Sunday, 27 September 2009

Lace Marathon Complete!

When I undertook this shawl, I thought it would be relatively easy - nice simple repeating pattern for the main body, interesting pointy edging round the outside. What I wasn't prepared for was the length of time it would take me to knit due to the sheer size of the thing! I think this has taken almost a month of evening knitting, give or take a few days when I did other things.

It has been knitted in some vintage Shetland 2 ply which is a rich creamy ivory shade. Before blocking, it looked like something the dog had chewed up and spat out, but once it had been washed and stretched the magic happened. It doubled in size, the patterns evened out and it took on the appearance of a piece of spiderweb, so light and delicate.

This will be in my Etsy shop later on today, but due to the hours put in to it, it will be quite pricey but a definite heirloom piece.

Now that the potato illustrations are drawing slowly to a close ( Number 80 today) I have taken the luxury of booking a well-earned holiday for later on this year. We couldn't go to Athens as my sister had other commitments - and sitting amidst the burnt remnants of a once lovely forest was too sad to even contemplate. Instead we are going to..........drum roll please.....Boston! So if any of you have been to Boston or live in Boston, any tips on where to go, what to see, where to eat, how to get about, etc., please do leave me a comment. This will be our first time in the USA so we will be complete tourists - I'm so excited!!

Friday, 25 September 2009


I'm not a very organised gardener - most of the time it's more by luck than judgement. Every Autumn I visit the garden centre and get mesmerized by the vast array of bulbs and the gloriously coloured photographs of the flowers I could be growing in my garden by Spring and come out with bag loads of the things. I merrily plant them in every nook and cranny in our pocket-handkerchief of a plot...then promptly forget what I put where until I am surprised by an unfamiliar bloom come April. I think a lot of bulbs must be eaten by squirrels as I am sure I have planted many flag irises over the years but have only ever had two come up.....

Last year I bought a bulb that could be kept inside the house to bloom during the winter - don't ask me what it was, that was last year. I faithfully nurtured it, kept it warm and watered and watched it put out straggly thin and pale leaves, about one a month over the winter period. Spring came and went and so did my patience, so I jammed the pot in a corner of the patio and left it to the elements. Summer came and went (I think that was the two weeks of sunshine we had in June.....) and still nothing. However, a few weeks ago I noticed a sprout from the centre of the sad leaf collection and resisted the temptation to bring the pot indoors, although I did put it by the window so I could watch it's progress. Today it finally opened - I think it is some kind of lily - quite small and delicate, a lovely deep pink. Certainly a case of better late than never!

Today will be potato number 79 up for it's portrait.......I'm hoping to crack on over the weekend and go past the 80 mark, bringing the number of potatoes left to paint into the teens - psychologically that sounds really good to me, a definite light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Back from I can relax.....

Yesterday my son arrived back from Bolivia, all in one piece albeit a bit beardy. I think if I'd known what he and his girlfriend had got up to out there, I'd have been having a nervous breakdown but as it's all over now and they are fine there is no point in freaking out! They went on the 'most dangerous road in the world' in a taxi..even the photo above makes my stomach churn; they had a lit stick of dynamite thrown at them during a street riot - it blew my son's hat off; they went into the jungle in the dead of night and saw crocodiles - and these are only the tales I've heard so far. Think I might need a stiff drink before hearing the rest.....

He brought me a lovely little necklace, handmade by natives - I absolutely adore this and wish I could work out how it was done in order to make a few of my own! Give me time.....

And a cute little hand embroidered purse - the character of the alpacas caught in these tiny little masterpieces is amazing. I know they probably churn them out for tourists, but I can appreciate the skill involved.

As for me......potato No.77 beckons - there must be an easier way of making a living.......

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Here's My Little Cotton Rabbit......and me in a hat!

Thank goodness the postal strikes don't seem to have affected us here - my little cotton rabbit prize, Gracie to her friends, arrived this morning. She was made by Julie, whose wonderful work you can see over on her LCR blog. I was so pleased to find out just how small and delicious these little bunnies are, and so beautifully made. She's poking her nose out of the box here because I haven't finished playing with her (!) or yet decided where she will live - it has to be somewhere just right! (Her little toy bunny in her pocket is about the size of a large peanut shell - too cute for words...)

I finished the Noro cloche hat last night and am very pleased with it. This one is all mine, but if you would like something similar, just e-mail me and let me know. I'm about to be very brave and show you the front view....I hate showing photos of me, so please be kind and remember it's the hat you are looking at!

