The “no instructions” experiment - RESULTS!

Two weeks ago we started our “no instructions” experiment blog tour. For the experiment we asked several embroiderers to stitch our new Crafty Cat and Knitty Kitty embroidery patterns, except that we gave them no instructions, no reference on what embroidery stitches to use, no color suggestions, no transfer instructions, and no photo of the finished embroidery. We only gave them the basic line art design to use. 

Check our our “Path to creativity: Don’t follow instructions” post here to read more about the experiment.

Well, the results are in!
I’m overwhelmed by the amazing stitching of our experimenters. And if you’ve been following the tour I hope you were just as blown away. There were so many ideas. So many techniques. So much cuteness. Not to mention attempts at posing real kitties. 

I LOVE everyone’s creativity!

Below are direct links to the embroidery experimenters and their posts. Click the links to hear their full story about stitching the Crafty Cat and Knitty Kitty embroidery patterns with no instructions.

Abby from While She Naps 

Nicole from Follow the White Bunny

Mollie from Wild Olive

Olisa and Leigh from Mr. X Stitch

Floresita, Gabi, Kristen, Jo, and Pam from Feeling Stitchy

Wendi from Shiny Happy World

I had so many creativity "ah ha" moments while I was looking at everyone's pics and reading their stories. Below are some of their pics and the experimenting tips I learned through this project.

Nicole stitched the kitty above. I love how she filled in the kitty with all the little stitches, and how she used different floss colors for the fur. Look at how well the fur colors blend together. The texture created from all of the little stitches and different colors is amazing. And that little heart in the quilt block is just too cute. Also really love the idea of stitching on a patterned fabric.

• Experiment: Try filling in shapes with different colored floss to create blended color. Stitch on a patterned fabric.
I'm absolutely drooling over the colors that Kristen used in her Crafty Cat mug rug in the above pic. I love that mustard yellow. This is a palette that I definitely would like to try.

• Experiment: Play with color! Try colors that you don't use often.


Speaking of floss colors I don't use often, check out Pam's embroidery above. I almost never use variegated color floss. But after looking at this cute kitty, it's going on my list of things to experiment with.

• Experiment: Play with different ways to use variegated floss.
 
First off, love the blue fabric that Floresita used for the background in the above pic. Also love the textured kitty. But check out that ball of yarn and the knit square! The ball of yarn looks just like a 3 dimensional ball of yarn. And the knit square was actually knit with tiny needles then attached to the background afterwards. How fun.

• Experiment: Combine different crafts together in the same project.


 
These kitty embroideries by Gabi were stitched onto cork fabric! I've never heard of cork fabric before. I think the textures created by the embroidery stitches and the cork are pretty amazing.

• Experiment: Use a material you've never used before.

Abby's kitty above is another great use of variegated floss and a type of floss I don't use all that often; metallic floss. Isn't that silver scissors just the cutest! I also love that she thought about how to use the embroidery in a finished project.

• Experiment: How can you make embroidery the STAR of your project?

Check out Mollie's awesome knitting bag in the above pic. I love how dark the background fabric is, and I'd love to try stitching on a bold fabric color like this in the future. I tend to stick to my plain unbleached muslin, so doing something like this is out of my comfort zone for sure.

• Experiment: Stitch onto bold colored fabrics.

Now this is an experiment in color, texture and materials! Olisa's kitty above is stitched onto watercolor paper that she first painted, then stitched the scale pattern, then transferred and stitched the kitty. Love the combination of all these ideas together in one piece.

• Experiment: Be bold!

Leigh's kitties in the three pics above were stitched using a technique I've never used before and now absolutely have to try: free hand machine embroidery. That means she used a sewing machine to make all the stitches but instead of having the machine move the fabric, she moved it herself to basically "draw" with the sewing machine. The third image is a process pic. Look how she layersd colors!

• Experiment: Try a new technique.
 
