Tuesday 27 April 2021

Pampas Glass - an improvisation.


 When I heard about this assignment I smiled to myself - improvisation, it's what I do all of the time.  I have an idea, I don't have the bits needed to carry it out, so I improvise and change this for that, and that for this, until I have managed to come up with something.

So, I wanted to force myself to work a little differently.  

Based on this quote, especially the last bit.....

"Something that is improvised, in particular a piece of music, drama, etc. created spontaneously or without preparation."

I decided I would 'just do it', go for it, roll with the flow.  

I wanted to create a piece of Pampas Grass just out of stuff I had laying about.

First I started with a piece of found driftwood. I thought it was a nice shape to represent the Pampas stalk, once I had chopped the end off to make it straight.

Next I drilled holes in it.  First I started drilling holes the size of the glass rods I was planning to use, but very quickly realised that if I had holes that large (8-10mm) I wouldn't be able to fit many rods in and I wanted it to be quite full.  So I swapped to a 3mm drill pieces and drilled about 80 holes with that.... at a downward slant.

Have you ever drilled found driftwood?  It really is quite nasty.  The smell of dead fish, salt and rotting seaweed is not the nicest aroma in the world!

Once the holes were drilled I needed to sort out some glass.

I found a pile of glass rods in a nice creamy ivory colour which I thought would work well.

And the next step was to go and melt them on the torch.  I had two things to do, one was to round of the end so it looked a bit more natural  (and also wouldn't be sharp to work with) and the other was to melt the other end and pull it into a point so it would fit into my smaller drill holes.

So, off to the torch I went, melted my ends and then melted the centre so I could pull the two ends apart to make a thin section.  I then snipped this section to create two pieces which would stick into my wood.

Then all I had left to do was to assemble it.

I found a couple of old plant pots, stuck my driftwood in them and packed them out with little pebbles from my garden so the wood wouldn't move.

Then I started to stick in my glass rods.

But it some became apparent that I had totally underestimated how much glass I would need, I had way more holes than glass - and none of that particular glass left, so I had to improvise and use a different colour to make some more.

I wasn't too happy about this at first, until I had put a couple of the new colour in place, which was like a transparent straw colour, and realised it worked rather well.

And that is my improvised, finished piece of Pampas Grass..... although it looks more like a cactus.

If I had of had more glass I might have worked further down the stem with it, sadly I have nothing left in that kind of shade.  I think it works quite well in a way though.

I am calling it my Pampas Glass!

Friday 23 April 2021

Good Gourd..... my experiments.

 I have finished.....or have I?.. my experiments on working with gourds.

When I question if I have really finished or not, I think the answer would be a resounding 'no', as there are so many more things I can try, that I have discovered as I have worked up to now, but I needed a stopping point for my assignment, and this seemed to be a good point  (especially as time is running out!)

I chose this project as I like working with natural materials as much as I can.  These gourds gave me that opportunity.   I think they would be great to offer to people who think the same, who like having more natural materials around them as opposed to a lot of plastics or many made products.

The soft way that the lamp gourds light up would look great in a yoga studios perhaps, or a therapy room.  They might be really attractive to people that practise a plant based life style  (like myself) as, originally, they were actually a vegetable  :)

In detail then....

This was gourd number 1. As the initial plan was to make a lamp, of sorts, I was going to drill lots of holes in a gourd to create a lovely pattern for the light to seep through.

This was a learning curve.  The first thing I learned was that I needed some small holes to position my drill in, a pen mark wasn't enough as the drill would bounce all over the place and drill a hole in the wrong spot.   So I had to pin prick the pattern out with a sharp awl first.

Following on from that I quickly learned that the sawdust from the drill holes would fill the pin prick holes making them hard to see, so I had to only pin prick a small part of the pattern at a time.

I also learned that you have to go on with the drill in a really confident manner with a bit of pressure.  Any hesitation and the drill bounces, making your holes all uneven and messy.

But all in all, I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this one, and it looks great with a light source in it.   (The light source is a battery powered cupboard light).

Gourd number 2 was experimenting with pyrography. I wasn't so keen on this technique, I felt it didn't allow me to be as free as I wanted to be... and also it was a drawn out procedure, having to wait for the iron to cool down between changing tips.  It wasn't a technique I necessarily wanted to repeat - although I now have the knowledge that I can use that if a design requires it.

Gourd number 3 might be my favourite... and was created purely by accident.

I wanted to colour my gourds, but I am not good at art and painting, so I needed it to be very fluid and freeform.  I researched some paint techniques that are good for this kind of art and Alcohol inks - along with pure alcohol - came up, so I ordered some of those.

As I had never worked with this medium before, I took two rather scruffy and discoloured gourds from my box as I thought they would probably be going in the bin afterwards.

First I did a little gourd, and just splashed little bits of ink at it - it was a little underwhelming and I was a bit disappointed with the effect, so I knew I needed to go a bit bolder.  As for this little gourd... I hadn't bothered cutting into it and cleaning it out, so I have now discovered that it makes a fabulous rattle with all the seeds inside.

Grabbing a dishwashing sponge, I sponged the ink on the next one, in rows of colour.  Then I dripped the pure alcohol from the top using a pipette. This effect pleased me no end, this was the kind of colour I wanted.  Unfortunately the gourd was a broken one with a large crack and hole in one side.

As I liked the colour so much I really didn't want to discard this piece, so I jigsawed down the middle to cut out the damage, then drilled holes along the cuts so I could lace it up, almost like a corset. 

It's often the mistakes that come out the best  :)

Gourd number 4 was basically a repeat of gourd number 3, except there was no damage so I just cut off the top to make it into a rather nicely shaped vessel, and added a threaded ribbon trim for a bit of detail.

Gourd number 5 came about after I sat thinking how I could add some texture to my gourds.

So I grabbed a bottle of Mod Podge glue (strong PVA) and a load of different fabrics - calico, faux suede, ribbon, trimmings, wooden pieces, scrunched up toilet roll and garden string - and just stuck it all randomly to the gourd.

On reflection, it actually looks ok like this, with the different fabrics being different shades and textures in themselves.   But I decided to spray paint it.

So, now it was time to stop playing and put some techniques together for my main piece - Gourd number 6.  I decided to make a fusion of both alcohol inks and drilling to create a lamp.

I wanted this piece to look pretty as a stand alone piece when not lit up, but also give a different look once the lights were down, so the owner could choose whether to have it as a lamp, or just as an ornament.

I drilled the holes I wanted first as I thought the inks would then dribble into the holes and make them look less 'fresh'.  I was correct.

I was a bit more precise with where I placed my colour on this one, and I added extra bits of colour where I thought they were needed as I went along.

I love the way the light works with this, as the ink that dribbled into the holes give the light a different hue.

And a photo of it shown in daylight with no inside lights, daylight with lights and dark with lights.

And finally.... I had 5 mini gourds that I ordered in error without checking the size.  While I have the inks out I coloured all of these with the view to making a necklace perhaps.....  that might be my next project!

Thursday 22 April 2021

Crochy The Crochet Caterpillar.

 If you live in the UK I cannot imagine that you have missed all the kerfuffle about some supermarket Caterpillar cakes.

I say we should embrace ALL of the caterpillars, so I have made a cuddly one that you can keep forever.  He won't melt, go mouldy, make the kids sick..... he's just completely huggable.

I used Stylecraft Special DK yarn in Dark Brown, with scraps of cream for the face and feet, and tiny scraps of whatever colours for the sweeties on the top.

You can stuff him with regular toy stuffing, but I used some wadding that came in one of those monthly food boxes, I rolled it into a tight roll and it worked well.

So, here is the pattern for you.   Enjoy  :)

Stitches explained:

Chain Stitch (CH)- Yarn around hook (from the back) and pull the new yarn through the loop on your hook.  This is ONE chain.  Repeat as needed.

Double Crochet (DC) Put hook through work and draw yarn back through (2 loops on hook) yarn around hook, draw through 2 loops on hook.

Half Treble Crochet (HTR) Yarn around hook (from the back) put hook through work and draw yarn back through (3 loops on hook) yarn around hook, draw through 3 loops on hook.

Treble Crochet (TR)- Yarn around hook (from the back) put hook through work and draw yarn back through (3 loops on hook) yarn around hook, draw through 2 loops on hook, yarn around hook, draw through 2 loops on hook.

Double Treble Crochet (DTR)- Yarn around hook twice (from the back) put hook through work and draw yarn back through (4 loops on hook) yarn around hook, draw through 2 loops on hook (3 times).

Slip Stitch (SS)- Put hook through work and pull yarn through both work and stitch on your hoo

Special Stitches explained:

Front Post Double Crochet (DC) Put hook around the stitch, bringing the hook back to the front and finish the DC as normal.

BODY  (Brown)

Round 1. 6 DC into a Magic Ring.   OR…. CH 2, then work 6 x DC's into the 2nd CH from your hook. (6 st)   Pull up a length of scrap yarn into the last stitch (to use as a stitch marker)

Round 2. Work 2 x DC's into EACH of the 6 stitches  (12 st)  Pull the scrap yarn up through the last stitch.  DO THIS AT THE END OF EVERY ROW TO MARK YOUR PLACE.

Round 3. (DC 1 into next stitch, 2 x DC's into the next) Repeat all the way around (18 st) 

Round 4. (DC 1 into next 2 stitches, 2 x DC's into the next) Repeat all the way around (24 st)

Round 5. (DC 1 into next 3 stitches, 2 x DC's into the next) Repeat all the way around (30 st)

Round 6. (DC 1 into next 4 stitches, 2 x DC's into the next) Repeat all the way around (36 st)

Round 7. (DC 1 into next 5 stitches, 2 x DC's into the next) Repeat all the way around (42 st)

Round 8. (DC 1 into next 6 stitches, 2 x DC's into the next) Repeat all the way around (48 st)

Round 9. (DC 1 into next 7 stitches, 2 x DC's into the next) Repeat all the way around (56 st)

Round 10. Working into the BACK LOOPS of the stitch only, DC into every stitch. (56 st)

Round 11-15. For 5 more rows - working into the FULL STITCH, DC into every stitch. (56 st)

Round 16-19. For 4 rows – Work a DC front post stitch  (56 st)

Round 20-25. For 6 rows – (back to working a regular DC) DC into every stitch. (56 st)

Round 26-29. For 4 rows – Work a DC front post stitch  (56 st)

Round 30-35. For 6 rows – (back to working a regular DC) DC into every stitch. (56 st)

Round 36-39. For 4 rows – Work a DC front post stitch  (56 st)

Round 40-45. For 6 rows – (back to working a regular DC) DC into every stitch. (56 st)

Round 46-49. For 4 rows – Work a DC front post stitch  (56 st)

Round 50-55. For 6 rows – (back to working a regular DC) DC into every stitch. (56 st)

Round 56-59. For 4 rows – Work a DC front post stitch  (56 st)

Round 60-65. For 6 rows – (back to working a regular DC) DC into every stitch. (56 st)

SS into the next stitch, end yarn leaving a long tail for sewing up, remove marker.



BUM END  (Brown)

Work Rounds 1-9 from the body, (56 st) SS into the next stitch and end yarn.


FACE  (Cream)

Work Rounds 1-8 from the body, (48 st) ... carry on straight away from this stitch to shape the ears..

Ch 1,  (TR, DTR, TR, HTR) in the next stitch, DC in next, SS in next 3, DC in next, (HTR, TR, DTR, TR, HTR) in next, DC in next, SS in next and end yarn.  Leave a long tail for sewing.


EYES  (Brown – make 2)

Work Rounds 1-2 from the body, (12 st) SS into the next stitch and end yarn.  Leave a long tail for sewing.


TONGUE  (Pink)

Round 1. (DC, TR, HTR, DTR, TR, HTR, DC)  into a Magic Ring.   OR…. CH 2, then work (DC, TR, HTR, DTR, TR, HTR, DC)   into the 2nd CH from your hook. (7 st)   SS into the first stitch, end yarn. Leave a tail for sewing.


SWEETIES  (Mixed colours – make 10)

Round 1. 8 HTR into a Magic Ring.   OR…. CH 2, then work 8 x HTR's into the 2nd CH from your hook. (8 st)    )   SS into the first stitch, end yarn. Leave a tail for sewing.



