Sunday, August 31, 2008

Thank you Ducky!!

I received a wonderfully generous gift from my friend Kerstin of Duckyknits yesterday! If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that I've been experimenting with covering biros with polymer clay for a particular swap I've been working on. The pens I was using just weren't up to scratch and the recommended biros (according to the Internet gods) are these Bic Stics which aren't available in the UK. Kerstin offered to send me some and surprised me with two packets!

She also included some KoolAid, which is another thing that isn't available here in the UK. She sent 27 packets! She's earned herself some pretty good Karma here! Kerstin produces some amazing dyed roving and yarns which she sells through her Etsy shop Chimera. I'm deeply in awe of her fibre-y talents, so this'll give me a chance to try and emulate her a little *lol*

She's not only a great dyer and spinner, but also a fabulous felter and has sent me one of her felting kits to have a go at. It's a lovely autumn leaf brooch which I admired on her blog. She makes the most amazing needle felted playmats which she also has in her shop. 

You know I just couldn't wait to have a go, so I tried some of the KoolAid out on this sleeve (from an old woolly jumper that I felted). It will eventually become a water bottle carrier, but it was a horrible colour, so I added some purple and some red KoolAid and I'll take scissors and needles and thread to it shortly. I see the elasticated cuff becoming the opening for the bottle, the cuff will stop the bottle coming out and I think I'll add a carry strap to it too. It's nearly dry now, so I can attack it soon! Fun fun!

I'll be back at school soon, I also start my TESOL course in a week or so and picked up a book this afternoon to help me complete my summer assignment! Not so much fun, but essential unfortunately. It's a pretty punished schedule, 2 nights a week plus the odd Saturday for the first couple of months, and then once a week plus the odd Saturday after that. I'll still be crafting though, don't worry about that!

Time to hit the books!



Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Red is the colour of blood....

I have been ever so slightly preoccupied with the colour red recently! Maybe it's my regular letting of the old red stuff coursing very slowly through my veins, maybe it's the pretty red pumps I treated myself to the other day, maybe it's crafting in Gryffindor colours for the HP swap I'm doing over on Craftster at the moment, I just don't know. All I know is that I'm just loving that colour at the moment! Look here, I went into Hobbycraft the other day to stock up on supplies and I saw this big ole glorious, gorgeous red heart pendant with a millifiore centre. It calls to me Precious....sorry, a slight LOTR moment there. I had a load of random red beads at home and I just knew there was a project in there somewhere.

So this is what I made. It kind of reminds me of Tia Dalma's heart necklace from the POTC. Hey, listen to me! You can tell I've been hitting the DVD collection recently! I've had the Lord of the Rings trilogy marathon, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, the Alien Quadralogy (is that how you spell it?) with promises of random Alien/Predator battles to come. Normally in August, the DVD player isn't even switched on, I'd be out in the garden, but this year, the weather's been so awful that I've actually had lap blankets (yes, blankets people!) spread over my cold little tootsies during my film and fibre fests.

I've also discovered a couple of online film streaming sites and alternative swapping sites. Naa, not that kind of swapping, but book swapping! I'm so lucky; I've scored so many decent books recently; some Stephen King, the Philip Pullman trilogy that the Golden Compass is based on, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Kathy Reichs who writes the books that the series Bones is based on, a Garth Nix book which is supposed to be similar to Harry Potter, and some Michael Crichton books. I'm trying to find the Kite Runner for Mum too. I'm enjoying this period of respite although I could seriously do with some money. I start my TESOL course soon and I just know that when I do, I won't have time for crafting and reading and stuff like that.

Oo yes, look what I did yesterday! I made a glass etching! Why oh why does that term have sniggery connotations now? I received a couple of bottles of glass etching paste from Frosty in a swap a while ago (you know you just can't get that stuff here in the UK) and tried it out yesterday. The full and probably quite boring story of how I did it is over on my 101 blog but here's the glass that I etched. It's just a boring ole water glass from the kitchen that I used as a test, but I just love the sweet little butterflies (there's been lots of butterflies in my mind this month with the visit to the Butterfly Farm) and I can see that there'll be quite a few people receiving etched glassware from me this Christmas.

Startitus struck me again today. I cast on/ chained on (?) 'Go for Baroque' from the Happy Hooker in a lovely emerald green yarn plyed with silver that I had in my stash. I also want to make a black Short n Sweet and a multi-coloured Sparkle Hat. I have a pile of clothes I want to recon, including a lovely red (yes, red again) skirt which will match my shoes and necklace!! So many projects, so little time!

