grey fluff

A while ago I wrote about making my own drop spindle and having a go at some spinning. I did eventually spin enough to make it worthwhile to split in half and ply and then I knitted the result into a set of 6 (slightly wobbly) coasters. They’re great and it’s awesome they started as just fluff!

stained glass

I’m currently decorating the room I use as an art/craft studio and home office. It used to also be a spare bedroom but we got rid of the old bed over Christmas and so I now have lots of space. One ugly feature is the window – it’s a wooden sash window but doesn’t sit right in the frame so is drafty and doesn’t easily open. The double glazing is also blown out so there is always condensation and milky patches between the panes.

I can’t afford to get this repaired (or more likely, replaced) at the moment so I wanted to try and make it look a bit better for a while. I stumbled across self adhesive film rolls that give a stained glass effect online and then saw that they stock them (for half the online price) in Wilko. £6 and one evening later and my window looks great! I’m happy that it doesn’t cut down the light all that much but the colours are beautiful and cheerful even when not in direct sun.

fairly easy to apply… if you cut it to the right size…

It obviously doesn’t look like real stained glass when you’re up close but it also doesn’t look cheap and tacky. And you can just peel it off when you get bored of it. I also gave the frame a new coat of white gloss and started to paint the room in a green I chose ages ago.

paper automata 2

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In my first post on the paper models you can make from the paper automata book we saw a bowing jester and some jumping sheep. Here are the other two models – a pecking chicken and a flying fish. I think the chicken is the simplest model of the four – it had the fewest pieces and has the simplest mechanism – as you can see in the video below though it is very nicely implemented – the chicken springs back up with a nice pop when you let go of the lever. The flying fish was, I think, the most complicated model of the four – quite fiddly to put together in places. The wheel only turns in one direction – I’m not sure if this is intentional or if I slightly misaligned something. All four models are really nice and for ~£5 I think this book is a good buy. It would make a nice present for someone interested in paper craft and/or automata. I think they are too complicated for children but it could be a nice thing to do together with kids.

only hope holds my heart

This is a plate from the Wallace Museum with an inscription of ‘Only hope holds my heart’. It shows a profile bust of a woman and was made by an unknown artist in Deruta, Italy, some time between 1515-1540. It was maybe made to mark a betrothal.

While drawing this I rediscovered the joy of drawing wavy banners. I loved drawing these as a kid! I think it was one of my first realisations that you could easily make flexible things look ultra 3D in just a line drawing. It was good for banners and flags and ribbons and that was about it so I drew those things a lot :)

Also I only noticed the secret hidden face in this plate as I was drawing it! pretty freaky. can you spot it? It’s in her giant pendant. Is it a photo of the guy who holds her heart? Is it a mirror and so a self portrait of the plate artist? I guess we’ll never know…

The drawing is all in coloured pencil – brown, orange and blue. Below you can see just the line drawing. Then the blocks of colour are watercolour -pretty much just ultramarine and yellow ochre.

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These models are from the templates in a book called Paper Automata by Rob Ives. I was impressed at the sturdiness of the finished models – everything is made in multiple layers and reinforced with 3d bars. The moving parts are all done in such a way that the movement is controlled at all times and joints won’t wear with use.

The book has four models to make all with different mechanisms. The first two here are the motley man who takes a bow with a flourish and three little jumping sheep. See below for some videos of each.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you’re having a great day so far and get chance to relax with the things you like doing most.

For me it’s been a bit more digital sketching:

A shiny red disco bauble with a pearl string and lights in the tree for Christmas day. Branching out (ha ha) from the “pencil” and “fineliner” brushes I’ve been keeping to until now, here I tried various types of paint, spiky texture for the fir needles and a very exciting and effective glow brush for the fairy lights.

Astro shooter

Digital sketching on Christmas eve. This is my view from the sofa – a pile of presents in the corner surrounded by old toys from the attic to keep little people happy until tomorrow. The astro shooter is brilliant – a proper mini electromechanical pinball table from the 80s. The bits of stuff in the foreground are various half transformed transformers. The yellow ball is a metal blob geode transforming thing. It’s cool.

