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

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

Hello All

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

Happy Fortnight

Hello All

Apologies for last week’s lapse. Things are all good here at Casa Moke just a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. I warn you this is a l-o-n-g post. You will be rewarded with a cuppa if you make it to the end.

What have I been up to?

Cooking.

Delicious Beetroot, Mushroom and Dulse Seaweed Burgers. Grating beetroot always makes the kitchen look like a crime scene but the consequent mopping up was worth it for these tasty burgers packed with yummy goodness.

I love seaweed however often forget how scrumptious and beneficial it is. Thanks to Kate Humble’s BBC series ‘Back to the Land with Kate Humble’ I was reminded and have found some fabulous producers. For this recipe and the Seaweed Cookbook I turned to The Cornish Seaweed Company. The book is a wonderful resource: along with plentiful recipes for everyone (vegans, veggies, omnivores and more) it profiles a huge variety of seaweeds and gives a guide to foraging.

Crafting.

Simple patchwork and a teeny-weeny amount of quilting are helping me gain more and more confidence on my sewing machine (sorry Snail of Happiness I have still not tried stretchy fabrics!). I am also rather pleased with the results if I do say so myself. No 1 Daughter has put in an order for cushions to coordinate with her soon to be decorated living room. Praise indeed.

Hot off the press…

Another cushion made almost entirely from scraps from earlier makes including at least two outfits for my granddaughter. I am smiling looking at it.

Some of you may remember my HUGE over purchase of wool for the simple Fair Isle jumper for Peanut.

Well I have found the perfect project to use the surplus. A Guernsey Wrap.

The pattern by Jared Flood is on Ravelry here. Versions of it can also be seen on one of my favourite blogs ‘Foxs Lane‘ … but I can’t remember where! It is a fabulous blog well worth a visit and you may even stumble on the wrap along your way.

Walking.

Walking buddies JG and JF set off clutching maps (OS Explorer OL7 – The English Lakes, South Eastern area) and compasses – they are part way through learning about navigation – with me their hill-loathing chum (how am I Cumbrian?!) in tow to complete the Kentmere walk we attempted last year when snow and ice made us/me decide to turn back. With the weather much improved – a DRY yet windy day – we set off in high hopes of sitting by a beautiful reservoir to eat our lunches.

Our day started with a charming easy stroll based on No. 3 in Norman Buckley’s book “Lakeland Walking: on the Level”. However as the hills of The Kentmere Horseshoe loomed in front of us it did look as if we were walking into Mordor. But hey! We had that attractive ‘lake’ to look forward to.

With a very flat valley floor and glacial moraines it was easy to see how the Ice Age sculpted this landscape. Ice now a thing of the past…things warmed up around end of April this year…lunch was calling and thoughts of dipping my tootsies in the lapping waters of the man-made tarn were becoming increasingly pleasing.

But what’s this?!

Or should that be what is it not?!!! Where has our reservoir gone? A couple of fellow walkers seeing our dropped jaws told us, it’s the result of a leak! In the past I have had small garden ponds and yes they have suffered the odd pond lining incident but a whole vanished reservoir? That is something.

Abandoning our visions of picnicking on a beautiful shoreline we crossed the spillway. Having watched much too much Nordic Noir I confess I was looking out at the wasteland for a skeleton or two at least. Happily I have nothing untoward to report but it was a very eerie setting…movie location hunters take note.

So being a bit agile (it says so in Buckley’s book) we followed a rough and narrow path back along the opposite bank of the River Kent until the going became easy again and we could stop out of the wind for sandwiches (hummus, peppers and celery if you were wondering) and have a short rest.

The walk back was idyllic. We couldn’t help but laugh at the adventurous and frolicking lambs (I thanked their mums for the wool) some of whom had perched themselves all over this glacial ‘dustbin’.

We admired the bridges.

And held our breath waiting for the bluebells to bloom.

All this and we barely got wet. A rare occasion in them thar hills.

Marching … Women of Cumbria

JG and I managed another tick on our ‘Women of Cumbria’ spreadsheet. We boarded the 505 Stagecoach bus to Coniston and had a wonderful time at the Ruskin Museum looking at all the displays and the exhibition dedicated to Annie Garnett a nineteenth century community entrepreneur who founded a textile industry in Lakeland.

Annie was one of six siblings and while her brothers went to school she was lucky enough to learn autonomously at home and particularly through her love of gardening. Taking her vision from Ruskin’s linen ‘industry’ Garnett founded The Spinnery in Windermere which gave women homebased work spinning yarns which were then woven at the spinnery. Many of the designs were created around plant forms.

Annie Garnett’s knowledge of weaving and textile history enabled her to create new fabrics and dye swatches that reflect her love of Lakeland’s colours.

Beautiful.

Garnett was not only a knowledgeable, inspired artisan she was also an astute businesswoman. By 1899 over 90 women worked as home spinners and embroiders. These workers were given training and also loaned their equipment for free. Annie clearly saw The Spinnery as a business and not a charity and she worked hard to promote it. Her management style was most certainly hands-on!

