Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Thank you for your loyal readership throughout 2014.

The free offer for Noelle ended on 4 January 2015.  The pattern is available in my Etsy shop HERE.  Thank you for reading my blog, you never know when another freebie might pop up ;-)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Flycatcher - Second rescue successful!

After a while baby Flycatcher seemed to calm down.  I checked it over and didn't find obvious injuries.  It was kicking well with both legs and flapping its wings.  Henning fed it a fly with a pair of tweezers.
I moved the box outside.  In a few minutes it started calling for its parents and both answered.  I could see them flitting around in the trees.
Moments later the Burchalls cougal arrived on the scene and there was another fight.  I sent it packing.  Clyde is watching the tree to make sure it doesn't return.
The mommy bird coming to see if her child's OK.
Here she is on the edge of the box, bringing a bug.

A short while later the baby hopped out of the box and into the tree.
I'm going to take some work outside and sit under the tree for the rest of the day.  Someone's got to watch for that cougal!

Paradise Flycatcher - Update

Yesterday I got up at 4am and returned the Flycatcher baby to its nest.
About an hour later when checked on it, it was sitting on a branch above the nest.  The parents kept returning to feed it throughout the morning and all seemed to be well.
At around 1pm a Burchalls cougal arrived and tried to snack on the baby for lunch.  The parents kicked up a huge fuss and I was able to intervene and chase it away.
The cougal kept returning throughout the afternoon and I chased it away numerous times.
Meanwhile baby bird was being watched over by the parents and I was encouraged to see it taking small leaps between tree branches. I don't think it has enough pin feathers yet to fly, but it is certainly practising.
Last night all three Flycatchers slept together on a branch at the top of the tree and I thought all would be well.
Unfortunately this morning the Flycatcher parents got involved in a serious brawl with Burchalls cougal and we had to intervene once again.  I'm afraid there were injuries.  Henning picked up the seriously scuffed baby from the ground.  I have put it in a box to calm down and will check in a little while to see if it is badly injured.
It worries me that I don't see the mother bird.  The male is outside and calling. 
I will report back later.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Paradise Flycatcher

This little fellow is a guest of the studio tonight.  It's an African Paradise Flycatcher. 
We were very surprised and entertained on Saturday to discover a nest with two babies in a tree where we were sitting in the studio garden.
There were two babies in the nest and the parents were flying in with tasty bugs continously,  undisturbed by the humans at close range. 
On Monday we noticed that one of the babies has disappeared.  The other was healthy and had  noticably grown in two days.  It was filling up the entire nest.  I'm speculating that there was not enough room in that nest for two, and that it is a matter of survival of the fittest...
Here it is in its nest this morning.
And here it is late this afternoon.  You can see it in the middle of the picture, clinging on to a small twig for dear life.  It is only about 1 meter above ground, in danger of predators and exposed to the elements.   We had a storm with wind and icy rain.  It either decided to leave the nest, or was blown out.  For a while the parents brought it food and were frantically calling, trying to get it to move to a safer spot.  
When it became dark it was still on the same twig.  The parents went to sleep in the top of the tree.   I decided to intervene.  It would definitely not survive the night out there. I quietly sneaked up to it and removed it without a peep.  The parents don't know it's gone.
It will be an early call for me tomorrow.  I intend to get up at 4am and return it to the nest before sunrise.  I'm sure its parents will be happy to find it back in the nest, and I will have a peaceful (short) nights sleep, at least not worrying that it is dying out in the cold.
Hopefully tomorrow the sun shines and it can start with flying lessons!
Paradise Flycatcher pictures borrowed from Google Images.

Sleep tight my friends.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Who wants to play?

Who wants to play?  Saturday 13 December 9am till 4pm.  Come any time, leave any time, nothing to pay. 
The garden is cool and green, and there is lots of room and good light inside if it rains.  This is a wonderful opportunity to finish your hand made Christmas presents, or to catch up on PhDs (Projects half-Done). 
Please RSVP so that I have an idea how many people to cater for.  And don't expect too much, I still sometimes suddenly feel tired and need to sit quietly for a while... I am missing my friends.  I would love your company!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh with your whole being. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be ALIVE.”
William Saroyan 

Needed this little message this morning.  It is so easy to fall into the habit of just existing. I don't need big excitement every day,  I can be happy just taking pleasure from things that are there already.  Operative word is taking.  Being alive is a concious decision, you have to be attentive or you will miss it.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Breaking news

We have an OWL!!!
As I write this it is enjoying the sunset view from the Irish Cottage chimney.  I dare not go closer lest I disturb it.  It's a spotted eagle owl.

