Friday, 25 February 2011

Things that make you go Mmmmmmm (or Oooooh or Aaaaahhhh)

Hello there

I have been knocked for six this last week with influenza - yucky nasty virus.  So today, as energy levels are still way below par I am sending you a post full of delicious things of the visual and edible kind. 

These cakes were a treat yesterday afternoon - taking advantage of the very warm February sunshine, I was coaxed out to Wentworth with my other half and daughter.  Tea and cakes under a bright blue sky on the verandah of the cafe was just the tonic - now that's what I call medicene!!

And Ohhhhhh would you look at those beautiful primroses? So very, very bright and spirit-lifting after so many of those dreary, colourless days we've had around here.

And more flowery lovliness - a little bunch of buttery yellow tulips - these have been glowing like sunshine on my table this last week and make me smile everytime I see them.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm of the highest order here.  This is about as good as chocolate gets.  Have you ever tried Raw Chocolate?  No?  Well neither had I - and I decided to order some from my friend Kate Tregellas who is an artisan chocolatier based in North Devon.  I was curious to try it as the health properties are second to none.
They also taste pretty damn good too - Im so happy to have given raw a go and if you are curious, you can contact her directly by visiting her FB page for more details of the fabulous flavour creations she makes.  Hot off the press news, she is currently working on a divine Easter chocolate range!!!

Oooooooohhh!! Now what have we here?!!

In my last post you might remember that I fell swoonily in love with a certain crocheted waistcoat.  Well, a bit of investigating on the interweb brought up nothing...I was starting to wonder if this waistcoat actually existed so I got in touch with the company to ask about it.  My mole at CK tells me it is going to be launched at the end of March but I'm too impatient to be hanging around that long, so as you can see - I've been getting busy....

...making my very own Cath inspired waistcoat.  Now, I want to just clarify - this is going to be my Own Pattern - I'm not copying anything here folks.  I was very inspired by the colours of the original one in the magazine (which is what caught my eye in the first place) and have picked similar ones from the Rowan Handknit Cotton range (thinking cotton would be nice for summer).  I also thought it would be fun to design my first garment, something I haven't attempted yet apart from a scarf which doesn't count, as it's just a long rectangle.

I have already started one of the front panels as you can see, and it's going really well.  I will of course do my best to work out an understandable pattern for you in due course, but when it comes to things like this, I tend to just launch head on into it with the idea in my head and hope for the best.  But I will do one, I promise.

I'm working it in a cluster stitch.  I tried a sample of granny stripe as I originally thought that would look good but afterwards I didn't think it suited the look of a waistcoat.

Although I do love the granny stripe - can I feel a blanket coming on?? No, no...I must stop tormenting myself like this!

Well that's it from me - I'm feeling in need of a cuppa - got to keep those energy levels ticking over, and a slice of that Raw Chocolate might be necessary too...Ooh, just before I go, many thanks to all of you for the kind comments you left on my last post about the Oyster Catcher textile art work.  Thanks also to all of you who stop by and visit my little world and read my ramblings, it's so very nice that you do.

Sending you sun~filled days and things that make you smile.

Love Julia x

Thursday, 17 February 2011

And Now for Something Different . . .

I've been doing a different kind of art today - textile art:

Journal Sketch Page ~ Oyster Catcher

In the hub-bub of life I sometimes hatch a little idea which I don't have time to pay attention to right away and it has to be quickly drawn into my sketch book so I can remember it for later.
This was one of those ideas, and it was born in September of last year whilst up on the Northumberland coast.

One very early (and particularly beautiful) morning, I was the first one up in our little holiday abode, and whilst enjoying a hot coffee I had a trawl through the rather fascinating book case that the owner had thoughtfully crammed full of fabulous reading material and discovered a very old bird book.

I wish I could tell you what the title of it was but I'm afraid I can't.  It was one of those little books bound in soft navy blue leather, and all the wording had been rubbed off.  The pages were well worn and yellowed with age on the edges, and did I just fall in love with those black and white illustrations?  You bet I did, and I hastily scribbled in my sketch book that morning as the ideas ran riot.