Lastly we could not leave Coniston without a ratch around a graveyard. We were looking for two gravestones.

Ruskin’s.

And W.G. Collingwood’s. Mission completed.

Are you ready for that drink? You’ve done really well to get here.

Tea drinking.

With a lack of dairy I have missed a delicious cuppa so I went to the Mecca of tea and coffee drinking which we are lucky enough to have here in Kendal, Farrer’s. I went experimental and by serendipity discovered a delicious brew.

And here I sit supping. Time you got the kettle on too. You have certainly earned it.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

PS I receive no freebies (I can dream) nor payment (does that happen?) for anything recommended in my blog. Mx

Keeping crafty

Hello All

Inspiration has struck! Thank you Women of Cumbria.

Having seen several local suffrage stories I felt (no pun intended…) the time had come for me to make a small homage to the suffragettes. What better way for me to do this than …. needle felting! Ok it’s not chaining myself to Parliament nor enduring any kind of hardship for the cause (although those needles really..really smart when they stab a finger or three) but a little Suffragette Roundel was just the reminder I wanted.

Here’s what I did:

1. Gathered together my needle felting goodies: merino wool tops, foam mat, needles (36 worked best), pastry cutters for shaping and preserving my fingers (although not always!) and a cup of tea…of course.

2. Pressed merino tops into the pastry cutter and got felting to make flowers in the Suffragette colours of white, purple and green. I turned the woolly flowers over regularly so they didn’t stick to the mat as I stabbed away with the barbed needle (oooch ! ouch!) and then I finished them off free-hand in order to tidy the edges, give them definition and add a central dot of black (a friend says my flowers always remind her of liquorice all sorts…I know what she means).

3. Using the same method as the flowers (but with a different template) I made enough leaves to insert between each flower.

4. Played about with the layout of my six flowers and leaves.

5. Fired up the old glue gun (Kendal Cousin don’t get excited!).

6. Completed my Suffragette Roundel by attaching the felting to an embroidery hoop.

The Roundel is now a cheery but a 2018-relevant welcome to our home.

All in all it has been a satisfying crafty week. Invigorated by last Saturday’s visit to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with the Crafty Ladies and the lovely goodies bought there for future projects

I realised I had better get a move on with some old projects. Those last seen tucked away in cloth bags that whisper to your conscience every time you try and scootle past.

With the companionship of a couple of crafty friends and a day set aside to get cracking with those dreaded works in progress I managed yesterday to get moving with a jumper for Peanut (lucky it is massive as I was seriously worried she would have outgrown it by several years before it got finished…).

BRD and KS it was great to be crafting together and also see your wonderful projects blossoming. Thanks for spurring me on. Keep crafting.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Stitch-craft and the Scottish Diaspora

Hello All

A couple of days before we were due to visit Carlisle for two more Women of Cumbria displays – yesterday’s post – I got an email from a friend in that fair city drawing my attention to another exhibition which she thought would be of interest. Thank you JO without you we would have missed something absolutely outstanding, the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry.

Here’s the story: in 2012 an invitation to share their history went out around the world to communities with Scottish roots. Millions of stitches and more than seventy thousand hours of embroidery later these communities have created a tapestry of over 300 panels. It is flippin’ amazing. With no permanent home as yet we were soooooo lucky to catch it at the Church of Scotland (where else!), Chapel Street Carlisle.

Thirty-four countries took part in the project and their work shows Scotland’s global legacy. If you get chance please go and see it, you will not be disappointed. My little old phone camera was not really up to the task (neither was I) nonetheless I think the best I can do is let the pictures give you a teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy flavour of the tapestry’s breadth.

The hall was heaving with visitors and many of the voices were Scottish (not surprising as we are right on the border … no one mention the Reivers…). The panels sparked discussions ranging from the historical through the social and political to those around the method and skill of the embroiders. All this wonderfulness was supported by a venue that obviously felt truly privileged to hold such an event. All combined to make this a very special place to be.

The Tapestry has now moved on but if you go to the link above there are details about where it can be viewed. A must see.

Before I forget we did manage to sneak in one last exhibition while at Tullie House Museum, Carlisle. Something very dear to Carlisle hearts. The story of the Cracker Packers told in their own words. ‘Cracker Packer’ is an affectionate term given to a factory worker at the Carr’s Biscuit factory in Carlisle. It is such a strong female workforce and a major employer in the city so it is a fabulous snippet of social history to read the stories of these workers. As one of the contributors, Elsie Martlew simply put it ” It’s a Carlisle Story, and it’s a women’s story”.

The tales of these workers inspired sculptor Hazel Reeves to create a statue which stands in front of the factory. The statute shows two workers one from the past the other from the present and manages to capture the humour, warmth and camaraderie of these hard-working women. A rare statue of workers and of women to boot and a jolly change from a general on an horse.

Supported by artist Karen McDougall local Girl Guides also paid tribute to their city’s women. Their textile banner would have been incomplete without the lovely Cracker Packers.

Strangely I really fancy a plate of cheese and ….

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx