Category Archives: Art

Missing Mojo – Found!

You might remember me bemoaning the loss of my Mojo in this post, the debilitating feeling when inspiration disappears out of the window.

Well, I’m happy to relate that it’s back and I’m beavering away being creative and even the wind and rain whipping past the window and howling down the chimney hasn’t dampened my spirits today!

I realise that I’ve become bogged down, especially with Social Media.  When I started writing this blog I had no idea about SEO, I didn’t have a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, a featured board on Pinterest, an Instagram account, Flickr.  I wasn’t helping other people with their Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, websites….

Add that to the Etsy shop, packing yarn, writing patterns, answering queries as well as family commitments and actually having a life… the part of me which I discovered and which grew when I was at Art School only a few years ago was in danger of withering away altogether.

Being part of Open Studios over the past few years has kept me hanging on by my fingernails though, and I’ve loved making the exhibition pieces…


Wool Gathering 2012

'How to Knit a Sheep' NNOS 2013

How to Knit a Sheep 2013

That time of year is coming round again (so quickly!) and I’ve been rummaging around in my mind for the perfect inspiration.  For ages after making the sheep’s head, I toyed with the idea of a stag’s head complete with antlers.  The perfect place to hang crochet garlands and pompoms!  But then I realised that every time I opened a catalogue or magazine, or watched a design programme on television there seemed to be some sort of variation of a stag’s head, a rhino, a zebra or similar and I knew the moment had passed.

There are also restrictions for the exhibition too.  I work in three dimensions but making something which needs a plinth, and finding the plinth too is an added complication, so the hanging format I’ve used so far works best.

Inspiration struck a couple of weeks ago because of our local pantomime.  The Am-Dram group in the village is full of creative people and we’re lucky to have someone to devise something beyond the usual Sleeping Beauty/Aladdin/Puss in Boots offerings.  This year it was The Green Man.

Green Man Panto

Aha! the Green Man! And with some research I find this quote

His name means the Green One or Verdant One, he is the voice of inspiration to the aspirant and committed artist.

He can come as a white light or the gleam on a blade of grass, but more often as an inner mood.

The sign of his presence is the ability to work or experience with tireless enthusiasm beyond one’s normal capacities. In this there may be a link across cultures,… one reason for the enthusiasm of the medieval sculptors for the Green Man may be that he was the source of inspiration.”


I’ve sorted through my stash of fleece and yarns, filled a bag with natural colours and ordered some more from Wingham Wool Work.  I also bought a sample pack of dyes and that’s what I’ve been doing most of today, dying natural fleece and yarn, and over-dyeing some bright shades to bring them into the right colour spectrum.

Landscape Dyes Wingham Wool Works

I’ve had such FUN! I’ve looked back in the archives and it was January 2011 when I last dyed yarn and I loved the results then.  This is a very different palette, but I’m so enjoying throwing caution to the winds, and mixing up different dyes, and different strengths and dribbling them over the wool to get soft natural effects.

Landscape Dyes

My Green Man has been inspired by the cherry trees in the garden with their grey trunks.  His face is bark coloured using natural Cheviot fleece, rougher and hairier than my usual Merino, and lovely to needlefelt.  This is the story so far…

The Green Man - work in progressJust waiting for the greenery to grow!

The greenery is too damp to use tonight so I will put my crochet ‘Hat’ on as I want to finally finish the bunting pattern which I’ve been editing.  It’s looking very pretty…Crochet Beaded Bunting - Planet Penny Yarn

 I’m off to clean up the dye splatters in the utility room, but I’ll be back soon!



Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios 2013

It’s hard to believe this is the third year we have taken part in Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios, but then it’s always hard to get one’s head round how quickly time flies.   This weekend will be the last for this year so we’re really hoping the weather stays kind and encourages lots of people to drive out into our beautiful Norfolk countryside to visit us.

Norfo0lk and Norwich Open Studios PosterIf you are a regular visitor to Planet Penny you will know I share my studio with my good friend Kit,  a printer, for the purposes of Open Studios.  It makes it more fun and more manageable when several people arrive at once and we both know enough about each others work to be able to talk about it.  (Although I wouldn’t recommend anyone goes away and attempts etching after an explanation from me!)

I know only a handful of people reading this will be able to visit so this is virtual invitation to our studio so you can see what’s been going on over the past couple of weeks.

This is the studio, through the archway.

Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios
It looks so much better when the sun shines!
Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios - garden

The Japanese Maple which last year formed part of the wedding decorations (which you can see in this post) is now a great place to display the felted  ‘River Rocks’ which were first exhibited as part of the Bergh Apton Sculpture Trail several years ago…

Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios 2013Inside, it’s so tidy! It’s lovely, I wish it would last!

studio inside

Can you see the tell tale streak across the mat?  Well, for once it wasn’t Higgins.  The very first day, dead on 10 o’clock when we were officially open, the little oil filled radiator which we had been huddling round because it was so ridiculously cold went POP and leaked hot oil all over the floor!   Several teatowels were sacrificed in the frantic mopping up and that trail was created as we dragged the darn thing outside where it dribbled over the gravel.

Not a good start and I’ve had to dispose of the mat which I rather liked.  Never mind, next week I’m having vinyl laid which will withstand tidal waves of hot oil as well as muddy little paws!

interior studio NNOS 2013

Oh gosh, have you noticed Higgins has crept in yet again?  Not what I intended but since he’s here I’ll just say he’s well rested now and is all geared up to greet his public should they feel inclined to visit him over the coming weekend.  You’ll find general details of Norfolk and Norwich Open Studios on the website, and our Art Trail in particular on the Two Rivers Trail website.

miniature dachshund


After this weekend I hope to get back to a more normal blogging routine.  Coming up next time is another book review.  A gorgeous new publication and the chance to win your very own copy. If you haven’t signed up to follow  Planet Penny yet now might be a good time so you don’t miss out on a prize!

I’ll be back very soon…x

How Hill Craft Fair and Open Day

In my last post I mentioned an up coming Craft Fair, and I thought you’d like to know a little more about it.  I appreciate quite a lot of you live a little too far away to pop over to say hello, but if you are in Norfolk it would be lovely to see you!   Kit and I are going to be at How Hill on the Norfolk Broads, sharing a stall at a new Craft Fair which is part of the How Hill Open Day.  It’s during half term on October 31st;  £3 entrance fee but it’s free for children and Friends of How Hill.  The gardens will be open and there will also be cake, plant and produce stalls and a raffle.  It’s a beautiful place to visit, and has been described as ‘the Broads in microcosm’…


How Hill in Spring

Taking part in the Craft Fair will be:

  • Guy Allen – Etchings
  • Sue Andrews – Traditional woven baskets
  • Sandra Beech – Silks and Velvets
  • Ally Bradnock – Graphic Prints
  • Kim Cowley – Felt
  • Martin Cowley – Potter
  • Heather Hasthorpe & Cindy Cogan – Embroidery and Textile Art
  • Ann Nickerson – Alpaca yarn, fleece and felt.
  • The Norfolk County Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers
  • Polly Plowman  – Buttons (Polly gives talks on the history of buttons)
  • John Simpson – Woodturning
  • Felicity Withers of  Blue Shed Beads  – lampwork beads…

as finally me, as Planet Penny, and Kit Calladine with her lino prints and cards.

 I will be taking along my needlefelt robins as well as a selection of other pieces, plus yarn packs kits and patterns.  I hope this has whetted your appetite, we look forward to seeing you there!

Cindy Cogan Paperweight

Paperweight – dyed velvet and silk threads
Cindy Cogan

P.S. I know this is really tiny, but you’ll know why I couldn’t resist this !  Click to see more of Guy Allen’s wonderful etchings…2 dachshunds bu Guy Allen


Bexhill, Hastings…and a little bit of knitting!

After last week’s London adventure you’d think I’d retire for a rest, but no… the very next day we were packing the car to set off to the South Coast for a couple of days in the Bexhill/Hastings area staying with elder son and family.  It was an eventful start.  While I was away Higgins had tried out his ‘Super-Dog’ impression, leaping off the arm of the chair shouting at a passing jogger and landing painfully hard on his little stumpy legs and pulling a muscle.  This involved a trip to the vet before we set out, a rigorous examination to check nothing desperate had been done, and instructions to make sure Higgins took things easy, and No Running About…

What?  We were on our way to stay with his favourite little boys, who live in a house with a garden full of squirrels….

After a long day driving, Friday is not a good day to travel, Higgins had had the equivalent of 24 hours bed rest and was even less likely to do what the doctor ordered when he arrived, but a lot of effort was put into nursing care…

small dog having a cuddle with a small boy

We had a peaceful morning on Saturday, with a spot of craftiness…

hand made birthday cards

and a trip to the park in the afternoon…

learning to ride a bike Bexhill Park

but the next day it was pouring…

Not a day for the beach for anyone.

