Friday, October 9, 2015

Fiber Friday - Mug Rugs

Just a note - tomorrow is the last Saturday Artisan Market for the season. Hope many of you can stop by Buffalo NY's Canalside.

Speaking of Buffalo, I'm working on a new idea, which will be debuted tomorrow at SAM.

This is one band in the mug rugs I'm making. Buffalonians love their Buffalo, so the mug rugs have bands with Sabers' and Bills' colors. Eventually, I'll start making ones with other cities on it, once I see how everything goes.

I've made mug rugs before, but usually they haven't done as well as I had hoped. Partly because I knitted a few and the mugs tended to topple over (very bad situation) or they weren't large enough. In the new design, they're large enough to hold a mug and a dessert plate - perfect really.

So what are mug rugs? Well, the definition is as varied as people. For some, a mug rug is simple an larger coaster suitable for a mug. Others define it as something large enough for a mug and a cookie. Others define it as a placemat not large enough for a dinner plate.

For me, a mug rug is an item made to fit a mug and a dessert plate. It is suitable for late night snacks, game day shows, or after school energy boosts. It can be woven (as mine are) or quilted. I don't recommend knitted, but if it's flat enough it can work.

The ones I'm making are woven on my inkle loom, and are made from for different bands of material. One of which has the words Buffalo New York woven into it (as you can see at the top). Personally, I'm quite pleased with the word ones. I've had troubles in the past with woven words, but now it's starting to become easier.

Starting next Friday (16 October) these and others will be available on my Etsy account. Stay tuned to see how the mug rugs improve. If you have suggestions for cities and colors, comment below. I'm always intrigued by what color combinations people come up with for various cities around the world.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The First Step

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." 

Laozi, Ancient Chinese Philosopher

What is it that you want to do?

At my church, we've been discussing the topic of faith, and how to grow stronger in our faith. Granted, not everyone in this world is religious, nor is everyone reading this wanting to grow in their faith, but we do want to change our lives for the better.

Each of us wants to become a person different than what we were yesterday whether that means more kind, more creative, more independent or something else. For me, becoming a better writer usually tops my list. I want to create the novels people love, and write the things which inspire others to write.

One of the things I look forward to is having someone come up to tell me that reading one of my books changed their lives - how they looked at things, or encouraged them to be a writer. Do I want to make millions of my books - sure, why not; but reality does indicate I won't. I can, however touch people's lives through my writing, and that takes steps.

What's your small step? Is it signing up for NaNoWriMo? Is it dusting off an old story? Do you have any idea what it can be? For writers and artists, small steps often seem the hardest part, not unlike priming a pump. We keep working at it, almost ready to give up then the smallest trickle of water comes before a rushing gush.

Here are five things to remember for small steps:

  1. KISS - Keep it simple, stupid. The hardest part of small steps is we often want to make it into an elaborate task - I will get up and run for thirty minutes followed by a healthy breakfast. My small step to exercising usually involves getting up. Same thing goes for writing. 
  2. Routine - make it a part of your everyday task. My routine is to wake up a quarter after five and put in a hour and a half of writing at least during the weekdays - weekends are negotiable. 
  3. Think Small - similar to the first step, but focused on the goal - think of the smallest, yet most powerful impact you can make. For example, to lose weight, you might switch your double latte to coffee with a single serving of sugar and cream. You still have the punch of caffeine without all the calories. 
  4. Think Big - in goal setting, you need the big picture - losing a hundred pounds; writing a novel; publishing said novel; having an art show - all these are the big picture items to which you focus your small steps. Make certain you make big thing you want to accomplish tangible. Have it "I want to write [Title of Your Choice] instead of "I want to write a novel."
  5. Keep At It - experts say it takes about six weeks for a habit to form. During those six weeks you will want to give up, give in and give it all away, but keep at it. Decide everyday that today you will do your small step and tomorrow's task will arrive when it wants to. 

Now that you have an idea of what to do, just what can you do? To help aide in the well priming, here are ten ideas for a small step - not all involve writing:

  1. Short shorts - write a short story in 200 words or less. Once you get into the hang of it, stories begin to populate. 
  2. Daily project - draw or photograph whatever is on your table or outside your window. It will challenge you to look at the same thing in different ways or it might encourage you to create still lives. 
  3. Edit a page - after writing comes editing. You might already have a novel finished, but to take it to the publishing stage, you need to edit.
  4. Doodle - set a time amount and doodle. It doesn't have to be long, maybe five minutes, but let your brain relax. 
  5. 5-minute Plays - write a five minute play (about five pages in play formatting) between two characters. This is a good way to develop character dialogue as well.
  6. Style Shift - whatever is your normal style of drawing, painting or whatever, try another style. It doesn't have to be permanent, just change it up once in awhile.
  7. Photographic Starts -  collect images which inspire you. They don't always have to be "inspirational" as in Christian fiction (still not quite certain what inspirational means). I have a Pinterest board dedicated to Story Inspiration where I put all the interesting things which strike my fancy. Some ideas are for now, and some for later. 
  8. Musical Inspiration - take a piece of instrumental music and write a story; paint an image or create something to go along with the music. 
  9. Journal - keep a journal with your ideas in it. Some of the previous items can be incorporated into the journal. It doesn't have to be physical, but can be an Instagram, Twitter or some other avenue. Think about tweeting a short short every morning or taking the daily photograph for Instagram.
  10. Read - in the daily rush, it's hard to remember to slow down, and reading is one way to do that, but it doesn't have to be a book. Find an article about your field and read about it. I have newsfeeds set up on my computer focused on news from around the world as well as other topics I find interesting from novels to steampunk. 
Each of us is granted twenty-four hours a day, and we can use that as we see fit. I see pins trying to guilt a person into writing or make them feel as though they haven't accomplished anything if they don't turn out so many pages a day, and the truth is - we won't always do what it is we're supposed to do. Life gets in the way; sickness comes; we're tired. 

