Sunday, May 10, 2020

Shrinkets, knitting, stay at home, and other thoughts

The biggest new thing I have found is shrinkets, shrink plastic art has come a long way since the shrinky dinks of my youth.

I did stray into the medium a few years back when I met a gal at a local craft fair and took a class from her.  Susan's art circus a quck check and she's still doing shrink plastic.  I didn't pursue it much but I did use it to make 'the dream' which fit into the dream keeper vessel ring.  It was the perfect material to personalize the ring, be a secret inside message, and to make it sturdy.

This past February before we were all required to stay home, I went to Tucson for the first time in many years.   I ran into Gail Crosman Moore who was making these amazing shapes and told me to go seek out Julie Isaacs Haymaker and she'd set me up.  So a set of molds, some die cut shapes, some 8 x 10 sheets of shrinket material and a heat gun came home with me, and then I got busy with other things.

I attended a wedding, I met some deadlines, I knit and then on March 12th the Governor of California put in place a Stay at Home order.  Time was now my gift, time and anxiety and worry all of which needed to be managed, so I got out my shrinket and joined Julie's facebook group.  For me it is a really calming medium, basically it's like coloring when you were a kid, only grown up.

I soon found that I needed better pencils than I had and some alcohol ink pens and a sharperner and maybe some more molds, and a gold leaf pen, and then more gold leaf pens because they are magic.

The facebook group, and Julie's website offered inspiration as well as some challenges and so I began in earnest trying to learn the medium.

My first set of shrinkets were ho hum....but then I got the hang of how I liked them to look and soon I had a big group.

Here's detail of a charm/trinket that I made.  Julie's molds are what make it possible to get the three dimensionality which changes the medium so much!

Here's a sweet pair of earrings with just a little touch of shrinket at the top.

 Here I've given a go at fairy wings, someday there will also be a fairy....I hope.

Each of the grand daughters got a heart pendant.  Bella is a huge lover of everything rainbow so here's hers.

Here is a Poesie pendnat in progress.  I love the combination of molded shrink plastic with beadwork and in this case a piece of German glass.

This one I offered as a kit and more people than not opted for me to make their shrinkets to include in the kit.  So a weeks worth of work happened.  

This one was done for a monochromatic color challenge.  The material itself started out pink and I used deep fuchisa and orange pencils to color it.  The sweet heart at the bottom is from bead artist Patti Lakinsmith.

I think this was also a challenge but at the moment I can't remember what the challenge was....hmmm... But I like it.  

This was a tide pool challenge.  I made each of the fronds separately and then underneath the fossil was two layers of shrink plastic, one smaller than the other, creating a channel.  The fronds were curved over a bowl while shrinking and then glued into the channel.  The gold leaf pen is a game changer.  This is about 4 inches across and I use it as a decorative item on my etagere.

Desert flowers was another challenge which I met with a large flower, petals stitched to bead backing and a rivoli center with golden head pin 'stamens'.  I placed all of that in a shadow box.  This is a process shot of coloring the leaves.  

Here it is resting on the etagere, but I've since mounted it on a dining room wall

I have a current piece in process and ideas for more.  Looking back over that, it's a lot of work in one medium in a short time.  The process however soothes me.  It's a combination of doodling and coloring and reasonable instant gratification, at least in comparison to a fully bead woven pendant.  It lends itself to bead embroidery and also to all the little bits that live in my studio and have waited to find the perfect use.

I'm also knitting.  I finished a love notes for a six year olds birthday, and am in process on my own love notes.

Mark and I also made in excess of 75 masks for friends and family.  

Days run together, worry is still a problem, I want my kids and my grandkids to be safe and not have serious financial effects.  I want myself and my husband to stay free of the virus and I want the same for all of my friends, well for everyone.  But that is not what is happening and it's worrisome.

We missed a long planned family outing that I was desparately looking forward to, two visits from dear international bead friends, our summer airstream travel plan to Seattle and weekly get togethers with friends.

What we do have is each other, a house that cares for us really well, nice weather, weekly zoom meetings with family and friends that I cherish.  I have needed art/fiber and bead supplies to sustain all my interests. I have  yeast!  yes, that is exciting, bread and pizza dough are staples here.  We're busy planning some veranda/yard upgrades to give us a beautiful space to spend the summer.

