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

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Pumpkin's adventures part two

On Sunday evening, Pumpkin was very excited to join me and friends Nick and Paul at a Jameson's Cult Screen Club screening of  "Invasion of The Body Snatchers" at the Union Chapel.  Here he is admiring the magnificent building, and enjoying watching the actors who are setting the scene before the film starts.

Then on Monday, at Stitch London, Pumpkin made friends with a crocheted and knitted zombie completed minutes earlier by the talented Toria, and I suspect had a sneaky swig of my glitterberry drink!

Here he is with another new friend, the famous Cooey the pigeon! Pumpkin enjoyed these adventures so much he's keen to accompany me again, although he has drawn the line at going to work.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween

It's almost Halloween, so Pumpkin humpty has come alive! He's already found an ally in Poppy the  black cat. I'm wondering what mischief they have planned for tomorrow night?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Undiscovered Voices

This is the drawing I made in August for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators "Undiscovered Voices" competition: I had great fun making the drawing  - those are my own casually discarded boots on the floor!

Congratulations to the eight lucky shortlisted illustrators: Kim Geyer,  Jennifer Graham,  Julia Groves,  Amber Hsu, Heather Kilgour , Shana Nieburg-Suschitzky,  Nicola Patten,  and Rachel Quarry.  I'm looking forward to seeing their interpretations of "Undiscovered Voices" in December, when the six winners will be announced.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Cranford knit-a-long September 2011: finished mitts

Here are the completed Cranford mitts: I actually began knitting the darker pair in April ie before I broke my finger! Then while the finger was healing I decided to put the mitts on hold, lest my guage knitting the new-fangled English style was different to my life-long continental style knitting. So, it feels a mile stone in the healing process to have completed this pair of mitts : )

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bookworm and Knit The City

 Gosh! Comics was the exciting venue for a book signing by my friends at Knit The City on 16th September.  I knitted a tiny friend to take with me:

Questia, a Blinkin' Book Worm (the pattern can be downloaded for free here from Whodunnknit).  She was rather taken with Plarchie the recycled plastic squid - something about liking his colour - but felt it wise to gaze at him from a relatively safe distance, although he usually only eats humans.  She did not notice the tip of tentacle creeping from behind the books!  I left Questia at Gosh! - she seemed so at home there among all the fabulous books.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hand healing is progressing painfully slowly

The healing of my broken finger and damaged tendons is progressing - as confirmed by the physiotherapist yesterday, which is excellent news. However, the process is painfully s-l-o-w. Unfortunately for me, the precise way I hold my hands to draw and paint is extremely painful.  When I forced myself to complete a new detailed illustration for a competition in August,  my fingers swelled up again, and I felt like a character in Harry Potter being forced to draw by Dolores Umbrage! Apparently, tendons are like elastic bands, and in the healing process they have been tightened by scar tissue, so I need to loosen the scar tissue and very gradually stretch the tendons again to full range of movement.
Naturally, I am very disappointed about this: I am keen to get back to normal work with pen and paintbrush.  Patience is required though, and acceptance that I can only do very short bursts of drawing at the moment.  These tiny sketches are from the fantastic Womad at Charlton Park in July, and are of a scale and type that thankfully I can currently do.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Etsy shop

I'm very excited to have updated the link from here to Dragonfly Sky,my etsy shop: the etsy mini app creates a far more attractive button on my blog, and it shows an item from current stock!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Orange hat

This orange bobble hat I knitted over the weekend is now on its way to the excellent St Mungo's, whose work with the homeless impressed me in the days when I did development work for housing associations. It was very easy to say "yes" to knitting a hat for them when Stitch London asked for volunteers to contribute to the knitting of a batch of thirty hats, and I'm looking forward to seeing how St Mungo's use them!

At the edge of the photo you can just see a  glimpse of children's character story I am developing, too: I will post some drawing soon.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Head injury and the importance of getting checked

Life has thrown me another of it's curve balls, just when I thought I'd be able to get back on track with my plans!

