Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Amigurumi Kappaxile...

Suffering from too much choice as I now have about 8 various Japanese craft books, I chose to make the above little fella as it looked easy and my son wanted one.

It is a Kappaxile, and if I remember correctly this is a water spirit that eats children and has to be fed cucumbers to pacify him and protect the children. I can't find a link with the full legend unfortunately. He has a little bow and arrow made from toothpicks...heehee! I need to get out more!

Here he is menacing the paper dachshund I made last week from a Japanese kit.

Happy New Year everybody - hope 2009 is full of health, wealth & happiness for you.

Monday, 29 December 2008

More Amigurumi....

This little hare was less complicated to make than the crocodile, but still took all evening. I'm going to have to find a way of translating the instructions better...poor thing had an arm stitched on instead of a tail at one point!

Hey!! What's that interloper doing in my area??

Meanwhile, the crocodile appears to have gone on the rampage! That's all that is left of his latest victim........and look, he's deliberately made a complete mess of my desk!

I'm currently working on a double horse portrait - there are pencils and bits of paper everywhere. Just as well all finished art work is not that messy!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Back to Normality.....

Well, that's another Christmas over and done with successfully. We had a really good day, with everyone liking all their presents (now that doesn't always happen!) and the duck I cooked turning out delicious - first time of attempting that. I was given some lovely stuff, including the above Japanese craft books and fabric from my son and his girlfriend. I now have enough Amigurumi and Nuigurumi projects to last the rest of my life!

My lovely SO gave me the necklace I have been drooling over in a shop window for months - it is very delicate and the photo doesn't really show it to it's best, but you get the idea. I have been wondering ever since I first saw it how I could replicate it - now I don't have to!

The first thing I attempted from my new books had to be the most complicated of course - a crocheted crocodile. He is quite large, about 18 inches long from nose to tail and deciphering the instructions took a while too, with a couple of false starts that had to be unravelled.

I changed the way the eyes were done to try and make them a bit less cartoony, and crocheted raised nostrils rather than embroidering them on.

I liked the way the legs turned out with the correct joint placement and little crochet toes. It was a fun project and one I'll definitely make again, perhaps in green next time.

Other than that, I have been .....taking it easy! A couple of potato pictures have been painted but there have actually been two days where no paintbrush was touched and it felt very strange, a kind of guilty pleasure! I have to get back to work this week though as there are a couple of horses need painting before the weekend but they are fun to do.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Peace at Last....

After the most manic few weeks I think I have ever had, things have finally quietened down for Christmas. The 24 (TWENTY-FOUR...I can't believe it) calendar pictures were finished within the deadline, which was brought forward by ten days, and have been sent off. I have never worked so hard on painting in my life, with most evenings taken up with it until 11 p.m. Combine that with the day job and trying to get ready for Christmas, as well as having a stinking cold at one point, it's been a blur!
But I'm back to quietly painting the potatoes, which are in fact very therapeutic after such madness. I have two weeks at home for the school holidays and three potato pictures and a pet portrait to do....sounds manageable!

Not much crafting been going on - when? But I'm looking forward to getting back to that too. And I think my family are very glad that scary wild-eyed, paint-stained lady seems to have left the building......

Monday, 15 December 2008

Kidsilk Night - best yarn ever!

It's been a long time in the making as I've had to do other things lately, but I finally finished a scarf using Rowan Kidsilk Night in a soft blue-grey. I've knitted a kind of honeycomb lacy pattern and strung the odd AB grey-blue seed bead here and there along the way. It has turned
out beautifully, light as air and with that slight sparkle incorporated in the wool.

Not too sure where this is going yet - maybe a Christmas present, maybe on my shop. If you'd like it, e-mail me and it will cost you £15 plus p&p.

My son ordered some books from Amazon JP for presents and I thought it a golden opportunity to go halves on postage and get yet more craft books. Can't wait to have a proper look inside! With any luck after today I will have finished my calendar work and actually have some free time to myself!!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Too Much?

I've been doing a bit of Christmas baking, because I don't have enough to do.....

Greek Melomacarona, swimming in honey syrup & walnuts.......

Greek Kourambiethes, rolled in icing sugar...

Traditional Mince Pies...because I made some yesterday and they are already gone.

