Friday, 30 January 2009

Tied fabric jewellery

Friday 30 January 2009 Well, I've had a bit of a play with some of the tied fabric lengths I made the other day, and with the ticking one I made a long necklace to go with a contrasting wet-felted one. I think they look really neat together, to wear with jeans or a summer blouse. I've put it in my Etsy shop just to see what interest there is.

The orangey spirals below were made with some batik-printed fabric and hand-dyed thread, (from SassaLynne) attached to a cotton cord to wear as a long pendant necklace.

I'm also playing with these batik-printed fabric cords and some felt I made a couple of weeks ago, that had pieces of velvet incorporated in it. At the moment it's sitting on my work table with some beads waiting to be finished. It somehow reminds me of Marrakesh, casbahs, Atlas Mountains though I've never been there!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Fabric Wrapping Fun

Sunday 25 January 2009 Nearly every night lately I have fallen asleep reading Janet Edmonds book "Three-dimensional Embroidery". I devour every page and then dream that I can do all the wonderful things she describes. Taking fairy-footsteps, I have attempted one or two. Patience isn't necessarily one of my virtues, so I tend to pick things that might show quick results and today I've had great fun wrapping fabric with thread.

The great thing about this book is that there's just the right amount of instruction to get you started, but not so much that you don't feel free to go where your fancy takes you. I can see ways of incorporating the wrapped fabric in my wet-felted jewellery, making my signature hearts, even (if the patience holds out) some vessels. The big advantage is that it doesn't involve soap and water, so can be done in the comfort of an armchair! And, of course, my materials are mostly thrifted or recycled, so no guilty investment required either, in these recessionary times. However, I have used some gorgeous new Serendipity threads in the one below from my wonderfully supportive Etsy friend, Sassalynne.

Anyway, these are some of my efforts today - what do you reckon?!

Friday, 23 January 2009

Scotland's Bard

Friday 23 January 2009

To A Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

So runs the first (of many!) verses of Robert Burns poem traditionally recited over a groaning trencher of haggis at every Burns Supper.

This weekend, tens of thousands of people of many nationalities all over the world will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's bard, Robert Burns.
Now while I would be the first to agree that a Burns Supper is a good excuse for dancing a reel and drinking whisky, it's also apparent that Burns' enduring popularity is as much to do with the eloquent way his poetry and songs have spoken to us through the long years.
His moving and powerful poem, A man's a man for a' that, is just as relevant today as it was in the 18th century and seems particularly poignant when the USA is welcoming it's first black President. 'And man to man the world over, shall brothers be, for all that.' And the theme of fellowship is well-know to everyone who sings Auld Lang Syne on the eve of a new year and at other important celebrations.
Burns was renowned, too, for his flirtatious ways with the ladies of southern Scotland, many of whom fell prey to his charms. But just look at those eyes - who could resist?

I've indulged in a bit of a tartan display in my Etsy gallery - see some of the plaid items which are on sale in UK Etsy shops.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Tuesday 20 January 2009

I don't have such a shamefully huge collection of beads compared with my buttons, but I do sometimes find it impossible to resist responding to the call 'take me home' from a particularly lonely one (or fifteen). The easiest time to capitulate is when I see the crowded backs of bead-hunters hunched over a counter, scratching through the trays like old hens. Got to get in there and forage with the flock!

Monday, 19 January 2009

Am I brave enough?!

Monday 19 January 2009

These are some pieces of wet-felted wool which I have made in the hope that I'll be brave enough and skilled enough to sew together to turn into a free-form vessel.

There's a bit of a geological theme going on - one piece is a rough and hairy plain mid-grey, which I will be trying to fold and stitch and perhaps embellish in some way. Another swatch has strips of black netting trapped in it, echoing the bit with silk chiffon scraps. I thought they looked a bit like fossil strata in a rockface. That was the idea anyway! The last, and black, piece has some thin wispy stripes of off-white roving felted in, like the beach pebbles I make.

I've also set aside some silk carrier rods, which I think I'll stretch out and stitch to the vessel in its final stages.
I'll be back when I've got some progress to show .... well, I've got to do it now I've told you about it!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Clementine Marmalade

Just made some clementine marmalade, as this is traditionally marmalade time-of-year. Seville oranges are plentiful in the shops at the moment, but I decided to use little clementines instead when I saw a lovely recipe in Country Living this month. Aren't you impressed that I've got the peel so well-distributed?

