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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Knitted Farmyard, a labour of love

 I bought a book called "The Knitted Farmyard" when my first baby was born with the aim of making it for his 1st birthday and it’s only taken me 5 years to get around to making it! I need a deadline so I ended up making it for 2nd baby's 2nd birthday but it’s really for the whole family, including me! I’m not sure who loves playing with it most. 

I added a needlefelted hill with fox den and rabbit hole. The bridge is crochet for extra sturdiness. I also added a tree which i felt was too big so I cut it down and crochet the wood grains as a tree stump. I did this to the end of the tree that I cut down too because sadly my boys do love pretending to cut down trees! 

I was a great project to work on with friends and family too, my son and his friends all wanted to help and now we all miss making it. We may have to start on a beach scene next to give the farmers a well earned holiday.

If you're planning to make your own, my advice would be to use beautiful yarns because it’s a real labour of love. I found bags of wool tapestry yarns at carboot sales and then just spent a little on some beautiful quality malabrigo yarns which really made it come to life. 

Monday, 24 March 2014

How to photograph your work using your phone & the Lightcase

Things have been busy here, my partner (tile designer extraordinaire Dominic Crinson) and I have been developing something for designer-makers that is going to make photographing small things super easy. It's called the Lightcase and we think it is brilliant! We've been working our precious prototype taking it to makers' studios and it's working a treat. It's basically a pop up photo studio, it's portable and low tech but creates a beautifully well lit space for photographing smaller things. It folds down into a nifty A4 folder and comes with three photographic backdrops - frosted, white and black...

The Lightcase basically came out of a need we both had to take great photos of the things we make for selling and marketing online. We do have a really good Digital SLR but for photographing the little things, getting all that equipment out and setting up a makeshift white backdrop and good lighting all just seemed overkill. We wanted to find a simpler way and so the Lightcase was born! It's made from Polypropylene and it works so well and it's so durable. I just love the way it pops up into a mini photo studio so you can take it to where ever you have the best light available and quickly document your product from a few different angles and upload to Etsy, Folksy, Made-it or whatever e-marketplace you might be using to sell or promote your work.

Here I'm photographing my products from the front with the white backdrop that comes with the Lightcase.

You can also photograph objects from above by placing your phone on top and aligning the lens with the hole in the top of the Lightcase. That way the Lightcase acts as a sort of tripod and you can get really sharp pics of smaller things from above. For taking pics from above you'd place the backdrop in flat as shown below...

What is great is that you don't even need a huge amount of light, the white material kind of captures the available light and traps it there and your phone camera does the rest! Smartphone cameras are pretty amazing these days and this suits me as I'd rather not get too technical, I just want to get good pics and get back to doing what I love best and that's making.

We really believe this is going to be a great tool for other crafters & designer-makers out there. We've even had a few other unexpected Lightcase enthusiasts like Warhammer miniature model makers and teachers who need to document student coursework. There are so many people who could use the Lightcase.

We're going to launch the concept on Kickstarter on the 1st April 2014 and if we can get it funded we can get the tooling done for the first production run of the Lightcase and get it out there for you all. It's going to be really affordable at about 22 pounds or around 35 US/AUS dollars... So stay tuned and if you like the idea go onto Lightcase on facebook and please do share it with anyone you know who could use one too. If you have any feedback at this stage, we'd love to hear your thoughts so leave a comment below.

Kickstarter Campaign Launch Monday 31st March 2014

Like the Lightcase on Facebook to keep up with the campaign


Monday, 6 January 2014

Christmas orders

Happy New Year! Just a little eye candy for my first post for 2014, here are some of the guys I made up for Christmas orders, hopefully they made their way into the stockings of a few good children...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Foxy Samples

Just a quick post...working on some new patterns, here is my new fox design. This guy stands proud and he's on the run just like the foxes I've always spotted.

These are the first versions. I'm quite happy with him and his foxiness. Hopefully I'll be able to get some of these guys on Etsy soon although my haul of gorgeous wool blanket scraps is coming to an end...

I've also been making samples for a beautiful organic baby shop that I met with last week. These are two first versions of the polar bear and elephant using their gorgeous organic cotton and cashmere/wool blend fabrics... Filled with wool and embroidered with silk thread that I have dyed with rusty iron...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Woven blankets and blanket stitches

A friend collects old woven woollen blankets and makes hot water bottle covers from them. I was lucky enough to receive a bag of the scraps. I'm often too precious with bigger pieces of textiles that I collect and find it difficult to settle on a worthy project for them. So I love finding little scraps because you can be sure whatever you do with them it's going to be more worthwhile than sending them to the tip!

The blanket scraps were just big enough to make into a skulk of foxes. There is something very foxy about plaid, maybe it's the story book illustrations of foxes dressed in tweed. Anyway I think these guys look pretty dashing...

The blanket stitched edging around these blankets is just too special to discard and thankfully my friend had not been able to bring herself to throw them away.  Rolling the edging into little scrolls makes gorgeous coloured rounds that I have been stitching together into interesting brooches. 