My idea was to create a journal type sketch book piece using mixed media mounted onto a small box canvas.
Using creamy white calico as a base to work from, I drew a lined journal background and my oyster catcher in pencil and then coloured it in with acrylics, adding a couple of smooth round pebbles he could nose about in and a bit of turquoise for the shoreline.

When the paint had dried, I ironed the calico and began my freestyle embroidery.  I used two contrasting colours of thread throughout as I like the fact you can see both colours if you look carefully.  It's also a nice way to shade.

I really love the freedom of this kind of sewing, it's a very organic process and I enjoy the occasional serendiptious mishaps that end up enhancing the work! 
To give it more of a page-like feel, I sewed in the lines and added text using a vintage typewriter alphabet stamp, and also a bit of my own hand writing.

To finish, the work was mounted on a painted box canvas.  What do you think?  
You will be able to find this in my Folksy Shop.


So onto other stuff:  I've been doing a bit more work on my shawl this week, in between looking after a poorly Small.  It's slow progress but it's coming on a treat.  I'm looking forward to sharing some new pictures of my current WIP with you very soon.

Talking of crochet...Oh my goodness did I go weak at the knees with the Wanties or what!?!  Being pretty much housebound this week playing nurse to Small, I decided to treat myself to a magazine - the ones I promised not to spend oodles of cash on anymore, except as a treat (but I reckon being a nurse qualifies to a bit of self indulgence).
Anyhow!  Flicking through the pages of a rather colourful and splendid Country Living I saw this:

Can you see it?  
Look closer...sorry to behead the poor woman in the picture but check out that crocheted waistcoat!!!  Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeals of delight, just LoOk!! LOOK!!!

Sorry the picture is slightly blurred - but you get the idea!  Apparently it's a CK one although I can't find it anywhere online to look at in more detail.  It's worth £68 squideroonies and you know what I thought when I saw it don't you?

I could make that.

It looks like a granny stitch affair to me - and it is ever so likely that this will be my next project once the shawl is finished. I'm already choosing colours for it - the other half raised an eyebrow and indicated with a slight nod of his head the rather full to bursting wool basket in Crochet Corner...'What about that lot in there?'  Well what about it?  It's all odds and sods, suitable for blankets and cushions, this is going to need New Wool!!  And that for me is half the pleasure of it all - picking new wool!

If any of you has a link to a better picture of this waistcoat, would you be a dear and send it to me please?

Thank you.

Sending you love ~ thank you for dropping in today, have a wonderful weekend!
Julia x

Monday, 14 February 2011

Delight~Full Living

Hello there!

I'm investigating Delight~Full Living today - those simple things or moments that can make our soul feel joy~filled.  It's easy to lose sight of Delight~Full Things in February, when the weather has been cold and dreary for weeks on end, and we feel as if the warmer weather might never arrive.  A succulent way of living is very necessary at this time of year and to me, this is all about happy feelings and finding pleasure in the ordinary. 

I'm going to share some of my ways of Delight~Full Living with you - read on!

 I like to fill my home with colour and my wool stash is a very pleasant corner of our home - the sight of all those colours make me smile and feel oddly satisfied deep down.  Wool to me is about comfort, about creating something snug and wearable or pretty and colourful for my little house and the people in it.

I have a very pretty rose polka dot oil cloth on my table now which is just the lovliest thing and sets off that Cornish Ware jug and happy yellow daffodils a treat!  This oil cloth is from Dunelm Mill.  It's very good and practically identical to the Cath one but at a fraction of the price.  Would you be able to tell the difference? 

Good stuff - delicious discovery, happy colourful mealtimes and pennies saved too!!

When the weather is fine, we take advantage of the sunny cold days and go outdoors.

Get yourself out in nature, listen to bird song...  

...look for new buds and shoots appearing in secret places...

...and discover new paths and magical rocks...

Have you any idea just how good for the soul fresh air and sunshine is?  Of course you have!!  Turn your mobile phone off, stuff it in your pocket and forget about it, take some good deep breaths and I'm sure you will catch the scent of spring in the breeze.

