Wednesday 27 April 2016

Garden activity, painting, piecing and baking

We woke to a sprinkling of snow again this morning - April has been very unpredictable weather wise. It doesn't seem to have deterred the wildlife though. We think these mallards are biding their time in the garden while the females are sitting tight on their eggs nearby. 

I couldn't resist making a start on an oil painting, trying to capture the iridescence of the neck feathers. It's the only time I ever use viridian!

I have to wait for this initial layer to dry before I can add glazes and more detail.

Not everything was doing as well as the duck population sadly. I found this tiny chiff chaff in the garden. Not a mark on him but I suspect he'd flown into a window. They fly at great speed and don't stand a chance if they mistake glass for open space.

Tragic as any death of a beautiful creature is, I find it a great privilege to be able to study them in such detail. In fight they are so speedy it's impossible to see the colouring - they are just a brownish flash. He's actually quite olive green with cream and lemon yellow. You can see how diminutive he is cradled in the palm of my hand.

It's that time of year when we start thinking of our stomachs! After hours perusing seed catalogues, he who gardens has been laying chippings on the paths between the veggie beds. A final bit of weeding and we'll be ready for all the plants that are currently in the greenhouses.

The only thing we're eating from the plot right now is rhubarb. The makeshift bucket arrangement means those stems will be pink and tender for puddings. I use the coarser stuff in chutney.

Up in what we laughingly call, the woodland walk but what is really a neglected bit of the orchard, the bluebells are making a lovely show. Piles of rotting wood, weeds and nettles are good for insects and wildlife generally aren't they? That's our excuse anyway.

It's all very well spending time in the garden but I like to have some stitching on the go too. This week I've raided my scrap boxes and sorted out some cheery colours for a bit of piecing. DMTV subscribers will see what I'm up to in next week's video.

Of course all this activity does give you an appetite so a batch of gingerbread is just what we need with a nice cup of tea!

Thanks for dropping by the blog today. 
Bye for now - Linda x

Thursday 21 April 2016

The studio sale continues

Thanks to those of you who have taken advantage of my studio sale - I'm always happy when anyone likes my work enough to want to live with it! I've taken the sold items off the 'Small Works for Sale' page but added a couple more new ones this morning. I hope you will be tempted to buy!

This is a detail of one of the small quilts I've added. It's called, 'Full Moon' and makes good use of one of my favourite techniques, painted Bondaweb appliqué. It has lots of hand painting too and is very densely free motion quilted. Sorry - this one's now SOLD!

I've been whiling away the wee small hours on my iPad lately. This scary looking portrait is another of my experiments trying to master my Apple pencil. I was aiming to make the eye as liquid as possible which I think has worked but with an unblinking stare like that I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark alley!

Drawing flowers is probably a safer bet. Here I've been getting to grips with ways of blending and shading colours.

I know some people think drawing on an iPad is somehow not real but I have to say, if you work in a traditional way like I do it's exactly the same as drawing direct to a sheet of paper with a pencil or a paintbrush. There are some great advantages in using the technology of course. One of them is being able to erase mistakes and start over again in the wink of an eye!

Bye for now,
Linda x

Saturday 16 April 2016

Making the best of a bad job

I'm still working to alter my 'Little Book of Red' even though the final video for DMTV is done. These things take time and I'm happy to revisit pages many times to add extra detail if I think it will improve the results. I'd always thought this page was lacking.

It had started life as a rubbing taken directly from the preceding page where I'd glued an image of an apple cut out of a magazine. The magazine paper was thick enough to create a ridge through the sheet of thin paper in my book and a soft oil pastel picked up on that to give me an outline for drawing into.   On reflection, I hadn't taken it far enough and the drawing was pretty feeble so I've gone back in with generous layers of oil pastel worked with solvent just like I demonstrated in the recent DMTV video, 'Painterly Pastels'. The results are richer now and the colours more intense.

It must have been a week for working back into unsatisfactory drawings! I'd painted a heron because I've been seeing them up close lately. In fact we've been plagued by them over the last couple of weeks. I'm very torn about their visits to the garden because, one one hand they are magnificent and I love to see them up close but, and it's a big but, they have plundered the pond of fish and frogs. Add that to the fact we have a pair of Mallards on there too and you'll understand the perils the pond life has been facing. No one who had a choice would choose to be a tadpole!

The heron watercolour painting was also rather feeble and half hearted. I really wasn't liking it at all so I resorted to drastic measures and ran it under the tap, sponging the paint off till I had just a soft suggestion of the shape. That gave me a base to draw into with water-soluble pencils and a bit of body colour too. I much prefer how he's looking now. Shows you shouldn't give up if you're dissatisfied. If it's rubbish anyway you might just as well take a risk to see if it can be redeemed!

Work continues to pile up around me and in the continuing pursuit of a tidy house I've been going through my stuff. As a result I have added a couple more items to the 'Small Works for Sale' page and also reduced the price of everything that's listed there! Please take a look from the link at the top of this page and get in touch if you fancy anything.

Thanks for dropping by - Linda x

Sunday 10 April 2016

More drawing today

I've never seen a nuthatch in our garden but they appear regularly in Laura's.

They are a gorgeous little bird with an unmistakeable shape. I've drawn this in a sketchbook with much smoother paper than yesterday's crow drawing and I like the quality of line a lot more. Amazing to think how much difference the choice of paper makes.

The head joins the body with no discernible neck, just like a dart. I made the drawing while catching up with the omnibus edition of the Archers. Gripping stuff! I don't know how the cast are coping - I feel emotionally drained!

