December Travels – Chapter Two – Christmas Lights

Gentle reader,

One of my family’s traditions is to drive about town leading up to Christmas looking at all the Christmas light displays. There’s an especially large one held at Queen’s Park in my home town, and it was quite the show. Some of the pieces were a little random to me, but some were truly amazing.

A nice sentiment, yes?
Lights, lights, everywhere!

The lights were everywhere you could possibly imagine to put lights! And all varieties. Those candy canes were all made of some bizarre fuzzy stuff that was difficult to photograph, but looked really cute.

Christmas non sequiturs?

Some seemed completely arbitrary and non-Christmassy. Kangaroos? Sailboats? Wombats? Demonic owls? Umm… okay… I guess they were going for an “Australian Christmas” thing, but I never really got that sort of thing (I never really understood the whole “Easter Bilby” thing either).

The Blue Tree

In the middle of the whole display grounds was a giant blue light christmas tree set in the center of a pond! It was quite spectacular in person, and the reflections in the pod were magical. (You can also see more random lights like the windmill and the Eiffel Tower).

Beautiful Lanterns

My favorite part though were all the orb lanterns. They were strung through many of the trees and were just beautiful. Some were solid orbs that changed colors and some were wire frame spheres wound with fairly lights. It made me feel like a gnome living in the trees or something.

Lions, doves, and arches! Oh my!

Even without the light displays, it’s a really lovely park in it’s own right, and a few little reminders of that could be found in quiet little corners.

Flora!

And lastly, Toowoomba’s not called the Garden City for nothing! There were some amazing flowers and foliage about the place too.

There’s at least another chapter of December Travels to come, and it’ll definitely be craft-related, never fear!

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and everyone traveled safely! Many happy wishes to you, and thank you for taking a bo-peep at The Shy Lion in 2011, and I hope you’ll stay with me in 2012!

– R

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December Travels – Chapter One

Gentle reader,

As many of you may know, I moved to Melbourne from Brisbane about a year ago and these holidays I’m spending two weeks in my home state of Queensland. Week one is almost down, and here are a few highlights! (Please forgive the iffy picture quality; some of the shots and all of the editing were done on my iPod and iPad!)

First, the flight from Melbourne to Brisbane!

I LOVE flying, and I love flying even better when you take off before dark and are still in the air after dark. These pictures don’t do the amazing horizon justice. Also, I love photographing clouds. I think they’re totes amazing.

Clearly, she is a model and I am not.

My best friend Panda picked me up from the airport and I stayed at her place in Brisbane which she shares with Audra and Eden who are also amazing peeps and were so generous with their hospitality.

Over the few days I was there, we checked out some great stores, got a Totoro phone trinket, ate crazy amounts of Bread Top, went to visit our lovely friend Kath and her beautiful shop, Handmade High Street. We also went on a wild goose chase for yarn stores – one was shut and one didn’t exist anymore – before we finally made it to Tangled Yarns, which is AMAZEBALLS. They stock Berocco, Pierrot (my fave!), Cascade 220, madelainetosh, and Malabrigo. I’ll definitely be going back there. We also wandered through an antique/bric-a-brac store where I picked up some delightful old knitting patterns (more on that later!). I also got to catch up with my adorable friends, Alf and Robert.

Suzie, the lovely lady, and Larry, the resident water dragon.

On the Sunday, I visited Judy, one of my favorite people ever (you may remember her from my post about the crochet bolero I did a while back). Her and her husband Peter made the most delicious BBQ lunch, and we relaxed on their back veranda while Suzie and Larry kept us company.

Judy's hat, made from Noro Kochoran.

I also snapped Judy in the hat I knitted for her (and finished the night before). I made it using the Hurricane Hat pattern by Andrea Goutier with Noro Kochoran yarn. I’m not sure what color way, because it was just a left over ball from something with no label. I don’t know why, but all those shots came out blurry. Oy. But, Kate will be pleased that I’ve posted another FO. Happy, Kate!? Geesh. ^_~

"Sah-kurity!"

