Sunday, 3 May 2015

Under the Beech Tree - May

The merry month of May already!  And the weather here has been absolutely beautiful - perfect Spring weather.  Today we are halfway through a long Bank Holiday weekend.. I hope you all have a lovely time :)

Sunshine and birdsong on May Day morning :)  blissful!
Life is returning..
beautiful bright green leaves have started to break out over the last few days

On my morning walk on 1st May the sun was shining beautifully and the birds in fine voice.. I noticed that there was suddenly a profusion of white flowers everywhere.  I took a few pics.. these are my favourites, but there are lots more on the trees and in among the brambles, even early nettle flowers.  The first swallows are back too!  It's good to see them dipping and weaving as they hunt.

Beyond the beech tree the wild garlic is flowering and smells amazing!
There are clouds of cow parsley everywhere waving in the tiniest breeze
And drifts of these little beauties.. I don't know what they are called though?
update: just spotted them on another blog.. they are Stitchwort - love that name :)
Gemstone: Emerald
Flower:      Lilly of the Valley

In Anglo-Saxon times this month was called Tri-Milchi in recognition of the fact that the lush new grass meant the cows could be milked three times a day.

by Christina Rossetti

I cannot tell you how it was,

But this I know: it came to pass
Upon a bright and sunny day
When May was young; ah, pleasant May!
As yet the poppies were not born
Between the blades of tender corn;
The last egg had not hatched as yet,
Nor any bird foregone its mate.

May Day and the Festival of Beltain - 30th Apr & 1st May
Beltain is an ancient fire festival celebrating fertility, life returning to the land and the beginning of summer. It was the time when herds were returned to summer pastures (often driven between the Beltain fires to be blessed with health and fertility for the following year).  

Maypole Dancing
I found this gorgeous photo on a Google image search..
it was on tumblr but looks like it belongs to

I joined in a Maypole Dance once when I worked in museums- we were in full medieval costume and got in a frightful tangle :)  It was fun though!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Medieval Inspired Sunburst Jacket

What a week..  a million and one things to keep me from my work.  Finally managed to finish this jacket though :)  AND get photos!

The sleeves button on..
I've sewn 3 small plastic buttons inside each sleeve opening
These sleeves (my experimental prototype) are commercial acrylic/wool blend aran yarn
.. may use lovely woollen yarn next time..
I so love using curly locks :) !
This button is a lovely chunky one made from a Monkey Puzzle Tree branch -
collected by a friend from a local tree that had been trimmed
and sleeveless..
I shall be posting this in my Etsy shop over the weekend :)  I definitely fancy making more jackets in this style, and maybe experimenting with different fibres too.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Working on a new jacket design

I've really enjoyed working on the vests and jackets recently.. and still have a few more ideas fizzing away in my brain just waiting to get out :)  The one I'm working on at the moment has been bubbling away for a loooong time!

As you may know I spent many years working for a local museum.. which involved getting dressed up in historical costume most days - that job was great fun :). One of the details of medieval clothing that has always appealed to me is sleeves! The detached sleeves that they attached to bodices as and when they needed them, either with points (laces) or pins.  There's something so quirky and elegant.. not to mention USEFUL about them..

These images are taken from Fastenings Across the Ages:

Pinned sleeve.
Detail from Raising of the Cross - Starck Triptych - 1480
Sleeve attached with points
Marie of Burgundy poss. painted by Nicklas Reiser - 1458-1482
I've been wanting to make a vest/jacket with detachable (and maybe even interchangeable) sleeves for ages.  Last week I got stuck in and started making one..

Putting curly locks down along the front edge so when the collar
flaps open you will see them
I started with two fine layers of merino in dark blues
Thirds layer is patches of Estonian batts (Gotland/merino blend)
Building up a bright Sunburst on the back with circles cut from a
layer of Estonian batt and curly locks
After loads of rolling came plenty of throwing -
great for de-stressing :)
I love the way the coloured fibres creep through the dark (and vice versa)
and LOVE curly locks :)
Blocked on a cling-film wrapped Sally to dry :)
Next up.. sleeves and button :)

Friday, 24 April 2015

An Exciting Hat Commission..

