Paddy at the Gate - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Castles and the Coast – A Beastie Road Trip!

You know, I was almost concerned that I’d have no monster shenanigans to share this week! Winter is yet to release its grip on Dublin, and with plenty to keep me busy inside Beastie Towers, getting out and about has been pretty far down my list of priorities.

Fortunately, Paddy and Plunkett have bailed me out yet again! It takes a lot to keep this intrepid pair indoors, and last week saw them hopping on a train, then a bus…
Hitting the Coast Road to Glenarm - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
… And heading north to Glenarm, where the sun is apparently still making an occasional guest appearance!

Plunkett was especially keen to check out Glenarm Castle. He loves a good castle! That’s it in the background there.
Paddy and Plunkett at Glenarm Castle - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
Glenarm Castle is owned by the Earls of Antrim, whose ancestors built Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce Castle - Image from www.independent.co.uk
Dunluce Castle – Image from http://www.independent.co.uk

Look familiar? The craggy ruins of Dunluce (albeit with a little digital alteration) pop up in Game of Thrones as Pyke, the home of the Greyjoy family!

However, it was this place that caught Paddy’s eye… A castle on a more Beastie-like scale! (And one that still has its roof!)
Barbican at Glenarm Castle - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
The pair had to have a closer look!
Paddy and Plunkett at Barbican - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
And Paddy checked if anyone was at home.
Paddy at the Gate - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
“Paddy! Stop kicking the gate!”
Paddy Attempts a Little B&E - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
“Awwww, Plunkett! I’m pretty sure this place is MY ancestral home!”

Fortunately, Plunkett was able to win Paddy back around by mentioning how close they were to the sea. It’s just a short toddle downriver from here!
Looking Downriver To Glenarm Village - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
And Glenarm village is looking especially pretty today. Check out that sky!
Glenarm Village - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
The boys enjoyed having a good look around the harbour, which was originally built to ship out limestone from the local quarry to Britain.
Paddy and Plunkett at Glenarm Harbour - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
The quarry has closed now, so when the sea wall was damaged in a storm about 30 years ago, it was rebuilt to create the marina you can see here today! Then…

“Hey Plunkett, what’s that?”
The View to Straidkilly - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
“Well, over there is Straidkilly Nature Reserve, one of the last places you’ll find wild red squirrels in Northern Ireland…”
Straidkilly from Glenarm - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
“… And THAT is the old police station, which my guidebook says is now a B&B!”
Paddy, Plunkett and the Police Station - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
“You know, Paddy, I think that might be more your kind of place than the castle…”

Unfortunately, the photos stop there – so there is no evidence of how Paddy reacted to Plunkett’s suggestion that a night in the cells might suit him better than a weekend of being lord of the manor. Let’s hope Plunkett didn’t end up taking a surprise swim!

What did you lot get up to over the Easter weekend? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments, especially if there were monsters involved! We’ll be back on Friday with the latest Beastie news… Oh, and if you missed it, April’s free calendar page is in the store now! Don’t forget to pick up yours!
April Calendar Image - Free printable download from CrawCrafts Beasties

Paddy at Ballintoy Harbour - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Paddy and Plunkett, Home Again… (Almost!)

It’s been quite a summer for Paddy and Plunkett! They’ve spent a glorious couple of months seeing all there is to see in Sussex and Kent, from white cliffs and lighthouses
Paddy and Plunkett Reach Beachy Head - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties… To fantastic castles!
Paddy, Plunkett and Dover Castle - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesBut it’s hard to get out of the way of travelling once you get started, so after the briefest of stopovers at home, they were back on the road again! This time, their wandering paws took them somewhere a little closer to home…
Paddy at Ballintoy Harbour - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesFirst stop, Ballintoy Harbour! This picturesque little town, situated a bit east of the famous Giant’s Causeway, may not ring a bell with all of you, but fans of “Game of Thrones” may find this place more than a little familiar. Careful, Paddy and Plunkett… You’ve ended up on the Iron Islands! And look, here come some of the locals!
Plunkett and the Iron-Born - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesWell, it turns out that only a couple of them were bona fide Iron-Born… the rest are visitors to the area, taking one of the many “Game of Thrones”-themed tours that have sprung up in the wake of the HBO series’ success. The use of out-of-the-way places in Northern Ireland as locations for Game of Thrones has been a huge lift to tourism in these places… and in the country as a whole. For the first time, people are getting out and exploring the natural beauty of Northern Ireland, rather than focusing on our troubled past… and I reckon that’s something to celebrate!
Game of Thrones Tour - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesHere’s Paddy posing with some of that spectacular coastline, to give you a taster…
Paddy on the North Coast - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties…And check out this amazing natural stone arch!
Paddy with the Stone Arch - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesBack in Ballintoy, Plunkett’s well-publicised love of unusual architecture led him to seek out a local landmark!
Bendhu House, BallintoyThis is Bendhu House, and it was the lifelong project of Newton Penprase, a lecturer from the Belfast College of Art. He started it in 1936, and he continued to add to it over the next few decades, earning the building a reputation locally as “the house that was never finished”. The fact that he taught fine art has really left its mark – each window perfectly frames a view, and apparently Penprase brought his students up here to teach them about composition. He was also responsible for the sculptures you can see on the exterior, which add to its unique look!
Sculptures at Bendhu House - H Crawford/CrawCrafts BeastiesPenprase died in 1978, and his house was sold and subsequently fell into disrepair. However, in the early 90s, it was bought by its present owners, who have made it their mission to sympathetically restore this incredible, one-of-a-kind home.

