end of the pipe cleaner.

    Decide how you would like to order your strips. In a random order or in a sequence to create a particular design pattern. I alternated between uncolored and colored strips.

    Slide each strip onto pipe cleaner - right side down. Alternate uncolored page with colored page, starting with the bottom hole. Slide each strip onto pipe cleaner - right side down. Alternate uncolored page with colored page, starting with the bottom hole.

    After all the strips are stacked by their bottom holes onto the pipe cleaner, feed the pipe cleaner through their top holes.

    Now weave the pipe cleaner through the top hole of each strip. Now weave the pipe cleaner through the top hole of each strip.

    You might have to bend your pipe cleaner above the spiral base in order for it to stand up straight. Repeat as necessary while you are fanning out each pumpkin strip, as described in the next step.

    From the side, slide your strips down until a nice arch forms. This angle will become your rounded pumpkin shape. From the side, slide your strips down until a nice arch forms. This angle will become your rounded pumpkin shape.

    Rework the pipe cleaner as necessary so it stands up on a tabletop as you are fanning out the strips making your pumpkin shape.

    Fan out each strip from the stack starting with the innermost strip. Fan out each strip from the stack starting with the innermost strip.

    After all the strips are fanned out, and you are satisfied with the pumpkin's look, curl the top of your pipe cleaner so it looks like a stem. Wrap your pipe cleaner around a pencil to get a great curlicue shape!

    After all the strips are fanned out, curl your pipe cleaner into a stem. After all the strips are fanned out, curl your pipe cleaner into a stem.

    Yeah, all done; transformation complete. Just think how much fun making paper pumpkins would be during your Thanksgiving celebration! Young and old(er) friends and family could be coloring pages and constructing paper pumpkins at the same time.

    Finished paper pumpkin! Adult coloring books can be used to make seasonal decor! Finished paper pumpkin! Adult coloring books can be used to make seasonal decor!

    Everyone's participation creates seasonal remembrances, tabletop decor, or make-and-take gifts to be carried home. Relax during the holidays, have fun and color!

    What other fun art projects will you do with your coloring book pages?


  • Jack-O-Lantern Dishcloth

    I love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday. I love all the decorations. I like to drive around and look at everyone else’s decorated yards. I leave my decorations up until the day after Day of the Dead. I was looking for something quick and easy project to do. Something that I can work on in and out of the car this week while waiting in the carpool line at school or while waiting on after school activities. I went through all of my Leisure Art Books and found this cute Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin dishcloth in a book called A Dishcloth a Month.

    I was just finishing tucking in all my ends when my friend asked me if it was a new coaster for our table at the new knit shop. I said I had not planned on it but why not. It is slightly big for a coaster but it is really cute idea for decorating a table. So I am in the process of making a few more for our knit/crochet table. I am even going to crochet some without the Jack-O-Lantern face. You just follow the pattern and as if you had changed your color from orange to black. My favorite part I will only have four ends to run in or tuck in. Whichever way you want say it. You can even use brown for the stem instead of the green. Since it is fall I can keep the ones without faces through Thanksgiving. It’s a win! Win! I hope that you have had as much fun with this Jack-O-Lantern pattern as I have. I used 100% cotton. I am going to check and see if Sugar n Cream has a variegated fall colored yarn for some of my solid pumpkins. I think that would be really cute.



  • Coloring a Little at a Time

    I'm coloring another page in Natural Wonders Color Art for Everyone.


    It's a little surprising to me that this page is from the same coloring book as this one:


    But I like that!  The different pictures allow for very different coloring styles.  Or just different moods.  Sometimes you want to color large floral patterns and big, bold leaves when you're playing around with natural wonders and sometimes you might feel like coloring in teeny tiny spaces and thinking about the little shifts in color you see on a feather.  I liked the big patches of blank space for my colored pencils last time, and I'm liking the small spaces to add little dots of color to this time.

    I'm enjoying myself so much, in fact, that I've been working on this page for nearly a week and a half--and I don't know when I'm going to finish! There's a lot here to keep me occupied, and I'm really in no hurry to finish it.  It's like a treat I save for myself to enjoy in small doses.


    This past weekend I colored a few more places with reds and yellows and blues.  I'm a little appalled at how far outside some lines I am getting, but I hope that coloring in these small spaces will help me build a little control.  Goodness knows my handwriting could use some help, and it's a fun way to 'work' on my skills.  I added more colors and details to the page while listening to my daughter chattering in the kitchen while she helped my husband bake some gingerbread.  She even took some breaks to help me!  See if you can spot her handiwork:


    She drew one of the squiggles as a smiley face just for me.  It was a pretty darn perfect moment with the coloring and the happy child and the familial baking.  But moments that good don't tend to last very long.  Which is fine because that's what makes them so special.  I know better than to try to make them last longer.  So after a nice spell of coloring, I stopped when my eyes got tired.  Coloring is kind of odd for me because it's so different from knitting or crocheting.  This isn't a present for anyone.  There's no need to finish this, and there's especially no need to finish this in a hurry.

    I'm going to keep this on hand, to color in little fits and starts whenever the mood strikes.  I think this is going to take me a while.  I'm excited about that.  006

  • Coloring Books, Coloring, and Colors: Oh my!

    Hi!  It's me, Jen.  I used to write posts for Leisure Arts for a couple of years, mostly about crocheting and knitting. Recently my buddy at Leisure Arts asked if I'd be interested in writing a few posts about their coloring books.  I was pretty tickled because it's nice to talk to you and because, what do you know, I already had one on hand to write about!


    Or in my hand.  Whatever. I had actually picked up Natural Wonders Color Art for Everyone a few weeks ago when I was Michaels.  I have some coloring books of geometric patterns that I've played with since I was a teenager, but I like the new adult coloring books I'm seeing pop up everywhere these days--they have small spaces to color and swirling lines and are generally patternless so you can work on them however you want.  Some of them are designed specifically for people who feel anxious and some are for people who just like the soothing repetition of moving their hands back and forth over the paper while they choose what colors they want set out together. There are days when I want to knit something and just don't know what.  So sometimes I just pull out my yarn and look at it.  Sometimes looking at the different textures and colors together gives me an idea for a new project, and sometimes it just makes me happy.  Coloring is like that for me as well.


    Coloring doesn't accomplish a whole lot, but I think that's kind of the point.  I started this page last week after mortifying myself at work in front of several different people in multiple ways.  After putting my daughter to bed, I shouted some things at my husband (mostly to let him know about the mortifying things I'd done. None of those things were his fault, but I couldn't stop myself from shouting), and then I flipped through the coloring book for a nice page to color.   I also went ahead and shouted at the guide at the front of the book offering up helpful advice about color wheels and tones.  There were some excellent points in there, but I was apparently in a mood to sass a coloring book about how I was a grown woman who could put clashing colors together if she chose to do so. That also doesn't accomplish a whole lot, but I was already on my way to feeling better.  After an hour or so, I was pretty happy with my fall leaves.



    I picked up this page again over the past weekend when my daughter had a nasty cold and I was stuck inside on one of the most beautiful fall weekends I've seen in quite some time.  The coloring eased my self-pity a little bit and kept me entertained while she napped.


    My final touch was to fill in the background with brown.  It just seemed like a good idea.  It was the only space left on the page and I still felt like coloring for a little while longer.



    Natural Wonders has coloring sheets for leaves, flowers, mushrooms, and some cute pages with birds and flowers.  There are even owls!  I think I'll probably try one of the bird pages before I get in a grouchy mood.  And I think I'll use markers next time.

  • Knit Hat

    I have been coloring in my Leisure Arts coloring books off and on all week and my favorite colors right now are neon iridescent colors. When I saw the Toybox Collection yarn called Candy at my local yarn shop called Yarn Kandy the yarn is 100% acrylic. I knew that I had to get it to knit a hat for a friend who runs very early in the morning.

