Slow down Saturday (and Sunday) … ribbit!

Happy world frog day! No frog-y visitors today in the back porch, I expect they are busy putting up the water lily bunting and getting ready for an evening of partying … ribbit…

For me it has been a weekend of slowing down after a busy working week. Since the end of Covid lockdowns (fingers crossed) I enjoy sociable Saturdays, a chance to catch up with much missed friends and touch base with family. This week I was delighted my good friend KS could come over – with the beautiful elderly cocker spaniel that is Bagel – for plenty of chatting, food and crafting. Bliss.

Hi folks – remember me?

KS and her husband are spending this year – in addition to their day jobs – fundraising for Cumbria’s children’s hospice, Jigsaw. I am full of awe, they both have incredibly stressful jobs yet they are dedicated in their efforts to support this special charity.

On Friday 15 April KS is organising a coffee and cake morning at Melmerby village hall. Along with refreshments there are stalls including one with woolly makes. I am behind the curve here, I need to get cracking on my crochet baby boots, but KS is of course on this (as well as organising the whole event). She finished a gorgeous baby matinee jacket while she was here along with starting a second knitted baby bootee. So if you live in or are visiting the stunning Eden Valley and the village of Melmerby on Good Friday do drop in on KS at the village hall and bring plenty of cash!

Now a quick crafty round-up from me. I paired chatting, listening and cooking with Lucy at Attic 24’s crochet-along (CAL) Harbour Blanket. I am only just finishing Week 2 of the original CAL but no matter the easy rhythm of the ripple pattern make it the perfect accompaniment to being sociable. I might just get it finished for next Winter. Here’s how it looks today:

In other crafty news: my polar bear panel has now been joined by panda.

Think the bears are enjoying the company.

Counter Intuitively – because the weather is fabulous – I decided to carry Slow Down Saturday into Slow Down Some More Sunday and enjoy tea, leftovers and books. I don’t know about you but I always have a few books on the go. This suits my restless … I mean butterfly mind. Off the shelves this weekend are:

Ed Winters is often known as Earthling Ed and what I love about him is his gentle discursive way of talking to people about veganism. As this book shows he knows his stuff and references all the research he has used. Of course while Ed appears a gentle soul what he talks and writes about is often violent and brutal. I squeamishly read through the section on how meat, milk, eggs and fish get to our plates and confess I am actually relieved to be on the section devoted to the environment! Even though I don’t think that will be an easy ride either.

Pleased to have a little bit of light relief I smiled at the book mark I am using. A much treasured reminder of my friends’ wonderful bookshop, Fireside Bookshop, that has recently relocated to Stroud in Gloucestershire. This is my favourite of favourite bookshops please have look see either online or in person. The selection is superb and contains specialist rarities, many of my books on archaeology and ancient history are from Fireside.

Ooh I hear the gentle whisper of a fritillary’s wings. Book number two:

I have loved Kate Atkinson since reading ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’ years ago. She has the rare gift of conveying how life changing events occur in a heartbeat. She has certainly given me a few ‘I didn’t see that coming’ moments. Book three:

Inspired by our recent visit to the Quaker Tapestry here in Kendal and sadly by the way of the world – in Ukraine and the many other war-torn parts of the globe – I thought I would again re-visit the ‘religion’ of my English grandmother, Quakerism. This famously pacifist community seemed to me the antidote to the violence of how we humans often speak and act.

It is very difficult to pin down what a Quaker is. I recently heard that if you ask four Quakers what a Quaker is, you will get five different answers. Love a group with a sense of humour! I am agnostic, I just don’t know what (if anything) is ‘out there’. But I do love the idea of a kind way of life where there is good (God if that is your belief) in everyone. I will keep on reading but while I read I must eat, so to my last books;

These two well thumbed cookbooks will help me use up everything in my veg box. It’s looking like that remaining Savoy Cabbage will be roasted with peppercorns … yum.

Please keep safe and be kind,

Mx

Cosy Crafts

Hello All

It is still winter here and Spring is some way off so a cosy craft is needed for the cold evenings spent sitting as close to a radiator as possible without suffering third degree burns . Remember the cowl I recently knitted using Stylecraft Batik yarn? Aaah all those subdued yet luscious colours…

I may not be a swan-neck, more of a narwhal-neck, but I still had quite a lot of yarn left. Something better than a stash buster was needed for this wonderful colourful yarn. Then along came Lucy at Attic 24 with the perfect project, her Harbour Blanket CAL (crochet along for the uninitiated).

See how the wool is going down.

Every week Lucy gives the colours for the next 15 stripes (30 rows) for this gently rippled blanket. I didn’t have the right yarn and colours – the pack for Lucy’s yarn selection is available from Wool Warehouse in their Attic 24 shop – so a little re-jigging was involved although I tried to keep to a similar colour palette.

I have only just completed Week 1 of the CAL – pesky work just gets in the way – but Lucy is incredibly generous with her patterns which are free and all remain on her blog … f-o-r-e-v-e-r. So I can chug along at my own pace. By the by having said my yarns called for something better than a stash buster please have a look at Lucy’s Attic 24 blog as there are some FABULOUS ‘Harbour’ blankets being made to reduce those sneaky little piles of yarn we definitely NEED to keep. It’s good for the environment don’t you know? Shhhh yes we could buy less ….

I may be running/crawling behind the CAL pack – thankfully a very safe place with no need to look over my shoulder like an impala watching for large cats with big teeth! – but I am pleased with results so far.

Happy hooking all.

Mx

Waggy tailed visitors always welcome

It is lovely to get together with old friends. These visits have been in short-supply lately so I was over the moon when KS braved the atrocious weather and possibility of floods to come to mine for a crafty morning and catch up. She also brought a bonus guest, one of her three cocker spaniels the elder of the pack, the gorgeous Bagel.

Spaniel eyes anyone?

As you can see in the background KS brought the travel blanket she made for Bagel so that he would be comfy and cosy. He is an older gent and deserves every creature comfort.

Made of re-cycled tea towels and quilted for extra snugness, Bagel was of course keen to show off his transportable bed.

My human is so kind and clever.

It was difficult for me to stop admiring the wonderful Bagel (you can see why, those eyes!) But at least one of us managed some crafting.

KS – being far more industrious than yours truly – is knitting a beautiful cable scarf for a friend and had brought it along to get a few more rows done. I love the colour and the cabled texture. Someone is going to be very happy when they receive this superb handmade present.

As you can see we had cakes and nibbles to keep us going. The lemon and berry cakes were scoffed before I got to taking pictures. They and the remaining boxed cakes were from Ginger Bakers at Plumgarths and were super delicious.

We must have chatted a lot as Bagel got back home and straightaway curled up with his favourite toy for a well earned snooze. He was no doubt dreaming ‘knit two, purl one”.

Cast on … knit two … purl one ….

Shhh let’s leave him in peace ….

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

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

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

Having a play

Hello All

Just as we were appreciating the auburn, rustling leaves of autumn along came the heavy rains. Once more I hear on the radio people in other parts of the UK must leave their homes as the flood waters rise. My heart goes out to them.

Walking through town I skipped – tricky at my age and with my lack of coordination – over streams, the pavements disguised by rivulets of water, trying to keep my toes dry.

Yet Kendal was surprisingly busy. Hardy Cumbrians are not going to let a bit of wet put them off their Saturday market and shopping trips (if we did we would hardly ever venture out). Nor were we going to miss the annual Comic Art Festival.

Children scampered from stall to stall becoming crazier and crazier cartoon incarnations of themselves. T-shirts and bags were being made at the numerous stands in the shopping centre and despite the inclement weather a good time was being had by all.

