21 December 2012

presents sewn

 My sewing machine has been getting a good work out lately.  I love having it there so I can just pull out fabric and whip something up when the desire inspires.  These first two objects were planned.  The fabric I saw and had to get.  The boy I was looking after at the time just loves helicopters and planes.  In the end, months after I got my hands on the fabric I was invited to his and his friend's 4th birthday party.  (His friend I also looked after on a regular basis and also loves helicopters and planes.)
I made the waistcoat for the boy I was working with (previous nanny job) from the pattern Burda 9990.  I had some challenge translating the pattern into product.  I don't have much practise in this area of expertise.  At one point I got really stuck and ended up emailing some pics to my friend, Tab, who's done much more sewing than I and asking her.  Thankfully I got it all sorted and was able to progress.  Pretty happy with the result.  Had some errors to correct after attempting the button holes.  (First button holes on my UK sewing machine.)  And after taking these photos I pulled off all the buttons and re-sewed them in positions that hold the points at the bottom on equal level.  And the boy loves it.  He showed it to me when I visited and pointed out daddy's favourite plane and corrected my "blimp" with whatever it is officially titled.  The bag is a simple rectangle lined with calico and the shoulder straps work as a drawstring.  Next time I make one of these I think I'll use finer cord though.  The eyelets were fun to hammer into the corners at the bottom and I sewed them off so that little things or dirt and such won't get stuck in the corners around the eyelets on the inside.

And then this week I finally pulled together the plan for a flag that I've had stored in the ideas bank for the same boy and his little bro for a Christmas present.  At their family's country house there's a wooden playground they call the Fort and the mum had mentioned in passing about finding a flag for it.  That's when the idea began. Months ago.  This is what I turned out.  I changed from the original plan of making a regular flag and went with a more knightly style.  Pretty basic design which is good since I was sewing it the day before I gave it.  Simple but effective I think.  Should look good on the fort and help inspire some knights and soldiers play.

27 October 2012

tag! -- you're fun

My major craft projects this year are two quilts.  One is finished and I'm very happy with it.  The second is coming along nicely.  Unfortunately for you, they're Christmas presents so I can't show you yet.  I have been working on a few little toys though.

My current job is caring for an 8mth old boy who's just got the hang of sitting up without toppling often meaning playing has become a lot more fun.  Whenever I changed him he kept grabbing the bag of cotton balls.  I kept my eye on him to make sure he wasn't going to put the bag over his face or in his mouth but he preferred to play with the little strings you use to pull it closed.  That's where this idea came from.  Babies seem to find the tags on anything you give them to play with.  I'm not sure what the thrill is myself but they seem to be quite popular.

I made a little wheat bag to give this toy some interesting movement/sound/weight when you hold it and then made a cover for it.  That makes it washable when it gets dirty, snotty and slobbered all over.  The tags were a bit frustrating to put together.  Or rather my putting them together was a bit frustrating.  I'd pinned them all on when I realised I was pinning them the wrong way (sticking out meaning when I turned it inside out they'd be on the inside).  Lucky, I thought as I reversed them and then got to sewing.  But I obviously hadn't thought it through that thoroughly.  AFTER I'd sewn it, I realised that I'd still placed them in the wrong spot meaning they'd still end up on the inside.  There was no way around it.  I had to unpick and start again.  I ended up getting there a little more roughly than I'd intended.  A simple little something for textural interest and that baby thrill of tags and strings.  The only thing I'd do differently next time is not put one long strip of velcro to hold the cover shut.  It interferes with the flimsy movement of the wheatbag.

Toy number two which I've just finished is another simple one which I've made for a new baby.  Just two simple rings crocheted, one joined together through the other.  With the coloured ring I crocheted a bit of tube and then closed if off by decreasing to form a circle.  Then I picked up stitches back at the tube width and continued with tube.  I fit three small bells inside before I repeated the circle closure creating a little containment area for the bells.  I've added bells to toys before for that rattle aspect but find the stuffing mutes the sound.  Creating this little compartment means the bells have a bit more room to move to give it a nice soft rattle.  I then stitched a little flap of contrasting fabric around where I'd joined the ends together after stuffing.  Partly to make it look a bit neater but partly to add that extra tag fun.

