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

Three go to Castle and Cemetery

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Those tricky weather gods were out and about so when deciding on our last walk we played it safe and went for a couple more explorations of our home town taken from Arthur Nicholls Explore Kendal. Keeping to the east side of the River Kent JF, J and me set off along the canal path.

Don’t get excited as there are no pictures of jolly barges and cosy boathouses to show. Our canal was filled in many years ago and while it has often been mooted that it will be reconstructed we have yet to see the diggers move in. Instead the canal provides a wide foot path, a ghost waterway still spanned by bridges from its mercantile past.

Despite the lack of loveliness the canal walk is a useful way to amble, jog, cycle or dog walk away from the busy main road. And being a canal path it is flat …. flat I tell you flat! …. yahoooooo. For me a perfect walk allowing me to get into my stride before puffing up the steep slope leading to the remains of Kendal Castle which sits atop an impressive glacial drumlin.

Described in Pevsner and Hyde The Buildings of England Cumbria as lining the horizon like ‘broken teeth’ Kendal Castle was apparently already falling into disrepair by 1572. Nonetheless it retains a romantic charm:

It also offers a good spot to rest your thermos and dodge the wind while enjoying a tea break.

From Kendal Castle we walked down a broad and gentle footpath to Castle Road and there we began to find gems not mentioned in Mr Nicholls little book.

J, JF and myself have all worked in public libraries so we couldn’t help but feel gleeful when we came across this adorable book box which we presume has been provided by a philanthropic householder:

What a thoughtful idea. I often wonder what to do with my old paperbacks. Some go to friends, in the past good copies went to a local second hand bookshop and others I have left in cafes with a note to read and share but I loved this beautiful book hut and am wondering if my little neck of Kendal would like one…..

A short hop from the book swap JF and her husband on a previous walk had come across a unexplored ‘gothic’ corner of Kendal. One of those places that you have to know is there or you would miss it. Opening a creaky iron gate we walked from what looked like a private drive into the perfect setting for an Edgar Allan Poe-esque horror.

Graves sit higgledy-piggledy clustered around a lonely turreted chapel where nature appears to be re-claiming her own:

Leaving the graveyard feeling neglected and melancholy. Dark and still between the planted yews.

Brrrr. Affected by the mood of sad reflection we read the gravestones with a growing curiosity about who was buried here. Burials began with the opening of the cemetery in May 1843 (the chapel built by the Kendalian architect George Webster opened in July 1845). The cemetery is now full only allowing interments to the larger family plots. Many of the graves occupants appeared to be trades people. But as to why they are here in this lost little corner of Kendal we could not be sure. So atmospheric was the space that we started to get fanciful (perhaps that was just me!) and it felt like we were characters at the opening of a gothic horror. All we lacked was a thunderstorm … well it was drizzling.

Time to move on for sandwiches, cheese and tomato if you are wondering, and take a look back over the rooftops towards the Castle.

Thank you to IC who helped us find this vantage point.

The rest of our perambulation took in areas of Kendal that are more familiar to us. The yarn of Dickie Doodle (did he exist? Doubtful) and the creation of Doodleshire on the eastern side of the Kent together with the tales about the horrors of the ducking stool by Stramongate Bridge are well known. Dickie Doodle was supposedly sent by Richard I – you know the one with the lion heart, loved a crusade? – to bring the market charter to Kendal but having fallen drunk on the West bank escaped the angry natives by crossing the bridge to the East bank of the town where he found the residents much more welcoming (perhaps they just liked a drink). Indignant at the West Kendalians treatment of him Dickie supposedly tried to limit the market charter to the east bank and to do so founded Doodleshire on behalf of an angry King Richard (how dare those west-side varlets mistreat the king’s man). Names sound improbable? that’s because they probably are. It is nonetheless a great story and has been around for several centuries and mockingly the area that was supposedly Doodleshire annually elected a mayor until 1827. Such is the power of the urban myth.

Unfortunately the ducking stool was all too true. Its victims suffered the humiliation of being heckled by the holier-than-thou-but relieved-its-not-me mob and were then plunged into the freezing cold waters of the river. Luckily things have changed and we managed to cross the river without any such injustices.

We finished the day with another mystery. What are these ‘directions’ carved into the stonework?

We have seen similar on several of our walks. J found a possible explanation (wonderful thing this interweb thingy) in a reader’s (Ben) comment on the York Stories blog:

‘FP stands for fire plug. Prior to fire hydrants firemen would dig down to the water main and bore a hole in it – the hole would fill with water that they could use for firefighting. Once the fire was extinguished they would hammer a bung or ‘plug’ into the pipe and backfill the hole, leaving an FP mark on the building for future reference. The term stuck when hydrants were introduced and their locations were marked with FP signs. Usually a square or oblong enamel sign in purple or white I’ve never seen one like yours. Generally if there’s an old FP sign there’ll be a more modern H sign too.’

