Monday, 17 October 2011


My dad looks a little bit like Peter Griffin? I think I need to get some smaller scissors, but not bad for my first go at a freehand silhouette (just look at the person in profile and snip away).

This would be a fun skill to have... I wonder if I could charge for them on a board-walk somewhere?

Smaller scissors, more practice, army of disembodied shadow heads, here I come!

A present from Wales

My parents have been off frolicking on two weeks of holiday (well deserved, I might add), where they visited various bits of Northern Ireland, came back for 12 hours and dirtied enough pots to fill the dishwasher, then scampered off to Wales. As per instructions to bring me back some wool for spinning, they brought me back this:

Woo, semi-damp, dirty, fresh from the field wool! I think it's about 50 grams, but I daren't put it near the kitchen scales because it's pretty gross. My dad presented it to me in a bread bag:

Honest to god, if you put this next to someone's face and squeezed the air at them, you could probably knock them out, Batman villain style (screw that pussy Catwoman, I shall be... The Shepardess!). Yes, it smells that bad.

So order of business- pick out large lumps of foreign matter, wash it, leave it out to dry, learn how to card using items I already own, dye, spin, enjoy. Hopefully.

Knowing me I'll forget all about it until one day I dare to question where the weird smell in the downstairs bathroom is coming from.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Steampunk sprigs

I never write about my actual university projects on here. You know, university? That place I'm supposed to be earning a BA in Ceramic Design at? Central St Martins? Famous art school... ring a bell?

Well anyway, I don't generally put that stuff up on here. 1) because I don't think it's very good and 2) because it's nice to get away from all that junk and post the stuff I actually like doing. Not that I don't like ceramics. I love ceramics! It's this wonderful alchemy where you take dirt and rocks out of the ground, add some heat, and somehow make something beautiful or useless (sometimes BOTH!). But it's just so demanding. Sometimes it feels like more like a duty. I have to perform. I have to earn a degree. I have to research and finish things. Whine whine bitch bitch, you get the gist here.

My current project is all about surface design, either 3d modelled surface design or sponged patterns, lithographs, sgraffito, slip trailing, or any other way of prettying up a plain surface. The theme I've gone with is steampunk. Why? Because it's easy and there's a target market of nerds with too much money and I can look at lots of Victorian pottery in the V&A. That's why.

One thing I've been looking at is sprigging, the kind of 3D decoration you find on stuff like Wedgewood Jasperware. To make sprigs, you need to make a mould of a design. So yesterday I played around with some polymer clay (Fimo), and made up these:

 For scale on this one, the inside edge of the cog is the size of a penny.

They're not great. I need a lot more practice, I'm not used to working Fimo or on such a small scale, and I don't have the best tools (here I use a craft knife, 2mm crochet hook and a manicure hoof. I ordered some tools, but they arrived and they're a bit big). It doesn't matter because these are just maquettes- a way of sketching in 3D to see what you can achieve. These won't work for making moulds from, because they have undercuts so they (and subsequent mouldings) would get caught by a lip of plaster and not work. I need to work on that.

So that's what I've been up to. I really should stop listening to the Kiki's Delivery Service OST and go and do some more work (even if there is a Jiji on my bed ^-^)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Of Spindles and Frankenyarn

One of the things I bought at Alexandra Palace was a spindle and some orange and red roving wool for spinning. This week, I sat down and tried to have a go at spinning.

And for about 20 minutes, I thought I'd be sold a useless stick. It didn't work. Nothing happened. The spindle didn't spin, the wool didn't wrap round it without falling off, and none of the youtube videos showed a spindle that looked anything like mine! Then I remembered that I didn't learn to knit in 20 minutes (I'm approaching 16 years on that skill and still learning), stopped pouting, started rummaging through youtube again, sat down, and learnt to spin.

The video that cracked it for me eventually was this one. It was that one that taught me that my spindle was called a low whorl spindle, and that it not having a hook on the top was not the end of the world, it meant I just had to tie a half hitch at the top to stop the yarn jumping off. 

Spinning is pretty relaxing when you get into it, after the initial frustration of "why isn't this working URGH I would make a terrible Celt" (FUN FACT- as a kid I wanted to be Boadicea for a bit. I liked the idea of living in a roundhouse and wearing a lot of wool and having deadlocks. Not much of that part has changed). Your first yarn will be awful- thick, thin, prone to super coiling back on itself- this is just the nature of spinning.

The next thing I need to do it ply it, because you can't knit with a single like this. So my option is to cut this in half and ply it back on itself, or spin some more. I need to get some more roving so I can spin some more, obviously! But I'm on a spending hiatus after burning through my cash like there's no tomorrow paying for train tickets, food and everything else, so it will have to wait for now.

Excitingly, there's the option to prepare my own fleece in the not too distant future. One of the girls on my BA course knows a flock of sheep (I think her family like own the whole county or something) and said she would probably be able to get me a whole fleece for very little money. She offered me gross sheep butt fluff in the mean time, but oddly enough, I turned it down.

Until then, my parents have gone off to Wales with a sandwich bag and strict instructions to pick up any wool they find on barbed wire while frolicking round the countryside.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Knitting and Stitching Show Haul

Hello! Yesterday I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally (that's Alexandra Palace for those not in the know, a fabulous Victorian expo centre in North London) with my sister-of-the-stitch friend Clara. By the way, her name is pronounced like Clairol, not like "lava". This is easy to remember because she has nice hair. So now you know!

Anyway, I am now poor. And not just because I blew a lot of cash on this stash, but also because my beloved bicycle was stolen while I was out! I am more than a little heartbroken over that, boo. What can you do? Until everyone on the planet has a bike, there will be bike thieves (and even then, people will steal the better bikes).

The show itself was pretty cool, there were a lot of stands, but it was packed, a little hard to navigate and a total clam bake (I have decided that "clam bake" is the term for the opposite of a sausage fest). Some cool bits and bobs include a completely freehand quilting machine and a company that sell leather bag kits pre-punched that you can assemble yourself. Stupid things I saw- a die cutting machine for quilting where the dies alone were in excess of £30, and an "artist" trying to flog a framed square of ribbon for £250. Ridiculous!

So here's what I got:

Okay... here we go.

1 panel with space images
5 Japanese cotton fat quarters: koi, sakura flowers, Japanese customs stamps, geometric pattern, geometric pattern with bunnies in circles
2 cotton fat quarters- strawberries, ice creams

20 balls of Noro silk garden lite in 2 shades
10 balls of Sirdar Tweedie in a cream shade
2 packs of hand dyed mohair roving

Everything else
drop spindle so I can learn to spin
Tape measure shaped like a tiger's head
Sewing machine needles for leather
Bag handles
Brittany wooden 5mm needles
Plastic pony 9mm crochet hook
Postcard of a weird skull thing
Di-Stix fabric transfer crayons
2 patterned rollers- fish scales and something geometric
circles stamp

I think that's everything. The Noro was an amazing bargain, I think it's something like £15 in the shops over here, and each pack of 10 was £50.

Big thank you for Clara for helping me out and making the day a great experience, even if she did keep suggesting purple yarns! I'm not very into purple.

Right, looks like I need to find some uses for some lovely Noro, and learn to spin.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Entrelac blanket finished

3 rounds of rainbow colour, all yarn used up save for a couple of metres and all ends sewn in. Measures around 90cm by 60 cm. I'm very happy, it's gorgeous! And for sale, if anyone wants it. I learnt a new and interesting technique, used up a bag of left over yarn, and actually came up with something pretty good.

I think my camera might be starting to die, because it's not picking up the green in the blanket at all well. The green is a minty green, which sounds awful, but works with the rest of the colour palette. The indigo, violet and red are deep, true hues, the orange is a pumpkin shade, and the yellow, green and blue are muted, so the palette sails through both dark and light runs.

Here's the back, which is much neater than an equivalent patchwork or granny square blanket would probably be:

And here are some Etsy style shots with my Steiff bear, Amadeus. 

I'm happy. It's lovely to make lovely things.