And of course, when you come home you could always bake something warm and tasty to eat!  Baking is one of my weaknesses that I indulge these days as a special treat - but eating something special once in a while enhances the pleasure of the moment for me!

There is nothing I like more than settling in a comfy armchair (or in bed) with a good book.  Book cases are magical places for me.  I'm an avid bookworm and absolutely adore the worlds that can open up within the pages of a book.  Here is my favourite bookcase - not just books on there if you look, but inspiring art cards, candle holders, vases and crystals which delight me each time I see them all together there!  Book heaven!

And you know that painting is also a very delight~filling obsession of mine...

Which reminds me - I have just released a new range of individual greetings cards which you can now find on my website.  I've been planning to do this for a while and I am so happy that it's all come together at last!  Creating is a very succulent pass time indeed and makes me feel marvellous.  If I don't do it, I feel strangely empty and detached.  

Good sea air, the sound of gulls, colourful fishing boats, crystal water on ochre's a tonic and an inspiration for me.  There is something about the coast the makes me feel intensley happy and content.

Whilst it's a little cold and too far to visit at the moment, I do like to order the odd brochure to look through of an evening and plan for a little holiday in the summer.  It is a grand feeling indeed to put the date on the calendar and count down the weeks and days until your departure!

And that brings me to camping *happy sigh* - camping is a random, fabulous and exciting thing that me and my family discovered last year for the very first time (well, since girl guide camp anyhow).  And already we are planning several jaunts, with summer weekends in Norfolk and Northumberland on the cards (fingers crossed).

 Well - if you've got this far, I'm impressed - it turned out to be a bit of a longer post than I first envisaged and I can think of many, many more things I could write about but for now I'm calling it a day.

I'd love to hear how you live in a Delight~Filling way, will you share with me?

Thanks for dropping in today, sending you bright pink hyacinths for your bedside table, hot chocolate and birdsong...

Love Julia x x x

Thursday, 10 February 2011

And Still I Dream of the Sea

That Oh So Familiar Feeling has begun to stir again.  A feeling for the sea, being near it, inhaling it, walking in it, watching it...

However, as most of you know I am landlocked in a really pretty part of the North and I'm absolutely not complaining about where my little abode is, but you know how it is.

So...a deviation occured.  I was all set to work on my newest Spring Garden canvas when I got an inkling to paint a harbour with a fishing, not just an inkling, a great big enormous urge.
Sometimes, you just have to follow the whim that is leading you and if it feels good, trust that the outcome will be too.

Laying down that dark blue wash was wonderful - how I LOVE painting with these colours!  Adding the first layer of turquoise acrylic for the sea...oh my...I've also taken to wearing turquoise quite alot lately too - a tibetan turquoise pendant, and a new scarf; the most beautiful shade of soft jade you ever saw - these things remind me of the sea... do those lovely ocean colours on my palette!  It makes me ever so slightly dippy with happiness to see them there together!  And, I must confess to never, ever cleaning it.  That palette has served me well for several years now and is quite a weight, a build up of leftover paint from countless paintings I've worked on.

I've been working away in my state of usual organised chaos with these cheerful daffodils and tulips alongside me, which have really brightened things up.  Nothing like a nice jam jar of spring blooms to remind me that the warmer weather is on it's way!

Well, I suppose you might be wondering if I've got a finished painting to share with you today?

You'd be dead right - I have.  Want to see it?


I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of you thought 'Now hang on just a minute...that looks ever such a little bit like a rather nice arty fishing village somewhere in the north of Cornwall....'

Yes, I was inspired to use a few elements of St Ives harbour for this painting, but the whole thing was painted very much from the imagination and is rather a pastiche of old sketches I've done of boats and little houses over the years, entwined with elements of reality.

I had a wonderful time painting this piece; I worked with fairly watery acrylic paint to create layers and lifted parts of it off the paper with tissues to give depth and texture.  I also used sandpaper when dry to scuff bits of it up here and there, and my trusty watercolour crayons to add a bit of definition and line.  I also dug out an old typewriter style stamp set, to make the number for the boat - love it!! What do you think?

I'm going to be adding this piece to my gallery shop very shortly, and will be doing a signed print run too ~ let me know if you would like to pre-order this print won't you!
*Edited to add, it's now in the gallery shop and up for sale!

Well, I have much to do this afternoon, it being a Small Person Free Zone, so I'm away!
Thank you so much for stopping by, and also - Big Welcome Hello's to all the new Followers and Subscribers, I'm delighted you have taken the time to drop in and see me!

Have a marvellous day, sending you sunshine, salt breezes and turquoise waves....

'til next time,
Julia x

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

How to Crochet Sea Pennies


Today I'm going to share a short tutorial with you on how to crochet Sea Pennies!

I'm using Rico Creative Cotton and a Number 4 hook for mine, but you can use any wool and hook to get different sized Pennies (which is a nice idea for a chunky winter scarf methinks!).
The Pennies are really quite easy and created here using 12 Double Crochet stitches (US) and I'm sure some of you have already worked out how to do this, but anyway - here goes!

Let's get started.

Make a loop with the yarn as shown above in the picture.  We are going to be creating a Magic Circle so that there is no hole in the centre of our Pennies.  
Leave a tail end of yarn about 4-6 inches long.

From the ball of yarn side, wind and secure the yarn as normal around your fingers, then take hold of the loop between your thumb and middle finger.

Take your hook and push it through the centre of the loop, pulling back a loop from which you will crochet 3 chain stitches.

So - recap - hook through the centre of the loop, pull through a loop then chain 3.

Then, into the centre of the loop, DC 11.

*Make sure you keep hold of the tail end of yarn with the loop bit of yarn when crocheting your stitches, don't leave it flapping about in the breeze or you won't be able to tighten the ring at the end to make the hole disappear.  Look carefully at the photograph below to see that the tail end of yarn is together with the loop part within the stitch.  (I do hope this makes sense).

Pull the tail very slowly to close the hole, then slip stitch to join the circle together.  You should have 12 stitches around your penny now. 
Finish off by sewing the tail end into the underside of the penny.  You will need to do this to each individual penny to avoid being left with a whole heap of hanging tails :)

Below is a guide for joining your first row of pennies together, and then how to continue with the rows you create beyond this.

So, first row of pennies:  Make your next penny in the same way as described above, but when you get to the 6th DC in the loop, you will need to join the new penny to the previously completed one.

To join as you go you will need to complete the 6th stitch on your current penny and then insert your hook underneath the 6th stitch of the first penny:
Pull the yarn through the stitch (2 loops on hook)
Pull the second loop through the 1st loop to secure, like a slip stitch.
Continue with the rest of your DC into the loop as described for the first sea penny until you have 12 DC in your loop.  Pull the tail gently to close the loop, finish off and sew in the ends.

You will carry on in this way until you have a first row of Pennies from which to start building your work.  The photographic instructions that follow are for Row 2 and beyond, where you have to join several sides of each Penny to the other existing Pennies.


Second Row of Pennies: How to join the the pennies.

First of all, you will make a magic circle (as describe above) and do 10DC stitches into the centre.


To join your newest Penny to the first row (to begin to create your second row), you need to take the first two joined Pennies on the first row (the light blue Penny and dark Teal Penny in photograph above), and count around 3 stitches around on the light blue Penny from where it joins the dark teal *see where hook is inserted, that is the the third counted stitch which is the first place to join your new penny).

Push your hook down under the stitch to make a slip stitch.

Pull the yarn up through the stitch - bit fiddly but do-able.
(2 loops on hook)
Pull the second loop through the first loop on your hook (as a slip stitch) to secure:

Next, do ONE DC into the middle of the Penny loop:

You are now ready to join the new Penny to the dark teal Penny of the first row.  Again, count three stitches around from where it originally joined to it's pale blue neighbour on the right and push your hook down through the stitch as before (see photograph below):

Pull the yarn up and through the stitch (2 loops on hook) and pull the second loop through the first loop on your hook (as a Slip Stitch) to secure.

