Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Trying my hand at needle felting...and surviving

I have been curious about needle felting for a couple of years, but I became inspired when I watched a needle felting artist working at the Arts Fest here in State College, PA. I was intrigued by how easy it was to sculpt the fibers into amazing things. Kind of like clay, but fuzzy! So yesterday I took the plunge and bought a needle felting kit. With a few molds, some wool roving, a needle, and a bit of foam, I made an adorable owl.

I found the stab-stab-stabbing of the needle very relaxing. I won't try to guess why...

And it was surprisingly easy to add fine details! Except when I accidentally felted my own finger. It is not a good idea to pierce oneself with a barbed needle. Just in case you were wondering.

So here it is! Not perfect, of course. Not even close. But boy, was it fun! I am planning to become addicted to this new hobby tomorrow.

If you are interested in needle felting, have a look at my Pinterest Board for some great links!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Then there was the time I crocheted this rug

It all started when my partner-in-crime, Jesse, went t-shirt shopping.

He got the wrong size and didn't know what to do. I realized that this presented a perfect opportunity to make t-shirt yarn. I grabbed some yummy Rit dye colors and got started.

Five hours and many loads of laundry later, I had three hot pink t-shirts, three teal shirts, and three orange shirts. With shirts in hand, I visited my Pinterest page for some helpful t-shirt yarn how-tos. I found super-easy and well-written tutorial. I got started.

I cut and trimmed and knotted and measured and cursed (just a little.) Eventually, I ended up with these happy little balls of cotton-y goodness.

I got a giant Size P crochet hook...

And got started on my first crochet rug. I found a great pattern and then this happened:

And this...

I will admit that it was not an easy task, crocheting with a big bulky hook and big bulky yarn. I worked at it for a few days, nearly lost my mind, and decided to take a break. Then I made peace with the silly rug and got back to work.

I made progress, and eventually a cute little rug emerged. I was pretty pleased with myself.

Now I am inspired. More to come - promise!

Friday, May 24, 2013

My own darkroom! Really!

Remember when we used to take our 35mm film to the local drugstore for developing? When I wasn't looking, film developing became a boutique service not easily found in my town. Only one store handles film, and it costs about $15 to develop a roll and get the photos on disc. Sending my film out took a month and cost $12 per roll. The results were great, but the cost and turnaround time were frustrating.

As you know, I recently rediscovered film photography about two years ago. I own a bunch of nifty Lomography cameras, an Electro 35 from the early 70s, and a Canon Rebel SLR. I have been experimenting with different films and processes, but never at home. Then I did the math and realized how inexpensive it would be to set up a home dark room.

I started with this Pinterest board, where I pinned all of my research and created my own little self-study course. I watched dozens of videos, visited a camera shop, and talked to film veterans who knew a thing or two about processing.

Then I went shopping. Before I knew it, I had my own little darkroom, complete with developing tanks, reels, chemicals, and all kinds of helpful little gadgets. It looks something like this:

I am starting with C-41 processing, which is what you use with color negative film. I also want to try E6 for cross-processing when I gather more confidence.

A camera store owner in York, PA recommended this tank and reel set, so I can develop 120 and 35mm film:

I added some Lomography posters for inspiration...

And now I am ready to go! And yes, I do realize that I am the only person who repurposes a perfectly good third bathroom to make a dark room. I am awesomely weird that way.

Check out my Pinterest board for links to some helpful and interesting tutorials, videos, and how-to guides that will get you started with film developing. And watch this blog for updates as I dive into the deep end of home film processing! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Retro analogue FUN with the Polaroid Spectra II

As an aspiring hipster, I decided to take up crap photography. And no Lomo endeavor is complete without a journey into instant photography. I found this fantastic Polaroid Spectra camera at an antique shop, mint in the box, for only $2.50. This is a much better price than the refurbished models available online, but I was taking a chance with an untested camera that had been sleeping in someone's attic for decades.

Of course, I had to drop $34 on a twin pack of expired film to test it out, but that is the price you pay for coolness.

It fits nicely in its assigned shelf in my fridge...

This, of course, is a symptom of an illness.

