How Do You Do It?

I used to really enjoy posting facebook updates of the things I was accomplishing as the day went along. I only did this on good days, though, so it wasn’t an everyday occurrence. I once had a friend ask me, “How do you do it?” And I had a couple of comments that leaned towards saying I was some kind of super-woman. The truth is…sacrifice. To accomplish the nifty things, I have to sacrifice some of the mundane things. When I get really busy, John will cook. When he’s really busy, I’ll do it. If we’re both busy, the girls will tackle it. Even Nojo has done some happy creative cookery from time to time! This is just one example, by the way.

So, if you see posts from people who seem to be able to ‘do it all and then some’, and this discourages you and makes you think less of yourself and your abilities, think about the trade-off. Ask yourself what they might be trading off to get those nifty things done. Because the truth is, there are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, etc. You can only do so much in the time you are given. I think it’s best to say here, that we should make the best use of that time by doing more positive things and less negative ones. Wishing you all a productive and pleasant day, from KFA!

“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.” ~ Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Rings, Chapter 2

Packed In

There have been so many things packed into the last two months. It seems like I can barely catch my breath. When I’m busy, I don’t notice how tired I am. When I sit down for two minutes, my eyelids start to droop. I think I might need a break, eh? We’re still very busy at my part-time workplace. I’ve been happily occupied there for the last few days, working on a Steampunk-styled dance costume my boss designed. I got to do the fun part…the embellishing! As soon as I get the OK to do so, I’ll post a photo or two. I’m really excited about it since it’s the first completed Steampunk costume I’ve been able to work on! (I have been working on one of my own for about a year, now. I can’t seem to snag the time to finish it!) The really great thing is that I learned some new tricks I can employ on later projects. Every time I try I new project out, I learn all kinds of interesting things.

John has been doing some really fabulous work with textures lately. You can check out his blog to see his “365 Project” photos. He’s doing this again for the third year in a row. I think it’s a great idea and I’m always surprised with what he turns out next. My most recent favorite is a photo he took of a pear blossom. What a wonderful reminder that spring will be here before we know it!

I know this is a short post. I hope you are enjoying what you read here. I hope it’s informative and inspirational and encouraging. And I hope to see you here tomorrow.

Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Time For A Change

Yesterday’s post was so very heavy. I decided to travel a lighter path today.

Bowties. They’ve made a come-back in recent years.

My girls love them.

My youth group members love them.

I love them!

So I decided to try my hand at making one. I have a pattern but I lost the instructions. I did my youtube research and found this tutorial on making an adjustable, pre-tied bowtie (This guy has a fabulous accent, don’t you think?) and this other tutorial on how to tie an actual bowtie. I found lots of online patterns like this one for making an actual bowtie but my pieces are already cut for the pre-tied version. I hope to make an actual bowtie in the future.

Now you may be asking, “How are bowties a lighter topic?” Well, here’s part of the reason…

Oh, the choices! I have lots of fabric leftover from projects, fabric given to me years ago, fabric from everywhere. So which one of these should I use first?

Oh, the choices! I have lots of fabric leftover from projects, fabric given to me years ago, fabric from everywhere. So which one of these should I use first?

I’m guessing your next question is, “Why all these bright, crazy colors and patterns?” Well, why not? We’re usually a bright and crazy kind of family. I debated using sequin dot fabric for the knot but decided against it since it may irritate the skin. Our daughters would probably wear this kind of bowtie with a t-shirt. I’ll have to figure out how to make an adjustable closure without having the nifty hardware. Necessity is the mother of invention, you know. On to the next project!

His high endeavors are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright.”
~William Wordsworth

No More Events, Please!

