Thursday, 28 February 2013

Long-Legged Maurice

Maurice the Moorhen is finally complete - what a steep learning curve this has been!  It's the first time I have had to design a plush toy from scratch and I'm really happy it turned out as well as it did.  The feet were a nightmare!  I sewed the felt so carefully but then had to turn all those long thin toes inside out before stuffing them - incredibly fiddly and took about half an hour for each foot.  It was a matter of gently trying to turn each toe within itself before carefully inserting forceps and trying to nab that little point without destroying it!
But with perseverance, I got there in the end.  Moorhens are funny birds - look at the length of those legs! Now I have to do it all over again but with wire legs.
On the easel at the moment - Bonnie, a commission.  She's (sorry, was :0( ) a gorgeous looking dog with lots of lovely coloured long hair, so I am thoroughly enjoying this one. Once again, I am using Derwent Drawing Pencils on the reverse side of pastel paper.

On the needles, another ram scarf, Dr. Who, and something I wish I could show you because it is hilarious but I can't!

My tomato seeds have not sprouted yet - over at Soggibottom they are well on their way. I wish I knew her secret!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Here We Are Again!

Yes, the Great Tomato Race has started - this is the third year Midge from Soggibottom blog and I have taken part in our own little tomato growing competition.  We are a bit more organised this year, using the same variety of seeds and planting them at the same time....well, almost the same time, mine were a day late due to extenuating circumstances. (Unravel knitting show!)
Not much to see - they aren't Jack's magic beans so no growth overnight.  I shall keep you vicarious gardeners posted as to the progress, as will Midge. If you'd like to join in, you are welcome but hurry up or we will steal a march on you.  The winner is the first person to get a red and edible tomato - just the one is enough.  I won last year due to the rubbish summer and the fact that most people's tomato crops failed miserably - I got the first edible tomato but only harvested a total of about three from all my plants.  But it still counts as a win.  Yes it does.  Haha!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Balls of Wool.....

The Unravel show nearly passed me by for another year - I had found out when it was on, made a mental note that I must go this year....and then promptly forgot all about it.  It was only when talking about yarn with a stallholder at a craft fair yesterday she mentioned it was on this weekend - phew, thank goodness for fellow yarnoholics!

So off we went, through the cold and snow, and spent a couple of hours drooling over more yarn than I could use in a lifetime. Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on how you look at it - the ticket desk would not take card payments, so I had to pay my entrance fee in cash, thus depleting my wool budget. I still managed to come away with a decent haul - some glorious rainbow sock yarn, a skein of multi-coloured fabric yarn, a ball of Guernsey wool, a ball of brown alpaca (which has been earmarked for a crochet Dr.Who as someone has a birthday coming up) and 8 assorted balls of wool which were 50p each.  And a bag of bells. 
I had a go at spinning - now that's a lot harder than it looks!  We also had fun petting this sheep which was very friendly indeed.  I think Stacie would have taken it home given half the chance!
This was on display - absolutely incredible. I would have liked to have had a very close look to see how it was made, but there were a lot of us admiring it.
There was also a fair bit of discussion about how very anatomically correct it was too.  Balls of wool indeed.....

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Yer Feet's Too Big.......

For such a simple looking bird, this has proved to be surprisingly complicated!  It's not until you study something so closely that you discover what it really looks like - I never knew that a moorhen's wings were brown or how the white feathers on its wings and tail actually grew.  The weird red beak thing was interesting too!

Now I have to make his legs - for those of you not au fait with moorhens' feet, they are enormous! And their legs are very long too...and they are yellow.  This could be challenging to say the least - plus I have to make a second bird but hopefully that will be simple now that I have done all the hard work with this one.

Just got a lovely dog portrait commission - they never feel like work, I just love 'em!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

For The Birds.....

Here's a fiddly job - designing a moorhen pattern from scratch and putting together the prototype.  This is a commission and the brief is to make a lifesize, realistic plush moorhen - well, two of them actually.  One is to be all soft, like a toy, while the other is to have wire legs and be freestanding.  The worst part was coming up with the pattern for the main body - I sketched the moorhen from the side and cut out a couple of side panels which was easy enough.  Then came the difficult job of working out where gussets should go, plus what shape and size they should be.  I drew them on paper - guessing most of the time - then cut out the pattern pieces from a piece of old sheet and tacked it together.  I then saw that the stomach gusset was far too wide, so had to re-think.

After a bit more adjustment, I cut out the actual fabric pieces using freezer paper for my pattern - wow, I wish I had discovered that stuff sooner!  It irons onto the fabric and stays there nicely until you want to remove it, whereupon it peels off easily and cleanly and can be used again.

After sewing the main body together (putting safety eyes in place) it was time to stuff it.  I then discovered that the tummy gusset was still too wide, but this could be remedied when I sewed the centre seam after stuffing - excess fabric could be caught up and hidden neatly.  This has all been a huge learning curve for me - when it comes to stuffed toys, I usually use ready patterns as I have no experience of making my own.

At the moment I am sewing feathers to the wings.  The wings are made from two pieces of brown fabric with felt inbetween for added thickness.  I have used various scraps of brown fabric for the feathers, making sure to cut out exact duplicates for each wing and pinned them in place at the same time.  I am roughly sewing them in using backstitch in a contrasting thread down the centre of each feather.  The fabric has not been seamed and I am gently fraying the sides of each feather in order to give the effect of the soft edges of actual feathers.  This was something I discovered yesterday while tidying up loose threads - a very happy accident!

