Weekend doodles, felting and domestic Superwoman!

Getting ready for workshops
Getting ready for workshops

I am doing some needle felting workshops this coming weekend, so I spent some time making sure that the templates and patterns were ready. I am doing a Movember moustache pin workshop at Eternal Maker and it has been great fun making lots of different types of moustaches!

Full moon needle felted picture
Full moon needle felted picture

Needle felting is one of the most relaxing ways to create textile art, there is no sewing you simply push one fibre onto another with a barbed needle. I decided that I wanted to show just how flexible this medium is, so simply played with the fibres until I made this picture. Its like painting with fibre, and so joyous!

I have been doing a little ‘life laundry’ this weekend, it must be in preparation for winter. I spent a happy day clearing out the larder, fridge and freezer. Making lists of what I have and making it easier to find things! It is surprisingly satisfying – giving rise to a domestic superwoman!

Use a plant spray bottle they are far more effective
Use a plant spray bottle they are far more effective

I felt in need of some pretty flowers to compensate for the darkening nights, I bought some lovely cyclamen and house plants, a very pretty african violet and some poor little things being given away because they needed some loving!

While I was there I bought myself a couple of plant sprayers. (you know my love of vinegar) a plant spray bottle is far more effective way to use vinegar effectively. However they were a little boring so I spent a rather blissful half hour creating my own little label using sharpies! I do love the idea that it is a little bottle of magic! Once started though I had to stop myself from brightening up everything I can get my hands on!

Ode to Autumn – Make your own Harvest Wreath

I really enjoy walking my dog, we follow a path along a hedgerow and it is a real pleasure to see how much this changes over the seasons. It reminds me of school projects, collecting leaves from the nearby woods, the seasonal displays that seemed to create a wonderful rhythm with nature. 
Last year I was enthralled by the pretty shapes of the ivy leaves and they inspired me to make a winter wreath. This September the hedgerows are full of fruit and berries, the hawthorne berry looks so bright and cheery, blackberries abound but its the shapes of the foliage that catches my eye. Filigree leaved ferns, the flowers of the ivy, the marvellous variety of shapes of the leaves from oak to maple. 
These tiny crab apples simply spill from every branch, in clusters of tiny apple perfection – 
they seem like food for fairies. 
The wheat has gone, leaving behind stalks and dry earth but I felt inspired to pay homage to Autumn and create my very own Harvest Wreath. Salt dough is the perfect medium, as bread distorts the shape as it proves. It also means that I can keep the wreath to display next year if I want. 
Make a dough using half salt to flour, (I used two cups of flour and one cup of salt) 
Add enough water to make a dough and then divide it into three. 
Put two lumps of dough in a plastic bag until needed to prevent the dough drying out. 
Roll out with a rolling pin until about 0.5cm 1/2 inch, thick
Use a saucer or side plate to create a circle template. 
Then add a handle, (you can use the plate edge to create smooth curves) 
cut away the excess dough.
 Place the plaque carefully on a baking tray lined with parchment. 
Roll out sausages of dough in long thin strips and cover the ‘handle’ area. 
dampening the area with a little water to stick the strips to the base. 
Make a little bow at the curve and add a little mouse if you like. 
Place two paperclips with their closed end overhanging the base 
at the 11o’clock and 1 o’clock positions. 
Place a little dough over the top to seal them
ensuring there is enough visible to allow you to hang the plaque
Make the ears of corn: make a small sausage about 1cm half an inch long, 
snip along the sides with small scissors. 
Dampen the base a little with water, lay the corn down starting from the outside and 
working towards the centre. 
You can make bigger/smaller ears of corn if needed to fill gaps. 
When your dough model is complete place in a low oven until hard. 
Depending on your oven it can take hours or left overnight. 
If it doesn’t brown up as much as you like you can use watercolour paints
or felt tips to highlight areas. 
When you are happy, seal with a spray varnish. 
Hang your plaque somewhere you will enjoy seeing it, 
but protect it from excess moisture otherwise it will crumble. 
ttfn x 

Lovely lazy Saturday

Saturday mornings are a pleasure all of their own, it is waking up with that feeling you don’t have to rush anywhere. Weekend breakfasts are lengthy, tea in a tea pot, tea cups and the Guardian Quiz. (Only three correct this week!) I love scotch pancakes (or dropped scones if you prefer), these are extra good for you because they are from my low GI cookbook, I also make them with a little fruit sugar rather than normal sugar. They are filling and mean I can often last out to lunch. 
You simply put two heaped tablespoons of SR flour, Wholemeal Flour and one table spoon of porridge oats and Fruit sugar into a bowl. Add half a teaspoon of baking powder and mix well. Then add two large eggs to the centre, gradually bringing in the dry ingredients, add milk gradually until you have a thick batter. 
Heat a griddle or frying pan, and brush with  a mixture of oil and butter. (Butter creates a lovely buttery flavour to the pancakes, but you have to turn the heat down a little otherwise it smokes). Put a tablespoons of the mixture on the griddle – keeping them slightly apart. Watch the mixture turn from glossy to dull, then turn over to cook the other side. Leave on a kitchen towel to soak any excess oil, delicious to eat while warm. 

I have almost finished curtain wrestling, – I can’t call it sewing there was simply too much material! Double width, 90″ drop and lined with black out lining! I had to sew on the dining room table in order to have support for all the fabric! I shall let them hang for a while and then finish the bottoms. As you can see my beloved Bernina is back in action! 

One tip I learned from Maria from Clothkits is that she keeps a little pin cushion on her machine, it is an ideal place! This little lovely was bought at a craft fair quite a few years ago, it sits perfectly on that spot! It might be my imagination but I did not have quite so many pins on the floor afterwards! 

Cake is also the perfect pick me up – the rain might have been pounding on the windows, but you can’t beat a nice home made Victoria Sponge, cuddled up on the sofa, yet another pot of tea close at hand, watching a good film. 
I used cocktail sticks to create a little design on the top. 

It looks like a firework! I used the plum jam I made a few weeks ago, it was nice and tart and a great contrast to the sweet icing. 
The weather outside might be frightful, but home is so delightful! 
Happy Autumn

September Seasons of Mists

September is considered the first month of Autumn here, but the Sep comes from seven, when it was the seventh month of the Roman Calendar! While the hedgerows are full of blackberries they are still not ripened, which is surprising given the long hot summer days we had.  I went to my Son’s for dinner on Saturday and came to the realisation that Autumn is definitely upon us, I was chilly for the first time in months. I woke up this morning and put on tights – and was looking at all my summer dresses thinking that it was time to start putting them away, I told S and he smiled saying that maybe I might need them if we went somewhere warm! It cheered me up!

Saturday was the monthly table top sale at St Mary’s church – there is a wonderful variety of stalls but I was delighted to find this gorgeous little sandwich plate, as you can see by my tea cup it matches perfectly with my little tea set. I don’t think I shall ever grow out of playing with tea sets. A snip at £3! I also found a lovely wicker picnic basket, which I love to use for storage in my studio – it is just the perfect size another bargain at £2!

We had a lazy weekend really, just relaxing at home – the joy of working from home means that you can keep up with Domesticity without chores encroaching on your weekend. After visiting the table top sale we ambled over to Rose Green Centre of Art and Craft where there was an Autumn painting work shop taking place. The centre is wonderful selling lots of work from local artists as well as running regular workshops on different themes. I signed up for a printmaking course next Saturday – I have been wanting to explore printing for a long time so I am now thinking about what to design!

I love my new casserole dish – there is something fabulous about cast iron cookware. Yes it is very heavy but this is such a gorgeous shade of blue and cream – an addition to my pot I bought a few months ago. I love cooking with these pots, they keep such a great even temperature – you can switch them off or down low and they retain the heat for a long time. 
I have also been re-vamping some things… will post more soon but until then here is a tiny taster …

Cupcake Cushion

My friend was moving  to a wonderful flat situated above a baker shop, we discussed the marvellous delights of waking up to the smell of warm bread and baking on cold mornings it seemed such a lovely place. 
It was while I was making a card for her, using crayons I came up with the idea of a cup cake house, but then I realised it would also make a lovely cushion and a great a housewarming present – since we were coming into Autumn I wanted to use warm fabrics like wool and tweed – there is something really comforting about these fabrics in Autumn when all I can think about is cuddling up on the sofa with a good book as the evenings draw in. 
I love working with tweed, it is so soft and easy but can fray, so I made sure all the appliqué was backed – it is much easier to draw the outline on the fusible interfacing first then adhere the pattern to the fabric – then cut out it seals the edges much better. 
I took a square of fabric, and added a contrasting border – adding side strips first then adding the top and bottom. It was approximately 3 inch strips of pink tweed. 
Taking the hill template, I cut the background green then added the fabric strips on top, I loved the flower cotton and the curved edges added to the overall effect. The pathway was from beautiful textured tweed, which is why this is such a delight to work with. After attaching the hill to the cushion top I simply added decorative stitched lines in green to continue the flow – it looks just like an upturned umbrella! 
The top of the cupcake was made in layers, first I mad the little window, using a reverse appliqué technique topped off with a little machine embroidery.  I added a little roof topping and used black stitching to give the child like drawing to the project. 
The cupcake base had a little curved door and I used stitching lines to indicate the folds in the cupcake adding two more windows. Then it was a case of layering it onto the backing fabric
I found a delightful tiny heart shaped button in my stash that made a lovely door handle. As you can see I was considering using a different background while I was at this stage but in the end decided on the pale blue – I was concerned that the cupcake would not stand out enough but I resolved that by using the black stitching. 
After backing the cushion with wadding, I quilted a cloud with the sun just peeping behind, using a simple zig zag stitch. I used crayons to increase the shading slightly to give a hint of colour change. 
So the top was ready, I machine stitched the edges down now that the cushion had some backing it gave a lovely quilted effect, I followed the edge of the appliqué shape as well which gave it a little more depth. I also stitched my ‘cherry’ red button to the top. 
I felt a button closure was more important and used these lovely wooden buttons from a stash I bought in a charity shop. I always find it easier to mark out the button gaps before stitching otherwise I end up with the gaps either too big or too small! It also means that I have a good spacing, which tends to go awry when I do it by eye! As it was a gift I wanted to get it right! 
So here is the finished cushion, I found it hard to part with it! Maybe I should make one for me too now! 

Pink, blue and white

Autumn is the time for warmer textures, and I love the feel of this soft tweed, the colours are so pretty and I think it is only right to have a union Jack cushion in 2012! The bath bombs are ready to use on those dark winter nights, nothing like a bit of strawberry fizz to perk you up. 
I have just hooked out my cord skirts and jumpers, I love this time of year, cosy nights, warm clothes walking in the crisp air with sunshine. A poet once said that Autumn makes every leaf a flower and that is true. It is late coming here, we are already in October and from my window I watch the trees dancing but they are still very green. I have the heating on, and I am wearing my lovely soft velvet coat again. Simple pleasures. 

September

I love September it gives me a sense of connection at no other time of year, although it heralds the start of Autumn for me it is all about new beginnings.

I remember that excitement of walking to school again after the long summer holidays with a spring in my step the anticipation of a new class teacher or that sense of excitement when you step over the threshold of your senior school for the first time. I only have to close my eyes and I am walking through the piles of crunchy leaves smelling the crisp fresh air of September as I tread the path to school. September was a time when you were given new fresh exercise books and also where you were determined to ‘write neatly’ to preserve the beauty of the notebooks. I am sure the sheer delight I have in buying a vast and wide selection of notebooks harps back to this.

The other joy of this time of year is jam making and blackberry picking. We used to blackberry pick as children, enjoying the free food harvest and my mother would appreciate us bringing back plastic boxes laden with fruit to be made into blackberry and apple crumble. It was while I was out one day I came across an extraordinary woman, who I think influenced me more than any other. She took us back to her small victorian cottage where in her pieced together kitchen, a far cry from my Mother’s immaculate but hardly used fitted one, she taught us things like jam making, candid peel and cordials. Her garden was full of vegetables waiting to be picked sitting on her threadbare chaise long one afternoon after stirring the Christmas pudding, I think I decided this was how I wanted to live my life. It was a taste of domestic bliss. I knew she wasn’t as rich as we were as a family, her house was small and scruffy whereas ours was pristine and glossy, yet, I would have done anything to live in that small house with her. I think she was my inspiration and I do feel connected with her every time I make jam or bake a cake but especially when I pick blackberries because that was how we met.

I made both jam and raspberry syrup with my hoard, this jam is a pot full of memories spending a lovely warm sunny afternoon picking the raspberries chatting to my friend Trish. We were inspired by the talk by Rosemary Moon gave at the Blakes Belles the previous Monday. Rosemary made a couple of pounds of jam as well as apple curd and pickles within the space of an hour or so. She also told us about the Apple Festival coming up at West Dean I am really looking forward to going, not only do they do some wonderful courses, but they have the most beautiful grounds I have been told. Rosemary Moon’s website is a sheer delight and if you are looking for recipes that really do work well then I can recommend it. She really does know her stuff, and had us all giggling. I love it when we can be inspired by others.

The other joy of September is that I feel the excitement building for Christmas, I love planning and cooking and making things for the Celebration and it is a wonderful three months, but then that is another post.

Happy jam making!