And speaking of home, Paddy and Plunkett are off to put their paws up for a while! I think they’ve earned some down-time, don’t you? Of course, please feel free to share your own weekend plans in the comments – you might just inspire them to start planning their next day away!

How to Slay a Dragon

Dragon Slayer Beastie by CrawCrafts Beasties
Sometimes, projects take longer to come together than you expect. And sometimes they take a lot longer. I thought Beasties with dogs were my big crafting leap forward this year, but that was before I met Dragon Slayer Beastie! I first did the sketches for this commission back in April…
Dragon Slayer Beastie Sketches y CrawCrafts Beasties
…and back then I thought sketching up the dragon in the first place would be the hardest part!

Dragon Slayer Beastie was requested by a Beastie enthusiast who already has quite a family of little woolly monsters at home. They had attracted the attention of her young neighbour, and when the offer of a birthday Beastie was made, she decided (without any hesitation, apparently) that she’d like a Dragon Slayer Beastie, complete with dragon. As you can see from the sketch, the dragon had to have a golden body, and a silver head and wings. “Hmmm,” I thought. “Could be tricky, but I can probably manage it!”
I figured that seeing a few Shrek and Harry Potter films, plus my current enthusiasm for Game of Thrones, combined with more than a couple of years of experience in sewing my own critters from scratch, would all be ample preparation for the crafting challenges ahead.

You can probably tell where this is going.

It started out normally enough… Making the Beastie herself was a breeze!
Dragon Slayer Beastie, by CrawCrafts Beasties
As you can see, she’s ready to face down any dragon who dares to cross her path! She’s got a chain-mail top, and she’s armed with a lethal felt sword. Over her shoulder is a quiver of deadly felt arrows, to be used for long-range dragon-slaying missions…
Dragon Slayer Beastie's Quiver and Arrows, by CrawCrafts Beasties
So she had her outfit, and her weapons (in a range of suitably ladylike colours) were complete…
Dragon Slayer Beastie's Weapons, by CrawCrafts Beasties
…But where’s the dragon?

Uh-oh. Still stuck in what was proving to be a troublesome prototyping stage.
Rejected Dragon Body Templates - CrawCrafts Beasties

You see, the nature of the beast meant that I had to step out of my cosy felty comfort zone and use different, unfamiliar materials. And it was only when I started sewing pieces together that I found out how completely different and unfamiliar they were! Fortunately, I had the good sense to reject the gold and silver lycra I had originally planned to use – when I subjected them to the all-important stretchiness test in the shop, they proved themselves to be more suited to making eye-popping party clothes than dragons. If I’d gone with my first instinct, it’s more than likely that this post would be coming to you from within the padded walls of my nearest mental health facility.

So, I went for some less temperamental satin fabrics instead… but even these proved a far cry from the wholesome, homely materials I normally use. First of all, I had to allow for fraying – something you never have to deal with when you use felt! Another of their less charming characteristics is that they show up every little detail, meaning that any slight variations between component pieces are magnified tenfold. Even doing a “rough work” dragon with some leftover calico I had at home didn’t prepare me for making the real thing… Satin fabrics, I have discovered, are designed to drape elegantly, not hold in stuffing. If you’ve ever seen someone wearing a satin dress that was a size too small, you might have an idea of what I was up against. In my quest to tame this dragon, I took on lumpy body parts, misbehaving limbs that stood out at unnatural angles from their joints, twisted tails and floppy spines. I cut, trimmed and rejected heaps of templates…
More Rejected Dragon Templates - CrawCrafts Beasties
…Made a few false starts…
Test Run Dragons - CrawCrafts Beasties
…But at last (and we’re talking absolute eleventh hour, down to the wire, seconds-to-spare-before-the-deadline here) I managed to wrangle the various bits into something vaguely dragon-shaped. Here he is snacking on the remains of his vanquished predecessors.
A Beastie Dragon is Born - CrawCrafts Beasties
And here he is doing his nicest smile for the camera.
Beastie Dragon, by CrawCrafts Beasties
I’d be the first to admit that he’s not perfect. But it’s a long time since I’ve had a craft project flummox me so completely… Every spare moment I had (and some less spare moments… sorry, workplace!) was spent trying to figure out what was going wrong with the templates, or how I could force the wilful satin to do my bidding. The end result may not accurately reflect the late nights, early mornings, miles of unpicked and restitched seams and lungfuls of inhaled satin dust (seriously, that stuff gets EVERYWHERE) that went into making it, but as a learning experience it was hard to beat. I know I have a long way to go before I can claim to be anything other than a paddler in the vast ocean of sewing skills, but I figure that’s a great excuse to go back and perfect some of the basics with simple, fun projects. So, if you have any favourite sewing patterns that would be good practice, I’d love to hear from you! Please share them in the comments… especially if they’re for little critters! I’ll be sure to post the results on the BeastieBlog as I go 🙂

As for Dragon Slayer Beastie and her dragon… the last I saw of them, they were heading off into the sunset to find their new home!
Dragon Slayer Beastie Leaves Home! CrawCrafts Beasties