Bags of Goodness

Hello All

Just home from a quick shop in town and at the risk of looking like a short rations edition of BBC1’s “Eat Well for Less” * here are my purchases:

Kendal is a little foodie heaven these days. I remember when getting a Wimpy burger bar was BIG NEWS! Nowadays we have wonderful eateries catering to all tastes and today as I was on my lonesome I popped into one of the latest where I could have a super vegan lunch whilst I picked up a few essentials. Food Nude only has a few seats (bar stools) but the goodies on the menu can also be taken away.

Yum what to pick?

I went for the vegan ‘tuna’ sandwich. It was SUPER delicious. The tea with oat ‘milk’ washed it down perfectly.

Did you wonder? Here is what came out of the bags.

Top ups for my muesli, red lentil and buckwheat jars together with a good bowlful of cashew nuts. With the help of veggies and fruit that’s a few breakfasts and suppers sorted.

Greg Wallace and Chris Bavin* would be proud!

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

The Experiment – last of the needle-felting trial

Hello All

Yesterday travelling home all roads North were busy with Bank Holiday traffic. The sun was shining and who can blame folk wanting to spend a few days in our beautiful neck of the woods. That was yesterday.

Today the weather is decidedly autumnal: wet and chill. Time for me to hunker down with a large mug of tea, do some crafting and hope our visitors are staying warm and dry by sampling the marvellous eateries and inns of Cumbria.

It felt (no pun) like a good day for me to return to the last three plant fibres and conclude the needle-felting stage of The Experiment. Watch out for my environmental confusion. I have definitely released a can of worms…

Flax (linen)

As I opened the packet I swear there was the faint waft of new cloth. I could have been nasally fooled by the notion of fresh linen. I am easily suggestible. But for a second ….

The natural colour of the skein was darker than most of the other plant fibres many of which appear to have little pigment. Again the staple was pulled easily from the skein.

Flax also had that now familiar sheen.

Like the hemp the flax worked well. I felt at home using it and although I had only given myself a small sample I think I would use it on larger projects as it can be comfortably moulded.

Eco-thumbnail: Flax is one of the oldest textile fibres. Set to make my heart race then! After hemp it is the second most highly productive crop and can be grown without the use of herbicides and pesticides. Usefully it can be grown on land unsuitable for food crops and may even re-cultivate polluted soils. Again it is only beaten by hemp as being the most water efficient fibre. All sounding good? Wait a moment…

Sadly – while it doesn’t need to – production commonly uses agricultural chemicals. Could this be that old conundrum? Too many consumers mean high yields are sought at the cost of the environment? I am not finished either. The usual method of extracting the fibres is by retting and this can be highly polluting to water. Luckily there are other methods: dew or enzyme retting which utilise natural processes to break down the stalks and in the case of enzyme retting contain the pollutants within tanks.

Mint Fibre

No. No. It definitely didn’t smell of mint. It was similar to the majority of the plant fibres, was silky and pulled easily from the skein.

The mint resisted the needle quickly nonetheless it worked well and I was again happy with the result.

Eco-thumbnail: This eco stuff is certainly taking me into unchartered territory. What the heck is ‘cellulose fibre’? You probably know being the wise readers that you are but just in case: cellulose fibres are natural fibres which include plant fibres … gulp how do I check that there are no animal fibres mixed in? I feel my CSE Biology or is it Chemistry .. perhaps physics? …. may be stretched here.

I am going with what I have seen on the inter-web. Mint fibre is a bio-degradable cellulose made from wood pulp infused with mint powder. Again, what?! Apparently the powder is extracted from peppermint leaves and gives the fibre anti-bacterial properties and makes the fabric naturally cooling.

I understand from some of my reading that the chemical solutions (eek!) used to process the fibre are recycled into the system. With there being little waste too this fibre is considered ‘relatively’ eco-friendly.

We have arrived at the last plant fibre I am testing. Thank goodness I can hear you saying. Here it comes. Last but not least:

Rose Fibre

Of course not. There wouldn’t be. There was no smell. Very disappointing on the fragrance front. The peeps at World of Wool describe rose as similar in appearance and feel to bamboo. Meanwhile at Allfiberarts.com the sampler describes rose as similar to banana to spin. I agree with both. I think this is because the majority of plant fibres – with the exception of hemp and flax – have suspiciously similar properties.

Again I found that the rose resisted the needle very quickly as I was felting but once more I was pretty pleased with the results.

Eco-thumbnail: This bio-degradable fibre is extracted from the natural waste of rose bushes and their stems and is considered environmentally friendly. Limited information I know but I will learn more.

