Sunday, August 21, 2016

Photography Challenge Day #3 - Clouds

We spent the day today at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Such a good day out, even if most of the animals appeared to be asleep - I can relate to that, I spend a lot of the time wishing I could have a nap. ;)

The theme for today was 'Clouds' but there weren't any particularly spectacular clouds and the sky overall seemed a rather uninteresting pale grey/blue. Still, the lioness was impressive, and some retrospectively added filters helped the sky along. :) 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Photography Challenge Day #2 - What You Wore

Out with boy #1 today, catching Pokemon, when I remembered that I needed to think about 'What You Wore'... Now, with a bit more time I could have dug up all sorts of "interesting" clothes that I used to wear, but as it is you get a picture of my flipflops! 

I've been wearing them all summer and they are just... perfect! I bought them on a whim, online, because they have moulded orthopaedic soles. My feet, you see, are utterly terrible, collapsed arches and bunions and everything. I'm basically like a duck, waddling along flat-footed. This means that these flipflops, with their arch support, are soooo comfortable. I swear, if they ever break I'll have to order another pair immediately. 

Anyway, there you go - Day #2 complete! 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday 19th August is World Photography Day

... or so Facebook told me this morning.

I had no idea previously, but thought it was as good a reason as any to challenge myself to take more pictures and to blog more again. 

With that in mind I've decided to do a 30-day photography challenge. It's an old one, originally from THIS WEBSITE, so I'm not joining any big internet (or real-life) event - this one is just for me (or you, if you care to join me).

Every day I will post a picture inspired by the theme for the day - sometimes I may write a few words to provide context, other times it might be just the picture, but I think it will be a good way to push myself a bit, and also to re-discover good blogging habits because, let's face it, my blogging has been rubbish ever since Christmas!!

So here we go, this is the list: 

Today's challenge is a self-portrait. 

I haven't had much time today because it's of course the summer break and I've had boys at home, and also doctor appointments for boy#1, who's not been too well recently, so I just snapped a quick picture earlier, before I had to rush out to the first appointment. 

Me, today, no make-up, clearly no hairbrush has touched my hair, taken with a Sony Alpha 58 and a 50 mm / 1.8 SAM prime lens.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Oh what a week...

Oh my, the work just doesn't let up. 

Here I am, on a Bank Holiday weekend, on a Sunday morning, sitting at my laptop, preparing a lecture on the Netflix and the Post-Television environment. It's interesting stuff, but I'd still rather do something else on a Sunday.

It's been quite the week, to be honest. There has been work, of course, and hospital appointments, and pottery, but undoubtedly most exciting is the arrival of Betty:

Isn't she a beauty? 

For ages I used to drive past a little pottery workshop on my way to work. Every time I thought 'one day I'll stop and have a look', but of course I never did. Then, one day, a 'For Sale' sign went up on the house, and, well, I might have panicked a bit, because I HADN'T YET HAD A CHANCE TO LOOK AT ALL THE POTTERY! 

D suggested that I just drive there, not on my way to work, when I'm always too busy to stop, and knock on the door, and well, that's exactly what I did, and let me tell you, I'm so glad I did!

It turned out that the workshop was not currently seeing a lot of use, because S., the potter, had had quite a rough few years, with a few close family losses. Because of that she hadn't done much pottery, and now she was downsizing and moving house. As we were chatting she revealed that she was quite anxious about what to do with her two kilns. Kilns are heavy (very heavy) things, and she wasn't sure who'd take them away for her. She also didn't have room for them in the new workshop she was getting ready, so she wanted to be rid of them.

To keep the story short, she offered me both kilns FOR FREE, as long as I was prepared to have them removed from her workshop. I was speechless.

In the end I convinced L. the potter who runs the pottery classes I attend, to take the gas kiln, which I thought was beyond my capabilities, and I decided to keep Betty, who is an electric kiln. 

So far so good, but as it turns out, getting kilns moved anywhere beyond a few inches is really not an easy thing to organise. Kilns are not only heavy, but fragile - they have brittle fire bricks inside, and they can't be tipped onto their side. The drive leading to the workshop was fairly steep, and made of gravel, both not things that are fantastic for pallet trucks. There were trees overhanging the drive - not great for lorries. 

It took me quite a few weeks to find a local company who was brave enough to take the job on, and let me tell you, getting them out of that workshop, and getting Betty unloaded and into my workshop at home was high drama. Initially two guys turned up with a lorry and a pallet truck, but they had to admit defeat and call in help. In the end it took four men and the pallet truck to shift the kilns out of the workshop and onto the lorry and to unload Betty at our end. Apparently unloading the gas kiln at L's was far less dramatic so I'm sure the poor removal guys were very relieved. 