While I'd got the pencils out, and Sunday's bread was proving in the warm kitchen, I did a quick study of yesterday's market treasure. This involved scribbling graphite pencil all over the page and then using a battery eraser to remove some of the tone before working back in with more pencil to add detail. It's a technique Laura and I both love and one we share with our Creative Sketchbook students to encourage a looser approach to drawing. It's just not possible to be fiddly whilst wielding  an electric eraser!

Last week, during the holidays, we'd visited Blists Hill, a nearby museum of Victorian life. One of the workshops was producing little plaster of Paris figures. There were all manner of things but I couldn't resist the swallow.

The woman who makes them for the museum warned me that it was quite fragile and needed to be painted with acrylic paint. Here it is drying in my studio. I've added a little copper metallic to give the wings some lustre - it looked too boring painted dark blue. I'm hoping Laura will find a little place to hang it on her pristine new walls just as soon as the plasterers have worked their magic this week. Just above the swallow covered chair and next to the swallow quilt maybe?

So, that was my Sunday so far, how about you?

I'm off for a sit down and a gin and tonic!
Linda x

Saturday 9 April 2016

Laura will want these!

Very exciting find on the market this morning! Paid too much but couldn't resist.

What's all the fuss about I hear you cry? 30 odd old rusty bits of metal and she paid how much!!

Well some of these are Georgian keys - what a story they could tell. Wish I knew what doors they had opened, whose hands had held them, what secrets they hold..

What you can't really tell from my photos is how big and chunky most of them are. These are not delicate! As soon as I can I'll be drawing and painting the best ones.

In the meantime, while I decide how much to clean them up, I've spent a few minutes drawing. We've got a pair of crows nesting in the garden for the first time. They normally watch us from the tall trees in a nearby field but this year they've decided to move in. They are very quarrelsome and we witness daily squabbles with magpies. The aerial acrobatics are a sight to see but they are too clever for me and I haven't managed to catch them on camera yet.

Having witnessed them plundering a blackbird's nest for eggs this individual looks far too benign. Graphite pencil on watercolour paper is a bit messy - I will probably have another go at this on a smoother cartridge paper and next time I'll try to give him a look of cunning.

It's cool here today but spring is definitely in the air. The birds are busy, busy all day long and even the pine cones are doing their thing.

Must go and make the most of the weekend. Thanks for dropping by - Linda x

Monday 4 April 2016

Easy dressmaking again

 I've had lots of interest in the dress I made yesterday.

I kept the style really simple because the fabric is busy enough for me. I rarely wear pattern but this check seersucker jersey was a gorgeous find from the Rag Market in Birmingham. It was a gift from Laura who tells me she paid £2 for the piece! That might have you all rushing off there but I warn you there are times we go and find nothing we like. It's a bit of a lottery and you just have to be prepared for disappointment. There are compensations though - we usually combine market shopping with a visit to the art gallery and maybe Jamie Oliver's Italian for lunch!

I've had the fabric tucked away for a couple of months waiting for time to make it up. It rained yesterday morning and I fancied a job in the warm studio so it was the day!  I've showed you this pattern before as it's a favourite of mine. I used version A but made a few modifications - mainly to take it from a tunic to a dress length. I narrowed the side seams a bit too so there was less fullness at the hem. I know from experience that this top fits me well but it is important to get the neckband right. When you cut it out it looks way too short to fit around the neckline. That's where the 2 way stretch of the jersey comes in. The band is cut on the bias and you need to stretch it as you sew it to the main part of the garment. Make sure the notches and centre markings are transferred from the paper pattern to the fabric and all will be well.

The raglan sleeve is the easiest of all sleeves if you're new to dressmaking. There's no setting in involved and no shoulder seam to fit to your particular width of shoulder. As long as you use a nice stretchy fabric the top will fit where it touches and will be very comfortable to wear, just like a soft T Shirt!

If you intend to make a lot of your clothes I would recommend you start saving your pennies for an overlocker. It's one machine I wouldn't want to be without, especially for sewing stretch fabrics. It gives such a professional finish to seams. Before you ask, mine is made by Husqvarna and I love it!

Saturday 2 April 2016

Busy day today

 I rarely go to the flea market without finding something of interest.

Today it was this beat up pine box with its alphabet and number printing blocks. It's sadly not complete but I don't care because I often mix different fonts together in my altered books. These will no doubt make an appearance in the 'Little Book of Red' that some of you may have seen on DMTV recently. We spent a bit of money on other things so the stall holder threw the blocks in for nothing - can't be bad!

I've been sewing as well as mooching round market stalls for bargains. The PowerQuilter is earning its keep again. I had a happy hour free motion quilting this bird panel. It's one of the cardboard etchings I made for a DMTV video that's now been digitally printed onto cotton fabric by Jamie and Laura at Fingerprint.

I'm stitching a design of leaves to echo the printed leaves and using spirals to fill in the gaps and travel across from leaf to leaf.

Although I should really finish all the quilting before I start to add paint (or at least take the needle out of the cloth!!) you can see I was impatient to see how a little white acrylic ink would look. I think it will draw attention to the stitched leaves and help them sit happily amongst the printed ones.

In town today I resisted the window display in my favourite dress shop and came home to make something from my vast stash of jersey fabrics.

This started life as a Vogue pattern I've used many times. I shortened the sleeves, narrowed the sides, lengthened the whole thing and added two enormous patch pockets. Doesn't bear much similarity to the photograph on the pattern packet but it will be a really easy piece to wear as the weather warms up.

Hope tomorrow will be just as productive!
Bye for now,