A couple of weeks back I was contacted through Facebook, with a request to make a very special wizards hat!  The hat belonging to one of my favourite Discworld characters.. Rincewind the Wizard (from Terry Pratchett's wonderful Discworld books).  For YEARS I had been fancying making Rincewind's hat, but not having room to display it I resisted the urge.  So you can imagine how happy I was to receive the request :)

Here he is..
Rincewind played by David Jason in
The Colour of Magic movie
 Rincewind is rather an inept wizard who can't really do magic.. he wears a pointy hat with the word 'WIZZARD' and a gold star on it so people will know he is a wizard and show him the respect due to all wizards (for example; by not killing them).  He is always getting in to trouble, and is very good at running away from it.  

The first layer was cherry red.. the second layer a mixture of purple,
fuschia and bright red.. to give the finished piece a mottled, aged look

Third layer lovely cherry red again

Part way through..
I worked this for hours and hours, with boiling water too to get it as stiff as possible.

While the hat was drying I set to work on the letters..
Stitched round and cut out from mustard felt with orange, gold and  green silk cap felted in.

128 gold sequins on the star.. all stitched on with 'invisible' thread (awful stuff to sew with).
WIZZARD and star stitched in place 


Complete with tattered, battered brim and metal star spangles :)

With it's HUGE brim I've had a job trying to find a box that it will fit in for posting!  17 1/2 inches across from one edge to the other!  Got one now though so it shall be going soon :)  Hope he likes it!


I'm toying with the idea of offering another as a 'Made to Measure' auction.  To raise money for a Dementia charity.  But I'm not quite sure how to go about organising an online charity auction..  Any advice would be very welcome.

As most of you will know Terry Pratchett suffered from Alzheimers and died in March this year.  He did an awful lot to raise awareness and funds for Dementia.. so, to me, this would feel a fitting tribute to a man I very much admire.  And it is a cause which is very close to my heart.. having devastated people I love.


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Under the Beech Tree - April

Well I hope you are all enjoying a lovely Easter weekend!  We have had perfect Spring weather he last few days.. great for walking.  Today we have had family over for dinner, then visited the sheep and lambs over in the fields this afternoon.. it's been a lovely day :)


Sunshine on the April Beech Tree

I wish I could of recorded the birdsong for you too..

Gemstone - Diamond
Flower - Sweetpea

Anglo-Saxons called this month Eostre Monath. For the Spring Goddess Eostre, who is associated with hares and eggs.  Easter was originally a pagan celebration of life returning to the earth following winter.

Of course April begins with April Fools Day :)

An old saying:
"March winds and April showers 
Bring forth May flowers."

A time to see Morris Dancers.. Regarded as an ancient tradition as far back as the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603).  These "madde men with their devils dance" were banned by the Puritans following the English Civil War.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Finished Jackets and Vest

Oh my.. April 1st TODAY!  Where does the time go?

Through March I posted about 3 garments I was marking.. but last time you saw them they were all incomplete, and I wasn't entirely sure how 2 of them were going to be finished.  

Well, now they are :)  and I though I'd show you..

I used Ghungroo Bells for buttons :)  4 to close the double breasted front
and 1 at each cuff. 
Now it's a lovely musical jacket :)
and tomorrow will be leaving for a new home in the US
I was so happy when a lovely lady contacted me through my shop, saying she had seen this nuno jacket on my blog and asking if I could make one for her.. By lucky chance the one I was working on was a good size for her.  It was pretty much sold before it was even finished.. how wonderful!

I decided to add sleeves to the long Jacobs vest..
now it's a longline jacket :) perfect for Spring and Autumn
Goes well with the wellies don't you think :)?
I decided to go with branch buttons..
Gary reckons I look really annoyed in this one..  I wasn't,
but I have had a cold this week so look a bit crappy.

Another branch button here.. must make more next week, I've about used 'em all up!
I love this vest :)
I've decided to keep the jacket and vest myself :) (I couldn't resist.. they're just so ME.. and hey I should be wearing my own felt shouldn't I?!)   so I've listed them as Made to Measure on my shop :)

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Quick Workshop update..

I totally forgot to post about this on here (I remembered on Facebook)!  On the 17th February I went along to Oak House in West Bromwich.. a beautiful Tudor House where I worked for 10 years until turning full time felter, and have been in love with since I was 8!  They were having a fun day to celebrate some exciting developments on site, and had asked me to come along and create a piece of felt to commemorate the event.  It was to be a communal felt, mostly made from a local mule fleece that I'd spent days cleaning and carding, supplemented by other domestic wool; natural Jacobs and dyed Shetland.