We spent the morning with a  little bit of knitting…

small dog helping small boy to knit

you just see how helpful Higgins was being!

In the afternoon however, we donned waterproofs and headed to Hastings…

Rainy day in Hastings

I love the area around Rock a Nore in Hastings with it’s strange black fishing huts, and despite the rain found Claire Fletcher‘s great little studio opened for the afternoon full of beautiful bits and pieces, and one I had only that morning been reading about in a copy of Coast magazine…

When the big black doors in the photo are opened, you see this!

Claire Fletcher Open Studio, Hastings

After a little wander around in the teeth of the wind and rain…

Rock a Nore Hastings

Half Sovereign cottage Hastings

Fishing Boats, Hastings

….we reached the Jerwood Gallery which I’ve wanted to visit since it opened.

It’s an amazing exhibition space, and although it is controversially built next to the fishing area of Hastings on The Stade , the sympathetic design means it sits comfortably alongside the black sheds.  Inside, the large plain windows frame the surrounding views, making the town part of the exhibition…

Black sheds in Hastings, seen from Jerwood Gallery

Inside Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

Gary Hume exhibition, Hastings Jerwood Gallery I now wear the badge I bought in Claire’s Studio with pride!

I love Hastings badge

And I did manage a little bit of creativity of my own…You don’t think I went away without my knitting did you?  Unable to find the pattern I made my fingerless mitts from a couple of years ago (if you remember, Higgins ate them!) I devised a new pattern of my own.  Very simple, (and I could knit in the car too, obviously not while driving!)

knitted wrist warmers

but with lots of scope for embellishment…

embroidered wrist warmers

…and so good I made them twice!

I’ve written the pattern, and it’s available for free here, if you’d like to make some too.

So I’ll leave you for now with the link to Handmade Monday over on Handmade Harbour, and I’ll be back soon…x

A Reason to be Cheerful? It’s February!

I don’t want to wish the year away, but I’m never sorry to wave goodbye to January.  There’s an optimistic feeling to February, an anticipation of Spring, even when it bitterly cold and wintery.

I have to work a little harder at being cheerful this week because Tim went back to work yesterday, so Higgins, Henry and I are  keeping the home fires burning while he’s away.  It’s good for me that, in Tim’s absence, I have to do more Higgins walking, even when the weather isn’t very nice, like yesterday…

Back at home, exciting things were happening in the garden.  My gardening gurus were giving the whole thing a once over, clearing out ‘ground cover’ plants which have been threatening to smother us in our beds (and have certainly smothered quite a lot of pretty plants in theirs…) creating fixings for over enthusiastic climbers and generally getting things into shape for Spring.  They also mostly finished off what I had started in the veg patch, which has always been my responsibility, so I’m still on target there for when the weather starts to warm up.

The excitement for Higgins was the appearance of long lost toys which have lurked in the undergrowth for months.  He didn’t know where to turn!

Another cheerful thing has been the arrival of a wonderful piece of equipment.  I’ve been wanting for ages to dye some more yarn, (you’ll remember the adventures I have with dyeing here and here) but I’ve struggled to  prepare the undyed yarn.  The yarn arrives in 100gm hanks and I dye it in 25gm mini hanks, in the microwave.  A while ago I bought a winder, not the beautiful antique one I would have preferred at a vast sum, but a cheap and cheerful annoying one, which has never, ever worked properly. There was no where I could easily attach it, every time the yarn got tangled it fell off etc. etc… And the whole winding thing just became such a time consuming back breaking faff I just haven’t bothered.

Until it was mentioned to my friend Bill.   Kit (my buddy and partner in craft) is married to Bill, and Bill, apart from being an amazing artist, a builder of cars, and all round good egg, does like a challenge, even a little one like making a wool winder.

So I now have a be-yoo-tilful wool winder or ‘Swift’, made of mahogany, which will sit on the table and twirl merrily as I get the wool ready for  the dye…

And today, as you can see from the photos of Higgins above, has been glorious…

if very cold.

I had hoped to have finished a new project to show you, but I may have to squeeze in another post instead!  Instead I shall add the Linky on the end, and hope that you have some Reasons to be Cheerful to share.  And if you haven’t got a blog, you can still join in via the comments.

Looking forward to hearing from you…

see you soon ! x


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