New Yarn (and a Tutorial!)

No, I did not break my yarn diet!!  Not really, anyway.  My office wants to participate in the SWANCC Trashy Fashion Show in November.  The rules are to use 90% recycled materials to create a wearable work of art.  I put the call out to my co-workers for a ton of different supplies, the most important of which being t-shirts.  I am turning used up t-shirts into yarn!


To do this, I lay the t-shirts out flat, and bring in my hand pair of scissors.


I cut across the t-shirt from armpit to armpit.  I have been storing the tops of the shirts, trying to think about what I could possibly make with them.


Then, you cut off the clunky hem at the bottom.  I have plans for these!


And then, you start cutting the t-shirt into a continuous spiral.


This is what I have so far!  I’m excited to find ways of utilizing the color in the design.


And here is a sneak peek at what I’m working on.  I don’t want to put it down!  I’m using a massive crochet hook – size N, and I feel like I really ought to go up to a larger one.  Maybe I will for the rest of it.  Any guesses as to what I’m making??

Wrapping Up a Story

While there is still so much more to share, I didn’t want to keep blabbering about the past weekend.  Hopefully, this post will cover the last lingering memories I feel compelled to share and tomorrow, I can write about something new.

To everyone at LoF with a themed camp – you were great!


I love watching the colorful facial hair walking around!


This was a sweet and refreshing surprise.



LOF13 - 13

I had the most relaxing, lackadaisical rest here.  From where I was sitting, I could people watch people climbing all over Freakeasy.  It was nice.

LOF13 - 15 We enjoyed this, but somehow missed going back for the other games.  I hope they are there next year!


Tick Town, thank you for making me laugh, and dance, and play fun games!


To Alisha, with the ball pit – I can’t believe how long it has been I hung out in one! Thank you for the idea, for the repose, for the conversation.

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Tramp Camp – The girls and I had an absolute blast.  We spent so much time bouncing and laughing and getting wet.  The girls couldn’t get enough of it.

LOF - 7

I could never remember the name of the island, and I’m sorry I missed the dance party, but it was fantastic utilizing it as a launch pad into the water.


To Junicorn Sparkles, thank you for the crafting!  I had a total ADD moment walking by your table.  I love the unicorn horn I made!  My daughter wore hers into my office on Monday; refused to take it off!


Syncidium, you made my weekend.  Thank you for letting me fly for a bit!

And lastly, on Friday, I brought out my face paints.  I was so inspired to work, and I loved the energy people were bringing into the gazebo.  I wish I had had more time to work, and I loved that people were asking if they could paint, too, and there was a big painting party.  I was stoked at the creativity bouncing around.  To those who let me paint, and gave me the freedom to paint whatever I wanted – Thank you!  Because of you, I think my abilities and confidence as an artist really took off!







I have a million ideas, and I can’t wait to implement them.  I want to pull out my paints again and go crazy.  I wish I had more time to see everything and talk to more people, but I’m grateful that the time I did have was spent around so many lovely, creative, and welcoming folks.

To the crew that put together Lakes of Fire – thank you! See you next year. 🙂

Creating Community

Community.  At it’s heart, what keeps these fire festivals burning, is community; people coming together, working, imagining, building, and playing together, to create something entirely outside of themselves.  It is an experience to share, so that it can grow and reach toward others.

Lakes of Fire (and other burn festivals) have “themed” camps – people coming together to create an experience following a theme, and they have something to share and explore with the other participants.  This isn’t something to share within their group.  Rather, it is something that as a group they are able to share with others.  I probably would not have attended had it not been for our camp.


Gothee House – a gothic themed 24 hr coffee house turned industrial dance club in the evening.  Together, we created a structure, an ambience, and a community that brought people from all over the festival to us.


We all contributed, in every way we could.  I made decorations, others built the “gothedral” which sadly did not make it completely standing, but we all learned from our mistakes and figured out what to do instead.


The moment when we erected the frame, and not only the people who organized the camp, but people drinking coffee and walking by, all stopped and rushed in to aid us.  For me on the edge, holding up a steel pole as high as I could and watching everyone around me doing the same, as still others came rushing in with the support beams – it was the most extraordinary rush of emotion.  There is a Native American story about pushing up the sky.  The sky was so close to earth that the inhabitants had to crouch to walk around.  Banding together, they took long poles and pushed the sky as far away as they could.  Where the poles poked through the sky, a brilliant light could be seen shining through.



