Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Singapore's tree huggers

Dear friends,

You may already know this. In Singapore all protests are unlawful. It's not that there is a law against protests. It's that there is a law against "unlawful assembly" of persons. And without the ability to assemble, then there is no protest.

I have discovered a quiet uprising mainly in residential areas in Singapore. Check out these tree-huggers.

As Singapore gets more congested, these bicycles find themselves squeezed for parking space. Despite the increase of more concrete for these bicycles, it seems the demand always exceed the supply.

See how daring this bicycle is? All the tree trunks were taken, so it hugged itself around a illegal parking sign.

I think this yellow bike may have died because it's been hugged round the Stop sign for many months. Speaking of which, some of the bicycles have long been abandoned taking up precious parking space or the coveted tree. (the slim trunks are the best)

This metal grating is outside a MRT station. It is meant for hanging banners. But the bicycles have claimed it. It's their mother ship now.In the past, the officers from the MRT station would confiscated the bicycles. But it was a losing game. The bicycles are tenacious! And they seem to multiply very quickly. Anyhoos, the MRT guys are now too busy picking up metal rail clips which are being dislodged from the aging rail tracks and falling off the viaduct. So if you're in Singapore, don't walk below the train tracks.

Oh, a reminder, it is not a good idea to call Singaporeans dogs. A China national, Sun Xu on a scholarship in a Singapore university found out the hard way. He had posted on his microblog that "there are more dogs than humans in Singapore". His comments went viral and of course netizens attacked him and perhaps even more so as he is getting a free education in Singapore. His apology, issued later came perhaps too late.

from Baey's facebook page

A member of parliament, Baey Yam Keng better known for his fashion flair said “We (also) need to reflect, are we the way that they described?”

But in seeming to come to his defence Mr Baey soon found himself and his facebook page the target of negative remarks. And that my friend, is how locals protest. Via twitter, facebook and unlawful bicycle parking.

I'll confess I did not quite understand how offensive being called a dog is. Perhaps it has to do with how different culture views dogs. Mr Baey who revealed he is born in the year of the dog finally apologized in parliament.

As for me, when I was growing up, I have been called "monkey" many times. I can't understand the significance of the animal either. My reply? If I'm a monkey, then you're an ass. Ass is a funny animal, isn't it?

Monday, February 27, 2012

My new toy

Dear friends,

I have a new toy and his name is Canon S100. The image above (totally unedited) was taken with my old camera, a Casio. Not that there's anything wrong with my Casio. It's still working fine but....

As you know, I'm spending this year producing at least 12 ePatterns. From my experience producing the 4 ePatterns which I have in my shop, I know that I spend a lot of time at editing the photos. You may have heard that Picnik is closing, or rather moving to Google+. I don't know what that means. All I know is I won't be able to use picnik like I'm used to. I don't know about you but I'm not so keen to have everything I own on the net all linked up nicely via Google. Well, I could use Photoshop express but it doesn't have the speed of picnik. I know some of you will probably recommend Picasa but I have used Picasa and I don't like it.

Anyways what it entails is I need better pics so I won't have to edit them so much. Another thing that really bothered me about my Casio is that I need really good lighting before I can take photos or they will turn out like crap. Last year saw me constantly watching the sky for the sun to come out and when it does, I will quickly start my sewing and shooting. Also, I needed to take the photos at my balcony. And when I say balcony, please do not picture a huge space with a nice view. Nothing of that sort. It's a tiny space, about the size of a public toilet. There are no windows which account for the good light. The view we get is another block of flats facing us. Just imagine having to set up a table, power cord and lugging my sewing machine there for the shoot. It was really exhausting especially when the sun played hide-and-seek with me. And when the sun is out, it's hot.

Now when I bought this new camera, I know very little about whether any of what I had just mentioned would change. I only hoped for the best. All I know is this - this camera was recommended to me by hubs and a few others. It's a point and shoot camera with manual controls. Plus it costs a lot of money and I think it's safe to say that a camera that costs much more than my casio will certainly take better pics. (I'm trying not to think about the number of ePatterns I have to sell just to pay for this new camera) I had wanted to buy this camera in December as a Christmas gift to myself but it was totally sold out. Last week we saw this camera sold at a shop and decided to buy it. It came with 2 batteries and 2 memory cards and maybe a useless tripod.

Okay, I'm a big dummy when it comes to cameras and taking photos. All my life I've left it to the auto functions of a camera to do the work. I even tried searching for a S100 for Dummies but sadly no one has written one yet. My casio allowed me to change a few settings like anti-blur, tracking and the ISO. But other than that, everything else was auto.

For this S100, I could use Auto and let the camera do the job but that would be silly. I mean, the whole point is to control the settings to get the best picture. I read the user manual 5 times, maybe more. I've taken many shots. It's not easy. I've decided that for a start, I will just adjust the Aperture and let the camera calculate the shutter speed. I also started shooting at very low ISO - 80 to 100 for my ePatterns. I think low ISO is supposed to give you more clarity. Since I shoot stills it's just perfect.



