Monday, 19 September 2016

French knot lemon

I made this lemon on the spur of the moment well over a year ago, and have shamefully let it sit around, unframed and naked, since then. I just recently got around to finding a hoop that it fits in and getting it all finished up, and even though I am now back in Scotland this embroidery has stayed in California with my dad. We have a lemon tree around the side of the house, and at several times during the year there is an EMBARRASSMENT of riches lemons, and my dad has taken on the task of wrangling them all. He is definitely the King of Lemons, and the best person to take care of this little lemon pal :)

p.s. I still find french knots ridiculously difficult, even after all these!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Bless our house and its heart so savage - two more custom versions

The first custom 'bless our house' embroidery I did was a big hit, and soon after the recipient left a glowing review on Etsy (it made my day, honestly!) I received two messages asking if I could create a similar piece for them. The first was for a wedding - the brief was that it should have wedding bells, the couples' names, and that the wedding was for two Scottish people, so I jumped at the chance to make a Scottish themed embroidery! I used a slightly more desaturated green for the vines, to complement the silver and purple of the thistles. I have never embroidered thistles before, and it took a few tries to figure out the best method, but I am happy with the result! The second was for a woman who said she preferred cooler colours, so I ended up using purple for the roses rather than the pink I used in the original piece. I've been using so much purple lately, which is funny because I am not really a big fan of purple in general! Maybe more custom orders will help me change my mind...maybe. What do you think of these two new floral embroideries?

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Bless our house and its heart so savage

Last week, a woman contacted me on Etsy telling me that she loved my 'bless our house and its heart so savage' embroidery (a bestseller, for sure!), but she wondered if there was any way I could add some vines and flowers, evoking an overgrown garden. I always love to work on custom orders for people, so as soon as I had a chance I got to work! For the lettering, I used my usual backstitch with two strands of embroidery floss. The vines were drawn on and then stitched with stem stitch, the leaves are lazy daisy stitches, and the roses are woven spider wheels, started with five straight stitches and woven with 6-strand cotton. I love the finished effect, and happily so does the customer :)

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Oily Skin Skincare Routine

Hello! Boy it has been a while since my last post, hasn't it? Things have been a little bit crazy in my personal life, but I thought it would be fun to do a little update to my very outdated oily skin skincare post I made back in 2014. I keep saying that 2016 is the year of skincare, hoping that people will eventually start using this phrase (they haven't yet, six months in), but even if it doesn't you can tell by looking at current makeup trends that a glowy, fresh-faced look is very 'in', and the heavy, matte base is out. Of course it's important to take care of your skin all the time, regardless of what's fashionable, but it's certainly a lot easier now with everyone having this renewed focus on skin! Before we begin, here's a quick rundown on my skincare situation, and an unedited photo of myself in the most unforgiving light imaginable: bathroom lighting (thunderclap, lightning bolt, etc)! My eyes are so dark I can basically do an everyday smokey eye just by not using concealer. I'm wearing no face makeup here - I did my brows and basic eye and lip makeup, but my on face I only have moisturiser.
Skin type: Oily, all over
Skin colour: Fair, with warm/yellow undertones
Skincare concerns: Oil control, sun protection, scar reduction
That dark spot on my right cheek is cystic acne scarring. It's gotten so much better in the last few months!
I also want to note that in my last skincare post, my concern was almost entirely blemish prevention. In 2015 I undertook a course of Roaccutane, which was probably the best medical decision I have ever made in my life - I am naturally so oily that my skin dried to normal, and I had none of the common side effects aside from occasionally chapped lips. I have now been off Roaccutane for around six months, and my skin has returned to its original oily state, but without any of the chronic acne that was such an issue for me. While before it was everything I could do to prevent blemishes, now my skin is far less sensitive, and my aim with my current routine is, as I said, to control oil, protect my skin from sun damage, and minimise the scars that my past acne left me with. Okay, let's get started!

