Friday, July 3, 2015

Embroidered Bookmarks

A few weeks ago I started working on a new embroidery project. I started by stretching a piece of muslin on an embroidery hoop, marking the shape/size of the bookmarks and sketching the images I wanted to fill in - Mt Hood with some California poppies, and Haystack Rock on the Oregon coast.

I started filling in sections with the embroidery thread - split in half so there were three threads on my needle. I didn't really use any particular stitch (that I know of), but tried to make the stitches directionally significant. In the sky I added some bits going in different directions to add interest to that large expanse.

For this one, I didn't get nearly as many progress photos! But I did it the same way.

Once I had finished the embroidery, I took the fabric off the hoop, ironed it gently, then pinned it to a backing fabric (a scrap of linen I had lying around). I used the machine to stitch a line around each bookmark, as close to the embroidery as I could get. This kept the front and back from sliding around as I cut out the bookmarks and finished the edges with a whip stitch in more embroidery thread.

All finished!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Salt Air - Demeter Fragrance Review

Disclaimer: For me, salt air means the Oregon Coast.

I didn't notice it until after I'd ordered the samples, but Demeter Fragrance's 'Salt Air' is meant to embody the smell of a tropical beach. As such, it definitely did not smell like the ocean to me. Now, although the Oregon beaches are my current ocean/salt air reference, I've also lived on the Atlantic coast of Central Florida, and Los Angeles.... this perfume didn't smell like those either. So take that as you will.

Sprayed on the paper, it instantly smelled tropical - but more on the floral side of things. I guess if it's  beach with lots of flowers to overpower the sea... 

On my skin, it was definitely very floral, with some green scents and possibly something woody (I couldn't identify it more than that). It had some notes that weren't floral, so it was still different from just a basic floral perfume, but not really anything that I would associate with the ocean.

This was the first fragrance where we really noticed a difference in how it interacted with our different skin chemistry. After a little while, it started to have a darker, almost smoky scent on Maggie, but on me it was lighter and crisper. 

Overall I was a little disappointed. It's not a bad smell, but it definitely does not smell anything like any shore I've been to. I wanted that salty, green, seaweed, maybe ever-so-slightly fishy smell that means I'm near the ocean. I really love the ocean, and absolutely adore the smell of the real salt air, so I guess I should have expected this one to not cut it for me!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Tomato - Demeter Fragrance Review

Sorry for the delay, life got busy, and my little sister graduated from college (Congrats!! I'm super proud of you!)

This time I'm reviewing the fragrance 'Tomato' (which is different from the one called 'Tomato Seed', which I didn't sample). From the bottle it definitely smelled like a perfume - but heavier than the Earl Grey, and it smelled quite sweet. Maggie said that it kind of smelled like tomatoes, but it might have been influenced by knowing what it was supposed to smell like!

On the paper, this one smelled quite a bit like tomatoes! I was surprised, considering that it's such a strange and particular scent. It definitely smelled more like the tomato vine and leaves than the fruit itself - like picking tomatoes instead of eating them. On the paper there seemed to also be a sort of cedar or pine scent in with the tomato, which for me ended up smelling a bit candle-like.

However, when it was on my skin, I didn't notice the pine/candle scent - it just smelled like tomato plants! As it faded, the scent mellowed and lost the sharp biting tomato scent, but it still smelled pleasantly green. Maggie liked it because it had a decidedly non-perfume smell. I really liked this one - so much so that I put on a little more before work, and then was smelling my wrists all morning!

A word of caution: while this fragrance does smell remarkably like tomatoes, don't go smelling any actual tomatoes while wearing it. The scent does not hold up in direct comparisons - there is something so unique and fresh about tomatoes that is hard to capture in a bottle. I look forward to using it during the winter months to remind me of the wonderful smell of picking tomatoes!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Earl Grey Tea - Demeter Fragrance Review

A little while ago, I found out about the Demeter Fragrance Library. It is this amazing collection of perfumes that have the strangest scents - things like Fireplace, Tomato, Greenhouse, etc. Not only was I intrigued (who wouldn't want to try a perfume that smells like a crayon? or eggnog?) but I was also very excited. I really enjoy scents, but have a very sensitive nose and I have a hard time with traditional perfumes. They're often too strong and overwhelming (not to mention floral and complicated) and I catch whiffs of them all day, which I don't particularly like. I can't even wear heavily scented hair product.

I've often thought that, instead of smelling like a combination of flowers, musks, or other more typical perfume scents, wouldn't it be great to smell like pancakes? Or freshly mown grass? Apparently I'm not the only one!

There are over 250 different classic scents from Demeter Fragrance Library, and apparently they often add new ones. It was very very difficult to choose which ones to try (I would love to smell them all), but I settled on nine scents to order sample sized bottles of. My partner and I are going to be trying one each day, and I'll be writing about how they smell and our reactions (as well as whether or not they actually smell like their names)

First up: Earl Grey Tea

Unfortunately, it did not make me smell like Captain Picard.

Right out of the bottle, it smells just like a lightly scented perfume, with perhaps a bit of citrus (I'm new to the whole perfume game, so I'm assuming this has to do with the fact that we were smelling the alcohol). We sprayed a bit on a slip of paper to try and get a more neutral reading that didn't interact with either of our body chemistry. On the paper it definitely smelled more like tea, and had a stronger citrus scent. I felt that it smelled like Earl Grey Tea... but without the tea. The citrus-y bergamot and slightly floral scent of Earl Grey was definitely there, but it was missing the tea scent (it smelled good, though).

