Spring to Summer: (Re)building my nest

I like this time of the year because the temperatures are more agreeable to this crafter who grew up and lived most of her early life in hotter climes.  The only thing I don’t really like about spring is the humidity and the rain which takes care of projects involving paper.  It’s not the best time to work with the medium, because the moisture content of the air is much too high to produce optimum results.

So there will be very little, if any, working with paper crafts for me.

There are a ton of projects brewing in my head which involve sewing and refurbushing, and I might even end up trying my hand in carpentry.  I have set out to rebuild my nest.

We moved to my current apartment 15 years ago.  We haven’t really changed much except to do some repainting which now needs to be redone.  While the intention at the start was to imbue the place with “our personality”, life generally got in the way and put everything on hold.  That pretty much meant deteriorating environs and plans that remained just that: plans.

A major life change has caused me to physically move to make those plans a reality, and the strangest thing is that I’m back at working on colors.  Yes, I’m going to repaint again.  I live in a co-op which is a single level dwelling on a two-story courtyard type unit in a community of like structures.  Being that it’s a co-op, I really can’t touch the outside, but I can pretty much do as I wish with the interiors, for as long as I keep within the flooring requirement of having the place 80% carpeted.

It’s a two-bedroom unit which is now essentially mine, (master’s) and my son’s.  There is a single full bathroom, a tiny kitchen with a breakfast counter opening into a stand-alone dining room.  The structure itself was built post-war, and has seen its share of occupants through the decades.  I have an attic accessible via a folding ladder which has ample storage but which needs a major clean up.  My carpets have not been replaced although we had meant to do that early on.  My vinyl flooring is now yellowed and peeling off tile by tile, so that needs a do over as well.  Just thinking about all the things I need to get done to get my place in good shape is beginning to overwhelm me.  This might take forever.

I am not daunted.  I’m crafty and can do some of the work.  Still, I’m not deluding myself into thinking that if it has a do-it-yourself clip or article out in the web, I should attempt it to cut corners.  False economy.  You think you’re saving money by doing the job yourself when a reboot of the project later by a professional will likely cost you more.  I think it’s very important for a homeowner to know what he or she can do and what needs to be contracted out to the pros.

So for starters, I’m dividing everything that needs to be done into mini-projects that will allow me to work within my budget, and will enable me to get things moving without doing a major overhaul which I really cannot afford right now.

Choosing my greysI have jumped on the “grey” bandwagon and have (for now), made up my mind to use greys and neutral tones to cover the mostly white interiors I have.  My dining room is a calm sage green, but that has already outlived its variety.  My kitchen has white cabinets which are in need of repair in a splash of funky 80s like wall paper.  My bathroom was the only room I dressed in my favorite fuschia pink, forgetting that the tiles were in midnight blue with some ghastly floral graphics here and there.  The bedroom is a warm terra cotta color which I don’t mind keeping, but which, because I’d like to mentally and physically move forward, I feel a deep need to redo.  I painted this room once before, I can do it again.  And one of the bigger projects next to the kitchen really is my living room whose farthest and most solid wall is a huge mirror which is so 80s and which I can’t wait to either cover up or tear down.  I’m thinking black with wall-to-wall shelving in white.

I just breathed an audible sigh at the enormity of it all.  But it can be done.  I’m thinking within 12 months, I would have my colors up and most of my repairs done, and then I can go from there.

One of the most difficult things about redoing your nest is deciding on the colors to use.  Again, I live in a very small space, but I want the look to have a unified feel.  My son and I were at Home Depot a few weeks back and had picked up some samplers to try on colors.  I made him choose his closet interior and I thought I’d pick up a darker grey shade to try on the window wall of my stairwell landing.  I also picked up a small tub of plain white to redo his closet door primarily to cover up graffitti someone else had scribbled on it.

My grey test wall is temporarily on hold due to some major cracks on it as well as caulking or plaster that had fallen off the stairwell molding.  That is a separate project altogether but one which I will take care of sooner than later.  And yes, I’m hiring an expert to do that because I am asthmatic and might not fare well against the dust that chipping into the crack will generate.  More importantly, while I pride myself for being a diligent and neat painter, I don’t want to attempt the wall repairs and later have to call in the troops to save the day.

