Tuesday 26 February 2013

Needle felting workshop

 Last Sunday afternoon, I spent a very happy two hours learning how to needle felt little animals and birds.  A colleague at work had arranged for a feltmaker called Eve Marshall to come and give a workshop at her house.  I had seen a bit about needle felting and of course, Robyn from America had made me a needle felted Scruffy, so I knew what it was, but had never tried it.  Our first project was to make an owl and Eve took us through each stage with a lot of patience and help. Apparently, if you can make an owl, you have all the basics to make anything else.  (That seemed a bit ambitious, but I went with it).
 Needle felting does have some benefits over wet felting.  It is not messy and doesn't take up a whole table.  You don't need so many pieces of equipment either - felting needles (which are barbed and do hurt if you inadvertently get your fingers in the way), foam and wool, preferably natural and not dyed and in this case, merino is not quite as good to use as it is too soft and slippery, as natural undyed wool, which is a bit coarser and binds together more easily. We used Shetland wool for our menagerie.  At some points, my owl resembled a penguin, but it all came together in the end.  To bind the wool into shapes, you push the felting needle in and out of the wool into the foam (for basic shapes) and move the shape around to create a rough sausage which you then refine using the finer needle and just going into the wool, not the foam underneath.  It is much easier to do, than to explain!
 Feeling a bit more confident, I attempted a rabbit, or possibly a hare, as the ears were rather long.
 He did seem to develop a character as I went along.
 The pupils in his eyes aren't the same size as I did find putting little dots for details, such as eyes and noses, the trickiest part.
 The back view of my rabbit - he ended up looking quite sweet.
 The finished owl...or was that a brown penguin?
Here they are together, the owl looking rather startled to see such a huge rabbit in relation to himself!
I really enjoyed learning how to needle felt and can see opportunities for adding detail and texture to the surface of a piece of wet felted work, but I am not sure whether I shall make any more animals...although, never say never!

Saturday 23 February 2013

Another garden visit

Last Sunday, on the most beautiful sunny winter's morning, my friends Katy and Alison and I went to Hodsock Priory to look at the snowdrops.  This has become a tradition for us and a visit we always enjoy.  Above are some Spring snowflakes (Leucojum).
 It was a little different this year, as there was a wedding in the house, so we weren't able to have our tea and cake inside this year.  There had also been some water damage to the rooms, so there was a large marquee for the teas instead.  There was also a food and craft fair on that day, and although this increased the visitor numbers, it didn't diminish our enjoyment.  Another good thing was that we walked round the grounds and woods following a slightly changed route, which made us look at things more closely and from a different viewpoint.  Snowdrops and aconites above, enjoying the sun.
 There were pools of bright pink and white cyclamen coum around the trees.
 A view of the gatehouse from the garden.
 The snowdrop wood.
 There were a lot of hellebores flowering in the garden. they are much further on than my own hellebores, which are only just putting leaves out.
Hodsock is known for the beautiful drifts of snowdrops in the woods.
 The sun cast some lovely shadows - perfect for taking photos.
 Katy and Alison very kindly bought me a pure white hellebore as a birthday present to add to my two others.
Here is the flower - absolutely stunning.
I hope to be able to visit lots of gardens again this year.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

First garden visit of 2013

This was my first garden visit of the year and it was to The Garden House, Saxby, for their snowdrop opening. I hadn't visited the garden this early in the year before, so was excited to see what it looked like without the exuberant planting of the summer.  One of the owners said he was a bit disappointed that the crocuses weren't as far along as last year...
 ...but with a bit of sunshine, there were lots of little patches or yellow, cream, white and purple in the grass.
 The snowdrops were beautiful and I noticed that there were some interesting varieties, such as this one  - Viridapice, I think.  The delicate green markings extend to the outer petals in this one.
 To add a touch of warmth, just look at the fiery tones of Cornus Midwinter Fire (I think), which were a real showstopper in the Winter border.
 One of lovely vistas in the garden, looking up towards the urn, with the lavender flanking the path.
 The large pots have been planted with hyacinths this year (the other owner told us that the tulips they planted last year did not enjoy the extremely warm weather in March and April and they hoped the hyacinths would be happier).  You can just see the tips of green in the pots and in a week or two, they'll look beautiful. Another view, leading down to the water feature, with a very pleasing repetition of pots and topiary.
The diamond pattern of the paving shows up beautifully and there are lots of green shoots in the border.
 I love the formality of the hard landscaping which is really evident now.  It is softened by the topiary spirals and the copper beech pyramids, giving structure all through the year and an effective backdrop for the other plants here. 
 This Tudor gardener is usually hidden by a rose, but here he is smiling benignly at the visitors.
 Contrasting colours of iris reticulata and danfordiae.
 The cathedral garden, still a meditative area but with a delicate tracery of branches rather than the rustle of leaves.
 Of course, I had to buy something too.  Hyacinth Blue Magic, which looks to be a really dark blue with white centres - I am looking forward to seeing it flower (as long as the return of the cold weather doesn't put it off).
 Three irises - Katherine Hodgkin, Harmony and J.S Dijt.
 They have the most beautiful markings.
We had a lovely day.

