Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gelati, Gelati!

It suddenly struck me the other day that while I have shown off projects on Ravelry and even on Twitter (I'm bellepoint there, and my tweets are protected, but I'll add you if you ask), I have sort of neglected showing knitting on - gasp - my knitting blog!

At the beginning of the year, I participated in a swap with the Snobby Spinners group on Ravelry. You were supposed to get to know your secret swap partner through a questionnaire and then knit something for them, package it up with some goodies, and send it off. I have decided, after doing this swap, that I'm going to sit out from swaps for awhile. What nearly always happens is I get all excited, wait awhile to knit the thing or spin it or even put the package together, and then spend all the time up to the deadline putting the perfect finishing touches on it. Then, I miss the deadline and the package sits at my house a week too long, and then I finally get it out after being pestered to death by mods.

This isn't fun for anybody. Not my swap partner, not me (because I didn't mean to make them wait, and then I feel guilty,) and definitely not the mods who have to pester me! So I'm taking a little break.

However, I'm pretty sure that the Snobby Spinners swap marks a crowning achievement in my handspinning and knitting. I really feel like I nailed this one, guys. The yarn I started with was Gelati, a Hello Yarn colorway I got at Yarn School last year, then spun as a dk-weight 2-ply yarn. It was very pink in the skein, which my partner said she loved, so I felt that it would be perfect. Then, I knit it up into a sort of on-the-fly picot edged cowl with an overlap flap (so she could tighten it around her neck when wearing) and two little plastic pink buttons.

It was simply perfect, and I had the hardest time giving it away - until Shelley actually got it and now she has pictures of her kids wearing it and it's in her Ravatar and apparently she wore it until winter ended a few weeks ago. It's always nice to give a knitted gift that truly brings sunshine.

After it left though, I found a bit of sunshine lacking in my own life. So I spun up another Hello Yarn colorway (Adrian picks the best colors, doesn't she?), Thrive in corriedale, and I fully intend to make another cowl. Except that it's not winter anymore. Is it okay to wear a cowl in summer?


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Go-Green Tuesday - The Eyes Have It

Did you know that whatever you put on your eyelids seeps through the thin skin and ends up actually in your eyes? Think about how you feel when you get a speck of dirt, or a tiny eyelash, or even a little bitty fuzz in your eye - how irritated your eyes become. Now, think about all of the products, chemicals, and bad stuff you're loading your eyes with when you put on liquid eyeliner, mascara, or eyeshadow from the cheap-o cosmetics you're buying at your local drugstore. That's a lot of gunk!

That's why, even though a lot of folks probably won't think it's the biggest step, I feel like the eye makeup change is one of the most important you can make, when it comes to organic or natural make-up. And you don't have to sacrifice fun for function, either - many of these organic eyeshadows, mascaras and eyeliners come in a fantastic array of colors that can even be better (gasp) than your drugstore or department varieties.

Eyeliner

I am super-picky about eyeliner. I like very specific colors, I like them to be subtle for day and I like to have a standard black for evening or dates, when you need that extra 'pop'. After searching high and low, I've found, surprisingly, that the best of all eyeliners is eyeshadow, wet down and applied with a flat or thin eyeliner brush. So for me, any of the stuff below in the eyeshadow section of this post is great - I tap a bit into the lid, add some water, and voila, I've got eyeliner. If you want a more opaque eyeliner, you can even blend some with your foundation primer.

I feel like the world is still lacking in an excellent organic pencil eyeliner, although Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals has just released one - Big & Bright Eyeliner comes in black, espresso, charcoal, chocolate, midnight and plum. If any of you have tried this, I'd love to hear your feedback. I'll be going to the mall again soon (we have a Bare Minerals store), so I should have an addendum to this post in a few weeks.

