Cover Up

Hello All

Today I share with you a guilty secret. Brace yourselves for some hideousness.

In the room I like to call my study (well I do read in there) is this ….

Ermm disintegrating heap of an old sofa. But wait you have not seen the full horror. Close your eyes if you are of a nervous disposition and cue music from ‘Psycho’:

Before you disown me for the lush that I obviously am let me explain. First the sob story: this was my mother’s sofa (aaaaaahhh) however she died almost 20 years ago … and she gave it to me before she died (tut, tut). Next the pragmatics: the sofa was until ‘fairly’ recently covered and the covers had (after a fashion) withstood the rigours of children and two elderly spaniels. But enough was enough and in a moment of madness/cleanliness I donned a nuclear fallout suit and whipped the covers off and disposed of them. Don’t worry you are safe.

I couldn’t however get rid of the sofa: it has sentimental value, a good solid frame and it provides a cosy nook to curl up with a yarn-y project or a good book. So recently – ok, several years ago – I decided I would re-cover it. In my head this was a perfectly formed LITTLE endeavour. The project even had a boost when super friend JG donated me some old curtains.

Plenty to cover a small settee. Surely an easy weekend make would follow in which I could sing the praises of re-cycling and making do and mending. Yet even in my pea brain something told me that this was going to be trickier than my original vision of up-cycled loveliness allowed. I stalled.

But now only three years later – I am not the Procrastination Queen for nothing – I have started creating loose covers for Omi’s sofa and here I am describing the makeover, part one of it anyhoo (let’s not go wild!). As with all good 21st century projects I started by trawling the internet. Now I don’t want to say that other’s have had it easier but every similar sofa recovering I watched seemed either to involve box type cushions and/or staple guns.

Omi’s Sofa has ‘nobbly’ shaped seat cushions and recessed arms meaning more shaping would be involved. I also did not want to staple the covering to the sofa. I want to be able to remove it for washing. I have a granddaughter! and she is second only to me as a ‘dropper’. Finally I have ‘previous’ for being lethal with a staple gun…don’t worry that child’s limp is barely noticeable now….

Suffice to say Jolly Janome and I were going to work this together with a little bit of tacking and hand sewing thrown in for good measure. I even moved my scene of operations downstairs. Ironing board too.

My first objective was to cover the seat cushions. Not being one for maths I worked by covering the foam with the fabric inside out and cutting and tacking then sewing around the ‘L’ shaped corners.

I am still using the original seat cushions and wanted to keep the covers loose enough to remove easily when, at some point in the next century, I get new foam. For this reason I put vents into the side seams.

This called for some tricky pinning and tacking but I am pleased that the vents afford easier removal.

The almost finished cushions are a wee bit lumpy bumpy thanks to the old foam but I am happy that they turned out a matched pair and I hope you agree that already Omi’s old sofa is vastly improved.

For now (another three years?) I have thrown the remaining curtaining over the settee and as I had already crochet covered the back cushions by adding a row of patchwork cushions (thank you KS for the beautiful blue one) the sofa has a new lease of life.

But I must dash. I have a cosy nook to sit in and that Ann Cleeves thriller will not read itself.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS the rug was knitted with jumbo needles using selvedge yarn. In case you wondered. Mx

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

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

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

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