I wanted to show you the difference in the photos taken with both camera. These images are unedited. Although I took from the same distance, the result is different.



These two pics are done with zoom-in. For the Casio, there's no Macro function. Canon has this amazing feature called Macro which can be enabled in any mode. I have the tendency to zoom in too close tho'. What I love most is these photos are taken indoors in cloudy weather.

And I discovered that photos taken indoors at my sewing table don't look too bad. The light source is from the sewing machine.

Did you see the ants?

I took this Ixora flower outdoor when it was drizzling so there was no sun. I noticed that the colour of the flowers don't match the real thing.

Then I discovered there is a "foliage" function and I took the above image. The colours are so much closer! Ah, I've also discovered there is a function to change the colour setting to my preference. Quite exhausting to learn all these on my own. There is a class to learn the functions of this camera which I'm signing up for. Hope I will learn something useful.

This is the last photo I'm going to show you. It's a hibiscus and if you think the angle is odd, it's because I was standing on tip-toe holding the camera over a school fence with the camera tilted up.

Oh, you know what sucks about this camera? It uses up the battery really fast. Like guzzle fast. See ya.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm a slashing and stripping

Hello folks,

When I say BOM, what comes to mind? If you think Park Bom, the Korean singer from 2NE1, you've come to the wrong blog. BOM is Block of the month and I'll confess. I did not know that till a while ago! I've seen the word BOM before in blogs and I've always thought it's some secret cult language.

Ah, now the mystery is solved.

At the end of 2011, I decided that in 2012 I would make myself join some sew-along. When you work alone, there are times when you are not motivated to do anything. Very soon you find weeks fly by and you literally can't produce anything. I felt the best way to overcome this rut that I find myself in from time to time is to make something someone else's had planned out. The idea is to get yourself to make something, anything. I believe once I get going, I'll get inspired and start to make more bags.

So I signed up with Craftsy because they have a FREE BOM for the whole of 2012. Okay, let me repeat. It's FREE.

Have you heard of Craftsy? Click here if you haven't. It's a online community for sharing of craft projects. It also has online craft video classes you can sign up for. Most of them you have to pay for but for Block of the month with Amy Gibson, it's FREE. Click here for the free class.

What's really great about Craftsy online classes is this. You can view the class over and over again anytime. I made January's blocks in February. And I'll probably make February's blocks in March.

If you are only into freebies, click here for Craftsy's free patterns. Don't be surprised to find my patterns there as well. Like I said, it's a community and I've linked up a few of my tutes. I think Craftsy will get bigger and that's why I've opened a Craftsy online ePattern store. Click here. It's still in beta.


I've already made my first sale on Craftsy!!!!!!! That was Sunday. I went to bed with a smile.

Back to my January BOMs. 

The asterisk BOM.

The wonky pound BOM.

The asterisk block looks harder to make but it's really easier, in my opinion. As long as you cut accurately, it will line up perfectly. I don't own a 12.5" square ruler and my rotary cutter is all rusty. So I mark with a ruler and cut using a pair of scissors. Yet I could achieve a good enough piecing. Amy Gibson makes it look really easy but if you're new to piecing, you need to use pins and check twice before you sew.

The wonky pound block looked like a piece of cake because it's "freeform". So by that association, it should be easier. But I found that it's near impossible to make the slashing match up perfectly. If one matches, another will not. So finally, I made them all not match perfectly in order to achieve a tolerable imperfection. But the imperfection will surely eat at me for a while.

I have another 18 more blocks to go before they are supposed to be quilted and binded. Will this be my first quilt?

This is something I made using blocks in 2003 for my girl. It's lap size and I made it without having any idea of blocks or binding. All I wanted was to make something which had embroidery and applique. You can tell from the current state of the blanket my girl used it to bits.

Here you can see the embroidery and applique.  My aesthetic was different in 2003. Well, the sew-along worked because I feel so alive now. I think I'll go make a couple of bags.

Linked to these parties:
Skip to my lou
Ninth street notions
The gunny sack
Get outta my head please
So very creative
Ask Anna
Family Ever After

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In a literary world

I spent the whole of this afternoon attending a Young Writers Seminar. It's so unlike me. I know. It's like hubs attending a bag-making class. Anyone who knows me will avoid inviting me to such affairs. It's called lesson learnt.

Today wasn't about me. I was there to support hubs who had been invited to speak at a panel -
Pun intended or unintended - should everyone attempt humour in writing?
Okay, I was really there for the "stunning lunch buffet" which is stated in the programme so it must be true. Oh, fyi, hubs is a humour columnist. Does he have a technique? Or does he just wing it? Who knows? All I know is he sits in front of the computer, stares into space for a crazy long time and then taps away at the keyboard with two of his fingers. In between stares into space, he checks out Amazon, eBay, watch and t-shirt sites for inspiration.