I also managed to get a bit done on my Bon Qui Qui cross stitch. The picture is terrible, but you get an idea. I drew Bon Qui Qui on some graph paper and then used colored pencils to figure out my color blocking, and then started stitching. I’ve got a looooong way to go, but it was nice to do something a bit different.

Pan-Pan! I miss you already! (Also, is my bottom lip really that big? Oy.)

Finally, on Monday, Panda dropped me off at the bus depot to catch a Greyhound to my home town. I was super sad to say buh-bye to Pan, and there were some friends I just didn’t have time to visit. But, I was so excited to see my folks, and we’ve been having a great time so far. More to come!

How is your holiday season going so far? ^_^

– R

The Work-In-Progress Workroom, Also, Paper Cranes

Gentle reader,

I haven’t been as swift with unpacking as I probably should have been since we moved in. But, it is what is, and regardless of my characteristic procrastination, my workroom is slowly, slooooowwwwly coming together! Excitement plus! Although this is tempered with the fact that if you saw my bedroom you might judge me. Harshly. But, never mind that; here’s a little bo-peep at my workroom!

A lion shelf (with some birdie visitors)
My vintage space print curtain. I'm guessing 60s? Maybe 70s? Not sure...
Some random bits and pieces

It shouldn’t be long before it’s all done and dusted, but probably not until I get back from visiting the fam. The only thing that’s really bothering me about it so far is that I want a better way to store my yarn. Plastic crates are functional, but they’re not all that pretty.

Meanwhile, I picked up some origami papers from Tokuya – my favezies! – and for the last week or so I’ve made a crane here and a crane there while I watched podcasts and browsed the net, and when I ran out of papers I strung them together!

Wikipedia Fact: The Japanese word for a group of 1000 paper cranes is "Senbazuru" (千羽鶴)

Ever since I read Sadako And The Thousand Paper Cranes in primary school I’ve had a special place in my heart for these little pretties. I remember when I went to Japan with school, we got to go to the Hiroshima Peace Park and see her statue. I burst into tears! I let the group go ahead and I stayed with her for a good half hour or so (as long as I could without losing the group), and there was a nearby shrine full of cranes, so I made some and left them there. It was one of the most special experiences I’ve ever had. Geesh, I’m such a bleeding heart!

Anyway, I love them so much, and I’m sure I’ll do many more eventually. I want them hanging all around my house. ^_^

Does your home have any recurring motifs throughout it, like lions or cranes? What little trinkets make you happy? ^_~

– R

‘Whitney Sews’ Is Awesome

Gentle reader,

I’m sure that I’m preaching to the choir here when I say that YouTube is a boon for crafters with a problem, query or a foggy memory. When I was a crochet noob and got stuck on something and a book just didn’t cut it, I’d just do a quick search on YouTube for a tutorial and POW! Problem solvered.

Now, I just happen to know a lifesaving YouTuber and I want to introduce them to you! We got to know each other through a DIY community known as ThreadBanger (which actually came to an end and then miraculously resurrected itself later much to my delight and her videos are now officially under the Threadbanger banner, but that’s a long story and I digress…).

Whitney hosts “Whitney Sews” in which she serves as both teacher and inspiration to crafters everywhere. And she was kind enough to answer a (sometimes silly) questionnaire for me.

Images courtesy of Whitney Sews

1. For those who aren’t familiar with you, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
It’s hard to tell about myself, never know where to start…or where to stop! ^_^
I’m a mid-twenties gal from Oklahoma. I got to marry my best friend in May 2010!
I’ve always been told I would be a good teacher (I laughed every time I heard it). About a year ago I realized I am a teacher. But instead of standing in a classroom I get to teach from my sewing room with a camera thanks to youTube.

Whitney Sews started as a total accident when I ran out of ideas for a final video project. I had one weekend, a camera and no ideas. I looked over and saw my sewing machine and knew what I wanted to do. (I was THAT girl who had a sewing machine in the dorms and would stay up until 3 a.m. sewing! Never got any complaints though!) I put the video up on YouTube, like I did all my projects, and got a good response. I graduated the next weekend and had 4 weeks before my summer job started, so I made a second episode. It’s been 2.5 years and I never dreamed my last minute project would turn into all of this!