Gratuitous picture of my dog in his new bed, 'cos he looks so cute and I love him!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Two Little Dogs....

After having a stall at the Christmas Fair at work a fortnight ago, I was commissioned to make a couple of my little knitted dog sets...for Christmas. I must be a glutton for punishment, because I said 'sure'....but here they are, finished and ready in plenty of time to be put in a couple of little girls' stockings.

Each one of these always turned out different to any previous ones - they seem to develop their own personality somewhere during the creative process.

They are also terrific stash-busters! All those scraps of wool that you accumulate along the way and jam in a large bag down the side of the sofa (or is that just me?) can be used up productively.

I have just ordered from Amazon JP a book on how to crochet lots of different breeds of miniature Amigurumi dogs...watch this space!

I always love to see what Toby at Natural Attrill comes up with when he makes his quirky and original jewellery. Lately he has been venturing into the melting and smelting side of things and made a bangle I just had to have...except he'd sold it. So, lovely lad that he is, he made another one just for me - isn't it fun?

I've been set back by a horrible cold this week - it's hard to be creative when you can't stop sneezing and your sinuses feel like there is a small pneumatic drill in there somewhere. I still have 4 calendar paintings to come up with in a very short time...luckily it's puppies and they are fun to do. Thankfully I woke up feeling marginally better this morning, so it's back to work with a vengeance!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Christmas Commission Complete

Amongst all the other work I have going on at the moment, I have been working on the above which is a private commission. I must admit, out of everything I've been painting over the last couple of months, Cody here has been my favourite. It's all very well earning the 'bread and butter' money with commercial work, but my first love is still animal portraiture. Cody has been painted (drawn?) using Derwent Drawing pencils on mid-blue Daler-Rowney 'Murano' paper. Hopefully in the New Year I will have more time for this type of work.

The kitten calendar work is now finished - I cannot believe I have produced 12 themed kitten pictures as well as 8 for the puppy calendar over the past few months....and 27 potato paintings...and the above! Just four more puppies to do and I can finally have a break over Christmas with nothing to paint except potatoes.........

Monday, 8 December 2008

Look What I Found!

While tootling back to my car after nipping to the town today, I glanced in the window of a charity shop and saw something I just had to have! Isn't it cute - a wooden nativity candle-powered roundabouty thing! It cost me the princely sum of £6 and worth every penny. We had great fun watching the propeller spinning round and making the little painted shepherds, kings and angels circle the baby Jesus. Not too sure where we'll keep it after Christmas though......

Really notched it up a few gears with the calendar illustrations - attempting to paint one per day this week to finish by next Monday, then I can relax for the first time in months. I'll be drawing kittens in my sleep soon!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Yet more work...

I have just finished the above, which makes me two thirds of the way through my calendar work - yay! I think when it is all done I won't want to see another kitten for a while...
On top of everything else, I have been asked to make two more little knitted dog sets before Christmas. One dog down, one to go...

Very, very tired.......

P.S. This was my three-hundred-and-oneth post......blimey!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

I'm So Excited.....

Those of you who have been reading this blog since it started will know that I have a bit of a knack for growing exotic plants. About seven years ago, my other half gave me as a present a packet of Bird of Paradise plant seeds - he knew I liked to try and grow anything a bit out of the ordinary. From the whole pack, I think three thrived - one got given away and I kept two. One never grew very big and after all this time still only has four leaves on it but seems happy enough. The other, in pride of place in the sunniest spot in the house, grew fast and huge. I did my research and according to some sources, these plants should flower from about three years old.....well, it didn't. Other sources said five years....well it didn't then either. This plant has been nurtured, trimmed, fed, re-potted, had it's leaves wiped (although not lately - please ignore the gentle dusting of canary seed fallen from the birdcage hanging above!) and produced NOTHING. Every new spike was carefully scrutinised and discussed and then we've been disappointed as it's turned into another leaf. Over the past year I have been resenting the ruddy great thing, sitting there smugly not flowering and requiring Herculean feats of strength to move it as well as the problem of where to put it each Christmas when we want to put the Christmas tree in its place.

But a couple of weeks ago, it put out a spike that didn't look like previous ones. I got a little excited but was brought back down to earth when my other half said it may well turn out to be a deformed leaf (we had a season of deformed leaves one year). But no, it has become taller and is filling out and is definitely a flower bud - WOOHOO! So this year it is forgiven and will stay by the window while we buy a small fake Christmas tree to put on the table instead - there is no way I am jeopardising this momentous event!

This weekend I am pulling out all the stops to get as much art work done as I can before collapsing into a snivelling heap. I'm still painting potatoes.....this is No.26 (whimper...) which I managed to complete in an afternoon yesterday.

To reward myself, I then knitted with my favourite yarn in the world, Noro Kureyon, and made a frilled neckwarmer. Don't know what to do with it - I am so tempted to keep it for myself...but is there anyone else out there who would like it too?

Time to step away from the computer and get on with some work.......

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Thunderstorm Curly Crochet Scarf

Finally finished this scarf - it's been a series of running out of materials, first the yarn and then the crystal beads, but we got there in the end! It is crocheted using Rowan Kidsilk Night yarn in the 'Storm' shade which describes it perfectly. There were lowering rain clouds all around the horizon here today and they were exactly this colour! It has a fine silver thread running through it, just enough to give it a tiny sparkle.
I used the curly-wurly pattern as basis to make this - crocheting a long chain then a row of double crochet followed by a row of two DC's in each previous DC, thus causing the scarf to twirl in a spiral. I then made a simple lace pattern with a clear crystal bead on the point of each picot. It looked a little thin when this was done, so I crocheted a very simple lace out of chain loops down the other side of the original chain.
It really is beautiful - nothing to do with my workmanship, just the yarn, it's colour, fluffiness and the way the beads look like drops of rain.

This will be on sale at the Christmas Fair at my work tomorrow and if it doesn't sell there, then it will be on Etsy by the weekend.

I'm on the downhill slope now with the calendar work - must really put some hours in over the weekend and try to get further ahead. I am so very tired though - I think I have produced more art work in the last 4 months than in the past 4 years!

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Lighter than Air........

This is the shawl that started my current love affair with Rowan Kidsilk Spray and subsequently Kidsilk Night yarns. I've used this pattern before - last time was using the pineapple fibre ramie - and it always knits up beautifully with not as much effort as you would think. It's more time consuming than anything else, but has the advantage of decreasing gradually as you go which fools you into thinking you are knitting faster!
The yarn is a soft pink with hints of lavender and peach, and really is as light as air. Combined with the fluffiness of the mohair, it makes for a delicate yet warm wrap.
It is wide enough to be wrapped around your shoulders and tied in a knot - I have one in navy that can even be worn over jeans and looks great. This will be going on to Etsy very shortly.

I have two other kidsilk project on the go - a curly lacy crochet scarf in Kidsilk Night, which has a thin sparkly silver thread running through it, in the shade 'Storm' which is a purply blue exactly the colour of storm clouds. The scarf is trimmed with clear crystal beads which to my mind represent the rain drops. Looking very pretty - had to put it on hold while I searched the globe for another ball of this colour which arrived this morning.

The other project is a lacy knit scarf in a deep blue Kidsilk Night, this time threaded with blue-ish AB seed beads - still very much in the early stages but looking lovely already.

I just love to knit.......

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Beachcomber Chic!

I've been picking up yarn from all over the place lately - the above scarf was made from some gorgeous discontinued Rowan yarn called Seashore that I bought on e-Bay. It is a sort of tubular cotton net with a cord attached and put me in mind of fishermen's nets. So I knitted a simple garter stitch scarf on huge wooden needles while threading shells, beads and wooden fish on to the yarn so they are incorporated into the knit. I then knotted a fringe on to each end, adding more flotsam and jetsam and knotting the strands into a net pattern, but also leaving it a bit random. It has turned out rather special - it puts me in mind of something a character in Waterworld might wear!
The above beret is made from an Adriafil yarn called Baba that I bought at I Knit in London. It's a pattern I made up as I went along! The yarn is very thick and slubby, nice and warm and in lovely autumnal colours.

Both items will be in my Etsy shop shortly.

I visited Pack Lane Yarns in Basingstoke yesterday on the hunt for another ball of Kidsilk Night to finish a project started from a ball I picked up on e-Bay - with no success. Trust me to pick another discontinued yarn...I did find some elsewhere on the internet though. And did not leave the shop empty-handed....how could I?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Featured on Etsy!

