Fuzzy sweatpants.

Because I forgot to post about my weekend sewing yesterday, I’m going to squeeze it in before I say anything about the you-know-what. 

SO, I’ve been wanting a new pair of fuzzy lounge-around-the-house pants for a while now. My new Sew-U book conveniently includes a pattern for pants, but (unconveniently) the pattern is kind of complicated. Enter the good idea: make a simplified version of the pants out of stretchy fabric to a) avoid buying/creating a sweatpants pattern and b) see if the Built by Wendy pattern fits.

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For my fabric, I used some of the yellow sweatshirt fleece you might remember from my Christmas crafting (it’s incredibly soft, and I bought a lot of it on sale cheap). I was going to trim pockets, waistband, etc. with a vintage yellow print, but I could NOT get the bias binding to lie flat because the knit was so stretchy…and after ripping it out about four times, I scrapped the idea.

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Sans cute trim, I think the pants turned out pretty well.  I took out the fussy zipper/fly thing and used simple elastic instead. The fit is okay – they’re quite low-waisted in a way that might not be flattering (on me) as full-fledged pants. If I make them again, I will probably add another inch in height to the waistband.

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Tragically, I also hemmed them a little too short after *carefully* measuring the length needed to brush the tops of my feet but not get in the mud when I take the dog out. So they’re kinda more like capris than pants.  Garr.

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My absolute favorite part, which makes up for the shortness, is the back.  I kept the v-shaped waistband thingy that jeans always have and it looks really cute in knit. 

Because I was in a hurry to go start-to-finish last weekend, I broke one of the cardinal rules of sewing and did not wash my fabric first. As a result, I spread little clouds of yellow fuzz whenever I wear the new pants. At first I thought the dog was shedding strange clumps of hair, but upon closer inspection I discovered that I was the culprit. Oops. Hopefully they will de-lint a little after washing.

NOW, on to my more exciting news: Josh and I signed the lease for our new apartment last night! We forked over our rent and (enormous) damage deposit, got the keys, and can start moving in anytime! Aaaaaah!

We plan to transfer as much stuff as possible during Josh’s daily trips to Moscow, thereby reducing the stress of one big moving day. I have to say that moving has really bad connotations for me – one of the worst days of my life was when I had to move *literally* across the street and a few houses down. I hadn’t asked for much help (blessings upon the Robson family for showing up anyway) and carried lots and lots of stuff over by myself. And it was horribly hot and humid, so everything felt all sticky and gross. And the new renter started moving in before I was done moving out or had a chance to clean, which made me feel really guilty (even though she was early).  But this time will be nothing like that, right?

I know I should stop talking about the apartment before you’re sick of it, and you can’t get sick of it because I plan to take lots and lots of photos as we move in and fix it up. Therefore, I will only tell one last story. Our new apartment is coated in a semi-gloss layer of a strange greeny-almondy-white, and when we were looking at the place I assumed that things had to stay this way.  Putting a brave face toward the situation, I informed Josh that I didn’t even want to paint because I LIKE the white. Turns out that the landlord is actually pretty casual about painting (“just show me a paintchip first, and make sure it’s not bright green”). So I’m, um, making some plans to paint the dining room a nice light shade of brown. It will look sooooo much better, honey – just wait till you see it.

I’m in love.

With my husband, of course, but now I’m also in love with an apartment. I called about a few ads last weekend (no dogs, no dogs, and too expensive), finally hearing back from the last person on Sunday morning.  Kinda pricey, but allowed pets + great downtown Moscow location.  Josh and I went to see the apartment last night with the mutual understanding that we had to REALLY love it in order to consider moving there.  After about a minute of poking around, we were hooked.