I've struggled with losing weight to gain it back and lose it again; I have a health issue which makes it hard to lose weight and often makes me tired. I know this is part of my body's normality and I live within those means. For me, those small steps are how I make it through the day - one small step after another. 

For some of us, we have the creativity part down so long as we maintain it. Our small steps come elsewhere. For us, it might be submitting the novel; starting an online store or even signing up for a fair. Those small steps are equally important, but not necessarily routine. It involves shifting our minds from hobby to business, and that step is something you need to decide if its what you want to do. 

What's your small step?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Autumnal Inspirations

Happy October! This is my favorite month of the year because there are birthdays and Halloween - what could be better? Also, for the most part, the weather's nice - always an added benefit.

Black and Orange Fibonacci 
I love having an excuse to wear scarves since I make so many of them, and need to model them (oh, wait, another excuse!) Personally, I tend to wear the cooler colors (blue, green and purple), with my favorite color being purple, specifically aubergine (eggplant), partly because I like the color, and partly because I like the word aubergine.

The warmer colors (red, yellow and orange) tend to be colors I rarely wear, but I like Halloween. The scarf above was one I wanted to attempt to make, and the first foray into Fibonacci number sequence. I learned a few things from it, and have attempted other patterns more recently.

One of the best parts of autumn, for me at any rate, is seeing the fall colors. I live in the Northeast, so Fall Foliage is everywhere, and it provides a way for me to see color combinations bathed in warm colors - colors I normally don't use.

Sometimes, if you're stuck on color schemes, it works to think of a season or location for the colors. Autumn provides rich, warm colors whereas Spring tends to be soft pastels. Winter is full of bright jewel tones, and Summer is on vacation so anything goes. The colors of the Caribbean aren't those of the Great Lakes, and the colors of France aren't always the same as those in Japan.

If all else fails, look to the holidays - Halloween, Christmas and St. Patrick's Day all have specific color schemes we all have seen a thousand times - what are ways you can spruce up black and orange, red and green or forty shades of green?

Autumn begins the busy season with school and eventually the holiday season, but in those slow times, look around you, take a deep breath and see what might inspire you.

Monday, September 28, 2015


I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time last year, though for the past three years or so, I've actually written a novel during November.

This year, I'm looking forward to writing again as I found the time fun. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be as involved in the writer's group I was with because of injuries and a snowstorm, but hey, that's life.
Some Favorite Books
If you want to push yourself to write the first novel, or if you're feeling stuck and need the motivation, I'd encourage you to sign up for NaNoWriMo. There's plenty of time to find a story idea, and begin developing it out, and the people at NaNoWriMo provide resources to help as well.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Helen's Back

Before going into the great news about Helen (the loom), I want to remind everyone that I'll be at Appleumpkin in Wyoming NY tomorrow and Sunday. If you're in the Greater Niagara Region, and looking for something to do, come by and visit the Bridgette ni Brian booth right next to the Village Hall.

Helen the Loom
Onward to the good news - Helen's back! For those new to the blog, Helen is one of my two floor looms inherited from my grandma. To follow the story so far, visit these two older posts here and here.

What had started out as a good idea ended up being a not-so-great-idea, and Helen has sat alone for the better part of the past year with a warp waiting to be used while we tried to decide how best to string her up again. Finally, my enterprising younger sister came up with an idea - parachute cord or the interior therewith.

Having cut open the parachute cord, we were able to utilize the interior strands to thread up Helen. As you can see, she's up and working again. She's still a little off balanced, but that is to be expected considering her age (70 plus years), The important element is I can weave on the loom, and produce beautiful fabric.

Current Fabric on Helen
I chose to use the Goose Eye pattern which provides a larger diamond pattern than the Bird's Eye pattern does. The lavender is cotton (also used for the warp) while the white is wool, used only in the weft. I have two other cones of purple cotton I'm going to use as experiments until I decide which one I like the most. The hardest part of all of this is remembering the treadling for the pattern. On my rigid heddle looms, all I do is move the heddle up or down; on Helen there are four shafts which I can move in sets of two at any given time.

Still, despite the frustrations and annoyances, I'm thankful to have my loom back as I have missed weaving on floor looms. I love the simplicity of the rigid heddle, but I also like the old patterns available for four-shaft looms.