Pangolin Potato Prints

This morning I made Christmas cards. I decided that I wanted to make cards this year, but for it to be fun, as opposed to a lot of time fretting over them. So the answer.. printing.. specifically, potato printing!

I made this little drawing as my starting point, based on a postcard I bought at the British Library exhibition. I thought the idea of a Christmas tree coming to life as a pangolin would be fun – these creatures do look a little bit like pine cones after all.

I got the longest potato in the cupboard and cut it in half. A basic error I made with my previous (and first) printing attempt was not cutting the potato very straight, making the surface of the print uneven. So, cut it straight, with a sharp knife in one motion. Ninja style if you can. (I can’t)

Then, I drew the pangolin outline onto a piece of paper, exactly the size I wanted to print. I used thin-ish paper, so the outline showed through when turned over. I transferred the drawing to the potato by turning the piece of paper over, putting it on the cut surface of the potato and pricking the outline through with a pin. When I took the paper off again, the pinpricks were barely visible, so I used a paintbrush to apply a thin wash of colour to the potato cut surface to ‘bring out’ the design.

I then used a scalpel to cut out the outline and cut away a layer of potato from the edge. This bit’s fiddly, and worth taking time over. You need to make sure there are no little pieces left in the gaps, because these will accumulate paint, giving a smudgy outline. Details of eyes, nose and scales were done just by making cuts, not by lifting any pieces out – potato prints can give a surprising amount of detail.

Then, I printed onto the cards, playing around with pangolin placement.

Next, some colour in the shape of some baubles, a star, and a Xmas tree bucket.

Finished! Well, apart from the finishing touch, with the glitter glue. Trust me, it’ll work.

A visit to the British Library

On Sunday we went to see Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire at the British Library.

The dozens of vivid, excruciatingly finely detailed miniature paintings on display would have originally been made only for the eyes of a select few at the royal court. Which is why it’s all the more special to see them today, along with thousands of other visitors (although it wasn’t that busy when we were there!).

I particularly liked one eighteenth-century painting of a pangolin by Shaikh Zain al-Din.

It inspired a (slightly less) lavish idea for homemade pangolin Xmas cards. Stay tuned..

Knitting Lessons

Recently I had a fantastic opportunity to teach some beginners to knit. Thankyou Craft Guerrilla for the experience!

It was fun, but a reminder of how awkward it feels when you first hold the needles. Knitting is such a relaxing and therapeutic activity, but in order to get to that stage, you need to get through the slightly frustrating and slow process of learning. I was so proud to get a group of newbies through casting on and mastering knit stitch. They were keen enough to take their yarn and needles home, so hopefully I’ve inspired some new knitters.

I was so intensely focused on peering over everyone’s shoulders that I forgot to take any pictures, so here’s Sayed patiently acting as my ‘guinea pig’ learner. Apologies for the terrible quality images, but I couldn’t resist attempting an animated gif.

dhBPyI on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

make animated gifs like this at MakeAGif

Train journey

At the weekend Sayed and I went to visit friends in Exeter. We had a great time there, visiting the beach, playing and singing with their sweet little boy. But, I have to say, one of my favourite bits was our productive three-hour train journey there, me knitting, Sayed drawing. Here are a few photos.

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1. New fairisle glove project. 2. & 3. Knitting. 4. One messy train table. 5. One talented illustrator (and photographer). 6. Sporting his new jumper. 7. Beautiful light on a fresh drawing.

Old Socks

Another find from the V&A Museum collection. This pair of socks was excavated in Egypt and is estimated to have been made around 250 to 420 AD – that’s 1590 to 1760 years old! They may be a bit grubby, but otherwise these ‘sandal socks’ seem to be in remarkably good nick.

Although they look knitted, they were actually made using a technique called nålbindning, the slower, one-needle forerunner of today’s knitting.

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fresh mittens

Fresh mittens, with thumbs this time! I used the ‘Snowflakes’ pattern from Lesley Anne Price’s Kids Knits, in 4ply alpaca wool. I haven’t had much experience with colourwork, so knitting these in the round were a bit of a challenge. If anyone has any tips on working with more than one colour in the round (for example, how do you strand the yarn on the ends of the needles evenly?), I would love to know them.

Knitting the thumb, front and back.

The finished mitten, front and back.

A Long Day

I got home this evening and started work on a pair of mittens for a friend’s new (well, 14 month-old) baby.

A long day must have taken its toll.. because I’ve only just realised that I’ve missed out the thumb. Oh dear, mitten fail. Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.

The pattern I tried (and failed) to use is one from Leslie Anne Price’s Kids Knits, unfortunately now out of print. I highly recommend it.

It’s finished!

I’m so glad to finally finish this jumper.

With it I’ll be rid of a few knitting demons which had accumulated as I struggled to remember what size needles I’d done the first sleeve on, find my cable needle and maintain any level of motivation over the past *ahem* two years.

In the future I’ll try to take some photos of the process of making projects.

Eivor Fisher’s ‘Swedish Embroidery’

In an earlier post I mentioned finding this beautiful book on Swedish embroidery, written by Eivor Fisher for an Anchor series in 1953. Here is a sneaky peek to show you how inspiring this book is. I loved reading about the traditional bridegroom shirts, made by their future wife to be worn on their wedding day, and “often not used again until needed as a shroud”.

Mrs. Morris and the Wombat

I’ve recently been doing some research on Jane Morris. She was named Jane Burden before she married William Morris, the poet and designer craftsman, and she modeled for many of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s drawings and paintings. Her features have come to represent the quintessential Pre-Raphaelite female beauty, and might look familiar from the posters for the current Tate Britain exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Avante-Gardes.

I was bemused/ amused to come across this less-well known drawing by Rossetti of her with  …a wombat.

Rossetti had an ongoing fascination with wombats, and even kept one as a pet. The drawing was made after the death of ‘Top’ the wombat and Rossetti clearly laments its passing in the accompanying poem, which also seems to be a reference to his love for Jane:

Parted Love!

Oh! how the family affections combat

Within this heart; and each hour flings a bomb at

My burning soul; neither from owl nor from bat

Can peace be gained, until I clasp my Wombat.

More information about both drawing and poem can be found on the Rossetti Archive website.

Top the wombat was also a Pre-Raphaelite muse for William Bell Scott, in this drawing now in the Tate Collection.