The recipe doesn't make huge quantities, but that's fine. I'm happy to have three or four jars, otherwise I'll come across it in the understairs-cupboard in a couple of years and it'll be past its best!

I've potted the marmalade up in some old French tumblers, because I love the colour of the glass and the shapeliness of them. Real curvy mademoiselles!

Knitting Knightmare!

Having taught me to knit, my mother could never actually bear to watch me doing it, I was so awkward. She, of course, tucked the pins under her arms, wound the yarn around her little finger and whizz she was off at twenty to the dozen. Meanwhile, I had needles dangling, each row had a different number of stitches and keeping a constant tension was definitely a bridge too far. My dollies' scarves all had 'buttonholes' in them.
Half a century on, I thought I would tackle four pins. Does that sound over-confident? Well, it should! I did have the great good sense to seek advice from a seasoned pro at our local Women's Institute and concentrated really hard when the needles were flashing before my eyes. I nodded sagely throughout and scuttled home to try it out in the privacy of home. There were one or two false starts. I was using four needles allright, but the knitting was still in a straight line! Once I'd sorted out how to go in a circle, I decided my best bet was to use some nobbly yarn to hide the imperfections. Wise move, as it turned out. There was, thankfully, no pattern to follow, so I could increase and decrease with gay abandon, creating my own unique shape.

So why this sudden impulse to revisit my inadequacies in the knitting arena? Well, I was inspired by some knitted vessels in Janet Edmonds' book 'three-dimensional EMBROIDERY'. Janet's are knitted with silk and paper string, and keep their shape and form beautifully. One particularly gorgeous creation looks just like a pomegranate. Unfortunately I was so impatient to admire my own efforts that I cast-off my 'pomegranate' rather too soon and the end result was more like a lumpy satsuma. But, hey, who says that's not what I set out to make! Nothing daunted, I'm at it again, bigger needles, not quite so much manic increasing and decreasing. But I can already see some little 'buttonholes' appearing .... thank goodness my mum can't see me!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Velvet playtime

Wet-felting is a very magical process. Today during 'playtime' I decided to experiment with strips of velvet (thrifted, of course!) on rusty Corriedale wool to see what effect the differing shrinking rates would produce. The first photo is two layers of wool fibre overlaid with the strips of velvet, then fine cobwebs of contrasting wool are laid over the velvet. These will help fix the velvet to the underlying felt. Lastly a piece of net curtain is laid over the whole thing, wetted and soaped and given lots of rubbing. Fast forward 15 minutes of rub-a-dub-dubbing on the draining-board in every direction to shrink the felt, rinse out the soapy water and stand back and inspect the results. Quite pleasing for a first attempt - I like the way the velvet has runkled up and is peeping out of the wool cobweb.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Tulips from Amsterdam

A bunch from my beloved.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Counting Sheep

As a teenager in the 1960’s, I had a crush on a treacly-voiced Yorkshire singer and guitarist called Jake Thackray. He had smouldering eyes, a deeply furrowed brow and a rather odd way of moving his mouth when he was singing, which he did in a kind of hard staccato way.

Some of his songs were a bit risqué, which was perhaps part of his appeal to me, but one of my favourites was Old Molly Metcalfe. This song described the way Molly, a shepherdess in the Yorkshire Dales, counted her sheep in the ancient way, using a rhyme. Yan tan tether mether pip (1,2,3,4,5) she counted. Every time she got to 20 she put another pebble in her pocket, so that by the time she had 5 pebbles, she had counted 100 sheep.

This gave me a theme for a little felted hanging I made recently. I used wool from Yorkshire Swaledale sheep to wet-felt over some rounded pebbles, tied them in to get the basic shape, part-felted the wool then removed the pebbles and fulled the wool to firm it up. Everywhere that sheep roam, they always leave some fleece attached to the barbed wire fencing, so I made a short length of my own and attached some Wensleydale curls around it. The first line of the counting rhyme is stamped on a piece of muslin.

