Monday, 30 March 2009

Finished Necklace

Some pictures taken in better light of the necklace inspired by Karen's ceramic beads. Some of the fabric beads are scrunched up squares of different bits from my stash and wound-around with tapestry wool. The tie-died pieces were a swap with Marion (from http// )- I've got some stunning colours in the collection. There are some lovely velvet ones and I made a few with vintage crochet lace, which is a soothing creamy colour. Of course there had to be some felted beads too and some tiddlers made of balls of the same tapestry wool used to wind the larger fabric beads. I've used three of Karen's beads in this one, and they add some nice weight to the necklace, without making the whole thing heavy round your neck. The necklace is strung on some discreet ribbon, so that you can wear the necklace at a length to suit you. I think the whole thing has come out quite summery and feminine.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Spring-Cleaning and components for a Necklace

"The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said 'Bother!' and 'O blow!' and also 'Hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat."

Extract from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame,
illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard

So guess what we've been doing! Dear Husband has been on annual leave for a few days and when I saw him standing at the open garage door with slumped shoulders, I knew the time had come to brave the big hairy spiders and get in there with the bin-bags! Surely we're not alone in having a collection of empty screen-wash bottles, rusty paint tins from years ago, and curtain tracks that won't get used again?

As we excavated, we found enough spare parts from our old Willys Jeep to make a new one, a crate of apples wrapped in 8 year-old newspaper, heaps of surveyor's chains that Might Come In Handy, a lobster pot and two silver-plated gravy boats. After several hours of choking on dust, stifling screams at spiders and many trips to the council recycling tip, we had turned the garage into a palace fit for a king. But, like Mole, I eventually declared 'hang spring-cleaning' and bolted out the door without waiting to put on my coat!

As an antidote to all that dirt and physical exercise, I treated myself to some fabric and felt bead-making. This was all inspired by some gorgeous ceramic beads from Karen at HodgePodgeArts. I bought a string of 18 beads, which I shall eke-out sparingly in some necklaces I'm planning to make. The one that sparked off this necklace is the 'raspberry ripple' one below. Karen is a very generous Etsy seller and included a couple of her divine ceramic heart-shaped buttons in my parcel - what joy! But they bring out the worst in me - I'll never be able to share them!

laid out in potential pattern for a necklace

Monday, 23 March 2009

Camping it up

My dad was a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force in the 1950's and 60's. This was the era of the Cold War and the RAF were sent out on low-level training missions, night and day, protecting the country from the perceived threat coming from behind the Iron Curtain. Well, that's what was supposed to be going on, but what my dad was actually doing (it seemed to me) was sussing out places to take the family on holiday!
He would return from night-flying at some ungodly hour of the morning, crash into our bedrooms (his four daughters), fling open the curtains and announce that we were off to the Wye Valley on the Welsh border, or to the seaside at Camber Sands, or the Peak District in Derbyshire - whatever part of the realm had taken his fancy from the cockpit as he flew over in his fast jet.

Mostly these were day or weekend trips. However, after one detachment with his squadron to a flying base in Germany, big plans were made for a Continental Camping Holiday. We girls (aged from 2 to 8 years) had no idea what this meant. In preparation, we were required to lie on the lawn in the back garden in a square formation while dad paced out the area we covered. This, we were told, was to determine how big a tent we would need to hire.

So, came the day, off we set in our battered Standard Vanguard, packed to the rafters with sleeping bags, canvas camp beds, a CampingGaz stove and enough clothes for six people for two weeks. Well, it would have been enough clothes, had not my dad got one of my sisters so excited about the trip on the Channel ferry that she was sick over all the luggage before we got to Dover.

Seasick and fed up already
on the cross-Channel ferry
in a stiff breeze!

Once in Dover, we had to collect the hired tent. It turned out to be not so much a tent as a military-style khaki marquee that reeked of creosote. Property of the Dover Marquee Company, who had stencilled their name in 12" high letters on the side of the canvas. On the first night, we discovered that there were a great many complicated guy ropes and I had to stand on my father's shoulders to attach them to the tops of the tall tent-poles. This tended to draw attention to us on the German campsites, where most of our genteel Continental neighbours had brightly coloured, stately pleasure domes.

Our whistlestop tour of Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Germany was full of misadventures. My littlest sister was washed downhill on her rubber mattress in the middle of the night when the campsite was engulfed by torrential rain, my mum had to be left as surety at a petrol station while the rest of us rushed to the nearest bank before it closed to get more foreign currency to pay for the fuel, another sister fell in the Rhine trying to reach for wine corks bobbing in the river. I remember too that my dad was constantly stared at because of his large handlebar moustache and a complete stranger bought us all ice-cream one day.

Not long after this holiday, we were posted to the Far East, where my dad's flights mostly took place over the Borneo rainforest. I lived in dread of being woken by the sound of the curtains swishing open and a jolly announcement that we were going for a family jaunt in the jungle. Although we did escape that fate, there was the time we had to sleep in parachutes slung like hammocks in a WW2 pillbox on an island off the south coast of Singapore ......


This post was inspired by Penwren's wonderful photos of her vintage camping and hiking book, and magic sense of humour.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Spring Chicken

As an Etsy seller, I belong to a couple of 'street teams' one of which requires me to be over 40 years of age. No problems there! We are the Boomers and Beyond Etsy Street Team, or BBEST for short. Though most of the team is from the USA, there are half a dozen of us holding out on this side of the water! Besides all the daily chatter (and boy can Boomers chat) we have regular 'swaps' and competitions so that we can get to know each other better.
This month, we were asked to make an ACEO (2.5" x 3.5" in any medium) illustrating 'Spring'.
Well, in between hospital admissions and daily out-patient treatment, I found it hard to concentrate and had one or two failed attempts. As I sat disconsolate at my very messy worktable, my eye fell on a cardboard template I've had for about 18 years, which I made when I did a papier mache workshop with my sister in Gloucester. It's a little birdie, which we made brooches from.
So, after a rummage in the fabric stash, I decided to make a Spring Chicken for my swap, using the template for the chicken shape and machine-sewing some legs and tail feathers. There's a little bit of embroidered grass and buttercups decorating the base. I hope my swap partner will be happy with it, but I'm going to enclose a little something extra as an insurance policy!

Friday, 20 March 2009

A Pretty Package

Today I just wanted to show you what I hope you will agree is the pretty way I package the goods I sell in my Etsy shop.

When I buy something handmade from Etsy I love it when the parcel arrives, as so many Etsy sellers take a lot of trouble to make their wrappings and presentation so special. It's like receiving a lovely present, and often the seller will enclose a little something extra, which is always a nice surprise, but never taken for granted.
As my items are mainly felted and therefore not breakable, I like to parcel them up in some vintage dressmaking pattern tissue and then tuck them into a little muslin or cheesecloth bag, on which I stamp 'handmade' with a little heart. The bag is tied up with a string bow with two little dingly-dangly handfelted hearts. Lots of my buyers have said how they love the packaging, which is great to hear - I like a happy customer!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Where have I been?!

A thrifted 'pinny' awaiting its fate

Sorry for the absence for a few days - I had an unplanned admission to hospital last week and I'm only just home and catching up.

There's lots of stories to tell about the last few days in hospital, and there are some strong images that stick in my mind, snatches of conversations and insights into human nature that I'm not often exposed to.

In front of me in the queue to register at the Accident & Emergency department was a man holding his thumb on with a blood-soaked cloth. He had been using a wood chisel, when it slipped. "Why were you using a chisel?" the receptionist asked. "I'm an artist". "Well, you don't look like an artist." "Sorry, I didn't have time to brush my hair."

The ward I was put in when first admitted was full of elderly confused men and women, loudly demanding their walking sticks, bedpans, something to eat, wanting to be helped to sit up, then lie down again, then sit up once more. Never a thought of please or thank you to the tirelessly accommodating nursing staff. "We've had the campanology club in" said one long-suffering nurse, "They've been ringing their bells all night!" On one side of me, an old lady sat swaddled in enveloping robes, picking her nose and calling on Allah every now and again. On the other, Frank kept falling out of bed.

Fortunately, before bedtime, I was moved to a quieter side bay with some ladies nearer my own age. A chuckling Selma pushed my bed and me out into the corridor, "C'mon, Mamma G., we goin' cruisin' ".
There's something about the enforced intimacy of a hospital ward that opens the way for camaraderie. Something about those open-backed short gowns emblazoned with 'Property of ****** General Hospital' and the loud discussions with medical staff about bowel movements and other personal matters that breaks down the normal social barriers. How on earth does anyone think that drawing the curtains round your bed prevents anyone else from overhearing what's said?! So we quickly became a mutually-supportive little group, sharing laughs and passing round our magazines and chocolate biscuits. Our one gentleman (89 years old) told us two cracking jokes which I've added to my repertoire.

Of course, the biggest joke of all is hospital food. I suppose it was my own fault that I expected there would be actual chicken in my 'chicken salad sandwich', or, indeed, salad. But what a great excuse to regress to childhood and have jelly and ice-cream or tinned pears!

We were all hoping to be discharged on the same day, but I was the first allowed to go home. As we hugged goodbye, my bed-neighbour sent me on my way with a cheery, "Well, you look 10 years younger with your clothes on!"

Thursday, 12 March 2009


Busy, busy, busy day ahead today, so just thought I'd download a funny family photograph. Perhaps taken in October 1952 - don't be fooled by the winter coats, we're talking Scotland here!

It must have been a real treat for women to have the luxury of fabric to be frivolous with, after the restraints of wartime and clothes coupons. Big cuffs and full skirts couldn't have been contemplated just a few years previously. And don't you just love the little girl looking in the shop window in the background!

In the foreground we have Boudicca, fearsome warrior leader of the Iceni tribe, gripping her chariot.

Are my eyes narrowed in steely determination, or did mummy just tie my bonnet too tight?!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Is it a bag, is it a cushion?

I had no idea when I started to make this 'item' whether it would be a bag or a cushion cover in the end!

It started off life as the left leg of a pair of Jaeger tweed trousers, a bit lopped off the bottom of my Ikea stair curtains and a gash piece of lining. Oh, and a bit of thrifted tape for the tie. I'm so pleased though with the way the colours have gone together. And because it was potentially a bag, it's beautifully lined!

Needless to say, there was a lesson to be learned from this exercise! If you're going to buy the cushion pad, make the cover to fit it, rather than the other way round. Dear-oh-dear.

Oh - and not that I'm bragging (ahem) but I re-caned the nursing chair that the cushion/bag is posed on!
Oh, and one more thing, did anybody notice I now have three columns? Is it an improvement or a wee bit cluttered?

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Sashiko Stitching

Inspired by the beautiful bags of Hana I have been playing with some Sashiko stitching. In fact, I've been doing something similar for years, but didn't know that's what it was called! It's a traditional Japanese form of quilting on clothing, to help make it warm and snug against the elements. I love the simplicity and rhythm of the stitching, the sudden changes of direction, the trapped spaces and the opportunity to introduce something that startles. I've sewn a bright red felt circle on my linen piece (a thrifted traycloth) and the stiches are in what I think is linen thread from an old Dutch spool. I'd love to get my hands on some indigo-dyed fabric to try out some stitches against the blue.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Fossil Vessel

Well, eventually the pieces of this felted vessel have been fixed to the central cylinder and it will shortly be on its way to the exhibition. I'm not sure if it's finished, but I thought it was time to stop fiddling with it and let it go off - I might have some thoughts while it's away ....
The three separate pieces of felt were experiments with adding chiffon, net and stretched-out silk carrier rods during the felting process to achieve a feeling of geological strata with fossil layers. There's lots of hand stitching and couching, some machine stitching on the silk, and a layer of weeny shells, which aren't old enough yet to be fossils!

It'll feel a bit strange having it displayed for public scrutiny, but I shall just have to hold my nerve and be happy that I like it!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Robin's Nest

I managed to find just the right colour of wool to make these life-size robin's eggs and I think they're so cute! Mind you, that wasn't what I was saying when I stabbed myself in the thumb with a felting needle when I was making the nest ... I think I need to stick to wet-felting, I'm not good around sharp objects! I was pleased enough with the end result to list them in my Etsy shop, in plenty of time for Easter. Mmmmm, yes, I do love that blue. Do you?

Friday, 6 March 2009

Spring(s) in the Garden

The spring sunshine and blue skies tempted me into the garden to take a few photographs. Now, we've got quite a big garden really, and it occured to me when I was editing the photos that it would save a great deal of backache if I could 'crop', 'resize' and 'enhance colour' at the click of button, when I see all the work that's going to have to be done out there!

I do enjoy gardening, but increasingly I find it's not the dainty deadheading, ladylike propagating and gathering-in of harvest in a Sussex trug that I spend my time doing, but staggering with heavy barrows and wrestling with thorny things that want to snag your cardie and pull your hair. Well, after a little judicious pruning, I've posted some photos of Spring(s) in the Garden.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

What's going on here?!

This is the first of many batches of brown-toned felt pebbles that I am in the process of making. When I have enough, the idea is to turn them into a smallish table runner, but I've got a long way to go yet! The pebbles are so tactile and lifelike and I think they'll be ideal for a dining table. They'll not only be eyecatching, but their soft feltiness will offer protection to the table. I don't always take the opportunity to mention the ecological benefits of using felt, but the great thing about it is that you can bung it on the compost heap when you've had enough of it!

In an attempt to reduce some of the guilt associated with hoarding, I'm trying to make use of some of my stash of old worn-out table and tray cloths. They're getting to be a bit like my button collection - all washed and stored neatly away and taken out to play when I need cheering up.

So, I read all I could on the internet about the best way to put a zip in a little lined pouch and I (gulp!) cut up a threadbare cloth and found some lining material and an old zip and set off on the new journey. This involved finding the zipper foot, reading the instruction book for the sewing machine and looking over my shoulder at some instructions on the laptop. I decided not to get too fussy about this first attempt, it would just be a learning curve thing and the end result would only be for domestic consumption anyway. Just as well! You're not going to get to see the serpentine shaped zipped top or the slightly asymmetrical body, but I did learn a lot about making pouches! And it will be put to good use in my handbag for all those things that roll around in the bottom, but need to be transferred quickly from the brown bag to the black bag to match the outfit!!

Now, you may be wondering what drunken spider has been wandering about here. Well, this was another 'first attempt'. I have a really ancient, inherited sewing machine which doesn't understand the instruction "drop the feed dogs" any more than I do. I love the work of some Etsians who do free machine stitching and was really inspired to try some myself. (You will all recognise this as another excuse not to do the ironing.) Anyway, since my machine had atrophied into a state of reluctantly doing only straight stitches, with hit-and-miss tension, I sent it away to be serviced. My dear husband tracked down an antiquarian bookseller who still had a dusty copy of the instruction book for my machine and a friend pointed out the little hideyhole where the accessories were stored (who knew?). I fished out an embroidery hoop (from a previous episode of ironing-avoidance) and fixed in a bit of old fabric. I attached Feed Cover (F), took the Presser Foot off (don't be too impressed - I just had to go and look that up in the instruction book), took a deep breath, closed one eye and, whoosh, off I went. Part of the problem was I hadn't decided what to do before I put my foot on the go-pedal, so it was a bit like a white-knuckle ride on the big dipper - I was glad when it was over! I'm going to have another go, though - bit more planning required next time, I think ....

With love from

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Millport, Scotland

Wednesday 4 March 2009

Monday, 2 March 2009

Felt Postcard

Tuesday 3 March 2009

It's fun to make postcard-sized felted pieces, they're done in relatively quick time and you can play around with embellishments, or not, as you please.

For this one, I half-felted some merino wool, one piece in lime green, the other in denim blue. I then cut out some 'finger' shapes and reversed the colours in the spaces left behind. The piece then needed some careful felting to finish the process, to ensure that the felt had properly bonded. When I was sure of that, the whole thing was wrapped in bubble-wrap and rolled in a bamboo placemat for some serious fulling. Finally, it is rinsed and dried.

This time I couched on some contrasting nubbly yarn, again in finger shapes, just to emphasize the design. What do you think?

"You Must Make Mittens"

Monday 2 March 2009

I can't remember where I picked up this old knitting pattern book, and I haven't looked at it for ages. I think it must be wartime vintage, judging by the drawings and photographs. The text is hilarious - very jolly and English 'stiff upper lip', with a bit of Joyce Grenfell thrown in.

This very glamorous lady has a faraway look in her eyes - is she dreaming of the gorgeous chap in the next photo, who, by the look of his headgear, is away serving King and Country on the high seas?

It's almost impossible to imagine that any knitting-pattern salesman could persuade me to 'go all frivolous' and knit my own vest and pants. Well, maybe at a stretch to knit them, but wear them?! The blurb even attempts to convince me that no-one would guess I was wearing knitted knickers. I was buttoned into a Liberty Bodice (now there's another oxymoron) as a young girl, and that's about as far as I would be prepared to go on the reinforced underwear front. Thank goodness for central heating!