Minggu, 13 November 2011

Little Folk

There is lots of folklore regarding the 'little folk', and they have many names - elves, fairies, sprites, imps, brownies and hobgoblins. They are often described as being mischievous creatures, although sometimes they like to help humans, even doing chores around the house for them. Dobby the house elf, from Harry Potter, seems to be inspired by these stories, as they often state that the creatures become insulted if given clothes and will then leave. In fact, in Sussex (where I live) there is folklore regarding 'Dobbs' or 'Master Dobbs', a house fairy who would help with the housework.


As I mentioned in a previous post I made a toy Dobby for my son. I have been working on the pattern, and with a few variations, have made several other creatures.

Fire Imp

Fire Imps are attracted to bonfires and campfires, and are very partial to snacks cooked on them such as sausages. If you have an open fire in your house they may sneak in and sleep by the embers at night. He is made with mohair brushed to make hair and has fingers and toes.


This Brownie is a happy little fellow who likes eating cakes and dancing, a bit like a Hobbit or Halfling. He is has curly hair and a separate waistcoat and scarf.

Autumn Tree Sprite
This little nature Sprite lives in the trees and likes to stay hidden. His colouring helps him to stay secret when the trees are losing their leaves, then he finds a nice big pile of of them and hibernates through the winter. He has hair made from eyelash yarn and a scarf to keep him warm.

Forest Fairy

This little forest-dwelling fairy is well camouflaged among the trees with her pale green skin and mossy hair. She has antlers and wears a dress made of leaves. Her long hair is made of lots of different yarns.
The pattern is now available in my Etsy shop, and contains all the information to make the different Little Folk described above, with details on how to make the different kinds of hair and their clothing. All the variations can then be used to design your own creature made the way you want.

Senin, 26 September 2011

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BREED -- Australian National KC


The Phoenicians brought sight hounds into Cornwall as early as 1,000 B.C. The Phoenicians were desperate for tin and copper, and the Cornish were equally anxious for, amongst other things, fast dogs that were able to catch the rabbits and other small game which were a major source of food. Pottery from this period, now in the British Museum, show two types of dogs - one a small fox-like animal and the other looking a little larger than our own Whippets, very lightly built with long, curled, very fine tails. Some had erect ears and others the rose type (perhaps this is where our prick ear problems came from). They appeared very arched in the back with flat ribs hardly reaching their elbows.

In the Middle Ages the larger greyhounds were always owned by the nobility, and were used for hunting such game as the royal deer. Poorer people, often at considerable risk, acquired the smaller hounds which were ideal for poaching. The best dog for poachers was the fast, silent one, who didn’t advertise his presence by barking, and of a dark colour, so that he was hard for the gamekeepers to see. Perhaps this is why, to this day, the blues and blacks of the Whippet and greyhound breeds tend to be very fast. One only has to look at the racetrack to see the number of blues and blacks there in comparison to the number in the show ring.

They also needed to hunt in close cooperation with their master, and this trait is still noticeable in the modern Whippet. Whereas most Hounds hunt in a pack, with man keeping up as best he can on foot or on horseback, the Whippet works closely with his master; he will chase his game but will return, unlike many hounds.

His small size also made him the ideal lady’s pet or house dog, long before the more exotic toy breeds were introduced into England, and, as John Taylor, a poet, wrote in 1630: “In shapes and forms of dogges; of which there are but two sorts that are useful for man’s profit, which two are the mastiff and the little whippet, or housedogge; all the rest are for pleasure or recreation.”

Probably also because of his small size and the resulting small appetite, he became the poor man’s racing dog. It is quite strange however since the early Cornish tin miners’ days, other miners seem to have adopted whippet racing as their sport. This was true even in the goldfields of Western Australia where whippet racing was very popular in the early days.

The first mention of the Whippet as a show dog was on July 28, 1876, at the annual exhibition of "Sporting and Other Dogs” in Woodside Park, Darlington, in the North of England, featuring classes including Whippets. It took 14 more years for the Whippet to become recognised by the Kennel Club, Herbert Vickers requesting official recognition for the Whippet breed on April 16, 1890.