Kittles Family Artworks is all ‘evented’ out! We made it to a Mardi Gras ball in January. And, most recently, we attended the Irving Awards, our local theater’s annual awards ceremony. It was nice to have the theme set for Mardi Gras, since we were already prepared for that. I love to make pretty things and shiny things and decorative things. But the most awesome feeling of all is when you find out that people are actively looking for you to tell you your work is fantastic…or awesome…or that you should make lots of stuff like that and sell it! I have to kind of chuckle at that last one. I like to sew for my family and there are a few friends I’d sew for. However, if I sold my costume creations to the public, I’d charge quite a lot more than I’d be willing to spend for the items I’ve sewn over the last five years. It takes quite a lot of effort to make those. It’s even more difficult than creating chainmail jewelry. Why? It’s because there’s usually a set pattern for the chainmail, whereas I usually have to build a costume from the ground up. When I build a costume, I build a costume! I still have to be as careful as possible since I have to work with a tight budget and the resources available to me but I put my all into making the costume as accurate as possible. I’ll give you an example…

If you’ve never seen the movie ‘Princess Mononoke’, then I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, then you’ll know who San is and you’ll probably even have an idea what might go into making that costume. Here’s a photo link for you. (I’d share an actual photo but I don’t want to steal anyone’s hard work just for our little blog post!) As you’ll see in that photo, she wears wolf furs, huge teeth strung on a cord, arm bands, (in some pictures, she also wears a headband), huge shell earrings, a purple crystal dagger on a cord (not visible in this photo), facepaint, a white shirt and a blue dress with side slits (though you can’t see those in this photo), and a pair of moccasins (also not visible in this photo). It took me several weeks to gather the materials and I had to attempt many different art forms to put it all together. The shirt and dress were made out of cotton fabric, using a simple t-tunic pattern which I modified at the neckline and armholes. They were the easiest to do, apart from purchasing a pair of completed moccasins. Next, I tackled the fur cape. I used a faux fur fleece fabric and cut out 2 wolf skin shapes. I edge-stitched them using a zig-zag stitch, since I don’t own a serger. I added some twill tape loops on the top corners of the larger ‘skin’ which became the cape. I made the necklace of teeth using some awesome shells I purchased from a local bead shop and some hemp cord. I knotted the tooth necklace onto the cape at the twill tape loops. The cape, though time consuming, was also fairly easy. I made the crystal dagger necklace using an amethyst crystal pendant, purchased at the same store as the shell “teeth”, and some more of the hemp cord. I wound the cord around the crystal pendant and then glued the cord in place so it wouldn’t come apart. I used a simple knotted loop and bead to close the back of the necklace. For the arm bands, I used black and white ribbon, accented with bone beads I sewed on by hand. I used a piece of 1″ black elastic to make the headband and used a larger bone bead to accent it so that it matched the arm bands. (I thought the bone beads added a nice touch.) The toughest part by far was the mask. I don’t work with clay. Even if I did, it’s simply not practical for a kid’s mask, no matter how much I tossed the idea around in my head. Instead, I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased a full face mask blank, one that can be decorated completely. I used acrylic paints to cover it with the appropriate designs. I even had to get creative to get the right colors because we didn’t have the correct ones on hand! I painted the full face orange, then finger-painted the cream stripes and yellow eye circles to finish it off. I also had to figure out how to attach a fabric hood to a plastic mask without breaking anything or cutting myself. After pondering the matter for a little while and considering the tools I had on hand, I opted for the hole punch, a needle and thread, and some twill tape. I punched holes around the outer edge of the mask, being careful to space them well so they didn’t compromise the integrity of the piece. I wanted it to be sturdy, not flimsy. I used the twill tape on the inside of the mask as a surface to attach the fur and as a protectant for our daughter’s skin. I tacked on the fur hood through the holes. It’s still attached after two years. In place of the overly large shell earrings, I purchased two open center oval-shaped shell beads. (They look like zeroes, now that I think about it.) I fixed them up as pendants and added them to surgical steel gold-tone post earrings. She has sensitive skin and can’t wear large, heavy earrings. I altered them from the original for her comfort. For the work involved in the San costume and considering the cost of the materials, I’d probably charge about $300-$400, and that would depend on how much the material costs have gone up in the last couple of years. Here’s a photo of the completed San costume.