Amenities include:

– ginormous living room

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– dining room
– big windows that let in plenty of LIGHT!
– built-in storage

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– kitchen with 2x current cupboard capacity
– backyard with patio for summer barbecues
– small room with built-in shelves that I can use as a craftroom (and someday a baby’s room)

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– rent is steep but includes heat, making it comparable to our current little (overpriced) pad 

Okay, you probably don’t care about all this stuff. But I have been dreaming since, oh, last March about our next apartment and cannot believe that this might be it. We haven’t signed the lease yet (tonight, Lord willing!), but the landlords are Christians and really, really nice and we doubt that they’ll pull a fast one on us. 

One of the ironies here is that I doubt we would have even looked at this place if not for the fact that they allow dogs. Having a dog is a huge hassle when it comes to finding housing around here – I think that 90% of the apartments don’t allow pets and the other 10% smell strongly like cats.  (I don’t dislike cats, but lots of friends + family are very allergic and that really cuts down on our guest list. ) I had begun to glare at our little pooch in the evenings and tell her how difficult she was making our lives.  You know that you’re messing everything up, right? No response.  No, Bean, I mean it – if we didn’t have you, we could live in all sorts of cute, affordable apartments. Liquid brown eyes blink. I mean, we feed you and walk you and pick up your poop and sometimes I think that all you do is make our lives MORE difficult. Casually scratches ear with paw and resumes sleeping. 

I apologized last night and gave her a nice little tummy rub to make up for my badmouthing.

Another irony (and I have to stop after this one) is that this apartment is far nicer than any of the other ones that I have prayed for in the last few months.  I’m not a very patient person, and each time I saw a great place for rent I was sure that it was The Right One. But God, in his kindness, did not give me what I asked for because he had something better.

Potential Paula-lives-in-Idaho-for-the-first-time-in-her-life date: late February.

Printing problems.

Went to pick up my new birdy cards today, only to find out that the printer royally screwed them up + charged me extra. I couldn’t argue because I said I didn’t need to see a proof, seeing as they were so perfect the last time. Stupid, stupid, stupid.  So now I’ve got unusable cards that I couldn’t really afford to have printed in the first place. Beginning to think that stationary is not for me.

Hope your weekend is better than my Friday.

Weird.

Okay, six weird things about me (courtesy of Lauren).

1. My brain freezes when I’m asked to make a list.  You can ask me the same question in another way and I’ll be able to answer, but if you ask me for a list – especially one in order of preference – I get really flustered.

2. If I allow myself to think about home decor around bedtime, I can kiss at least an hour of sleep goodbye.  I will sit there for ages picking out paint color, rugs, furniture, wall hangings, etc. for an apartment that usually a) doesn’t exist or b) ends up falling through.

3. I have a small dog named Sabina, but I/we only call her that about 5% of the time. Nicknames currently on rotation include The Bean, Beanly, Pooper, Pooper-Duper, Howler, the Bovine Squirrel, and (Josh’s favorite) Grubby Sniffles.

4.  When I was in 6th grade, I really wanted to be a herpetologist and travel around the world catching exotic snakes.  I kept several pet garter snakes, one of which I trained to eat live goldfish out of my hand (I held the poor little fishies by the tail).  I now find this rather revolting.

5.  The reason I had garter snakes and not boa constrictors is that I also kept mice.  I had lots and lots of pretty pet mice that died very easily (the animal graveyard scene in Garden State could have been based on my family).  Because I was also obsessed with Lord of the Rings, my mice had names like Galadriel, Arwen, and Elbereth. 

6. I have a really hard time cutting up raw meat.  I’m not a vegetarian, but – probably because of all the pets I’ve had – cutting into slippery raw chicken just about does me in. 

I’m tagging: Josh, Tim, Marian, Mackenzie, Maureen Halliday (are you out there?), and Laura (if you happen to read this).

Now that that’s done (notice that I kept all the really embarrassing stuff to myself), I can explain that I spent a couple of hours formatting stuff in Photoshop last night instead of crafting – I want to have some new birdy cards printed so I can replenish the supply at Ball & Cross.  Since I won’t have any new photos for a bit, I thought I might try to organize my categories a little better and add some links.  Do you like the random Flickr photos?  Sometimes I think they’re really pretty, but other times I find pics of people with little or no clothing.  On my blog.  Hmm.

A good idea gone eh.

A good friend’s birthday was last weekend, so I decided (of course) to make her something.  At first I wanted to sew a purse, but a girl can really only use so many purses.  Around that time, I came across a blog tutorial for making simple decoupaged bracelets and decided that would be fun, except that I have more fabric than paper scraps.  So then I thought, Aha!, I will make some spiffy fabric covered bracelets and write a little tutorial about it. 

To make a long story short, I proceeded to make said bracelets (taking copious photographs along the way), only to discover that they didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. But, because I have all the photos, I’ve decided to post them anyway so that you can give me good ideas about what to do differently.

Tutorial for Fabric Covered Bracelets

1. Find some wide plastic bracelets (not as easy as it sounds!) and cut strips of fabric that are long enough to wrap around the bracelet +  1 inch for your seam allowance.  The fabric strips should be wide enough to wrap around the flat part of the bracelet and extend at least 1/4 inch underneath.

Note: it’s a good idea to cut the strips on the bias so that the fabric is as stretchy as possible.

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2. Sew a gathering stitch down both of the long sides of the fabric, and then sew the short ends together to form a circle.  Press the ends apart so the seam is flat.

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3. Fit the circle over your bracelet and check how it fits.  Ideally, the fabric is as tight as possible, because this will leave you with less gathering on the inside.  Adjust seams if necessary.

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4. Pull the gathering stitches so that the fabric wraps around the wide part of the bracelet and all the loose edges are all inside. 

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5. Using a hot glue gun, carefully glue the edges to the underside of the bracelet. Try not to allow big globs of glue to cool because you will be able to feel them through the bracelet’s lining (this is where I had most of my problems).  Oh, and be real careful if you’re pressing the edges down with your fingers…I kinda burnt myself, so I recommend using a butterknife.

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Ending One: Ribbon inside 

6a. Hot glue a piece of ribbon or another piece of fabric to the inside of the bracelet, covering the gathered fabric.

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If your lining is smooth and you’re happy with the way the bracelet looks, you can stop at 6a.  I found that one of my bracelets (the one made with the stretchiest fabric) looked okay, but the other ones were really bumpy inside.  The only thing I had that was stiff enough to cover the bumps was some cardstock, but it left a big gap on the edges.  I added the piping, which helped, but then I didn’t like having plain paper next to my skin. I wanted to experiment with a shiny finish anyhow, hence the acrylic.  

Ending Two: Cardstock + piping inside, acrylic sealer 

6b.  Cut a piece of cardstock to wrap around the inside of the bracelet, plus piping or another kind of trim to fill the gaps around the edges.  Hot glue to the bracelet.

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6c.  Coat the bracelet with an acrylic sealer (I had a jar of Utrecht Acrylic Gloss Medium sitting around, so I used that).  Leave a little part of the inside dry so you can hang it over something – I propped a wooden spoon on two glasses –  while it dries.  Repeat 3 to 4 times, leaving a different part dry each time so that the entire bracelet is sealed and shiny.

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7. Happily wear your new bracelet or give it to someone else who will.

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Like I said, if you have any suggestions for how to improve this process, please let me know!  In the future, I think I’ll choose loosely-woven fabrics and stop with the ribbon lining (I think the fabric + piping made them a little clunky), but the shiny finish is kind of nice.

Lauren, I’m out of time so I’ll post my 6 weird things tomorrow.  I also need an extra day to think (not that I don’t have anything to say, I just don’t know what other people consider weird).

A new shirt.

First off, thanks to all the people who’ve made encouraging comments about the skirt + cards.   I really, really appreciate the feedback.  Card ideas are still floating around in the air, and I really do plan to start an Etsy shop one of these days – but not until work dies down in March or April.  Speaking of which, I was going to post about my new shirt on Friday (seeing as I finished it Thursday night for that express purpose), but work got in the way.  I will be one very happy program coordinator when the last visiting students have visited, the last acceptance letters have been received, the last rejection letters have been sent out, and fall 2007 recruitment is OVER. 

For my first “real” shirt-sewing experience (unless mom remembers otherwise), I picked a Simplicity/Built by Wendy pattern that I thought looked cute and kinda simple.  Wrong-o.  It’s probably not hard for an accomplished sewer, but there were plenty of tricky bits (little gathers, finished edges, facing, etc.) that required some patience + repeat sewing.

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*Sorry that the colors are terrible again.  It’s a huge pain to try to adjust five photos so that the colors match and are realistic, and the yellow/red tint is very persistant.  The green fabric is a lot cuter than it looks!

**The shirt also fits better than it looks here – the neck area is flatter if/when I finally manage to add the button at the back.

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I further complicated things by deciding that the short sleevelets shown on the pattern cover didn’t go with the rather fall/winter colors of the shirt, so I chose the other sleeve pattern, made them a little shorter, and added the fabric band at the bottom.

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If you make this shirt, I really advise making the bias neckline strip (and sleeve edging, if you add it) a lot wider than the pattern shows.  I don’t know why patterns include instructions like “fold fabric 1/4 in. back and press” instead of giving you a bigger piece of fabric and a bigger fold.  Have you ever tried to press a perfect 1/4 inch fold without singeing your fingers off??

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Another modification was to take out the ties at the back of the neck (which are always so bulky under a sweater) and add a button closure.  Well, a planned button closure.  I really wanted to wear my new creation last Friday but was too tired to change anything on Thursday night so I wore it the first time buttonless.

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The final change I made to the pattern was to add ties on the back.  The shirt is quite loose, in a way that looks (on me at least) a little more Liz Lange than Liz Claiborne.  Okay, that’s a bad comparison, so let’s just say it would work well as a maternity shirt…and that’s not really the look I’m going for at the moment.  The ties help, but it’s still pretty roomy around the midsection (I think it got a few “is she or isn’t she” looks on Friday).  Garr.  Wearing a sweater kind of helps, but then you can’t see the results of my hours of sewing.  So after all that, I’ve decided that if I make the pattern again, I will probably a) choose the dress version, so I can add the belt/tie, or 2) be pregnant and making a genuine maternity shirt.

Also, if you’re interested in seeing real-life versions of other Built by Wendy/Sew-U patterns, this girl does a really good job.  I especially like this and this.  She even made a really cute red version of the Amy Butler kimono robe!

Coming tomorrow: a tutorial for making fabric bracelets, the other project of last week/weekend.

Thinking about cards.

I forgot to mention that I had a great visit with Kristin last weekend where we talked a lot about cards.  In keeping with my new-found determination to set reasonable goals, I’m going to try to come up with a packet by early April that contains some new samples of my handprinted cards, some laserprinted cards, and a nice little promotional brochure (like, oh, another iPhoto book).  Kristin will send the stuff to the card rep she works for, and we’ll see what happens from there.  (A shameless plug: along with being incredibly nice, Kristin has fabulous taste – if you’re local and you haven’t checked out her card table at the Ball & Cross yet, you should.  She’s got lots of really good letterpress stationary.)

As for the new samples, I have decided that – unless people are willing to pay $3.50-4.00 a card – it’s not worth the time + materials + stress to make more of the fabric cards.  They sold discouragingly poorly at the craft fairs and around town; people liked them, but they didn’t want to buy ’em.  This may be a product of the location (i.e. people around here don’t have a lot of cash), but it’s been enough to make me look for a simpler, cheaper alternative.  I really like look of the patterned background with a figure on top, so it occured to me that I could print my own background with a fabric-y design instead of going through the extensive buying/ washing/ ironing/ interfacing/ cutting/ sewing process that real fabric requires.  Voila! 

 I started some sketches for the new cards last weekend, beginning with the background patterns. 

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I almost never create purely decorative designs, so this is kind of a challenge for me (these are all starting thumbnails and have a long way to go).  I have much more sympathy for fabric designers now – it’s hard to come up with something detailed-but-not-too-detailed, recognizable-but-not-distracting, organic-but-repetitive, etc.

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I think that, after settling on 3-4 patterns, I’m going to create the design in Illustrator so I can control my curves.  Then I’ll transfer the pattern to my rubber block and cut it, which will automatically add a lot of little imperfections to counteract the too-perfect vector art.

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I’ve also got a new print idea that I really want to try out: a few side silhouettes of children that I can print in black or dark brown over a light pattern.  I’ve noticed that silhouettes are pretty popular at the moment, perhaps because they mix modern and antique.  The flat block of color with detailed edges is also nicely conducive to printing, and I think it will stand out on a wider variety of backgrounds than the birds, which can be a little too complex sometimes.

On an entirely unrelated note, I haven’t been feeling that great this morning and was dreading the next four hours of work.  But advil +  diet Coke + last night’s night’s leftover pad Thai + “Billie Jean” on the iPod = almost as good as new.  Why does 80s music make me so happy?  I think I’m going to listen to all our Prince records next.

A new skirt.

Sorry about the silence – I had a touch of the flu yesterday.  I wasn’t feeling great on Monday either, but I managed to distract myself by finishing the new skirt (I find working on a project vastly preferable to sitting around contemplating my aches and pains).  Here it is in front of the ol’ shower curtain.

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About the fabric: I knew I wanted to use up the rest of the linen, but I decided at the last minute to save the green print for a nice spring top and came back from JoAnn’s with a piece of blue and brown vintage-y quilt fabric.  There’s a really nice quilt fabric & yarn store in Moscow (the Needle Nook) which has a collection of vintage reprints that are really, really cute.  Unfortunately, due to the nature of small h0metown businesses vs. giant corporations, the Needle Nook fabric is all $8/yard and the stuff at JoAnn’s was $2.50/yard.  When you do the broke-newlywed-mostlysingleincome math, you get…the giant corporation.  Sigh.

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About the pattern: there wasn’t one.  Since Sew U is supposed to contain 2 basic skirt patterns, I was unwilling to invest in another one right before the book arrives.  Soooo, I flattened out an old Banana Republic skirt that fits pretty well, laid it on top of my fabric, and started snipping.  Surprisingly, the waistband and panels fit together pretty well and the overall affect is not bad (sorry I don’t have a full pic).  Some of the fit problems with the original skirt have been preserved (duh) and it would have save me some ripping out if I’d had instructions, but if I can do this without ever having sewn a skirt before then you probably can, too.

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I ended up handsewing the zipper and pockets, which wasn’t really ideal.  I haven’t gotten the hang of the zipper-foot thingy on my sewing machine, and after trying to sew it four times with the regular foot I gave up and opted for control.  The pockets were also hard to machine sew because my Singer believes that it is a Thoroughbred and that all sewing should be done fast.  I am trying to convince it that you don’t always need to be the racehorse; sometimes it’s nice to be the fat pony that pulls the cart with the kids in it.  But until I find a way to change this (does anyone know if a machine’s sewing speed is manually adjustable??) I have resigned myself to speady but unsteady seams.

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Finally, the hem was a cop-out.  I am afraid of curved hems and wasn’t sure that I could make the blue fabric perfectly even anyway.   So, I cut a long strip with my rotary cutter, did a flat hem on one side, and gathered it at the top.  It’s a little hard to see, but the gathering is done in little bunches that supposedly match the style of the pockets.

After spending a lot of time and energy making the skirt, I had a ridiculous little twinge this morning as to whether or not it would be painfully obvious that I was wearing something rather unprofessionally made.  But I’ve been at work all morning without comments (“That’s cute – did you, um, make it yourself?”), so I think I might be safe for now.

It’s cold.

Today is very, very cold.  I walked to work for the first time all week and had the sense to put on two pairs of gloves, a scarf, and a sadly mis-coordinated warm hat (you know it’s cold when my scarf and hat clash).  The grocery store billboard said it was -7, but McDonald’s said 0.  My nose agreed with the grocery store.

