Monday, 27 April 2015

My Village - Mummers Draft Excluder

This is a project inspired by a winter thing and is a follow up to this post where I detailed how I made our much needed draft excluder based on simple line drawings done by Himself of local historic buildings.  Unfortunately we have more than one door which doesn't fit its door hole so I needed to make another excluder.  This time I based it on the Boxing Day Mummers in our village.  A group of about 9 locals, dress in paper costumes and perform short medieval plays three times at different locations down the high street.  They attract large crowds each year and it's a proudly owned tradition.
Again, I asked Himself to draw me some very basic shapes (he's good at that sort of thing) which I could then applique onto the outer case of the draft excluder.
Then I had the fun job of finding the right mix of textures, patterns and colours.  Because the Mummer's Plays are a mid-winter celebration, I wanted to have red white and green but the colours had to work in a way which would be good all year round and be jolly.  In one of my frequent rummages in my local fabric shop I found some newsprint style fabric and that had to be included since the Mummer's costumes are made from strips of paper.  Below I'm laying out the cut out pieces and trying out the design on the outer casing of the excluder.
It's quite fiddly.  All those little pieces of bunting are made from individual pieces.  You can see the discarded bits of applique backing paper.  I had to get a bit busy with the hoover once I'd completed the project, there were bits of paper all over the place.
How's it looking now?
A bit more fiddling about...
Mostly happy with that layout so now I can remove all the backing paper and iron into place.
Stuck on and ready for the sewing.
I am happy to admit I'm not very good at machine embroidery.  I love it but I wobble everywhere and have a messy technique. (Don't look too closely.)
See what I mean?  But it doesn't matter.  No one's going to get that close to the finished item.
I use a hoop to try and hold it all taught.
Despite the wonky sewing, I like our locally inspired, handmade things around the house. They root us in our home and our village and have a little story behind them.  Himself has promised to do me some simple line drawings of other local landmarks and I'll use them to make some cushions in the future. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Spring in the village

The buds are swelling, the birds are tweeting and the daisies are popping up all through the grass.  The lawnmower has been dusted off and is in use once a week and everyone is visiting garden centers.  It’s spring in the village!
After the dark gloom of winter we are now enjoying longer days and some sunshine.  
I’ve thrown some seeds in pots and am using the window of the shed as a mock greenhouse to bring them on.  If my plan works, we’ll have french beans, broad beans, sweet peas, cucamelons, garlic, mint, parsley, sunflowers and lobelia all over the place. 
We’ve added a blueberry bush and a small olive tree to our collection too.  The great thing about not knowing what you’re doing gardening-wise is you try anything!  If the plant sulks or dies, you just don’t do whatever it was that you did again.  
In our orchard (of exactly two apple trees and one cherry tree), the blossom is just waiting to burst out and make us smile.  Last year we had 2 apples.  This year we’re hoping for a bumper harvest of 3 apples.
And now just look at all the colours zinging into life around us!   The blue splash of forget me nots spreads further each year. 
We're training honeysuckle to climb up the shed partly to hide it a bit and partly so we can overdose on it's amazing scent as we work in the garden.
Our narrow lanes which have been bordered by bare stone walls for ages are filling up with limey green, fresh nettles, pink things and white things.   

The tree opposite us acts as our seasonal barometer and to see it gradually turn from sombre brown to vivid green is very cheery.

  In the sunshine everything looks fresh and clean.
The valley invites evening walks and this is the place we come owl spotting.  There are a couple of Little Owls living in a barn nearby and we've heard a Screech Owl although we've not had sight of it yet. 
In a couple of weeks we'll need to kick our way through the nettles which will invade this path but for now it is full of promise for the summer ahead and when the sun shines, it's nice to fantasise that it always will.... 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Polymer Clay Characters, Clocks and Mirrors

It's been many years since I first started playing with polymer clay.  I found these photos of past characters while I was rootling around my digital albums and thought I'd share them with you but the pics are not brilliant.  I don't quite know where I got the idea of pigs dressing up but once I'd had the idea, I ran with it in a similar fashion to yoga cows.  I'm thinking I may re-visit these characters in needle felt.  They all stand just over an inch but if I were re-making them I'd go slightly taller so I could get more detail in.