Christmas is just around the corner now and I have my work cut out if I'm to complete all the projects I've started in time. For a maker Christmas always brings with it a sense of urgency and pressure as if the world stops buying handmade for another year. But like this little scroll below the world still goes around and around, as does the desire to continue to make and mend.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Reclaiming the Nights

Gosh, this year has flown by. It's terrible, I haven't posted since my February wet felted chair fiasco for a number of reasons. One being that said chair is like a thorn in my side, sitting there unfinished, slowly un-felting itself and unravelling into a ball of fluff. This was an experiment that needed a little more time than I currently have what with a wild one year old in tow.


Said one-year-old is the other reason I haven't posted in a while. Above is a portrait of him by the 4 year old and that is the child himself. You can kind of see what I mean can't you.

So I have reclaimed the nights for creative expression and moved my studio into the living room where I currently work by night after baby is asleep. I'm loving my view from the window which I rarely get to enjoy since it's usually dark out by the time I get to my desk.

This is a little Christmas needle felted Angel that I've started working on. She hangs by the window and I love how the sunlight glows through the wool and mohair and catches in the gold beaded halo.

Because Christmas is approaching I've been working on more woolly polar bears. I've started tailoring clothes for the bears too.

This guy is listed on Etsy already and there will be more joining him soon

Now this is a curious device that I can't wait to try out. I found it on the shelves of a charity shop in one of my favourite English towns Hebden Bridge, North Yorkshire. It has the original post label on the box which reads "Scotia Wools Ltd, 158 New Bridge Street, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1. Mrs Gardner, 32 Hodgkin Park Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. Date 10/11/1948. " It has a 9 pence stamp on the box.
I'll take more photos of the thing itself soon. I'm looking forward to trying it out. Who knows maybe I'll start making rugs next. Has anyone ever come across one of these? 

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Wet Felting a Bent Wood Chair

I'm working on a little experiment at the moment, covering found furniture with wool. On top of a smooth wet felted surface I then plan to add texture with knitting, needlefelt and other needlework techniques. To begin with I have removed the wooden seat round and entirely wrapped the chair with wool rug selvedge yarn. The seat is surprisingly comfortable and stable with just a figure of eight wrapping around the seat circumference.

The chair looks surprising good as it is but I would like to create a very durable and smooth felted surface that I can then embellish with other textures. The seat pad I plan to work separately with wet and dry felting and then attach to the seat and felt it in. 

So far I've started by wrapping the covered chair in fibre that I have prefelt with dry felting and wound wool around it to keep it in place and then started the wet soaping felting process. I'm just experimenting at the moment to see what problems might come up. So far it has been difficult keeping the fibres from separating when shrinking and the prefelt has been helping with that. 

After the chair, I intend to felt a small coffee table that I found and a very sweet little foot stool with worn patches of tapestry that I intend to "restore" with needlefelting. Stay tuned. Any tips or suggestions welcome! 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A spot of dyeing

I confess, it's been a while since my last post. So much creating has happened, no less a little baby boy called Emrys being one of the most delightful of them. It's been a busy time with no time for blog posts, but this is something I hope to correct in 2013. Is it too early for resolutions. Christmas hasn't even passed yet.

Anyway, before the baby wakes here is a spot of dyeing that I did recently on a silk shirt that I chanced upon at the Melbourne Suitcase Rummage. I finally got those Silver Dollar Eucalyptus leaves to pay out their red orange tones and I love the result.

It's amazing what a few leaves, a handful of rusty nails, some string and a little water can do. I've run into two of my fellow Beautiful Silks India Flint workshop companions in the past month in Melbourne and on both occasions we have all by chance been wearing eco-dyed silk garments. Thank you India for your inspiration.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Sourdough Crumpets / Blueberry Hotcakes

These Sourdough crumpets or hotcakes have been a revelation in our house. They are absolutely divine. Forget pancakes these are so much better! So light and fluffy, yet crunchy and a perfect vehicle for butter and honey, or cheese, or blueberries and bacon and maple syrup New York style.

For anyone with a sourdough starter I can only say, you must try this! For people without starters, it is so worth starting one just to make these. I have a dedicated jar of sourdough starter just ready for making crumpets whenever we need them.

