Friday, March 30

today's to-do

is to hand card this pile of shetland fleece ...

anyone a dab-hand with a carder?!

i think this calls for a pot of tea :)

Thursday, March 29

a joining of two lands

portland and shetland that is!

(oh i crack myself up sometimes. no, really, i do).

this is my first project using the portland that i washed the other week and it was a joy to work with!  the fibres have a lovely springy quality to them (not sure what the technical term is, possibly crimp?), a beautiful sheen and they are so soft.

i always forget to take photos of the process but here are a few i remembered to take along the way.

first, carding the portland

the resist, covered with grey shetland and white portland

after felting, now ready to remove the resist

and after a bit of rolling, and manipulating, the finished piece ... a vase wrapper

i think the sheltand and the portland have worked quite well together. they've felted in well, the portland was a little slower to felt and had a slightly smaller shrink rate than the shetland but not enough that it was a problem.  the surface of the portland is as 'fuzzy' (again lack of technical terms is letting me down!) as the shetland but much softer, in fact i can't help touching it every time i walk past!

perfect for displaying some dried grasses

Monday, March 26

a bit of a potter and a cuppa tea

what with one thing and another (massive to-do list, bad weather, illness, injury ...) we haven't really had much opportunity to get out and about this year.

until the other day when m managed to prise me out of the front door with the promise of a picnic ... he's learning!

and we had a wonderful time. we drove off up glen quaich way, parked the car and walked off up a tiny track into ... bliss :)

within only a few minutes (and a lot of huffing and puffing up a bit of an incline!) we were in the middle of nowhere. it was lovely to be out and about again, the air was still a bit chilly but it stayed dry, the scenery was delightful and there was so much to see.

in fact, m had to keep turning round to make sure i was still there as i kept stopping to look at this, that or the other as so much was catching my eye, but he knew he wouldn't lose me - he was carrying the picnic, so i wasn't going to wander too far from the food! every other step flushed grouse and black grouse out of the heather accompanied by such a racket it really was quite startling in the quiet.

lots of lovely mosses and lichen caught my attention too.

and then there were the toads ... so many toads! and as we were walking in marshy ground i was being very careful where i put my feet, didn't fancy trying to scrape one of these cuties off my boot!
we finally stopped on a huge rock for our picnic, don't you think fresh air always makes a picnic taste that little bit better?  well, i should say that fresh air, a little sunshine and no wind or rain does :)

we took a different path back so thankfully didn't bother any more toads but this time something else was distracting me, gosh i'm going to sound like some kind of freaky geek, but here goes ... there were really interesting looking scats along the way - five really quite different types: deer and sheep, which we recognised; black grouse, which we had to look up when we got home (you can imagine the search history on our laptop - here's hoping it doesn't have to go into the repair shop any time soon); one kind of reddish, oily smear; and one black, circular and quite tarry one. i think i have narrowed them down to otter, mink or fox.

moving swiftly on!

it was a great way to spend a few hours and on the way back to the car we were wondering why we didn't do this more often.  to top off the day, m spotted a mountain hare, (apparently the only native hare to britain) which we stood and watched for a few moments before it bounded off. i was so chuffed we had seen it as i'd never seen them before and hadn't even been looking out of one. then a few moments later, another one! this time hunkered down on the hill, and we watched as it sniffed the air, had a bit of a scritch, cleaned it's face, and just sat and watched. amazing!

next time, i might not even need to be bribed with a picnic :)

Sunday, March 25

mr wolf ...

please tell me what time it is?!

in an effort to be organised and thinking it would make it easier for the morning, i put some of the clocks forward last night before going to bed. 

i say some of them because i thought the others changed automatically.

not so.

and some of those i changed already, did change automatically as well.

and i think m may have changed some before going to bed this morning.

so, i have a range of times to choose from ... it's either just gone half nine, half ten, or half eleven!

happy spring!

well, the vernal equinox happened a few days ago and now the clocks have sprung forward so it must be spring :)

although it feels more like summer at the moment! 

we've had a few nice weekends now and have been able to make a great start in the garden, although i'm worried we may have been too quick off the mark as we had a couple of frosty mornings this week.

roll on summer :)

Saturday, March 24

mixed media workshop

i've just realised that i never did blog about this! i think the few months around christmas time were swallowed up in preparation for snowdrops by starlight so i feel like i'm just catching up.

aaaaanyways ... i'm always keen to try and push myself as a feltmaker and add new elements to my work by learning new techniques, i just don't think i'm very good at doing that on my own. so, when i saw that angela was running a mixed media workshop i couldn't resist.

luckily enough, it coincided with a rare weekend off for m, so we headed off to yorkshire for a few days.

on the way down we stopped off at fairburn ings for a spot of birdwatching, and it was great to get some fresh air and stretch our legs after what felt like a very long drive.

i had a fab time at the workshop, angela is really inspiring and brought along such a range of different materials and ideas it was hard to choose! i did my ususal and spent too much time chatting and looking at what everyone else was making but i still managed to end up with two finished pieces. it was a great opportunity just to get to play and experiment without worrying too much about the end result, i tried to use as many different materials and techniques as possible and chose colours i wouldn't normally choose and i loved the end result!

here's a few pics from the end of our very productive day ...

we had such a lovely weekend, everyone we met was so friendly - to the extent that m had to 'rescue' me from a very chatty chap in a gift shop i popped in to for 'five minutes'! and the scenery is amazing - although the fog on sunday and monday meant that i didn't get to see too much of it so we'll need to go back again :)

we took the slow route home and stopped off to have a quick look at hadrian's wall, there's so much to see around this area that i think another long weekend is in the offing!

Tuesday, March 20

i've joined the flock ...

my mini flock are now on their way to cumbria to join the 2,925 already received.  i had so much fun making these - i can't remember how long it must be since i've made pom-poms!  i predict a house full of them soon though :)

i'll miss these little guys though, they've been brightening up my work room for a wee while before i could bear to part with them, still, i know they're going to a good home!

2,075 more are needed and there's still time to take part ...

Saturday, March 10

fun with fleece!

i was really lucky to receive a bag of portland fleece to experiment with, from angela recently.

as i've never washed raw fleece before, i thought i would do a little research first to try and avoid any unnecessary disasters!

the british sheep and wool book from the british wool marketing board says of portland that it is a rare breed, established in the uk in the thirteenth century. the fleece has a staple length of five to nine cm and the micron range is thirty one to thirty five.

thanks to:
running moon farm
fuzzy galore
twin willows farm

for their advice, which i kind of cobbled together and tweaked to come up with something i thought would work for me.

after waiting for m to go away for the weekend - don't think he would have been too comfortable with raw fleece soaking in our lovely, clean bath for hours (plus he's already expressed his distate of the smell - is it just me, i quite like the smell of raw wool?!), i set about the huge sack of wool!

rather than diving in and biting off more than i can chew as is usually my want - i must be getting older and wiser (now there's an odd thought!) i decided to only wash enough to fill three of my net wash bags so that i didn't overload the bath.

here's a few details/pics of my process ...

some music to keep me entertained while i worked away

and a little sustenance in the shape of home-made banana mini-cupcakes

raw fleece straight out of the bag

and then popped into net wash bags to avoid too much handling and accidental felting while washing

i then filled the bath with hot water only, added a few generous squirts of washing up liquid and gently dispersed it through the water (so as not to create bubbles) before gently placing each bag of fleece flat on top of the water, whilst resisting the urge to stick my hands in and swish it all about!

after walking away (to avoid the temptation of swishing and agitating!) for fifteen to twenty minutes, i came back and gently removed the bags from the water, drained the bath, and refilled with hot water and washing up liquid before gently placing the bags of fleece back into the bath

i did a total of four washes until (i got too impatient!) there were visible bubbles left in the bath - which means it's ready for rinsing. the bath was then filled with hot water only, the fleece (still in bags) was placed into the water and left for ... well, by now it was about half an hour at a time because i was distracted with making my pom-pom sheep for 'flock'!

i did a couple of rinses, adding vinegar to the final rinse to restore the ph of the fleece. the bags were then left to drip over the bath during the evening before i placed the fleece on the radiators to finish drying the next day - this last bit might be a no-no but i was impatient to get it dry so i could start work!

and now i have the most beautifully soft, creamy wool with a stunning sheen to it (the photo really doesn't do it justice!)
i can't wait to start making with it - more pics and chat to follow :)

Friday, March 9

uk handmade - Buy Handmade

i'm ashamed to admit that i was only vaguely aware of the uk handmade campaign before i did some research when i was placing an ad with them. 

and now, well, what have i been missing?!

the heart of their mission is to support uk designer makers and their website is an amazing resource - from a forum; directory of online and bricks and mortar shops; fab recipes and tutorials to their quarterly showcases ... and then on top of all of that is the magazine - which is a really good read! 

the spring issue of uk handmade is available to read here

Thursday, March 1

more exciting news ...

i am so chuffed to be the world of wool featured artist for march!*

check out the link here:  world of wool

* or 'miss march' as morgan keeps calling me :)