May 18, 2009

Yarn companies offering free patterns

Businesses everywhere are marketing their products and reaching out to customers with electronic newsletters. Some are beautiful, some are basic. Some are "much ado about nothing." Others are packed full of information that is useful and that others might charge for. In which case, one actually considers purchasing the product being pitched.

While looking for yarn online, I came across Lion Brand yarn and signed up for their mailed catalog (beautiful, so well produced from a design and printing standpoint) and for their emailed newsletter. The newsletter is not long; it seems to come about once a week. What I appreciate about it is the free pattern that is highlighted in each issue.

A few months ago, the free pattern was for a crocheted Market Bag (Pattern #: 70221A). With patterns I like, I simply select with my cursor, then copy (CTRL C) and (after opening a new doc in MS Word) paste (CTRL V) the photo and directions into an MS Word document, then save (CTRL S) in a folder on my computer or print out (CTRL P) and put in a 3-ring binder (where I then have a pattern book filled with patterns I like and can actually use).

Lion also sells all the yarn needed for the bag, but as the organic yarn recommended came to ... gulp ... $45, I used another solution.

A few years ago, I bought a basket full of various Sugar 'n Creme cotton yarns at a secondhand sale. I've used them to crochet dishcloths and washcloths. I pulled the basket out and started working Lion's easy-to-follow directions. By the end of the weekend and several DVD-episodes of a favorite BBC series, I had a large market bag (I wanted to use my ergonomic crochet hook and choose a slightly larger size hook than in the directions.)

My results (the first photo here) looked VERY colorful. I wished I'd had more pink/blue to use intead of the weird green/turquoise mix on the handle. Like many a frustrated artist, I was sure that if I put MORE "stuff" on the bag, it would be improved. So I worked up a few crocheted flowers and sewed them onto the front. It is a very busy bag.

Then, I decided the bag was too busy looking to use as a gift (my intention in the first place in starting out), so I trotted to my local store (hey, they deserve my business too) and bought Sugar 'n Creme on a large spool for $11, and it did the trick and was almost the same color as the one in the directions; natural with a few speckles of color strewn about. Bag #2, weekend #2, DVD disk-set #2, worked out much better (see second photo). I skipped the flowers this time, but put a puff-stitch pattern around the bag (3 rows of puff stitch, with a row of the regular bag pattern in between the puff-stitch rows). Voila! a great gift for anyone who wants to reduce use of plastic grocery bags, and, as it turned out with this recipient, likes to frequent farmers markets (we have one of the best ones around here in Athens County, Ohio. Did you know Athens was once voted by Mother Earth News as "one of the 12 best places you've never heard of"?)

Here are some other businesses that offer newsletters and/or free patterns. I haven't read them all, so try them out and see if they are worthwhile. You can always cancel. If you're worried about your email being out there, sign up for a free Gmail address just for this purpose. You can check it, whenever, and see what interesting things you can make using available products or new products. Remember that whether talking about baking, crocheting, or painting--quality of products DOES matter. Try something out with less expensive alternatives, and if you like the results, spring for better quality materials in the next version.


And also, visit the Craft Yarn Council of America.

Heart to Art Galleria - Marietta, Ohio

Yesterday, Mark and I took a beautiful drive via Rt 550 from Athens over to Marietta, Ohio for the Grand Opening of the Heart to Art Galleria at 208 Front Street. I learned of the Heart to Art Galleria shop, from WASCO, Inc. “WASCO is a public nonprofit agency created by parents in the 1950s to create vocational opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.”

The Galleria interested me because I was looking for an outlet for my son, Bryce's, arts and crafts. Bryce works at a sheltered workshop in Ohio, but didn't have a way to sell the jewelry and drawings he's created. Passionworks, the wonderful art program for Athens County residents, is unable to take non-Athens County residents' work into their store at this time, and they suggested I contact WASCO. Long story short, Bryce has made several drawings, bracelets, earrings and bookmarks to sell in the Heart to Art Galleria and this, as you can imagine, makes his mom pretty happy.

Marietta, as you might know, is a wonderful town on the Ohio River. Described on its visitor website as follows:

“…a picturesque river town with European ambience. Located on the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, Marietta was the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory, established in 1788. Its brick streets are lined with lush hardwood trees and opulent Victorian homes. With lots of history, two waterways, and a bustling downtown, it was ranked 79 among Best Smaller Places by Forbes magazine in 2000. The vibrant historic district offers many distinctive stores, antique shops, boutiques, and galleries, as well as several independent restaurants and cozy cafes.”

Nancy Harris, Business Development Manager at WASCO, took the time to answer my questions so folks could learn more about the shop.

JPW: Nancy, I see the

dichrioc jewelry sold online on WASCO’s site; it’s beautiful! How long have WASCO artists been creating and selling this jewelry?
NH: We received a grant from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council in 2005.

