Monday, December 28, 2015

Literary Art

Hello, my sweet little lonely blog.  Let's get back in touch by recapping some of my favorite reads this year, all of which are part of an ongoing art project I've become obsessed with.

In May of 2015, I had just finished reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King and couldn't get it off of my mind.  I'd been wanting to experiment with watercolors, and had just received a new set of pearly paints in the mail.  I grabbed a watercolor journal I had bought on sale for a few bucks and painted one of my favorite quotes from the book on the first page.  

I didn't realize I was starting a tradition.  To be honest, I don't find the first page particularly beautiful.  All I really intended to do was play around with some new art supplies, but it turned out to be quite enjoyable.  I continued the practice with other books as I finished them, and dedicated my watercolor journal solely to this purpose.  Throughout the rest of the year, I ended up completing over 20 books and painted quotes.  Here are a dozen of my favorites. 
The great thing about this little experiment is that it's just for fun.  I'm simply documenting the books I read in a light-hearted, creative way.  As an added bonus, this practice gently hammers the moral of each story into my brain and I find it very meditative.  My reading tastes are extremely varied, but the common thread is that I now look forward to reflecting on each book while creating informal art as I make my way through my reading list.  

I'm hoping to collect a whole new batch of amazing books and memorable quotes in the coming year. What kind of creative projects will you attempt in 2016?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

My Attempt at Plarn

That's right, you read it correctly.  I said plarn.  If you've never heard this word before, "plarn" means plastic yarn, made from strips of plastic bags.  Do a quick web search to discover a plethora of amazing things you can make from this fun (and free!) craft material.  Pinterest alone has enough projects to keep your creative gears going for years.  I recently decided to try my hand at making a plarn basket to keep on my kitchen table, and I found this project to be incredibly fun and addictive.  You'll never look at plastic bags the same once you've used them as a readily accessible craft supply.

Plarn (Plastic Yarn) Basket

This tutorial requires a basic understanding of crochet techniques, and I wouldn't recommend it as your very first crochet project because the knots in the yarn and the bulky stitches could be a little tricky for a brand-new crocheter.  But once you practice a bit with regular yarn to get a feel for the motion and structure of crochet stitches, it's pretty easy!  I came up with my own pattern to create a medium-sized basket, but a search for "plarn" will reveal an abundance of other patterns and ideas.

Making Plarn

1. Gather a stack of plastic bags and a sharp pair of scissors (and a crochet hook if you plan to make a basket like mine).
2. Lay a plastic bag flat and cut off the bottom seam and the handles.
3. Carefully fold the bag in half over and over again until you have a thin tube shape.
4. Cut the bag into slices measuring about an inch wide.
5-8. When you unfold the slices, each one will create a loop shape.  Tie the loops together as seen in the photos below and pull tight.
9. As you create the plarn, wind it into a ball or use a piece of cardboard as a spool.
10. Once you have enough yardage for your desired project, take out your crochet hook and transform your plarn into something new.  Color changes can be achieved by simply tying in a new color at the end of a length of plarn.  

Plarn (Plastic Yarn) Basket Tutorial

Crocheted Plarn Basket

You will need:
 10-15 plastic plastic bags (I used 10 white plastic grocery bags and 2 dark blue Gap bags)
 Size J crochet hook

The following is a pattern for a medium-sized basket written in standard American crochet terms.  Here's a guide to the abbreviations used: 
ch= chain
sc= single crochet
st(s)= stitch, stitches
*...*= repeat the sequence shown within the asterisks
slst= slip stitch
Note: The bottom rounds are worked continuously, do not join rounds with a slst until instructed to do so when you begin working on the sides.  Use a stitch marker (such as a hairpin or a piece of string) to keep track of your rows.

1. Ch 2; 4 sc in 2nd ch from hook.
2. 2 sc in ea sc around. (8 sts)
3. 2 sc in ea sc around. (16 sts)
4. 2 sc in 1st sc, *1 sc in next sc, 2 sc in next sc* repeat 6 times, 1 sc in last sc. (24 sts)
5. 1 sc in 1st sc, *2 sc in next sc, 1 sc in ea next 2 sc* repeat 6 times, 2 sc in next sc, 1 sc in last sc. (32 sts) 6. 2 sc in 1st sc, *1 sc in ea next 3 sc, 2 sc in next sc* repeat 6 times, 1 sc in ea last 3 sc, join with slst. (40 sts)
7. 2 sc in 1st sc, *1 sc in ea next 4 sc, 2 sc in next sc* repeat 6 times, 1 sc in ea last 3 sc, join with slst. (48 sts)
8. Ch 1, sc in ea sc around, join with slst.
9. Repeat row 8 until your basket reaches the desired height. If you'd like to add a colored rim, simply tie a new color of plarn at the end of the strand and keep working.
10. Tie off and weave in ends.

You will be amazed at how sturdy the finished product is!  In fact, one of my favorite things about the concept of using plastic bags for yarn is that the very characteristic of plastic that makes it so harmful for the environment, its slow decomposition rate, can be used to your advantage for creating durable, useful items such as tote bags, sandals, and rugs.  So grab a handful of plastic bags and let your awesome, earth-loving imagination run wild!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Go Take a Hike

I may be a little behind the hype on this one, since the book was published in 2012 and the film has already been released on DVD, but I recently read Wild by Cheryl Strayed and found it deeply moving so I want to share my review in case it catches the eye of anyone who is on the fence about it.  In my opinion, all the publicity surrounding this book is well deserved
As a reader, I appreciated that Cheryl Strayed seemed very honest.  She did not paint a portrait of herself as some trail goddess, effortlessly stomping past the nay-sayers.  Instead, she allowed an intimate and unashamed glimpse into her mishaps on the trail as well as her past, choosing not to exclude her failures.  The book bounces back and forth in time, between the author's family history and coming of age to her epic quest on the the Pacific Crest Trail.  This format made for a quick plot and a nice mixture of adventure and backstory.


The plot gathered so much momentum that I started the book in audio format and had to switch midway through because I wanted to soak up the details faster than the narrator was giving them to me.  With the book in my hands, I tore through the pages to see if Strayed would make it to the "finish line" before having her will shattered by the various obstacles she encountered during her trek.  The hike easily materialized in my imagination with detailed descriptions of the ways she dealt with the loneliness of the trail, singing folk songs aloud during the day and clinging to the comfort of books in the evenings.  

I watched the movie shortly after completing the book, and I loved the experience of seeing the whole story come to life without being butchered by Hollywood.  The soundtrack is fantastic, and Nick Hornby did a superb job writing a screenplay that stayed fairly true to the book.  I will not soon forget this unflinching portrayal of one woman's rock-bottom and her inspiring quest to reshape her life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

We Were Liars

Just yesterday, I finished a book that completely swept me away.  I'm having a hard time getting it out of my head, and of course that may be because I'm in that dream-like haze one often encounters in the wake of a really good book.  But I can tell that even after the initial excitement wears off, this will be a story I'll carry with me.  I get so excited when I find a book like that, so I wanted to share this one because, judging by the buzz, I'm certain there are many readers out there who would find it as moving and engaging as I did.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I was absolutely captivated by this book, from beginning to end. The pages of the story were sprinkled with quote-worthy lines, and kept me completely engaged. Although this is a YA book, it has such a wide appeal that it could easily find its way into the favorites of adult readers. With characters who feel like your own dysfunctional family and a plot that makes you anxious for answers, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read that I'm so glad I picked up.

I'll leave you with two of my favorite quotes from the book.

Have a great weekend!  Whether it's this particular title or not, I hope you find the time to relax with a good book.