"Brief History of the Breed"
Extended Breed Standard of THE WHIPPET
Australian National Kennel Council, 2007

The little whippet, or house dogge -- 1630

“In shapes and forms of dogges; of which there are but two sorts that are useful for man’s profit, which two are the mastiff and the little whippet, or house dogge; all the rest are for pleasure or recreation.” -- John Taylor, 1630

Rabu, 21 September 2011

Cherry and Cinnamon

It's been sooo long since I last posted on this site- but I haven't given up on blogging. No sir, I've just started an even bigger and better blog at cherryandcinnamon
I always tried to keep this Koniption blog strictly comics, but nowadays I do less comics, more Illustrations, photography, fabric design and writing and I felt the need to make a new home where all these things could live together. I do hope that if you like anything you've seen here you'll head on over and see what I'm up to on my new site. I've missed you and want to show you my latest projects! Come and tell me what you think ;-)


Selasa, 20 September 2011

September Morning

This morning was beautifully soft: damp and fuzzy, with the promise of sunshine. Gibson and I went for a walk and visited the gardens on campus. There were spider webs everywhere, thick and intricate. Look at the top of the first picture...don't those silky horizontal lines look like telephone wires after rain?

Senin, 19 September 2011

What I Want to Read

I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but come on, this is cool: it's Thomas Hart Benton! I hope those Farrar, Straus & Giroux publicists are sending out lots of posters and bookmarks with this one.

To be fair to myself, my interest in this novella started with what I read in yesterday's New York Times Book Review, which does not even feature an image of the book cover. For reviewer Anthony Doerr, part of what makes the book so compelling is its length: 116 pages. "One airplane flight, or one shady afternoon in a chair somewhere, and you'll have passed through the entire thing." O.K. That's not a ringing endorsement. The "Don't worry! It will all be over soon!" bit (no, I'm not quoting Doerr there) sounds more like what your dentist says before filling a cavity. But Doerr is onto something. Here's more about that in his review:

In an 1842 review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Twice Told Tales," Edgar Allan Poe said that apart from poetry, the form most advantageous for the exertion of "highest genius" was the "short prose narrative," whose length he defined as taking "from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal." Novels, Poe argued, were objectionable because they required a reader to take breaks. "Worldy interests intervening during the pauses of perusal," he wrote, "modify, annul or counteract, in a greater or less degree, the impression of the book." Because you have to stop reading novels every now and then -- to shower, to eat, to check your Twitter feed -- their power weakens.

All of that aside, Train Dreams sounds like a book I'd love. It has biplanes, six-horse teams, wolves, coyotes, logging gangs, and, of course, trains.

Also, for those who are interested in this sort of comparison, Doerr's review is fun to read just before or just after Ann Patchett's introduction to The All Of It (see blog post below). Doerr first read Train Dreams in a 2002 issue of The Paris Review. He has a proprietary feeling about Johnson's book and is reluctant to share it with the masses. ("Because who wants to see her sacred meadow flattened by the sandals of tourists?") Patchett is more generous in her account, and is elated to know the little gem of The All Of It, first published in 1986, has been reissued and is out in the world for all to find.

Kamis, 08 September 2011

A Tower of Tooterphants!

Tooterphants are friendly little creatures, similar in shape to elephants, if not in size. However, they have wide trumpet-shaped trunks that they use to make tooting noises to communicate with one another. They also use their trunks, or tooters, to suck up their food - should you want to attract one, leave a trail of interesting treats such as raisins and they may follow it. They live in groups, and enjoy acrobatic games where they climb on top of each other to form a tower of Tooterphants - luckily their rounded shape makes them bouncy, so they don't mind when they fall down.

These cute creatures are based on patterns I'd made in the past - several years ago I made an Eater of Socks for a swap, based on the description of a creature that appears briefly in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. Given that it eats odd socks, I gave it a wide trunk/snout to suck them up, and made its legs striped like socks to act as camouflage. Then, a few years later, I made a Sky Elephant, using the previous pattern as a base, but making it bigger. The Sky Elephant was made from blue and white variegated yarn and had fluffly cloud-like ears.

