Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Draws to a Close

2016 draws to a close and another year has passed in the blink of an eye. Is it just me or is this something to do with age - the older you get the quicker the years pass???

It had been my plan to choose 9 makes from 2016 to create a collage, but failed as I could not narrow it down to 9 favorites so have had to create two, one for knitting and crochet and one for stitch. Jan at Jan's Ramblings has created great monthly montages over at her blog here documenting her year. An idea I hope to adopt if I can discipline myself to do so at the end of each month.

There has been much more knitting and crochet this year with lots of socks, shawls and cowls many of which have been given as gifts. My love for wreaths continues and they are now creeping into most areas of the house. The Yarndale sheep flock continues to grow and has raised almost £100 for our local hospice and MacMillan Nurses.

Stitching is still my first love although with more knitting and crochet there is sometimes a tussle when deciding what to do. Shirley the sheep was inspired by the Yarndale crocheted sheep and has developed into project books for knitters and crocheters. There are lots of ideas for more project books brewing for next year.  Project bag requests from friends has taken me back to bag making which is something I had neglected and now feel re-inspired. Stitched wreaths as well as crocheted ones have been created. 
(I wonder if there is a medical condition called wreathitis?)

Like most years 2016 has had its ups and downs, moments of celebration and laughter, sadness and tears. New friendships made, old friendships reaffirmed and grown stronger, friends lost and taken from us. It is the thought of those friends no longer with us that prompts me to give thanks for the last year and determination to make the most of 2017.
Whatever 2017 brings there will no doubt be more knitting, crochet, stitching and craft
 - and quite possibly more wreaths!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Five on Friday - Christmas Past and Present

For this last Five on Friday before Christmas with Amy at Love Made my Home here are  five pictures of some Christmas craft and a few thoughts.

Christmas Elves relaxing on Christmas cushions
Pattern by Steph at Ric-Rac

Socks for elves?

Last minute crochet
Pattern by Kate at Just Pootling

Indoor robins
Scandi hearts and stars

When I was a child we always traveled from Yorkshire down to Hampshire where my Grandmother and my mother's family lived. There were lots of aunts, uncles and cousins so it was often a big, noisy family time. As my brother and I got older we began to have Christmas in our own home with family and friends joining us. Eventually my brother married and had a family and Christmas moved to their house across the Peninnes to Cheshire. There were lots of preparations, much food prepared (and transported over the M62 motorway), new recipes tried out, fun, noise and celebration. I remained single and moved to Buckinghamshire but always returned home to Yorkshire and drove my parents over to Cheshire for Christmas.

Time moved on and circumstances changed. Following the death of my father, my mother decided to move closer to me in Buckinghamshire and since then we have had a quiet Christmas Day with just the two of us. My brother's family has expanded with the addition of spouses and grandchildren. He and his wife have now moved to West Sussex, where they will all spend Christmas together. They are quite close to our mother's extended family and join the cousins we used to play with as children for a big family party. It is funny how life has come full circle.
The family members will come separately  to visit here, which is much more manageable for Mum who is now in her nineties. So Christmas extends over several weekends for us. It is lovely that the tradition of the big family celebration continues but has been adapted with time. 

Christmas means different things to different people and is not necessarily a happy time for everyone. There seems to be so much pressure on the commercial aspect through media and advertising. It must be very difficult for families who are struggling financially or living in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation. There has been a steep rise in the number of people who are homeless in recent years and it is difficult to imagine how painful it must be to have no one and no place to call home.
Many people work over Christmas supporting and caring for others or are apart from their families for one reason or another. I am truly grateful that I have been very fortunate to have happy family Christmases throughout my life, where it is the people who matter and who make it such a special time. 

Wherever and whoever you are spending Christmas with, I hope you have a wonderful, loving, peaceful time.

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas Wreath

It has been a tradition for friends and I to make our Christmas Wreaths together. We have attended workshops at different venues using a range of techniques. Bunches of greenery wired together and attached to a wire frame; plastic and oasis hoops; dried orange slices and cinnamon sticks, pine comes and all kinds of other trimmings. Last year we decided to try our local Parks Trust workshop. The Parks Trust was set up as a charity many years ago and they are responsible for the majority of the green spaces in our area. They manage a diverse estate from ancient woodland to man made lakes where people learn to sail and everything in between. 

