Knitography!

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Well hello everyone! How the hell are ya?

Coloring!

So I haven’t updated since April, and since then I’ve been able to meet up with friends, hang out with my sister, and eat in a few restaurants with Doug. Hallelujah! Except oh wait – this is Texas, after all, and our super-low vaccination rate means the Delta variant of COVID-19 is on the rise in a major way, and Doug and I are back into quarantine mode. I’ll be damned if after committing to avoiding this stupid virus for a year I’m going to turn around and get COVID, even if it most likely wouldn’t be in some serious form since I’m vaccinated, because a bunch of people refuse to do their part and just take the damn shot already. And yes, I have family members and friends who refuse to get vaccinated, and they are all absolutely on my shit list. There’s no way in hell our governor is going to mandate masks, social distancing, or vaccines at this point, so if we’re going to stay healthy AND do our part not to spread the virus (since vaccinated people can carry it asymptomatically) we’re going to stay home. Again. Sigh.

Knitting!

But hey, I did this whole stay-at-home thing for like 14 months already, so I’m good to go. I’m still knitting a LOT, and although I still have much to learn I’ve managed to knit a few decent scarves so far. My plan was to keep knitting scarves until I had several more advanced stitch patterns down – my first full scarf was a basic garter stitch (and that one was a bitch because I bought a light weight yarn that was hard for a newbie like me to work with), then a seed stitch, and then a rib stitch. I tried stockinette with a border but the damn thing still curled up, so I don’t know what I did wrong there.

Check out my fancy multi-colored knitting needle!

I was going to move on to a basket stitch when I got the idea to learn how to knit roses – and now I am obsessed. My goal is to knit a shit-ton of roses together to make a blanket, but that’s going to take a while, so in the meantime I thought I could at least get enough made to use in photos. Even that was going to take awhile, so I got the bright idea to just use photoshop to pretend like I’d made a shit-ton of roses. Problem solved!

This was done with only three different roses

I just snapped a photo of myself, then stood in the same exact spot and stuck a knitted rose on a knitting needle and held the thing up in all the different positions I wanted it to be, and then layered them all on to the original photo.

Yep-more roses

These little roses I turned into tea light holders, and they sit in a little silver platter on my office table. I’m pretty pleased with them! I’m currently learning to knit leaves I can add to my roses, but that involves both increasing and decreasing stitches, which is a new skill for me, so I have so far successfully knitted — one. I have a long way to go folks. But thanks to the Delta variant and a plethora of stubborn Southerners who won’t get vaccinated, I have plenty of time now!

*And yes, I realize many, many people cannot get vaccinated for various reasons. I do not fault those people one bit. In fact, the high risk of COVID to people who cannot get vaccinated make me fault the ones who could get it but won’t EVEN MORE.

This was done with one rose

Anyway, I’m enjoying both the knitting AND how I am finding ways to incorporate it into my photography – or knitography, as I have taken to calling it. I feel like there is loads of potential here to take both activities in some fun new directions.

This is one scarf I made that is half white and half yellow – I just layered several different shots of me throwing it around into one photo.

Aside from this, my summer has been light. I have put on some weight again, and tried to taper off my Lexapro since I dropped 20 pounds the last time I stopped taking it, but emotionally I couldn’t handle it. I finally realized it was ridiculous to put myself through the wringer mentally to lose a few pounds, so I went back on it and am trying to get the weight down without having to lose my peace of mind in the process. It ain’t easy, but at this point I have at least stopped the weight gain, which was really starting to climb. Haven’t lost any yet, but am no longer putting it on, so that’s a start.

Penny!