I think Wendi's kitty above is just darling! Again, really excited about the bold background fabric color. Wendi used a "whipped back stitch" to stitch the yarn to make it look like actual twisted yarn. What a great idea. I love how she changed the knitting needles to a crochet hook.

• Experiment: Make a pattern your own!
And now...

the posing kitties!


Path to creativity: Don't follow instructions.

I love buying patterns.
 

I purchase patterns for sewing, embroidery, knitting, and other crafts, typically because I want to learn a new technique (or the design is so cute that it’s irresistible). However...

I have a confession to make about my pattern purchases.

I rarely stick to the instructions.

I almost always adjust the pattern to put my own spin on it. In fact, unless it’s a craft that I’ve never touched before, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a pattern’s instructions 100 percent from beginning to end.

What about you? Do you follow instructions exactly or do you veer?

Following instructions is wonderful when you want to try a new craft or technique. Pattern writers work hard to share their techniques and there’s a lot to learn from good instructions. Even if a pattern uses a technique you already know how to do, the pattern writer may do the technique differently, so there’s always something new to learn.

But what about the instructions after that? What about color or stitch choices? Do you follow those too?

When I stray from instructions, sometimes little fear bubbles float the surface. What if I mess up? What if I do it wrong? What if I don’t follow the rules?

These are all questions that hinder creativity.

It can be difficult to actively step away from instructions to do your own thing, however taking that step allows for creativity to happen. It’s the magic of taking a “spark” from your brain and making it real. That’s my definition of “art”.

Ask yourself these questions:

What would happen if you had a project and didn’t have any instructions?
 

What would happen if you were free from doing something in the right or wrong way?
 

What would happen if you had permission to just make art?

I decided to run a “no instructions” experiment.

We recruited some awesome embroiders for the experiment. We gave each of them only the line art template for our two new Here Kitty Kitty embroidery patterns, Knitty Kitty and Crafty Cat. We gave the embroiderers no instructions, no reference on what embroidery stitches to use, no color suggestions, no transfer instructions, and no photo of the finished embroidery. We asked each embroiderer to pick one of the designs then stitch it however they wanted. They had a blank slate. No limitations. No pressure. No right or wrong. Just play.


Below is an image of the covers for the two embroideries. Our embroiderers did not see this image before they started stitching.


Today, our embroiderers are ready to share their results!

We put together a blog tour for this week and next week where the embroiderers will share their finished embroideries and process. I’m so excited to see what they came up with and what decisions they made along the way. I know I’m going to be blown away by all the creativity!

Below is the list of embroiderers and the dates they’ll be sharing with links.

Wednesday, April 30 

Abby from While She Naps

Thursday, May 1
Nicole from Follow the White Bunny

Monday, May 5
Mollie from Wild Olive
 

Tuesday, May 6
Olisa and Leigh from Mr. X Stitch
 

Wednesday, May 7
Floresita from Feeling Stitchy
 

Thursday, May 8
Wendi from Shiny Happy World

Please check them out. It’s going to be awesome!

We’ll have our Wrap Up here on the Penguin & Fish blog on Friday, May 9th.

Would you like to participate too?

Click here for the “Knitty Kitty” embroidery pattern.

And click here for the “Crafty Cat” embroidery pattern.

I’d love to see how you experiment and veer away from the instructions! Email your pics to me (alyssa) at info (at) penguinandfish (dot) com, and tell us what you did. We’ll share your pics on our facebook page.

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Here's why I make things and craft. What about you?


Why do you craft?
For me, making things and crafting have always been a part of my life. Crafting is a place for joy. A comfort. A best friend.

I craft because...
it's how I can experiment and learn. One thing I really love doing is looking at a traditional craft and then thinking "What if I tried _____?" or "What would happen if I changed _____?".

There's a great thrill in giving an idea permission to come out of your head and be real.

It's just a bonus if a crafty hypothesis works out how I wanted it to. Even if it doesn't, I know I'm going to learn a ton from what did and didn't work.