Coral cowl

This is a knitted cowl from a pattern by Nim Teasdale for a Christmas tree cowl. It’s got a great 3d spiky shape and lots of people commented how unusual it was the first time I wore it. I followed the pattern for the small size but I used worsted weight yarn and 5.5mm round needles so the finished thing is bigger. I didn’t make any changes other than that and skipping the beads. I didn’t think I’d finish it in time for Christmas so instead of green I used this peach colour that makes it look a little like a sea anemone or coral. The pattern was easy to follow in the end so it was finished pretty quickly. Something went a bit weird on round 14 but people’s notes on Ravelry suggest that round might have a slight error. I’d thought the spikes were going to be made by some sort of short rows but no – it’s just alternating sets of increases and decreases. Knitting structure is fascinating! The spikes hold their shape really well – they get bigger, and the cowl widens, as you work down the piece.


Because of decorating I was moving furniture around and found 10 full watercolour sheets under the bed! A present from the me of Christmas past :) I vague remember stashing them there to keep them flat.

I thought I’d take advantage of the psychology of them being a bonus to freely scribble away on a whole sheet without the stress of worrying about ruining expensive supplies.

This is an enlargement of a little pigeon sketch I did a long time ago. Lots of splashing ink and paint to evoke the flustering of feathers in a crowded urban square.

I think I still prefer the spontaneity, colour and blooms of the original little scribble but it was still fun to work so big for a change. One disadvantage of painting big is that it doesn’t fit in the scanner and photos of watercolour never quite capture the colour and detail properly. You can see in the scanned sketch below the granulating watermarks and texture of the paper.

rainbow mitts

I’ve just posted off these colourful fingerless gloves for a friend’s birthday next week. I’m slowly crawling my way around learning to knit properly. I’m currently trying left handed again but eastern style (I think… it’s a bit confusing) and that seems to be working well. I can knit fine in any of the styles but it’s been purling that has held me back – I think I now have a comfortable way of doing it – stitches are moving from the right needle onto the left, yarn held in my right hand, back leg of the stitches leading, yarn held behind and wrap the yarn anticlockwise. switching from knit to purl to knit is fairly seamless this way and much less awkward than other methods I’ve tried. 

These mitts didn’t need any purling though so I didn’t have to worry about that. I used this barn mitt pattern from Heather Gorman on Ravelry and the tiny sock wonder circular needles pictured above.



This is a steam lawnmower. Apparently the status symbol of its day!

Today I joined the Reading Sketchers at the Museum of English Rural Life. I’ve walked past a few times but never made it inside til today. It’s much bigger than I thought and there was lots to see and do. I could tell it was going to be good as I walked up and saw the awesome yarn bomb entrance:

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Outside is a nice big garden with natural sculptures and a big tractor (for children…) to play on. Inside is crammed full of farm machinery and history, as well as a gallery of ladybird books. There’s stuff to watch and play with and a learning room that looked like it might have stuff for dressing up. Plus the usual museum cafe and shop (filled with more brilliant knitted and crocheted things).

It was tempting to sit outside in the sun and draw the building itself but I thought that I should really try and tackle some of the machinery since I wasn’t likely to find anything like it to draw elsewhere. Wonderfully, there was a rack of stools at the entrance to the gallery (all museums, please do this and encourage people to draw your stuff!). I took one and wandered around looking for a good spot. Red and green was a definite theme running through all the machinery and eventually I settled on a steam lawnmower tucked away at the back. Below you can see my favourite bit of this device – some sort of crazy, loopy, spring loaded gauge – reminds me of the stuff in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory :)

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Museums don’t usually allow wet media to be used inside so I prepared the watercolour background at home and just sketched using fountain pen, grey marker for the shadows, some red and green pencil/pastel things and a white gel pen for a couple of highlights at the end.

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Everyone was attracted by something different and we had lots of nice sketches at the end. I’d definitely like to visit again, to draw some more, but also just to look around generally at everything on show.

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Mrs Mounter

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This is my watercolour interpretation of an oil painting by Harold Gilman called Mrs Mounter at the Breakfast Table. This was set as a Thursday portrait challenge by @StudioTeaBreak on Twitter. I saw that the highlights of her hair were a very bright green/yellow which matches the Glow Worm colour for this week’s colour collective challenge so I thought let combine them!

I don’t normally copy other artists work and it felt a bit wrong somehow to be doing this to start with but after the first few layers of paint I was sucked in to the details and all the colours and really enjoyed the process. I found myself working with thick paint and mixing the transparent colours with white gouache to give them more body. Something I never normally do but I loved the results and really wanted to try get the same feeling of seeing each brushstroke on her face.

This took me about three hours with a break for dinner in the middle and is approx A5 size.

