Sunday, 7 February 2016

Playtime -distress markers and stencils - part 2

I wanted to show you how to put together the flowers used in part 1

Cut out ever decreasing circle sizes from card or tissue paper and spritz ink over them or just spray neat water on them. Scrunch them and leave to dry. Once dry, unwrap them, they should have nice deep folds. I've laid out the top row in the order I'm going to layer them and don't worry about putting the circles directly on top of each other, make them slightly off centre as in the bottom row.

In the flowers below, I've spritzed them with complementary colours to match the backgrounds I've created...

If you want a little extra sparkle, use a glitter pen on the edges of each layer. I used a clear Wink of Stella brush pen because I love it. It's one of the best glitter pens I've found.

Poke a hole through the background card and fix the flower in place. Add a sentiment and - ta dah!
I had a lot of fun with these and got slighty obsessed. But only slightly.

Well, you get the idea!


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Playtime - distress markers and stencils - part 1

This January I had some random annual leave to use up so I had 4 self indulgent days of play with distress markers, stencils and texture paste while listening to loud music and funny stuff on the radio. Bliss. Usually the tightness of time means I need to get on with whatever the project is, maybe a quilt or an urgent birthday card so there's rarely time just to play and experiment. As I wasn't spending money on an actual holiday I treated myself to some new bits and bobs. See the pretty!

I've used distress markers since they were introduced but I've never really used them to the max. I'd always known they could do more than just ink up stamps in different colours but I hadn't explored further. I watched some of the you tube videos coming out of this year's Craft and Hobby Association trade show in California and got really enthused to try out some of the techniques, especially those by Tim Holtz. I've never been a fan of his dark, grungy style but he's broadened his colour range considerably and shifted slightly into what he calls "vintage" and I call "better". Like everything, crafting supplies go through fashion phases. His products have always been imaginative and well thought out. You can tell they are designed by someone who is himself a crafter.
I used to be a bit irritated by the names on the marker pens like "spiced marmalade" rather than "orange" or "faded denim" instead of "blue". I have to admit though, that after using them some more and making myself a chart of the colours in my collection, the names are spot on and describe the quality of each colour beautifully. I take it all back Tim!

The ink spritzer is one of my fav gadgets. It's a great way to explore colour mixes without all that tedious mucking about with water and buckled paper. What I discovered about the colour palette of the distress markers is that no matter how hard I tried to make a bad colour combo I couldn't make anything truly hideous because the colours all share the same tonal value, basically you can't get it wrong. I think this was the moment at which I had my epiphany. The clouds parted, the sun shone a ray of light on my slightly inky face, a celestial choir sang, the scales fell from my eyes and I got it. You can't get it wrong. Crafting can be good, bad or indifferent but it can't be wrong and there doesn't need to be an end product. For me crafting is a form of meditation which I just happen to do with my hands. If I have a busy patch where I don't do something creative for a few days I feel disconnected from myself. So I wacked the music up loud (Yes - McAlmont & Butler, Do You Realise - the Flaming Lips, Just A Gigolo - Louis Prima, River Man - Nick Drake) did some chair dancing and played.

I started with the textured paste and stencils, having spritzed an inky background using broken china and stormy sky. I spread the paste through the stencil and it picked up the colours from the background which was unexpected but nice.

Then I tried mixing a small amount of colour into a blob of textured paste and spread through another stencil.
Once dried the paste is hard but can still absorb paint if you want to paint over it. I didn't but I was impressed with the result.
I kept trying different combinations and added a narrow strip across the front of this sunnier coloured background to allow room to add a sentiment later.
The real fun thing I found was stencilling over a background. Im not sure if it was this particular stencil (one I've had for a while and forgotten the name of but the code on the bottom is THS032) or the colours but this really grabbed me.
And yes, this is a different background but for some reason I can't load up the proper photo but you get the idea. The flourishes were added by picking up colour on a felt ink dabber and were a mix of mini ink pads and distress markers. I scribbled some colour from the markers onto my silicon worksheet and picked it up with the foam pad. This increases the colour range available without having to buy a whole load of ink pads. I started light in the centre and switched to a darker colour moving out to the edge of the card, all the while keeping the stencil firmly in place.

But what would this look like in pink or red or orange...?
I particularly liked the brown and blue. The brown was dark enough to let me add some white highlights and created a worn, leathery look. Then I stuck a paper flower on it.

Flowers? Yup.....part two of this post coming up...


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Frosty walk

For the past few weeks when I've finished work and taken Buster out for his walk and wee it's been dark, damp and gloomy. Today, however we have had glorious sun and cold, cold, frostiness. For me this is a good thing. I like that blast of icy chill that reaches deep into your lungs and clears them out - like a lungonic. This is the first winter our puppy has experienced and he's been curious about the crunch of frosted grass and spiky branches but he's quickly learned to avoid icy puddles because he sliiiiiiiides.

We went round the corner and down the lane where you get nice views over the valley and since everyone walks their dogs and horses down there it's always full of interesting smells. I assume so anyway, given how long it takes Buster to nose his way along. We caught the sun creating long shadows....

In the bottom of the valley is a field which lies north facing and too low for this weak winter sun to reach and so it has kept its white glow of frost all day.

