Sunday 29 December 2013

The satisfaction of finishing

I would hate for you to think I've spent the last few days lolling on a sofa eating chocolates. Obviously there has been a certain amount of that going on, it is Christmas after all, but I've also made my New Year resolutions a little early and top of the list is my intention to get stuff finished. The barn owl panel has occupied me for a couple of days and here's where he's at now.

While the paint was drying on him I started the underpainting on the woodpecker.

As you can see he has no visible means of support yet but will hopefully sprout legs and feet sometime tomorrow! These two paintings will complete  the bird collection for the time being. I'm hoping Jamie at Fingerprint fabric will print them as soon as the holidays are over, then I'm moving onto stretched canvas panels and a brand new subject!

Thanks for checking in on me! Bye for now, Linda

Sunday 22 December 2013


I was really happy to receive a photo of this glorious piece of stitching this week.

Muriel is a very talented lady who has already taken Creative Quiltmaking with us and is currently working her way through Creative Sketchbooks as well as being a member of DMTV - some people are gluttons for punishment aren't they? She was as inspired as I was by the Banjara exhibit at Festival of Quilts last summer and after seeing my Banjara style project on DMTV felt compelled to create this beautiful little quilt. Wonderful work Muriel!

On a more frivolous note, I've had a really satisfying day today! First of all Waitrose delivered the Christmas provisions 10 minutes after the allotted time - this meant they gave me a complimentary box of Thornton's chocolates as compensation. I don't normally buy chocolate so that was a result - I hope they'll be late every time I order. Now I know some of you hang on my every culinary word as I am considered something of a goddess in the kitchen. I think I may have surpassed myself tonight! I have invented a delicious aperitif. Please don't judge me - it is after all a holiday and a time for relaxation. If you are feeling adventurous you may like to give it a try and if it sounds familiar and you've been drinking it for years please don't tell me - you'll only spoil my sense of achievement!

I've called it Solstice in honour of the day.
One part gin. I favour Bombay Sapphire but you may have other ideas.
One part Dubonnet. Now I realise that you have to be a woman of a certain age to even know what this is. I understand that, mixed with gin, it was the preferred tipple of the Queen Mother and indeed of our own dear Queen. Who can argue with that?
Clementine juice to taste - I used three.

Place a generous quantity of ice in a jug. Pour over the gin, the Dubonnet and the clementine juice. Stir and allow to stand for a minute or two before pouring the chilled mix into a glass. You may like to decorate the edge of your glass with a spiral of completely pointless but rather pretty clementine peel. I think this is best sipped whilst prone on a sofa watching the final of Strictly Come Dancing on a winter solstice evening but I suspect it will prove to be quite acceptable at any time! Who knows, with all that fruit it might even count as one of your five a day. Not that I'm suggesting you have five of them of course, nor that you polish off a box of chocolates at the same time.

Today hasn't been all about self indulgence - I did spend some time painting the barn owl. He's looking OK I think but I want to give him a lot more detail before I show him to you. (Come to think of it painting is another of my indulgences - who am I trying to kid?) I've also prepared a panel in readiness for the final piece in the current bird series. I know lots of people don't share my enthusiasm for birds so I'm going to tackle something completely different next. Can't quite make up my mind what it will be yet but I'm working on it!

Thanks for dropping by. I hope you all enjoy a peaceful and happy Christmas. From tomorrow the days start to grow longer - hurray, we can begin to look forward to spring! Bye for now - Linda

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Nothing new under the sun!

