While we are on the subject … more needle felting

Hello All

Having finished the needle-felting trial of several plant fibres I now risk losing my newly acquired vegan credentials. I have a confession. I have been needle-felting in wool!

Yikes. Here’s why.

Lucky Omi that I am I have a wonderful Anna Lewis (‘Sketchy Muma’) print given to me by No 1 Daughter shortly after she had Peanut. The clever drawing says it all about being a daughter who has just become a mother.

I treasure this sketch but felt I had done it a disservice by popping it in a plain black frame. It sort of vanished into the wall.

With a reserve of colourful wool tops I decided that I could not waste the wool I still have. It seemed sacrilege to me. What happier project could I use it for than to cheer up the frame and bring to life Sketchy Muma’s cartoon?

I set about needle-felting a few of my favourite little ‘liquorice all-sorts’ flowers.

Some leaves too:

With a small bouquet prepared it was time. Time to unleash – Kendal Cousins do not get too excited – the glue gun!

And there you have it (with only a few superficial burns) a suitably decorated frame with it’s prized contents back on the wall.

Anna gave me permission to reproduce her work for this post, in case you were worrying. Thank you Anna, I absolutely love the picture and your illustrations. It’s just a shame I haven’t mastered the art of photographing reflective surfaces!

While I have taken a short detour from the vegan crafter path my favourite magazine ‘Cumbria Life’ (no, they don’t pay me to say this) reminded me of the virtues of animal friendly crafting.

In June you may remember me mentioning Izzy Middleton who was exhibiting at this year’s Woolfest. Well blow me over who is that on p143? The Wildflower Weaver herself in a beautifully photographed and written article describing her life and her craft. There is even a snippet on dew retting nettles and creating fibre from this everyday plant. I really must get along to Farfield Mill in Sedbergh to see her workshop. Perhaps buy some of her hand-spun nettle yarn…..

That’s a tale for another day.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

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The Experiment – last of the needle-felting trial

Hello All

Yesterday travelling home all roads North were busy with Bank Holiday traffic. The sun was shining and who can blame folk wanting to spend a few days in our beautiful neck of the woods. That was yesterday.

Today the weather is decidedly autumnal: wet and chill. Time for me to hunker down with a large mug of tea, do some crafting and hope our visitors are staying warm and dry by sampling the marvellous eateries and inns of Cumbria.

It felt (no pun) like a good day for me to return to the last three plant fibres and conclude the needle-felting stage of The Experiment. Watch out for my environmental confusion. I have definitely released a can of worms…

Flax (linen)

As I opened the packet I swear there was the faint waft of new cloth. I could have been nasally fooled by the notion of fresh linen. I am easily suggestible. But for a second ….

The natural colour of the skein was darker than most of the other plant fibres many of which appear to have little pigment. Again the staple was pulled easily from the skein.

Flax also had that now familiar sheen.

Like the hemp the flax worked well. I felt at home using it and although I had only given myself a small sample I think I would use it on larger projects as it can be comfortably moulded.

Eco-thumbnail: Flax is one of the oldest textile fibres. Set to make my heart race then! After hemp it is the second most highly productive crop and can be grown without the use of herbicides and pesticides. Usefully it can be grown on land unsuitable for food crops and may even re-cultivate polluted soils. Again it is only beaten by hemp as being the most water efficient fibre. All sounding good? Wait a moment…

Sadly – while it doesn’t need to – production commonly uses agricultural chemicals. Could this be that old conundrum? Too many consumers mean high yields are sought at the cost of the environment? I am not finished either. The usual method of extracting the fibres is by retting and this can be highly polluting to water. Luckily there are other methods: dew or enzyme retting which utilise natural processes to break down the stalks and in the case of enzyme retting contain the pollutants within tanks.

Mint Fibre

No. No. It definitely didn’t smell of mint. It was similar to the majority of the plant fibres, was silky and pulled easily from the skein.

The mint resisted the needle quickly nonetheless it worked well and I was again happy with the result.

Eco-thumbnail: This eco stuff is certainly taking me into unchartered territory. What the heck is ‘cellulose fibre’? You probably know being the wise readers that you are but just in case: cellulose fibres are natural fibres which include plant fibres … gulp how do I check that there are no animal fibres mixed in? I feel my CSE Biology or is it Chemistry .. perhaps physics? …. may be stretched here.

I am going with what I have seen on the inter-web. Mint fibre is a bio-degradable cellulose made from wood pulp infused with mint powder. Again, what?! Apparently the powder is extracted from peppermint leaves and gives the fibre anti-bacterial properties and makes the fabric naturally cooling.

I understand from some of my reading that the chemical solutions (eek!) used to process the fibre are recycled into the system. With there being little waste too this fibre is considered ‘relatively’ eco-friendly.