This morning started out quite dreadfully. I had to wake up at 6am as the kids had to go to school for Total Defence Day run. It's punishing waking up at 6am and I know later in the day I will get very sleepy.

It took a long time for hubs to wake up. See, me? I can get ready to go out very quickly. I am what you call low-maintenance or some may call unkempt. A pair of jeans, tees, lipstick and I'm good to go. And yes, I care about how I look. So I never fail to at least run my fingers through my hair.

Me hubs is what you call high-maintenance. He takes a while to decide what to wear. (perhaps he has too many choices? just a suggestion:D) I made the mistake of telling him his shirt looked too tight on him because he immediately went to change. You would think once fully clothed we would be out the door soon. Wrong. The right shoes could make or break the outfit. I forgot if he changed shoes today. It's all a blur. The easy part is the accessories. Necklace and watch. Sometimes bracelet. I'm so glad he doesn't wear rings.

"Effortless" charm.

The seminar is held at a hotel. We did not have a chance to explore it.

A quick cup of tea to wake him up. As a panelist, he got to wear a name tag on a lanyard. My name tag was a sticker.

Here he is strategising with fellow panelist, Neil Humphreys on what to say. Mr H is an author based in Singapore.

The panel. I'm quite surprised it's full house. It's quite brave of hubs to do this. I would be petrified to speak in front of a bunch of people. Completely freeze. Maybe even pee a little in my pants. That is why I can never run for president or be a rock star. The session was very jokey, as expected. People laughed a lot.

After the Q & A, we had lunch. I ate most of it before I remembered to take a pic.

The lagsagne was stunning.

The oriental fried rice bombed.

After lunch, we stayed on for the next panel -
Creative prose for new media

I was a little concerned by the word prose. I am someone who's entertained by Survivor, The Amazing Race and Project Runway. The only time I would use prose is in Words with friends. The second thing that concerned me was there was a powerpoint presentation.

Prose + powerpoint + a heavy lunch is a terrible combination. Before long, I found myself sucked into the terrible black hole called sleep. It cradled me in its arms, slowly rocking, rocking. The worse thing was I tried not to sleep. So I kept jerking awake. Just imagine my head lurching back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes flinging backwards. It was a long battle. It resembled a scene from The Exorcist, 1973 version. At one point, I heard the speaker saying :

I hope I'm not putting anyone to sleep or something to the effect.

Finally I tumbled out of my sleep. And the session was still on!

Oh prose
You wear me so
Thy words so soothing
Had me snooze
 See you in my next post. I promise not to sleep.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sliding knots


I know it's been a while. All of last week I was feeling weird. I have a heaviness in my heart which I cannot understand. I spent a lot of time staring into space. If you know me, I don't spend any time staring into space. It's not like I have any issues pending which are bothering me. Nothing of that sort. I don't know what I'm going through but I know it'll pass. So last week went entirely to waste. Expect for a few pencil cases and a tiny bit of work on my ePattern, I spent the rest of the time staring into space or flipping through craft books just to take my mind somewhere safe.

I feel this week is going to be different as already I have not spent any time staring. I'm starting to feel energized again. It really had to do with VDay. Yes, the dreaded Valentine's Day is here once again.

Happy Valentine's Day. 

How did you spend Valentine's Day? If you are in a relationship, do you reflect on which state you are in, on account of VDay? Is it friendship, courtship, hatred or love?

My feelings towards me hubs on the rare occasion swing from love to hatred but usually stays at Comfortable. You know the state where nothing too crazy happens and you're okay with each other.

I'm usually anti-VDay but this year I announced to me hubs that we would do something on the VDay and that we would do a gift exchange. He did grumble that I gave him too little notice. What brought this VDay "celebration" was me having a gift which I planned on giving him but our wedding anniversary is in March and I didn't want to wait that long. So that's why. Plus giving him a gift on VDay meant I would get a gift in return. Hahahaha. So sad but true. But anything to get out of the "stare into space" stage, right?

Well, I threatened to cook a meal but hubs wisely declined. We went to a restaurant which served cheap set meals.

I had fish, he had steak. The restaurant had a Valentine's Day special priced at $38 each but I declined. This restaurant is not exactly known for its culinary skills. I did not like the cake. It had too much cream. And yes, today is a no-diet day. I believe I gained some weight last week. I failed to mention that while staring into space, I snacked a lot too. Dem you space!

Hey, anyone received flowers today? I didn't. Instead, after lunch before hubs went to work, he bought 2 pillows and a bolster and I had to take them home on the train.

To exit the train station I had to use the luggage exit. And I'm guilty of knocking into many, many people.

Ah, the exciting parts. The presents. Have you bought handmade Chinese jewellery before? If you have, most likely the closure does not use any metal clasp. Instead it employs a sliding knot method. I have long been fascinated by this clever closure. Once a craft seller taught it to me but I forgot it almost immediately. I have knotting books which have pictures of the knots and I made a few in the past but I forgot it almost immediately. What prompted my recent renewed interest was the dragon necklace I bought in January.

This necklace uses the movable knot to increase/decrease the length. In fact, the seller took great pains to explain the movable knot to me. Much as I like Chinese handmade jewellery, I find the cord used is often crappy. I had been harbouring thoughts of changing the cord but first I had to figure out how to tie the sliding knots which seem to escape me. Well, I watched a few youtube videos and chose the method that is easiest to remember. I didn't want to make it and then forget how to right away.

Well, I did it folk!!! I know how to tie the sliding knots now. It was a lot of research and just plain trying out the knots. Also, I chose the method which I feel is the easiest to remember.  It's so easy I can do it with my eyes closed but I won't. The bonus is all the obsession got me out of the staring into space.

Me hubs love a particular necklace which I bought him years ago. I mean, literally love it to bits and pieces. I have tried to get him another one but nothing came close. Anyhoo, I decided to restring the beads into a new necklace. (as a surprise)

Now it is just a simple necklace with the saved beads. But check out the sliding knots!

A while ago, hubs asked for a swivel clasp which he wanted to use as a pendant. Last night I saw it on the table and decided to make another sliding knot necklace.

Here he is with his presents. Doesn't he look happy? Hubs actually thought I had bought the necklace I re-stringed.

This bracelet is for me. I used a few simple beads and spacers (metal thingy) and closed with sliding knots as well.

What about my present? Ah yes. I got a fairy pendant necklace. Isn't it odd that we gave each other necklaces? This fairy pendant has a little story. Last year I became interested in a similar fairy pendant on eBay. Hubs criticized it a little too much so I ended up not getting it. It was sold out later and I grumbled a little. Later I started watching out for other similar fairy pendants. Unknown to me, so did hubs. He chose one close to the one I wanted and bought it! It was really unexpected. Okay, I am so cooking hubs the meal he doesn't want.

Back to the sliding knots. Think you want to make your own sliding knot jewellery?  This video is the closest to the method I use. Watch it to get an idea. The teacher is not very vocal in his instructions and expects you to WATCH CAREFULLY. Hahaha. To help you along, I have taken pics of the steps when I made a sample. Please bear with me as I am not an expert in this. And if you have a better method, please share with me. p.s I am right handed.

For bracelet, use a 18" cord for practice. I can make a simple one using 15" cord.
For necklace a 32" cord will work for my big head.
Every decorative knot or long tail you want to incorporate requires additional length.

First you arrange your cord (nothing too slinky) in this manner. I put a clip on the tail which you don't work on so you won't be confused. Note working tail is on top crossing over the cord below.

Measure 4" from end of tail and bend it. (You can pinch 3" or less if you don't want to end up with a long tail. It's harder to work with something shorter tho') Form a little loop where working tail crosses the cord below. Use right hand to hold loop in place. See image below to see how I pinch the loop.

Very important, the working tail goes into the big circle and ...... 

working tail goes up. (just imagine you're trying to wrap the little loop with the tail.

Continue wrapping the little loop with the working tail a number of times. Tuck the end of the working tail into the loop. I do a minimum of 3 loops to be safe. A good result is you have just a small hole in the little loop to insert the end of the tail. If not, you can still fix it later.

This step makes or breaks the knot. The whole idea is to tighten the knot. You should always hold on to the knot when tugging in the opposite direction. If your little loop is still visible after you tighten the knot, just hold on to the little tail with left hand and hold cord in right hand and again tug in opposite direction.This will make the little loop go into the knot.

At this point, you can see the knot slides. Play with it to get the idea before you continue.

To do the other side, re-position the cord. The idea is to have the working tail on the left as I am right handed. Take note the working tail is now the one with the clip. The working tail is above the cord.

We do exactly as before. Bend 4" from the working tail.Form a little loop where working tail crosses the cord below. Use right hand to hold loop in place.

To change the length of the finished result, you always use both hands to do it. Either move the knots or tug at the "single strand" of cord. Play with it and see for yourself.

Here I have a simple idea for a sample bracelet. 

Cut slightly longer than needed. e.g. cut 20".
After centering beads, knot 2 dead knots to secure the beads in center of cord.
Cut cord to the size you want e.g. 18" but be sure to center the beads.
After that, you tie the knots the same way as demonstrated.
Hope my instructions are clear. See ya.

Linked to these parties:
Skip to my lou
Ninth street notions
The gunny sack
Get outta of my head please
So very creative
Ask anna
Family Ever After

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