Explorer Beastie at the Canal - CrawCrafts Beasties

Beasties in the Great Outdoors

Hello there everyone! You know, after writing up Paddy and Plunkett’s garden adventure in last week’s post, I started thinking about how being outdoors is one thing that the pandemic hasn’t really been able to affect that much. In fact, if anything, we’re all outside a lot more than we might have been in a more normal year!

And the Beasties love a bit of outdoorsy time too! It’s a great way to catch up with friends…
Beastie Fall Knitwear Collection - CrawCrafts Beasties… Or enjoy a picnic together.
Burger Beastie and Friends - CrawCrafts BeastiesYum!

So for today’s post, I thought I’d revisit some of the Beasties’ favourite outdoors places… Care to come along?

As you all probably already know, we live in Dublin – and pretty close to the city centre. For us, “outdoors” usually means “the park”, and luckily we have plenty to choose from around here. Earlier in the year, when everyone in Ireland was confined to within 2km of home, we discovered the springtime joys of the National War Memorial Gardens.
Cookie Beastie in our local Park - CrawCrafts Beasties

We’ve also got the Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in Europe, on our doorstep. It’s so big that there are herds of deer living there!Deer in the Phoenix Park, Dublin - CrawCrafts BeastiesAnd if that wasn’t enough, we’re also within walking distance of the National Botanic Gardens…
Gardener Beastie, meet Explorer Beastie! CrawCrafts Beasties…The city centre parks of St Stephen’s Green and Iveagh Gardens…
A quiet path in Iveagh Gardens - CrawCrafts Beasties… And spooky St Kevin’s Park, as featured in our pre-Hallowe’en post a couple of weeks back!
No Vampires near the Gravestones - CrawCrafts Beasties

But our wanderings don’t always involve the city’s green spaces. One of my favourite walks is along the banks of the Grand Canal – it’s a joy even in the depths of winter.

Explorer Beastie at the Canal - CrawCrafts BeastiesPlus you never know who you might bump into along the way.
Swan and Gulls on the Grand Canal - CrawCrafts BeastiesDublin is also packed full of interesting old buildings to admire. The city is especially well-known for its Georgian-era architecture – a style that was popular for just over a century, beginning in the early 1710s.
Georgian Doors in Dublin - CrawCrafts Beasties

Of course, there are other places to visit that have nothing to do with architecture. I wonder if that’s really tea in Tae Beastie’s mug?

Tae Beastie at the Guinness Storehouse - CrawCrafts Beasties

The touristy visitor-attraction part of the Guinness brewery may be closed, but don’t worry! They’re still making beer… And filling the air with the delicious smell of toasted barley on roasting days.

And sometimes it’s just nice to stroll, and admire the crazy jumble of old and new that is the streets of Dublin.
City Streets - Outdoors in Dublin - CrawCrafts BeastiesHow about you? Have you been seeing what’s on your doorstep with fresh eyes these past couple of months? Be sure to tell us all about it in the comments!

Flashback Friday – Craziest Beastie Accessories EVER!

Hey there Beastie friends! I hope you’ve all been having a good week. For the last while, a couple of big commissions have been keeping me super-busy… So many accessories! I’m really looking forward to being able to share the finished projects with you all very soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d use this Flashback Friday post to revisit some of my most challenging Beastie accessories EVER!

Weekes Album Cover, 2017

Beastie-sized Vinyl, by CrawCrafts BeastiesI was reminded of this when I looked back at “Definitely Maybeast” in last week’s Flashback Friday post. This project predated the arrival of my magic magnifying lamp, and I’m still wondering how I managed to see to do those stitches in the dead of winter. You can read more about the creation of this Beastie in the Gallery – she has some pretty cool stuff!

Carcassonne Board Game Box, 2016

Beastie Carcassonne Board Game, by CrawCrafts BeastiesAnother bit of teeny sewing that somehow fell into the BMML (Before Magic Magnifying Lamp) era. I look at these now and wonder how I’m not blind! This appliqu茅d felt and embroidery board game was an important part of the accessory lineup for a wedding commission though, so it was totally worth cutting all those tiny felt pieces and stitching them in place.

The TARDIS (x2!)

