Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 Review

Warning – long post with lots of photos! Get a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable!!
As 2011 comes to an end, I wish you all a very happy New Year, and thank you to everyone who has visited my blog, left such lovely comments, and have signed up to follow me. I hope many more will choose to do likewise in 2012!
I would never have imagined, 18 months ago, when I started my blog, what doors it would open for me in my creativity, and also in building friendships around the world. Thank you everyone who has helped make this happen! Being virtually housebound and seeing very few people day to day, I could have ended up lonely and depressed but with my wonderful hubby who does so much for me, and all my online contacts and friends, the days are not long enough for me to enjoy all the blessings in my life!

Significant Events in 2011

Family.  In April, my mum turned 90. In May, my hubby and I celebrated our Silver Wedding, and we had a wonderful few days away to celebrate, with my parents, in North Devon. In August, our oldest nephew got married in Estonia. Finally, in December, my uncle died.
General and Fun Things. In March, we got Katie, our new car. In April, Wonderwoman (my home help) turned 50, and her mum turned 70. In April, we met up with a friend from the Brainfog forum and had a nice day out together at Dartington. In May we had a hoopoe in our garden! Great excitement.  In July, I decided to sign up to “WOYWW” (What’s On Your Workdesk Wednesday), a weekly blog hop where we all nose around in each other’s studios/craft rooms and see what we are all up to. (See the link in my sidebar for more info.) This has turned out to be highly addictive and great fun, and I’ve made new friends though it too.  Also in July we had a lovely day out in Cornwall with my mum and dad. In August, I got my hair permed! Also, we had another lovely outing with my parents, this time to the eastern side of Plymouth Sound. In September I went to a craft show in Exeter and met up with my friend Wendy who I met online through our art. In October we had an exhibition in our church and I sold a couple of items, after which I opened my Etsy store (still nothing sold on there…) In November I was invited by a local Christian group to do some Bible teaching sessions with them, and so far have done two. I shall be continuing this on an informal, irregular basis next year. Also in November (not such fun) I was really poorly with a throat infection which put paid to much creativity.
Technology. Throughout the year, our senior kitty, Beatrice (Beatrice the Computer Queen) was very active on my laptop and left me all sorts of interesting things to find after she had been playing. In June (not so much fun, as it turned out!) I had a major computer upgrade and had a lot of problems getting it up and running again. After all the hassle, it was lovely having new, bigger hard drives in my big laptop, and Windows 7. In July I got a new printer/scanner (my old scanner no longer being compatible) – excellent machine which will print on virtually anything I throw at it, including quite thick card. Finally, in December, I got my new Black Cat Cougar cutting machine, which is still in the box until I can find the time to start the steep learning curve of how to use it.
Cameras. I’ve made quite a few videos for Youtube this year, some in tutorial form, and others of pieces I’ve made, or was in the process of making. I’ve now got my wonderful video camera rig that my hubby’s friend made for me, which makes filming my work in progress a doddle, and of course I’ve been continuing with my still photography, of my art work and of the various outings etc. that we’ve had. I have enjoyed using the cameras in conjunction with software.
ARTHaven. In January I did another ARTHaven revamp and got my pegboards up, complete with accessories. In October, I finally got round to sorting my brown table which has always been too low – my hubby found some bricks to put under the legs! As 2012 begins, with the addition of my new printer and cutting machine, I am now well set up. (Till the next revamp… my hubby runs for the hills!!!)

Art Projects

As far as my art goes, 2011 has been my Most Productive Year Ever!! I hardly know where to begin.
Although I have been creative all my life, and have made cards on and off for years, it is only since I started my blog that things have really taken off for me, even more so when my hubby helped me set up a dedicated creative space in the form of my ARTHaven. It is as if the second half of 2010 was the beginning, and a dummy run for 2011, and I feel my confidence has really grown in the past year, to the extent that if there’s something I want to make, I know I can do it, even if I have to think about it for a while!
Many of my projects this year involved learning new techniques and pushing the boundaries of my creativity – a great adventure!
2011 being such a significant year for special occasions with my family and friends, I’ve had a lot of extra special projects to make. I’ll start with cards.


Valentine’s Day Cards. I had a field-day with Valentine’s this year – a card and pressie for my lovely hubby, a card for my friend to give her hubby, and an ATC swap!

Birthday, Retirement and Mother’s Day Cards, based on a similar design. A card for Wonderwoman’s 50th, a retirement card for a couple we know, and a card for my mum.

