Thursday, 18 December 2014

Busy busy

Who'd have thought I'd get busy in December? Can't imagine why...

However, I'm glad to say that I have managed to make a few things in the midst of the crazy.  First the things I'm most proud of...

I recently became a great aunt, twice over. My only nephews and their respective partners produced offspring within a few days of one another. That was pretty clever of them and the boys are called Caleb and Callum, as befits their almost-twin status. (Of course, that's also going to be a nightmare for the old and confused at family gatherings, but they are already demonstrating their individual personalities, so I guess we'll cope.)

In honour of this splendid news, I made the sprogs a toy each. Yes, I could have made them quilts, but at least one grandma is a quilter, and I am 100% sure she's got that covered! So, despite my general aversion to making small fiddly things, as a result of making far too many Cheltenham Girls High pink signature elephants as fundraisers for The Shack back in the day.... tada!
 ...or if you prefer...

Yes, I admit it - the overalls are reversible. I didn't have to do that, but I thought it might be fun. The face is embroidered - no buttons to be chewed off and choked on.

I didn't make up the pattern or anything - it's from Hop Skip Jump by Fiona Dalton. I made mine brown-faced monkeys, as the wool fabric I used for the bodies was fairly light. The original also had a pompom on the tail, but I pondered on what a pompom is going to look like once it's been chewed and sucked a few times and decided against it!

And now for Idea No 2. As I scrabbled about to find in what sketchbook I'd written an interesting idea I came across, I had an epiphany. What if I had a special book for writing down all these Very Useful and Clever Ideas? Enter My Little Book of Clever Ideas. It's just an A6 sketchbook but it already has several Clever Ideas in it. I made it a pretty cover from my breakdown printing.

I liked this idea so much that I made each of the Fibrecircle girls a Little Book of Clever Ideas too.
















I also made a little pincushion for the ATASDA display at Epping Creative Centre this month. I loved the brilliantly coloured birds in Africa and I figured they needed brightly-coloured nests.

I do plan to put up more Africa images and stories over the coming weeks - it all got a bit derailed by ATASDA admin and Christmas presents.

Speaking of which, hope you all have a great Christmas!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

I've been to Africa!

And yes, like others before me, I've eaten great food, seen wonderful things and had an all round fantastic time.

Don't panic, I'm not going to bore you to tears with stories and photos. I'll just share a few things that strike me anew as I work my way through the (literally) thousands of photos I took.

First up, I took these photos of the flower market in Cape Town because, as you all know, I'm fascinated with colour, especially the colours Nature creates.

Who'd have thought there were so many different proteas?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

And more about the knitting...

Meanwhile, I've been going great guns on my knitting. It's amazing how quickly it grows, when you do a couple of hours every evening. I don't think I could knit much more than that - my hands would get too sore!

I've finished the back, the two fronts and one sleeve now, and I'm halfway up the second sleeve.
It's still unblocked, of course, hence the rolling edges but I wanted to show you how it was progressing. I'm glad I used the yarn this way, as I think it might have just looked like stripes otherwise. And one doesn't need to buy variegated yarn just to knit stripes. I could probably make a multicoloured striped jumper just from yarn I have on hand.

As one does, I've been looking ahead to the next knitting project, even though I probably won't get to it until next autumn, unless the weather stays very cool. I bought some yarn for dyeing a couple of months ago but that's waiting for me to get the dyes out one day. So in the meantime, I bought some of the new 1984 range in 8-ply Colonial yarn from Bendigo Woollen Mills in #286 Maroon. It seems to have been a hugely popular shade, because it's no longer listed on their website!

It's hard to photograph well! It's not really what I would call a maroon, as it's really closer to cherry. It's also not very close in colour to the maroon jumper I am replacing after years of sterling service, which is in a shade that's often called cranberry these days. I don't think I'd even seen a cranberry when I made it, so I don't suppose they had yarns called that, back then either!

Whatever the name, I love the colour of this yarn. I had a jumper in this colour back in the seventies, which I also wore to death, so I'm expecting great things from this one too.

(Is it really sad of me to be able to remember all the jumpers I've knitted and loved, in the past forty-something years? There has been a lot of knitting, as I was taught to knit at age 7 and allowed to knit my first actual jumper a few years later. I guess that amazing sense of achievement, the "I made that!", stays in the mind long after the creation has been worn to shreds.)

Friday, 15 August 2014

And while we're talking about books...

Here's a book I made for Fibrecircle recently, as part of a challenge I created for them.

Running challenges for that group is always interesting. We all work in very different ways and we pretty much know how we want to work, so there's no good setting a challenge that requires people to work in a specific way. Experimenting is one thing; making work is another.

The challenge was a Scavenger Hunt. Each person had to bring along:
a second-hand piece of paper - i.e. paper that has been used for something else, by someone else (not you). It can be newsprint, advertising, an envelope from a letter, a page from a magazine... whatever you like.