  • The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is cleanse my skin with Simple Micellar Cleansing Water on a cotton round. I love this stuff. It leaves my skin clean and smooth without that tight feeling, and dries to a non-tacky finish that you don't need to rinse off. After applying this over my face, I let it dry for about a minute before I put on my moisturiser.
  • I then apply my SPF moisturiser, Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with Helioplex, SPF 30. I have recently switched to this from my last facial moisturiser, and I love it! It's a very thick, non-oily product that absorbs very quickly and leaves no greasy residue or white streaks. 30 SPF is fine for me on a daily basis, as I spend most of my day inside, but if I'm going to be spending much time in direct sunlight I will apply La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid underneath my moisturiser.
  • I let this dry, then apply my daily makeup. In terms of complexion makeup, what I generally wear is a concealer under my eyes to hide my dark circles (I am not a morning person) and a mattefying powder to minimise shine. I don't wear foundation on a daily basis, and don't really conceal anything on my face besides my under-eye area.

  • When I get home from work, I remove the bulk of my makeup with Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes. I go to the gym several times a week, and I make sure to always take my makeup off before working out, both because wearing makeup while exercising can clog your pores and lead to skin problems, and because it feels super gross to me to be sweating a bunch while wearing makeup! I run as part of my workout, and when I wipe my face I don't want to have to be worried about raccoon eyes.
  • When I shower, I wash my face with plain, non-moisturising, bar soap. I know that for a lot people that seems super harsh, but it works really well for me! My skin doesn't feel squeaky or stripped afterwards, and anything else just isn't as effective for me. I am definitely not an SLS-free person.
  • Immediately after showering, I use Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, applied with a cotton round. I use this to reduce acne scarring, make my pores appear smaller, and improve my overall skin texture. So far I have noticed a big reduction in the size of my pores and my scarring is healing! I let this sit anywhere from half an hour to an hour while I go drink a cup of tea and relax. It dries to a fairly tacky finish on me, so I wouldn't use this in the morning, but at night it's great.
  • For my night-time moisturiser, I use TONYMOLY Pure Eco Snail Moisture Gel. I. LOVE. THIS SNAIL GEL. Okay. I jumped on this bandwagon originally because it seemed like everyone and their mom was using snail gel, and then one of my friends recommended this gel specifically, and it was so cheap and you get like, a Ben and Jerry's ice cream container of it, so I thought I would give it a try. Well, it turns out this is the best stuff in the world. I massage as much of this on to my face as I can without leaving a residue (which is a very small amount; a little goes a long way) and the next morning my skin is soft, smooth, and NON-OILY. It is honestly a miracle. If I am willingly using and recommending something to do with snails, you know it's good (snails are a devil creature and I hate them).
  • Under my eyes I use RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream. I only started using this a few weeks ago so I cannot give it a firm recommendation either way on its permanent anti-ageing claims, but I am definitely noticed less puffiness under my eyes in the morning. I am a big squinter (sensitive eyes, glasses-wearer, etc) so I am always on the lookout for anything to minimise fine lines, which is why I initially picked it up!

There are a few products that for various reasons I don't use every day, but think they're very good as items for occasional use!
  • About once or twice a week, I will use The Body Shop Seaweed Oil-Balancing Clay Mask. I wouldn't use this too much more often than that, since it is really good at removing oil, but my goodness after I've used this my skin is so smooth and clean feeling! I like this a lot.
  • When I want an especially effective lip moisturiser, rather than reaching for my trusty tube of Burt's Bees I'll use Sans [ceuticals] Lip Aid. This is a bit of a faff to apply, as you need to squeeze some out of the tube then rub it into your lips, but it really is very moisturising and lasts for hours. I'm also going to take a moment now to say if your lips are regularly very chapped and you use EOS lip balm, be super careful: that stuff really messed with my lips, and has something in it that people apparently pretty regularly have an allergic reaction to.
  • When I need hand cream, I either use Crabtree & Evelyn Ultra-Moisturising Hand Therapy in Citron, Honey & Coriander, which was a gift and smells amazing; or TONYMOLY Peach Anti Ageing Hand Cream, which I keep at work because it's cute and smells like peach gummy candy :D Both are fast-absorbing and non-greasy formulas, which is vital to me because I hate feeling like I have greasy, wet hands for hours after applying lotion. I wash my hands basically constantly so they can get very dry, and these all combat that effectively.
  • When I'm doing my nails, and I remember, I'll use NCLA So Rich oil in Peach Vanilla. You apply it with a little dropper so you can only get a little bit at a time and aren't left with a huge oily mess. I got this from a site that had a promotion where if you spent X amount you'd get 50% off, and while I like this, I don't really think it's worth $18 and probably won't repurchase. 
  • I have a little collection of various sheet masks that I like to use as an occasional treat. The reason I don't use these every day isn't because I think they're too harsh on my skin, but because I find them a little bit wasteful as an every day product. They're individually packaged and single use, and I don't want to generate that much plastic waste every day, but every so often they're super fun! Here are a few of my current collection:

I know this might seem like a lot, but I really don't spend more than probably ten minutes a day on my skincare, twenty if I'm doing a mask. Do you have any skincare tips you'd like to share? Let me know! p.s., I've made a couple layout changes to the blog - what do you think?

Friday, 6 November 2015

Madalynn Scarf

As I mentioned in my Cozy Cat amigurumi post, I recently completed a pretty big scarf project. Big in terms of both 'amount of knitting' and 'size of scarf' – this finished scarf is six feet long! I used the pattern Madalynn, and since I wanted it to be extra soft and nice I used Wendy Merino DK in claret and silver. I made this scarf for my boyfriend Allan, who is always an appreciative scarf recipient, and in contrast to the last scarf I made him we decided that this one should not be an infinity scarf – infinity scarves are nice, but there's not as much room for vital scarf-adjustment with them. By adding another section of the cross stitch pattern on after the end of the stripes section (rather than finishing the scarf and joining it into a loop), I made the scarf nice and long and most importantly able to be wrapped around as many or as few times as Allan likes! A really long scarf is just the best.

This was my first time using double-pointed needles and I really struggled at first. Luckily, I already have experience with stranded colourwork, so I wasn't learning two new skills at once, and the more I did it the faster I got at it :) The one thing I'm really (really, really) annoyed about in this scarf is that you can see in the stripes section there are a few little mistakes, and I have no idea what caused them. At no point did I change the way I was knitting, or drop a stitch, and in many cases I went back several rows with a crochet hook to make sure everything was in the correct order, but I COULD NOT get it to sit right! It's so frustrating because in a repetitive pattern like stripes, it's super visible; even one stitch slightly looser than another catches the eye immediately. It's also frustrating because I've never had this problem before and I don't know what caused it, but I am assuming it's related to the DPNs. Luckily it's in the middle of the scarf, that will mostly be hidden when worn, but boy it drives me crazy :(

One last little note about this scarf: this was the first knitting project I actually blocked! I know, I know. I should have been doing it ages ago. Now that I've done it once, I entirely agree. It took days and days to dry (1. wool holds water like crazy! 2. my flat is cold all the time!) but oh my gosh, it totally straightened out any crumply colourwork and made it drape like a dream. The merino wool is super soft and nice, and I hope it keeps Allan's neck nice and warm for the winter :) Here's one final close up shot of the pattern.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Cozy Cat Amigurumi

I recently completed a pretty big scarf project (I'll be posting about it soon!) and the number one thing I do with spare wool is make amigurumi! I didn't have enough of it left to really do anything else (this used all of the red I had) and I was looking for a fun, quick project that would keep me from hoarding the ball or two of wool I had left for like, three years, which is the number two thing I do with spare wool. So here he is, a v. cozy cat who's just as unimpressed with the cold weather as I am :) finished, he's around 12" top to toe, probably closer to 8" sitting. I did this in two nights of work while watching bad horror films and Best of the Worst.