They did a fantastic job though, and, throughout the ordeal didn't lose their cool or their good humour. If I ever have any other unwieldy items to move I will definitely contact them again! 

Betty needs a bit of work, and she also isn't connected yet. If I get a chance I'll try to get an electrician to connect her up sometime next week, but really, I'm just glad that the move went OK and she is safely tucked up in the workshop. :)

In other news, I've been crocheting a bit. The CAL has started and unlike some other CALs I've taken part in over the years this one has quite a comfortable pace. There are four squares to complete each week, which, despite my crazy workload at the moment, has been just about achievable. It's quite fun so far. :)  

Not the greatest picture and the colours are a bit off, but it's a grey day today so the light isn't fantastic for taking pictures...

Close up of Week One - popcorn stitches

Close-up of Week Two - star stitches (I loved these - so much fun, and the resulting texture is lovely!)

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Just pottering about...

Weekends are just great, aren't they?

We have a ritual here, which starts with coffee and biscuits, while the boys are allowed to watch a programme or two on the laptop, all tucked up together in bed. We usually have a cat or two in there with us too, but the more the merrier! ;)

Weekends are for doing nothing much, for enjoying each other's company, for playing, for pottering... Of course there are things that need to get done (like the laundry - though I have occasionally forgotten about that, which gets a bit awkward on Monday morning when you realise that the school uniforms are non-too-clean...), but most of all it's for doing whatever you think is fun.

This weekend we spent some time allotmenting (I had some fruit bushes to plant), and since the weather was good we also played in the garden quite a bit. I also practiced a bit on my concertina. I'm still very much a beginner, but D managed to accompany me on the Banjo for 'Danny Boy', so that is a minor success. It didn't even sound completely awful! 

Most of all, though, I played with clay. After being so busy for so many weeks it was such a joy to spend a few hours pottering. I made a few houses (a commission for a friend), and then continued right on and made some more. 

And last but not least, I managed to plant up this little fella. 

Isn't his new haircut fetching? So trendy... ;)

He was a bit of an experiment, and because of that he isn't at all tidy. As I was planing I managed to break one of his legs off. Oops! 

I like him, though, and as a proto-type he works well. There will be more like him, I think.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spring is here...

... and I'm back (I think).

Goodness me, that was a long hiatus. And I hadn't even planned on having one! Honestly, it just happened. 

Coming up to Christmas I was so busy, and then we had family over, and after that it was the New Year and I just kept on being really busy. My teaching resumed after the sabbatical that I'd had in the autumn, and then all the little ones were ill, and so were D and I, and well, I think you get the picture.

For a while there I was so busy that I had no time for crafting. None whatsoever.

Fortunately I'm back on a more even keel now and I have, ever so slowly, found my way back to all my projects. There are still a lot of WIPs around here from last autumn, I can tell you that, but I think my crafting mojo is coming back. A mum I know persuaded me to join in a blanket CAL - The Scheepjes CAL for Last Dance on the Beach, which is in memory of the late Marinke Slum, or Wink from the A Creative Being blog . You have to buy the yarn kit from Scheepjes, but the yarn is nice and the kit isn't too expensive, and some of the money will go to a mental health charity, so it's for a good cause. My box of yarn arrived a few days ago - there were three colour combinations to choose from. Since I have a lot of very bright-coloured blankets I went with the most neutral option - Dance in the Rain:

 Unfortunately the box of yarn has already been claimed as a cat bed. I may have a fight on my hands when I come to start the blanket...

In preparation for the CAL I felt that I should at least put one of my crochet blanket projects to bed so I focussed on the Weekender blanket that I had started oh so many months ago. After frantically crocheting and sewing on hexagons for a couple of weeks the blanket is finished. I added a thin dc border to finish it off and it's already in constant use by the boys, who love to snuggle up in the blankets on the sofa. I'm pleased with it, even though it's not a stylish project (a lot of waste yarn went in there, so there is no real colour scheme at all), but if I never crochet a hexagon again it won't be too soon. Honestly, I was so sick of them by the time I finally finished the last one!

Right now I am trying to make some progress on the Spice of Life blanket, also sadly neglected for months now. The new CAL starts on 20th April so I have little hope of finishing the blanket before then, but it would be nice to add a few inches so I can feel that I'm a bit closer to the finish line than before!

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Car boot treasures

I've been meaning to show this car boot find for ages now but never seemed to get around to it, but finally getting the larger pieces washed seemed like a good opportunity to take pictures.

A while ago I discovered a quilted patchwork cushion and a rather ratty looking plastic bag at a stall at our local car boot.

I thought the cushion was quite cute, and the quilting was clearly done by hand, and very skillfully too, so I felt I needed to make the effort to 'rescue' it and asked for the price.

