Sunday 23 May 2021

...pleasing myself

It's been just over seven weeks since my early retirement started, and I'm still trying to get used to being my own boss. As much as I used to grumble about my old job, at least I knew what I was supposed to be doing for 7.5 hours per day, whereas now I find myself in the (incredibly fortunate, I know) position of being able to (mostly) please myself. I'm still taking and/or picking up my husband from work (he used to cycle the 10 mile round trip every day, but after being knocked for six by Covid in December he's having to take things steady to rebuild his stamina), and I walk the XXSCat dog with my daughter during her lunch-break, but the rest of the day is basically my own. So I've been making lots of to-do lists, and telling myself I have to do something really constructive every day, and then feeling horribly guilty if I don't. My friend, who early-retired a couple of months before me, tells me that she's "loving life", and wakes up every day feeling like it's Christmas morning, but I'm not quite there yet! I don't regret my decision, and I certainly don't miss the stress of work - I just need to figure out a routine that works for me. 

So the past week has been an eclectic mix of activities. Cleaning, gardening in the occasional gaps in the rain storms, taking the car for its MOT, getting a blood-test and discovering that I'm Vitamin D deficient after a year of lockdowns, and indulging my creative impulses in between:
  • The Gnome Rejuvenation Project continues. This little chap started life as an Ikea Santa Claus, but was looking very pale and worn, so he's been given a regular gnome uniform instead.
  • After longing to escape the constraints of my 2.5" fabric squares for the #100DayProject, I sat down to play with watercolour and acrylic paint on a sheet of A5 paper...and ended up with this little painting of a cornflower - in the middle of the page and almost exactly 2.5" square! How did that happen?!
  • I cast on 54 stitches (multiples of 18) and knitted myself another stripey multicoloured scarf - in feather and fan stitch this time - because a person can never have too many stripey multicolured scarves. It's made with Sirdar Hayfield Spirit variegated yarn in two colourways - one predominantly shades of blue (because I live in jeans) and the other a pastel rainbow sequence (because who doesn't like rainbows?). I love the colourful squishiness of it, and the non-stop rain provides the perfect justification for me to be wearing a knitted scarf at the end of May! My hands are already itching for another knitting project though...
  • There is a print-maker/sewist called Margaret Molinari on Instagram (@margarts) who I started 'following' after I discovered her through the #100Day Project. Her project was to use different found objects for printing onto fabric, and I was completely captivated and amazed by her work. I couldn't resist having a go myself - so far with some leaves from the beautiful whitebeam tree at the park, and a slightly-past-its-best kiwi fruit. I'm nowhere near as proficient as Margaret, but I still think the results are fabulous! I'm deciding whether to add some more colour with my Setacolor paints, and thinking of using the fabric for some extra-special Extra Pocket Bags.

  • I was dusting the windowsill earlier in the week and came across this gorgeous Giant House Spider, which had spun a funnel-style web in the bottom of a reflective glass tea-light holder and was patiently lying in wait for passing flies. I'm a bit wary of spiders (having been bitten by one many years ago) but I thought it was such an ingenious (not to mention beautiful) choice of location that I immediately went into full-on 'Charlotte's Web' mode, and announced to the rest of the family that we had acquired a new pet. I'm probably biased, but I think she's extremely photogenic!
  • Finally, although bluebell pictures are absolutely everywhere at the moment, there is always room for just one more. Doesn't this little path through the lush green woods look so much more inviting when it's edged with a carpet of blue? 


Saturday 15 May 2021

...the 100 day project

The 100 day project is finished, and I'm so glad I saw it through! Here are the squares from days 91-99...
...and one final square (below, top right) completes the project. I ended with a clematis painting because I'd started with one. From bare, knotted stems in January to a mass of flowers in May! 
Looking back on the project, the paintings I'm fondest of tend to be the ones that were done from visual impressions/memories, rather than relying on photos for source material:
The fabric paints I used are from the Pebeo Setacolor range*. They come in gorgeous colours, and several consistencies, which give different effects depending on how much you dilute them and the type of fabric they're intended to be used on. So, moving from left to right in the photo below:

  • Setasilk (the clue's in the name) is primarily designed for painting on silk - it has an ink-like consistency (hence the dropper top) and is very water-colour-like in effect. A little goes a long way, especially if you're working on 2.5" squares! The Seta-Skrib bottle on the far right is from a 'vintage' set I bought approx 30 years ago which is still going strong. The watery background of the square below is Setasilk - the fish are Setacolor Opaque.

