Friday, 29 May 2009

There's Something Fishy Going On Around Here...


This is an aquarium display I was asked to make for Whitehawk Library a couple of weeks ago; they've been running a colouring competition for the kiddiwinks. I also drew the outlines for the fish that they've been colouring in and it's just plain bizarre seeing my work coloured in by lil'ins! I'm pretty chuffed with how the poster turned out as I was limited to Publisher and I hadn't used it for a good 10 years! All in all, four libraries across B&H have my lil' fishies up. Cool, huh?


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Aprons are Up!

These two aprons are now for sale in my Etsy shop:



And this one in my Folksy shop:


Go make me rich. Or, at least, give me a little yarn-buying money. I need it, as several of us Brighton Knitting Belles are off to check out Yarn Over in Eastbourne this coming Saturday. A trip out! I'm all of a dither. As much as I LOVE Brighty, with the sea to the south and nowt but the road to London to the north, I often feel a bit "hemmed in". The only way to go for a bit of an escape is sideways, so Eastbourne here we come!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I'm Getting All Profesh With The PS, Like

Since discovering Pioneer Woman and her FAB Photoshop tips last week, I've been all excited about fiddling around with Actions and Masks, something I've never done before. Usually when I alter a photo, I'll just adjust the Curves to make it lighter overall, up the Contrast to make the shadows a bit more interesting, then Sharpen if it needs it. I took some photos of the lovely Sam modelling my aprons yesterday (which will be up in my Etsy/Folksy shops ASAP) and spent a couple of hours experimenting with all these new ideas last night. Although I know it's only start and I still have plenty to learn, I'm quite chuffed with my first attempts. Here's what I did to make one photo more interesting:

Here is my original photo straight out the camera:


Perfectly nice, but not all that exciting.

First of all, I upped the Curves and Contrast as I usually do to make it lighter overall, and the shadows darker:


Here comes the fun part. I duplicated the photo so there were two copies of the same thing, just on different layers on top of each other. Then I put the Gaussian Blur filter on the top copy, like so:


Then, using a Mask on this top, fuzzy layer, I "rubbed out" the blur on Sam herself, leaving the un-blurry layer underneath showing through:


Blurry background, sharp foreground. I then Flattened that so it was all one layer again, then added Pioneer Woman's "Warmer" Action and adjusted the Opacity down 30% or so so it wasn't quite so obvious:


I then lightened the whole thing up again a little:


As the "Warmer" actions makes things yellow-tinged, I used the Lasso tool on Sam's teeth, then upped the Brightness on them a little to whiten them back up to their natural state, then used Unsharp Mask on the whole thing:


Et Voila. To summarise,



And After:


Cool, huh? Simple, yet effective. By the last few photos I had my working methods down pat, so hopefully I can make this a quicker process from now on. Not that I think I'll do it on all my photos - I'd be there forever! - but for special ones I think it will make a difference.

Now, just have to measure up my finished aprons and they'll be up in my Etsy/Folksy shops in no time!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

My Flat - An Ode to Awesomeness


I have now lived in my flat for a year and a day. That's the second longest time I've spent in one place (barring the family home). In my previous flats, there was always something "wrong" - the neighbours, the landlord, the kitchen floor, the leaky shower. Even though this place is, shall we say, somewhat idiosyncratic, I love it to pieces. I can live with the dated kitchen tiles, I can cope with the tiny, tiny, tiny shower room. I can go out when Upstairs starts drumming practice in the middle of the afternoon. It's the first place in a long time I have been able to call home and have been happy to come back to everyday.


I never thought I would be able to live by myself as successfully as I have. Yes, it can be a smidgen lonely on occasion, but I have a wonderful group of friends I can then go and knit with. The fact that I have to do everything myself - all shopping, cleaning, cooking, washing - can get a little overwhelming when I have deadlines, but I wouldn't change it. If I went back in time just over a year, I would still do everything the way I have done it in the past 12 months. I have learned so much and have become - without wanting to sound too cheesy and vomit-inducing - much stronger and sharper as a result.


I will miss this place when Boyfriend and I move in together come November - the first flat I will - but then we will both be moving on in a way we have talked about and planned for so long, not on a whim hoping for something better. I'm looking forward to it.


(I've been playing around with some free Photoshop actions I downloaded from Pioneer Woman. They are fab!)

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Fire Socks are Done!

Yet another sock project that has taken me months and months because I got distracted by other awesome yarns in between cast-ons. These I started at Christmas. And finished two days ago.



This yarn is one of the Kaffe Fassett-designed range from Regia. The colourway is "Fire" (Landscape version, not Mirage version. Much prefer the stripes.) Check out all the other fab colours here. I have my eye on the Exotic Ember....

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Fabulous Fabric

Right now I am enjoying a rare two consecutive days working at home! I've been doing a fair bit of library work recently - now that the big projects are done and I'm just working on a smaller writing project I've been packing in the extra hours to keep the bills paid.

Today, though, I've been able to work on said writing project. However, I had to pop out to the post office (and the tea shop, obv) this afternoon to post off one of my monsters I sold on Folksy (hurrah!), and walking around the town I came across this:



Weeeeellllll, I couldn't leave that in the shop, could I? Two metres of it accompanied me home and will be made into one AWESOME apron ASAP.

It was one of those days where I didn't want to come back home, as the sun was shining so nicely after a gloomy start and I liked the look of everything I saw. One of those afternoons where I wish I had brought my camera. Maybe tomorrow.... ? The best thing about time out like that in the middle of the working day is the opportunity to recharge the creative batteries, and I'm already bubbling with ideas for new prints (probably incorporating owls somewhere as I LOVE them right now) and some kind of stencilling. Watch this space.....

Monday, 18 May 2009

London to Brighton 2009

Yesterday the sun shone for a whole two hours, so Boyfriend and I went down to check out the Minis on their annual trip to the seaside. I live just off the course, so we got to watch them all the way down, too. I used to have a Mini (a lovely 1992 1.3 cherry red Mini Sprite - chrome wing mirrors, chrome GB on the boot, CD player - all the essentials a girl in her late teens/early 20s requires) and even though I lived at the beginning of the route for two years, never joined in. Dagnammit I wish I had. Anyway, regrets and nostalgia aside, there were some BEAUTS to be seen yesterday. Even briefly stopped to seriously consider purchasing one that was for sale (Turquoise, convertible, 12 months MOT, 6 months tax, only £2250) but only briefly. Boyfriend got even more excited than I did and he can't even drive!


This one has gold glitter in the paint. And check out the sparkles on the engine!











I can't get over how clean these engines are! They must wash them down after every trip. Or they're fake engines they just swap in and out.

Overall, had an awesome weekend with Boyfriend. Popped in on a few Open Houses up at Fiveways, went for tea (twice), found a lovely park, ate ice cream, looked at potential areas to move to come November, saw beautiful cars, had two consecutive lie-ins, walked a lot. What more could you want?

Monday, 11 May 2009

Pirates & Socks Rock

The Hummingbird Spiral socks are done and dusted. I actually finished them last week, but had to wait for Boyfriend to turn up before I could get a proper photo of them in all their glory. I am very chuffed with these - hand dyed and knitted in a funky new (to me) pattern. Awesome.


I got home today from a full-branch-library-day-with-annoying-cold-bunging-up-my-head to find this uber-awesome surprise waiting for me:



A screenprinted postcard from the fabulously talented Debbie. Can you believe my card here is no.3 out of 149?! ALL hand screened?! The girl is crazy. Brilliant, but crazy. He's going straight up on my Wall of Cool. I love the Henry VII stamp, too. Hmmm....screenprints, stamps, Tudors, pirates, postcards.....ticks an awful lot of my Nerd boxes. Thank you, Deb!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

I Heart New Stationery


Makes doing your accounts just that little bit more enjoyable.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Updated Shops! Again!

Just a quick one to let you know that I have finally added my knitted monsters to my Etsy and Folksy shops. Different monsters in each. Go on, treat yourself.




