Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting the Write-Start!

  Have you ever heard of these?  Several years back, I was filling out my annual order for supplies for my elementary art room and saw these in the catalog.  I ordered 1/2 dozen boxes to try them out, thinking they'd be great for my younger students.  What I didn't expect was that they would instantly become everyone's favorite colored pencil!
They are made by Crayola, and are called Crayola Write-Start Colored Pencils.  They are officially 'intended' for younger kids, but my older kids fought to use them, and frankly I like using them too.   I'm missing a few in my set - the set has 8 pencils.  I have black, green, yellow, red, and purple, but the set also includes orange, blue, and brown.
The leads are soft, the colors are rich, and the points never seem to break.  The kids could really bear down on the point to get rich color, and they were easy to hang on to.  The are thick and easy to grip (which helps with my old lady hands), and hexagonal so they don't roll off the table.  And the graphics on the pencils are cute, too!  My only regret is that they only come in these basic 8 colors.  You can still buy them, but it's rare to find them in catalogs so you really have to hunt them down.  If you follow the link above, you'll find them at a great price at if you are already spending $35 and qualify for free shipping.  (It doesn't mention Amazon Prime). 

Once, at a conference, I got samples of these Ticonderoga 'Core-Lock' colored pencils ([photo below) from a vendor.  Their quality is amazing - I personally think they rival Prismacolor in quality and richness of color.  Unfortunately, I have just three colors and I don't think they are made any more.  Why does the good stuff so often disappear? 
I mean, do you remember the Sanford Colorific (or Foohy) Gel Markers?  (Same thing, with a name change.)  They were spectacular!  Or the gel colored pencils? Why is it that when you get really attached to something, it disappears from the market?  What would we all do if black Sharpies were no longer available??

Do you have a favorite 'unsung' art material that you think others should know about?   Or a favorite material that is simply no longer available?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

My apron contribution to the Apron Sew-a-Long

my latest apron creation!
I've had many art room aprons, smocks, and lab jackets over the years, several of which were made by yours truly.  I was inspired by the amazing Cassie Stevens to make this one.  Cassie has a knack for getting us all sewing cute aprons and reading artsy books (and doing the associated homework) when we really should be cooking dinner, doing the laundry, feeding the cat, going to the gym, and cleaning the bathroom (well, those last two are really easy to ignore).  Anyhow, if you don't already know, Cassie started an Apron Sew-a-Long and even though I'm actually retired, I still can use this apron, which, by the way, is reversible.   Here's side #2. 
 Like I said, there have been many other aprons in past years. I seriously USE them!  My aprons wear their paint and glue like a badge of glory, until they get so nasty that they look like the refuse in a butcher shop.   I've posted about making a couple of them here and also here.  Then, there was the one with the adorable little aliens all over it - I mean, aliens with shopping carts and aliens with baby aliens in strollers, and so much more.  I don't have a pic of it, and it is long since gone, caked irreparably with layers of paint and what-not.  But I have a strong memory of a certain student - a large difficult autistic girl, who barely even acknowledged my existence otherwise, getting totally excited about my apron.  I mean, out-of-control excited.  She would come and poke at me in the boobage (that word is for you, Cassie) and other body parts, pointing out the alien puppy, and the alien kitty, and alien babies, screaming and shrieking  It was, um, a wee bit distracting.  I stopped wearing it when her class came to art. 

Below, Violetta, my duct tape dress dummy, is modeling side #2.  Don't you just love the 'yoga frog' appliques I have put on both sides of the apron?  I was excited by the fabric when I saw it, but it was rather insubatantial and I was afraid paint would go right through it if I used it for the apron, so it worked out great for appliques.   I had planned to use WonderUnder, like I did for this tunic, but the store now had a different brand.  I didn't like it.  It didn't hold as well, but at least it held enough for me to zigzag their edges onto the apron.  I found some crazy metallic thread for the appliques, but the thread was so problematic that I only used it on three appliques before I gave up and went back to regular black thread.
By the way, I did not use an official pattern.  I took a Sax apron that I got as a freebie at a vendor booth last year, traced it (I liked the shape of the top), made it longer, and extended the sides to go further around my not-insubstantial hips.  I cut out the apron shape in each of the two fabrics I had chosen.  I cut out pockets, based on the size of the Sax apron, and sewed them on.  The pockets are lined.  Below is my favorite yoga frog.  Now all I need is a mantra...
 I took a third fabric, and used it to make seam binding by cutting it on the bias and running it through this handy-dandy folding thing I've had for, like 20 years.  You iron the fabric as you pull it through, and voila! 
 Instant bias fold seam binding!  How cool is that?! 
I used the seam binding around the apron edges and for the ties.  It was really easy to put together.  Because the apron was being put together with the seam binding, I didn't even need to sew it together and turn it inside out.  I just put the pieces wrong sides together, basted them, and put on the binding.  Easy!  I think if I make an apron this way again (it's bound to happen sooner or later) the only change I'd make would be to make/use a wider binding for the trim and ties.  Though I suppose that means I need to search for another bias tape maker. 
Once I was done sewing the whole thing together, I decided to quickly finish up another project, since my machine was already threaded with black thread. 
 When I was in Santa Fe this summer for the Crizmac International Folk Art Extravaganza, one of our hands-on projects was making a quilt square.  I don't usually hand-sew at all, but I really dove into this thing and am super proud of it.  So I decided to stitch it to a piece of black fabric, which I am going to stretch over a board (showing a black fabric border of about 2" on each side) and then frame.

And that's when my Janey (my sewing machine) acted up.  Janey is a Janome brand machine, and I've had her 3 or 4 years.  I bought her when my 30 year old singer finally bit the dust.  She's small and lightweight, but very efficient.  Except she is electronic, and the electronics seem to have a mind of their own.  Usually, when she acts up, the problems are solved with turning off the machine and then on again (basically, rebooting).  Not his time.  What was she doing?  She, um, just kept on sewing, long after I had taken my foot off the gas.  If my car did that, I'd be running red lights and driving into the backs of other cars.  She just sewed right off the edge of the quilt square onto the black fabric and kept right on going.  I can't even blame it on the cat (who frequently likes to tug at the thread and stick her head dangerously in the machine while I'm sewing).  She was napping nearby.  I rebooted.  I fiddled with the 'start/stop' button that can be used in place of the foot pedal.  Nothing worked.  I swear, one time she even kept right on going after the machine was turned off!!  Every time I sewed, it happened again.   Sometimes, it was just a couple of stitches, but other times, it was a dozen or more.  In the end, I pulled out the extra stitches and called it done, and I guess perhaps it's time for Janey to have a service call.  Luckily the place to take her is only a couple of blocks away.  Anyhow, it's not framed yet, but here it is all sewed messily onto the black fabric.