So, confession: I didn't really keep track of what I was doing while I was making this. Like, at all. All of my amigurumi is made up as I go, because once you have the basic shapes down you're just repeating them over and over for each piece that you do. I made a circle for his head, two triangles for the ears, a tear-drop-ish shape for the body, and five long cylinders for his legs and tail. The scarf is a long rectangle, and the hat is an open circle with an extra layer of treble crochet folded up to make the rim. Topped off with the world's laziest pompom (made on my fingers, while sitting in bed). Voila! I embroidered the eyes and mouth on with a tapestry needle and black yarn I've had around for years that I only use for amigurumi faces -- remember my friendly ghost pattern from last October? Same stuff! I then stuffed it with polyester filling that again, I've had around for years. That's what I like so much about amigurumi; I never have to buy new supplies to do it!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Watercolours, pt. 2

 ...a.k.a., guess who got a scanner?! A.k.a., guess who is still learning to use her new scanner?! Scanner lesson 1: if you don't want to take the paper off the ring binding, the pictures are going to be a bit blurry. So please forgive the blurry edges! The pictures in this post are roughly chronological (although I haven't included all the doodling I've done or the failures, haha), so this blueberry is the first thing I painted. I tried to follow a tutorial picture I found on a Chinese Pinterest-type site, but, well. It wasn't as easy as it looked. I had to use white watercolour in this too, because I totally lost the white. At least I learned here that a) my paper buckles and b) I am not comfortable with wet-into-wet! The next thing I painted was this pomegranate. I did this with a random reference from Google images and I actually really like how it came out! I impressed myself with this one. The peach I did a while later, and I'm not as happy with it, but at least the colours are quite pretty.

This one I painted with the help of this tutorial from Inkstruck Studio. I think this one is quite pretty too! I've been realising lately that Alizarin Crimson is basically my favourite colour.

And finally, I just did this one a couple nights ago. It was inspired by a picture of a watercolour grid I found, but I unfortunately don't remember the source anymore. Again, not perfect, but it was a fun exercise! I've been really enjoying watercolour and I think I am slowly getting better at, a little bit at a time.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Another roses and pearls ribbon embroidery

The embroidery so nice she made it twice! Well, kind of. It's actually slightly different from the last Roses and Pearls embroidery I did -- I didn't use anything from the kit except the small beads, the hoop is bigger, and the fabric is different. Really the main thing in common is that I was inspired to make another rose wreath ribbon embroidery, since I enjoyed doing the last one so much. I really love making ribbon roses! The ribbon is all pure silk, and I doubled up on the cotton thickness here to give it some body. It was mostly freehanded; the only pattern I used was drawing circles where the large roses would go in air erasable pen and the rest was done on the fly. This one is for sale, here on Etsy!

P.S., my dissertation is all handed in! I'm done! Yay but also oh no, what do I do now?

Friday, 4 September 2015

Read, Reading, Want to Read {5}

It's been a while since my last RRWrR! I have read loads since then, so let's get right to it. Some of these summaries might be a bit spoiler-y, so be warned!