We enjoyed the workshop so much last year that we booked again this year as soon as places were advertised. What I particularly like about the Parks Trust wreaths is that they are made entirely of natural materials. All the materials are sourced from the Trusts normal routine cutting back of vegetation. The base is created from Cornus (Dogwood) whips which are taped together into a circle. This is then covered with a layer of straw, cut from managed meadows, which is bound with cotton thread to keep it in place. Yew is added next, poking it into the straw base and some extra thread binding if needed. Euonymous, Holly, Ivy, Cotoneaster and Mahonia and other evergreens are provided for everyone to choose from to decorate their wreaths in their own style. Interestingly, the late autumn this year had affected what was available. Last year the Mahonia had turned a wonderful bronze colour and provided a contrast to the green, where as this year it was still green. There were few Mahonia flowers this year too, which I had used at the base of my wreath last year. The scent from them as you came through the door was amazing. So this year's wreath is predominately green.

When I first got back from the workshop I realised my wreath was a bit lopsided but did not have time to sort it out immediately. (I wonder if the mulled wine we were served had anything to do with that?) The lovely sunshine this morning and a free hour tempted me out into the garden and a few adjustments have been made. I may have overestimated the size of my door as there is only just enough space to get the key in the lock, but I am very happy with the result.
Our wreath making tradition is one I hope we continue for many years to come.
Friends, fun, creativity and natural materials - a great combination. 

Monday, 19 December 2016

Christmas Card Swap

It has been a pleasure to be part of the Christmas Card Swap organised by Amy at Love Made My Home. This has been my first year being part of Five on Friday, which Amy also hosts and it has been really interesting catching up with fellow bloggers around the world. My card swap partner was Janet at MacQue and I received this lovely traditional card.

I would love to be able to sit in that chair by the roaring fire, admire the tree and maybe do a little stitching.

Janet lives in the USA and the stamps on the envelope are very cute.

The envelope with its great stamps will be saved along with the card.

Thank you Amy for organising the card swap and thank you Five on Friday bloggers. It has been great getting to know you and I look forward to more adventures next year.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Five on Friday - A Festive Five

Joining with Amy at Love Made my Home for a last minute Five on Friday. Computer problems have caused a great deal of frustration recently and it will be interesting to see if this post is finally published.  My laptop is quite elderly and is prone to moodiness, that is not a technical term of course, just my way of describing how it will work perfectly one day and not the next. It has been on a go slow for some days and it will no longer talk to my camera, resulting in a number of photographs disappearing completely. Naturally many of them were the pictures I intended sharing - why does that always happen?

It is only a week to go now to the big day and despite the unseasonably mild weather I am beginning to feel a bit more Christmassy. All the homemade gifts are completed and mostly wrapped up, cards have been made, written and sent, decorations have been unpacked from the garage and dusted off. So I thought I would share a Festive Five this week. Sadly not all the pictures I had hoped to share but a few I have managed to retrieve.

1. JETS (Junior Embroiderers & Textile Students)

Last Saturday was the Chrismas meeting of the Junior Stitch group and the girls were very busy making cards using the sewing machine

and tassel decorations using curtain rings, bells, ribbon and sparkly thread.

Everyone enjoyed the morning and went home with several decorations. 
(Sadly quite a few of the missing photos)

2. Garden Centre displays

Our local Garden Centre has grown over the years from a small family owned nursery to a large commercial Garden Centre with an extensive range of goods on offer. It is still family owned and they create the most amazing themed displays throughout the year. They also sell very good plants, many of which are still nursery grown. There is also a great cafe/restaurant with delicious homemade goodies on offer. Friends and I often go just to see the displays and indulge in tea and cake although I have never been known to come home without a plant (or two or more). The Christmas displays this year are magical but sadly the large scale gingerbread house, complete with Christmas elves interior has fallen victim to my computer problems and disappeared. However here a few salvaged pictures.

Land of Ice and Snow

Sparkling trees and decorations

Singing, Story telling Reindeer
It was amusing watching children's reactions to the comical Reindeer. They were either enthralled and were almost climbing into the stable with them or frighted and did not want to go near. They were a little scary and had very deep voices, which was very disconcerting.

