Five Things to Do With A Sheet of White Felt

P1110552Felt Crafting

So I found a pile of white felt and gave myself a challenge- make five things with it.

1. Adipose.  From Doctor Who.  “The fat just walks away!” I used this pattern.


2. Dove ornament.  I eyeballed this pattern.  I made the wings and body two-sided, and added a strip along the belly.  I discovered I really should study how to embroider before doing it.


3. Baymax.  From Big Hero 6. I invented this one by looking at a drawing.  If I do something like this again, I’ll make a paper pattern first.  My husband teased me that I have no sense of proportion.  I used embroidery floss for the eye/mouth.


4. Olaf.  I am not happy with this one.  His face just isn’t right.  I think googly eyes would have worked better, and his mouth should be even wider.


5. Tooth pillow.  A little pocket to leave out for the tooth fairy!  The pocket is edged with a blanket stitch of embroidery floss.


Feedback for Your Art

Get Input on Your Art

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” – Stephen King

If you are creating for the joy of making things, then you don’t need this advice.  Everyone else, which includes people making gifts, selling crafts or submitting work, needs to get feedback.

17331349To paraphrase from the book Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, imagine prehistoric people trying to figure out how to make bread.  How would they decide what ingredients to put in, how much, cooked how long- if they were not allowed to cook and eat the bread?  There was probably a lot of bad bread before they got it right.

Feedback can be intimidating.  It would be nice to keep your work of art protected from the judgement of the outside.  Hearing that the project you worked day and night on for months or years needs work is frustrating and disheartening.  The artist herself can be blind to her flaws, or only see the flaws, or in my case, rapidly fluctuate between those two states.

Often the feedback is not what you want to hear.  My friend Sandra from Quigley’s Cakes was telling me about the feedback she was getting.  “I’m making all these wonderful flavors for my holiday cupcakes- eggnog, peppermint mocha, gingerbread- but the customers gravitate towards the cute designs in plain chocolate or vanilla!”  Her cute designs include snowmen, reindeer, and a Santa in a snowbank that is freaking adorable.1513832_10203223469888017_2004381623091161091_n

So she takes the feedback and makes more “cute” cupcakes.  But she also keeps making the flavored cupcakes, and makes some of the cute ones in the more unique flavors.  This might lead to repeat business, where the customer bought a cute one and now wants a special flavor.  Or maybe she will sell a majority of cute but plain flavored cupcakes and will never sell a lot of flavored ones.  Her friends certainly give her feedback on those ones for gifts!

I am seeking feedback for my writing.  I have joined Scribophile, which was promoted by National Novel Writing Month (winners get two premium months).  It’s a credit based system where you do 4-5 writing critiques to get a critique of a chapter of your own work. I’ve earned the points and now I have to put a chapter in.  NaNoWriMo is also a good resource for getting feedback- they have a forum called “novel swap” where you read someone’s novel in exchange for them reading yours.  I’ve connected with three people who will look over my raw rough draft I just finished, searching for giant plot holes, character inconsistencies and late night insanity writing.

There are works of writing I did for myself, and I’m not getting feedback on those- well, actually, if I wrote it for myself, I am giving myself feedback…

Guest Blog- Tisha Dolton, embroidery art

9220483454_324bde1580_zEmbroidery and Redwork artistry

I sat down with Tisha Dolton, also known as Aprilsongstress, about her art of choice, embroidery.  She does redwork, portraits, and recently did Doctors from Doctor Who.


Why did you make the Doctor Who series?

“I was searching for Doctor Who embroidery patterns because a bunch of my friends love the show. I came across this great site called Fandom In Stitches that focuses on creating embroidery & quilt patterns for a variety of fandoms like Harry Potter, Disney, etc. It’s like fanfiction for crafters. They were in the middle of a Doctor Who stitch-a-long (#DWSAL) & I decided to join the fun.”
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How do you create the pictures for your embroidery?

“Well, for my embroidered portraits, I start with a photocopy of a photograph. I generally blow them up to 8×10 so the image fits on a regular sheet of paper. Next I take a pencil & trace an outline of the face, hair, etc. Then I use a fine tip Sharpie to solidify the lines I want, creating the embroidery pattern. Then I use that to transfer the pattern onto fabric & embroider away.”  She talks about the process on her blog.

What was your favorite piece you’ve made?

“My favorite pieces are the embroidered portraits I do of my daughter. She takes great selfies. She’s so funny, sarcastic, smart, creative & beautiful. She inspires me every day.”

Tell me about using children’s drawings with embroidery.

“I was fascinated by my daughter’s drawings. We dubbed them ‘Fiona’s Famous Monsters’. I basically traced them & tried to match the color she used. I’ve embroidered drawings done by my niece, & nephews, & friend’s kids. They make truly unique keepsake gifts for family & friends.”


Such amazing art and creativity!  Visit her Etsy site.


Books available at Smashwords

I switched from having my books individually uploaded to different sites to using Smashwords, an ebook distributor that translates my files into multiple formats.  You can download a 10% sample for free.  I’d love some feedback!

Name Questnamequestcoveroct14- Anything can happen in the dreamlands, where the wild magic flows across the land, distorting everything it touches. Flying ships, monsters, and spells abound. Despite that, a nameless girl is determined to pass through the horrors and wonders to complete her pilgrimage, and gain her new name. Three women and a shapeshifter discover who they truly are, and accidentally save their world.

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Expires: December 12, 2014

What’s the worst that could happen?


