Thursday, 31 December 2009

Winter Walk with friends

Today we woke up to some winter sun, and spent the day with very good friends in their beautiful cottage and village.

We went for an extremely muddy walk, good job we had our walking boots, which you can just see abandoned outside the front door on our return.

It was extremely cold but good to be outside, and we returned to a home-made pasta lunch (making the pasta apparently kept their two children occupied most of yesterday!) and had a great afternoon relaxing in lovely Christmassy-looking rooms while all our children showed each other their latest gadgets!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Post Christmas Recovery

In the end our Christmas day was a good one, although it could so easily have been extremely sad.

Newton came home on Christmas Eve (with a bill for over £1,000 - covered thankfully by our insurance) after three days at the vets being poked, shaved and tested. We didn't expect him to survive the night as he looked so very poorly and couldn't move, but we found him much brighter on Christmas day and he weakly joined in with some unwrapping. Here he is where he shouldn't be on the table after lunch with the racing santas and reindeer we had in our crackers.

According to the specialist who did an ultrasound, he has quite advanced heart failure - he's eight so we weren't prepared for him to be so very ill. Today he feels much better and is doing all the things he shouldn't be like jumping, playing and trying to escape into the garden. His heart tablets seem to be helping but you can see by the way his chest is moving how hard his poor heart is having to work and he's living on borrowed time a bit.

So we're trying to make the most of each day with him and he's getting spoiled with posh pouches of food that he would never normally be allowed!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas decorations and a very ill cat

I was more organised than ever this year with my Christmas cleaning and decorating, and was so enjoying the bright sunny days and the light sprinkling of snow that we had here.

I love putting the decorations in their tried-and-tested places - here are just a few.Yesterday just as I was nearly finished and planning to settle down to some festive cooking, Newton decided that this was the perfect time to collapse with severe breathing problems and had to be rushed to the vets, where he is spending his second night tonight. We all miss him and it's been a really worrying time.
I'm ridiculously attached to him as he is my constant companion, so affectionate and full of character, so it's hard to be cheerful, but at least he is being well looked after - we went to see him today and he is in an incubator on oxygen. So we hope he can be home soon, it's not the same without him trying to walk all over the presents under the tree. But I'm thankful of course that it's not one of the boys who is seriously ill.

I hope all of you have a very Happy Christmas and are able to have a rest at some stage!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Holly Felt Notebook

A friend had asked me to make a present for his wife with some winter leaves on, since she had liked the autumn leaf bag he'd bought for her a few weeks ago. So I of course thought of holly, as you would. I'd saved these Christmas cards from previous years since I liked the design, and so used them as my starting point, minus mice!

Being quite brave and foolish I had a go at cutting holly leaves out of pre-felt and tried wet-felting them onto a background. I never really thought it would work since wet-felting blends all the edges so much, but you never quite know until you try - I thought I might end up with some spiky bits of leaf left, but all I ended up with was oval shapes with fuzzy edges, should have known better really.
So I made another wet-felted flat piece, let it dry, and needle-felted my design onto it. I've not done this before, I've just done 3D birds and a cat, I broke 4 needles (definitely more practise needed) but in the end I was happy with the way it looked. Here is the reverse where you can see all the coloured fibres having been poked through by the needle - when I was finished I lightly wet-felted both sides of the design just to blend everything together.
With the red berries and ribbon to brighten it up I hope it'll be just right for a Christmas present.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Newton Helping

Cats are great at helping wrap presents.
Newton is very hard to remove from a place he is comfortable as he tends to get a bit prickly with his claws, so we didn't try very hard. Every now and then he stretched out further and played with the roll bit of the paper so by the time he eventually moved it had quite a few puncture marks in it.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


This snowdrop is looking very lonely, all by itself just outside the kitchen door. All the others, which must be different varieties, come out later but this one is always early, though I don't remember it being up before Christmas before.

I'm having a very busy time felting, trying to finish the last few orders and a couple of presents while still leaving myself time to write a few Christmas cards!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

New Ideas for Christmas Decorating

In an ideal world, this is what I would like my room and table to look like this year. The picture is from the new Sarah Raven catalogue (the link is to the house things page), full of beautiful things which I can only take inspiration from, rather than buy. I do have alliums in the garden, so have plans next year to spray paint them silver, and I have a couple of glass tea-light holders, so I might make a start. For a long time now we've had very traditional red and green as our colour scheme, but I liked the bright jewel colours here mixed with the silver and fresh green foliage.

So having seen that picture, I was all ready to attempt aspects of it as I decorated for our church advent meal this evening. We try and make the long run of tables look as pretty as possible for not too much money, so following success last time with free ivy and cheap curling ribbon in red and gold, I waded about in the garden this morning collecting longish lengths of ivy, as did my friend, and we got quite a lot of nice variegated leaves, and here are my ribbons and baubles for this year:

All you do is lay the pieces of ivy end to end in the middle of the table, alternating the way they naturally want to arch if they do, then where they meet tie them together with great long lengths of curling ribbon, threading it through baubles if you have them, curl the ends, and drape the curly bits through the leaves, or across the table.

It's a very simple but effective way of making the tables look attractive- you don't even need baubles really, but they do add a bit of extra sparkle. It did take a while because we had lots of tables, but it will look good when people walk in, and we scattered some tea-lights around too, so it should be welcoming. Shame we couldn't splash out on colour-coordinated chairs and plates too!

Perhaps silver sprayed allium heads next year...

Monday, 30 November 2009

A friend for the robin.

Son no. 2 kept asking me to make a penguin friend for his robin. Here he is,

not very sophisticated compared with the many amazingly detailed needle-felted sculptures out there, but he is very pleased with himself as he can stand up properly, because he has feet. The robin has no feet and falls over a lot, on his beak. In fact my son made one of the penguin's feet almost all by himself without stabbing his fingers once!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Penguin Christmas Cards

Son no. 1, who is 14, has started going to an art class this term, sometimes he comes back a little frustrated that he hasn't been able to quite achieve on paper what has been in his head (a feeling shared I'm sure by many of us) but last week he came home quite pleased with this really nice pastel:

- ideal I thought for turning into Christmas cards for relatives and friends. I went and got matching pearlised card and have been spray-mounting this morning, I think they've come out really well.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

A Rainbow of New Supplies

When I first started felt-making a few years ago I dreamed of one day having a beautiful selection of colours in my cupboard to compare, contrast and generally lose myself in. With my latest sack-load:

from Wingham Wool Work I think I'm well on my way. I'm sure most of you felt-makers out their have already discovered them but if not check them out - they have a vast range of beautiful merino tops in 125 colours and many, many other lovely fibres - the list is almost endless. From what I can read they are an ethical company too who only have wool fleece from sheep that have not undergone the very unpleasant practice of mulesing, something I was completely unaware of until very recently.
So I have plenty of supplies to keep me busy with new designs for quite a while, although always after placing on order I immediately think of yet another colour that I want!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Cold Cat in a Circle.

Newton thinks it is too cold now and spends most of his time like this, how they get so round is a mystery to me - do they KNOW they're in a perfect circle?

When he is not asleep he is observing the world out of the front window while sitting on my basket of supplies.

Or observing me taking his picture before he swipes me with his paw to tell me to stop.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Christmas Fair and What's In My Oven?

It's been a frantically busy week getting ready for a stall at my own church yesterday. It was very quiet in the town so we didn't have many people but due to the support of a few loyal friends who bought most of their Christmas presents from me I did well.

I'm still relatively new to craft stalls, and am still investigating how best to display things on what is always a smaller table than I think it will be in my mind! At the last one I went to I learned that displaying things properly makes all the difference - people need to be able to see your range of things clearly and also to be able to pick things up and have a look without being scared that everything else will fall over! I'd just spread everything out as best as I could last time but had run out of room and was unhappy that things were squashed and propped up against each other - if I'd been a customer I'd have been put off browsing. Perhaps in this case it would have been better to put out less, except you always want to show everything you have.

So this time I'd been up in our loft searching for an old towel rail I remembered having about 20 years ago - it ended up being perfect for displaying some of the bags, I tied some on with raffia and propped others up on the rails - it gave some height at the back of the table and yet I could still see through it and easily talk to people. All I need now is another one exactly the same (may take some searching around as they're now described as 'vintage' as they're not a modern style, and are therefore very expensive!) You can only see just the leg of it in the photo as I was in such a rush I only just snapped one picture.

Also in the photo you can see some pincushions -

I made them on Tuesday but after wet felting them they came out so dense I thought they were never going to dry in time - so I resorted to putting them on a baking tray with the door slightly open,

luckily we have an exceedingly gentle oven and I just left them for a few hours - it still took ages to get them thoroughly dry!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Red Felt Tea Cosy at Midnight.

As you may see from my earlier post today, I've gone a bit mad about polka dots recently - I'm even dreaming about them, what this reveals about me I'm not quite sure!
I started by doing the lavender bags, then I did a polka dot tea cosy for the Wandsworth Artists Open House and I liked it so much I did a couple more.
Late yesterday afternoon I was seized by an irrational desire to make a red one, and planned to finish it well before dinner.

Plans like this, as most of us know, rarely work out, and so it was I ended up all alone downstairs cutting out cream polka dots after everyone else had gone to bed (even the cat!). As it's really important to keep the shape of the tea cosy rounded I felted it carefully and slowly, so by the time it was finished when this picture was taken it was just after midnight, but I quite enjoyed the calm after the rushing about of the day, it seems to get stiller very late at night.

Polka Dots and a shopping trip.

I had to go out to the dentist yesterday, but that meant I was in Leicester near big shops with a few hours to spare afterwards. It was very, very windy so most of the time was spent searching for the perfect hat. I don't suit hats, so this was a bit of a challenge, and I almost found my perfect one (one of those knitted ones with ear-flaps and pom-poms on cords) but not quite in the right colour. So I ended up with a nice soft purple one instead. On my travels I paused to pick up some large leaves because of their lovely shape - I'm always interested in using the shapes of leaves in my felt, although any detail does get a bit lost with wet-felting, still, it's always worth a try. I'm not sure whether I got stranger looks while I was picking them up, or while I was wandering around the trendy shops afterwards with them poking out of the top of my bag.
Anyway, in John Lewis (a trip to which was my reward to myself for the dentist, although my dentist is very nice and never hurts me) I found this cheerful and affordable tray, with its lovely polka dots to brighten up my kitchen. And I found it went with my hat and leaves too, not that it ever has to go anywhere again with my leaves and hat.

I wanted it to put all my finishing-off things on, so I could carry it round the house to various rooms where I might find peace and quiet and the opportunity to do some beading and/or sewing, and as you see have quickly started filling it with stuff.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Bird on a hill

This is my latest present to myself. He is from my friend Charlotte's new range, I went to see her at her gallery yesterday and I had to have him and bring him home with me to sit on my kitchen windowsill! His similar friends haven't quite made it yet into the online shop, but I'm sure in time they will. I've really become drawn to little birds recently and am on the look-out for lovely unusual birdy things, so he was perfect.

It's been a very busy week, I've had to make felt in the evenings when the light has been so bad it was impossible to get any decent pictures. Also my trusty camera has been exhausted by me constantly taking photos of things, and will no longer reliably focus. I'm just investigating which camera to get next, hopefully one which can take better close-ups of the felt - it seems remarkably hard to show what the colour and texture is really like, I'm always disappointed by the shots I get compared to how vibrant and rich the pieces are in real life.

But I have had a small production line of lavender bags going, all cut out now but still a few to assemble and stitch:

- each day I plan to finish them all in the evenings while having a nice cup of tea, but my peaceful evening hasn't arrived yet.....

Sunday, 8 November 2009

In Praise of Fairy Lights

I really don't like losing the daylight earlier and earlier, but it's good to make the most of the different characters of each season, and when it goes dark I just put these fairy lights on in the hall. They are entwined in the twigs all year round, not just for Christmas, and just cheer the place up no end.

The quilt on the far wall was made for me by my mother in law, to go with the stained glass in the door and windows, which of course you can only see in the daylight:

Friday, 6 November 2009

Autumn Leaf Bag

I found this wooden toggle in the wonderful haberdashery section of my local John Lewis a few weeks ago, and it inspired me to try and design a bag to incorporate it. This is what I finished up with, the leaves were cut out of some pre-felt I had lying around, with some added wisps of colour. It ended up slightly shorter and wider than I thought it would, but that's part of the appeal of feltmaking, I'm never quite sure exactly how new things will turn out, it's as if the felt wants to be a certain way sometimes!
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