2. something from a plant - leaves, flowers, roots, twigs, fruit, tea leaves.... use your imagination! It has to have come fairly directly from a plant, without much processing - mulberry leaves are fine, mulberry paper isn't. You don't necessarily have to incorporate it into your work, but you do need to use it in making the work.

3. words - three words from your life during these three weeks, i.e a book title you've read during the time, a sign you've seen, a headline... anything from these three weeks. Be prepared to explain!

4. something, anything, blue

5. three embellishments: beads, buttons, metallic elements, small samples or embroidery, stamping ... to become part of your work. It doesn't have to be three of the same thing.

6. an insect. Any insect. (No, spiders are not insects.) This can be a picture, a fabric, an embroidery, a three-D model, a stamp, a real insect....

7. something long and thin. Yarn, ribbon, braid, paper strips, embroidery thread.....

The idea was to make something from your elements on the day, in whatever way you like to work. A finished item or a part of something else...


I brought along used envelopes, a twig, the words "dancing in silence", blue card, dragonfly and gold brads, a dragonfly punch and some wire. I also grabbed some net yarn that Helen was trying to rehome.

The cover was a monoprint from a glass board, using acrylic paints and drying retarder. I marked the paper size and painted quickly on the plate in blue, black and white paint, mixing the colours a little on the plate. Then I printed, burnishing with my fingers and a spoon. I touched up a couple of areas on the print while the paint was still wet.

I made the envelopes into book covers, with the patterned side out. I added a layer of gesso, which, I was told, can make the blue stand out more. 

I'm not sure it did, but it was an interesting effect, especially once I added a layer of folded blue card inside them. I made some signatures and used more blue card as a concertina spine. Helen, who had nothing to do, sewed the booklets into the spine with a simple pamphlet stitch.

 I also made an envelope as a place for more private things.
 I added some words from a song by Leonard Cohen that seemed particularly resonant.

I'm really happy with how this one turned out, which is unusual, since I'm usually not happy with things until a little time has passed!




Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Day 3 - finished!

Apologies for the delay - I was struck low by a Very Friendly Coughing Bug, who leapt from son to husband to me in as many days. I've been keeping myself to myself since it arrived, hoping not to let it leap to anyone else.

I have finally finished my little treasure, though I think it may need a little dab with the hot glue gun, as a couple of spots are determined not to stay glued. Me and glue... sigh.

First, the inspiration... this gorgeous little High Renaissance objet from the collection of the Walters Art Museum.



The manuscript dates from about 1550 A.D. and, at 1in x 7/8in (2.2 x 1.67cm), is so small that it's been mounted with a chain for wearing as a pendant.

It's made of gold sheet and an enamelling technique called champlev√©. The stones are rubies or spinels. The artisan who made the book is unknown but it's "in the style of Giulio Romano", Italian, probably made in the years 1499-1546. The tiny manuscript inside (identity unknown but I assume a religions text of some kind, perhaps a Book of Hours or a missal) was created by Jacobus Romanus, (1515 and 1560). Sadly, this item isn't on regular display at the museum, though it has featured in several exhibitions.

Mine isn't that tiny, I hasten to add! Mine is roughly double size, 5cm x 4.67cm or about 2in x 1 3/4in and that was quite fiddly enough, thank you. And needless to say, mine isn't actually made from gold and precious jewels.


I photographed it with the catches open, so you can see that they actually exist and do work. That was the hardest part. Sadly, my "jewels" are the wrong colour, since the available options were a wishy-washy purple, this red or hot pink!
 
The hinges are actually brass. I was going to make piano hinges from paper when I found these ones, designed for jewellery boxes, at the hardware store. I even found tiny 12mm ones for the catches, although this meant that the catch shape couldn't be curved like the original.

The tangs for the catch are square brads, larger than I wanted but I couldn't find anything else small enough to suit.


I painted cartridge paper with a pale brown watercolour wash and cut it into signatures. Because of the size, I could only put three signatures into a pamphlet, so the book is made of 12 individual pamphlets, sewn together with pamphlet stitch. I attached the book block by adhering the front and back pages to the inside covers as end papers.

I painted the page edges with gold paint, as there seemed to be some traces of gold paint on the leading edges, perhaps from illumination on the pages. But no, I haven't yet illuminated my pages.
I like my little book, although it offered me quite a few challenges to make.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Day 2 - painting

OK, clearer now, I think? For such tiny things, they sure took a lot of painting... and drawing... and Treasure Gold... and Rub 'n' Buff!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

What did I make today?

Well, guess....
What do you think these are for?

The dimensions of the larger pieces are 5mm x 4.7mm - that's about 2in x 1 3/4in. It actually took me most of the afternoon to make them. The base is mat board, with glued string and then a paper overlay, to give the moulded shape.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to paint them. Maybe things will be a bit clearer then?