Lurchers and Llamas

Ok, that’s it, we’re bored now…it’s all …too…WHITE….

 We were off to the other side of the county today for lunch with my cousin and after a lovely day yesterday it was a pain to wake up to frost, ice and gloom and then sleet. We had a phone call from said cousin to warn us they had a couple of inches of snow, but as it seemed the main road was clear and they had a tractor to get us out of any trouble we might run into on the track to their farmhouse we decided to brave it. 

Apart from the nice people, and the good food, we wanted to see their lurcher.   They have two – lovely gentle dogs and I do love  lurchers. ( We used to have one, an enormous blonde called Spike, who was a complete wus,  having little Higgins was really going from the sublime to the ridiculous!)  However the whole family was devastated about five months ago when the young one was stolen.  Despite the theft being witnessed (and the dog being microchipped) a poster campaign, a reward being offered and information being past all round the county there were no clues or leads and every one was so upset.  

Amazingly, and so happily, about three weeks ago she was found in a field somewhere near Skegness(quite a way from Norfolk)  by a lady who runs a greyhound rescue centre who just happened to be driving along a road she had never travelled on before who recognised her from the poster that had been circulated.  Because of her job she had a chip reader at home and was able to identify her and phone to give the good news.  The whole thing hung on so many happy coincidences it was incredible, and although she was very thin when  she first came home she is now looking good, and full of bounce (as the footprint in the middle of  Higgins ‘ little jumper demonstrated) 

So, a lovely Sunday roast, and syrup sponge and custard – heaven – and then a snowy, slippery walk to try and shift a couple of calories.

I did try to get a picture of both dogs together, but look at the difference in the leg length, Higgins never managed to catch up!

He did meet another creature for the first time….Fergus…

Which was quite interesting…

Mwah!

I don’t think I could cope with the real thing, but I did find another llama I would have loved to bring home…

Isn’t he gorgeous?

I found the monocrome theme continued…

…and although I love snowdrops…

I so long for some colour. So it was nice to get back for a cup of tea and look at my cousin’s latest knitting project.  Craftiness runs in the family, and she is an expert on spinning,weaving, knitting, crochet  and  dyeing.  This was a departure, freeform knitting and crochet.  I’ve done a little and it’s fascinating, but this was spectacular.  It’s a shame the light means the photos don’t really do it justice but WOW, after all that white, we need those colours!

It’s mainly hand dyed silk, with little bits of llama and hand spun fleece.  I’ve just realised I was so excited I didn’t ask what the finished article would be, a knockout waistcoat?

It was a busy day, and very exciting for a small dog with very short legs. A lot of sleeping has been going on.  Higgins has obviously been having colour withdrawal symptoms too.  I bought a new fleece blanket yesterday, with the sofa bed that is going into the studio in mind. Higgins is testing it…

Something Pretty in the Post…

The trouble is with sitting here at the computer looking at my unfinished studio through the window  surrounded with boxes and things I can’t get at it is that it makes me very susceptible to gorgeous things that pop up on the internet.  Like an email from Cox and Cox…about their SALE…I mean, what’s a woman to do?  I’m very proud of the way I managed to buy so little…Look at THESE…

So cunningly packed too, with a little slot in the plastic to unreel the ribbons through so they don’t end up in a tangly heap.


…and while I was ooohing and aaahing about the clever little dispensing arrangement Tim pointed out the hanger on the back.  So Hard Luck, Higgins, I can hang it on the wall away from little dachshund teeth.  Perfect!

I also bought a badge making kit which could be fun.  The instructions look complicated but as it’s for 8+ I ought to be able to suss it out eventually…

…and –  just because – a little wooden dove…

The sun is shining this afternoon so I will save further ramblings for later posts, don fleece and wellies and get out into the garden.  Hope the sun shines for you this weekend…

Too Many Cameras…

…and not enough photos.  The camera saga continues…sorry, I’m sure it will be resolved, just not sure if it will be this side of sanity.  I haven’t been able to get to Norwich to the camera shop so I’m still snarling at the Olympus.  In the meantime Tim, who is in the middle of the North Sea,  has bought me a second hand Fuji on Ebay.  We resolved the fact that it came without the Smart Card because I still had an old one from a past camera lurking in a drawer, complete with old photos I had forgotten about.  I have managed a few reasonable pictures this afternoon, and in doing so discovered that   the new old camera’s rechargable battery needs to be charged for six hours  to do 10 minutes photography.  Talk about swimming through treacle…

However, onwards and upwards.  This is what I thought was just what I wanted in 1995…

It was my first attempt at ‘Folk Art’ painting, a little desk which belonged to my grandfather and destined for the scrap heap.  It’s been in my studio and is crying out for something for something more ..er…restful …in the way of a paint job before it goes into the new studio.

And I have another doll. After I made the Fairy of Sensible Shoes I had to demonstrate how she was made to a class and so had another body tucked away in yet another box which surfaced in the clearout, naked and bald.  I spent a whole evening working on her hair.  I had some left over sock wool in brown, black and grey so I carefully cut all the grey sections out and painstakingly embedded each strand into her scalp with a felting needle. As I said, a whole evening.  How long for Higgins to do his own version of hairdressing?

Thirty seconds…

Some raging, tears and a good nights sleep later I tried again with a new head entirely, without rips, teethmarks and spit.  I abandoned the bandana and went for a miniature felt hat…

…with co-ordinating shoes…

I cheated with the socks, I now have a pair of gloves with the middle fingers missing!

Her little cardigan and bag are crocheted with Blue-faced Leicester wool left over from my hand dyed wool/scarf project, and the skirt is from the stash of fabrics accumulated during my recent ‘Polka Dot Period’ (any one can have a ‘Blue Period’), and here she is…

She sits on a VERY high shelf…

The Fairy of Sensible Shoes

Pink Tulips - because I need them!

Creativity has been a bit thin on the ground lately what with all the clearing out and packing that’s been going on.  However I have turned up one or two bits and pieces you might like to see, and I thought a couple of ‘before’ pictures might be good so we can all be amazed at the eventual transformations.

I’m hopeless at dates, and the years rush past so quickly I can’t be positive about how long I  had my  studio.  I was certainly using it  before I went off to art college as a mature student so it must be around ten years.  In that time the prevailing wind off the big field behind it  ripped the roofing felt off at least once, and the whole building comprising the studio and Tim’s adjoining shed  took on a drunken lean towards the house, making the doors ill-fitting and draughty.  As I progressed through college and got bigger ideas and more ‘stuff’ the studio got more and more full and eventually went from being a rather small studio to being a very big cupboard. 

You’re probably wondering where the Fairy comes in.  She turned up during the excavations – the pleistocene layer I believe – while sorting the studio.  About eighteen months ago I was staying with my mother while she recouperated from a knee operation, and the Fairy came into being when I was being creative with a limited supply of materials.

She started as a piece of embroidery, a short length of buff coloured linen and toning coton a broder thread, and grew from the need to give the embroidery a purpose. 

 Her body is calico, jointed with wooden beads and  her hair, Wendesleydale fleece. 

Her little socks were knitted with the remains of the lace weight Shetland wool with which my mother knitted a shawl for her first great grandchild.  And if you are going to wear socks, well, I’m afraid it’s Sensible Shoes.

As I usually work in colour it was a challenge  to use a  limited pallette and to forage for materials.  Now she’s going to preside over the kitchen while waiting for her new home to be built.  She’s already threatened me with several nasty spells if she ends up stuck in a scrap bag again and it’s far too cold for me to end up in a pond with a lot of other frogs.

Away in a Manger…

A while ago I mentioned the Crib and Wreath Festival at our local church, and the contribution the Knit and Stitch group were working on.  Last week we all gathered at the church to set up our pieces in readiness for the Festival.  At time like this you see anew the beauty of the typical English church and St Michael and All Angels at Barton Turf is very typical.  It is, of course, far to big for the parish it serves which now no longer has even a village shop, and so it functions under that peculiar regime of worship and fund-raising found up and down the country these days.

   Inside, the stalwart band of ladies essential to the running of any village affair mustered their troops.  How could anything function without these unpaid treasures who organise events, arrange flowers, polish pews,  run errands and generally oil the wheels of rural life?  Years of fundraising for St Michael’s has resulted in the recent installation of a loo and small kitchen, no mean feat to sympathetically integrate these modern necessities into the architecture of a 14th Century church, but it does allow it to function as a community centre, and give it a role which justifies its upkeep.  And means a plentiful supply of soup, rolls, tea and cake for visitors to its various displays, festivals and celebrations. (and coffee and biscuits when you turn up on a cold wet morning to set up your stand!)

I was really happy with the swags we had made for the font, a loose interpretation of the wreath idea which  meant that there were four pieces to be entered for the secret auction, and the rich colours looked beautiful against the pale old stone.  The Knit and Stitch Ladies had been really busy making small items for sale, knitted crackers, stockings and baubles, crochet snowflakes, gift bags, angels and hearts, and the whole display was topped off with an amazing knitted crib scene.  I apologise for the lack of photos at this point, I was over absorbed by the task in hand!

Yesterday afternoon I persuaded my mother out of her house to visit the festival.  Not easy these days now she is wheelchair bound and these things involve ramps and other people fussing.  She hates to feel she is a nuisance.   I’m so glad I did.  The weather was sunny, with a gentle breeze, the church was bright and warm and there were lots of people she knows but hardly sees these days.  She loved the exhibits and then, unexpectedly, there was a Navity Tableau put on by the local primary school.  Are you, like me, completely undone by a childrens Nativity play?  Our local rock star(well he would have been, given the right breaks) strummed carols softly on his guitar while his wife read the Christmas story as the children enacted it.  At the first sight of Joseph in his dressing gown, teatowel on head and glasses slightly crooked, alongside a diminutive Mary teaming traditional blue with Ugg boots, the pair of us welled up.  The shepherds tramped down from the hills in search of baby Jesus, who had been found with surprise under her chair by Mary, and quickly recovered for a cuddle.  As the shepherds reenacted their route from the hills by walking up and down the aisles (gently steered at the corners by a grownup when they looked as if they were heading off course) the smallest one happily swung his lamb backwards and forwards in the air.  Angel Gabriel looked stern, the star twinkled prettily as she led the Kings to the stable, the rock star played ‘Away in a Manger’ and Mother and I dabbed our eyes.

What nicer way to start the run up to Christmas?

Happy Feet

I’m celebrating the completion of a second pair of socks!  Despite my little difficulty about repeating myself, I’ve actually made not one but two pairs of matching socks with Christmas presents in mind.  I don’t make them for just anybody.  They take too long, and the wool is too expensive to give then to the people who look at them askance and then buy multipacks of sports socks from Matalan (you know who you are!) No my socks are for the appreciative people in my life, and for them I am happy to acknowledge the fact that they have  two feet and go that extra mile to produce two socks the same.  Although the price of a ball of sock yarn to produce one pair is more than that multi pack, I realised today as I was lining  up my personal collection  for a photoshoot that I am still wearing the first pair I ever made, in 2004.  And they still make me happy…

I had a little help with the photography, Higgins wasn’t sure about the lighting…

Reasons to be cheerful…

Funny how just a little thing can change how you view the day…Getting out in the garden in dressing gown and slippers with the puppy BEFORE the rain starts is always a good start. Higgins hasn’t got the hang of the fact that the more times you make a run for the door without doing what you came out for just prolongs the agony.  He is struggling with country life really, too much weather, he should have gone to live with Paris Hilton. 

Todays mail was very exciting… firstly, red polka dot cake tins…

So good, I had to do styling…

…and my Spoonflower fabric…


When I first discovered Spoonflower I was too intrigued to go away and come up with a new design, I went for the nearest jpg file, my faithful pink sheep, and like it so much I ordered a fat quarter as a test run. My pink sheep started life on an invitation designed by my son Thomas Taylor for my Graduation party four years ago and was originally wearing  a mortar board. I loved her too much to send her off to oblivion, so with the help of Photoshop she hung up her mortar board and joined me here on Planet Penny. I’ve offered to make Thomas a pink sheep bow tie, but strangely, he’s declined…

I was so excited by all this I initially overlooked the fact that my latest copy of ‘Selvedge’ had arrived…Oh. Joy!..

…with this beautiful image on a card inside.

After a wet morning, a band of blue started to spread from the west, and the wind became a breeze, just right for a spot of exercise.  I’ve tried to get round the short dog = cold wet tummy problem with a rather smart fleece jumper for Higgins.  Apart from the fact that I could have bought myself two fleeces for the cost of a tailor-made miniature dachshund one,  getting it on is a bit like putting  skin on a sausage. Then you have the problem of persuading him to get out of bed…

We got out there eventually though…

Even the sugar beet looks good in the sunshine, and you can just see home across the field…

All that was left was to make a cake to justify the fact I had bought not just one, but three tins to put cake in.  I had some windfall apples, so a quick flip around Google and…Easy Apple Cake? …yes, we like easy.   Well, it was easy enough to put together, but who has a 20cm x 30cm tin to hand?  And how would the capacity of a tin you haven’t got compare with the one you have got?  So, a round cake instead.  Fine.  But…how does that affect the cooking time?  Answer – a lot.  After the allotted 40 minutes a gorgeous crispy crust trembled above a completely liquid interior,  another twenty minutes, then ten and then another twenty five minutes before the ‘sod it’ moment when I got it out and decided that was IT.   


And it was.

 Delicious…