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.

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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.”
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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.”

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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!

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Expires: December 12, 2014

What’s the worst that could happen?

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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

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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.

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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.

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Creators gonna create

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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.

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Small Victories and acknowledging the good

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“Ta-da!”

When I reach the end of a roll of barcodes, I take a moment to acknowledge the accomplishment.  Each roll holds a thousand barcodes.  I do not share cataloging duties with anyone else, so when I complete a roll, that means that I have personally added a thousand items into our library collection.

My friend posted on Facebook something really brave- she acknowledged progress on her personal journey of self-improvement.  She’s lost weight, got a degree, tried new things, got out there and became a runner.  Taking a moment to step back and say “hey, I did that” is a wonderful thing.  It’s not bragging or crying for attention, that sounds different.  It’s not counting your blessings or expressing gratitude, although those are commendable things.  This kind of stating of deeds done is a counter-weight to all the negativity, the self-hate and the frustration of every day life.

It doesn’t have to be a great deed you acknowledge, and it doesn’t even need to be shared.  It could be as simple as stopping and looking at that basket of laundry you just folded, or the dinner you just made.  It could be taking a picture of the craft you just finished, or keeping track of your word count for writing.  You did that.  Like a child holding up a creation and shouting “ta-da!”, revel in your work done.  Achievement unlocked.  No false modesty.  You don’t hold back the punches acknowledging failure and regret, so don’t be ashamed to pat yourself on the back for a change.

So friends, stop and look back on your week, and find something you have completed.  Celebrate it.  Can’t think of anything?  Well, you survived the week!  Congratulations.

 

Dragoncon 2014- shh, everyone!

Dragoncon (Get off my lawn!)

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This year I brought my whole family to Dragoncon.  There were over 62,000 people there, and it showed.  What happens is each year, everyone who attended tells their friends what an awesome time they had, and offers to split room costs for next year.  So more people come each year.

This is completely irresponsible.  We need to keep Dragoncon a secret.  So, all 62,000 of us need to tell everyone not to go.  The celebrities need to stop saying that this convention is better than Comiccon or PAX.  We need to stop posting pictures of all the fabulous costumes, referencing Dragoncon tv, talking about the wonderful panels, workshops and concerts, and generally saying it was the best four days of your year.

Sooo, um.  Complain about the heat, the lines.  Mention missing panels, or being woken by drunken screaming at 1 am. ( I did actually have a nightmare induced by the noise that people were flinging themselves off the balconies at the Hyatt.)  Tell about getting a fairy wing in your eye, or the time you got stuck in an elevator with 3 Deadpools, a man with spiky armor and 8 other people.  Dragoncon has reached capacity.  I think they’ve taken over every hotel in the entire city of Atlanta at this point.  Stop gathering new recruits.

…..counting down the days until Dragoncon 2015.

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Pikachu costume

I made a pikachu costume for my son.  I used a hoodie pattern as the base, and added ears tipped with brown cloth. The hood is lined, but I left the rest as one layer to keep it from getting too bulky to wear indoors.  P1100366

I put two brown ovals on the back of the shirt for stripes.  I used black, red and white felt to make the face. The eyes are slightly smaller circles than the cheeks, and the “glint” is about 1/3 size circle than the eye.  I’m not happy with the mouth- I would recommend making a felt smile if you are not proficient in embroidery.

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Here’s my son, refusing to show his face for the camera.  I hope his dad got some better pictures.