This is my type of hardware

IMG_0202 detail croppedAs the subtitle of my blog points out, most of the things I make use fabric. And if not fabric, I work with other supple items like yarn, paper, ribbon, etc. To mix things up, last month a friend and I went to paint pottery. You know the kind of place ─ shelves of manufactured bisqueware waiting for people to add their personal touch via ceramic paint. What’s nice about painting this pottery is that unlike pottery you make yourself (or should I say, unlike pottery I make), you start with a perfect canvas. And before you begin you know exactly what shape and size it’ll be. The items are usually functional and when you’re done they are truly one of a kind.

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Grey mug with hints of spring

While a blank canvas can be intimidating, this time I wasn’t paralysed with indecision. First I chose my object. I decided to decorate an oversize mug because the mug I have at work doesn’t hold nearly enough tea. Then, before I even sat down to consider design options, I saw a stencil of roses on a vine and right away I knew what I wanted to do: a ring of flowers and leaves near the lip of the cup. Not feeling particularly funky, I used predictable but pretty colours. The spring green is a shade I love, and then I chose a pink to go with it.

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Oversize mug next to a 10 oz water glass

The shop’s fired colour swatches were not as bold or intense as the paint on my finished mug. Thinking the floral pattern might get lost or look washed out against white, I painted the background dove grey. I’m not sure I’d to that again, in part because I think the pink and green would have looked great on white, plus the glazed white is so clean and appealing. The handle was originally going to have more vine and roses but I didn’t have enough time to paint another 4 inches of pattern. That turned out to be a good thing because I love the solid splash of colour sticking out from the side of the mug.

View from the top

Staff at the shop told us that to get opaque colour we’d have to apply 3 coats of paint. You can see that the colour in the detail work is more opaque than the grey wash that covers the rest of the mug (click on any photo for a larger image) even though I applied 3 coats everywhere. The difference is that on the large area I unknowingly applied thin layers of paint, whereas for the detail section I used a smaller brush that pretty much deposited little blobs of colour with each pass.

After 3 layers of paint and 2.5 hours of effort the mug was fired and ready to be picked up 4 days later. Finally, I inaugurated the mug with a cup of herbal tea. My review of the mug as a functional object is that it’s lightweight, comfortable to hold, and so large that I can’t see over or around it when I drink. My review of the mug as an object of art is that I love the look of it and have a small feeling of satisfaction every time I look at it.

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More cowls for me

River Rock cowl using Casdcade Eco Duo

A colour photo of my grey River Rock cowl

As you may know from reading earlier posts, after a lifetime of surviving Canadian winters I discovered a little accessory called a cowl, or neck warmer, that far surpasses a scarf for both comfort and function. After two winters it was time to add to my cowl wardrobe and I knew just what I was looking for. The River Rock cowl (left) went perfectly with the lighter jacket I wear on warmer winter days (0 to -8° C or 32 to 18° F), and since my approach to cowls is now much like my approach to jackets and mittens, I wanted a warmer cowl for colder weather. What makes a cowl warmer? A cowl with more coverage — covering my cheeks and throat — and possibly made of a warmer or thicker yarn/wool. River Rock was a little short so the next cowl had to be longer. And fluff-free. Those little filaments that are part of soft fluffy wool were drawn like magnets to whatever lip protectant I wore.

Manos del Uruguay Maxima wool in Peach Melba (top) and finished cowl

Manos del Uruguay Maxima wool in Peach Melba (top) and finished Nina cowl

As much as I like moss- and seed-stitch patterns, running the yarn back and forth resulted in tiny open spaces that let in cold air. So I opted for a pattern where each row was composed of the same stitch. Enter the Nina cowl, an easy and visually appealing pattern I bought on etsy.com. What really attracted me to this pattern was how I thought the accordion design would make it easy to collapse the cowl when I only need warmth around my neck, and pull it up to keep both my face and neck warm when the wind blows. When I couldn’t find solid-colour wool in the right weight at the very first store I went to (oh, I was impatient!), I chose the beautiful fire colours in this Manos del Uruguay Maxima 100% wool (top right). The finished cowl has been satisfactory. While it is longer than the River Rock cowl it wears shorter than I expected because it keeps springing together. The bottom pops up when I pull the top up over my nose. This is what motivated me to look for wool when I was in Halifax .

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Cascade 220 Heathers, purchased in Halifax

The Manos (top right) and Cascade 220 (left) wools are both 100 grams per skein and they call for the same size needles. Since a single ball of Manos didn’t give me the cowl length I had hoped for, I bought two skeins of Cascade 220 Heathers; one in teal and the other in taupe. A 4.5mm needle was just right for the Manos wool, but the fabric knitted with the Cascade 220 was thin. My solution was to double up on the Cascade 220 and increase the needle size to 5.5mm. The impact of these differences is noticeable (see below). Both cowls have 5 purled sections although the pink cowl is short a final series of knitted rows. Plus, I’ve worn the pink cowl quite a bit this winter, whereas I only just finished the Cascade 220 version. This might explain why the second cowl is not doing the accordion thing as much as the original. Otherwise these two are the same.

My two newest cowls.

My two newest cowls.

Unfortunately I lost my River Rock cowl just last week so I couldn’t take any pictures comparing the three of them. But you know what this means… time to start on a new River Rock cowl!