Friday 20th April 2018

I’m in Scarborough hoping to get some good photos of the fisherman doll that I can use for a display. I think I’ve got some good images, but I’m using my ‘proper’ camera so have to wait till I get home to see them properly.

I’m staying at the Grand hotel, which is one of those big hotels on the cliff that you look at as a child and imagine what it must be like to be rich enough to stay there. Turns out it’s not that expensive. I was a bit early for booking in so I sat on some benches watching the ocean (which wasn’t doing much). There was a couple on a bench that I thought made a nice image, they were squashed to one side and he had his arm around her.

Later I went along the harbour and posed the doll against some nets.

Tomorrow I’m visiting the marine heritage centre. I didn’t think I’d have the photos done tonight, so I’ve got some spare time which I’m going to spend drawing. Going to try and overcome the worry of painting in public!

I’m not sure how best to use the images I get of the dolls. It all comes into the thinking of how I’m going to display them. I’ve an old set of step ladders at home, only short ones, but they’re covered in slashes of paint. My thinking is to use that as the main display to stand the dolls onto.

The well used steps might add to the character of craftsmen that the dolls portray. I was thinking of adding the sketches I’ve done to one big piece and printing it off as a backdrop of Yorkshire Folk, perhaps I could print it onto fabric.

As with each dolls patterns I’m almost tempted not to write the patterns down, but describe how I made the doll instead. I don’t know and would appreciate hearing whether people want the pattern… the doll pattern and most of the clothes of course is already available online, but items like the Gansey are not yet published.

Should I keep these dolls as only made by me, or share with everyone?

I also have to write a 50 word description of my project. What do I go with?

Locally made? Bridging a gap in the market? Celebrating forgotten crafts? Lost crafts?

There’s so many parts to this I don’t know which to choose.

Thursday 19 April 2018

I’m off to Scarborough tomorrow with the little fisherman doll.

Today was a busy day of packing and repacking because I always carry far more than I need with me.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos of travel sketchers and looking at a minimalistic approach to painting and drawing equipment.

I watched an online craftsy class by Katherine Ewing called Luminous Watercolour Mixing which uses a six colour palette. Three cool primary colours and three warm primary colours. Its a great palette for producing some brilliant bright colours, which all look great together.

I’ve also been looking at more figure painting videos on YouTube. So far all my drawings are similar, simple sketches with little or no colour. I’m hoping to try some different techniques on the beach!

I’ve finished two dolls so far, and am now working on the knitter, based on the terrible knitters of dent. I knitted a miniature shawl using 2.25mm circular needles, that’s what I’ve been knitting in church the last few weeks (yep, I Knit in church, but I’ve not yet been struck down!). I knitted the shawl in undyed lace weight wool and dyed it as a finished item. I also dyed some of the lace weight yarn black so I can make some miniature dales gloves.

The gloves are similar to Sanquhar gloves, which are knitted fine and take a long time. I’m lucky in that my eyesight, while not being able to recognise people across the room, is perfect for small close up work. I made a swatch to try and get the right needle size and settled on 1.50mm knitting needles (DPNs) the gauge is 5 stitches per centimetre. So now I just have to hand Knit a miniature pair of gloves, easy right?

However, since my dolls don’t have fingers I had to decide whether to go with tradition and make gloves (imagine the mini fingers) or to make something that would fit on the dolls hands. I’m thinking practicality over tradition, so I’m hoping to manage mittens.

It’s these little details that makes the plan of 8 dolls more unlikely. I woke up a few days ago thinking that perhaps I could make a folk musician complete with accordion! It was at that point that I decided I was my own worst enemy and my attention to detail would become the death of me.

Wednesday 18th April

I’ve two dolls finished so far, many more to do.

I took them to a meeting this morning at the request of a friend who wanted to see them in person.

The question came up about making and selling dolls. I’ve long believed, as many crafters do, that people don’t want to pay for the time it takes to hand make items. My dolls can take up to 3 days to make, that’s 3 days non stop. Even at minimum wage the dolls would be out of the price range of most folk.

I also believe that the fun in doll making would soon disappear if I had to make dolls constantly. It’s something I enjoy, but I could go insane if I had to make them day in, day out!

Plus I’d miss the fun of hearing from people trying to make their own doll. I sell the doll pattern on Etsy and Ravelry (search for my little crochet doll), it’s not the cheapest doll pattern, but my website (www.bettyvirago.com) and Ravelry have several free outfit patterns for additional outfits.

