Where to now?

Hello All

My bags are again packed.

There are more of them than usual. So where am I off to? Trotting the globe?

No! I am travelling on my beloved 555 Stagecoach bus to …..

Ambleside Library.

While Ambleside and it’s wonderful library are always worth a visit yesterday I was a woman on a (new) mission. Let’s see what all the baggage reveals.

Everything I need to run an introduction to needle felting workshop. The perfect way to spend three hours cheering up a dank Cumbrian Monday afternoon.

In the main everyone avoided bloodshed (I may have mentioned before those needles smart) and going by the quiet concentration I’d say they enjoyed themselves. The wonderful work-shoppers all tried three different techniques for creating ‘flat’ pieces of needle felting: a small sheepy picture made with various wool tops; using a pastry cutter as a template; and needle felting onto another fabric. Each person brought something new and exciting to their makes. I certainly learnt a thing or two!

Cue ‘Vision On’ Gallery Music. Apologies to those who have never have heard this catchy tune. For you and for those that want a walk down memory lane here is a link. Now let’s enjoy what these creative folk made:

Aren’t they glorious?! So much for Miserable Monday. The worst day of the year? Phah! I don’t think so.

Big thanks to all of you that joined me at Ambleside Library yesterday. You made it a very special and inspirational afternoon.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Libraries

Hello All

As I pedalled along last week (yes I am pedalling more than walk-ling now, impressive eh?) wondering what to write about in this post the word ‘library’ popped into my mind.

Those of you that have been with me from the beginning will recall this blog started life under the moniker “Library Lady” as at the time I worked in the local library. Libraries have always been important to me. My mother was an avid reader. Forced to leave school at 14 and go out to work she always regretted not having access to higher education. Despite her reservations I think my mother’s spontaneous, autonomous reading and learning made her one of the most intelligent people I have known. She was always thirsty for knowledge.

When I was small we regularly walked through Kensington Gardens on a circuitous route – calling in at the swings – to the public library in Paddington. Once past the librarian sitting at the counter I was safely released into what answered for a children’s library – bit spartan in the early 1960s – while my mother spent happy hours browsing the shelves looking for books she had not already read. While she looked, stopped and read a few pages from here and there I gained the precious gift of time to idle, dream and read.

At university for the first time I was the only one amongst my immediate peers who had come from a comprehensive (state school). Most were public school (private) or grammar school (selective state school). My insecurities found their refuge in the beautiful Classics Library. I still remember the wood panelling and the serried collections of books comfortably congregated in cabinets behind glass doors.

I can even recollect the smell: polish blended with the slight mustiness of old books. Delicious. By the way don’t go sniffing lungfuls from very old books I have been advised by those that know about the construction of books that some toxic nasties may have been used to construct tomes of yore. The studious silence and access to such rare and wonderful volumes was a privilege and even today a library is my bolt hole of choice.

I always enjoy a visit to the local public library. Kendal has a wonderful Carnegie library,

built in 1809 courtesy of Andrew Carnegie. Thank you Kendal Civic Society for telling us all about Mr Carnegie:

Once inside you can find an author you have not come across before, borrow music, read about far-flung places, share books, songs and toys with your children and grandchildren, research the local area in great depth, study maps, use a computer and best of all pick the brains of librarians and library staff. They are a helpful and clever bunch worth their weight in gold.

Public libraries offer space to everyone and in these increasingly hate-filled times are a beacon of brilliance providing a thoughtful sanctuary for everyone. I am sure it was no accident that Andrew Carnegie also devoted his wealth to peace studies. The carving above the door says it all:

Public libraries have often come low down the list of priorities when cash-strapped councils have to make hard choices. Libraries are an investment in the unknowable future or in areas hard to quantify. Luckily many of us (sadly not all) have been fortunate enough to retain our public libraries where most of the resources are free to use. Kendal has a busy library that is a real hub for the community. I hope that Carnegie – wherever he is now – is happy that his gift is still being used and enjoyed over a hundred years later.

