Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Cute Chicks

I was going to entitle this post as 'Hot Chicks' but thought that might bring in entirely the wrong kind of visitor...

I've knitted four of these little chicks as Easter gifts, the first has already gone to it's recipient. It's a lovely quick pattern and I did like the addition of a knitted egg to put one in - that wasn't such a quick knit, so only one of those!

The egg has a different coloured lining - you kind of knit a bi-coloured egg and fold one half into the other, making two of these pieces. I then stitched them together at the seam to make a hinge and added a button to keep the egg closed. I followed the instructions to coat it with hairspray in order to stiffen it into shape - so it's fragrant as well....

April 1st today - the day of silly pranks and tricks and spoof news stories on television and in the papers. I wonder how many 'jokes' will be played on me at work today by the children - I don't care, as long as we still break up for the Easter break today! I'm looking forward to a fortnight of catching up with various chores, some intensive crafting, a couple of days out and some extra sleep.
I am also planning to have a clear out of my portfolio and will be putting some artwork up for sale in my Etsy shop - no point it hoarding the stuff where it never gets seen.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

500th Post!!!

I can't believe this is my 500th post - I feel it should be marked in some way, but really can't think of anything! Let's just settle for a virtual toast to 500 more.

The nest I posted a picture of earlier in the month has some residents! While tidying up the bottom of the garden, I had a peek and came face to face with Mrs. Blackbird hunkered down as small as she could make herself. We had a lot of gardening work to do just outside the nest yesterday and I was a bit worried that after us crashing around uprooting a large dead palm tree from it's huge pot and planting it's successor which took us most of the afternoon we might have scared her off. However, she was back there today and whilst she was on a tea break, I snuck down and took a very quick picture of the inside of the nest. Four shiny bespeckled blue eggs - wow! I can't wait to see them hatch and hopefully be able to get some more close-up photographs.

Our garden is quite a little bird sanctuary - it's a bit overgrown with lots of hidey-holes, as well as having the advantage of a large dog on patrol to keep away any cats or magpies. We already have robin chicks in the ivy, about ten feet along from the blackbird's nest, and blue-tits are nesting in eaves of the house just above Stacie's bedroom as they do every year. One year the blue-tit chicks were so tame I was able to get within a couple of feet of them and take photos which I used for a painting. It was amazing - when I wanted to check their colours or plumage while I was working on the painting, all I had to do was step out of the door and stand still by the bird feeder for a few minutes and they'd pose for me as much as I needed.

I've just finished knitting a chick of the woollen Easter kind - this is from an Alan Dart free pattern (check out his website for some incredible knitted toys and their downloadable patterns.) It was a lot more successful than the failed knitted egg, so I think I will dash off a few of these rather than labour over lumpy eggs!

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Ready to Go!

The little knitted saluki pup set is completed and up on Etsy ready to go. These little sets don't hang around for long, so don't procrastinate if you think you'd like to own him! Do note that if you ever want to commission a knitted puppy set in any particular colour or breed, I'll be very willing to take it on as long as it is feasible.

I met a very interesting old lady last week who has started doing stumpwork and brought along a few of her amazing pieces to show me. I was fascinated by the raised texture of this embroidery and although I don't feel motivated to embroider whole pictures with this technique, I would like to learn the basics in order to embellish the things I do make. So I bought a book in order to attempt to teach myself....wish me luck!

I also bought the Crocheting on the Edge book as I simply love my copy of Knitting on the Edge. I was fractionally disappointed that alot of the crochet edgings were so conservative, but that is just my personal opinion as I tend to lean towards the OTT. But there are definitely stitches and edgings I can and will use in the future. At the moment I am trying to decide how I will trim the above shawl which is on it's way to completion. The camera has not picked it up very well, but it is in pale blue cotton/cashmere, extremely fine yarn knitted in simple stocking stitch with seed beads scattered randomly like rain drops. I am torn between knitting an intricate lace edge or crocheting a frou-frou!

Monday, 22 March 2010


Being a besotted Saluki owner, I've always been very disappointed not to find more merchandise featuring these gorgeous dogs. I'm sure if I lived in America I would find lots of stuff, but over here in the UK there is very little and what there is is generally......well, not very nice. So I have made it my mission to quietly infiltrate the market. I started last year when I slipped a saluki pup into the calendar illustrations I was commissioned to do - he's Mr. October.

I've made a couple of crocheted and felt copies of my own dog which are for sale on my Etsy shop, and this weekend I knitted the above little fellow. To be honest, he wasn't planned to be a saluki, I just wanted to see what would happen if I used soft fluffy eyelash yarn for the ears and tail of one of these pups. However, as soon as I attached the ears he took on the look of a saluki, so he had to have the long sweeping tail and I gave him fluffy toes for good measure - he can't chase gazelles in the desert without hairy feet you know!

He still only has the knitted coat, but as soon as the rest of his accessories are made, he will be on Etsy ready to spread the word about salukis. I expect he will be a darned sight better behaved than the real thing - they may look elegant and beautiful, but they are a law unto themselves and need a patient and firm owner who is not afraid of mud, crashing through brambles chasing a runaway dog, clearing up the contents of the kitchen bin after he's rifled through every last piece, having their most prized (and expensive) possession neatly vandalised as punishment for leaving him on his own for more than a couple of hours.....the list goes on!

By the way, the lovely art book he is sitting on was found at our local cheapy bookstore for 99p! Full of the most beautiful delicate butterfly paintings - what a bargain.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

April Snow and Small Wonders

Despite Spring being just a whisper away, I have been working on a painting of the snow we had last April. I took the reference photo early in the morning after walking the dogs through a blizzard when six inches of snow fell in a couple of hours. I've had it in mind ever since, but have not had the time to paint it until now. This is painted in acrylics on Dalerboard. I'm not happy with the photograph - the colour and atmosphere aren't the same as the actual painting. I will try and take another picture in daylight tomorrow.

While working in the garden again this afternoon, I noticed that the Spring flowers have suddenly all come into bloom at once.

These daffodils were just buds two days ago, now they are all open.

I found this nest in a shrub at the bottom of the garden - it looks as if it was made recently, but is in an exposed part of the shrub and empty. Perhaps it is a WIP or perhaps it was a prototype and abandoned after building. I know we have a robin's nest in the ivy closer to the house as I have been watching the robins flitting in and out with dry grass and twigs over the past month and now I can hear the mad tweeting of the babies every time a parent arrives with food. Last year the same pair of robins had three batches of chicks over the Spring and Summer months. It's an exciting time of year in the garden!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Big Fat Pig!

Since I don't have much to show this week, I thought you might like to see what my daughter has been making at college. She brought it home's BIG! It's a money box, and made with papier mache over a balloon and has taken her about six weeks I think. I'm quite impressed actually - I'm well aware of how difficult any activity involving fine motor skills can be for her and this is very nicely made. My only problem is, if we fill it full of pennies the only way to get them out is to disembowel the pig....will I have the heart to destroy all her hard work?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Noro or Not?

I must admit that with the good weather we have been having this week, I have not been painting or crafting so much but spending time out in the garden attending to about a year's worth of outstanding jobs. It has taken me three afternoons to thin out a huge clump of bamboo which was threatening to take over the bottom of the garden and blocked out an awful lot of light. Summer bulbs and daisies have been planted, brambles hacked, leaves raked and new gravel has been spread. Sweatpeas, trailing geraniums and petunias are waiting in the greenhouse until it's time to be planted out and grass seed needs to be mixed with topsoil to repair the scrubby mess that used to be our lawn.

Two or three years ago I knitted myself a pair of wristwarmers from a pattern in Stitch & Bitch Nation using Noro yarn. I have worn them so much as they are perfect for keeping your hands warm while having fingers free for dog-walking, shopping etc.

I bought some yarn at Unravel a couple of weeks ago that I initially thought was Noro but is in fact called Creative Poems aran by Rico - same lovely colours, half the price! The texture is smoother than Noro, but that's not a bad thing. Instead of making more of the Stitch & Bitch wristwarmers, I decided to design my own, just keeping the 2 x 2 rib for the wrist & palm parts.
I've used a fairly complicated sunflower design from a stitch book which fitted perfectly on the back of the hand.

