Monday, 25 May 2015

Trellis & Lace

 I was asked to make a cotton waistcoat for someone, and found it surprisingly hard to find a decent pattern similar to what she wanted.  This was what I discovered on so went ahead.  It wasn't long after starting that I realised just what the word 'piquant' at the top of the pattern meant!  Boy, this was complicated!  Not difficult, just very complicated and involved a lot of scribbling on paper to keep track of the shaping increases and decreases.
 It has been knitted in a fab yarn made from recycled jeans - turns your fingers a bit blue while working, but didn;t seem to run badly when I washed it. It also blocked really well.  Now it just needs some buttons and it is ready to go.  Much as I love this pattern, it will be a long time before I attempt it again!
I have a new portrait to do of Clovis's favourite girl.  We went round to her house to take some photos the other day - he's never been in their garden and let loose with her before and it was very funny to see them cavorting around  together.  The phrase 'get a room' did cross my mind at one point!!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Back On Form...

After the cow parsley debacle, I was wondering what to paint and had a search through a file on my computer labelled 'photos for future paintings' and found this one that I had forgotten about.  It's the view from my partner's apartment window when he was working in Belgium one snowy morning.

I have painted this in watercolour with a very limited palette of four, perhaps five, colours.  Right from the start, this one just flowed - the washes went right, the colours worked together and everything I tried worked first time.  Possibly helped by the fact I was feeling better, who knows, I just know I am very happy with this one!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Off Colour...

Not every painting works out well -something I try to impress on the children I teach when they get frustrated with their work when it doesn't go to plan.  This painting of mine definitely did not go to plan - I have been admiring the swathes of cow parsley when on dog walks and wanted to paint these pretty and delicate flowers.  I had the idea after seeing them with the backdrop of the canal -
to make a dark background over a masking fluid drawing, then paint in the leaves and flowers.  I think the combination of the clumsiness of the masking fluid (that stuff coagulates!) and being unable to get the depth of background colour I wanted proved too difficult to overcome.  Plus ( and it is no excuse really) I was feeling a bit off colour myself over the weekend which always shows in a painting.  Never mind, at least now I know not to do that again!
Someone else has been feeling a bit off colour as well this week - I thought he was lovelorn, with one of his girlfriends being in heat, but when his lack of appetite stretched on for too long, it was time to take Clovis to the vet.  It would seem he has a gum infection and is currently on anti-biotics - when I can get them down his throat!  Today I was reduced to wrapping the bits of tablet in hoisin duck as he has got wise to the balls of dog food containing an unpleasant centre. Why don't they make dog medicine tasty? It would save a lot of grief!

Being hungry hasn't stopped him from charging around the woods and trees as normal though - someone should inform him that he is approaching 91 in dog years!

On the needles this week:  DIY accessories!

Thursday, 14 May 2015


I completed this yesterday - or should I say this morning for a final touch-up.  This has been painted using Derwent Inktense pencils on watercolour paper.  The photo reference is from our trip to Birdworld last summer - a spontaneous outing that yielded some good photographs.

I'm kind of wishing I hadn't bothered with a background, but I felt it lacked something.  I may sit and look at this for a couple of days to see if there is anything else that needs doing but it will probably stay as it is - self-doubt needs to be squashed sometimes!

I've seen some cow parsley on my walks that I really want to paint - might have to pick myself a bunch today!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Baking & Gardening Go Together...

I saw this recipe in this month's Making magazine and had to try it!  My last attempt at crystallizing flowers from the garden was not very successful - they tasted good but were a bit claggy to look at.  So off we went and picked the best heads off the viola plants in the garden.  Previously during a dog walk, my daughter had handed me a small fistful of sad bluebells 'to go on the biscuits', and I had to disillusion her because the flowers have to be flat...and edible! (I'm not sure where she picked them from either - it may have been from someone's garden or from where dogs regularly do their business.)

