Beasties on film - CrawCrafts Beasties

Secrets of Beastie Photography

Over the last couple of weeks, the subject of Beastie photography has raised its head a few times in the comments! And that got me looking back at all the crazy things I’ve done over the years in the name of capturing a blog-worthy Beastie snapshot. Better still, it made me think of the sneaky fixes that other Beastie-wranglers around the world have shared with me!

So, I thought it might be fun to combine some of this knowledge into one handy post. Because, let’s be honest, sometimes those little woolly monsters just aren’t feeling the photoshoot, and getting them to cooperate can be hard work!
Beastie Photography Bloopers - CrawCrafts BeastiesThe first challenge in Beastie photography is keeping these little guys on their feet. Their sometimes overwhelming desire to just pitch over and have a quick lie-down is probably something they get from me.

Fortunately, help is at hand! A simple wire stand like this one takes the weight off their little short legs, and helps to keep them standing while you adjust your camera settings.
Florists's Wire Beastie Stand - CrawCrafts BeastiesAs you can probably tell, this is super-easy to make… All you’ll need is a length of florist’s wire, which you bend like this:
Beastie Photography Stand - CrawCrafts BeastiesTaa-daaaah!
Beastie Stand in Action - CrawCrafts BeastiesOf course, sometimes you leave home without a stand in your bag, and that calls for a little improvisation! On my recent trip to Germany, I discovered that my snazzy business card holder makes an excellent substitute…
Business Card Holder as Stand - CrawCrafts Beasties… And Explorer Beastie is a dab hand at seeking out twigs to hold onto when his energy levels start to dip, too.

Other discoveries include using sticky tape…

David Beastie at the Library
Image borrowed from tammiepainter.com

Thanks, Tammie and Mr Husband!

Velcro is also an option – Tierney came up with this one for keeping her Beastie’s boots on, and I borrowed the idea for my latest commission!Special Sticky Beastie Feet - CrawCrafts BeastiesThen once they’re standing, the world is their oyster!
On the road again...I especially like pictures of Explorer Beastie where he’s toddling away from the camera – yes, he may be small, but he’s not going to let that get in the way of a good adventure!

Also, don’t forget about those paws! Show that your Beastie is interacting with the world around them by getting them to touch things within arm’s reach. Check out these two pictures…
Show Your Paws - Beastie Photography - CrawCrafts BeastiesSee the difference? Although the fish was moving a bit too quickly to be photographed properly in the photo on the right, doesn’t Explorer Beastie look so much more interested in him than he was in the mongoose in the image on the left? And notice how his paw is on the glass in that picture, rather than just hanging by his side. It really works!

But the prize for the most intrepid Beastie photoshoot to date has to go to Tammie. She found a way to snap her Beastie, Finn McSpool, underwater.

Underwater Adventuring - Extreme Beastie Photography
Extreme Underwater Beastie photo borrowed from tammiepainter.com

You can read the story behind that monster adventure here! And if you have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments!

Here’s to a weekend of Beastie photography fun… Enjoy!
Beasties on film - CrawCrafts Beasties

Beasties in a Giant Bird's Nest - CrawCrafts Beasties

My Beloved Monsters – A Revisit

Earlier in the week, I was cruising around the You-Tubes watching Muppets and Sesame Street videos – Boyfriend found a Muppet Christmas special that I’d never seen, and I confess now that I watched ALL of it, despite the complete seasonal impropriety – and I was reminded of this post that I wrote waaaaaaay back at the beginning of my BeastieBlogging life.

Because it was perhaps my fifth post, it didn’t really get much of an audience. And I think that’s a shame, so I want to give it another chance now that all you lovely people have taken to calling around for a read and a chat twice a week. So, grab a cuppa and your sweet treat of choice, and let me introduce you to the monsters that made ME.

1. The Muppets
MuppetsWell, after what I said in the intro, this was to be expected, wasn’t it? And I’d like to widen the net to include all the characters created by Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop – from Fraggle Rock to Mopatop’s Shop. One of my earliest TV-related memories is of watching “The Muppet Show” with my family, and I’ve been a fan ever since. And while Miss Piggy and Kermit always steal the show, it’s the antics of the monsters in the supporting cast which have kept me watching all these years.

2. Stoppit and Tidyup
Stoppit TidyupDoes anyone else remember this? It’s my token obscure hipster choice! Stoppit and Tidyup was a series of short cartoons, which aired the UK in the mid-to-late 80s. Each episode told a story about cheeky red fuzzball Stoppit, his better-behaved friend Tidyup and one of the other bit-part characters who lived with them in the Land of Do-As-You’re-Told. You can meet them all by watching the show’s intro… and yes, that is TV legend Terry Wogan narrating. Regular BeastieBlog readers might pick up on a bit of a Paddy and Plunkett dynamic between Stoppit and Tidyup, too!