This photo is of me and my friend Nick on a wonderful day out in Whitstable on 5th August. On August 12th he sustained a nasty bang to the head on the tube, which resulted in a small cut, but no signs of bruising. However, Nick did begin to suffer continuous headaches which pain killers did not disperse, and also began to vomit heavily and frequently. Neither of us made any connection with the bang to his head.  To summarise what happened, I found Nick collapsed in his flat on September 2nd, and thanks to the wonderful ambulance crew and The Homerton Accident and Emergency department, Nick discovered that he was in urgent need of an operation to relieve bleeding and fluid on his brain which were the internal consequences of that bang to his head. Following successful surgery at the excellent  The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Nick is thankfully recovering well.

In the meantime,  along with Nick's other friends, I am helping him with practical matters, hence my lack of posts and drawing.

I decided to post here about what happened because I now know how very important it is to get bangs to the head checked out - especially when sypmtoms like head ache, vomitting, confusion, co-ordination problems, etc become apparent: Headway has some excellent information on head injuries.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cranford knit-a-long September 2011

Last year I took part in a Cranford knit-a-long for P/Hop (Pence per hour of pleasure) to help raise funds for Medecins Sans Frontiere on Ravelry. It was so much fun, and is such a fab pattern (kindly donated to P/hop by Jane Lithgow), that fellow p/hoppers have decided to do another knit-a-long this September!
 I am looking forward to casting on another pair on Thursday, 1st which has a double significance for me as it was my mum's birthday,  and I  like to do something special in her memory that she would have enjoyed, too. Watch this space!

Friday, July 22, 2011


The healing of my broken finger continues slowly: the actual bone is mended now, and healing the damaged tendon will be take longer it seems: the joint still swells up when I do something ordinary like the vacuuming, and there are still everyday tasks I simply cannot do!  I notice tiny improvements everyday, though, and I have been so fortunate in having excellent treatment at The Whittington, right from my first visit to the Accident and Emergency department, to the current physiotherapy.  Knitting is proving to be a valuable therapeutic exercise, as well as the tendon glides and playing with the lovely green Theraputty.

This illustration, originally inspired by an Illustration Friday on the topic of "journey"way back in April, seems to fit my life at the moment: slow progress towards my goal of full hand recovery, and interesting discoveries along the way! When the topic was posted, I  came up with the idea, and then did not have sufficient time to carry it out and post it. However, I liked the idea so much I decided to make the illustration anyway.

Fortunately, I drew up the framework for the painting just before the accident, and have found I can do the water colour a very tiny amount at a time.

I'm looking forward to being able to draw again properly soon: it has been a real surprise to discover how much of a two-handed process drawing is for me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Motivation to work my fingers

Just before I broke my finger, I thought of the idea of knitting Patrick Moore for the Stitch London "Stitched Science" event with the wonderful Science Museum: I love the way Sir Patrick Moore  has made astronomy accessible and understandable through his enthusiastic presentations on The Sky At Night.

Then I broke my finger, and seriously doubted that I could participate in the Stitched Science project in any form, but it was very good motivation to persist with tendon glides, hand rehab, etc.  Making plarn for planet earth, and knitting a strip for venus proved to be excellent hand therapy. The a couple of weeks ago, I tentatively cast on to make the pieces I had sketched out for Patrick Moore.
Hooray,  I succeeded:

I had a little help from Lauren O'Farrell aka Deadly Knitshade with the stretching and stapling of the night sky,  and loads of encouragement from fellow Stitch Londoners. Thanks, guys.

Stitched Science was a fantastic weekend altogether: Sarah MacIntyre's review of her visit captures the excitement of it all:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Broken finger and learning curves

On Monday 2nd May I broke the little finger on my left hand, so I am currently facing some very interesting challenges in getting on with life.

It is amazing to discover quite how left-handed I am: usually I think of myself as ambidextrous, though favouring my left hand for many tasks right-handers would use their right hand to do.  Fortunately, I do mostly draw with my right hand. For painting and drawing for the next month or so the challenge will be about size of paper because of the weight of the drawing board, and being unable to stretch paper for painting. So I shall be investigating much heavier weight paper which may not require stretching!

The way forward with knitting is for me to learn the english style - something I had been planning to do anyway to help with two colour work. So, Linda kindly cast on for me at Stitch London on Wednesday, and a green sock is very slowly growing: I've knitted about 3" in the past week.

I've also been given very helpful tips by lovely friends who have experienced similar injuries, and am accepting lots of help from friends and strangers, so am getting by.

