In which I talk about the joys of painting, drawing, knitting, cats, music, living in London, and whatever else takes my fancy.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Life juggling and passionflowers

This is a phase where wider family needs for my help added into my full and rich life are leaving very me very little time, hence the lack of blog posts!

It is my habit to start each day with coffee in bed and my personal sketchbook to draw something, anything, so that whatever else transpires during the day, I have at least exercised my drawing muscles and imagination. Usually I keep the contents of this particular sketchbook strictly private, and thus it often takes on the role of a visual journal for me. This sketch nicely sums up how I feel at the moment:


So I have been thinking  about how I can make quick and easy blog posts amid the busy-ness, and realised that I could use favourite photos that I have posted on Instagram (I am dragonflyclef there, if you would like to follow me!). Instagram has become another daily practise to keep my visual eye working, and help me pause for a moment to take in a breath of beauty in my travels around London.

Here is a passionflower I photographed in July:


If you look very closely, there is a busy bee gathering nectar in the heart of the flower.

Then yesterday, I snapped this gloriously abundant passionflower:


See you again soon!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Life goes on: drawing black cat Poppy

Thanks to sorrow over Toby's passing, another lengthy absence from my blog, although I have not been idle, just quiet while Poppy and I got used to life without him.  Here she is:

 Thanks to Nick Spence for the photo of her.

The evening of the day that Toby died, I went out to see an inspirational demonstration of digital drawing apps and tools for the iPad (and ipod touch - I don't yet have an ipad!) given by Jeremy Sutton at the Apple Store. It was very helpful learning basics like how to save an image and open it in another app.  I quickly realised that I might enjoy using the apps Auryn Ink and Brushes, and noted Jeremy's recommendation of the Adonit Jet Pro stylus for drawing. He mentioned, too, that David Hockney had developed his skills with Brushes by emailing a digital drawing of a flower each morning to his friends.
All of this information gave me a idea: I'd start the fresh page in life without Toby by learning to draw digitally.

Luckily for me, and thanks to Nick, I already had Brushes installed on my ipod touch, and the use of a Jet Pro stylus, so in bed the next morning with my first coffee of the day, I made this drawing:


which I emailed to Nick, and Instagramed (I am Dragonflyclef on Instagram). I felt suffiiciently encouraged to download Auryn Ink, too, which I wanted to use as an underpainting tool, to mimic my real life watercolour painting practice of blocking all the colours in pale washes first.  I also decided to use Poppy as a model, since she is always on the bed first thing and it would be a fun challenge to draw a velvety black cat from life! So, here is the first underpainting:


and finished drawing with Brushes on top:
I've made a drawing of Poppy most days since, and am pleased with my growing confidence in drawing digitally,  now that making all the tool adjustments to create the quality of line and colour I want is becoming intuitive rather than something I have to think about.  It is also very satisfying to see my developing skill in drawing a black cat - noting how her shiny fur picks up light and colours from her surroundings which create the definition of her form! Here is a more recent one:


and finally for this blog post, a bit of fun using a photo app to convert my digital drawing of Poppy into a record album cover:


So, life goes on.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Toby 2000 to 2013

The gorgeous and happy Toby shared my home with me and his mum, Poppy, for the last two and a bit years, although we actually knew each other for the whole of his life. When Toby and Poppy came to live with me in November 2010, they felt like the best birthday present ever!

Toby was chatty, loving, intelligent and generally the most fabulous cat to have in my life, and made so many friends, both in real life and on line via his tweets, and photos.

His purr was set to 11.

When not chatting to me and his pals, Toby loved nothing better than to sit in the garden watching the birds, insects and the grass growing, or rootling around getting his nose grubby.

"The bed's too big without you."








Tuesday, February 05, 2013

New Adventures In Knitting: My First Pattern

As promised on 30th January, here is my very first knitting pattern, carefully written out for others to use. A little owl finger puppet, who could be a wise owl, Hedwig, or the owl from my favourite Edward Lear poem, "The Owl and The Pussycat", or anyone you choose: the main thing is to have fun with him or her!


Little Owl Finger Puppet


Materials: - Small amount of double knitting yarn (about 2 g should be enough) - Small piece of felt or fabric in a contrasting colour - Small amount of Embroidery floss - Optional for the eyes: stick on googley eyes, or sequins or beads

Tools:
- A pair of 3.25 mm knitting needles or 2 double-ended sock needles (or a 3.25 circular needle, my favourite)
- Plastic sewing needle or a bodkin - Embroidery needle - Scissors - Tape measure or ruler
- Pen or pencil to mark fabric

Gauge: not important just as long as the little owl perches snuggly on your finger tip!

Knitting:

Leaving a tail of about 30 cm (12”), and using cable cast on method, cast on 15 stitches.
Row 1: knit to end Row 2: knit 5, purl 5, knit to end. Repeat rows 1 and 2 another 6 times. Row 15: knit 5, cast off 2, knit1, cast off 2, knit to end (11 stitches). Row 16: knit 5, purl 1, cast on 1 stitch using thumb method, yarn round
needle, purl 1, yarn round needle, cast on 1 stitch using thumb method, knit 5 (15 stitches).
Rows 17 to 19: knit to end.
Cut the yarn, leaving a tail of about 30 cm (12”). Thread cut tail of yarn onto plastic sewing needle or bodkin, then starting from the opposite end to the yarn tail, slip the yarn through the stitches on the knitting needle, to create aLittle Owl knitting pattern - 05/02/2013 11:46 / 2 ring. Pull the yarn tight, but do not fasten off yet.

Finishing off:

Measure and cut out a rectangle 4 cm x 2 cm from the felt or fabric. Cut a length of embroidery thread about 50 cm (18”) long , and split into 2 x 3 strands. Use one of the strands to sew the felt or fabric behind the eye sockets as follows: turn your knitting so that the rough side is facing you, then carefully stitch a wide edge of the felt or fabric to the row of knitting above the eye sockets; then sow down the outside edge of the eye socket, along the bottom edge of both eye sockets, and up the outside edge of the other eye socket. Now turn your work to the right side. Next, give your little owl a beak by stitching a “V” shape at the bottom of their single knit stitch nose! Finally, add eyes, either by making french knots, or sewing on sequins, beads or using stick on googley eyes. Fasten off the embroidery thread.

Now, fold the little owl in half along length of head and body, so the knit edges meet. Using the yarn still hanging from the head, sew down towards the tail using tiny running stitches. This will create a shallow ridge where the knitted edges meet, to give the impression of folded wings. Fasten off. Next thread the cast on tail onto the plastic needle, then sew three 2cm (1”) loops where the bottom of the feathers meet. Secure the loops in place by using a slip knot, pulling tight, then fastening off the end. Now flatten the loops, and cut through to make 6 tail feathers. Use the point of the embroidery needle to unravel the yarn for a more feathery effect.
Pop little owl onto your finger and celebrate with a lively twit-twoo!


 Please ask if you have any questions about the pattern. I'd love to see photos of your finished owls!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stepping Stone Plans for 2013

It's long been a plan for me to write and publish the knitting patterns for the little creatures I invent, so as a stepping stone goal towards this I am going to be posting the pattern to make these tiny owlets on my blog. I've almost finished the writing up, then I will ask someone to test knit it because I want to be sure that the pattern works, and that I have not missed out a key piece of instructions!


One of my illustration plans is to re-tell the story of The Sleeping Beauty: this is one of the pages I made to test out my idea:


I've been so encouraged by the enthusiasm from people to whom I have shown the painting, so that I am going to follow through and complete the dummy book over the next couple of months.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Achievements to mark

Another huge gap between posts! I've not been idle, just working very hard on improving my hand, with a lot of success: thankfully, I can now draw, paint and knit again without being unduly concerned about my hand's ability to deal with prolonged work - a great start to 2013.

Here are a couple of favourite achievements from the last few months of 2012.

First, an illustration for Little Red Riding Hood, or little Red Riding Hoodie, as I prefer to see her:


A challenge here was to incorporate the wolf, making him look scarey, but not too scarey for a young child aged 3 to 6 years, that I was imaging as reading or looking at the picture book.

Then these fabulous "Fighting words" mitts knitted from Annie Watts pattern  :


These were among the twelve presents I knitted for friends and family for Christmas during November and December 2012. (Such a good strength-building work out for my hand!) The lucky recipient is delighted with his Spiderman-themed mitts!

So, now I am excited to be making progress with my plans for 2013!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Upate on the broken finger and Ravellenic Games

It was February when I last blogged about the healing process of my broken finger. Being by nature an optimistic person, I continued to count my blessings of the tiny improvements until May, which was a whole year since the accident. Then I went away in June with nine good friends and not being able to join in with preparing meals, etc led me to face how much I still could not do!

My friends encouraged me to go back to  my doctor, who quickly noticed a very large difference in the strength of my left hand compared with the right, that I was still experiencing a lot of pain, and that I have some unusual bumps on my palm. So a further visit to the orthopaedic specialist at The Whittington was arranged for July, and proved to be very informative and useful.

 I'd been forewarned that surgery may be needed - and it seems this is very likely at some point in the future because the bumps are in fact the early signs of Dupuyten's contracture, which is hereditary in my family.  Apparently, I need to keep an eye my ability to place my hand completely flat on a table, and when this begins to be impossible, to go back to the consultant for treatment. So, separate from the finger break, and a coincidence that the bumps have appeared just now!

Back to the broken finger damage: the consultant explained to me that numerous tests have shown that the engagement of the little finger is essential in order to have full hand strength. He tested my hands again, and found that although my left little finger could bend fully, I was unable to make it do so. The treatment would be more physiotherapy, this time to work on my finger strength.

I learnt from the hand physio specialist that the exercises I was given to do daily just after the splint was removed are intended to enable me to retain the ability to fully straighten my finger, and to that end have worked. The knitting and The Cowling System exercises for musicians (I also play guitar) have helped me to keep my dexterity.

So, now an additional set of daily exercises has been added to the remedial mix to rebuild the strength in my finger. Before starting on  this stage of treatment, the hand physio used a machine to measure the strength of my hands, and discovered that my left hand was only at 50% strength compared with my right hand! It was very heartening to learn that my left hand strength had improved when my hands were retested on the same machine at a follow up appointment three weeks later. I'd already noticed a significant improvement in what I can do in normal daily life - simple things like the ironing. So, once again, I am feeling very grateful to the fabulous NHS for excellent and speedy treatment.

To celebrate the improvement in my hand, I challenged myself to making two projects during the Ravellenic Games on ravelry, which were timed to coincide with the Olympic Games.  Here they are:


Another orange woolly hat for St Mungos , for their Woolly Hat Day to highlight the shockingly high numbers of the homeless;  plus these very gorgeous  robin mittens as a treat for me:


using a lovely pattern designed by Tiny Owl Knits ! I am pleased to report that I did complete both projects and was duly awarded my Ravellenic medals for doing so.