    Beginner Friendly Knitting

    I know that she wears other iridescent clothing when she runs. But I wanted to knit her a hat to keep her ears warm, and something else so that she can be seen when it is still dark. Leisure Arts has neon iridescent colored yarns but it is a bulky yarn. You can use it but you will probably have to cast on less stitches and use a bigger size circular knitting needle.



    Finished Knit Hat CircleCircular Knitting a Hat

    My knitted hat pattern isn’t a written pattern. It could be written some place. I just haven’t seen it. Leisure Arts has a hat similar to the hat that I have knitted called Beginner-Friendly Knitting by Rita Weiss.  I just played with it until I got it right. I casted on 88 stitches on size 8 circular knitting needles, the first time I casted on 96 and it was way too big. I noticed this after I was 6 inches in and I had to rip it all out and start again. Joined in the round make sure not to twist. Going to start a rib stitch which is K2, P2 for an inch to inch and a half, but don’t forget your place marker to show were you joined. Then knit in the round until the hat is 6 inches. Decrease knit 6 knit 2 together all the way around to were your place marker is. When you start decreasing you are going to needle double point knitting needles. Knit the next row. Continue decreasing until you have 11 stitches left. I know that the photo has a hole I stopped at 22 stitches because my friend who this was for asked to. She wanted it so that hat could have a little ventilation. When you are done cut a 6 inch tail and with a darning needle weave the end through all the stitches on your double point. I always go around twice just to be safe. Tuck in your ends and you have a hat.

    Finished Knit Hat

    I hate to say it but Christmas is going to be here in a blink of an eye. School starts in a few days. Everyone needs a warm hat. Great for Christmas, birthday, or a just because I was thinking about you.

  • Bead Bracelet

    I got some new books from Leisure Arts. The book that I was most inspired by is the Easy DIY Jewelry Book 2. You know how much I like buttons. Well getting to play with beads to me is equally fun. I wish I had some silver peace signs like in the book's project, Peace Sign Bracelet.  It was the one that I really liked. I have wrapped beads, made earrings and wine charms as gifts but I rarely make things for myself. This is my first bracelet and I chose real pretty green glass beads, and a couple of green gemstones with silver beads on both sides. I usually give the things that I make away as birthday, Christmas, and just-because-it-made-me-think-of-you gifts. This bracelet would make a great gift for a friend or family member for any occasion.


    I wrapped my beads on an eye pin, but before you wrap, put on another eye pin to make a chain for your next set of beads to wrap. Continue until you have the desired length you want. I used my wrist and a friend’s wrist to measure so that it’s not too small or tight. I used two pairs of needle nose pliers, a very small set that I found at Hobby Lobby several years ago, and another pair that I got at my local hardware store along with my wire cutters. The only thing that I did not have in my bead box were clasps. I will have to pick up some tomorrow at my craft store. I will then use two jump rings which I call o – rings. Have fun playing with your beads. I know that I will be after I restock a few things.

  • I'm back!

    Hello friends!

    It's been a few weeks but I'm back and will be adding a new post to my hand piecing series tomorrow. Today I thought I'd tell you where I've been and a little bit more about myself.

    I've been...

    I'm high-fiving the world. I'm high-fiving the world.

    Finally! I graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Applied Design. As a non-traditional student with a family, I feel a little more like I crawled across the finish line then danced. All in all, though, it was a tremendous experience and I'm thrilled to take on the next chapter in my life.

    Some of you may be familiar with work I completed as a student. Anyone remember this post about the Arkansas Arts Center yarn bomb? That was me! Well, me and about a hundred volunteers. I was thinking I might do a post here with some tips and tricks for doing your own yarn bomb. Anyone interested?

    Me and my pièce de résistance! Me and my pièce de résistance!

    If you're interested in seeing more of my work you can go to my website

    In other news, I am recovering from the throat funk that's been going around. It left me plenty of time to plan my summer projects. Expect lots of posts about quilting and cross stitching this summer!

    Like I said, I'll be back tomorrow with the 3rd post in my paper piecing tutorials series. Be sure and check out the first 2 posts- just click on the photos!

    paper piecing_edited-1


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