The Experiment….it begins

Hello All

Brace yourselves I am about to share with you Stage 1 of my latest project which I am calling The Experiment. Don’t worry it will not involve the creation of a composite human by way of the exemplary stitching together of body parts and the harnessing of a lightening bolt’s power via an antennae cleverly crafted entirely from my collection of knitting needles. This Experiment requires neither thunderstorms nor sewing…. nor body parts.

I am beginning to wish I had not given this such a build up. I think I have been influenced by the Wordsworth Museum’s “In Search of Mary Shelley” exhibition! I digress: I can reveal that I am experimenting with the use of plant-fibres in needle-felting. Think I can hear the rustle of you rushing for the tantalising little ‘X’ at the top of the screen. STOP! This is going to be fun…honest.

As regular readers will know I started on this path at last week’s

Where I gathered together a range of plant fibres ready to start playing

The motivation for this fibrous adventure was born from my recent change over to a vegan diet which I did largely for environmental reasons (and the hope it would make me a tad thinner … I am that shallow). As you know this has not all been plain sailing but in for a penny in for a pound (ouch! a mixed metaphor if I ever read one). I am keen to look into the environmental impact of each of the fibres I try.

Presently I am not knowledgeable about animal or plant fibres and the environment. I only know what I hear on the inter-web-thingy and don’t want to risk ‘factualising’ information that is not …erm…you know….a fact. This little endeavour of mine will give me the opportunity to snuffle about through the factoids and root out what might be empirical evidence. Oh yeah and it will be FUN! because first I need to see how they needle felt.

Stage 1 of The Experiment – Needle felting trial

All these fibres look a bit the same so let us make different sized needle-felted flowers and hearts:

And to be on the safe side so I definitely can’t get them muddled (believe me it wouldn’t take much) let us make each a little envelope

Now to get cracking. One fibre at a time (you guessed it, so I won’t get confused).

Step up BAMBOO FIBRES.

As you can probably see BAMBOO is very silky. It is also very fine and floaty. I found later I was wearing some of the whispy fibres that got away. The bamboo kept its silky sheen even after needle felting. It soon hardened as I worked the fibres inside the flower ‘cutter’. This felt very different from wool and is something to remember so that you don’t break too many a needle.

The results retained the fibrous texture of the plant skein. The most recently worked side was silky and relatively smooth:

While the reverse, a little like wool, was more tufty until reworked:

You sharp eyed readers will already have noticed that I have not yet utilised the dyes. I decided to needle felt at least one item in each fibre first so that I can trial dyeing them against unworked fibres. That is to say I am scared! I am scared that dying (by me rather than a professional) will somehow undermine the fibres ability to felt. This again is my lack of expertise. So much to learn…

Quick BANANA TOPS your turn.

Before I go any further, no it doesn’t smell of bananas! I have not opened all the sealed packets but I think this may be true across the board although I would be rather happy if the rose fibre were to be subtly fragrant.

Back to BANANA. It felt less silky than bamboo yet also had a sheen which if anything was more obvious on the needle felted item than it was on the bamboo. Again the fibres felted quickly and are soon resistant to the needle. I wonder if this will be a feature across the plant fibres?

Before I went to Woolfest I came across a really helpful video made by Ruth Packham on the Dying House Gallery website. Ruth was testing out a number of fibres (cotton, ramie, hemp and flax) and the word ‘resistance’ cropped up a lot together with warnings about going carefully in order to avoid needle snap-age. If you fancy following in our footsteps it is well worth watching Ruth and taking her advice.

For now Stage 1 of The Experiment is partially complete. I was not disappointed with the results. They were not the same as wool and were different from each other but once I have an overview of the eight fibres I can decide what will work best for any particular needle felting activity I undertake.

I have 6 more samples to work with. There is no escape folks I will keep you updated.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

Wonderful Woolfest 2018

Hello All

It’s the end of June (almost), the Solstice (almost) so it must be…

From the outset the day did not disappoint. The weather was perfect.

I set off at just after 7am in brilliant sunshine (field’s still there no houses…yet!) and the views from the 555 Stagecoach bus were a delight of green hills, glimpses of water and charming farmhouses.

Even the wait at Keswick for the X5 Gold (it was rather special!) Stagecoach bus to Cockermouth was a pleasure.

All this sun must have gone to my head.

A short free link bus from Cockermouth to the auction mart and I had reached the site of my annual crafty pilgrimage. Woolfest.

With its avenue of bunting

Gaily adorning the Wool Clip stalls only a little bit of searching was needed for me to find ….