Waves Mechanical Pop-Up Card. A special card for my hubby’s birthday to commemorate the Big Splash he made when he fell in the river and lost his wellie! Definitely a project which stretched me as I’d not done a mechanical card before, and also the pop-up took a lot of thinking about.

Long-Case Clock Card. A birthday card for my dad, who’s a horologist among other things.

Fan-tastic Birthday Card. A birthday card for my cousin, who has made cards for years. This was a fun project that involved using my new 5-in-1 punch.

Core’dinations Cards. These are two cards I made for my aunt: a birthday card which used one of my new Tim Holtz Texture Fades embossing folders:

and I card I made for her after my uncle died.

Collection of Birthday Cards for my Mum. These were her Christmas present this year. She loves to send out cards that I’ve made! (Work in progress in this photo.)

Inking with Embossing as a Resist. After seeing this technique at a craft show, I created a fffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff collection of samples which were then made up into cards. (All weird typing in the post courtesy of Beatrice the Computer Queen – she’s just landed on said computer!!)

Book-Style Cards. Apart from my hubby’s mechanical card, I think these have been the most exciting cards I’ve made this year. I made one for my mum’s 90th and the other for Wonderwoman’s mum’s 70th. Both came in a box with a stand.


I’ve been practising the one-stroke painting technique this year, where you load the brush with two colours, and with a single stroke, create a shaded shape. I made a collection of ATCs using this technique, some of which I made up into thank-you cards for the people who acted as my carers during my hubby’s absence in August.
The rest were made up as small framed paintings.
In addition to these, I also painted a number of square mirror frames using this technique.


I altered a few small boxes I bought at a craft show – I didn’t manage to do as many of these as I’d have liked, but did manage to sell one. There are some on my Etsy store and the others have been given away.

This is the box I made for my mum’s birthday card collection.

This is a little handbag-shaped box I made for a friend:


These have been the product of various experimental processes I’ve been trying – good to use small sizes so nothing’s wasted if all goes pear-shaped, and you end up with a nice collection of ATCs at the end of it! Most of these need some finishing, but could be completed if I wanted to take part in a swap. I often use ATCs as toppers for cards too.


I’ve made quite a number of paper flowers this year for use in various projects, mostly from Penny Duncan’s free cut files.

Silk Painting

I painted a scarf for my mum’s birthday, which wasn’t terribly successful, and was very tiring to do, as I had to stand to reach over the table. Not something I shall be doing a lot more of, I don’t think.

Friendly Plastic

I’d like to explore this further. Having done some work with the pellets, I want to start on the strips, and also continue making things with moulds. These are the gear wheels and other steampunk bits and pieces I made from the pellets, first unpainted:

and then painted with black gesso:

and finally on a steampunk mirror.


Making silicone putty moulds has been tremendous fun. So far I’ve only used them for Friendly Plastic pellets.

Mixed Media

I think this has been one of the most exciting things I’ve been involved with this year, touching the surface of something with so much potential! One thing I’ve been particularly excited by is exploring the world of acrylic gel mediums with their huge potential for texture and making acrylics more versatile and useful to work with.

I’d like to explore the steampunk theme further, too. I have not had as much time this year as I’d have liked, really to get into this, but I’ve done enough to whet my appetite!

Special Presents

For my hubby for our silver wedding, and for our nephew for his wedding I altered a couple of small box frames.

Digital Work

This year I bought Serif’s CraftAftist digital scrapbooking software, and although I used it quite a bit when I first got it, I haven’t done much since. However, I did do a few interesting projects.

I have also used it in conjunction with my other imaging software to produce some backgrounds for other projects. I created some interesting backgrounds from photographs and scans of ancient church parish records.

Digital drawing. I’ve designed some cut files, and also some texture overlays for digital work and uploaded them as free files for anyone to download from my SkyDrive (details in my sidebar). I’ve also done a few other bits and pieces.


I’ve revived my crochet after many years of not doing any, and made up some fine cotton motifs to use as embellishments. I joined the Ravelry forum and (when the wretched thing is working properly and actually lets me on there!) I’ve made some friends and had a lot of fun, particularly with the “CatKnits” and “Geeks” boards.

Since Christmas (with the advent of my lovely new Freeform Crochet book, courtesy of my dear hubby) I have launched into freeform crochet. Not done much so far, but here’s a bit:

WHAT an eventful year it’s been! Hope I haven’t left anything out!