3. The wonderful creations of Dr Seuss
green-eggs-hamI adore the illustrations in the Dr Seuss books – try as they might, those film adaptations just don’t do them justice. They’re so simple, but they capture everything perfectly. He’s especially good at showing furriness, and his not-quite-human, not-quite-animal creatures always have incredibly luxuriant fuzzy hands and feet. And those gadgets! Just look at the contraption which Sam-I-Am is using to offer his plate of green eggs and ham – why don’t restaurants have these?! My love of these characters was kick-started when my brother and I got a hand-me-down copy of The Dr Seuss Storybook from our older cousins, and from the first story (“McElligot’s Pool”, featuring pages of fantastic imaginary fish) I was totally hooked.

4. Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland”
momeraths-2Or, more correctly, the part of the 1951 animated film where Alice finds herself in Tulgey Wood. The multicoloured mome raths in the picture are joined by a forest-full of other nonsense creatures, including some pretty imaginative birds. I just rewatched this recently, and it still makes me smile!

5. The Creatures of Studio Ghibli
TotoroAnd not just the Totoros, either… although they are a great introduction to the universe of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. Most of the films feature a charming animal sidekick, a supporting cast of critters drawn from Japanese mythology or (best of all) both. Add in some beautifully-painted backgrounds and stories which manage to be heartwarming without descending into saccharine sweetness, and you’ve got a winner. Want to see more? This article handily introduces some of Ghibli’s best incidental characters.

And for real hardcore fans, there’s a whole MUSEUM dedicated to the world of Ghibli in Tokyo… It was quite literally the first attraction I visited when I went to Japan in 2009! Here is a nice dorky picture of me getting ready to buy a ticket from Totoro himself at the gate.
Totoro and Me - CrawCrafts BeastiesOk, ok, you can stop laughing now. But what about you? Is there anything special from your own childhood that’s had a unexpected influence on your adult life? Be sure to tell me all about it in the comments!

Aaaaand Paddy and Plunkett will be back with part 2 of their Eden Project adventure on Tuesday, so stay tuned! Enjoy the weekend!

PS I claim no ownership of these images (except that last one), and this post belongs to a time when I was blissfully unaware of image crediting etiquette. Any copyright infringement is totally accidental, and if I need to credit you, please let me know!

Springtime Beastie Fun! CrawCrafts Beasties

Friday Social #4 – Getting Arty, For Free!

Artist Beastie
Welcome to the weekend, Beastiebuddies!

And since it’s the end of the week, my mind has wandered in an artsy direction for this Friday Social. In school, it seemed like art class always fell on a Friday afternoon, and it was a much nicer way to wrap up the week than, say, double maths or – gulp – SPORTS. That said, school art and I had a somewhat troubled relationship. While there were a few standout moments – making a kiwi-fruit inspired dress, or modelling cartoon frogs in clay – I seemed to spend A LOT of time drawing not-very-interesting things. In one particularly awful session, we were asked to copy the Arnolfini Wedding Portrait. For those of you unfamiliar with this highly detailed painting, with its lush textures and crazy use of perspective and reflections…

Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck
Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck (Image from Wikipedia)

We were given an hour and a half to complete this task. “And if you have some time left over,” our teacher added, “You can write a short piece about the artist’s life and work.”

No wonder I left school with the firm conviction that I couldn’t really draw! Since then, I dabbled in doodling comics now and again, but it wasn’t until I started creating tailor-made personalised Beasties that I actually had a reason to up my drawing game. I figured a quick sketch was the best way to show people what to expect from their finished monster, and with each sketch, I started to feel a bit more confident about my drawing.

That said, these “quick sketches” weren’t really quick! As each one was hand-drawn and coloured with what I had to hand (colouring pencils), they were taking forever!
Beastie Sketchbook - A Design for Laura - CrawCrafts Beasties
So, as some of you may remember, last year I asked my lovely friend Julie from Juleco to show me the basics of Adobe Illustrator, in the hope that I might be able to get the computer to take on some of the more time-consuming tasks (I’m looking at you, colouring in). Our session was really helpful, and I could see the software being super-useful, but WOOOAAAAH is it expensive! I really couldn’t justify the outlay, and after availing of more week-long free trials than was right or proper, I let it slide.