Yorkshiremen are renowned for their dry sense of humour. I asked a farmer how on earth he could keep track of how many sheep he had roaming over hill and dale. “Why, it's easy lass, I just count their legs and divide by four”.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Chocolate Fudge Cake

I've conceded - it seems that there was more interest in the cake than the wildlife, so here it is!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Nature Ramblings

The countryside in my part of England is farmland gently rolling around the meandering valley of the river Great Ouse. It's dotted with small villages and criss-crossed by a web of ancient footpaths and bridleways. There are views which have probably remained the same for hundreds of years.

However, industry has played its part in shaping the landscape too. One of my favourite nearby places to walk is Harrold-Odell country park. This reserve regenerated naturally in the pits left behind when nearly 40 years of gravel extraction ceased in the 1980's. There are areas of woodland and open water, home to many species of wildfowl and other birds, and natural habitats which are rare in the rest of the county.

This nature ramble of mine is really a poorly disguised excuse to mention that the reserve also has a wonderful little restaurant and tea-room called Teazels where you can have a ginormous slice of chocolate cake and a steaming hot cup of tea on a cold day like today. In fact, if you'll excuse me, I have a table booked ....!

Monday, 5 January 2009


I'm Chrissie and I'm a buttonaholic! There, I've confessed.

I keep my buttons (all thrifted) in jamjars so I can see the colours and sizes at a glance, but I keep my favourite ones in a special box. I take them out and admire them from time-to-time, and then tuck them back safely. Recently, I've made myself use some of them in my for-sale craftwork, on presents and so on, but it's an agonising wrench when they have to leave home!

What qualities get a button into the 'special box'? Mother-of-pearl does it every time; glass probably; Art Deco definitely; a great big old coat button stands a fair chance; overall buttons have their own segmented compartments (did I really say that?); and a shabby silk-covered button could sidle it's way in too on a particularly sentimental day.

So what am I keeping them for? Goodness knows. Freud would have a field day with me. But, and I am convinced of this - I am not alone. Stand up, stick your chest out, and own up!

End result

Hmmm - well, it's finished, what do you think? I actually think that it looks quite sophisticated, though the felt beads retain that element of informality, too. I've still got some of the great wooden petals left, so I might try being a bit BOLDER with the felt colour and make another one in a different style.

I've just bought Three Dimensional Embroidery by Janet Edmonds - the photographs are fantastic and I'm only sorry that copyright laws prevent me from sharing them here. Janet is a UK trained textiles artist who now teaches at East Berkshire College and the world-renowned Missenden Abbey. I think some of the ideas in her book will spur me on to be more adventurous with my felt vessels - watch this space!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Work in Progress

These gorgeous wooden beads which I bought from eandebungalow's etsy shop are waiting to be joined up with some wet-felted beads I made. I wasn't sure what colour roving to use, but plumped in the end for something lighter than the wood, as the rich tones really need to be shown off. When I was felting the beads I squished them a bit flatter on the top, so that they echo the little spacer beads. The wooden beads are so silky soft and they remind me of mussel-shells in their shape. I hope I can do them justice in the necklace I'm making. The finished item will probably go into my etsy shop , if I'm happy with it!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

A quick dash into the winter garden

As I live in a sheltered part of rural north Bedfordshire in the UK, the extremes of weather tend to pass us by. So the least dramatic changes can cause excitement. It was a cold morning today and the ice and frost had created some new perspectives in the garden. It made me laugh to see that the windfalls which hadn't made it further than the wheelbarrow have been imprisoned in a thick layer of ice and the blackbirds have been bobbing for apples! The apples in a box in the greenhouse have been feeding the fieldmice. The glasses I kept for squinting at seed packets have finally disintegrated and why-oh-why didn't I untangle the twine at the end of the year?!

Friday, 2 January 2009

Felt pebbles

As a wet-felter myself, I am in considerable awe of Ronel Jordaan, a South African textile designer and artist who has taught women in the townships to make her felt pebbles from South African merino wool. Some of the pebbles are huge, so big you can sit on them! I've only ventured into making ones that can sit in the palm of my hand so far.

Wet-felting is such a rewarding craft - I love that you can turn wool into, well, just about anything! I've made a lot of jewellery, pebbles, vessels, bags and pillows and in 2009 I want to experiment with using roving in a painterly way and be bolder with some of my vessel designs. These are some of my pebbles from my Etsy shop.