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

Sew Sew – Dog Bandanas

Hello All

Here at Casa Moke I have found a cool shady spot and have started making doggy bandanas for an Animals Asia stall at Burley Dog Show on Saturday 18 August.

Animals Asia supporter Sandra B (big thanks Sandra) kindly sent me samples and thoughtfully included one part made up so that I could see how they were finished:

Aren’t hers fab?! Love them.

I opted to make the style that attach to collars and set about making patterns in the various sizes:

And with a bit of help from my old friend the internet I soon had a variety of sizes drawn up:

Now the fun of stash busting and unleashing Jolly Janome began. I cut out a few of each size (predominantly the smaller sizes as those little fellows are so dapper) using fabrics that remained from other projects.

Leaving the flat top edge open, with right sides (RS) together I sewed the four remaining edges together after which I snipped off the excess near each corner and (just cos I have pinking shears, you don’t need to) pinked the fabric along each seam. I then turned over the open top edge about half an inch (sorry I am stuck in imperial):

Does the previous paragraph make sense now? I was beginning to lose myself in a quagmire of explanation!

Before turning to the right side, press down the half inch turn over at the open edge:

Turn out to the right side of the fabric leaving the pressed turn over on the inside:

I prodded out the corners with a large knitting needle. To get them crisp looking (those doggies are smart dudes) I gave another press:

Decide which side is going to be the back of your bandana. Fold the top (roughly) in half to the back of your bandana and … you guessed it …. press:

Your bandana should now look like this:

All that is left to do is to top stitch along the bottom edge of your fold – this will leave a channel for a collar to pass through – and voila! A crop of doggy bandanas:

I am just sorry that I no longer have a dog to model them…not even a toy dog!

These little beauties will be on sale from the Animals Asia stand at Burley In Wharfedale Dog Show in sunny West Yorkshire on Saturday 18 August 2018. Bandanas aside if you are able to visit the show please go it is a marvellous and fun celebration of dogs. Can’t wait for the ‘Most like my human’ category.

I have drawn out the patterns I made showing the rough measurements. Just ask if you think they would be useful to you and I will add a blog post with them on.

Out of interest do you have any suggestions for simple things to make for animal charity stands? Cheers me dears.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

The Experiment….it begins

Hello All

Brace yourselves I am about to share with you Stage 1 of my latest project which I am calling The Experiment. Don’t worry it will not involve the creation of a composite human by way of the exemplary stitching together of body parts and the harnessing of a lightening bolt’s power via an antennae cleverly crafted entirely from my collection of knitting needles. This Experiment requires neither thunderstorms nor sewing…. nor body parts.

I am beginning to wish I had not given this such a build up. I think I have been influenced by the Wordsworth Museum’s “In Search of Mary Shelley” exhibition! I digress: I can reveal that I am experimenting with the use of plant-fibres in needle-felting. Think I can hear the rustle of you rushing for the tantalising little ‘X’ at the top of the screen. STOP! This is going to be fun…honest.

As regular readers will know I started on this path at last week’s

Where I gathered together a range of plant fibres ready to start playing

The motivation for this fibrous adventure was born from my recent change over to a vegan diet which I did largely for environmental reasons (and the hope it would make me a tad thinner … I am that shallow). As you know this has not all been plain sailing but in for a penny in for a pound (ouch! a mixed metaphor if I ever read one). I am keen to look into the environmental impact of each of the fibres I try.

Presently I am not knowledgeable about animal or plant fibres and the environment. I only know what I hear on the inter-web-thingy and don’t want to risk ‘factualising’ information that is not …erm…you know….a fact. This little endeavour of mine will give me the opportunity to snuffle about through the factoids and root out what might be empirical evidence. Oh yeah and it will be FUN! because first I need to see how they needle felt.

Stage 1 of The Experiment – Needle felting trial

All these fibres look a bit the same so let us make different sized needle-felted flowers and hearts:

And to be on the safe side so I definitely can’t get them muddled (believe me it wouldn’t take much) let us make each a little envelope

Now to get cracking. One fibre at a time (you guessed it, so I won’t get confused).

Step up BAMBOO FIBRES.

As you can probably see BAMBOO is very silky. It is also very fine and floaty. I found later I was wearing some of the whispy fibres that got away. The bamboo kept its silky sheen even after needle felting. It soon hardened as I worked the fibres inside the flower ‘cutter’. This felt very different from wool and is something to remember so that you don’t break too many a needle.

The results retained the fibrous texture of the plant skein. The most recently worked side was silky and relatively smooth:

While the reverse, a little like wool, was more tufty until reworked:

You sharp eyed readers will already have noticed that I have not yet utilised the dyes. I decided to needle felt at least one item in each fibre first so that I can trial dyeing them against unworked fibres. That is to say I am scared! I am scared that dying (by me rather than a professional) will somehow undermine the fibres ability to felt. This again is my lack of expertise. So much to learn…

Quick BANANA TOPS your turn.

