Archive for the ‘Felting’ Category

The Reclaimed Christmas Project…

October 16, 2011

Buttons, buckles, beads...

Following on from my musings in the previous post, I’ve decided that this year I’m going to reclaim Christmas, in more ways than one. I’m probably not the only person who’s had enough of the commercial version; of the endless grimly-glittering tawdry tinfoil decorations which start to appear in mid-September along with incessant adverts for wildly expensive bits of plastic or noxious potions, of giant flock snowflakes obscuring the aisle lables in supermarkets and “this year’s colour” plastic tree. I’ve nothing against fake trees, as I love the real thing, especially where they belong (outdoors)  & don’t like to feel I’ve been directly responsible for the needless death of an entire tree. But I really cannot get my head around people feeling they have to buy a new plastic one every year just so they have the “right” colour… Our current tree was rescued from the Recycling centre a couple of years ago and does a grand job; however this year it may get left in its box as there’s a Lawson’s Cypress in the front garden that needs a good haircut and one of the upright branches of that would make a fine Christmas tree too – it even smells right. Handling spruce always brings me out in a rash, anyway.

I’ve also had enough of spending too much money at Christmas. The retailers have parents over a barrel;  every year there’s a blizzard of adverts for electronic must-haves that every other child in their class will surely be given – and some of them undoubtedly will be – how can you possibly be so mean/inhuman/unloving as to say no? You love your child and you really, really don’t want them to feel deprived/disadvantaged/unloved, especially not on Christmas Day… but it does start to wear a bit thin when said children have technically reached adulthood and could, probably even should, go out & earn said must-have trinket for themselves.

I have a clear idea in my head of what I want Christmas to be; a time of goodwill to all living beings, and that includes the trees. A time to reflect on why we’re here, and a time to celebrate the life that we have. A real feast with family & friends, but not at the expense of going short for the next couple of months. A time to remember those who are really going without, and a time to try in some way, however small, to help. An oasis of goodwill & good cheer, peace & tranquillity in a mad, mad world…

Not much chance of that, really! But there are ways I can undermine the dominant view of Christmas as an opportunity to spend, spend, spend, and indulge, indulge, indulge. Quite apart from what we as a family get up to on The Day itself, I’m going to run the Reclaimed Christmas Project at my shop on Wednesday afternoons from here to – well, mid-December. We’ll be making beautiful & unusual festive decorations, cards & gifts from reclaimed or natural materials. And buttons, LOTS of buttons, thanks to a wonderful find at the Recycling Centre this week. There’ll be plaids & checks & stripes, there’ll be ricrac and lace and possibly even sequins, but there will NOT be overblown tinsel so thick it looks like it could do with a good prune. There’ll be felted wool,  embroidery silks and a little bit of angelina; there will NOT be irritating flashing lights that make you grind your teeth whilst attempting to hypnotise you. Homer Simpson will NOT be featuring; in fact there will not be any blow-up or cartoon characters at all, not even a cartoon reindeer that looks like it’s the morning after a very heavy night before. The only festive icon perching on the roof will be the robin that lives in the bushes opposite. However, there may be gingerbread & icing, not to mention tissue & crepe paper. There may even (shock, horror!) be a little religious imagery, though I shall try not to upset the Thought Police too much. And if there are any icicles, they’ll probably be made of ice. “Keep it simple, keep it joyful, keep it real,” will be my motto!

I’m hoping that even if you’re not able to come & join me, you”ll be there in spirit & doing your own Reclaimed Christmas in your own special way.

And more buttons...

It’s been a while…

May 22, 2011

…because I’ve been busy. Very very busy, in fact, in the nicest possible way, because there suddenly seems to be a lot of interest in what I’m doing, So I’m taking the plunge & have rented a small workshop/shop in the centre of our little town, to open up TheCraftSpace.co; website to be set up over the next few days.
I’m really excited but there’s a lot of work to do; the unit needs painting & some other stuff like hot water & flooring sorted out, and I’m trying to source just about all the fittings secondhand, recycled or reclaimed, with one or two exceptions for electrical safety’s sake. There’s a side room for my VintageCraftStuff, and also some gallery space to display our own creations and those of other local crafters. There’ll be human-powered sewing machines & spinning wheels, giant knitting needles, inkle looms, spinning & felting supplies, handspun yarn, and reclaimed fabric, yarn and buttons for sale, and of course, books and magazines… open for retail Mon-Fri, 11-4 pm.
The idea is to run FREE lunchtime “craftalong” sessions – bring your sarnies, or buy something yummie & inexpensive from the Riverside Cafe next door, and sit & stitch/knit/crochet/whittle – whatever, as long as it’s creative! – for free in good company, anytime from 12-2 pm. Then 2-4 pm will be inexpensive have-a-go themed workshops, probably about £4 per person including materials (if it can be done) on simple basic stuff – cardmaking, scrapbooking, bookmaking, wet felting, needlefelting, learn to spin/knit/crochet/stiitch – and there will be expert workshops in the evenings & some weekends, with more advanced tutors. Everything will be small scale, partly because of space limitations but also because it’s nicer & easier to learn that way.
There’s a little garden space at the back to grow a few dye plants, herbs & flowers in tubs & baskets, and sit & stitch or spin in the sunshine on nice days. The river runs right outside the door, so it’s a very green & natural space for a town-centre location.
So I’m really, really busy trying to sort all the background stuff like insurance, website & fittings out right now. I’ll post again just before we open, so wish me luck, watch this space & plan to come & visit us when you’re down this way!

Is it or isn’t it…

July 30, 2009
An old drop spindle? Or a giant darning mushroom?

An old drop spindle? Or a giant darning mushroom?

An old drop spindle?

I picked this up at our local market for 50p last weekend, under the impression that it was a giant darning mushroom. But I couldn’t help wondering what the hook was for, not to mention the groove below the hook. Something about it suggested spinning, probably the resemblance to a child’s spinning top, so I tried it out with a little mauve roving. Lo & behold, it worked, really rather well. But I haven’t a clue whether that’s what it’s intended use really was! Or how old it is, or, if it is a spindle, which tradition it came from. Ideas, please…

The entries for the Dorset Arts & Crafts Association show are now in, and I’m really looking forward to going down there with a friend tomorrow & seeing what the judges thought of my strictly non-traditional stuff. In the end I enetered my felted slippers, a denim apron, one of my crazy-patchwork bags and a broomstick crochet hat & “neckwarmer” (not long enough for a scarf – not enough yarn!) I did a little while ago. It’s my first year of entering so I’m not expecting any great plaudits but it’ll be interesting to see wht it is they’re looking for, and how (or in fact IF) I could ever achieve it.

I shall report back tomorrow evening, with pics…

I haven’t been struck dumb…

June 7, 2009

… but my computer was. My “C” drive imploded last week and had to be replaced; we’d had a little warning but I hadn’t quite got round to archiving and preparing for the inevitable. So I was caught on the hop and had to get it professionally replaced & cloned. More expensive than the DIY option, but far cheaper than a new computer & well worthwhile, although I am now left with the job of sorting out all the rubbish that’s accumulated in my Inbox & Documents folder over the last 4-5 years, not to mention all the half-deleted games.

So my online shop still isn’t fully open, which is probably just as well as my bank have yet to divulge my business account number, which is fairly vital. But we have been recycling away in the background, as usual; I’ve just finished planting up my containers & hanging baskets, every one of which is reclaimed from the Tip. Even some of the plants have come from the same source, particularly the fuchsias; last spring I rescued 3 willow baskets full of fuchsias “past their best” which wasn’t surprising as there were up to 8 in each basket! Those that had survived were thinned out, given new soil and replanted in the baskets and elsewhere in the garden, and gave a fine show at the end of summer & up until the first frosts.  Some are showing tiny leaves again already, though others seem to have given up the ghost. As they didn’t cost me a penny, it’s easy to see losing a few as part of life’s great cycle.

This year my baskets have been lined with “dag ends” from the Freecycled fleeces I’ve picked up. I haven’t felted them first, & probably should have, but they  look amazing, especially the white ones. I gather that the fleece and its contents will nourish the plants, as well as holding moisture, rather than just holding the soil in place like traditional liners. Many of the plants are cuttings from last year’s rescued geraniums, though I have bought some new to give variety, and given some of the cuttings away, as well as growing some from seed.

Hanging baskets are wearing natural wool this year...

Hanging baskets are wearing natural wool this year...

And our container kitchen garden is flourishing; some of the potatoes are flowering and will be on our plates before long. They haven’t been earthed-up but have been provided with woolly jumpers from yet more dag ends. There are lots of herbs, and a reclaimed water tank full of beans, which I hope will be well-fed by a whole fleece that was very badly matted; basically it had felted itself on the sheep’s back & wasn’t any use for spinning.  I’ve planted out some of LIDL’s “living salads” in lovely wide terracotta pots, which the slugs don’t seem to have discovered yet, unlike my own lettuce seedlings.  All is watered by rainwater captured from the kitchen roof in butts rescued from the Tip; we’d like a big rectangular storage tank there, but haven’t found one yet, and I refuse to pay £150-odd for a new one. You can see one last bag of well-rotted horse manure, waiting to feed the autumn crops as the summer ones get harvested & their containers are freed up.

Our container kitchen garden, on the driveway...

Our container kitchen garden, on the driveway...

We’ve had guests this week and the weather was good, so evenings have been spent in the garden, toastimg marchmallows around the pot-bellied BBQ stove, fed by snippets of pallet and small offcuts gleaned from the Tip. This week I’m sure I’ve taken more down there than I’ve rescued, thanks to two of the boys swapping bedrooms and taking the opportunity to purge years of accumulated schoolwork, guitar strings (you can only re-use so many) deodorant bottles, odd shoes and outgrown holey jeans on the way. The jeans are in the pile for my next denim apron, but I parted with the rest without a backwards glance.

On the Freegan front, I’ve just polished off a plateful of Aubergine bake. Two lovely aubergines with minor dings were nestling in the bag of “unfit for humans” goodies I picked up at the market so they’ve gone into the oven peeled, sliced & layered with sliced onion, covered with a tin of chopped tomatos and a sprinkle of home-grown rosemary & topped with grated cheese and crumbs off the bread board. Scrumptious! There were also three bruised bananas which have made a banana custard for pudding (made with some of our own home-laid eggs) some watercress with little roots on which got popped into the pond and the chickens got the rest. And DH, now recovered from his bout of pneumonia,  is happily constructing fences with palletwood, to keep the chickens off his new “Nispero” (loquat) and olive trees, bought with the money we haven’t spent on everyday things, so for the moment our recycling efforts are mostly outdoor – long may it last!

Everything comes to she who waits…

February 23, 2009

I popped into the Tip this morning to see whether any sewing machines had come in over the weekend; with the economic downturn, the flood of old beauties has slowed to a trickle as people begin to realise that they may actually still be useful. Lee greeted me with, “I’ve found something for you! Look behind the Metal bin!” And there, to my great delight, was the exact size of grill needed to restore our firepit to full functionality. Not that we’ll be eating out in the garden for a few weeks, but as this season’s seeds start to go in, winter’s cool grey chill is starting to recede and there’s suddenly so much to look forward to, in the house, in the garden and out in our beautiful countryside…

Not that I’ve been idle in the dark evenings. I asked everyone to give me money for my birthday and Christmas presents, and put it towards a very secondhand Louet S20 spinning wheel, which has been helping me make a small dent in the huge pile of Freecycled fleeces in our porch. I’m rather pleased with the resulting yarn, though I’ve yet to put it to good use and actually make something with it. I’ve joined our local Spinners & Weavers Guild, as they do lots of other things I’m interested in too, like Kumihimo, rag rugs and felting. We’re experimenting with dyeing, both chemical and natural, as part of the girls’ educational adventures this term, and some of the shorter fibres are going into felt. So this is how I’ve spent some of my evenings this week:

 

Dorset Down fleece with Dorset Featherstitching...

Dorset Down fleece with Dorset Featherstitching...

They’re made from felted Dorset Down fleece, lined with leftover polar fleece, soled with suede from the Scrapstore and stitched, firstly by machine on a rescued “Light Industrial” Singer 15 from 1895 using Scrapstore upholstery thread, then Dorset Featherstitched by hand with hand-dyed thread recycled from a gone-wrong jewellery project. Didn’t cost a penny!