But if you know different please let me know. Think I will have to lay off the walling. So addicted are we that we started pacing the measurements out almost falling under trucks in the process. You wouldn’t believe the language… not the truckers ……

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Amble around Levens Park and Heversham

Hello All

Now we are all out of walling walks J and I are branching out – well I am, J is a seasoned walker. Boarding the 555 bus towards Lancaster we disembarked at Levens Bridge (opposite the wonderful Levens Hall) for a circular-ish walk.

No weather gods playing tricks on us today – sorry JF you missed the sun – we started our walk with a gentle if muddy stroll around Levens Park. This deer park belonging to Levens Hall was once part of a medieval deer park or hunting enclosure which was landscaped about 300 years ago in the then al la mode ‘natural landscape style’. Wasn’t it already that?

We squelched through the avenue of oaks planted along what was once a magnificent carriage drive to the Hall. On our way we spotted Black Fallow Deer and also a herd of the rare breed Bagot goats.

Oh dear. I tried to capture the grandeur of these magnificent beasts … ermmm … and no those are not bows on his rear legs! Moving swiftly on.

We squerched to the end of the first half of the Park and after willing myself to walk over the road bridge spanning the A590 … don’t look down…don’t look down …. phew … we arrived at Force Falls near Sedgwick.

From there we strolled along the opposite bank of the River Kent, under the A590 (almost as worrying as walking over it) and after a couple of fields entered the other half of Levens Park. What a pleasure it was to have our tea break sitting on two old tree stumps like a couple of latter day pixies. OK one of us – who is not J – is a rather portly pixie. Takes all sorts. I almost felt moved to burst into vaguely remembered Girl Guide songs (ahhh, those were the days) luckily for J I resisted temptation.

Soon we were back by Levens Bridge. Too soon on such a lovely day. We therefore extended our walk to have a look at nearby Heversham village.

Apparently Heversham is a Spring-Line village. Who knew?! It grew from a settlement based by the springs occurring along the boundary of a ridge of permeable rock lying over impermeable rock. These villages became the long and narrow strip parishes typical of the Anglo-Saxon or early medieval period. And sure enough there was the ancient St Mary’s Well. It had a very tantalising pump, so hard to resist the urge to raise the arm and see if it draws water …. but don’t! One of us did (I will not mention any names) and there was a nasty moment

when the handle came over all wobbly. Dear reader do not worry we left the well and pump just as we found them, intact.

Just DON’T TOUCH THE HANDLE….EVER! Luckily there was a nearby church to visit. Some might say hide in but they would be wrong.

I have often passed the little church in Heversham so it was a treat to go inside. The tower of St Peter’s is positively modern (1869-1870) in comparison to the rest of the building. Infact Pevsner and Hyde The Buildings of England: Cumbria accuse the tower of being misleading as this is one of the oldest Christian sites in Westmorland. So there!

Old it is. In the porch alongside a magnificent medieval door (used on Sundays for services we were told) is the remains of a late 8th century (Pevsner and Hyde) or perhaps 7th century (church handout) Anglo-Saxon cross covered with vine scrolls and beasties.

Although the church still contains a patchwork of perpendicular (ie English Gothic – 1335 onwards – don’t you know) and Norman architecture a fire in 1601 caused by a plumber (how?!) meant the subsequent centuries saw renovation and re-building. It is a happy little building despite Norse settlers moving into the surrounding area scaring the Abbot, fire-starting plumbers and Victorian ‘improvements’. We had a lovely time spotting its most notable features.

And admiring the kneelers.

When we left blue skies were still with us. You can see them behind the J.F. Curwen 1920 War Memorial Cross in the churchyard.

What a wonderful day for a walk.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Walking in them thar hills

Hello All

Bet you were wondering whether my travels and a single venture on Shank’s Pony had done for me and I was lying in a darkened room recovering. Never fear dear readers I have infact been spurred on to toddle out and about to explore bits and bobs of the fair county of Cumbria.

Friend J has done a fantastic job finding walks with heaps of local interest and beautiful landscapes (with minimal hillage …. mostly). We have even done quite well with the weather …. mostly.

Off we go.

Walk 1 – Coniston Walling Walk (thanks again to the Dry Stone Walling Association Cumbria Branch)

Following on from the Hawkshead Walling walk J and I thought we would widen our walling knowledge even further with this walk around Coniston. But first how we got there.

This time we bussed it. Boarding the Stagecoach 505 bus from Kendal Bus Station we travelled all the way to the walk start in the village of Coniston. We also used the 505 to return. It is a fabulous trip with lots to see en route but bear in mind that if you want to return to Kendal without changing buses the number of through buses is limited. Luckily I am such a potterer we filled in most of the time – the walk should only take two to three hours, we took 4! – till the last through 505.

About time we had some pictures:

Thanks to local wallers there is a demonstration wall behind Coniston’s Ruskin Museum which shows features that we would see on the walk: there were a couple of different stile types (the slippy flaggy steppy over sort and the ‘breathe-in’ model – these may not be the correct walling parlance); a smoot (or is that smout?!); and a bee bole, an alcove in which a straw beehive would be placed. I am only sorry I didn’t snap the ‘Hogg hole’ also known as a lunky or a sheep smout which allowed sheep to pass from field to field at the push of a large boulder. The hills were calling….

Slightly worryingly for me we followed the footpath for Coniston Old Man – old he may be but age has not noticeably reduced his stature – and the word ‘climb’ appeared in our pamphlet guide. But the puffing and wheezing from yours truly was definitely worth it. The path took us STEEPLY (J May use another adverb like ‘gently’) along our route past a slate engravers and UP a rocky track with compensatory fabulous views. I will just mention that the path was steep enough to need a retaining wall on the left to prevent (and I quote) “the hill falling onto the track” … good grief…. and to allow the use of cement (I have discovered a slight sniffiness about the use of cement unless ABSOLUTELY necessary) on the right to secure the large top stones stopping them rolling down into the gorge …. GORGE…. Get my drift?

However it was with a sense of accomplishment that we (me for getting there and J for getting me there) perched on the beautifully built Miners Bridge for a cuppa. In true Ruskin style I did try to capture the moment for your delectation.Moke at Miners Bridge

Alright perhaps not Ruskin. Here is what it actually looked like.

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Breathe in the air, join me in grabbing a rest and taking in the scenery together with a warming cup of tea (you can of course choose your favourite tipple).

Ready to walk on?

As we continued passing cottages with slate porches and outhouses perfectly constructed using the local stone I thought about the craftsmen that built these wonderful walls. So often we saw how much skill and pride they put into their work. Lifting them from the everyday to things of beauty and creative genius.

One trick we missed so I pass it on to you should you ever venture to these hills and lakes is a fabulous place to stop and eat lunch undercover (often very welcome in rainy Cumbria). You have heard of being in the dog house? Well here it is:

Coniston Dog Kennel Folly (c1838)

Built around 1838 to house a pack of hounds Coniston Dog Kennel Folly is now owned by the National Trust and with benches and information boards inside is the perfect place to munch your sarnies. Egg and salad cream if you want to know.

As you walk on from here you can look back at a magnificent panorama taking in Coniston Old Man, Yewdale Crags and the lake. Again well worth all the puffing and mithering. I could get into this hilly thing.

I am loving the weekly walks and am so glad that I invested in proper boots as I feel safer, comfy-er and have toasty warm tootsies into the bargain. Even at the low levels that I manage it is a must to be properly prepared cos we get plenty of WEATHER and it can change on a sixpence. Health and safety warning over.

With time before the bus home the walk ended cosily with a mug of hot chocolate. Now this is heaven.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. She’s probably too busy juggling work and celebrations but just in case HAPPY BIRTHDAY LADY G. !!!!!! Mx

Bookshop Bunnies

Hello All

Still here! Miracles will never cease. Good job too as I have a trio of little chums to introduce you to. Back in March my very good friend B and her husband re-located their home and wonderful bookshop, Fireside Bookshop, from the Lakes down to Littlehampton on the south coast.

I was on my blogging ‘sabbatical’ when B moved but shortly after they had established their new shop I sent them a little fellow to remind them of their days in Windermere. DSCI0451 Meet Gerald the first of the Bookshop Bunnies to leave the shelter of the Old Sycamore (handily situated in my garden) and travel to their favourite bookshop.

An opportunity for Gerald to be joined by some of his nearest and dearest has now arisen as B is paying a visit. And a couple of Gerald’s kin decided they would hitch a lift back with her – think the Post Office does not offer the comfort they would like – to join him at Fireside Bookshop.

Nancy has been waiting some time. Counting the days until B’s visit.
DSCI0468But with a little needlefelting on this wonderful Gotland fleece (a purchase from this year’s Woolfest),
DSCI0132she has now been joined by a traveling companion –
DSCI0133wearing a rather natty crochet shawl –
DSCI0135her grandmother Marigold.
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Today – with a small lump in my throat – it is time to say ‘bon voyage’ as they set off on their journey to West Sussex and their new home at Fireside Bookshop.

Good luck Bookshop Bunnies.

Until next we meet, Moke x

Kitchen Table Crafts

Hello All

What a lovely day. A day of conversation and cuppas enjoying woolly crafting. All from the comfort of my kitchen.

When friend AFl suggested coming over I balked slightly at the craft she suggested. But as soon as I started gathering everything we would need I felt the old excitement I got from running workshops and joining in Wool ‘n’ Stuff sessions.