Before I go any further, no it doesn’t smell of bananas! I have not opened all the sealed packets but I think this may be true across the board although I would be rather happy if the rose fibre were to be subtly fragrant.

Back to BANANA. It felt less silky than bamboo yet also had a sheen which if anything was more obvious on the needle felted item than it was on the bamboo. Again the fibres felted quickly and are soon resistant to the needle. I wonder if this will be a feature across the plant fibres?

Before I went to Woolfest I came across a really helpful video made by Ruth Packham on the Dying House Gallery website. Ruth was testing out a number of fibres (cotton, ramie, hemp and flax) and the word ‘resistance’ cropped up a lot together with warnings about going carefully in order to avoid needle snap-age. If you fancy following in our footsteps it is well worth watching Ruth and taking her advice.

For now Stage 1 of The Experiment is partially complete. I was not disappointed with the results. They were not the same as wool and were different from each other but once I have an overview of the eight fibres I can decide what will work best for any particular needle felting activity I undertake.

I have 6 more samples to work with. There is no escape folks I will keep you updated.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Wonderful Woolfest 2018

Hello All

It’s the end of June (almost), the Solstice (almost) so it must be…

From the outset the day did not disappoint. The weather was perfect.

I set off at just after 7am in brilliant sunshine (field’s still there no houses…yet!) and the views from the 555 Stagecoach bus were a delight of green hills, glimpses of water and charming farmhouses.

Even the wait at Keswick for the X5 Gold (it was rather special!) Stagecoach bus to Cockermouth was a pleasure.

All this sun must have gone to my head.

A short free link bus from Cockermouth to the auction mart and I had reached the site of my annual crafty pilgrimage. Woolfest.

With its avenue of bunting

Gaily adorning the Wool Clip stalls only a little bit of searching was needed for me to find ….

My needle felted sheep’s head! I love trying to spot this little fella I made him over 5 years ago when the Woolfest cry went up for bunting. Once I find him I know I am home.

This year I came with a new mission in mind. My 2018 project was to find plant-based fibres that could be used for felting. I was successful too.

Uppingham Yarns also had cones of plant based yarns like ramie (nettle) on sale.

DT Craft and Design offered several plant fibres together with a good quantity of dye kits. The stall holder was very informative and had plenty of samples to show the colour ranges and which dyes to combine to achieve best results.

All the stall holders were exceptionally helpful and I was pleased to find Adelaide Walker had a good selection of fibres as she is based close to No 1 Daughter so won’t be hard to visit.

Yes I know there is a distinct lack of colour. But lucky for me DT Craft and Design offered a solution to this…

I foresee a steep learning curve coming up. Yikes. I will keep you posted.

To be honest. My finds were tinged with a little sadness. All those beautiful sheep and their dedicated shepherds. I swear my Cumbrian heart broke a little as I walked past the rare breed sheep so lovingly cared for and I had to will myself not to buy any of their gorgeous yarns and fleeces. As to our local Herdwicks a tear came to my eye.

Lucky for me that this year’s Carolyn Rawlinson Memorial Stall showcased Izzy Middleton (aka Wildflower Weaver) who follows the ‘Slow Cloth Philosophy’ and as part of the Green Cloth Collective works with vegan fibres, recycled yarn from other garments and up cycled textiles that would otherwise go to landfill. Izzy does use both plant and animal fibres but her wools come from slaughter free herds such as those made up of rescued animals. A very inspiring and interesting woman.

Happily for me Izzy is based at one of my favourite places, Farfield Mill in Sedbergh. They too had a stand,

And a woven hanging that made me smile.

All too soon Woolfest was over for another year. But there is always 2019 to look forward to!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Next day I travelled to Penrith for a catch-up and making session with the Crafty Ladies. It seems at the moment that British railways are in meltdown (not one of the trains I saw yesterday were running on time) and the Lakes line has been abandoned by Northern Rail. But apparently there is an upside: the trains chartered to cover the route are so old that they attract hordes of spotters. Glad there is a silver lining for someone!

Well I couldn’t miss out now could I?! Mx

Solstice Sewing

Hello All

In days gone by I would have been in the midst of a Solstice drum circle tonight but today I am happily finishing off a couple of sewing projects with Jolly Janome.

The Avid Seamstress raglan dress is finished!

Apologies for the naff photo. Without modelling it myself (eeek, no one needs to see that) this was my best attempt. Let me describe the finer features of this simple frock: the neckline flows in a beautiful curve and the darts running vertically for a few inches from the top of each sleeve give a very pleasing fit over my shoulders.

In case you were curious as to the meaning I have checked out “raglan”. Thanks Mrs Wiki. A raglan is a one piece sleeve that extends from underarm to collar creating a diagonal seam where it joins to the garment body. Ready for a wee bit of history? Here it comes…apparently this style of sleeve was designed by Aquascutum for Lord Raglan after he lost an arm at the Battle of Waterloo. The raglan sleeve was created in order that the wearer could freely use their sword in battle. Who knew?!

Thankfully gentler pursuits call me. Recently I have been repopulating my sofas with patchwork cushions. Here is the latest:

Front and …

Back.

I think you will agree that the new addition sits rather companionably with one I made earlier:

The end of a good day’s sewing. But as the sun continues to light this longest of days there is still time for a drum rhythm or several.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Exeter – Bear Break Out

Hello All

When No 1 Daughter suggested I come to help her ‘stock-take’ in Exeter I thought oooh beautiful ancient Exeter. Gothic cathedral Exeter; Norman castle Exeter; Roman wall Exeter; River Exe Exeter… right up my street Exeter. Oh no!

Lockup Exeter! Hey ho, never mind I was volunteering for a good cause. Does helping out children at same time give me bonus points???

It was certainly very satisfying making order out of chaos.

Okay okay it may not look much improved but believe me it is … really. I was also in my element taking photos to catalogue what was in there. Love a bit of advanced listing.

Now if you are worrying about the cages …. No 1 Daughter works for a wonderful charity Animals Asia and the cages have been used in the past to illustrate the awful conditions in which bears are kept for their entire lives (sometimes as long as 30 years) in order that bile can be removed from their gall bladder.

With all that in mind we couldn’t help ‘liberating’ these two guys.

They will be going out to assist Animals Asia supporters spread the word and help their living cousins enjoy happier lives.

We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the nearby Cosy Club for supper …. look even a vegan menu (available on request) ….

And a speech from

Lenin! Strange. Great restaurant with menus to suit everyone and situated in an old hospital with quirky decor. No 1 Daughter and I loved it.

Back at home I have a work in progress.

This is the first time that I have used an Avid Seamstress pattern and what a quality act! It comes complete with hard wearing, heavy duty pattern, useful information and terms cards and a booklet that guides the sewer (dearie me that reads like something to do with drains!) through making the garment.

For numpties like me who dive in and non-numpties that wisely like checking out all the information available there is also support on the Avid Seamstress website.

I will update you on progress. So…

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

PS Big thanks to DC for helping with the lockup. Without your help we may well have still been there! Great to see you, GF and GC. Mx

Yorkshire Days

Hello All

Grandchild-sitting called with its joyous, exuberant and sometimes exhausting song. Bags packed I set off to help out for a few days in Yorkshire. Sitting at my usual bus stop I took in the view of the field opposite. Over many years I have watched this field change through the seasons. Sadly it is soon to be built on. I am savouring it while I can.

A bit of excitement followed while I awaited my Skipton bound train at Carnforth… famous acting couple Timothy West and Prunella Scales were filming! I really hope it was for another of their wonderful canal journey documentaries. These have been a huge hit here in the UK. We shall have to wait and see. Fingers crossed.

With baby-care handed over to me I found that I had a free day before picking Peanut up. Ilkley (of On Ilkley Moor bar t’at fame) was the day’s Elderado.

I had a short shopping list of sewing goodies to get and started with a visit to the lovely little Eme, in Brook Street.

This tiny shop has a wonderful selection of fabrics and is filled with inspirational patterns and projects. I couldn’t resist a couple of fat quarters for my patchwork stash. Keeping to a blue colour range I especially loved these.

And good old Boyes satisfied my interfacing needs. Fusible don’t you know! Useful for ‘holding’ patchwork before adding wadding and backing fabric ready for quilting.

Do any of you have Boyes shops? I think they are an ‘up North’ British thing. Boyes stores are an absolute hotch potch of goods – fishing tackle is next to card making and crafts; bird food near to toiletries – yet they have a fabulous haberdashery section and if I can’t find something anywhere else Boyes usually have it. To my mind Boyes may be slightly bonkers but it is always worth a look see.

Sewing needs met there was enough time to try out a local eatery

Daniel’s Cafe and Bistro had a great website (honestly read the bit about why is is called ‘Daniel’s’ it’s heartwarming) and more to the point there were plenty of vegan suitable goodies. The waiter was super-helpful and offered to adapt where possible anything on the menu. As it was there was no need as I went with the scrumptious home made veggie burger.

It was lovely to nibble my way through a leisurely tasty lunch with my latest read (thanks MB for the loan) and be ready for Peanut on my return.

Post-nursery swings and slides were demanded by my diminutive charge…oh how it took me back and oh how wonderful it was to have charged up my ‘batteries’ for a whole heap of pushing, lifting and spinning. Those playgrounds are brutal when a two-year old is in charge!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx