Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Sweet Surprise!

I have admitted many times on this blog that I am not the most organised of gardeners and the fact that anything grows at all in my garden is sometimes a miracle.  Last week we had quite a bit of was torrential for days, and the last thing on my mind was watering the plants outside.  Which was all well and good for everything except the poor melon vine in the little plastic greenhouse....whoops!  After the rain cleared up, I noticed a dried up yellow mess where the vine had once been and had to accept that I'd killed it without it ever having born fruit.  However, today when I was actually looking for something else in there, I noticed something nestling on top of the earth in the melon pot.........
Wow!  It was small, about 4 inches across, but  perfect in every other way.  It must have been hidden by the leaves when they were alive because as far as I knew, there were no fruit.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011


These two armchairs are a far cry from the simple softies that I knit for my dog sets!  These are having to be built with almost the same principles as real armchairs in order for them to a) fit the knitted people being used in the animation and b) have some substance so they don't collapse and move about when being animated.  The above is just the basic structure - they will later need the cushions complete with patterns, buttons and fringing.  Luckily I had the presence of mind to make them in tandem with each other because I'd never remember how to do this a second time around!  Hopefully writing the pattern instructions on a piece of interior structure won't come back to bite me in the posterior later on.......
I'm not labouring over the chairs during the day however - while the light is good I am having fun with fish, yet again using the Inktense colours because I just love them.  Got to fit in as much as I can before going back to work next Monday - also planned for this week is a trip to the dump; haircuts for me and my daughter, the dog being sent to the vets for a teeth-cleaning, and some last minute jobs round the house.  Where did the summer holiday go?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Leaf Green Lacy Scarf

During the brief hiatus inbetween knitting tiny curiosities for an animated film, I have been working on this soft green lacy scarf.  It has been knitted using a delicate leafy-green slightly varigated yarn from Fiberspates - I don't know any more than that, as it was in one of their bargain mixed bags at a show last year.  I know it's a natural wool as it has that lovely warm slightly sheepy smell to it (am I the only person that could just sit and inhale that for hours?).
It has a deep slightly scalloped lace border at either end, with the centre panel being a simple repeating pattern.
It is going into my Etsy shop now, and I will be making some wristwarmers to match it....when I have the time as I  have to knit some small furniture first!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Something To Crow About!

While at the seaside the other day, the lady we visited gave me a fascinating book full of patterns to make fabric birds.  Whilst many of them weren't really my 'thing', I was very taken with the crow and decided to have a go.
The patterns were a little intimidating, with instructions such as 'enlarge by 117%' - huh? - and as it is an American book, some of the products used were unfamiliar to me, but I soldiered on and luckily had an old skirt of my daughter's in the charity shop pile which was perfect for this project.
Ultimately, once I'd started to make the bird, I discovered it wasn't as hard as I had originally thought, just a little fiddly when it came to sewing the many, many fabric loops for the feathers.  My sewing machine and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship, especially when it comes to re-winding the bobbins and re-inserting them....but after a Basil Fawlty moment (without beating it with a tree branch!) we got there.

The feet were tricky - the only suitable wire I had in the house was very hard to bend and I couldn't quite get the shape of the toes that I wanted.  Then it said to wrap the feet with florist's tape, which I had never heard of, let alone had in the house.  Instead, I used insulation tape, which gave him great big ostrich this morning I visited the florists and picked up some tape and did it properly.  Wow, that's good stuff and it takes acrylic paint beautifully!
I've threaded a long strand of fishing filament through the wings in order to hang him up as if in flight, but the pattern also could be made with folded wings and the bird standing.

I wish I had the time at the moment to make a few more of the birds from this book - there is a flamingo pattern I quite fancy!  One day, definitely.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Seaside Interlude II

You don't get to the coast for two years, then it's twice in a fortnight....
This is Bosham (pronounced Bosem) just outside Chichester.  We paid a visit there yesterday and had a glorious day in the sunshine, although the sea itself was far, far away as the tide was out.  Fish and chips for lunch, an icecream cone while sitting on a churchyard wall, even a surprise bead shop to potter in - a very good day out!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Here are the macaws, finally finished.  I wasn't too sure where I was going with this, but the journey was terrific fun.  Just about as I had completed the final brushstroke on the second macaw, I noticed a drop of painty water on the paper that wasn't supposed to be there.  That's when I discovered that Inktense colours really are permanent!  I used my head this time and tried bleach on a spare scrap of paper - which didn't work - neither did trying to cover it with white paint.  So rather than have a faded blue splodge smack-bang in the white area, it morphed into a sprig of leaves...which I actually quite like in the end as it contributes to the composition nicely.  Sometimes accidents really are 'happy'.  This will be for sale on Etsy later in the day.
Stash Fine Yarns have a 3 for 2 sale at the moment - I couldn't resist this gorgeous pale mint green & white yarn.  I don't know what it will be yet, but it had to be mine.
We have a giant sofa and a large 'cuddle' armchair, but this is where he chose to sit. As long as you are comfortable Clovis!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Polly's Progress...

The macaws are slowly taking shape - this is such fun;  I can lose whole chunks of the day painting subjects like this and when I emerge it is suddenly tea-time and nothing is cooked.  I'm better prepared for this nowadays and cook before picking up a paintbrush.

Notice the droplets at the bottom left of the painting - they aren't still wet, I've painted them that way.  When I was a child, my parents took me to an exhibition and there were a set of paintings which were about five feet square of solid colour with water droplets painted all over them.  I remember studying the technique intently, storing it away for future reference.  It's been used many times on various different pictures.

One such painting was the cover illustration for a book on potatoes that I did 100 paintings of spuds for a while back.  Yesterday I discovered that the first proofs are back from the printers and it should be finalised and in print next month.  At last, 18 months of hard work will finally be made public - I can't wait!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Messy Old Bird!

After using these Derwent Inktense pencils and colour blocks for 3 commissioned paintings, I still haven't got enough of them - the colours you can achieve are so bright and vibrant with much less effort than using watercolours.  This is my own piece of work, just for fun - and for sale eventually of course.
How did I get paint up to my elbow?  I have absolutely no idea, I'm just grateful it didn't splurge all over the paper!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Seaside Interlude

After working so hard lately, it was good to get away yesterday and head to the sea for the day.  We wanted to go and see the Historic Dockyards at Portsmouth and visit the HMS Warrior.  It was a lovely surprise to discover that included in the ticket was a trip on a boat around the harbour to see all the various ships docked there.  The sea was smooth, the sun was shining, what could be better?
There were war ships both old and new....
...this is HMS Warrior.
We weren't too sure what these elderly gentlemen were doing, but were relieved to see later on that they had recruited a full crew on the oars - with just two of them, they were going nowhere!
Just outside the Warrior was a Punch and Judy show - we had to stop and watch as I don't think Stacie had ever seen one before. She thought it hilarious at least!
Everything on the Warrior was sparkling clean, tidy and shiny.  It was fascinating to see how well equipped it was for battle, with cannons both on deck and below, and each deck being well stocked with guns of every size and plenty of cutlasses.  The shiny brass tracks on the deck are for the cannons to be moved around during fighting without gouging holes in the wooden deck.
After a break for fish and chips on the waterfront - something I haven't done for years - we went back to visit the Mary Rose museum. Unfortunately the hull of the Mary Rose, one of Henry VIII's ships, was closed as they are still getting it preserved and renovated as well as building a new museum around it.  We got to see many of the items salvaged from the wreck and Stacie had fun trying on some clothes in the style of that era - here she is in a Henry VIII jacket.  I think we nearly took that one home with us!
Very tired by now, we walked to take a look at the HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson's flagship.  We knew this might be a bit difficult for Stacie to walk around due to steep and narrow stairways so didn't plan on going inside.
However, after asking one of the guides how tricky the stairways were, he told us that we could go and have a look and one of the other guides would let us off if Stacie found it too hard.  Famous last words....we discovered that once on there, you had to follow the set route, and after we had gone down one deck, there were no guides to ask, so we had to keep on going around the whole ship, with the stairs getting steeper and steeper and we ended up in the bowels of the ship which was very claustrophobic with the extremely low ceilings and the lack of light.  Poor Stacie ended up in tears but struggled manfully on until we eventually came across the exit and daylight! 
It was fascinating though - funny how much of it I remembered from a school trip I was taken on many decades ago.
Don't worry about Stacie, after a bit of a sit down in the shade followed by a cherry ice-cream cone back on the sea front, she was fine...and slept in the car the whole way home!

Saturday, 13 August 2011


Last night I crocheted this Large White butterfly (pattern from my favourite book, 75 Birds, Butterflies & Beautiful Beasties to Knit & Crochet) with the idea that it would be appliqued onto these....
But it lived up to it's name and was too large.  I suppose it will have to be a brooch instead!  The wristwarmers are my own 'design' and just for me - for when the weather gets a bit cooler on those dog-walking mornings.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Back to Knitting!

After a week or so of not being able to use knitting needles, I'm almost back to normal now. This flowery garland started out as a long length of 'French Knitting' made out of sheer frustration as that was about all I could do craft-wise last week.  Then came the knitted leaves and flowers and a little woolly necklace/skinny scarf was born.  It's going inot my Etsy shop today.

I have been painting so much over the past fortnight but just cannot show any of it as it is for Derwent.  I have been using a selection of their Inktense pencils and colour blocks in juicy tropical colours - once the commissioned pictures are complete, I think I will have a go and paint something with them just for fun.  Not that these weren't fun - I'd rather be painting than doing pretty much anything else!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Bandit at 12 O'Clock!

With the amount of art work I've had over the past couple of weeks, I felt I had been neglecting my daughter a little.  So when we were flicking through the current issue of Handmade Living in W.H.Smiths today and she showed an interest in a sock-raccoon, it seemed a good opportunity for a little mother/daughter time.

Grey socks were unavailable in the local shops, luckily there was a raggedy pair in the airing cupboard at home. Tempers got a little frayed initially -one of the shelves of books above the sewing machine's storage place collapsed, and then my daughter seemed to lose the ability to cut in a straight line.  However, once we had found a pair of scissors that she could manage, we were off and running. 
I would point out that what looked like a really quick and simple pattern was surprisingly tricky - sock is not a great fabric to sew with.  The sewing machine choked a few times and there were a couple of holes that needed cobbling together.  We got there in the end and after a couple of hours of sewing, stuffing and assembling, Stacie was very pleased with the end result - I have a feeling he will be making his way into her bed tonight!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

...Nothing To See Here....

There has been no knitting this week - the ungainly finger bandage has prevented that.  However, I did manage to crochet a new blanket for Clovis in some blue and red mohair yarn that has been hanging around here for years as it is too bulky & itchy for jumpers.  As you can see, he likes it but is still using his old blanket as a pillow!  I don't know why they say 'it's a dog's life' to mean hardship - seems a cushy number to me!

I have been painting alot this week but unfortunately cannot show any of it at the moment.  It's all for Derwent packaging and I have been enjoying it immensely as all the pictures have a jungly theme and involve lots of bright colours.

Who doesn't love a bargain?  When it's a double-bargain, it's even better.  Yesterday I received a money off voucher in the post from our local garden centre as I belong to their loyalty scheme.  Today we went and perused the 'death row' aisle - plants that are on offer as they are either pot bound or just finishing their first flowering and in need of some tlc.  I got £17 worth of plants reduced to £12.99 (the big millet was full price) and with the voucher, all I had to pay was 35p.  Now that's the kind of shopping I like!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Life Goes On...

Despite the mangled hand (still looking ghastly but not nearly so painful), there are still things to be done.  At the weekend I tried bottling some plums as I was given a very large bagful.  Today I tried making pickled pears - we have a tree in our garden which is full of pears but none of us are very keen on eating them raw, so I am always looking for ways to make them a bit more palatable. This recipe is from the River Cottage Preserves cookbook - my one gripe is that the quantity of vinegar/sugar mix are stated to be enough for two jars, but was really enough for only one - I had to quickly boil up another lot which may not be quite as spicy.  I'm also a bit concerned that the fruit float and are not covered by the vinegar, but perhaps they will sink with time as the plums did.  I also made four pounds of plum jam, but no-one wants to look at that - we have about 50 jars of jam, marmalade & chutney all perched on the top of the kitchen cabinets like crows in The Birds!
Before the hand incident, I finished re-knitting the lilac collar.  This time I DID cast on loosely but with the cotton yarn it still didn't have quite as much give to it as it should to make the points really long.  It is still quite pretty and is a fast knit.
I may try knitting it again at a later date in a wool based yarn to see of that makes a difference when it is blocked.

Thankfully, although I can't knit for the time being, I can still hold a pencil and a brush, so the artwork is able to continue - phew!  And the dog has been forgiven - I can crochet at least so am making him a new blanket.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Yes, you may well look ashamed of yourself.  Did you really have to chase that cat out of the front garden this morning?  In your excitement, did you forget you were still on the flexi-lead?  As I was in the middle of opening the front door, I wasn't holding the lead properly and had to grab the nylon part to stop you from running into the road.  There are about 5 metres of nylon tape on that lead and when they are pulled through your hand at speed, they do this......
I won't show you what is under the bandage, suffice it to say that's an inch long open wound where the skin was ripped off.  Shall we mention the bruised and swollen knuckle on my ring finger too?  It hurts y'know and I am supposed to paint 3 high quality illustrations over the next few days for a big pencil company.  Think on that when I can't afford to buy you treats because they won't accept the wobbly daubs I'm likely to, how about a bath and a trip to the vet just for the hell of it?*

*Please don't think I would really punish my dog for his transgression - I'm used to his idiotic behaviour when faced with some small furry creature, but his timing today was abysmal!