stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Slumbering Dorset hills shift gently in their winter sleep

This snowy scence is my garden a few weeks ago. Since then it has been cold, but sometimes the sun shines and there is change in the air. The birds are singing their spring songs and robins are having boundary skirmishes.

In the woods by the river the snowdrops are now in full flurry, and there is a definite shift towards longer days. Light at the end of the winter tunnel, I can almost feel hopeful that spring will arrive. And then they have forecast more snow tomorrow! I guess the earth will go dormant again for a while.

In felt making class, we were challenged out of our comfort zones and had to produce a large cylindrical shape in wet felt - but using two colours from the opposite sides of the colour wheel + either black or white. I usually like to use toning colours. Oh well, its only an exercise, so I flung myself into it. But I had to use the citrus yellow in the centre even so!

To give it a lighter feeling, I used white as a sort of feather theme and included real feathers for emphasis. I used the sections I took out of the top edge yellow-side up, and put them lower down for weight.

I photographed it next to some yellow and mauve flowers I bought the Man Of The House for his birthday. I actually quite like it now! But its proved to me that I prefer to make things in felt that have a use rather than purely decorative objects. I dont think a felt vase is a good idea. What else could I use it for I wonder?

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I am so glad we have a boiler that works to warm the house, and that I have an electric blanket for my bed during this long cold "snap" of freezing weather, although as yet we only have a light dusting of snow. Enough to make my stepping stones look pretty, with their tiny Japanese lantern ready to light the beginning.

My collection of acers in pots may not like the temperatures, but the Buddha looks good with a snowy hat! Some tender plants just won't recover - hebes. bamboos and others will just not survive consistently being frozen.

In Britain we are warmed by the Gulf Stream and - as my geography teacher used to say - warm wet westerly winds in winter. But since Christmas this has not been so, and the warm westerlies have been thwwarted by a large immovable airmass, and we have been having totally different winds blowing in freezing air from the arctic and Siberia, and it has been literally freezing.

We use the term loosely usually. to just mean cold. But temperatures have been below zero for nearly two weeks and we are not used to it! I feel a bit trapped as I really enjoy getting out and about in the countryside or even in the garden, and the ground is icy, slippery and treacherous underfoot. And I havent got strategies to deal with these sort of conditions built into my psyche or my way of life!

But I walk up into our field whenever I can. Youngest Daughter and I, and behind us you can see the group of new houses (our Old School is out of view just to the left)

Isnt he handsome?

We are very protected in this part of Dorset, and often have warmer weather than areas just a few miles away (we are close to the sea) and its been like it this time. No deep snowfall yet, despite other parts of England having had snow since before Christmas. But enough to get the sledge out - we have had it for over forty years and for some of that time it was used as a TV stand.

This is my future Son in Law and his dog about to descend from the top of the field (his pigs are behind him) We have at least another few days of this weather to come, and maybe more, but the stubborn air mass may be shifting soon. I doubt our nation will ever get used to "freezing" for more than a day or two at a time. Hopefully it will just be an interlude to remember.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas in envelopes

Taking time to admire the variety of cards adorning the shelves of dressers and all flat surfaces, I think this poem sums it up. Nearly time to recycle them, and I have four years' worth of cards ready to recycle this year after a foray into the Christmas chest!


Monks are at it again, quaffing, carousing;
And stage-coaches, cantering straight out of Merrie England,

In a flurry of whips and fetlocks, sacks and Santas.

Raphael has been roped in, and Botticelli;
Experts predict a vintage year for Virgins.

For the theologically challenged, Richmond Bridge,

Giverny, a lugger by moonlight, doves. Ours

Costs less than these in money, more in time;

Like them, is hopelessly irrelevant,

But brings, like them, the essential message.

by U.A Fanthorpe

And Ive nearly finished my felt creation of holly - just some more silver sparkly lines to do......

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Blue skies on Christmas Day

This was our view on the 25th December!