But then, enter Simon from Planet Simon, with this handy post about how he was creating illustrations using free, open-source drawing software! I had actually looked at these programs briefly myself, but then I’d scuttled back to Illustrator because I found them utterly baffling. Once I knew which tools to use to make them work for the projects I wanted to complete, I was away!

And so, last month, I was finally able to present my first ever computerised commission sketch!
First Digital Sketches! CrawCrafts Beasties
I’m still hand-drawing the outlines, but the real time-saver (even though I’m working out the angles as I go) comes when I’m ready to colour in. Now I can fill a large area with one click, and I can match colours much more closely to the materials I’ll be using. Also, check out the skirt on that Beastie in the lab coat… rather than trying to replicate patterned fabrics by hand, I can photograph the swatch and just drop it into the picture! So much quicker – and my customer knew exactly what I was offering her, too.

So, which programs am I using? Well, I scan in my hand-drawn outlines first, then open those files in Inkscape, where I use the “Bitmap trace” to smooth out the less desirable bits of the scanned images – paper textures, ink smudges etc. I save that, then switch to GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) to do the majority of the work… correct wonky outlines, erase any pencil marks that survived the tracing, and most importantly, pop in those colours!

And, as I get used to the process, I’m not just using it for sketches any more! I created this image for my March calendar page, and thanks to the wonders of digital drawing, I’ve been able to rejig it into an Easter colouring page as well!
Beaster Image - Free Colouring Page by CrawCrafts Beasties
You can download the full-size version for yourself from my store… Just in case you have any little monsters of your own to entertain over the Bank Holiday weekend! It’s free, and you can print off as many copies as you need to!

Oh, and while you’re there…
April Calendar Image - Free printable download from CrawCrafts Beasties
April’s calendar page is also ready to go! I’m hoping this nice sunny image will help to kick-start some warmer, brighter weather for us all!

How about you? Do you use any nifty programs in your artwork that we need to know about? Be sure to tell us all about them in the comments below!

Have yourselves a super (B)Easter weekend, and join us again on Tuesday for more monster fun and games! See you then!

Bee Excellent to Each Other - CrawCrafts Beasties

How to Make… Little Buzzy Bees!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Is anyone out there feeling crafty?

After I put up pictures of the little felt bees I made back in April for The Snail of Happiness’s Craftivism event at The Make It Shop in Manchester, there was a quiet murmuring of interest in response to my offer to share the pattern. So, when I found myself with a clear calendar and the need to do a little bit of computery drawing practice, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to publish the templates and put together a quick tutorial! If any of you take the plunge and give the pattern a try, please let me know how you got on… or share your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #crawcraftsmakes! Ready? Let’s go!

You will need:


Bee Making Equipment - CrawCrafts Beasties

  • Felt in black, yellow and cream (make sure it’s quite thick, or your bee will have sad floppy wings!)
  • Sewing thread in black, yellow and cream
  • Sew-on googly eyes
  • Pink or red embroidery cotton
  • Toy filling
  • Sewing kit – Pins, needles, scissors, pinking shears, fabric marker

And here are the templates you’ll need:

Bee Templates - CrawCrafts Beasties

  1. Start by printing out your templates. The pattern is designed to print onto a single sheet of A4 paper, and please make sure the “fit image to page” box in your print options is unticked before you print! I’ve included the dimensions of my original templates so you can check if yours have come out the right size. (Update! Early testers have told me that the best way to get an accurate printout is to download the image, then open it in a drawing program like MS Paint. So, click the template image, then right click and save it to your computer. Open Paint, find the file, open it and send it to print… And don’t forget to set your page orientation to “landscape” before you click OK!)
  2. Mark out the pieces on your coloured felt sheets, as per the instructions on each template. Don’t forget to flip over the yellow body template before cutting out the second piece, to make sure that it’s a mirror image of the first! The fiddly bits (like the antennae) are best cut out roughly with big scissors first, then you can pin the template to the felt and trim a little closer with smaller scisssors like I’m doing in the first photo.
    Bee Tutorial Step 2 - CrawCrafts BeastiesYou’ll also need to cut out a strip, 9.5cm x 1.5cm, for the bee’s stripe. So, you’ll end up with 2 yellow body pieces, 1 black body base, 1 cream wing shape and black pieces for the face, tail and stripe.

OK, let’s start putting these together! Pin your two yellow body pieces together, and sew from point 1 to point 2 along side A, as marked on the template. Keep your seam around 3mm from the edge of the fabric.

Bee Tutorial Step 3 - CrawCrafts Beasties4. For a smoother curve, cut a few notches at intervals along the edge of the felt, near to (but of course not actually touching) the seam. Then turn the body “shell” right side out.