Working as a community, they created something wonderful.  Watching this group, being a part of this group, as we banded together in a similar way to erect a communal space, was one of the most beautiful things I witnessed.  Instead of stars, we strung LEDs, and we all danced together.


A member of the camp turned the fallen spire into an interactive art display, and I hadn’t actually looked inside for most of the weekend, I just saw it being worked on.  But even when things went wrong differently than planned, we found a way to make it work.


The important things, we understood, were music, and coffee.


The coffee flowed freely.  People came and went.  In a clever effort to get them to hang around a bit, and ease some of our workload, the rule was in place that, to receive coffee, you must grind it yourself.  People who wanted to continue chatting gladly continued grinding.  And we continued brewing.


LOF13 - 10

LOF13 - 9

As we were packing up on Sunday, I was nearly brought to tears.  Chicago has not been what I would consider a friendly city for me.  It has been difficult for me to reach outside of myself and meet people, to feel like I belong anywhere.  Had it not been for Gothee House, I would not have attended Lakes of Fire.  This whole experience would have been lost to me.  As it is, it took one person inviting me, and the courage (and restlessness) to say yes, and I ended the weekend on an incredibly high note, feeling stronger and more secure.

To my Gothee Baristas, thank you.  A million time.  Thank you.  For pulling me outside of my comfort zone, for pulling me into your fold.  The acceptance, appreciation, and peace you gave me is not something I have ever felt.  I had no doubt that my presence was desired and enjoyed, and my absence felt, and as I stood in our camp Sunday morning, watching everything being taken down, packed up, and a few last cups of coffee brewed, I felt the community that we had created together, strung between us and its tendrils reaching for more to bring in and hug.  Thank you for helping me be me.

Lakes of Fire in Retrospect

For two days now, I have wondered how to sum up the amazing weekend I just experienced.  I have gone through the pictures I have taken, scoured the web for photos from others, read testimonials from others who were there, and had a difficult time adjusting to my regular life.  Actually, this last one has been the worst.  I am still cleaning dirt from under my fingernails, there is still sand and oil in my hair, I get a whiff of campfire now and again and keep finding new ideas for next year.  I still haven’t unpacked and all of my camp and circus gear is in a giant pile in my parlor still, ready to be loaded up for another trip should the fancy strike.  Knowing that I really need to be a responsible adult, pay the bills, and tuck money aside for next year’s goals is kind of a downer.

So, here I am, still readjusting and trying to put the weekend into words.  An experience that makes you want to run so fast you start to fly and hug absolute strangers because you know they have a beautiful soul is not one that can easily be summed up.  Trying to even tell you what Lakes of Fire is or was or could be feels impossible.  It is simple and complex and colorful and clear, but only if you are in the midst of it.  It is an energy that ebbs and flows between the participants so that it is more than a festival, it is an immersive experience for all of your senses.  It is difficult to *grasp* but easy to understand once you let down your barriers and respond to that flowing energy.  You can’t help but smile and relax.  My boss told me when I returned on Monday morning that I was breathing deeply and calmly, that she could tell I had enjoyed myself and taken advantage of my vacation, that I seemed at peace for the first time since I started working in an office.  That feeling hasn’t left yet.


Lakes of Fire is, at it’s core, described as a fire festival.  What is that?  It is an exhibition of art, talent, and community that culminates in a fire performance and the burning of an effigy.  This effigy was standing all weekend, and participants were able to crawl all over it, climb it an look out over the lake at the entire festival, write notes on the walls and string paper cranes from the rafters.  We imbued the structure with our energy, our dreams and words and poems and love, to be shared within the community.



When it burned, it became a celebration of life, love and community – the cycle of all things.  Each person shared the experience, and experienced it in our own individual ways.








This being my first burn event of any sort, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was lightly familiar with the culture, but had never felt so fully immersed.  There was no way my imagination could have come up with the amazing performance, the fireworks, the color, and the feeling of anticipation and excitement that emanated from the crowd.

There is so much more to describe to you about the weekend, but I need to formulate the thoughts and pictures in my head.  I hope I have passed some of the energy to you!

For The Love of Pillows!

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to turn gnarly thrift store pillows into snazzy goth cushions.


By taking on this task, you understand that at risk are your health, your fingertips, your knees, and your back.


We are in no way responsible if the completion of this task results in the loss of your sanity and/or life.


Nor are we responsible for the effect this task may have on others, such as your housemates or loved ones.


It has become your responsibility to produce as many pillows as you possible can within the given time frame.


(Last night’s adventure, while also doing laundry and waiting for paint to dry.  I cannot wait to see how this all turns out!)

Lessons in Making Candles

Last night gave us a rather interesting episode into making candles, and the kinds of mistakes you can make when are you rushing, tired, overwhelmed, and maybe have had too much wine.


We ordered 20 pounds of soy based wax with the intention of making around 25 candles.


Because we are camping, we didn’t want containers that would break on us.  I suggested using pails for the candles, because they would have  along burn time and wouldn’t break.  The problem we encountered, about a third of the way through our evening, was that the square planters were not watertight, and we ended up with a massive puddle of wax on the counter.  We tried to solder the edges of the pails, but it didn’t work.  Then we tried gluing the edges, and coating the inside with wax, but that didn’t work either.  In the end, we had to use epoxy on the corners.  This worked for most of them, and then we ran out of epoxy and the ones at the end of the line did not get used.


Someone was monitoring the melting of the wax while another was concocting unique scents for them.


I helped get the wicks in place.  This was a very annoying task, since the binder clips we used did not want to stick to the chopsticks.


Once the wax was clear and the scent added, we poured.


So, while we didn’t make 25 candles like intended, we did have a lot of fun, learned a lot of things about the process, and made at least 15 candles that should burn for 6-12 hours each, if not longer.  Hopefully, this creates enough ambience for the weekend at Lakes of Fire.  Tonight will entail painting and sewing, and hopefully getting started on packing.  Now, if only I had clean clothes…

Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts

Today, I write to you exhausted but content.  I had a lovely weekend face painting at the 42nd annual (and my 3rd year!) Custer’s Last Stand Festival of the Arts, which takes place less than a mile from my apartment.  This is one of my favorite places to work, and so far this year is the only big festival I plan on doing.


Ellette, of course, was the first to get painted.  I tend to make a rule with her that if I am painting her face, I get to decide what she looks like.


Saturday morning gave us rain, but it cleared up around 1.  The morning was slow enough for me that I could afford a little more detail and attention to patrons.


Whole families stopped by.


Last year, this girl had me paint her face as a daisy.  This year, she wanted a rose.  I’m excited to see what she wants next year.


My favorite requests are the ones that challenge me.  I am getting bored with butterflies, tigers, and dragons.  This girl wanted a mocking jay pin – a reference to something I completely forgot – one of those blah *games* blah shows or movies.


Sunday was father’s day, and I had a couple of “tattoo” pieces that celebrated Dad,


A rainbow tiger brigade came through.


And one of my favorite pieces of the weekend – a ballerina.  This young girl and I sat talking about what kind of pose the ballerina should do.  I like the way the silhouette turned out, rather than doing it in color.  I think it makes the piece more dramatic.

One of the things about this weekend that made it worth while is that many of the kids that waited so patiently in line were there because I had painted them last year, and/or the year before, and they love my work and energy.  It really touches my heart to have met so many families that look for me time and time again.  This is why I started doing what I do, why being a children’s entertainer and teacher is important to me, and why I am trying to pursue it as a full time gig.

To all the families and friends that stopped by, waited in line, poked their head in to say hello, and especially to the people who brought me food, water, and lemonade because I was constantly surrounded by kids and paint and couldn’t move – you made my weekend fantastic!  Thank you!!

Task List

In one week, we leave for 4 days to attend the Lakes of Fire Festival in Michigan.  I am attending with a group of people in a themed campsite – Gothee House, a goth coffee house.  Everyone is contributing time and resources to help this camp become realized.  My contribution thus far as has been the chalkboard.


We made it using a 2 by 4 foot sheet of plywood and a handy can of chalkboard paint.  I added 3 coats, and I think it’s going to work lovely.  The darker black on the two edges is simple black acrylic paint so we can drill holes without damaging the chalkboard surface.  The decals were a total experiment, and I’m glad they turned out well.  I wanted to add some sort of gothic border to the board to make it interesting.  I found some stencils at a craft store and debated the color of paint to use for a while.  The gold really pops.  I’m a little bummed that the lines of the scroll-work isn’t clear in all of them.  It was difficult to keep it clean and prevent the paint from dripping.  I took a wet Q-tip and tried my best to thin some of the lines and clean up stray dots of paint.  Some parts of the board, while not showing gold directly, appear to glimmer if you look at them from an angle where the glitter from the paint has dried.  I have 10 small signs left to make, also chalkboard, and I’m not sure if I’m going to add any stencil detail.  I think I should, but I suppose it all boils down to how much time I have.

I also have a ton of pillow cases to sew and about 25 candles to make (I’ve never made candles before, this is exciting!) And we leave on Thursday.

This weekend is the Custer Street Fair here in Evanston.  I am face painting, like I have done for the past few years.  I’m looking forward to it.  The fact that I am no longer doing fairy costuming at shows is still new for me, and I find myself in moments of panic, thinking I’m not ready, not ready, not ready.  I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that I have everything I need, and I have to breathe deep.



In between all this prep work for Lakes of Fire and Custer, I am churning out crocheted roses for consignment at a friend’s shop.  I have more projects I’m working on, but very intermittently.  I don’t think I will be able to get to my leisure knitting and pattern production for about two weeks, which kind of makes me sad and a little irritable.

I’m going to try to write about the candles and the sewing and definitely the fair, but if the blog goes dark over the next week or so, at least you will know that it is because of a hectic flurry of craft activity over here, and I will have loads to tell you when I return!

Explore Chicago: Wrigley Field

I have been trying to update since Friday, but with the combination of social events and a wonky internet connection, it couldn’t happen.

Anyway, on Friday, Ellette and I went our June Chicago exploration to Wrigley Field.  This was a work function, so we were with a group of 50 or 60 people.  It was mostly fun, but neither Ellette or myself find baseball the most entertaining sport.  Luckily, I had yarn in my purse and knit for a few innings.


Still, a coworker loaned Ellette his jersey because she was shivering, and she looked awfully cute decked out in her Cubs gear.




Ellette’s favorite part was singing ‘Take me Out to the Ball Game.”  She was waiting eagerly for the 7th inning so she could sing.


We had buckets of sugar. I do believe this was the first time I witnessed Ellette in a sugar high.  our diets contain very little sugar, and most of what we do consume is naturally produced by the fruit we snack on.  We were  both a little overloaded with Pizza, Cotton Candy and Ice Cream by the end of the game.



Ellette is about to leave town to spend the summer with my parents, so the Explore Chicago adventures will take on a slightly less family-friendly appeal.  I’m looking forward to a childless summer (Especially since I am going to be working a lot) but I know I will miss Ellette within a couple weeks (if not sooner).

Roundabout Time it’s Done!

Another finished item to show you!  This has been in my queue for years, and then in my project basket for several more weeks than it should have (and that was entirely my fault because um….I lost it.  Yeah, see previous post about admitting you have a problem).


This is the Roundabout Leaf Tank by Norah Gaughan.  She has to be one of my all-time favorite designers.  I adore the way she pulls inspiration from nature and uses clever geometry to achieve her patterns.


The yarn is a linen blend a coworker gave me.  When she handed me the bag full, my eyes lit up and I knew immediately it was going to be perfect for this project.  It is the kick in the keester I needed to get started.


Mods: I made it a 33″ bust instead of 36″, and I went down a couple needle sizes.  This meant I had to add more spirals, which only became tedious after the third. I also changed the straps. I felt that the way they were constructed in the pattern seemed a bit matronly, so I opted for a racerback.


Overall, I am very happy about the product, and I am glad to have crossed something off my list!


And it’s going to be a lovely addition to my summer wardrobe – if only the temperature would reach above 65F.

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