Christmas Day in our house was on 20th December! My eldest daughter and family spent a whole week with us before going to spend the actual holidays with her husband's parents. Last time they did it the other way around, and were with us on the real Christmas Day.

It was quite comforting to know that if you ran out of any vital commodity you could pop to the shops to get it - rather than have to wait for several days.

The weather has been very cold and icy (though not the snow that the rest of the country is having) but it was through this time and with a toddler in the house, that the heating oil ran out. Well we thought it had run out, and (having no woodburning fire right now as the chimney is under repair) we had a chilly weekend just using three electric fan heaters to heat the whole house. I was not a happy bunny.

However, our local supplier who has always managed to help us in the past when we ran out unexpectedly, turned up as soon as they could. We have two small fuel tanks that feed into one line, and it was discovered that on the last delivery, a valve was not reopened after filling the tanks. So we actually had one tank empty - but one tank full ! How annoying was that?

Anyway, youngest daughter and her fiancé could be together and spend Christmas Day with his family (having spend our early Christmas Day with us). So that left the two of us - I was happy to treat the day as a lazy Sunday, but the Man of the House wanted to spend the day at his favourite place - Lyme Regis - even though everything would be shut.

We rustled up a picnic, put our warm coats on and headed for Lyme Regis, only 45 minutes drive away.

It was a beautiful sunny day, more like summer. Difficult to believe that a lot of the country still has snow lying on the ground! No clouds in the sky, and the town and seafront were protected from the wind. The view is looking east back along the Dorset coastline (now known as the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage site)

The lamp standards are custom built for Lyme Regis and depict a fossil. These two gulls were using it as a vantage point - I really out to straighten the photo a bit!

This is the view back towards the Regency town, favoured by Jane Austen. It looks very sheltered by the harbour wall that is behind me, known as The Cobb (famous in the French Lieutenant's Woman) The car is parked in sea front car park in the middle of the buildings.

This is a view along the last bit of The Cobb. I find it fantastic that, apart from a few disclaiming notices, that they still let us walk along it. No rails, no nothing. The highest point on the coast is Golden Cap - doesnt look so golden today though, but we've climbed the path up to the top this summer, great views.

After our stroll, we went back to the car for our lunch (I had avocado, tomatoe and brie in pitta bread, mmmmm) and a cup of tea from the Thermos flask. This was the view through the windscreen.

This is the Man of the House walking towards his car (the low white one) The clock is a war memorial to all those who died in the 20th century from Lyme Regis.

We climbed up the hill to the new gardens (the old ones were slipping into the sea, so some major stabilising work has taken place, meaning the gardens were revamped.) Another view back towards Golden Cap.

The gardens have a low maintenance theme, with drought resistant plants. Past the grasses you can look west and see the harbour and The Cobb behind it, sheltering it from the prevailing south westerly winds and the strongest seas.

The sun set on a most unusual Christmas Day, with near perfect weather - difficult to believe it was December. And although Lyme Regis isnt my favourite part of the Jurassic coastline, it was a good day out.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Adventures with felt

To create felt, first take some carded wool (well, first find your sheep) but best of all, take some fine merino wool. Actually you could just take a nice wool sweater and put it in a washing machine. Thats all it takes to make felt - wool, hot water, soap and rubbing!

I decided to learn how to do it properly, and enrolled at an Adult Education afternoon class of a six week course. This is all you need.

1. One old towel on the table.
1. Plastic "bubble wrap" on the towel.
3. A length of machine carded merino wool (this is a natural coloured "roving" on the right.)
4. Some old nylon net (like you have at windows sometimes)
5. A squirty bottle containing warm water and a small amount of liquid soap. Ive got Stergene (ith the blue cap.+
6. A bar of Olive soap - because it is natural, and kind to your hands.

Small tufts of wool are placed on the bubble wrap, each layer is at right angles to the last. The more layers, the thicker the felt will be.