I made my first Doctor Who Beastie for a Christmas order in 2015… And how can a little woolly Time Lord travel the galaxy without a specially-adapted old-style police phone box?Doctor Who Beastie heading off to his Home Planet... CrawCrafts BeastiesThe Beastie TARDIS was made of felt, and reinforced with foam and interfacing so it didn’t collapse in like a woolly tent! I lined the inside with shiny silver material for a space-age feel, and embroidered on the window panes and lettering. The doors also close with velcro so the Doctor can travel in safety.

And when I posted about this make, despite the fact that my photos back then were hardly top notch, one of my regular blog readers decided that the man in her life would appreciate a Beastie Doctor of his own! So…
The Tardis, Inside and Out! CrawCrafts Beasties… I made a second one! And I took more photos that time. You can see the original posts about these commissions here and here.

From what I can remember, the trickiest part was cutting out the square panels under the windows. I invested in a rotary cutter, mat and metal ruler to help, but it was still slow going. Beastie Doctor Who seemed happy enough with the results though!
Guess Who! CrawCrafts Beasties

A Beastie-Sized Camera, 2018

A Beastie-Sized Camera, by CrawCrafts Beasties

Oh, I had fun with this one! It’s got it all – teeny sewing, a bit of embroidery, and I was able to incorporate a knitting pun to boot. I made this for Laura from A Pict in PA聽 – she’s a keen photographer, and, like me, she still likes to use a proper camera for her pictures. That’s worth celebrating! So I copied the shape of her DSLR as closely as possible…
Beastie Camera Features - CrawCrafts Beasties… And only went a bit overboard by making the lens and strap removable.
Taking the Beastie Camera Apart - CrawCrafts BeastiesOh well, sometimes you just have to! Laura’s little monster left Beastie Towers with a whole heap of other accessories too – check them out here!

And then finally… Sometimes Beastie accessories take a while to get right. But this one stands out as the most challenging ever – even now! Paws up if you remember…

The Beastie Dragon, 2015

Beastie Dragon, by CrawCrafts Beasties

This was one of those projects that just wouldn’t behave. I’d get one aspect sorted, only to have something else start causing problems! But I learned a lot about prototyping and materials choices from making it, and despite many, many discarded templates…
Test Run Dragons - CrawCrafts Beasties… I did end up with the ferocious-looking gold and silver dragon that my customer asked for! You can relive the entire, um, interesting experience here.

Well, that’s it for this time… But don’t worry if your favourite accessory didn’t make the cut this time around! I so enjoyed putting this together that I might do a second Beastie Accessories Roundup in a couple of weeks. Suggestions welcome, if you want to pitch in your two cents in the comments!

Have a monster weekend!

Friday Social #5 – Here We Go Again!

Hey there everybody! I hope you’ve all had a good week… It certainly seems like it’s been a busy few days in the Blogosphere! I’ll get to that in a second. First of all, I should probably explain what the title of this post is all about.

Poor Explorer Beastie is almost afraid to look!
Upcoming Update Alert! CrawCrafts Beasties
Alas, it turns out the BeastieBlog needs another facelift. Although I really like how it’s set up at the minute, and my last overhaul was only last summer, I noticed a while ago that my Shop page wasn’t working properly…. And when I consulted the good people at WordPress, their diagnosis was that my lovely theme isn’t getting along with WooCommerce any more. Oh no!

Fortunately, they sent me a list of alternatives that should play nicely with the shop’s internal gubbins (yes, that IS the technical term), but I will be shutting the blog down for a week while I rejig all the bloggy bits and bobs (more technospeak there) to fit a new layout.

I’m planning to start work on Monday, so if you haven’t grabbed your free calendar page for this month yet, make sure you download it from here before then!
April Calendar Image - Free printable download from CrawCrafts Beasties
And to keep you entertained in my absence, I’ve picked out a couple of choice nuggets of online goodness!

First up, Tammie Painter’s woolly friend Finn McSpool has been up to more mischief – this time with an Easter flavour!

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I also love this picture of Daze and Weekes‘s Beastie friend Sinead, which I haven’t had a chance to share yet!

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I’m not sure how much album promo work she was able to do after downing that human-sized glass of wine, but at least she looks like she’s enjoying herself!

