Knitting together

Hello All

Spending much of Friday with a crafting friend was a real treat. We enjoyed a few uninterrupted hours of tea, food and (yahoo!) knitting. Friend KS is working on a beautiful project but I can’t reveal what she is up to ‘cos it is a gift for another of our friends. Sorry to disappoint but I hope you will be satisfied with my own wee offering.

As it looks like Winter is creeping up on us – not in a tantalising (can creeping ever be tantalising?) way but with cold snaps nippy enough to engender weather warnings – what better than to knit a chunky wool hat to keep Granddaughter Peanut warm?

I am eternally thankful to AJ for this really useful book. Over the years my Big Book of Knitting has rescued me from many a knitting calamity and has provided me with some great patterns.

The Chulla Earflap Hat was exactly what I had in mind to keep little Peanut’s ears warm. It used less than a 100g ball of chunky wool and was finished in an afternoon. There was virtually no sewing up as the hat is knitted on double pointed needles and the ear flaps are incorporated into the casting on for the body of the hat. Oh joy! Win, win, win.

And yet I felt something was missing.

Aah, that’s better!

Keep warm … or cool depending on your season.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Festive Greetings

Happy Yuletide All

We have left out a little tipple and snack for Santa to enjoy (the extra mince pie is for Mother Claus) and a carrot with some special food for those hard working reindeer.

Peanut is tucked up in bed. Presents are wrapped and under the tree. All the grown ups are settled with mugs of hot chocolate. Peace reigns. While we have a quiet moment I just wanted to say: whatever your faith or belief (or lack of) love and festive greetings from Casa Moke. I hope the year to come brings you peace, health and happiness.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Dog Days

Hello All

It has been an activity mish-mash at Casa Moke over the last couple of weeks. No matter how hard I try my poor old pea-brain can’t come up with a coherent single theme for this post. Dear reader be prepared for the confused Cornucopia of everyday life here in the brr-is-it-me-but-is-Winter-coming-to-the-fffff-reezing-North-?.

First to the ‘Dog Days’. No 1 Daughter frequently travels with her job and last weekend she had the chance to combine work and a family trip while visiting some wonderful Animals Asia supporters in Glasgow. Only two small ‘problems’ her furry friends, George and Buddy. Yahoo! chance for me to enjoy the company of the boys for a couple of days dog-sitting.

George and Buddy would probably call it human-sitting and to be frank they would be right. Their time here does seem to entail a lot of sitting on me!

George takes the lap…

… and Buddy purloins the feet! My doggy visitors certainly make themselves at home. Bless ’em.

And while we relaxing, look what dropped through my door:

It is always exciting to see what classes are happening locally but this year I found it even more exciting. If you have a look under Arts and Crafts you might notice a few entries for ‘Introduction to Needle Felting’, guess who is responsible for them????

Yup that will be me! I am lucky enough to be running a few short courses over the Spring for Cumbria County Council’s Community Learning and Skills Programme in South Lakeland. It was such fun to micro-teach the interview panel that I am really looking forward to sharing one of my favourite crafts with new needle felters.

[Clears throat and takes on serious tone] Better keep up my crafty credentials in case any of my students-to-be are looking (can’t wait to meet you by the way). I have done a little more work on the wall art. The character on the right seems to be sending out some star-dust to cheer up the rather drab lettering:

I think she has done a good job and may need to be rewarded with a tiara or floral tribute…watch this space.

I have also been patch-working my way through several cushions:

I think almost all the fabric was from Reticule in Kendal. They have a huge range of beautiful and stylish fabrics and quarters. I chose these to coordinate with particular colour schemes. I can’t help but chuckle when I look at the blue birds: they seem to be on a see-saw. Have you spotted them? Hope they don’t get sea-sick!

Finally as ‘Winter is Coming’ a wee bit of sock knitting was called for.

Just knitting socks makes you feel warmer doesn’t it? Or is it trying to keep all the stitches on the needles and the counters in the right places that keeps me warm? Well done to Crafty friend KS who has launched herself into the world of sock knitting on circular needles with great results. I think I just like the suspense of working on double pointed needles, will the stitches stay on for another round ….

As you see I have a few projects to keep me busy and snug. And there are those courses to plan. Can’t wait.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

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

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

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!

Village Life

Hello All

Feeling a wee bit blurry as I adapt to early starts once more. Strange how getting up at 4.30am makes finding the sleep you desperately need so elusive! But nothing like toddler sitting to keep a Grandma moving despite her natural inclination to sit in a cosy chair and snooze … oops … read. Don’t fret no toddlers were actually sat on during the construction of this post.

It is always a delight to see wee Peanut. She has a never ending supply of energy and curiosity. Yesterday she was brim full with excitement. Her village is in the midst of it’s annual festival and best of all

It was Dog Show day! No1 Daughter set off early to help with an Animals Asia stand. Meanwhile Peanut and I took our time toddling around the village investigating the scarecrows dotted along our route.

Scarecrow Festivals have become very popular over the last twenty years or so. Peanut’s village has joined in this fine tradition, a tradition that is only a blink of an eye in the history of scarecrows.

Scarecrows have been around as long as people have grown crops and birds have been hungry. Did you know that the earliest recorded reference to scarecrows is ancient Egyptian? a scarecrow is even to be found in Japan’s oldest surviving book “Kojiki” which dates to the 8th century. In medieval Britain young boys were used as ‘Bird Scarers’ but after the Great Plague of 1348 and the consequent devastation of the population young lads were in short supply so farmers started creating human-like forms from stuffed sacks and turnip heads to put in their fields.

Today they are not only agricultural aids they are also small works of art created by families and villagers to bring fun and laughter to their communities. Peanut’s village did not disappoint. We spotted scarecrows at the pub:

(Peter Rabbit! Yorkshire you are treading on Cumbrian territory here….)

At the church:

(Mr Men, pourquoi?)

And of course at the nursery where this poor family ain’t half having a struggle to pull out this recalcitrant turnip:

Even with the help of their dog, cat and … mouse!

I have discovered that the story of the giant (or enormous) turnip is a Russian folktale written by Tolstoy. The joke in the tale is that it is only with the help of the smallest creature, the mouse, that the huge root is pulled from the ground. The moral of course is that anything can be accomplished if we work together.

While we were looking at the nursery another happy little tale unfolded. I was admiring the nursery’s kitchen garden with Peanut when one of the staff arrived carrying a cabbage. I found out that she has been carefully plucking caterpillars from their vegetables, gently putting them in a small netted area and keeping them fed. She had brought along the cabbage as their weekend rations. Her kindness for the caterpillars (and the vegetable plot) will provide a wonderful experience for the children who will watch these wriggly creepy crawlies transform into butterflies … or … cabbage moths….

Do you know that it is only as I am typing this that I have realised there was a theme to the scarecrow tableaux, children’s stories! Now Peter Rabbit and the Mr Men make sense.

Skimming over this evidence of my dimwittedness back to yesterday. With many a wall to walk along (Peanut not me…although those low walls are very tempting) and scarecrows to spot our peramble to the field took some time. But Peanut soon picked up the pace when she saw her mummy happily wo-manning the Animals Asia stall:

Super supporter F had made a magnificent job of decorating the stall with goodies and information. She even sourced the small toys for the raffle. Doesn’t it look great? Her hard work was rewarded by raising funds and awareness amongst the locals who are now getting together to start a village supporters group. Result!

Peanut had her own rewards too. Not only did she ‘win’ a bear in the ‘everyone wins a prize raffle’ she also gained a second bear when a villager passed her prize on to Peanut too! Lucky little girl.

