Monday, November 19, 2012

Waxing Poetical on Wisteria

Soon I'll be posting the second entry in the showcase of projects my husband completed recently. But first, would you like to hear the long story behind it? Of course you would. If not, scroll through to the next post.

My Wisteria and Rose Bouquet
Have you ever been to the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens? (See, told you it was a long story.)  If you have, you probably would not forget the Ceremonial Rose Garden. For those of you who haven't been, the rose garden features a very large arbor covered with the most beautiful and delicate lavender flowers that cascade like grapes. I fell in love with that garden from the moment I first saw it. Everything from the copper roof accents to the gnarly trunks of the vines was beautiful. I decided then that wisteria was my favorite flower (even featuring it in my wedding bouquet, see picture at left).

You may remember we lived in England for a time and I LOVED it. One of the things that England is rightly famous for is the beautiful gardens. I don't know if it's because of the rich soil, the gentle misty winters, or a combination of both.

Case in point: in England I had two rosemary bushes that grew almost like weeds. I trimmed and shaped them like hedges and had plenty of rosemary for cooking. Here, I have unsuccessfully planted and soon after killed two rosemary bushes. Now I have a pathetic sickly-looking one in a pot on my windowsill. That seems to be the only way I can keep them alive. I digress.

Back to wisteria- one of our regular commutes in England meandered through a village. It was not a particularly old or beautiful village when compared to the pristine ones you find on postcards (although those do exist and are marvelous), but it was the sort of village where life continued to plod along. Buildings were more likely to be mended than replaced. When new buildings were added, the most recent being in the late 1970s or early 1980s by my rough guess, they were done so in entire streetfuls so that you had three or four streets full of older houses across from a whole block of ugly apartment buildings. Instead of ruining the older houses, the apartments seemed to heighten their beauty by contrast. On one side, you had an ideal of what, to an American like me, I would assume all of England would look like. On the other, with the apartments, was the stark realization that life progressed. People needed inexpensive housing, just as they do in America, and so the utilitarian housing units were brought in to serve that purpose.

On the side with the older houses, which mind you weren't incredibly old, just old enough to be cute, was one house in particular that was covered with wisteria. I loved that house. In the winter it wasn't much. The vines lay dormant, swirled and intertwined like a Celtic braid. In the spring, the vines suddenly brought forth the most amazing display of light purple and white flowers, completely blanketing the front of the house.

So when we moved here and bought our current house, I started messing with the garden right away. I was determined to slowly but surely transform our yard into a beautiful English garden, complete with a wisteria-covered wall. So finally I purchased a little wisteria plant and put it next to my big empty wall in front of a decorative trellis. It bloomed and thrived, but the poor thing could not attach itself to the wall. Go figure, vinyl siding is not as wisteria-friendly as brick (probably a good thing, too, I can just picture the little tendrils working their way between the panels. So plan B- look it up on Pinterest! My husband and I (he's actually a more avid pinner than I am) both did some research, sketched out our ideas, collaborated, and finally agreed upon a design. Hopefully not long after Thanksgiving I'll be posting what we did.

P.S. Sorry for waxing poetical tonight. This is National Novel Writing Month and I'm forcing myself not to participate because I'm overbooked. All that pent-up literary creativity had to get dumped somewhere, right? 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

PVC Soccer Goal Net

PVC Soccer Goal Net

Our eldest daughter had a birthday party this last weekend. Normally, I try to do something handmade for each of the girls' birthdays. But this year, October was swallowed up by my coursework (we're talking stay up until 2 AM working, get up at 8 the next morning every day, only taking breaks for church and Friday night painting). So this year, I delegated the making of the handmade gift to my amazing husband. I picked out this Soccer Goal from Six Sisters' Stuff and sent the man to the hardware store. While he was there, he picked up the materials for a few other projects and I'll be sharing those as they get wrapped up.

The tutorial was great and here's our result:

The tutorial called for a mesh material, but I decided I would make a net out of string. For my first attempt, I used some cotton kitchen string I had left over, but it wasn't very durable. It looked great on the first day, at least! Here's a pic:

So we needed to upgrade to something sturdier and a little more permanent.

Here's what you'll need:

  • vinyl-wrapped utility cord (I had this left over from my attempts at putting up a clothesline in my yard. Turns out I'm allergic to grass and pollen and shouldn't be drying my clothes on a line, but I digress...) I had 100 feet and used less than half for one goal. 
  • small zip ties (leftovers again), they don't have to be super duty, bargain bin zip ties work fine. 
You'll also need some scissors.

1. Corner Lines.

I ran a line from the upper corner to the back corner on each side. (Note: I tied this line, then switched to zip ties for everything else because the zip ties were easier and held the rope more tightly).

2. Install Verticals on Sides. 

A. To do this, stretch a length of rope parallel to the vertical support and about 4" away from it. At the top, wrap the rope around the diagonal rope you installed in step 1. Secure with a zip tie.

B. Then stretch the new vertical rope tightly and wrap around the bottom goal support twice. Secure the end with another zip tie.

C. Repeat with a second vertical rope 4" from the first, and a third 4" from the second.

D. Repeat steps A-C with the other side.

3. Install Horizontals. 

A. Wrap the end of a piece of rope twice around the vertical goal support about 4" from the bottom of the goal. Secure with a zip tie.