Anyway, the biscuits are a pretty basic shortbread recipe with the only criteria being they must not be baked until too crispy as you have to make a small dent in the centre so that the viola will lay flat. I was a bit worried when the flowers were covered in sugar initially as they weren't really visible, but after an hour or so they looked just fine.  And taste fine too!
I'm really enamoured of my garden at the moment - it is all starting to look so pretty.  Over the past two years I have not really put the work in due to having a builder's yard on our doorstep for the first year and having the wall demolished & various earthworks going on as they built new houses during the second year.  However, since the builders left in March, I have been getting it all back in order with no disruptions.
The azalea is beautiful,
the Black-Eyed Susan is starting to climb up the pergola and the alliums are bursting into bloom.
We even have another good crop of figs coming on the patio.

I am glad the weather is not so good today though, I might actually get on with some work instead of wandering around inspecting the plants every half hour or so!

On the needles - still working on that complicated denim blue waistcoat
On the easel - still working on the two green parrots, but it should be finished today.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Another Old Painting...

So, I think the hidden paintings from my portfolio have almost all been listed in my Etsy shop, just a couple left to go.  This is a watercolour I painted of some ruined Victorian fortifications on Pigeon Island, part of St. Lucia.  I loved the combination of tropical greenery and old British stonework - it wasn't something I expected to see when on holiday in the Caribbean.

It's been a funny old weekend - no chance to paint unfortunately.  Plenty of knitting - another object for Nudinits completed and ready to go, one sock completed (can I make a second?  Lay your bets...) and more of the complicated cotton waistcoat done.

Also took a trip to Lidl and stocked up on Greek foodstuffs as they have a bit of a themed week going on - so we have a freezer jammed full of cheese pies & leek & cheese pies, and a cupboard full of sesame bars, almond bars, sunflower seeds, olive oil and the biggest jar of olives ever.  So it's lentil soup, Greek salad & tiropitta for tea tonight!  I often cook Greek food, but it's also good to get a few treats that have the authentic taste too.

Nearly wrecked my hands playing with my new mini hedge/grass clippers - terrific little gadget but boy did it make my thumb hurt!  I clipped half the hedge then had to admit defeat, but also had fun barbering the grass - it has never looked so well coiffed!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Unfinished Business...

Sometimes you get weeks where everything is just a work in progress - this is one of those weeks.  Currently on the easel is this painting of a pair of parrots, using Derwent Inktense pencils. I love this medium, the colours are so bright and can be layered over each other without turning muddy.  It's a painstaking picture, but that's how I like to work.
Several things on the needles this week, here are the ones I can show.  This is the back of a waistcoat I've been commissioned to make, using a fab recycled jeans yarn.  It's a complicated pattern, with the front of the waistcoat in a trellis pattern and the back in lace - it will be worth it I feel.
When I get a minute or two, I'm still ploughing away at the socks..I say socks, it's still only 'sock'.  I'm hoping that the pattern is so simple and easy I will actually get myself a pair of socks out of it!

There are also some little treasures being made for Nudinits, but you'll have to wait a couple of weeks before seeing them on Twitter.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Everything In The Garden Is Lovely...

It's been hard trying to keep the garden looking good over the past couple of years, but since this spring has been quiet at last and no-one has been tinkering with the fence, soil, or causing me to run in and out like a frightened rabbit due to the noise or being stared at, I've been able to put the work in and it is starting to pay off.
There is still a fair bit of growing to be done, but flowers are starting to open...
...these are some 'casualty corner' anemones bought for very little money atthe local garden centre.  With a bit of TLC and being taken out of their very dry & constricting pots, they have rallied and are gorgeous.
The quince has decided it likes being undisturbed and has produced more flowers than ever before.
The apple tree also likes being free of the overhanging split willows and has decided to put on a grand show - hopefully this year we will get some apples!
And in our new secluded passageway, the potatoes, carrots and beans are making a fine start - it would seem they get more sunshine than I thought, despite being walled on both sides.

So it is hard to stay out of the garden these days when the sun is shining, and it would seem it has gone back to being my little sanctuary once again.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

A Flurry of Feathers...

I sat down yesterday afternoon thinking I'd do a little of this but not expecting to get very far considering the TV was on for my daughter and my partner was on the computer two feet away, but before I knew it a couple of hours had flown by and the basic drawing of all the feathers was done.  I love it when I get so absorbed in a painting that whole chunks of time just vanish and I only surface because I'm hungry...or someone else is hungry!

Currently on the needles - some very tiny flowers.  Yes, it's more sight-destroying work for Nudinits, but as always great fun.