My needle felted sheep’s head! I love trying to spot this little fella I made him over 5 years ago when the Woolfest cry went up for bunting. Once I find him I know I am home.

This year I came with a new mission in mind. My 2018 project was to find plant-based fibres that could be used for felting. I was successful too.

Uppingham Yarns also had cones of plant based yarns like ramie (nettle) on sale.

DT Craft and Design offered several plant fibres together with a good quantity of dye kits. The stall holder was very informative and had plenty of samples to show the colour ranges and which dyes to combine to achieve best results.

All the stall holders were exceptionally helpful and I was pleased to find Adelaide Walker had a good selection of fibres as she is based close to No 1 Daughter so won’t be hard to visit.

Yes I know there is a distinct lack of colour. But lucky for me DT Craft and Design offered a solution to this…

I foresee a steep learning curve coming up. Yikes. I will keep you posted.

To be honest. My finds were tinged with a little sadness. All those beautiful sheep and their dedicated shepherds. I swear my Cumbrian heart broke a little as I walked past the rare breed sheep so lovingly cared for and I had to will myself not to buy any of their gorgeous yarns and fleeces. As to our local Herdwicks a tear came to my eye.

Lucky for me that this year’s Carolyn Rawlinson Memorial Stall showcased Izzy Middleton (aka Wildflower Weaver) who follows the ‘Slow Cloth Philosophy’ and as part of the Green Cloth Collective works with vegan fibres, recycled yarn from other garments and up cycled textiles that would otherwise go to landfill. Izzy does use both plant and animal fibres but her wools come from slaughter free herds such as those made up of rescued animals. A very inspiring and interesting woman.

Happily for me Izzy is based at one of my favourite places, Farfield Mill in Sedbergh. They too had a stand,

And a woven hanging that made me smile.

All too soon Woolfest was over for another year. But there is always 2019 to look forward to!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Next day I travelled to Penrith for a catch-up and making session with the Crafty Ladies. It seems at the moment that British railways are in meltdown (not one of the trains I saw yesterday were running on time) and the Lakes line has been abandoned by Northern Rail. But apparently there is an upside: the trains chartered to cover the route are so old that they attract hordes of spotters. Glad there is a silver lining for someone!

Well I couldn’t miss out now could I?! Mx

Bookshop Bunnies

Hello All

Still here! Miracles will never cease. Good job too as I have a trio of little chums to introduce you to. Back in March my very good friend B and her husband re-located their home and wonderful bookshop, Fireside Bookshop, from the Lakes down to Littlehampton on the south coast.

I was on my blogging ‘sabbatical’ when B moved but shortly after they had established their new shop I sent them a little fellow to remind them of their days in Windermere. DSCI0451 Meet Gerald the first of the Bookshop Bunnies to leave the shelter of the Old Sycamore (handily situated in my garden) and travel to their favourite bookshop.

An opportunity for Gerald to be joined by some of his nearest and dearest has now arisen as B is paying a visit. And a couple of Gerald’s kin decided they would hitch a lift back with her – think the Post Office does not offer the comfort they would like – to join him at Fireside Bookshop.

Nancy has been waiting some time. Counting the days until B’s visit.
DSCI0468But with a little needlefelting on this wonderful Gotland fleece (a purchase from this year’s Woolfest),
DSCI0132she has now been joined by a traveling companion –
DSCI0133wearing a rather natty crochet shawl –
DSCI0135her grandmother Marigold.
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Today – with a small lump in my throat – it is time to say ‘bon voyage’ as they set off on their journey to West Sussex and their new home at Fireside Bookshop.

Good luck Bookshop Bunnies.

Until next we meet, Moke x

Woolly wondrous Woolfest

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I can’t believe its 10 years since the first Woolfest. I remember the heady excitement of the first one like it was only yesterday…showing my age? Moving swiftly on…. DSCI0227

down the path DSCI0228

to the bus stop.DSCI0229

Quick check that I’ve got the right time for the 555 DSCI0230

and off I go. DSCI0249

Woolfest 2014 yahoo. As we spotted the crochet jacketed sheep at the entrance to the auction mart there was a buzz of anticipation on the bus. Scampering across the busy road (bit scary) old and young enthusiastic to see what this year’s event had on offer. DSCI0249

After years of experience getting in is a smooth operation and as we did so there were reminders that this was the 10th anniversary DSCI0248

Once inside the aisles already thronged with visitors DSCI0241

I spotted some of my favourite stands and smiled when I saw

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remembering getting lost on my recent day out to Farfield. The Why Not Alpacas? people were lovely and told me the sign was made for them from alpaca wool by a lady who gave them some alpacas for their herd. Needless to say they had tables covered in yarns and goods made from their beautifully soft alpaca.

In addition to the trade stands there is always livestock. A small contingent of The Why Not Alpacas? were there, there were rare breed sheep,

and of course Cumbria’s native Herdwicks put in an appearanceDSCI0234

I even spotted a few woolly creatures perched on my favourite needle felting stall.DSCI0238

One stand I always go to is that of Owen Jones who crafts the most gorgeous oak swills. DSCI0245

I am lucky enough to have two of Owen’s swills: one holds my yarn stash the other percussion. Hand crafted things of beauty and practical use always float my boat. Let’s have another look DSCI0246

Time for lunch DSCI0242

watching all the comings and goings DSCI0243

with our stunning Cumbrian landscape only a head turn to my left DSCI0244

 

I had one quest to fulfill when I went back into the auction mart. A couple of years ago I made some bunting to help adorn the hall one of which was needle felted. I wondered if I could still spot my bunting. Sure enough in the Wool Clip aisle there he was DSCI0237

wearing quite well and looking very jolly along with all the bunting made by fellow Woolfesters. DSCI0240

 

Time for home. What no shopping? I hear you cry. I was a very good girl and kept very strictly to my shopping list. But it was still a thrill to get home and have a look at what I had bought:DSCI0256

t-shirt yarn to finish off my rug (B you can have a rest from all that cutting up t-arn); DSCI0253

large crochet hooks for making rugs, bags, baskets and other chunky crochet wares; and finally a little bit of luxury DSCI0257

sumptuous coloured fleece from my favourite Austrian needle-felters to use for brooches and hair grips. They offer colours so good that they make your mouth water.

It was a lovely day and well worth going for the inspiration alone. Infact….still under the influence of Woolfest I had a quick dip into the wonderful Fox’s Lane blog and was moved to get out the knitting needles and make up a cosy pair of slippers. DSCI0264

The pattern for these non-felted slippers is by Yuko Nakamura and is free on Ravelry. As I didn’t have any chunky tweed yarn I used strands from 4 yarns (KC – its that fabulous wool from your grandmother, thank-you) for the soles and three strands (also the  Polish wool, thanks again KC) for the instep. I love them. Very snug and toe warming.

Someone is already asleep

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so must be time for bed.

Until next we meet. Moke.

Midsummer – and a woman’s fancy turns to…socks

Hello All

Now I don’t know if it is because I have been reading the beautiful Fox’s Lane blog which comes from the opposite hemisphere where it is winter and brrrrrrrr. Or it’s because I have been sooooo hot that I have lost my ankles and dream of chillier weather that will banish my Kankles. Or I am just perverse. But I find myself longing for cold winter evenings and snuggley, warm, home knitted socks!

I have a couple of pairs of own-knitted woolly goodness in my sock drawer.

But if you look closely you will see that they have seen better days. I have spared you close ups of the toes that are sorely in need of darning…. Usually I do not think of repairs and knitting new pairs until the ice crackles underfoot. Unfortunately this means – as the slowest knitter you can imagine – that I have no chance of finishing a new pair until we hear the first cuckoo.

Not this year! Thanks to the thought of the Antipodean winter the double-ended needles came out and stripe-y hose is already being knitted up beautifully (if I say so myself).

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Self striping sock wools. I love them.

Hopefully this is a rare sign of forward planning ( miracles will never cease). At last I can claim my Kendalian sock-y heritage. My aunt May and mother worked in the now long gone sock factory which was based in Sandes Avenue in this little auld grey town of ours. Mind you I seem to recall that my mother left soon after accidentally creating a double-heeled model…. moving swiftly on….

A few of you have been kind enough to say that you like Drekie – believe me he has a swollen head – so I thought you might like a look at how he is evolving. DSCI0222

The little fellow now has two arms and is developing small claws. Hopefully this week he will grow back legs and while I have a few days off become more colourful.

Four days to Woolfest! Celebrating its 10th anniversary Woolfest 2014 is sure to be another cracking event. I have gone along every year…bar one (sob)… and always come away inspired and cheered by meeting such friendly knowledgeable people. Brace yourselves here comes a front shot of yours truly taken at Woolfest (cough.. a few years ago). What is it with me and socks?!36846_442679875750_135370_n

Whoo-hooooo Woolfest here I come…

Until next we meet. Moke.