And for those crafty folks among you, I’ve been finding a whole heap of inspiration in the blogging community lately!
Choosing Colours - CrawCrafts BeastiesFellow knitter Shirley has been branching out into felt softie making, and I love this thoughtful post about her creative process.

And Tierney from Tierneycreates shows how one crafter’s leftovers can be another’s creative goldmine!

Last but not least… Since I’ve started teaching weekly knitting classes in my local yarn store, I’ve realised that I’ve been a bit of a lazy knitter these last few years! It’s a while since I tackled a project that wasn’t a) A Beastie or b) Something for a Beastie. So, I’ve cast on a sweater FOR MYSELF! And to help me do it properly, I’m going to be following Melissa (of Knitting the Stash)’s Better Sweater podcast series. If you’re thinking of taking on a sweater-sized project yourself, here’s the first episode to get you started!

Oh, and one more thing… Just because it made me laugh. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen this before!

See you all in two weeks, with a (hopefully) snappy new-look BeastieBlog!

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!

Felt Gems by Niki Collier at St Patrick's Cathedral - CrawCrafts Beasties

Friday Social #3 – Community Crafting!

Hey there Beastie peeps! The weekend is very nearly here, so that means it’s time for another peek behind the scenes here at Beastie Towers… And this week, it’s all about community!
Brand New Barr贸g Beasties by CrawCrafts Beasties
As some of you may already know, I recently started teaching knitting classes at my local yarn store, The Constant Knitter. It’s a lovely yarny haven… That’s located a dangerously short toddle away from my home.The Constant Knitter, Francis Street - CrawCrafts Beasties
The shop is just one street over from St Patrick’s Cathedral, and as I mentioned in last week’s post, they got in touch to see if we’d like to host some free social crafting sessions in the weeks running up to the biggest event in their annual calendar… The St Patrick’s Day festival!

The idea was to make simple knitted, crocheted or wet-felted items that could be displayed at the Cathedral, and then given to visitors to take home as a memento of their visit. Oh, and it gave local people the chance to stop in and try out some new crafty skills… Or indulge in old favourites while drinking tea!

So, last week was the grand finale… The great giveaway! Unfortunately, by the time I arrived for my stint in the afternoon, quite a lot of the pieces had already been given away…
Giving Away Knitted Gifts for St Patrick's Day - CrawCrafts Beasties
… But thanks to one of the other hard-working knitting groups, there were still plenty of little spring chickens to add to the lineup!
Little Spring Chickens at St Patrick's Cathedral - CrawCrafts Beasties
There were some bigger pieces to enjoy too, like these knitted landmarks of Dublin 8. This masterpiece included the gate of the old women’s hospital at The Coombe, the now-demolished Fatima Mansions flats and even a woolly Luas tram!
Knitted Dublin at tSt Patrick's Cathedral - CrawCrafts Beasties
Local fibre artist Niki Collier also moved some pieces from her latest exhibition over to the Cathedral for the festival…
Felt Gems by Niki Collier at St Patrick's Cathedral - CrawCrafts Beasties
…Oh, and of course there was a little bit of last-minute knitting and crochet going on!
Knitters and Crocheters Take Over St Patrick's Cathedral! CrawCrafts Beasties
A few of these good people were even brave enough to try out this squiggly snake pattern, which I put together for the event!
Knitted Snakes by CrawCrafts Beasties
And after we wrapped up, I took the opportunity to have a quick look around the Cathedral on my way out.
Inside the Cathedral - St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin - CrawCrafts Beasties
I can’t believe I lived across the road from this place for years and never went inside! It’s beautiful!

Hopefully we’ll get to do it all again next year… And if you’ve been involved in any crafty happenings lately, be sure to tell us all about it in the comments!

Have a super weekend, everybody! We’ll be back on Tuesday with another monster adventure to share!

2017 – A Year of Monster Adventures!

Oh wow, I can’t believe we’re nearly at the end of 2017 already! It’s all been a bit of a blur – surely it was only just Hallowe’en? So I thought I would use this, the last “real” post of the year, to take a look back over the highlights of the last 12 months. If nothing else, it will help me figure out whether I’m right in thinking that I lost a month or two somewhere!