JPW: How was the decision made to go from selling jewelry online to having a brick-and-mortar store in downtown Marietta with a variety of products?
NH: WASCO’s mission is to assist adults with developmental disabilities to be a viable part of their community. “There are a variety of ways in which we do this,” states Jan Powell, Director of WASCO. “Exploring employment opportunities is our main mission, but at the same time we want Marietta to see our commitment to be involved in our community”.

JPW: What sort of products are going to be sold in the store and what are the price ranges?
NH: Shoppers will see a unique display of creative art products such as greeting cards, planters, porch and picnic furniture, jewelry, pottery, and sewn products such as quilts and pillows. Heart to Art Galleria also displays many art prints. WASCO’s store is all about uniting people with different abilities, giving them the opportunity to showcase their work.

JPW: Tell us a bit about the individuals who create these products.
NH: All of the products are created by adults with disabilities. The majority of them receive services through County Board Programs located throughout the State of Ohio.

JPW: Are the artists from Washington County (OH) alone, or from other Ohio counties as well?
NH: All of the artists reside in the State of Ohio.

JPW: What are the open hours at Heart to Art Galleria?
NH: Monday – Saturday 9AM – 5PM

After our visit there yesterday, we learned that in addition to the beautiful jewelry sold at Heart to Art Galleria, there is a wide variety of offerings, including: wooden gliders and other lawn furniture; ceiling and backsplash tiles; paintings on canvas; Athens' Passionwork's products and Fairfield County's Blue Shoe Arts' products; Buckeye keychains; decorative stones for the garden (we bought one that said "All Dog's Go to Heaven"--it was under $10!); potpourri; stuffed toys; even fair trade coffee! Many Ohio County Board's of Developmental Disabilities are represented in the store with creations by their clients--and I think folks new to the genre of "outsider art" will be astounded at how beautiful these creations are.

There are a lot of things to do and see in Marietta, and if you’re anything like me, a day away is sometimes more restorative than a longer vacation. Marietta is 120 miles from Columbus, 75 miles from Charleston, WV, 170 miles from Cleveland, and 160 miles from Pittsburgh. From Athens, where Mark and I live, it is not far at all, about a 50-minute drive.
Be sure to visit the Heart to Art Galleria and purchase one of their artists’ creations for yourself, your home, or as a gift. You’ll be adding beauty to your life and supporting the creative efforts of some very special people.

Note: After visiting the Galleria, we ate lunch at Austyn's Restaurant, (click on link to see their menu) also on Front Street and near to the public parking lot along the waterfront, where the photo above was taken. It was delicious! I had the strawberry walnut salad and Mark had the club sandwich. For desert, creme brulee and coffee. A perfect addition to our morning get-away. Their dinner menu looked very good too; the restaurant and food it offered reminded me of some of the places we ate when we were in NYC earlier this year (namely Benjamin Steakhouse), and also, Sarava, one of my favorite restaurants (Shaker Square, Cleveland). In other words, a real gem of an eatery, right here in SE Ohio.

Update: 6/18/09. My mother is visiting from FL and we drove over to Marietta today, stopping in at the Heart to Art Galleria. Nancy Harris called me beforehand and told me that tomorrow night, 6/19/09, is the Mayor's Jubilee in downtown Marietta--music, art, shopping, food--sounds wonderful.

It was great to learn that some of my son Bryce's artwork had been purchased and to see what it was that captured visitors' attention (his portrait of Aunt Joan and his drawing of an angel). I also had the opportunity today to meet four of the WASCO jewelry artists who, under the direction of Kim and Chuck, were creating absolutely beautiful glass pendants for necklaces (such as are sold on their website and in the store). I saw how carefully the artists choose the colors and shapes that go on the pendants and they explained to me the process for completing the jewelry (firing in the kiln and then the findings attached so that the pendants can be hung on a necklace).

I noticed that many things that I'd seen on my first visit there for the grand opening were now sold. Great! There are still a lot of great products there and more are on the way. Passionworks and Blue Shoe Arts from Athens and Fairfield Counties, respectively, are well represented. Stuffed toys from Allen County are also there.

Mother and I ate at Austyn's and went into a wonderful gift shop, an antique shop, and a secondhand clothing store. It was a wonderful way to spend a day off of work.

May 11, 2009

Paint-by-Numbers, A Relaxing Creative Outlet

Art and craft enthusiasts have long known the calming, meditative, right-brain blissfulness that comes with delving into a project; concentrating on the colors and shapes; finding all the pieces coming together to create something beautiful.

Yet often painting is a daunting thing to take up. The materials can be confusing; all the different types of paints and brushes called "flats" and "brights." The smell of oils, not to mention the expense. And the fact that most of us do not believe we really can draw, and who wants to face failure when you just want to relax and have some fun? This is why paint-by-numbers were created, and I -- for one -- do not think anyone should feel hesitant to embrace this hobby. It's a real hobby and a real craft; no different than following the directions on a crocheted afghan (such as I'm doing now) or knitting a beautiful cable sweater or cutting out various images to make a collage.