Years ago, I would have said grey was too dull or plain blah.  Now I can’t wait to have it from dark to light with white trim.

So this is one big craft project for me.  Again, in little doses.  More coming on my nest repairs and other projects.. soon.

Craft experiments: Photo Transfer to Canvas

I love taking photographs.  Even before the age of smartphones and selfies, I would hold my point and shoot DSL-like camera and click it framing my son and I in a photo that looks like it was taken by someone in front of me.  Friends would often wonder how I did it.  I kept telling them, it’s plain and simple practice.

  1. I would look at the lens and make sure that the reflection I saw there was the framing I was hoping to achieve.
  2. Whether I was taking a blind selfie or not, or taking the photo of another subject, I already knew not to place the subject’s head in the middle of the frame.  (A common  mistake), and instead put it on the upper center of the photo.
  3. I also knew I had to look at the lens, not at my hand.

In truth, this was really one of the skills of motherhood.  Ever since I became a Mom, I took numerous snapshots of my then little baby on a daily basis, capturing every essence of his day.  My camera and I were inseparable.  This is the reason why I have always opted for a fancy point and shoot rather than an actual DSLR.

Through the years, I’ve also learned that taking a snapshot of an actual photograph can produce better results than an actual scan.  (This, of course, is just my humble opinion.)

I have always had a deeply sentimental nature when it came to photographs.  I brought home a ton of my pictures through the years through my various trips home to Manila, and what I couldn’t take  (or chose not to take), I took photos of.  Holding a photo and looking at it, whether or not it’s me in the photo or someone else, evokes a wave of emotions and memories that a simple thought cannot bring.  It is a magical experience all its own.

Then I fell in love with the idea of photographing jeepneys and the many scenes of New York.  From the flora of Bryant Park to the gorgeous foliage of Central Park, to the never-ordinary cityscape showing any of our iconic buildings like the Empire State Building — I have amassed quite a personal trove of photos.

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One thing that the digital age has robbed us of, I think, is the need to actually produce these pictures as hard copy mementos of the moments they captured.  We have become content with visually beholding them in our smart phones or on our computer screens.  We have stopped printing them or creating a physical copy.

I’ve always wanted to incorporate these photos in my artwork but have really not had the chance to try until recently.  Again, I’m a crafter more than an artist, so my creative process is about acquiring the skill rather than cultivating a talent.  I am so green with envy of the real artists out there who can grab a pencil or a brush and with a few strokes create something others can drool over.  I call my attempts, “Personal art”.

Scouring the internet, I’ve found several resources that give tutorials on photo transfers on canvas using a gel or glue medium.  Over the previous week, I tried using regular mod podge after having painted small canvas panels with acrylic beforehand.  I’ve had some practice doing this on Artist Trading Card backgrounds half a lifetime ago, so the backgrounds were the easy piece of the puzzle.

Since this was purely experimental, I decided to go with a 4×5 canvas panel.  Aim small, miss small, as they say.

I already had future projects in mind so I decided to experiment with (1) a full-photo transfer, and (2) a collage transfer, essentially focusing on a cut out.  Below is a macro shot of Angelo when he was maybe 4 or 5, laser printed as recommended.  I printed the photo slightly larger than the canvas panel but I didn’t intend to wrap the edge of the photo print out on the sides of the frame.  From the get-go, I meant to show some of the background by exposing the edges.  I wanted it to be a distressed transfer to give the photo more drama.

The background was a hodge podge of gold, copper and silver acrylic.

This second one was a cut out of the dancing girl figure, a picture of me when I was maybe 3-4 years old.

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Chalk it to my impatience — instead of waiting for the customary drying time of 24 hours, I wanted to see as quickly as possible if the ink would indeed be transferred by applying a generous amount of transfer medium to the print out and then pasting it onto the canvas panel.  (This was, after all, an experiment only, so I threw all caution to the wind.)

Cutting out the figure that I wanted, I pasted it onto the canvas but being careful not to let any glue get onto the backside of the picture.  Two or three tutorials I viewed warned against this because any part of the printout with glue on the backside (the reverse side) would not be rubbed out when you tried to get the transfer reveal.

