Summer slacker

Teaching grandpa to finger knit

Teaching grandpa to finger knit

I have problems sitting still for too long. Making things is less of an outlet and more of a compulsive behavior, but three cheers for productive disorders, we’ll never run out of trivets or kleenex cosies and with all those matching sweater sets the dog won’t be getting cold. The big drag of vacations is being away from my supplies. Normally I’ve got one knitting project in the car, for the times when SOMEONE ELSE is driving. More than a week from home and I start jonesing and then there is the emergency drive-by to JoAnne’s or I start rooting through unattended recycle bins. This trip I lasted about three days before dropping $20 on felt, needles, sparklies and random sticky things… here’s a catalog of the last six weeks…

No trip to my home town of Ft. Collins Colorado would be complete with out a trip to the New Belgium Brewery or stopping into the super cute knitting boutique, My Sister Knits. They’ve converted the carriage house in the back yard into a yarn shop with a wonderful selection. I really, really wanted to get a skein of handspun “Vitrehumours Yarn” from Insubodrdiknit, it’s to die for, it’s got felted eyeballs in it, how rad is that! I just couldn’t justify the cost, actually I could, but really just couldn’t explain the impending credit card bill to my better half. “But honey, I just had to have the eyeball yarn…”. Maybe for Christmas. I did get the Mochimochi chicken/egg pattern. I’m feeling so-so about the results, my egg looks like an onion…

The transition works…

but the chick is just goofy, the wings are too big proportionally… and his head looks like a bit of a boob.

Some of the other projects fared better, there was a lot of felted toy making. I gave Lucy the store bought mermaid but made her a sleeping bag and some pillows…

I spied a super craft at the Denver Zoo, a tote made from Capri Sun bags. I talked to the woman who made it, she said it sewed up super quick and wasn’t sticky as I’d suspected. I like the idea of a bag I can actually stick in the dishwasher. We don’t actually drink the stuff, but I did see some organic juices the other day in the mylar packaging, so I may get around to it…

The kids have been busy too. Lucy’s been absolutley prodigious and finished the doll blanket yesterday… We’d just finished reading “Princess and the Pea”. I think there is a plan to make several more blankets, rumor has it “a stack to the ceiling”. There was also a need for peas for the interpretive version of the story. We came to a mutual decision that REAL peas might not fare well, we made our own. A great choice since the kids spent about 3 hours in the back yard rolling dough balls of flour,water and food coloring. We had more than enough peas for the story, in fact so many that we decided to make bracelets. We used the stretchy elastic string.

But the very favorite craft this summer has been something Xander made. He came up with the design, did all the cutting and a fair part of the sewing. He also chose the fabric from my stash (some of it was stuff I’d lifted off my mom) He named the monster “Mr. Sloppy”. It’s kind of tough to see from the photo, but he’s got four legs. That particular fabric came from the Liberty’s of London shop, something my mom got there in ’85. She’s threatening to ream us both, and probably would if she knew what the remnants were selling for on Ebay. If nothing else, Mr. Sloppy is one well dressed dandy and my boy’s got expensive taste.

Mr. Sloppy

Mr. Sloppy


You’re the Yarnbomb!

It’s a mommy/daughter project in the making. Lucy and I along with our friends, mother/daughter team of Kristina and Alivia, have submitted a proposal to the forthcoming book on Yarn Bombing. If you’re not familiar with the term, yarn bombing is like doing late night graffiti, but using fiber arts rather than spray paint. It’s absurd and crafty just our criteria for a good time… enclosed is the proposal we drafted. Please cross your fingers for us, we’d really like to be included in what is sure to be the next global phenomenon of craftploytation:

