Grim Reaper Beastie Sketch New - CrawCrafts Beasties

Flashback Friday – Beastie Sketches

Hello everyone! I’ve something a little different for you this Flashback Friday – a retrospective of Beastie sketches, or “Sketch-rospective”, if you will!

It occurred to me recently that the sketches I draw for custom Beasties very rarely see the light of day. I do them, I send them to the customer, we finesse the details. Then I put the originals in a folder, stash the electronic versions in with the photos of the finished Beastie… And that’s it! So, how about we take a peek in those archives?

I had to look waaay back through my old sketchbooks to find my very first Beastie commission drawing. Check it out!Diver Beastie Sketches - CrawCrafts BeastiesPretty rustic, eh? Back then I was using “graduate” sketchbooks – books with a thick paper cover that are stapled together in the middle like a magazine – and sending my customers photos of the pages. That’s why you can see shadows down some of the sides!

I was also outlining with my favourite fountain pen, and colouring in by hand with coloured pencils. It took FOREVER! Especially for large areas of black, like this Grim Reaper Beastie from the following year.
Grim Reaper Beastie Sketch New - CrawCrafts BeastiesThat said, I did keep on drawing by hand for a good while afterwards! Here are a couple from back in 2017 – do any of you recognise these Beasties?
Cyclist Beastie Sketches - CrawCrafts Beasties
Cyclist BeastieSimon's Explorer Beastie - CrawCrafts Beasties
Slartibartfast, who now hangs out with Simon of Simon’s SpaceDublin Football Beastie Sketches - CrawCrafts BeastiesDublin Football Beastie

However, much as I love the hands-on approach, I was having trouble keeping up! A hectic pre-Christmas season in 2017 had me scouting around for new drawing options… Preferably ones that wouldn’t involve quite as much controlled shading with coloured pencils.

Enter GIMP and Inkscape, two open-source computer graphics programs. I won’t pretend that the learning curve with these has been speedy – I still feel like I’m figuring out the angles a bit – but the one-click colouring is a definite plus. This is my first attempt:
First Digital Sketches! CrawCrafts BeastiesThen when I figured out that I could scan in my fabric stash and show people the actual prints I’d be using for their Beastie’s outfits, I couldn’t have been happier!
Family Frame Beasties - Sketches - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd although I can now type most of the text, I still like to throw the odd bit of my own hand-drawn lettering into the sketches too.
David and Tammie Beasties - CrawCrafts BeastiesHow about you? Will you be cracking out your pencils this weekend, or creating artwork on your computer? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments!

We’ll be back next week to see what Paddy and Plunkett have been up to – see you then!

October View - Calendar Pages - CrawCrafts Beasties

Wrapping up the Year – Last of the Calendar Pages!

Hey there everybody! OK, I know I said that this would be ready yesterday, but due to some computer-related issues, I totally ran out of Friday. Who would have thought that uploading crazy giant image files and trying to play around with them would really slow down the editing process?! Ah well, we’ll chalk that one up to experience. Anyway, even with that little hiccup, I’ve managed to cobble together the final installment of this year’s free downloadable calendar pages!
Calendar October to December - CrawCrafts BeastiesYou can grab yours right now, from our online store!

I’ve put them together as one file, so you only need to download once. After that, you can print them all out together, or page-by-page as you need them! And as usual, you can ignore the part of the order form that asks for your postal address – all we need to deliver this deeeelightful free goodie to your inbox is your name and email.

If you don’t get your download immediately, check your spam or promotions folder.

And here’s what you’ll get…


October View - Calendar Page - CrawCrafts BeastiesGrab those crayons… It’s another colour-it-yourself bonanza! Hallowe’en is still my favourite festival, so October’s page is all about the best bits of the spookiest night of the year. Sparklers and toffee apples were the highlights of Hallowe’en as a kid – am I the only one who mysteriously lost their appetite after eating all the sticky sugar shell from the toffee apple?

Pumpkin carving is a more recent addition to the festivities, and I’m making up for my apple-dodging younger days by using all the pumpkin’s insides once the carving is done. Pumpkin soup and roasted pumpkin seeds? Yes please! As for the broomstick aerobatics… Well, maybe someday.

Of course, we’d love to see your finished calendar pages, so don’t forget to share! Use #Beastiegallery on Instagram and Twitter so we don’t miss your masterpieces!


November View - Calendar Page - CrawCrafts BeastiesExplorer Beastie is back for November! We took a lovely sunlit wander through some of Dublin’s parks yesterday, and I thought this photo of him kicking through the fallen leaves and conkers would be a nice reminder of how lovely autumn can be. Yes, the days are getting shorter and it’s not as warm as it was… But when the sun shines, there’s no finer time of year!


