Cover Up

Hello All

Today I share with you a guilty secret. Brace yourselves for some hideousness.

In the room I like to call my study (well I do read in there) is this ….

Ermm disintegrating heap of an old sofa. But wait you have not seen the full horror. Close your eyes if you are of a nervous disposition and cue music from ‘Psycho’:

Before you disown me for the lush that I obviously am let me explain. First the sob story: this was my mother’s sofa (aaaaaahhh) however she died almost 20 years ago … and she gave it to me before she died (tut, tut). Next the pragmatics: the sofa was until ‘fairly’ recently covered and the covers had (after a fashion) withstood the rigours of children and two elderly spaniels. But enough was enough and in a moment of madness/cleanliness I donned a nuclear fallout suit and whipped the covers off and disposed of them. Don’t worry you are safe.

I couldn’t however get rid of the sofa: it has sentimental value, a good solid frame and it provides a cosy nook to curl up with a yarn-y project or a good book. So recently – ok, several years ago – I decided I would re-cover it. In my head this was a perfectly formed LITTLE endeavour. The project even had a boost when super friend JG donated me some old curtains.

Plenty to cover a small settee. Surely an easy weekend make would follow in which I could sing the praises of re-cycling and making do and mending. Yet even in my pea brain something told me that this was going to be trickier than my original vision of up-cycled loveliness allowed. I stalled.

But now only three years later – I am not the Procrastination Queen for nothing – I have started creating loose covers for Omi’s sofa and here I am describing the makeover, part one of it anyhoo (let’s not go wild!). As with all good 21st century projects I started by trawling the internet. Now I don’t want to say that other’s have had it easier but every similar sofa recovering I watched seemed either to involve box type cushions and/or staple guns.

Omi’s Sofa has ‘nobbly’ shaped seat cushions and recessed arms meaning more shaping would be involved. I also did not want to staple the covering to the sofa. I want to be able to remove it for washing. I have a granddaughter! and she is second only to me as a ‘dropper’. Finally I have ‘previous’ for being lethal with a staple gun…don’t worry that child’s limp is barely noticeable now….

Suffice to say Jolly Janome and I were going to work this together with a little bit of tacking and hand sewing thrown in for good measure. I even moved my scene of operations downstairs. Ironing board too.

My first objective was to cover the seat cushions. Not being one for maths I worked by covering the foam with the fabric inside out and cutting and tacking then sewing around the ‘L’ shaped corners.

I am still using the original seat cushions and wanted to keep the covers loose enough to remove easily when, at some point in the next century, I get new foam. For this reason I put vents into the side seams.

This called for some tricky pinning and tacking but I am pleased that the vents afford easier removal.

The almost finished cushions are a wee bit lumpy bumpy thanks to the old foam but I am happy that they turned out a matched pair and I hope you agree that already Omi’s old sofa is vastly improved.

For now (another three years?) I have thrown the remaining curtaining over the settee and as I had already crochet covered the back cushions by adding a row of patchwork cushions (thank you KS for the beautiful blue one) the sofa has a new lease of life.

But I must dash. I have a cosy nook to sit in and that Ann Cleeves thriller will not read itself.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS the rug was knitted with jumbo needles using selvedge yarn. In case you wondered. Mx

Knitting together

Hello All

Spending much of Friday with a crafting friend was a real treat. We enjoyed a few uninterrupted hours of tea, food and (yahoo!) knitting. Friend KS is working on a beautiful project but I can’t reveal what she is up to ‘cos it is a gift for another of our friends. Sorry to disappoint but I hope you will be satisfied with my own wee offering.

As it looks like Winter is creeping up on us – not in a tantalising (can creeping ever be tantalising?) way but with cold snaps nippy enough to engender weather warnings – what better than to knit a chunky wool hat to keep Granddaughter Peanut warm?

I am eternally thankful to AJ for this really useful book. Over the years my Big Book of Knitting has rescued me from many a knitting calamity and has provided me with some great patterns.

The Chulla Earflap Hat was exactly what I had in mind to keep little Peanut’s ears warm. It used less than a 100g ball of chunky wool and was finished in an afternoon. There was virtually no sewing up as the hat is knitted on double pointed needles and the ear flaps are incorporated into the casting on for the body of the hat. Oh joy! Win, win, win.

And yet I felt something was missing.

Aah, that’s better!

Keep warm … or cool depending on your season.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Where to now?

Hello All

My bags are again packed.

There are more of them than usual. So where am I off to? Trotting the globe?

No! I am travelling on my beloved 555 Stagecoach bus to …..

Ambleside Library.

While Ambleside and it’s wonderful library are always worth a visit yesterday I was a woman on a (new) mission. Let’s see what all the baggage reveals.

Everything I need to run an introduction to needle felting workshop. The perfect way to spend three hours cheering up a dank Cumbrian Monday afternoon.