Step 1: Get your starter ready - take two tablespoons of your regular sourdough starter and place in a large jar with 1 cup of white spelt flour (or regular unbleached white flour), mix with warm water thoroughly to make a porridge like consistency and leave jar out covered with a cloth for a few hours to activate the mix before retiring to the fridge until you are ready to make crumpets the following day or whenever you get around to it. It doesn't matter how old your starter becomes, it will perk up when you add the bicarb just before making the crumpets.
Here is the recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour

Sourdough Crumpets / Sourdough Blueberry Hotcakes
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp bicarb soda in a little water
Pour out what starter you have from your jar in a mixing bowl (the remnants of your starter in the jar will be enough to get your next batch of starter ready for future crumpets - add 1 cup of flour to the jar with water and mix to a porridge like consistency and return the jar to the fridge with a cloth lid)
Add salt and sugar to the starter and mix well. 
Heat a good quality fry pan with a little butter and lightly grease your crumpet rings/egg rings or cookie cutter rings and place them on the pan to heat up. If you don't have rings, don't worry, just blob the mix on the pan without rings and they'll be more like hotcakes. 
Just before cooking, add the bicarb water mix and mix into the batter well. Put a dessertspoon full of mix into each ring, cook on a medium to low heat. You need to cook them until they dry out on top and the bubbles burst. Might take up to 10 minutes. Try to use the mix up in one cooking batch as the bicarb will wear off quickly unless you get the batter cooking. 
If you don't have enough rings while you wait for them to cook, just pour the rest of the batter into small fry pan and make one really big crumpet which you can cut into segments and toast. 
When the top has dried out, remove the rings, flip the crumpets and just cook for 1-2 mins on the bubbles side just to brown. 
Before serving, lightly toast the crumpets then lather on butter and honey, or stack them up pancakes style with fruit, yogurt and maple syrup.
Variation (as pictured) - Sourdough Blueberry Hotcakes: try adding a handful of frozen blueberries to the mix before cooking the crumpets or hotcakes and serving New York style a stack of them with crispy bacon and maple syrup. 


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Postpartum Recovery Pack - Because I'm Worth It!

With the birth of our second just around the corner, I wanted to share this postpartum pack that I've put together to help myself to a few different postpartum health and wellbeing traditions from other cultures. In the West new mums are generally given a couple of weeks to get themselves together and are then expected to go on doing whatever it was they were doing before childbirth. Well I'm planning on taking it easy and living it up in the first few weeks!

This pregnancy I've been reading a wonderful book by Aviva Romm called "Natural Health After Birth - The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness". Based on some of the things I've learned from this book I've put together a pretty beautiful postpartum recovery pack that I think all new mum's should be given. I think it would make the perfect gift for a pregnant friend. The baby gets loads of pressies but the Mum needs all the support she can get...A happy supported mum is a happy healthy baby.

The pack includes:

Hot Water Bottle with wool felted cover - ( just an old blanket with a needle felted design on the front). Traditionally heat is used a lot in the postpartum period across many cultures. Romm says "If any single theme from traditional postpartum care emerges from one culture to the next worldwide, it is the importance of keeping the new mother warm....heat usually goes beyond just keeping the ambient temperature warm, but also incorporates techniques for infusing heat deeply into the woman's body specifically for the purpose of facilitating postpartum healing." Mother Roasting or Fire Rest the practices were sometimes called. Also pictured here is the beautiful Weleda Nursing Tea, and of course nourishing superfoods in the form of raw chocolate by Loving Earth...
In Chinese traditional medicine Moxabustion was essential, so I have also included Moxa sticks which you can buy at most traditional chinese medicine centres...Use the moxa sticks to treat the area of the body over the sacrum on the back and on the front just above the pubic bone.
Bathing was another important traditional postpartum treatment. I made up some lovely herbal bath tea bags with Comfrey, Lavender and Calendula. This is a beautiful blend that is uplifting, soothing and healing. You simple boil a bag in a large pot of water, steep covered for 30 mins and pour into a hot bath. You can take the baby in the bath too for it will help heal the umbilical site. You can also use the spent tea bags directly on the perineum to help heal and soothe. Even better add a few drops of Hypericum/calendula homeopathic tincture to the muslin bag before applying to the perineum.

Nourishing herbs for the postpartum mother include: Motherwort, Shepherds Purse, Dong Quai and Nettle. There are more but these are the ones I chose and I had a naturopath make up a body tonic of these four herbs. 
Nettle is used for enriching and enhancing breast-milk production while providing optimal nutrients and energy for the mother. Motherwort is a bitter herb that helps reduce tension in new mothers and is used for strengthening the cardiovascular system. It is excellent for reducing nervous heart palpitations and anxiety and it is a uterine tonic which can help return the uterus to its nonpregnant size and allay cramps. Shepherds Purse helps to reduce postpartum bleeding and Dong Quai is a Chinese tonic herb that helps relax the uterine muscles and manage uterine cramping among many other things...
Massage is another important postpartum practice, in Malawi the midwives were noted to use their head on the abdomen on the mother and massage upwards to help return the uterus to its non pregnant position. Weleda's Arnica massage oil is gorgeous and slightly warming and arnica is brilliant for helping that feeling like you've just been hit by a bus. 
Did I mention Chocolate? What postpartum healing pack would be complete without a selection of raw chocolate bars by Loving Earth. Chocolate releases endorphins and is stimulating and has so many health benefits I can't possibly list them all here!

So there you have it. I hope someone will see this and be inspired to make themselves or a loved one a similar postpartum pack because I think it would be the best gift you can give yourself or a new mother close to you.

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