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Yesterday, we contemplated catching the last of the pumpkin themed events going on around the countryside, but the weather was grim so we went to a “Sunday Session” with the musicians Sam Walker & Natureboy in a small community centre in Oxford instead. There was music and lights, a brilliant disco ball, cake, drinks, very cool music/singing, dancing and a variety of maracas, tambourines and other percussion instruments handed out to the crowd. This last bit was mainly for all the kids but everyone had a go :)

We arrived a little early and so, of course, I got out my sketchbook and started doodling. I continued on and off throughout the afternoon and in between conversation until the lead singer announced a competition for the kids to sketch the band and maybe win a prize. It turns out this is something they do regularly and then they showcase the pics on their Facebook page. Since I’m not on Facebook I didn’t know about any of this and suddenly felt a bit self-conscious about appearing as though I’d spent the last hour trying to beat all the five-year-olds to the coveted prize kazoo! :’D

I surreptitiously slipped the sketchbook back in my bag and picked up a tambourine instead.

The scan of the sketch is above but I also decided to have a go at making a little animated gif with flashing disco lights. This worked great and was pretty easy once I found the right Photoshop menu.



I saw a photo from @archpng on twitter of Ait Benhaddou (an impressive fortified city (or ksar) made up of many kasbahs, earthen buildings made from mud and straw) earlier this week and thought it would be great to draw. It seemed perfect for this week’s colour collective of auburn so I gave it a go, also having another trial with the new cotton paper sheets – they still seem pretty good.

I started with lots of watercolour and water – Indian red, a mix of yellows and perylene maroon. I tipped the paper and let it run down. When it was just a bit damp I put it in a large book with a heavy box on top to flatten as it dried (though it didn’t really buckle much at all anyway). This worked really well!

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I turned the page 180 degrees so it went light at the top to dark at the bottom then started drawing the landscape with a dip pen and watered down sepia acrylic ink. It took a while to get the best dilution of ink – too watery and the ink bled across the page horribly.20181102_auburn_lanscape_wip (4)20181102_auburn_lanscape_wip (5)

I used a brush with the dilute ink to add shadow areas and made the top part simpler with large flat shapes20181102_auburn_lanscape_wip (1)

and finally went over some details with neat sepia and white ink only in the centre of interest.



Trying out some little sheets of 100% cotton watercolour paper that arrived today. They didn’t look very impressive straight out of the packet but turned out to be very nice. Holding a lot of water, repeatedly, without too much buckling and definitely nothing leaking through to the back. Here’s a little rainy scene.


South Lake

A cold but sunny autumn morning drawing with the Reading Urban Sketchers group around South Lake to the East of Reading. The group then moved into the pub for drinks, food and a warmer place to sketch but I headed home as I think I’m coming down with a cold. This is watercolour and fountain pen on tinted rough paper. It’s very difficult to get a good match to the colours from a scan when there’s no white to help colour correct. So the featured image is, I think, the closest to the true colours but below are some other tweaks to the hue, some details and a photo half way through. The colours of the actual sketch sit somewhere between all the versions here.



Diabolo Menthe

A house plant illustration for this week’s colour collective colour, Diabolo Menthe **cough ** cough turquoise ** cough **

This is turquoise and green gold watercolour and sepia acrylic ink with a dip pen. I got some nice texture in the watercolour by being impatient and dabbing the puddles with a tissue instead of letting them dry naturally. I couldn’t do that with the ink though and it took a really long time to dry (compared to my regular fountain pen ink anyway). I even smudged it a bit in places as I didn’t realise it was still so wet after 10 minutes.




A sketch of some interesting squash for today’s inktober and this week’s colour collective – Scheveningen orange. These were very striking squash with a hard line separating the orange part from the green part. Crazy that something could grow that way. I can’t find what it is – I thought it might be a zephyr but they seem to always be long and smooth…


washed away

Trying to sketch in the pouring rain is difficult but gives some interesting, if transient, effects.

This was on the sketchcrawl in London I mentioned yesterday. Here I was trying to sketch one of the sculptures on the walk the line sculpture trail in Greenwich – half a boat called a slice of life. There were some great effects with the fude fountain pen and the rain but after a few minutes it had all washed away again. When we got to the lighthouse at the other side of the river it had all but completely gone. so I sketched the same structure from far away on top of the old sketch, with the O2 to the left. The paper was still quite damp and very soft and delicate but I managed to get something down that stayed long enough to be scanned.

