Hopalong Hollow....

Hopalong Hollow, where the Blueberries grow sweet, and the moss feels soft beneath your feet.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fancy planting a small garden bed for Easter?

Easter Greetings from the Hollow! I have been very busy these last 2 weeks, and so have a few others:
The lovely Mathilda has been trying to become a mommy for 7 years, according to her former mistress; but to no avail. Alas, sitting on unfertilized goose eggs will not produce goslings. Since she moved into the Hollow, we had hoped that the GANDERS would help out a bit... but they are confirmed bachelors and have no amorous inclinations towards her. Nevertheless, she built a nest and proceeded to SIT on 3 plastic balls she found in the yard a red ball, a blue ball and a yellow ball...poor dear. I removed the balls and replaced with fertile duck eggs. In about 3 more weeks, we expect dear Tilly will become the mommy she has always wanted to be.
The winter weather has at long last relented and Peggy and I have been cleaning the messed up gardens... Peggy only picks up the weed seeds and the grubs; I do all the hard work.
I am doing a series of Garden Videos for beginner gardeners and those interested in cottage gardening.  I  have SO many garden beds, I decided that filming each one will encourage me to tidy and renew  each bed and perhaps I can impart what little I know of gardening through my own trial and error. I had bit of a cold and kept sniffing throughout the entire video, please excuse me for that.
Perhaps you may wish to plant a new  garden bed for Easter, or resurrect a less than perfect garden, as I have done in this video. Have fun and get your hands dirty! Much Joy to you all.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Scraffito Easter egg tutorial

        According to Harpers Young People, April 1881, "The giving of an egg  as a mark of friendship or love is as old as the ark, of which it is a symbol; for the ancients used it as a sign of resurrection, and brought eggs to the alters for their gods as gifts."
     Today I want to show you a simply lovely way to decorate your eggs  for Easter this year using the Victorian craft of egg scratching, also known as Scraffito or Driapanki. These unique eggs are wonderful tucked in a little box of straw as a gift.
 I am fortunate to have eggs of all shapes and sizes here in the Hollow. Everyone is laying eggs hereabouts; some of these eggs are fertilized, ( chicken and ducks) and some are not fertilized ( goose and peahen). I only tell you this because IF my goose and peahen eggs WERE fertilized, I would let their mothers hatch them.  (AS for the chickens and ducks, we have enough of those folk running around already.)You can use any type of egg you like.
All we need are the shells, but the inside of the eggs will not go to waste. I will need to blow out all of these eggs...phew!
Of course, you may blow out the yolks by pricking a small hole in both ends of the eggs and then blowing out the insides, but with this many eggs, I am happy to have a handy dandy egg blower
My darling daughter in law bought this for me along with Pysanki kit, we'll try that another day. You can purchase an egg blower online from any company selling Ukrainian egg supplies. It makes the emptying so easy!
 I will scramble eggs and and allow all the birds to partake of the feast; yes, birds do like to eat their own eggs.
Now, because I want an
old folk-art look to my eggs, I will  dye them earthy tones. My main batch is dyed with onion skins. Just put your water and onion skins in a stainless steel pot and bring to a simmer. Add your emptied eggs to the water and leave them in the dye bath till you have the desired color.

 Isn't that a beautiful rusty shade?!
Next, I added a bit of walnut ink to the same water to create a deep red egg.
For some earth green eggs, I experimented with a few Rit dye colors  and then added a handful of  real moss..
Now I have these beautiful muted colors.
We are going to scratch into these eggs using a craft knife. You can freehand a design on your egg, or draw it first with a white watercolor pencil as I have done here on the egg to your left.
It doesn't hurt to have a few rough ideas sketched out in a notebook...
Holding your egg ,( NOT TOO FIRMLY, YOU DON'T WANT TO CRACK IT) begin to lightly carve into the egg with your knife. You are simply taking away the layer of dye to expose the white shell beneath. I found the duck eggs  best to use because the shells are very hard. This simple folk-ish design was done with the craft knife. Slow and steady is the trick.
 I did about 5 eggs with my exacto knife... and then, James said, "Why don't you use your Dremel instead?!" FABULOUS IDEA DEAR!
WOW, what a difference. I was able to work much faster with this engraving tool. But you don't have as much control as with a hand tool.  If you have a Dremel, try it. If you don't, no problem, the effects are nice either way. My method is to draw the outlines with the Dremel and the tiny details with the knife.
Foxglove, flowers, bees, birds, vines, chicken and rabbits are all excellent subject matter for this type of egg.
  I am still working on this hen, she is scratched into a peahen egg.