The characters below were mostly commissions or gifts.

The yoga cows have been with me a looooong time!  And you can see where I had to remove udders.  Apparently they have 4 not 6.
I found a way to make a perplexed face and stuck it on a business man body but that didn't explain his perplexed face...until I added the yoga moves. 
This little chap was one of my first 3D polymer clay creations and I still have him.  It's a Chilly Penguin and the back story is that because penguins live in such cold places, their mums worry about them and won't let them go outside without a hat, scarf and mittens. I think he's my favourite - but don't tell the others. 
Polymer clay is such a versatile medium.  I used to make clocks too, using inexpensive mechanisms bought online.

You can roll out polymer clay and cut tiny mosaic tiles for mirror surrounds.  The tiles below are 5mm square and I added some cupcake cane slices I'd made.  The design was grouted onto a normal kitchen clay tile round a 2" square mirror and backed with felt so it could be hung up without the rough tile back scratching the wall.
 This is a leafy mirror using thin slices of a leaf cane and a lemon cane glued into place.  
Finally this is my favourite mirror which I still have.  The sand coloured tiny mosaic tiles had tea leaves added because I wanted a stony texture and the White Horse at Uffington cane took for ever to make and shrink down!  I've still got loads of it.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

My Village

I've been living here with Himself for just over a year now.  I rented out my lovely large apartment in very lovely Stroud and moved south.  Although I am slowly getting to know my new village, it's taking me longer to appreciate it.  So every now and again, I go out with my camera, take some pics and view my new home through a lens to see if this presents me with some previously unnoticed aspect I can fall in love with. 
Life appears quiet in our small corner of the Cotswolds.  Little has changed in the past 100, 200 or perhaps even 300 years.  
The many listed buildings grow mellow as the ages tick by.  Some date back to medieval times and the road layout hasn't all.
At the east end of the village is the Memorial, which has been knocked over a few times although it happens less now thanks to the by-pass which takes the heavy traffic away from our narrow roads.
The High Street is about half a mile long and broader at one end than the other.  The broad section is where the market was traditionally held each week and is where the few shops still cluster together.  We have a Butcher's shop which also acts as a Post Office and fruit and veg shop, a general shop open 12 hours a day, a newsagent and gift shop and a paint shop (decorating, not artistic).  There is a tea shop which opens at 8.30 each morning and must be kept going by the many walkers and cyclists who pass our way. The village is bordered by gentle undulating fields with narrow lanes only wide enough for one tractor on one side and steep wooded valleys populated by owls and deer on the other.
These are also our running lanes.  When it's bright and dry we trip round the soft field tracks but the cold and wet weather limits us to the hard tarmac.  The tarmac lanes are cold because there's little to protect you from the winds blasting across the countryside. I need to wear an ear band (it might be a hair band that's slipped) to hoof it round here, especially in winter when the winds come from the north - with still enough arctic air in them to splinter your lungs.
Don't be fooled as I was by the sleepy appearance.  There is life here and quite a lot of it!  The village is blessed with many organisers, so we have a Village Day, a Potato and Seed Sale Day, an Annual Fete and on special occasions a Lunch!  The High Street is closed off and everyone brings out a fold up table and chairs and piles of home made goodies - cakes, scones, quiches, salads, buns, Pimms and all good things.  Hand made bunting is stretched across the street from neighbours windows and after the food there is dancing till the sun sets.
Everything gets decorated.
 In addition to the Church Choir, the Ladies Choir and the Brass Band, there is a male voice choir to entertain the locals.
And the band play in front of the garage as the children dance
I love this glorious "WAH!" of colour against the muted stonework.
I also like our local.  There are two very good pubs but this is the one we mostly visit and in winter it's bliss to curl up in one of the deep sofas round the log fire.
The weather has a big impact on how the village looks and how you feel when you twitch the morning curtains and gaze blearily out of the window.  This is the view from our kitchen  in winter....
 and in late summer....