I enjoy sharing the techniques of doll making and even though not every doll made is the same as mine, they’re all lovely.

The dolls are based around Yorkshire people, so another part of my research has been drawing people in public. That’s quite an achievement for me, since I’m a little shy at getting out my drawing book in public!

Today I found an Italian cafe opposite a very busy bus stop and spent some time drawing people waiting for the bus. It gave me a little bit longer than I’ve usually had when I’ve been trying to catch passers by.

One guy took my attention partly because of how he was standing.

Legs wide apart, arms in pockets, shoulder length shaggy hair. Knee length boots and trousers, no not trousers. What are they called? They stopped at the top of his boots.

He wore a flat cap on his head. It got me thinking. For him, the flat cap was a fashion statement. I noted that it was like the gentrification of the working mans clothing. Making the poor look fashionable.

This evening I spent some time on YouTube, looking at how other people draw and paint people. I found this interesting video on drawing people in different perspectives.

Drawing people

Tonight was also my weekly knitting group. I knitted the skirt for my third doll, the knitter, then measured it against a doll only to find it was too tight and I had to start knitting it all over again. Skirt done, but so much more to do if I’m going to have the number of dolls that I’d like.

I’m heading to Scarborough this weekend to take photos of the fisherman doll ‘on location’. Each doll will have a charity or business that they represent, I’m hoping it will highlight some of the smaller, lesser advertised places on the map.

I’m wanting to link the fisherman to the Scarborough Maritime heritage centre.

A Bible study flag!

I’ve been looking at flags recently and the stories behind their creation.

At school we’re taught about our Union Jack flag and the joining of four countries in the symbolism (apparently the Welsh dragon, Yorkshire rose and Lancashire rose is just hidden from view!

The Salvation Army flag has significance in the trinity with the Yellow star being the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Red – the blood of Jesus and the blue – the purity of God.

One of my favourite flags is the Indian flag with the wheel in the centre. It’s was originally going to be a spinning wheel and hints at a time when we British were being idiots with someone else’s country and the wheel represented India breaking free and the fight over woven cloth, the story of Ghandhi spinning cloth as a protest is well worth a search and read.

Flags and banners are important pieces of fabric with meaning and pride behind them. 

I’ve been looking too at Tibetan prayer flags and think there is something in making a personal prayer flag or a series of flags. Each one with symbolic meaning, remembering a time of importance or pushing us towards a greater glory.

I sketch and doodle a lot, especially during sermons and lectures. It’s how I keep my mind focused. Recently I began showing some of the sketches to people and decided to take them a step further.

What if I turned these sketches, doodles and notes into textile flags, similar in size to a prayer flag?

Last week our church began a new Bible study titles Jesus at the centre. I went along and took my sketch book. This time, instead of simply doodling I would think about what I hear and try to put the message into a flag.

This is the result.


Part of me feels I shouldn’t explain it, people should ‘get it’ or not get it.

So I will simply explain how I made it.

It’s a piece of canvas, the type you use for tote bags.

I used Inktense sticks and water to paint the background, I saw something on YouTube about how the sticks can be used as a fabric paint if you iron it once dry.

In the centre I hand embroidered in gold thread the Hebrew word Yeshua, which is the Hebrew name for Jesus, this took quite a while and the gold thread was a wee bit difficult.

Since everyone says I have neat handwriting I hand painted descriptive words for emotions around the edge.

I painted a small piece of ribbon with the words Lord of All, a reference to something said during the study and sewed this in place.

Then I frayed the edges, stiffened the top and punched two eyelets so the flag can be hung on a wall or joined to another with ribbon.

As for the meaning, I suppose it means whatever you believe it means. Perhaps you recognise an emotion around the edge and recognise a need to hand it over. Or perhaps you recognise that Jesus came as a man and experienced all these emotions so He truly understands us. Perhaps you see something totally different and it’d be interesting if you wanted to share that in the comments.

Either way, I’m looking forward to the next Bible study.

Creative Bible study – John 4

I’ve been dipping into the book ‘Craftivism’ recently, it’s by Betsy Greer, but has contributions from many other crafters and artists.

One contributor, Inga Hamilton, begins by explaining her love of craft, but continues to tell a story of working with her husband on an exhibition called Elementals Birds. She describes it more as a social experiment, coming from a negative feeling experienced whilst at another exhibition. It wasn’t revulsion at the exhibits, but rather a mix of dark lighting, art in dark charcoal and graphite, and discordant music, that were purposely brought together to create a disharmonious feeling within the soul.

