Lockdown arts and crafts

I have been thrilled to see a shift in the content of TV over the last few weeks.  I love TV at the best of times, but to see so much art, crafts and hobbies shown in the schedules has been a real tonic for me.  There has never been a better time to get into a creative hobby of some kind (in my opinion).  So I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the programmes I’ve been watching / taking part in.

I was absolutley thrilled to see that BBC4 started re-showing some old ‘Joy of Painting‘ with Bob Ross.  I used to love this programme when I was younger and remember it being on around lunchtime I think.  It is such a soothing half hour and what’s amazing is that he paints an entire picture in that time too.  So, having introduced my husband and daughter to the joy of Bob Ross, I decided we should have a go at producing an artwork alongside the programme.  I have now done a few, of varying success and with different media, as yet I haven’t ventured into oil paints, as I don’t have all the necessary equipment and materials available.

Anyway, here are some of my attempts so far.

First we have some oil pastel –  a mountain scene with water foreground.  It looks a bit prehistoric to me!

Next I tried water-colour pencils for a beach scene.  I like the sky although it is more like a pink tornado approaching than some wispy pink tinged clouds.

I thought I’d give my drawings pens a try next and I think the sky turned out quite well here.  It is supposed to be waves crashing onto the beach, but I’m not too sure the wave quite worked out.

I used to love drawing with a 2B pencil, so I returned to my A-level 2B pencil for this mountain and hillside with stream.  This looks much more realistic when loked at from a distance (or a small copy).

And another go with the B set of pencils which I liked until I got the perspective on the hut completely wrong!  Ah well, more practice needed.

I haven’t really drawn anything since leaving Uni back in 1994, so I was quite pleased with how some of these have turned out.  And I did only use the thirty minutes of each programme to do them.  It’s amazing how relaxing it is to do and I aim to do some more maybe of things in my own garden over the rest of this year.

A few weeks ago now, there was a daily episode of Kirstie Allsopp doing crafts at home using items she has in the house (Keep crafting and carry on).  I loved this hour long craft session and spent a lot of it catching up with some of my own works in progress.  It was a real shame it only lasted for a couple of weeks as I would love to have a go at several of the projects she showed us.  I was particularly impressed with the tin can animals and the letters for her son’s bedroom.  But so far, the time has run out on me and I haven’t got around to anything from it yet.  I did make some little birds though to put on some gift cards for us to use.

Also adding to my crafty/arty weekday TV is Grayson Perry’s Art Club.  Another Channel 4 production and a very different type of crafting.  It started with a real feel of everyone taking part being a professional artist, but seems to have begun to include more amateurs in the mix.  I am loving the stories about Alan Measles, Grayson’s teddy and how he is being used as a saviour for humanity amidst the pandemic.  It’s also interesting to see the processes used in producing a piece of artwork.  I was particularly intrigued with the sketching of his wife for her eventual portrait on a plate.   This, then followed by his ‘animals’ theme and I am inspired to try to sketch one of the cats – if they ever stay still long enough for me to try or at least take a photo!

Now we have Sewing Bee and Gardener’s World on TV as well, I am well covered in the TV schedules, I just wish I had more time to be able to do all of the things I would like to.

I’d love to know of any other programmes I could tune in to, so if you know of any more do let me know.

In the meantime

Stay safe and happy crafting

x

 

Garden joy

Over the last few weeks, I have been spending lots more time in my garden.  We saved up a couple of years ago and last year had the garden re-landscaped to a design of mine.  It had been devastating over the last few years as the amount of rain increased and the time taken for the water to drain increased with it.  At some points I think we were flooded for several months at a time.  We even had a regular heron visitor, but the icing on the cake was when we had a pair of mallard ducks swimming around where the lawn had once been!

We took the decision to do something which had to include some drainage solution and I put together a few sketches of ideas we could work with.  It was certainly a big plan and one we couldn’t have done ourselves, but our landscaper was fantastic and he was able to do all the drainage works and (with a few modifications) put my sketches into place.

The garden has now been put into zones.  We have a patio (using stones from the original garden), a border, a wildlife area and a grassy arbour with seat (daughter’s zone).  And I love it.  It’s such a great space to be and somewhere I’m thrilled I have in the current times.

We reused as much as we possibly could from the garden -well what had managed to survive the constant waterlogging anyway and it’s been great since to see what is popping up around the place.  Some of the offcuts from the sleepers used to raise the zones were used to make a seat and a little raised bed which we planted with strawberries and they are doing fantastically this year – we planted the runners from the original plants and they are obviously happy.

Equally happy are the cats.  This is Lily enjoying the sleepers, we often find her hiding under the plants or rolling about on the lawn, which is also doing well now we have better drainage.

My wildlife pond looks good too.  I’m amazed how much life there is in it considering it’s only been there for a year.  We have found several frogs and newts too, as well as lots of little bug life – pond skaters, water boatmen and whirly-gig beetles are a regular sight.

I have taken the time to plant some seeds this year too.  We have a patio up by the house and the rest of the garden is down a few steps and as we face south it is a fabulous sun trap.  So I have decided to see what comes up from several old packets of seeds from the garage.  I love poppies and I was pleased to see this little beauty pop up in a trough of seeds for the bees – although not much else seems to be joining it at the moment.

Before we ended up in lockdown, I bought some seeds from Aldi which had several different vegetables and herbs in.  I only planted these broad beans about a week ago and they are already showing their faces.

I am so pleased with the way everything is growing so well this Spring.  And I hope I will see some more flowers soon as well as the blossom on the trees.  Fingers crossed we also get some rain to add to all the sunshine as I could do with a few days indoors catching up with all my indoor projects too!

Stay safe and happy crafting

x

Lions on lockdown

The weather this last couple of weeks has been nothing short of glorious up here in our little corner of East Lancashire.  I can’t quite believe it’s only April.  This has meant I’ve been finishing off my lions in the evening rather than during the afternoon, as it’s been too nice to not get out and do some gardening.

I am now pleased to say that I have finished the first toys from my work-in-progress bag.  Let me introduce to you Lenny the Lion.  He’s the second yellow lion I have made to the Steffi Hochfellner pattern and he’s a real cutey.

Unlike his best mate Rockstar!

This one has always wanted to be a rockstar and is loving the fact he can’t have a haircut during lockdown.  I think he really rocks the long mane look though and he’s not at all mean or moody.

With the weather being so lovely and not having done much exercise, we headed out to the garden for a mini adventure.  The lions quite enjoyed roving through the long grass (chives).

And then the scaled the magnolia tree for a better look at their kingdom.  They were joined by little blue lion, who isn’t quite finished yet.

After the magnolia tree, Lenny scaled the cherry, carefully avoiding knocking the blossom off.  He was desperate to get to the top and enjoy the sunny views with his friend.

Little blue was left at the bottom for a while as he struggles to climb without any back legs!  But the others helped him up for a tree top chat.

Lenny ended his adventure photoshoot with a relax by the waterhole (my wildlife pond).  I don’t think he spotted the frog or he might have gotten a bit wet!

It’s been lovely seeing the bright colours out in the garden and the lions just added a bit of fun to the day.  I shall get on with giving poor little blue some much needed back legs and an extra bit of mane as he’s still a little bald at the back (don’t tell him though).

Stay safe and Happy crafting

x

 

Easter Staycation

This week, I should have been in Edinburgh for our family holiday.  However, like everything, it was cancelled, so it was staycation time.  I wish I could say I was a brilliant parent and made the week into something very holiday-like at home, but I didn’t!  Instead I spent the week with the most card orders I’ve had in quite a while, making with what I have in the stash upstairs.

One of my friends mentioned that she needed some special cards for her colleagues at work.  The company she works for sends out cards for special birthdays, new babies and long service anniversaries.  She was struggling to get any in time, so as she lives near to me, she asked if I would be interested in making some for them.  Of course, I jumped at the chance and so I spent this week with most of my crafting stash on the kitchen table, making my way through the list of cards required.

These are some of the one’s I came up with.  Using up some Ribbonbox numbers I’ve had for ages and some large typography stamps from Papermania.  They are all A5 sized and I have tried to vary the orientation.

They asked me for some celebratory cards for long service anniversaries.  So while I was having a shower, one evening, I decided I should make some champagne bottle cards.  My initial idea was for the cards themselves to be bottle shaped, but I liked this idea with the stars and streamers.  I used some green foil card for the bottles and I coloured the stars and streamers using promarkers.

