Sock Critter Inspiration: Beyond the Sock Monkey

After sharing about my recycled sock kitty, I started cruising the web to see what else I could make with socks. I found some great ideas.

The classic sock critter is of course the monkey, but I’ve never really liked the traditional pattern (those red lips freak me out).

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Nightmare fuel.

However, people have taken the sock monkey in lots of interesting directions. I love Pippa Joyce’s colorful sock monkeys.

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Not nightmare fuel. (Sock monkeys by Pippa Joyce)

I was really wowed by this sock gorilla but I can’t find any reference to who made it. The post also includes links to some daring sock monkey variations (click at your own peril). My favorite is the Sock Monkey of Willendorf.

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This sock monkey makes a statement. (“Get out of my face!”) [Maker unknown]
Many of the really nice looking sock critters are available as kits, made from brand new and cool looking socks. While this isn’t recycling, it does produce some lovely toys. Sock Creatures in the UK has a particularly nice set of rainbow-striped kits. My favorite was the snail.

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Sock snail (kit available from Sock Creatures)

Zarzak makes clever use of toe socks, and is available as a book and kit (Stupid Sock Creatures Box Set) as well. (I first saw Zarzak on Anita LaHay’s web site and have used her picture below because it is so great.)

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Anita LaHay’s interpretation of the Zarzak pattern.

There are also brave souls making something cool with their old socks without a pattern. I really love Karin Emsbroek’s original designs. Where does she buy her socks?

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Sock whale by Karin Emsbroek
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Sock bat by Karin Emsbroek

Or if you love the unique but are too lazy to make your own, you can commission one. I would go to Jayme at Rawr because her designs are all wonderful. Below I show my favorite, her owl.

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Sock owl by Jayme at Rawr.

Now that I have insulted sock monkeys everywhere, I’m ready for your input. Nightmare fuel or not? Let me know!

3 Reasons to Take Classes on Techniques You Already Know

When I saw that my quilt guild had a beading class with Lisa Yoder coming up, I debated with myself about taking it. I’ve been beading on fabric for years and have even done demos at the guild on basic beading techniques. What more was there to learn?

Fortunately, I talked myself into taking the class. After all, a class gives me a chance to practice a skill I won’t practice at home. I’ve taken multiple machine quilting classes over the years, even after I started getting compliments on my quilting, and never regretted it. Classes remind me of things I’ve forgotten, and I always learn something new, though it may be something small.

Here’s what I got from taking Lisa’s class:

1) Inspiration: Lisa’s quilts are hand-sewn gems, tiny bead-encrusted worlds that are delicate, whimsical, and breath-taking. I loved her work.

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Hand-sewn and beaded quilt by Lisa Yoder.
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My studio the day after Lisa’s class: Beading frenzy!

2) Fun: I thoroughly enjoyed making my little beaded quilt during class (and yes, I got all but a dozen of those beads on during the 3-hour class). I remembered how much I love to bead things.

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The beading I did in class (fabric is 3.5 by 5.5 inches).

3) Learning: Even though I’ve beaded for years, Lisa had things to teach me. She did some things differently than I do. I gave them a try because I was in her class and discovered some tips to make beading go more smoothly.

As a rule, I love to learn. But it’s easy to forget that just because I know how to do something doesn’t mean there isn’t more to know. I’m really grateful I took Lisa’s class. Not only can old dogs learn new tricks, but there are so many new tricks out there waiting to be learned.

The Colorful Crochet of Marinke Slump

I’m in the middle of knitting my block for the All We Are Saying peace blanket project. I probably should have tried crocheting it, but I’m still feeling like a bumbling beginner. As a beginner, I’m on the lookout for simple patterns that interest me so I can get some practice in while making something I love.

Recently, I came across the work of Marinke Slump (also known as Wink). I’m in love with the bright colors she uses, as well as her mastery of making simple projects look elegant. Her website provides lots of free patterns, as well as a few for sale.

What first caught my attention was her mandalas. I love circles and they seem to be a natural shape to crochet. Hers vary from the most basic concentric circles to intricate flower-like structures.

Standard Mandala by Marinke Slump
Standard Mandala by Marinke Slump
Picot Mandala by Marinke Slumpe
Picot Mandala by Marinke Slumpe

Her little hearts are definitely on my list of things to try. I can imagine these cuties hanging from a Christmas tree or as a pin with some beads or embroidery added.

Little hearts by Marinke Slump
Little hearts by Marinke Slump

The other thing Slump does well is make use of granny squares. Her crochet squares bag makes an unusually shaped carry-all from a stack of granny squares.

Crochet squares bag by Marinke Slump
Crochet squares bag by Marinke Slump

The single-color granny squares in her kaleidoscopic lap rug give an old stand-by a fresh, modern look.

Kaleidoscope lap rug by Marinke Slump
Kaleidoscope lap rug by Marinke Slump

I keep talking about Marinke in the present tense, but I first learned about her through the Mandalas for Marinke project which was created in response to her suicide in June 2015. Knowing that she struggled with depression and crocheted to help herself deal with it just makes all these projects seem that much more precious to me. She was able to capture the light with her hook and yarn. It’s sad to think that the dark defeated her.

Why We Should Practice While Waiting for Inspiration

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If I waited for inspiration, I wouldn’t write anything at all. And yet this is exactly how I approach other art forms, like spinning or drawing. I expect to be able to just make things, wonderful things, as a result of a compelling vision or urgent promptings from my muse.

Sometimes it works that way. I’ve been quilting and knitting long enough to have a set of skills I can use when an idea is burning its way through my brain. Things come together quickly and if I’m very lucky, the final product resembles to some degree the thing I originally envisioned.

But the best way to work with inspiration is to be in training, to practice regularly, to spend time with the materials, to experiment with different techniques. That way, when the muse dumps an idea on me, I’m ready to get to work, and I have the skills to follow through.

One of the main reasons I want to be drawing more is because I have things I want to draw that are entirely in my imagination. I often see images of my characters or the setting from a story I am writing, but I cannot seem to get those images on paper.

It’s hard to draw trees if you haven’t really looked at them and know how they are put together. It’s even harder if you have no idea how to translate the reality in front of you into a representation made with lines, dots, and squiggles. Developing the drawing skill I need to capture my visions is going to take practice. If I don’t pick up my sketchbook until the idea hits, I’ll be disappointed with my attempts to capture it.

So today’s quote is meant as a reminder to me, not just for writing, but for any creative pursuit that interests me, from spinning yarn to illustrating my own stories:

I know writers who write only when inspiration comes. How would Issac Stern play if he played the violin only when he felt like it? He would be lousy. — Madeleine L’Engle

How do you feel about practice versus inspiration? Do you wait to be inspired? Or do you pursue your art no matter what?

Use The Talents You Possess

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I’m having a hard time getting my drawing homework done. I can blame it on a busy life — making the time is tough right now — but I know it’s because I find it so hard to do. I have to overcome a huge amount of inertia just to sit down with my sketch pad at all. I know that inertia is mostly fear of failure. I’m afraid that I’m wasting my time because I am not as good at this as I want to be. The irony is that in order to get better at drawing, I need to be willing to draw badly.

My inspiration for today is this quote:

Use the talents you possess, for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except the best.  —Henry van Dyke

It gives me permission to draw poorly, and I need that right now.

Crochet Inspirations: Lime Green Lady

Confession time: I’ve always preferred knitting to crochet mainly because I think knitted projects just look better. Crochet can look cheesy, even tacky, to my eyes. Recently, I’ve started finding pictures of crocheted projects online that are stunning, even elegant, and I’m intrigued. I want to learn how to make some of these beautiful things. Fortunately, there are generous people out there happy to share their projects and their patterns with the rest of us.

Lime Green Lady blogs about crochet and knitting, showing off projects she has designed herself and sharing her patterns as well. Projects include a granny square blanket, a granny square baby jacket, and toys, from a hot air balloon to a mermaid.

Since finding that granny square afghan at a yard sale, I am collecting examples of granny square projects I like. Granny squares may be old-fashioned, but the vibrant rainbow colors in Lime Green Lady’s blanket give them a fun, new look.

Photo by Lime Green Lady
Photo by Lime Green Lady

Lime Green Lady designs her own patterns and likes to make toys, particularly vehicles. I adore this rocket ship. The bullet shape and the arched fins make me want to jet off into space.

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Another vehicle pattern is for a toy train, complete with a string of cars. I love her use of color.

Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady
Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady

For those interested in learning how to design their own crocheted toys, read her post of tips. And for those who only knit, never fear, she has some great knitted projects, too.

Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady
Pattern and photo by Lime Green Lady

Why I Want to Be Kristen Lamb When I Grow Up

A few weeks ago, I ordered Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer directly from social media maven Kristen Lamb. I’d already read and loved her book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. I’ve been struggling with my blog lately, so I was eager for some new ideas about how to approach it. I couldn’t wait to read Are You There Blog?, because I was sure it would inspire me.

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I sent off my check and then I heard the news. Kristen was sick. Really sick. An allergic reaction had triggered an episode of shingles. She was in pain, medicated, in and out of the ER. As I followed her posts on Facebook, I told myself not to expect the book any time soon. She was not going to have time for something so trivial while her body was causing her so much trouble.

To my astonishment, the book arrived promptly. Not only did I get it long before I expected to, but it was signed with a personal greeting from Kristen that thanked me for supporting her. I was flabbergasted.

And then I was awed.

Kristen walks the talk. She tells us writers that we must behave as professionals in order to succeed, that we must be disciplined and do what needs doing, no matter what. Despite the many excuses she could have used to delay filling my trivial order for a single book, she took care of it at once, and she even made the effort to sign the book thoughtfully when she must have been feeling rotten. She refused to let what she was feeling at the moment keep her from achieving her long-term goals.

Health issues have been a limiting factor for me for many years. so Kristen’s example is a powerful one to me. I’ve had many days when I’ve had to lower my expectations and take care of myself rather than accomplish the things I hoped to because I wasn’t well enough to do them. Fortunately, the last year has been one of healing, resulting in steady improvement in my energy and health. I can get through a packed schedule now without being too tired to move the next day.

Knowing that Kristen is still getting the job done despite her illness is inspiring to me. I know she’s had to get help and delegate a lot of her usual duties as mother and wife in order to keep up with her career while dealing with her health, but she’s done it. If she can do it, so can I.

For the record: Are You There Blog? It’s Me Writer has given me more ideas about improving my blog. I’ve also read Rise of the Machines three times in order to dig out every diamond of advice she’s packed into that book. (You can read my review of it here.)

I have a new role model to look to as I write my novels, learn more about publishing, and keep working on my blog. Kristen Lamb leads by example and there is no question that what she does works. Time for me to put her great advice into action.

How about you? Who are the role models you learn from in pursuing your life goals? What about them has inspired you?