Inga questioned, if an artist focusing on the negative can bring such an experience to the viewer, could it work in the opposite way?

A meditative discipline was developed for creative people to practice before beginning work. then invited 100 creators to follow it. They were asked to create a variety of birds from a choice of templates given to them and asked to focus on positive and loving thoughts. These thoughts, brought from the heart, down the arms, and into the piece they were creating were focused on the viewer, wishing them unconditional peace and goodwill.

Of the 100 asked to participate Inga saw four different responses.

  1. a small group unable to participate due to other commitments
  2. Single, male artists, who couldn’t take part, not because they didn’t want to, but because they couldn’t wish peace and harmony to complete strangers; they didn’t know how.
  3. Mainly graphic artists and painters, who were happy to take on the challenge and asked for the bird templates.
  4. Almost all replies past the deadline, came from craftspeople. Their responses were late because they had been consumed by the project itself.

Few of the craftspeople wanted the templates, creating off-piste, sculpting, carving, building birds that sang, birds that raised money for the homeless. birds that focused on mental health.

The result was the most successful exhibit to date staged at the venue.

This made me wonder.

What if I followed a similar technique as a tool for bible study.

What if I read a portion of the Bible, then sat down and created something. Could God use my art and whole being to create something that otherwise would not have been created?

Here are the rules (or rather suggestions)

  1. Make your space – get out some drawing or craft tools, paper, pens, things you feel like working with and set them up as though you were about to make something.
  2. Decide whether to have music playing, I prefer music.
  3. Read the story or chapter you’ve chosen.
  4. Sit still for a moment. You might have come to the craft space with something in your mind to make, take the moment to clear that idea away.
  5. Write the bible verse and date on a corner of the page
  6. create – just create. Maybe you make nothing at all, maybe you make a mess. The ‘God-Art’ might not come for a moment or two, that’s ok, just continue making.
  7. Focus on God, What might he be saying? What did you read? Keep an eye on your natural tendency to pre-guess what is being made. Imagine God working through you, through your hands and into the paper or item.

At some point in the process you might start to see the message. Don’t worry about your skill level, this is between you and God, and he thinks your talent is just perfect for what he needs.

So, I had a go, and just to show you how it went I videoed the process.

I chose the story of the woman at the well because it was used on Sunday at a church I went to.

It is a long video (15mins) but there is no time limit to this.

It you give it a go, share the creation with me, I’d love to see it.

Folklore Ideas

Thinking about my folklore project.

When the word folklore was spoken last week at Uni I had two thoughts come to mind.

1. Canal boats and canal art

2. Beaches

Canal art is never really far from my mind, I have a ‘never-gonna-happen’ dream of owning a canal boat and going from town to town selling wool. But apart from spending summer drawing painted flowers that’s my limit of folklore

Beaches and folklore?

Ok, so tell me if you think I’m going insane here, but seaside folklore…

The summer project asks us to explore a place and create a series of drawings that explore the history, culture, heritage, customs and rituals of your chosen place.

I did a little mind map, what we used to call brain storm. I had a manager who told us we weren’t supposed to use the words brain storm anymore because it made assumptions (like everyone has a brain?) and he was quite serious. So Mind Mapping the seaside, or more specifically, THE BRITISH SEASIDE.

Bucket & spade – Tacky seaside gifts – Kiss me quick hats – deckchairs – men with hankies on their heads – burying dad – ice cream – rude postcards – seagulls – fish and chips – donkey rides – model villages – crabs – prominades – lost children – funfairs – seafood stalls…

Coming from a Salvation Army family, we moved around a lot. We owned very little, even the furniture belonged to the army. I once heard someone describe it as always having a house, but never having a home. That pretty much sums it up.

Every year we would go on holiday to Great Yarmouth, stay in a caravan at South Denes (sadly now gone). Each evening we would walk through the fair, along the sea front, up the high street and back. We went to the same village markets on the same days every year and each holiday we would have a trip to the model village, a ride on the horse and carts, and a day at the fair.

while a lot of people like to try different places and experiences on holidays I loved the regularity of it. In a world where we could be sent anywhere with little notice there was one sure thing. Where ever we lived during the other months, in Summer we had Great Yarmouth.

Sadly over the years British seasides have gone downhill, although recent reports that global warming will means Britain is hot in Summer made me smile, perhaps they’ve not yet had their day.