Bee Tutorial Step 4 - CrawCrafts Beasties5. Pin the yellow body pieces to the black body base. Secure the nose and tail first by pinning point 1 of the yellow shell to point 1 on the black base, and point 2 to point 2. Then pin each side. Next, sew almost all the way around the edges with a simple in-and-out running stitch in black thread.

Bee Tutorial Step 5 - CrawCrafts Beasties6. Don’t stitch all the way around, though! When you’re within 2cm of the beginning of the seam, take a break from sewing and get stuffing. Gently push the toy filling inside, making sure it gets right up into the top of the bee’s back! I find a chopstick or pencil really helps with this bit.

Bee Tutorial Step 6 - CrawCrafts BeastiesThen continue sewing to close up the opening.
7. Now for the features! Sew on googly eyes (or stick them with glue) and use backstitch to embroider a simple smile underneath using 3 strands of embroidery floss.

Bee Tutorial Step 7 - CrawCrafts Beasties8. Pin the face to the front (point 1) of the body, then use whip stitch to sew along the bottom edge (side C) first, and then along the top. I’ve done a couple of stitches in orange for the photos, so you can see what’s going on!

Bee Tutorial Step 8 - CrawCrafts BeastiesWhen you get to the antennae, sew a couple of backstitches across the base, so that they can stand up from the bee’s head.

Stitching the Antennae - Bee Tutorial - CrawCrafts Beasties9. To make your bee look nice and fuzzy, trim the long edges of the stripe and side D of the tail piece with pinking shears.

Bee Tutorial Step 9 - CrawCrafts Beasties10. Next, attach the tail piece to the bee’s bottom (point 2) in the same way as you attached the face piece. Side C covers the line of black stitches at the base, while the zigzag edge goes over the bee’s back. Pin in place, then stitch as before…

Bee Tutorial Step 10 - CrawCrafts Beasties11. …And then repeat for the stripe as well!

Bee Tutorial Step 11 - CrawCrafts BeastiesNearly there!

Flightless Bee - CrawCrafts Beasties12. For the wings, fold the wing shape in half and sew a seam 2mm from the short edge in cream thread.

Bee Tutorial Step 12 - CrawCrafts Beasties13. Then attach the wings by placing the folded edge in the centre of the bee’s back, and sewing a quick line of stitches through the fabric between the seam and the fold.

Bee Tutorial Step 13 - CrawCrafts BeastiesFinito! Ready to take off for all sorts of new adventures…

A Finished Bee - CrawCrafts BeastiesA Little Felt Bee - CrawCrafts BeastiesThese bees make fun little gifts (for you or someone else), or why not use them for a little craftivism of your own? I reckon the pattern could also be simplified for kids (or the short of time) by gluing the features in place, rather than sewing them! Or why not mix up the colour combinations to match the bees who live in your garden?

We’ll be back next week (hopefully not so late in the day!) with some more new Beasties for you to meet! See you then… and happy making!

A Pint of Plain is Your Only Man!

A New Barróg Beastie, by CrawCrafts Beasties

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Well, I promised you a new Beastie today, and here he is – another Barróg (that’s the Irish word for “hug”, if you haven’t seen it before) Beastie, proudly holding a pint of the very finest felt porter!

Some of you might be thinking, “Big deal! We’ve seen Pint Beasties before!”… But let’s take a closer look at that pint, shall we?
Pint Barróg Beastie by CrawCrafts BeastiesHere at Beastie Towers, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to make some of the Beasties’ favourite accessories! So I decided to put my recent obsession with needle felting to good use, and rework my existing pint design. You can see one of the old-style ones in this photo…
Groom Beastie's Pint - CrawCrafts Beasties
The stitched head on the pint has a tendency to pop up a little bit once everything is sewn together – fine for Eastern European lagers or some Belgian-style ales, but if your pint of Guinness looks like that when it’s served, you should probably send it back. Being something of a perfectionist/masochist/certifiable basket case, especially when it comes to the accurate portrayal of fine ales, I’ve been working on seeking out the perfect Beastie-sized pint. And that’s where the needle felting came in.
Pint Collage - CrawCrafts Beasties
Behold! Smoother sides! A flatter top! And a texture that more closely resembles the creamy surface of a freshly-poured pint of the black stuff!

All that adds up to a better pint – and a happier Barróg Beastie! Cheers!
I'll drink to that! Happy Barróg Beastie, by CrawCrafts Beasties
In fact, he’s so delighted that he’d like to share one of his favourite books with you… Now you’ll see where we got the title of this post from!
Pint Beastie Meets Flann OBrien - CrawCrafts Beasties
As for me, I’m looking forward to brewing some more reworked Beastie pints soon – I might try a nice red ale next, or perhaps a summery Weissbier. Any requests? Let me know in the comments!