So, what did we get up to? Well, first of all, Explorer Beastie loved getting the chance to go a little further afield on his adventures! We started the year with a trip to Donegal
Explorer Beastie on Five Finger Strand - CrawCrafts Beasties
… And then made it to Copenhagen in the spring…
City Spires - CrawCrafts Beasties
…and D眉sseldorf in early summer!
Explorer Beastie in Dusseldorf - CrawCrafts Beasties
Paddy and Plunkett were also at large, dropping in on some ancient Irish wells…
Paddy Examines the Holy Well - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
Punting down the Cam…
Paddy and Plunkett Set Sail - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
…And sampling some highly unusual cuisine in Croatia!
Yum! Smallpox! H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, Tammie‘s Beastie Finn McSpool has been keeping her readers entertained with his unique brand of “help”. With this guy around, it’s a miracle she gets any books written at all!
Your host, Finn McSpool! T Painter/CrawCrafts Beasties
Finn’s adventures appear on Tammie’s blog every Saturday. I had a hard time picking a favourite to recommend to you all, but I think his underwater exploits in Hawaii back in September win out!

More recently, an old friend dropped us a line while on holidays in South Africa
Garcia Beastie on Table Mountain - S Allen/CrawCrafts Beasties
… And we welcomed a new face to the Beastie family!

Beastie’s first outing in England 馃尶 @crawcraftsbeasties 馃挌

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You can meet Sin茅ad the pro-cat activist on Daze and Weekes, and find out more about her mission to improve Beastie-feline relations!

The Beasties have been getting social with other blogging folk this year, too! Back in April, we were lucky enough to be featured on Melissa’s excellent fibre craft blog Knitting The Stash
We're on Knitting the Stash! M Littlefield/CrawCrafts Beasties
… While an appeal for handmade items for a craftivism event in Manchester from Jan at The Snail of Happiness gave me the opportunity to make these little critters!
A Little Felt Bee - CrawCrafts Beasties
I also worked out a pattern and tutorial for these felt bees, which is FREE if you’d like to have a go at making your own!

Oooh, and let’s not forget that the BeastieBlog got a facelift back in August…
New BeastieBlog Homepage - CrawCrafts Beasties
… Which included not only a snazzy new look, but also the addition of my very own online shop! Admittedly, the virtual shelves are a little bare at the moment, but there will be fresh monster faces in there again in the new year!

The Beasties also found themselves in some real shops, including this intrepid mob who journeyed all the way over to Carrick M贸r in New Jersey!Barr贸g Beastie Group Photo - CrawCrafts Beasties
We also did a few markets… But I reckon you’ve probably heard enough about those recently! I’m still super-grateful to all the good people who organised those events, or who came to visit us in person while we were there – it was lovely to meet you all!

And that only leaves one bit of news to share, and it’s one that I’ve been holding onto since the end of the summer. Since I decided to quit regular 9-5 employment in favour of making monsters a couple of years back, I’ve always worked part-time on the side – it’s reassuring to know that I’m not going to end up out in the streets if I have a couple of commission-free months, or if a market turns out to be a bit of a dud.聽 But back in August, I was let go from my job… And I thought, why not try being a maker of monsters full time for a couple of months, just to see how things go? I’d often wondered what I could do if I got the chance to focus exclusively on the Beasties, and with Christmas looming on the horizon, it seemed like a good time to give it a bash. So, that’s what I’ve been doing! And while it’s had its hairy moments – like me losing my voice for the entire of the biggest market in my calendar – it’s been quite the adventure, and I’m already looking forward to seeing how much more I can do in the coming year!

But of course, dear readers, none of this could聽 have happened without your support – so thanks to all of you who regularly read, like, comment and send me photos of your own monster adventures! I realise that I’ve been a little less diligent in keeping up with you all over the last couple of months, as I tackled the challenge of my first self-employed Christmas season, but I’m so looking forward to getting caught up again in the new year, and seeing what delights 2018 holds for us!

So, that was my 2017 – no wonder I’m tired! How was yours? And what have you got planned for the coming year? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Paddy Admires the View - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Why Wool?

Proto-Beasties? H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
A few months ago, I had a bit of a woolly wobble. My local yarn store has stopped stocking the merino wool yarn I use to make my original Beasties, and although I still have a healthy stockpile of most of the colours, the boxes holding my favourite shades are starting to look a little on the empty side. Wanting to keep ahead of the game, I started to scout around for some new yarny options.