Last year I received two owl houses for Christmas.  In June when we did winter pruning, we selected trees to put them up.  One behind my studio, and one next to the barn.  Owls need space, they don't like to live too close together.
Henning had to risk life and limb to mount them.  Fortunately he has a safety harness.
Owls like a south facing entrance, and they prefer a clear approach to the nest.
We had to trim quite a few branches.
 Once the nests were mounted, they were hardly visible.
I was told not to worry, the owls would find them.  It might take a few years before they decide to move in though...
Ever the optimist, I've been watching for signs of activity since the start of spring.
Oh how I wish the owl would decide to stay!

Owls are fantastic snake and rodent catchers.  Want your own owl house?  Find the details HERE

Monday, November 10, 2014

Strawberries, anyone?

I am trying my hand at making a cloth ball jointed doll.  Feeling pleased with the way it is coming together so far. 
Summer is a good time for eating healthy, I'm nibbling on fruit as I work.  At one point my doll turned into a handy strawberry holder!

I have also been making a little bit of progress with the ceramic mould project that I'm working on.  Soon I will be able to show you what that is all about.

Wishing you a good week!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Small pleasures

Over the weekend I pottered around in the garden, mostly pulling up weeds.  Henning brought a few baby koi home from the pet store so time was spent pond gazing.   I worked on my cloth Hittys and baked a batch of cookies.   Not a lazy weekend, but very relaxed.  Lovely!

I've been trying to make miniature thread spools.  These are 1:12 scale for a dolls house.  It's fiddly work, but I'm enjoying trying to make them look 'real'.

Wishing you a good week.

Monday, October 27, 2014


We had a good weekend.  It's amazing to see jacaranda flowers, not just a purple haze.  I have been 'practising' wearing my glasses as I did a few odd jobs at Ceramix and sewed and needle sculpted a doll in my studio.  And it rained!  My garden is singing. 

This morning I woke up with a sense of purpose.  I am photographing the Rudolf range at By Word Of Mouth for the Ceramix portfolio later today.  Broadening my horizons during my sabatical from bear making has given me a new lease of life. 

Wishing you a splendid week.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's a new day and a new me

Today Hindus celebrate Divali, a day of light, renewal, lifting of spiritual darkness. 
For me it's a day of light and clear vision.  My spectacles arrived.  Both pairs.
Recent illness caused my eyesight to deteriorate badly.  After enjoying years of near perfect vision, lately I have been stumbling around in a blur.  It's very depressing. 
I used to amaze people with the things I could make with plain eyesight and a pair of hands.   When I moaned about it to a friend she said, "Well, now you can tell them you're half blind and look what you still can do".  So there, no keeping me down!
What I need is one of those handy strings to hang one pair around my neck so that I can perch the other on my head, and switch them around as required. 
Now that I can properly see what I'm doing, I think I will go and sew a bear.
Happy Divali, everyone!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Good Morning Friends!

Good Monday Morning Friends

This weekend I experimented with needle sculpted doll heads.  Here's a quick peek.
A basic round head is made from calico.  It is stuffed firmly and mounted on a dowel.  A second layer of stretch fabric is pulled over the head.  Stitches are applied in some areas such as the eyes, hair line and bridge of the nose.  Stuffing is then inserted between the two cloth layers and sculpting stitches used to further shape the head.
Although I've done needle sculpting, I've never tried this technique before.  Having a firm core to anchor stitches into, and the dowel to hold on to while working makes all the difference.  I'm amazed at how easy it is, and how satisfying the result.

Unfortunately today is Monday.  It's back to work, and I have a lot to do this week with a commercial design that I'm working on.  No playing with these girls anymore till next weekend.

