Sunday, 31 July 2011

A Little Bird Told Me....

What do you do when asked to knit a tiny blue-tit but the patterns you have are either too large or too ugly? Wing it of course! 
He's fractionally over 2 inches long, has a jointed head and wired wings for animation purposes.  He was very tricky to make, as my fingers (which aren't large by any means) still got in the way when assembling him.

I think this may be the last of the outdoor creatures for this commission - next on the agenda, inside the house....

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Were The White Trousers Such a Good Idea Today?

I have trouble staying clean at the best of times - at some point in my life it became a well established family joke.  Sometimes I bring it on myself though - I'm currently working on this picture using some waxy/water-soluble crayony things.  I discovered yesterday that whilst they are glorious to work with, blending beautifully and creating rich washes of colour when water is added, they also melt with the warmth of your hands as you work.  After the first five minutes and getting black crayon all over my hands, I sat and wrapped each one with a little masking tape jacket.  That helped a bit, but somehow I still managed to get the stuff everywhere by the time I'd finished - luckily, the paper I am working on stayed clean!
Today we visited the local pick-your-own farm - we just cannot resist the fresh sun-warmed strawberries and raspberries, and today we also picked some plump and juicy blackcurrants.  The currants were a tad over-ripe - quite a few burst when touched and I ended up covered in sticky purple juice...even in my shoe somehow!  These are destined for a yummy blackcurrant pie for pudding today...mmmm
While enjoying a brief hiatus from knitting miniature oddities for animation, I thought this little shawlette looked cute and would be nice in some cotton yarn from my stash.  Unfortunately, being a typical Sagittarian, I plunged straight into knitting it without reading the little extra pattern notes on the previous page - does anyone read these? Be honest now!
So I missed the part about casting on very loosely (that should have been written where it said cast on x amount of stitches, especially for people like me who rush headlong into things*...) and only realised my mistake when trying to block the darn thing.  The points aren't pointy enough and there are some annoying puckers.  I will have a go with a steam iron and see if I can beat it into submission....if not, it's back to the beginning and re-knitting it.  Will I never learn?

My trousers are still clean though....

*It was.....I have to learn to read things properly!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Blue Jellyfish No.8

I think this is the final blue jellyfish in this series - I'm not bored with doing them, just think I would like some different 'poses' so will wait until we re-visit the New England Aquarium later in the year and hopefully take lots of new reference photos.

This painting is slightly different in that the background has been achieved by laying clingfilm over the wash while it was still wet and leaving it to dry.  When removed, the clingfilm has left marks in the form of wave ripples - I like this one particularly as it looks like the surface of the sea in sunlight when viewed from under the water.  It is for sale in my Etsy shop now.

Next on the agenda - I have been sent some samples of a new product by Derwent with which to create a painting that may or may not feature on the tin.  This is by selection process, so I had better pull out all the stops and produce something good!  I can't tell you what the product is....mainly because I don't know myself,  just that they are crayons.  I've been sent a very limited palette of colours, so this is quite a head-scratcher....

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

School's Out!

The tomato challenge with Soggibottom blog was officially over several weeks ago.  Down in Devon they have been picking tomatoes in such quantities they've been giving them away.  So far here in Hampshire, I have this one ripe tomato, together with a lot of very large plants with very small, unripe tomatoes on them.  I think the extremely wet and dull July we had stopped their progress, particularly as they are outside, not in a greenhouse.  Never mind, we'll get to eat them eventually!

Today was my last day at work for a few weeks until the new school year in September - we were all ready for it, especially as for the last few days we have been changing classrooms around, cleaning, moving furniture, and in my case, painting murals.  So hopefully as of tomorrow I will have plenty of time to get back to some arts and crafts, which have been sadly neglected of late.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Meet Mollie

This is Mollie - she belongs to the lady who bid the highest in an auction in aid of the Greyhound Rescue to buy a knitted replica of her dog made by me.
This is mini-Mollie, complete with fancy red collar, bed, blanket and toys.
I think I have caught her likeness - as much as a 6 inch knitted toy can!
If you would like your dog replicated in yarn, or know someone else who would, do get in touch - I'm always willing to take on new commissions.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

What to do with a Spare Bee.....