I craft because...
it grounds me. Whenever I get stressed out or anxious, the inherent repetitiveness of crafting helps me calm the nerves. It's amazing what a hundred knit 2, purl 1's can do to gather some perspective.

I craft because...
it's awesome to create something that didn't exist before. So much fun fun fun!

The best is creating something new out of something that was going to be thrown out. Then I get the "Woo Hoo, I'm recycling!" feeling too. One of my favorite craft projects was when I "recycled" several sweaters from the thrift store by unraveling them, washing all the "yarn", then crocheting it into an afghan.

We did something similar in our Sew & Stitch Embroidery book where we made a "fake knit" scarf that was made from thrift store sweaters.

And right now I'm crocheting a doily out of all my embroidery floss scraps. It's the same pattern that my grandma used to make all of her doilies. You can see a little detail of it in the "I craft because ____." graphic above.

photo by Sarah Hebenstreit
Now it's your turn.
I would love to hear from you!
Why do you craft?

Email me (Alyssa) at info [at] penguinandfish [dot] com with your answer to:

I craft because _______.


Me being crafty at 1 1/2 years old! Love this pic!
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The one concept that is changing the way I run my business: Accepting outside help

The one concept that is changing the way I run my business: Accepting outside help

I recently had the honor to write a guest post over on the Create & Thrive blog. They're all about sharing real advice on how to turn your handmade hobby into a full-time business. Obviously, I'm super excited about that topic!

The one concept that is changing the way I run my business: Accepting outside help


The article I wrote for them was about an experience I had while working on our craft book, Sew & Stitch Embroidery.

During the process of writing Sew & Stitch Embroidery, I went through several lows, like dealing with the stress of a 4 month deadline, and having 5 completed (and photographed) projects dropped due to space issues. I also had amazing highs, like getting to come up with and make so many fun projects, working with a dream photographer, and holding the finished book in my hands. Surprisingly though, the most eye opening part of the whole process happened after all of this. It was during the book’s blog tour.
It was during the blog tour that I realized I was working on my business all wrong.

Read the full article on the Create & Thrive blog by clicking here.

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Simple Knitted Legwarmers pattern - still time to make before Christmas

Simple, knit legwarmers
The last few days have been FREEZING, and I mean negative numbers. The weather is tempting me to add another project to my already long Holiday project list.

Legwarmers!

I can bundle up all I want on top, but if all I have on the legs are jeans, I'm still going to be pretty dang cold. I could wear tights underneath my jeans, but who wants to do that?

So, I thought, I should just make really long legwarmers, like mid-thigh length legwarmers. Doesn't that sound wonderful! They'll be like blankets for the legs!

I made the legwarmers in the image above back in 2009 and am thinking I'll use the same, no-fuss pattern. To update them for the thigh length legwarmers, I'm going to use the same design and just keep stitching until they're the right length. I'll take the measurement around the largest part of my thigh instead of calf to start. That may be all I do. However, if the legwarmer seems too big once I get lower on the leg, I may start decreasing a stitch or two every now and then to make the bottoms slimmer. But who knows, it might be just right with the bottoms being big. I'll decide as I go, and let you know what happens.

Here is the pattern for the original legwarmers from the photo above.

Simple Legwarmers:

I used black, sport weight, blue sky alpaca yarn, but you can use whatever yarn you'd like. Update: use the needle size that's recommended for the yarn. I don't know what the original size of needle I used to make these back in 2009.

First you'll need to make a quick gauge: Cast on 10 stitches in stockinette stitch (knit a row, purl a row) for 10 rows total. Measure how many horizontal stitches in an inch. Then measure the number of inches around the largest part of you calf. Use those two numbers to figure out how many stitches you'll need to go around your calf.

Figure out the number of stitches it takes to go around your calf (instructions above) and cast on the closest multiple of 4 to that number. For my legwarmers I cast on 36 stitches.

work in the round

(k2, p2) around for 15 rows

k 50 rows (or to your desired length)

(k2, p2) around for 15 rows

bind off loosely.

