Monday, 21 March 2011

Julie Arkell workshop

Until quite recently I thought a Suffolk Puff would probably be served up as part of an East Anglian cream tea.   It took a day with Julie Arkell to put me straight.   Now I'm completely Puffed out.

I was very fortunate to discover that she was taking a workshop at the wonderful Hope & Elvis in Nottinghamshire and got my name and my sister's down early to secure a place.    I can't tell you how excited I was.   Nearly as excited as lovely Louise Presley who arrived to open up the studio on Sunday morning and suddenly realised that she had forgotten to bring something.   Something really important.   Something that would spoil the day if it wasn't fetched at once.   Something called Julie Arkell.   Fortunately Julie was quickly gathered up and the day could start (once we'd all had coffee and cake).  

Julie told us about the quilt made of Puffs that had been displayed at the Quilt Exhibition at the V&A, each puff having a little central tuft of felt or thread, and how this had inspired her to make some brooches and bracelets using a similar technique.  

She did a little demo and then we were invited to raid Louise's suitcases full of fabrics to start making our own.   Most people plumped for making a bracelet and got their heads down to make the 8 or 9 puffs required.   I was a bit slow off the mark chosing some fabric because I was lost in a magnificent reverie just absorbing all the heavenly surroundings.  

Leather suitcases full of fabrics, tins of buttons of every size and hue, secret drawers hiding reel upon reel of thread, poppers, lace, pins and needles all stabbed into delightful pincushions.     Little shelves held old toys and photographs and loveables of all sorts.   And there was space, acres of it, to spread out and cut up fabric with big sharp proper tailor's scissors that went scrunch-crunch through the material.  

As a result of this dreamy admiration, (and a lot of nattering and conspicuous cake consumption), I didn't actually get my bracelet finished before it was time to go home.   So I finished it this morning.  

The one below is the one my sister Rosie made while I ran and fetched her poppers, fabric to be auditioned, and suitable threads (and cake).

I think it has a Japanese flavour, don't you?

Julie also showed us how to make the puffs into bunches of flowers to turn into a brooch

and her wonderful charm bracelets and watches were also on display to inspire us 

and so was Stanley

If you ever are tempted to take part in a workshop and live within striking distance of Nottinghamshire, then don't hesitate to jump at the chance to go to Hope & Elvis.   I thought we had driven a fair distance, 2 hours up the M1, and then I discovered that someone had come down from Dumfries for the day.   I know she won't have regretted it.

Did I mention the cake...?

Stanley went home with Rosie ....

Hope you're having a good week!


Friday, 11 March 2011

Gert & Daisy*

May I introduce two new members of the clan? 

These two lovely ladies joined us last week.   We saw them advertised online by a farmer who was giving up the free-range egg business after 25 years because the supermarkets don't pay him enough to cover the cost of his feed bills.   Sad.   Fortunately he has managed to sell nearly three thousand of the flock, with another two thousand still to go before the end of March.

So we drove over to Silverstone, just beside the Grand Prix circuit, and joined a queue of people waiting to load their hens into some pretty fancy modes of transport.   Nothing less than a new Range Rover in most cases .... or at a pinch a BMW towing a horsebox.  Reminded me of a comment in a recent Country Living article about keeping hens now being a 'lifestyle choice'!

When our turn came I was feeling slighty anxious that the hens might take one look at us, under-dressed as we were without the Hunter wellies and Puffa jacket, (not to mention a vehicle that is more than three years old), and refuse to get in our cardboard box with airholes in it, preferring to wait for a better offer.  So when we were asked if we would like to come into the field and catch our own chickens, I said we'd be fine with two picked for us.  My husband stipulated that he would like pretty ones.   I'm not sure what the farmer's daughter made of this, but she did bring us these two sweet ladies who obviously passed muster in the glamour stakes!  


Settling them in has been a slightly troublesome business.   Madge and Fanny are not impressed at having their quarters invaded by two young glamour-pusses and have been making it clear what the pecking order is.   I hate all that, really hate it, so we've done our best to get them used to each other without subjecting the new girls to too much violence.   Bedtime on the first night took an hour and a half to negotiate, but we're now down to ten minutes, thank goodness.   The newbies are laying lovely eggs and having a whale of a time scratching up my veggie patch, so they seem happy enough, but all the growling from the other two doesn't seem to be completely subsiding quite yet.   I understand that it can take a couple of weeks (or more) for things to settle down - I hope Gertie's still got some tail feathers left by then.  

Anne persuaded me that what they needed was some toys to distract them, so we had a trip to the thrift shop to see what we could find.    I had to put my foot down about Anne's choice of a push-along plastic crab with nasty snapping claws.  She made it quite clear to me that, No, a jigsaw puzzle wasn't suitable.....  even though it was a farmyard one.    That's why we ended up with a tortoise with a revolving ball in place of a shell and a string of plastic people that rattle if you shake them about a bit.   I'll report back next time on whether these delights have been a success.   I think you can draw you own conclusions.

Instead of watching hens, my main activity at the moment ought to be making some things to sell at a craft and vintage fair I was contacted about a couple of weeks ago.   As it's not too far away from home and looks like it's well-advertised, friend Charlotte and I are taking the plunge and sharing a table.  I've made myself a display board - wonderful what you can do with a bit of Amazon cardboard box, a staple gun and some wadding - so that the brooches I've been making can be properly on show. (see my comment below for design credit)
I've also felted a few bangles, but need to get on and make some more.   I used some silk fibres and nepps that Lesley was clearing out from her stash.   That girl never ceases to amaze me with what she's got tucked away in corners!

And here's a cute button card that I treated myself to from Etsy
 and thrifted glass buttons with a sweet mother-of-pearl brooch that was amongst them
pretty pink
and we all know that the answer to this question is 'Sugar and Spice and all things Nice'
don't we?

Hope you have a good weekend

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Postman's Knock

We're at it again! This time with a much expanded group of unwitting participants. I'm not sure they know what they've let themselves in for and, seeing Postman's Knock, the new blog that Cathy has kindly set up for us, neither am I! You may recall that Lesley, Cathy and I had a tag swap last year and really wanted to do something similar this year and invited anyone else who might be interested to join in the fun. So this time we're going to swap postcards, each chosing a theme that the others will use to make us a card to be sent each fortnight. There are 12 of us about to embark on this exciting creative journey, and I for one can't wait!   First postcard will be sent on April Fools Day - I'm taking that as an omen.