A handy pouch!

My laptop is on the brink of death: sad but true.  It’s okay; I have a new (/reconditioned) laptop ready to step into the breach, but I’m not allowed to play with it just yet, because it’s my birthday quite soon.  No problem, I don’t mind waiting; but in the meantime, I really didn’t want to put my poor old ailling laptop under any more duress than necessary.  Cue a little device that the lovely Corey bought for me months ago and I duly ignored because I’m not really very into technology…  It’s mobile phone-sized, and will allow me to check my email while out & about.  Don’t need anything fancy, so now I’m in laptop preservation-mode, it’s perfect!  Only problem is, Corey had an identical one & smashed the screen of his within weeks.  Oops.  So having dug mine out of its (unopened) box this morning, I knew that I would also need to devise some form of protection for it.

Easy!  I remembered a little ‘handy pouch’ I made earlier this year, when I was still high on last year’s felt/fabric stocking success!  It didn’t turn out to be quite as handy as I had hoped, at the time, due to being just the wrong size for everything I could think of.  However with an extra fold of felt tucked inside for added protection, it turns out to be a perfect fit for the aforementioned email-checking device (I’m sure the device does lots of other clever things as well, but with the exception of a little web-browsing, I assure you all those other functionalities will be entirely under-utilised!).  Without further ado, here it is:

I loved the blue/brown paisley fabric when I acquired it & was determined to make something I could actually use with it – so I’m really happy now that I’ll be able to use & see it on a daily basis. 😀

I will definitely not be making multiple ‘handy pouches’ for the TangleStore, as sewing is very much a means to an end for me, and really not my favourite way to pass time.  But TangleClub members, watch out!  I actually remembered to take step-by-step pics as I was making the pouch, so I’m going to put together a tutorial for you (in the freebie archive) very soon (remember I am very much a novice at sewing, so it is very much a beginners’ project!).  I also thought of a potential good use for all the fabrics I’ve been stockpiling but never using – would anybody be interested in a ‘handy pouch’ kit?  I’m going to give it some thought…

TangleClub New Year Update

Happy New Year, everybody!

I’m sure everybody has been too busy with celebrations to notice that this month’s TangleClub Freebie is a day late, but it is now up and ready to access for all you lovely TangleClubbers.
It is actually not at all what I had intended to post this month, but over the New Year weekend, Corey and I re-discovered a card game which we invented several years ago (it’s very cool; more to come about that another time!), and that sent my train of thought in an entirely
different direction.

Thus, this month’s freebie is a set of printable playing cards (to use in conjunction with the 1000 Blank Cards site/game which I have blogged about previously) – or alternatively a set of mini notecards/enclosure cards; your choice!  The PDF includes 3 pages: Dandelion Smile cards as shown, optional lined backs, and a template sheet for you to design your own cards.

N.B. If you go for the notecard option, check back to the January 2011 freebie for matching Dandelion Smile mailing labels!

If you are not currently a member of the TangleClub but want to share the monthly freebie-ness,  simply spend £5 or more in the TangleStore or TangleStore UK & you will qualify for TangleClub Basic membership absolutely free!

TAB Project Update

It might seem as though I have forgotten about
The Achievement Badge Project since its launch, but I haven’t!  Although I must concede that I have definitely been running a little behind…
I have caught up, though, and have to say how very cool the latest batch of entries is, with achievements ranging from map-reading without getting lost to being accepted onto an Open University course at age 14 (wow, Adel Wilson – congratulations! – preview above right) to ‘not being perfect but being normal’. 🙂

The  Gallery  has been updated today (current total 11 entries) but is only available to those who have joined the project, so start thinking about what you have achieved this year – however minor or major – and design a badge to
reward yourself.  You deserve it!

The closing date for the TAB Project is December 31st, 2011.

Don’t forget, TangleClubbers can claim 1 free entry (see August Archive freebie), and downloadable entry forms for everybody else can be found on the
TAB Project page
.

Makeovers all round

As you may have already noticed 😉 I decided to go for another blog re-design to match the new Etsy header.  I liked the green of the old blog but I love that I could totally kraftify the background of this one – I feel much more at home here!  Still a few minor tweaks needed to finish off, but I’m definitely liking the new look.

I have also revised all the Etsy pricing into £ sterling so that I can stay on the right side of fluctuating exchange rates.  Previously, all prices in the TangleStore were in US$ even though I am in the UK – which obviously, now I come to think about it, did not really make a lot of sense!  The prices you see on Etsy from now on will be a conversion from £ sterling into whatever currency is local to you (according to your own Etsy settings), based on current exchange rates.  You may notice minor variance in price on one or two items, but I have kept things as close as possible to previous pricing, so differences should be minimal.

Long overdue…

Still away from home but happily with internet access, I took advantage of some ‘leisure’ time this morning to make some long overdue revisions to the TangleStore (hey, why did I never think of that portmanteau before?!) header.  The old tapestry header was relevant when the store first opened but has become less & less so, over time.  I thought a hint of TangleMail would be far more appropriate:

I’ve also breathed some life back into the TangleCrafts Folksy Store (or TangleStore UK, as it shall henceforth be known! 😉 ), which I have also neglected for far too long.  I will be adding more items over the next week or so, but there is a good representative selection available already.  The listings here are in £ sterling and only have a UK postage option, so the Etsy Store is still first port of call for international Tanglers, but UK friends now have the choice.  I’m still debating with myself whether or not to switch my Etsy listings to £ sterling currency, also (just a warning in case I decide to go for it & the prices you are used to seeing all suddenly alter slightly)…

Something different

It’s a long time since I’ve done any embroidery or design thereof, but recently, the urge has started twitching at me, again.  My charting program was a sacrifice I made for the greater good when I switched to my new laptop last year (because the new laptop does not have a disc drive, and my charting program was on disc) – but even so, in the last 2 weeks, I have managed to chart 3 different designs using a painstakingly longwinded method I devised using Open Office Draw.  It’s almost as painstaking as drawing it out by hand on graph paper, but slightly easier to amend errors & try out alternatives.  Anyway, I managed it!

This is the second design that I charted, but the first one that I stitched, as the first charted design is quite complex, and having not stitched anything for so long, I thought I would ease myself in gently!  This one is adapted from an illustration by Jay van Everen in a collection of Jugoslav fairy tales by Parker Fillmore (c. 1921).  The story is called ‘The Laughing Prince: the story of the boy who could talk nonsense’,  and the image is part of a larger illustration featuring different elements from the story (right).  I believe this section of the illustration relates to the this part of the story; “the dampness had made the millet grow so well that its tops now reached the sky” – but I may be wrong, so don’t quote me on that!  I just loved the weeping willow-esque shapes.  And the bird.  For some reason I seem to have been drawn to bird imagery more than usual, lately…

Anyway, definitely time to invest in a new charting program (downloadable, this time) and make life a bit easier for myself!  But I’ve surprised myself by enjoying the manual process, in the meantime.

Real faux postage!

I just received a packet in the post today.  Normally I would be disappointed to see it was stamped with one of the generic Royal Mail postage labels (as shown upper left) rather than ‘real’ postage stamps; but today’s generic label made me laugh – the label has been made to look like an enlarged version of a real 1st class stamp, right down to the Machin design profile of the queen and the serrated edges.  It’s real postage that looks like a real postage stamp, except that it’s a faux postage stamp – genius!

Maybe they have decided to try to lure stamp collectors into collecting labels instead – or probably as well!  To be honest, I really wouldn’t mind the generic labels so much at all if they were to start issuing them with interesting background designs, like this one.  I’ll have to keep an eye on this development.  I like. 😀

A quiet week?

Despite a lack of blogging activity here which may suggest the contrary, I have been busy busy busy all week!  Well, I took a week’s holiday from ‘real’ work – caught up with a friend, saw my mum & dad (my dad has been in China for the last 6 months or so, so that was an especial treat), and went on a day trip with Corey – the highlight of which was probably when he left his umbrella behind on the train there, but found it again on the train back!  But around these brief outings I have been working non-stop.  There are some new things very nearly ready to tell you about, but the most immediate, are 2 new zines (& something else a bit different), now available in my Etsy stores:

Contours cover shotThe first is ‘Contours’, my first art zine, which is all about doodling.  This is where my brief encounter with Zentangling led me.  I suddenly realised how the majority of the patterns I have designed as an adult all stem from one basic doodle that I used to doodle all the time.  The zine looks at how that doodle has emerged in the various crafts I have worked in, considers the possible origins of the doodle, and leaves lots of spaces for you to doodle away to your own heart’s content.

tiffanyacorns1As you can see from the photo, there are some extras included – hand-doodled bookmark to stitch, and a hand-doodled ‘fingerprint’ of lino to carve & print.  Inside the zine you will also find a 4-way Acorns cross stitch chart, Bobbin Along freeform bargello pattern, plus 4 postcards (2 printed, and 2 blank for you to doodle yourself) printed on gummed paper, freeform-bobbin-alongso that you can turn any piece of scrap card into a postcard, (these come with 4 postcard reverse labels which could also be used as envelope re-use labels, if you prefer).  Check out the TangleCrafts Etsy Store for more details.

Papertrail #2 cover shot Hot on the heels of Papertrail #1, you can now also find Papertrail #2.  Papertrail #2 is a zine full of questions and books and reading habits, with answers/opinions from me, Corey, and spaces for your own responses, too.  It’s all about books, and how we live with them.  Alongside everything else is a Papertrails ‘map’ of routes you can take from novel to novel, spaces to design your own book jackets, plus copy-&-cut bookplates & bookmarks.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, Papertrail #2 also includes a free membership pack for the Papertrail Reader’s Club!

The Papertrail Reader’s Club is there for everyone who loves to read.  The Basic Membership Pack includes:Club Package

  • 2 pre-gummed Ex Libris plates
  • 2 recommendation bookmarks left blank for you to personalise
  • and the Member Book:

The Papertrail Readers’ Club Book is a membership card and reader’s record book combined! It is a 20 page, staple-bound mini-booklet, printed on high quality recycled sugar papers. Each book will be personalised with your name and membership number, and date stamped with the start date of your membership. It includes spaces to list all the books you want to read alongside dates started & finished, and there are even pages to fill in with your own mini-reviews! Club Book

Each month, a different book is chosen as a feature title, with review printed inside the back cover.  Club members are eligible to submit their own reviews of the club titles which may earn them a free Papertrail zine!

If you buy any issue of Papertrail, you will receive free membership to the Reader’s Club, including the current month’s club review.  If you don’t want to buy the zine, you can still buy a one-off membership to the club with a Basic Membership Package.  And if you fill your record book quickly, or just want another, a Renewal Membership Package is available at a reduced price.

Told you I’d been busy ;-).  And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Nigel Peake

Peake MapsOn Sunday, I was very decadent and bought myself a new book.  It is only 24 pages long and cost £8.95, but it is so beautiful and enticing that it is absolutely, definitely worth every penny.  It’s not a craft book, or even fiction: it’s a book called ‘Maps’ by Nigel Peake.  It’s full of, well, maps; but not your ordinary, everyday atlas-type maps: these are out-of-the-ordinary, everyday, stylised, hand-drawn to the tiniest minutiae maps, filled with colour and pattern, and – well, they’re just awesome. Peake Maps 2See left for a couple of pages from inside this book.  There aren’t many pages in the book, but it’s not something you can just flip quickly through: you need to really study the pictures, to see which details have been picked up.

Peake Map 3I just stumbled upon this book as I was browsing the shelves – it’s very thin and there is not even any wording on the spine, so could easily have been missed, but that’s probably actually what made me notice it.  I was just mesmerised, as soon as I opened it.  The example to the right, here, is more representative of what I love about the amazing use of line, and pattern.  (The image shown is a print, but it does also appear in the book, ‘Sheds’ – I just didn’t want to break the spine of my book, to scan it!).  Slightly off-topic, but something to think about, I can totally imagine this kind of image converted into blackwork embroidery.  Hmm…

If you check out Nigel Peake’s blog, it’s obvious how the detail of the ordinary things we often just walk past without really seeing is being plucked from obscurity in his work.  It’s not that it is enlarged or prettified, but itjust makes you actually look at the detail, makes you aware, instead of being blind to it.  I love the photos on his blog.

There is also a website where you can actually flip through his publications, and see even more of his wonderful illustrations; then when you can’t take it any more, you can also buy prints and zines online.  Go and do it now.  I insist.

Zentangling

Corey is away for the weekend, so I am luxuriating in having a couple of decadent evenings to myself.  What am I up to?  Well, I’m about to make myself a cheese & pickle sandwich, and am otherwise having an evening off from ‘work’ and just browsing online.  That’s very rare!  And after I’ve made my sandwich, you know what else I might do?  I might actually switch off the laptop and read a novel for a couple of hours.  I’ve not done that for ages!  I know what you’re thinking: this girl’s life is just one long, endless party…  No?  Yeah, I know; it’s not the most exciting evening I’ve got lined up, but  I’m looking forward to it, anyway.

zentangleOh yes, nearly forgot the reason I stopped by here!  The reason was ‘Zentangles’.  I suspect, as with most things, I am way behind the times with this one, but just in case you’re in the dark like I was, it appears to be ‘doodling with intent’ (rather than in absentia) – hence the zen part of the name – and then (because they do look pretty cool) calling them art.  It’s not just the ‘tangle’ part of the name that attracts me (honest).  I had a flick through the gallery (see pic, right) at the official website, and a lot of the patterns just reminded me of the kind of doodles I actually do.  Therefore it didn’t strike me as something that would take an enormous leap for me to grasp the gist of.  And looking through the gallery, I also thought the black & white patterns would lend themselves well to relief printing.  I’m feeling slightly more confident in my lino-cutting skills these days, but drawing isn’t really my thing, and I hit a kind of stumbling block (no pun intended) in terms of new projects & design inspiration.  If I can get away with adapting my doodles, I will be very happy!

Now, the Zentangles website gives lots of background information about how great & therapeutic it can be for the soul, and all that kind of new age stuff, but it’s very thin in practical advice when it comes to getting started – mainly, I would guess, because they sell a $50 starter kit, and they want people to buy it, rather than think they don’t need it.  Personally, I would rather test out the principles of the concept before shelling out $50 on yes, very nice, high quality materials, but really not essential to the practice itself.  Having said that, the website does include a free online newsletter which gives clear guidance on ‘learning’ particular filling patterns, and where to find doodling inspiration etc.  But if, like me, you read through the website and can’t quite see how to get started, you might also appreciate these posts on Crazy Art Girl’s site, which demonstrate a beginner’s zentangle from start through to completion.  It really clarified the concept for me, anyway.

I bought a cool notebook from Bad Day Ben Designs on Etsy a few months back, with good thick quality paper pages measuring 2.5 x 3″ each – I think I might have just found the perfect use for it…!  I’ll let you know how my Zentangle explorations progress…

Oh, one more note ‘Zentangle’ is a trademark name, and I think refers to the method they use to teach the Zentangle doodling technique (hence $50 for starter pack).  However, you can also find references to similar stuff with a google search for the more general ‘zen doodle’.  There are ‘zen mandalas’ which are similar, too.