Thursday, 29 May 2014


Yesterday was finally a productive day and this painting got finished at last.  I think I could spend another week on it if I am honest, messing about with finer details, but it needs to be left now as I have other things to be done.  I also want to enter this into the Derwent Prize this year and there aren't many days left to do so!

This was using Derwent Drawing Pencils on a light brown pastel paper, with copious amounts of white body paint as white pencils just don't show up.  I wish someone would invent a white pencil that did the job properly.

The leopard is one I photographed at Marwell Zoo last month - I had to 'edit out' the wire from the enclosure.

Next up - a horse and his girl in acrylics.

The Last Leg....

...literally, just one leg to go on this painting.  Half term has not quite worked out how I planned - life has a habit of getting in the way and we have had things beyond our control to deal with.  So I have not managed to put in as much work on this as I had hoped, but the end is definitely in sight.  Today should do it however, and the next painting is aready in preparation.
I've been knitting away too, trying to replicate wicker and tartan in miniature for this dog bed.  It took a bit of thinking and experimentation, but I think I got there in the end.  I like the wicker effect so much that I may well use it again in the sets I make for my shop.

On the needles...a church door!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Half-Term, Happy....

I never understand why it is always the simplest projects that cause the most amount of grief.  Is it because they don't hold my interest? Or is it because they involve a lot of repetitive work?  I don't know, but I am certainly glad this knitted stained glass window is well and truly done.  I didn't knit this in intarsia as I knew it will have light shone through it, so didn't want the yarn passing behind the work to interfere with this.  This did mean, however, that I had to knit and sew so many tiny triangles, and then enbroider the 'lead' over the top of it.  So the back of the work looks pretty much the same as the front - not that it will ever be seen!

To add insult to injury last night, I was so keen to get it sewn into the frame I was half way through it before I noticed I had the frame the wrong way round with the seam showing.  I toyed with the idea of leaving it for a minute or two, but then thought that after a week's hard work I wasn't going to ruin it by having a slightly lumpy frame!  Tricky sewing it into the frame too as there is a sheet of acetate behind to keep the 'glass' flat.
Yesterday the weather was appalling, heavy rain for most of the day which was a worry for all my tiny seedlings left outside to their own devices - if I get a single tomato this year it will be a miracle, those poor plants have been floating this week due to waterfalls from blocked gutters...which I can't get unblocked as the dear builders have sealed our back garden up with a large piece of wire fencing....long story, hopefully sorted soon.

However, with rain stopping play outside, it was a golden opportunity to put in some serious work on the leopard.  Lots of pencilling, blending and inking to get that soft chest fur in - whoever said art is relaxing never picked up a pencil in their life!  It's hard work - but oh so satisfying.
I've been quietly purchasing various beads and bits lately - the fab bee and sheep beads are from Laura Sparling.  I love her quirky little glass critters and really must get around to making some jewellery with them!
The sighthound earrings are from Greyhound Cleyhounds on Etsy - if you love sighthounds, this is one for you.

The sun is shining and there is a food festival up the road, so probably not much work getting done today.....

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Give Me Just A Little More Time......

It is very hard trying to combine running a house and family, a part-time job, painting, and knitting work.  Usually it is the painting that suffers from being left until another day, which is so frustrating as painting is my favourite thing to do in the world.  Despite trying very hard, I still end up only spending and hour or two per day (and not every day either!) on this - there is always someone needing something from me!  But I have to make a concerted effort to finish this picture by the end of the week as next week is half term (no day job!) and really want to spend as much time as I can on a commission. 
I also need to finish this - not due to any time constraints but because it is driving me crazy! I could not believe that after nearly three hours last night I had sewn so many tiny triangles together and still did not have enough.  This is why I do not do patchwork, it would send me barking mad.  Hopefully, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and the next batch of triangles will be the last.

This is for the animation - next on the needles, a plane!?
Some of my problems are self-inflicted - last week I put ny name down to have a stall at the annual local dog show in July....then thought I had better actually have something to sell while I am there.  So amongst everything else, I am trying to make as many little dog sets as I can - I found some wonderful Rowan fine boucle yarn on sale at Black Sheep wools, ideal for small furries.
And then of course there is the garden, which calls me like a siren when the sun shines.  Sunday was spent potting out tomatoes and clearing out the greenhouse - another time consuming pastime.  I love this time of year, when everything in the garden is full of potential and there is the excitement of finding out what made it through the winter - plenty this year, survivors include geraniums, agapanthus, canna lily, and Vietnamese coriander.

Of course, I must also learn not to get distracted by things like this - a leopard with three babies on webcam. I have been watching them grow for a couple of weeks now - absolutely fascinating!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Sew Happy!

I've been after this book for ages...years.  It has always been rather expensive as I think it is no longer in print.  However, a couple of weeks ago I looked at it again on Amazon and found a used copy at a price I could afford - yay!  It arrived yesterday and I really want to make some of the wonderful animals inside, like this:
...or this:
But first I really have to finish this:

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Paint, Knit, Garden....

The leopard is taking shape - I am trying to hurry it and I really shouldn't as it won't be hurried.  I was going to make it purely pencil, but I just couldn't get the whiteness for the whiskers and around the eyes, so have started to use white acrylic ink.  It seems softer-looking than acrylic paint and easier to keep accurate.  I also had a bit of a problem with the tonal values against the background colour in places which was easily rectified by some gentle shading in a soft green which actually adds some depth which I rather like.
I've had a bit of fun this week knitting these chunky bracelets from a pattern in a past Molly Makes magazine.  They look plaited but are in fact a triple cable.
I've been wearing this one ever since I made it, it's so cool!  A tricky knit in thick aran yarn on quite thin needles but  that way it keeps its shape.
This stained glass window is a fiddly knit too - each little piece is made separately and sewn together.  I could have made it in one piece, but that would mean the yarn being carried behind the work and as this will be back-lit, I wanted there to be nothing showing through that might spoil the look of it. Lots more little pieces to knit and sew and then the black outlines to be embroidered over the top.  It's on hold at the moment as I have a rush job, kitting out one of the puppets.  Spent last night figuring out how to knit very small tools.....
It's that time of year again when Midge from Soggibottom blog and I enter into fierce competiton in the garden.  Yes, the Tomato Race is back on!  This year I decided it was kill or cure as far as growing seeds was concerned - no mollycoddling in the house, just sown straight out in the plastic greenhouse to weather the elements.  They seem to be doing all right - this is half of them.
Here's the other half.  If they all grow to size, I have no idea where to put them as my 'tomato space' has enough room for about 6 plants.
I've also cheated a little - the seeds I planted were for normal size tomatoes, no cherry tomatoes.  So I have bought a couple of plants today from the garden centre.
Who could resist these stripy beauties?  Let's hope we have a better growing summer than the past couple of years. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Lace, Leopard & Love....

This scarf has been a  long time in the making - I started it months ago thinking it would be a quick knit, but what with various other projects on the go, it kept getting side-lined.  This is a simple repeating lace pattern that once I had learned the stitches, was easy to get on with.
I've knitted it in a pale blue/aqua wool mix yarn which is soft and pretty, working well with the lace.  It will be in my Etsy shop later today.
The leopard is still making slow progress - mainly because I keep getting distracted with other things.  However, as I have a paid commission to do, I will have to hurry up and finish this!  It's good to have some incentive after such a long gap in between commissions - without it, I get very lazy!

Finally, three reasons why I love my sister:
She sent me a big tub of Kalamata olives and two tsoureki - one of the main things I miss about living in Greece is the food, so it is lovely when I receive a care parcel out of the blue.  So we have had a bit of a Greek theme running through our meals for the past few days - yum!

On the needles - that stained glass window!  It's fiddly but definitely not quite as hard as I anticipated, although will involve a great deal of sewing together when I have finished knitting all the little pieces of 'glass'.


Thursday, 8 May 2014

A Bird In The Hand.....

This thrush is my latest creature designed and made for the animated film.  It was a tricky one this time!  I managed OK until the wings, which really caused me a headache.
The head and body were easier than I thought.  The head was based on a pattern for a dove, but changing the colours and stitching on a larger beak.  The beak had to have a gap through which a caterpillar can be inserted and still look natural.
The body I made up as I went along and pretty much prayed it would turn out the right shape when stitched. I also had to create the speckled chest as I went along.  The head is jointed using a wire inserted through the body and a knitted 'ruff' sewn around the base of the head to hide the join.  The legs are made with wire inserted through the body in a 'U' shape and the feet made either side from the same wire.  The whole lot is then wrapped with yarn and the claws painted.
The wings took several attempts - I needed to make a wing that looked natural when flying but could also be folded for when the bird is at rest.  A hard thing to do when it is woolly - too large and the wings don't fold nicely, too small and it looks wrong.
When they are sewn in place, wire then has to be inserted through the top of the wing and down the centre for animation purposes and to hold the fold.
His tail had to be wired as well, mainly to keep it in shape but also to help with animation.
It was worth the effort though - I am really pleased with the end result and cannot wait to see him in action!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


This is making slow progress, probably due to the fact I keep getting distracted by the garden in the sunshine! But it's making good progress and I am pleased so far.  I'm using Derwent Drawing Pencils, which is what I use a lot for pet portraits but not often on wildlife art.  I like the effect though, but it is very painstaking.

