Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mysterious Insect - not so mysterious anymore

I have absolutely no idea what this insect is. At first I thought it was a leaf that had been blown in and got stuck to the panelled wall, however then I realised it was some sort of insect.

How cool is this? Nature does create the weirdest things.

This is a rather ghostly image of the same insect. Not quite sure what happened. The first image was taken without a flash, the second with a flash. I thought the ghostly reflections looked really interesting. :-)

Carole B. from Louisana (but originally from Norfolk) sent me an e-mail to let me know that the insect was in fact a Plume Moth, which apparently are quite common around here. Carole also told me of a great article about the Plume Moth in which it also states that the larvae grow on bindweed. Since there's a lot of bindweed right outside my back door... another mystery explained thanks to Carole. :-)

Knitting Bag - Sari Silk

Here it finally is - my knitting bag!

I wanted something to put my knitting in whilst I wasn't working on it as I often work on more than one project at a time and needed somewhere to keep current projects safe.

It's a story and a half and took much longer than expected. I got the recycled sari silk from an online wool shop but only got two balls as I wasn't sure how I'd like it. It took forever for this first lot to arrive (2 weeks) due to holiday and supposedly to problems at the post office, and when I finally started I realised pretty soon that 2 balls of wool wouldn't be enough. I ordered more and it took another week and a half for that to arrive. Normally, I'd put a link to the wool shop here but I can't honestly recommend this shop. Although the wool is fine and pricing okay, the delivery times are just not up to scratch for the UK. It forever surprises me that some internet shops don't realise that their biggest disadvantage is that customers pay and then have to wait for their order to arrive. The quicker the order arrives the more likely is the customer to order again. Two to four days is reasonable, I believe, for the UK. A week and a half or even two weeks is not reasonable.

However now it's finally finished. Sari silk is fairly easy and fast to knit and I love the effect of the different colours. It's almost like an abstract landscape. However, it's also fairly heavy (the sari silk for this bag weighs 400g). I'd not use it for much apart from bags and possibly hats.

The bottom of the bag has been crocheted in the round. I then took up the stitches with a knitting needles to make up the body of the bag. Along the top is a row of button holes for the ribbon to go through. I used lace weight rough silk (double) to create the crochet lace around the button holes and along the opening rim of the bag. A pale blue silk ribbon and needlefelted flowers in pale blue and red finish the bag. It's quite large so will hold all my needles, crochet hooks, wool and bits of paper with patterns on it.

Below is a close-up of the felted flowers.

Here's the ribbon against the lace at the top and the knitted sari silk:

Here's the crocheted border at the top.

Below is a detail shot of the knitted sari silk. You can see all the different strands that make up the yarn. They are the loose ends of saris, collected in industrial mills and spun into yarn.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book Reviews

I've only just started on Floralie the Zombie Fairy Cat so there's nothing to show yet. Instead, I thought, I'll share some book reviews with you of stories I've read recently.

The first one I'd like to mention is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It's a great book and I liked it as much as Life of Pi by Yann Martel . The Book Thief is a very different story from Life of Pi, but it still had a similar feel about it. The Book Thief is a story about a little girl in Hitler Germany (the book thief) and it is narrated by Death. It's a great description of Germany during this dark time, and it shows the worst and the best of it, and how normal people coped with it: the decisions they faced and how they had to find their way through what was a moral labyrinth. I loved all about it, the writing, the narration by Death, and the sensitive way it approached the subject. It should be on history lesson reading lists in schools and universities as it shows the time and the effect it had on people far better than any other book I've read.

The second in my list is The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer. It's a lovely story about a boy who becomes apprentice to a bard who in turn has a quarrel with a half-troll queen which then causes the boy and his little sister to be kidnapped by Vikings. I love the way the Nordic mythology has been woven into the tale and the growth and development of the character. So far I've only read the first of the trilogy (only just found out it's trilogy!) but I will definitely get the other two in the series. Another set of stories based on Nordic mythology is Tales from the Wyrd Museum by Robin Jarvis. Slightly darker than The Sea of Trolls and scarier but nonetheless a great read. Interestingly, one of my friends has just done illustrations to a book called Scotland's Vikings. Check it out, or check out her blog for more info on her other illustrations.

The third one is the prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and Wendy, Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It's a good book and a credible back story. I've only read the first in a series of five, but it was good, and I'd recommend it to anyone who liked the original Peter Pan story. However, the thing I missed was Barrie's whimiscal, interesting language. I loved the first page of the original book where it introduces the family. It made me read a story I already knew so well from the Disney film. The prequel is good, though, and I liked the story and the explanation for Neverland, Hook and Peter Pan's 'condition'.

The last one for today is Terry Pratchett's Nation. I like most of Terry Pratchett's books, especially his Discworld novels about the witches and death, however, this is very different and not set in his Discworld. It's the story of a sole survivor of a wave somewhere in a fictive South Pacific. I like the way the boy's thinking changes, how he has to adapt to a new world and the way he does so and how he finds out about the past. It's a gentle book in many ways despite some of the anger the character shows whilst railing against his fate. The characters are credible and likeable and there are many twists and turns that kept me glued to the page.

Credible and likeable characters are something that are very important to me when I read a story. The story can be as good as it likes, if the character is neither credible nor likeable I don't really like the book and find reading it a chore. Somebody who's great at making even the most incredible characters credible is Darren Shan. He's one of my favourite authors and although he writes for children and young adults, his books have a depth that make them great (and often far better than books written for adults). If you don't like horror, don't read them, but if you do, they're brilliant.

What makes a good story? Not sure, my reading tastes are as eclectic as my musical taste as you can tell from the books listed above. What do you like most about the books you read recently?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rare Purple Spotted Baby Owl (in Felt)

The purple spotted owl is thought to be extinct. Only a very few eye witness accounts exist, which I have been scouring the internet for to get enough information to re-create the beautiful rare creature in felt. According to lore they are extremely fierce in protecting their own and take a mate for life.

Here it is for you to see.... The first of my new 'Rare Creatures' collection.

Rare Purple Spotted Owl

From the front.

From the back.

His cute little face.

His tummy and claws. Each claw has been needle felted separately and then needle felted onto his feet.

His lovely feathery wings with lots of spots...

And, finally, his bottom with tail and the special little heart each of the Rare Creatures in the collection will have somewhere.

The little critter is 10cm (4") tall and totally cuddly and sweet. He has been stuffed with banana silk throw waste (Charka) and has been made for my son Ben who loves it to bits. :-) However, if you would like one like it, let me know and I see what I can do.

There will be more in the collection - I have already planned a Zombie Fairy Cat and the Midnight Lizard. So watch this space. :-)

If you have heard of a rare creature you'd like to tell me about, feel free, I am always happy to discover new rare creatures. :-)

Rosy Posy

Another of my little brooches, this one in icy pinks. Not quite sure why but despite it being soft warm pinks it reminds me of snow. Maybe it's rosy cheeks in Winter snow?

Made in the same way as the Blue Poppy, but the centre petal is divided and I've used grey fresh water pearls in the centre (oh, and of course it's pink rather than blue). :-)

It is 8cm x 6cm (3"x2.5") and will be available in my Etsy shop soon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fibre Art - Poppies and Dahlia Brooches

Total melt down at the weekend. Once, I'd finished my shrug I fancied knitting something easier and quicker, and decided to use my beautiful recycled sari yarn to make myself a knitted knitting bag. I wanted something to put in my current project to keep it save whilst I wasn't working on it. So I started my knitting bag and ran out of wool! Not fair. So I ordered the wool on Saturday morning, but it'll be a couple of days at least before it arrives.

Next, I bought some wool (and as I thought the right needles) in town on Saturday to make the beautiful wrist warmers for which I'd specifically bought a pattern on Etsy. You can see the pattern here: Piquant Purls. However, my needles were too long to knit in the round. Sigh. So no wrist warmers until the new needles arrive... :-( Sniff. Luckily the sun is out and about so I don't desperately need them just yet.

Totally heart broken I decided to do something totally different and set to do some felting. Below is the result of my hard work. :-)

Blue Poppy Brooch

This one has been needle felted in three layers. Each layer had a border added in the same colour to make it look more like a petal. The centre has tiny Japanese charcoal matte cube beads to add detail.

The design has a simple elegance that really appeals to me. Sorry guys, this one's mine! Teal is my favourite colour. However, I will be making more of them in different colours. Or, if your heart really is set on a teal one, drop me a line. The brooch is 6cm x 5cm (2 1/4" x 2").

Damson and Mauve Dahlia

This brooch is a mix of wet and needle felting. The loops are in fact wet felted 'ropes' that have been turned into loops on a needle felted circle and needle felted securely into place. The brooch has a diameter of roughly 6.5cm (2.5").

The centre consists of two vintage beads (both plastic to keep the brooch light) in matching colours. I am really pleased with how this design idea turned out. The little loops look very organic and give the brooch a lot of texture. Like in the Teal Poppy design I've used three different shades of Merino wool.

Red Poppy Brooch

This was actually meant to turn out like the Teal Poppy, however for this design I wet felted each of the layers and when they were dry enough to handle I found they didn't work the way I'd intended them to. So I arranged them differently and I really like the boldness of the design.

The three petals were wet felted in three different shades of red, from very dark red to a coral red and then wet felted together with detail added in different shades of red. I must have used at least 5 different shades of red. The centre has been created from red/black lined Japanese seed beads. The brooch is 10cm x 8cm (4"x3").

All brooches (apart from the Teal Poppy brooch) will be available from my Etsy shop soon (or if you cannot wait, drop me a line). You can also order all brooch designs in custom colours. I currently have various shades of red, pink, purple, blue, green, brown and white, grey, and black. Prices vary depending on the design/size/etc but start from about £10.

The Indigo Paper Linen Shrug - FINALLY!!!

Here it is finally - Le Shrug! LOL

Took me forever and a day and Caroline was getting extremely impatient to see it (so was I!).

The yarn I used is Habu Shosenshi Paper Linen yarn and the yarn looks a bit like raffia, although thinner, softer and more delicate. It's not easy to knit with but stronger than it looks and I love the way the finished product looks. The yarn (and other lovely ones) can be bought either in the UK at K1 Yarns or in the States at Habu Textiles, the latter has a far great selection being the original importer.

The pattern I used was a free pattern from Lion Brand. There are loads of free patterns if you subscribe to their mailing list. Unfortunately, the pattern required a totally different yarn (mohair which I cannot stand because it itches!) so I had to make quite a lot of alterations and resize the pattern. Part of the reason why it took so long.

Above you can see the ruffle that goes all the way round the neck and the bottom of the shrug in detail.

Above you can see the alterations I made to the sleeves. I added a crochet trim to make the sleeves flare more at the bottom. With the mohair they would have flared automatically, but with the paper linen I had to make adjustments.

Above you can see the main body in detail. I love the intricate pattern the yarn makes with a simple garter stitch. It almost looks like chain mail.

The finished shrug is incredibly light and makes a beautiful rustling sound - almost like leaves in Autumn. The indigo colour is soft and natural and like an Autumn sky.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Felted Flowers - Caroline's Brooch and Stacie's Hair Barrette

Caroline and I have been buying wool together and been swapping things rather than paying each other. I got the most gorgeous pineapple ramie scarf from her - you can see a picture of it on Caroline's blog.

I made the brooch for her in exchange for the postage. Yep, we've been having fun! :-) The little hair barrette was a little surprise for her daughter Stacie. They arrived today so I can finally post the pictures! ;-)

The brooch was made in three layers, first a damson layer, then the bright pink, then the paler pink. The conglomeration of beads in the centre gives it texture. The back is the same as for the African/Tribal brooch in the previous post.

Stacie's hair barette was made in several layers. Each of the leaves was made separately, then I made the pink flower, added the orange and yellow centre. The beads are stitched onto the centre of the flower, then I sew it onto the barette. It looks totally cute when worn.

Felting Frenzy - Cat, Penguin, and African Tribal Brooch

Here are some of my new felt creations:

I am really enjoying this needle felting lark - my creative voodoo! :-)

Here's a little cat I made. One of my first ones - made a while back, but I kept forgetting to take a photo of it.

Here's the tail in detail. I know, I know it's green, but I didn't have any brown or cream or grey, so green it was. :-)

This is the famous zebra brooch, but when it was finished it looked nothing like a zebra, but African/tribal instead. I still like it.

As you can see I used wooden beads: rondelles, round ebony beads, carved beads and a lovely carved bone bead in the centre.

This is the brooch from the back. The round brooch back works really well.

Here's my latest creation: a penguin for Steve based on the Linux logo penguin. Doesn't look quite the same. When it was finished I decided it needed some spikes on top of its head - a bit like a Rockhopper penguin. :-)

Here's the face in detail:

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Black and White Felt Flower Brooch

This is my latest needle felting adventure:

I made it the other day from black Merino wool and white Tussah silk rovings.

The flower petals have been needle felted in separate layers (each colour layer - two black, one white) and then stitched together with the vintage glass beads in the centre and a circular sieve brooch back on the other side.

The brooch is quite large 3" or 8 cm at the widest point, but it's also very, very light and ideal for anything from coat lapels to silk scarves. I've been wearing it quite a lot as it cheers up any outfit and because it's so pretty and light it works with anything.

If you want one like it (various colours available - greens, purples, reds, blues, black in Merino, or white silk or any combinations thereof), let me know.

Size can be varied as well, if you want it smaller or bigger or with more layers, let me know and the petals can be more pointy if you prefer that (more like a stargazer lily). Anything's possible. :-)

Prizes start from about £10 plus P&P.

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