So, I went back and revisited these patterns. I had some nice self-striping yarn that I wanted to try out (King Cole Splash DK), and I thought these would be the perfect patterns to use to show off all the colours nicely. I made a few minor changes, but I liked the patterns pretty much as they were. They have a nice compact shape and sweet faces, and I think they would make good toys for young children because they have a lot of bits to grab hold of. The pattern, which has all the details to make both sizes, is now available in my Etsy shop.

Senin, 29 Agustus 2011

What I am Reading

What I am re-reading, really. This chapbook is a thing of beauty, written by Vermont Poet Karin Gottshall and published by Argos Books. Read it from beginning to end in one sitting, because there is a gentle but perfect narrative arc, a cumulative intensity that poetry manuscripts don't always have. Read it soon, while NPR is sharing news about Hurricane Irene's staggering damage in Vermont. Read it later, when those stories aren't being told. Read it in the bathtub by candlelight (I did). Read it in the sunshine (I am). It's sad and it's haunting, but it's hopeful too.

Here is where you can order it: http://argosbooks.org

Jumat, 19 Agustus 2011

Mother and Child Spirits

I made a set of Mother and Child Earth Spirits about two years ago, and they've always been one of my favourite creations. I've also had quite a few requests for me to write up their pattern, and now I've finally got it finished, and available in my shop.

One of the problems with making these is getting hold of nice mohair yarns that are the right thickness. The yarn I originally used, Patons Spirit, is no longer being produced, although I've still got a small stash of it. It is also thicker than most of the other plain mohair yarns I have, many of which I picked up from charity shops without labels. I bought some Luxury Mohair by King Cole, which has lovely colours but is comparatively thin, and when I tested my pattern using this yarn, the Water Spirits ended up quite a bit smaller than the Earth Spirits I made using the Patons yarn. In the end though, despite the size difference, I was happy with both yarns and the creatures I made with them.

I think that what I like most about these creatures is the way they seem to interact when you put them together. It feels like the mother is looking after her child, or even listening to him telling her what he's been up to!

Dobby the House Elf

When we rewatched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 recently, my 9 year-old son got very sad at the part when Dobby dies. He would not be comforted, and kept insisting that he hated JK Rowling for killing off his favourite house elf. In the end, I had to promise to crochet him his own little Dobby.

I used a pattern that I had worked out when I made this Grey Hobgoblin, I just didn't give him the furry hair or a tail.

I had wanted to dress Dobby as he's described in the books after he becomes a free elf, with shorts, a tie, mis-matched socks and a tea cosy for a hat. However, my son (who hasn't read the books) wanted him to look the way he does in the films, so I crocheted a smock-like garment that's supposed to look like his pillowcase. I might have looked better made of fabric, but I always find it easier to make things out of yarn. Anyway, my son loved him, so that's all that counts!

Kamis, 04 Agustus 2011

The All of It, or Why I Love Bookstores

At what point does a recipe become yours? You know that recipe you got from your neighbor when you lived in some other state? Then you moved, and the recipe came with you, and you made the dish for a potluck in your new neighborhood. That night, the recipe became yours, right? Everyone asked you for it, and they came to know it and speak of it as your recipe. But then there’s my (my?) Apple Nut Coffee Cake. It is my mom’s recipe. Within my family, it will always be my mom’s recipe. Outside of my family, it has become mine. But who really ought to get the thanks when someone eats a slice and wants a second slice…and the recipe? What name do I write on the top of the recipe card when I hand it to a friend who has never met my mother? Mine or my mother’s? (My mom says I should put mine, because she's generous like that.) And who did my mother get the recipe from?