Strange phenomenon of the day: out of the corner of my eye, I could see that the piece of hair sticking out from under my hat was frosty.  At first I thought it must have been wet when I left the house, but then I realized that the moisture from my breath was settling on my hair and freezing.

Still no crafts to show – my plans to paint last night were pleasantly spoiled by my husband, who saw my last post and decided I needed a little date.  (Anything I have to say about how great, sensitive, caring, etc. he is will probably just sound cheesy, so I’ll refrain. Mostly.) After dinner, we stopped by good ol’ Ross and I found two cute dresses for $3.50 each.  That’s cheaper than the Goodwill, people.  One of them is a simple wool-esque plaid shift that’s just the sort of thing I would try to sew for myself – the fact that it’s possible to find the occasional great bargain keeps me from sewing a lot of stuff, because it would have take me a lot more than $3.5o worth of fabric to make that dress.  That said, my weekend plans still include working on a skirt made with the leftover linen and the green fabric with red tulips from this post.

I do have a couple of photos to share of some of old crafts in action, though, courtesy of the lovely Katy Cummings.  I sent her two little hairclips before Christmas and they look adorable in her daughter Caddy’s hair.

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There’s something really special about seeing someone else use something you’ve made, especially when it’s in a casual setting and you know they didn’t think Oh gosh, Paula’s coming over so I’d better pull out all that junk she made me and try to look like I wear it.  Mom told me last night that she’s been using my knitting bag, which promptly filled me with warm fuzzies.  Does anyone else feel that way about their artsy-craftsy stuff?

Back to the cold, my office has one little window but I can feel it radiating freezingness.  I’ve had two cups of blueberry herbal tea today, but I think I can use another…my fingers are almost too cold to type.

Enjoy your long weekend!

A little sad.

I don’t know why I feel a little sad today, but I do.  The morning began well when I took the dog outside and found that snow was blowing everywhere.  I stood under the balcony overhang and tried to follow a single snowflake as it was pushed and pulled by the wind.  It sounds trite, but the flake looked so much like it was dancing its way from the sky to the ground.  And then I had to go to work.

Okay, maybe I do know why I feel sad (besides the Jesse Sykes on the iPod).  Work kind of gets me down during the application season.  I can’t go into detail, but it’s hard to read letters from students who really want to get into my program and probably won’t.  There are only so many positions, and there are a LOT of applicants.  Some of them are so sweet and have invested so much in their application materials and I hate knowing that they’ll be disappointed in the end.  Today I was given a small gift by someone who (I’m sure) really couldn’t afford it, and it almost made me cry.  Why are the less afluent cultures usually the more generous ones?

I’ve been wishing a lot lately that I had more time for art, but I’m not entirely sure what I’d draw if I did.  Sometimes I give myself the little pep talk about needing to promote my illustration more, but then I have the huge problem of deciding which style to promote.  My work at RISD fell into at least 3 or 4 different styles that make strange bedfellows.  I’m not sure that I’m ready to ditch 3 of them and settle for 1…and which 1?  I’m meeting with the lovely founder of The Magnolia Paperie this Saturday to talk about cards, and I’m hoping that she can give me a gentle nudge toward a single style that’s attractive, marketable, and enjoyable for me to work in.

Okay, because I said I want to draw more and because I used to have a curious habit of trying to draw my memories, I’m going to post a quick sketch of my memory of this morning.  In this memory, I am standing in our apartment courtyard wearing my husband’s black peacoat and watching my little dog happily inhale puffs of snow.  I wish there was a good way to show snow with pencil; this might have to become a gouache painting someday (vs. a pencil drawing with no composition to speak of).

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Sorry that this post has been so disjointed (and with so many words and so few pictures!).  I’m hoping to be productive over the upcoming three-day weekend, especially since it’s the last university holiday until Memorial Day.  As in May 28.