Eyeshadow


I have found two great brands of eyeshadow in loose powder. One is everyone's organic pioneer standby - Bare Escentuals' Bare Minerals Eye Colors. It has literally forty or more colors for your palette - everything from subtle champagne to electric teal. While I like the variety, I can often find something similar - and a bit cheaper, from my new favorite Etsy seller, Pure Natural Minerals. It comes in 36 shades and is only a fourth of the cost, with equally lovely results. Plus, you can get it in packs of two, four, or six, to your liking, and the containers are smaller, so you don't crowd out your makeup bag with shadow you use less often. If you were going to buy smart, really smart, you'd buy your staple colors in the Bare Minerals and your fun colors in the Pure Natural!

For those who prefer your shadow in neat and tidy cakes, there's options out there for you, too! Almay's Pure Blends line has several staple shades (browns, creams, tans, purple, that sort of thing).

Mascara

Okay, time for a nerdy, weird fact! Everybody has little mites living on their eyelashes. If you didn't know this already, take a moment to get over the 'ew' factor here, and realize that these mites keep your eyelashes clean and healthy. So when you cover them with heavy-duty mascara, you're essentially suffocating them. Which causes less eyelash growth, can increase lash loss, all kinds of nasty stuff.

By using an organic mineral mascara, the mites have a better chance of surviving the coverage, and more of the mascara will come off when you wash your face in the evening. This means that the key to fuller, more beautiful lashes could be as simple as switching over! The problem is that mascara is a tricky, tricky business. We hate clumps. We hate lumpy stuff. We hate flimsy stuff and stuff that makes your eyelashes look gross and stiff or too spidery or rubs off on your eyes and gives you dark circles. Stuff that comes off in the pool or the lake isn't okay, either.

So far, I've heard of a few mascaras but I have only tried one, and I stuck to it because it just works so darned well. Bare Minerals (I know, you guys think I'm a spokesperson or something) has a great, lightweight, dark-colored (it comes in espresso, too) mascara that I love. They've got a few other varieties too, for those of you who are into the volume and the thickening. I prefer something simple and natural, so for me, it's been Flawless Definition Mascara all the way.

I know that there are a ton of other great natural cosmetics about, and I'm still searching them out and trying them. When I have more, I'll be sure to let you in on them - but for now, I wanted to stick to ones that are close to home or easy to find for everybody.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Go-Green Tuesday - Foundation Cosmetics

Before I start this go-green post, I wanted to thank anyone who's been hanging in there and waiting for me to post again. I know it is so frustrating to go to a blog a couple times a week and see the same post you've already read languishing. I do have a good explination, though - I got a job! I am now working part-time as a barista for a new coffeehouse here in town. I'm still trying to balance everything - there are new fibers up, actually, in the shop , but the blog has suffered a bit, and I'm working to revive it!

So, onward and upward go the new Go Green Tuesday post on cosmetics. I am, admittedly, quite the makeup addict. Last year, I went through a big makeup purge, and emptied everything that I never wore, in favor of only natural and natural-looking cosmetics. This meant that I had to toss and replace nearly everything, and it also meant that my collection is more streamlined - never a bad thing when you want a 5-minute morning face.

Instead of doing a review, I figured I'd just tell you all my favorites for various things, and you can make up your mind if they'll work for you or not. All the products listed here are natural, and some are organic - many of them are affordable and a few can be found at your local drugstore!

This week, the focus is on foundation - setting the stage for whatever features you want to play up or whatever colors you want to play around with. Next week, I'll get into the eyes, and a the last post in this three-part series will be cheeks and lips.

Foundation

I recently read somewhere that you should always do your foundation second, instead of first (which I tend to think is a more common practice?) after your eyeshadow and mascara. The logic with this is so that folks who use mineral eyeshadows don't end up with the little powder dust mixing in with their foundation. Personally, I've become pretty adept at keeping the two separate, but it's always something to consider.