Birds are beautiful on any surface. This is a peahen egg as well. It is slightly larger that a duck egg.
The green egg almost looks like marble, I love the color.
Try various stylized borders to encircle your subject.
  You can scratch your designs all the way around the egg.

 When your eggs are finished, rub some cooking oil onto the surface or spray a thin coat of poly-urethane. I just rubbed these with corn oil.

They are lovely in a grouping or all alone on a bed of moss.
I still have a many more to engrave and plenty of ideas. Use your imagination, these can be simple or detailed, according to your taste. Can't wait to carve into that big goose egg!
To re-cap; draw your design on the egg...
and scratch away.

  Here is my goose egg!

You can fill in some of the white areas with ink or watercolor if you wish.
 The gorgeous eggs beneath were scratched in 1883 with a pen knife by a Susan Smyser and are displayed in the Historical Museum of York, PA.

Let me know if you try this egg craft, I would love to see what you come up with! 
If you want to try another lovely egg craft, visit my post from April 2,2010 entitiled "Bunwinkies and Hopalongs" to learn how to make stenciled eggs..


Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Scratchin in the Dirt" Mavis Mudd gossip columnist for the Gazette

Mavis Mudd here, my dear  gossip lovers. Please excuse my very long absence. I have been sequestered up in the tippy-top corner of yonder barn writing my memoirs, "Confessions  of a Nosy Busybody". Finished at last! I expect to be on my book tour quite soon. But in the meantime, allow me to scratch up the latest dirt of recent goings on in Hopalong Hollow. Prudi, the little brown hen, had not been seen for at least 2 weeks and the Mistress had written her off as a goner. Then alas, as the Mistress was cleaning the barn, OUT POPS Prudi! She had been hiding in a deep plastic nail bin, and not just hiding, but laying her eggs as well.... on nails!!

 Prudi has never been known for her brain power, but even this egg laying spree defies ALL the rules laid out in my first book " Raising Baby Chicks By the Dozen".  Rule #1 "Find a comfy, soft, out the way corner to lay your batch of eggs" LEAVE IT to a dense bird brain to use a bed of nails as a nesting box.  Why, it was just a year ago that she laid her eggs in an equally unsuitable location, that being a muddy gully in the side yard. Thank goodness the Mistress discovered her folly and saved all the baby chicks from sure disaster!  RULE # 2 in my best selling book is "Do not lay your eggs in a community nest"
  Here is a perfect example of daft imprudence.. Just look at this mish-mash of eggs, all laid in the same nest!
Goose eggs, peacock eggs, a duck egg AND one HEN's egg!  Shame on you little hen, you need to read my book promptly! I can understand that OTHER birds would foolishly and lazily use the same nest... but not a chicken!!!!!
Think about this girls: what if someone decides to actually SIT on all these eggs and hatch them? Do you really want a goose raising your young-uns? Or a silly duck? Oh worst of all a PEAHEN???!
Speaking of which, remember these reluctant brides?
 PEA BRAINS, I like to call them. Well, with Springtime, love is in the air and the potential grooms have never looked more dapper and  dashing. Just look at those feathers! I suppose that tail would seem exciting and splendid IF you like flashy dressers and dandies.
 The problem is, the the Peabody boys seem a bit confused as to whom they are supposed to be impressing with their preposterous presence...
I, for one, am NOT impressed... well, maybe just a little bit...hmmmm. if I were just a little younger.. oh, forget I said that! Perhaps the Peabody boys will figure it all out eventually.