This is the San costume with the mask/hood, fur cape, crystal dagger, teeth, arm bands, shirt, and dress.

This is the San costume with the mask/hood, fur cape, crystal dagger, teeth, arm bands, shirt, and dress.

Any costume sticklers will immediately be pointing out the discrepancies but I’m quite satisfied and proud of this particular achievement. I wasn’t sure how much of the fur I’d need and I’d already spent my budget. Otherwise, there would’ve been more fur around the mask, which would’ve covered her shoulders. Her dress also does not have the slits in the sides. The teeth are still smaller than they should be…but I don’t know where to shop for giant god-wolf teeth. Do you? 🙂

I like to build stuff that lasts, even though my kids are still growing. I see no purpose in making something that has only one use. I also like a challenge from time to time, though I wouldn’t like to do it on a regular basis. Every day seems to present a challenge of its own, anyway. Some days I can add another one and some days, I just can’t. Also, my skills seem many but they are limited. I can modify a pattern to a certain extent but I can’t build a whole new pattern from scratch. I’m hoping to eventually learn how, though, at my part time job. I’m not sure anyone can truly know what goes into such a massive project unless they’ve done it already. I chose to explain with this particular costume because it doesn’t look like ‘so much’ work. So when you make a trip to visit your local seamstress or tailor, please consider the time and effort they put into your project and the others like yours. When you wonder why it costs so much more to purchase a handmade item rather than a factory produced one, perhaps you will think back to what went into this ‘simple’ costume. Perhaps it will also inspire you to purchase more from your local artisans when you are able. Just because we love what we do as artisans, doesn’t mean it’s easy or that we always get it right every time.

From Princess Mononoke ~Lady Eboshi: What exactly are you here for?
Prince Ashitaka: To see with eyes unclouded by hate.

I apologize for the sound quality on this video post. It was the only trailer video I could find that shows the above quote. You’ll also be able to see more of the components in the San costume.


Days of Rest 28

Tranquil reflections in a large puddle photo by J.D. Kittles Photography and used with permission

Tranquil reflections in a large puddle photo by J.D. Kittles Photography and used with permission

Quoteful Saturday: Painting

Today’s quotes come from this page on Quote Garden.

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.”  ~Pablo Picasso

Painting is silent poetry.”  ~Plutarch, Moralia: How to Study Poetry

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”  ~Leonardo da Vinci

Everything in creation has its appointed painter or poet and remains in bondage like the princess in the fairy tale ’til its appropriate liberator comes to set it free.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”  ~Pablo Picasso

Fabulous Friday 28

Good morning/afternoon/evening (depending on where you are on this wonderful Earth),

John here doing the Fabulous Friday for this week. It’s been a bit since my last post but with no further ado, my first shout out this week goes to Steampunk Tendencies. I was on Google+ last week and they were on the recommended posts to check out. They have incredible stuff on their site. If you are into steampunk, or just like really cool colors and art, you should check them out.

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”  ~William Faulkner

My second shout out goes to a new website I heard about while watching a tutorial on editing pictures this morning. The person in the video was talking about creating depth in art and photography and mentioned this website/resource. The website is Zevendesign and the link is for their blog post in Creating Depth in Art and Photography. I’m going to use this when I edit my photographs.

“Art is the desire of a man to express himself, to record the reactions of his personality to the world he lives in.”  ~Amy Lowell

My third shout out goes to a website I like it visit quite often. I’m not sure if they have been mentioned before but it’s ITS Tactical. Here is the information on their About Page –

“Imminent Threat Solutions provides knowledge that empowers individuals with indispensable skill-sets to explore their world and prevail against all threats.

Learning how to recognize and respond decisively to the countless threats that surround us is vital to preserving our inherent liberties.

Built on a foundation of relentless questioning, we endeavor to present an unbiased evaluation of informative topics, reviews and resources through relevant channels of communication.”

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.” ~Jim Rohn

Lately, I’ve been listening to the Pink Floyd album “Animals”. It’s an amazing album and one of my all time favorites. This is my favorite song on the album. I hope you enjoy as much as I do. And with that, I bid you a good day/evening and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Whittling Away

I’ve been tossing around the idea of this blog post for a while. I hesitated for a couple of reasons. 1. I do not post this in order to gain sympathy or anything of that nature. 2. I’m not sure how this will impact our actual business and I hope it won’t affect our business at all. I would hope that people purchase our items because they truly enjoy our items. One thing I do hope this blog post will do is to inspire others to keep working on becoming debt free. I’d also be quite happy if it encourages someone else to start on a path towards debt freedom. OK. On to the post…

John and I have been married for almost 20 years. In that time, we’ve managed to accumulate a lot of “stuff.” For a little over half the time we were married, we couldn’t even claim ownership of most of the stuff we’d accumulated because it was either bought on credit or put down as collateral for us to accumulate even more stuff. We tired quickly of that dizzying and endless cycle and we’ve been putting forth some serious effort to become debt free. In 2008, when John retired from the US Air Force, we had around $40-50,000 dollars in debt and we are now down to just over $10,000. There is definitely a light at the end of our debt-tunnel and we know for certain it is not a train. We started by calling a credit counseling service. Then we made our budget. When we sat down and took a good look at our grocery purchases, we quickly found items we could let go of in order to shop for healthier options. Eating healthier means less trips to the doctor’s office, too, so we even save money that way! We also have some really awesome friends who have stepped up in the face of dire circumstances and helped us through the extremely tight times. And now, we are managing to whittle down our debt, even though our income is in the poverty level. Now you’re probably asking how we’re able to do that.

You won’t see us wearing too many fine or name brand clothing items (unless we found them at Goodwill or on the clearance rack). It’s not only a matter of opting for less expensive clothing. It’s also figuring out what you truly need and what you can live without. None of us need name-brand clothing to show people we’re ‘good sorts’. Our actions will do that for us. And surprise of suprises! Guess what…we’re red-blooded humans!

We don’t have satellite TV (cable TV isn’t an option in our area). We opted for internet service instead, because we had to make a choice. This really wasn’t so much a choice, as it was a must. Use of the internet is necessary for school and our business. Satellite TV is not.

Our kids don’t participate in any functions or activities that charge a fee for them to simply be involved, because inevitably there are other costs on top of the initial fees, such as costumes, gear, or equipment. There is a measure of sadness involved here because there are so many wonderful classes I would love to see our kids participate in. But I will not (indeed, I refuse!) to lose sleep over this. If we had enough money to shower them with classes of extra-curricular activities, we’d do that. But when there is no money there to cover it, it’s a sad kind of insanity to dive further into debt for it. I really would be drowning in a pool of regret and despair, then, and as a result, the kids would see that and follow suit.

We chose to put aside our involvement in the SCA because we could live without it. (It was a lot of fun and I highly recommend you give it a try if you are able.) It does not cost to be involved in the SCA, but in order to attend events, we have to meet certain requirements in the order of attire and equipment. So for now, this is being set aside. We hope to return to active SCA involvement in the future.

We don’t go to concerts. We don’t go to the movies. We don’t go on family vacations. When we travel, it is usually to visit family and when we get there, we don’t usually do a whole lot. We have learned the value of being still and appreciating the lack of hustle and bustle. One day, though, I would really love to have the opportunity to take our kids on a cruise, preferably while they are still young. Time will tell, I suppose. I think it would be quite educational for them, besides all the fun of experiencing new things and meeting new people.

Our kids don’t have all the latest gadgets and gizmos. None of us will probably ever own an iPad. We have the gadgets we need for school and our business. And some of those gadgets were given to us. The others were bought straight out and not with credit. I can’t tell you how freeing that is! What an amazing sense of pride and accomplishment to know we were able to set aside money enough to cover those needs and buy them without creating more problems for ourselves.

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary

And none of these “hardships” bothers me in the least, not when I can look back and see how far we have come. By doing things this way, we are still able to buy a few gifts for our loved ones and go out to eat from time to time. And we can still stop by our favorite cafe for yummy coffee periodically. There’s nothing like a drastic cut in pay to make you re-evaluate what’s truly important and what you and your family truly need to live. Sometimes, we eke by and sometimes things are extremely tight but we are getting there and all our hard work and effort is paying off. And we are doing it without federal aid now, though we did have some federal aid for about a year. I’m so happy we’ve worked our way out of having to accept federal aid. It is possible to work your way out of that particular aid that can sometimes seem like a different kind of vicious cycle.

So why did I choose to post this type of thing on a business blog when it seems to be more personal? Well, what happens in your personal life greatly affects what goes on in your business. And also of equal importance, how you learn to deal with personal difficulties strengthens you for difficult times in the life of your business. I can’t begin to tell you how many life lessons we are learning and how much better off we are mentally because of the choices we are making today. I hope this blog post will be an inspiration to others who may be struggling, trying to crawl out from under a mountain of debt. It can be done but sacrifices will have to be made. There is always a balance to things. John’s mom always says, “You can have everything you want, but not all at the same time.” It’s so true!

“The fall of dropping water wears away the stone.” ~ Lucretius

Pleasant Surprise

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous! We’ve been soaking in the sunshine while we can. I fully expect another bout or two with the colder weather before Easter. The cats aren’t shedding yet and the pecan tree is still waiting to show some green. The weather has also improved our spirits in other areas, as well. We hung laundry on the line today and the girls were able to play outside long enough that they got tired of it and came back in. It’s like we can breathe again.

Starshine and Magiba have been tossing around the idea of a vlog or YouTube channel. They’ll have to either narrow down the subjects they want to discuss, or figure out a title that is really expansive. I think it would be good for them to try it. I hope they choose the vlog but I’ll be happy if they do it and stick with it.

I haven’t even thought about working with chainmail again, yet. One of my tendons was bothering me so I’m making sure to rest it well before moving on to the next project. I know I’ve been talking about the new weave I want to try but I also have some new rings I want to make into an orb. The wire is square so it should look pretty interesting when it’s complete. I’ll be sure to post photos of it when I’m done.

For now, I’ll stick to sewing projects and chores and schoolwork…and my attempt at baked teriyaki salmon. We’ll see how that little experiment turns out. Until I write again tomorrow…

The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war.”  ~Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

Last Mask Standing…Or Hanging…

I’m finishing up the last mask I’ll be working on for a little while. This one has a base made of Mardi Gras striped fabric covered in multi-colored baby sequins and black embroidery. I added some of the gold fabric (the one used to create the previous mask), appliqueing it to the right horn. I appliqued some of the black brocade (the one I used on Nojo’s mask) on the left horn. I finished it off with antique gold eyelets and black ribbon with an iridescent edging. I may spiff it up with some black/silver beads but I don’t know. Since I’m still working on it and I haven’t heard back from my friend, I won’t share the photo just yet but I hope to share it with you before the night is over. I will simply update this blog post to add the picture so it won’t be a separate post. Please stay tuned!

A mind always employed is always happy.  This is the true secret, the grand recipe, for felicity.”  ~Thomas Jefferson

“Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” ~ Lord Chesterfield

*Update!* The mask is done and here’s the promised photo!

Materials-purple, green, and gold striped sequin dot fabric; black/silver beads; antique gold eyelets; black ribbon; black brocade fabric; and shimmery gold stretch fabric. This is a side view and I posted this one instead of the full view because I think it came out much better.

Materials-purple, green, and gold striped sequin dot fabric mask base by Sew What Embroidery and Screen Printing; black/silver beads; antique gold eyelets; black ribbon; black brocade fabric; and shimmery gold stretch fabric. This is a side view and I posted this one instead of the full view because I think it came out much better.