Then the nylon net is placed over the wool. Next soapy water is spread on the net - and you press it down lightly till the wool is all wetted through. Then the hard work starts. Pretend you are a washingmachine, and rub the wool through the nylon net, with extra Olive soap. And rub. And rub.

These are my first test squares with different numbers of layers. The smaller ones above have been through the washing machine! The hand made felt has shrunk by about 20% but the machine does radically more than that.

We then made a base layer of white wool and created small circles of colour - blending colours just as you would mix colours with paint - and laying them lightly on top.

Then we put the nylon net on top and created felt as usual. As you can see, they did not eaxctly stay as circles! But nearly.

Having made plain coloured felt and experimented with colours, we had to create this sunset picture. We laid down base layers of white merino wool, then "painted" with coloured wool tufts on top of the white background. Put on the net, and continued as usual. Then were asked to decorate or embellish the scene. I'd never used beads before so used some silver thread and seed beads and some larger red ones. Fun.

Last summer I went on an afternoon workshop to learn about needlefelting, because I couldnt find any wet felt making courses. This uses a ready made pre-felted base and barbed needles that push fine wool layers into the base felt. The heat and friction of the needles are used without any of the water. You can make pictures or indeed small 3D objects. The needle holder on the left is used and the felt base is laid on the brush pad, and you jab the needleholder through the base felt into the pad. Very safe.

This was the picture I created on the needlefelting workshop. It was of an image of a Dartmoor hill against a blue sky, with an old wall on the top which had yellow gorse falling down over it, and some wonderful silver birches too. I saw this on a walk on Dartmoor and had no camera, so have had the memory stored in mind only!

So when we had to make our own landscape, I decided to see how the same image would look when created with layers of coloured felt created within the wet felt making process. Then I will add highlights with embroidery. Still a work in progress.

As a finale to the wet felt course we created a folder in which to keep all our samples and small pieces. We learned to insert sections of different textures and colours when the felt was damp, as a top layer. Then came the fun of adding buttons and decorations, and I needlefelted some small curly bits of raw wool too.

This is a needlefelted bag under construction. A long piece of black ready made felt is folded into three, and I bought the most amazing knitting yarn (merino wool of different width and rainbow colours) and needlefelted it to the front flap. Ive sewn up the sides to make the bag, and will add a thin shoulder strap. I think it looks beautiful, almost like silk.

Believe it or not, these are the two sides of the same bag that I made on an afternoon workshop with the same tutor as the wet felt course. It is a very very dark brown colour, almost black, but showed up quite brown under the flash! Its a bag with no seams, very clever. Lots of layers, and including a flap (one side of which becomes the pocket on the back. Neat idea! It is very sturdy and used lots and lots of layers and "elbow grease" ie rubbing to make it. The decorations were fun to do, I just love spirals!

And this is a small bag I made at home for a Christmas gift for my 18 month old grandaughter, using the skills acquired at the bag making workshop, with needlefelted flowers on both sides done afterwards. I am really pleased with it, I hope she will be.

No this isnt mine! But was created by a lovely friend of mine, who was a brilliant potter and a lovely lady. She died (at a tragic early age) two years ago, and I wanted to buy some pottery to remember her by, but there was none left that her husband wanted to sell. But after the thanksgiving for her life (what a glorious occasion that was, with a joyous handpainted cardboard coffin bedecked with ribbons and flowers) we were having tea and cake in her local tearoom, when I spotted this for sale on the wall. I love poppies and bought it on the spot. And it sits on the wall in my quiet room, glowing and radiating her happiness and joy in life. But I never realised, truly realised it was felt until last week! Now I treasure it more, and aspire to make something as lovely.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Where Mummy grew up

Off to feed the pigs at the top of the field with Mummy and Aunty Lucy. Its good when the field is outside the back door and you can put wellies and a jacket on over your pajamas!

Saying Hallo to Timothy the Sheep, who is hoping for a present of a spinach leaf.