This is village life. What a wonderful happy day we had. Icing on the cake, Peanut’s daddy was home from work in time to help pack up the stand while I looked for that cosy chair… zzzzzzz.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Action-packed

Hello All

I love a bookend and who can deny that a few days that start with Vikings and end with Vikings are a good thing?…ok…ok….Franks….Anglo-Saxons….Celts…..

It appears Kirkstall Abbey was ready to let bygones be bygones

And happily allowed a Viking village to be pitched outside the Nave.

The Norse looked friendly enough but the re-enactors from Ormsheim Vikings showed us their more unapproachable side too

The smiley devils!

Set inside and around the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Festival was in full swing with choirs, hawks, stalls, ponies and dogs on show when we gathered en familie for a marvellous day in the sunshine. Peanut had a particularly good time being borne on Uncle D’s shoulders to watch dancers in the nave and later racing around the cloisters to the music of the wonderful Otley Ukulele Orchestra.

After all that excitement a genteel woman of Cumbria was just what I needed and last Wednesday JG and me continued our progress around the Women of Cumbria exhibitions with a return visit to The Ruskin Museum in Coniston for the small display on Elizabeth Smith (1776 – 1806).

Miss Smith is a rather elusive figure aptly described by twentieth century Lakeland poet Norman Nicholson in 1953 as:

A shadowy form … a ghost even when she was alive…’

Although she had an extraordinary talent for languages – she was fluent in French, Spanish, German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew – and was a geometrician, musician and poet it was her early death that aroused the interest of the Lakeland literati, especially DeQuincey (that well known self-confessed opium eater) rather than her accomplishments in life.

Elizabeth died of consumption living her last few weeks in a tent that her father had put up in order that she could breath more easily and enjoy the glorious views of Coniston. Yet even in death she seems to have just melted away.

To me she is an icon of the many similarly gifted women of her time who were invisible. She left me a little heavy hearted for all the talented women who have vanished from our consciousness.

Ready for a gear change? After the peace and wistfulness of Elizabeth Smith I was whisked away on Saturday by No1 Daughter to London for a fabulous Animals Asia Bear-B-Q right in the heart of the busy city.

Organised by fantastic Animals Asia supporter Sarah D on the roof terrace of Knight Frank at 55 Baker Street the event was a huge success. Sarah D is an absolute powerhouse of a woman with such compassion and commitment to the Animals Asia cause. Big thanks Sarah and to your wing-man Ray.

The setting was wonderful (as were the raffle prizes)

The food was the very best vegan food I have ever tasted (the veggie option looked scrumptious too).

And Animals Asia ace ambassador actor (who knew I could get so many A’s in a phrase) Peter Egan was super lovely – as were the chefs he’s standing with…did I mention that food…?

It was a day spent with some of the most amazing passionate people I have ever met. Everyone friendly, chatty and interesting. It was also a day that allowed me a proud mum moment. Well done No1 Daughter!

London was hot hot hot so it was a relief to return up North and enjoy a quiet Sunday sitting in a local nature reserve for a relaxing picnic organised by No1 ‘son-in-law’. Thanks RP.

Looking at the colour of the grass it is not only London that has been a tad warm!

Yesterday and flowers from friends herald

The arrival of another birthday! It really doesn’t seem like a year ago that I hit that significant 60. Eeeeek. Luckily before I could get too maudlin No 1 Daughter and Peanut lifted my day.

First we stocked up on goodies for lunch from The Garden Vegan Take-Away here in sunny Kendal.

Amazing victuals – pasties, salads, sandwiches, wraps – perfect for a happy day spent wandering the grounds of my favourite haunt Levens Hall. Peanut was in her element exploring and running around the gardens (a real must see if you are in this neck of the woods, the gardens that is not the running..).

Going …

Going …

Gone!

She humoured her Omi with a sedate walk around the cottage garden.

She was captivated by the blooms (it could also be the path, she has a penchant for gravel!)

And was fascinated by the squashes and courgettes.

What a fabulous day we had.

As for those Vikings! No1 Son knows me well ….

Until next we meet,

Moke x