What were we going to do? There’s a (BIG) clue on my kitchen table.

‘Felting’ you say? Felting yes but with a twist. This is Nuno felting (felting onto cloth) and if you want to have a go at this low cost craft – or just want to see what we got up to – read on.

Here’s what we used:

  • surface to work on that you don’t mind getting a bit wet (kitchen table = perfect);
  • bubble wrap;
  • cling-film (needs to be quite robust variety);
  • muslin (remember there will be about a 50% shrinkage so allow for this);
  • fibres (we used dyed merino tops);
  • plastic bag each;
  • cool soapy water (I put a mix of washing-up liquid and cool water in an old plastic spray bottle);
  • clothes washing flakes or liquid; and
  • vinegar.

At this point I should have been able to show you what we did first but fueled with coffee (and a cheeky donut..or two…) I forgot to take any photos!!!! So words will have to suffice. Normal photographic service will soon follow.

Our first steps:

Bubble wrap was laid out bubble side down;

We wet the fabric and spread it out on the bubble wrap;

Remembering that less fibre leads to more shrinkage we pulled our wool tops into small, even and thin pieces;

Then we lay the fibres in all directions (one direction means shrinkage will only be one way);

We gently sprayed COOL soapy water on the fibres and cloth; and

Covered our fibre patterned muslin with cling film (AFl had brought an old industrial sized roll which was perfect cos it wasn’t too thin nor very sticky).

Now we gently pressed all the water down through the wool,

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until it started to go flat at which point we rubbed gently – still through the cling-film – with our scrunched up plastic bags. A bit like rubbing down a wet horse I thought …. or is that just me?!

Off came the cling-film and rolling commenced … oops just noticed the cling-film is not off … remember to remove yours.

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We rolled three hundred times (yes 300!) one way and then having re-rolled the felt in the opposite direction three hundred (YES 300!) more times.

Unbeknowst to us hours passed as we chattered and rolled … and rolled …. and rolled …  Time flew.

Once we could see fibres making their way through the muslin we flipped the bubble wrap over and rubbed the nuno (yes it actually looked like nuno felting, amazing) along the whole length.

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We put the nuno into hot soapy water. As hot as our hands could cope with. Ooooooch. Then came the best bit.

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‘Is that it?’ I hear you cry. OK it doesn’t look very exciting but this is my nuno felt after I had thrown it full force S-P-L-A-T onto the table. This only needed to be done about a dozen times but as I hurled my felting I found it was a great means of working off my angst … “and this is for …. bang! and this is for …. BANG!” Twelve throws was not enough. When you get to this stage you’ll know what I mean.

Not only was it therapeutic but it was also magical. Shrinkage! Houston we have shrinkage!

Finally all our nuno needed was a rinse to get rid of the soap and a last rinse with a splash of vinegar and more water.

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We were very pleased with ourselves. We had actually created nuno felted pieces and had just enough time for a celebratory soup as they dried.

Excellent way to spend a day. Getting together with a friend and having a bash (quite literally) at a kitchen table craft. Thank you AFl for reminding me.

Until we meet next. Moke x

Big Night In

Do you remember my lunch with my best buddies? …the climb that was worth it?

Stoney Lane

It was more than time that I repaid the hospitality. With all the kerfuffle  of the new job and the longer working days I didn’t want to lose sight of the really important things: my family and friends. So on went a pot of my trusty veggie chilli – with a base ingredient of red lentils and a dash of sherry to enrich the flavour – and in went the jacket potatoes. You can already tell I’m a rustic, you could say basic, cook! I laid the table,

and thanked the heavens that my daughter’s boyfriend is a romantic soul who regularly brings her flowers, ‘cos they set off the table beautifully, DSCN0627

We did get more to eat than tomatoes and dip, honest! My chums all brought share-sy food (and wine) but things were so relaxed and convivial that I didn’t want to break off from the conversation to start snapping photos. We nattered about so many topics it was sometimes hard to keep track so there were some funny moments when we talked at cross-purposes only realising when we went beyond surreal.

As always books were well covered and I am now after a copy (from the library of course) of “Alex” by Pierre LeMaitre, it sounds like a real page turner of a thriller. In the meantime I am finishing off Robert Goddard’s “Hand In Glove”, images

which has seen me through being stuck behind several freight trains and is a good read before my eyes can’t stay open any longer.

There is one other book that is close to my heart at the moment and that is “Amazon – Slave of Rome”  an historical action novel being written by yours truely… If you want a sneaky peak you’ll find it posted (well the first 5 chapters) on Wattpad if you search under ‘Discover’ for Amazon – Slave of Rome.

I’ll leave you all with a cheery sight, there’s something about sunflowers that makes me smile, DSCN0632

thanks AJ.

Happy days.