My skin is combination - partially oily in the t-zone, prone to forehead breakouts, and remarkably dry in other areas. I've found through trial and error that a liquid foundation works best for me. I prefer a medium coverage, but I can usually get the same effect with a light coverage foundation and heavy coverage concealer where needed.

My current favorites?

I always start with a primer. I'm currently using up the last little bit of something from a non-natural company (a soybean-oil base with kind of a gelatin quality to it), but I have tried and found Youngblood Cosmetics' Mineral Primer to be comparable. Basically, a primer is an additional makeup step that makes your skin flawlessly smooth before the foundation goes on. It keeps makeup from penetrating your pores as well and evens out the surface of your face enough that most makeup is able to glide on instead of having to be pushed around or absorbed unevenly. I find it very, very handy for my combination skin, which often soaks up liquid concealers in some places and can actually cause more breakouts later.


Almay recently released a line of organic, natural makeup that is even packaged in recycled materials. While this entire line shouts 'big corporate gimmick', I was surprised to find that I really loved the Pure Blends' liquid foundation, which is hypoallergenic and boasts an SPF 20 coverage. It comes in a small variety of shades, but is fairly sheer, so if you've got an odd skin tone you've still got a good chance of matching. Unlike many liquid foundations or tinted moisturizers, it has never left my face feeling oily or greasy. I smooth it on with just my clean fingers, since using a makeup brush or cosmetic pad can actually introduce more oil and dirt to your face.

As far as concealer goes, I need something pretty strong. Not necessarily because of break-outs, but because my skin scars and I have very dark circles under my eyes (it's hereditary). I really swear by Youngblood Cosmetics' Ultimate Concealer, which has worked better than any concealer I have ever used from department stores, mail-order, makeup counters or even that stuff they recommend in magazines. It's not cake-y either, so you'll still keep your smooth finish, and it blends well - sometimes I wear mine without any other makeup.

I don't think anything beats the Bare Minerals Mineral Veil for finishing powder - I have tried Almay's Pure version, and something by Youngblood, but I'm not loving it. I sweep finishing powder on before I do eyeshadow or blush (since if your face is still moist, it will probably grab the blush or eyeshadow for a less-than-flawless finish).


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Handspun Yarn - Shop Preview!

I've been very busy spinning, and wanted to give you all a preview of some of the yarns that will go up in the shop on Saturday (March 13th). There are still some fibers left, and remember that if you aren't a spinner but you see fiber you love, just send me a message and I'd be happy to spin it up for you at the price of handspun instead of the price of fiber!




Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sweet Bright Spring

Iowa might be fooling me, but I really do believe spring is in the air. After an absence of birds for quite awhile, I re-filled the feeder and put out some new suet cakes and we seem to have an abundance of twittering neighbors. My long-time favorites will always be the handsome cardinals, but I have enjoyed the company of the young, barely-crested woodpecker who makes quick work of the suet.

The weather has been remarkably sunny for this time of year (we are familiar with snow through April, so it is a welcome change), and today I managed to get out of doors with the dog and go for a walk. It was exhilarating to hear the crackle of melting snow and icicles, the steady trickling of water headed downhill to the creek. While there are no daffodils poking up through the snow, it still felt like we'd turned a corner in the long, steady, winter pace.

I brought a little spring indoors today, to complete the imagery - they had chrysanthemums, the large, fancy kind, on sale at the grocery store. I picked up a small bouquet and have been taking them all around the house with me, here and there, and even the cats have been admiring (and thankfully not eating!) the lilac and green blooms. I wish I could capture that exact color with fabric, but I had to settle for something a little more vibrant - my first quilt project. The rest of the day, I'll be piecing it together - it shouldn't take long, after all, since they're just 6" x 6" squares. I used fabrics by Anna Maria Horner and Amy Butler, along with a small collection I'd waylaid from Joann's Fabrics. After they're finished, I want to back the quilt with a light blue plain cotton. Wish me luck! For all the sewing I've done, this is my very first quilt project.