Last weekend, we went on a photography adventure, and the Polaroid came along for some fun instant gratification. We got some really interesting shots as we experimented with light settings and angles. Because we were using film that expired in 2009 that had been living in the fridge for a year, we discovered some obvious imperfections, but those just added to the excitement. I primarily focused on my favorite humans and canine for this experience, as my fondest childhood Polaroid memories center on capturing special moments with the family.

But I threw in a shot of an inanimate object to see what would happen, too.

The Spectra has three light settings - Lighter, Normal, and Darker. We found that the Lighter setting resulted in washed-out images when used outside or in brighter inside light. The Normal setting worked best inside, and the Darker setting yielded the best results for outside shots, like these of my crazy dog, Cooper O'Connell-Myers-Ferrell:

My next project will be testing the two Polaroid 600 cameras I recently picked up at yard sales, for $3.00 each. I grabbed a pack of Impossible Project film at Urban Outfitters over the weekend, and I have high hopes for some analogue heaven! Stay tuned, my friends!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Granny square happiness!

One day I decided to learn how to make a granny square. Well, I should say relearn, because I made a Christmas granny square throw for my great-grandma when I was about 10 years old. She displayed it on her living room hassock every December, and her praise for my work made me feel so special.

Fast forward 30 years, and here I am, getting back to my crafty roots. After a few months of following patterns and watching online tutorials, I decided to design my own granny square bag. I started with this:

Inspired, I grabbed some complementary colors and got to work!

Before I knew it, I had all of these. I had to find a way to put them together, so I threaded my neutral-colored yarn into an embroidery needle and used what I hoped was a basting stitch to turn a pile of little squares into the front of a bag.

With the front and back sewn together, I realized that I needed some sides. What to do? I finally went with a double crochet to make two long panels.

Then I attached the sides...

And realized I needed a bottom! Quickly I double crocheted a brown bottom and sewed it in! I discovered that creating a three-dimensional bag requires a fair amount of geometry, a weak subject for me. But somehow I managed, and the math worked!

Wow! A little more work, and I ended up with this:

I also made straps with long strips of double crochet panels much like the side panels. I encountered some problems with these, so I won't be sharing the final pics here.

There it is. My first design! I am thrilled beyond belief! My first success so inspired me that I have been designing and creating every day. I never realized how much joy and calm there is in crocheting and making something new.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Achieving the IMPOSSIBLE! I found the Impossible Project space in NYC!

You remember those old, yellow-y Polaroid photos from your childhood, don't you? The quality was sometimes terrible, never really good? But back in the 70s, they gave us instant gratification. What a thrill! Now we have digital, so who cares about Polaroids, right? Wrong. As any self-respecting hipster will tell you, instant is where it's at.

When Jesse and I planned our week-long trip to Manhattan in February, I put two must-see locations on my list: The Lomography Store in Greenwich Village and the Impossible Project Space in Soho. You may remember my previous Lomo blog, in which I gushed about the awesomeness of a WHOLE STORE devoted to analogue photography. I also broke my Diana Mini camera that day. Sort of sadly poetic, don't you think? One freezing, windy afternoon, I decided to track down the elusive Impossible Project, so hidden in Soho that it almost dares you to find it. (Clearly, they are going for that hipster vibe.) Well, I found it, and it was really something:

I climbed five looong flights of old, creaky stairs...

And found myself in instant lomo heaven!

I was amazed to see so many old cameras, once believed to be obsolete, in various stages of rebirth.

I spotted this beauty pointed out the window. I am not sure, but I suspect this may be for shooting 8x10 Polaroid film, a new, expensive release from the Impossible Project:

Naturally, I decided to peer out the windows to see the five-story view:

I found a beautiful example of my Spectra Camera, too! Of course, I paid $2.50 for mine, mint in the box, at an antique shop. Spoiler: I just shot some expired Spectra Image film last weekend, so watch this blog for the glorious, low-res results!

I was excited to see the new Polaroid films available to bring my thrift-store cameras to life, although the prices were a bit shocking.

It was really something to see a beautiful, bright space dedicated to reviving the lost art of Polaroid photography. Was it ever really an art, or is that just wishful thinking? At any rate, it inspired me to explore the possibilities of instant photography. Who knows what could happen?

Stay tuned for more instant beauty, courtesy of my awesome budget camera finds!