2. How do you decide which projects you’re going to do for your videos?
I tend to be all over the place when it comes to projects and idea. Sometimes I create a project out of need (like my pajama pants tutorial). Other times it’s based on requests (my newsboy hat tutorial is a good example). Then sometimes I see something online or in a store, totally out of my price range, and I make a tutorial recreating the item on a low budget.

3. Obviously you’re a part of an online crafting community, but do you have an offline community that you’re a part of?
I hate to admit it but I’m really boring in real life…
The only ‘community’ I can really think of is my church. My husband and I co-head the media team, so each week I create our announcement video. We also both photograph and video any special church events or servolution projects.

4. Favorite restaurant and why?
Ted’s Escondido! It’s an Oklahoma based Mexican restaurant…they have the best chips/salsa/queso that I’ve ever had!

5. What crafts would you love to do but haven’t you tackled yet.
I would love to be able to crochet. My friend Angela is an insanely talented crocheter and she’s tried to teach me…but it just hasn’t clicked yet.

Images courtesy of Whitney Sews

6. How do you get back on the creative horse when you’re feeling uninspired?
Google is my best friend. When I need inspiration I will google image search key words and look through the pics that come up. I usually google a color, material, or style then save images I like to a file on my desktop named ‘Pretty Things to Look At’.

7. Name three blogs/channels that you adore that you think everyone should check out?
Hmm…it’s hard to pick three. I’d say from a creative standpoint everyone should check out Craftzine, I Am Momma Hear Me Roar, and Craftovision.

8. What’s the craziest mishap/mistake that you managed to fudge and come out on top?
The first mishap that comes to mind is from my costuming days. Twenty minutes before the opening of Cinderella the zipper broke on one of the gal’s dresses (keep in mind we used vintage clothing as much as possible so the metal zipper was worn out). Angela and I began to frantically rip the zipper stitching out from both ends but it wasn’t happening fast enough. So we put the girl back in the dress, pinned her in, and found a cape for her to wear to hide the bad zipper. As soon as the first set of scenes was over she put her ball gown on and threw the dress our way. We finished ripping the zipper out and I sewed in a new one (was the second zipper I had ever sewn into clothing). By the time the next town scenes came up you couldn’t tell there had even been a problem. The director never even realized the mishap had happened!

9. Where do you see Whitney Sews going in the future?
Some days I dream about writing sewing books. Other days I think about having a TV show. But those are really just dreams right now…would be nice if Whitney Sews could pay the mortgage some day…

10. M&Ms or Skittles?
SKITTLES! I don’t really like chocolate.

Isn’t she a gem!? I don’t spend a whole lot of time on YouTube these days because my time seems to just disappear… does that happen to you? But when a new video of Whitney’s pops up in my subscription feed I defs give it a click. You don’t have to be a beginner at sewing to appreciate them. I’ve been sewing for years and years, but I find inspiration in her projects (she doesn’t just sew!), and I’ve even found a good many tips and tricks I didn’t know before (I mean, you don’t know a different way to do something unless you share these things, right?).

Whitney also gave me a selection of her videos to share, and you might just find some ideas for some crafty Christmas presents. I especially love the owls. Go give her some love, peeps!

Thanks, Whitney! ^_~

– R

Teach Me How To Dougie… erm… I Mean… Do Crafty Things…

Gentle reader,

The results are in (sort of)! Here are the results of my poll as they stand now. It’s still active, but the rank has more or less stayed the same, the numbers just grew.

And the people have spoken.

I knew the craft posts would be at the top, because that’s what The Shy Lion is all about. The biggest surprise was my interludes in third place. You peeps like my random chatter? Oh, I do love you. But the coolest thing is tutorials coming in second. That’s exciting!

So, now I’m going to ask for your thoughts once more. What kind of tutorials would you like? Is there any thing in particular you want to know?