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Heights of Abraham Cable Car

So, What Have We Learned?

I love it when a plan comes together.

Last week, I thought I would try my hand at seeking out some Dublin-based blogging events. I was expecting to find something to look forward to a couple of months down the line, so you can imagine how lucky I felt when I found that one of the main events in Ireland’s blogging calendar was happening that very weekend, in a hotel a mere stone’s throw from Beastie Towers! SCORE!

So, Explorer Beastie and I packed our bags and spent last Saturday at the 2016 Irish Bloggers Conference. We heard from loads of different people, and I thought it might be fun to share some of the things we learned with you all. Plus I’m more likely to remember it if I write it all down.

Now, if you’re all sitting comfortably, let’s launch into…

The Monster Guide to Blogging Bliss!

And we’ll kick off with…

Hint No.1 - Be Positive (CrawCrafts Beasties)Entertaining complainers are as rare as virtuoso musicians and masterpiece-painting artists. Who wants to read a series of rants about the fact that no-one is visiting your blog? If you’re blogging, chances are you want to share something you’re interested in or passionate about with the world. Talk about what you love with enthusiasm and humour, and people will surely come back for more.
Tip No. 2 - Be Yourself (CrawCrafts Beasties)…Even if what you’re into isn’t popular. Talking about something you genuinely believe in will win you more loyal readers than slavishly hopping on every bandwagon going.

And while we’re on the subject of readers…
Tip No.3 - Join in (CrawCrafts Beasties)Don’t be shy! If you like what you read, say so. Start conversations. Reply to your comments. Join online groups based on your interests and pitch in on the forums. And if you’re sharing links to your own online places, don’t just drop them in there – ask for feedback, or tag someone who you think will enjoy it.
Tip No. 4 - Check your stats (CrawCrafts Beasties)Ah, something I need to be doing more. But it makes sense – for example, by finding out when most of your readers tune in, you can tailor your posting habits to ensure that your words of wisdom reach more people. You’ll also start to notice patterns in what appeals most to your readers, or what draws new ones in, and you can use this knowledge to plan what to talk about next. And that just makes everything easier!
Tip No.5 - Be consistent (CrawCrafts Beasties)Being consistent doesn’t mean that all your posts have to be exactly the same. But your regular readers will come to expect certain things from your blog, and being consistent in things like your tone of voice, what you talk about and when you post will set them at ease before they’ve read a word. You’d all be pretty freaked out if the BeastieBlog morphed overnight into a foul-mouthed diatribe on contemporary economic policy, wouldn’t you?
Tip No.6 - Take good photos (CrawCrafts Beasties)I can’t claim to be an expert photographer, but nothing detracts from your blog more than pictures that are grainy, or that have been squished and stretched until they look like something from the world’s worst hall of mirrors. Always start off with high-resolution photos – you can make big pictures smaller, but you can’t unshrink small ones!
Tip No. 7 - Be upfront about ads (CrawCrafts Beasties)Ah, can there be anything more annoying than reading an entire article, only to find out at the end that it’s basically just an advert? If you’re doing a sponsored post, be a good human and make it clear from the outset… Your readers will trust you more.

And finally…
Tip No. 8 - Hang in there! (CrawCrafts Beasties)One thing that a lot of the bloggers (and other speakers) at the conference had in common was persistence. They all made it clear that any success they’d had didn’t just happen overnight – more often than not, it was the product of long hours, hard work and a few people along the way telling them that their ideas were terrible. So keep going – you never know what’s around the next corner!

Thanks to the Irish Blogger Association for a really interesting and informative day out. And if you have any blogging tips of your own to share, let us know in the comments!

We’ll be back on Tuesday with a new Beastie for you to meet… In the meantime, have a monster weekend!

Beasties at Work - CrawCrafts Beasties

Back to School at Beastie Towers!

Beasties at Work - CrawCrafts BeastiesLast week was one of those weeks when life just got in the way – for starters, a busy few days at Other Work after being just a Maker of Monsters for a month was a bit of a shock to the system! And while I was distracted with that, the plumbing here at Beastie Towers decided it would be an excellent time to start wreaking all kinds of aquatic mayhem.

So unfortunately, that means I have no new Beasties for you today – despite the best efforts of my little helpers, who you can see working away in the photo above!