In the main everyone avoided bloodshed (I may have mentioned before those needles smart) and going by the quiet concentration I’d say they enjoyed themselves. The wonderful work-shoppers all tried three different techniques for creating ‘flat’ pieces of needle felting: a small sheepy picture made with various wool tops; using a pastry cutter as a template; and needle felting onto another fabric. Each person brought something new and exciting to their makes. I certainly learnt a thing or two!

Cue ‘Vision On’ Gallery Music. Apologies to those who have never have heard this catchy tune. For you and for those that want a walk down memory lane here is a link. Now let’s enjoy what these creative folk made:

Aren’t they glorious?! So much for Miserable Monday. The worst day of the year? Phah! I don’t think so.

Big thanks to all of you that joined me at Ambleside Library yesterday. You made it a very special and inspirational afternoon.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Dog Days

Hello All

It has been an activity mish-mash at Casa Moke over the last couple of weeks. No matter how hard I try my poor old pea-brain can’t come up with a coherent single theme for this post. Dear reader be prepared for the confused Cornucopia of everyday life here in the brr-is-it-me-but-is-Winter-coming-to-the-fffff-reezing-North-?.

First to the ‘Dog Days’. No 1 Daughter frequently travels with her job and last weekend she had the chance to combine work and a family trip while visiting some wonderful Animals Asia supporters in Glasgow. Only two small ‘problems’ her furry friends, George and Buddy. Yahoo! chance for me to enjoy the company of the boys for a couple of days dog-sitting.

George and Buddy would probably call it human-sitting and to be frank they would be right. Their time here does seem to entail a lot of sitting on me!

George takes the lap…

… and Buddy purloins the feet! My doggy visitors certainly make themselves at home. Bless ’em.

And while we relaxing, look what dropped through my door:

It is always exciting to see what classes are happening locally but this year I found it even more exciting. If you have a look under Arts and Crafts you might notice a few entries for ‘Introduction to Needle Felting’, guess who is responsible for them????

Yup that will be me! I am lucky enough to be running a few short courses over the Spring for Cumbria County Council’s Community Learning and Skills Programme in South Lakeland. It was such fun to micro-teach the interview panel that I am really looking forward to sharing one of my favourite crafts with new needle felters.

[Clears throat and takes on serious tone] Better keep up my crafty credentials in case any of my students-to-be are looking (can’t wait to meet you by the way). I have done a little more work on the wall art. The character on the right seems to be sending out some star-dust to cheer up the rather drab lettering:

I think she has done a good job and may need to be rewarded with a tiara or floral tribute…watch this space.

I have also been patch-working my way through several cushions:

I think almost all the fabric was from Reticule in Kendal. They have a huge range of beautiful and stylish fabrics and quarters. I chose these to coordinate with particular colour schemes. I can’t help but chuckle when I look at the blue birds: they seem to be on a see-saw. Have you spotted them? Hope they don’t get sea-sick!

Finally as ‘Winter is Coming’ a wee bit of sock knitting was called for.

Just knitting socks makes you feel warmer doesn’t it? Or is it trying to keep all the stitches on the needles and the counters in the right places that keeps me warm? Well done to Crafty friend KS who has launched herself into the world of sock knitting on circular needles with great results. I think I just like the suspense of working on double pointed needles, will the stitches stay on for another round ….

As you see I have a few projects to keep me busy and snug. And there are those courses to plan. Can’t wait.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Ruffled

Hello All

Weddings are learning curves. Who knew when D and R announced their wedding that I would pick up some unexpected skills? Studying the art of ruffle making was certainly not one of the foreseen consequences of No 1 Son’s marriage.

But I just couldn’t find the right blouse to wear with my wedding outfit so in a moment of exuberance I decided that I would design my own. Of course by this I mean I adapted a pattern I had made before. I know my limitations.

What I was after was a sort-of-erm-post-Elizabethan-ruffle-mmm-crossed-with-Vivian Westwood-kind-of-chic-thing …. I am sure you get my drift. No? Don’t worry it looked great, in my head.

I started with a favourite pattern:

And a heap of white cotton! All was good. I had made the shirt before so I was soon busily sewing away on Jolly Janome. I had decided that the cuffs should be wider and the collar higher and that the collar REALLY NEEDED the addition of a huge ruffle. As I said this worked well in my mind.

Widening and heightening the cuffs and collar was easy – as you can see above I just broadened the pattern pieces – but how to make a ruffle? I tried gathering the fabric but it really didn’t match my expectations. Turns out what I really wanted was a ruffle crossed with a pleat, let’s call it a ‘pluffle’. What to do next? Turn to YouTube of course!

In the wonderful crafty world of YouTube I learned to use a piece of card the width of the pluffles I wanted to create. Once armed with this simple technique there was no stopping my pluffling madness. All I needed to do was fold the fabric over the card, pull out the card strip and sew to form perfectly even and spaced pluffles. Oh, joy!

I hope my photos give you some idea of how I built up a length of pluffled fabric to top my collar because at this point I was going to link to the web address for the tutorial but I can’t re-find it amongst the plethora of ruffle and pleating videos on the web. I must therefore send out my thanks to the fabulous woman who showed me this easy and satisfying method of pluffle-ing into the ether and hope it reaches her.

Here then is the finished blouse:

That collar is pretty high. Initially I was going to pluffle the cuffs too but I knew that we would be wearing beautiful floral wristbands and pluffled cuffs would have spoiled that.

On the day it performed how I imagined. Formal for the service:

(Psst no one mention my resemblance to a vicar!)

Less formal for the meal:

And with the sleeves rolled up just darn cosy…

Of course the addition of Peanut does beautifully distract from any flaws in my design – no really I look nothing like a vicar! – and any mistakes I made in the sewing (I know where they are).

All in all I am really pleased with the blouse and it will certainly get it’s wear … with the collar down. More tea vicar? ….Who said that!

Until next we meet

Moke x

Bridges – Nether Bridge

Hello All

With all this walk-ling in the early hours I have become conscious of the ebb and flow of the River Kent which accompanies me along much of my route. The swift flowing Kent is a mercurial river prone to flooding during heavy rain but exposing it’s rocky bed when the weather is dry.

You can see the old river is quite frisky after recent downpours.

Historically most of Kendal lay on the west bank of the river but to the east lay the castle, farm lands and important arterial roads. To allow guaranteed river crossings – fords were only available in dry weather – bridges were a necessity. They stitched the town together.

The first bridge I encounter as I pedal along is one of Kendal’s oldest, Nether Bridge. The earliest reference is from 1421. Old enough you’d think but it is likely that a bridge has spanned the river at the same point from much earlier.

Peering under Nether Bridge (and getting funny looks as I peered … well I was hanging over the wall) shows the evidence of the bridge being widened twice.

I often wonder at the strength of Nether Bridge as large lorries roll over it taking up both lanes as they navigate the tight turn to travel south toward the motorway.

Reading Andrew White’s description of the bridge in his “A History of Kendal” I find I am right to wonder. The bridge may have been a principal route but it was so narrow that an ordinance of 1582 banned vehicles with more than one horse. Something needed to be done. Fast … ish.

In 1772 – things up here like to take their time – the first widening of the bridge was made on the downstream side. Unfortunately this was washed away (eek) after a few weeks – we do get a lot of rain…I may have mentioned that before – and the widening was moved to upstream. A further widening took place in 1908 and I assume this has left us with the bridge we can see today.

Should you wish to stop and traffic watch (does anyone do that?!) the bridge comes with seating:

All creature comforts don’t you know.

Of course during dry spells the nearby ford could still be used. I tried to capture the location of this ford but am not sure I have because buildings have vanished and the banks are now steeper. Here’s where I think it lay…

But then again it could be …

…here?

In any event after the tragic drowning of a chaise driver in 1806 the ford no doubt lost some of it’s allure and was better used as a place to water cattle.

As the temperatures here are set to drop over the next few days looking at the cold waters of the River Kent sent me indoors and to the warm wonderfulness of felting.

Working on my wall hanging I decided to start livening up the sombre dancers by needle felting onto the piece.

Very satisfying. A little like Nether Bridge the additions have been a long time coming but I will get there in the end.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Having a play

Hello All

Just as we were appreciating the auburn, rustling leaves of autumn along came the heavy rains. Once more I hear on the radio people in other parts of the UK must leave their homes as the flood waters rise. My heart goes out to them.

Walking through town I skipped – tricky at my age and with my lack of coordination – over streams, the pavements disguised by rivulets of water, trying to keep my toes dry.

Yet Kendal was surprisingly busy. Hardy Cumbrians are not going to let a bit of wet put them off their Saturday market and shopping trips (if we did we would hardly ever venture out). Nor were we going to miss the annual Comic Art Festival.

Children scampered from stall to stall becoming crazier and crazier cartoon incarnations of themselves. T-shirts and bags were being made at the numerous stands in the shopping centre and despite the inclement weather a good time was being had by all.

As for me? A quick nip to the library followed by buying my veg on the market was swiftly followed by a bus home. As soon as I was in the door the kettle was on, the pot warmed and a steaming mug of tea was soon being enjoyed. Softie that I am. Good time to think about my piece of felt wall-art.

As you can see I have completed the back-stitching:

Now I need to do something to liven up those dancing figures. I can’t remember why we went for black. Perhaps it was a nod to Peter Pan’s mischievous shadow as we were a jolly outfit. More likely it was because they stand out from the background, we were nothing if not bold! Feeling less bold now I am trying to come up with something to soften them.

I am presently working on flowery project so had a play with those needle felted flowers. I think I may be on to something. Making smaller, leaf-less flowers and in colours to compliment the swooshy bands of felt along the bottom of the banner may be just the thing.

Once that is done I will turn my attention to the rest of the hanging…any felty ideas folks?

Hope you are all keeping your feet dry.

Until next we meet,

Moke x