FEET  (Cream – make 6)

Row 1. CH 5, DC into the  3rd CH from the hook, DC 2 (4 st) TURN

Row 2-4. For 3 rows  - CH 1, DC 4 (4 st) TURN

Row 5. CH 4, DC into the 3rd CH from the hook, DC into the next st, then DC 4 across the main piece (7 st) TURN

Row 6-8. For 3 rows  - CH 1, DC 7 (7 st) TURN



Stuff your tube, then using the BACK LOOPS only sew your Bum End in place at the bottom of the tube.

Sew your eye and tongue onto the face, then sew the face onto the end of your tube.

Position the feet so that they touch the surface, then sew them in place, three on each side.

Sew the sweeties on as shown in the photo.


I hope you have enjoyed making this caterpillar...I am not on anyone's side in this debate and I think all Caterpillars should just learn to get along and live with each other  :)

Send me a photo if you make one, would love to see it  :)

Saturday 17 April 2021

My finished Uni Cosmos / Universe piece

  I have finally finished my Cosmos / Universe piece.  I am calling this piece 'My Universe'.  It is made from glass, both cold and hot worked.

I think it worked out how I originally planned it.  My idea was to take a 'core' sample of the universe, how I depict it, and create a glass mobile to represent this small sample .

My rough sketch looked like this.  

And this photo was always in my mind as a guide to what I wanted to show.  A sample digging down into the earth from deep space.

I made five different layers, each representing something that I felt was there, but perhaps we could not always see.

Deep Space

My first layer was to represent Deep Space.  I would have liked to have used black glass, but unfortunately didn't have immediate access to any, so dark amber it had to be.  I deliberately designed it to have the open weave kind of effect rather than being a solid slab, because I wanted to show that there was more to consider even outside of what we know about the Universe and Space.  This layer was created cold in the kiln, then the kiln is turned on allowing the rods to fuse together within a large metal ring that measures 40cm in diameter.  


The next layer I wanted to depict was Nebula.  The colours of Nebulas fascinate me and are actually quite easy to translate into glass beads, due to all the beautiful coloured frits (broken glass) and enamels you can buy.   

Using a hot torch and some glass rods I made a lot of coloured beads, mainly in blues and pinks and purples because I felt these colours worked well between the (supposedly black) top layer and the next layer which wasn't going to have any colour at all. I didn't plan any particular effect of finished bead, I just picked up whichever glass I fancied working with, and poked it, swirled it, allowing the colours to implode which in turn allowed the bead to design itself.  Almost like I didn't want any control over the final outcome, I wanted it to be as chaotic and self-forming as it could be... with only a little help from me.


The next layer I have called 'memories'. It depicts the fact that if you have lived in this universe then you never actually leave.  I have used the cremation ashes of a friends dog encased within clear glass. I would have liked to have used the ashes of a loved one, but I don't have any, plus I thought that some people might cope better viewing the piece knowing it didn't contain an actual person.

These 'memory' beads are made in quite a uniformed manner. It has to be a controlled make to ensure that all of the ash is well encased within the glass, otherwise the beads can have sharp little pieces sticking out.  When a loved one died we are taught to look up to the sky and assign them a star, so I wanted this layer to be hovering above the earth in plain sight.  These beads, like the Nebula beads, are made on a hot torch using rods of glass.


I felt that if I was doing a core section of the universe then I needed to include a planet, and the planet that I thought that would be recognisable by colours would, of course, be Earth.

So I started this off the same way by doing a 40cm mish mash of glass rods in a steel ring in the kiln.  Once fused down after one firing of the kiln, the piece then had to go back in to be slumped into the shape I wanted.   I re-fired the piece on a slumping schedule to allow it to drape over an upside down ceramic bowl.  I would have preferred a shallower bowl if I could have, but having limited supplies at home I was quite pleased with the shape I actually got.


The final layer I chose to do was to depict lava droplets within the Earth.  So I made small orange beads for this and hung them under the Earth's 'crust'.

I am pleased with the final outcome, there are a few things I would have done differently, as I have mentioned, had I have had the materials or tools, but on the whole I am pretty pleased with it.