03 October 2012

shrunken hood

Remember this?  It's the Through the Woods hood that I crocheted early this year.  In the post linked to the pattern name I commented that I like the pattern and design but complained about the end result being too large.  I'd used Berroco Ultra Alpaca which was probably too soft of a yarn to hold much shape.  It's been mostly not used due to the disappointment.  I'd considered altering it but the only way to do that would be to completely undo it and start again.

I saw it again in my drawer last week and pondered again what I could do to salvage it.  Then another idea came to me.  Washing can shrink things.  Well, I decided I would never grow satisfaction for the hood as it was so I tossed it in the washing machine by itself to see how it came out. 

Did you know Berroco Ultra Alpaca felts really well??

 So, still not sure that I'm happy with it.  On the positive side, the tangled fibres let less wind through so yay for the warmth factor.  I stretched it out as much as I could with a big bowl under the hood part and pinned it down to dry.  It's really stiff though which is not so great especially in the neck area where it needs some flex.  It doesn't quite sit as well as I'd like and it's also a bit smaller than I was hoping for.  Anyone know of a way to soften felted products?

Oh well, what can one do?  Experimentation always comes with a risk.  Not sure if this one improved it or not though. He he.  New knowledge gained though.

25 July 2012

giving the boy wings

Isn't that part of my job as a nanny? Ok, so these ones are literal.
Just the classic reshapped coathangers twisted together and covered with a pair of stocking and a couple of elastic loops to slip his arms in.

It was a bit of a spur of the moment. Or rather a spur of the afternoon. He actually gets excited when I suggest going to the fabric shop. ^^ He got some swimming badges from his swimming classes so I'm going to make him a swimming flag to put them on. You know the red and yellow ones at the beach? Swim between the flags? One of those. He can hang it in his room and add more badges to it as he earns them. We had somehow got onto the topic of wings and he asked me for some. Or perhaps I mentioned making some for him which he then repeatedly asked for. I had some funky stockings I had hoped to wear to a 1920s party a while back. But the "large" sizing was NOT a large pair of stockings. So wings they became.

I've also been sewing away on a "kelly-made". I make a quilt for all my nieces and nephews for their first Christmas and my older brother's kids all call them their "kelly-made's". Sweet. He had another gorgeous daughter this year so I've been designing and stitching together another quilt. It's finished. Not so girly as I'd intended on making it since I knew she was a niece but I think it's awesome anyway. Not without it's unique handmade trademarks. ;) I love how the design came out though. But I can't show you yet. All will be revealed after Christmas. I've another quilt to make yet for my younger brother's first tiny offspring due next month. But first I've some more urgent projects. My job with this family finishes up next month :( so I'm in the process of making some parting gifts. I'll be able to show you some soon I hope.

08 June 2012

first illustration

It was my birthday last week and I had a letter arrive yesterday from my older brother's five children. They'd written me stories, drawn me comics and pictures and I even got a "letter from Bethy" who is four months old. It made my day. I was thrilled and laughed and entertained. My 12yo niece, Abby, who has been writing stories for quite some time now, wrote me one about her baby sister's toy elephant. I was impressed with her writing skills and inspired. So I decided to get to work on a surprise. Just for fun I decided to attempt my first illustration. I've made some scribbles for some of my own stories in the past but this is my first illustration for a story someone else wrote.
First I did some rough sketches to find the right pose for the illustration. Then I lightly penciled my chosen design on a clean page. Then I layered watercolour paint. I obviously got absorbed in this picture because I passed most of the day barely noticing the minutes roll on. I stopped here and there for other things, and to let the layer I just painted dry. I finished it off with some outline in pen and watercolour pencil.

Below is the finished project. Story by my niece. (Published with permission.) Illustration by me.

Elijah the Figure-Skating Elephant

by Abigail Gellert

Story set in the enchanted land of “Bethelasia”

It all started one chilly morning when Elijah, the world’s smallest elephant, woke up. It was the first day of winter and the ground was covered in snow. Elijah jumped for joy. He picked up a little backpack and ran outside. The trees were laden with snow and the ground was covered with it. The sky was grey and little crystallized snowflakes were still falling.