Stay safe and well, I love you.  Marcia

Monday, February 24, 2020

I am quilting!

For years, really years I have avoided quilting.  I did some Rosemary Eichorn style freeform quilting in the early 90's, maybe even the 80's but I always deemed trying tp machine piece quilts too fussy and precise for me.

Two to three years ago my local gals all started quilting and the call for me to join them was loud.  But I resisted.  I chose to spend my time knitting, beading and trying my hand at art to wear clothing.

But it was bound to happen, one particular project called my name loudly.  The Hexies pillow by Modernhandcraft .  I saw the first one in my friend Gails Instagram feed and I was enamored.  I'd been wanting a new pillow for my living room chaise and my shopping trips weren't finding what I needed.  Well I did find a custom velvet watercolor one at ABC home in New York but I don't have the budget for $400 pillows.

These two belong to my friend Gail.  She is leading the way with her quilting skills.

I ordered the pattern from Modern Handcdrafts and watched the imbedded video assists for her techniques on creating the hexis.  She starts with a square and thread bastes them around the hexes, then glues to the backing fabric before stitching.  Creating the hexis was a lot of fun.  I see many more hexi projects in my future.  For now this is the pillow I created for my chaise.  It is great to have pops of color in my living room which is a largely neutral pallette.  My machine quilting is far from perfect but it got the job done and I think it looks great.

Now onto my Tula Pink 60 inch by 60 inch sunrise quilt.  It's more paper piecing which I like for it's portability. 

 I'm busy under my friends guidance acquiring the tools of the trade and watching videos. One thing I purchased was a lazy susan type cutting map which makes cutting out the small shapes much easier.  It should arrive this week. The one in the photo is a loan from my other quilting pal Judy.  My first block of 12 is done.   I'm  aiming for one a week, but then I am also aiming to finish my Patty Lyons sweater soon and I 'm heavily into design mode on a new beading project.  We shall see.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A few more things I've made

First up a Johnny pendant.  The Johnny collection came about as a result of my love of all things Johnny Was.  In this one I was trying really hard to show off the diamonds being used to create a bracelet.  This was prior to my Tucson Chapter Embroiderers Guild of America class....I was already to do a double craw rope on each side of these three diamonds when the beads shouted out.....I need to be a pendant!  I happened to have the perfect colored tassel and I  turned the bit of double craw I had done into a bail and now I have a pretty new pendant.  

Next up, given my new found interest in cooking I decided that occassionally an apron would be in order.  Like when you 've invited company and you're wearing velvet for example.  I had this ghoulies fabric in my stash and decided it was perfect.  My sewing teacher had the pattern which is a little vintage and a little feminine.  I turned out great, although I may put a velcro tab on the strap and do away with the long ends....someday.

I needed a pair of lavender socks to go with my lavender linen ranunculus.  This is the first one which fits like a dream.  I've since finished the second.  I am now so comfortable with this pattern that I knit the heel flap, turned the heel and picked up the gusset while on the 8 hour ride to Tucson.  It's a shortie, rolled cuff, slipped stitch heel and barn toe on a 1.5 Chiagoo short needle.  I go down one needle size and do the heel flap on double pointeds.  It makes the heel flap nice and snug.

Aaaandddd......I've been resisting this for a couple of years now.  My local friends have been paper pieceing and trying to temp me.  This hexi pillow was a pattern from modernhandcraft and I have to say I had a blast picking the colors and making the hexis.  I think the green is off in value but being my first project I'm going to live with it.  My fabric stash is not quite as large as say my bead or yarn stash, but it is growing.  The pillow goes nicely in my living room.  Now to finish the quilting because next up is Tula Pinks Sunrise quilt for which I bought a kit.

So that's what I've been up to.  I think I am going to enjoy the paper piecing because it will be another portable project that I can take with me on the airstream.  We plan on doing a long trip this summer and it will nice to have some varied projects to work on.  I hope by then to have completed my Volition sweater by Patty Lyons and move on to my Esjan shawl by Stephen West.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Beginning knitting

I post on facebook and instagram about my knitting which led to some friends thinking that they would like to give this handwork a try. So I put together just a small guide of where I might go if I wanted to learn today. First up goes without saying, if you have a local yarn store that gives beginning classes this may be your best bet. Nothing like someone sitting beside you as you get comfortable with those two sticks and yarn.

So to those who asked and anyone who is considering trying their hand at knitting....There are paid courses on bluprint but first I think you need to know if you enjoy it at all. I think very pink knits does a great job with her slow motion videos. You can find the list here

If you do embrace it and want to learn everything, I recommend Patty Lyons as a great technical knitter. I think the Sally Melville videos also do a good job. Both designers are technically very good but both have styles a little less eclectic than I might want to knit. Having said that Patty Lyons does two sweater KAL's (knit alongs)a year with video assists for every step of the construction. If you want to explore further she has a lot to offer in the learning department.

I also think that Debbie Bliss's The Knitters Book of Knowledge is a comprehensive reference book and the illustrations are large and very easy to understand.

For starting I would pick a worsted weight wool like a malabrigo on size 7 or 8 needles. A great scarf with lot's of texture which requires only the knit stitch (you can and should learn purl, but this is a good starting scarf) can be found at Purl soho

This would look great in one of the tonal malabrigo yarns. If you don't have a local yarn store Malabrigo can be purchased on Webs or Jimmy Beans

For needles, my current favorite are Lykke, but there are many to choose from. For this scarf I would use a 24 inch cable circular. You can knit flat on circulars and they can be easier to manage (no dropped needles) and on larger pieces they keep the weight of the piece off your hands.

If I had to learn today I would start out trying to learn the continental way, sometimes referred to as picking, german or European knitting. You manage your working thread with your left hand. It is thought to be faster. (The very pink knits videos show both ways, alt hough I hold my yarn opposite to how she is showing it for wrapping. Every person needs to work out the best way for them. It will get natural over time.

I work by what is called English, throwing or wrapping the yarn with my right hand. I've tried continental and can reliably knit that way but I can't adjust to the purl stitch after 50 years of knitting my way. Interestingly, without the benefit of the internet or the advantage of any knitting friends, I never knew there was another way until one time I saw my mother in law knitting socks. She was of German descent and knit continental. I couldn't fathom what she was doing!

You might also try watching a few Vlog's (video blogs) on you tube for inspiration about what you may want to knit. A few of my favorites are the Grocery Girls, The Chelsea Purls, Espace Tricot, Kristy Glass Knits. GGMadeit and Fruity Knitting. They all have different styles but they all present a plethora of knitty goodness. Kristy Glass and Fruity knitting tend to interview other knitters. The Grocery Girls are two Canadian sisters who design and are plain fun. The Chelsesa Purls are a yarn store owner in New Jersey who dyes yarn and her friend in knitting, Miriam. The Fruity Knitting vlog is hosted by a married couple. Wife Andrea is a very technically competent knitter and she also interviews a lot of guest artists so you get a wide smattering of knitting styles. Espace Tricot are business partners in the Canadian store by the same name and are a treat to watch. GGmadeit loves all things orange and has many words of wisdom to impart plus her enthusiasm is contagious. There are many many more, not all good, but you may discover some that speak best to you.

If you are not already a member sign up for Ravelry. The amount of information here is incredible. You can search on and buy patterns, you can browse and add patterns to your queue to review later, you can join groups inline with your interests, you can explore how many knitters have made a project your interested in and see photo results in different yarns on different body types.

I hope that you will give knitting a try and find comfort in the relaxation it brings (eventually!) and are happy with the many beautiful things you can make.

Monday, January 20, 2020

NYC and Vogue Knitting Live

I had a great few days in NYC as I always do.

In between a Patty Lyon class and a Steven B lecture I met with my friend Edgar Lopez for a great visit. We of course talked beads as that is our connection. Edgar was one of the amazing bead artists featured in my third book, Marcia DeCoster Presents. Edgar's work is always bold, colorful and sparkly!
Here I am in a Kristy Glass selfie after the Subway storm ride. What is a subway storm? A huge gathering of knitters met at the Times Square subway station and rode the train to south ferry and back while wearing their finest knitwear and knitting. Kristy posted this on her instagram stories but I missed it, thanks to a friend for the screen capture. Later in the day I saw Kristy at the VKL marketplace and I gave her the crown. Completely her color and she loved it, so now it’s hers!

In the hopes of staying focused I had a plan to purchase beautiful yarn for one project, Esjan by Steven West. Mine will be in different colors, I bought a gradient set which I’ll show you when I get home and have the real computer. I am still stymied by the fact my photo stream does not show up in Blogg, so it’s complicated.

Since Mark is with me and I didn’t want to spend every minute at the knitting show, well I did but that wasn’t really fair...this is a shot from our trip to MOMA. There was a temporary exhibition called taking a thread for a walk.

That’s it for now. Today we travel home. I have lots of knitting to keep me company in the airport and in the air. 

Tomorrow I will take the fabulous new eyeglass frames I purchased in NYC to my local optician. Stay tuned, they are bright and so fun!

Monday, January 13, 2020


Since I’m traveling this week I thought I’d give the new iPad blogger tool a little trial. Picking a photo from my iPad which does not synch with my phone photos so that to begin with is a little awkward....

New makes and a maker's plans

I finished up last year with a shawl for my daughter Lucia which was knitted entirely while on a South American cruise.  It was gifted over Christmas and I didn't take a photo....

While on the same cruise I finished this, a bead embroidered pendant which I will teach later on this year.

Turns out there is a lot of time on a cruise so I also made these bone baby earrings designed and kitted by Kinga Nichols.  They are very fun to wear.

 This is my finished Fintry in Malabrigo Rios, color ochre.  A departure for me but I love it.

A close up of the Fintry lace parttern.

 I finished up this hat in November for December gifting.  The yarn was a left over unique sheep gradient and the pompom snaps on so there is also a white one.  This little one really appreciates a hand knit.  Pattern was found on ravelry, but the only similarity to the pattern I chose was the cast on and rib sequence and even those I changed.  I did an every 6th row cable to add interest, and changed the depth before decreases from 9 to 6 1/2 inches.  It fit perfectly!   She even stealthily tucked the spare pompom underneath for a quick change!

 This was a knitters gift from our son the perfect on the go knitting bag!  I love it, it's very very comfortable.  Easy to pull out a sock and work on it wherever.  The bag came from Uncommon Goods.

 This knit happened in January... Purl Sohos no purl scarf, a free pattern on their website.  The rib pattern is outstanding and it was a fun, very meditative knit.  My poor husband was desperate (cold enough) to wear my pink and green Stephen West Smock It shawl one night in San Francisco.  I decided before NYC in January he should have his own scarf.  This was 100% cashmere that I found in my stash.  It was not a very well plied or particularly soft cashemere and I have no idea why I had it, but the color was perfect and he reports it to be warm and comfortable, so that's good.

Becasue I am always dreaming of snow I decided to make a second Cindy Holsclaw Bead Origami snowflake.  This one is reversible with blue on one side and dusty coral on the other.  I'll be wearing them this week in New York City hoping that I get to see snow!

One last make, this one from the kitchen.  My mother was a good cook and every year she made fruit bread with citon and raisins and in her version, red and green dried maraschino cherries (I waited too far past Christmas and they were not to be found.)  I had her recipe and had tried it before, but it literally just has the ingredients and the oven temperature, no directions at all.  But I have a new little helper in my kitchen, a Thermomix and I decided to give it a go.  I had been successful with pita bread and pizza dough, so why not.  Well this is as close to my Mom's as I've ever accomplished, so I'm calling it a success.  Next year I'll get all the right fruit and try again.  The secret ingredient is cardamon seed.  Makes the house smell heavenly and makes me just a bit nostalgic for my New England childhood.

Yesterday I cast on Volition which is a knit along sweater class from Patty Lyon that started in September.  I had too many other things on the agenda to get properly started then, so yesterday I decided to get it cast on.  It's a very interesting construction with lot's of new to me techniques.  There is video support of each technique and construction tips and I've downloaded them all to my  you tube for watching on the plane this week.  

The very exciting thing is that we are traveling to Vogue Knitting live in NYC.   I went to the first one ten years ago!  I'm a tad overwhelmed as I've been watching knitting vlogs and paging through Stephen West's latest shawl book and I am not entirely sure what special thing I want to make next.  I'm trying to sit quietly with the various designs that are calling me so I can make a decision and make one purchase of special  yarn to make one special design.  So far the word that keeps coming up for me is color.  I would like to do something with some bold color work.  I suspect that is a  Stephen West influence, but also the Kristy  Glass interview with the inventor of the Freia gradient.   I've also been thinking about technique and the Fruity Knitting interview with Nancy Marchant and her Brioche lace.  A lot to think about it!  What are you knitting?