Saturday, 31 October 2009

A warning and a house full of felt


Do not get up late and leave the house without breakfast, or on your return at quarter past eleven, this could happen to you:

I know the adverts say nutella has 'some protein' in, at least that's what I think they try to tell you. But let's be honest, it is almost entirely chocolate, this is the most unhealthy I've been in ages, but I was so busy and so tired and it was so quick to make. And if you're going to have something this bad for your first meal of the day, you might as well spread the nutella thicker than your toast is, as my husband pointed out.
He also pointed out that his house is very full of felt, mostly draped on the radiators:

This is because I'm busily making for a craft fair next Saturday, I'm trying to make lots of little things that people might like to buy as gifts so have done some more very small pots that you can see drying around green glass tealight holders, although I'm ready for a bit of a break from felt for the evening and have moved on to making treacle tart - obviously a highly healthy day.

Friday, 30 October 2009

A Visit to Sheffield

Just thought I'd share our trip to Sheffield last week - we'd never been before, but wanted to go and see what the galleries were like and spent a couple of days there over half term. The weather was grey and rainy but we found the lovely Winter Gardens to eat our lunch in, then spent a long afternoon in the Millennium Gallery looking around at the various exhibitions. I found the Ruskin Gallery really interesting, I must confess to knowing nothing much about him, but I was very struck by his desire to assemble a collection to show the beauty of nature and the skill of creating and crafting a work of art, from the colours in minerals and feathers to architectural features.
In the nearby Peace Gardens we found this stunning fountain
and a beautiful pattern at the bottom of a water channel that I had to take a picture of:(Always running through my mind is the question "Can I make this in felt?"! Sadly the answer in this case is probably not, although it's always worth a try.)
The next morning we had breakfast and fantastic coffee in Caffe Piazza in York Street and I was sitting right next to the window with this view of St Peter's Cathedral Church,the cloudy light seemed to really bring out the shape of the beautiful mouldings and shape of the stonework, lampshade and windows. Well worth a visit, and we'd all like to go again one day.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Home Grown Peppers

I am so proud of these - my first peppers ever grown from seed, they have been in my unheated and quite shady greenhouse and understandably have taken ages to ripen and only went this fantastic glossy red over the last couple of weeks. They are small and not very plentiful because I was too busy to nurture them properly but just look so shiny and colourful I can't bear to cut them quite yet.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Chatsworth Gardens

We visited Chatsworth Gardens last week to see the sculpture exhibition but we all ended up taking pictures of the beautiful autumn colours!The late sun was just catching some trees being trained against a wall in a glasshouse and I really liked the structure of the branches plus the reflection of the early evening sky:

Japanese Anemone Felt Wallhanging

I've been looking at these stems out of my kitchen window each autumn for a couple of years now, and finally got round to making this felt piece, I love the clear structure of each head silhouetted against the sky, although chose natural stems on a deep olive background for this first design, I immediately wanted to do more in a whole range of colours but as usual in my life other things like feeding the family and doing the washing had to take priority.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Knitted Daleks

This time last year I was an embarrassment to my family as I travelled around with the most complicated piece of knitting I have ever done, taking it one memorable night to the local coffee shop to try and complete just a few more rows. As I wasn't blogging at the time I thought I would share it now, just in case anyone out there would like to make one, because believe me, if you would like to be able to give one to somebody for Christmas, you'll need to start very soon!

We are all Dr Who fans in our house, but son number two was still young enough to be very keen on having his own unique dalek, so together we searched for and found a dalek knitting pattern, the fantastic EXTERMIKNIT! I was duly commissioned to knit a 'supreme' dalek in red and managed to find some proper sparkly gold metallic wool on e-bay, which turned out to be approximately 4-ply weight, so I bought some red 4-ply to go with it and began, knitting in a round on 4 separate pins.
I followed the pattern, just adding some swiss darning after I'd finished in vertical lines on what they've called the 'neck' section, as that seemed closer to how a real dalek looked. Of course, we are so far away from what a real dalek looks like that perhaps it's not worth worrying about too much.
I think a whole dalek took me four weeks, but we were so pleased with the result that it was all worth it - I have never seen anything so wonderfully ridiculous.
So of course I made another......For the black one I slightly changed the 'shoulder' section, keeping an even number of stitches and doing K2P2 rather than K1P1 to make the vertical lines slightly wider. No less ridiculous though!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Happiness is....a woodburning stove and some cake

We are quite glad the weather has turned cooler as it means we have an excuse to light our lovely stove. Newton is the most grateful, stretching out as close as he can get to it, usually on the hearth. Here he is relaxing after the exertion of hunting down and demolishing a freshly baked cake in the kitchen while I wasn't looking.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Hemlock Stems in Autumn

Walking today nearby I came across these hemlock stems, what fantastic structures especially lit by the sunshine. Last year I sketched out a design with a hemlock seed-head and it's waiting to be made into a felt piece, although getting the detail of the lines will be a challenge, I think that's why I haven't made it yet!

My artist friend Tammy has just finished a linocut reduction of hemlock, which involves cutting away more of the design from the lino with each colour printed, I think the effect is lovely. She and I try to keep each other sane and meet up as often as we can for mutual support, coffee and chattering, check out her beautiful prints and paintings at her website.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Needle Felting a Robin

Here is my second attempt at needle felting, I'm not sure what the proper technique is but all I did was keep on stabbing the wool with a felting needle as I wrapped it round into a vaguely robin-like shape. Felting needles are so, so sharp with tiny barbs at the end which push the wool fibres through each other on the down-stroke, anchoring the fibres together. I have wet-felted balls before which have turned out very densely packed. For the robin though I didn't think he had to be so dense, so stopped stabbing him when he felt firm but still with a bit of give. I shaped the beak and wings by needle-felting tufts of wool, then firmly needled them onto his face and sides. I then just wetted and slightly felted his outside layer to smooth the surface a bit, and finished him with two beady black eyes. He is about 6cm tall and keeps falling onto his beak as I didn't shape his base quite flat enough, but I've already started to make some more. I only stabbed myself twice, which I was quite pleased with as I'm fairly clumsy.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

A Beautiful Autumn Morning

Perfect weather for October, the leaves on our Acer have turned a lovely shade of russet.
Spent a lovely morning with a good friend walking in the nearby village of Market Bosworth, we both liked the herringbone pattern in this unusual wall - when we're not so busy we might have a go at constructing one in her garden - how hard can it be? It's lovely to see old bricks rather than the modern character-less ones, and the plants making a home for themselves in the nooks and crannies.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Very Small Felted Pots

I'd been wanting to make some really tiny pots, suitable for just keeping a few rings or paperclips in. I started out by coating the outside of a small plastic bowl in soap jelly, then added a few silk fibres over the top and then wool tops in two different colours.It's a bit fiddly holding the layers in place when the middle layer is supposed to be wrapping sideways around the bowl.
After felting for a while with the bowl still in place, when I was sure the layers were bonded I slipped the bowl out carefully and turned the felt over, replacing it inside-out for more felting. I then wrapped it in net and rolled it in a mat, first rolling from the base and then from the sides, alternating until it was fulled.
I tried two different styles, one plain and the other with 'petals' which I separated out early on as soon as the fibres had begun to hold together. These needed much more attention during the whole process to keep them from just felting onto the rest of the structure, but I think I prefer the more interesting form that resulted.
I ended up sewing on some beads to add a bit more colour to just finish them off.

Crochet Cat versus Real Cat

Now the weather is turning cooler, our cat Newton wants to be as warm as possible, which usually means climbing as high as he can and squeezing into a basket a couple of sizes too small. Here he is in the kitchen ontop of our tallest cupboard, just above the cat I made last year to almost match him.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Felt Flower Corsage

I bought a new coat last week. In fact, my friend and I bought exactly the same coat, in different colours. Anyway, I wanted to try and make a flower corsage to go with it, I'd seen lots, all different styles. I was aiming for something quite large and floppy, with some stamens in the middle. I'd previously tried to make felt flowers by wrapping the pre-formed stamens round a pebble, then covering the whole pebble with layers of fibres, felting, then cutting to form the petals and get the pebble out, I found all this quite complicated. So an experiment followed.
I first pre-felted two pieces of flat felt, then cut out large daisy shapes, and put one ontop of the other.
I also made some stamens by rolling very fine pieces in the middle until felted, while leaving the ends un-felted. What I hoped to do was to fold them in half and place the un-felted ends in the centre of the flower, then fold all the petals together around them, so that it looked like a bud, all closed up. Then I used some hot water on just the end which was the centre of the flower, wrapped it up in net and rolled the flower sideways in a blind.
The theory was ok, but in practice I found my petals had felted together a bit too much and I had to tease them apart. At this point I thought that trying to felt a two-layer flower with stamens all together was perhaps a bit too ambitious.
I persevered (it's important to not give up even when things don't quite work as you expect) carefully rolling first with the flower sideways, then with it folded in half flat with the petals at the top, finishing off shaping by hand.

The stamens have just about attached, and I've shaped each petal by folding it in half lengthways as it dried which gives the flower a lot more structure. I've over-estimated the shrinkage, so it's pretty big, but the colours have come out really well, and if you're going to wear a felt flower it might as well make a statement. And it did make me want to try more flowers with different colours.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Monday Morning

With an ill child at home what better way to spend a morning than finishing off bits and pieces of felt in between providing drinks. I ended up beading the edge of my mirror frame by threading beads onto a blanket stitch as I went round.

I've also managed to make the bits needed for a commissioned bag, ready to assemble, although I still need to do the lining. The flowers on the table are only there to make it look as though I'm so committed to having a nice looking kitchen that I always rush into the garden to cut fresh flowers. Of course the reality is there are usually no flowers in the kitchen, just lots of bags of wool, and wisps of roving mixed with dust wafting gently across the tiled floor, together with the occasional soap flake.
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