Elijah was humming cheerfully as he arrived at a frozen lake. He un-zipped his backpack and took out a pair of ice-skates and a portable CD player. He put on his ice-skates and switched on some music ‘The Candycloud Castle’ (composed by ‘Giraffes in the Sky’). Skating gracefully onto the ice, he took a pose and waited for the music to begin. Now, I just need to get something straight. Most elephants would make the ice crack, but not Elijah. He was, as you know, the world’s smallest elephant and he was careful to watch his weight. So, the ice didn’t crack underneath him.

Elijah had a secret dream. He wanted to be the world’s best –and only- Figure-Skating elephant. He had mastered Skating when he was just two years old, but no-one knew about it. After that he watched a figure-skating programme on TV, and ever since he had practiced and practiced and practiced, hoping someday he could fulfil his own dreams and enter the Olympics. The Olympics! Those words meant so much to him, and yet they always seemed to be just out of reach.

“And jump! And spin! And step-in-time! And spin! And bend! Leg up... final pose!” Elijah talked himself through his routine doing it very well. But “very well” wasn’t enough for him. It had to be perfect! “Practice makes perfect!” He reminded himself, starting his music and preparing to try again.

“Elijah!! Breakfast!! Come on!!” Elijah’s Ears caught the sound of his Ma calling to him. Almost tripping over in his haste, Elijah skated to the edge of his “Ice Rink” and yanked off his ice-skates. Shoving them into his bag, along with his portable CD player, he began to run home. When he got there, the smell of crispy bacon and warm toast greeted him. “It smells wonderful, Ma!” he cried, sitting down to eat his food. His Ma looked at him disapprovingly. “Don’t scoff your food, Elijah.” She scolded, “It’s bad for your health!” but Elijah was finished already and out the door.

On the way back to the pond, Elijah ran into one of his best friends, Princess Poppy. “Hello, Elijah. Where on earth are you going in such a hurry?” She asked. “Oh, hello, Poppy! I’m just on my way to the woods!” Elijah smiled as he spoke. Poppy nodded and stepped out of the way with Princess-like grace. Elijah hurried on until he came to the pond in the woods. There, he practiced until he was practically falling asleep. Then he stumbled home and flopped into his bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

The next morning, Elijah decided to go to the library. He scouted the shelves for hours, looking for books about figure skating. Finally he found a dusty book in one corner. ‘The Summer, Winter and Paralympics-ultimate guide.” He read out loud. “Hmm... Better than nothing, I guess.’ He opened the book and began to read. He skipped the section on Summer Olympics and went straight to the page marked ‘Winter Olympics’. After skipping through endless chapters of Snowboarding, Skiing, Bobsleigh, Luge, Ice Hockey, Curling and Biathlons, he came to the chapter on Skating. He read for a couple of hours, and then went home with a new role model- Kariana White. Kariana was the best Figure Skating Princess in all of Bethelasia.

The next day Elijah returned to the library, looking for books, brochures and computer websites about Kariana White. He sneezed a few times (because of the dust) but he didn’t mind. That evening he went home to read the books/magazines that he had found. At around 8:35 his Ma called upstairs “Elijah! Time for bed! Put the books away! Goodnight!” Elijah carried the books to his bedside table, calling out “Yes, Ma!” as he did. Then he went straight to bed.

In the morning Elijah went back to his ‘Secret ice rink’ in the woods. Humming to himself he put his ice skates on and turned on ‘The Candycloud Castle’ and began. This time, he practically skipped through his routine. “And jump! And spin! And step-in-time! And spin! And bend! Leg up... Final pose!” Elijah caught his breath. Finally, it was perfect! “How on earth...?” came a familiar voice behind him. Elijah turned to see Princess Poppy. “Oh,” he said, embarrassed, “It’s just...”

“Amazing!” applauded Poppy, “Fantastic! Beautiful! Super! Elijah, you’re Olympic material!”

Elijah beamed. “You think so?” he asked.

“Of course! Show me again!” So Elijah performed for his first audience.

When Elijah got home that night, he could hear excited talking from his parents. “The Olympics, Harold!” “Ellie, the Olympics!”

“So?” asked Elijah as he came in, “what about the Olympics?”