Disclaimer: Now, crochet is all fine and dandy; I’ve been crocheting for years and teaching for about a year now. But, keep in mind that as far as knitting goes, I’m practically still a noob. I’m just very lucky that a lot of my good friend are knitting superstars so I have excellent resources to pick brains and get help (and a penchant for jumping in the deep end with projects). But perhaps you can learn as I learn? Or perhaps I can have tutorial guests? I dunno! And if there are non-crochet/knit stuff that I’ve posted that you’re interested in, let me know too.

I don’t know… I’m brainstorming on my end, but let me know what you think. And would you like photographic tutorials with instructions, or would you like video tutorials? Or a combination? Have at it!

– R

Of Kokeshi And Secret Santa

Gentle reader,

Workplace Secret Santas can be quite fraught with anxiety, especially when you’re perhaps not terribly close with your work mates or have little in common with them. I thought luck was on my side this year, since all my work mates are not only awesome peeps, but most of them are my really great friends even outside of the workplace.

But rather than being on the easier side of the Secret Santa issue, this situation presents all new challenges. When you draw out the name of one your favorite people ever and your budget is $10, how in the world are you supposed to stick to that? I know a lot of peeps don’t take Secret Santa seriously and use it as an opportunity to have a laugh and give gag gifts, but I am not one of them. I’ve never been a fan of gag gifts. I don’t know why. But I digress…

Judith is a doll collector, but I’d just given her a gift voucher to an amazing doll store for her birthday three days before, and I didn’t want to do the same again, and what $10 wouldn’t get her much. At about midnight the night before, I decided to exploit the “make a gift” loophole. I figured I wouldn’t technically be spending any money, because I already had the materials so the $10 budget was no longer an issue. But what to make?  Then I remembered that we’d been oohing and ahhing over a book of Japanese cross stitch designs, and all of a sudden the idea formed: make Judith a Japanese doll; a kokeshi.

Now, kokeshi are traditionally made of wood, and very simple in design. I don’t have any wood lying around, but I have lots of fabric, so after a bit of clicking about Google Images for inspiration and dig through my “useful boxes”, I was ready. I drew up a pattern and got to work. And here she is:

こけし!

Now, as with any “first editions”, there are definitely things that I’d change about her – if I make another she’ll be narrower at the bottom and less bell-shaped, and I’ll use a different fabric for her face because it was difficult to draw on and a bit smudgey – but regardless of these “lessons learned” I’m really very pleased with her, and Judith seemed to love her.

Wikipedia Fun Fact: The design of "Mii" player avatars on the Nintendo Wii are inspired by kokeshi.

As for me, I did very well in the gift stakes. I’m completely besotted with my dear friend Marelle and she drew my name! She gave me these neat little magnetic bookmarks and told me that the spiffy chap is me and the pretty lady is her. N’awww! And they were a perfect gift too, because of late I’ve gotten in the repugnant habit of dog-earring my pages to mark my place. I know, judge me as you see fit. But! No more! (In case you’re wondering, I’m reading “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by Mary Roach, and so far I’m loving it).

Raynor & Marelle: In yo bookz, keepin yo place.

What’s the best (or worst) Secret Santa gift you’ve ever gotten?

– R

Of Squishable Yarns… For Keeps!

Gentle reader,

I wasn’t able to post on the weekend, but never fear, I have made my decision on the winner of a ball of yarn featured in the Meet Me At Mike’s Good Stuff Holiday Guide!

Hurrah!

Well, I couldn’t narrow it down to just one! So, there are a few winners.

First up is Trish, because she was so prepared that she even has a project in mind for it.

Next is Marg just because she used the word Katamari. Oh, I love those games. Oy.

Melissa is next, because she always leaves the most lovely comments; they feel like a conversation. ^_^

And lastly is Robbie from Knitxcore, because I had to let one of the fellas win ^_~

So, if you peeps could please email me your postal address at the.shy.lion@aol.com, I’ll pop a parcel in the post soon. I’m going to pick the yarn arbitrarily but if you’re really, desperately hankering for a particular one, lemme know (although, the Norway is taken already… for my cardigan!)

That’s all from me today! Hope y’all have a wonderful week!

– R