However, I thought this little hiccup might be the perfect opportunity to tell you all a little more about what’s going on behind the scenes here at Beastie Towers… namely, my own ongoing education.
https://i2.wp.com/www.fatmovieguy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Monsters-University-Image-1.jpg
(Picture borrowed from www.fatmovieguy.com)

You see, last year I was busy. Flat-out, using-every-spare-second-and-then-some BUSY. And it occurred to me that I’d sort of reached the limits of the skills I had, and it was high time I picked up some more – skills that would help me to better design, make and share my creations.

Alas, there is no real-life Monsters University where I can enroll, so I’ve had to make up my own study programme. Here, let me introduce you to some of my teachers!

Next Level Sewing with Abby Glassenberg

Abby blogs at whileshenaps.com, and while I’ve learned a lot from her regular posts and newsletters about running a crafty business, I really hit the jackpot when I treated myself to a copy of her book “Stuffed Animals – From Concept to Construction” just after Christmas. Even flicking through the book for the first time was exciting… Finally, I’d found someone who was teaching the stuff I needed to know! Up until now, I’ve had to figure everything out myself, using a combination of guesswork and techniques borrowed from dressmaking books, with varying degress of success. But with Abby as my guide, I’ve been better able to understand how to cut and shape fabric so that it does my bidding faster, easier and with considerably less cursing!

So far, I’ve been mostly dipping into the help sections when I need guidance… but I have also attempted one of the projects. I made this felt bunny as a gift for a little girl who turned one in January!
Felt Bunny (From an Abby Glassenberg Pattern) by CrawCrafts BeastiesBunny Closeup (Pattern by Abby Glassenberg) - CrawCrafts BeastiesThe pattern was super-easy to follow, and it was nice to let someone else do the brainwork for once! That said, I did still stitch every seam by hand. So, another class I’ve been taking is…

Sewing Machine Wrangling 101

This is not really a class. This is me sewing miles and miles of practice seams on my sewing machine, to become better at using it. On the plus side, I’ll never need to buy another cushion cover!
Cushions, Cushions Everywhere! CrawCrafts BeastiesI’ve also been honing my drawing skills, so that I’m able to put sketches for commissions together more quickly…
Beastie Beginnings - CrawCrafts BeastiesFor this, I’ve been trying to keep up with Tammie Painter’s Sketchbook Saturdays… here’s what I came up with for this week’s prompt, “Leafing Out”!
Sketchbook Page 1 - CrawCrafts BeastiesSketchbook Page 2 - CrawCrafts Beasties I’ve also signed up for an online sketchbook workshop on Tammie’s recommendation, so I fully expect these doodlings to magically become Da Vinci standard over the next couple of weeks!

And finally, I’ve been taking a Social Media Refresher Course using this book…
https://i1.wp.com/www.thedesigntrust.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Hilary-Pullen-cover.jpg
(Cover image from www.thedesigntrust.co.uk)

Aaaah, social media… yes, it’s great for sharing your crafty goodies with the whole world, in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible a few short years ago. But it feels like such a time sink! I’m sure I’m not the only person who dips a toe into the murky waters of Facebook “just to have a quick look”, and resurfaces 2 hours later. I feel like there has to be a better way to use social networks which I can’t quite figure out by myself, so I’m going to let someone else explain it to me. With pictures. And that’s what this book is for. Here’s the review on Fizzi-Jayne Makes which convinced me to give it a shot!

Oh, and I nearly forgot! As an extra-credit assignment, I’ve been having a stab (ha!) at needle felting, in the hope that I’ll be able to use this method to make some of the Beasties’ smaller, fiddlier accessories. That, and it’s great for stress relief after all this studying!

Have you tried anything new this year? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Vintage Singer Sewing Machine - CrawCrafts Beasties

Welcome to Beastie Towers!

Explorer Beastie and Sweetheart Beastie - CrawCrafts Beasties
Yes, I know Tuesday is supposed to be New Beastie Day. But I thought it might be fun to mix things up a little… Plus I just spent a sizeable chunk of last week moving all my crafting goodies in here:
Crafting Command Centre at Beastie Towers - CrawCrafts Beasties
Behold, the Beastie Towers CCC (Crafting Command Centre)! Everything is so tidy and organised – probably for the first time since about 2013, when I was working entirely out of that clear plastic tub in the bottom left of the photo! And it wasn’t long before the Beasties came over to have a poke around…
A Thumbs-Up from Cheerleader Beastie! CrawCrafts BeastiesGaaaah! Beasties have Hijacked my Craft Supplies! CrawCrafts Beasties

…It looks like they’ve given it their seal of approval, anyway!

