Monday, 23 August 2010

A Tale of Treasure... Allen style

OK, this post is going to be told by images more than words... the photos speak louder than words anyway :o) A tale of adventure from our holiday in Cornwall, it happened a week or so ago...
One lovely sunny day, the Allen family and their 2 dogs went rockpooling; the tide was waaaay out so there were many more rockpools to explore than usual. A very enjoyable morning was spent mooching around, finding little treasures - shells, bits of driftwood, buoys, fishing weights. Moma Allen took lots and lots of photos for inspiration, peering into rock pools trying to capture the colours and textures of rock, sea creatures & sea weed. A large rusting anchor needed several photos to capture its beautiful colours.
As they got to the furthest point, they discovered a sheltered place with high rocks around 3 sides... and lying in the middle...

Was a huge, very interesting, and obviously very old piece of driftwood, lying in a murky puddle.

Daddy Allen is a carpenter by trade, and loves wood. This big old piece of oak got his imagination going straight away... where did it come from? How old is it? HOW long has it been in the water to be so shaped by the tides?

How am I going to take this home? He was figuring out just how to get this huge (6 1/2ft) and very heavy soaking wet piece of oak up the cliffs and a mile or more in either direction before we could collect with the car.

Ever resourceful - the dog leads came in useful. The dogs thought he had gone mad & mistaken a log for one of them :o)

Once at the top it took Matthew & me at the front with a dog lead each, and Gary at the back. Rachael was overseeing the operation and carrying dog water bottles etc. What a funny sight we must of been! Luckily about 1/4 of a mile up the coastal path, we took a chance and headed up a tiny walkway toward some beautiful houses - my reasoning being they were sure to have road access. This was very narrow so Gary shouldered the log by himself.. fortunetely it wasnt too far till we reached a rough road. Gary and Matthew jogged back to collect the car.

It had 4 days to dry out sitting raised on slate outside our tent (looked like we had built a bench :o) Before it was time to come home...

Dont worry, it wasnt really as low on the arches as the picture suggests - it was very uneven ground here & the back tyre was at the highest point.

First day back home...

Sculpted by the gentle hand of Mother Nature - 'the Needle'

Gary set our new piece of garden art in place, the bottom 18" are buried.. its very steady. The corner with the picnic bench has been a bit of a dead area until now, characterless & unused. Its going to be our coastal corner now :o) Ive strung the buoys on fishermans rope and hung them on the fence. There is going to be a shingle area around the Needle, with boulders, sea pinks and Livingstone daisies (they`re the closest I know to pink sea daisies). Just hope they can survive there - its quite shaded most of the time being right by the woods.
Anyway, it was a lot of fun... and we do love driftwood - this really was treasure to us (all 4 of us)

Saturday, 21 August 2010

There and back again...

Hi folks :o)

Hope you have all had a good couple of weeks! Ours have been spent exploring new places and enjoying lots of precious family time. I LOVE our family holidays - we have a couple of weeks in the summer and a week at Christmas that are just the 4 of us (and the dogs of course) I do my best to soak up the warmth & serenity and store it to keep me going through the rest of the year when outside influences do their best to disturb my equilibrium! With the children getting older I know that these times are precious... pretty soon they are not going to want to spend a week or 2 just with mom & dad...

We have been camping in Cornwall - yes, again; we love it there. Although next summer Im determined to visit Scotland! The weather was rather mixed... we had some lovely days, a cold day, a rainy day and a windy day - but every evening was beautiful strangely enough.
We spent the 'rainy' day walking up and over Pentire Head and along the coastal path to the Seven Sisters rock formation. On the walk up the headland the rain was coming horizontally at us - we were soaked through! But by the time we got to the top it had stopped... and there looking totally chilled out were these sheep - arent they lovely?!

We didnt want to go to close & disturb them so bypassed the bench, much Rachaels dismay. The day was warm and rather windy so luckily we dried out quickly :o) The cliffs where we walked are where the poet Laurence Binyon wrote 'For the Fallen'... very moving. Im sure you are all familiar with it.