We have arrived at the last plant fibre I am testing. Thank goodness I can hear you saying. Here it comes. Last but not least:

Rose Fibre

Of course not. There wouldn’t be. There was no smell. Very disappointing on the fragrance front. The peeps at World of Wool describe rose as similar in appearance and feel to bamboo. Meanwhile at Allfiberarts.com the sampler describes rose as similar to banana to spin. I agree with both. I think this is because the majority of plant fibres – with the exception of hemp and flax – have suspiciously similar properties.

Again I found that the rose resisted the needle very quickly as I was felting but once more I was pretty pleased with the results.

Eco-thumbnail: This bio-degradable fibre is extracted from the natural waste of rose bushes and their stems and is considered environmentally friendly. Limited information I know but I will learn more.

That is the end of the needle-felting trial. As you have probably guessed my favourite plants so far are hemp and flax. They felt the most natural, were the most easily understood (by me) in environmental terms and I was happiest working them.

I confess this eco-vegan thing is tricky. I have felt hampered by my lack of knowledge about the manufacture of these fibres. I hope to address this. It may take a considerable amount of reading and talking to the right people but I have the bit between my teeth or perhaps the staple beneath my needle. I will carry on carrying on.

And there I was thinking this was going to be a simple project. I haven’t even begun to look at the environmental perils of dying the fibres!

Time for a lie down in a darkened room….

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Village Life

Hello All

Feeling a wee bit blurry as I adapt to early starts once more. Strange how getting up at 4.30am makes finding the sleep you desperately need so elusive! But nothing like toddler sitting to keep a Grandma moving despite her natural inclination to sit in a cosy chair and snooze … oops … read. Don’t fret no toddlers were actually sat on during the construction of this post.

It is always a delight to see wee Peanut. She has a never ending supply of energy and curiosity. Yesterday she was brim full with excitement. Her village is in the midst of it’s annual festival and best of all

It was Dog Show day! No1 Daughter set off early to help with an Animals Asia stand. Meanwhile Peanut and I took our time toddling around the village investigating the scarecrows dotted along our route.

Scarecrow Festivals have become very popular over the last twenty years or so. Peanut’s village has joined in this fine tradition, a tradition that is only a blink of an eye in the history of scarecrows.

Scarecrows have been around as long as people have grown crops and birds have been hungry. Did you know that the earliest recorded reference to scarecrows is ancient Egyptian? a scarecrow is even to be found in Japan’s oldest surviving book “Kojiki” which dates to the 8th century. In medieval Britain young boys were used as ‘Bird Scarers’ but after the Great Plague of 1348 and the consequent devastation of the population young lads were in short supply so farmers started creating human-like forms from stuffed sacks and turnip heads to put in their fields.

Today they are not only agricultural aids they are also small works of art created by families and villagers to bring fun and laughter to their communities. Peanut’s village did not disappoint. We spotted scarecrows at the pub:

(Peter Rabbit! Yorkshire you are treading on Cumbrian territory here….)

At the church:

(Mr Men, pourquoi?)

And of course at the nursery where this poor family ain’t half having a struggle to pull out this recalcitrant turnip:

Even with the help of their dog, cat and … mouse!

I have discovered that the story of the giant (or enormous) turnip is a Russian folktale written by Tolstoy. The joke in the tale is that it is only with the help of the smallest creature, the mouse, that the huge root is pulled from the ground. The moral of course is that anything can be accomplished if we work together.

While we were looking at the nursery another happy little tale unfolded. I was admiring the nursery’s kitchen garden with Peanut when one of the staff arrived carrying a cabbage. I found out that she has been carefully plucking caterpillars from their vegetables, gently putting them in a small netted area and keeping them fed. She had brought along the cabbage as their weekend rations. Her kindness for the caterpillars (and the vegetable plot) will provide a wonderful experience for the children who will watch these wriggly creepy crawlies transform into butterflies … or … cabbage moths….

Do you know that it is only as I am typing this that I have realised there was a theme to the scarecrow tableaux, children’s stories! Now Peter Rabbit and the Mr Men make sense.

Skimming over this evidence of my dimwittedness back to yesterday. With many a wall to walk along (Peanut not me…although those low walls are very tempting) and scarecrows to spot our peramble to the field took some time. But Peanut soon picked up the pace when she saw her mummy happily wo-manning the Animals Asia stall:

Super supporter F had made a magnificent job of decorating the stall with goodies and information. She even sourced the small toys for the raffle. Doesn’t it look great? Her hard work was rewarded by raising funds and awareness amongst the locals who are now getting together to start a village supporters group. Result!

Peanut had her own rewards too. Not only did she ‘win’ a bear in the ‘everyone wins a prize raffle’ she also gained a second bear when a villager passed her prize on to Peanut too! Lucky little girl.

This is village life. What a wonderful happy day we had. Icing on the cake, Peanut’s daddy was home from work in time to help pack up the stand while I looked for that cosy chair… zzzzzzz.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Trusty Steed

Hello All

New job, new place of work, new transport. Those of you that regularly visit me here at Casa Moke will know that I am very fond of a bus journey and failing that a train or perhaps even Shanks’ Pony. Prepare to be amazed. The easiest way for me to travel to work will be by …..

bike! Sorry if you were expecting a horse. Neigh! It is a two-wheeled steed that will see me hurtling to early starts come September.