I was half expecting some huge price tag, but instead the stall owner glanced at it briefly and then said, 'well, if you give me £2 for the whole lot you can have it'. She meant the cushion and the plastic bag. 

I bought the lot and only when I arrived at home did I realise what a treasure I had found. The bag was full of quilting fabrics and started projects, including a number of other cushion covers and a large blanket, all of it beautifully stitched together by hand.

There were needles and a magazine from which the hexagons had been cut (from the early 1980s, so that dates start of the project!), and various fabric scraps for the different pieces.

In a way I felt quite sad, because this surely was the work of someone who must have passed away, because otherwise you wouldn't give up a project that advanced - there must be years of work in this - and clearly the people who acquired the project, whether they were family or whether it was part of a house clearance, had no appreciation at all for the skill and love that had gone into this work. 

I'm feeling quite humbled that this is now in my hands, and I am intending to treasure and finish the work that was started all those years ago. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

uh uh...

I didn't really mean to disappear like that.

This time of year is... crazy around here. Three kids birthdays, Halloween, St. Nikolaus Day, Christmas with all the family coming... There is a lot going on, and it's been really hard to keep up with everything, you know?

By now we have two of the three kids birthdays behind us, and Halloween is obviously also done, so I can refocus a bit on getting the remaining birthday and the Christmas festivities organised. 

I'm not complaining, really - it's all been great fun, and I'm also very much looking forward to the remaining family parties, but it can be difficult to find time for anything else this time of year. Every week I am determined to at least post a weekly update but well... it's been a while, hasn't it?

That said, I have been working on things. I'm currently in the process of getting Christmas presents on their way, so a lot of my knitting and crafting has been quite focussed on that. Perhaps I'll manage to snap a few shots of the Christmas knitting tomorrow, but for now, just so I can report on something, here is a little snippet of recent pottery projects:

Little ceramic houses for incense cones or tea lights (although probably best with electric ones, because they can get quite hot). Some of those will be presents, others might end up in the Folksy Shop. There are more of them, but this is a selection anyway. :)

Large platter. I glazed this twice - once with Iron Oxide, and then with a top glaze that was called 'Honey'. I really like the depth of the colours this has created.

Vase, lime green on the inside, glossy white on the outside:

That's enough for today, I have to get on with designing photo calendars as stocking fillers for the family...

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Friday, October 23, 2015

FO Friday

Look, fingerless mitts!

Since I'd never actually made any mitts I thought these deserved their own post. 

I used this simple pattern HERE and it's pretty much perfect. They fit snugly but not too tightly, and I adjusted the length a little because I quite like it when they are a bit longer and go up the arm under your coat or jumper. 

I'm not keeping them, alas, they are a Christmas present for one of my stepsisters. I'm making two more pairs of mitts, but I'm using different patterns for them.

 I've never really given knitted gifts before, so I'm a bit nervous. I hope they like them... 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

WIP update - on a Thursday!

I normally try to update on a Wednesday, but this week is kind of getting away from me. I don't really quite know why, but I feel frazzled and tired and sort of drained. Perhaps I'm coming down with something? Or is it the colder weather that's getting me down? 

On the upside, I do have some progress to report on. I'm still crocheting the Spice of Life, but the fifth pattern piece is a bit of a monster, because it's basically a repeat of all the previous pattern pieces in order to add length to the blanket. Well then... this may take me a while! I'm plodding on with it, but in the meantime I've also been dividing my time between this project and my Christmas present plans, so I've made a pair of fingerless mitts (I'll introduce those tomorrow) and have already cast on for another pair of mitts, this time not fingerless. I am using aran yarn, which makes these projects satisfyingly quick and I'm hoping to crank out this other pair by the end of the week. I'm planning on knitting another pair after that, but I'll stick with these first so I can add them to the 'done' pile and feel good about my progress. :)

The pattern I'm using for these is 'Maize'.

I've also got a whole lot of glazed pottery back this week. Honestly, I had forgotten how much of it there was. I was pleased to see that a lot of it came out looking OK, despite the fact that I'm learning something about myself - I don't enjoy glazing. I find the process kind of tedious but nerve-wrecking at the same time, because you can ruin a perfectly good pot by applying glaze haphazardly. Overall I think I might be more interested in shape than in colour... 

That said, here are a few examples that I felt had turned out well:

And last but not least, the bowls that the boys made and told me to glaze according to their instructions were finished too - they are absolutely thrilled with them. :)

If I continue at this rate I'll run out of room soon, even if I give gifts to family and friends, so my plan is to set up a folksy shop to sell some pieces. 

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Keep Calm Craft On
Yarn Along
Stitch Along Wednesday