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I’ve been feeling very uninspired and unsatisfied with everything recently. Generally everything in life but particularly anything I’ve tried to make or paint or create. It was a struggle to even muster the enthusiasm to sketch this little pencil sharpener and I almost didn’t post it but I’m way behind on the inktober challenge and this also satisfies the colour collective prompt for this week of glaucous blue so here you go.



A fun and gruesome amigurumi crochet pattern for Halloween. Written using American crochet terms but only single crochet stitches are used so just substitute for dc if you’re used to reading English patterns. You will need:

  • brown and red yarn, around dk or worsted weight
  • a suitable sized hook
  • a yarn needle
  • buttons or beads or safety eyes or felt or whatever you’ve got
  • black and pink embroidery floss and a suitable needle

Head. In brown, crocheting into the back loop only of all stitches:

  1.  create a magic ring with 6sc
  2.  2sc in each stitch (12 stitches)
  3. *2sc, sc* repeat 6 times (18 stitches)
  4. *2sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (24 stitches)
  5. *2sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (30 stitches)
  6. *2sc, sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (36 stitches)
  7.  1sc in each stitch around (36 stitches)
  8.  1sc in each stitch around (36 stitches)
  9.  1sc in each stitch for half the round (18 stitches) then add red yarn and finish the round crocheting the two strands (red and brown) together, 1sc in each stitch (36 stitches total)
  10. *2sc, sc next 5 stitches* repeat 6 times (42 stitches)
  11. *2sc, sc next 6 stitches* repeat 6 times (48 stitches)
  12. drop the brown yarn and continue with just one strand of red *2sc, sc next 7 stitches* repeat 6 times (54 stitches)
  13. *2sc, sc next 8 stitches* repeat 6 times (60 stitches)
  14. *2sc, sc next 9 stitches* repeat 6 times (66 stitches)

underside of blood pool. In red, crocheting into the back loop only of all stitches:

  1.  create a magic ring with 6sc
  2.  2sc in each stitch (12 stitches)
  3. *2sc, sc* repeat 6 times (18 stitches)
  4. *2sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (24 stitches)
  5. *2sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (30 stitches)
  6. *2sc, sc, sc, sc, sc* repeat 6 times (36 stitches)
  7. *2sc, sc next 5 stitches* repeat 6 times (42 stitches)
  8. *2sc, sc next 6 stitches* repeat 6 times (48 stitches)
  9. *2sc, sc next 7 stitches* repeat 6 times (54 stitches)
  10. *2sc, sc next 8 stitches* repeat 6 times (60 stitches)
  11. *2sc, sc next 9 stitches* repeat 6 times (66 stitches)

Ears. Make 2. In brown, crocheting into the back loop only of all stitches:

  1.  create a magic ring with 6sc
  2. *2sc, sc* repeat 3 times (9 stitches)
  3. *2sc, sc, sc* repeat 3 times (12 stitches)
  4.  1sc in each stitch around (12 stitches)

repeat round 4 until the ear measures ~7cm or any length you like the look of. Fasten off leaving a tail for sewing the ear onto the head. fold each ear in half at the base and pinch while sewing on to create the 3d ear shape.

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Eyes. Use a safety eye or button or white felt for one “normal” eye and create the other as in my zombie phone case pattern – sew a patch of black embroidery floss to create a socket then knot up some pink floss with a white bead on the end. Sew through the socket and knot at the back.

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stuff the head with scraps of yarn or fabric or toy stuffing and sew/crochet the head onto the blood pool base. You might want to also sew around closer to the brown head part to secure the blood flat. This can also be a good opportunity to introduce some messy blood patches – sew loosely with multiple threads to build up a messier finish.

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Pay what you feel

If you liked this pattern and want to contribute to my wool stash so I can make bigger and better things then you can donate whatever amount you think this pattern is worth here. To donate more than £1 just increase the number of items 😉 Thank you!



The version below was my first attempt at this idea, many years ago now. It was very free-form as I wanted a bumpy asymmetric transition from brown to red and an uneven shape of blood pool. I used red satin fabric for the underneath. I like this version the best but it’s difficult to write a coherent pattern for something that’s supposed to be messy and unplanned :)

˜Road-kill Rabbit

Copyright & Legal Stuff: I’m happy for you to sell items you make from this pattern but the images and words of the pattern itself are mine – I worked hard writing & testing & photographing so don’t copy or distribute any part of this pattern. If you’d like to share it then please link to this page. Thanks & happy crocheting