I’m thinking along those lines as I try to figure out who to thank for the pleasure of the book I just finished, Jeannette Haien’s The All of It. Do I owe the pleasure of the meal (because every book is a meal) to the author (well, yes!) or to Schuler Books & Music, where it was displayed, and where I discovered it? Or do I owe the pleasure to Ann Patchett, who wrote a forward to the novel? Her name is printed on the cover of the book: “Forward by Ann Patchett,” and that, really, is why I picked it up. I trust her, I believe in her, I’ll read whatever she recommends, and when she writes a forward to a book she loves, I want to read the book…especially when this is part of the endorsement: “I want this book to have a second life because it deserves to be read by many generations to come, but selfishly, I want it back in bookstores because I’m going to need more copies of it. There are so many people who will love it the way I do. It is the surest sign of a great book; the overwhelming desire to give it away.”

For the sake of bookstores everywhere, especially independent ones, let’s thank Schuler’s. I found the book because I was there, and it was there, and I walked by it and wanted to hold it and flip it over and read the back of it and feel it and bring it home and read the all of it. Thank you, Schuler Books & Music. Thank you bookstores everywhere.

Senin, 25 Juli 2011

Art Lives Here

Earlier in July, I visited my friend Karin at Interlochen Center for the Arts. It's a really wonderful place, and I love wandering around and listening to all of the fantastic sounds floating out of practice huts and windows. I also love this place, Braeside Recreation Hall.

Minggu, 24 Juli 2011

Flappy the Owl in Inside Crochet!

I'm very excited! My pattern for Flappy the Owl has won a competition to be featured in a UK crochet magazine, Inside Crochet, issue 20. You can see him on their  Facebook page or at Yudu, where you can see the front cover and the first couple of pages. I love the photo of Flappy with a little suitcase.

Here are some of my photos that I took before I sent him off. He's about a cute little owl wearing a stripy sweater and is 6.5" tall. I had fun coming up with various techniques to make the ribbed parts of the sweater, and his claws and beak. I made a prototype which my son claimed - I knew the design was good when I saw how much he like Flappy (he named him too!).

If you're not aware of Inside Crochet, it's a great magazine. In the UK I go into the newsagents and see five or six knitting magazines, but only one crochet magazine. It's only been going for 20 issues, but I hope that it's going to help popularise crochet in the UK - maybe people will eventually stop asking what I'm knitting! It's well put together, modern and up-to-date, and always has a really good selection of patterns - clothing, accessories, jewelry, toys and things for the home. This is not me advertising for them, by the way, it's just my observation. It's not just my opinion either, check out this blogpost from another admirer.

Jumat, 15 Juli 2011

Hot List for Summer

Today's New York Times features short profiles from NYT arts critics about their "must do" summer activities. Ben Ratliff wants to listen to bird song, Allan Kozinn needs to hear the annual Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood, Jon Caramanica wants to go for a drive with the windows down and listen to loud music, and A.O. Scott wants to watch "Zazie Dans le Metro" again. Me? The top item on my summer hot list is the same every year: I have to get to the cottage. Long enough to spread my books out, unpack my clothes, and settle in. Here are three pictures from this summer:

Selasa, 12 Juli 2011

The Michigan Poet

The Michigan Poet featured my poem "Hay Season" in the July broadside. They make some beautiful posters, and I'm delighted to be included in the line-up.

Kamis, 23 Juni 2011

City Living. For the Birds.

This is featured in The New York Times today. Interesting, but the birds are still pecking from a trough. I think it should come with a table and chairs and swanky modern light fixtures.

Sabtu, 18 Juni 2011


It's strawberry time here in Michigan, and since Tommy and I picked about 15 pounds yesterday, it also now feels like summer time. I will try to pick more next week.

I'm also reading this:

My aunt in St. Paul loaned this to me last summer, but for some reason I am finally reading it now. It is set (mostly) in Sweden, and I have a peculiar fascination with Sweden. I may not get there, but if I did I think I'd feel at home. And, yes, there is a strawberry patch in the book. But there is a lot more than strawberries growing in the story. I'm halfway into it and have reached that stage of a tale when I carry it around somewhere inside me... penny in my pocket, sweet candy in my mouth, something to savor.

Kamis, 16 Juni 2011

Mackinac Island

We celebrated my parents' 50th anniversary last weekend on Mackinac Island. What a special occasion, and what a special place.