Little Things, for little horses, by little girls

By Aliva Perry, Lucy Bowman

and their moms

Kristina and Shawn

The Project

Portland Oregon is notorious for it’s fabulous craft events, boutique yarn stores and off the wall art. Over the last couple years there has been a city wide spontaneous art happening where people have chained tiny horses to gigantic rings which line the sidewalks of the older business and residential neighborhoods. The original idea came from artist Scott Wayne Indiana and is called the The Horse Project . The rings were originally set in concrete for people to tie their horses to when that was the main mode of transportation. For our yarn bombing we intend to outfit the horses in legwarmers, blankets, yarn garlands and hats. Lucy and Alivia are very keen on the idea and it’s perfect beginning project for young people who are just learning to knit. The leg warmers were made on a knitting mushroom and Alivia has been making the garlands using finger knitting. We love the idea of doing a project with our kids, passing on our favorite skill and stealthy surprising the neighbors with our midnight crafting. A number of our other mom friends love this idea and have begged to be included. Picture if you will several playdates of happy knitting kindergarteners and moms drinking wine as we play “Elves and Shoemaker”

f accepted we could include basic instructions for finger knitting and using a spool. We have several illustrator friends who could render a drawing or we could take instructional photos. Enclosed are photos of the girls with their work and their sketches of the plan.


Lucy and Alivia live in Portland Oregon and are five years old. They met and spend many happy days crafting at Harmony Montessori School. Next year they will both attend Richmond a public Japanese immersion elementary school. When not pretending to be kittens, the girls spend their time drawing on walls and causing general mischief, they intend to start a band, soon. We would like to trade places with them.

The support team: Kristina Perry is a pro knitter and all around great gal, she sells her work on line here… and occasionally at the Portland Museum of Contemporary Crafts.

Shawn Bowman puts on independent film festivals for kids and families and teaches kids contemporary art classes, you can see one of her projects here… .

Monster Mashup

I’m about to teach a kid’s film production class at PNCA a lovely arts college here in Portland. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve taught kids film making and back then we did all our editing in video, not on the computer…. and when I was in film school we edited on the archaic Steinbeck flatbeds. When we made cuts, we literally cut the film, little sharp razors, spliced fingers, bleed for your work! So I’ve spent the last little bit getting up to speed on iMovie, since we’ll be using it for the class. My vote is still out, there are some great tools there, but I miss the hands on aspect of the old old old days. Needing something to work with, and not having the right firewire for the camera, I scanned my son’s fall journal and set up the music in Garage Band.

Hey, I can see my house from here!

Well, it’s been a while, and I’ve got some great post dated art/craft projects to share, and three major work deadlines. So instead of going nose to the grindstone, I’ve been spending Easter making French Toast and mimosas and watching this, over and over….

Moshi Moshi

sneeze-guards.jpg The holidays have come and gone in a blur of super glue and feathers. The children crafted their little fingers to the bone like tiny indentured servant elves high on candy canes and instant coco. Complaining of pain fumes and beastly working conditions (dried out markers, cotton mouth from licking envelopes) Lucy took to wearing a faded Dora the Explorer shirt which she embellished with a fist in the air and the words “si se puede” ground in crayon. Actually, she was a complete sport and together we made a stack of these super adorable tissue holders from Aranzi Aronzo’s book Cute Things”

My Chemical Romance-The IPRC Text Ball

iprc-ball-007.jpg Another great party! Guests were asked to come in outfits inspired by text and this year’s theme was “The Elements of Style”. My friend CJ Beman has some lovely pictures on her site here…

The Grand Prize deservedly went to “Serif and Sans Serif” a brilliant and well executed costume, though I would have thought Serif would be the pregnant one, but perhaps it was more intentional irony…




My dress turned out quite nicely in the end, I also wrote the elemental description for carbon under my heels, so I could have diamonds on the soles of my shoes. Bo went as “Technical Writing” and won a lovely silkscreen wall print and a one year subscription to BITCH magazine- I couldn’t be more proud!



uA blog

Oh irony, ye are a very cruel mistress on an ugly learning curve… Also known as “I hope the ink dries by Saturday”.

Tonight is the IPRC Text Ball, an annual benefit party for the Zine Museum, meeting center and classroom, which makes it’s home here in Portland. They host lots of cool classes on typography, printmaking, have a zine of the month club and lots of support services for independent publishers. For the ball, guests are encouraged to come in text inspired costumes- last year’s party theme was “Black and White and Red- All Over”. The outfits were amazing, one couple sewed a suit make from braille pages and came as a “blind date”, another guy decorated a gorgeously tressed toga and was “Times New Roman”. I sewed a newspaper ruffle to a red sequined gown, made 12′ newspaper boa and sewed photos of Karl Marx, the Rosenbergs, Che, Mao, Castro and excerpts from “the little red book” into the lining of my black trench coat. It took about a week to make the ensemble and I was absolutely delighted to win 1st place- Two tickets to see David Sedaris! Though I was kind of hoping for the third place prize, an hour long consultation with Kohel Haver a local arts attorney- who I’m hoping would be my lawyer, if I could ever afford him!