Sunday 17 February 2013

I love hearts swap - what I sent

So, as promised, here's what I sent for the heart swap.  Heart shaped necklace and earrings made from polymer clay and with striped agate beads on the necklace.

 A heart paper punch, pad and decorated notebook/sketchbook.  Mirjam had said that her favourite colours at the moment were pink and red, which did dictate the colours for the jewellery and the notebook.
 Biscuit cutters.
 Heart buttons and ribbon.
 A hand made felt heart decoration (made from the wool from my sister's sheep).
 Of course, these just HAD to be included!
Here are the packages all ready to be sent off.  I really enjoyed this swap. Here's to the next two!

Saturday 16 February 2013

I love hearts swap

 I have recently taken part in the I love hearts swap organised by all4meggymoo and was partnered with the lovely Mirjam over in the Netherlands.  We had to send 5 things all with a heart theme.  My parcel arrived and in it were all these little packages.
When I opened them, here's what I found!  What a lot of gorgeous things.  She had included some flower seeds too which I shall plant in Spring.
There was a little cat folder and some paper heart bunting made by people in Nepal.
Inside the little cat folder were lots of little notebooks and sticky notes.  Mirjam and I both have cats so she knew I would love this!
She had made three felt hearts and two crocheted ones.
This piece of felted fleece she included as a 'bit of fun'.  It is from a fleece she bought last year from a Dutch breed called 'Drents Heideschaap' and the sheep were/are used to maintain the hay fields.
It has really long fibres and is incredibly soft.  She knows I enjoy making felt, so thought I would find this interesting, which I do.  Huge thanks to Mirjam - she has been a delight to be partnered with and has sent me so many wonderful things.  So, what did I send to her, you may be asking?  More in my next post!

Tuesday 12 February 2013

The Art of Dress

 Two weekends ago, Chris and I went to our local museum and art gallery  to see an exhibition called The Art of Dress: 18th Century Frocks and Finery.  The main exhibit in the exhibition was a dress from 1735. However, there was also a collection of beautifully embroidered gentlemen's waistcoats which I was intrigued by.  They were so elegant and colourful and ranged in date from 1740 to 1780. I asked permission to take photos and this was fine as long as I didn't use my flash.  Some of the photos are a little blurry, but they give you the idea.
 The colours of this embroidery have stayed really vibrant.
 More gorgeous embroidery in shades of blue and brown.
 Metallic thread has been used on this one to give added sparkle.
 Even the buttons were sparkly.
 This jacket made of cream silk with gold embroidery and braid dates from 1740.
A pale blue/green waistcoat from around 1780.
More sparkling beads and metallic thread.

 This silver and pink cotton waistcoat with silver metallic thread running through it had an exotic look and the braiding on the front reminded me of military braid.
 A close up of the shiny material.
 Here is the star of the show - a mantua dress from 1735, made from black Spitalfields silk, which is extremely rare. The mantua style originated in the late 17th century as a coat-like garment called a banyan.  The word mantua comes from the french for coat - manteau.  This dress has been conserved and restored by a specialist textile conservator in Stamford.
 The dress would have had hoops or panniers made from cane or linen to support the skirt.  These varied in size as fashions changed, but in the 1740s-1750s, the hoops were as wide as 1.5 metres, which meant ladies had to go through doors sideways!  There was evidence that the skirt had been give an extra panel at the back at some point, and the material used was a blue and white checked material, which would have been hidden beneath the train.
 A chemise, which was a simple tunic made from linen or cotton, would have been worn under the dress and then a corset would have gone over the chemise. 
 The mantua was open at the front and a v shaped separate piece of material, called a stomacher, would have been sewn or pinned in place.
A close up of the very detailed pattern on the silk.  By the 1760s, mantuas were only worn at court and by the 1820s, hoops were no longer required to be worn by the court ladies.

Another lovely example of floral embroidery on a waistcoat.

What really surprised me was how small these waistcoats were - I don't think many men today would be able to fit in them.  Of course, these garments were for people with money and probably only worn for special occasions, which is perhaps why they have survived in such good condition. I really enjoyed this exhibition, which also included shoes and accessories such as fans. It makes me wish that we were still this elegant now...