Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

How to paint a raspberry


My painting project yesterday went smoothly and I learned a little about how to paint a raspberry. Sorry if this sounds rudimentary, but I am not a painter, so this was groundbreaking for me. I studied a photo on the internet and noticed that raspberries tend to be formed of many shade of red while still ripening. Then there tends to be a light highlight on each "bubble" of the raspberry, originating from its light source. So I used a stiff rounded brush and composed each raspberry of dots in different reds and mauves and wine shades, then added a gleam to most of the bubbles. I started out using a stencil but ended up freeforming the whole thing.

Let's upload photos of the raspberries I painted. I have to put my name on the photo because people in Indonesia keep "borrowing" my photos. I can't stop them from doing it, but by golly, they will promote me as long as they are at it.



dj runnels
Life's an Expedition

Friday, May 22, 2009

Find wool blend sweaters for your felting crafts


Someone in my home town sells recycled sweaters on Artfire. You can unravel / frog some of them and use the yarn. Or shrink them into wondrous felted pieces. Or--what the heck!--just wear the things. She has a huge supply. Here is her blog.

Okay, the sweater in this photo? That is one that I made. Not trying to mislead you, honestly. It isn't for sale.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition

Monday, May 11, 2009

Summer Activity List for Kids


School will soon let out for the summer and the little cherubs will be whining, "I'm borrrrrred" and "I don't have anything to doooooo." I suggest setting aside a few minutes to make a list of activities and post it on the refrigerator. Add to the list as you think of new activities. Ideally, the to-do list should include both family and solitary events, with and without school friends, indoors and outdoors, special events, cheap excursions and a few useful chores disguised as fun.

I would not bother to list TV or video games, since kids will gravitate toward those too often without any prompting from you.

Some suggestions for your list:


  • library
  • swimming
  • email Grandma
  • find a penpal in another country
  • learn a new language
  • plant flowers
  • zoo
  • write a story
  • make wrapping paper
  • make fruit juice popsicles
  • play Clue or other board games
  • collect cans for a food pantry
  • start a neighborhood newspaper
  • museums
  • search for fossils or interesting rocks
  • learn to identify trees by their leaves
  • start a vegetable garden
  • make birthday cards
  • write to soldiers in Iraq
  • collect used clothing for kids in Afghanistan
  • learn to knit
  • wash the car
  • clean out the inside of the car
  • go to yard sales
  • visit a pet store
  • learn soccer
  • bake muffins for a neighbor
  • cut long sleeve tees into tanks
  • cut long pants into shorts
  • make a birdhouse
  • make place mats from paper and rubber stamps
  • catch and release butterflies
  • cut out newspaper coupons
  • make a piggy bank out of a salt box
  • play t-ball
  • ride a bike
  • take a walk
  • organize family photos
  • have a garage sale
  • paint toenails
  • use sidewalk chalk outside
  • play in the sprinkler
  • hide & seek
  • play tag
  • make something out of a huge box
So when you hear, "I'm bored," your correct response is "let's go look at the refrigerator list."

BTW: the birdhouse shown in the photo is no longer available, but we DO sell birdhouses on Etsy and Artfire. My husband makes them and I paint some of them. The birds themselves will nest in them; we can't take credit for that part.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Knitting rag rugs


Lately, I have been recycling good clean t-shirts by cutting them into neat ribbons and knitting them into rugs. Actually, I have done this for years, with a variety of fabrics, but I have gotten very savvy about reclaiming every last scrap and using it as a rug.

This is a rug I named Stagecoach. I had it for sale in my eBay store, but I worried that whoever bought it might be unhappy with it because it was lumpy. (Can't let an eBayer go unhappy! I've had nightmares about my powerseller feedback going down the toilet. ) Eventually I decided I had to keep the rug rather than risk having somebody buy the rug and flame me over it.

Turns out, it was never a problem. The lumps flattened within a short period of time. Not only that, but it became flatter and more stable with extended use. I have had it in an extremely high-traffic area of my home for 3 1/2 years and it still looks wonderful. I had heard that rag rugs last a long time, but I am shocked by how resilient this one is, since it was my first knitted rug.


More recently, I made a rectangular rug. Again, I had intended to list it for sale, this time on Etsy. But when it began to turn out crooked, I decided there was no way it would sell. It is in my bedroom now.

The rectangular rugs with straight garter knit are the easiest to make. Cutting the fabric strips of uniform width helps. I generally aim for 3/8" because narrower strips tend to break and wider strips get bulky. But if you are cutting a particular fabric and notice it is bulkier than another fabric you are using in the same project, you might want to shave a fraction of an inch off that cutting width.

I use size 13 or 15 needles and cast on up to 60 stitches, depending on the width I want. Plastic needles seem to work better than other types; you want the least friction you can achieve. Then I knit a straight garter stitch and keep it loose. T-shirt and knit fabrics stretch pretty well, but if you knit tightly, your hands will hurt after awhile. Another way to get more stretch out of the fabric is to cut strips on the bias.

If you are a purist and do not want that dotted line that appears when you add a new color, be sure to add a new color ONLY when the right side of the rug is facing you. Otherwise, you can add colors willy-nilly and consider the rug to be reversible. Tra la! I love them.

The circular rugs require considerably more detailed instructions, which I will try to get to...um...sometime before I die. I have one almost completed somewhere in my yarn studio. I named it Taos because that is the town I was in when I began making it. I hope to find that before I die, too. As I recall, it's almost four or five feet in diameter.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition

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www.djrunnels.com website and directory of my handmade wares and supplies
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