This year’s ball theme is “The Elements of Style”. Earlier this year, I loaned my friend Marilyn Zornado a copy of Maira Kalman’s delightful illustrated edition of the book. Being a woman of great appreciation, and inspiration, and also the party planner for the fund raiser, Marilyn declared, “I’ve found my ball!” So I’ve been pondering a costume for a bit now, and finally hit on something which seemed the appropriate vehicle to RETAIN MY TIARA. Actually, there was no crown, but there should be, if I win again, it will be my 1st royal mandate. I kicked around a couple concepts; the obvious, “pregnant pause”, or “dangling modifier”. I suggested my dad wear a noose around his neck and t-shirt which said “sleep with me?” so he could be a “hanging proposition” or he could write the words “and, with, because, therefore…” onto a jacket and he could be my “conjugal visitor” pop said it wasn’t that funny and a bit creepy in the oedipal sense, he offered to babysit instead, though he did have a great idea for a “semi-colon” which involved some Match-Box cars… you get the picture.

So for this year’s costume I’ve silk screened parts of the periodic table onto a white vintage dress- Au and Ag… White damask with gold and silver trim… Which in concept should be almost clever enough. But I’ve never really silk screened before, and I’ll be in a room of pros… I should have looked at the tutorial in Craft, but I thought I had it under control… I didn’t have the funds to buy emulsion- so I thought I’d try the screen-filler method of printing. So far so good, I put together a nice design for the element of gold, and remembered reading in the instructions reading, “this method is based on the idea of ‘negative’ images”, by this they mean you should fill in the areas of the screen which you don’t want the ink to permeate. I think my brain is still living in film/photography land- so when I read “negative images” I assumed I should put my design in reverse like a mirror… just in case you’re curious- the mirror image of gold is blog- take what you want from that- maybe next year the party theme will be palindromes- then I’ll really be ready.


Casa del Muertos


So the Dia de Los Muertos festivities left us with lots and lots of beautiful objects du arte, which really weren’t ready for long-time storage. The kids and I decorated a couple wooden skeletons (from Jo-Anne’s no less, the 50% off sale kind-of makes it o.k.) and attached them to bamboo poles for the procession- Post party, a couple Ikea frames and gorgeous craft paper from Paper Doll, and the walls look 100% better-

text-ball-2-010.jpg we bit the bullit and actually bought nine extra, untreated Ikea frames, painted them and mounted the papel picado banners- and holy smoke! the livingroom looks classy! Well, for us it looks good. Squint, ignore the glare, it looks nice, right?


Not Dead Yet


Wow! What can I say? We had an AMAZING party- a big hand to the Someday Lounge for hosting the procession and alter build. Sara Jurgensen painted faces, Jacob Mooney brought a troop of stilt walkers who left small candles in tribute along our route, Alenka Loesch and her partner performed a silent puppet dance.


The Lions did not disappoint and led us right through the heart of Portland with drums and whistles- there’s nothing like 25 samba players and a procession of skeletons to stop traffic and get folks to gawk out of windows. The bar looked great, we all settled in with Mexican hot chocolate and watched a couple great Dia de Los Muertos animated films, one by Jim Keeshen Productions which is making it’s round on the festival circuit.

day-of-the-dead-038.jpg Perhaps, the most delightful aspect, was having a bunch of folks show up, who we didn’t know. They brought their kids, they came in make-up and they danced with us in the street- not bad for a Thursday night- I hope we see them again next year. It seemed a shame to pack up all the great decorations when the party was over… next installment- Our livingroom make-over, a.k.a “Casa del Muertos”.