The beautiful paintings shown here were done by my sister, Joyce Phelps, of Bradenton, FL. I'm not surprised that her efforts look so great, because she has always been a person who paid attention to the details. Her home shows a good sense of color and composition. She is patient and stays with anything she starts until she's "got it." I, gal of many unfinished projects, admire that quality.

Joyce says that paint-by-numbers is relaxing; indeed many would say it is therapeutic in the way that so many hobbbies are.

The paintings Joyce has done here are shown in reverse chronological order. The painting of the cats was her first, the one of the birds and flowers second and the beach scene the most recent.

Some paint-by-numbers designs require more compex color mixing than others, and you can really see the excellent care Joyce has taken in mixing the paints to get the soft background in the bird picture, as well as the very lifelike water in the beach scene.

If you have always wanted to paint but felt intimidated by a blank canvas, consider one of the many paint-by-numbers kits available today. I've listed places where you can buy the kits and articles online about the hobby, below.


Complete Paint-by-Numbers Set from Readers Digest

Paint By Number Kit: Everything You Need to Re-Create 8 Vintage Masterpieces

Games Magazine Presents Paint by Numbers (The Unique Geometric Logic Puzzles for Ages 14 to Adult)

Paint by Number: The How-To Craze that Swept the Nation

Painting the Great Masters by Number: Create Your Own Masterpiece with this Easy Paint-by-Number Program

3-D Paint by Numbers: Under the Sea


Pencil by Numbers kits


Paint by Numbers Kits


“Paint by numbers: A ‘50s fad achieves status in the new millennium”

“Vintage Paint-by-Numbers Making a Comeback”


Various articles on the subject.

"The use of paint-by-number art in therapy"

“By the Numbers: An Interview with William L. Bird, Jr."


National Museum of American History

le salon de Paint-by-Numbers: Dedicated to the Art of Creative Relaxation

Extreme Home Makeover Paint by Numbers Room

Paint by Numbers T-shirt!

Paint by Numbers Toilet Paper

October 2009: Paint-by-Numbers Exhibit/Benefit in St. Louis, MO.

Paint by Numbers 2005 CD-ROM (note: it does not list VISTA as a platform)

Note: The paintings on this page are protected by copyright. All rights reserved by the copyright holder.

May 1, 2009

Daisy Mae

There are many wonderful things about leading a creative workshop, or taking part in one, for that matter. I like creative workshops because they nourish the individual soul and the collective soul as well. We leave feeling inspired and make connections with other creative-types, and their work and approach and technique and ideas spur us on to new things that fit our lives.
When Mark and I moved to Athens, I soon found Art of Ohio online. I contacted Paulette Halliday who I found to be a wonderful resource, and angel really, for artists in SE Ohio. Paulette, who works at ACEnet, the umbrella organization behind Art of Ohio, is one of those people I read about in The Tipping Point. You know: gifted with the ability to bring people together, to see the potential for networks and to encourage even the shy and hesitant among us to reach out beyond our comfortable walls.

Paulette opened the door, literally and figuratively, for me to give ATC (artist trading card) workshops in Athens and Art of Ohio provided space. Through these workshops I have met some wonderful women in Athens who are living lives of creativity, mindfulness, and intelligence. I hope that a few of these women will give me permission to profile their creative work in future postings. Today, I'd like to tip my crocheted hat to Florence Clark.

Flo does not live in Athens, but was visiting family here when she signed up for my Fall 2008 Artist Trading Card workshop. We met again for dinner with my husband, Mark, and sister, Joan, and soon discovered a mutual love of dogs. Her dog, Daisy Mae, was captured so delightfully in a small painting she did recently, that I asked her if I could post it on Appalachian Morning, and she said yes and sent me a second painting she'd done as well.

In my book, Open Your Heart with Pets, I shared the stories of many people whose lives have been rejuvenated, enhanced, redeemed, restored--really I can't think of strong enough words to express just what a pet can mean in the life of an open-hearted human, but I think you must know... Flo does. Daisy Mae does. They share a bond that time and separation couldn't alter and now they are together again and enjoying each new day. Here's what Flo wrote about Daisy Mae and the benefit of spending time creating:

"During my separation from my life as I knew it — including living without my Daisy — it was making art that saved my sanity; first it was the little ATC cards, then a step into art journaling, and finally painting with acrylics on ATC-size canvas. It is in this medium that I have been able to express my love of my Daisy Mae and of art.

"I must add that Daisy and I have been reunited because of the kind lady who rescued her from the kennel and kept her until I was able to take her to live with me again.

"Daisy has been my inspiration as far as recovering from my surgery — she keeps me exercising and she always makes me laugh. We do share a unique bond; she is a blessing to me, and every day we say grace before our meals (she's even learning to bow her head!)and thank God that we awoke that day, that we are together and that we have so many, many blessings. I AM truly blessed — with recovering health, with good friends, loving family, my Daisy and a creative outlet; God is so very good."

Hats off to Flo and Daisy Mae — and Flo, keep up the wonderful creative work — you have a gift of peace and mindfulness that this world needs more of.