Sunday, 31 January 2010

Picasso............ this handsome dog's name. This is a recent commission completed a couple of weeks ago but kept under wraps until it had been framed and given to the recipient (Happy Birthday Jo, so glad you like him!)
He's been 'painted' with Derwent Drawing pencils and a touch of acrylic white body paint for the whiskers and highlights. It was very difficult to photograph this picture as the light reflects off the black pencil, which meant no flash (forget daylight, we haven't had much of that lately!) and consequently some of the subtler colours have been lost. There is a much softer grey-purple shading on the ears in the actual painting.

If you fancy having your pet immortalised in pencil or paint, feel free to get in touch with me as I am now able to take on far more commissions as the potato book illustrations are (subject to the author's approval of minor alterations) now complete.

Speaking of potatoes, there is still another fortnight for you to leave a comment and be in the draw to win the 101st and last potato painting.......I'm a bit disappointed in the uptake of this giveaway - go on, you know you want a painted spud on your wall!! You have until Valentine's Day to enter....

Friday, 29 January 2010

Something for the Weekend.......

Owing to the rapid sale of Spud the puppy, who is winging his way to Denver as we speak, I thought I had better knit up another boucle puppy, in white this time. He is also knitted in Sirdar Snowflake Snuggly yarn, with a smart red and white check knitted coat. As soon as he has all his belongings made he will also go up on Etsy, sometime next week.

I've also had fun knitting this tamoshanter hat from a pattern in this month's Yarn Forward magazine. It is knitted in the round using a lace rib pattern, with a hexagonal decrease pattern on the crown. I've added a tassel for fun. Sorry about the bad quality photograph - oh for some decent daylight to take pictures by!

This is the underside of the hat, with a couple of inches of rib that keep it snugly on the head. If and when we ever get a dry day, I will be re-photographing these before they go on Etsy.

Just a reminder, see below for my giveaway - an original potato painting in acrylics, the 101st and hopefully last ever potato painting I will do, so a bit special in its own right. I still have a couple of alterations to make to two paintings before they go for publication, but only about an afternoon's work.

I shan't be twiddling my thumbs however, as after a week of wondering what to paint (slight creative block!) I have been given a family portrait to do which I am really looking forward to.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

It's Giveaway Time!

To help me celebrate the end of the potatoes, who would like to own the 101st potato picture? I did this one for fun (Fun? Are you mad, woman??) as I thought it would be a good giveaway prize. It's not to the standard of the ones going in the book - not that I didn't try hard, but I painted it on canvas which has a bumpy surface and prevents me from achieving quite the same detail. It's quite small - one of those postcard sized canvases. Just leave me a comment below - doesn't matter where on the planet you are, if you fancy owning a painted potato just go for it. You never know, I might be famous one day and this will be worth a fortune........
I'll draw a name out of a hat in a couple of weeks, shall we say Valentine's Day?

This little chap is not being given away - he's just gone up on Etsy, so you'll have to pay for him. I have now knitted him a bed, blanket, toys & bowl and he is ready to be re-homed. I think his name might be Spud..........Sold already! But I'm making another one, white this time.

Monday, 25 January 2010



I've been given this award by Midge at Soggibottom and have t0 give 7 interesting facts about's early in the morning & that involves brainwork....

1. I can't ride a bicycle...tried over and over since I was a child, it's not going to happen.

2. I used to work at BBC Television Centre as a secretary. One of the reasons I don't like Terry Wogan is that he let the main door slam on me instead of holding it open behind him like a gentleman. The chaps in the band Thin Lizzie held the door for me once, why couldn't he?

3. I don't like eggs - can't eat them, won't eat them and am very tired of people acting like I have three heads because I don't eat eggs...

4. I used to work on a cruise boat as a telephonist - I think it was fun, but was permanently half asleep due to the long and anti-social shifts!

5. I travelled to Greece on the 'Magic Bus' in the early 80's - £21 fare, four days on a coach through Belgium, Germany, Austria and what then was Yugoslavia. Great experience, but something I would never do again!

6. My sister and her husband were in charge of the Olympic stables for the Athens Olympics...we even saw my sister striding across the television screen when the news featured some poor horse that collapsed & died.

7. I once paid £5 to spend twenty minutes in a cage with wolves.....fantastic, but have kicked myself ever since for not having my camera with me that day. Wolves are incredibly soft-furred and more than a little scary, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

I'm supposed to pass this on, but forgive me if I don't today - really must go to work.....

New Growth...

We started clearing away some of the snow-caused debris from the garden over the weekend and it made me so happy to see lots of bulbs starting to poke their bright green shoots out of the pots and flower beds. It always cheers me up in these drab winter months to see a sign that Spring is slowly coming and we shall have lots of daffodils and whatever else I have planted out there blooming soon. I'm a bit of a haphazard gardener - I never remember from one year to the next just what I have planted where!

The potato-painting marathon is now officially over - I went to see all one hundred paintings displayed all together at the author's house yesterday. Took me aback slightly to see just how much work I have done over the past year and a half - I'm also always a bit surprised to see that what I have painted actually closely resembles what it is supposed to. When you haven't seen a painting you have done for over a year, it feels a bit like someone else did it. Out of 100 paintings, only three need some minor modification, which should take an afternoon or two - not bad going! The book should be ready for publication in the Spring, complete with a book launch - now it's getting exciting.

So now I am free...and a bit at a loose end! I've had non-stop commissioned work since 2008 and now I have to choose for myself what I want to paint (until the next commission) which I seem to have got out of the habit of. It's hard to resist the temptation to sit and watch tv drinking tea and eating biscuits - for goodness sake, someone give me something to do!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Tell Me What You Think To This........

I haven't made jewellery for such a long time - this set is just for me and I doubt I'll be making any similar for any one else.

Here's a close up of the bracelet....what do you think I have used to make this pretty bauble?(hands down you in the back, I know you know, but give someone else a chance!) Have I splashed out on some gen-you-wine chunks of turquoise? Nope.
Are they plastic imitation? Nope.
Paper-mache? Nope.

I'll put you out of your misery - these beads were made from............

....yes, a potato. Not only do I paint the darn things, I'm wearing them as well. It all started when I got a Secret Santa parcel through the post containing a very delicious box of chocolates and also a sheet of paper with How to Make a Potato Bracelet instructions tucked into an envelope. At first I laughed heartily, but then had a thought that if this method worked, it would make quite a fitting keepsake to remember the past 18 month spud marathon. Originally, I had planned that I would wait until I had the 100th potato finished and use that as the basis for a bracelet, but as you can read below, I never actually got Potato No.100 in my hand, so this has been made with the 99th - not quite as symbolic but close enough!

First I had to cut the potato into rough cubes, slightly larger than the beads I wanted to end up with. Then I speared them through the centre on a wooden skewer and left them to dry. The first batch were put on top of the radiator on some tinfoil and just left - these ended up quite angular and a few sort of caved in on themselves. After my son's adventures making freeze-dried potato stew with his Bolivian cookbook that he got for Christmas (a whole other anecdote...) I made a second batch and popped them in the freezer overnight. The has the effect of drawing the moisture out of the potato as it defrosts, making it dry quicker but also you can squidge it a bit and soften the edges - these are the smaller, rounded beads. Above is how they look when dry - they are as solid as pebbles.

Then each bead was painted turquoise with acrylic paint and left on a knitting needle to dry.

They needed a second coat to get a good covering - this is half the mess I got into......

When the turquoise paint is completely dry, paint the beads with black acrylic paint. Now, you have to be quick here - the instructions said paint with black paint and rub off with a paper towel - that just left me with a smudgy black bead. What you have to do is mix a slightly watery black acrylic, paint it on then quickly dip the bead in a pot of water and rub with a damp paper towel until the black is left only in the cracks and fissures of the beads.

When this is dry, do the same with white acrylic paint - you can see in the photo how little remains in order for it to look authentic.

Finally, paint the beads with two or three coats of acrylic varnish - I used matt finish as I preferred to have a soft sheen rather than a high shine on the beads - it's a matter of personal taste.

It's a very effective but quite labour-intensive way of making your own turquoise - I'm pleased with the results and wore my necklace to work today where it got quite a few compliments. The beads seem really hard and robust, although doing the washing up with the bracelet on might not be such a good idea on a regular basis!

Monday, 18 January 2010


For those of you who follow this blog, you will know that for the past 18 months I have been working on illustrating a book about the humble spud. Today....roll of drums, cue the fanfare....I have painted the hundredth and LAST potato!

It feels a bit anti-climactic to be honest as after painting 99 potatoes from life and being able to see every detail, this last one had to be referenced from photographs as no specimens could be found at this time of year. So I am not celebrating just yet, not until I find out whether or not it looks like the actual variety. But the thought that I may just well have painted the final spuddy brushstroke isn't bad at all! Now all that remains is to go over the whole hundred paintings with the author to make any final adjustments that may be necessary.

