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

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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

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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

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

Yorkshire Days

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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