Saturday, December 31

farewell to 2011 and welcome to 2012

well, 2011 was another quick year!

i'm not really in the right frame of mind to do a review of my year just now - mum was taken in to hospital in stockholm yesterday, my brother is with her but it's not the same as being able to see her for myself. for now, i'm not moving far from the phone so my brother can keep me updated.

let's just say that i did some of the things on my list, didn't do others, and even managed to do some things that weren't on it. 

this year, i think i'm going to take a more measured, relaxed approach and just see what happens!

i wish for you and yours a year full of peace, love, hope, good health, happiness and joy, with a lot of creativity thrown in for good measure.

last year we put up lanterns to welcome in the new year and we weren't the only ones - apparently it caused quite a stir on the local ufo-spotting website.

Thursday, December 22

merry christmas one and all

i wish you every happiness over the festive season and for the coming year. may it be peaceful, joyous, full of hope, health, happiness and love.

Wednesday, December 21

a winter solstice

happy solstice day!

from here on in, the days will start getting longer.  spring is on the way :)

Tuesday, December 20

more deccies

i came across this project on a few different sites while browsing online recently (something i do when trying to avoid housework!) and thought i could use up some man-made 'wool' we had left over from an outdoor weaving project.
so, despite a slight balloon phobia, i gave it a go.

a few tips for you before starting:

= don't make the pva too watery and thin as it will quite literally go everywhere (unless that's just me being very messy?).

= place a LARGE towel underneath the bowl with the pva in it if you want to avoid having to peel dried splashes of pva off the living room floor.

= if you hang the wool-wrapped balloons up to dry, check your reflection in the mirror before leaving the house. again, this might just be me, but the pva had dripped all over my hair and i hadn't noticed before leaving the house - think of that moment in "there's something about mary" and you will just about get the picture!

just in case you haven't already seen this a thousand times before, here's a quick tutorial:

1. mix a little water with some pva in a bowl.

2. partly blow up as many balloons as you would like to use.

3. loosely wrap the dry wool around the balloon to try and gauge how much you will need. add a few centimetres (or inches) extra and cut a length of wool for each balloon.

4. keeping hold of one end (this is quite important if you don't want to be digging around in cold, slimy pva for the missing end) carefully place the wool in the bowl of pva and water.

5. hold the balloon in one hand and start wrapping the wool around the balloon with the other. realise at this stage that any attempt to create an intricate pattern is harder than you realised and fall-back on the favoured "it's organic and the design just evolved" approach.

6. try to cover the balloon as evenly as possible without crossing over the same point too many times as the wool may just gather in a thick bunch.

7. hang the balloon up to dry and move on to the next balloon.

8. absent-mindedly wonder what that tapping noise is while you are repeating steps 1 to 6 but become so absorbed in wrapping slimy wool around a slippery balloon that you really don't give it too much consideration.

9. stand up to hang the second wool-wrapped balloon up to dry and discover that 'tapping' noise was actually the first balloon dripping watery pva all over the living room rug.

10. thank your lucky stars that you have a partner who works night shift, giving you ample time to clear up and try to dry out the rug!
(feel free to miss out steps 8 to 10).

11. once you have covered all of your balloons, give each one a final roll in a thin layer of pva and water just to make sure that every piece of wool is covered.

12. leave to dry.

13. once the wool is dry and you are happy it has stuck to itself, pop the balloon! if a few strands appear loose, just paint on some more pva and leave to dry again.

14. you are now left with a delicate wool lattice.

15. display in a bowl, attach to fairy lights, or add some ribbon and hang from the tree to bemuse the postie like i have done.

if you do make some, please share the piccies J

Sunday, December 18

deck the halls with ...

... dried oranges!

well, it's third time lucky for me with these decorations. you wouldn't think that drying oranges would be that difficult would you?
last year i decided i would dry some orange slices to hang prettily on the tree and around the house. i don't quite know what went wrong but they ended up all brown and squidgy! then i ran out of time and inspiration so just left it as a failed experiment.
this year, a little more browsing on the internet seems to have done the trick and it worked!
well, it worked on the third attempt - here's a wee hint for you ... when you're waiting for the oranges to finish drying, don't think "oh, i'll just wrap myself up in this snuggly blanket and watch a little tv for the last hour they're drying" because, if you're anything like me, you'll wake up six hours later and just manage to stop the little blackened orange slices from setting your oven on fire!

so, i think the trick was slicing the oranges and placing between two tea towels for a day to remove a lot of the surface moisture.

then i popped them in the oven (on a rack, to allow the air to circulate) at 135C/275F/Gas Mark 1 for the first hour, and turned the oven down to 110C/225F/Gas Mark 1/4 for the next two to three hours.

i did keep an eye on them this time and turned them every hour. i think they took a little longer than three hours but perhaps i had sliced them a little thickly. what you're looking for is the flesh of the orange to be dried out without starting to brown.

and here are the finished deccies ...


Friday, December 16

yummy mincemeat

for 6lb mincemeat:

120g (350g) seedless raisins
8oz (225g) sultanas
8oz (225g) currants
4oz (110g) cut mixed peel
4oz (110g) dried prunes, chopped
12oz (350g) soft brown sugar
1lb (450g) cooking apples - peeled, cored and grated
8oz (225g) shredded suet (i use the veggie version)
grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
2oz (50g) almonds, chopped
2oz (50g) pecan nuts, chopped
1 tbsp (15g) mixed spice
1 tsp (5g) freshly grated nutmeg
5 fl oz (150ml) brandy

1. mix all the ingredients together, except half the brandy, in a large ovenproof bowl and cover. leave to stand overnight.

2. the next day, preheat the oven to 110C/225F/Gas Mark 1/4. cover the bowl, with foil or lid and place in the oven for about three hours.

3. allow to cool, then mix in the rest of the brandy and put into sterilised jars.

if possible, the mincemeat needs to mature for at least two weeks before using. once sealed, it can keep for at least a year.

a wee p.s.

i have tweaked this recipe slightly over the years and usually use half of all of the ingredients, apart from the two oranges and two lemons and the spices which i use the full amounts of.

i also usually use double the amount of brandy - adding half when mixing all of the ingredients together and then the remainder the next day, before it goes in the oven. and i check on it once an hour to give it a stir around and enjoy the lovely christmassy smell.

oh, and i never seem to be organised enough to make the mincemeat in time to let it mature for two weeks, it tastes fab when used straight away though :)

Wednesday, December 14

thank you

to everyone who braved the chilly day on saturday to come down to the perth christmas craft market.
we were so lucky with the weather - the winds and rain had gone, we didn't have any snow and the sun even shone for a brief while!

i will be updating my online shop over the weekend but if there is something you would like to order in the meantime, please feel to drop me an email to fatcatfelt 'at' hotmail 'dot' co 'dot' uk or get in touch through this blog.

Tuesday, December 13

every day is a learning day!

i was doing a little shopping online recently and, as well as buying the usual pre-dyed merino i use for the majority of my feltmaking, i thought i would buy some undyed fibre to practice dyeing with.

while i was looking, some 'superwash' fibre caught my eye.

oh, thought i, superwash must mean that it has been 'super' washed and will be really clean ... those of you who know what superwash is will be groaning by now!

superwash, in fact, refers to wool that has been treated to remove the scales from the fibre (using an acid bath) or by coating the fibre with a polymer to prevent the scales from attaching to each other.

which pretty much rules it out for felting!

apparently it was developed in the 70's to enable woollen garments to be made which were machine washable. great for spinning and knitting apparently.

but not feltmaking.

when i started to work with it, i thought it felt wonderfully soft. and i also didn't take the time to lay out a test piece first, surely i didn't need to as it was just regular merino which had been washed really, really well?

goodness me what a mess! i had laid out a number of pieces as i usually do, wet it all out and then went to felt it. it turned into a soggy mess of fibres and not surprisingly didn't felt to the regular merino too well.

i now have a new rule - before buying anything that i haven't heard of or haven't used before, i will do a little research first.

Thursday, December 8

a lovely swap

well, this must have been the longest-running swap in the history of swapping!

i think angela and i first chatted about making a swap for each other at the start of the year, but between one thing and another ... well, you know how it goes!

we did both agree that it was more than worth the wait though as we were able to swap in person when i popped down to ilkley recently for one of angela's workshops.

angela couldn't have made anything more perfect for me. i must admit to being a bit of a notebook fanatic and angela has made this wonderfully soft and beautifully purpled journal cover. and, knowing, that i like bugs (and shiny things) has added this rose chafer bug which is just stunning - the photo doesn't do it justice.

as my hands aren't very happy at the moment, i haven't been able to get any felting done. i can't knit or crochet (yet!) but wanted to keep to a woolly theme, so i made angela this knotted woollen scarf in her favourite colours to keep the chilly yorkshire winds at bay.

thanks angela, i really love my journal!

(thanks also to angela for letting me use her pics - my laptop has died on me and i've lost the pics i took!)

Tuesday, December 6

winterlight festival

thanks to everyone who stopped by over the weekend, it was lovely to meet lots of new people.

thanks also to mandy of an cnoc for doing a sterling job of getting the market organised - thank goodness we were indoors as it snowed on sunday!

and thanks to everyone at comrie croft - the festival was a wonderful weekend in a really unique setting, with so much going on over the two days from music to workshops to lantern processions, there really was something for everyone.

oh and one final thanks to my fellow stall-holders, who had me in stitches! the whole weekend had such a relaxed and happy atmosphere that it felt like a day out with friends rather than a hectic market.

Monday, December 5

perth christmas craft market

~~~ saturday 10th november, 9am to 5pm ~~~
perth christmas craft market
king edward street, perth

fingers crossed that it's dry, not too windy and the snow stays away for a few more days yet!

perth is holding its annual christmas craft market on saturday 10th december, between 9am and 5pm. this will be a great chance to find some lovely christmas gifts or even a few treats for yourself.

just in case the weather is not looking too kind you can call gail cain on 07920 784085, or gillian coyne on 07920 784090 to check that the market will be taking place.

if you're passing, please stop by to say hello, it would be lovely to see you there.

for more details: perth markets

Sunday, December 4

drum roll please ...

i'd like to show off my brand-spanking-new-hot-off-the-press business card

(is it odd to get so excited over a piece of card? no matter how pretty?!)

i must admit that i do have a weakness for stationery in all its guises so is a business card really necessary ... ? well, i think so.

for me, it's the details that matter and this is one of those details that matter (to me).

i like to have them on my stall at markets so that folk can take away a wee reminder of my work, along with all of my contact details, in case they would like to buy something later on. it's also a nice wee thing to pop in with a purchase made online.

plus, it makes me feel that wee bit more grown up and professional about it all :)

Friday, December 2

very exciting news!

tactile 2011 is now on display in edinburgh.

the tactile 2011 exhibition which ran during september and october has now moved through to edinburgh. kal ali visited the exhibition in alloa and thought it would be perfect for the new venue she was opening in edinburgh.

thanks to the hard work of angela, nic and lynn the arrangements were made and the pieces are now installed.

you can visit the exhibition, which is on until 8th january, at:

sewing bee cafe
360 leith walk

(if you're going down leith walk it's on your left just after pilrig street)

unfortunately i couldn't make the opening event as i was away that weekend and since i've been back i've been at markets, or getting ready for them, every weekend since. i see a small gap in my diary in about two weeks time so hopefully i can fit in a visit to the christmassy princes street gardens while I’m in town.

as an added bonus, after you have enjoyed the exhibition, you can rent out sewing machines by the hour, while enjoying a lovely cuppa :)