Archive for ‘experiments’

January 26, 2012

free entertainment?

There’s nothing good on telly on Tuesday 31st January; so if you’re at a loose end that evening, and crave diversion at zero cost, then please come down to the Phoenix Cavendish Square.

Forwhy? Well, Olly and I will be recording a radio pilot for a new comedy quiz – with Ian Collins, Tom Parry and Bridget Christie as the contestants – and we need YOU to be in the Live Studio Audience. I promise you won’t get hauled up on stage or forced to recount your most embarrassing sexual experience, as it’s neither panto nor So Graham Norton. (I have a phobia of audience participation, so I wouldn’t do that to you.)

Doors open at 7pm for a punctual 7.30 commencement, concluding by around 9pm. As there are no tickets, it’s first come first served for the chairs. I don’t know whether the pub allows bring-your-own for furniture.

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December 27, 2011

Lobster

Yesterday I promised to post about the best Christmas gift I made this year. (Best in my own opinion. Opinion of the recipient: difficult to gauge.)

Here it is:

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It came out nearly twice as big as I’d anticipated, at almost three feet long. A three-foot lobster is quite creepy-looking, even when made out of a material as innocent as red felt.

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Exoskeleton.

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Beady eyes.

November 20, 2011

croc & choc

It was my brother Rick’s birthday yesterday, and once again I found myself in the same impoverished state that produced my other brother’s birthday present last month.

Unlike Andy, and everyone else in the family, Rick is a clutter-hating utilitarian, so I had to make him a gift that was functional. However, Rick is a highly competent adult, and thus has already equipped himself with all the functional objects he might need. Hence he is utterly infernal to find presents for, but he’s a very good egg which means I still want to give him birthday presents.

The problem: what to give the man who has everything he wants/needs, throws out anything he doesn’t, and who, incidentally, lives in a chilly house?

The solution:

Draught-excluder!

Materials: green fabric from my sister-in-law’s late mother’s huge stash of upholstery textiles (the leaf print looked suitably suggestive of scales); scrap of red needlecord for the mouth; white felt teeth; stuffed with rags and half a disembowelled cushion. I sewed pintucks along the back, for the crocodile’s armoured ridges.

Grrrr, terrifying. Of course, my little niecephews immediately grabbed it and started thwacking each other.

Now my mum wants a draught-excluder for Christmas. What sort of beast should I make for her?

Here’s the other birthday thing I made for my brother:

Cross-section:

Interior: chocolate sponge, coffee buttercream. Exterior: Toblerone frosting.

November 7, 2011

the mind Boggles

People often ask me what is my greatest crafting feat. Here’s how it came about.

A few years ago, I lived very near to my friend Josie and we were both underemployed. As a result, we watched a lot of ANTM, and we played a LOT of Boggle.

At the height of our obsession, we decided we had to share the joy and play boggle onstage with the audience at comedy gigs. We used to draw the grid on a flipchart, which was neither large enough for most of the audience to be able to read, nor showy enough for a gig. Bigger, we had to think bigger!

My mind was tickled by the engineering puzzle of how to expand the Boggle set, but make it easily portable so we could take it to gigs. Plus, I had to keep costs to a minimum.

So having expended about £25 on Primark bedsheets, iron-on fabric stiffener and acrylic paint, followed by a very tedious afternoon or two of construction, I became the proud inventor of the World’s First* Fully Collapsible Giant Inflatable Boggle Set.

*I haven’t confirmed this, but nobody has told me otherwise.

I’ve made some improvements to it since, so that all the blocks tie together at each corner and it lies flat; but my favourite picture of it in action is this one, from its first ever outing:

That was taken at the inaugural Latitude Festival in 2006. Martin White and Matthew Crosby are sportingly holding it up so the audience could see.

The pieces are each about 14 inches cubed, and I replicated the distribution of letters from my real, normal-sized Boggle set, for maximum accuracy. Inside each cube is one of those toy punch-bag balloons from the Pound Shop, and when those are deflated the whole set packs into a shopping bag.

Despite having cracked the issue of the Boggle set, the audience participation Boggle never really worked very well. However, the giant Boggle set still comes in handy sometimes, eg for leaving subtle messages around the place.

October 13, 2011

Doll-ald Rumsfeld

One of my main reasons for starting this site, aside from vainglory and having too much time at my disposal, was to have a repository for the various items I’ve made over the past few years. I tend to give away almost all of my pictures and handmade objects, so this is my opportunity to remind myself of things past.

Today’s Thing I made in early 2008. It was commissioned to appear in this, but I don’t think it made the final cut, so this is the official world debut of…

…the Donald Rumsfeld doll!

Remember him?

Here’s the doll sitting on a scale replica of what Donald Rumsfeld himself used to recline upon in the Pentagon.

October 6, 2011

shut it you staaaaaag

This week’s lesson is that necessity is the mother of invention.

It is my brother Andy’s birthday today, and being thoroughly broke at the moment, I needed to come up with a present for him that cost £0. Luckily, he likes homemade presents* and weird shit for his house. So, using a few items I’d consigned to scrap plus some craft supplies from the stash, this is what I made him:

I’m pretty sure my brother hasn’t got one already.

A lady called Nichole tweeted me to ask if I had a tutorial for the DIY stag’s head. I don’t, because I was making it up as I went along; but here’s roughly how I did it:

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October 6, 2011

What to do with a Mars bar if you don’t like Mars bars


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..
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I left that space above for you to supply your own Marianne Faithfull jokes.

Anyway, curiosity led me spend £1 on a pack of the new ‘limited edition’ triple-choc Mars bars, which turned out to be rather underwhelming. So I was stuck with several unwanted Mars bars cluttering up the place. What to do?

Make cookies, of course!

cookies! Of course!

I used a modified recipe from an old Good Housekeeping cookbook (not THIS one, thankfully), which can be used to make very fine chocolate chip cookies on a day when you don’t have Mars bars to contend with.

Ingredients:
75g/3oz butter
75g/3oz granulated or caster sugar
75g/3oz soft light brown sugar (I thought I didn’t have any, so used normal brown sugar. Nobody died. Of course I found the correct sugar about 5 minutes too late.)
a few drops of vanilla essence
1 egg, beaten
175g/6oz self-raising flour (I like to substitute a few grams of flour for cocoa powder, for extra chocolatiness)
pinch of salt
3 unwanted Mars bars, chopped into small pieces (or use 100g/4oz chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips)
optional: 50g/2oz chopped nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans would be nice, but I only had Brazil nuts which worked fine)

Makes 25 smallish cookies.

yes, I know it looks like squirrel turds NOW, but wait!

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 180C (slightly less if it’s a fan oven that isn’t shit, like mine).
In a big bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until well-mixed, then beat in the egg and vanilla.
If you want to be teacher’s pet, sift the flour, salt and cocoa powder before mixing into the creamed mixture. Or just go right ahead and mix them in, and hope that there aren’t any pebbles in your flour.
Add the chopped Mars bar/chocolate and optional nuts. Stir in well.
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto lined baking sheets, and keep them well spaced.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Leave them on the baking sheets for a minute after you take them out of the oven; then when they’re firm enough to move without falling apart, transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Ta-da!

...still looking quite a lot like squirrel turds, if I'm honest.

Despite appearances, they taste great. Unlike squirrel turds, I assume. I’ve never tried eating those, but I’m sure that if they were delicious, we’d have heard about it by now.