3. Seasonal Leaves

This should really be the wreath from the wreath making workshop I went to this week. When I got home and placed the wreath on the door I realised it was lopsided and in need of some adjustment, Hence no picture until it has been corrected. Hopefully there will be time tomorrow to rearrange it. It really has not been my week! These few left over sprigs have made a simple display to brighten up the kitchen table. I love the catkins from the Garrya (Silk Tassel Bush) as they get longer as the winter passes. 

4. Decorations

Each year I cannot resist adding to my collection of decorations. It is not a huge collection but a few things creep in each year. This year a pair of elves have joined the party together with an Alpine star scene that has lights inside. The rest of the decorations are still a work in progress, which I plan to finish tomorrow. If I can get the camera and computer to co-operate I will share them at a later date.

5. Waddesden Manor

Waddesden Manor is a beautiful National Trust property that was built by in the style of a 16th century French Chateau by the Rothchild's family in the 19th century. Like many National Trust properties it is beautifully decorated and holds special events at Christmas. 

Friends and I went to see the beautiful outdoor lights and the special Field of Light installation by artist Bruce Munro which was set in the gardens. Owing to work commitments we went at the end of the day so did not have time to see inside the house which is also fabulously decorated. I believe tickets for the house are very popular and sell out quickly. 

As you walk down the drive towards the house all the trees are light by coloured lights which change with the rhythm of  classical music which is relayed through speakers. The branches of the trees look spectacular and look quite ethereal. A path round the side of the house takes you to the Bruce Munro installation, which winds round the Avairy Glade garden. The music fades away as you follow the path into the glade.

There are 9,000 frosted glass spheres on slender stems connected via illuminated optical fibres. The light and colour changes in a rippling effect and as you follow the path past large, mature trees new vistas of light are revealed. It was very atmospheric and although there were a lot of people there everyone was very hushed and quiet as they followed the paths.

The moon kept appearing through fast moving clouds which added to the atmosphere.
My pictures are poor but you can see more professional ones here.

So despite a few frustrations there have been highlights and much pleasure in the lead up to Christmas celebrations. I am hoping next week will be easier with a few last minute jobs to be completed. I am hoping the computer will have sorted itself out too otherwise it may well be replaced once the sales start, 
Perhaps if it is threatened with the dump it will buck it's ideas up.


Friday, 2 December 2016

An Eclectic Five for Five on Friday

It is lovely to be back with Amy at Love Made My Home after a short break for Five on Friday.
My Five this week are rather an eclectic group as it has been difficult to decide what to share. The elves elf has been busy making Christmas gifts so they will have to stay under wraps for a little while longer - no peeking allowed. That includes most of my recent makes so forgive me for this rather odd five.

1. December 1st and the countdown begins

The Autumn wreath was replaced yesterday with this one. 
I have a growing collection of wreaths and several different Christmas ones that will be coming out soon. I saw this wreath on a stall selling traditional baskets at a Craft Fair recently and fell in love. The baskets were amazing too and I could have happily brought several of them home.  The wreath was tucked in a corner and bare of any adornment and I could imagine decorating it in lots of different ways for different seasons. 
Simple lights and a ribbon to welcome the month of December. The fairy lights have a warm and cosy feel and cheer up a dull day.

2. Winter has arrived

The garden turned into a winter wonderland on Tuesday and by Wednesday the frost had frost on it! Although my garden faces south and is lovely and warm during the summer months, it remains in shade during the winter because of the angle of the land. This creates some spectacular frosty scenes if there are several days of low temperatures. This year, for one reason and another, I have not cut back the plants and shrubs, which have left it looking untidy. So the pretty frosty leaves definitely improved the overall appearance. There have been lots of little birds foraging amongst the old leaves, so perhaps they prefer the untidyness.

3. Felt angels

These little angels are for JETS (Junior embroiderers group). The adult helpers volunteered to help make a Christmas decoration as a gift for each of the girls. I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else has made as we all decided to do our own thing. The angels were a combination of several ideas from Pintrest. I can loose hours looking at Pintrest imagining all the things I would like to create rather than getting on and actually making.

4. Felt scarf

This was an experiment following on from the felt vessels. I had seen examples of felting onto fabrics at craft shows, so while the felting equipment was still out I decided to have a try. After some research in craft books and good old google, it looked fairly straight forward. The wool fibres need to be able to work into the fabric so a piece of chiffon seemed ideal. I cut a length of the fabric and gently felted fine layers of merino wool tops into the edges. It is not perfect but I was amazed at how sturdy the felted area was, despite being quite fine, once it was dry. The chiffon feels very flimsy in the centre and it would be interesting to see how other fabrics work.

5. On my knitting needles

This delicious hank of wool from Truly Hooked has been in my stash for a while. There have been many occasions when I was tempted to wind it into a ball but Christmas gifts had to come first. Although all the Christmas cards are not quite finished and a few other things need to be completed with the sewing machine, all the knitting and crochet projects are done. 

Finally the hank is wound and a Couthie shawl is on my needles......
.......and this one is for me! 
Well there is no law that says you cannot give yourself a Christmas gift is there?

I hope your week has gone well and all your preparations for the festive season are progressing smoothly. I am looking forward to catching up with everyone else at Five on Friday.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Felt Workshop

Students work from the Workshop

Recently I attended a  workshop to create felt vessels with Hilly Edwards at our local Westbury Arts Centre. It has been a while since I have done any felt making and was tempted to have another try by the lovely vessels Hilly makes. I find felting quite vigorous with all the rolling but thought the smaller nature of the vessels might be easier to achieve (and easier on my neck!)

Hilly had brought lots of beautifully coloured felt batts in different fibres from merino wool to natural Blue Faced Leicester. On the few occasions I have made felt I have always used merino tops so this was a lovely new experience. It was quicker using the batts rather than laying out tufts of the merino tops, which is always a bonus. The process was the same, laying out the fibres; felting them together with warm water and soap; laying a circular mask resist of plastic foam on the top; drawing the fibres over and felting a new piece over the top, so the mask is sealed inside. I should have taken pictures of this but was so involved it didn't happen. You can find a great tutorial here.  The process is then repeated a few times until there are enough layers to make the vessel strong enough to hold it's shape and the fibres are combined and felted together.
Like all things that are worth while, it was quite hard work but it was possible to complete sitting down. There was not a lot of rolling involved, more working the fibres with your hands, which was much more manageable. I could take my time, ease the kinks in the shoulders and neck and still achieve something by the end.

Here is my first ever vessel 

I chose natural fibres with some purple merino batts sandwiched in the layers. The pink ring round the top is a piece of tapestry wool added during the felting process.

During the afternoon I created another slightly larger shape with a tulip shaped top. As I dislike the colours I chose and the felting is not very good it has been banished and there is no picture of it. 
I was probably getting tired, but that is no excuse for the awful colour choice! 

Since the workshop there have been a few more vessels using the merino tops that have been stashed in the garage for ages.

These two have got small battery operated candles in them. The second one works better as the layers are lighter so the light can shine through. The shaping could be improved and maybe if I practice more that will get better. It would be great to experiment more and try different shapes and is definitely on my "to do" list. 
It may have to wait until the New Year though........


Friday, 25 November 2016

JETS November 2016

Goodness where has the last two weeks gone. Time seems to be flying by and it is hard to believe December begins next week and preparations for Christmas will begin in earnest. It is almost two weeks since our last JETS meeting and I have only just got round to sorting out the photos ready to share. 
It was a busy meeting with lots going on because the sewing machine bought with the grant we were given had arrived. Eeeek excitement all round - the children were quite excited too.

The original plan was to create fireworks pictures as our meeting was shortly after Diwali and Bonfire Night. The sewing machine added a new activity of stitching simple lavender bags so that hopefully everyone would get a turn using the machine. The meeting room was turned into a hive of industry with the sewing machine whirring away; filling lavender bags; couching wool fibres and other materials to black felt; applying sparkly fabric using the clover iron and bonda web and stitching sequins. There was a real buzz with everyone busy and to my total amazement all the girls completed (or almost) both activities in two hours. Here is some (quite a lot!) of their work.

Getting to grips with the new machine.

Couching wool fibres in spirals

C used sparkly fabric to couch into a starburst

Using the mini Clover iron to apply sparkly fabric

Adding extra details with metallic cords and thread

Some of the completed projects.
Looking back through my photographs I think some of them went home to share their work before I could take final pictures.

It was a really enjoyable morning and it was great to see the children's growing confidence developing new skills.

It is only two weeks until the December meeting when we will be making hoop and tassel tree decorations and machine stitched lace cards. 
Fingers crossed it all goes as smoothly as this month!