Along the way we crossed the Rumps - an saw evidence of iron age fortifications. They are mound and ditch earthworks... I didnt manage to get a very good photo of them to be honest, you can just make out the lines going across the middleground. Matthew & Jess are just in this photo. Must get a better shot next time! We have wanted to explore here for years but up till now there has always been something thats stopped us; weather, health, unable to drag ourselves away from the surf :o) etc.

This is the furthest point we got to, as you can see a sea mist blew in and got thick fast. It was very rugged and beautiful... possibly due to the weather that day it was SO quiet, there was nobody else about, just the sound of wind, waves & gulls - wonderfull.

We also explored Trebarwith Strand at low tide... when the tide is high there is no beach (and it comes in pretty fast!), but when its out its huge - and fierce, rugged and beautiful. Trebarwith is a few miles south of Tintagel.

We had wildlife treats too; we saw many Merlins and Kestrels and birds that I really dont know what they were, but they were lovely. And walking south along the coastal path from Tintagel, we were the only people about, we were saw a wild deer about 30 feet from us. He bounded up the path and away before I could take a photo unfortunately.

We investigated many rock pools and coves (kids and dogs swimming in many :o) This activity led to one of our biggest adventures! We found treasure! Well, treasure as far as the Allen family were concerned anyway :o) and on that tantalising note Im going to leave you for today... I think this post is plenty long enough lol. Will post soon about our treasure


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Jacobs Fleece Felted Rug

OK, here goes...

I planned to felt one of the lovely fleeces from the farm into a sheepskin type felted rug... Now Ive never felted anything this big before... or felted with raw fleece (straight off the sheep, no cleaning). I was very lucky to have excellent advice from Nicola Brown - Clasheen, and Katherine Huggett from Working with Fibre group on Flickr, thanks ladies :o) it was very much appreciated.

My first job was to get some strong bubblewrap that was big enough for the job. The local electrical store came up trumps with 2 HUGE sheets of big bubble-super strong stuff, they were about 10ft long x 5 ft wide.

I chose a beautifully marked Jacobs fleece, with lots of dark bitter chocolate brown & creamy white patches. After picking as much veggie matter & muck out as I could I laid it out tips down (so the bit that had been closest to the sheep was uppermost. Just look at how dark that brown is...

Nicola felted a rug from a Jacobs last year, and I love the way the background felt (in contrasting colour) extended past the fleece and framed it. I decided to do this with red Icelandic wool batts from Alafoss - 750grams worth! I seperated the batts into thin layers and layed out 3 perpendicular layers over the whole fleece & extending past the edges.

Next I layed some purple cotton nuno gauze from Wingham on-top and covered the edges with the last of my batts.

It measured just under 9ft long x 5ft wide at this point and was very thick!

I watered it with very hot water with lots of washing up liquid in, using a watering can with a sprinkler rose on it. It took about 3 gallons to wet it, so good job I was working in the garden! Once rolled it was like a roll of carpet, it was so fat!

Unfortunately it was at this point that I deviated from the good advice... I didnt really have a suitable table to roll it on. The best I could manage was our old picnic bench, which was ok... but being as it was as long as the table I couldnt roll from the short end... which meant the benches were in my way. I couldnt stand close enough to roll easily, so one knee went on the bench and basically I spent 4 hours of rolling - every roll was like an aerobic lunge - hence the stiff muscles! Half way through the rolling I rubbed the fabric side, with my hands in plastic bags, with extra soap just to make sure the fibres had penetrated through the fabric properly.

Id planned to getpast the messy stage and get the kids involved as a family project... it didnt happen - this was really messy. Rachael played mom for the day, she made lunch & drinks bless her :o)

After every 100 rolls I unwrapped it, straightened it out, sprinkled more hot soapy water and rolled in a different direction. Once everything was holiding together well I worked it with the fleece side up for a couple hundred rolls. Then I did something I rarely do... I surrendered it to the washing machine. I drained it, then it went through 2 rinses & 3 wool washes (no extra soap). After every cycle I took it out and checked it carefully. When I was happy it had felted enough and was clean & soap free I put it through a short spin cycle and draped it over a clothes horse to dry.

After a day and 2 nights it was dry. I spent a couple of hours today crawling around on it finding and removing burrs and twigs that had escaped my notice. Now it is finished... an Im very happy with it :o) Its worth the aching joint & stiff muscles... and Im sure I will felt more of these. Im actually planning to do a couple of half sized ones with purple accents.

Just finished picking it over... thought I should test it out for comfort :o)

I used white throwsters waste silk fibre around the edge of the fleece (placed before the batts went down) and in some of the gaps, you can see it here around the outside.

The rug now measures approx 7 1/2ft x 4ft, approximate because of the wavy edges.

What else has been going on this week...? Well the kids attended their golf summer school... at Garys Golf Club. Rachael won a little trophy for the biggest hit from a girl that the pro has taught so far this year - she is very pleased with herself & big bro is chuffed with her too :o) Unfortunately she managed to jar her hand with all the hard hits - its in a sling on doctors orders today. They dont go again for another 2 weeks now so it should be better by then.

We are going camping on Saturday... I really should start thinking about what to take. I probably wont blog again before we go, so until then be well folks and have a good couple of weeks :o)


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Long time no speak...

My last post was pretty much all about Rachaels felted gifts for her teachers - I can happily report that they were thrilled to bits with them :o)

Ive been asked to go into school and do a felting workshop in September. While talking with the teacher I mentioned International Felt Day & the slice of the colour wheel theme - Year 6 are doing `under the sea` & `outerspace` for autumn projects, so I think it`ll be pretty easy to fit in with that in blue, green & yellow...should be fun!

We have had a wonderfully chilled out first week of the summer holidays :o) Weather could of been better - but still a very nice week... we were busy doing nothing. We did potter around in the garden quite a bit and I thought Id share this years bean structure with you (you lucky things). Last year we had what looked like a Dalek (off Dr.Who) this year we have...

An archway of beans
They are about 10feet apart, but meet in the middle

And my favourite flowers are in full bloom...
Helenium - said to of sprung up where the tears of Helen of Troy fell to the ground.

I had an out-of-the-blue phone call, from a farmers wife of my aquaintanc,e a couple of weeks back. They have a freerange & I think organic farm about 20 miles away - in a stunningly beautiful valley in Worcestershire. They`re holding an open day on the farm on 25th September, with tractor rides to visit the animals (rare & heritage breeds), egg collecting and things like that... all to raise money for their local church, and for Help for Heros charity. They asked me to go along and do some spinning... as you all know Im primarily a felter & the urge to felt is STRONG. My good friend Clare has saved the day, she is coming with me and shall be spinning & I shall be felting... a simple little workshop using fleece from the farm sheep. I feel honored to of been asked along, and Im really looking forward to spending a day in beautiful surroundings, playing with wooly goodness and chatting - and visiting all of the animals of course.

I collected the fleeces just before the kids broke up... spent a nice couple of hours rooting through wool sacks (aided by 2 friendly bearded collies) we were in an open sided barn in glorious sunshine with swallows flying in and around - it was lovely. I have 4 jacobs fleeces - all are beautifully marked. I decided to felt one of them into a sheep friendly sheepskin type rug to raffle off & hopefully raise more money for Help for Heros.

Knowing this would be a big job & hard work was one thing ... I did it yesterday and OMG I am aching SO much... I cant begin to tell you. Its drying out now - and I am happy :o) I still have a couple of hours work left, and I shall be posting more very soon - I even remembered to take pictures as I made it!!! Good going for me - I usually think of that just as I finish lol.

Oh & I got my Peacefelt swap partners today! Another very exciting project to be involved in :o) Just got to figure out what to make now...

Hope you are all having a good week

p.s. Im having trouble with the spacings on blogger again... sorry if it looks iggledy-piggledy; Im fed up of trying to get it even & leaving it as it is x