stepping stones of truth

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

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.