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

Wedding Bells

Hello All

Happy and wonderful news: I have a ‘Number 1 Daughter In Law’! It’s official Number 1 Son and his fiancée married on 17 November and Number 1 Daughter now has a sister.

R and D’s wedding day was perfect – big thanks to C and D who made it all possible – I can’t think of anything that could have gone better. The service was meaningful and welcoming and No 1 Son was bursting with happiness sharing vows with his beautiful bride. Both beamed smiles throughout their special day.

There were tears for emotions shared, loved ones remembered and the sheer joy of the day: a sister’s reading, a glimpse of a beloved grandfather and THAT FIRST DANCE! There was not a dry eye in the house.

What took me by surprise was the feeling of relief. Not only have both my children found their perfect partners but they are also part of larger families and supported by amazing friendships. I am sure I am explaining this really clumsily but when you are a lone parent it can feel like ‘you against the world’, your family teeny tiny and very vulnerable. Seeing all the people who love R and D come together to share their wedding day reminded me of a weaver’s warp and weft: a strong fabric for the couple’s new life together.

Before I tear up again, only one thing left to say…..Congratulations and love to you both!

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Libraries

Hello All

As I pedalled along last week (yes I am pedalling more than walk-ling now, impressive eh?) wondering what to write about in this post the word ‘library’ popped into my mind.

Those of you that have been with me from the beginning will recall this blog started life under the moniker “Library Lady” as at the time I worked in the local library. Libraries have always been important to me. My mother was an avid reader. Forced to leave school at 14 and go out to work she always regretted not having access to higher education. Despite her reservations I think my mother’s spontaneous, autonomous reading and learning made her one of the most intelligent people I have known. She was always thirsty for knowledge.

When I was small we regularly walked through Kensington Gardens on a circuitous route – calling in at the swings – to the public library in Paddington. Once past the librarian sitting at the counter I was safely released into what answered for a children’s library – bit spartan in the early 1960s – while my mother spent happy hours browsing the shelves looking for books she had not already read. While she looked, stopped and read a few pages from here and there I gained the precious gift of time to idle, dream and read.

At university for the first time I was the only one amongst my immediate peers who had come from a comprehensive (state school). Most were public school (private) or grammar school (selective state school). My insecurities found their refuge in the beautiful Classics Library. I still remember the wood panelling and the serried collections of books comfortably congregated in cabinets behind glass doors.

I can even recollect the smell: polish blended with the slight mustiness of old books. Delicious. By the way don’t go sniffing lungfuls from very old books I have been advised by those that know about the construction of books that some toxic nasties may have been used to construct tomes of yore. The studious silence and access to such rare and wonderful volumes was a privilege and even today a library is my bolt hole of choice.

I always enjoy a visit to the local public library. Kendal has a wonderful Carnegie library,

built in 1809 courtesy of Andrew Carnegie. Thank you Kendal Civic Society for telling us all about Mr Carnegie:

Once inside you can find an author you have not come across before, borrow music, read about far-flung places, share books, songs and toys with your children and grandchildren, research the local area in great depth, study maps, use a computer and best of all pick the brains of librarians and library staff. They are a helpful and clever bunch worth their weight in gold.

Public libraries offer space to everyone and in these increasingly hate-filled times are a beacon of brilliance providing a thoughtful sanctuary for everyone. I am sure it was no accident that Andrew Carnegie also devoted his wealth to peace studies. The carving above the door says it all:

Public libraries have often come low down the list of priorities when cash-strapped councils have to make hard choices. Libraries are an investment in the unknowable future or in areas hard to quantify. Luckily many of us (sadly not all) have been fortunate enough to retain our public libraries where most of the resources are free to use. Kendal has a busy library that is a real hub for the community. I hope that Carnegie – wherever he is now – is happy that his gift is still being used and enjoyed over a hundred years later.

A slightly guilty pleasure for me is borrowing fiction. Books that I will thoroughly enjoy in the moment but have no need to own. Here’s what I checked out on my last visit:

An Ann Cleeves Shetland thriller perfect for the dark cold nights and a bit of Townsend humour to relieve … erm … the dark cold nights.

So feel free to gather some good books around you, cosy up under a blanket with a mug of tea (coffee? or chocolate if you prefer), lose yourself in the glow of a good lamp as your reading transports you wherever you want to go.

Happy times.

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