Our old girl Penny had a rough June. She has vestibular disease, which is common in old dogs. It’s essentially when small blood vessels burst in the inner ear, and the symptoms can be scary because they mimic a stroke, but vestibular is much less serious in the long run as dogs generally recover from them 100%. Penny has had three vestibular “events’ as we call them, where she gets major vertigo and struggles to walk and stand. Initially she also gets so nauseous that she throws up, but now that we’ve dealt with this before we have medication on hand that helps her with both the dizziness and the nausea. Mid-June, she had another bout of this; she was lying down on a beanbag chair when all of a sudden she rolled off it and started shaking her head around. We knew right away what it was, and tried to get medicine in her before she threw it up. It was unpleasant night as she couldn’t walk well enough to go outside, so she peed and pooped in her dog bed for about 24 hours before things kicked in enough for her to be able to walk with our assistance.

Dog harness

We bought a harness like the one pictured above, and it was a real lifesaver once Penny regained enough balance to be able to walk outside. She was still terribly dizzy, but she COULD walk, and with this harness we were able to help her keep her balance. Her recovery took a while this time – it’s been a little over a month now and it’s just been in the past few days that she’s been completely back to normal. We still keep the back harness on her all day and use it when she goes out, as her back leg strength still isn’t as good as it used to be and it allows us to help her stay upright when she goes to the bathroom. But she’s finally back to walking around the house on her own, and even being able to sleep on the bed with us again – although she still needs help with the stairs that get her up there. For the first three weeks, when she couldn’t get up on the bed, I actually slept on the floor in my office right next to her, which was not good for my back let me tell you, but it was good for my heart. After losing Sprocket in December, we are both even more sensitive towards any pet that gets sick right now. Even after so much time has passed, we still miss that old boy something terrible.

RIP Sprocket. We miss you!

That’s all for now, although I do have a bit more Knitography to process. So maybe we’ll be speaking again soon!

Knitty Kat

Over spring break, I had enough free time to get in the mood to take pictures again. I’d gotten so stuck in a certain setup and process that I’d “perfected” over the years that it never occurred to me it might not be serving me well anymore. Looking over some really early photos gave me the idea to experiment with some techniques I hadn’t used in years, and they worked out brilliantly.

I’ve always been partial to using softer light than this, but I’ve had the technology to use stronger, brighter light for a long time. As I’ve gotten older, all those soft shadows I’ve been using on my face weren’t as flattering as they used to be – LOL – and directing more light to my face really did the trick.

I’ve also gotten away from using my wide-angle lens for portraits, because to be honest, that totally makes sense, but when I first bought my 17-40 I used it for everything, and in looking over old portraits I realized that hey, they actually didn’t look half-bad. Plus, when working in a space as small as mine the wide-angle really makes it easier to take photos, even if I am just doing portraits. It allows me to incorporate more movement and flowy fabric as well as creating stronger lines that for whatever reason are really working for me right now.

Obviously, I also used a LOT of makeup.

I had a lot of fun doing this over the course of two days, but soon real life emerged again and I haven’t had time to do a photoshoot since.

When the pandemic began, my husband and I committed to staying home as much as possible because we didn’t have to leave the house at all. I switched easily to tutoring from home, and he was already retired, so we went into full lockdown in March of 2020 and still have just barely come out of it. We got vaccinated a month ago – Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but since it’s been over a month we aren’t at risk of blood clots – and while my husband was able to meet up with a few friends to sit outside and have a nice lunch, no one I know has been fully vaccinated so I haven’t ventured out yet at all. But, when this all started I decided since I wasn’t going to be anywhere or doing anything, it would make sense to just tutor as much as possible so I didn’t get bored. So, since last March I’ve been tutoring every single day, seven days a week, and now I’m pretty much stuck with it until the end of the school year because I don’t want to abandon any of my students so close to the end of the semester. But part of my own personal return to normal will be setting some new boundaries and giving myself some days off again. My point is that this should allow me more time to get inspired to take photos again. But we’ll see – I’ve got some other creative endeavors going on at the moment that I’m balancing.