Besides, I’ve not been to the beach in a long time.

As I was thinking about which beach to look at another point came to mind, each place has a different characteristic, or maybe that’s just how I percieve things.

Great Yarmouth was a family place, with everything you can imagine.

Blackpool is known for its entertainment

Southport I always see as a middle class place

Scarborough is traditional

Whitby – Goth weekend!

Maybe visiting one beach isn’t enough!

Money is tight, I can’t afford to stay everywhere, but day trips might be an option, then there is the possibility of borrowing mums car – but of I say the seaside is on the cards then my parents will want to come, and a trip to Scarborough also means the traditional stop in Thornton-le-dale, and visit to Nana’s grave. See! traditions are everywhere.

Then again… I have a brother in Southport I don’t see too often, maybe I could invite myself over.

So, todays drawing.

Being stuck in bed, or able to get out but needing to go home after a few hours I can’t yet venture to a beach, so I bought some of those little cocktail umbrellas, a symbol of seasides is the beach umbrella, but probably not in Britain where it would be the wind breaker.

1 minute pencil sketch

 I minute is a long time, will I manage several hours?

The start of Summer

I made it all through the year with, well apart from two weeks off when I broke my ankle, no sick days. Then as the Uni schedule finished (no classes, but we can still go in) I was hit by some awful superbuggy cold thing.

I’ve pretty much been in bed most of the last week. I hate being ill, hate it with a passion. It’s been so bad that I lost my voice, yep that’s my personal indicator of how ill I am. When I was younger I always wanted to lose my voice, partly I suspect to get out of some of the singing I was pushed into. Sadly I never got to experience how cool it’d be to open your mouth and nothing coming out.

So, that’s how ill I’ve been. I lost my voice for three whole days (some might cheer at that). After all these years of wondering all I can say is it’s blooming annoying.

Our summer project comes in five parts, but I’m only focusing on one at the moment.

Cultural Drawing

A series of drawings over the summer based on Folklore

There are three rules:

  1. drawings should be in a sketchbook you’ve made yourself
  2. 50% of the drawings should be from primary/secondary observational resources (things you actually see)
  3. Drawings are to be timed with date and time of day recorded.

While we should be drawing everyday the journal consists of our timed drawings from the folklore theme.

Timings are:

  • 1 min
  • 2 mins
  • 4 mins
  • 8 mins
  • 16 mins
  • 32 mins
  • 1 hour
  • 2 hours
  • 4 hours
  • 8 hours

My sketchbook work is where I get my least marks, and most of that is my misunderstanding in what a drawing is. I sketch a lot, but have this stupid idea that unless it’s a drawing done with a purpose in my Uni sketchbook then it doesn’t count.

I also see a lot of what I draw as no good, shame on me.

There’s this girl at Uni, no names, but I am slightly jealous. Not of her drawing ability, but of her unashamed attitude to her work. She doesn’t care what people think of what she’s drawn, I’m jealous of that ability to be unashamedly proud.

Another issue I have is where that drawing is done. I recently bought an Ipad (thank you people who give me a student loan!) and some amazing drawing pens for it. I use mostly the Adobe apps because I love using photoshop. Again, my sketchbook shows non of my CAD (computer aided design) work because I didn’t use a traditional pen/pencil to draw.

In other words, I need to get over myself, stop compairing myself to others and unashamedly show my work.

Here’s todays…

 It’s the original ponytail Barbie. I’ve used an original image of Barbie, kept the swimsuit, put a seaside background in and coloured the rest of her.

I’ve been playing with this idea of making some Barbie clothes for a while and recently decided to have a go at making original outfits, but in crochet. Starting with the swimsuit. Although this is the first Barbie I’ve done like this I’ve made several model style images. The thing about Uni is we don’t have the time to make a whole outfit for every project, so we make samples. But in CAD we can insert our samples into an image of a model and make it appear as though we have made the whole outfit. That’s why I kept the original swimsuit on here.

Oooohhhhhh!!!!! could this be one of my sketches for my book?

Crayon Play 3 – Making the Gloves

Chalky, what fun!

But I suppose his arms can get in the way.

So what if the crayon wasn’t on the end of a toy foot, but on the end of your fingers?

That’s how I came up with my Crayon Gloves.

A pair of gloves, with a crayon on each tip. No lost crayons, no arms getting in the way. And you don’t need to learn to crochet.

You can find the tutorial here:

Let me know what you think.