But hey, in this studio work is play!  Wishing you a fulfilling week.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #17

Make miniature buttons
Angus has been sitting around with his waistcoat flapping open for weeks.  I just knew that I was not going to find a tiny black button anywhere, so yesterday we took out the clay and made some!
Tiny buttons can be difficult to source.  Especially if you want a specific colour to match your project.  Not to mention buttons that are not just round... 

Buttons for miniature bears are easy to make.  In this post I'm going to share a few tips for making professional looking buttons.
Although you can use home made cold porcelain, I recommend using polymer clay, it is a little bit stronger.

So get out your clay and let's get started!
Roll out sheets of clay to the thickness desired for the buttons.
You will need cutters to make the shapes.
For round buttons I press into service a variety of things found around my workroom.  Straws, bottle caps, plastic pen cylinders and caps from felt tip pens all become good cutters.
I have tiny Kemper cutters that make shapes such as hearts and stars.  If you don't have a set, don't be jealous.  Here's a tutorial to make your own at no cost.
(It's in a foreign language but the pictures are self explanatory.  Unfortunately the blog where I originally found this tutorial no longer exists, so there's no link to click.)

My secret weapon when making buttons is cling wrap.
Lay a sheet of cling wrap over the clay before you start cutting out shapes.  It will keep the cutters clean and prevent buttons from sticking inside the tiny cutters where you can't easily get them out.  It will also give the surface of your buttons a nice bevelled edge.  Neat!
Buttons on the left were cut with cling wrap, and buttons on the right without.  I like the way the cling wrap bevels the top surface of the button.
Use a stylus or toothpick to make holes in the buttons.  Four holes are possible, but tiny buttons work better with only two holes.
Here's another good tip - tape two pins or two toothpicks together and use them to make evenly spaced holes.
Here's some button inspiration to get your creative juices flowing.[]=polymer|typed&term_meta[]=clay|typed&term_meta[]=buttons|typed

When you have made enough buttons, bake them on a flat surface such as a ceramic tile. 

Next time we are going to (try to) take a closer look at invisible sewing thread. 

My book page for Lesson 17.

In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .

Still Around

Just when you thought I might have disappeared for good, here I am checking in.
All is well, I'm healing up nicely and finally starting to get my strength and energy back.
I've stopped thrasing about trying to get out of the emotional quagmire I'm in. Going to  wait for the sun to dry it up and make my world a happy place.  Apparently some things can't be rushed.

I finished a post for Project 52, and have week 18 through 23 mapped out.  Yippee! 

Wishing you a relaxed and creative weekend.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

To all my friends living close enough to Parkhurst in Johannesburg to attend, here are details of the Miniatures Festival next weekend. Sadly, this will be the first year that I don't have a sales table and exhibits at the festival. I will be there for a short visit on Saturday though. I hope to run into many of you!

Here's a picture of my BBS (Big Black Suitcase) display from last year's exhibition.