Sunday, 3 May 2009


Well, Boyfriend and I had a lovely day yesterday, if a rather manic one. We had a nice, lazy morning then wandered into town which was HEAVING. Totally forgot it was the Children's Parade, plus the start of all the other Festival activities. Bah, tourists. We went to Show Below, loved Graham Carter's stuff, and then to the PV at the library.

I think room looked great. Much better than when I left it last Sunday! There's definitely room for improvement for next year, but as it is the first one we've ever done it was pretty impressive. I saw several people looking through my prints (buy them! buy them!) and one guy told me he'd be back next weekend with some cash, which was encouraging.


Look! My work! Up on a wall! V exciting.




Everyone's work looked really good. LOVE Lucy's pier and boats screenprints in the middle there.

Then Boyfriend and I caught a bus down to Hove and waited for half an hour for an ice cream at Marrocco's. Check the queue:


A rare glimpse of Boyfriend at the end of the queue, there.

They do home-make the best ice cream EVER, though. These babies are caramel and pistachio with two fudge sticks on the left, and banana & strawberry ripple with cookies & cream and one fudge stick on the right. Hom nom nom.


We bused it home, had a bit of a rest, then got changed to go out to dinner at La Fourchette, which was lovely. I had the best rack of lamb with the yummiest spinach I've ever had, and even managed not to get squiffy on one vodka and orange. After that we were both understandably knackered and went straight to bed when we got in!

Oh, and I also changed my hair colour again. Bit more on the cherry/pillarbox side of things rather than ORANGE. Really hope I'm not going to end up bald.

Right now we have eight made-by-Boyfriend bread rolls baking in the oven ready for taking down to Preston Park for a little picnic/BBQ later. Can't wait. Might even take my knitting.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Apple Turnovers, Books Finished and Weekend to Come


This week I had a go at making my own Apple Turnovers. Never made them before, had no recipe to follow, but just thought I'd take a whack, anyway.

I'd made a pie the day before and had half a pack of puff pastry left over (and that had been lurking at the back of the freezer since Christmas), plus a couple of Bramley apples from the weekend before where I'd planned to make apple sauce with our roast pork, but instead baked half the apples with the meat.

So I simply peeled the two apples, chunked them, bunged them in a saucepan with a teaspoon of cinnamon, a good sprinkling of caster sugar and about half a cup of water. Brought it all to a boil, then waited until the apple was soft enough to crush with a potato masher. I left it to cool for about 30 minutes, until it was still slightly warm, but not completely cold.

Meanwhile, I rolled out my remaining pastry and cut it into two large squares, covered one triangular half with the apple, folded the other half of the pastry over, sealed the edges with milk wash and a fork to crimp the seams, and poked a couple of air holes in the top. Then I brushed milk over the surface and sprinkled with demerara sugar and a little more cinnamon. On to a baking tray, then baked for 30 mins or so at 200 degrees C. Job done.

As you can see, I overfilled them a bit and this one exploded slightly, but they were AMAZING. The demerara sugar on the top hardened into a lovely crust and was definitely the best bit, although getting it off my baking tray afterwards was not so much fun. This would easily have made four smaller turnovers, but Boyfriend and I are gannets. I do love it when an experiment turns out so well.


In other news, on Wednesday I finally finished reading Antonia Fraser's Six Wives of Henry VIII, which I started waaay back at the end of January. A rather sudden ending, but generally I enjoyed it, particularly discovering my new favourite word: "philoprogenitive"*. I have a bit of a reading bug now and might even get around to reading all those books I got for Christmas! I have, however, reserved myself a whole load of audiobooks through the library. I don't feel quite so guilty about reading if I can do something else at the same time. I've just started reading Angela Carter's "The Bloody Chamber" (inspired by my recent LRRH prints) and I'm really digging her style.

Boyfriend is here this weekend (as he has been all week) and I'm very much looking forward to some time off with him. It's the PV of the PBK09 show tomorrow afternoon, so I'll take some photos to put up here. If I've got time to take any, in between all the schmoozing and air kissing, that is.

*This means to have a love of children, or to have a large family. Henry VIII, for example, divorced Catherine of Aragon because of his philoprogenitive desires. That is, because he wanted a son more than anything else. Get me, eh?