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

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

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

Bags of Goodness

Hello All

Just home from a quick shop in town and at the risk of looking like a short rations edition of BBC1’s “Eat Well for Less” * here are my purchases:

Kendal is a little foodie heaven these days. I remember when getting a Wimpy burger bar was BIG NEWS! Nowadays we have wonderful eateries catering to all tastes and today as I was on my lonesome I popped into one of the latest where I could have a super vegan lunch whilst I picked up a few essentials. Food Nude only has a few seats (bar stools) but the goodies on the menu can also be taken away.

Yum what to pick?

I went for the vegan ‘tuna’ sandwich. It was SUPER delicious. The tea with oat ‘milk’ washed it down perfectly.

Did you wonder? Here is what came out of the bags.

Top ups for my muesli, red lentil and buckwheat jars together with a good bowlful of cashew nuts. With the help of veggies and fruit that’s a few breakfasts and suppers sorted.

Greg Wallace and Chris Bavin* would be proud!

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