 

Although I can’t help but feel that there has to be an easier way for them to check the calendar…
Extreme Calendar Checking! CrawCrafts Beasties
All this extra space means that my sewing machine has finally been liberated from storage! Check it out – it’s a Singer one from the late 1960s. Can you believe someone was going to throw this away?
Explorer Beastie Checks the Sewing Machine - CrawCrafts BeastiesVintage Singer Sewing Machine - CrawCrafts Beasties

It’s been a while, so I’ve had to spend a bit of time this week reminding myself how to use it! Well, once Explorer Beastie had checked it over for me, of course.

And now that my various boxes, tins and bags have a home in the CCC, it frees up my crafting table for stuff like this:
Sketching Time! CrawCrafts BeastiesAll the Colours of the Felty Rainbow! CrawCrafts Beasties

As it happens, I’ve been doing a lot of sketching lately. For every commission, I sketch out my ideas first so people know what their Beastie will look like before I reach for my knitting needles. Here’s my latest project, which entered the Design Phase last week…
Beastie Beginnings - CrawCrafts Beasties
I also got around to tackling Tammie Painter’s second Sketchbook Saturday prompt! The theme last week was “Home”, so I used some old photos and a liberal dose of imagination to do some sketches of my childhood home. I did get a bit carried away with it… but since it was either that or back up my list of Beastie ID numbers, you can probably understand why.
Sketchbook Saturday Page 1 - CrawCrafts Beasties
Sketchbook Saturday Page 2 - CrawCrafts Beasties
Oh, and while we’re poking around in the library – let’s take a peek inside those notebooks again, shall we?
One of my Knitting Notebooks - CrawCrafts BeastiesI always have a knitting notebook on the go. I use them to record which yarns I’ve used for projects…

Yarns From My First Beastie - CrawCrafts Beasties
Yarns From My First Beastie
Ingredients for a Crablet - CrawCrafts Beasties
Ingredients for a Crablet

…Essential knitting know-how…
Kitchener Stitch How-To - CrawCrafts Beasties
… Less essential non-knitting notes…

Shopping List - CrawCrafts Beasties
Shopping List
Mitten Thumbs and Cookie Recipes - CrawCrafts Beasties
Mitten Thumbs and Cookie Recipes

…Ideas and designs…

Some Early Beasties - CrawCrafts Beasties

Doodles for Garcia Beastie - CrawCrafts Beasties
Doodles for Garcia Beastie

 

Bumblebee Dress - CrawCrafts Beasties
Bumblebee Dress

…And complete, total, unapologetic failures.

A Mid-Project Frogging - CrawCrafts Beasties

I really enjoyed looking back through my old notebooks – hopefully you did too! And if any of you keep notebooks or journals of your craft, art or interests, tell me all about it in the comments!

We’ll be back on Friday with more from Paddy and Plunkett… See you then!

Explorer Beastie Holding My Colouring Pencils - CrawCrafts Beasties

An Arty Day Out!

Explorer Beastie at the RHA Gallery - CrawCrafts Beasties
In Ireland, it’s very tempting to hide yourself indoors at this time of the year… and remain there until dire necessity (buying food, going to work, zombie home invasion) forces you outside. I for one could happily spend February living on instant noodles and baked beans while binge-watching “Murder, She Wrote”, but fortunately Explorer Beastie is a more active fellow, who constantly demands entertainment, fresh air and brain food (surprising for one whose head is literally full of fluff). So yesterday, I put down my knitting needles and took the two of us off to another of our favourite destinations – the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy) Gallery, a mere stone’s throw from St Stephen’s Green and Grafton Street in Dublin’s south city centre.

This great little gallery deserves more visitors than it seems to get – I suppose a lot of people overlook it, and head to the National Gallery a little further down the road instead. But while the majority of the National Gallery’s exhibitions remain static, the RHA always has something new on its walls. In fact, I’ve never seen the same thing there twice! It’s also small enough that you could see everything in a short visit, and it’s also FREE IN! What’s not to like?

When we were there yesterday, three artists had their work on display. We started out with Maeve McCarthy’s “The Return”, a collection of nightime landscapes in charcoal inspired by a visit to the farmhouse where she and her family spent summers as children.
Explorer Beastie at The Return, RHA CrawCrafts BeastiesExplorer Beastie Examines a Painting - CrawCrafts Beasties

 