Johannesburg Society of Miniature Enthusiasts

22nd Annual Festival of Miniatures

August 30th 9h00 till 16h00

August 31st 9h00 till 14h00

Parkhurst Recreation Centre

Cnr 5th Ave and 13th Street


Entrance R10-00

Contact: Sue 011 787 2340

Friday, August 15, 2014

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #16

Make a waistcoat
Making clothes for tiny bears can be a challenge.  Non-fray fabrics such as felt are often too bulky, and thin cotton and silk tend to fray.  It used to frustrate me no end, especially since I have a wonderful stash of vintage cotton fabric with small motifs. 
A friend who makes doll clothes taught me this method for working with fabrics that fray - simply double it up!  This means no more working with fiddly linings around the neck and armholes.  Clothes that are made this way are robust enough that children can play with it.
To start, you will need a paper pattern.  I designed the pattern for a waistcoat for Angus the same way that we made the bolero pattern in Week 15.  If you don't want to draw your own pattern, you can use mine, you will find the the template to print HERE.
Fold double the piece of fabric that you will use for the waistcoat, with the right sides inside, and pin together so that the fabric layers won't move.  Trace the pattern on to the fabric.
(I used calico to make a sample waistcoat so that you can see the steps more easily.  My Angus waistcoat is made from burgundy silk with a fine black stripe, it would not photograph!).
The template lines are the sewing line.  This makes it easier to sew the seams accurately.  The seam allowances still need to be added on so don't cut the waistcoat from the fabric yet.  I stitched my waistcoat on the sewing machine, but you could do it by hand.  Leave the side seams open.   
Once all the seams are sewn, cut out the waistcoat, leaving a 2-3mm (1/16 inch) seam allowance. Clip the curves and corners.  The side seam openings can be fray checked, and a very thin line of fray check applied around the neckline and on the corners if you are concerned that the fabric might fray when turned right side out.
Carefully turn the waistcoat right side out.  I found it easier to turn it working through the side seams on the back of the waistcoat. Use a hemostat or long tweezers.  Press the seams flat.  If your waistcoat needs ironing, now is a good time to do it.
Fold under the raw edges on the waistcoat side seams, front and back.  At this point your waistcoat does not have a right side and a wrong side, unless you used different fabric for the lining.  Fold the waistcoat at the shoulder so that the front and back side seams match up under the arm hole. Whipstitch together the two inside layers of the side seam.
Ladder stitch or whipstitch the two outer layers of the side seam together.  Repeat for the other side of the waistcoat.
The waistcoat is finished!
Next time we will add hand made buttons.
My book page for Lesson 15. 

In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday, Monday!

Can't tell you what I've been doing lately... because it feels as though I'm doing... nothing. 
Which isn't true.
Ruminating, recuperating, re-organizing.
I'm moving into a new life, one where the previous occupant left behind a pile of baggage.  I'm physically and emotionally sorting out the old stuff to make room for myself.
This is not such a tedious job as it sounds.  I'm delighting in re-discovered treasures, giving away things that will be useful to someone else, making a spectacular bonfire of the rest.
I am becoming a happier person!
Every once in a while I look out the window and see  the season progressing, and I worry that the world out there is carrying on and passing me by during this period of uncommunicative self-sorting-out.  Then so be it.  I'm busy.  Can't come out to play. 

Wishing you a good week, friends!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Project 52 - Miniature Bear Making - #15

Make a bolero jacket

A bolero jacket is a short tailored jacket.  This is possibly one of the easiest pieces of clothing to make for your teddy bear.  The pattern requires very little sewing and is best made from fabric that does not fray, such as wool felt or suede.  Apryl is modelling a sleeveless bolero for us.
Start by folding a piece of scrap paper so that it is doubled.  The doubled up part should be at least as wide as your bear when it is lying on it's back.
Move the bear so that it is lying on its side, with its back against the folded part of the paper.  The fold in the paper represents the center seam at the back of the jacket.
Draw a straight line out from the top of the bear's neck, long enough to reach the end of the shoulder.  Then draw an armhole, draw a shoulder at the top of the jacket (another straight line) and draw the front of the jacket, taking the line down to the center back of the jacket.
Cut the jacket from paper and test to see if it fits.  Do you notice that the jacket is gaping a bit at the back of the neck?  Gaping neck holes are often a problem because bears have a slight hump.  The jacket covers Apryl's tail.  I'm going to shape the it at the bottom to accommodate the tail, and make a dart at the back to reduce the fabric at the neck. 
If there is too much fabric over the shoulders, cut the shoulders down at an angle for a better fit.
When you are happy with the shape of the jacket, cut it from fabric.
Sew the dart at the back (if you made one), then sew the shoulder seams.
Turn right side out, and Voila!  You have a little bolero jacket to dress your teddy.
Notice how the jacket fits neatly over the shoulders, and how the shaping at the bottom accommodates the tail?  It is worth adjusting the pattern until you are completely satisfied with the fit. 
This is my pattern template after several adjustments.  If you are making Angus, it should fit him well. 
A simple bolero can be accessorized with beads, buttons and embroidery stitches. I would love to see a picture of your completed jacket!

My book page for Lesson 15.

Next time we are going to make a more intricate waistcoat with side seams and lining, and the week after, buttons. 

In this miniature bear making series, we are using the Angus pattern, which you will find in my Etsy Shop, and on the Tin Soldiers Website.  Every week, you will find printable templates for Project 52 HERE .