26 November 2013

anarchy, acrylic and arrivederci

 Turns out there's a time and a place for acrylic. No really, there is.

It snowed last week so it must be Winter. And The Boss needs a warmer school jumper. If I'm going to knit one, then it's got to be acrylic. I'll tell you for why.
  1. For two quid you get a ball of yarn as big as a large baby. And if you are going to risk making your child look like the 'special' one in the playground, you really don't want to spend actual money on actual wool, in case the whole idea is rejected after day one by a small person who suddenly realises that fitting in is very VERY important.
  2. While we're talking about cost, perfectly adequate generic supermarket school cardigans cost less than a fiver. A hand-made school jumper has got to compare favourably with that. I might have my head in the clouds but I'm not a bloody idiot.
  3. It's going to have to be chucked in the machine along with everything else. Often.
  4. Wool yarn, in proper flat-textured bottle green, doesn't appear to exist.
While it's a horror to knit with, it is actually making quite a nice, tight, even fabric. My tension must be all over the place because the stitches keep sliding around on the needles, but the yarn is incredibly forgiving of that; the fibres seem to find their own squashy equilibrium.

Her favourite jumper is the fuchsia Rubble I made while waiting for the Dragon Baby to arrive. The fuchsia Rubble that has recently gone missing. (We'll discuss it later young lady, mark my words.) I think that pattern'll make quite a nice school sweater. Long-sleeved white t-shirt underneath and her grey skinny jeans... we might be stretching the uniform policy to breaking point, but there aren't many acceptable acts of mild anarchy in family life. You've got to take them when you can.

Probably get 4 sweaters out of that ball...

So listen, I think this might be my final Yarn Along post. But if there was ever a good reason to start a blog, Yarn Along has been it. A better source of inspiration, help, advice, ambition and charity I couldn't have imagined. And as for the (largely) women behind the posts? Truly I feel like we are face-to-face friends now. Though you won't be reading my waffle any more, I'll still be reading yours.

And do you know the strangest by-product of Yarn Along? I get sent all these mysterious emails from various publishers and book websites, promoting their latest Young Adult fiction. It took me the longest while to figure out that it can only be because I've typed "YA" and "book" into a whole lot of blogposts, and the bots must have tracked my keystrokes or something. I've never knowingly read Young Adult fiction in my life (and honestly, can't see it happening, no matter how many newsletters I get from Goodreads. Soz chaps.) Anyone else had this YA misunderstanding happen to them? No? Just me then.

So there we are.

I'm so delighted to have linked up with some of you over at my new portfolio site, or on Pinterest. I don't want to lose touch, so if you haven't visited yet, I'd love to see you there. I believe my new place is on Bloglovin, though I have simply no idea what that means. So please, if you do Bloglovin type things, then y'know, do whatever that is.

Sounding like a halfwit yet?

Well, let me redeem myself by trying to appear frightfully clever: you remember when I won that design competition back in July? The Art Deco design thing? Well, the silk scarves are now for sale here. Can you believe it?! I really can't.

I'm powerfully un-cool about the whole thing. I'm literally jumping up and down and pinning these images twelvety times a day. My resolution on January 1st 2013 was "to make something capable of selling this year" (notice that I didn't have to actually sell it). So it's seriously mind-bending to have sold a few hundred pounds worth of cards and tea towels this week alone (and some of them have even sold to strangers; a crucial milestone!). I have grinned dumbly at this silk scarf web page for A. Long. Time. I don't even get a profit share, so I don't know why I'm so pleased. It just looks so PROPER. I think it might be the first New Year's Resolution I've ever kept.


So, that's where we are right now. Technically inept, terminally uncool, and draping The Boss in acrylic (while I lust after silk). I can't quite decide whether it's all downhill from here on, or if things can only get better. Either way, it's been lovely Yarn Alongers, and everyone else. Thank you all, Happy Thanksgiving, and I'd love to see you over on the other side sometime soon.

Tally ho.

04 November 2013

party poopers and a few leftover macaroons

About ten years ago I lived in a wee flat with my friend and work colleague, we'll call her Bella, because that is not her name. Across the landing was the flat of another friend and work colleague, we'll call him Bazza, because that is not his name.

It was all very Friends. Except that we lived above a sandwich shop rather than a coffee shop... oh, and it was in a small, skanky armpit of a Scottish town rather than NYC. So not at all like Friends really.

Anyway, after every jolly evening down the pub, we would end up back at Bazza's flat, playing loud Indie music, getting more and more sozzled while we moaned about the state of the place we had to work in. In certain ways it was great. But the greatest thing about the whole set up? I would excuse myself for a wee bathroom break, and then without the others noticing I'd nip back across the landing to my flat and go to bed. Bella and Bazza would continue with their party, too pissed to realise that I'd been gone for hours. We'd all feel like death warmed up the following morning, but I'd have the rosy glow borne of a few hours more sleep and a few hours less beer. The very definition of smug.

So, I admit it, I'm the party slope-er-off-er. Have you ever done it? Has anyone ever done it to you? I can only imagine how annoying it is to realise that your friend left hours ago without saying goodbye, and is now fast asleep (in pyjamas, with her make up taken off) while you got so plastered waiting for her to return from the bathroom (three hours ago) that you can't even say pyjamas, let alone contemplate the whole face-wash/tooth-brush caper.

I sense that your opinion of me has fallen somewhat. What can I say. We were young, and I'm a pain in the arse.

But I am determined not to be the party slope-er-off-er from this here blog shindig. I feel it would be rude, after all this time, and after we've had so much fun, to just disappear without so much as a by your leave. And so I have some finale posts planned, this being one of them. There's a Yarn Along or two in the pipeline perhaps, certainly a final fling with a Random Recipe. I keep you (literally) posted.

So "why has the blogpost cupboard been so bare recently?" I hear you ask in your best faux-sincere, head-tilty lilt. A neurosis shared is a neurosis indulged after all, and I do ever-so like to indulge.

Well, it turns out that sometimes it's best to take the plunge and commit to something wholeheartedly, rather than to dither about. And so it is with the illustrating lark I've found myself in. I have taken the plunge, put my name behind it and a tiny wee bit of money too.

So instead of planning a lovely, theoretical, perfect creative business where everything's just "so" before I begin (and therefore will never actually exist) I realised, for once in my life, that I had better just bloody well get on with it. Full steam ahead.

And none of it is perfect, none of it matches, and I haven't found my own personal illustrative style yet, but the process is great fun. Precious few hours are left for my witterings about cake, and wool, and cake, and my apple trees (and did I mention cake?). But while I may seem to have disappeared altogether, I'm actually all over the place. Just not here.

For example:
And what I'm trying to get at is that I would love to connect with you in all these online places. Because otherwise we'll not bump into one another all that much any more, and that would be an awful shame. (But, don't worry, I still read your blogs, so I'll continue sticking my beak in where it's not required in the comments sections, thank you please very much.)

Anyway, while you're filling your glass and having a wee browse through those links, it's getting late so I must just nip to the bathroom. I may be some time...

Click through to cast your vote for my scarf design on the theme of "Cabinet of curiosities"!
Click here to buy a cushion, it's available until 11th November at ohhdeer.com!

08 August 2013

stop the presses :: there's news

It's 1pm and there's still breakfast mess all over the table. For lunch, The Boss was fed an old croissant and a box of raisins in the garden. It was easier than clearing up breakfast. The Dragon Baby looks like he's had whole body dermabrasion with a coarse cheese grater. (He hasn't, it's roaring eczema. I'm so anxious about it I can hardly talk. So let's just not okay.)

I literally cannot remember the last time any of us washed our hair.

I know. It's any wonder I don't find it more of a burden being such a astonishingly fabulous mother. Even as we limp towards the end of the Summer holidays, all this perfection just comes so easily to me. Guess I was born this way.


Anyway. I feel I need to share with you. It's a great big A* pat on the back that I got recently. Not least because some of you helped me to get it. I entered an open design contest a couple of months ago with some Art Deco silk scarf designs. People voted/scored them and I did OK. Top 20%. (Thank you to those who voted.)

The company then chose their favourites - and mine was one of them!

I can scarcely believe it, and probably won't until I'm holding a scarf in my own two (chipped and flaky) hands. I won actual money (which of course I haven't received yet, but have spent, obviously). And my design will be sold on the BetaFashion website and in Topshop's flagship store in Oxford Circus. TOPSHOP! That's the bit I have to keep repeating to myself over and over again. Squishy, neurotic, Scottish mother-of-two designs silk scarf for Topshop? It's a bit mad.

I am beyond... I can't think of a word. Just beyond. I'm working on the next one, and loads of other stuff you can see over here. Go and take a look.

Below is a work in progress for a 'Dreaming in Colour' brief. Not sure I'm quite loving it yet. More work to do.

23 July 2013

hamstrung on happy street

Usually the kind of freak who uses electronic baking scales (because precision is fun) and finds ironing bedlinen therapeutic (just call me Monica), our lives are currently a complete bourach. (Google it, it's approximately the most onomatopoeic word in the known universe. Thank you Gaelic.) It's actually quite liberating, but the panic is starting to kick in. Because nobody can find their clean knickers in the morning.

It's chaos, but it's (mostly) brilliant.

I've been trying to keep up with the illustrating, doing respectably well in recent Spoonflower contests but still just missing out on the top ten. And my silk scarf designs for BetaFashion both placed very near the top in the Art Deco competition (there are about eighty entries altogether, and as far as I can tell, one of mine placed eighth, the other about sixteenthish). The judges have yet to decide which (if any) of the scarves are to be printed, but I'm pretty pleased with my progress so far regardless. Keeping my fingers crossed. My theory is that if I keep plugging away at these open contests, I'll break into the top flight eventually, and it's all great Illustrator practice in the meantime. That's the idea anyway.

But what is not going so swimmingly is reading and knitting. I have completely stopped reading. Between the gardening and the school holidays and everything else, I'm not making the time. I have a list as long as my arm to catch up with, but I suspect it's just not going to happen until school starts again.

And knitting. Well, that is where I need some of your solid gold-plated advice.

You probably know that I fell head over heels with Veera's Happy Street pattern as soon as I saw it. It's so rare to see a knitting pattern that is youthful and modern, and Veera just seems to hit the nail on the head every time.

Image from 100% rain

So I spent weeks trying to find the Madelinetosh colours in any shop that wasn't going to bankrupt me. As soon as I mentioned my struggles here a few months ago, Sarah contacted me to say she could try dyeing the colours for me! She did, and they are AWESOME, and I have the dual self-righteous warm fuzzies of a) having supported a lovely UK-based businesswoman and b) not being bankrupt.

Win, win.

So I wound the wool, packed my needle, printed the pattern; all ready for a wee trip away. After settling down in a comfortable chair, all set to cast on, I read those fateful words: Cut yarn after each colour change.

Heart sink.

What I love about all the other Veera shawls I've made (and I've made a LOT) is that you can carry the strands all the way through the pattern, resulting in (usually) just two ends to weave in at the beginning and two at the end, and a very neat finished product. But looking at the picture of Happy Street, I guess it's going to end up with at least two dozen cut ends. And I'm a novice, so my finishing is very far from invisible. So I'm in a quandary, and would love to hear your advice.

1. Have you made Happy Street? Do you think I should just crack on regardless and hope for the best (because the pattern is so beautiful)?
2. What's the secret to finishing? There is almost certainly a "proper" way to do it that I'm not aware of (I basically make it up as I go along). Do you know of an online resource I can read/watch to teach me how to weave in neatly?
3. If the answers to the above are both "No", do you know of another pattern that would look as fantastic using about 400m each of these beautiful colours that Sarah made for me? 

I get so much great advice, tips and tricks through this blogging lark (not to mention recipes, hand-dyed wool, book recommendations, inspiration, ideas, support... I could go on). Thank you, I appreciate it, and will try not to be absent for so long again.

26 June 2013

midsummer update

Isn't this pretty? I love the crinkliness.

So, I've been busy studying and drawing and studying and drawing. And, six months in to the year, on midsummer's day, I achieved my New Year's resolution for, I'm pretty sure, the first time in my life. (My resolution was to make something to sell - deliberately vague.)

Do a little search for greeturchin on the deigners tab of Spoonflower, and you'll see my Midsummer Night's Dream design, entered in the fabric of the week contest this week, and available now as fabric, wallpaper and giftwrap. (Yay!)

In the absence of a job or any design briefs or confidence, I'm using competitions and contests as my clients. Adobe Illustrator isn't the most intuitive package, and I know from my days in publishing that if you don't use it - and use it every day - you lose it. So the weekly Spoonflower contests, as well as some others, seem like a good way to discipline myself into frequent illustrating.

And to keep a track of my nascent digital skills, I've started a little online portfolio here.

So, sorry I've been a bit absent lately. To be honest, though I love writing, I was even starting to annoy myself. So I'm guessing below par wisecracks about cake, children and knitting were probably getting a bit old for you too. Thanks for being kind enough not to say so though.

But if you'd like to follow what I'm working on, do link up with my fledgling portfolio.

There's an Etsy shop in development too (as soon as I have cards to put in it, which could be soon or could be... ummm... never at this rate). Just don't buy any Christmas cards from anywhere else yet is all I'm saying (as if you were buying Christmas cards in June anyway).

So, now that you're all in the loop-dee-loop, ta ta for now, and enjoy your Summer.
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