His parents beamed. “Oh, Elijah, Darling! Princess Poppy, bless her dear heart, just called to say you’re going to the Olympics in only six months!” cried his Ma, planting a big, wet kiss on the end of his trunk. “The Olympics?” Elijah couldn’t believe it. “The Olympics? The Olympics? So Elijah’s dream came true!


A few months later, after intense training under a strict teacher, Elijah was ready. Ready for the Olympic Games. He sailed on an ocean liner across the Chaotic Ocean, named for its stormy waves (although it was relatively calm for Elijah) to Stadium Island. Stadium Island was where all the Olympic Games were held. There had been millions of tonnes of snow hauled here for the Winter Olympics (Which were held in summer). Elijah did his best in his figure skating solo and finished eighth out of fifty three contestants. He didn’t get a medal, but was still fussed over anyway. So, that is the story of the world’s smallest elephant, the little elephant with BIG dreams.

The end

16 May 2012

little blue

It's an exciting week here where I work. (I'm a live-in nanny in England at the moment.) This week the 3yo boy I care for became a big brother! Just before the weekend I decided to look through ravelry to see if I could find a nice quick knit present I could whip up to welcome the coming little one. You know the kind--small, cute and 10ply/worsted yarn ;) Well I came across this fabulous pattern that I was immediately sold on. These little whales are designed by Cheezombie. You can check out her other patterns in her etsy store too. However....cheapo me didn't buy the pattern. I just looked at the picture and decided to wing it--still giving credit to Cheezombie's design. Once I got to the tail I got stumped as to how to do the little dip in the middle and emailed my sister for ideas. She emailed me back the pattern as an early birthday present. He he. In the meantime, I'd finished it off still winging it.
Cheezombie used cotton for her whales I think which gives a great shape. I used what I had which was Malabrigo worsted in azul bolita. Pure merino wool which is so soft but not so shapely. I glanced over the pattern and realised I had knitted it quite differently. Forgive me cheezombie, but your pattern seems a bit more fiddly in theory with stops and starts and sewing pieces together. Mine was fiddly too but from trial and error.

I started at the opposite end than the pattern does and knit the whale in one piece. I first knit a square of 12x12 stitches and then picked up the stitches all around the square increasing one on each corner (giving me 12 stitches for each side). Then I just knit round and round. About 18 rounds. On the underside I knit and purled back and forth about 9 rows and then as I continued k&p-ing I folded it over and knit front and back together at the edges forming the mouth flap. This was a pretty tricky bit and I'm sure I could find a better way to do it that would end up neater. Once I was back to where I started the mouth I got back knitting rounds. Here I can't tell you what I ended up doing as I frogged and knitted rows too numerously to remember exactly what is now there. Basically I decreased down to 18 stitches. I then stuffed it, a little more than I intended, and with 9 stitches on two needles I knit them together to close the hole. Then I increased on each end as I k&p-ed the tail. I ended up just knitting it straight and then as I weaved in the tail of the yarn I did a gathering stitch down the middle of the tail. I like this tail shape more than the pattern anyway. Finally, I sewed on some felt eyes and wah-la!!

Little Blue, ready to meet and befriend the new little boy born yesterday!

06 April 2012

my UK brother

I didn't pack my sewing machine when I moved to the UK last year for obvious reasons. But it turns out I'm becoming an aunty two more times over while I'm away. One in fact has already started her life in the world. The other is due later this year. It is my aunty tradition to make each of my neices and nephews a quilt for their first Christmas. So I simply had to get a sewing machine.

I've been looking on and off for quite a while trying to find a decent second hand one that did the things I wanted it to; namely stitch width and length adjustment. If I did find one I was happy with I would call to discover it'd been sold already. Well, I finally managed to win a decent one before I went on my last holiday and asked the seller to delay posting it so it would arrive once I was home again. It arrived last week. Last weekend I went fabric hunting. I crave the craft stores of Australia! Even the USA. In England it's hard to find what I'm looking for. Half the time I just buy online if I can because it's easier.