Well, we finally remembered where we'd stashed the Christmas decorations! How difficult can it be I ask myself? It's the same every year. It's a long, long time since Twelfth night and somehow the box always finds itself somewhere different. The first thing I do is to plug the lights in to see if they still work and then hold my breath to see if they still work once they are festooned across the branches. Next the box gets upended and emptied out on the floor. In a desperate attempt to keep to a colour scheme we've got a number of bought baubles but mostly we've made Christmas decorations ever since the children were small and no matter how battered they may look it's a family tradition that every single one has to go on the tree. So, now the tree is up and dressed to thrill and even the Father Christmas that our Bengal cat Toby savaged last year is there for all to see despite the gaping hole in his wadding beard. I have to say Amelie was no help at all this year. Seems she can take the baubles off just as fast as we can put them on. Most of the ones on the lower branches are made of fabric so no harm done!

If you watched The Great British Sewing Bee on TV this week you'll have seen Stuart make a pod shaped fabric bauble. I hope no one thought it was a new idea - mine have to be the best part of 25 years old. Laura tells me you can now buy a kit to make them - I can't believe it! We made ours at the young quilters' group I used to run with scraps of fabric, cereal box packaging and a smidge of glue!

We have the leaf shaped ones which open to hold a special treasure or chocolate and are decorated with couched gold thread and a dangly bell.

And pyramid shaped versions which have 3 triangular sides set onto a triangular base.

As well as Baby Block cubes which are just 6 little squares.

All of them have been made by covering cornflake packet cardboard shapes with Christmas prints. The fabric was cut a bit bigger than the card and the excess fabric glued to the wrong side of the card shape before the right sides were oversewn together. The ones meant to hold a treasure had a similar but slightly smaller fabric covered shape attached to the inside as a lining. They've survived many Christmases and will no doubt come out again for many years to come. That's what family tradition is about isn't it - simple things with happy memories.

Hope you are enjoying your preparations as much as we are. Thanks for dropping by - Linda

Saturday 14 December 2013

Birds on the brain

Just in case you thought I'd finished with the bird theme......

This fluffy young starling I've shown you before is almost done. I've used iridescent acrylic paint to capture the sheen on his head and neck feathers. I think he needs even more v shaped patterning on his body before I'm finished completely. You might think of starlings as black but in truth he's ridiculously shiny and colourful.

And today I blocked in the outline of a barn owl. Hopefully I'll find a bit of time tomorrow to get started on the bird itself. They are becoming increasingly scarce - we used to see one every evening as the light faded. In fact he was such a regular visitor we used to invite friends to come and share the spectacle as he flew silently patrolling the fields that surround our house. It was a privilege to be so close to an unbelievably beautiful creature - we'd sit in the garden with a glass of wine on summer evenings waiting his arrival. Although we hear owls calling to each other almost every night here sightings of this particular breed are rare now.

I usually resort to photographs in books as inspiration for my bird paintings but I have no excuse for painting poorly observed feet after finding a dead blackbird in the garden this afternoon. There wasn't a mark on him so I've no idea how he met his doom but I've taken lots of my own photos for future reference. I was sad to see him but it's not often that you have the opportunity to look so closely, so of course I made the most of it.

I'm not the only one with birds on the brain - Thanks to Susan for sharing her sketch of a kingfisher with me! Lovely drawing Susan!

Coincidentally, I spotted one myself only yesterday. Laura now lives by a small river and a flash of brilliant blue and rust shot right over my head as I approached the house. I'll be looking out for it every day from now on.

She's moved to a picture postcard village with nature on the doorstep. This is the view from the front of the house. When I want a break from birds maybe I'll look to more of the locals for future inspiration! These young guys were turned out into the field of kale this week and seemed very disgruntled at its bitter taste.

They are Holstein crossed with Belgian Blues if you're interested! This one posed for the camera before moving off the explore his new surroundings. There's an electric fence which seemed to come as something of a surprise to them - don't think it will take long for them to learn that lesson!

Although I'm currently loving my painting I've not abandoned sewing altogether! This afternoon I added a patchwork frame to one of the bird panels in my Fingerprint fabric range and machine quilted it with a gorgeous variegated Madeira cotton thread. I plan to add some painted details then I'll let you see how it turns out.

Thanks for visiting. Hope you'll come back soon! Linda