A slightly guilty pleasure for me is borrowing fiction. Books that I will thoroughly enjoy in the moment but have no need to own. Here’s what I checked out on my last visit:

An Ann Cleeves Shetland thriller perfect for the dark cold nights and a bit of Townsend humour to relieve … erm … the dark cold nights.

So feel free to gather some good books around you, cosy up under a blanket with a mug of tea (coffee? or chocolate if you prefer), lose yourself in the glow of a good lamp as your reading transports you wherever you want to go.

Happy times.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Having a play

Hello All

Just as we were appreciating the auburn, rustling leaves of autumn along came the heavy rains. Once more I hear on the radio people in other parts of the UK must leave their homes as the flood waters rise. My heart goes out to them.

Walking through town I skipped – tricky at my age and with my lack of coordination – over streams, the pavements disguised by rivulets of water, trying to keep my toes dry.

Yet Kendal was surprisingly busy. Hardy Cumbrians are not going to let a bit of wet put them off their Saturday market and shopping trips (if we did we would hardly ever venture out). Nor were we going to miss the annual Comic Art Festival.

Children scampered from stall to stall becoming crazier and crazier cartoon incarnations of themselves. T-shirts and bags were being made at the numerous stands in the shopping centre and despite the inclement weather a good time was being had by all.

As for me? A quick nip to the library followed by buying my veg on the market was swiftly followed by a bus home. As soon as I was in the door the kettle was on, the pot warmed and a steaming mug of tea was soon being enjoyed. Softie that I am. Good time to think about my piece of felt wall-art.

As you can see I have completed the back-stitching:

Now I need to do something to liven up those dancing figures. I can’t remember why we went for black. Perhaps it was a nod to Peter Pan’s mischievous shadow as we were a jolly outfit. More likely it was because they stand out from the background, we were nothing if not bold! Feeling less bold now I am trying to come up with something to soften them.

I am presently working on flowery project so had a play with those needle felted flowers. I think I may be on to something. Making smaller, leaf-less flowers and in colours to compliment the swooshy bands of felt along the bottom of the banner may be just the thing.

Once that is done I will turn my attention to the rest of the hanging…any felty ideas folks?

Hope you are all keeping your feet dry.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Something in the water

Hello All

Wednesday 4 July 2018 – Part 2: Ambleside

Leaving Grasmere, Wordsworths and Shelleys behind JG and me boarded a returning 555 bus to travel the short distance to Ambleside.

The Armitt Museum is one of the smallest but most intellectually compelling museums I know.

Snuggled within the grounds of Charlotte Mason College the Armitt is a unique combination of library, museum and gallery.

The Armitt was founded as a library by Mary Louisa Armitt – known to her friends as Louie – to foster the exchange of ideas among the local community. And what a community!

Ambleside in the 1800s and early 1900s was the centre of a remarkable intellectual culture in which many of the key players were independent women. Amongst these were Mary Louise and her sisters, Sophia and Annie Maria; Harriet Martineau; Annie Jemima Clough; Charlotte Mason and famously Beatrix Potter. A powerhouse of polymaths. But had you heard of them all? I certainly hadn’t …. and I live on the doorstep!

The Armitt’s “A Woman’s Place: Ambleside’s Feminist Legacy” rectifies this.

Here are the inspirational women we met (no photos allowed so bear with my scratchy portraits):

Founders of the Armitt Library – the Armitt Sisters

Sophia, Annie Marie and Mary Louisa Armitt were seriously gifted sisters originally from Salford. Each had her own area of expertise and talent, botany, music, English literature to name a few.

Thankfully Mary Louisa ignored Ruskin’s advice to keep to women’s activities. I don’t think he would have included in those the founding of a library and we would have been all the poorer.

There is definitely something in the Ambleside water as the talented Armitts were not the only women of note drawn to the area.

The first female sociologist – Harriet Martineau (1802 -1876)

This rather doe-eyed portrait probably belies the steely woman Harriet was. Born into a Unitarian family of Huguenot ancestry she travelled widely (in those skirts?!) and was a proponent of higher education for women. Her interest in social theory earned her the ‘first female sociologist’ moniker.

She was a woman ahead of her time:

“If a test of civilisation be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power”

… and there were more…

First Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge – Anne Jemima Clough (1820 – 1892)

While losing out in the portraiture stakes (sorry Anne) Ms Clough certainly did not lose out when they were handing out brains and humanity. Anne Clough was a suffragist (akin to a suffragette but earlier and non-violent) and like Martineau was a promoter of higher education for women becoming the first principal of Newnham College, Cambridge University.

While in Ambleside (where else?) she opened a school at her home Eller How for local children. Fascinated by her stories and travels her pupils couldn’t resist being drawn to her and learning through her informal methods of teaching. Moving south to help her widowed sister-in-law she initiated a scheme for peripatetic lectures which blossomed into the development of a new Cambridge college.

Homely and good humoured, like the children at Eller How, Anne Jemima’s students cherished her. While not a natural administrator her humility and ability to admit when she was wrong allowed her to work creatively and successfully with her colleagues.

She sounds great and is a bit of Her-story I have never learned about.

Home Education and the Teacher’s Teacher – Charlotte Mason (1842 – 1923)

Best known in these here parts for being the light behind the teachers’ training college set up after her death Charlotte was also a supporter of home education. She co-founded the Parents’ Educational Union to provide resources for home educating parents and published the Parents’ Review a regular publication with articles on home educating.

Perhaps because of this Charlotte is well known in North America. Infact we learned that a large number of American and Canadian home schoolers visit The Armitt to find out more about her.

Last but not least …

Naturalist, artist, writer and conservationist – Beatrix Potter

(Oh the sacrilege.)

Living in an age of change Beatrix expertly followed her own path. Through her much loved Tales of Peter Rabbit and other children’s books Beatrix an astute businesswoman ensured her financial independence. She earned enough to engage in farming, assemble a great estate and become a Herdwick sheep breeder. All this from an expert on fungi!

Beatrix supported The Armitt and thanks to her beneficence the museum holds an amazing collection of her scientific drawings. They bowl you over with their detail and some are even hard to distinguish from photographs. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to see Beatrix Potter’s academic work it is astonishing.

You still there? I couldn’t stifle the urge to share these inspirational women with you I hope you enjoyed meeting them.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Patterns are fun …eventually

Hello All

The sun has got its hat on. Hip hip hip hooray! Yesterday was a wonderful day for a train journey to my favourite city, Carlisle. A day when all my bus train bus connections came together and travel was an absolute pleasure.

As you know there is little chance of finding me on a train without wool and a project. Yesterday was no exception.

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In truth however I was running scared. I thought after the bauble success of last week I would try another pattern from the colourful “Boho Crochet” book edited by Merenke Slump. My knees turned to jelly when I realised I was moving from a two star to a THREE star skill rating. What was I thinking?! FPtrs and FPdtrs awaited along with surface crochet and sl st into blo (don’t ask, spare yourselves).

But before I could hook my way through a new crocheting learning curve my train had pulled in at Carlisle station. I had a little time before meeting with my friends at Tullie House Museum. Time for a visit to the library to pick up some light reading and settle down with a cup of tea.

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And yes that is brilliant sunlight casting shadows! Apologies for getting so excited but we don’t get a lot of sunshine in Cumbria. Infact like Nosferatu caught out by dawn we squinted, we fidgeted, we MOVED to get out of the rays. We may not get much sun but when we do it is stunning. Our eyes need time to adjust.

It was lovely meeting up with my friends but all too soon I was time to go our separate ways. A beautiful train ride later and I was back home and it was time to face my ‘Star Fruit Pattern Rug’ fears. Gulp.

Things didn’t get off to the best of starts.  I discovered I didn’t know my WS from my RS!

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Oops!

But having discovered this fundamental I started to get to grips with the lingo and enjoy myself.

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The Star Fruit shape began to form as I worked in the surface crochet. And the motif came together with the addition of the third colour edging.

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In no time at all I had three motifs completed. Only another 67 to go and I’ll have a rustic new rug!

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In case you were wondering I am using a 4mm hook and these chunky rough dyed rug yarns from Farfield Mill.

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Patterns. Pah! Nothing to fear after all. Next time 4 stars. Bring it on.

Until next we meet, Moke x

This year’s new baubles

Hello All

Every year we have a happy little family tradition. We each get a new bauble for the Christmas tree. Consequently we never have a particular colour or style instead we have a hotch potch of all sorts on our tree. Every little trinket telling a story or recalling a memory.

This year I was thinking of buying (eeek!) our 3 new decorations for the tree. Then I got to wondering whether a shop bought  what-not would quite capture the spirit of randomness our annual tree embodies. Don’t get me wrong there are many shop purchases swinging gaily from the needly branches. But most were donated by family or chosen when our small tribe of three were together to select them. From these I remember the people that gifted them or times when my big people were little folk and insistent that a blue elephant fairy would sit comfortably next to Piglet on a peg (what were the school thinking?!).

Rather than battle through the Black Friday…Pink Tuesday…..Lemon Thurdsay…..whatever…..crowds and pick up anything that would get me out of there fast I had a little think. And when I had thunk the idea of needle felted baubles was born. I already had my needle-felting goodies out for the wreath-making-needle-felting-styrofoam adventure (don’t ask!) and was glad to put them to a happier use (I said…don’t ask).

Combining the idea of needle-felted baubles with Wool Buddies I set off. First a Herdwick body DSCI0292 then a little red tummy (you can see where this is going)

a pair of wild Marty Feldman eyes

and there we have him. The scourge of the Christmas garden that feisty little chappy Robin Redbreast. I can’t wait to see him staring out from the branches of our tree. Ok ok he is a bit scary – lucky my children are grown up – but I like to think he’ll make us chuckle. He will dangle perfectly next to the glass painted acetate Santa (we were hard up that year). By the by he is very light which is perfect for hanging from delicate branches.

Next I worked on a scrap of hand-dyed fleece, DSCI0306 and as it reminded me of a stormy sky I added a few stars.

In time honoured fashion I have saved the best for last,

colourful merino tops felted into a ball and then randomly covered with a swirly pattern. Definitely my favourite. I think I have certainly upheld the tree tradition of quirky-ness. Only problem is they are sort of addictive. Can I stop? or will we need a bigger tree?

Before I go. I went to a wonderful leaving ‘do’ at the library on Friday night and as you have had an occasional glimpse of AW’s sugar-craft I thought you might like a peek at her latest creation made for HWh who was leaving the library after an amazing 44 years!

I think you’ll agree it is beautiful. Sweet dreams.

Until next we meet. Moke x

Twinkle Twinkle

Hello All

When I was a library lady one of my favourite tasks was to lead Toddler Tales every Monday morning. It was a great way to start the week. The chaos of little people, parents, grandparents and carers all momentarily calmed by coming together to sing rhymes and listen to stories.

Most beautiful of all was the sharing of nursery rhymes which all the generations could share. Simple couplets so ingrained in our memories that we instantly recall them as soon as the first magic words are said. One such has to be “Twinkle, twinkle little star”. It brings a little tingle to the back of my neck recalling how sweet it was to hear old and young voices combined to sing this lovely poem.

And what brought about this happy memory? Good friend B sent me a link to a crochet pattern! Thanks to a free Moogly pattern you can use up your yarn scraps to make your own little stars.

With a couple of minutes to spare, a few basic tools,

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and even the scrappiest of scrap,
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you can make up a simple decorative star in a trice. Have fun trying different yarns and hook sizes

and perhaps add another point

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to create your own perfect twinkling star.

Ah well time to hook up a few more stars – it’s kind of addictive – and start thinking about presents and cards and all things Christmassy….eeeeekkkk …… maybe I’ll just enjoy making stars and keep Christmas thoughts at bay until December.

 

Until next we meet, Moke x

PS Sorry I vanished last week but my internet went off!!! Zut alors! Mx