I think they look a little like champagne bottles and kraft card makes quite a good cork.

After finishing that first set of four cards, I was asked for another four to cover events in May.  So there’s a new baby card and I was able to use up some ribbon I bought years ago which I love.  And I still love making these cards with the ‘invisible’ acetate strip holding a dangly pram on.

Then it was a set of three special birthday cards, 40th, 50th and 60th.  I was asked for fairly generic cards, which I actually enjoyed making for a change.  It’s lovely to sort through papers I’ve had in boxes for a long time and then find other’s to go with them.  I  hope the recipients like them as much as I enjoyed making them.

These have certainly kept me busy for the week and stopped me thinking about all the adventures we should have been having in Edinburgh.  It’s true about crafting being therapeutic and a stress reliever – or I think so anyway.

I finished the week with a rush order for a couple of cards for soon-to-be four-year-old twins in Australia.  My brief was animals, the sea or books!  Both had to be similar but slightly different.  I started with a couple of cards I already had made, which have a balloon and a basket full of animals.  I thought having different coloured wording and an extra bow and tag would be different enough, alas different animals was preferred.  So I headed back to a set of decoupage farm animals I bought at the first craft show I attended many years ago.  I think the images in these are so bright and cheerful, therefore I decided to use the frog and rooster.

The photos of these were rushed too and I didn’t have time to get them into my resident photographer (my husband) for his professional attention.  So apologies for the poor quality of these pictures.  However, I think it shows how vibrant the images are.  I added a blue number four on each one before hand delivering on my daily walk.

My final make of the week was a birthday card for a friend’s daughter.  My daughter and I had already made our cards for her, but her Mum wanted something special as it’s to be a birthday in unreal circumstances.

I ordered a crafting set from Create and Craft a couple of weeks ago which included lots of images for mums and daughters (it’s part of a set from Kanban), and I picked one sheet in particular as I know she’s a real dancer.  We settled on this image of the baby ballet shoes and the grown up shoes.

I think the star background paper sets off this image to perfection and I hope she likes it too.

Well I’d better check on my daughter’s school work planning for next week’s return to school. #Backtoschool

Stay safe and happy crafting

x

Chocolate fix needed

Hello again and I hope you are enjoying the start of the Easter weekend.  I find the joy of the weather at the moment is making me wish to be out in the countryside.  I am very lucky in where I live as I look out onto fields and less than five minutes walk from here we are on a lovely riverside walk down to a country park.  It’s a lovely place to be and I can’t wait to be able to get back there again soon.

In the meantime, I am finding great comfort in baking!  I think I am not the only one judging by my social media feeds.  This week I have had a go at a couple of new recipes, the first being some chocolate chip cookies.  I found this recipe printed out in a folder in the kitchen.  It’s obviously one I’ve found on the internet somewhere, but I have no idea where.  So apologies to whoever’s it is.

Ingredients

  • 100g brown sugar
  • 125g unsalted block butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 225g Self Raising Flour
  • 200g chocolate (any kind!)

Method

Pre-heat oven to 200 oc Place butter and sugar in large bowl and mix well

Add the egg and vanilla essence and mix again

Sieve in flour and salt to mix and combine well.

Cut the chocolate, but not to finely and add. Mix together then roll balls of mixture to about 2cm by 2cm and place on a baking tray with baking parchment on. Be careful not to put the cookies too close together.

Place in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes. Repeat until all cookies are cooked.I use different kinds of chocolate and add nuts. For double chocolate cookies simply replace 50g flour with 75g chocolate powder.

It’s a very simple recipe and with my desperate need for chocolate it was just what was called for.  I followed the instructions and I had a sneaky try of the cookie dough – very tasty indeed and would go brilliantly with some ice cream.

Whilst the cookies taste very nice, I think I should have flattened them a bit before putting them in the oven, as they look a bit more like mini rock cakes than cookies!  I did add some flaked almonds and used a bar of dark chocolate as well as some dark chocolate chips.

Whatever they looked like there aren’t many left so they went down very well in the house, particularly good with a cup of tea!

Today I was inspired to try a microwave mug cake as I was sent an e-mail from Nando’s!  It’s amazing how many of the e-mails I am actually looking at, that I would normally just delete.  I’ve been curious about these little cakes for some time and a little dubious about them actually working.  Anyway, it was time to have a go and while I didn’t have any Nando’s sauce in the house, it was worth making the cake without it.

I was very pleasantly surprised with how quick and easy it was.  So much so I had to gatecrash my husband’s virtual team chat to show them all!  It was a bit dry and would definitely benefit from being eaten with ice cream but it was a different accompaniment to my afternoon brew in the sunshine.

Enjoy the rest of the Easter weekend.

Stay safe and happy crafting

x

 

Works-in-Progress

I hope this finds you keeping safe and well inside during the lockdown.  We are all well here, so far.  I am doing ok at staying in, having the garden to potter about in certainly helps here.  I’m not sure my husband and daughter would say the same as they are far more used to being active and out-and-about than me.  However, the sun is shining again and when I look out of the window, it is hard to believ that there could be anything wrong at all.  The birds are singing and Spring is most definitely springing.

Well, I stopped procrastinating this weekend and finally sorted through my pile of works-in-progress.  I am completely ashamed of myself, letting the pile get so big.  But, I’m not too ashamed to say how many items are partly made – 20!  Most of them are from back issues of Let’s Knit and LGC Knitting and Crochet magazines.

I have started on the three lions as I think they will take the least time to finish.  So far I have a gold one and a pink one that look very odd without any mane!  These have been knitted using oddments from my enormous stash (most of which is currently sat in a large basket on the landing due to my craft space being used as an office).   It’s a design by Steffi Hochfellner and it is a lovely one to knit.

I have made one before which was very popular with some of the younger people I know.  As you can see, he is quite magnificent with his multi-colour mane and I will spare his embarrassment and not show the world what he looks like bald!

When I’ve finished the lion triplets I might take them for an adventure in the jungle (aka my garden).

Stay safe and happy crafting

x

 

 

 

Week 1 – Social Distancing in the Sun

Well last week was a very unusual one for everyone.  We spent the week mostly in and around the house, which is not that unusual for me, but it’s been strange having my husband and daughter at home as well.  Fortunately the weather was lovely and I spent a lot of time outside, reading and doing some garden tidying.  I really love being out in the garden and I would very much like to be doing more out there, but being unable to go to a garden centre is limiting how much I can actually do.

My garden in Spring

My husband bought me a book for our anniversary last year, ‘This Golden Fleece‘ by Esther Rutter.  It’s basically a trip through knitting history, where the author travels around the country discovering knitting traditions and having a go at following old methods.  It’s quite an interesting read and as she travels somewhere new each month, I’ve been trying to read a chapter every month.  (I’m also reading other novels as well).  I’m finding at the moment, that I would like to have had a pattern in each chapter as well, but as I have plenty of patterns to work through, I don’t really need any more just now.

I set myself a New Year’s Resolution to read more and to finish my enormous reading pile.  My aim being to read at least one book a month.  So far I have finished 9 books!  I think these strange times will further increase my reading, particularly as I am encouraging my daughter to read for at least half an hour each day and I am trying my best to settle down at the same time and read too.

Crafting hasn’t been something I have felt much like doing this week.  I managed to finish off a couple of card orders before school was closed, but I just haven’t had the inclination to pick up anything at all!  I keep looking at the enormous pile of unfinished projects sat by the settee in the living room, thinking I must actually finish some of them off.  I will at some point, probably when I’ve done everything else I can think of to do instead!  Talk about procrastination.

My craft space has been transformed into a home office for my husband, so making cards is more difficult at the moment.  I really do feel like making something, but what I don’t know, and I would very much like to have my space back.  I moved my old record player from my Mum’s last year, and it’s a great opportunity to listen to some of my small vinyl collection while I peruse the various card and paper stashes.  Anyway, that’s off limits for the foreseeable future, so I will have to get to grips with a routine that includes utilising the kitchen table and includes craft sessions for my daughter!

It’s surprising how much I have wanted to bake though – I think it has something to do with the lack of chocolate in the house and the need for comfort eating.  So I have made some delicious peanut butter cookies and a gooseberry crumble.  Both very simple things to make but very tasty.

Sometimes you just need baking!

Stay safe and happy crafting.

x

 

I’m back!

