30 September 2011

The Week in Links and Photos




Autumn is officially here and now that we will be spending more time indoors, why not read my article on how house plants help clean the air from the most common chemicals.

Learn how to take care of your skin and prepare it for winter - the natural way.

Some shocking news about organic strawberries - it turns out they are not so organic after all.

A seabird known as the New Zealand Storm Petrelsthat was believed to have gone extinct 150 years ago but now it makes its glorious comeback.

Ever wanted to ride a bike with nifty metal wheels? Well, now you can, thanks to London-based designer Ron Arad and his team, who created an awesome bike sporting wheels made out of ribbons of tempered steel.

Have a lovely weekend!



29 September 2011

Mushroom Season - Help Me Identify the Mushroom - Part 3



It is mushroom season. I can tell that by the YELLOW LEAVES that lend their golden glow to the background of my photos. The playful wind that brushed the grass is now adding autumn flare to my hair and I get up from the ground after another mushroom photo session with a tiara of leaves and needles.

The fresh air cannot keep the mushrooms alive anymore and with the end of September comes the end of Mushroom Season.

For a third week in a row I officially ask you, my readers, to help me identify the mushrooms I have photographed in the forest. I know that many of you know them, pick them, eat them, and even use them for dyeing fabrics! I believe this would be the only way for me to learn at least their names. Later on, I will attempt creating a Mushroom series, which will include your words and my photos - a kind of collective guest posting experience. Quite the collaboration and exactly what communities like ours are about! And since the works in my blog are shared under Creative Commons, you will be able to repost the series on your own blogs.

Here and here you can see the mushroom photos from the previous two weeks.

Are we going to play the game for the last time this season?
Here is the third batch of photos.












   
This post is part of the Through the Looking Glass project. Click here to see the rest of  the posts in the series.



28 September 2011

Scandinavian Autumn - September in Norway




Although September in Norway is not as warm-colored as in Sweden, I can still enjoy the shy beginnings of Autumn. At the end of September I am quietly:

Walking on a thin yellow carpet of leaves;
listening to the rustle of swan feathers;
sitting on the top of the hill;
watching the boats hurrying back home at dusk;
closing my eyes to pretend it is still summer.

Today, the September walk in Scandinavia continues with photos I have taken in Southern Norway.














Taking note of the transformations in Nature as the seasons progress is one of the sides of living an ethical organic life. Getting to know what Nature has in store and peacefully coinciding with her rhythm nourishes respect and soothes our souls. With the seasons changes our mood; our inspiration takes leaps in different directions and we grow. Closer to Nature is closer to our own voice.

See how September looks in Sweden.

Sharing with Behind the Camera.



27 September 2011

How to Adjust the Width of Your Blog



Even before I started this blog I wanted to change its width. It's true! I wanted to have a wide central column so that I could illustrate my insightful articles with beautiful big photos.

At last I learned how to do it and I am eager to share the knowledge with you. Here is a quick magical way to make your blog even wider than what Blogger allows in the Template Designer.

Before you start following this tutorial, make sure you have saved your template in case of failure.

1. Go to Design and then click on Edit HTML.




2. If you are using Mozilla Firefox press Ctr+F and paste this code:   <b:template-skin>. You will see it highlighted in green in the HTML template of your blog.




3. Now look at the next row. You will see this:
      <b:variable default='930px' name='content.width' type='length' value='1050px'/>




And you know what? The last value, namely 1050 is your magic number. This is the total width of your blog template. It could be different for different templates and this is ok because you can change it to any number you like (as long as it fits a regular screen, of course).

If I change it to 1300 and click on the Template Designer and then on Adjust Widths I can see perfectly well that I've done the job and the value has changed:



See? I told you it was magical!

Happy widening!



26 September 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Sister and Me



Sister and Me has its beginnings in a simple birthday wish, a secret whispered in a mother's ear: "Mama, Katie really wants this bag for her birthday." Not wanting to disappoint their sister Suzanne worked with them designing the unique bag. The first Sister and Me bag thus emerged, and the birthday wish came true. Each subsequent purse, bag, apron or throw has its beginnings with a similar wish and story.