Unfortunately, my exacting specifications for Beastie yarns were working against me. Many of the natural fibre yarns I looked at were too lightweight (I suppose the real demand is for the finer yarns used to make shawls and socks), too arty (a painted yarn, however lovely, makes for one sickly-looking Beastie) or were prohibitively expensive. Ever helpful, my yarn supplier suggested I take a look at a new line she had recently started carrying – mostly wool, but with a little acrylic mixed in. So little, she said, that she didn’t notice it was there when she test-knitted a sample. And she hates working with synthetics! It was the right weight, a good price, and they had some super colours. So, why was I hesitating? I mean, surely most people won’t care one way or the other, right?

Well, here’s the thing – I would know. And I care. And today, I thought I’d explain why. Especially since concerns about plastics and synthetic fibres have been playing on my mind more than usual this past week, after I saw this:

It鈥檚 a photo that I wish didn鈥檛 exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it. What started as an opportunity to photograph a cute little sea horse turned into one of frustration and sadness as the incoming tide brought with it countless pieces of trash and sewage. This sea horse drifts long with the trash day in and day out as it rides the currents that flow along the Indonesian archipelago. This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?鈥.鈥╰hanks to @eyosexpeditions for getting me there and to @nhm_wpy and @sea_legacy for getting this photo in front of as many eyes as possible. Go to @sea_legacy to see how you can make a difference. . #plastic #seahorse #wpy53 #wildlifephotography #conservation @nhm_wpy @noaadebris #switchthestick

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What’s the connection between a discarded cotton bud and synthetic fibres, you ask? Well, this picture shows the impact of the plastic waste that we can see going into the ocean – there’s something really unsettling about this image, isn’t there? But recent research indicates that plastics are finding their way into the seas, and their food chains, through a less obvious route… as tiny fibres that are shed any time synthetic materials are laundered. Weestorybook wrote about the problems associated with synthetic yarns back in the summer, and her post links to several other articles on the subject which are really worth checking out. I’d especially recommend the Guardian’s feature about Mark Browne, an ecologist who is currently trying to raise awareness about these issues, and encourage research into viable, low-impact alternatives.

So, score one point for wool – any sheddings from this natural fibre are totally biodegradable! That should keep Mermaid Beastie and her underwater friends happy.
Mermaid Beastie Makes her Escape - CrawCrafts BeastiesNext, how about we take a look at where these fibres come from? Now, I know that farming is hardly a squeaky-clean, environmentally-friendly enterprise. I realise that sheep are prone to all manner of parasites and diseases, and that the chemicals required to prevent against these nasties taking hold are probably pretty nasty themselves. But let’s not forget that synthetic fibres are extracted from crude oil, and held up against the oil extraction and processing industry, even the most intensive sheep farming comes out looking pretty angelic.

From a more personal perspective, Ireland doesn’t have any natural oil reserves – but we can (and do) farm sheep here! This country has a long tradition of cultivating, processing and using wool, so by making use of this resource, rather than one which will always have to be brought in from somewhere else, I like to feel that I’m helping to keep that industry alive. That’s why I started using Irish wool to make Barr贸g Beasties, like these guys here!

Leabhar Beastie and Aran Beastie

Add to that the fact that world oil supplies are running low, and renewable wool starts looking pretty good!

And leading on from that… Wow, wool has so much history! It’s estimated that we’ve been cultivating sheep and wearing wool for the last 10,000 years – that’s not the kind of relationship you can just turn your back on! You can find a handy potted history of our involvement with this wonderful fibre here. I also recently stumbled across this video, which really brought home to me how essential wool has been to humans for such a long time, and the respect our ancestors had for the production of their woollen garments. This is a million miles from the disposable fast fashion we’ve become so used to!

There’s something fascinating to me about continuing to use such an ancient material in much the same way as it’s been worked for centuries, and at the same time creating something that’s truly my own!

And finally… well, I just like it! For me, it’s the most pleasant fibre to work with. I enjoy the springy feel of the yarn as I knit, and the texture of the fabric I make from it. I like that it doesn’t squeak against my favourite metal knitting needles. I love it when I come across pieces of grass or straw tangled in among the spun fibres, reminding me that this stuff came from an animal, rather than a barrel. And I like to think that the Beasties carry a little bit of this joy with them when they head off into the world.
Paddy Admires the View - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties
How about you? What’s the story behind your favourite fibres? Let us all know in the comments!

