Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Craft Update - April 27

I'm in a knitting frenzy now, after having completed Todd's sweater. My favourite yarn shop has gone out of business, but I managed to stock up during its clearance sales before it closed. I bought a Needful Yarns blanket kit, shown above, and a bag full of Louisa Harding Flotsam yarn in a lovely sea-green colour to make myself a cardigan. Despite these great finds, at 50% off, it was a sad final visit to my favourite yarn shop. Actually, that was the penultimate visit, as two weeks later, Kate convinced me to pop in and buy some Sirdar purple-and-white variegated yarn to make her a cardigan. I've started the blanket and have finished two-thirds of Kate's cardigan. I intend to finish it within the next couple of weeks and I have the insane goal of completing my own cardigan in time for summer.

I'm also finishing up Jessica Sprague's Digi-in-Deep course. Like her other courses, this one has been terrific and I'm learning tons of new Photoshop techniques, but I'm struggling a bit to keep up. Will have some new layouts to post soon, I hope.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Full Week

I think I can be forgiven for not writing a blog post since last Sunday, as we've had a very full and busy week. Warning: this post is filled with outright bragging as I describe our achievements and activities. Anyone who is not a proud grandparent, aunt or uncle should probably stop reading right now.

Last weekend, Kate performed in the Youth Strings group's final orchestra concert. Todd's parents, John and Marilyn, attended also, along with one of Kate's friends and her family. Kate's group performed beautifully. Even better, she won a scholarship that will go towards her music lessons next year. The Youth Orchestra Program had numerous and generous donors this year. Half the kids in her group won a scholarship, so it wasn't all that competitive, but we were thrilled all the same. Kate then ended the week singing "Land of the Silver Birch" with her Grade 3 class for the school assembly, and she even got to play the tambourine. (We were told by her teacher that she plays the tambourine well. Todd remarked that this is the kiss of death for a musician.)

Julia had a busy and exciting week herself. She joined her school's varsity track team this spring and on Wednesday, she went to her first track meet. The day went very well for her, despite the early start. We had to get up at 5:20am to get her to school for the long bus ride into Toronto, and she didn't get home until 6:30pm. The next day, her school held a "student-led conference", and she got to take me around her school and show samples of her latest work. Then, on Friday, she performed in her school play, which we all attended. Julia had helped with painting the sets and she was in a dance number with her classmates. The play, written by one of her teachers, was about time-travelling kids, and Julia's class danced to "I'm a Believer" by the Monkees.

My big achievement of the week, apart from getting Julia to her school for 6:15am on Wednesday, was creating the picture shown above. I'd just finished Lesson 2 of Jessica Sprague's Digi-in-Deep course and learned how to make a custom brush in Photoshop. While experimenting with the technique, I made the picture above and uploaded it to PuzzleBee, a Facebook application that creates jigsaw puzzles out of photos. For a brief but glorious time, it was ranked first among the more than 100000 contributed puzzles. It has stayed in the top ten for the past few days and over a thousand people have done this puzzle so far. Laura captured a screenshot showing its first-place ranking; only a fellow jigsaw puzzle addict would understand how much this honour means to me.

Todd's great achievement of the week? He managed to attend Kate's school assembly, sit through Julia's school play and be sociable at my company party, after returning home on a red-eye flight from Arizona that very same morning. Very impressive. Don't think I could have done that myself. He was barely conscious the next day, but no matter, as he was there when it counted!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Craft Update - April 13

The sweater is finally done! It's painful making a sweater for Todd, as it takes four times as long as making one for Kate. Todd claims this is his favourite of all the sweaters that I've made him and that he will wear it frequently. It doesn't matter if he said this truthfully or not -- it was the right thing to say to someone who had just spent 80 hours knitting it!

This was known as the "orchestra sweater", as I'd spent every Tuesday evening for the last few months working on it during Kate's orchestra rehearsals. The other parents, some of whom are knitters themselves, took great interest in the progress. The conductor even came by a few times to ask how "her sweater" was coming along. I finished on the day of the final rehearsal and Todd wore it to the year-end concert.

For anyone interested in making one of these for himself or herself, this sweater was made from the "Light and Easy" kit in the natural colourway, available from Philosopher's Wool. Though the design looks complex (according to the people looking over my shoulder as I knitted it), it is not difficult to execute. The sweater does use the method of steeking, which is easy to do but very, very scary. The body of the sweater is made as a tube. Then the armhole and neckline edges are reinforced with machine-sewn stitches. Finally, you take a sharp pair of scissors, take a big deep breath and snip away to cut the openings. This really works. I swear it. I've made five sweaters this way and none of them have fallen apart yet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

That's a Valid Word?

The evil Laura has gotten me hooked on yet another Facebook word game. I don't think of myself as a computer-game addict, but I just can't resist any word game. This one, called Word Twist, requires finding all words of length 3 or greater from a set of 6 or 7 letters. It uses the Scrabble Tournament Word List and is an excellent Scrabble study aid.

In a recent game against Laura, I decided to try HOTTIE, without any real hope that it would be valid. Unlike the true Scrabble game, there's no penalty for entering an invalid word, except for the time you lose in typing it. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to find that HOTTIE is valid. Until now, my favourite Scrabble word has been BADASS, which has been around for a long time, appearing in the second edition of the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. (We're using the fourth edition these days.)

Julia, who otherwise has no interest in Scrabble, was quite amused that HOTTIE and BADASS are valid Scrabble words. I did warn her not to play these words at school, as they are most likely omitted from the "School Edition" of the Scrabble dictionary, and her teachers would not be impressed. Besides, if she had two esses on her rack, she shouldn't waste them on a play like BADASS anyhow.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sunday Craft Update - April 6

Been knitting like crazy and the sweater for Todd is almost done. I should have a photo of the finished product by next Sunday's craft update. I also spent a good part of the weekend catching up on Jessica Sprague's Digi-in-Deep course. Gave me a good excuse to show off more of those Jamaica photos. Here's Julia, featured in one of the layouts I made this week. It uses a new font I downloaded from Now how can you not like a font called "Hawaii Killer"?

Layout credits: Papers are from the "Morrocoy" and "Morrocoy Solids" packs by Jesse Edwards, brush is from "Graphic Pop Clusters No. 2" and ribbon is from "Hemp Ribbons" by Katie Pertiet, all from

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Next Digi-Scrapping Course

I just started Jessica Sprague's Digi-in-Deep course, the third in her series of digital scrapbooking courses. I highly recommend her on-line classes for anyone interested in learning digital scrapbooking with Photoshop. This is the layout from the first lesson, with photos of my very cute nephew Martin taken from Joe and Jill's Web site.

Layout credits: Layout design by Jessica Sprague. Brush by Mary-Ann Wise. Papers by Jen Wilson, Trish Jones and Katie Pertiet. Ribbon by Katie Pertiet. Frame by Nancie Rowe Janitz. Tag by Linda Gil Billdal. Button by Lynn Grieveson.