Then do 1 DC into the centre (12 stitches total) of the new Penny.
Take the tail end of yarn and now gently pull it until the hole closes up tight like shown here:

Close the circle by gently pulling the tail end.
Join the circle by slip stitching into the first chain.
Finish off and sew in the ends.

If you are making a triangle shape like I am for a shawl, you will need to repeat these instructions exactly to put a penny on the corner here:

When you need to start joining 3 sides of your new Penny to 3 existing Pennies like so... will do it more or less the same again, except for the very last part - there will not be a DC to do after your final Join As You Go stitch, as you will have already completed this:

First Join As You Go stitch onto bright blue Penny, followed by a DC into centre (11 stitches)
Second Join As You Go stitch onto light blue Penny, followed by a DC into centre (12 stitches)
Third Join As You Go stitch onto turquoise Penny, followed by tightening the centre of the circle up, and SS to finish in 3rd Chain of first Chain. 

It's absolutely fine to do it like this and won't make any difference to your Pennies.  After your last Join stitch, pull the circle closed and then join the circle together with a Slip Stitch as described above.


So - are you with me so far?  Does it make sense?  I do hope so, I've read through it all several times and fingers crossed I've got it right, but as usual do get in touch if you are struggling please!

Enjoy making your Pennies, and please share links to any crochet work you create using them won't you, I'd love to see what you have made.

Sending Crochet Love out to you today!
Julia x

Friday, 4 February 2011

Artisan Feature: Meet Kirsty Elson


Driftwood Boats

I am so pleased to be able to share the work of the talented designer maker Kirsty Elson with you all today.  Her distinctive nautical style is naturally appealing, with boats made from driftwood that Kirsty finds on her local beaches, to cards, framed work and textile art.

But lets start at the beginning:

Kirsty studied illustration and printmaking at Anglia Polytechnic University, which is now known as Cambridge School of Art.  Following the birth of her first child, her family made the move to Cornwall which is where she now lives and works.
Wanting to find something that was both flexible and creative to do whilst looking after her son, Kirsty began designing and making driftwood greetings cards...  

Driftwood Boat Greetings Card

And that was just the start of things to come.

Her work has blossomed into a thriving business, and she regularly trawls beaches close to her studio for driftwood and found objects that she can turn into wonderfully unique pieces of sculpture or art.
She considers herself very lucky that part of her work involves wandering about on beaches for a living (I agree - she is!)

Driftwood Beach Huts ~ Framed Art

Working with driftwood is Kirsty's favourite medium- each piece is absolutely unique, embellished with cheery fabric bunting and other beach-combed objects.  I love the recycled element of kirsty's work - something that has been thrown away or discarded, or washed up on the shore finds a new life in her bright, contemporary pieces such as this beautiful Driftwood Heart, or the Paintbrush Fish made from the handles of old paintbrushes!

Driftwood Heart

Paintbrush Fish

Kirsty is also a talented textile artist; polka dots and ticking fabrics feature widely in her work and she has designed and created the most covetable items in her studio ~ take a look:

'Cornish Harbour' Framed Textile Art

Sea Life Mobile

Kirsty is influenced strongly by her Cornish surroundings, especially the beautiful coastline ~ and the inspiration she draws from it is clearly reflected in the work she produces.

Lavender Fish

Love Birds

More recently, Kirsty has begun working on her collages again.  She creates these beautiful one off pieces using magazines and builds up the most amazing visual art work of local coastal landmarks.

'St Ives' Collage

This is a personal favourite of mine.  The attention to detail is absolutely amazing - I'm sure you will agree.

I have got to know Kirsty through Blogging, and am both inspired and awed by her outrageous talent.  If you would like to see more of Kirstys' work, you are welcome to visit her brand new gallery website:  Kirsty Elson Designs which was launched just this week, as well as the following online galleries which stock her work:

Kirsty Elson at Folksy
Not on the High Street

You can also find her inspiring Blog by visiting Sixty One A, and visit her Facebook Page for current updates on what she's up to.

I hope you have enjoyed this second Artisan Feature - I'll be hosting another one in March for you!

Julia x

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