While preparing for A Portrait of The Artist interview I went through Suzanne's etsy shop and I could feel the love and devotion in each carefully designed bag. As she points out: Each design starts as a wish and dream, which results in beautiful, high-quality goods ready to hold a lifetime of memories.


Tell us a bit about your background. How did you come up with the idea of using excess upholstery fabric from furniture factories for your wonderful bags and purses?
I’m a mama with four girls and my oldest was getting ready to celebrate a birthday. You know how sisters will really look out for each other, that’s what happened here. My birthday daughter had been admiring a stylish messenger bag in a little boutique near her school and after we discovered this, her sisters and I decided to up the ante. We decided to design and create a singularly unique bag for her. 

I had been leading a group of ladies who had fashioned quilts for our local hospice house using fabric acquired from a local factory. The quilts were complete and the extra fabric stored with me. The sisters pulled their favorite pieces of fabric while I drew the pattern for the bag. There you have it, my first messenger bag, named after my daughter, Katie’s Messenger. Oh how she loved that bag! Once my oldest had the bag her sisters soon followed with requests of their own, then friends. Sister and Me was born.

Katie Messenger Bag
When did you first feel the need to be eco-friendly and how does this affect your daily life, apart from your creativity?
I remember becoming consciously eco-friendly when my children were born. It was then that I started acting in an eco-friendly way on my own, not just listening to and following the trends by recycling at the curb. I buy local fruits, make my own jams and jellies. We have a garden in the back and we can many tomatoes peppers and squash for the winter base of chili, spaghetti and soups. 

Although we live a pretty good distance from schools and stores I combine trips as much as possible to conserve energy. My girls are constantly coming up with new and creative ways to conserve, recycle and upcycle. Everything from milk cartons to Altoid containers gets a second life in our home.
Do you reuse and upcycle in everyday too?
I do upcycle in everyday “real” life too! And I believe this an inherited trait. I must share with you a story about my grandmother, “Ginny”. My Grandparents were blessed with three girls who were teenagers during the slim years of the depression and WWII. 

My Ginny would sew dresses out of what material was to be had. Two of these dresses were beautiful party dresses with wonderfully full skirts on them. You can only imagine the surprise of the girls when they came home to discover their dresses were taken apart and now provided the skirt to a magnificent Christmas table cloth! 

So yes, upcycling, recycling and reusing anything and everything comes easily to me. I can honestly say that I have sheets which have become tablecloths, a tablecloth which became bathroom curtain, men’s ties to clutches and t-shirts to scarves.

Sara Traveler Bag

Can you take us through the steps of your creative process? It must be exciting to get different fabrics with the changes of season.
Getting the new fabric is my absolute favorite! Walking into the warehouse and seeing the fabrics for the first time is always exciting. I love to pull the fabrics which catch my eye and stack them to put in my workshop. And, incidentally, that is how I choose the fabrics. If they catch my eye they come with me. If they can be overlooked I will leave them there. While I am in the factories I get a charge out of talking with the workers, seeing the colors they are working with and the new things they are doing. It just doesn’t get any better! 

Once I bring the fabrics home I’ll separate them into stacks based on the color, weight and the size of the piece. I like to have the pieces I love the most close as inspiration for my work. In the end I match the pieces by putting together what looks pleasing to my eye. Each piece of work is then completed with a hand stitched rendition of two sisters in honor of my girls and sisters the world over.


Suzanne's childhood dollhouse
Have you always been creative?
Oh yes, I have always loved to create. My Dad built me a dollhouse when I was just 4 or 5 and it was filled with plastic furniture. By the time I was 13 I had built “new” furniture for the house, using shoe boxes and scraps of fabric from my Mother’s sewing basket and Elmore’s glue. I still have that furniture. 

I also still have a crazy quilt top I sewed when I was a girl. That quilt top has pieces from summer skirts and a velvet Christmas dress among others. I keep it folded away so the colors are still as bright as the day I wore them. Later I used what I learned to make a simple quilt for my bed. If I hadn’t done these things I don’t think I would be making my own patterns and pieces purses together today.



You seem to be very prone to making wishes and dreams come true. What did you dream about when you were a child?
I dreamt about having a sister. That’s some of the inspiration for the name, Sister and Me. I have three brothers, all boys! We would all play much like you would expect, board games, football, hide and seek. Although my brother, John, used his train set to light my dollhouse it is kind of hard to play dolls with boys! I never did get that sister, instead I collect sisters as I go through life.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
The most challenging aspect of my work today isn’t in the creating, it’s marketing! It is getting the word out about these creations of mine and finding the people who will love them and get joy from the beauty I try to put into each one. I am working to find every avenue I can to get these bags into the hands of the ladies who will treasure them.



Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years?
I hope to be still creating beautiful things for sisters the world over. This all started when we were sewing to cover and comfort those who were dying or loved the dying. I created the bags out of necessity and love for my girls. I’ve created aprons, lap covers, placemats, napkin and throws, all at the request of those I love. That is where I want to be: running a successful business by creating beautiful objects for people, sharing my talents with others. That would be a great place to be.

What is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
I love everything by Mosey handmade.

Follow along with Suzanne from Sister and Me:
Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sisterandme
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sister-and-Me/106895512684030?ref=ts

You can read more editions of A Portrait of The Artist here.  



24 September 2011

Weekend DIY: How to Felt a Bracelet



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Several years ago I got fascinated with some felted bracelets I had seen on the Internet. I started experimenting with knitting and crocheting thick woolen bases which I later wet-felted and after weeks of trials and errors I came up with a great product that looked unique and allowed me the freedom to be creative every time. I even started selling the bracelets quite successfully.

What I like about this unique kind of jewelry is how green it is. You only need pure new wool and a pair of knitting needles. During the felting process the bracelets change their shapes and lose much of their size while the fibers intertwine and connect to each other to form a new type of fabric. I like the physical transformation of the yarn - from fiber through a knitted form to a completely new object with different functionality.

Today I will reveal to you something you will hardly find for free on the Internet – how to knit, wet-felt and needle-felt a bracelet.

HOW TO KNIT THE BASE
Materials:
1 skein of pure new wool for needles US 11-13 (8-9 mm)
3 double pointed needles US 17 (12 mm)
1 crochet hook size L (8 mm).
1 tapestry needle
1 strand of waste yarn

Gauge is unimportant for this project.

The size will depend on the wool you use and the time and temperature of felting. Normally a 12 - 13 inches long knitted pieces will do for all wrists.

To get a well felted bracelet you need to use bulky wool. It can be pure new wool or, wool combined with mohair. You also need to knit loosely, so that the fibers can intertwine and shrink together well to form a solid and tough bracelet.

Start with a provisional crochet chain cast on.


Holding two strands of yarn knit 7 stitches. Continue in stockinette stitch for 12 inches (31 cm).


Remove the waste yarn from the provisional cast on and place the live stitches on a needle. 


Join the two ends together with the wrong side facing outside.

Bind off using the three-needle method.



This is the best way to join a ring without a visual bump along the right side of the seam. 


To avoid turning the inner sides out and getting a weird form in the process of wet-felting I leave a long tail after binding off and use it to sew the sides together very loosely.


HOW TO WET FELT THE BASE
The base is now ready for wet felting. I normally do this in my front loading washing machine. 

First I soak the knitted ring in warm water, to let the wool relax and then I transfer it into a wash bag and straight into the washing machine. 

From here on the process is a matter of trial and error, depending on your washing machine. I set mine to 140 °F (60 °C), add just a pinch of washing powder and let it work for about 30 minutes. I don't add any tennis balls or old jeans but if you find that this works better for your felting you can do it. Then I interrupt the process and check the bracelet. It normally needs more felting but I take my time to shock the wool with cold water and turn the bracelet inside out, to make sure it felts evenly on both sides.

After a second cycle of 140 °F (60 °C),this time without powder, the bracelet is ready. If you see that there are spots less felted, you can try once again on higher degree. I sometimes go for a third cycle on 60 or 90 depending on the wool.

Have in mind that with the increase of time and temperature your item will felt faster and will shrink more. 


HOW TO DRY THE BASE
The only thing you need now is patience. Find something that you can use as a mould for your bracelet, for example a mason jar with the appropriate diameter. Place the bracelet around it, adjust the shape and let it dry. This natural process will take between 1 and 2 days. I am lucky to have floor heating at home which assists me quite well in drying my bracelets.

Here is a before felting and after felting look of your bracelet, to get an idea how much it changes in texture and size.


HOW TO DECORATE YOUR FELTED BRACELET
After the felted base is ready and dry you can start decorating. Take a contrasting strand of wool and start needle felting. Don't worry if you haven't done it before, you will quickly learn. Don't forget to place something underneath, for example a thick layer of foam so that you don't prick yourself with the felting needle. 


You can leave your bases plain, or you can go crazy decorating and use not just wool, but also cotton, embroidery thread or beads!


 To see more of my felted bracelets designs, visit my etsy shop.

For more creative DIYs, click here.



23 September 2011

The Week in Links and Photos



Our bunny on an autumn walk to enjoy the last remains of fresh green grass



This week, inspired by the advance of Autumn I wrote about the benefits of eating walnuts on Green Living ideas. Check it out, I am sure you will find something you didn't know about them!

Talking about healthy eating, here are 8 things you didn't know about whole foods.

For many years researchers have been aware of the link between climate change and outdoor air quality but here is proof that climate change affects the air indoors as well.

Here is some modern art with recycled products on display during Valencia Design Week 2011.

Thanks to NASA satellites we now have a clear view of the most polluted cities on Earth.



22 September 2011

Energy Consumption Facts



Saving energy is a concern of primal value for any green thinker. But there are some facts which we tend to overlook or easily forget when it comes to the energy we use at home.

For example, did you know that your hair drier requires more energy than the energy needed for an elevator? 

In the following infographics you will see which are the top consumers of energy in the world, how much energy our home appliances use and how to lower those numbers.

I love the fun fact at the end, which I don't find funny at all but on the contrary, it makes me feel rather concerned: 
According to the American Solar Energy Society, enough sunlight falls on the Earth's surface each minute to meet world energy demand for an entire year.
Just think about the possibilities we are wasting.

Facts about electricity consumption in the USA and how to reduce your impact

Source by Power SuperSite

What steps are you taking to save energy?



21 September 2011

Scandinavian Autumn - September in Sweden




Taking note of the transformations in Nature as the seasons progress is one of the sides of living an ethical organic life. Getting to know what Nature has in store and peacefully coinciding with her rhythm nourishes respect and soothes our souls. With the seasons changes our mood; our inspiration takes leaps in different directions and we grow. Closer to Nature is closer to our own voice.

Seeing the green turning into yellow;
listening to the birds singing along with the wind;
breathing in the smell of the sea weed;
touching the seashells and counting the grains of sand;
following the clouds and collecting their teardrops...

These are just about all pleasures in life that I need to positively charge my sensitivity and excitement.

Come, follow me on a September walk in Scandinavia. Today I start with photos I've taken in Sweden through the years.







P.S. Visit my newly updated and enhanced about me page to learn more about me, the name of my blog and the sites I contribute to.



20 September 2011

Mushroom Season - Help Me Identify the Mushroom - Part 2



It is mushroom season. I can tell that by the MUD on my clothes after I take the photo and get up from the ground. It is wet. It starts to get chilly in the mornings but still there is sun and still I can walk around pretending it is summer.

The pine forest I live in is still full of amazing fairy-tale like mushrooms and I still don't know their names.

That is why, for a second week in a row I officially ask you, my readers, to help me identify the mushrooms I have photographed in the forest. I know that many of you know them, pick them, eat them, and even use them for dyeing fabrics! I believe this would be the only way for me to learn at least their names. Later on, I will attempt creating a Mushroom series, which will include your words and my photos - a kind of collective guest posting experience. Quite the collaboration and exactly what communities like ours are about! And since the works in my blog are shared under Creative Commons, you will be able to repost the series on your own blogs.

Last week, when I showed you these mushrooms Meeling from The Hairy Peach shared the link to Rogers Mushrooms, an amazing online encyclopedia of mushrooms which I am excited to read and learn from ever since. Thank you, Meeling!

So, what do you say, will you try again?
Here is the second batch of photos.



This post is part of the Through the Looking Glass project. Click here to see the rest of  the posts in the series.