I'm noticing that my new Splender Blender pencils are slightly different to the old ones I have - the blender pencil is an integral part of these pictures, it not only blends the pencil marks together, it brings the colours out.  I prefer a waxy blender pencil which is what these were, but now they seem harder and not so forgiving on the paper.  Other brands have never pleased me - either too hard or too powdery, so I am hoping this is just a blip on Lyra's part.

On the needles....nothing!  I finished the thrush, managed to finally get the wings right and get him assembled to my satisfaction.  I'm dying to show you but have to get permission first as he is technically not mine!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A Very Tall Order...

This giraffe knitted from a pattern in the book Knit Your Own Zoo is finally finished.  I am not happy.  I have quite a beef with these 'Best in Show' books.  Whilst most of the creatures look pretty good and I can appreciate the work that has gone into writing the patterns - some of the shaping is excellent - the making up instructions are incomprehensible.  It did say at the start of the giraffe pattern that it was complicated and indeed, the knitting part took a fair bit of concentration, but that's OK, I am willing to put the work in for a spectacular result.  However, I do not expect the sewing up and stuffing to take FOUR evenings!  Not because I am a slow worker, but because I just could not make head nor tail (literally!!) of the written instructions.
When it comes to something like a giraffe, a diagram would have been helpful.  I'm writing as a knitting designer myself - over the past three years I have designed and knitted many assorted creatures, from a slug to a caterpillar, bluetit to a thrush, cats, dogs, pigs, hedgehogs, squirrels, plus various animal heads for mascot scarves.  So I know my way around a pattern!  When I write a pattern, I try and make it 'idiot proof' - which translates as possible for even an inexperienced knitter to follow.

This isn't the first time I have had issues with these patterns - in the Knit Your Own Dog book, I found the sewing instructions for the bulldog totally incomprehensible and resorted to making it up as I went along.  I even had a couple of people email me asking for help as they couldn't make it work either.
I don't know if these patterns are given to knitters to try out before they are asembled into a book - if not, they really should be in order to iron out any kinks.  I feel for the poor person who thinks they would like to knit themselves an animal but cannot complete it and gets thoroughly disappointed.

Let's not go into the whole leg issue on the giraffe - poor thing not only has a pair of pipe cleaners down there, but souvlaki sticks as well to prevent the onset of woolly rickets.

I also felt that a few of the animals in the Zoo book were rushed in design - they did not look as good as they could have done - if you check out the chimpanzee you'll see what I mean.  I don't enjoy being harsh about someone else's work when they have obviously put a lot of time and effort into it, but I always feel if you do something, do it well.

Rant how the hell do I make wings for a thrush that fold naturlly and don't look like he's wearing a greatcoat?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Bedroom Antics..., nothing exciting, just some re-vamping of furniture.  Years ago, when I returned from living in Greece and had nothing other than my children and a container load of personal possessions to my name, I had to furnish our home on a shoestring.  This meant trawling through car boot sales and secondhand shops.  It's been over 20 years since then, and most of the old stuff has been replaced, except in the bedroom for some reason.  This headboard was one I picked up somewhere and I had painted it white and stencilled little flowers on it but it was starting to look very tatty.  So time to attack it with the fantastic Annie Sloan chalk paint, which covers everything with the minimum of preparation.  My kind of paint!  I then stencilled it with some clematis to match the stencilling around the top of the bedroom walls and also the chest of drawers that I re-painted over Easter.
This was an ugly piece that I never liked - it just did a job and sat sullenly in the corner being too dark brown.  Now it is pretty and I love it and cannot understand why I didn't re-paint it years ago.  There are a couple of other pieces in the room that date back to the ark, but I think we might just replace them as no amount of paint will make them look like anything other than painted MFI tat!

On the needles - a thrush.  Which is a bird.  Which you have to specify when you Google 'images of thrush' or you get a horrible shock that takes a good few days to forget.....

Also in production, that knitted giraffe.  But that is for another post, possibly when I have calmed down from the fact that it has taken over THREE DAYS to sew together and stuff.  This is using a pattern from a book - all I can say is God help anyone attempting it if they are not a very experienced knitter.....if I hadn't invested so much time and effort into it, it would be languishing in the bin right now.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

That Was The Week That Was...

Well, it's been another eventful week in our house - my partner managed to write off his car on Tuesday and has himself a case of the concussion.  So quite a lot of time has been spent sorting out another car and sitting in A&E - all fine now, thank goodness. I still managed to find the time to start this painting though - this is the leopard from Marwell the other day, and I am drawing him in Derwent drawing pencils on a light brown pastel paper.
Another parcel of knitted film props has been sent off, including some matching pot plants.
I have knitted a little yellow duck for the Little Yellow Duck project and now have to find somewhere to leave him where he will be found safely.  Do take part in this if you can - it's a worthy cause, costs nothing other than a little bit of yarn and about an hour of your time.

Still pondering on how I can achieve a lifelike fully animatable knitted thrush.......