We then sprayed some on our wrists, and the scent became much more present in the air - light and floral and kind of citrus-y, and very pleasant! Maggie commented that it was not intrusive, and didn't smell chemical. We tried to give it a few minutes before smelling it more directly  - apparently that's a thing you're supposed to do (to let the alcohol evaporate???). Maybe we smelled it too soon, but for a while there was a definite chemical sort of smell on the skin. Maggie said it reminded her of the floor cleaner they used at her high school, and unfortunately once I got that idea in my head, all I could smell was a citrus cleaner! 

The scent got mellower, and became pleasantly sweet and citrus-like, but seemed to keep moving away from smelling like Earl Grey. Throughout the day, I found that the citrus scent disappeared and as the scent became lighter it also became more flowery.

Overall, I feel that this did not quite hit the mark (but I suppose tea is a harder scent than bergamot). There are also individual preferences/body chemistry to take into consideration, so don't let this discourage you if you want to try it! I'm probably going to try it again another day, since there were definitely parts that I liked.

In the meantime, I'm going to bury my nose in my tea tin and have another cup.

P.S. There will probably be a couple scents that I don't want to keep, so if anyone has any information on how legal/difficult it is to ship perfume (domestically) I'd appreciate it - I might do a giveaway!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Playing with liquid leaf

A while ago I got liquid silver, gold, and copper leaf. I wanted to try using metallics in my watercolor painting. I originally was only going to get silver, but I couldn't resist having a wider range!

I've used them a little on paper, but what I've really been enjoying is painting on ceramic shards. I have a few broken pieces of pottery that I've broken up further and smoothed the shards in my rock tumbler. I've been using those shards to make necklace pendants. Each original piece of pottery ends up providing several shards that are visually interesting, whether that's in shape, color, or both. However, I'm left with a large number of shards that aren't strong enough visually to stand on their own.

Enter the liquid metal leaf to embellish and improve them!

The liquid leaf is pretty easy to use, and SO SHINY. I did have to get a couple brushes to use specifically for the liquid leaf, so as to not ruin my nice watercolor brushes.

All of these are available on my Etsy store, where there are also more photos of each necklace.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Under-the-sea crochet necklaces

I just discovered a new technique for making necklaces. The link has a tutorial, so I won't go into many details here. It's basically a simple crochet chain, with a lot of beads strung on and worked into the stitches. The hardest part is judging how many beads to start with, since you have to thread them all onto the string before you start. A decent handful is a good start, and I would recommend stringing on more beads than you need, and measuring the finished length as you go. The first one I made was about 9 ft long, which was perfect for a thick princess-length necklace (looping it four times so I got eight strands). The second one (which I thought used the same amount of beads) ended up being 15 ft long, so I looped it five times, and it still ended up being a slightly longer necklace. I could have stopped sooner if I had been measuring as I went and just tied it off without using all the beads.

I used heavy hand-quilting thread instead of crochet thread, since it's what I had on hand, but I think it's only a little thinner and just as sturdy. 

I also picked my assortment of beads according to color. For this one it was mostly bright teals, greens, and pinks, with some metallic beads thrown in. It's good to have an assortment of sizes - the smaller seed beads add color and substance without being too heavy or overwhelming. There also is a bit of an upper size limit - too big and the bead will just dangle off the chain awkwardly and drag everything down.

These beads were very brightly colored (and a little obnoxious) which is why I used them for my first try - I figured if it turned out not-so-great, I wouldn't mind since I would have a hard time using the beads for other things anyway. But once you add the black thread in, it really tones down the colors! I was amazed at how much lovelier it was with black to balance the vibrant colors.

The loopy crocheted chain with all the sparkly beads caught up in it makes me think of fishing nets and sunken treasures.

For my second necklace, I went a lot darker with the beads. I picked a lot of darker teals, stormy blues and purples, greys, and copper-colored seed beads for some sparkle. With the black thread, the whole necklace got even darker, which makes the copper bits stand out even more. I really love how this one turned out.

These beads are really wonderful. They're like tiny faceted easter eggs, with a metallic iridescent shine that lets them work with almost any color scheme (I used them in both necklaces)

You can, of course, make them whatever length you want (or have beads for), and loop them several times or only a couple. I like the way they look with lots of strands (they look more sea-flotsam that way). So far I've just added a couple links and a clasp to finish them, but I think they could be interesting as a longer necklace with a length of chain up around the neck.

When I fastened off the ends, I made sure to loop the jumpring through a stitch on each chain, rather than the whole chain. That ensures that they won't go sliding around and getting one loop longer than another.

This is a great way to use up extra beads - the leftover ones from other projects, or the ones you bought on sale at the store because they were just so pretty but couldn't figure out what to do with them. I like working with a general color scheme, but since the beads are all jumbled together with the black thread, it's a lot more forgiving than other styles of jewelry. You can have several different shades of blue that might clash a little but you won't notice once they're in the necklace.

The next one I'm working on is teal-y blues and greens with silver and a little bit of orange!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Thranduil and Draco Malfoy

This painting of Thranduil started as a messy splatter/salt/texture background that I painted probably over a year ago (I really don't remember). I had been playing around with the idea of making a textured backdrop without knowing what I was going to paint, and then letting the form and colors dictate what I did next. It worked for a few pieces, and then I got bored and moved onto other things. 

But I have a really hard time throwing things out if they could be useful, so the paper sat in my drawer of blank and unfinished work. A couple weeks ago I was sorting through that drawer, and decided I really needed to try and finish more of the unfinished pieces rather than starting a new one. The green woodsy colors of this one made me think of the woodland elves, and there was a nice blank-ish spot where I could paint a portrait. 

It was interesting trying to paint skin tones over a greenish background, and his face is still a little green, but definitely stands out and reads as different from the surrounding colors. 

This painting of Draco is much newer (painted it last night), but is also green! I wanted to paint something green for St Patrick's Day, and this is what happened. It's actually quite small - 4.5" x 5.5".