Here is a pen and ink drawing I made recently called "Creepy", which somehow seems to fit with this post because of the little girl's  movement towards the unknown:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Wedding Gerty

Here is the Gertrude Woolsworthy illustration made for the Royal Wedding edition of the  Stitch London newsletter (If you scroll down the page you will see Gerty alongside her fabulous advice!).

The inspiration for this particular painting came from the Union Jack cupcake, which is visible here . Then, naturally thoughts of battenburg-style knitted bunting followed, together with a tiara based on Stitch London's logo. Great fun to dream up.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Work In Progress

Time really does fly! I've had such a busy month, mainly with preparing my children's illustration portfolio, etc for the London Book Fair, and my blog has been on the "important but not urgent list".

Today it is great to look at my painting desk with the immediate pressure to complete work off for the first time in months. Here is what is on my desk this morning: the union jack cup cake is a prop for something I will be working on this week, not yet started. In the meantime, I am taking a breather this morning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On being a Stitch Sage for Stitch London

I am happy to be one of Stitch London's team of Stitch Sages who teach people to knit for free, and was asked recently why I do this, so here is my reply (Which naturally involved painting!): firstly, I still remember my own excitement the Christmas I opened a parcel to find a lovely cardboard basket containing tiny balls of wool, and pair of gold coloured,  4 year-old Clare-size, knitting needles! I was very keen to learn how to knit, and my Mum taught me the basics - cast on, knit, purl, and cast off, as she had been taught them - not by her own mother, but by a kind American lady on a ferry from the UK to Denmark. More of this later.

Secondly, passing on needlecraft skills and tools is very important to me: the photograph shows my Stitch Sage badges; one of my original gold knitting needles;  a pair of green plastic knitting needles that belonged to my Mother, which my Dad had commissioned me to buy on her behalf together with some pink yarn for a baby jacket, when my sister arrived prematurely, and my Mother wanted something to do in hospital;  the scissors, silver thimble and very worn, red leather case given to me by my Granny (who was a trained tailor) when I was about 8 years old; and a pair of Victorian tatting shuttles which I think belonged to my Great-grandmother. Unfortunately, the knowledge of how to use them was not passed on, so I am planning to learn  to use them this year.

Finally, in teaching people to knit, I have learnt that the style of knitting does not really matter,  just the the joy of developing  skills in making a fabric out of a system of loops! The kind American lady taught my Mother to knit continental style, which she then in turn taught me, which was great, except that my class teacher at junior school thoroughly disapproved of my not knitting English style, and made my life miserable in knitting classes over this. In fact, I held back from teaching people to knit at Stitch London for sometime because of this teacher's attitude, and making me feel I was doing something wrong in knitting the way I do.  Lauren O'Farrell encouraged me,  though, and the folks I have taught have been very appreciative,  as well, which is very rewarding to see.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fiery Fred and where do ideas come from

Domestic upheaval in the form of the annual gas safety checks for the boiler has prevented me from posting to my blog for a few weeks: the reason being that having moved everything around to enable access to the boiler,  the scanner was inaccessible! I am planning to have some images in hand on my computer to post when such events happen in future, as inevitably they will. Or to live somewhere much larger, so that giving access for maintenance does not create quite the domestic chaos that are the product of shoe-horning my busy creative life into a relatively small flat.

In the meantime, I have been working on Fiery Fred for the diploma course: the brief was for to paint a vignette to show a "young dragon who is not yet fully in control of his flame, and to show his bafflement at having set fire to a thatched roof".   A fun brief for someone who likes to draw dragons! As usual, I found myself making up much more story, hence the top picture.  The idea and story evolved over a few days (often being pondered when travelling on buses, or walking), interspersed with some sketching out of potential ideas and layouts to see which worked best.

The fire brigade bears appeared because I wanted the occupants of the thatched cottage to be visible and responding to the fire, and I then realised that the occupants did not have to be humans! 