These will be for sale on Etsy when I can find someone willing to take photos of both my hands modelling them rather than these rather contorted pictures! At least they hide the red weals caused by bamboo and brambles!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Happy Birthday Stacie!

I can't believe another year has flown by and my daughter is 22 years old today. It's been a pretty good year for her - she finished her full time college course last summer and started a new programme of activities last September. She has been working one day a week making and painting craft items for sale, two days at college doing cookery and art, and a day at a theatre group. We were a little concerned that such a varied routine would cause her problems, especially travelling by taxi on her own, but she loves each and every activity and settled in straight away. It has been wonderful to see her confidence increase and her abilities improve. She still enjoys blowing bubbles though.....

Friday, 12 March 2010

Wisley Gardens

School trips when you are an adult can go one of two ways - either the day from hell from which there is no escape or a complete delight. Luckily, today fell into the latter category when we visited Wisley Gardens in Surrey.

Despite the trees still being bare and few flowers out due to the harsh winter we have had, there was still plenty to look at .

The crocuses and snowdrops were open, as well as these beautiful purple dwarf iris.

In a small greeenhouse there was a wonderful collection of alpine plants, including these delicate pale blue blooms.

In the large glass house, there was this amazing display of cacti.......

...and these spikes and palms.

In the main section of the glasshouse were some spectacular tropical flowers.

Here are just a couple of the stunning orchids that were growing amongst the giant ferns and banana plants.

My new camera is forgiven today - it performed well and I did not have to resort to giving it a damn good thrashing. I have many more pictures of orchids and vegetation which I am sure will come in handy as reference material for paintings in the future.

Wisley is well worth a visit although if I had my choice, I would go later in the year when the trees have leaves and more plants are out of the ground and flowering.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Where Did A Week Go?

Sometimes time just gets away from you - a week gone and not much to show for it. I've been doing a bit of this......

....can you guess what it is yet? Quite a lot of this..........

...a shawl knitted in the thinnest of thinnest yarns, about one step up from sewing cotton, with seed beads scattered as I go.

I'm thoroughly ashamed of this - it looks pretty from this angle doesn't it? At the back there is a huge lumpen seam and about an inch of excess knitting...back to the drawing board as far as Easter presents are concerned!

Fuzzy photos too - I HATE my new camera and it's capricious ways, and the old one has finally gone to visit the great Fuji superstore in the sky......

Friday, 5 March 2010

White Lace, Roses & An Exotic Bloom

A couple of months ago, I started a scarf/shawl in white lace-weight pure merino yarn but it got put to one side as I had other more urgent projects to complete and also I was having trouble seeing what I was doing, particularly whilst I was ill.

This week it was time to finally finish this little beauty - it's not a shawl, more of a lace scarf. The yarn is so delicate that this is as light as air and soft as a cloud. It will be up for sale on Etsy shortly.

I've also been working on a small painted box - the design was based on my Valentine's Day bouquet, although I have added the tiny blue flowers as a bit of artistic licence. This has been painted in acrylics, given three coats of varnish and now awaits a pale green silk lining. Once that has been put into place, this will also be in my Etsy shop.

Once again I have managed to grow a humongous tropical flower, although this did not take nearly as much effort as my Bird of Paradise plant. I was given this Amaryllis for Christmas and it is the first time I have grown one of these - it was just a matter of keeping it watered & in sunlight and watching the magic happen. Each flower here is about the size of a soup plate, and you can just see the tip of a second bud coming up fast behind. I can't capture the richness of it's redness with the camera, but you get the idea!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A Scarf For Stacie

They do say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and there is no exception to that rule in our house. My daughter may not be able to knit, despite many fruitless hours of trying, but she does know a choice ball of yarn when she sees one. Before I had even paid for the Fiberspates bagful that this yarn was in on Sunday, she had set her heart on it - when we got it home, this was the one she picked out and stroked covetously. All that needed to be done was to decide what she wanted me to make with it - definitely a scarf!

I decided to use the 'Old Shale' stitch in order to show off this yarn to it's full advantage - it always works well with a varigated yarn, seems to bring out the colours. There was just enough to make a decent length scarf, especially as when it was washed and blocked, it expanded nicely.

Now that I have fulfilled this obligation, I can move on and see what can be made with the rest of my treasure!