The day went well.. there was a steady flow of interested people watching, talking and lending a hand when they wanted.  I was very happy when it came time to start rolling to find that I had 8 eager little helpers and a couple of mom's too.. many hands really do make light work!

The thing that really made me smile is that not one child passed by my table without popping a bubble on the 'oh so tempting' bubble wrap :)

I don't have any photos from the day.. it was just to busy to stop, I didn't even get a drink or bite to eat.  And it wasn't fully felted at the end of the day, so I brought it home for a couple more hours rolling, throwing and pounding.

The finished picture panel..  A Tudor Rose
I added my favourite curly Wensleydale locks around the edge.
Measures 40" x 25" and just under 1cm thick
The mule felted well.. I had actually expected it to be slower.  Maybe it was the extra hands speeding things up.. Whatever, it has formed a strong, thick felt. 

I've sewn small brass curtain rings on the back so they can hang it if they wish, or use it as a table centre.  Not sure where they plan to display it eventually, but it will be there somewhere.. I shall have to go along in the summer and see where it's ended up :)

Buttons fresh from the kiln..

Last night was the last week of term at pottery class.. I was so excited to get my goodies out of the kiln.  Over the last couple of weeks I have been making a set of 8 porcelain buttons (amongst other things :) .. hoping and planning to use 4 of them on this jacket.  I think I actually squealed when I saw them come out of the kiln in my teachers hand (glad she didn't drop them)!  They are just what I was hoping for.. and I hardly dared to hope that they would turn out as I wanted on the first try!

Porcelain buttons with cobalt oxide and transparent glaze.
They measure about an inch and a half across
After pinching each button into shape I pressed it against a small bronze statue I have.. A replica of an ancient Greek Etruscan horse.  I'm not really 'into' ornaments but I do have a few favourites, and this is one of them.. a gift from my mom many years ago.  I didn't want uniform buttons so I'm chuffed to bits that each one is different.

This is how they looked freshly made..
still undried and unfired
I really like the effect from using oxides and transparent glaze..  Also coming out of the kiln last night:
LOVE this bead!  Iron oxides and cobalt on porcelain..
going to make more similar

And I got my first 'proper' sized mug :)  This one was hand built and is a bit wonky (lets say quirky :)..  but I like it.. and it fits perfectly to my hands.. the handle is comfy to my right hand and the rest of the cup fits perfectly into my left hand :)  There's a benefit of making my own mugs that hadn't occurred to me!   I have a big bag of dark red clay in the boot of my car to play with over Easter.. more wonky mugs will follow I am sure :)

I pressed a fern leaf and pieces of fir tree from the garden into this one..
the oxides are strongest in the indents, I sponged it off much of the higher area

Aaaagh the buttons are too big!  Back to the drawing board!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Celebrating the Solar Eclipse, Spring Equinox and Super Moon with FELT

This was a rather exciting week here in the UK.. not only was Friday the Spring Equinox (and what a wonderful first day of Spring it was!) but we had a solar eclipse.. also on Friday, preceded by a super moon on the Thursday night.

I decided to honour the heavens with my work on Thursday and Friday.. making a vest, similar to the Jacobs one in the last post but different..

For this one I used black and white Shetland fibre with lots of Wensleydale locks.  I had a clear idea in my mind.. and had scribbled a quick sketch on a scrap of paper the night before :)  I wanted an eclipsed sun motif on the back, a silvery silk mother moon riding just above the heart, locks fringing the collar front and bottom edges and white Shetland lines running up from the bottom.

Quick planning sketch
I decided to use just 2 layers this time so it will be a more supple felt than the Jacobs.. white on the inside natural black outside.

Front: laying out one side, wetted then covered with bubble wrap
Front: laying out second side to overlap the first.
I decided to add white lines running in from the arm hole here..
designs almost always evolve en route :)
Back: building the eclipsing sun motif
Well rolled.. armholes have been cut and healed..
still loads of shrinkage left to go 
After rolling for ages (don't ask me how long.. 2, 3 hours) I added more heat and
started alternating throwing, massaging and rolling.. while trying it on Sally from time to time to check the fit and
see which bits needed more work
Drying.  The silk full moon  and the white line details show up just how I hoped :)
 An eclipsed sun  from prefelt and Wensleydale locks
How I LOVE curly locks!

I'm planning to add a branch button closure this week.. I'll post an update with all the buttoned vests / jackets later in the week :)