Monday, April 14, 2014

Hanging with the Big Dogs (of knitting, that is!)

Knitterly: Fine Yarn, Finest ServiceLast week several of my knitting friends and I took a little road trip to a yarn shop in Petaluma, Knitterly. Among my knitting friends her in Sacramento, Knitterly is considered a Mecca for all things Yarn, and well worth the 100 mile drive across the Valley.  Two of us making the outing were Knitterly newbies and anxious to see what the fuss was all about.

Knitterly is a lovely shop in the old section of Petaluma.  The streets are lined with every manner of restaurant and retail shop, enough to make the trip worthwhile, even if there wasn't a yarn shop. Knitterly is known for its fine yarns and fibers, many of which I have heard my friends rave about and which, I might add, have never seen the bottom of my shopping bag.  Suffice it to say, it's like a candy shop that caters to sugar-holics.

I should back up and explain the level of expertise that comprised my traveling companions: one has never shied away from any pattern or expensive yarn, knitting in the most gorgeous uniform stitches that would make a knitting machine jealous...another friend IS a knitting machine, putting out more sweaters and shawls in a month than the rest of us could knit in a year...another dyes, spins, knits and weaves her own fibers, even spinning raw organic cotton from the plant.  These are not your basic potholder-making queens - these are the Big Dogs.

I don't consider myself a novice knitter, so when one of the group suggested we all choose some Habu yarn to make a shawl together, it seemed like a cool idea.  The shawl sample was absolutely luscious on the mannequin - I wrapped it around my shoulders, dreaming of a Paris evening.

You can do this, Laurel, I reasoned to myself. Though I have never knitted with such a fine yarn, I noted that the pattern was not that complex...just one single page of instructions. The yarn came on a cone, instead of a skein, so right away you feel like you've joined the Big Dogs. I even created a chart in Excel (I am the spreadsheet queen, remember!) so that I could visually "see" the pattern unfold.

And that, my friends, was the end of my usual "I can do anything" mindset. In three short days since I have possessed these cones from hell, I have ripped my work off the needles four (count them!) four times. Like I said, it isn't like the pattern is complicated - basically twelve repeating rows of 182 stitched yarn overs, knit togethers, etc. However, counting (endless counting!) has proven to be my Achilles heel, and this project depends on it. I remember hearing the sales associate from the shop tell one of the Big Dogs to create a lifeline along the CASE you make a mistake.

Lifeline, Schmifeline!

One of my basic rules of life is just DO IT - pick the project you want to do regardless of your skill level and just go for it. Well, consider me humbled, beaten into submission by Habu yarn cones. I woke up in the middle of a scourging nightmare of some dog chasing me last night to a revelation. I figured out why my stitches would not come out correctly. Instead of knitting two together after my yarn overs, I was knitting one. Hel-lo! Doesn't sound like much, but knitters will tell you it's huge.  I got up and set out to fix my error at 4:00 a.m. and was ecstatic that my counting became perfect.

Nirvana...right up until my stitches slipped off the needles, hanging in the air! After 15 minutes of trying to get the lost sheep back in the pen, in a fit of rage I ripped the whole thing back off the needles. By this time, I'm thinking that the Big Dogs will have to go on without me, and my Paris wardrobe will be devoid of a luscious Habu shawl.

But the sun always rises on a new day and armed with a hour of prayer, I wrestled the Habu into submission. I actually USED markers this time (I'm not fond of them, but the Big Dogs claim it's the secret to accurate counting). I also changed needles to help pick up this fine yarn. And I took my time. Sitting in the morning sun, I finally got past Row 5.

My shawl is going to rock and I am David defeating Goliath! I am Neil Armstrong walking on the moon! I am ready for battle and the Arc de Triomphe awaits my victorious entry!

Today, I AM A BIG DOG!


Laurel. Yeah to me in another day, grasshopper.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Identity understood

 Magpie Tales
Mag 214

photo by Kelsey Hannah

I am the Beloved
Complex and thoughtful
Creative and obsessive
Lover of beauty, lover of God
Compassionate and selfish
Shackled and free
Fragile and strong

Please check in on other musings at Magpie Tales

Laurel. Grateful.

Friday, April 4, 2014

"Wear Something Frenchy"

I am absolutely obsessed thinking about my travel wardrobe to Europe.  Even though we will be spending more time driving around the French countryside, I can't stop thinking about Paris! We have visited the "City of Romance" once before and what I noted is that the French women strolling on the streets never look tacky, sloppy or un-put-together. Paris fashion is iconic, even the street style. And I want to be a part of that scene!

Meanwhile, my friend Peg invited us to join them at a restaurant featuring all things Parisian, as she knows I'm obsessed.  I'm not sure what that will entail besides some great wine, but I'm all over it.

"Wear something Frenchy", she texted.

Okie dokie. Rev up the Pinterest and Polyvore, Laurel. 

I've already made some very chic black linen cigarette slacks out of the fabric I picked up at Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics last month.  I love the weight of this particular linen and I know it will be so versatile for our trip.  All I need is some kind of white top (lace???)...already own the leopard print sweater...and those pointy toed heels...

Is that Frenchy enough, Peg??

My Polyvore set - "Wear Something Frenchy" 2014

Laurel. How many more days????

Monday, March 31, 2014

Art Addiction...

I never really thought of myself as having an addictive personality. In the past, I associated that trait with the lesser accepted addictions such as alcohol and drugs.  We tend to poo-poo these souls as weak, pathetic and out of control, when we ourselves have recurring behaviors than infiltrate our minds and bodies to the point of "addiction". Forget the endless list of minor disorders, tiny hang-ups and slight societal ills, is there such a thing as a "good" addiction? Is it socially okay to be obsessed with something?

My name is Laurel, and I am addicted to Polyvore. I started out with just a desire to find some cool fashions to  re-create on my sewing machine. I would just spend a few minutes perusing the items and picking a few things to add to my wish list. I wasn't spending any actual money, so how could it be harmful? Before long, I discovered the joy of the drag and drop lifestyle, and I became hooked. I could pull in artistic elements - backgrounds, florals, smudges, flourishes, etc. - making my fashion choices look even more trendy and cool. People "Liked" my sets and I started getting followers. I found myself scouring the web - Pinterest, Tumblr, everywhere - to find new elements for my sets.  My simple sets morphed into tiny works of art that had nothing to do with fashion at all. I confess that I have burned dinner once too often because I slipped back into the computer to work on a set and time got away with me, out of control, dragging and dropping the hours away. I am a Polyvore addict...I'm not proud of it, but at least I admit it.

They say that admitting your "problem" is the first step. But I say, there's another way to look at this. All of the great artists were obsessed with their creations, driven to leave a piece of themselves on a canvas or on a pile of clay or in the photography darkroom. To re-create the musings of our minds in some tangible medium is a gut-level reaction to the world around us. Whether we wile away the hours with "acceptable" hobbies like knitting, beading, teaching, cooking or gardening, there is a tortured artist in us all to some degree. The need to express ourselves is guttural reaction to life.

Don't bother trying to read anything into my art. I don't consider myself to be tortured, as in the artistic vein of a Toulouse-Lautrec,  Truman Capote, Johnny Cash or Vincent VanGogh, but I will be bound forever to create beauty in some way. It is part of me, the way God created me. So burned green beans withstanding, I will keep on dragging and dropping in least until I grow tired of it. All artist are highly susceptible to boredom, you know.

Lost 2, by Laurel Dismukes - 2014

Laurel. Art addict.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Not Your Ordinary Pinterest Queen...

We all love Pinterest.  We love to dream in cyberspace, flipping through page after page of stuff that we like, want to do or wish we could do. There are thousands of boards with creative artistry in fashion, crafts and food.  It's fun to put together our wish lists and dreams.

I am one of those that uses Pinterest for revving up the right side of my brain. I pin things that appeal to my senses and that I want to remember.  Most people are like me...we love to look but we don't always follow through.

My daughter is the Pinterest Queen. I say that because she actually makes the things see finds on Pinterest, especially in the yummy deserts and garden art categories.  You can send her a pin of some caramel/chocolaty concoction and it will magically appear on the desert table at a family gathering. But beyond being an excellent baker, she is a crafting genius. I was over at her home and we were enjoying the afternoon sunshine and decided to snap a few photos of her recent Pinterest works of art.

Not your Ordinary Pinterest Queen...

Laurel. I want to be her when I grow up.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The essence of indulgence...

"If you make most of your clothes yourself, it's okay to splurge occasionally
 on something more than the little treasures you find at Nasty Goodwill..." 

I told myself that very thing as I wandered around the handbag section at Nordstrom, looking for a little cross-body purse to take to Paris. I rationalized that I had just come from the second floor dressing room where I tried on several pairs of expensive white jeans and left empty handed, defeated.

Fact: White jeans are tough - you know what they say about white making your backside look big. It's true.

Get back to the purse hunt, Laurel.

As I walked slowly around the shelves of leather purses, I found myself wandering where people like me should not go...little rooms off to the side...walls of glass shelves, subtle lighting, handbags displayed like works of art. From across the space I saw this cute little Gucci bag. As adorable as it was - it would be perfect for travel - I silently choked so the saleslady would not notice as I perused the price tag. To make matters worse, I sauntered out and into the Balenciaga space as if I owned the joint.

"Gee, I'm just not finding exactly the right one," I lied. (Do you have anything less than $950, honey, I thought to myself.)

"Perhaps this little Valentino over here", she purred. "I just love your blouse and necklace," stroking my ego.

"Nasty Goodwill, honey," I wanted to say, but I WAS shopping in Nordstrom for a new purse and I HAD asked her for help. And more money, obviously.

Reality check: Step away from the purses! You are in way over your head, Chickie. Changing gears, I thanked her and left Nordies for the great open spaces of the Mall, back on the trail of the white jeans. Hmm...JCPenneys... yeah baby!

And as luck would have it, I scored on a pair of skinny ankle jeans...AND they were on sale!

Coming off the heels of that success, I prepared to leave the Mall, sans new purse. I wandered into Michael Kors on my way out and found nothing. I love his stuff, but nothing really captured my attention. Across the Mall I spotted the Coach store, also on my way out.  What the heck, Laurel...go check it out.

Patrick was more than obliging to show off his handbags (they're not "Purses" there).  I've never bought a Coach bag...never even desired to own one before. As he lovingly petted the soft leather of each little cross-body bag, I could feel myself getting sucked in...

"If you make most of your clothes yourself, it's okay to splurge occasionally
 on something more than the little treasures you find at Nasty Goodwill..."

You can do this...breathe. It wasn't like I hadn't spent that much on a handbag before. It was actually reasonable, as "purses" go. It had the perfect strap and the leather was a yummy buttery tan. Perfection.
"If you make most of your clothes yourself, it's okay to splurge occasionally
 on something more than the little treasures you find at Nasty Goodwill..."

"I've never had a Coach bag", I slobbered.

Every sales person in the store started sighing and purring all at once. I could hear them flitting about, heels clicking on the polished floors, joining Patrick, cooing and ready to pounce!

"Oh MUST have it!" waving his hands gracefully in the air.
"If you make most of your clothes yourself, it's okay to splurge occasionally
 on something more than the little treasures you find at Nasty Goodwill..."

Yes, I must!

"And since you are a Coach Newbie, let me just box that up for you!"  Oh Patrick, you smooth talker...

"If you make most of your clothes yourself, it's okay to splurge occasionally
 on something more than the little treasures you find at Nasty Goodwill..." 

Laurel. Handbag for Paris - Check!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Art-Filled & Feminine

Back on track...

There are so many things that I could say have gone "wrong" since the beginning of the year, but most of those would center around the almighty dollar (I would capitalize that, but that would officially make it an Idol...LOL!) slipping out of our hands!

  • There was that little burp with our 10 year old refrigerator right before Superbowl - $400 later, it's purring again.
  • Then a crown for Dave and a crown for me (and I'm not talking about the kind you wear on your head)...I think I should be a dentist - over $2,500
  • How 'bout that swimming pool pump that decided it'd had enough? $1,500. Then of course those fancy giant cartridges that fit inside the pool filter decided that the new pump was too much for them - $400.
  • Did I mention an incident with a large rock colliding with the running board on Dave's truck? Can't even go there...
Not to sound too negative, there have been highlights of course - you know how you never complain about spending money on upcoming vacations? Plain tickets to Paris - check! Apartment in Paris - check! New iPhone 5S - check! But despite these momentary highs, I did go into a slump of sorts since the new year, largely due to a bad cold and nagging cough, on top of everything else. Not much sewing going on in the workroom until recently and certainly not much blogging.

I am pleased to say that I have crawled out of the pit (of sorts) and back at my life.  I started a new eating regimen (Whole 30) that lasts for 30 days. Even though I don't officially observe the Lenten season, I feel that I am sacrificing during this pre-Easter season - no wine, no sugar, no potatoes, no dairy. And we all know which one of those is Laurel's Achilles' Heel! But alas, I'm on Day 10 today and I'm finally starting to feel kinda good!

I've been on a creative kick lately. I'm totally addicted to the collages that I can create on Polyvore, and I've been sewing as well.

I made this cool bag to use as a carry-on...I've started one for Fabric Lady and we will be blogging about the construction of our bags soon.

I had spent a great day with Suzan (aka FabricLady) at Stonemountain this month and came back with some great projects to start (for both of us!) I spent a day this past weekend cutting out fabric and getting it ready to sew.

And I found some treasures at Nasty Goodwill to repurpose. Colette loves this cute little beaded top that I just remade this morning.

And finally - not that I had anything to do with this - Dave has killed our lawn. Dead. Poor White Trash Lawn. But it's going to be fun to "repurpose" this yard this Summer!

Laurel. Back on track, and feeling Blessed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Under Venus' Spell

Digital Art is challenging, to say the least.  I have been messing with my Photoshop Elements, Pic Monkey and Polyvore to try to create a digital art work.

Here is my first attempt...a collage of elements put together in the Polyvore application. Unfortunately, I haven't mastered or have an idea how to master creating a digital art work in a stand alone program...don't even know where to start.  Meanwhile, I at least figured how to import some of my manipulated photos into the Polyvore app, and was able to create this, my first piece of work.

Any ideas or suggestions...I think I'm addicted to the process...

Under Venus' Spell

Pretty Polly black pantyhose

Buccellati gold jewelry

Silk scarve

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