The artist also collaborated with her brother, a filmmaker, to make a short film showing the decaying rooms of the abandoned house.
Watching the Film - CrawCrafts Beasties
2016 is an important year for Ireland – it’s the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, which was one of the most significant events in setting Ireland on its way towards independence from Great Britain. The other two exhibitions we saw drew their inspiration from this – Mick O’Dea’s “The Foggy Dew” included portraits of some of the key figures in the Rising…
"The Foggy Dew" at the RHA Gallery - CrawCrafts Beasties
…And in a separate gallery upstairs…
Upstairs at the RHA Gallery - CrawCrafts Beasties
… A combined installation of large-scale canvasses and sculptures.
The Foggy Dew at the RHA Gallery - CrawCrafts Beasties
Explorer Beastie at The Foggy Dew, RHA - CrawCrafts Beasties
Then our final port of call was “Before, During, After… Almost” – an exhibition of David Farrell’s photographs, which shows how much both Dublin and rural Ireland have changed since the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, in 1966.
Explorer Beastie at "Before, During, After...Almost", RHA - CrawCrafts Beasties
Explorer Beastie, RHA Dublin - CrawCrafts BeastiesExplorer Beastie at the RHA Gallery, Dublin - CrawCrafts Beasties

And suitably inspired by our artistic wanderings, it seemed like a good time to tackle the first prompt in Tammie Painter’s Sketchbook Saturday. Yeah, I know I’m late. It’s my… um… artistic temperament.

Anyway, the theme was “Round and Around”, which made me think of all the circles and spheres that cropped up in my drawings and craftings when I was a kid.
Circles (Sketchbook Saturday) - CrawCrafts Beasties
…And in case you want to read the scribblings…
Circles Sketches Page 1 - CrawCrafts Beasties
Circles Sketches Page 2 - CrawCrafts Beasties
And of course, Crablet and Explorer Beastie were on hand to help out with the colouring in. Thanks, lads.
Explorer Beastie Holding My Colouring Pencils - CrawCrafts BeastiesCrablet is Helping! CrawCrafts Beasties

AND FINALLY… Eagle-eyed Noémie at FocalHeart spotted one of my knitting notebooks in the background of a photo I posted recently. Here it is up close!
One of my Knitting Notebooks - CrawCrafts Beasties
I use these books to record patterns, jot down ideas, count off rows and (as you can probably guess) keep track of the yarns I’ve used. And I had a great time going through past books today, snapping some of my favourite pages to share! So, since this post is already MASSIVE, here’s a taster for today…
Knitbook Extracts 1 - CrawCrafts Beasties
… And I’ll have more next week!

Hope you all enjoy the weekend – why not check out Sketchbook Saturday for yourself tomorrow?

Summer Colour Inspiration!

The Colours of Summer in Ireland - CrawCrafts Beasties
Summer in Ireland is a fleeting thing! Our unpredictable four-seasons-in-one-day climate means that a balmy evening can turn chilly in a heartbeat, and a day that starts out grey and drizzly can transform into a real scorcher by lunchtime. That’s why the very second we see a blink of sunshine here, we drop everything and rush outside to enjoy it… because in five minutes it could be pouring again!

So I’m sure you can understand why I was delighted to get a sunny morning while I was away in the west of Ireland with Explorer Beastie last week. And I brought my camera along to capture all the colours of the Irish countryside, which have inspired the colour palette for my latest round of Barróg Beasties. In case you’re new to the BeastieBlog, Barróg Beasties are a subspecies of Beastie native to Ireland. They’re made from Irish wool, and sport particularly Irish accessories! They get their name from the Irish word “Barróg”, which means “hug”.

These are the colours I chose:
Summer Barróg Beastie Yarn Colours - CrawCrafts Beasties
I picked blue and white to represent our summer skies – there’s usually a cloud or two up there somewhere!
Irish Summer Skies, by CrawCrafts Beasties
And these colours match a couple of the plants you see at this time of the year too! On my wanderings, I found tiny blue forget-me-nots and a few tufts of bog cotton that had survived the recent downpours.
Forget-me-nots - CrawCrafts BeastiesBog Cotton, by CrawCrafts BeastiesOf course, including green was a bit of a no-brainer.
50 Shades of... GREEN! CrawCrafts Beasties
And as for that rich bronze-brown… That’s what the bog looks like in summer! You can see it a bit in this picture – unfortunately the bog is incredibly tricky to capture in photos!
Summer Bog Colours - CrawCrafts Beasties
And finally, I chose purple because it’s just about everywhere right now – tangled through the hedgerows, creeping along the ground and peeking out from among the tall grasses!
Purple, purple... Everywhere! CrawCrafts Beasties
More Natural Purples - CrawCrafts Beasties
And after all that (plus a bit of knitting), some Beasties appeared!
Summer Barróg Beasties, by CrawCrafts Beasties
I’ll be giving each of them a unique Irish-inspired accessory today… I wonder what they’ll be?

PS WordPress tells me that this is my 100th post! Thanks to all my readers, especially those of you who have been here from the very beginning!