Well, not on their front page, but someone has seen fit to include my Toucan Treasure Chest in their 'Treasury' collection. Whatever gets it noticed I am grateful for - check it out here.

I've been working on one of the calendar paintings - a Saluki this time. Since owning a Saluki I have become very aware that they are sadly under-represented in the calendar/card/memorabilia markets, which is a shame as they are such beautiful and elegant dogs. So this is my small blow to redress the situation - there will be at least one calendar out there with a picture of a Saluki in it!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Dazzling Scarf & branching out into Felt Real Estate....

I've had this scarf completed for about a week now, but only just got around to ironing it! It is made in some fabulous hand spun/dyed yarn from Colinette that I bought at I Knit a couple of weeks ago. I just love the way the two colours fizz against each other and the yarn itself is thick and slubby, so cozy! It will be on Etsy later on....unless you want to snap it up beforehand!

N.B. While I love I Knit to visit and buy yarn from, their internet service is not so good - wrote to them over a week ago enquiring about buying more yarn and still no reply - not good business practice guys!

I finished the little felt cafe last night - what a lot of intricate stitchwork! The front has a sticky-out awning over it's big window with a chair & table on view within; an embroidered sign, windows with window boxes and a little yellow door with a red door knob.
Each side has it's own set of windows with little awnings on the lower ones.

Even the back has windows and a continuation of the row of flower bushes around the base. It even has a properly aligned chimney pot sewn on the top although I appear to have pushed it off kilter while photographing it - whoops!

I'm not sure what the Japanese book recommends stuffing it with as theirs was very flat and perfectly square - mine has been stuffed with kapok and I put a pebble in the base to weight it down and keep it upright. This too will go on to Etsy later on.

Off now to go and do some public painting at the Fleet Art Society exhibition - not as scary as it sounds, a chance to get some work done at least!

P.S. Sold a painting at the exhibition - bye-bye Flamingoes!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Hot from Japan!

My son and his girlfriend have been in Tokyo on holiday for the past fortnight, and despite possibly having been inadvertantly married (just don't ask!), they had a great time. He did, however, fail in his mission to bring me back some different and exciting yarn....not that he didn't try, but just didn't find any. It was a long shot anyway!

He did bring me back the above felt mascot book and fabric, as well as some proper green tea, which I am well pleased with.
This is the page that sold the book to him and funnily enough, the Pony Express penguin with his little raggedy rabbit are my favourites too - can't wait to have a go at making them!
These are cute, but I really don't know what anyone would do with some felty leeks.......
And because I just can't leave things alone, even when I am on my knees with exhaustion, I started to make the little felt cafe last night and carried on until past midnight...

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Not Enough Hours in the Day..

Time is definitely not on my side at the moment. I have so much to get done but so little time in which to do it. However, I have been working on my calendar designs - the above is a detail from the December puppy - he looks a little like one of my dogs did before he started to get grey and decrepit!

At the day job we have come across a little boy who started school this last September and only turned 5 last month. Already he draws like this - hopefully you can see the detail if you click on the photo. He holds his pencil like a stabbing stick and draws so fast without even thinking about it. I have been given the task of mentoring and teaching him - what an absolute pleasure it is too. Today, after over an hour of drawing and colouring, I had to physically pry the pencil out of his hand to send him back to class in order to go home! It's all very exciting - I'll keep you informed of his progress.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Tweedie Beanie

Here is an actual finished project from this week. It's a feminine beanie hat with picot edging and two appliqued knitted flowers & leaves with pearly bead centres. It's made with a ball of pinky-lilac tweed effect pure wool that I bought in London last week. Very cute when worn - got an elf-like quality to it, if you know what I mean! When I get the time, it will go on to my Etsy shop.

Back to being incredibly busy now that school is once again open and I have to fit in the day job, painting, etc - you know the story by now! This week I have completed another calendar picture and must start some more potatoes. I also have several knitting projects on the go - a lavendar shawl knitted in Japanese cotton Gima, a bolero knitted in Japanese paper yarn, a scarf in Italian varigated wool and have had a first attempt at knitting up the Jelly yarn - that's tough on the fingers! I can't wait until after Christmas when (theoretically) I can have a break!