  • Setacolor Shimmer Opaque is a smooth, metallic paint, which can be watered down or added to other colours to give a more subtle, irridescent effect. I only have this in gold so far, but will definitely be adding to my collection when birthday/Christmas present suggestions are needed in future! The peacock feather square was done with a mixture of Setacolor Shimmer and Setasilk.

  • Setacolor Opaque gives maximum coverage on any fabric - if Setasilk is like watercolour, then Setacolor Opaque is like acrylic - I've been using it a lot in a kind of 'wax resist' fashion as the Setasilk colours slide right off it. The hawthorn blossom is Setacolor Opaque, with a wash of green Setasilk over the top. 

  • Setacolor Light is semi-translucent and very smooth - it's intended for use on light coloured/white fabrics. When watered down it acts like Setasilk, but still retains a little of the 'wax-resist' effect of Setacolor Opaque when used neat. In the square below I was experimenting with it for the first time - there's a bit of gold Shimmer in there too, just because I love it so.

  • Setacolor Glitter is probably my least favourite of the range - it is a bit like glitter-glue for fabric, in that it dries almost clear, leaving a glittery residue behind. Best used over the top of other colours as it has the same 'wax-resist' qualities as the Setacolor Opaque and won't allow subsequent washes of colour to sink into the fabric. The square below was another experiment with using it for the first time - turquise glitter stems and silver glitter dots, with a wash of orange and yellow Setasilk over the top.
*Other fabric paints are available, I just decided to stick with Pebeo as I liked the Seta-Skrib coIours I already had in my stash!

Wednesday 12 May 2021

...all the small things

I was doing the rounds of some of my favourite blogs on Sunday morning, when I came across Ann Wood's latest tutorial for a miniature wood stove - made out of cardboard (loo roll tube and an egg box) and other crafty bits and pieces - and fell head over heels in love. It shot straight to the top of my "To do" list like a rocket and everything else (breakfast, laundry, conversing with family, etc.) paled into insignificance. I had to set to work immediately and make one of my own!

As luck would have it, I'd put an egg box in the recycling bin a day or two before, so I didn't even have to turf any eggs out to get my hands on one. Ann's tutorials are always clear and easy to follow, so after a couple of hours (and a few silly mistakes, like accidentally cutting up the piece set aside for the legs and having to cobble it back together using spare parts) I ended up with this:

Ann's instructions were to let the glue dry thoroughly before painting - "Or you will be sad!" So I decided to make a little Dutch Oven style pot to sit on top of the finished stove. I was in the Making Zone by this point, so I reached for the moulded inlay from a chocolate box I'd saved "just in case", cut off one of the pot-shaped pieces, sprayed the outside with the speckled grey stone-effect spray-paint I'd bought from Aldi "just in case", added a little garden-wire handle with a painted masking tape grip, and filled it with some hearty baked beans (air-drying clay, painted and gloss varnished in situ). A (cocktail stick) wooden spoon to stir them with was the finishing touch.
This is the finished stove - painted with a couple of coats of acrylic paint (Payne's Grey), highlights picked out with a soft 4B pencil. It is simply too cute for words, and every home should have one.

Monday 3 May 2021 baby knitting and sewing

I've had a lovely time over the past week knitting and stitching tiny clothes for a friend's very-much-longed-for miracle baby (a girl), due in early June. We are having a 'virtual' shower for her over Zoom later this week, and they needed to be ready for collection and delivery by the shower organiser tomorrow, so that they can be 'quarantined' for a few days before opening. The little cardigan is "Ode to Doris", the blanket (background bottom right) is "Camilla", and the pretty little bloomers are from this Wiksten pattern. I really struggled with lighting when taking the photos - the top left one is probably the most accurate colourwise. 
This was my first "Ode to Doris" cardigan, but probably won't be my last, as it came together so easily - top down and seam free - perfect for anyone who hates seaming or picking up stitches as much as I do! "Camilla" is my go-to baby blanket pattern (this is the fourth one I've made). It knits up fairly quickly in aran-weight yarn, and makes a lovely, squishy, practical blanket for everyday baby-snuggling. The bloomers will definitely be part of my 'new baby' gift repertoire from now on - the first size can be cut from a fat quarter with room to spare, they take a couple of hours to construct - two pieces, three seams and three hems, with a bit of elastic threading along the way - and they are almost too adorable to bear! They can be made in two lengths and 6 sizes (birth to 3 yrs), so are very adaptable.

It's been a bit of a slog, but I've managed to keep up the 2.5" squares for the #100dayproject every day too. At the time of writing there are 8 more days to go to get to the finish line. I'm really proud of myself for seeing it through, but looking forward to breaking free from the self-imposed tyranny of working within such tight parameters!