Monday, 29 June 2015

Needle Felted Monsters

I've been meaning to share these little monsters with you for some time.  They started following a random wintery evening spent in the company of Pinterest.  I stumbled across some needle felting pictures and needed to know more.  I had a trawl round the internet and discovered the inspirational work of (nearly) local artist Gretal Parker ...which lead to me buying her beautiful book..which left me gagging to have a go too!
This little guy is about 4" high and looked so sad and lovelorn I gave him a heart but it didn't cheer him up.
And this chap is full of mischief.  I didn't start from a drawing, just an idea in my head and I was  a bit surprised when he ended up looking like a dog.  No?  He's supposed to be a ferocious beast but I couldn't pull it off.  Even after I'd given him massive fangs.
Still not scarey.
And this is a mouse.  A very simple shape so I could experiment with curves as I'd seen in Gretel's creations.
The pink thing is a tail with a curl at the end.
And my final monster!  I had some difficulty with the arms which appear wider near the paws but I'm very fond of him :)  Needle felting is very forgiving and you can make most shapes just by using special barbed needles and stabbing at a ball of woolly stuff.  It's not expensive and you can find supplies at Gretels' online shop.  If you decide to have a go make sure you buy the leather finger protectors.  It stops everything becoming very jabby and sweary.
As usual I'm finding it difficult to find my unique creative voice but I'll keep stabbing the wool (merino wool tops to be precise) and see what new creatures arrive.

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.... 

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Applique & Machine Embroidered Draft Excluders... and Cake

This is a job I've been meaning to do for some time.  We needed a draft excluder to replace the rolled up old mat which was trying to do the job but not doing it very well.  I wanted a design which was easy to do but had a personal touch.  What I ended up doing was choosing two well known local buildings (the church and almshouses) and getting himself to make a very simplified line drawing of each of them.  I used bondaweb and drew all the pieces I wanted to cut out on the non sticky side and ironed them onto the fabrics I'd chosen.
Luckily I am a fabric hoarder and had plenty of scrap pieces to choose from.  Our house is somewhere between shabby and chic so I opted for a neutral linen background with some bright reds and creams with a dash of green to whoop it up a bit.
 Here's the basic sausage.  To fit our front door it's 40 inches long and about 11 inches round.
This is the fun part, the fiddling about with where to put things.  
 Final positions decided and ready to be ironed into place and then whizzed under the sewing machine. 
Ta dah!  This is a close up of the finished cover all fitted  and with machine embroidered detail added. 
 Detail of the almshouses with it's little clock represented by a circle.
 And here's the cake.  A Victoria sponge filled with butter cream icing and strawberry jam hand spooned from a jar.  Always a winner!
This morning's weather was fabulous for early February so we took full advantage of it and sat outside for the first time this year in glorious warm sunshine to enjoy my coffee and his tea, with cake of course.


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.