Next year

Sheba, my new Black Cat Cougar cutting machine, will be my main project for the first part of the year, learning how to use her and gradually building up my skills until her use becomes second nature. In the meantime I shall keep Jiminy Cricut running so that I can go on producing things while I am learning. I have plans to make masks and stencils and also to cut shapes from mounting board for embellishing – something I’ve been unable to do up until now. One day I am hoping to get into the whole area of mini-albums and to be able to cut my own covers will be great. I am also looking forward to working in different media and expanding my horizons further than papercrafting as far as the cutting machine is concerned, and want to do 3-D work, and make jewellery and ornaments, and maybe even some new decorations for my wheelchair!
Digital work. More cut files especially, and I’m keen to expand my online collection of free files for people to download, but also maybe more use made of my software to create digital stamps and images for use in projects? I’ve just got a second hand copy of My Craft Studio Encyclopaedia of Templates etc. from Ebay and I shall have some fun with this, although it’s not as good as I’d been led to believe – I am planning to use it in conjunction with Serif CraftArtist and my other imaging software to produce more backgrounds for various projects, and also hopefully to convert some of the templates to svg format for the cutting machine. I certainly want to create some digital templates for different cards and 3-D projects, and maybe design some pop-ups and origamic architecture projects too. I’d also very much like to revamp my blog this coming year – I’m fed up with the background I’ve got, which I put on soon after I started, and I want something that reflects my personality and my work a bit better now.
Mixed media. I feel I’ve only scratched the surface with this exciting new adventure! I have got lots of interesting things lined up to create textures, and a good selection of acrylic paints now, so I am keen to get on with that. I am keen to explore further the properties and use of reflective surfaces – metal, mirror card etc. in 3-D projects.
Melting and fusing. My hubby gave me a book on this for Christmas and I’d like to explore this interesting technique further – I’ve done a small amount but without much guidance, and I want to put my materials and equipment through their paces!
Boxes. More altered boxes, and also I’d like to do some more explosion boxes this year – I haven’t done any this year!
Crochet. More freeform crochet - I am looking forward to making motifs while relaxing on the settee.
Dyeing. Thinking about my crochet again, and also seeing what a friend of mine is doing with her weaving, has got me thinking about dyeing again – something else I haven’t done for many years. I did some very successful samples in the microwave and started making a chart of all the ranges of colour using precisely weighed quantities of dye, and it would be lovely to take that up again. My legs are not up to spinning at the moment but I’ve got quite a bit of yarn that I spun years ago, and can use commercial unbleached wool, and also fleece tops which would be fun, which leads me to…
Felting. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years! I’m thinking of getting a felting needle and having a go at that. This will tie in with my crochet projects too.
Not so many special occasions in the family next year so although there will still be the regular cards to make, hopefully I’ll have more time to develop my skills and creativity in a “pure research” sense without the pressure of deadlines.
So many thrilling possibilities and things to think about creating and doing – I feel like a child in a toy shop before Christmas!

Other Plans

Not sure how much time and energy there will be for it, though, because we are hoping to get my parents moved to somewhere more suitable in the spring, and goodness knows how much time and energy that little project will take – if indeed we are successful! Also, my hubby will be retiring in a couple of years’ time, so I need to be thinking about sorting stuff out and getting rid of things, before we actually have to move ourselves. This includes the ongoing work of digitising a lot of magazines and written material that I have cluttering up the place.
However much I would like it not to be so, all these plans have to take into account the unpredictability of my health – sometimes days and weeks go by when I am pretty well unable to do anything at all – although I do try to make use of those times to learn how to do things from online tutorials etc. I am hoping to be blessed with lots of energy this year because there’s so much I want to do!!!
Sorry this has been so long, but I did warn you! I hope you enjoyed this whistle-stop tour through Shoshi’s 2011, though.
At this time of year we all tend to look back and take stock, and look forward and make plans, but we need to remember that “man proposes, and God disposes”! None of us knows what’s ahead, and we shouldn’t get too upset if our plans come to nothing! God knows better than we do, after all. With that in mind, have a great year, everybody!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Freeform Crochet

My hubby has given me a marvellous book for Christmas: “Freeform Crochet and Beyond,” by Renate Kirkpatrick (who is a lovely lady, by the way – so friendly and always willing to answer questions!) – this is not a book of crochet patterns to make specific items, so if you want to make a jumper or a hat and want a pattern, this is not the book for you. On the contrary – the only patterns are for basic motifs, but there are instructions for the more common crochet stitches, and how to join the motifs etc. too, and the book is full of inspiration, with numerous pictures of the author’s own work. It’s really a springboard for one’s own inspiration and creativity! It is absolutely mouthwatering.

I recently took up my crochet again, and made a few small motifs with fine cotton a few months ago, which is great, but rather tiring on one’s eyes after a bit. I wanted to have something small to pick up and do when I am on the settee, perhaps not feeling well enough to be in my ARTHaven, but well enough to want to do something, or perhaps just watching TV with my hubby. I’ve been thinking of reviving my knitting again too, but the thought of embarking on a full-scale project was a bit daunting. I used to do a lot of Kaffe Fassett-style knitting with loads of colours – I loved designing my own stuff – but it takes a lot of planning, and the knitting itself gets pretty huge and heavy after a while!

The discovery of Renate’s book was an inspiration in itself – I can’t remember where I found it – a link on someone’s blog, I think – but when my hubby asked what I’d like for Christmas, I said this book! (He also gave me another book, which I’ll post about another time.) The idea is that you make up lots of small “patches” in different colours and textures, and then join them together into whatever you want. This is not only highly creative and individual, and quite quirky, but ideal for me from a practical point of view – I can make a few small pieces in an evening and it’s not taxing, or too heavy to hold for any length of time.

This evening I made a start. On the right in the picture above you can see the pieces I made. Here they are in more detail (with the exception of the small red triangle).

This is the first piece I made – a small rectangle using various shades of pale pink, including some mohair, worked in double crochet.

I thought I’d start with simple shapes and then move on to more complex pieces, although I’m a competent crocheter and should be able to manage most things!

This is my second piece, another rectangle, also in double crochet, but this time with the addition of a scallop at the top.

After working on a simple triangle, also in double crochet, I moved on to spirals, one of Renate’s favourite motifs.

My first one is quite simple; a basic spiral with some surface embellishment in the form of slip stitches in pale pink mohair over a darker pink background.

The final piece I made tonight was another spiral, this time quite a bit bigger at about 4 1/2 inches diameter – I think from now on I’ll keep them to about 2 or 3 inches. I embellished this with more elaborate surface stitching which has turned out better than I thought it would at first. It’s gone a bit frilly around the edges and may not be suitable for incorporation into the project I am planning, but no matter – as Renate says, you can save up all the motifs you make, and they will slot into place in later projects if they don’t seem to be working in the current one.

This is the basket of yarns I selected a few days ago (being photobombed by Phoebe – kitties always manage to get themselves into photos of anything involving wool!).

Years ago I bought this jumper from a cheap catalogue:

It was very inexpensive and not made of particularly good quality yarn, and it’s rather short, but I’ve always adored the colours and textures in it, and even though it has been rather pulled with kitty claws over the years, I can’t bear to part with it! My thought was to knit it again in better yarn, but when I discovered freeform crochet, I decided to use that instead, and make a radically new design, but keeping the same basic colour palette. These first pieces I’ve made will probably be incorporated into this project.

Thank you, Renate, for launching me on this exciting new voyage of discovery in colour and texture!

This is obviously going to take a long time, so keep your eyes open for progress reports!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas 2011

We spent a quiet Christmas Day with my parents at the house of a great family friend – we usually try to spend the day together. This year it was a doddle getting there compared with last year when the weather was not conducive to travel – snow and ice everywhere, and loads of events had to be cancelled!

As usual we all contributed in different ways to the meal – my parents providing the turkey and stuffings, our friend the pudding and everything else (not to mention her beautifully decorated home and table) and we brought the vegetables.

On our arrival she treated us to Bucks Fizz and smoked salmon canapes. Then in for dinner!

This is my contribution – mashed carrot and parsnip – being different colours I thought I’d make a star!

My dinner awaiting the gravy!

I was absolutely delighted to see my Christmas present from last year being used as a table centre! It was my poinsettia explosion box!

She had decorated the table so beautifully.

Our gracious hostess presenting the Christmas pudding!

Cracker time!

Coffee after dinner.

We had great fun opening all our presents, and after a cup of tea, left for home.

The next day my hubby and I visited one of his brothers for our annual Boxing Day family gathering with his side of the family – this year the party was severely depleted because the older two nephews were spending Christmas with their in-laws.

After all this, I’m shattered, so resting today.

Hope everyone reading this had a great time over Christmas.

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