I also have homework for my TESOL course. *sigh*

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Somewhere over the rainbow

There's been alot of knitting going on here recently. Okay, there's been a whole lot more than that really, as I gaze over to my studio desk I can see that at the moment it's piled high with bead paraphernalia and stuff, but I've had a number of little knitting projects on the go due to some OWS claims over on Craftster. Knitting is portable and I can loll on the sofa with a small knitting project on my lap, well, with Pippin on my lap, the knitting on top of her, and Joe on my feet. It's also lightweight and reasonably cheap to post, which is important to my almost destitute situation at the moment! 'What are you knitting?' I hear you ask in a resigned voice, because, you know I'm going to tell you anyway, right? Well, I claimed Holliewood in the OWS for a pincushion and then noticed that she had a Calometry (I think that's how you spell it) in her Wists, so I whipped this one up for her. I made it waaaay shorter than the pattern calls for (I think I cast on 80 stitches) because I remember when I made this before that it was quite big. So I used a couple of yarns held together to created this glorious tweedy variegated effect, so it's lovely and warm. It's all kinds of blues, with a vintage blue button at the back.

She also had a coffee cosy on her Wists, so I thought I'd whip one of those up to. These are both great stash busting projects by the way, can you tell?! Now I'm kind of fascinated by these cup cosies; I really feel like I want one, but I don't drink takeaway tea or coffee, so I'm never going to use it (unless I'm at a Christmas market and drinking hot mulled wine, although I don't know if that's allowed now. Hey, hang on, doesn't heating alcohol make it less alcoholic?? Is hot mulled wine a good thing for me??? Hmm, I'll have to investigate that one!!) Anyway, before I go off on a complete tangent, back to the cosy. So, I decided to make one for Holliewood, even though I had nothing to go on size wise. So I made it adjustable with two sets of button holes so that it could be adjusted to different sizes. I also made it ribbed so that it would stretch or contract to fit different sizes. I knit it longwise like a scarf with about three strands of thin yarn in different colours and created the ribbing effect by knitting two rows and then purling two rows. I did the last three rows in moss stitch to stop any curling tenancies.

Here's the pincushion I made for her. It's a teeny tiny mushroom bottle cap pincushion. I added little white beads to the top on pins to make the spots. I filled the squishy red top with scrap felt filling (chopped up into little pieces) and the bottle cap part is filled with foil. The reason I did this? Well, I know that when I want to sharpen my pinking shears, or hole punches up, I cut or punch through foil, so I figured that foil might keep pins sharp. What do you think?

I started to knit these yoga socks for me, I had a small ball of this glorious rainbow coloured yarn which I figured might just be enough to complete the pair for me. I figured wrong. Pah! I've just got to the main part of the second sock and I know by looking that I'm not going to have enough left. I'm going to frog them and maybe make the ribbing in another colour and make the main part of the socks in this lovely rainbow colour. It's so happy and bright and I was thinking alot on the subject of rainbows whilst knitting with it. Now in recent years the rainbow seems to have been adopted by the gay fraternity. I don't have a problem with that, but I was curious as to why? I like rainbows in a hippy way, and because of the chakras they represent, and I found a lovely ring on eBay the other day (not shopping, just surfing) which had tiny stones in all the colours of the chakras around it, but it was marketed as a gay pride ring. Anyone know why this started out? All I could think of was the Judy Garland/ Wizard of Oz song, but is it that obvious? Amazing what your mind wonders at one o'clock in the morning.

I've also been working on my BPT hoodie, but I find it a little hard going as there's currently over 300 stitches on the needles and it takes forever to get to the end of the row, so I knit that in short bursts to stop me getting too bored. It's growing very very slowly!

So I go now to post off various OWS packages containing knitting and pincushions, and books for my book swapping site. The post office will love me! If Joe is lucky he'll get a wander round rabbit field.

Dog face

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Moment of Clarity!

Ever have one of those moments when everything suddenly becomes clear and you want to slap your forehead with your palm and groan in a Homer-like 'Doh!' Yes? Good. I had one of those moments yesterday. I started the second pair of yoga socks and I was peering at the picture on the PDF wondering why my ribbing looked different when it suddenly occurred to me that maybe the 2x1 ribbing was actually K2P1 and not K2P2 like I'd thought. Yep, I know. How stupid am I? You don't need to tell me, I feel pretty dumb as it is! Ha, it all makes sense now. I did the maths and yes, 3 does go evenly into 42, so I didn't need to cast on extra. So these are the new improved yoga socks that I nearly finished yesterday during a Lord of the Rings movie marathon.


I fired one of the new wand pens that I made and apart from a slight curl, this one pretty much survived intact. I did two shorter firings, but I think even that was too long. I will beat this polymer clay pen technique thingy!


I redid the beads too. I didn't like how putting a hole through them prior to firing made the bead all squishy and misshapen, so I rolled them back into balls and reshaped them and I'll drill the holes into them now they're hard. Now they look like lentils and not like chickpeas (which I adore but now have to eat in moderation as they're too high in vitamin K which reacts with Warfarin! Goodbye falafel and humus binges!)


Today's visit to the GP's was a double-whammy. I need a sick note to cover my arse with the minions at Incapacity Benefit and also I needed a blood test to check my INR (which was high last time). Well it seems that my doctors didn't even know that I'd been in hospital (the hospital haven't sent my notes through yet), the hospital was also supposed to send me home with a sick certificate (the GP's don't do that anymore unless they're the attending clinician, i.e. you're being treated within the practice) and without having my current medical data, can't even prescribe me any contraceptives. I'm a bit wobbly in the mornings at the moment and couldn't stop the tears welling up in my eyes as I weakly queried what the hell I should do now, who I should contact at the hospital, the referring doctor, the anti-coagulant doctor or my Lupus doctor in Rhuematology? I spent an hour on the phone to the Incapacity Benefit people on Monday and I'm getting mightily sick of beurocratic shit. He felt sorry enough for me that he did give me a certificate for the next three weeks, but I have to badger the hospital for one for the past two weeks. I'm happy that we're lucky enough in this country to have free healthcare, but does it have to be so bloody slapdash?

The blood test was a breeze after that, even though my veins are now bruised as hell and scream at the mere sight of a needle now. They protect themselves by hiding as deep as they can get and even the professional vampire in charge of blood extraction has to spend 10 minutes tapping frantically on my arms to coax a tiny vein to the surface. Lovely as the nurses always are, if one more says to me that I'll just feel a little scratch, I shall thump somebody! I'm sorry, but jabbing a needle into my arm is not a little scratch! I'm not a complete wuss, I have piercing's and tattoos, but hell, when you have a piercing, it goes through the skin for a minute or two, and then you have a nice bit of jewellery to admire and that rush of exhilaration. And you don't have a piercing in the same place everyday for weeks! So, I'm just contenting myself with my eyes closed and a  little sucky inbreath at the moment. I don't think I'll ever get used to this, but at least I'm still here.

I woke up this morning to find a corpse on the patio. A big fat bird. I have a suspect. I shall be interrogating later.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Potterversely, here's a swap spoiler or two!

No peeking Feline!

Well, my familial orders to 'take it easy' means that I've been spending alot of time reading (hurray for book swap sites!), crafting and watching my film collection (the weather's rubbish at the moment, I think we've had our summer, grrr). My current Craftster HP swap partner Feline, is a Gryffindor and I had the perfect House colours in my stash to make this set of House winter apparel. I love making corkscrew scarves, so I just had to crochet this for her. It's long enough to wrap round the neck too and has cute tassels on the ends for a touch of glamour. The yarn is a chunky kind so it should be nice and warm for the harsh Hogwarts winters.

No winter collection is complete without a nice warm hat, so I made this one to go with the scarf. Inspired by Fred and George Weasley, it's loosely based on the Boy Beanie (from the Happy Hooker), but designed to be a little bigger and longer so that you could fold the brim up. I added the contrasting house colour stripe in reverse so that when it was folded up, the stripe would be the right way round.

The wizarding world seems to favour pompoms (well, the Weasleys seem to anyway), so I made a cute pompom for the top. I danced around in it for a few minutes when I'd finished it and on my way to the fridge for a drink, M raised an eyebrow and asked me if I was wearing it because I was cold, or because I'd just finished it! His next question was whether it was for me, or for a swap. I guess he knows me too well!

As I was on a yarn roll by this time, and the cheesy sci-fi film I was watching hadn't finished yet, I busted out the flower loom and created this brooch to match the hat and scarf combo. I've had a round flower loom and a square loom for absolutely ages, but I've not really played with them yet, so I was really pleased at the chance to experiment, and I love how it turned out! I was lucky enough to find a button in my *ahem* considerable button stash that was not only the right colour, but also this very cute flower design that went with the flower theme perfectly. Hurray!! I know my swap partner is not a knitter or crocheter, so hopefully she'll appreciate everything. I think it's so nice to get gifts that you can't make for yourself!

My adventures with Fimo continue. I did make another Bic wand, but I brushed it with some mystery copper powder that I have, that I sort of know is for varnishing (I was given it, so I'm not 100% sure what it is) and the next morning I got up and went to put it in the oven, and the fimo had cracked and I hadn't even baked it yet! It looks like the powder contains some sort of chemical that had reacted with the Fimo because it's covered in a sort of sticky residue. I think the project has been cursed *lol* I also made these lentil (shape, not pulse) beads which will eventually become a bracelet (I hope); they're not fired yet, but I'll have another go at the wand pens and fire them all together then. 

I claimed Urvi in India for some yoga socks in the OWS swap over on Craftster, mainly because I've wanted to try this pattern for myself for a while, and I thought this might get my arse into gear! She wanted a dark colour, so I started with this rich chocolate brown; most people seem to like brown at the moment, so I thought it was a safe bet. I've finished them now, but it doesn't seem like much, so I'm just about to start a second pair for her in a navy blue. I know I still need to weave the ends in, but I'll do that all together. I may fiddle with the pattern a little bit because you cast on 42 stitches, the first few rows are in a k1p1 rib, and then you switch to a k2p2 rib, which means that at the join, you end up with a rib band of k4. I don't think I'm doing it wrong, so I was thinking if I cast on 44 stitches instead of 42, that should solve that, shouldn't it? It's a little tight in my opinion too, so 2 extra stitches should make it a little more comfy. I tried one on my foot and it was a little tight on me and I have tiny feet. I used an acrylic based yarn, mainly because I wanted Urvi to be able to chuck them in the washing machine and dryer without worrying, and also because that's what I had in my stash *lol*

Even though the weather's not brilliant at the moment, I was able to take a couple of photos in the garden because my passion flower's in bloom! Aren't the colours lovely? Who says that purple and green should never be seen?

And the bees are happy on the lavender bush at the moment too.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bugs and Butterflies

On Thursday, M and I went to a butterfly and wildlife park in the next county. They have a tropical hothouse there full of exotic butterflies, caterpillars, leaf cutter ants, some birds and koi carp. There was also a small bug house with spiders and tarantulas, scorpions, hissing cockroaches, stick insects and some unusual reptiles. It was a lovely sunny morning, the nicest the weather's been for about two weeks and inside the hothouse it was around 80 degrees. Perfect for me because I'm always cold, but I think M found it a little uncomfortable at times and he was glad to get a little fresh air!

In the hot houses they had a code to help you spot some of the more hard-to-spot features, they put coloured pegs on branches to point out butterfly eggs on leaves, or where caterpillars and chrysalides were. Some of the caterpillars were easy to spot such as this big fella. His stripes were very Burtonesque and made me think of Beetlejuice.

This caterpillar was harder to see, he was hiding his black and spiky gothic-ness under a leaf.

I really wanted a big butterfly to land on me, the video they were showing before you went in showed butterflies like dinner plates landing on unsuspecting children. That's what I wanted; to be covered from head to toe in gloriously coloured butterflies, like a insectile Doctor Doolittle, but there weren't any really large butterflies in there, I guess maybe it was the wrong time of year, or they hadn't hatched yet. This one took a fancy to my bag though, so I got a picture in the end.

In the middle of the hothouse, this colony of leaf cutter ants was prevented from escaping into the 'gen pop' by a large moat type set up. They had two islands in a big pond, with a pink rope slung from island to island and they happily traversed the rope all day long, carrying their precious cargo of leaf fragments back and forth. It's amazing how much more they can carry in proportion to their body weight. I've been trying to think of a comparison. Would it be the same as me carrying a boat sail, or a billboard?

There were loads of giant Koi carp in the pond too.

The park imports most of it's exotic butterflies from Fair-trade butterfly farmers from around the world. They are shipped as chrysalides and are put in an incubator until they are ready to emerge. Then hopefully the butterflies will breed naturally and lay their own eggs in the hot house. 

Outside of the hothouses there was still plenty to do; there was a small domestic farm area, with goats and rabbits in. There was also a wildlife walk which wound through beautiful countryside, and luckily the weather was nice enough to stroll along the walk, enjoying the scenery. 

There was also a wildflower garden which was designed to encourage British butterflies.

There were lots of Red Admirals and Cabbage Whites there.

We timed it just right as well, because just after we got home, the heavens opened and we had storms all afternoon.



Friday, August 15, 2008

Pens and pendants

Well, it's not all been fun and games with needles this past week. I have managed some actual crafting! You know you can't put a crafty girl down for long and I think the exercise is good for my arm. I've had this phoenix stamp for absolutely ages, always intending to make a soldered pendant from it, so that's what I did last weekend. probably not the easiest thing to do with a dodgy arm, but then again, I've never been one to take the easy way out! I think the soldering left a little bit to be desired, it's not as neat as I'd have liked, but it's not too bad. I love this picture of Fawkes.

I've also been doing a lot with Fimo this week too. I suppose I considered all that rolling and softening of the clay to be like physio for my arm. This pen was easy because it's mostly made from a cane that I already had made up, so it was easy just to cover it.

Then I was on a roll, I've just been given my partner for the latest HP swap, so I thought I'd make a wand pen. I loved how this turned out!

The handle detail was perfect and I liked the woody grain effect that I got by blending two slightly different shades of brown together.

I also made a book plate which will go onto the front of a blank journal/school book. I love the steampunk look here. This is just a thin layer of polymer clay stamped into with some of those little alphabet stamps. I laid a thin sausage of clay all round the edge and crimped it with a dental tool, and then I used the inside of a biro (the plastic ink tube) to stamp those little rings round the edge. I think they look a little bit like rivets. Then I dusted over it with metallic powder. I  like the way it looks almost like worn leather.

I also made this dragon medallion which is probably also for the front of the school book. I made it using a dragon mould which I took from a clay pendant I had. I also dusted this with metallic powder.  

And then on a whim, I made this Rememberall from a giant marble. I'm not too sure about this yet. I need to go back to the book and check the description again, I was probably heavily influenced by the Tardis here! I think I had Dr Who on in the background when I was making it *lol*

But disaster happened in the oven. The pens curled and split. I'm sure that I had read somewhere that the yellow ones were the best to use (better than the Bic Cristal), but reading up again, people seem to be recommending the Bic Stic which I can't get over here, so I'm going to try splitting up the baking time and baking them in short bursts. Hopefully that'll stop the pens melting and curling! I'm really sad to see the wand pen ruined, but hopefully I can sort the problem out!

I've just got the results for today's blood tests and my INR level (the length of time it takes for your blood to clot) is now a little bit too high, so I have a complicated pattern of doses to take for the next few days and hopefully it'll go down a little.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A rose by any other name....


Since I was released from hospital, I should really have been taking it easy, but there's just so much to do and I'm not really a person who is able to loll about if I'm feeling okay. I have to be literally on my deathbed to be confined to bed, and I guess I've been trying to make up for last week. I've received some lovely flowers from my dear little Sis, and some from friends of the family and the next few photos are ones from those bouquets. I really love this one, a lovely pink rose from my Sis's bunch.

I'm not sure what these beautiful little green flowers are, but they're so pretty next to all the pinks. Does anyone know what they are?

I just love the boldness of gerberas. They're so colourful and happy.

Although my arm is starting to feel a little better, it's still not up to scratch, so I've been easing into things. I made some sugar scrub the other day. It's a mixture of brown and white sugar, with olive, soya and almond oils, and a blend of lavender, rose and geraniums oils for scent. It smells heavenly and leaves my body nice and soft. As olive oil is on my list of banned food stuffs now, I might as well use it for my skin!

Then I made some body butter to match. This is a 50:50 blend of cocoa butter and coconut oils, gently nuked in the microwave till the oils are all liquidy, then lavender, geranium and rose essential oils added and mixed. I let it cool in the fridge. I love this stuff, it's absorbed so easily into my skin!

On my way back from my daily visits to the hospital for blood tests (I now have an INR level of 2.9, so I'm in the target range now and no longer in the 'at risk' level - hurray!) I treated myself to these cute pumps. Aren't they sweet? I'm now going through my wardrobe to find red coloured stuff to wear with them! In fact I wore them on Sunday with a black gypsy skirt and a red peasant top since it was my Bruv's birthday and we all went to the pictures to see The Mummy 3 and then went for a meal. The film was pretty good, but I ended up missing the last 5 minutes because my anti-coagulant nurse rang to tell me what dose of Warfarin I needed to take that evening. It's a bit of a ritual at the moment, tests in the morning, dose adjustments for the evening, but vital since an overdose of Warfarin could cause me to bleed to death. Kill or cure, eh?  

I don't have to go for another blood test now till Friday which is brilliant! Believe me, my veins feel like pincushions and are so sore, and the inside of my arms currently sport all the colours of the rainbow. I also think I'm starting to become sensitive to the tape they use to put the dressing on afterwards. They use surgical tape since I'm allergic to elastoplast, but my arms are feeling red and sore, although that could be the layers of skins being pulled off every time I take the tape off! Ah well, can't complain. I know I got off lightly!



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