Dia de Los Muertos!!!!! Sugar Skull Tutorial

So my buddies at the Someday Lounge and I have been thinking about fun artsy/community things to do this year, and if there was ever a holiday screaming for a good party, this is it! The city is being super slow about stepping up to the plate with a parade permit, which is too bad since the Portland Hearse Club would like to lead our procession through Old Town and the Pearl District. We will have the Lions of Batucada a 25 piece Samba marching band, a few performance artists and my buddy Jacob and his troupe of stilts walkers, so I expect a good time will be had by all, even if we get rain, rain and more rain. I think I love Dia de Los Muertos even more than Halloween- I love the idea of inviting the dead to come party with us and community remembrances- it is a comforting ritual for an atheist who’s not looking forward to the release of this mortal coil. We’ll be hosting a community alter at the Someday- not sure how it’s all going to look- but I’ve got high hopes. We’ve been decorating sugar skulls for weeks, which is a delight. I’m including a tutorial- the most important thing is a good mold and using a dried meringue mix. I ordered the supplies on line from Mexican Sugar Skull. Next year we hope to order the custom designed papel banners made by a 76 year old designer from Oaxaca.

UPDATE!!!!!!!!! We’re having the celebration again (for the 3rd year running) in ’09 in Portland! Click here for more details!

bend-of-the-dead-016.jpg So along with the skull mold you’ll need sugar- if you’re doing large skulls go for the 10# bags, you can get about 6 large skulls and 20 smaller ones, and dried meringue mix.  Mexican Sugar Skull sells this also. They recommend not making on a rainy or humid day, but hey this is Oregon, there’s no such thing. You might notice the cheap wine in the photo, which is turning out like Hitchcock’s stomach, slowly making a cameo into the occasional craft photos- the wine is optional, use your best judgment.

bend-of-the-dead-021.jpg Mix the dry ingredients first, then slowly sprinkle in the water. When it feels the consistency of moist beach sand, you’re there. Put the sugar into the mold and press down hard, then flip over onto a small hard surface. I covered cardboard squares with tin foil. If the sugar sticks to the inside of the mold, you’ve used too much water, dump it back into the bowl, add more sugar and a pinch of the meringue powder. If it crumbles or breaks, it’s too dry, also dump it back in the bowl, this time try a bit more water. You’ll want to wash out the molds every five or six skulls, they get a bit sticky and the sugar tends to pull, make sure to dry the insides well before starting the next round.

bend-of-the-dead-023.jpg Let the skulls dry over night- If you’re making a larger two piece skull, you’ll want to hollow out the insides with a spoon after about 12 hours, leave about 3/4 of an inch boarder and don’t scoop down into the jaw. You can use the scooped sugar to make more big skulls or smaller ones, though you may need to sprinkle a small bit of water again.

The two piece skulls can be fit together using royal icing, unless you’ve got no patience- then go for the glue gun. Traditionally the skulls are decorated with royal icing, foil, beads, feathers and sequins- at our house anything is fair game. Buttons work great, little army men and lizards,check stubs- you’ll also want to write the name of the person you’re remembering on the skull.

bend-of-the-dead-002.jpg Xander is pictured here making a skull for Moka- the recently expired Guinea Pig from the preschool. Our icing was a bit of a mess- we used the dried meringue mix with powdered sugar and water and mixed on a high speed as directed for about nine minutes- we didn’t have dried food coloring and used tempera paint instead, which made the icing too moist and the pink looked like Pepto Bismal- A later experiment with dried tempera powder worked very well and is a great budget choice over something from the cake decorating specialty store. A friend tried to decorate the skulls with store bought icing which was also a disaster- it didn’t harden and ate into the skull, the water from the icing basically melted their hard work. Glitter glue also works well for decorating, but it does seep in a bit, so the embellishments tend to have a tattooed look rather than something raised. Here’s a few shots of the end results- they’re all going on the alters on November 1st and probably dug out again next year, though they are so much fun I know we’ll want to make more.

(Yet another update!  based on wonderful comments, I’ve tried substituting egg whites for the meringue powder and it works great. I don’t have precise measurements,  I add beaten whites along with a couple teaspoons of water to the sugar slowly until the mix takes on beach sand consistency. Seems to work just fine and is much cheaper!)