Saturday, 10 June 2017

Garden sculpture

I'm not doing too badly here, two blogs in as many months 😀.
Last year (or maybe it was the year before!) I helped my sister get ready for the Festival of Thrift. She is a potter, but for the Festival does Chip and Chisel workshops where people can have a go at making their own unique sculpture. She also sells some easy and smaller kits for people to take home or give as alternative presents. I had helped her with getting some example sculptures ready and she was planning to get me something in thanks (very sweet of her) so I asked if I could just have one of the blank blocks and the use of her chisels so I could do my own sculpture.

Like the table legs in my previous post, the blank block has been sat in the shed waiting for me to do something with it. I was originally thinking of trying to do a dragon, or a dinosaur skeleton but in the end decided those were probably outside my ability. Ok, definitely outside my ability! I opted for stylised flowers instead and used some glass pebbles for the centres. It's carved on all sides so any angle you look at it has something different.

So now I have a nice garden sculpture that I can safely say does not exist anywhere else in the world! 

 
 


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Recycled raised flower bed

It's been ages since I blogged anything. I've been so focused on making puppets that I've neglected the other crafts, but this week I have finally taken a break to recharge my crafty mojo.  

It started as a drop leaf table in my nanna's house. We used to have lunch round it and I have a lot of fond memories of it in nanna's living room. When she passed away I inherited it and it got put under the stairs, only coming out if I needed extra table space. I didn't need it but couldn't bear to part with it. Over the years it looked tired and eventually the top and leaves were irreparably damaged and had to be removed. This is what was left:


I still couldn't bring myself to get rid of it and these legs have been sitting in the shed waiting for me to think of a new use for them. I finally decided on a raised bed for the garden.  Time to challenge Dad!

Dad dug out some spare wood bits he had stored in the roof of the garage and made a box for the top and restrained and varnished the legs for me. The box was too light for the legs so I decided I wanted it black and would have a go at the canal style painting.  Dad sprayed the box black while I was at work.  There is just no holding him back once he knows what I'm after (he is my hero).

Now painting is not my strong point but I have an old copy of the Australian Women's Weekly Handmade magazine that set out some step by step instructions. Here is the final result:


I'm very pleased with the results and have filled it with plantpots of flowers to cheer up the garden.  Most of my pots have veg in so it's nice to have a splash of colour.






Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sewing again yey!

I have been a generous soul with my cold from hell. Unintentionally of course. I seem to have pretty much got rid of it but have managed to infect dear hubby who has been horribly poorly with it.  Like me he lost his sense of smell and taste for a few days. Not great when you're trying to be a culinary maestro in the kitchen 😷.
So now I am back into the swing of sewing again and it's been good to take stock of all the things I need to do to fill orders.  I know there have been a few extremely patient people out there waiting for puppets and sofa cushions. Thank you so much for that patience, it has meant so much while I have gone through a couple of difficult patches. I have not forgotten you. I'm working on them now.

Tonight I have managed to move the Doris Duck puppets along a bit, more tacking and sewing needed and I need to sort out the eyes too. I also managed to get the sofa throw done, so a couple of arm covers and cushion covers to go on that one. 

I am really pleased with the way the throw turned out. The customer supplied some lovely textural fabric. It has a tendency to fray so I've overlooked all the edges then just done a simple hem and mitred corners. I picked one of the fancy stitches on the sewing machine and a contrasting thread. Here's a sneak peak, what do you think?


Sunday, 10 January 2016

2016 so far....

After weighing in at heavier than I have ever been (I'm not telling) my determination to get back to healthy living and plenty of exercise reached a new high after New Year. This is a good thing.  So to start, I thought about what I wanted to achieve this year:

1. Lose some weight
2. Get fit
3. Design some new puppets (after finishing some outstanding orders)
4. Try some new recipes
5. Try a new craft

Notice they are broad aims, the detail of how I am going to achieve them is something I need to work on. So far so good.

So we are a week(ish) into 2016 and how is it going? Rubbish!

Last weekend the dreaded lurgy crept into our house and took up lodging.  I managed to get through the first few days of the week at work feeling like I had been run over by a steamroller then scrunched up and pushed into a balloon that I could not get out of. The rest of the week has been a disaster with constant coughing and a pounding headache with stabbing pains.  I also managed to develop a wheeze that sounded like a family of mice had set up home in my chest.  

Exercise has gone out of the window along with sleep and motivation. Today I think I am starting on the mend so will be getting back to the day job tomorrow, and hoping to pick the rest back up as well.

I hope your New Year has started well and you are all still on track with any resolutions you have made.
Happy New Year 😘

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

First Competition

I know I am a day late for the #craftblog club 'firsts' blogging challenge - whoops!

After much thought (honestly) I decided to blog about the first craft competition I ever entered. Now I'm not a serial competition enterer (inventing new words?) so it's fairly simple to remember the first, even if it was about 35 years ago!

The competition itself was the Billingham Show, one of those that has categories for cakes, veg, flowers and stuff. It was a big thing at the time, especially to an impressionable child of around eleven. I had to complete a form (all felt very official and grown up) and submit my entry by a specific date for judging prior to it opening to the public.  My entry was for the children's embroidery section.

Now my mother had taught me to embroider early so I may have been a bit confident going into this, mistakenly as it turns out, but I'm getting ahead of myself here. I thought it would be best to include a couple of different stitches, and also that design counted (very naive).  Off I went and drew a Celtic bird design onto some fabric, chose which colours and stitches would go where and started stitching.

Hundreds of tiny stitches and a lot of love later (stem, satin, chain, French knot) my bird was done. Judging day. Full of eager anticipation and a hefty dollop of nerves I walked up to the table to see the result. Second. Obviously when you were hoping for a rosette for first, second is a bit disappointing, but I've always been a fair minded person (yes even then) and when the one that beats you is a masterpiece - well that's fine and you should be gracious in defeat. Unfortunately the coveted rosette wasn't on a masterpiece of brilliant stitching or design, it was on a cross stitch kit of Mickey Mouse. So no design skills, and the tops of the cross stitches didn't even all go in the same direction (yes I noticed) so not top needlework. You can tell it rankled can't you.

I'd like to say I'm over it, and maybe this cathartic purge will finally get it out of my system, but what it did do was knock my confidence in my artistic ability to the point that I would only follow kits and patterns for a long long time.

My mother though, always the best fan anyone could ever have, kept it.  Later she got my sister to do a ceramic frame and mount it to be hung in the caravan. She has now given it to me as a keepsake and I'm very proud of it. Here it is:


I hope you will come and join me over at http://fizzijaynemakes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/a-first.html for all the other first blogs.




Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Time flies

.... when you're having fun. Or so the saying goes. It certainly has this week while I've been out and about enjoying my final few days of my fortnight break. Back to work yesterday and I'm also in full puppet building mode trying to fill orders.  

My front room is a bit of a mess with bits of fabric and cotton in various piles. Spent one whole evening working out how many of each piece I needed to cut out of which fabric. Sat and pinned pink velour to interlining on Monday night and ended up looking like I'd been sprinkled with pink fairy dust by the end of it. You would not believe how many tiny hairs velour drops!

Anyway, managed to stitch round these bits last night so I'm slowly but surely progressing - can you tell what they are?


Sunday, 13 September 2015

The continuing Italian adventures of Percy Strangeways

After the fabulous time I had last year I asked Mammy if I could go on holiday with her again this year. I was so pleased when she said yes - no sneaking in the case this time! In fact I got a window seat on the plane and looked out of the window as we flew over the Alps. They were very big.


I promised Mammy I wouldn't be any trouble and have been practicing hanging onto her bag. I get to see lots but sometimes I get a bit too excited and let go and fall off, luckily I've been wrapping my tail round the strap so I haven't got lost and just climb back up and grab hold again - I don't think Mammy noticed.


I did a bit of rock climbing in Varenna, then sat enjoying the sun and the view by the lake.


It got a bit too hot so I sat in a shady tree for a bit.


Climbed in a bamboo forest before leaping back onto Mammy's bag at the villa Melzi.


Then decided that I was being way too energetic so sat and enjoyed the Trombetta express around Bellagio.


The best bit was the villa Carlotta where I met some new friends. They were swimming around in a pool and said that we must be related because we both had the same stripy face. But I'm not fond of swimming and Mammy said they were terrapins (no me neither) so I think they were mistaken. They were very nice though and even the baby one came over to see me. I sat by their pool for a bit and I told them about the ferry.

I'm a bit small for the ferry seat but I got to lean over the side which was fun. It was a very pretty place. I wonder where I can go next?





Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Alien has arrived

It started life as a colourful marionette. A sort of furry purple ostrich. It loved to dance and shimmy but felt like there should be more. It was meant for greater things. The stage beckoned. So the purple ostrich cut its strings, left its family, and set off for the bright lights of the stage. 

The purple ostrich set its sights high. It had heard that there was a fantastic puppet ministry team in Billingham called Puppets in the Pulpit and the purple ostrich wanted to be part of it. The first audition didn't go well. They wanted a donkey. The purple ostrich tried but just couldn't manage the method acting. The second audition wasn't much better. This time it was for a chorus part, but a group of dancing frogs won the gig. The next few auditions were the same with the purple ostrich being overlooked for other characters. Even the lion got a part in the Christmas service!

But the purple ostrich didn't give up. It helped around the troupe quarters, trying hard not to get tangled up in the Velcro at the bottom of the prop case. Then one Easter it heard mention of an alien part. It wouldn't matter that it was purple, fluffy and a bit leggy, the purple ostrich knew it could do it. It got further than ever before. It was looked at, tried out, given a voice. Then given a body costume and tried again........IT GOT THE PART! 

Into costume and makeup and now ready for a staring role in an Easter service, here is Puppets in the Pulpit's latest star:



Sunday, 15 February 2015

A Taste of Italy

Last Sunday my dear Hubby found a Christmas present he had forgotten to give me. It was quite exciting having a present in February. Well what was it you ask? And I will tell you - three Gino D'Acampo cookbooks! I love his Italian Escape series so this was the perfect gift.



Now we don't normally bother with Valentines Day. Personally I think it's over commercialised and if hubby came in with a bunch of roses I'd probably think he'd done something wrong! But after flicking through delectable recipes with gorgeous photos I couldn't resist planning a nice meal for us to celebrate. We are supposed to be watching the calories but decided this was a one off so I could do whatever I wanted.

So here is the menu:

Bruschette con pesto do pomodori secchi (bruschetta with sun-dried tomato pesto)

     - this is extremely tasty and we gave it 10/10. Even though I made half the amount I still have quite a lot of the pesto left which Hubby is very very happy about!

Rigatoni all' arrabbiata con salmone (rigatoni in spicy tomato and salmon sauce)

     - this was a light sauce but could probably do with more chilli for our taste. It will make a nice summer meal with a good side salad and crusty bread.

Pancetta di maiale Al forno (slow roasted pork belly with radicchio) with roasted new potatoes, steamed carrots and sugar snap peas.

     - unfortunately I couldn't get hold of any radicchio heads so substituted the carrots and peas. The pork was lovely with a very crispy crackling. I don't like aniseed but the fennel seeds added a nice touch, and the smidge of good quality balsamic vinegar set the meal off well.

Coppe al caffe' con Cioccolato fuso (coffee pots with melting chocolate)

    - now come on, chocolate and coffee, what is not to like? These are a baked individual puddings with a sauce that sinks to the bottom.  The flavour was great but they were a little dry. Might have been nice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a smidge of cream.

Needless to say this was the one meal of the day and I spread it out over a few hours.  I am really happy with how it all turned out, and Hubby was very appreciative 😘

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Hearts & buttons

I am determined to be a little more organised than is my norm. So far this week it's working reasonably well. I have managed to tidy the back garden a little bit, progress with my second sock (more about that next week), finally get my wheel sorted so I can start cycling again, and wash the car. Not bad. But this post is about hearts and buttons, so I should get on with it.

In November at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show I did a class on polymer clay buttons. I was really pleased with the result and asked for some bits for Christmas. Now, so far, I hadn't gotten around to playing with it but Dad asked Mam to knit him a cardigan and for me to make him some buttons. The cardy is grey wool with an occasional white fleck. Dad suggested a bit of yellow in the buttons to lift it and jazz it up a bit.  I think I may have got it wrong, but we will soon know.  Anyway, here are the six buttons (there are two spares but the pattern didn't last for those). They need holes and polishing.


And out of the remaining clay, and some I had left from November, I decided to make a few hearts. I haven't worked out what to do with those yet but Valentine's Day is coming up so will have to think of something.


And lastly here are some of the used up bits from November that will be necklaces.







Monday, 29 December 2014

Look back at 2014

Yes it's that time of year again when I look back at what I have achieved on the crafting front. Although, I did forget to write some of the finished items in the book (I must remember to do that).

I started with Christmas cards, and had enough (just). I will probably do that again this year as it did make November and December a bit less frantic. Then Porridge and Oats came along. They made friends with Percy the sock monkey in August and here they are preparing for Christmas.

There were cushions and cakes, kindle covers, trading cards and bracelets

But most of all, there were puppets! The familiar furry ones:

The fantastic frog chorus (proud of those, though I need to have another look at the knees)

And to finish the year, the four puppets for the wonderful Amy Smith at https://www.facebook.com/moomusicmansfield . 














Sunday, 30 November 2014

Christmas madness

Yes it has started. The decorations are out of the loft, we are out of batteries, and one again I find myself thinking that it would be nice to have the whole of December off work!

I have realised that whatever preparation I have done during the year doesn't matter. I will always have a mad December. My December is always sort of split in two. On one side is my christian Christmas and on the other the reindeer, Santa stuff (which includes most of my family), and activity just generally ramps up massively on both.

On the christian side I am trying to put time aside to remember the reason for the season and spend more time in worship, then me and the other members of the St Luke's puppet team are trying to decide on scripts and songs for the school services and the crib service, and of course there are so many wonderful services to attend as well.

On the other side, I'm still trying to finish the puppet, making some clocks, have several cakes to ice, the decorations to put up (with hubby), Christmas Eve with the nephews to plan, and I am really hoping I have made enough cards! Phew, I really don't know how people with children manage! So to all you parents out there, well done, you are all heroes.


P.S. Yes that is Santa on top of our tree!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Duck and a Cake

A bit of a double post this week. I know last time I said I wouldn't show you the puppets but I am really happy with puppet two so decided to give you a sneaky peek.


I have spent all day today making puppet three and just have ears, eyes and arms to stitch on. I needed a break and something to eat so thought I would do this blog and have some tea before I get on with it.

On the cake side, I had an attempt at a giant cupcake. It turned out okay, though it very nearly landed in a heap when it slid off the improvised turntable in the middle of doing the frosting. Luckily DH sprang to the rescue and the cake was saved. It went down well despite a few gaps between the flowers (I think it was only me that noticed anyway).



I'm off to Handmade Harbour, see you there. http://handmadeharbour.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/handmade-monday-193.html

Sunday, 26 October 2014

I am learning

True to Ruth Mallon's comments on my last post, I learned a lot from all the frustration on the last puppet.  Yes, you can infer from that comment that I have finished puppet one. 👏 (cheering madly)  

I would love to share it with you guys but as it's a commission I will have to hold off until all four are done and they go off to their new home.  I am happy with it though and am half way through puppet two, which is probably going to prove to be the easiest of the four.

Apart from learning how to make a pattern and some construction tips this process has also taught me  that the creative design process actually takes a lot longer than I thought. Which all means I am definitely undercharging on my self designed items.  I did suspect this, but hadn't paid much attention to it before. Not very professional but then I do this because I enjoy it.  I also don't think people would pay the full cost if I did charge it.  How do you work your prices out? I would be interested in your thoughts and advice.

And just because I like to have at least one picture in a post, here is a little felt owl from a kit on Simply Homemade magazine (he is called Pikelet) alongside a couple of fish made for a Feeding of the 5000 puppet sketch.


I'm off to join up with http://handmadeharbour.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/handmade-monday-191.html


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Pattern frustration

Perhaps the title should have been pattern development but it has really been more of a frustrating weekend than anything else.  I have a commission for four puppets and a picture of what they need to look like. Unfortunately my pattern making skills are letting me down a bit.

So I spent a lot of Saturday trying to figure out how to get the snout right and by the end of the night I thought I had a workable pattern. So today, after baking apple pies, going to church and grocery shopping, I have been sat in the kitchen making up the practice puppet. It's not too bad but I managed to stitch the mouth in wonky, and it's not stiff enough (the mouth). I also haven't figured out how to stuff the head and nose (I'm not using a foam base this time) to keep the shape, without it getting in the way when you put your hand in.  The preferred way in commercial puppets seems to be an extra fabric piece inside to hold the stuffing in place or a bag of stuffing secured by a few stitches. I haven't worked out which is going to be best.  It's all taking a lot longer than I thought it would.

So next step is to unpick the mouth and re stitch it in.  I think I should rethink the snout fabric too. It's too stretchy.  Ho hum, onwards and upwards.

So no lovely crafty pictures to share with you this week, instead I've decided to share this lovely picture of the sunlight on Lake Garda. Just because I like it!
 




Sunday, 5 October 2014

Percy Strangeways' Italian Adventure

may be a very young sock monkey but nothing was going to stop me from an Italian adventure! So I sneaked into the suitcase and off we went.  
It was dark and bouncy in the case but I was tucked in well so didn't mind, though it did get a bit cold at one point.  I guess that was when we were flying.

As soon as the case was opened I leapt out with a big "Ta da" into Mammy's arms for a cuddle. Luckily she was pleased to see me - phew! Now to explore Lake Garda.

Now any of you fellow sock monkeys will know that our legs are really too short to pedal a bike, so when the humans hired bikes I clung onto the handlebars to get the best view.
We cycled from Garda to Lazise along the lakeshore smiling at everyone we passed. Everyone smiled back at me which I thought was very nice. We stopped at a Craft and Bird Show near Bardolino and admired all the birds with their prize rosettes, and I sat on a rock for a while watching the canoeists go by. It was a very nice day.

The next adventure was mountain climbing! Remember me mentioning having short legs? Well mountains are big! I was worried. How would I keep up?  Thank goodness there was a cable car so the only bit I had to climb was the top so I could look out at the fabulous view.
 I felt on top of the world. I fancied jumping off with a parachute but Mammy wouldn't let me, I don't know why. We visited the castle at Malcesine then looked round shops at Limone and had an icecream. Well, they had an icecream, I just watched the ducks.  

It was a long, tiring day and I was glad when we got on a slow ferry back to Garda. It's a great way to travel and watch the boats. Every time we stopped somewhere the captain said the name of the place three times. I'm sure these places are only named once, not like New York (so good they named it twice apparently). 

One of my favourite days was a visit to Sirmione. There is a big ruined villa here called the Grotte de Catullo that's surrounded by olive groves. I climbed a tree and explored the ruin. Sat on the steps I wondered if it had been made for giants. I felt very small.
Oh, hang on, I am very small so that might explain it!  

Sirmione also has a mini golf course and the competition between the humans was intense. Eighteen holes, fiercely contested, all came down to the last hole. I won't reveal who won, but it was by a single shot!  

We visited Verona as well. There was a big amp...amfy...ampi..round thingy with arches. They used to have games in there and people and animals died, not sock monkeys though.
Juliet's balcony was very busy but I didn't see her.  I think she was out.

I thoroughly enjoyed my week at Lake Garda and I was allowed to fly home with Mammy even though I didn't have a seat.

 It was very high up, even higher than the mountain and the clouds looked like toy stuffing. Maybe that's what happens to toys when they can't be fixed anymore, their stuffing makes clouds. I would quite like to be a cloud some day, but not yet.