Do you remember Alice and Mathilda, the two goose gals that came to us last year?
  WELL, the Mistress has been flummoxed ever since she witnessed, what seemed to be, shenanigans in the creek.... between Alice and Tilly. The kind of shenanigans that should only be performed by a male and female goosey. This led the Mistress to believe that Alice was NOT an Alice.. but an Alex. The Mistress persisted in this belief after witnessing several more "party" sessions  and even began calling Alice, ALEX. And then, one day, she saw that ALEX had laid an egg....in the community nest! So, I guess  ALEX is an Alice after all.
Well, my fine gossip loving fans, I must keep this short as I  am in a rush to get my manuscript off to my publisher, Cackle Press.
 Alas, there is no rest for a busy and famous author such as myself. Yours truly, Mavis Mudd , (chicken lady extraordinaire).
The Mistress will be back with you soon... she too,has been busy Scratchin in the dirt,

 Scratchin on eggs... ( She will show you how to do this next week, it's fun and easy)
  and making the BUN BUNS of Hopalong Hollow

 She will be back soon!
Happy Spring Y'all

Monday, March 17, 2014

my peeps, cheeps and chirps

         For years I have tried to find a way to combine my love of stitching with my occupation  of artist, storyteller and illustrator. It wasn't until working on my last book that I decided upon the perfect marriage of the two. Hopalong Hollow books are populated with countless fuzzy and feathered creatures and a few have already come to life via needle and thread, you've seen them here before; Mamsey Bear, Fiona Goosefeathers and Dimity Doormouse. Last week I began to create a few of the bird-folk of the Hollow. I have never sewn a bird before, but I admire the work of many fabulous artists that work in felting and mohair. I have much to learn from my best teachers, TRIAL and ERROR. I first purchased a pattern for a chick and then tossed it. The chick looked more like a flat mouse.  So I made my own pattern for a baby chick.
 Her beak is not quite correct..baby chicks have sharp pointy little beaks. I will have to work on making better beaks.
Other than that, she was pretty simple and straightforward. 
I made a green tomato pin cushion for her to sit on. Gotta fix that beak!
  I readjusted my pattern and got a bit more courageous in my attempt to make a chickadee.
But she looked a little odd for a chickadee, and so SHE became a He and turned into a little wren,
 in a top hat.
He is made with mohair and wool felt. He's a bit disheveled, which is why I made his top hat a bit raggedy.
  He looks like quite a dandy little bloke and I expect to hear a cockney accent as soon as he chirps.

 My next Featherfoot DID look rather more like a Chickadee.
I need more stuffing in that pin cushion, though.
 I used brown wool felt fabric and white mohair .
One of my senior cats mistook her for the real thing and I had to put her way up high on  a shelf.
Next I made a little bluebird using dyed wool felt fabric.

 I think she is quite sweet and I like the downward tilt of the beak, I'm improving a bit at shaping the beaks.
 I embellished her seams with  simple feather stitches and a blanket stitch. 

 This Featherfoot  was meant to be a Robin Red breast but she is more of a Robin Pink Breast.  I dyed the mohair to match the pink in the foxgloves of the fabric tuffet upon which she sits.
This fabric is from my "Hopalong Jack" line with Northcott.
 Her body consists of 4 different mohairs and
I made her beak with wool felt.
She has a lovely long nose, but I should do a bit of shading on it with copic pens or acrylic paint. Any suggestions on what to use for shading mohair and felt? I am new to all this!

She's  the biggest bird. You know, her profile looks a lot like Esther. Maybe that is why I love her best of all.

My birds are all a bit amateurish, but I will get better at this. I know I will!

You may wonder what I intend to do with ALL these pincushions? Well, I will NEED a lot of pins (and I like the company of birds as I sew)... for it is my goal to stitch EVERYONE in Hopalong Hollow.

 Next come the Rabbits...or the mice..or the chippys...
I can't decide!
What do you think? BUNS? MORE BIRDS?
This is fun...one day later.. I decided to work on buns for Easter.

A gray rabbit will be my first... this must be Winky Fuzzyfoot..,
and the gang.