It's practically as good as new. It did take a bit to get the tension right but I suspect it may have to do with the cheap thread I was using at first. I have found there's been evidence toward that end before. Now that I've got the good thread for the quilt on it's been running nicely. Bit noisier than my Aussie one and not as smooth but works well and will suffice for the year. Then I'll ditch the british for my beloved Aussie bro. ;)

18 March 2012

grass felting

When I couchsurfed in Leeds last weekend, I stayed with a lovely lady who teaches art classes for a living. No long explaination needed to say we got crafting. She had a huge bag of fibre of all sorts of colours and so I happily set about having another go at felting while she pottered about with this and that. She had about seven different colour greens and I took my time thinking over what I might like to do with them and which ones I would use.

I started with a few base layers of the darkest green leaving my design for one of the final layers. The second topmost layer I laid down various rows of green. Starting with the duller ones, I pulled a whisp of fibres out and twisted the ends a little into three or four blades. Repeat. I overlapped them a little as I moved down my base and changing shades to brighter ones as I went. The last row I laid was a white and whispy filler. The final layer was a few slithers of a goldy unnatural fibre (I can't remember what it was) and covered over with a very fine layer of the white so the gold would be held in place. And then the truly labourous part.

With a sprinkle of liquid soap and few drizzles of water, I rolled away the next few hours. Or that's what it felt like. In reality it was probably something like 30mins but you always seem to have to roll much longer than you need to.
Needless to say, when I finally stopped I was quite happy with the result. It seemed like it was going to be quite thick when I laid out all the fibres but naturally it thins when you felt it together. It ended up being thinner than I expected but not too thin and I'm pleased to say that my layering was quite satisfactory. With my last effort there were see through spots where I obviously didn't spread it out evenly. None with this effort. And the final effect....
Layers of grass with the white at the bottom reminding me of a tangled net of roots. If you hold it in the light right you catch glimmers of gold in the front rows. I'm very pleased with how it turned out and I'm thinking I'll turn it into a zip purse of some kind.

It was loads of fun to do some different crafting than yarn work. I've also recently bought a second hand sewing machine that should be arriving any day now. I'm very excited about getting into some sewing again.

20 February 2012

through with the hood

Aye! It's been a busy few weeks. Last week was half term so I felt I had barely anytime to myself and when I did I had stuff to do. Bit more like motherhood I suppose. I was tired all week too. The week before I went to Iceland for a holiday and before I went I managed to finish my hood so I could take it with me.

It's Through the Woods by Kalurah and I did the crochet version. I didn't use the yarn suggested and substituted it with Berroco Ultra Alpaca in this lovely red. I chose a hook to match the gauge but it's seems huge. Alpaca is lovely yarn but I'm not sure it was the best choice. I think a stiffer yarn would have got the neck to stand up better. Mine just flops down all the time which I'm not so happy about. And now that I've looked at the pattern photo again I'm sure mine IS huge. It's a bit too big for me really and doesn't quite sit nicely. I was tempted three quarters of the way through to frog it and do it again with a smaller hook but I finished it all off as I wanted to take it to Iceland with me. I hate disappointment. I still like the hood. I just think it would be a bit better being a bit smaller. Maybe I'll undo it one day... Anyway, enough whining.
I attached some yarn to neck near the buttons on either side and wove the strings through to the top. I tied them together in a bow so I can use them to pull the hood opening tighter around my face when I want it more snug. That helps a bit. I chose some funky patterned buttons to dress it with (and close it with). It's a blue button with a red flower. I also like how you can flip the hood back too. The hood was interesting to crochet. A fairly basic design. Just an oblong with some extra tabs and then hemmed all around. I liked doing the twisted crochet stitch. I'm impressed with how cabled it looks. I also got to do "rib" for the first time too. Though it's only rib in looks. It doesn't have the same stretch that knitted ribs have.I do like the design and it's not too complicated. I'd pretty happily make another. But this time I'd wing it a little more and make it a better size. I also discoverd that when I wore it up as a hood when my hair was out, the twisting this way and that as I looked around inevitabley had whisps of hair being pushed forward and hanging in my face. Less annoying to wear it with my hair tied somehow. All the same it's cosy and I like that it when I was wearing my jacket it looked like I was also wearing a hooded cardigan or jumper. But I wasn't. Just a hood. He he.

06 February 2012

sunday sharing--week 4

Lots of people drawing this week. While I don't really like drawing people because I find it difficult, I've either improved a bit or I've relaxed about the end result. I think it helps that I've begun experiencing different styles of drawing rather than trying to draw perfect detail. Some have just been an interesting experience--like drawing people in motion. This drawing is my choice of the week: Boys on fence in ink.This task was to draw a group of spectators. I drew this early in the week on a day I knew I was to work a full day. I rose early so I could get my drawing done. I was very pleased with how it turned out. Taking care to match the size and preportions. Usually I don't particularly like drawing in ink either. It's so final and so fine but I must be getting the hang of it a bit. I tried not to worry about too much detail. In particular the colour of clothing. I like that I scribbled in their shoes/boots though. Adds a nice touch. Other than that it's just a tad of shading and enough detail to explain the shapes.

I'm also pleased that I got through another week (with the boy I care for being sick and grumpy meaning some longer days for me) and managed again to draw every day. Woohoo. That being said, I'm taking a week off. I'm spending the last half of this week on a holiday in Iceland--if London's snow doesn't distrupt my flight.

02 February 2012

white swan migrated to Australia

Hello young chap!This sweet little white swan, which turned out not to be as little as intended, was hooked together and stuffed for my sweet little baby niece who arrived a couple of weeks ago. Another wing-it, I frogged and reworked the beak numerous times trying to get the size better and the black part right. I moved on hooking and stuffing as I went making it all up as I progressed. I had just finished the waddling feet which will be a fun feature for little fingers to grab when I heard little Elizabeth had finally arrived. I sewed on the last features, including embroidered black eyes and did a final photo shoot.
I didn't do wings like I had imagined mainly due to finishing off the cute little tail with just enough end to weave in. So this little white swan migrated south via royal mail. I chose to make a white swan because I'm here in the UK where plenty live and my darling little niece is home in Australia where our swans are black. It's a little symbol of this moment in time. Also I had the colours already stashed. Wish I could give her a cuddle with my real arms. She'll grow and develop so much before I get home.

Give her lots of snuggles for me, young chap.

29 January 2012

sunday sharing -- week 3

I was doing my own little celebration jig when I returned home from sketching at a cafe yesterday. After the first two weeks of this six week "one drawing a day" book course, I whipped myself into gear and drew EVERY day. I even did any extra drawing session just because I felt like it. I'm quite satisfied with my efforts this week.

Not only did I draw every day but I felt like I made some progress. I didn't always stop with one drawing. Sometimes I redrew a few times and happily saw improvements. I also sometimes saw none really but didn't let my mind make a failure out of it. I drew. That's what was important. My favourite of the week is this one.
The task was to make a quick, undetailed sketch of a local landmark with water soluable crayons, spray water over it and do a press with absorbant paper. I decided to give it a go with my inktense blocks. It was the best match I had for watersoluable crayons. They are basically a block of ink but mixed with some other stuff to make it slightly pastel like for sketching. You can add water like you do with waterpaints but being ink it's more final in result. I only have four basic colours from a sample pack.

The idea was to choose just two or so colours to work with and sketch a rough idea. I did my best with the water sprinkling/soaking and paper pressing/dabbing. I'm not sure inktense blocks work the same though. I tried two other sketches before this one of Tower Bridge but it was Big Ben that got me smiling. Just a few features that identify it in sketchy scribble design.

Another example of progression for this week is from this 'day'. An abstract reflecting lines and colours of the subject with a few features to sort of identify it. The above "Carousel" is the example from the book. My efforts are below on the subject of a clown ball game at a fair.

The first picture was my first attempt. After completing it I felt that it was still too detailed so I had another go. The bottom one I was satisfied with. More abstract; the one main clown to identify had less detail. I also added in some other elements that made me think of this clown game. Random circles for the balls, some cog shapes for the mechanics and the spray of colour at the top left for the spritz of a win. While I was satisfied with my effort in acheiving the idea, I'm not really a fan of such abstract art. I like it to look either like just a spread of colour or like an actual picture of something. Not that wierd inbetween state.

25 January 2012

irish soda bread

I tried a new recipe from the same recipe book that I made Curried Banana soup last week. (One of those 'too bizarre NOT to try' which was interesting but not fabulous though I've since discovered it works better as a cold dip.) While I was in Ireland I had some Irish Soda Bread and I thought it was really yummy. Heavier than the average bread you buy from the supermarket but I like that. I bought the necessary ingredients last week and so I've been looking forward to making it for a few days. Tonight I thought it would make a delicious tea alongside a bowl of soup.

So today while the boy ate his tea, I baked my first handmade loaf of bread.

The recipe explained at the beginning about where it came from and it said that the 'measurements' where rough estimations. Handfuls of this ingredient, dash of that... Made me smile. Sounds so homely. The lady kindly worked out the measurements to be able to put it in a book. However, the 'throw in' method is my kind of style. So while I did get the scales out I scooped out handfuls and blobs into my bowl. I also measured out the 450ml of buttermilk because I had two 278ml pots. Odd amount. (I figure it's about half a pint.) I added some extra flour too because I was pretty sure that 'mix into a dough' meant it shouldn't be sticking to the sides of the bowl and all over the spatula. I then shaped it and scored it and popped it in the oven.

Just over an hour later I sat down to some semi-cooled irish soda bread and tomato soup. Yummo! Though I do now think my tablespoon-of-sugar guess was a little on the side of exaggeration. ;) Still a success I say.

23 January 2012

sunday sharing -- week 2

Oo I'm such a slacker. Well, I've been more slack this week. Gotta watch myself. I missed two days this week. I've decided that if I miss a day I can't 'make it up' by doing two day pages in one day. It's not so much that I've been busy this week but instead distracted. There's been a few days this week I've spent hours on the internet researching holiday ideas for my March week off. Frustratingly I still haven't formed solid plans trying to figure out where to go within England and Wales and which trains to take. Anyhoo, for the drawings I did do...

I had a bit of a moment trying to decide between these two drawings. The watercolour won out as you can see though I still cheekily snuck in a snippet of the view out my bedroom window. Watercolour just has an endearing element to it. In the end, I couldn't not choose it. I like the way watercolour sits on the page; the texture it holds. Not the easiest medium to control but one of my favourites so far. I've been subconciously itching to open each of the little blocks of paints in my cute little watercolour set since I bought it and it was great to finally sit down and do so. I think it also won out because it's colour. I like colours.

For this painting itself, I'm really pleased with lady reading. People are not a strong point in my artistry skills (yet?) but I'm really happy with this one. In particular, with this one, how I was able to not 'go detailed'. That reading lady is splotches of colour and the feature that most resembles the idea I was suppose to follow; no presketching, blocks of colour with just a few details. It's like a wash of colour that resembles a specific shape. The rest is a bit more detailed. I'm still really pleased with how it turned out. The only "ba-baow" is the car. Mainly because it is clearly the wrong size for the position it holds. Either that or it's a supersized monster car. ;)

Ah, watercolour. Let's play again soon.

21 January 2012

through the woods

This is my next project which is actually well underway now. It's Through The Woods by Kalurah and I'm doing the crochet version. It should turn out something like this.There's also a knit version but when I found it and decided I needed to make it, I felt like crocheting. Hadn't done any in a while.

I've been working on getting various presents finished that it's super nice to sit and work on something for me again. I'm hoping to finish it and take it to Iceland with me but my Iceland trip isn't so far away now. Hopefully it will be done in time. Then I should actually get to finishing some mittens for myself in case London actually gets cold before winter is over.

Anyway, my near to current photo looks like this one. I've done a few more rows now and when I counted them this evening I realised I've only got five more to do until I start work on the edging rib look. Maybe I will get it done in three more weeks.
Yes, mine is red too. When shopping for some yarn for a friend I came across some Berroco Ultra Alpaca in this lovely shade. I went back and bought enough to make the hood. I've been wanting to make an alpaca project for quite a while now and I'm excited about this one. The knitted version is, of course, closer stitches. Crochet always has a chunkier look but I'm surprised you can actually crochet cable. I did get a bit disappointed at the start as it wasn't looking right and I was putting it aside wondering whether to go on. Then I looked over the pattern again and realised I wasn't doing the raised stitches like it said. So one night I unpulled it back to the second row and then re-crocheted back to where I was up to but doing it right this time. It made such a different and the pattern is sitting properly now. Sometimes it's froggin' worth it. :P I'm looking forward to wearing it and it keeping me warm.