Thanks to No 1 Daughter who left her bicycle behind and thanks to Bike Ranger Steve who took it away for a service I am almost road-worthy (just fitting the lights) and ready for a few test runs. Oh my lor’…they do say you never forget. Let’s hope ‘they’ are right.

I feel my (oops No 1 Daughter’s) bike is female and while No 1 Daughter did not give her a name I am toying with calling her Hecate. Hecate was the Ancient Greek goddess of crossroads who protected travellers from evil on the road. I am hoping that there is not a great deal of evil on the road from home over the couple of miles to work but being at a crossroads resonates. Let’s give Hecate a whirl.

Remaining pedestrian at heart I strolled into town yesterday for a little bit of shopping and look what you see when you are walking:

The Vegan Is Kind website set my mouth watering. What a fab idea hope I can try the supper club soon.

Inspired by the Heathen Vegan, hungry after the walk and topped up with the necessary ingredients from town I trundled home to make an asian themed supper of Tarka Dal, Saag Aloo, and Roti together with a simple salad of onion and tomatoes mixed with lemon juice.

Delicious if I say so myself. Making the roti was particularly satisfying! With heaps left over I am hoping it will taste even better today. Infact I am getting a little peckish as I type. Best dash.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Onwards and Upwards – The Experiment continues

Hello All

What a week! Monday saw me journeying to a new job and as all good journeys it began with a bus, 555 to Lancaster and onwards to Morecambe on the 2 (just in case you were wondering). Exciting stuff only one small fly in the ointment.

It was not just my workplace that had changed. Work has started on The Field.

While I am glad that families will soon find new homes in Kendal it is always sad to see green fields vanish under concrete. No more watching the sheep and grasses grow from my little bus stop for me.

A new role and the accompanying steep learning curve underway this old dog learning new tricks needed a plant fibre comfort blanket.

The Experiment continues. Following my needle-felting trial of Bamboo fibres I have another four plant-fibres to show you:

Banana Top

First of all there was not even a whiff of banana when I opened up the packet. Disappointing I know. The ‘staples’ appeared long, I suspect that this will be the case with most of the plant fibres, and while less silky than the bamboo it still had a sheen.

The sheen was even more apparent after needle felting. The banana became resistant to needle felting quite quickly but I was pleased with the results and there was little difference between the front and back of my needle felted flower.

Eco-thumbnail*: apparently the use of banana fibres is a good use of waste from the banana growing industry and the fibres are also used in building materials.

Ramie (nettles)

Again there was no obvious smell with the Ramie Fibre (not that I know what smell I expected). It felt rougher than Bamboo and Banana however it still had a silky sheen and was easily pulled from the tops.

The fibres soon felt resistant but nonetheless were easy to build up. The fibre lines showed as they did with the bamboo and banana but I was happier with the final results.

Although my needle felting is a tad wonky this is not the fault of the ramie!

Eco-thumbnail: Ramie is often heralded as a highly sustainable eco-friendly fibre which can be harvested up to 6 times a year and produces a strong and durable fabric.

Soy Top

The skein appeared more ‘raggedy’ than the others but the long ‘staples’ were easily pulled from the top.

As with the earlier fibres the soy soon resisted the needle but I also found it more difficult to bind loose areas to the rest of the design. This may have been because I overfilled my template ‘cutter’ but overall I would say I found the soy harder to work. I was not overly pleased with the result.

Eco-thumbnail: Soy has a mixed reputation. Taking the waste soy residue from the processing of soybeans for food products (feed for humans and animals) it makes use of a resource that would go to waste. The big but is that it requires an extensive production process to break down the proteins in the bean to convert it into a fibre.

Hemp

Strangely the Hemp Fibre almost had a sheepy smell! Indeed it felt and looked far more like wool and didn’t have the sheen that the other fibres have so far had. Nonetheless it pulled surprisingly smoothly from the skein.

Perhaps because of the hemp’s wool-like quality I felt more comfortable working with it and had more fun needle-felting. Happy days, another needle-felted flower has blossomed.

Eco-thumbnail: Described by one writer as the “sober cousin” of marijuana hemp has a long history of being used in textile production and also the most eco-friendly potential. A ‘bast fibre’, growing so thickly it blocks out the weeds without the use of pesticides, hemp fibres are derived by retting the stems of the plant. It uses a lot less water compared to cotton and while growing returns a large percentage of the nutrients it takes from the soil.

I have three more plant fibres to needle-felt trial: rise, mint and flax. Watch this space.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

* There is much research for me to do in order to feel I have a handle on the environmental impact of each of the fibres I am trying out. There are many twists and turns to eco-friendliness so for now I am only posting the most generalised thumbnails. I hope to give more detailed eco-profiles in time. All advice welcome! Mx