The Shelters of Stone, The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel | 3-5/5
I talked a lot about this series in my last books post, and I should reiterate that these books are goofy as hell, and I love them. I know they aren't for everybody, because they're very repetitive, and the longer they go the more unreasonably perfect Ayla (the main character) becomes, but here I am. LOVE IT. I'm so glad I finally finished the final book in the series; this was the main reason I re-read them all! In The Shelters of Stone, Ayla meets Jondalar's people, and is officially mated to him, despite some consternation from the tribe. In The Land of Painted Caves, Ayla becomes a religious leader, and there's some drama about Jondalar being quite a big jerk. This last one was pretty disappointing though, and if I took these books seriously I would be really annoyed by it. A solid 30% of the book was descriptions of cave paintings, and the plot was mainly going from cave to cave. It certainly does what it says on the tin. There is a lot I didn't like about this book, and the 'climax' is one of the most groan-worthy, misunderstanding-of-languages terrible pun-like 'relevation' I've ever read. I'm genuinely getting annoyed now, thinking about it! Once again love these books, did spend some time on an Earth's Children fansite trying to figure out if Auel would be writing any more. So, what can you do.
Native Tongue, by Suzette Haden Elgin | 5/5
Oh, I adored this book. I read it all in one day, I couldn't put it down! The premise of this book is that in the 22nd century, the status of women has been reverted to that of essentially property with the legal rights of children, and women have been barred from public life. There are powerful linguist families who act as the government's liaisons between humans and the alien races who now regularly trade with them, leading to a post-scarcity Earth -- these technological advances combined with the state of women makes the setting almost a dystopia-utopia. The book tells the story of Nazareth Chornyak, an especially gifted linguist woman, and the revolution she becomes a part of. It's a lot of plot to take in, but I've been describing it as a bit like the Handmaid's Tale, with aliens and linguistics. Which are basically three of my favourite things! I have been recommending this book a lot.
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell | 5/5
I loved this book too! I have been very lucky with book choices this year. This book has a similar premise to The Book of Strange New Things, in that they're both about Christians In Space. A sign of intelligent life is discovered on a distant planet, and a scientific expedition, spearheaded by the Society of Jesus, is sent to investigate. The characters are all wonderfully fleshed out and sympathetic, and I absolutely loved Emilio Sandoz, the main character, a Jesuit priest from the slums of Puerto Rico. The alien species they find on Rakhat are wonderful too, and the society is beautifully fleshed out. There's also some consideration of Christian theology that, as someone who knows almost nothing about any of that, I found really fascinating. I don't really know what else to say about this book, I just loved it.
The Judas Rose, by Suzette Haden Elgin | 3.5/5
You know, I had marked this as 5/5 on Goodreads, but as I've been writing this post I realised that I couldn't remember hardly anything about this book. I clearly enjoyed it, but it isn't nearly as good as Native Tongue. The book is hardly a sequel at all, and more a continuation of the themes raised in the previous book. There is more talk of languages, more talk of aliens, and we learn about a government-wide conspiracy that rather complicates everything a lot. There's a big twist at the end too, which actually works quite well. If I sound rather unenthused here, it's because I truly don't remember much more about this book!
Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood | 5/5
I know I keep saying this, but I loved this book too. I can't believe I haven't read it before! The plot follows the main character, Snowman/Jimmy, in a post-apocalyptic setting, as he recollects his life before and how everything collapsed. Something I really loved about this book is the setting pre-'apocalypse' -- while technically a dystopia, it's unsettlingly similar to the way things are going today, with intense class-based segregation and mega-corporations controlling the government, police force, and the food we eat. There's also mass-extinctions, climate change, and a population fixated on beauty and youth. Sounds pretty familiar, right? Margaret Atwood creates such believable and terrifying scenarios, all beautifully written. I highly recommend this book.
Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell | 3.5/5
This is the sequel to The Sparrow, and unfortunately doesn't quite live up to the original. There were parts of this book that I absolutely loved, and I was very happy with how some of the (being very vague here) issues brought up in the first book were resolved. That being said, there was also a lot of complicated family tree type things that were quite difficult to keep track of, and this book is essentially a story about a war with a sometimes-confusing framing device. I also found the new characters they introduced mostly rather interchangeable, but there were a few exceptions to this that I really enjoyed. I do recommend this as a sequel if you've read the first, but it's not quite as impressive a work, I think.
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood | 5/5
I liked this book as much as I liked Oryx and Crake but in very different ways. Set in the same universe as Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood isn't a sequel so much as an alternate telling of the same events. The story is told from the perspective of two women, Ren and Toby, both of whom miraculously survived the so-called 'waterless flood'. Margaret Atwood does an excellent job weaving the lives of these two lower-class, 'pleebland' women in with the story line of Oryx and Crake, which deepened my appreciation of the first book even more. And reaaaaally reaffirmed how much of a jerk Jimmy was.

Earthsong, by Suzette Haden Elgin
In Earthsong, the trilogy’s long-awaited finale, the Aliens have abandoned Earth, taking their technologies with them and plunging the planet into economic and ecological disaster. Devastated, the women decide to take their failed Láadan project back underground, desperately seeking guidance from their long-dead foremothers. The women discover an ingenious solution to the problem of human violence and seek to spread their knowledge—but has their final solution come too late?
Dune, by Frank Herbert
Set in the far future amidst a sprawling feudal interstellar empire where planetary dynasties are controlled by noble houses that owe an allegiance to the imperial House Corrino, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides (the heir apparent to Duke Leto Atreides and heir of House Atreides) as he and his family accept control of the desert planet Arrakis, the only source of the 'spice' melange, the most important and valuable substance in the cosmos. The story explores the complex, multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion as the forces of the empire confront each other for control of Arrakis.

Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.
MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
A man-made plague has swept the earth, but a small group survives, along with the green-eyed Crakers – a gentle species bio-engineered to replace humans. Toby, onetime member of the Gods Gardeners and expert in mushrooms and bees, is still in love with street-smart Zeb, who has an interesting past. The Crakers’ reluctant prophet, Snowman-the-Jimmy, is hallucinating; Amanda is in shock from a Painballer attack; and Ivory Bill yearns for the provocative Swift Fox, who is flirting with Zeb. Meanwhile, giant Pigoons and malevolent Painballers threaten to attack. 
Phew, that was a big one! I've been reading a lot lately, even though I've also been working pretty hard and constantly on my dissertation. (Only a few days to go!!!) What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these books?

Friday, 21 August 2015


Hello all! Oh my goodness it's been quite a while since I've made a post here, hasn't it? My excuse is that I've been back in California over the summer, and did no embroidery at all while I was there. It was a fantastic trip, and I also got a lot of work on my dissertation done (just a few more weeks until it's due!), but I mainly hung out with my parents, ate a lot of good food, and enjoyed the beautiful LA weather. I did do a lot of knitting, which you'll have seen pictures of if you follow me on Instagram, but I'm going to wait until that's finished to do a post on it. I did pick up a new hobby, though...watercolours!

My friend took me to an art supply warehouse, and helped me choose everything I'd need to get started -- which I am very grateful for, as that store was massive, and I was in way over my head! I picked up the cutest little Winsor and Newton Cotman set, a flat wash brush, a medium round, and a smaller round too. Oh no, I'm sure these all have proper names and I'm totally forgetting them, but just look at the picture above for what I mean! I also got a few various tiny brushes for very fine detail work, and a journal of watercolour paper. Up there is a picture I took of my colour swatches -- it's a great variety of colours, isn't it?! I really love colours! The white isn't really necessary, but I've already been having SO much fun mixing the other paints and getting to know how to handle them, use the right amount of water, etc. It's quite a learning curve and I admit that I had a lot of trouble controlling how much water I used at first, but I think I'm getting better now! I even managed a convincing black the other day.

This is a painting I did based off this Youtube tutorial. This was the first real painting I did, so it's definitely not perfect -- at this point I was still struggling with getting colours as deep as I would like, so the mountains are a bit too translucent! I still think it came out rather well though, and it was a great learning experience.

A wee rose wreath, inspired by this post on how to draw laurel wreaths.

An E I drew, heavily based off an E from an old embroidery alphabet, and painted with watercolours. I'll tell you this, I kind of regret doing this on sketchbook paper, because as you can see there are places where the paper couldn't stand up to the water and then I made it worse by futzing with it! Oh well, I still think it's pretty neat!

Something that's been very motivating for me is that the internet is such a great resource for this; there are so many amazing Youtube channels and blogs with loads of watercolour tutorials, tips, and inspiration. Haha, I guess I am just very excited about my new hobby and can't get enough of it right now! Expect more watercolours here in the future, for sure :)