Spring sunshine

Today I have taken the plunge! I’ve coloured my hair. I fully appreciate this isn’t a major event for many, but I’ve only ever done it once before (in my twenties – a very long time ago now). It wasn’t as complicated as I thought it was going to be, but it wasn’t that easy with hair as short as mine is – fingers crossed I don’t end up with dye all over my face!!

So I’m taking this opportunity for the twenty-five minute relax (while the potion works its magic) to sit outside in the sunshine. The garden was looking very tidy after my afternoon’s weeding, pruning, planting and collecting fallen magnolia petals, but the wind has rendered the petal collecting pointless – I think there might be even more on the ground now. I might wait a couple of days before clearing up this lot.

A non-alcohol beer in the sunshine

I’m pleased to say there are plenty of lovely signs of Spring taking advantage of the April sunshine with me. I’ve been serenaded by a pair of blackbirds, squawked at by a starling and enthralled at the majesty of a pair of goldfinches and a pair of bullfinches. The first orange tip butterfly of this year (that I’ve seen) has flitted around, joining the countless ladybirds basking on my hebes and geraniums. Oh, I think this really does have to be my favourite season – I hope my sunflower seeds germinate and don’t get eaten by slugs!

My first flowers on my rescue clematis

A short pause to deal with my hair! I must mention I have very dark hair with a few (very obvious) greys, so I’m not sure I expected much from this colouring. However, if anything it looks even darker now- so much for the deep plum/red tones I was initially hoping for! No visible grey though (but I forgot to wipe my ears before leaving the potion to work – oops!) The real test will be if anyone notices when they get home from work and school!

This last couple of weeks I’ve been crafting away as usual, lots of little knitted chicks which I sold to buy some books for my local primary school (Springside where I’m a governor too). I was making some little knitted baskets to put larger Kinder surprise eggs in, but the reports of salmonella meant I didn’t actually finish them even though I had some eggs ready to put in them. The eggs I have weren’t in the affected batches but I though better safe than sorry. So I think I’ll be adding the surprises to my geocaching swag box and I’ve taken the hit on the eggs. I’m just pleased I didn’t spend a fortune on them.

Right, I’d better get on with making tea for the workers!

Happy crafting

K x

PS – 3 days in and no-one has commented on my hair yet!

The knitting needles are out

What happened to Spring? All the glorious sunshine and balmy 18oC has been swapped for snow and -1oC! I’ve had to put the heating back on (not for long) and I’ve retreated to blanket crochet again, just to stay warm!

Gloves work-in-progress

This cold snap has made me think back to the last couple of winters and my chance meeting with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages. She had recently bought a shop in Ramsbottom, not long before lockdown, and selling lovely ladies clothing. Over a chat about Easter chick knitting (more of that in a future post), she asked if I fancied making some hats and gloves to sell in her shop when Autumn came around. So we decided on a trial of a dozen or so items, just to see how they went. Lots of knitting (and the inevitable unpicking) ensued, choosing different yarns, colours and patterns. She wasn’t concerned about them all being the same, if anything she was happier for lots of different designs to add to the uniqueness of the products. A great opportunity to practice some long forgotten and new techniques and to improve my cabling and sizing.

Ribbed beanies

With my first collection complete they went on sale in October 2021 just to coincide with a warm late Autumn! But in the run up to Christmas, the weather did turn colder and they started to sell well. So-much-so that I was asked to make as many more items, particularly hats, as I could. What a confidence boost for me. I’ve had a few knock-backs with job applications and interviews over this last year – it seems being a peri-menopausal fifty-year-old returner to work is not who people want to employ these days, in spite of plenty of work experience and qualifications!

Bobble hats

Anyway, suffice it to say I think the hat/glove trial was a success and I have been knitting away frantically in the evenings to make more for Autumn/Winter 2022. I have been working on my cabling and making some headbands as well, with my now teenage daughter’s help in colour choices!

Finished gloves and wrist-warmers

The knitting was something I enjoyed doing even if it was a bit of a production line, but I had completely forgotten about having to make labels for all the items. So there was a frantic couple of days wondering what I could do, investigating sew in versus stick/iron on labels and having them all printed. But I settled on making my own and adding in all the care instructions for the yarn from each yarn band. I’m quite pleased with the end result, I think they add to the handmade feel of the items too. What do you think?

Time to warm up again with a brew now. Have a lovely week.

Happy crafting.

K x

Post COVID normality?

Well, this has been a very long time in the writing! It’s been almost two years since I last put pen to paper, while the whole world was in the throes of the first set of lockdowns I think.

It’s been a hard couple of years for everyone in may different ways, and today marks the two-year anniversary of the official start of our first UK lockdown. Similarly to then, I am sat in the garden enjoying some very warm early Spring sunshine. This time though I am being serenaded not by the local birds, but the screeching tones of the local primary school after-school-club children! Why do children feel the need to squeal and scream everything?!

Anyway, it’s been a tough couple of years. I have found it hard to function normally with all my routines thrown into chaos and lots of changes to our lives and freedoms. Like many I have loved the peace and quiet without all the traffic noise; being able to hear the birdsong was absolute bliss for me and a great opportunity to start to identify birds from their song. The chance to spend more time outside was a real tonic particularly as I had had my space invaded by a home-worker and a home-schooler. It’s amazing how stressful it is having your family all under the same roof! And the house felt so small. So the garden has become even more of a refuge than ever before.

Black-cap visitor to the bird feeder

I’ve been thinking about what to write for a while and I had planned to start at New Year! I blinked and now it’s Spring, but better-late-than-never. So what have I been up to crafting wise? I’ve kept up with my facebook page reasonably well and card orders have been pretty steady, so I’ve managed to retain my crafty focus more-or-less. It’s been good to do some crafting for us at home too(lots of face masks and family cards) as this is something I don’t generally do that much of. I had a good read through my last posts in 2020 and what I haven’t done much of is finishing off the enormous pile of unfinished projects. I had every intention of completing them, but I think I just lost my way with the enormity of it. However, I am pleased to say that the pile is somewhat smaller than it was.

Before I go, I thought I’d end with a success. I have spent the last two years crocheting the granny square blanket, started in lockdown and the subject of my last post (http://www.handmadebykatherine.co.uk/2020/06/my-lockdown-blanket/). This was a labour of love and something I thought about submitting to Grayson Perry’s Art Club, but I couldn’t think of a theme that it fitted in. It’s a project I’m pleased I’ve completed but I miss it keeping me warm on the settee watching the TV. It looks great on the bed though and as you can see, the cats rather like it too. This is George’s favourite spot!

Finished blanket adorning the bed

It’s good to be back and I Shall try to keep up with some ramblings more frequently. Do message or comment, I’d love to know how everyone is out there.

Happy crafting

K x

My lockdown blanket

With all of the sorting out of my crafting stash and completing my works-in-progress, I am finding plenty of yarn ends.  So a few weeks ago I decided to make a lockdown rainbow blanket using up all the these left over bits.  I’ve gone for the simple treble crochet granny square pattern and I am trying to stick to the standard rainbow – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet – with an addition of Grey and White at the end.

It’s been very therapeutic to do whilst watching my favourite TV shows – particularly The Repair Shop, Sewing Bee and Gardener’s World.  I’m hoping to make it large enough to use as a throw over my bed, so it’s going to take a while.

The problem with trying to stick to the rainbow format is making sure I have an equal number of balls of each colour.  I keep having to stop and go on a hunt for either red or range at the moment!  So I’m going through my WIP bag to finish off a project each time I run out of a colour.  Hopefully this will mean I can kill two birds with one stone, finishing off a WIP as well as using up the leftovers on my blanket.  It does appear that I don’t have much in the red category amongst my projects at present.  I suppose I’d better make a start on some Christmas projects!!

It’s been a lovely project to get out each evening while I’m catching up with myself.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the re-run of ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ (Is there really a better way to spend a mid-week evening than watching Colin Firth look smoulderingly at Jennifer Ehle, while crocheting a blanket to warm your legs up?!) Maybe a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine would be welcome additions, but not when I need to concentrate enough to keep the pattern going – I have a tendency to misplace stitches and have to unravel if there’s too much wine involved!!

There’s certainly plenty of work left in the this blanket, so I’m going to have to find another series to work along too – there seem to be fewer and fewer escapist programmes to watch these days.  Although I have got into Tess of the d’Urbevilles over on BBC4.

Any suggestions gratefully received.

Happy crafting

x

Work-in-Progress Progress!

It’s three months (ish) since we went into lockdown and I have tried to get through the large bag of partly made projects I had hanging around back in March. Twenty items really is too many to have left so long, but I really am all about the knitting / crochet and not the stuffing and sewing.

Having finished the three lockdown lions a few weeks back, I have been steadily working through the other bags and boxes of pieces and my menagerie is growing once again.  Most of the creatures are from kits I’ve had from either Let’s Knit or LGC Knitting and Crochet magazines, and are great for making something a little out of my comfort zone or for little gifts for friends and family.  I have enjoyed making most of them.  I do find that sometimes the instructions can be a little vague – sew legs to body, for instance – so I do make a point of studying as many pictures of the finished articles as possible before committing to the final positions of limbs and features.

So, what have I managed to finish over the last few weeks then?

From LGC Knitting and Crochet magazine, I have made,

Amy the Donkey (design by Hannah Cooper)

Easter Bunny (design by Nicola Valiji)

Safari bear (design by Sarah Louise Read)

and a knitted chick (design by Sachiyo Ishii)

From the Let’s Knit kits, I chose

Sparkle-dash the unicorn (design by Steffi Hochfellner)

And I finally finished an Aldi, So crafty kit of a hippo.

I hope you like them as much as I do.

There is still a way to go, but the pile is steadily reducing which means there is more space in the living room – I actually found my sewing machine this week, which had been buried under two bags of yarn.  So there’s something else to do, hmmm, what to make next……..

Happy crafting

x

Lockdown Life

These last few weeks I have been struggling with the whole lockdown.  Tempers have been running short across the household and don’t get me started on homeschooling an eleven-year-old!

I have been trying to separate home and crafting where possible, but this is equally challenging due to having completely lost my dedicated crafting space.  My husband is working from home and needed a quiet office space, so my craft room is now the office.

We have done a complete redecorate of the space and it has made a real difference.  The whole room feels so much larger and calmer (I have to admit it was rather chaotic).

It was quite a fun project to do, involving removing old nursery furniture (it’s amazing how quickly it was removed from the drive), as well as stripping textured wallpaper and all the associated sanding, filling and painting.  Whilst new plug sockets and painting were being completed by my husband, I’ve had the joy of sorting through all of my crafting materials and associated accumulations!

It’s all been plonked in the front room for what feels like weeks, while I work my way through it all.  I didn’t quite realise how much stuff I have.  It’s been quite interesting to see what’s been hidden in  old cupboards and I might find the opportunity to use some things again in the coming weeks / months.  I’m sure some things will come back into fashion – paper crimper anyone?

After the main papering and painting had been finished, we had a new carpet fitted – what a luxury – it’s over twelve years since we’ve had new flooring anywhere and this feels lovely underfoot.  I was then set free with a geometric paint pattern above the picture rail. I did some practice with tester pots first, just to check it would work!

It took longer than I thought it would and it was very nerve-wracking hoping the paint hadn’t run under any of the masking tape.  Plus the colour choice was different!  It all looked pretty rubbish with the orange masking tape.

The unveiling when quite well, I think.  There are a few little smudges but overall is looks OK to me (It certainly helps that it’s high up).

Since all the painting has been done, we had to wait for Ikea to open for the storage to finish everything off.  We took inspiration for the room from an Ikea Kallax image on their site, so plumped for the Kallax storage solution.  My daughter had fun deciding on the box / door / shelf / drawer arrangement.  It looks great and there is a lot more space to move around in there now.  I still haven’t managed to store everything in there and I’m not sure there is actually quite enough storage for all my bits and pieces – I certainly have more books and magazines than I thought!

Unfortunately, as lovely as the finished room is, there is little chance of me being able to make use of it as my husband is working from home for the foreseeable future.  So I will have to continue to content myself with card-making at the kitchen table and knitting / crochet in front of the television in the evenings (for now).

Happy crafting

x

Life Drawing

Following last week’s post about the arts and craft TV programmes I’ve been addicted to over the last few weeks, I convinced the family to take part in ‘Life Drawing Live‘ on BBC4.  It was the second one in, what appears to be, an elongated series and I hadn’t seen the first one, but I didn’t think that would matter too much.  I have only really done life drawing once before at school, I think it was for A-level in Sixth Form, but it was a very long time ago and I could be wrong there.

Anyhow, it was a two hour programme where we had the tv on as well as a laptop, as we could see the model on the laptop and hence, take part in the drawing challenges.

I can’t believe how quickly the two hours went.  There was a series of tasks, starting with short timescales and gradually getting longer, while the model changed pose for each task based on a well known painting from the past.

I am by no means a particularly good sketcher and people have never been my strong point, but it was good to have a try, although being very self-critical, there are many many issues with the form, perspective and sizing!

So here are my first few sketches.

These were different poses and the task was the sketch them in a very short time, from left to right – 30 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute.  So not very much time to get anything on the page really!  I can just about tell they are people I think.

The next one was a reclining pose supposed to be on a chaise longue.  I think we had  about five minutes to do this one, and I was doing alright until my daughter knocked her drink all over the lounge carpet in the middle of this one, so this is the result of about two minutes sketching.

We were encouraged to switch from charcoal (I’d been using a 2B pencil) to a red crayon for this next pose.  Again I’m happy with the shape of the head and the right arm  but I was really struggling with the proportions.  Fun to use something other than a pencil though.

The next pose was a lady with a cello.  Back to pencil here and I think this was about 8 minutes or so.  I quite enjoyed this pose although she looks like a strange sort of bodybuilder and she really wasn’t!

The Narcissus pose is possibly my favourite of all the drawings I did and arguably my most successful.  I was hoping to get to add his reflection into the water but didn’t quite get around to it in the ten minutes.  However, I think the proportions here are much more realistic than on any other.  

The final pose was one depicting Liberty. The lady had had a mastectomy and was very courageous in both her pose and what she had been through.  She wasn’t as bony around her shoulders as she looks  but I have a little more perspective with the stance then I have in other sketches. I didn’t really do her justice, but it was a reasonable effort in the nineteen minutes we had.

It was a great way to spend the evening, even if my results weren’t all that impressive.  I think I can see some elements of improvement over the course of the class and it was interesting to pick up some tips from the artists on the screen as well as seeing attempts by other people at home.

I was very aware of how long it has been since I picked up some pencils to do some drawing and I was feeling very rusty.  But the drawing pencils I have felt lovely to use again and I feel I really should do some more.  So I’m hoping this irregular series does have another episode in the not too distant future.

Maybe I will get around to having a go at drawing one of my cats one day.

Stay safe and happy crafting

x

 

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