As for me? A quick nip to the library followed by buying my veg on the market was swiftly followed by a bus home. As soon as I was in the door the kettle was on, the pot warmed and a steaming mug of tea was soon being enjoyed. Softie that I am. Good time to think about my piece of felt wall-art.

As you can see I have completed the back-stitching:

Now I need to do something to liven up those dancing figures. I can’t remember why we went for black. Perhaps it was a nod to Peter Pan’s mischievous shadow as we were a jolly outfit. More likely it was because they stand out from the background, we were nothing if not bold! Feeling less bold now I am trying to come up with something to soften them.

I am presently working on flowery project so had a play with those needle felted flowers. I think I may be on to something. Making smaller, leaf-less flowers and in colours to compliment the swooshy bands of felt along the bottom of the banner may be just the thing.

Once that is done I will turn my attention to the rest of the hanging…any felty ideas folks?

Hope you are all keeping your feet dry.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Soundscapes and Shield Maidens

Hello All

What a different place the world is before dawn. Blinkered by the night I enjoy a soundscape uncluttered by daylight’s congestion. The bicycle wheels go round and murmur along the tarmac, small bumps create metallic tinkling as the pannier grip clinks against the frame and the brakes squeal to slow me on the downhill run. Beyond the cycle’s pleasant chattering the wind flutters the leaves, stirring their dried brethren along the pavements, the river rushes over small weirs booming as it bottoms.

All joy … until the rain or frosts bring greasy and slippy surfaces when my soundscape may be something like ‘crash, bang, wallop’! But for those of you who worried be reassured I now have a jaunty red helmet to keep my napper safe.

Sadly while I am feeling virtuous and energised by all this extra exercise a good friend is proper poorly. AFl has been amazingly strong and as we share a love of things Viking I thought a little gift might be in order.

You may recall my trip to Roskilde earlier in the year with No 1 Daughter:

That’s right the home of the fabulous Viking Ship Museum. Well while I was there perusing the museum shop (those places are so damn irresistible) I found a small gem:

A long ship pastry cutter to add to my collection of needle-felting templates. At last an opportunity to use it. After all every Shield Maiden…

… needs her own long ship. Thor’s strength to you AFl.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Wall Art

Hello All

Always a good morning when my monthly copy of “Cumbria Life’ (they definitely do not pay me) drops though the letterbox.

This month I was surprised to find I could be … drum roll please …. ‘on trend’!

You see I have a blank wall problem. Brace yourself for something truly dreadful.

But no more as Cumbria Life tells me wall art is the way to go. Of course I have my own spin on this. Not for me the beautiful professionally crafted artwork nor the fabulous paintings by local artists shown on the pages of my favourite glossy. Although if I had the pennies there are several I would love to purchase.

Always on a shoestring it was time for me to pull out – actually less pulling more cupboard excavating – something I part-made earlier.

Strictly speaking the felt piece I am about to reveal was started by me and friend B under the guidance of felting master/mistress Liz Brown, Heartfelt by Liz. I opened it up gingerly in case it had become lunch…dinner…tea and supper for the moths. But lo.

Relief. It is in one piece.

Pop quiz time. What do you think B and I did as Festoon? If you thought we made blinds you would not be alone. Infact we actually provided craft and hand drumming workshops! A ‘re-brand’ was called for and in the 1990s we became ‘On A Roll’ spending many happy years tootling around Cumbria and Lancashire with a car full of drums playing with all sorts of wonderful communities and people. There was sadly one casualty.

Our Festoon felt hanging became redundant. The embellishment ceased. If you look very closely at the top of the ‘F’ you can even see the needle we used for the back stitching abandoned. But that wall (be honest it is ‘orrible isn’t it?) is screaming at me and I think it is time to revive the festoonary and complete the work we started many … many … years ago.

Can’t wait to see it cheering up that bare, dull and uninviting wall. And who knows I may get into this wall art malarkey.

My cupboard archaeology revealed this little guy …. now where can he go….?

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx