Giant Christmas Doughnut!

I have said it. The ‘C’ word. I am sure for the crafty community the ‘C’ word has been a big part of their endeavours for some time now.

I have made a couple of things for my granddaughters and one project (which is enormous) has been benched until next year. My Christmas 2021 crafting seemed finished. Happily I had something waiting in the wings.

Last year I spent much of the run up to Christmas making the Clothkits quilted jackets for Peanut and Munchkin. I had no time to use the bundle of pre-printed fabrics that had been given to me by friend JG.

This year because of the aforementioned ‘benching’ I found myself with a window to complete a Yuletide project that got left behind last year.

Amongst the festive pre-printed fabrics donated by JG was one that looked like it had the makings of a large door garland. It was already cut out and ready to go.

All that was left to do was:

Sew.

If you are ever confronted by such a design remember do not sew up any part of the middle circle – I mean what idiot would do that … – as you won’t be able to turn it out to the right side.

Press.

Those tailors’ hams certainly proved invaluable for this one.

Turn out.

I added a ribbon tab as I was planning to hang it on my front door.

Stuff it and stitch up the middle hole.

At that point I discovered – having already used copious amounts of stuffing – when hung up the would-be garland pulled on the panel at the top! It looked rather saggy (know how it feels). Not wanting to use even more stuffing it was time for a re-think.

Despite the fact that the Giant Christmas Doughnut reminds me of the type of cushion you might want to sit on after a painful piles operation it appears to be destined to be an addition to my sofa during the festive period. That seems a bit of a waste. Have you dear readers any better ideas?

Looking at it now I am wondering if I took out one panel it could become one of those horseshoe cushions you wear around your neck on long journeys. Now there’s a thought. What a way to travel to Yorkshire this Christmas! Whether my son and daughter share the same view when they ferry me too and fro – there being very little public transport – is another thing …

For their sakes I hope you come up with something better!

Mx

Gifted

I have been a lucky person of late. I have been gifted things that have improved my life no end.

During the Covid lockdowns we gained some new neighbours. And great neighbours they proved to be. Ja and So jumped straight into the neighbourhood efforts to keep everyone – especially the more vulnerable residents – in touch by writing and editing ‘The Surreal Times‘ a superb community newsletter crammed with useful contacts, information, good health ideas, book reviews … the list goes on. But sadly for us Ja and So have moved on. You two are already missed! Sob.

Because they moved themselves they found not everything would fit in their car and that they needed to leave a few bits and bobs behind. I gladly gave them a home. This was not a hardship. These bits and bobs were all useful to me and included a beautiful Le Creuset shallow iron casserole. I know. Amazing. Right?

For years I have wanted a hob to oven pan and now thanks to my erstwhile neighbours I have got one. Thank you Ja and So. The casserole has already been put to good use because I have also recently received just the right cookbook.

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ by Anna Jones was also a gift. A birthday present from my friends AC-K and JC-K. I told you I was lucky!

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ is actually much more than a cookbook. True it comes with a mouth-watering collection of recipes. The dish in the picture is ‘Broad bean and green herb shakshuka’. It was delicious. The book also brings the reader environmental information – how to eat healthily and sustainably – and gives many ways to help us stop wasting food. It is fascinating and packed full of useful and planet/money-saving tips. I can’t recommend it enough.

They say good things come in threes and sure enough along came gift number three. Good friend JG makes superb small bag sized notebooks from old cartons and postcards.

I love them and use them for shopping and ‘don’t forget to do’ lists. These small hand-stitched notebooks fit perfectly in my teeny tiny handbag along with a pencil. By doing so they bring an element of order to my little old life. But woe is me, I had run out of pages, all the above were full. I sent a plea to JG. And like a book-binding caped crusader (no cape actually worn) she came to the rescue with a new batch.

Phew! The relief. Scribbling can recommence. Toodle-oo for now I feel a shopping list coming on …

Mx

Ripple Effect

Been a busy old week with preparations for my new job rippling as I look into how I will get to my new workplace through the depths of Winter. Shout out here to local MP Tim Farron who has supported my call for a request bus stop nearer to my new employers.

On my way to my interview I discovered that the nearest bus stop was almost a mile from where I needed to be. That would have been great if that meant a stroll along an easy pavement or footpath BUT the walk was along a narrow sliver of vaguely trampled tall grass between a verge and a busy road. It was a very wobbly walk where I needed to step into said busy road in order to walk around the trees. Infact when a police car drove past I thought someone had called me in as inebriated and looking likely to fall in front of traffic!

Walking boots will be needed. It is certainly an unsuitable walk for any less sure footed travellers. Don’t get me wrong I am definitely not calling for the verge to be trampled down or even worse put under tarmac! Eeeek. THE VERGE MUST STAY. It is a wonderful habitat and home to all manner of plants and wildlife. However it should not be ‘home’ to commuters, visitors nor revellers. All that is needed is an extra request bus stop.

If the new stop is possible and is agreed it will benefit not just me but anyone working at or visiting the nearby cafe, small shopping hub and rather splendid hostelry. Never fear I still plan to cycle but when the weather turns nasty – and it inevitably will – it would be lovely to know that there is a snug, safe bus to rely on.

I would not dream of forgetting my trusty steed Hecate, unless of course there are high winds, heavy rain, snow and ice, overwhelming laziness ….

Phew. That was one long, drawn out ripple effect. Here is a much more homely and crafty ripple ready to be picked up.

This is the second baby blanket I have made using this Debbie Bliss pattern designed by Emma Varnam. The first was for my first granddaughter Peanut. It is satisfying to see the ticks appear in my project book as I roll along the rows.

This blanket had to include the colour orange and meant me working with a colour palette I am not used to. I was not sure about it at first but it has really grown on me. It is almost ready for the border and I think that will set it off very nicely.

This is one ripple effect I am pleased to see grow.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Jolly Janome is busy

Hello All

Over the last couple of years I have been sewing more and more. I’ve made clothes for me and the girls, bags for gifts, bags for medics clothing and of course many, many masks!

Weirdly I have no photos of the masks, but I reckon you have all seen enough of them over the last 18 months or so. I don‘t need to show you any more.

My favourite pieces however were two quilts. One was made for Munchkin when she was born and the other was sewn for Shrub when she arrived.

Munchkin‘s was made by creating appliqué panels based on the ‘Woodland Critters’ quilt pattern. I tweaked it ever so slightly. There had to be a robin! Then I had great fun deciding on the fabrics to make the blocks before sewing the completed panels together, adding the surround, batting, backing and quilting.

When it came to Shrub’s quilt I chose a simpler method. I bought cloth with pre-printed panels. I cut out each panel then framed them with different coloured fabrics before once again sewing them together, giving them a border, batting, backing and quilting. I must say I was particularly pleased with the border and backing materials that I bought – like a lot of my fabrics – from Reticule here in Kendal.

If you are wondering where Peanut’s quilt is, truth be told I had not ventured into the wonderful world of quilting when she was born. For her birth I made a crochet ripple blanket.

The time has come to work on a special quilt for P. But it is hush hush as Mother Christmas is busy working on it …

Until we meet again,

Moke x

Cover Up

Hello All

Today I share with you a guilty secret. Brace yourselves for some hideousness.

In the room I like to call my study (well I do read in there) is this ….

Ermm disintegrating heap of an old sofa. But wait you have not seen the full horror. Close your eyes if you are of a nervous disposition and cue music from ‘Psycho’:

Before you disown me for the lush that I obviously am let me explain. First the sob story: this was my mother’s sofa (aaaaaahhh) however she died almost 20 years ago … and she gave it to me before she died (tut, tut). Next the pragmatics: the sofa was until ‘fairly’ recently covered and the covers had (after a fashion) withstood the rigours of children and two elderly spaniels. But enough was enough and in a moment of madness/cleanliness I donned a nuclear fallout suit and whipped the covers off and disposed of them. Don’t worry you are safe.

I couldn’t however get rid of the sofa: it has sentimental value, a good solid frame and it provides a cosy nook to curl up with a yarn-y project or a good book. So recently – ok, several years ago – I decided I would re-cover it. In my head this was a perfectly formed LITTLE endeavour. The project even had a boost when super friend JG donated me some old curtains.

Plenty to cover a small settee. Surely an easy weekend make would follow in which I could sing the praises of re-cycling and making do and mending. Yet even in my pea brain something told me that this was going to be trickier than my original vision of up-cycled loveliness allowed. I stalled.

But now only three years later – I am not the Procrastination Queen for nothing – I have started creating loose covers for Omi’s sofa and here I am describing the makeover, part one of it anyhoo (let’s not go wild!). As with all good 21st century projects I started by trawling the internet. Now I don’t want to say that other’s have had it easier but every similar sofa recovering I watched seemed either to involve box type cushions and/or staple guns.

Omi’s Sofa has ‘nobbly’ shaped seat cushions and recessed arms meaning more shaping would be involved. I also did not want to staple the covering to the sofa. I want to be able to remove it for washing. I have a granddaughter! and she is second only to me as a ‘dropper’. Finally I have ‘previous’ for being lethal with a staple gun…don’t worry that child’s limp is barely noticeable now….

Suffice to say Jolly Janome and I were going to work this together with a little bit of tacking and hand sewing thrown in for good measure. I even moved my scene of operations downstairs. Ironing board too.

My first objective was to cover the seat cushions. Not being one for maths I worked by covering the foam with the fabric inside out and cutting and tacking then sewing around the ‘L’ shaped corners.

I am still using the original seat cushions and wanted to keep the covers loose enough to remove easily when, at some point in the next century, I get new foam. For this reason I put vents into the side seams.

This called for some tricky pinning and tacking but I am pleased that the vents afford easier removal.

The almost finished cushions are a wee bit lumpy bumpy thanks to the old foam but I am happy that they turned out a matched pair and I hope you agree that already Omi’s old sofa is vastly improved.

For now (another three years?) I have thrown the remaining curtaining over the settee and as I had already crochet covered the back cushions by adding a row of patchwork cushions (thank you KS for the beautiful blue one) the sofa has a new lease of life.

But I must dash. I have a cosy nook to sit in and that Ann Cleeves thriller will not read itself.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS the rug was knitted with jumbo needles using selvedge yarn. In case you wondered. Mx

Knitting together

Hello All

Spending much of Friday with a crafting friend was a real treat. We enjoyed a few uninterrupted hours of tea, food and (yahoo!) knitting. Friend KS is working on a beautiful project but I can’t reveal what she is up to ‘cos it is a gift for another of our friends. Sorry to disappoint but I hope you will be satisfied with my own wee offering.

As it looks like Winter is creeping up on us – not in a tantalising (can creeping ever be tantalising?) way but with cold snaps nippy enough to engender weather warnings – what better than to knit a chunky wool hat to keep Granddaughter Peanut warm?

I am eternally thankful to AJ for this really useful book. Over the years my Big Book of Knitting has rescued me from many a knitting calamity and has provided me with some great patterns.

The Chulla Earflap Hat was exactly what I had in mind to keep little Peanut’s ears warm. It used less than a 100g ball of chunky wool and was finished in an afternoon. There was virtually no sewing up as the hat is knitted on double pointed needles and the ear flaps are incorporated into the casting on for the body of the hat. Oh joy! Win, win, win.

And yet I felt something was missing.

Aah, that’s better!

Keep warm … or cool depending on your season.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Where to now?

Hello All

My bags are again packed.

There are more of them than usual. So where am I off to? Trotting the globe?

No! I am travelling on my beloved 555 Stagecoach bus to …..

Ambleside Library.

While Ambleside and it’s wonderful library are always worth a visit yesterday I was a woman on a (new) mission. Let’s see what all the baggage reveals.

Everything I need to run an introduction to needle felting workshop. The perfect way to spend three hours cheering up a dank Cumbrian Monday afternoon.

In the main everyone avoided bloodshed (I may have mentioned before those needles smart) and going by the quiet concentration I’d say they enjoyed themselves. The wonderful work-shoppers all tried three different techniques for creating ‘flat’ pieces of needle felting: a small sheepy picture made with various wool tops; using a pastry cutter as a template; and needle felting onto another fabric. Each person brought something new and exciting to their makes. I certainly learnt a thing or two!

Cue ‘Vision On’ Gallery Music. Apologies to those who have never have heard this catchy tune. For you and for those that want a walk down memory lane here is a link. Now let’s enjoy what these creative folk made:

Aren’t they glorious?! So much for Miserable Monday. The worst day of the year? Phah! I don’t think so.

Big thanks to all of you that joined me at Ambleside Library yesterday. You made it a very special and inspirational afternoon.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Dog Days

Hello All

It has been an activity mish-mash at Casa Moke over the last couple of weeks. No matter how hard I try my poor old pea-brain can’t come up with a coherent single theme for this post. Dear reader be prepared for the confused Cornucopia of everyday life here in the brr-is-it-me-but-is-Winter-coming-to-the-fffff-reezing-North-?.

First to the ‘Dog Days’. No 1 Daughter frequently travels with her job and last weekend she had the chance to combine work and a family trip while visiting some wonderful Animals Asia supporters in Glasgow. Only two small ‘problems’ her furry friends, George and Buddy. Yahoo! chance for me to enjoy the company of the boys for a couple of days dog-sitting.

George and Buddy would probably call it human-sitting and to be frank they would be right. Their time here does seem to entail a lot of sitting on me!

George takes the lap…

… and Buddy purloins the feet! My doggy visitors certainly make themselves at home. Bless ’em.

And while we relaxing, look what dropped through my door:

It is always exciting to see what classes are happening locally but this year I found it even more exciting. If you have a look under Arts and Crafts you might notice a few entries for ‘Introduction to Needle Felting’, guess who is responsible for them????

Yup that will be me! I am lucky enough to be running a few short courses over the Spring for Cumbria County Council’s Community Learning and Skills Programme in South Lakeland. It was such fun to micro-teach the interview panel that I am really looking forward to sharing one of my favourite crafts with new needle felters.

[Clears throat and takes on serious tone] Better keep up my crafty credentials in case any of my students-to-be are looking (can’t wait to meet you by the way). I have done a little more work on the wall art. The character on the right seems to be sending out some star-dust to cheer up the rather drab lettering:

I think she has done a good job and may need to be rewarded with a tiara or floral tribute…watch this space.

I have also been patch-working my way through several cushions:

I think almost all the fabric was from Reticule in Kendal. They have a huge range of beautiful and stylish fabrics and quarters. I chose these to coordinate with particular colour schemes. I can’t help but chuckle when I look at the blue birds: they seem to be on a see-saw. Have you spotted them? Hope they don’t get sea-sick!

Finally as ‘Winter is Coming’ a wee bit of sock knitting was called for.

Just knitting socks makes you feel warmer doesn’t it? Or is it trying to keep all the stitches on the needles and the counters in the right places that keeps me warm? Well done to Crafty friend KS who has launched herself into the world of sock knitting on circular needles with great results. I think I just like the suspense of working on double pointed needles, will the stitches stay on for another round ….

As you see I have a few projects to keep me busy and snug. And there are those courses to plan. Can’t wait.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Ruffled

Hello All

Weddings are learning curves. Who knew when D and R announced their wedding that I would pick up some unexpected skills? Studying the art of ruffle making was certainly not one of the foreseen consequences of No 1 Son’s marriage.

But I just couldn’t find the right blouse to wear with my wedding outfit so in a moment of exuberance I decided that I would design my own. Of course by this I mean I adapted a pattern I had made before. I know my limitations.

What I was after was a sort-of-erm-post-Elizabethan-ruffle-mmm-crossed-with-Vivian Westwood-kind-of-chic-thing …. I am sure you get my drift. No? Don’t worry it looked great, in my head.

I started with a favourite pattern:

And a heap of white cotton! All was good. I had made the shirt before so I was soon busily sewing away on Jolly Janome. I had decided that the cuffs should be wider and the collar higher and that the collar REALLY NEEDED the addition of a huge ruffle. As I said this worked well in my mind.

Widening and heightening the cuffs and collar was easy – as you can see above I just broadened the pattern pieces – but how to make a ruffle? I tried gathering the fabric but it really didn’t match my expectations. Turns out what I really wanted was a ruffle crossed with a pleat, let’s call it a ‘pluffle’. What to do next? Turn to YouTube of course!

In the wonderful crafty world of YouTube I learned to use a piece of card the width of the pluffles I wanted to create. Once armed with this simple technique there was no stopping my pluffling madness. All I needed to do was fold the fabric over the card, pull out the card strip and sew to form perfectly even and spaced pluffles. Oh, joy!

I hope my photos give you some idea of how I built up a length of pluffled fabric to top my collar because at this point I was going to link to the web address for the tutorial but I can’t re-find it amongst the plethora of ruffle and pleating videos on the web. I must therefore send out my thanks to the fabulous woman who showed me this easy and satisfying method of pluffle-ing into the ether and hope it reaches her.

Here then is the finished blouse:

That collar is pretty high. Initially I was going to pluffle the cuffs too but I knew that we would be wearing beautiful floral wristbands and pluffled cuffs would have spoiled that.

On the day it performed how I imagined. Formal for the service:

(Psst no one mention my resemblance to a vicar!)

Less formal for the meal:

And with the sleeves rolled up just darn cosy…

Of course the addition of Peanut does beautifully distract from any flaws in my design – no really I look nothing like a vicar! – and any mistakes I made in the sewing (I know where they are).

All in all I am really pleased with the blouse and it will certainly get it’s wear … with the collar down. More tea vicar? ….Who said that!

Until next we meet

Moke x

Bridges – Nether Bridge

Hello All

With all this walk-ling in the early hours I have become conscious of the ebb and flow of the River Kent which accompanies me along much of my route. The swift flowing Kent is a mercurial river prone to flooding during heavy rain but exposing it’s rocky bed when the weather is dry.

You can see the old river is quite frisky after recent downpours.

Historically most of Kendal lay on the west bank of the river but to the east lay the castle, farm lands and important arterial roads. To allow guaranteed river crossings – fords were only available in dry weather – bridges were a necessity. They stitched the town together.

The first bridge I encounter as I pedal along is one of Kendal’s oldest, Nether Bridge. The earliest reference is from 1421. Old enough you’d think but it is likely that a bridge has spanned the river at the same point from much earlier.

Peering under Nether Bridge (and getting funny looks as I peered … well I was hanging over the wall) shows the evidence of the bridge being widened twice.

I often wonder at the strength of Nether Bridge as large lorries roll over it taking up both lanes as they navigate the tight turn to travel south toward the motorway.

Reading Andrew White’s description of the bridge in his “A History of Kendal” I find I am right to wonder. The bridge may have been a principal route but it was so narrow that an ordinance of 1582 banned vehicles with more than one horse. Something needed to be done. Fast … ish.

In 1772 – things up here like to take their time – the first widening of the bridge was made on the downstream side. Unfortunately this was washed away (eek) after a few weeks – we do get a lot of rain…I may have mentioned that before – and the widening was moved to upstream. A further widening took place in 1908 and I assume this has left us with the bridge we can see today.

Should you wish to stop and traffic watch (does anyone do that?!) the bridge comes with seating:

All creature comforts don’t you know.

Of course during dry spells the nearby ford could still be used. I tried to capture the location of this ford but am not sure I have because buildings have vanished and the banks are now steeper. Here’s where I think it lay…

But then again it could be …

…here?

In any event after the tragic drowning of a chaise driver in 1806 the ford no doubt lost some of it’s allure and was better used as a place to water cattle.

As the temperatures here are set to drop over the next few days looking at the cold waters of the River Kent sent me indoors and to the warm wonderfulness of felting.

Working on my wall hanging I decided to start livening up the sombre dancers by needle felting onto the piece.

Very satisfying. A little like Nether Bridge the additions have been a long time coming but I will get there in the end.

Until next we meet,

Moke x