Thursday, 31 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

We've all been doing some Halloween crafting this year, making up for the fact we are not visiting Salem!  My daughter has embraced Halloween since spending it three times in the USA, so I am trying to make it a bit special here at home.  We have decorations, pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, she and I are both wearing Halloween themed clothes & jewellery today, there is a cake waiting to be decorated and I have just finished carving this pumpkin.  I'm really pleased with this, it's my first attempt at anything other than the traditional toothy grin - it's based on The Walking Dead.
My partner's pumpkin is a lot simpler but no less effective - bleagh!
And Stacie came home the other day having made this little guy and his webs.  He is so cute I think we may keep him after Halloween is finished.

Stacie also has a Halloween mixed cd, but the least said about that the better - that's being retired after tonight....if I hear that version of Thriller performed by session musicians one more time I am going to throw it out the window!

Monday, 28 October 2013

We're Still Here...

Did you ever wish you hadn't started something?  There is an element of that feeling to all my projects today!
This shell bouquet was very problematic - first there was the glue incident, then I had no idea how to attach all the shells and beads plus wires together.  Then there was more glue play - I'm not good with glue at the best of times.  Finally there was the addition of ribbons and finding the tiniest pieces of feather to insert (with more glue!)  It took me a week, on and off, but I am pleased with the result.  Next problem, how to post it without it getting damaged...
Then there was the aspidistra....I nearly flung this across the room in despair yesterday as I realised I should have inserted wires into the leaves before using fabric stiffener. However, after much thought, I found a solution to the assemby problem with a piece of trimmed polystyrene, into which I sewed the base of each leaf, through the knitted 'earth'.  Then the whole thing could then be jammed into the pot securely.  There are a few pieces of wool at the back holding it all in place which will hopefully never be seen!
This was the scene in my kitchen this morning - I decided it was time to sort out my stash as it had reached the point where I was buying new wool rather than search to see if I had the colour I  needed.  I had to move it all in a hurry a few weeks ago when my partner returned home after 5 years working abroad and hadn't the time to organise it.  Consequently, there were areas that looked like this...
However, now it is all bagged by colour, with all the 'good' yarn in a box away from the everyday DK.  The theory is that I will be able to lay my hands on what I want now with the minimum of fuss. Any bets on how long that will last?

With regard to the 'hurricane' last night, we are still here.  Several trees down in the neighbourhood but no major damage.  Lots of leaves to be cleared up, but that's about it.  Let's face it, it was just some quite bad weather...

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Now I Know How Much My Mother Loved Me!

My mum used to make me toys on occasion - I still have the rag doll she made me when I was three, a large, very battered doll called Arriety (from The Borrowers) that still smells the same as it did when I was little and evokes such memories.

I don't remember many others, but I do remember her knitting me a Clanger.  I loved The Clangers, so did she!  I found the original knitting pattern on the net, which must be the exact same one she probably sent away for from the BBC.  It is pretty basic - there aren't any instructions for sewing together at all and I had to wing it.
I thought it wouldn't take me long as most of it was straight stocking stitch - how wrong I was!  The ears were a nightmare - it didn't say they were supposed to be folded in two, I had to work that out for myself.
The fingers are supposed to be pipecleaners but I knitted them with Icord, a much safer option.
The tunic was difficult too - it just said to cut out felt shapes, embroider them and attach them together to make the tunic.  Argh!  I had to search for images of Clangers on my Kindle and keep checking that what I was doing looked OK.
However, for all the messing around, it was definitely worth it.  This one is for sale in my Etsy shop - I do plan to make some more at some point in the future, or if you would like to place an order, feel free to do so.

It is one year to the day since we were in Boston on holiday and got caught in Hurricane Sandy.  This year we are at home over half term and yet there is a predicted hurricane here in the UK, due to hit us overnight.  Hmm, it's a bit windy out there but the sun is shining and my washing is drying nicely.  I don't want to tempt fate, but I suspect our 'hurricane' won't be quite on a par with Sandy....I'll let you know tomorrow if we are still here or if we have been blown away!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

WIP's (Weeping In Process...)

I knew this teeny tiny shell bouquet would be problematic, but didn't expect it to take this long.  I spent a while yesterday trying to arrange all the shells I had glued to wires into some semblance of a bouquet.  the wires kept whizzing around in my fingers and changing the positioning before the glue could take effect.  I solved this (eventually) by poking all the wires through a chunky bead until they were tightly jammed and I could then apply the glue.  No sticking mishaps this time!  Then I managed to bind them in place with another piece of wires.  Next is the ribbon and lace bit....sigh...
I've been knitting a Clanger - for those of you too young or not familiar with '70's British children's TV, the Clangers were pink aliens that lived on a planet and communicated through toots and whistles.....yeah... They were my favourite programme and I was so happy to hear they are re-vamping it for today's children.  I hope they don't ruin it! I found the original knitting pattern online - I am hoping that once it is stuffed it will look more like it is supposed to because at the moment I am concerned...
Another time-consuming project - an aspidistra!  I have knitted the leaves, ironed them, and now have to wait for the fabric stiffener to dry before arranging them into shape.  Not difficult, just a long-winded process.
I had to replicate an antique style pot for it too - again, not difficult but very fiddly.
One thing that is going well is the current dog portrait - I was worried that it might be very tricky as the photos I have to work from are fuzzy and small, but with the help of a magnifying glass and (hopefully) a good working knowledge of dogs, it has got off to a good start.

None of this will be touched today - working all day with children and later a glass of wine or two awaits... Half term next week, so there should be plenty of time to get these projects finished.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

What a Wopper!

I cleared out the corner of the garden where I had been growing tomatoes and cucumbers today.  In amongst the mess of dying tomato vines I discovered this little fellow - I was so pleased, homegrown cucumbers are really tasty, no matter how small.  Then as I continued, I noticed this...
Whoo-hoo!  Never noticed that growing at the bottom of the pot!
Despite having a day of everyone taking my time, which was very frustrating as Wednesday is my day off from the day job and the time I use to get on with arts and crafts, I did make a start on the teeny-tiny shell bouquet I have been commissioned to make.  All went well until I had a bit of a superglue all my years, I have never stuck any part of my anatomy together with superglue, but today my thumb and forefinger were totally glued.  At first it was funny, then as time went by it was starting to get scary.  After five minutes of soaking in hot water, they finally came apart.  So I guess I can carry on....carefully!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Cats & Dogs...

Here is the completed double portrait.  This has been painted using a combination of Derwent Drawing Pencils and a lot of white acrylic paint, on pastel paper.  It's always tricky to combine two different animals using two different photographs for reference.  The sizes have to be exact - no-one wants one animal to be bigger than the other or the proportions to be wrong.  Hopefully here I have got it right! 

The cat caused a few headaches - that 'strawberry' stained mouth is so unusual!  I also did not look at the two animals together on the paper between sketching it out and making the final brushstroke on the cat. The dog was covered with paper to protect it while I was painting the cat - I just had to trust my own instincts that it would all look fine when finished.  I like to live dangerously!

Next up, another dog portrait.

There is still time between now and Christmas if you would like to commission a pet portrait for that special someone - when worked in the above medium, a painting can take about two weeks to complete.

On the needles...yet another zombie, plus I have to knit an aspidistra.  First I have to find out what an aspidistra is - I know it's a pot plant, but that's about as far as my knowledge extends.  Google here I come....

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Further Down The Rabbit Hole...

Let's start with the most normal thing I have been working on this week.  This is the other half of a double pet portrait, and has to be the most unusually marked cat I have ever drawn.  My painting is only half finished but I think it shows that this feline looks like he's been at the lipstick or possibly drinking strawberry milkshake!  He has a pink ring around his mouth and I have been worried about it all week, to the extent that I have been covering the picture while not working on it so that no-one in the house makes any remarks that might affect my confidence.  However, after some concerted effort yesterday, I am finally passed the panic stage and looking forward to completing it very soon.
In a very surreal scenario, I am knitting a portrait of a knitted cat.  I know, it just gets weirder and weirder but there is method in the madness that will become plain one day.  In the meantime, I'm just enjoying the ride....
This evening sees the start of the new series of The Walking Dead (we are a week behind here in the UK) and I am so excited as it has to be my most favourite tv series since Lost.  No coincidence that I have been working on a knitted zombie this week!  I just love this pattern, it amuses me every time I make it.

I'm available for all your knitting needs, no matter how strange, just get in touch!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Not Such A Prickly Customer...

This was a fun little thing to make.  Whilst this one is already spoken for, I think I would like to make more of these cute mini knitted cacti - you'd never have to worry about watering them!

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Perils Of Working In Miniature...

I nearly gave up last night.  This microscopic seahorse nearly got the better of me.  I've been crocheting with fine cotton for most of my life and making doilies, flowers and the like is not really a problem - my eyesight isn't what it used to be, but I now wear glasses and cope just fine.  However, following a 3D pattern is a different matter, especially in a varigated yarn.  There were several false starts, one head thrown away, and as moment where I wondered if I would be able to complete this commission at all.  However, after a mental pep talk, some serious concentration and taking it slow, I managed to get that darn head made, and once I was on to the body section it was plain sailing.

This is part of a wedding cake topper - I also have to make a very tiny bouquet out of shells. I think I might give it a day...
So after that, I went on to knit a very small flower pot - this is for the animated film.  This was not such a problem -I've made a few of these and can whizz them off in less than an hour.  The base is a ketchup container pinched from Ikea - unused of course!
Finally, by way of a rest, I moved on to knitting the jacket for my current zombie.  I came across some fabulous wool/alpaca yarn at the weekend for a mere £2 per ball.  Now I wish I had bought a selection of colours, it is such gorgeous stuff to work with.

If you see some poor woman with glasses like Mr.Magoo, clutching her knitting with a look of desperation on her face, that would be me....

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Connie & Some Other Work...

Yesterday I completed this half of the current commission.  I am very pleased with how this has turned out, particularly considering the poor quality photograph I was given to work from. This has been worked using Derwent Drawing pencils and a fair bit of white acrylic paint.  The other half of the portrait is of a cat - another challenge as it has the most unusual colouring to it's mouth I have ever seen...
Just added this to my Etsy shop - a little bracelet with a cute pug bead in the centre.  There will be more of these coming up, I just need to find the time!
Perhaps I'd have more time if I didn't mess about making hats for the Innocent Big Knit - this is my own design, crocheted from some varigated blue yarn.  I'd like to do more but just can't fit it in time-wise, so the three I made will just have to be posted off.
Currently knitting a zombie - well, Christmas is on it's way y'know, and who doesn't want a cuddly zombie in their stocking?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Things That Made Me Smile...

New boots! Found in a tiny shop in Farnham last weekend, quite by chance.  Bought them without trying them on properly and found they were too small - devastated, but the wonderful shop owner saved me a larger pair when the new delivery came in.  They are the most comfortable shoes I own at the moment, and that's saying something as I am the type of person that gets blisters from new slippers!
My front garden!  After nearly a year of it looking like a crater full of cat crap, it is finally pretty again.  I have planted lots of spring bulbs, some under the gravel so they will be a surprise next year.  We still have the cat problem, but with some strategic thorny twigs, plastic mesh and a generous sprinkling of Silent Roar (lion poo!) hopefully they will stay off it.
The one and only pumpkin!  I know it's small, I know there is only one of them, but I am so pleased to have actually grown a pumpkin for the first time.  Usually the vine gets mildewed (British climate!) and the flowers drop off.  This one is extra special as it was grown from seeds collected from a pumpkin my daughter was given in Boston last year by a kind gentleman in our hotel during the hurricane.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Progress, Pigeons & Taking A Break...

I've been able to put some real work in on this portrait over the past couple of days.  Unfortunately for you, the black pencil reflects the flash of the camera quite badly, so as there is no daylight yet (I am a lark when it comes to getting up in the morning) this will have to do.  I am very happy with the way the muzzle has turned out - a combination of the Derwent Drawing pencils and delicate overpaintings with white acrylic.

You may be wondering why the poor dog has a hole in the top of her head - the photo I am working on has her posed under some flowers in the garden and a few are in front of her, blockiing my view - I am leaving it until the rest of the portrait is complete before using my imagination plus some of the other photos I have to put it in.
The pigeon is complete - he needed a bit of surgery around his neck and the addition of feet.  He is about two and a half inches long and needed to be fully animatable, so has a wool jointed head hidden by the purple 'collar' , plus wired wings and feet.
The next item for the animation is troubling me a little, I have got half way but need some thinking time before going further.  So I took a little time away from it to make a couple of hats for the Innocent Big Knit campaign.  I used their pattens to get the feel for it but have a couple of ideas for patterns of my own - if I can squeeze them in before the deadline at the end of the month.

I also just got a request for a couple of tiny items to go on a wedding cake topper - I love my job!

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Week's Work...

Oops, nearly a week since the last post - I have been busy, just not much to show as yet.  This little dog has been on the drawing board - she will be paired with a cat in a double portrait.  I am using Derwent Drawing Pencils for this one.  It's a bit of a tricky one, the photos are not lit terribly well, which when painting a black dog makes life difficult.  I have enough to work from though.
I have been knitting and constructing this - I am not telling you what it is, I'm not sure I even want to be associated with it!  It involved foam board, a cardboard box and a can of hairspray - I get the prize for recycling here!
Also had to design and knit this little pigeon - he is still not finished as he has no feet - considering whether or not to give him two whole feet or one and a stump  like most feral pigeons...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Shhh - It's A Secret!

After months of work (on and off, not all the time!) the knitted car is complete.  Obviously it has to be kept under wraps until it is revealed in all it's glory in the animated film, but Ihave been allowed to give you a sneaky peak.

The dashboard nearly caused a major domestic rift - it took me two days to make, then I was told by my other half that I had done it wrong, I was supposed to have only covered a front section, not the whole mounting.  I could have cried.....however, I managed to pry it away from the wood (my glueing is second to none!) and re-mount it with a bit of careful unravelling.  Beep-beep!

Whatever Gets The Job Done...

These days I make such weird and wonderful things that it is sometimes hard to find the right tool for the job.  As there is no such thing as a mini-antler-shaper, I just had to use the only thing in the house that was the right shape - which happened to be an orange.  This will hold the antlers in place while the fabric stiffener dries.  It's also balanced on the letter that came with my shopping delivery at the weekend - that's not a vital piece of equipment, just laziness as the old newspaper was in the other room...

Very excited today as I have finally come to the end of the knitted car.  All that is left is to attach the hood ornament - that was a tricky little thing to do, an inch long silver naked lady with wings.  Thank goodness for wire, florists tape and Tacky glue!  When I come to think of it, there are all kinds of recycled bits and pieces within the items I have made for the animation - lids from toothpaste, hairspray, pens, various assorted carboard boxes, chopped up plastic bottles, pencils, lolly sticks, clay, plasticene, pebbles, plastic cups - the list is endless. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mine, All Mine!

I had almost a full skein of this lovely teal and ochre cotton yarn and wanted to knit myself a scarf with it.  I chose a lacy pattern which possibly makes the scarf a little busy, but who cares!  It was actually finshed a couple of weeks ago, but it has taken me this long to get around to blocking and ironing it.
I think it will be just the thing now that the weather is starting to cool off. 

I don't want to alarm any of you, but remember my porch which was demolished and rebuilt just after Easter this year?  Today, they finally put in the boarding between the brickwork and the ground....could it possibly be finished at last?  Well, if I wanted to be picky, I could point out that our doorbell is still stuck to the door frame with masking tape but I think to all intents and purposed we can declare this porch complete.  It only took...May...June...July...August...September...five months! I know which building company to avoid in future should the occasion ever arise!