Imagine the worst

In some writing book I read, I don’t remember which one, it advised to think of the worst possible thing to do to a character, and then do it.  I have realized that this advice is not working for me.  What’s the worse thing that could happen to my characters who are solving a murder?  They never solve it.  They give up.  They all die horribly.  I don’t think that’s what the writing advisor meant.  He (or she) meant that I should add conflict.  Stories with minimal conflict are lifeless, dull things.  I find I need to do that.  I just formed a team of very different characters in what could be a lively buddy cop type of situation, and they are all getting along and agreeing with all the decisions of their leader.  Blah.  That’s a fantasy of a different kind.  People are irritating, and people seldom agree with each other about everything.  I should get inspiration from trying to clean the house with my family.  We love each other dearly, but our arguments are ludicrous.

Just a few minutes ago, I ended a disagreement with my daughter (about the fact that a box of something does not equal a serving) by yelling “I didn’t pay for an argument!”  Then I sat down and wrote a scene where all the leader’s team told her how wonderful she was and that they would do what she said.  Hmmm.

NaNoWriMo tips and advice


Why write a novel?

National Novel Writing Month starts today.  This is where crazy people from all around the world write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.  There’s something energizing about knowing other people are striving for the same, endurance straining goal.  It’s the reason why they have marathons instead of just individuals running around aimlessly.  It’s the reason they live-tweet the Oscars.

As I see it, people do NaNoWriMo for several reasons.

  1. To see if they can.  She always wanted to write a novel, but it seemed so ambitious, so beyond her reach.  She wants to unlock that achievement.
  2. To have fun!  She sees this event as a chance to write about SuperWhoLock, where the Doctor brings Sam, Dean and Sherlock into his TARDIS to save the universe from fairies.
  3. To get serious about writing.  She wants to have a solid first draft in her hands to help propel her writing to the next level, to bust through all her doubts and fears.
  4. To connect with others.  She feels a happy sense of belonging when she is doing the same activity as thousands of others, sharing woes and victories.

Of course, many do NaNoWriMo for a combination of these.  For my first time, I wanted to see if I could.  I had already written a novel, but it had taken me years.  Could I write one that fast?  I could!  It was an amazing experience, an addictive one.  I find submersing myself in writing frees my imagination.  It’s not something I can sustain all year, but knowing that there is a clear deadline, with progress tracking, encouragement and support, it works.  I’ve completed the challenge five times.  I’ve tried and just petered out twice.  Thinking back on what the difference was, I think I didn’t have the enthusiasm needed those times I failed, I didn’t care enough.

Here’s my advice from my experience:

  • Don’t make lyrics or anything else copyright protected a part of a novel you plan to seek publishing for.  Especially do not make those lyrics an essential, non-removable part of the plot.
  • guard your time wisely, and don’t let family, friends or the internet waste it.
  • know what your planned ending is
  • feel free to jump around
  • write every day, and try to “front-load” your writing quota in the first few days so that you have a head start.
  • gather inspiration all day long, and think about your project all day
  • allow ludicrous things to happen in your story.  Sometimes it is when an author “gets silly” that the best ideas come along
  • ask yourself “what’s the worse thing that could happen to my character right now?”  Then do it.  Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • don’t edit and don’t erase- those things come later
  • Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to see, just write
  • collaborate with other writers on the forums- share ideas, get feedback and encourage each other

Why are YOU doing NaNoWriMo?  Or, why aren’t you doing it?

Library craft book

Book of Librarian Crafts

I’m starting a new project, with the working title of “Librarian Crafts.”

My idea is to have sections with different categories:

  • pre-school story-time crafts
  • school age crafts
  • crafts for adults using books and other library-themed items

The trick to that will be keeping it focused and not just a loose collection of unrelated things.  My instructions need to be consistent in style, illustration and tone.   I need to research a bunch of things: how to do layout, what constitutes original and not plagiarized craft ideas, how to take professional looking shots of my crafts and what comparable books look like in length.  I also need to make lists of crafts and decide what is going into the book.  Should I include (with permission) pictures of other people’s crafts?

Dear readers, I would love your input.  Tell me about what you think of the concept, what crafts you feel should be in the book, and ideas for putting the book together.

P1100208city scene

Hood for evil queen

Evil Queen

I made a hood out of a black t-shirt for my evil queen costume.  I used a hoodie to estimate the curve, cutting out two  pieces.  The bottom of the t-shirt was already finished, so I just had to sew the pieces, right sides together.  I tried the hood on and determined the right size for the widow’s peak point and the sides of my face.  I finished the edges of the face opening.

This hood was comfortable, but extremely warm- it is certainly good for winter wear around a damp, drafty castle while planning revenge on certain young, overly cute princesses.

This pattern could be adapted for other medieval style costumes, such as a jester.



Creators gonna create


The process and not the product

You worked really hard on something and it bombed.

  • no one likes the dinner you made (including yourself)
  • you sewed an outfit and it doesn’t fit
  • your sweater has one sleeve that is 5 inches longer than the other one
  • no one likes your story
  • your friends and family don’t want to hear about your new project
  • you got 3 rejections at once
  • you step back from your painting and see a huge mistake

Even if no one likes what you have made, or it doesn’t come out the way you wanted it to, that does not mean that you wasted your time.  It seems that way.   You didn’t get what you wanted, which was a finished product, payment or recognition.  True, but that experience of making, even if it was an epic failure, is better than inaction.

Creation of  a disaster is better than passive, sleep-walking nothingness.  Fear of rejection and embarrassment can block you from trying, and if you let it, will smother your spirit until you are not even sure who you are anymore.

There is a reason the movie Frozen resonates so much.  Let your creative powers out. Sure, you could accidentally lock an entire valley into eternal winter, but the alternative of shoving down ability doesn’t work so well.

I have a poster in my office, of Thomas Edison.  I look at it every time I feel discouraged, reminding me that it is only by making mistakes that we learn what doesn’t work.