Archive for the ‘crafting’ Category

Things have been relatively uneventful at Chez Schnell since we returned from our week in Oregon – we fell back into our regular routine pretty smoothly and picked up right where we left off at work and daycare.  I wouldn’t necessarily say we came home rested, as Juliette missed the vacation memo about sleeping in and whiling away the afternoons with a good book, but I did come back with a burst of productive energy.  I’ve been hitting my task list hard this past couple of weeks, declaring August “get ‘er done month!”

Most significantly, after nine years of procrastination, we have a wedding album!  I spent a weekend combing through all 1700 of our wedding photos, pulling out and editing my favorites.  The album came in the mail a couple of days ago, and I’m thrilled with it.  We don’t have top-notch pictures of our special day, but this book definitely captures the most important moments and people.  CHECK.

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After three years of lamenting the state of our water-marked dining room table, we borrowed a disc sander from a friend and I went to town on my first furniture refinishing project.  I put the final coat of polyurethane on it tonight and, with the exception of one gut-wrenching spot where I sanded through the veneer, it looks pretty good.   Much improved, at least. The dining room makeover that I started back in April is nearly complete!

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I also cleaned out our closets and took four bags of clothes to Goodwill, got Juliette’s baby book up-to-date, purged my iPhone photo library, and picked enough blackberries to make a damn good pie (super-important stuff).  Phew!  I haven’t been this productive since that final burst of nesting momentum I felt when I was eight months pregnant (no, I’m not pregnant!  had you wondering, though, huh?).

Admittedly, I think I’m addicted to that rush of check-marking adrenaline – I’ve recently been falling asleep and waking up with nothing but to-do’s on the brain.  Thankfully, Juliette is quick to remind me that all work and no play just ain’t gonna fly, so we’ve had a couple of good romps at the playground and took a very satisfying dip in Lake Washington this evening.  Thanks, Jules, for keeping my neuroses in check.  Now go clean your room.

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I felt the art itch last week and pulled out my nail polish and paper scraps during Jules’ afternoon nap for a quick project.  This marbling technique is super-fast and easy.  Results are unpredictable and a little hard to control, but that’s part of the fun.

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You can check out a full tutorial here.  A couple of tips:  I had better luck layering colors on top of one another in multiple “dips” (like the pink and gold image above), rather than trying to swirl colors together in the water.  I tried several different kinds of paper and found that anything too absorbent didn’t work well – my best results were with watercolor paper.

I’ve already used a couple of these for recent special occasions, adding doodles or bits of collage for extra personalization.  Art itch scratched, for now!

I am still plugging away at that lovely loop scarf I started back in 2012.  It’s been slow goin’ – I’ve knitted through an entire season of House of Cards and still have quite a ways to go.  So I set that pattern aside (again) for a more instantly gratifying project and whipped up the simplest scarf ever, in less time than it takes to watch the latest episode of New Girl.

Most people are surprised to learn that I went through a wannabe skater phase in my early teens, but it’s true.  When I was a freshman in high school, I plastered my binders with Sub Pop stickers and dressed in men’s jeans that were far too large for me and second hand t-shirts bearing random logos like “Mid-Eastern Parachute Association, 1978”.  My friend Megan and I would head to Salvation Army after school and spend hours scouring the racks in search of the perfectly ironic t-shirt; the more obscure the image or text, the older the date on the logo, the better.  I’ve hung on to a number of these gems over the years, mostly for sentimental reasons, as they’re hardly even suitable for a workout anymore.  In a wave of naptime inspiration last week, I decided to pull up a tutorial I pinned awhile ago and breathe new life in these ratty old T’s.

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Take a knit cotton shirt without side seams and cut horizontally below the armpits and above the hem.

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Make snip marks across one edge, spaced about 1 inch apart.

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Cut along the snip marks to the other side.  Leave about 1 inch of uncut area along that edge.

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Give each strand a tug to curl in the edges, and voila!  You have yourself a 10-minute scarf.

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You can use a piece of the hem remnant to gather and tie the scarf at the uncut portion (at the back of the neck), but this isn’t necessary.  I like it to lay a little flatter, so I opted to skip this step.

Double or triple up if you want a little extra bulk (I’m wearing three separate scarves below).  And pair with a preppy black blazer if you really want to dismay your former grunge-loving self…

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Juliette has been making good progress in the art of napping well, which has left me with some decent chunks of time to fill in the morning and afternoon.  These longer naps are well-timed (as if there’s a bad time for longer naps), since I’ve recently been feeling the itch to start making stuff again, to pick up my knitting needles and think about my next print project and flex my creative muscles.  Knowing that Juliette’s sleep schedule can turn on a dime, that she might decide tomorrow that 35-minute naps are back in fashion, I decided to start with something small.  I printed out the pattern for this cute stuffed bunny and cranked it out in a couple of hours, just in time to gift it to the baby for Valentines Day.

His head is a little misshapen, and one arm is a little higher than the other, but he’s still pretty cute, and Juliette has been happily cuddling (errrr…devouring) him all weekend.

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Next up: time to finish the scarf I’ve had on my knitting needles since 2012!

Three or four months ago, I started thinking about a blog redesign – Little Black Journal is now over two years old, and has been in need of a little refresh for awhile now.  For any of you readers that follow me via Google Reader and haven’t been to the site in awhile, this is LBJ, circa yesterday:

As I was laid up on the couch last night with a mild case of the cold flu, motivation took the place of procrastination, and I spent several hours tracking down a decent template, tweaking the heck out of the one that came closest to my ideal, redesigning my header, and testing it all out on the beta site that my uber-techy husband set up for me.  And now…Voila!  I’m pretty happy with the direction I’m moving in – the new site seems cleaner, fresher, and allows for larger photos than my old layout could support.  The header is also a great place for me to ‘showcase’ some of latest artwork and will be updated periodically.  Also, FYI, I have started linking my photos to my Flickr page, so if you want a larger-format photo, just click on the image in the body of my blog.

I’m still fiddling around with a couple of minor things – fonts, text color, margins, etc., but I’m gettin’ there.  Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment if something seems funky – I am by no means a web designer or graphic guru, so feedback is always welcome (I just spent a couple minutes opening my blog on 5 different web browsers and it looks different on every single one – I feel your pain, J!).

It’s an improvement, though, no?

I was so proud of my 2009 homemade calendar, but in the end, doing a drawing or painting for each month got to be too much, and so November and December were never even completed (meaning that according to the calendar, it was October in our house for three months).  But I liked the idea of personalizing a calendar, so this year I took a less labor-intensive route and worked with photos I’ve taken over the previous year.  Each month in our 2010 calendar holds a photo that was taken during the same month in 2009.  I like it – the whole calendar turns into a nice little trip down memory lane.  March holds a picture of our trip to Paris, June reminds us of our hike up Little Si, and November is captured with a photo of our annual trip to Minnesota.  It took a few hours to sort, print, and trim all the photos, but it was worth the effort, and it’s nice to have the whole thing done and ready to flip to with the changing of each month.  Also nice to find that I had at least one print-worthy photo from each month of the year – I’ll work on keeping with that rhythm for the year to come.

I didn’t make it out to buy our 2009 calendar before we began our January shopping fast, and so I was faced with creating my own solution.  A little Excel magic, a frustrating bout with our printer, some doodling with ink and paint, and voila!  It’s nice to have something that is completely personalized – I did the month names in French as a little vocab lesson for Shane, and the graphics for each month are tied to an anticipated event or a mood (hence the simplicity of the graphic for frugal January and the Eiffel Tower doodle for the month of March).  It’s no Nikki McClure calendar (which served us well in 2008), but I’m pretty happy with the results.  Another tribute to “making do” with the resources we have at hand.