Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Snowflakes again

I have been trying to stay positive in spite of a small poorly child, the chance of another one (and myself) getting chicken pox any day now, and Siberian style weather instead of the balmy Barcelona holiday we had been expecting. It has not been easy at all and today I have been very close to losing the plot. Of the £474 we spent on the holiday, the insurance company say they should be able to repay us about £70. The poorly child is still spotty and infectious but is full of beans again which makes being housebound all the harder. We could go out and burn off some energy walking somewhere, except that it is so bitterly cold out there and one daft child has left her gloves and hat at school for the Easter holidays. It started snowing again this afternoon and despite the gloom it gave me an idea. I was thinking about the amazing snowflakes I saw the other day that were proper snowflake shapes, and I decided to ignore the children and get my sewing machine out. My good friend Laura had given me a piece of soluble fabric a while back and I have been trying to find a use for it ever since. I've never used it before so it was a bit of an unknown quantity. I stitched and stitched for about 20 minutes and ended up with this:-

Then I had to do some dissolving. Laura had written a little note saying "Solufleece cold water dissolvable" so I got a bowl of cold water and called the children over. The healthy child popped it in:

And bingo within a couple of minutes the fabric had disappeared:-

After a bit of drying, I have a bit of a higgledy-piggledy snowflake, about two inches across:-

I can kind of see the joy in this soluble fabric malarkey. If I could make a series of different sized snowflakes in varied designs, maybe with some metallic thread, they could look interesting sewn onto a piece of mottled felt. Nearly enough to pull me out of my gloom... 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Darned chicken pox!

So no Barcelona for us. We have a small girl who woke up with chicken pox and are not allowed to fly. I am severely despondent. I know that at some point, maybe in a few months or years, there will be a reason for this and that we will be glad we had to cancel, but I really hope it hurries up and shows itself.  For now I am going to console myself with some pictures (found on the internet, a sad second-best) of what I would have liked to have shown you from my travels:-

OK I'm off to stamp my feet and throw myself on the floor for a few hours...

Saturday, 23 March 2013


So this week I have been spending a little time embellishing two pieces of felt I made a while ago. I made them both on separate occasions at my dear friend Laura's house when we were having a creative moment, and as we were meeting up for another creative morning, I thought I'd better do something to show the others to prove I've been doing something since the last time we met. The first one was a simple swirly pattern, the size of the circles determined by the size of the finger I wound the wool around:-

I was quite annoyed with it once I had felted it, as the swirly circles I'd created had mostly transformed into hexagons and it wasn't at all the look I was after. I left it for a couple of months before I felt able to deal with it again. This week I could put it off no longer so I grabbed it and started stitching in the hope I could inject some swirliness back into it. It helped a bit but it was still lacking quite a lot of oomph:-

So I took it round to Laura for some second and third and fourth opinions. Everyone was positive but it was still hiding under a bushell. I let it drop beside me on her sofa while we carried on talking, and then we saw where it had landed, right in the middle of a blue hessian cushion, and suddenly it was love...
So I came back home with renewed vigour. I tried to buy a similar coloured board to mount it on, and ended up with an apple green one. I still thought it needed a bit more embellishment of a different style and last night I remembered something Laura told me a while ago and felt like an experiment: if you want to use a thicker thread in your sewing machine, wind it onto your bobbin (as it won't fit through the needle) and work on the reverse. So I gave it a go:-

I think it might just be finished although time will tell. And my five-year-old says it is fabulating, which I take as a compliment.

I have also been embellishing the Valentines' Day kitsch red and pink hearts one I made at Laura's house. The printable fabric I ordered from was wonderful and once I had worked out the message I wanted to print the rest was easy. 

I think I am pleased with it but it's not really my style! I'm not quite comfortable with it yet and it feels a little bit too personal (says she having made an overly-familiar nude!). But having seen one of my favourite blogs Dog Daisy Chains extolling the virtues of Moo card-printing, I am thinking of getting some of my designs made into greeting cards ready for North Somerset Arts Week. If I can get a really decent photo of it I'm hoping this one might sell as a card, and oddly I'm more comfortable about that than I am with the original felt.

Anyway tomorrow we are off to Barcelona for a few days so a bit of Gaudi inspiration might be coming on if the children give me a chance to immerse myself...

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Snowflakes and baking...

Well what started out as a gloomy day with disturbed sleep and a nose full of snot turned out to be pretty positive... On the way home from the school run this morning, my good friend Jenny and I were discussing whether there should be more to life or if this was it (yes honestly!) when the oddest thing happened. We suddenly noticed that the snowflakes that were falling on our coats looked like, erm, snowflakes!

It gave me enough of a spark to carry on up the hill and when I reached home the snowflakes were getting bigger, and, well, more, um, snowflakey... I was manically trying to get more and more photos and I was stopping bemused passers by to tell them. Weirdly the top of my wheelybin was the best place for a snowflake photoshoot...

Definitely perked me up. Later I went to see one of my new North Somerset Arts cronies about getting some of my pictures framed, and I told him all about it, only for him to look out of the window a bit confused and he said "They are always like that when it snows in Nailsea", so I'm not sure I explained it well enough.

A bit more positivity later, when Jenny came round to make pastry with me. Now Jenny is a perfectly decent cook but suffers from a lack of confidence in all things kitchen-related. Last week after she had had a banana cake disaster, we had an impromptu banana muffin making session together over coffee (with a couple of other friends popping in mid-session) and it got us thinking. Quite often a few of us get together on a Tuesday morning for a little sewing, along with coffee, but could we 
translate this format into a baking morning (or afternoon as today turned out to be)? She asked if we 
could make shortcrust pastry as she normally buys pre-baked cases and hasn't had much success making it before, so a plan was formed. Together we made two batches, Jenny's a classic plain buttery shortcrust, mine with a hint of cheese and mustard powder added. Normally I make pastry alone and although I try to put some love into it, sometimes I can get a bit resentful over the time and concentration it takes (and don't tell Jenny but occasionally a bit cross when it turns against me and becomes a hard and unmanageable lump), but today it was great to have good company while I was doing it. It rested in the fridge and we drank coffee and ate cakes. Then we rolled it out and I showed her all I know (not very much) about baking blind. It is good to feel an expert on something even if it is all relative! I made one big flan case and she made lots of individual ones. We baked them and then had to dash to school; it was a bit surreal putting her hot pastry cases in the bike shed so that she could pick them later when we were out. So how did it go? Well I made a rather rustic-looking Swiss chard tart heavily laced with gruyere and an old piece of Montgomery's cheddar I found at the back of the fridge:-

And she made some quiches with a feta and olive filling, and some with prawns and lemon thyme (how good do they sound? I told you she was a decent cook!). Don't they look great? It's amazing how much positivity a bit of good food can spread. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013


So I have pretty much finished the fox's head for World Book Day. It has been a challenge, not the best quality felting in the world but I think it will hold together for the day. I made the appendages first separately, with fluffy unfelted sections for me to attach to the head. Is it really obvious I modelled the nose around a Bottle Green cordial bottle?
Then I got my trusty inflatable globe ball out and started felting around the northern hemisphere, over the Equator and down to around the Tropic of Capricorn to make the head section. Attaching the ears and nose wasn't easy - especially when I have visions of other children giving them a sharp tug - and the nose has turned out a bit more pendulous (and maybe a bit more phallic, damn the Bottle Green mould!) than I hoped but I think it will hold together. The ball was deflated and then a bit more rubbing and rolling and I had this:-

Most of the day was gone by now and there were puddles of soapy water over most of the kitchen. So down to school and home again, this time with someone to try it on for size (and to show me where the eye holes needed to be cut):-

A bit more rubbing and rolling, to shrink it down and firm it up, yet to be done but I think we are there. At least he will be the only felted fox in the whole school. I had a fear I would have to start the whole process again as the fox's sister said she wanted to be the mouse from the Gruffalo (much more difficult ears to attach) and then the owl (an interesting proposition but quite a job with it having to be finished and dry by Wednesday night) but she has now relented and opted for the Gruffalo costume I made 2 years ago, so I can rest. Two children happy about something. What more could you want?