December View - Calendar Page - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd finally… Well, I wanted to avoid getting full-on Christmassy, so Explorer Beastie and I braved the spines of a selection of local holly trees to bring you a nice cheery picture to wrap up the year. And after all that prickliness, the best of the bunch proved to be this smooth-leaved one!

So, that’s it – 2018 calendar pages complete! And I’d be interested to know how this experimental calendar delivery method has worked out for you. From my end, it’s been a bit more work through the year… But not having to deal with under/over supply, delivery problems and getting overcharged at the Post Office has been brilliant! What do you reckon? Let me know in the comments!

Oh, and we’ll be back on Tuesday with the second part of my latest Beastification – I promise!

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!

Beastie-Sized Photo Studio! CrawCrafts Beasties

What’s Goin’ On?

Beasties at Work - CrawCrafts BeastiesPhew! It feels like it’s been another busy old month here in Beastie Towers… but when I looked into my “Ready” box earlier, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of little monsters living in there yet. So much for my master plan of getting ALL my Christmas market stock made in the first 2 months of the year, eh?

That left me wondering what on earth I’d been up to, so I thought it was high time I offered another sneaky peek into life as a maker of monsters – hopefully it will help us all to solve the oh-so-intriguing Mystery of the Vanishing February!

First off, I ventured Northwards… And many of you will already have seen the photos Explorer Beastie and I took of our whistle-stop tour of Donegal.
Donegal Days with Explorer Beastie - CrawCrafts Beasties(If you haven’t, catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 now!)

But that wasn’t the only reason for my trip. I was also planning to catch up with my buddy Julie from Juleco, so that she could teach me some new skills! Loyal BeastieBlog readers might remember the super revamping she did on the humble Beastie Passport last year…
Hooray! New Passports! CrawCrafts Beasties… So I thought she might be able to help me figure out a better way to do my commission sketches as well. I spend a HEEEEUUUUUGE amount of time on these – time I’d really rather use for knitting! With Julie’s help, I’ve been taking my first steps with computer illustration using Adobe Illustrator, in the hope that I’ll be able to re-use elements across numerous sketches, colour-match better with the yarns from my stash and (best of all) colour in with a single click! I already feel that I’m making progress – I just hope I can get the basics down before my free trial runs out. I’ll keep you posted!

I’ve also been having fun playing with the new toy I mentioned in last week’s post. Ever since I went to an Etsy product photography evening last spring, I’ve been meaning to make a lightbox for myself… It’s so easy, and yet I never seemed to be able to scrape together the 20-odd minutes it would have taken to throw one together. I was tormented by questions of where on earth I was going to keep the thing once I’d made it, and how I would extricate it from its hiding place when I needed to use it. Fortunately for me, Boyfriend was taking notes – and look what showed up in my Christmas stocking!
Beastie-Sized Photo Studio! CrawCrafts BeastiesIt’s a Beastie-sized photography studio! It came complete with daylight lamps, backgrounds in 4 different colours and a tripod… And the best bit is that it folds down into an entirely portable (and stowable) 42cm  square carry case. Now even the gloomiest winter mornings can be photoshoot days… I can’t wait to share my new-style pictures with you all, starting next week! I’ve had a few commissions on the go over the last while, and before each Beastie shipped out, they all got a little time in the studio.

In fact, commissions are probably what’s been munching up most of the month – they really do take time! And sometimes they demand a little bit of extra focus. So a couple of weekends ago, I did something that I haven’t done in… eeek, I don’t know how long! I unhooked myself from the internet. It helped that Boyfriend and I were heading off to the farm for a couple of days – in my mind, it makes a lot more sense to be offline when surrounded by wild countryside. As I made my way to the bus station on Friday evening, I caught up with all the notifications on my phone and then switched off data and WiFi for two whole days. I didn’t even take any pictures… Apart from the odd one down at the lake.
Down at the Lake - CrawCrafts BeastiesIt was just the break I needed. Much as I love being part of this vast online community and meeting people I’d never have encountered otherwise, it was nice to spend time talking, reading and crafting without the distraction of a steady stream of beeps and flashing lights. I also couldn’t get over how much longer my battery lasted! It was like being back in 2005!

And when I switched my phone back on the following Monday morning, it didn’t explode with a sudden influx of unread notifications – catching up didn’t take that long at all, and I was excited to see what everyone had been up to while I’d been away. The world didn’t end because I tuned it out for a couple of days, and I didn’t miss out on a massive order, a life-changing opportunity or a genuine email from an exiled prince who needed me to hold onto his fortune for a short time in exchange for serious ca$h mon€y. In fact, I might be tempted to do this more often!
Paddy Admires the View - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesHow about you? Do you reckon you could go on an internet crash diet? Let me know in the comments! And normal service resumes next week, with another new Beastie for you to meet. See you then!


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!