Learning New Stuff: The Coolest Thing Ever

On Monday I talked about ways of learning, and that got me to thinking about learning new stuff and how exciting I get when learning something new. The coolest thing I’ve learned lately is how to do the Cretan Stitch. I know that doesn’t sound like much–it’s a simple embroidery stitch that people have been using forever, and since I’ve been embroidering for just about that long, you’d think it would be just one of many stitches I know and use, right? But no. I’d never used it ever and probably never would have if it weren’t for Alabama Chanin’s books, which I adore. What the Cretan stitch has done for me is allow me to stitch by hand on cotton knit, something I couldn’t do with a regular (non-serger) sewing machine and something that had frustrated me for years. Because it’s a stretch stitch, it will work where a regular, non-stretch stitch will not. I’m not that great a seamstress (snorting here), and learning something that provides me with a way to do something new? Wow.


So I asked my friends on Facebook what new thing they’ve learned that has made them happy–things that might spark an idea for you, giving you something you might want to find out more about.

I’m not the only one who sews, of course. Carin wrote: “I think it was a book by Traci Bautista where I first saw that you could actually sew paper with a sewing machine. Who knew? It had never ocurred to me to do this and I was fascinated by the idea. After that I have explored that through all kinds of ways, from machine stitched collages to Christmas cards and entire machine stitched books. Just that little fact was like a revelation. I still get really happy when I put paper under my sewing machine. ;-)” Check out Traci’s Collage Unleashed and also Ruth Rae’s Layered, Tattered and Stitched, for more info about sewing on paper.


Ellen wrote: “In an article (in Art Journaling, I believe), an artist talked about her favorite supplies, and she said she just uses buckets of Elmer’s glue instead of brand adhesives, and instead of gesso for art journaling, she uses house paint primer. Similarly, a Polish artist uses plain old cheap composition books instead of expensive ‘multi-media sketchbooks’ sold at craft stores. I’m one of those people who tends to believe that putting money into art supplies will magically make me sit down and use them, when what I really enjoy is SHOPPING. So the ‘cheap supplies,’ and ‘just use whatever is at hand’ ethos has been freeing for me, since I don’t just run to the store now.”

Jennifer wrote: “Right now the most exciting thing I’ve ‘learned’ has been oil pastel sticks. Because…nobody taught them to me, I just picked them up and started to experiment. It’s very exciting to be able to use something so ‘traditional’ in a way that I’m sure would make traditional artists grimace and cringe at the misuse/abuse of their medium.”


Tanya wrote: “Use of watercolor on soy-sized fabric.” That’s something else I know nothing about–and it sounds really intriguing. I’m adding it to my List of Stuff to Find Out More About.

Andrea wrote: “Resist backgrounds, most notably from a book by Nancy Curry called Texture Effects For Rubber Stamping. It opened my eyes to using techniques for BACKGROUNDS…to the point that making the background paper was more interesting than making the card itself.”

April wrote: “Watercolor pencils for portraits. I am also so loving my Prismacolor pencils.” I love mine, too, even though I can’t actually, you know, draw with them. My dad was a geophysicist and used them for map-making and would bring me his old, worn-down set when he got a new one, so I grew up with the bits and ends of Prismacolor pencils and still have some of the originals (you know, the taupes and tans and beiges that, even back then, I never used).

There’re a lot more ideas coming in, so we’ll continue on Friday with more of The Coolest Thing Ever. Join us then for more ideas for things *you* might want to learn more about~~


Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.

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