...make a felt flower and sew him on it for a brooch!  As soon as I find a brooch backing to fit, this will be going into my Etsy shop.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Buzz If You Like But Don't Sting Me.....

Well, the honey bees were deemed to be unsuitable for animation purposes - too large (!) and not very cuddly, so I had to try again with bumble bees this time.  Who knew bees could cause such a headache!  I tried and tried to get them smaller, but stripes and small don't go together, even when embroidered on to plain black knitting.  We eventually reached a compromise with these bees which are just under an inch long yet still have all the required detail.
Having spent three evenings on bees, I feel drained!  Time to give my eyes and hands a break and make something slightly larger...

Friday, 15 July 2011

Buzzy Bees....

How to make a beehive.........hmmmm....this took many days of pondering and mental gymnastics to figure out a way,  In the end, it was constructed from three sections in the shape of the base of a 4 sided pyramid, each stuffed and with a card insert at the bottom.  They were then sewn together, the top section having a shaped top for the roof to be attached to.  The little 'step' was made from a few stitches picked up and knitted in garter stitch,and the door is embroidered.  The feet are large wooden beads covered in yarn.  The whole thing is 5 inches tall.
It's a little rustic, but I quite like that - looks like it has been well used.
The bees were another matter.  The pattern I have from a book would have meant giant killer bees of about 2 inches long, so I tried to scale it down and design my own version.  They still came out about an inch long as with the stripes and the shaping, it was impossible to get them any smaller without losing detail. I even used tapestry wool in an attempt to keep the size down, but to no avail.  I just hope they will be suitable for animation purposes.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Blue Jellyfish - Variation on a Theme

The nice thing about people knowing you are 'arty-crafty' is that when they clear out their cupboards, they pass on items that they think might be of use to you.  Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't, but I never refuse a donated object as they generally find a purpose some day or other.

Last week I was kindly given a bag of plain silk scarves and ties.  I could see how I may use the scarves but was at a bit of a loss over the ties.  However, my first experiment at painting on fabric with Inktense colour blocks has been surprisingly successful.  The tie has one of my blue jellyfish on it, carefully hand painted over a turquoise wash of colour.  It took a little while to get the hang of not using the colour too wet (unless the spreading effect was required) and extra care had to be taken over the tentacles (tentacles?) as the fabric moved and expanded when damp, but it turned out pretty well.  So well in fact, I shall be putting it in my Etsy shop later today and am quite looking forward to painting more ties in different designs!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Leave Those Beans Alone!

So that's who has been chomping on my vegetables!  A fun little pattern from the Birds, Butterflies & Beautiful Beasties book, together with a 'mini-me', both to be used in an animation.  Now can anyone tell me how to set about knitting a bee-hive?
I love finding little surprises when out walking the dog.  A pair of bright sunflowers in the middle of a bean field fall into that category.
Was it a bird that dropped a seed or was it planted together with the beans? We'll never know!

N.B. Just as well I photographed the sunflower when I did - when I went there the next day, I discovered it had been ripped up by the roots and shredded along the pathway. There are some nice people around here....

Monday, 11 July 2011


This painting took a lot longer than anticipated - the loose painterly style I was aiming for turned as usual into a highly detailed and labour intensive piece of work.  I don't mind though, I am quite pleased with the result.

This was painted in Derwent Inktense colour blocks, with touches of Inktense pencil at the end to add depth within the plants.  It will be for sale in my Etsy shop shortly, or alternatively you can get in touch with me directly.

The field where I took the reference photos for this work is just full to the gills with wild flowers - there are more and more each day, different ones coming up all the time.  There are even some sunflowers amongst them all - walking the dog has become such a floral pleasure this summer!  Perhaps I will remember my camera in the morning and get some more photos to work from...

Sunday, 10 July 2011


As you know, one of my daughter's favourite occupations is feeding the local bird population.  These days she tends to do this on a Thursday with her careworker, but last week this expedition was rained off.  So we went this morning to visit Fleet Pond instead.
Amongst the usual swans, mallards and Canada geese, there were some birds I didn't recognize at all. Luckily I'd had the forethought to take the camera along, so snapped a few pictures for reference when we got home.
Apparently they are Egyptian Geese, although are actually more of a duck than a goose.  Not native to the UK, the population here originates from escapees of parks and ornamental ponds.  Unusual and quite attractive birds and they have a weird mooing quack which sent my daughter off into paroxysms of laughter, as you can hear on  the video - if it loads!

I did take the camera along to the Fleet Carnival dog show this morning too, but as my dog was terrified by the crowds and loudspeaker system and lasted about ten minutes on the perimeter of proceedings before being taken home, there are no pictures of his shame.....

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Not Enough Hours in the Day......

I thought this would be a quick and loose painting, taking no more than a couple of days.  As usual, the  painting had other ideas and turned into what it wanted to be, which this time was obviously a highly detailed and laborious view of summer wild flowers.  I am using the Inktense pigment blocks as paints because I thought they would give a bright and vibrant result which was what I had in mind for the poppies.  However, for some reason, they have ended up strangely muted with a kind of 'old' look to them....which luckily I quite like!  There is still a great deal of work to go into this, but for the next couple of days I have not time - it's the Tavistock Summer Fair tomorrow and I will have a stall there and of course, am totally unprepared.
I have taken a short break from commissioned work and tried to knit up a few farmyard friends for sale on my stall.  Despite knitting until midnight most nights, I have only managed to produce the above.
There may or may not be a fourth piglet when the set is completed - depends on how long I can stay awake this evening!
Beryl and Martha are ready to go though.  I have adapted the animation design to be more child-friendly, not a wire in sight.  The feet have been crocheted and stiffened with fabric stiffener - not the greatest of results, they need a bit of balancing to stay upright, but at least no-one can hurt themselves.  These two still have the egg-laying feature.

If these knitted creatures do not sell tomorrow, they will then be available on my Etsy shop over the weekend.  Should you ever wish to commission one of these items, do get in touch, I can always stay up a bit later.......

Monday, 4 July 2011

Foraging in the Garden....

I think we can declare the Tomato Challenge with Soggibottom blog well and truly over - Midge has been eating tomatoes from her plants for over a week now while mine remain resolutely unripe.  However, if all the flowers on the plants eventually turn into tomatoes, at some point in the summer we will be having them for every meal!
We have had an unexpected success with mushrooms though.  For Christmas I bought my son a mushroom growing kit although had never heard anyone getting good results from one of these kits.  He followed the instructions to the letter, got a few little nobbles starting which then turned mouldy and disappeared.  This happened a few times, so in the end we got fed up with mollycoddling the things and chucked the box outside.  I put it in a damp corner and pretty much forgot about it.  Yesterday I discovered the above!  A nice healthy crop of Yellow Oyster Mushrooms - admittedly I have just had to check what they were as neither my son or I could remember what it said on the packet.  Also, I didn't want him making himself a mushroom omelet and being rushed off to Casualty!
Elsewhere in the garden there are little treasures growing - a  blue flower grown from seed that once again I cannot remember what on earth it is.  My gardening is haphazard to say the least!
Clematis that hasn't grown for about three years - I thought the winters we have had lately had killed it.
A bumper crop of blueberries approaching ripeness.....
...a fair number of squash.....
...and lots of pretty flowers.

Not much to report creatively - last week was one of those times where life got in the way of living and I spent too long catching up on errands and jobs.  I'm knitting up stock for a summer fair on Friday, and labouring over a wild flower painting that has been untouched for far too long.  Hopefully this week I will have time to get the creative juices flowing once more and let the boring stuff take a back seat.