There you go. Super easy, no frills, but still cute.

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Prepping for Christmas break

The No Coast Craft-o-Rama craft fair was this weekend, and it was super fun and great. However, now that it's over, all that I can think about is Christmas break! The hubs and I are taking Christmas to New Year's off and are spending it at my parent's house in Wisconsin.

And what does a break look like? Eating yummy food, sitting by the fire, hanging out with family, and of course...CRAFTING! The rare time I actually have a real break, I immediately feel the need to start new projects, try new ideas, and attempt to finish projects that have just been sitting in the studio forever.

I couldn't wait anymore last night and had to get started on something. I decided to start a new "this will take me a lifetime to finish" quilt. It's going to be completely hand stitched using the English Paper Piecing technique, and be made from the hubs and my old clothes that I've been hanging onto. Check out my start in the pics below.

Cut out paper pieces from a No Coast Craft-o-Rama craft fair poster. Yay for recycling!
About 2am. Took hours and hours and hours to get this far. Have to remind myself that it's OK if this project takes a long time to complete.
Even made up a cute little portable bin!
What are my other projects on the Holiday docket? I have a bin of projects all ready to go of things I've been meaning to do.

1. Make a fleece or flannel lining for the knit cowl I made a few years ago.
I love this and want to wear it so badly, but it's too itchy.

2. Make a stuffed animal bear out of mohair. 
I've had this kit for probably over 10 years. I think I've just been scared to cut into the beautiful mohair. Also, I rarely end up making things from other people's patterns because I always want to change them right away so they're more Penguin & Fish-y style. Well not this time...I'm doing this one by the book. I will, however probably knit him a little scarf when he's done.

3. Make the "Note Taker" writing pad folder by Pink Chalk Studio
I got this at the Spring International Quilt Market in Portland last spring. I think it's totally cute and I've been wanting to make one. Just haven't got to it yet.

4. Make a "Pointless Wonder" quilt top.
Another kit that I've had laying around for over 10 years. I'm at the "THIS NEEDS TO BE FINISHED NOW" point. It's a quilt made up of wonky 5 point stars, all with the tips of the points cropped off at the edge of the blocks. The pattern and fabrics in the kit aren't quite my style, however it looks like it uses a pretty interesting technique for making the stars, so I'm excited about that. And I want it to be finished so it's not sitting around anymore.

Bin of projects all ready to go.
And last but not least...

5. Finish the top for my jeans log cabin quilt.
I've been working on this fellow on and off for about 5 years now. I cut up the hubs old jean (he goes through a lot of jeans) into 1 1/2 inch strips and have been making "log cabin" blocks. I'm practically done with the blocks and almost ready to sew them together into a top. I'm pretty excited about getting this project to "quilt top" form. I'm also excited for it to not be sitting on my printer anymore.

Jean quilt. My printer is sick of being weighed down.

So by "last but not least" I actually mean "not least". I know my mom has plans to work on couple of quilt tops and some infinity scarves. I'm also going to be bringing home my embroidery sewing machine and a computer, so who knows what else we'll come up with while we're there. And yes, I do realize that my vacation will be at most, 10 days long, and it's crazy to think I could actually finish all of these projects. I'm hoping finishing all the projects will be a beautiful Christmas Miracle.

What are you working on over the holidays?

Happy Thanksgiving! (plus a freebie)

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, yay! I actually already celebrated Thanksgiving with my family last week and had lots of fun and lots of food. My mom is the best cook! The husband and I are still going to have our own little celebration tomorrow though. We have all to food ready for our cooking adventure.

I wanted to say Thank You for all your support and for being part of our Penguin & Fish community!

Here is a little freebie to help put the finishing touches on your Thanksgiving table. It's our printable Woodland Holiday Place Holders!

Click this link to get your Woodland Holiday Place Holders.

best
-alyssa




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