I expect that a small explanation of the final piece might help people understand what I am trying to say, although it could be perceived in whatever way that people imagine their own universe to be perhaps.

The piece measures about 40cm across by 60 cm long.  All the layers are held together with nylon fishing wire, and it is currently now hanging from my shed roof.   :)

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Mini embroidered cushions


Every craft space needs some cushions.  Cushions equal comfort. If people are comfortable and cosy then they will relax and craft easier. 

So, it was time to make some mini cushions for my mini shed.

I started by taking some calico fabric and hand-drawing some shapes for flowers and leaves. When I say ‘shapes’, it is a lot easier than that, simply a couple of circles and a kind of leafy shape effort.  Luckily, for me, you don’t need to be an artist to do this bit  😊

Once the rough outlines were drawn, (using a heat sensitive pen that would disappear when ironed) I started to fill in the shapes with thread.

Then I ironed away all the ink marks to be left with a cute little flower image.

Then I had to cut out some backs for the cushions  - I measured these to the scale of 1:6 that I am using.

… and sewed them together using the sewing machine, before stuffing them and hand sewing them closed.

Two nice little plump embroidered cushions.   These took around an hour and a half each to make, so time spent on this project so far is now 48 hours.

Monday 12 April 2021

Playing with Gourds

 Recently I have been messing about with Gourds.

One of my uni projects was to embark on something I had not done before, and although I had fancied working with gourds, I had never actually got round to doing anything with the ones that I had ordered on a whim.  So now it was time.

I did a little research and found painted gourds, drilled gourds, carved gourds.  gourd lamps, gourd instruments, gourd bowls.... so many gourd ideas!    So I thought I would try out a few before choosing which technique I liked best to use on my final uni project.

Before starting the gourds have to be cleaned, if you want to have a go at this yourself, do do some research into how to clean your gourds.

The first gourd I carved a hole in the bottom for a light source, then drilled, with many different sized holes.   I learnt a lot drilling this gourd.  I learnt that you needed to have a little hole for the drill to grip into to start otherwise it would bounce all over the place drilling random gorges in the gourds surface.  I also learnt that if you do not apply enough pressure to the drill it will move about and make a bigger, messier hole!  Another lesson was not to apply too much pressure as once the hole was done, the drill would slip forward and mark the surface of the gourd.   So many learning curves   :)

But I was quite pleased with the final outcome, I can position some of the messier holes at the back and no one would ever know   :)  

For a light source I bought these little push-lamps, they work really well with the gourd just sitting on top of one.   But you can also heighten it by placing it on top of an upside down glass, or bean tin, inside the gourd to make the light hit more holes.

The next technique I tried was pyrography.  I researched some more traditional gourd carving designs and tried to apply them to a small practise gourd.

For this project I decided to make a small bowl, so I sawed the top of a gourd and cleaned it out, ready to start,

After sectioning areas off to work in, I started applying some heat via the pyrography iron - it has some patterned tips which I used to create the designs.

This was fun, but quite smelly and smoky, and I had to wait a long time inbetween patterns for the iron to cool down enough to enable me to change the tip.

I think maybe to finish this off it needs a coat of some wood oil or something, it looks a little raw.

When I explored painting these gourds I considered acrylics, which I think would work really well, but I am not an artist and I prefer just to move colour about in a random way, so after a little research I decided to order some alcohol inks and a bottle of 99% alcohol to help spread the ink about.

I could just blob this ink onto the gourd, then add the alcohol to move it about and make pretty patterns.  The one above was a small gourd, but I liked the effect so much that I decided to have a go on a larger gourd.

I was really pleased with how this turned out... but this is the back of the gourd, the front had a crack right in the centre. I was keeping it just to do some practise on, but now I really liked it and wanted to make it into something beautiful.
So  I sawed off the top, and sawed around the crack.

I then cut some holes up the sides of the hole to create eyelets.   After sanding the opening and the top, I painted them gold, along with the drilled holes.  

Then I laced it up with some gold ribbon.    No idea, how useful this piece could be, but it certainly looks pretty now   :)

Now I have to decide which of these techniques I am going to use for my final piece.... any suggestions?