I’ve written about how I took up coloring last year, and while I am still doing that fairly often, more recently I decided to learn how to knit. I’ve only been doing it for about a month now, so I’ve not knitted much more than a bunch of lumpy squares, but I have to say it’s a very enjoyable hobby even when whatever I’m trying to make doesn’t turn out.

I’ve only managed to make one actual THING so far, which is a very skinny scarf -I tried to make a normal width at first but I kept screwing up when I got past about 6 stitches, so I settled for a very skinny one. It’s also kind of short because after successfully knitting a bunch of rows without having to start over, I began to fear screwing up and went ahead and bound it off.

It’s a “knitty” – get it?

I am currently trying to make a wider scarf in a different stitch pattern, but I’ve had to start over a ton of times so far, which is fine, because as I said before, it’s still a relaxing hobby even when I keep messing up. It only took me a few days to get the basic knitting stitches down – knits and purls – which is pretty miraculous considering my inability to follow instructions, so the rest of it is just finesse and practice. If you’ve ever wanted to try to knit, trust me, you can do it if I can. I am generally hopeless and being crafty with my hands. I’ve tried to learn to sew I don’t know how many times and have always failed, for example.

That’s all for now – I hope you all are getting your vaccine on and otherwise doing well!

COVID-365 Day 6

STORY OF A SHUTDOWN!
We bought this about a month ago and my husband put it all together – well, I did have to help him assemble the console but the technology was his responsibility. I do know how to start up the system and play pinball, but that’s about it. However, I am a pretty good pinball player! I don’t even know how many tables this thing has as I haven’t played them all yet, but it’s a hell of a nice way to pass the time and holds a lot of nostalgia for both of us.

Photo No-Go

As I may have mentioned previously, one of my bright ideas I had about getting into coloring pages was to use my own photos as pages to color. However this turned out to be much more challenging than I expected.

So obviously, this doesn’t work. Coloring greyscale images is actually a thing, but it’s not my thing at all. One of the coloring books I bought was in greyscale without me realizing it, and in researching online how I could color the pages I discovered greyscale coloring usually is done with colored pencils, which isn’t a medium I enjoy working with at all. It can be beautiful though:

an example of greyscale coloring

Since I wasn’t interested in that process, I started thinking of ways I could create a more typical coloring page out of my pictures. I did some research online and found a few different techniques, but none of them really created an actual coloring page with clear lines. Every suggested process I tried ended up looking something like this:

My next big idea was to convert the image into this rather messy format, print it out, and then trace it keeping only the lines I want. This seemed to be a decent solution, but for some reason it still wasn’t working for me:

It’s OK, but it still didn’t satisfy me, plus I found the whole process boring. From transforming the photos in Photoshop to figuring out what lines to trace, it just wasn’t any fun and I still didn’t feel happy with the results.

This was my second attempt
And the traced result. I actually did end up coloring this one.

Choosing which lines to keep and which to leave out was tricky; I always felt like I still had too many lines and they got in the way when I was trying to color. And the lines all felt ‘weak’ and rickety and difficult to color within for some reason. Compare my attempts to one of my coloring pages that has a similar image:

Why is this so much better? I can’t explain it, I just know that it is.

I even found some free sites online where you could upload a picture and the software claimed it could convert it into a coloring page, but guess what – all those sites used the exact same processes I had used on my own and disliked. So I pretty much gave up and decided I just wasn’t going to be able to color my own photos. No big deal – I had plenty of other stuff to work with. But a few weeks later I thought perhaps I could find someone on Etsy who had the capacity to covert photos; lo and behold I found the perfect person! It’s an artist with a shop there called MGSCustomArt, and she hit it straight out of the park!

Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

See how much more satisfying this is? I swear to God I never could have done this and I’m still amazed at how good this artist is at it herself. I sent her three photos the first time, and it took about two weeks to get them back, which was fine. I just ordered another print from her today and sent it along to her as well.

She charges $10 a page, which I know sounds like a lot when you can buy a whole coloring book for $6, but to me having my own photos looking like real, actual coloring pages with exactly the right lines and clarity while STILL looking like ME is totally worth it! She has a lot of positive reviews at her Etsy site with uploads of other people’s pictures, so you can go there and see samples of other photos she’s transformed. Lots of people have had more personal photos than these turned into coloring pages – pictures with family, friends, or pets – and they all look great!

I just sent this one off to get converted also

So, if this is ever something you’ve been interested in doing, give MGSCustomArt some love because she is the best I’ve found. I have never seen anything even close to what she can do!

Photo-19

I’ve decided to try another 365 photo a day challenge – this is a way for me to approach photography differently as well as give me something else creative to do while still being stuck at home. Coloring is fun and all, but not going anywhere except to pick up groceries once a week has given me a lot of nervous energy to burn.

For this project, I am going to shoot only in monochrome, and everything will be taken in JPEG instead of raw format. The idea is that this will force me to think differently about the photos I take, and move me in a different direction. It should also eliminate the issues that slowed me down the last time I tried a 365 photo a day project – shooting in color and in raw prompted me to do WAY too much editing of the photos. I got obsessed about the colors being just right, and often ended up over-processing the shots until they looked crappy. It also took a ton of time which made the whole thing laborious.

I think changing the process this way will help me see differently in an environment I’ve been stuck in for way too long and have become terribly over-familiar with. Removing the option of obsessing over color and processing makes me ‘see’ my environment differently, and I’m finding all sorts of little things to take pics of in the coming days. How well this will be working by day 300 is anyone’s guess, but I’m willing to give it a go. I also think I can use photography to tell some sort of story of this time we’re all dealing with – IF, like me, you are staying home as much as possible.

This is a short little update I know, but it’s all I have time for right now. I may just upload a pic a day here under a new tag and add a link to the 365 photos on the menu, but I do still have other things I’d like to share about my coloring soon, especially about how I finally managed to turn my photos into good coloring pages (hint: it involved finding someone else to do the transforming). But I don’t have time to write that all up now so I’ll get to it later. Stay safe everyone!

Coloravirus

Well hello there! How the hell are ya? Are you well? Are you safe? Are you stir-crazy? Are you wearing a goddamn mask when you leave the house and social distancing like you absolutely should be, you little shitbirds? 😉

Can you tell I’ve gained weight? Well I have. A lot. 

OK, let’s get to it. So first of all, this goddamn virus. WTF, right? It was the week of our Spring Break in March when COVID-19 wormed its way into our American lives, and what a week that was. I had taken a little trip to a small Texas town with my sister, where my aunt owns a home, and on Monday the virus was barely a blip on the radar. By Wednesday when we left, we were glued to the news as a neighborhood in NY called New Rochelle went into lockdown, and hospitals in NYC started to overflow. By Friday of Spring Break, both of our school districts had decided to stay closed for a second week, and the Houston Rodeo had been canceled. I’d say it was a week later that most of the country went into hiding.

Extra weight or no, I am still fierce, so suck it. 

OK so, everyone knows this story and has their own version of it, so let’s jump ahead to now. My husband has retired – and quite honestly he worked from home anyway – and we are both homebodies, so he wasn’t all that affected by the stay-at-home order. As for me, I completely lucked out in that I was able to transition to online tutoring without losing any of my students. In fact, in spite of my commitment to working less this year, I ended up picking up at least five more over the course of that miserable semester (miserable for the kids – at least some of them – not really for me except that I was super-busy) and didn’t lose any of my income. So, we’ve been ridiculously lucky.

Yep, I’m over it. 

I really thought I would use all my new free time to take more photos, but the truth is, I’m simply bored with it now. I’ve taken every sort of picture I would ever have wanted to take; I’ve worn every wig and costume; snapped every airplane, and leaped every leap I ever wanted to photograph. I’ve levitated and drag-queened myself into oblivion, and there just isn’t anything more for me to do or learn, so after this one initial set taken in April I haven’t done any shoots. While posing for that last one it became clear the thrill was gone, and while I may come back to the whole endeavor once the well that’s run dry refills, I put my cameras aside for the moment and began searching for something new to do creatively, as I always need to be doing something that addresses my artistic side.

I purchased this beautifully colored hoodie while on vacation in Spring Break. My last shopping trip before the virus took hold. Ah, the memories…

I’d been toying with the idea of keeping some adult coloring books around for some time, but had never actually bought any, so I decided this was as good a time as any to take the plunge. Initially it was just going to be a simple little something to do to while away some time, but being me, it of course became an obsession almost immediately, and one that I had to master to the best of my ability. Oh sure, I bought some cheap-ass markers and colored pencils to start (does anyone else still call them map pencils like everyone did when I was a kid? My students have no idea what I am talking about when I use this term) but that satisfied me for about a day before I had all sorts of ideas for what I wanted my colorings to look like, and soon it was off to YouTube to watch a million tutorials and then to Amazon to buy a million different coloring tools. This started in April, and by June I was able to pull off some pretty cool tricks with this new hobby.

 

OK, this isn’t a great photo, because I snapped it with my cellphone, but you get the idea. Pretty quickly, I realized the cheap markers weren’t gonna cut it for me, because I wanted to be able to do all sorts of shading techniques and color blends, so I landed on Copic markers, which are NOT cheap, y’all,  but they are refillable so they will last for what I am telling myself is forever to justify the cost.

Click here if you want to know what I paid. By the way, these are the “cheaper” Copics! 

These are all taken from a coloring book called 100 Amazing Patterns that I got off Amazon, and while they are, yes, amazing, I had to figure out a few things as I got started on this coloring adventure. First of all, when using Copic markers, which are alcohol-based and function more or less like slightly less watery watercolor paints, the paper the images are printed on in the book are NOT gonna work. No way. No how. Aside from the fact that the wet markers will turn the paper into mush almost immediately, the paper in the book is also black on the other side-which is supposed to help with color bleeding when using other mediums, I think-but with the Copics, the black bleeds through and ruins the colors. Fortunately, we own a printer that doubles as a copier, so I was able to buy the right card stock and tear each sheet out of the book and copy it onto that. This has the added benefit of saving the original, colorless image in case I mess up and want to start over (and if you caught that little wait, so she spent money on special paper too?! detail, well, hang onto your shorts ‘cuz we’re just getting started).

Got this coloring book full of DRESSES (!!!) from Amazon also

So, yeah, first of all – there is simply NO END to the variety of coloring-book subject matter out there, including some baffling topics such as farting animals and the people of Wal-Mart. I lean towards mandalas and cool patterns just to enjoy the act of coloring without having to consider anything else like color choice or shading patterns, but I am also partial to fashion and feminine imagery as well as fun slogans and blackboard books (which are coloring book with black pages that have “chalkboard” style lettering and drawing).

Best. Slogan. Ever.

For those of you who caught that the chalkboard coloring pages can’t be copied onto cardstock (the print on them is white before you color it) and that therefore, I must be coloring on them with something OTHER than Copic markers – congratulations! You win the damn-she-spent-more-money-on-different-markers prize, which is the abandoned cheap markers I bought at the start of all this and have never used. You’re welcome.

Yep. Bought a lot of frames too, but I got super-cheap ones. I’ve bought two different kinds that you can find here and here. I like the second type better. 

The two chalkboard coloring books I’ve used so far are here and here. I particularly love the Southern Slogans one, being from the South and all. 