B. Stretch the rope across all three vertical ropes. Secure intersections with zip ties.
C. Zip tie the horizontal rope to the diagonal rope installed in step 1. Try to keep the horizontal rope as parallel to the ground as possible. Wrap the horizontal rope around the diagonal frame bar once fully. Repeat for the second diagonal frame bar.

D. Repeat step B with other side.

E. Wrap the end of the horizontal rope around the vertical support twice and secure with a zip tie.

F. Repeat steps A-E with a second, third, and fourth horizontal rope, each 4" above the last.

 4. Install Verticals. 

Using the same method, install three vertical ropes from the top bar to the back bar of the goal, running parallel to the diagonal supports and 4" apart (approximately). Then install a zip tie on every place where the lines cross. I suppose that's optional, but I'd recommend it or this might happen:

Yep, she totally loves the goals. I just realized I don't have any completed pictures, so I'll try to get them tomorrow. Er, today. Wow, is it that late already?

 You can trim the ends of your zip ties if you want, but I have not per the birthday girl's request. She says it looks like a porcupine house, so the zip ties stay for now.
 And here's the difference in durability between the string net (left) and the clothesline net (right). (The gap at the bottom is due to the contour of the backyard, not shoddy workmanship. ) This picture was taken after the goals were used at the birthday, then left out in the rain for a week. They are holding up really well! Now to put the clothesline on the other goal.

Monday, November 5, 2012

10 Tips for Finding Good Art Deals

Well, we've been busy the last couple weeks! First, I have been privileged to teach not one, but TWO Coffee and Palette events. These events were held at our local church and I was asked to be the guest artist. It was an amazing experience and I think I learned just as much, if not more than, my students. I've especially learned about finding good deals on supplies and I'll share my not-so-starving artist tricks now:

10 Tips for Finding Good Art Deals

1. Buy canvas in bulk. 

If you can find a discount store with a large craft section, chances are they will sell pre-stretched canvases in multi-packs of 7-10. Some craft stores will also have the multi-packs and will allow you to use their coupons on them. Keep in mind, the larger the canvas, the more expensive it is.

2. Use coupons and sales.

Keep an eye out for those craft store sales flyers! I've seen canvas sell for as much as 60% off or buy one, get one free. Most of the craft stores around here offer internet coupons you can print if you sign up for the email listing.

3. Find a discount art store or wholesaler. 

One of the art stores here has a large wholesale warehouse that is open to the public. That's my favorite place to get brushes. They once had a box-style field easel for $30. (I still regret not getting that.)

4. For paint, skip the art section. 

If you're just starting out on painting, the price tags on tubes of paint can seem very intimidating! I'd recommend getting a beginner's kit (just the small tubes of paint and a palette). Then, as you use the colors, you can replace them with ones from the woodworking and craft paints section. They are usually much cheaper. Bear in mind the craft paint has a different consistency sometimes and you might want to research viscosity, etc. when you're ready to "graduate" to the art paints.

5. Think outside the box. 

Sea sponges at craft store: $5 for 4. Natural sea sponge loofah at grocery store: $2. Buy loofah, cut into 8 wedges. It works. 

Also, old paintbrushes with paint caked on can be soaked in alcohol (read that somewhere, but haven't tried it yet). Or, they can be used as stipplers and rough edgers.

6. Network with other artists. 

I only found the wholesale warehouse through recommendation of a friend. You never know who is a budding artist, who has old supplies sitting around, or who might make a good painting buddy.

7. Don't skimp when it's important. 

Two words: fan brushes. My sister bought a brush set and was fairly happy with most of her brushes, except the fan brush. She tried my fan brushes, then went out and tried to find the perfect one. She finally did and it was a little pricey. However, that is still her favorite brush and she uses it on almost every painting for something.

8. Take advantage of your local library. 

I've found a fantastic DVD series on famous landscape artists by David Dunlop at mine! I'm learning so much by not only watching these videos, but also checking out art books.

9. Buy what you need. 

Most of the art paints I've found are cheaper in larger sizes. However, if you aren't going to be using neon orange very often, a giant container might start to get old and separate. For an accent color like that, I would probably head over to the craft section and buy a small inexpensive container.

10. Paint with friends. 

I know I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. If you can find someone to paint with, your paintings will turn out much better (I suppose it depends on who you paint with!). Also, you can share brushes, split costs for paint, etc.

Painting Classes Update

Well, I didn't set out to share my money-saving tricks, but there you have it. Back to my painting classes. We had fifteen students in each class. The first class painted the coffee cup painting, the second a landscape. I think everyone in the first class was pleased with their paintings. The second class, I'm not sure. Theirs was much more difficult and we ended fairly late at night because of the difficulty. Still, everyone ended up with a blue sky, green grass, brown trunks, and pink blossoms. They all seemed to have a great time and several ladies have since told me how much they enjoyed the evening.

So when is the next one? We're working on it. I would like to do another before Christmas to keep the excitement for the classes going, but that's just around the corner! In the meantime, check out these process pictures I took during the practice session with my very patient husband:

 In case you're wondering, his painting is on the right and mine is on the left. The tiny painting in the middle is a result of being suckered into buying miniature canvases for two little girls and having leftover paint.

Isn't it cute? I had also bought myself a mini brush set specifically for this purpose and was dying to try it out. Coming up next are some Pinterest projects we worked together on.