Aaaaand we’ll be back next week, with a new Paddy and Plunkett adventure… See you then!

Springtime Beastie Fun! CrawCrafts Beasties

Beastie Weekend Reads, Part 1

Well hello there, BeastieBuddies!

I did promise you a double dose of blogging this week, so here I am!

When I was celebrating welcoming my 500th victim follower into the fold a couple of weeks back, I really did underestimate the number of awesome bloggers I keep up with (or at least try to) on a regular basis. I started that post with the noble intention of namechecking all of my favourites. Can you believe my naivety? Halfway through, I realised that if I were to give them all their dues, I would be tapping away at the computer all day. And by the end of the list, no-one would still be reading anyway. So, in the name of delivering the best possible shout-outs, I’m dividing up my reading list into nice, bite-sized chunks, which I’ll be feeding to you every now and again on Fridays. I’m hoping you’ll find a spare minute over the weekend to dip in, and maybe stumble on a new must-read!

So, without further ado, here are my first three…

Knitting the Stash
Knitting the Stash - Beastie Reads - CrawCrafts Beasties
If you’re in any way craftily inclined, you’ll find so much to love on Melissa’s blog… Although her enthusiasm for all things woolly and yarny is really quite infectious, so even if you don’t know your knit from your purl, you might find yourself getting sucked in! What makes Melissa different from so many other craft bloggers out there is that she takes a look beyond her own works in progress, and taps into the growing community of people involved in producing the wool she knits and spins. This takes in everything from visiting farms (and getting involved in the sheep shearing!) to meeting indie dyers and pattern designers. One of my favourite recent posts was her interview with Kara Syvertsen of Second Cycle Yarn Co… It was so inspiring to learn how one woman is making a living (and saving heaps of usable high-quality fibre from ending up in landfill) by turning unwanted clothing back into beautifully presented skeins of yarn! Melissa has also been a huge supporter of me and the Beasties, so we’re happy to be able to return the favour at last!

And as if that wasn’t enough, Melissa is also responsible for producing one of my favourite podcasts. I have to admit that I’m usually more of a “reader” than a “watcher”, but I always try to make time for Knitting the Stash. The episodes are a good length (usually around the half-hour mark), and Melissa is a fun, interesting person to hang out with! Here’s the latest episode, if you’d like to meet her for yourself!

Handmade Habit
Handmade Habit - Beastie Reads - CrawCrafts BeastiesI love checking in with Shirley’s blog. I think it has a lot to do with the way she writes – her calm, warm voice just puts you at ease, and it’s like you’re meeting a good friend for coffee and a catchup. Shirley is another person who is all about handmade, and her posts are mostly about what she’s got on the go at the moment – she knits, weaves and is a super-talented illustrator. She also loves to read around her interests, and I’ve so enjoyed sharing in her library finds (or special orders)… Especially when she comes across something with a crafty theme! Lately, I’ve been avidly following her first foray into working with reclaimed yarn (the journey starts here, if you’re interested) and I also really enjoyed this post about why working slowly isn’t such a bad thing… Perfect reading for a chilled-out Saturday morning!

Daze + Weekes
Daze and Weekes - Beastie Reads - CrawCrafts BeastiesHistory was one of my least favourite subjects in school. For three years, we sifted through an apparently random selection of dry topics, in no particular order, and the classroom was always stupidly hot. I never regretted my decision to drop it at the very first opportunity – until I got hopelessly hooked on Daze + Weekes. This is history as it should be told, with high drama, tongue-in-cheek humour and frequent Game of Thrones references. It also helps that the subject matter is fascinating – there’s a strong focus on the interesting women of history here, and it really makes for great reading. I think Joan, Minx of Wales gets my vote for favourite recent feature, or if you will insist on remaining in the present day, why not join Weekes at that most hateful of modern inconveniences, The Group Interview? She will also, very considerately, provide the soundtrack for your weekend lounging – on her sister site, weekesmusic.com, you’ll find the first two luscious, dreamy tracks from her upcoming album, AND a link to a curated mixtape playlist on Spotify. That should keep you all out of mischief until my next post on Tuesday!