First puddle in first wellington boots!
And yes that is a Halloween sleepy suit underneath, Mummy is very practical. Spooky clothes are not just for Halloween!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ramble around Cerne Abbas

My walking companion and good girlfriend wanted to "recce" a walk she would later be leading with the local Ramblers. We had already tried out another walk in the area, but - on taking tea afterwards in a local tea room - had seen another suggested walk printed out, which looked more interesting. Our previous walk had taken us up the nearly vertical hill by the side of the Giant. Killing climb!

The walk started from the car park with this view of the Cerne Abbas Giant. Panoramic view from the starting point at the car park

Interesting information about the Cerne Abbas giant

So on a misty autumn day, we were going to try the new one, from the instructions but also taking a map. Instructions can be ambiguous! If you want to follow our walk, Ive found a version on the internet - but it goes the opposite way around. Walk details, only the wrong way round the circular route

It started off with a hairy few yards along a main road, but even main roads in Dorset can be fairly quiet, and we didnt see one vehicle in the few minutes we walked along it. Luckily it turned off after only a few yards onto this lovely peaceful road to the hamlet of Up Cerne (yes there is a Nether Cerne too!)

The stately trees lining the lane belong the parklands of the manor house, whose lands we were walking through. Their leaves had already fallen.

Then we turned onto the approach road to the house with its outlying estate workers cottages and church. All the roads and paths we used were official public footpaths. The problem with our previous walk was that a section of it was not - and ramblers always stick to the legal paths!

We passed the gateway to the big house, and leaned on the gate a while. If you click to see the larger version you can probably make out its church to the left. Each manor house would have had its own church nearby, so the lord of the manor would not have to walk far on a Sunday morning.

Then, after a pleasant stroll along the valley by a stream, the foot path led up through a wood to a junction of paths on the ridge of the hill between the two valleys, This photo looks down the path on the right which we had just climbed. A lovely leaf littered path.

The path then turned away from Cerne Abbas, along the top of the ridge and gave us glimpses of Minterne Magna House in the valley below. As we turned down off the top of the hills down towards Minterne, we had an unfortunate meeting. A tractor in a nearby field was spraying. A broad leaved herbicide maybe, but although a fairly still day, we caught some of the drifting nastiness and put our jumpers over our mouths for a while.

My companion remembered walking in the French countryside around vineyards, when the aircraft that was crop spraying deliberately flew at them and let fly with his spray, which was choking. This tractor driver didnt do anything like that, and plodded his way up and down the hillside.

We came down into the village of Minterne Magna that surrounded the big house, whose lovely wild gardens are open in the summer, and closed on the very day we were there - but we had no time to visit. We had our coffee stop on a thoughtfully provided picnic bench in the grassy car park.
This lovely acer was in the garden of one of the estate cottages, on top of a wall alongside the footpath as we crossed the valley bottom. We had a look around the small church in the village with lots of memorials to the Churchill family (lots of Winstons going back centuries).

My companion crossing a thoughtfully provided bridge over the small River Cerne that flows through the valley and provides lakes and fishing.

And here is a waymark right in the middle of a field beside a "blasted oak". So far, so good. No problem seeing which way to go so far.

We had turned back down the valley towards Cerne Abbas but got some more views of the lovely house and gardens which are home to the Digby family and can be used as a wedding venue.

It was about this point that we lost the plot (and the path) a bit. We backtracked a few times, and always discovered where we had gone astray! We reckon we had probably put a good couple of miles on the route by mislaying the path. Once we even crossed a main road, as we were supposed to, but the path we were expecting on the other side was not to be seen! We didnt eat our sandwiches until we were reasonably sure of being on a sensible route. And at this point we finally looked at a map.

Just as it was getting a little bit dark (and I was getting a little weary) we found the path that led us along the valley and beneath the feet of the Giant. Plenty of laughs - mostly at our blindness on missing paths as we were too busy looking at the scenery or following cattle tracks! A good walk if ever you are in the area. And of course a lovely teashop in the village of Cerne Abbas.