Next I have to work out how to make the beak - moorhens beaks are quite complicated when you look at them closely - wish me luck!
This is a bird that isn't going so well.  I had a spare half hour and wanted to have another go at needlefelting using some wool I had lying around from a long-ago foray into felted jewellery.  After stabbing myself several times, breaking one of  my two felting needles, and then realising I should have made the head out of white wool to start with instead of trying to add white patches over yellow...well, it got put to one side for another day.  I don't think needlefelting is going to be one of my better skills!
This, however, turned out brilliantly first time.  Now all he needs is for all those ends to be woven in.  Then I have to knit another one.....thank goodness it is half term and I have a week away from the day job. 

Also on the needles, a very small birthday cake.

By the way, Shana please get in touch - you won the giveaway and I would like to get those pencils in the post to you!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Feeling Sheepish......

This needs a bit of honing, but it's almost there.  I love it when a design just flows!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

And The Winner Is.....

Well, Stacie - my random number generator - has chosen the number 7.  So that means the winner is Shana!  If you could get in touch Shana, using the e-mail address at the top of the page, I can get the pencils in the post to you.

On the needles this evening.....ram's horns!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Don't Forget The Giveaway!

The draw for the free Derwent Academy watercolour pencils will take place some time tomorrow, so you still have 24 hours left in which to leave a comment.  These pencils are worth about £12 in the shops, so I'm not giving away any old rubbish!

I'm writing this post on my Kindle as I was too lazy to get up and switch the computer on - it would have been quicker to have moved my bum off the armchair, and I reckon I would have had enough time to get the dinner started too...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

My Kind Of Guy!

I received a very late commission to make a gift for Valentine's Day. 
It's a replica of a real lurcher, right down to it's one white foot and fuzzy white muzzle.  I'm not sure if the real dog has a heart dangle on it's collar or a red coat, but this one does.
Ten out of ten for a thoughtful gift that will put him in the good books for a long time - I'd be over the moon if it were me!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Shells & Snow

As planned, this painting was completed yesterday - when it reaches the point that you are going over the same things again and again, it's time to stop!  I'm quite pleased with this - it doesn't have exactly the misty feel of the reference photographs, but I do feel I have captured that pink morning light through the trees which was the intention.  This was painted in acrylic on canvas board which was first treated with gesso as I hate the texture of canvas! 

The painting will be on sale in my Etsy shop shortly.

A long time ago, over 2 years I think, I got a commission to crochet seaweed...yards and yards of it with shells and various pieces of flotsam and jetsam woven into it.  This was to be used as part of a frame for a mirror.  This week I was kindly sent photos of the completed mirror by the lady who commissioned me, somewhere in the depths of Texas. I think you'll agree it has turned out to be jaw-droppingly beautiful!  She commissioned another artist to make the shell-encrusted frame - a very clever lady!  I wonder how she did it...I'd like one of these in my home too!

Please continue to leave your comments on the previous post if you would like to be entered into the draw for some free watercolour pencils.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

One Thousandth Post & A Giveaway

I cannot believe I have rambled on for 1000 posts over the years - thank you to those of you who have stayed to read it all!  To express my gratitude, I am giving away one of the boxes of Derwent Academy watercolour pencils.  This one has 12 pencils inside, my artwork on the box and if you really want me to, I'll sign it if you like.
Just leave me a comment below and after a week (on the 12th February or thereabouts) I will get the random number generator (my daughter and a bowl....) and pick a winner. If you are into art, drawing and watercolours, these are a nice little set to use, good quality and above all, free! This draw is open to anyone, anywhere.

Not free is this little dog set, which is about to go into my Etsy shop.  I've made a very girly set this time, with a soft fluffy white dog, pink collar and coat, pink & black check bed and a slightly lacy blanket.  If you fancy giving her a home, pop on over to my shop.  If you'd like a similar dog but with different colours, just get in touch.
I've been thoroughly enjoying painting this snowy scene - with a bit of luck it should be completed today.  Then it and the previous acrylic of snow will also go into my shop for sale.

Lots of work has come in this week - I have to design and make moorhens, rams' heads and make a start on that knitted car.....

Saturday, 2 February 2013

999....But No Emergency!

This is my 999th post...which means the next one will be 1000 and contain a giveaway - hope you return and enter the draw!

This week I received a large envelope from Derwent containing three sets of the re-launched Academy watercolour pencils, each with my illustration on it. I never get tired of seeing my work on their packaging, especially with my name printed down the side.   It never feels quite real - after years of plugging away at painting and drawing to now be seeing some return is still exciting!

On the needles this week, dogs have been the subject.  The Alsatian is due to make his movie debut and the girly fluffy pup will be in my shop just as soon as I make her a food bowl. 
There has been more painting going on too - I'm thoroughly enjoying this acrylic of snow which contains no white whatsoever.  What attracted me here was the light coming through the trees and across the snow as dawn breaks.  There will be a great deal more detail in the foreground by the time it is finished, but I am quite liking it as it is too.

Can I be serious here for a moment?  With the global reach of the internet, I get quite a lot of requests to use  my work (free) for charity purposes.  I'm not one to blow my own trumpet, but in the past I have given pieces of art work, knitted dog sets and allowed the use of my images for appeals.  The charities I have donated to  have been ones I feel an affinity towards and also have come to me with credentials in hand - links to their websites and details of their proposed useage of my work.  Being a well-brought up lady, I hate to say no to anyone, but sometimes it is necessary - if I give all my work away or allow it's use willy-nilly for no financial return (and no guarantee copyright will not be infringed), I will be the one needing charity!  Particularly when someone comes to me with no credentials other than just saying they represent a charity - let's face it, I wouldn't hand over a painting to some stranger who knocked at my door wearing a face-mask, having no ID and just telling me that they represent this or that organisation!  So, please by all means feel free to ask me to donate my work and time, but please don't get offended if sometimes I say no.  It's nothing personal, I just have a living to make and need to protect copyright of my work.  Thank you for reading this far, I hope you understand the point I am making.