Have a great weekend, everybody!
Boozy Barfly Beasties - H Crawford/CrawCrafts Beasties

Out and About With Explorer Beastie - CrawCrafts Beasties

The Big Five-Oh-Oh!

Hey there everybody! And this is an extra-special post for me today, because over the weekend the BeastieBlog got its 500th follower!

So of course, I wanted to say a big THANK YOU to all of you… Especially those of you who take the time to come and hang out with me and the Beasties here every week. We thrive on your likes and comments, so please keep ’em coming!

I thought this might be a fun time to do a bit of a retrospective… So join me as I look back over some of my favourite Beastie-making moments, and introduce you to a few of the awesome blogging folks I’ve met along the way!

Let’s start at the very beginning… with this photo that is, now that I look at it, not good AT ALL. This is Schnocks, the very first Beastie!
Schnocks, the very first Beastie - CrawCrafts BeastiesWow, haven’t they changed? Unsurprisingly, this first post of mine got no likes… at least not until No茅mie from Focal Heart took it upon herself to scroll back through ALL my old posts last year to find him! No茅mie has since invited 3 Beasties to come and live with her, and has been good enough to share photos of their adventures with me. Why not check out the first one here?

Although Schnocks was created in around 2010-11, it was a couple of years before I thought of adding to the Beastie family… Or encouraging them to head out and invade other peoples’ homes! All that changed after my first market, though.
Craft Fair Stall - CrawCrafts BeastiesUrrrgh, again with the terrible photography! Isn’t it lucky that I was trying to rehome Beasties that weekend, rather than photographs? That said, I was pretty surprised that I had to put up this sign on my table halfway through Sunday afternoon…
Sold OutAnd thus, a Maker of Monsters was born! From there, it was a short leap to taking on my first commission…
Justin Beastie - CrawCrafts Beasties… And by now, I’d picked up two of my longest-standing followers, who I still try to keep up with. Knitters will find lots to love on Funky Air Bear‘s site, and Mrs P‘s tales of daily life in the Cottage on the Green always crack me up.

OK, let’s skip forward a bit, and see if we can find some better pictures, shall we?

Check it out! Explorer Beastie’s first away trip!
Ampelmann and Explorer Beastie - CrawCrafts BeastiesLook at him there, hanging out with Ampelmann in Berlin! And by the time he’d taken the first of many trips to Co. Roscommon, in the western midlands of Ireland…
Explorer Beastie with Mountain… We’d picked up another BeastieBlog lifer, The Snail of Happiness. Jan’s blog is a beacon of contentment and good sense in a world that sometimes seems to be going off the deep end, so it’s one I heartily recommend you check out!

Inspired by the scenery of the Roscommon countryside, I decided it was high time I made some Beasties with a more Irish twist. And so, Barr贸g Beasties were born – any excuse to grab a bit of locally-made yarn in some glorious rich hues, and get cracking on some new accessories! Here’s the first one, clutching a lovely mug of hot milky tea.
All-Irish BeastieBarr贸g Beasties (the name is the Irish word for “hug”) have gone on to become some of the most popular Beasties out there… Especially the ones with pints of Guinness or little Aran sweaters! Oh, and it’s around this time that LucyAnn and Tricia joined the party – they’re both great crafters, and I love sharing the adventures of their dachsunds as they explore Tricia’s beautiful garden.

Of course, there are two Barr贸g Beasties who have really made a name for themselves since their first adventure back in 2015. Yep, that’d be Paddy and Plunkett! Here’s a picture (a decent one) of their debut away trip to the mossy forests of Co. Fermanagh!
Paddy & Plunkett by CrawCrafts Beasties/Heather CrawfordBy now, we’d been joined by Jem Arrowsmith Knits and Tajana from Tatie’s World, and I’ve so enjoyed following their crafty journeys over the last couple of years!

2015 was the year that commissions really took off for me, and that resulted in some pretty elaborate monster creations… Anybody remember these?
Dog Lover Beastie with her Dog by CrawCrafts Beasties

Fireman Beastie, by CrawCrafts Beasties

Harry Potter Beastie Recaptures The Monster Book of Monsters! (CrawCrafts Beasties)That year, I also found some great new blogs through WordPress’s Blogging 101 course – including one of my favourite travel blogs, Travel Magnolia. Maggie finds herself in some truly fascinating places, and somehow she always finds the best foodie spots to share wherever she goes!

More recently, the BeastieBlog seems to have grown in all kinds of directions as I share more of my own adventures and experiments alongside what the Beasties are up to. Explorer Beastie at the Etsy Offices - CrawCrafts BeastiesMeeting Other Crafters - CrawCrafts BeastiesIt’s also been fun to see more people getting in touch with pictures of their own Beasties’ adventures – like Tammie Painter, whose Beastie friend Finn McSpool always seems to be up to some sort of mischief! It’s a wonder she ever gets a chance to pursue her writing and artwork at all when he’s around…
Of course, she’s not the only one – thanks to all of you who have sent in pictures of your Beasties at work or play… They always make me smile!
Beasties Abroad - Various Contributors/CrawCrafts BeastiesAaaand that’s probably enough gushing from me for one day! I hope you enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of Beastie history – it’s actually been fun for me to look back through the archives as well. It’s also made me realise that, although there are a good few people who have been with me since the early days, I’ve encountered a whole LOAD of interesting and inspiring bloggers in the last few months. So I’m saving my “who I’m reading now” list for a future post, coming up in a couple of weeks!

In the meantime, be sure to join us next Tuesday for a bit of a catchup with Paddy and Plunkett. See you then!

I Don’t Bee-lieve It!

Hey there BeastieBuddies! Can it really be May already?!

After a bit of a cold snap here recently, it feels like Spring is back on track again… And right about now is when bluebells have their moment in the sun! Having seen so many pictures of beautiful bluebell woods just about everywhere over the bank holiday weekend, Paddy and Plunkett decided to take a break from adventuring and seek out some of these colourful natural wonders for themselves…
Paddy and Plunkett, Plus Some Bluebells! CrawCrafts BeastiesAs you can see, bluebells are perfect for a Beastie-sized game of hide and seek.
Surprise, Plunkett! CrawCrafts Beasties“BOO!”

“Gaaaaah! Paddy, I had no idea you were even there!”

But it turns out that there was an even bigger surprise just around the corner for Plunkett – the lads aren’t the only creatures out enjoying the bluebells today…
What's That Noise? CrawCrafts Beasties“Paddy, what’s that noise?”
It's a Bee! CrawCrafts Beasties“Hey, look! It’s a bee, Plunkett!”
“A BEE?! AAAAAAARRRRGH!”
Flee, Plunkett! Flee! CrawCrafts BeastiesWe all know that Plunkett is something of a nervous character. So while Paddy made friends…
Paddy, Friend of the Bees! CrawCrafts Beasties…Plunkett was heading for the hills!
Plunkett - Not a Fan of Bees. CrawCrafts BeastiesThe Great Escape - CrawCrafts BeastiesBut he really shouldn’t have worried. This bee is one friendly critter.
A Little Felt Bee - CrawCrafts BeastiesI’ve actually been meaning to develop a pattern for this busy little lady for ages! My Mum has been working tirelessly over the last couple of years to make life easier for our native bees, which are facing all kinds of problems due to habitat destruction and a particularly nasty parasite called the varroa mite. I had hoped to provide her with a swarm of felt bees to promote her Bee Garden project at Moneypenny’s Lock on the Newry Canal last summer, but of course I didn’t quite get around to it!

This year, the springing of spring got me thinking about bees again… and it happened to coincide with a call for submissions for a Craftivism event in The Make It Shop in Manchester by The Snail of Happiness, whose blog I’ve been following and enjoying since I started here a couple of years back. Finally, the extra nudge I needed!

So in the past week, three little felt bees have buzzed off to the UK, each with a hand-drawn mini-zine about some simple things we can all do to help out our hardworking insect friends. And yes, Mum finally got some bees of her own to snap in her Bee Garden!
Bee Excellent to Each Other - CrawCrafts BeastiesSo, what’s next for the bees? Well, I had a lot of fun making them, and once I’d figured out the angles of the pattern, it was actually quite a simple make! So I’m toying with drawing up the templates and putting them out there so everyone can have a go – what do you all think? Let me know in the comments!