Hello again, it’s been a long while since I posted anything on this blog, but I am back and hope to be able to post a little more frequently in the coming weeks at least!  Over the last couple of years I have been working in the local primary school during lunch hour, doing admin work on the school website and volunteering to read with some of the younger children.  This has taken up far more time than I had imagined it would and I guess this blog is what I sacrificed.  However, I have been crafting when I can and my facebook page has been updated more often than the website.

I am currently not able to do my lunchtime role in school and the additional admin work I was doing seems to have dried up as well.  Yesterday was the official end of my contract and I don’t predict that to be renewed in this current climate, so I am now back to crafting and looking after the home again full time.  Of course, my daughter is also at home and I am trying to find ways to keep up with her school work as well as keeping her busy and interested each day.  I would love to hear of any activities you think would be useful to share with an eleven year old about to leave primary school!

So while I sort out the rest of the day, here’s a card I made last summer, using Tonic adorables die and stamp set – Kirby and Lulus Wash Day.  I think it sums up how I feel at the moment.

Cute cats in washing

Stay safe and happy crafting.

x

 

Art fun with the kids

A few weeks ago I became aware of a local activity that was starting to gain in popularity.  I think I stumbled across it in a post in facebook.  It’s called Rammy Rocks and involves painting on small rocks and pebbles and then leaving them for other people to find.  It’s not unique as there appear to be groups all over the country (if not the world) that have taken to leaving lovely messages on stones for people to find.

This one has really taken off in the local area, with a couple of talented Mums using this to get their children being creative and getting them outside.  Rammy Rocks seems to have captured the imagination of hundreds (if not thousands) of local residents.  and it’s not limited to the children either, there are loads of talented artists painting little rocks and hiding them about for people to find.

I, personally, am loving this craze.  It’s great fun to go out and find some pretty stones while on a walk.  So we’ve been doing a fair bit more walking over the last couple of weeks.  It’s a shame the weather has been so rubbish as we would have liked to get out a bit more.  (So it’s been great for getting Alice away from her tablet and minecraft and it’s doing me some good too).

We had a couple of snow days from school which meant we missed World Book Day (much to Alice’s disappointment), so I decided we would make the most of it and paint some book inspired rocks to hide later.

I have to say Alice’s are far superior to my efforts!  Her Matilda and Wimpy Kid rocks are quite brilliant.

We have great fun hiding the rocks too.  Alice rather likes to give them to people rather than hide them for other’s to find, so several of our efforts have been left on doorsteps of her friends.

We will be painting and hiding more over the next few weeks as well as going out and about to find some more.  As we have a trip to Southampton planned for the Easter holidays I think we might be finding some to take down there.  I’m also working on Alice’s Brownie leader to get them to make some to hide in the local park and woods.

It’s great to see all the posts from people when they find them and I’m not sure whether I’m more excited to find a great rock or to see one of mine that’s been found!

I hope we get some more nice weather soon and we can get out to hunt for rocks again soon.

Happy Rocking

xx

Unicorns

Last Summer I was trying to make up all the knitting kits I have in my craft space, in order to free up some space and to see how they look when finished.  One of the kits I made was a little knitted unicorn.  It was a lovely little make and proved very popular with my daughter and her friends.  So much so I have been asked to make several more. (This pattern was printed in Let’s Knit magazine and is by Christel Krukkert)

I love it when people ask me to make something for their children for birthdays and make requests for favourite colours.  I’ve also enjoyed making these in my own colour combinations to give as gifts.  They are so cute and when made in baby yarn, they are so soft and cuddly too.  I’ve embroidered the eyes on these as well, so there are no problems giving them to smaller children.

This lovely pink creation was for a gift for a friend’s daughter.  She loves horses so I think a unicorn made a lovely present.

This one was a Christmas present for a friend’s daughter.

Alice was desperate for a unicorn of her own and she chose this colour combination as it reminded her of Twilight Sparkle from the My Little Pony series.

The next three have been made as gifts.  The pink one made a lovely new baby gift for my daughter’s dance teacher.

I was starting to think I wouldn’t get to do any crochet again, until one of my work colleagues asked me to make her a different unicorn for her grandaughter. (This pattern was posted in Let’s Get Crafting magazine and is from Moji-moji designs).

These are all so lovely to make and I can’t help but feel happy when I making one of these creatures.  Long live the unicorn revolution!!

Happy crafting
x