This hat will certainly keep out the winter winds as it covers just about everything, as well as being just a bit more stylish than the average bobble hat!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Ups and Downs........

Up.........this is potato number 75 (as yet unfinished) , officially the three-quarters mark for this gargantuan task. I suspect there may be more than 25 potatoes to be painted before the book is ready for publication, but I'm pretending that the original quote for 100 illustrations is still good because I need to hang on to my sanity any way I can!

Down.......we have had five plumbing problems in our house over the past few weeks, involving leaks, small floods and most spectacular of all, the kitchen mixer tap shooting off into orbit amidst a fountain of high pressured water. After a young man battling to replace our tap for an hour today, let's hope that's the last of the watery mishaps for a while.

Up.....I started knitting a cloche hat with my new Noro Kureyon yarn yesterday and am blown away by the beauty of the colours - I just LOVE this yarn and wish I could afford to buy more of it more often! This hat is exclusively for me, in the vague hope that I will look elegant and sophisticated as I stroll along with my saluki trotting by my side......this is the point where anyone who knows me falls onto the floor laughing, as I'm usually muddy, dishevelled and being dragged from tree to tree by my mutinous mutt!'s been a tough month sorting out my daughter's new programme of activities. She has Down's Syndrome and since finishing college in July, now comes under the auspices of Adult Services. She has an interesting schedule involving arts & crafts, a theatre group, & a couple of college courses, but getting it put into place has not been easy and the transport has been iffy to say the least - her taxi driver waited at the wrong place on Tuesday and left without her. Nice.

Up.......I've been working for quite a while on this Victorian lace shawl in vintage Scottish yarn and I'm finally on the downhill slope, with about half of the edging to do. I can't wait to see what it looks like blocked and it will go on to my Etsy shop when completed.

Down.........I work as a Special Needs assistant in an infant school, which generally is a job I love. But for the past fortnight I have had to deal with a little boy who has screamed at me, kicked me, slapped me, called me names and today even spat at me. And he isn't even the child I am assigned to!!! It's a good job I'm a big strong woman with a lot of patience, although the patience is wearing very thin. Might be time to consider a change in direction job-wise.................

Up...I've saved the best 'up' for last - I came home from work today (feeling very fed up!) to discover I'd won a giveaway on the Little Cotton Rabbits blog! Julie makes the most fantastic knitted toys, and I have to admit to hankering after them but never thought I'd own one as the competition is always fierce. There were 998 comments left on her blog for this giveaway!!! So I can expect to receive my very own little cotton rabbit in the post soon - I can't wait!!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

IKnit Weekender (Or a Day in the Life of a Yarnoholic,,,,)

Luckily, I am very much not alone in my yarn obsession, which is just as well sometimes! My blogging friend Sybille and I had a trip to London to go to the IKnit Weekender planned for months and it finally came around on Saturday. It was a bit of a logistical nightmare actually getting to it - first we had to meet up in London (under the clock at Waterloo Station of course!) and then had to decipher what proved to be the most rubbish map in the world on the back of the tickets. Despite having got directions from the internet too, it took us an hour of walking in the hot sun (lovely at any other time!) and battling our way through the heaving crowds of tourists at the Houses of Parliament in order to find the place...oh yes, and the tube line we could have used was shut for repair.

However, it was all worth it - a big airy hall just full from end to end with the most gorgeous yarn and accessories. The selection was amazing and I could have spent every last penny I own on a ball of each. When it came down to it though, I was quite restrained and only bought what I thought I will use - a fair bit of fine lace-weight yarn for future shawls and scarves as well as my personal favourite, Noro Kureyon.

But what made me even more happy than the new additions to my stash was finding this badge for free on a poetry stand. I think it will be my own epitaph....but for the time being, I plan on wearing it full-time!

So despite the pain of finding the place, I think I must pencil in next year's IKnit Weekender as a definite...and start saving more pennies from now!

Thursday, 10 September 2009


As all I am painting at the moment is potatoes (completed 72 so far....) I thought it would be nice to have a look at some old paintings of mine from a few years back. When I first came back to painting about 15 years ago, I had no idea I would be selling my work so it was all for fun and I used to find reference photographs in books and magazines and work from them. However, when my work started to sell well, I became aware that I could no longer do that in case I infringed copyright somewhere along the line, and all my paintings now are from original photographs.

This painting has a sentimental value to me - it was my first highly detailed acrylic and one of those paintings where when you finish it you can't quite believe that it was you that painted it! It's 14 years on and I can see quite a few faults that I would correct if I were to paint this now, but I hold this little picture very dear and it is on my wall at home and not for sale.