On the downside, I don't have any other work in the pipeline......oh dear!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Frosty Blue Cloche Hat

When I stayed awake long enough, I crocheted this cloche hat last week in a thick pale blue frosted boucle yarn. It's thick and warm and covers the ears, all prerequisites for a good winter hat! I have knitted several flowers and leaves to make a decorative posy stitched to one side of the hat, using Rowan Kidsilk Night, some fine pure merino grey yarn, and some funky eye-lash yarn with strands of silver tinsel in it. There are also a few focal beads - one large frosty turquoise one in the centre of the larger flower and a few pearl-like ones in the Kidsilk rose.

When I get some batteries for my camera (!) I will be putting this on Etsy. If in the meantime you like the idea of owning it, it will be £15 including p&p - just e-mail me.

Friday, 15 January 2010

It Runs In The Family

With all the goings on over the past few weeks, I completely forgot to show off one of my best Christmas presents. My elder sister lives in Greece and has access to two amazing bead shops in central Athens. She is also very handy with needles, both sewing and knitting. In my parcel was this wonderful hessian shoulder bag sewn, appliqued and embroidered entirely by her. Cute!

She's lined it and made a pocket too! I can't wait until the warmer weather when I can use this for summer outings. There's more, because inside the bag was this treasure trove....

She has obviously thought very carefully about which beads I would like as I love them all, particularly the ones like little birds' eggs...and the cats....oh, and the shells.....
I don't know what to make with them yet, but very soon inspiration will strike I'm sure.

It's been a difficult week for arts & crafts this week - due to the extra exercise walking through the snow as well as going back to work, combined with a still-mourning-and-restless-at-night dog, I keep falling asleep in the evenings after I've eaten! The lace shawl has made a bit of progress, I've nearly finished a hat, and the one piece of artwork I have done this week is in transit to it's new owner and I can't show it until they've seen it first - it wouldn't be fair. Perhaps now the snow is rapidly melting (hooray, I could drive to the supermarket!!) and things are getting back to normal, I may be more productive over the coming week. But for now, I'm off to lie on the sofa with a cup of tea and the new Yarn Forward magazine.....

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Still Snowbound....

Outside it still looks like this.......

........figs on ice anyone?

Inside, some crafting has been going on. I've been working on this lace shawl for a couple of weeks now.

However, it is like knitting with gossamer as it is just about the finest yarn I have ever used - some pure Merino picked up at the IKnit Weekender last year. I'm really happy with how it is turning out, although pre-blocking it always looks like a crumpled rag. It has to be knitted sporadically though as it is so tiny and fiddly it takes all my concentration to keep it mistakes so far!

In the meantime I knitted this little chap - I've used Sirdar Snuggly Snowflake (fitting!) Chunky, which has meant he came out slightly larger than these dogs normally do, but still only 5 inches tall.

I couldn't leave him without a coat in this weather, so he has this snazzy little number knitted in acrylic yarn with snap fasteners and tiny white buttons.

Sorted! As soon as he has his bed & accessories, he'll be up on Etsy looking for a good home.

I'm also working on a painting but that's to be kept under wraps for a while until it's done - watch this space, it's a cutie!

And so another day of dealing with the snow ahead - heartily fed up with it now. You never know how much time you save by being able to jump into your car to nip and do an errand. I've also discovered just how much 3 tins of dog food, a pack of flour, some coleslaw, cherry tomatoes, shampoo and a newspaper weighs when strapped to your back for half an hour while you attempt to remain upright on the slippery slope home....if nothing else, I'll be fit by the time it thaws!

Thursday, 7 January 2010


No, I'm not freaking out since my dog's demise, I had this painting in mind way back when I took the reference photos in Boston and had it sketched out at the beginning of last week. I'm just an avid reader of Stephen King, and the reference in The Dark Half to sparrows being guides to the afterlife for the souls of the departed has always kind of stuck in my mind....but then I'm the person who had screaming nightmares after reading The Mist & Pet Sematary, and don't get me started on 'It'!

Anyway, enough with the slightly worrying glimpse into my subconscious!

At one of the exits to Boston Common there was this big flock of sparrows fluttering and chattering in a bush, tame as you like and I rattled off a couple of photos (while checking all around that I wasn't going to get hit by a truck or knifed in the, not really!) and have been waiting all this time to have a spare couple of afternoons to paint them. This has been painted in watercolours, using a very annoying wobbly sable brush and a strong magnifying glass to try & get the detail from the photo. Initially, this drove me nuts and there was a lot of swearing and dropping of things - I paint with the drawing board resting on my lap and the addition of a magnifying glass to the hand holding the palette caused overload. However, it did cause me to paint in a much looser style which I quite liked, so persisted with the discomfort!

As the school is still closed due to the snow, I have yet another free day but had better do some paid work!

The 24 Hour Hat!

We still have it looks like this! But the sun is not generating any heat, it's just making everything look sparkly and extra white.

For those of you concerned about my daughter's cold head during this weather (she's such a neglected and under-privileged young lady....) she now has a nice warm woolly hat to keep her ears warm. I knitted this in under 24 hours actually - an evening and a bit - it would have been quicker except Madam insisted on having bobbles as in the pattern rather than easier-to-make tassels.

We gave it a trial run this morning and walked up to the town for a bit of shopping - what should have taken about an hour took us nearly two as the pavements were lethal and there is no escaping a hill before the shops. Interesting just how much shopping can be jammed into a rucksack, although I am praying the roads are clear before we run out of tinned dog food! I saw one enterprising lady pulling four big bags of shopping home on a sledge...hmm, I wonder if I could rig up a dog-pulled sledge by the weekend.......

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Here We Go Again.......

It started snowing again last night, but we were all home, safe and warm, so no reason to panic. I believe some people went a little crazy in the local supermarkets yesterday buying up tons of canned goods and generally preparing for winter in the Yukon rather than a few days snow in the UK....I bought a couple of extra loaves of bread, but figured if we get low on food I can just pull on my wellies and walk.

So we awoke to this scene of destruction in the garden - there's going to be some work needs doing when it all thaws out! Schools are closed, so no work for me today - a completely free day at home, it's like a belated Christmas present!

I dragged my daughter out for a walk with the dog as soon as it got light - the snow was up to the top of her wellies in some places, so we took it slow and didn't go too far.

Somebody had a wonderful time running full tilt up and down - good job he has long legs!

Thanks to all of you who passed on condolences over the loss of Jasper - I really appreciated your kind words. An update on the other dog - he's now sleeping at the top of the stairs at night rather than in the kitchen and has stopped howling so we have had three nights unbroken sleep after a week of misery. Today he even ate his breakfast - he's barely been eating since losing his best mate - so I think he is coming to terms with being an only dog now. I've also been taking him on some high-speed route marches to wear him out and also give him something else to occupy his mind which has helped - good for me too, working off some of the Christmas excess!

I have a few arts & craft projects on the go, but nothing completed for now. Yesterday I realised that despite knitting all the stuff for my Etsy shop, for myself, and commissions, my daughter does not possess a single woolly hat that fits her - oops! I am very ashamed of myself and gave her free rein to choose any yarn from my stash and any pattern, and I spent most of last night trying to finish a hat in an evening....nearly did it but not quite. She should have it before she ventures out into the snow again hopefully!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Thank Goodness For Glue Guns......

This has to be the tiniest bunny's water bottle ever...constructed from half a glitter tube, and knitted ends, all held together with glue. Yes, that is actual water in there - I need to get out more......

Time to Get Back to Normal

What with one thing and another over the past fortnight - snow, Christmas, pet demise - I've not done very much arts and crafts. I can show the wonderful sewn stocking made and given to me by my daughter for Christmas though. This past term she has been attending a craft workshop at the local technical college once a week and had hand-made gifts for all of us for Christmas. I'm very impressed with what she has made, as her fine motor skills are not great so I understand just how much effort she has had to put into each and every gift.

This little knit rabbit set has been made to order and is just about ready to be sent off to his new home...I've been trying to figure out just how to make him a knitted water bottle, have come up with an idea which has to be implemented today. I'm hoping I've not tried to be too clever and that it will work!

Just to let you know that now I only have one more potato illustration to do, I am open to commissions once more so if you feel your child or pet needs their portrait painted, check out my website and maybe I can be of assistance!

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Further to my previous post, not only are we having to deal with our own grief at losing a beloved pet, but our other dog has taken the loss incredibly hard. Last night was the fifth night of him howling all night when put to bed in the kitchen. I'm very, very tired! I've checked out the relevant chapters in my doggie books, looked it up on the net, and we are doing all the right things to help him but it seems we just have to wait for time to be the healer. Any (sensible!) suggestions would be gratefully received!

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Finally, I'd like to wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year - this year, please leave a comment if you visit my blog, I'd love to hear from you.