So, when it came time to work with the black coloring pages, I discovered gel pens. Gel pensssss!! They are so freaking fun to use, and way less expensive than the Copics. As with anything, there are varying levels of quality with these pens, and with the gels in particular there are absolute SHIT-TONS to choose from. My recommendations are:

#1: Gelly Roll pens. These are, I think, the gold standard. The gel ink flows so smoothly, it is like coloring with ice cream. Just really, really satisfying, especially with the thicker nibs. I started out buying a full set, but in the end there are several types of Gelly Rolls in here that I do not like At. All. So, I would not recommend spending this much for a set of them.  The particular types of Gelly Rolls I prefer are the Classics, the Moonlight series (neon and other unique colors), and the Stardust glitter pens (LOVE) Unfortunately, this set also has tons of metallics, which I just do not like at all due to the way they deposit the ink – very streaky and sketchy with coloring lines you can clearly see and lots of skips and white spaces. And this collection has THREE DIFFERENT KINDS of metallics, so there are a lot of pens here I probably won’t ever use up. But if you like the metallics, well, there’s plenty for you to love about this collection.

Sorry for the reflections; this one is framed so it was tricky to snap. I used a combination of Copics (anywhere there is color blending) and gel pens on this mandala – you can see how opaque and smooth the gel pens are! Except those shitty metallic ones, which obviously I did not use. Because they suck.

#2 – My secondary recommendation for a more economical gel pen purchase would be this set from Fiskars – 48 pens for $18. Even though the ink isn’t near the smoothness of the Gelly Rolls, I actually like all the pens in this set. Even the metallics aren’t too bad, and it has some cool styles like swirl pens and pastels, which the Gelly Roll line lacks – and I LOVE pastels. Also, the nibs are smaller which I don’t care for, but overall, I like this set and will re-purchase it when my favorite pens run out.

Lots of the Fiskars pens in this mandala, and NO Copics, so you really can get a sense of how vibrant and opaque the gel pens are. 

One other honorable gel pen mention here is the Pentel Milky Pop series. I do not think this set is still in production, so it may be hard to find eventually, but for now you can still find it on Amazon and some other places. This set is tricky; it is known for not having the smoothest ink distribution in the world, and the pens tend to dry out quickly (which can be fixed with a little heat applied to the nib) but they are the most lovely pastel colors I’ve found so far – even though there a lot of other options out there I haven’t tried so I can’t speak to any of those.  A lot of gel pens that claim to be pastel end up looking more neon, so there must be something tricky about the gel pen formulation that makes true pastels hard to come by. A close-up of one of my chalkboard pages shows the colors well:

Again, sorry for the reflections.

The yellow and blue are Milky Pop pastels, and that yellow in particular is perfection. I’ve used other yellow gels that claim to be pastel, but only the Milky Pop so far actually comes out right, and it is really really lovely. However, both the blue and the yellow required me to light a match and hold it up to the nib for a bit to get and keep the ink flowing – but once that was done, they both colored nicely. You can see pen scratches and strokes here, but that is actually a quality of the chalkboard coloring page and not the pens. That bolder blue is a Gelly Roll and you can see how it looks like paint because it’s so opaque – and there are also some splashes of glitter pens in there as well, if you can spot them.

Oh my gosh, I have so much more to say, but this has already taken over an hour and I have shit to do, so it will all have to wait for later. Will she wait another year to post again? Will she update us on her Invisalign adventure? Why is her hair green (yes, it really was green)? Did she use YouTube tutorials to cut two inches off her hair and create a perfectly even blunt bob (yes, she did, and she is very proud of herself)? Has she ever taken her own photos and turned them into coloring pages (of course she has)? Is this all the spending she’s done with her coloring, or has she bought even more crap? How the hell did she gain forty pounds and what is she doing about it? Has her husband become a cooking fanatic since the pandemic has kept him indoors, and is that contributing to her weight gain? Has she tried to take images from her favorite horror movies and turn them into coloring pages (see below)? Has one of her besties started a travel blog that I should check out (yes, she has, and it is here). Does she still look fabulous although she is heavier (yes, of course)? 

All this and more to come, friends. Until then, stay safe, stay socially distant, and wear your face mask. Cheers!