I love to paint exotic birds and these were such a pleasure - I enjoyed the shapes and colours and even picking out just enough foliage to balance the whole thing. This was painted in watercolour.

This one took a very long time - it is in watercolour and I got totally absorbed in the play of colour and texture.

Perhaps now that I am on the downhill slope with the potatoes, it won't be very long until I can return to this sort of painting. I miss it desperately!

Monday, 7 September 2009

I'm a Very Proud Mum.........

Despite coming from a line of artists and craftsmen, the passion to draw and paint seemed to have only been passed on to me out of my siblings and many cousins. However, I was thrilled when my son showed talent as a child, and now he's an adult I am in awe of his ability, particularly as most of his artwork is done digitally although his 'real' sketches are pretty damn good too. Unfortunately, he is still trying to find a job in which to utilise these talents - times are hard.

This is a mock-up of a book cover he painted recently by way of practise/spec work. You can see more of his work on his blog, Monstertree.

I'm also a bit of a nervous mum....he and his girlfriend have gone to Bolivia on holiday - no Ibiza or Newquay for my boy, no it has to be deepest South America. I have received a brief message to say they arrived safely, so that's one less thing to worry about......

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Some Japanese Yarn and A Day Out.....

Shamefully, this Shoshenshi linen paper yarn by Habu has been languishing in the bottom of a bag for nearly a year now as a half-knitted bolero. I re-discovered it while sorting out some of my extensive yarn stash (discovered some other yummy yarns too!) and after studying it for a while, realised I couldn't remember where I'd left the pattern or how on earth to take it up again without making a mess of it. So I unravelled it down to the ribbing and started again in simple stocking stitch and made the above waistcoat in about 3 evenings. The yarn is amazing, it really feels and sounds like thick tissue paper and knits up beautifully with a lovely texture and drape. Hopefully, it washes like linen and should come up as good as new...fingers crossed! It's a pity no-one in this country seems to stock it, although there is a source on eBay.

I had two paintings accepted in the Best of Hampshire Artists Exhibition this year, held at Hillier Gardens in Romsey. Yesterday, my dear partner decreed he would whisk me away from potatoes for the day (hooray!!) and we went down there to see the exhibition, have some lunch and a walk around the lovely gardens. The Art in the Gardens exhibition was also being held, with such interesting pieces as the above horses made entirely from chicken wire.

There were several of these pensive little copper statues dotted around - I love the little boy on the right and could imagine him peeking out from some long grass under a tree in someone's garden.

We saw a pair of deer just beyond the wire horse sculptures and watched them for a while before they noticed us and trotted away at high speed. (The stag is behind the large bush.) It was a pleasant change to be able to look quietly at some deer without restraining a slavering saluki!!

We hiked up a big hill to some woods to see some pigs that had been introduced for the summer in order to clear the undergrowth. They were fit and happy and digging huge holes under the trees, better than any JCB! Unfortunately my photos of them are pretty rubbish and the video I took is too small to reproduce here. On our way back down, we found this enormous eucalyptus tree with a completely smooth and naked trunk, the bark having all peeled off on to the ground.

So today it is back to normal, with a couple of potatoes awaiting their portrait to be painted, but I feel better for having had a day away. Today's Spud picture is Number 70 - can you believe it?

Thursday, 3 September 2009

A Little Piece of History.....

Yesterday I got my hands on a big box of photographs that had belonged to my mother, who passed away about 15 years ago. It was fascinating to see her as a child, my parents as they were when they got married, and all sorts of relatives who I barely remember, some of whom I never even met as I was born when my mother was in her forties and they had already died. Above are my maternal grandparents. My grandfather was a sea captain.....

Here they are on their wedding day - look at those wonderful clothes!

I have no idea who is getting married here (sadly very few labels on the photos) but my mother is the little blonde bridesmaid in the centre - she was three years old!

This is me, the little blonde girl in the red velvet dress that my mother made for me with a lace collar, at a Christmas party on the first cruise we ever went on. I was just four years old! Next to me is one of my brothers. It was 1963.............

There are many, many more photographs to be pored over and sorted through for copies to be made. One of the most interesting sets is of my father's time in the Middle East during World War II - he never spoke much about these years for obvious reasons, but also because he caught yellow fever while out there and spent most of the time very, very ill. He met my mother in a most romantic way - she was one of the WRAFs that moved the little model planes and ships about on big maps to show their whereabouts and he was in the RAF and phoned in the reports to her. They spoke on the phone, wrote each other copious letters, and had only met a couple of times before he there's a movie right there!