I think my transfers went well for a first attempt, and as far as first attempts go.  I’ve already stocked up on regular canvas to work with bigger projects which I hope to showcase here in future posts.

MATERIALS USED:

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My Art Journal 2017

I began this art journal project arpund 2012, I believe.  I am a fan of Julie Fei-Fan Balzer and her work, and she had this Art Journal Everyday project I joined at the start of my own art journaling journey.  I had done two false starts with loose pages until I finally decided on an altered book.

An altered book as an art journal is basically a book that you change up and use as your journal.  I happily jumped into converting or altering this business book which was one of several copies at work.  I didn’t realize that the choice wasn’t only about the size and the paper (do not pick glossy pages!), but the binding at the spine was a very important consideration as well.

Because I mostly painted my layouts using very wet methods, the spine gave out several times and I eventually reinforced the binding with masking tape for most of the layouts.  That’s what a glued hard  bound book is wont to do, and I found out halfway through the book that I was supposed to look for older ones which were sewn and then bound.  Too late, so I worked around it.

My Altered Book: Title Page: A HAPPY LIFE

I would paint the background pages ahead, and have had so much fun creating multi page layouts with cut out windows or letters.  Creating the backgrounds and journal pages was half the fun — the other was when I actually did the journal entries.  I lettered and wrote as I would in a regular journal.  The big difference was the theme of “happy” and “happiness” emblazoned on the pages, and quotes I had picked up from the web as sources of inspiration.  This first book I entitled “A Happy Life.”
My Art Jpurnal so far
Art journaling has been very therapeutic for me, and while I fell out of the “Art Journal Every Day” pace, I continued my art journaling off and on for the first two years after.  On the third year, I became preoccupied with other things and actually managed to lose my journal which I hid too well.  After I found it earlier this year, I continued the remaining layouts and am about to wind down to the last pages.   Although there are blank pages left for me to journal through, I’ve made up my mind to begin a new journal to mark my 51st birthday this April.

My Art Jpurnal so far

This time around, I’m making the journal itself and I’m hoping it will be an even more meaningful journey moving forward.

Our offices are moving from building to building, and mostly into smaller space.  As a result, we have been purging and digitizing files to make our office record keeping more efficient.  A previous boss also retired which meant going through a mountain of files pertaining to his tenure.  All those used Manila folders gave me an idea.  I was going to repurpose them into my next art journal.

The first question was what size would I cut the folders into.  I already knew the tabs would have to go, and the spine as well.  I didn’t want those embossed lines..  While others may find an appeal in just binding the folders together as is like they do with junque journals,  I wanted to make sure I didn’t make the mistake of having my journal pages fall apart on me like the first.  I also wanted a smooth surface so that meant the crimp or creases at the fold would have to be cut out.  I thought 7″ x 10″ would be good, resulting in a 10″ x 14″ spread.

The second consideration was how was I going to bind it. Do I sew the pages together? (But I didn’t want to have the paint seeping through to other pages..) Ring bind them?   This was problematic because I usually did two-page layouts.  So I thought I’d try and tape the pages together.

I’ve started with a small batch and am working on seeing how the painting affects the binding.  If this turns out as something that can work, I will make a video and post how I bound my card stock thick folder pages together.  All I used was a roll of masking tape you can easily buy from the dollar store.  It was more about figuring out a way to bind the pages the way I wanted the finished book to be.  After tweaking the taping of the pages, I’m thinking this might actually work.  I’m really excited.

As I get to the last few layouts of my first art journal, I’m thinking of doing a flip through video to go through the book.  Yes, the whole book.  The second will be very different in that I now want to use more pictures to decorate my pages.  Maybe I will use printed backgrounds as well instead of painting through all of them.  I know my journaling style has changed.  My first entries will be the previous year’s summary and then I move on to 2017.

My Art Jpurnal so farI want to use more of the pictures I take and include them in my art journal as well.  
Just a few minutes a day– and I have taken to doing several days’ entries in one spread.  Sometimes I just put in a word or two — something to remind me of what I did on that day.  At times a day will spread on to the next.  I don’t have too many rules with my art journaling.  It comes when it comes. 

Ear Candy Crazy

I’ve been busy crafting the last couple of weeks, this time focusing on my beads and my tools.  For starters, I’ve finally found the time and the will to go through my loose bead bins.  I have made it a habit to have small tubs  to collect loose beads in when I work with bigger batches.  Sometimes,  I end up collecting them in my work trays and then just pour them into the bins.  During several previous clean ups, I’ve sometimes managed to separate the freshwater pearls from the gemstones from the Czech pressed glass and metal findings.

I’ve been sorting individual organizers a bin at a time, actually gathering jumprings and putting the clasps and the eyepins and other headpins in separate containers.  Yes, I’m getting organized in a major way.  I have been pleasantly surprised to discover strings of beads I had all but forgotten I had, and while I’m excited to do something with each find, I need to get them all sorted out first.

One of my favorite suppliers is Fire Mountain Gems which has assortable pricing that progressively goes down depending on the number of items you buy.  This usually makes a difference when buying regular price items which can be pulled down dramatically when you purchase at certain price levels.  In addition, when they go on sale, they REALLY go on sale.  The only thing is you have to trust your visuals.  That can be tough when you’re looking at gemstones, but you have to pay attention to dimensions and string size.

I have always found it helpful to have an actual ruler in front of me when I am shopping online for beads and other materials.  It helps me visualize the size of the bead.  A 6mm round bead is not much different from an 8mm so it helps to actually see the bars that make a difference on that ruler.

During one of  those sales, there was a bead mix that was on sale for 25 cents per pack, with the catch that you had to purchase a minimum of 8 packs of 125 beads .  I’ve purchased a set of amethyst chips in the same packaging, and the quality wasn’t bad for the price I had paid.  At the time I made the purchase, I was thinking of actually embellishing brooches and my clutch purse with gemstones and shell beads.  The idea was to get beads small enough to  embroider or sew into something else.  And how can you argue with the price?  I went for 2 batches or 16 orders of the assortment.

I had to go and unstring the beads and sort them by kind.  The amethyst and rose quartz were quite the find, along with the green aventurine and prehnite in the batch.  The strings aren’t labeled, so unless you know how to eyeball a gemstone, you will end up going by color.

I had ordered these in July of last year but didn’t start unpacking each little bag until earlier this month.  I would say I got lucky with this buy.  You would have to have the patience to sort through the beads because the size and quality varied from string to string, but they all came together after they had been unstrung and sorted out.  It also helps me in creative process to actually go through the loose beads laid out flat on a tray.

Here’s what I can up with — gem stacks in various sizes.

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Square flat beads in green aventurine.. the stack wasn’t hard to imagine, but it meant finding the same cut in all the strings.  It takes some patience to actually unstring the beads and lay them all out on a plate or pad so you can see them side by side.  That’s my design process, and that might not work for everyone.

I tried to group them by shapes, then by size.  These are chips and irregularly shaped and sized, so it takes a bit of effort, but once you find the designs forming in your head, it is actually a good way of letting your creativity loose to pull a design you can work on.

There were also a sizeable chunk of prehnite beads which, at first, I thought were tourmalinated quartz because of the strings of black streaks.  But no, they turned out to be the former.   I have had a lot of fun working with the chips.  Sometimes I find it uncanny how design ideas don’t come to me until I unstrung the beads and actually hold the individual pieces.
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I guess we each have our own creative process we follow with our creations.  Mine has certainly evolved through the years, more so when I find old pieces from my early years, even if only in pictures.  I haven’t posted any in the shop for sale yet.  I am earmarking these for my #Giftof50 giveaways on the main blog.

Craft Calendar 2017

Carnelian bracelet - work in progressLast year, I tried to begin a craft calendar in April which I didn’t get to follow very closely, but which somehow helped me focus on the things I had hoped to do during the year.  HOPE is the operative word, being that a lot of things got in the way and somehow derailed my efforts to be more disciplined with the crafting.

Besides the list of tasks, I am also trying to identify PROJECTS to focus on for the month to help my productions goals along.

No more excuses, but let’s give it another go in 2017.  Again, I hope to be able to achieve more given this list of goals, and watch out for updates as the year rolls along with a monthly round up of how I’ve been doing.  (Edits, progress, deletions/additions)

I had started drafting this post in January but had gotten stuck.  So let me begin with the current month, February.

February

  • Work on the #GiftOf50 peripherals (gift tags, gift wrap, etc.) and keep creating gifts.
  • PROJECT: Start working on a light coat for Spring.

March

  • Work on getting my tour guide license.
  • Visit Lion Brand Yarns and enroll for a knitting class.
  • PROJECT: Easter cards

April

  • Begin work on fabric clutches.
  • PROJECT: throw pillows for the sofa

May 

  • Get my tour guide license.  (More on this later.)
  • Bead fabric clutches
  • PROJECT: Beaded brooch

June

  • Start planning my halloween costume, another paper fairy gown.
  • Design my holiday card for the end of the year.  (Need to determine materials.)
  • PROJECT: Launch Bead Tours

July

  • Post a clutch for sale in the etsy shop.
  • Launch first postcard set project.
  • PROJECT:  OZ projects

August

  • Start creating the halloween costume.  (Will try to actually sew one instead of pinning one together like the last time I made one in 2015.
  • PROJECT: paper boxes

September

  • Start series on Holiday-themed articles.
  • Work on Christmas decor.
  • Produce holiday cards.
  • Create gifts to give for the holidays.
  • Launch second postcard set.
  • Stock up the shop and launch holiday promo.
  • PROJECT: CHRISTMAS DECOR

October

  • Finish holiday card.
  • Start series on handmade gifts for the holidays.
  • Put up my Christmas tree last week of October.
  • PROJECT: Holiday Cards

November

  • Mail out holiday cards.
  • Decorate tree first week, deck out the house.
  • PROJECT: Wrappers / Bags for the holiday gifts

December

  • Create and make gift packaging.  (Wrapper, embellishments, tags)
  • Thank you cards
  • PROJECT: Recycling holiday wrap and cards

Here’s to a productive and crafty 2017..

Working with Sari Silk Ribbon

There are times when I see some material that just calls out to me even before I know what I am going to do with it.  Sometimes I am prodded to buy something with an end product in mind.  I’ve found that it’s a little dangerous to do the former more often that not, because you end up with something you end up not using.

I can’t remember now what brought me to sari silk, but I do have quite a stash.  I think it was all those beautiful ideas for incorporate a piece of ribbon or a strip of this and that in my research.

Over the previous weekend, I came up with this new idea to actually wrap some brass bangles bought at a deep discount in one of the many accessory stores here in NYC — and that was just for starters.

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These are bits of literal saris that have been cut and repurposed to form continuous strips of say 10 yards and color coordinated to provide a colorful ball of fabric yarn.  The edges are not finished, but the raw quality actually lends a bohemian feel to the material.  The width of the strip varies from batch to batch and is not straight, so it makes for a very versatile ribbon.

Sari Silk yarn

Looking back now, I seem to remember the idea I had in mind was to actually use these to string beads or to provide a necklace for a pendant.  They are available in single colors of varying or solid hues, or in combinations like the above.  Pretty, don’t you agree?

They come in batches of 10 yards and that’s plenty for a necklace or two.  I have even tried crochetting with it, but it’s a little difficult even with the bigger chunky hooks, and the end product is a tad stiff.  So that one, I think I will need to develop first.

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In addition to my sari silk ribbon, I had also acquired some hand-dyed silk from a local designer here in New York, one time she was trying to get rid of her fabric scraps.  I used her silk scraps for the rightmost bracelet you see in the picture above.

I am definitely not done yet with these bracelets, because even from the get go, I had made up my mind that they were just base bracelets I will decorate and embellish.  I’m thinking about adding freshwater pearls, gemstone chips, and some hammered wires.  I’m taking it slow with the creative process here because I want to come up something fun and happy and colorful yet something that makes a statement.  (Now, that’s a bit of pressure there.)

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These gorgeous pinks were part of another batch of sari silk yarn.  The baby pink was actually sewn into the batch and while I could’ve easily cut it and start wrapping the bracelet from where the magenta began, I thought it would be a fun way to actually blend two different shades into one piece.    I think it came out pretty well.

So let’s see how these bracelets end up in, given a couple of days or maybe a week or two.  I’ve been carrying them in one of my vanity bags for inspiration.  If they don’t make it to the store, I might actually end up wearing them.  How’s that for some happy arm candy?

Winter Crochet Blitz

IMG_1537As of this writing, I’ve made four hats and three pairs of hand warmers.  Documenting them, though, has been a bit of slow, and posting them hasn’t been all that easy– even on my Instagram feed.  I have been happy using my yarn stock (and I am happy they are finally being put to good use!), and I am so thrilled for all the compliments I’ve been getting.  It has so inspired  me to keep trying new methods and stitches along the way…

Temperatures in New York City have been  dropping and rising unpredictably,  and yes, we’ve had our taste of snow. Occasionally, we are back to rain, but the cold sore on my lip is not a welcome occurrence.  These are the things we have to deal with, living here in the big apple.

I am very happy about how my hand warmers have literally taken shape.  Stitching a plain one for my first pair, I did the stitches vertically which helped me lay the foundation for the next.  The idea was to embellish the plain one with separately crocheted pieces later, but I found this too bulky and decided it wouldn’t work.  Maybe I should stitch a design a la embroidery by yarn instead?  I will try that later.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016I did a square pattern as the base for the second, which meant a slightly bigger than desired form.  The hands, after all, are are not without its curves.  They worked out pretty well and received compliments, but they were too wide around the fingers.  I also made the mistake of trying to tuck yarn ends into the beginning stitches of the next spool.  I tried something different for the next which proved to be more helpful and cleaner both on the front and inside of the warmers.

Just remember that I’m doing this without a pattern, same with my hats, and that means undoing rows and rows when the fit doesn’t work out.

Learning from hand warmers #s 1 and 2, I decided to try and work the rows horizontally instead of vertically, starting from the top.  I figured I would have an easier time increasing stitches down the rows rather than decreasing them if I worked from the wrist up.  Besides, the problem was really about the top where the warmers grip the fingers to keep them all cozy.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016The first step was about figuring out how many stitches would be smug enough to hold all 4 fingers.  I settled on 20 using a size J needle.  I measured after the first row of single crochet stitches which I joined to a round to see how it worked out.  (My hands, by the way, are average in size.  When buying gloves, I usually fit nicely into a Large.)  I wanted to use a stitch that I could work with without too much trouble in terms of counting, and which would hug the fingers together nicely when actually worn.  I did a shell stitch using 5 double crochet stitch, and while I had thought the 20 would fall snuggly into that scheme, it left me with half a shell at the end which required some work around.  That actually gave me the idea to bridge that row to the next by completing the shell, giving me the “increase” I was looking for to give my knuckles room.

Here’s my first attempt at trying to do a pattern:

Row 1: Chain 21, join last stitch with first.  (Leaves you 20 free.)

Row 2: (Shell Stitch) make 5 DCs on Ch3, skip two and connect shell to Ch6, SC.  Repeat until end.

Row 3: connect 5th DC into DC3 of row 1 shell, do all stitches, end row correctly. (No overlap)

Another thing I wanted to do was to be able to incorporate a change of colors in the design.  As you can see, I used three different yarns to make this particular pair.

One issue I have with the stitch is that it left open gaps were I did a shall on shell to create a round design, but I’ve found that even with those little holes, the warmers serve their purpose well.  Your hands will keep warm even with the fingers extending out like it did.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016The third was definitely an improvement on the second, and I am still looking to improve the stitching.  I might just end up undoing the first because I think it’s been shown that the better direction to go would be horizontally stitching rows to give it its proper shape.  Here are the two that I’ve worn and which people have seen.  Even shapewise, the one on the right is less clunky, and it definitely wears more comfortably.

I stitch a round of 10 single crochet on all my hanwarmers with no decrease.  You really need more allowance where the thumb is because of all the directions it moves in, more so when texting.  Besides, the stitching eventually pulls at each row making it adjust.  Any more even just by 2 and it would be a tad too wide.

Hand warmers Fall/winter2016This is how it actually looks like on my hand. Not bad, don’t you think?  I’m almost afraid to try and make another one because I just loooooove the pink of this one.  Keep warm, everyone..