16 January 2012

sunday sharing--week 1

So I've finished my first week of my "One Drawing a Day" book/course. I did alright I think. I managed to draw for six days out of seven. Friday I just didn't get time because, honestly, the day was full of more important things. Saturday I had to force myself to sit down and draw. The most difficult aspect of drawing this week was trying to find some abstract and interpretation while trying to draw. Some of the examples were whispy or the artist's interpretation of what they saw and when I tried to do something similar I kept finding myself putting in more and more detail. My other challenge is to slow down and take my time. I've noticed myself getting impatient in my drawings and start to get a bit wild in my strokes. But when I concentrate and try I can get a result like this.
My favourite of the week is : Mike in charcoal

I like drawing with charcoal and this day asked me to draw a portrait using the tv. When I finished reading the page I looked up and there was a picture of one of my friends on my computer so I decided to draw him. Of course, the example was a lot more basic than what I've drawn but I like very much how it turned out. The eye on the left is a little odd. I think it either needed to be thinner or a little less dark. I'm not too sure but that's the only displeasure really in my work. I am particularly happy with my efforts drawing the teeth and his hair was particularly fun to draw.

I've done mostly ink and charcoal this week with some graphite pencil as well. I've done a few portraits and am seeing a pattern of making their heads too short in length. I've also learnt that if I need to spray my work to hold it so it doesn't rub off, I need to make sure I do it on a page that doesn't have anything on the back. This one had an ink dragon on the other side and when I sprayed it, it brought parts of it through to the Mike side. It has sadly permanently disturbed the Mike-drawing. I did some editing so you could see it more like it was in its pre-sprayed state.

Week 2 should be interesting as colour comes in to play.

08 January 2012

a sketchy dream

I've never known what to do career-wise. Never known what I'd like enough to choose to do long term. Truthfully, I never really planned on having a 'career'. But for quite a number of years now I've had this idea floating around the back of my head of writing, maybe even illustrating, children's stories. During the last year or so I've been thinking more about drawing and have even done a bit more but I still seriously need to develop my skills. Not just in drawing but in being disciplined and persisting. I do tend to have a play at something and then drift away from the idea but I'd like to give drawing--being an artist--a proper try and see if I can be any good and if I might enjoy it long term. Test my potential.

I bought this book a while back called "One drawing a day". I thought this would be a good starter. They call it a six week course in drawing and the basic idea is to simply draw and get into the habit of doing so and explore different art mediums. After reading the introduction I decided to get some more supplies to work with.

Today I went for a jog and purposefully ended up near an art shop. The art store has a sale on so there were lots of good prices. I think I spent more than an hour in there trying to decide what to get. I didn't want to spend too much but there were so many interesting tools and supplies in there. It wasn't till I got home that I realised how much of a bargain I got. Some of the things I bought were 65% off.
I happily have a whole assortment of art toys to play with. A lovely new blank sketch book full of potential. I'm excited about trying the bamboo brush/pen. It has a nib shaped end and a brush end. I wanted a bamboo nib but I was summoned by the bamboo brushes too. I borrowed a book on Chinese Brush Art from the library last year that was wonderfully inspiring. I also bought a gold/bronze ink and black ink to go with it. And I have red already. I also got--some of the huge bargains I scored--a 24 oil pastels set to experiment with and a little watercolour kit that has 12 half size blocks in a practical carry case. I bought myself a good watercolour paintbrush too because it's much nicer using quality. I also got some graphite pencils, some pens (one has a brush end) and a kneadable eraser. That should get me started quite well.

And to help keep me persisting, I aim to share my favourite drawing from the week each Sunday.

01 January 2012

squeezing the deadline

I promised a friend I'd make her something back in February. It was part of a Pay It Forward thing on facebook to be handmade this year. As I was arranging to move to England at the time I said I probably wouldn't make it until I got to the UK.

I remembered all this last month. :S He he.

So I grabbed some Fibreworks yarn my sister sent over; a mix of possum, sheep and alpaca fibre with some nylon. Using a mostly blue ball and a multicolour ball I made up some fingerless mittens switching between the two to create some funky stripes. I've just finished them. Pheee-ew! (Dramatic wiping of the brow.)

Now I have to finish getting ready to go see Billy Elliot the Musical and watch the new year roll in. Talk about pushing a deadline.