Bears, and teddy bears specifically are occupying my drawing thoughts quite a lot at the moment: (Research for a children's picture book which I have written and drawn the first draft of, and which am now working to improve). So at the beginning of February, when  I spent a morning at the Museum of Childhood with some friends from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, I focussed mainly on sketching some of the fabulous teddy bears in the collection. I will post some of the sketches another time. Hence bears seemed to be a good choice for the occupants of the cottage, especially as I could then have fun playing with the roof shape!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Gertrude Woolsworthy appears again

This week I have mostly been using pink paint again! Stitch London invited me to illustrate their Agony Aunt Gerty Woolsworthy's imaginative Valentine's advice:  you can see this here, near the bottom of the newsletter: Valentine proposal.

The eagle-eyed among you may recognise the handsome hunk of Wollemeise that I'd photographed at loop on 28th January as part of my research!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Where do ideas come from?

Following on from my last post here, here is some of my current food for visual thought.

The drawing is a quick sketch I did on Twelfth Night (6th January) of how an outsider might see the Christmas tree being taken down in our household.

A very quick impression, but one that is staying with me mentally, so I sense that a more worked drawing up is brewing. What I like about this drawing in particular is how I've captured something of the character of Toby, who is a very inquisitive and bright cat, as well as being large, fluffy and solid! He'd only lived with me for six weeks at this point, so was still very much learning about me and what I do.

Then here is a small collection of recent acquisitions that are feeding my creative imagination!

The book is "How to Draw in Pen and Ink" by Harry Furniss, originally published in 1905, and discovered by me in the Oxfam shop in Cirencester over the new year holiday.  I've been drawing with pen and ink for years, and I found some useful tips in this book, plus interesting observations on the composing of illustrations at the point in time when photographs were becoming more frequently used instead in newspapers and magazines.

The small plastic character toy was another charity shop find, and was used as the model for all of the plastic figure toys in the "Sebastian's Sink City" I made. Being able to study the construction of joints, and exaggerations of body proportions to enable the toy to stand, etc was very helpful.

The wonderfully evocatively shaped "nest" ball of yarn is currently home some tiny owls I knitted last year

Friday, January 28, 2011

Painting, knitting and planning to combine the two

Here is the illustration I have mostly been working on this week: an improved version of "The owl and the pussy cat", with an anatomically correct cat! Previous versions included an elbow, which a kind friend reminded me cats do not have. I also prefer the tortoise shell and white colours for the cat.

Knitting-wise, I've had fun making this log cabin square for The Log Cabin Blanket 2011 to help with fund-raising for the excellent Medecins Sans Frontieres via p/hop.

I'm also intending to knit a couple of squares for the barn-raising blanket; then if I am brave, for the crochet one, too!
Planning to combine painting with knitting led me to visit the fantabulous Loop this afternoon to photograph some lace-weight Wollmeise for next top secret at the moment painting!

Oh, and while I was there, a lovely sea blue ball of Lima found it's way into my bag, so will be casting on later.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Humpty and the Windmill

A humpty has found his way into my drawings!

 This is a pen and ink drawing project that I had begun before Christmas, when I was ill with the bronchitis, but refusing to give in and simply be ill. The conseqence of this was that when I looked again at my work when I was well again, I discovered a fundamental flaw in the composition, plus that I was thoroughly bored with the project. Not good, and thankfully, very unusual for me. So, I began again, and began again, etc, and was still stuck, and increasingly frustrated.

Then one morning I had the bright idea of actually making the cleaner bottle windmill, which miraculously solved my artist's block!  Now I am pleased with how the drawing has turned out, and will be happily adding to my portfolio.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Love Bites Wrist Warmers - completed!

These really were the perfect project to take with me to my dad's over New Year, and the joggless stripe method worked a treat!  Also achieved success with the cunning plan I had thought out to knit the little fair isle hearts:  the challenge there in knitting in knitting the mitts in the round is that the yarn for the hearts ends up at the wrong end of the motif on every other row! I solved this particular problem by slipping the heart stitches; then reversing my knitting and purling the hearts; then turning knitting back to right side,  which leaves the heart on the left needle, and needing to be slipped to the right needle; then slipping the heart stiches onto the right needle, carefully undoing and re-knitting every other stitch so that I could hook the main stripe colour yarn along the back. Fiddly, but worked well, and only had to be done on three rows.  

I am a confident knitter, so was not daunted by the prospect of fiddling this way. However, an alternative way to achieve the same visual result would be to knit the wrist warmers without the hearts, then darn them on afterwards. Thanks to bluestockingstitching for this suggestion.