That is the end of the needle-felting trial. As you have probably guessed my favourite plants so far are hemp and flax. They felt the most natural, were the most easily understood (by me) in environmental terms and I was happiest working them.

I confess this eco-vegan thing is tricky. I have felt hampered by my lack of knowledge about the manufacture of these fibres. I hope to address this. It may take a considerable amount of reading and talking to the right people but I have the bit between my teeth or perhaps the staple beneath my needle. I will carry on carrying on.

And there I was thinking this was going to be a simple project. I haven’t even begun to look at the environmental perils of dying the fibres!

Time for a lie down in a darkened room….

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

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

Exeter – Bear Break Out

Hello All

When No 1 Daughter suggested I come to help her ‘stock-take’ in Exeter I thought oooh beautiful ancient Exeter. Gothic cathedral Exeter; Norman castle Exeter; Roman wall Exeter; River Exe Exeter… right up my street Exeter. Oh no!

Lockup Exeter! Hey ho, never mind I was volunteering for a good cause. Does helping out children at same time give me bonus points???

It was certainly very satisfying making order out of chaos.

Okay okay it may not look much improved but believe me it is … really. I was also in my element taking photos to catalogue what was in there. Love a bit of advanced listing.

Now if you are worrying about the cages …. No 1 Daughter works for a wonderful charity Animals Asia and the cages have been used in the past to illustrate the awful conditions in which bears are kept for their entire lives (sometimes as long as 30 years) in order that bile can be removed from their gall bladder.

With all that in mind we couldn’t help ‘liberating’ these two guys.

They will be going out to assist Animals Asia supporters spread the word and help their living cousins enjoy happier lives.

We rewarded ourselves with a trip to the nearby Cosy Club for supper …. look even a vegan menu (available on request) ….

And a speech from

Lenin! Strange. Great restaurant with menus to suit everyone and situated in an old hospital with quirky decor. No 1 Daughter and I loved it.

Back at home I have a work in progress.

This is the first time that I have used an Avid Seamstress pattern and what a quality act! It comes complete with hard wearing, heavy duty pattern, useful information and terms cards and a booklet that guides the sewer (dearie me that reads like something to do with drains!) through making the garment.

For numpties like me who dive in and non-numpties that wisely like checking out all the information available there is also support on the Avid Seamstress website.

I will update you on progress. So…

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

PS Big thanks to DC for helping with the lockup. Without your help we may well have still been there! Great to see you, GF and GC. Mx

Finding Soul

Hello All

Saturday 21 April 2018

Our last full day in Copenhagen. There was a brief respite for my toes – No 1 Daughter is training for the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge and is a spirited walker is all I will say – when we boarded one of those wonderful (well my feet thought so) double-decker tour buses. We (my toes and I) sailed happily around some of the places we may have missed on our perambulations.

Of course the Little Mermaid is a must.

Everyone else seemed to agree! When I visited the same site [whispers] over 40 years ago we almost walked past our fishy tailed friend as there was no tell-tale crowd of onlookers to highlight her presence.

But the bus-ie balm for my tootsies was short-lived as we had set our sights on a much vaunted vegan eatery that was “off the map!”. So carefully checking out the best stop (confess that was just me) we sallied forth to go off piste and find ‘Souls’.

A little aside about hard-copy maps versus location finder apps. I love a proper paper map and while I have one clutched in my hot sweaty (it was still warm) hand I feel geographically safe and able to find most places I want to be. On the other hand I discovered a distinct downside to apps while on this little walk…they take you via diversions that they think you will be interested in (ie shopping opportunities) rather than straight from A to B – the Romans would surely be horrified.

The good thing about this ‘finder’ thing is, I suppose (did I mention my feet hurt?!), that it gave us more opportunities to enjoy the charming Copenhagen streets and be truly ready for lunch.

N.b. These pictures were not necessarily taken on this walk but No 1 Daughter loves a bicycle photo opportunity and I rather like them too.

After a block sized detour in a side street we found ‘Souls‘.

It was well worth the walk.

Here’s my Viking Salad … had to be…. with plant-based balls and salads to die for including delicious pickled onions…got to stop … my mouth is watering …..

Anyhoo fired up with all that super-food goodness I was ready to stroll back to our hotel picking up a beautiful frock for little Peanut, the one thing that was cheaper in Copenhagen than back home, and have a quiet beer in the sunshine before weeping inwardly at the thought of leaving this lovely city in the morning.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx