Soundscapes and Shield Maidens

Hello All

What a different place the world is before dawn. Blinkered by the night I enjoy a soundscape uncluttered by daylight’s congestion. The bicycle wheels go round and murmur along the tarmac, small bumps create metallic tinkling as the pannier grip clinks against the frame and the brakes squeal to slow me on the downhill run. Beyond the cycle’s pleasant chattering the wind flutters the leaves, stirring their dried brethren along the pavements, the river rushes over small weirs booming as it bottoms.

All joy … until the rain or frosts bring greasy and slippy surfaces when my soundscape may be something like ‘crash, bang, wallop’! But for those of you who worried be reassured I now have a jaunty red helmet to keep my napper safe.

Sadly while I am feeling virtuous and energised by all this extra exercise a good friend is proper poorly. AFl has been amazingly strong and as we share a love of things Viking I thought a little gift might be in order.

You may recall my trip to Roskilde earlier in the year with No 1 Daughter:

That’s right the home of the fabulous Viking Ship Museum. Well while I was there perusing the museum shop (those places are so damn irresistible) I found a small gem:

A long ship pastry cutter to add to my collection of needle-felting templates. At last an opportunity to use it. After all every Shield Maiden…

… needs her own long ship. Thor’s strength to you AFl.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Wall Art

Hello All

Always a good morning when my monthly copy of “Cumbria Life’ (they definitely do not pay me) drops though the letterbox.

This month I was surprised to find I could be … drum roll please …. ‘on trend’!

You see I have a blank wall problem. Brace yourself for something truly dreadful.

But no more as Cumbria Life tells me wall art is the way to go. Of course I have my own spin on this. Not for me the beautiful professionally crafted artwork nor the fabulous paintings by local artists shown on the pages of my favourite glossy. Although if I had the pennies there are several I would love to purchase.

Always on a shoestring it was time for me to pull out – actually less pulling more cupboard excavating – something I part-made earlier.

Strictly speaking the felt piece I am about to reveal was started by me and friend B under the guidance of felting master/mistress Liz Brown, Heartfelt by Liz. I opened it up gingerly in case it had become lunch…dinner…tea and supper for the moths. But lo.

Relief. It is in one piece.

Pop quiz time. What do you think B and I did as Festoon? If you thought we made blinds you would not be alone. Infact we actually provided craft and hand drumming workshops! A ‘re-brand’ was called for and in the 1990s we became ‘On A Roll’ spending many happy years tootling around Cumbria and Lancashire with a car full of drums playing with all sorts of wonderful communities and people. There was sadly one casualty.

Our Festoon felt hanging became redundant. The embellishment ceased. If you look very closely at the top of the ‘F’ you can even see the needle we used for the back stitching abandoned. But that wall (be honest it is ‘orrible isn’t it?) is screaming at me and I think it is time to revive the festoonary and complete the work we started many … many … years ago.

Can’t wait to see it cheering up that bare, dull and uninviting wall. And who knows I may get into this wall art malarkey.

My cupboard archaeology revealed this little guy …. now where can he go….?

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Sew Sew – Going Dotty

Hello All

Saturday last saw No 1 Daughter and me off to Leeds for a rather special afternoon tea. Sitting in the Sky Bar of the Hilton the vista of city spread out around us, sipping a glass of chilled Prosecco and enjoying a superb vegan tea we gathered to celebrate soon to be No1 Daughter-in-law’s Hen Do (hope you followed that twisty windy sentence!).

It was lovely to join RS’ wonderful family and friends and be counted among the women that are important to her. I hope my little needle-felted bridal hen goes some way to saying thank you.

As for going dotty. Later in the week and back home I was ratching through my scrap fabric store looking for inspiration and found it: a small bag of pinked squares that I won in a raffle more years ago than I care/dare to remember!

What a super prize. And more than enough for the little project I had in mind.

Which to choose? I couldn’t resist going dotty and with help from Jolly Janome a couple of hours later

I had a warm-hued cushion ready for making the autumn evenings a wee bit cosier.

Good to use up the odd shaped batik off-cuts from the making of a tunic to finish the front and

jazz up the back.

Now suffering with a cold (poor old dear) I am glad to have a snug well cushioned corner where I can lie down with a box of tissues, mugs of hot lemon and a great deal of self pity!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Aaaah-tish-hoooo!

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

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

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