2016 was a year of amazing travel experiences for me. Within two months, we had two completely different and equally wondrous wildlife experiences on literally opposite sides of the world, and I wanted to commemorate our adventures, so I chose one of my favourite photos from each trip, and had them professionally printed onto canvas.
A baby zebra travelling in a family herd at the Kruger Park, South Africa, and a green sea turtle emerging from the breakers on Oahu, Hawaii.
As it proved very difficult to capture good photos of the canvases, here are my source photos so you can imagine how great the canvases look in person, hanging on my walls. Click to enlarge:
I’ve never done anything like this before, and I had no idea how they’d turn out, but my canvases look like professional photo artwork!
Every time I look around my living room, I’m reminded of the natural wonders we’ve seen, and it’s even more special knowing that it’s my own photography on display.
Having canvases printed with photos of your treasured memories creates unique, personalised home décor. It’s much more interesting than just hanging a framed photo, and you can get huge canvases that make a real impact on the wall.
If you’d like to get special photo memories printed onto canvas, many photographic shops now offer this service, so you can probably find a shop that’s local to you. The prices seem to be fairly reasonable, especially if you look out for special offers. (Make sure you get the protective UV-resistant coating – sometimes this may cost extra – so your canvases don’t fade.)
My canvases are A2 size (roughly 42cm x 60cm; 16inches x 23inches), which I thought would be huge, but my walls are large and empty and I sometimes wish I’d had them printed at twice the size. Big and bold is the way to go. I’ll know for next time – and I’m sure there will be a next time…
I’ve been waiting for a very long time to be able to show you this piece! I was commissioned to make some punchneedle-embroidered artwork in 2009 for a book about stories told through needlearts. Recent years have created an uncertain climate for traditional print publishing, and (to make a very long story short) the book never made it to print. So, after years of waiting, I’m finally free to show you what I made…
I chose the folk tale of the Musicians of Bremen for my design for several reasons: the story spoke to me; it’s not an obvious choice of story, so it hasn’t been overused or Disneyfied; it features animals; and there’s the iconic image of the animals standing on each others’ backs that I thought would translate well into my artwork.
If you’re not familiar with the story, the four abandoned animals find each other as they each set out alone to seek their fortune as musicians in Bremen, but ultimately they discovered all they needed to be happy when they found a home and the companionship of their friends. I like this moral of simple comfort and happiness.
Fine detail in the cockerel and silver mackerel tabby markings.
I designed my piece to be set in the forest at night, showing the animals looking through the window of the cottage that would ultimately become their home. The visual impact comes from the color of the animals and the warmth of the lighted cottage window against the cool, dark background of the forest. I used a palette of 29 shades of embroidery floss in this piece, including a colour-blending technique to add depth to the forest floor.
Awww, donkey! Plus some of the colour-blended background.
It took a couple of months to complete the embroidery. The finished piece measures 7 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches (19.7 x 14.0 cm) and is stretched over felt-covered board so it doesn’t need a frame and can be propped on a mantelpiece or hung on a wall. The Musicians of Bremen is my second-largest punchneedle project after my globe (pictured below, with my crocheted orangutan):
I haven’t had time to make any new punchneedle projects since the globe, but looking at my Musicians of Bremen piece makes me hope I can find some time to start punching again – it makes for such colourful, textural, satisfying projects!
If this post has you intrigued about punchneedle embroidery, please see my Punchneedle FAQ for more info, a tutorial, lots of patterns, and my ebook, The Punchneedle Handbook.
July 21, 2011 @ 9:21 am
· Filed under Art, Crochet
Columbo has always been my favourite TV detective. I love how the show turned the detective genre on its head by showing the murder at the start, so you never had to guess whodunnit as you watched (something I never manage with my other favourite detective, Poirot), and how dishevelled, disarming Columbo always got the better of the arrogant, affluent murderers. I have all the box sets on DVD and still think that watching Columbo makes for a perfect cosy Sunday afternoon at home.
When I heard that Peter Falk had passed away I decided to make an amigurumi Columbo as a tribute to all the years of brilliance he brought to his most famous role. And here it is:
Please click through to see the larger version!
I used the Boy pattern from my own book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi. If you’ve seen my book, you’ll know that I made my Boy and Girl patterns fairly generic so it’s easy to customize and embellish them (using the techniques I explain throughout the book) to create any character. For ami-Columbo, I shortened the legs and added a belt, shirt collar and tie. I made the arms thinner so that the raincoat would fit over the top, I changed the hair, and I added the cigar. Apart from that, ami-Columbo is worked exactly as the Boy pattern.
“Excuse me, sir?”
Reproducing Columbo’s crumpled old raincoat took a long time of trying different hooks and stitch patterns until I found one that would give a flexible fabric without any lacey holes, so it wouldn’t hang too straight and perfect or look too ‘pretty’. I was going to make the raincoat fully removeable, but I decided that, as I wanted him to have jointed, poseable arms, I should work the arms (including raincoat sleeves) separately, and then attach them over the body of the raincoat. This way, the arms of the raincoat can move with his arms, so the fabric doesn’t bunch when I change his arm positions.
“Sorry to bother you, ma’am…”
Ami-Columbo’s hair is crocheted from 2 strands of curly eyelash yarn worked together (the black yarn alone was too stark, and the brown too light) with a side parting, and shaping at the back. Even his ever-present cigar is crocheted!
“What did you pay for those shoes?”
Of course, Columbo wears his scuffed old brown shoes, and, were you to peek under his trouser cuffs, he’s wearing black socks too.
“Alright, now stay! Don’t go running around. You see? This dog could be a lethal weapon; he’s already partly trained.”
And how could I make Columbo without also crocheting Dog, his pet basset hound and sometime sidekick (talents: eating ice cream and staying in the car). By the way, if you’d like to make your own Dog, look out for my AmiDogs Basset Hound crochet pattern, coming next week…
I did consider crocheting Columbo’s other great supporting character: his battered old Peugeot car. Then I calculated how large it would need to be, to be in scale with ami-Columbo… Peter Falk was 5’6″ (let’s say 5’8″ including shoes and hair); the Peugeot 403 was 176″ long. Ami-Columbo is 11″ tall, so at that scale, his car would have to be 28.5″ (72cm) long! I definitely don’t have enough time or yarn to make something that size, although it would have made for an amazing crocheted diorama 🙂
I hope you enjoyed my little tribute to Lieutenant Columbo and to Peter Falk – I hope he would have appreciated it! Please leave me a comment if you liked it…
UPDATE: I’m adding this due to the massive amount of requests I’ve received for Columbo commissions or a Columbo pattern. Thank you so much for your interest, but:
Please don’t ask me to make you a Columbo – I’m a busy designer and just don’t have the time to take commissions for finished pieces.
If you’d like to make your own amigurumi characters, you can use the Boy (or Girl) pattern from my book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Amigurumi, together with the customization and embellishment techniques I explain throughout the book, to create any character. That’s how I made my Ami-Columbo, so there is no pattern to replicate Columbo exactly (although, if you’d like to make one too, there are some notes on my customizations in the post above). Use my techniques and your creativity to customize my basic Boy/Girl patterns into any character you choose!
June 14, 2010 @ 11:49 am
· Filed under Art, Crochet
I was inspired to make this by a crochet challenge on Craftster. The challenge theme was fantasy, and Narnia sprang to mind immediately. When I was younger, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia series, especially The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I spent my pocket money on a lovely boxset of the paperbacks that included the original illustrations. And then I was given a book written about Narnia that explained all the Christian symbolism C.S. Lewis had built into the stories, and I was horrified: I felt like I’d been cheated into reading religious propaganda, and Narnia lost its appeal. It took me many years, but I eventually decided to ignore all the Christian subtext and re-read them, and I discovered that the stories are still charming and wonderful (except The Last Battle, but that’s another story) and I returned to the magic of Narnia. If you haven’t read these books, you really should!
Anyway, back to my design. I thought Aslan was too obvious a choice, but I wanted to make a very recognisable character, so who better than the fearless and valiant mouse Reepicheep? The scene from the end of The Voyage of The Dawn Treader has always stuck with me, and the prophetic verse:
Where sky and water meet,
Where the waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter East.
So, without further ado, I present… Sir Reepicheep! (Please click the pic to see the full size version – you can’t appreciate it properly at this scale.)
Reepicheep paddles in his coracle, through a sea of lilies, to the end of the world
Reepicheep was very educational to me: without him, I wouldn’t know what a coracle is (a small, round, lightweight, one-man boat made from woven wooden strips) or the meaning of the word poltroon (a coward). In fact, I think ‘poltroon’ is such a great word, we should all start using it in daily conversation!
Reepicheep and accessories took 11 types and colours of yarn and 4 sizes of crochet hook. It’s very important to me to make as much as possible from crochet, so everything you can see is crocheted. I used fiberfill stuffing, 3 different types of wire (pipe cleaners, floral wire and beading wire) to provide internal structure, and a piece of plastic canvas inside the paddle blade to keep it flat. And every single item came from my stash, so the entire project cost me nothing!
Reepicheep stands at 9 inches (23 cm) tall. His arms and legs have a floral wire skeleton to make him poseable; his tail is crocheted over pipe cleaners, and his fingers and toes are stabilised with beading wire so they are also poseable. He wears a red feather behind one ear, tucked into a gold band. The gold band gave me problems – every yarn I tried looked too bulky and ridiculous. After 3 useless attempts, I thought I’d try crocheting an i-cord with gold-coloured embroidery thread – something I’ve never tried before (i-cords are usually knitted) but had been meaning to try. It worked really well and made a neat square tube that I stitched together at the ends to form the band.
I crocheted Reep’s rapier over a length of floral wire so it would be rigid. I found some crewel wool in my stash that I thought would make an interesting texture for his sword belt. Unfortunately, you’d have to touch them to appreciate the contrast between the soft yarns I used for Reep and the coarser texture of the belt – so you’ll have to just believe me on this one 🙂
The coracle took a lot of figuring out! I decided to make a basket-weave texture using front- and back-post stitches, to give the coracle a realistic woven look, but because the sides are sloped, I had to figure out how to make increases without interrupting the pattern of the basket-weave. I eventually made every ‘woven strip’ 2 stitches wide at the base of the coracle, and, over 8 rounds, gradually increased the width of each strip so that they are all 3 stitches wide by the top edge. I crocheted tightly so that it’s very sturdy and hold its shape pretty well, and I wet-blocked it over a bowl to help it to stay perfectly round. The paddle has a floral wire handle and plastic canvas blade so it’s strong and rigid.
And finally, I love the sea of waterlilies that Reep paddles through, so I couldn’t resist making a pretty little waterlily to complete the scene! I can’t make a pattern for Reepicheep: for starters I crocheted him freeform so there is no pattern, and, of course, profiting from other people’s copyrighted characters is not legal! But I will be writing up the pattern for the waterlily flower and leaves – it should be finished later this week if you’re interested.