The sheeps wool caught in the barbed wire looks like straggly prayer flags.

We headed for home and a mug of hot tea as the sun sank below the distant hills.


Sunday, 10 January 2016

Needle Felted Puppy

I wanted to see if I could replicate Buster the Puppy in wool and had a go at a needle felted version of him. This is pretty much the look we are greeted with whether we have been out of his sight for a few minutes for a few hours. He is always pleased to see us - because we might throw his ball for him. Or give him some sausage.
He started from a very basic sketch. I knew the shape I wanted him to be and that I wanted his nose pointing upwards. His legs would just be hinted at ('cos I can't do dog legs) and I'd worry about his ears once the body was done.

With a rough idea of what I wanted, I got started.

I used a length of wool roving and folded it in half to build bulk in the base. Once I had a form that would stand I pinched some shape to create the forehead and left about an inch of wool to form the snout.

Having firmed the shape up with a bit of needle stabbing, I pushed some black headed pins in where I thought the eyes would go so I had a sense of his character. These helped a lot while leaving me flexibility about final eye position. The legs were created by pushing a deep ridge in the centre of the body and on the. outside edge.

It took several attempts to get the ears small enough, I had over estimated the amount of wool needed. I also needed to decide if I was going to allow the colour on the muzzle and body to be contained within a sharp edge or leave it fuzzy. In this experiment I opted for fuzzy.
Fuzzy mutt.
His colour is a real mix of cream, light brown, grey and black. If I were doing this again I'd stick to block colours for ease. Trying to get all the colours in complicates what is a small shape.

The finished version stands about 4 inches high.



Soothing a cold

Colds aren't tragic and usually you just push through but every now and again one comes along which moves in, steals your mojo and leaves you feeling flat. I'm in day 14 of something which started as a head cold, moved south to give me a throat lined with sandpaper, a tight chest and wretching cough and has now gone north again to bung up my sinuses and block my ears. I'm fed up. Over the counter medicines have had no effect and I've fallen back on a recommendation from an Indian friend who told me when he was ill his mum gave him a cup of warm milk with a teaspoon of honey and half a teaspoon turmeric powder. The story is that warm milk acts as a carrier for the honey which soothes your throat and the turmeric has antibacterial properties which reduce inflammation. Indian mamas clearly know something because It's the most comforting thing I've taken so far.

Other home made remedies have included lemon and ginger in hot water and pear, kale and ginger smoothies to counter balance the illness fuelled obsession with toast, my go-to lazy, comfort food. If you find yourself in the same fog of infection, try the turmeric. You're welcome.



Saturday, 9 January 2016

Far Breton

I'd never heard of Far Breton before finding it in one of Richard Bertinet's cookbooks.  (Regular visitors will know I'm a fan.)  A far is a type of custard pudding and is a specialty of Brittany.  A sweet batter is poured over rum soaked prunes and raisins and baked.  Very sensibly is also eaten for breakfast and is not limited to just being a pudding.
It's simple and, as I'm finding with many sweet French recipes, benefits from the batter being made in advance and left to rest for a few hours or overnight.
The illustration suggests making individual puddings by baking in a flat based large dish and using a round cutter to create nice portions.  I opted for a big dish of pudding we could all dip into depending on how greedy we were feeling.  This is an ideal, comforting dish for rainy days.  We are having too many of those just now but this is a heart warming treat to chase away the winter gloom.
It's a bit like a clafoutis but a little more dense.  Most of ours disappeared while still warm from the oven and we finished it off cold the next day.  Both ways it was lovely!
I've seen some suggestions online to make this with apples instead of prunes. Maybe the addition of Calvados would be a good idea.  I certainly plan to try it out :)

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Spring is springing

It's been so mild and wet here in the south west of England that the plants don't know what's going on and are popping up to have a look. Daffodils are well advanced.
The honeysuckle round our shed is getting greener by the day.
These rather scruffy looking primroses are providing a burst of unexpected yellow even before any snowdrops have appeared.

And the buds in the trees are...budding.

There are splashes of white and pink blossom in the hedgerows.

Very pretty but very early. I can't remember seeing signs of Spring arriving late December. These pics were actually taken a couple of days ago around the new year and blossoms and buds have been more and more visible. Each time Buster takes me for a walk, we notice more signs of how our unseasonably mild winter is impacting plant life. If I start hearing swallows and martins I'll know we're all going to hell in a hand cart.

I'm never sure if these are catkins or pussy willows.

Big country, small dog. This was a very muddy, overcast, grey walk indeed but after days of rain was one of our rare chances to get outside for a decent leg stretch. Buster found molehills, miscellaneous poo, horse tracks and all kinds of unsavoury gloop which he relished. We had him on the extendable lead so he had freedom to run around. In the village he's on a short lead due to his habit of jumping up to greet people with his muddy paws and chasing cars. The cars are a recent interest. I'm not sure if he's trying to chase them, race them or scare them. We've discussed his behaviour with him. He listened then ran off to play with his ball. I suspect the answer will turn out to be sausage related. Bribery is a wonderful thing.

We're also becoming adept at dog washing. You expect if if the ground is wet or muddy. You don't expect it after a breaking and entering escapade because the lure of dusty coal is too strong.