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Author: Antje

Lichen – Part 2 – Continued experiments put to work!

Lichen – Part 2 – Continued experiments put to work!

In my recent post (  I made the statement….

‘Having admitted that I can’t do ‘loose’, I was born unquestionably inquisitive so my forté is experimenting. This seems to get around my inner critic & certainly fuels my more serious endeavours.’

In hindsight I should be more forthcoming and admit that I have an almost insatiable curiosity of the world around me – anyone who knows me will be nodding emphatically – as my curious child within has never stopped….’Why?’, ‘How?’, What happens if….?’, ‘Can I just ask?’ etc, etc.

The result – I’ve learned (sadly, age, now means I’m forgetting much of it!) and witnessed a lot, even wandering off in foreign lands (to the consternation of others, but fortunately to no harm!) and experiment endlessly….often tweaking the ‘rules’….🤪 no surprise!

So here I’ll show more of my lichen, Mottainai experimenting….

As I’ve said many times, I’m often to be found pondering….Mmmm, what happens if? Then of course I go down yet another rabbit hole….Is this a sign of a creative mind? – but I digress!….Playing with plastic milk bottles has been a typical example of not only disappearing into the rabbit hole (the point I was at in my last post!)….

….but of getting waylaid exploring it’s warren!

When I’m out and about I’m always stopping to take photos.

An aside – Six months ago I joined the ‘modern’ folk and got a replacement to my 12-year-old mobile phone (the salesman was almost hysterical with laughter as was I 🤣). It has been an exponential upward curve of learning (and still is)….BUT, having done my homework, it has given me a brilliant camera….yay…no more lugging a separate camera around!

Of the many genre of photos I take, Mother Nature always takes the biscuit! I see something, my mind races and then I’m off down another rabbit hole!

Many of my experiments are something I can do whilst TV chillin! The crochet rings above, whilst time consuming are effective & relatively easy. However not all experiments work well – crocheting over the commercial lace, another ‘what if?’, became a….’NEVER again’

Having now shown several of my experiments I can hear you shouting – ‘How are you going to use them?’

So in answer to that question, and before I send everyone to sleep, I’ll present one example of how I’ve pieced together a few of the 100s of elements to create a lichen inspired textile piece.

The finished work attached to the backing matt
The finished piece mounted proud of the backing matt

Creating this piece I re-purposed as much as I could including –

  • a surplus to requirements, circular piece of felt – I love circles.
  • some crocheted waste yarn that was left over after buying a commercial jumper from a charity shop for the sequin yarn that was fashionable a few years ago….it took me so long to unpick the jumper and separate the plain and sequined yarns! Next time I might just buy the expensive sequin yarn new!
  • Manipulated plastic food bags and crisp packets – all cleaned of course!
  • Viscose staple fibres from a community store (selling ‘waste’ products from industry)
  • Oh yes, even some felted dog hair!

All combined with machine stitching, hand embroidery (incl – colonial knot, my favourite knot, bullion & sorbello stitch) and some beading.

And finally….framed (I’m delighted to say I won a 2nd prize for textile work in an area competion), using an Ikea Sannahed 35x35cm frame.


A post script to make you smile – when you are on your own, with have no extra hands to help unwind a hank of yarn….

No extra hands - so use feet!
No extra hands! And a bemused furry canine!
Lichen, textiles & my goal – Part 1 Experimenting

Lichen, textiles & my goal – Part 1 Experimenting

I’m enchanted by lichen. Also, by moss, fungi and forest floor wonders, although to a slightly lesser degree. Sit quietly next to a tree, some old wood, weather-worn stone or metal and look….really look…… can easily be transported into a micro magical world of different shapes, texture and growth patterns, not to mention the incredible subtlety of colours.


Close up of moss & lichen on wooden garden bench
Close up of moss & lichen on wooden garden bench

Just as we have omnivores, vegetarians and vegans etc, curly hair, straight hair or….no hair 😉, in the lichen world there are 3 main types – foliose, fruticose and crustose. The last two are almost self-explanatory – fruticose, bearing fruiting bodies whilst crustose is….well, crusty! This is an extreme simplification….so any lichenologists reading this (yes, I learnt there are such specialists, along with funginerds or funginuts), please – don’t shout at your screen!  

Common orange lichen, Xanthoria parietina
Common orange lichen, Xanthoria parietina

Why do I love them?

Lichens are our pioneers. Generally, they are the first to settle anywhere, growing in so many different substrates and habitats including in some of our planet’s most extreme conditions (artic tundra, mountains, hot deserts, after fire destruction, even toxic environments) some even grow inside solid rock (!!!) and they cover about 7% of our planet’s surface.

Six lichen photos  by Richard Droker
Six lichen photos by Richard Droker

Lichens are symbiotic so if they live on a plant, they only use it as a base rather than stealing nutrients. They can be used for food, dyes, and medicine and, due to their long life-span and slow regular growth (the world’s oldest living organism, Rhizocarpon geographicum, ‘map lichen’ is thought to be 8,600 years old) some lichen species are used as a means of telling the age of rocks. The oldest lichen fossil dates from about 400 million years ago. Generally, growth is extremely slow, with most crustose lichen growing only 1-2mm in diameter per year! There are about 20,000 known species and can be regarded as self-contained miniature eco-systems that often thrive in communities.

Wow – as humans we should be learning so very much.

Colours, depending on special pigments, can vary from reds, oranges, yellows and browns or bright green to olive grey and black. Then there is another whole overlay of colour depending on whether the lichen is wet or dry.

Four Lichen photos by Richard Droker
Four Lichen photos by Richard Droker

I’ve been fascinated for years with the amazing beauty of lichens and thought I’d finally do something about it.

So, I’m currently working on a personal project – translating what I see, and perhaps feel, into mixed media/textile creations. There are so many extremely talented artists, worldwide, who are recreating realistic representations particularly in textiles (Amanda Cobett is one such artist), that I’d fail miserably if I went down that route.

Sketches of interesting patterns from lichen etc
My sketches of interesting patterns from lichen etc

My goal is to ‘see’ either from life or research online photos (Richard Droker, above, is just one of the many amazing photographers worldwide) and interpret my findings using what I have to hand around me. At this point I need to add, that I’m a firm believer in the Spirit of Mottainai – the idea of respecting resources and not wasting them.

View down one side only of a wool shop in Germany, with shelves stacked full of so many wonderful yarns
View down one side only of a wool shop in Germany, with shelves stacked full of so many wonderful yarns

Yes, I will buy new supplies (I’m always being seduced by luscious yarns – who isn’t! – as evidenced by a recent trip to Germany), but I also want to repurpose and re-use where possible. I simply couldn’t throw out an extremely, seriously (you get the message!), wear-challenged sofa cover….it offered far too much potential. We won’t talk about where it will be stored!!!

Worn, thready, fabric stiched onto a contrast fabric snippet
Worn, thready, fabric stiched onto a contrast fabric snippet

I want simply to evoke the magical landscapes I see. Mmmm….’evoking’,’ Mottainai’, ‘re-purposing’….I didn’t set out to write a mission statement….😜

My poor EPH (Ever patient husband) dare not throw anything out. I often see a clutter of spent, used items (garbage in other words), on the kitchen work surface….

’What the devil?’

’I didn’t know if you needed them?’

Guaranteed the one item he does throw away was the very item I particularly wanted! Oh yes, my hairdresser, shop keeper and even our car mechanic haven’t escaped unscathed!

Bags & bags of experiments, all stored in boxes.
Bags & bags of experiments, all stored in boxes.

My experiments involve sewing both by machine and hand, crocheting (I dislike knitting intensely), ironing, printing, playing with liquids for chromatography, burning (many methods & always next to the sink – I value my house too much!), bending metal, soldering….in other words – I’ve been wracking my brain for every technique I’ve ever used….over very many decades!

I’ve also, mischievously (there’s always one!), taken the opportunity during our local textile group’s workshops to further my exploits.

Some experiments fall in line with Thomas A Edison’s theory – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.

Wool & carded wool tops needle felted together not a good result
Wool & carded wool tops needle felted together – not a good result

Having studied a great many lichens online, I tend to see something destined for the bin & then think ‘ah ha – that reminds me of….’

So herewith a few other experiments to date….

I also need to explain at this point that whilst I do have patience, I like the creation of individual elements to be the most effective and speediest….for me!!!! This involves challenging myself to find an easier method to achieve the same result – ie trying to create 3D mounds to represent moss, I tried several old techniques including velvet stitch and Victorian tufting, but my patience was not of the centennial variety. So, I thought long and hard and devised a method using the sewing machine and hand stitching. EPH reckons I only need a few more to make our new carpet!

The challenge also includes remembering to keep detailed notes 😉

Notes & samples of experiments
Notes & samples of experiments

All I need now is ‘time’ to put my experiments to good use….it is on my wish list!

I hope the next time you look at any lichen you will delve below the surface. Let us know of your findings.

The making of ‘Barnie’ – part 2

The making of ‘Barnie’ – part 2

Following a workshop I did with Helen Walsh, I left you all hanging….with an acetate tracing over Barnie’s face to ensure perfect placement of his eyes.

Barnie with his Acetate overlay

Now, I will explain how he got his distinctive features….

Having decided at the very outset on a cropped image, Barnie’s face was going to be the most important element in the overall picture. Um-ing, ah-ing and generally ruminating, I finally decided that to achieve the measure of importance he deserved, his face needed to be 3D. Then came more ruminating, and a good sprinkle of cogitating, to work out the best way to achieve said 3D effect.

I finally settled on padding out his nose using some cotton quilt wadding. Placement, particularly vertically, was critical and took various trial & error attempts….

The wadding (marked with heat-reactive pen) ‘opened out’ to show the final shape

Completely covering the wadding with the same fabric as his head gave the correct amount of ‘lift’ – tiny dabs from a glue stick worked perfectly as it was very fiddly!  This was then stitched and blended into place with more fly stitches.


We all know the eyes are the window to the soul and importantly what makes a crafted being come alive. Sadly, you may recall, the original photo was not ideal in terms of eyes or beak.

Fortunately, October owl was blessed with great ‘wide open’ eyes, so I simply interpreted them in stitch and fluffed out the fabric to create his nostril feathers.

Highlights still to be added

So far, so good – with everything relatively easy and going according to my new plan, which I must admit had now moved very significantly away from first intentions of the workshop….Stop thinking 🤔….Yep, you are now getting ahead of me in my story 😜

Since his face was now 3D, his beak could no longer be the fabric I’d first trialled for use.

This is where suddenly something very simple became very difficult and very time consuming….trying to find the right beak material and how to achieve the right colour. Barnie was no longer a flat appliqué piece having become more representational, so it all had to be ‘right’.


But try curving plastic in 2 directions especially when it is so small!!! Think….coiled spring! ’Ping’….’Where has the blooming thing (or similar 😜) gone this time?’ Hair dryer = no, heat gun = no (total distortion) etc, etc. Hours, of ruminating, later….maybe cutting the piece from the corner of the plastic container would help?….Taadaa.

In the meantime, attempting to get the right colour match to October owl beak, using supplies available in the house, were unsuccessful….even nail varnish was tried! Problem – whilst I was easily able to mix the colour with paint, it just wouldn’t stick permanently to the plastic, neither on the outside nor the inside, and it always looked streaky and way too shiny….totally wrong!

Finally (a couple of weeks have elapsed by this point, with way too much ruminating having gone on….just for….a BEAK!!!) I hit on 2 simple ideas – chocolate and sandpaper. The sandpaper I carefully used to roughen both the inner and outer surfaces….Barnie has certainly lived and been scratching around for his food!

Chocolate?….it was the image from a cardboard box – yes, I did happily enjoy the Chocolate eclairs (shared of course)! Soaking the back, I carefully finger-rubbed all the cardboard away (a great way to hide one’s identity as it stripped my fingerprints away for days) leaving only the very thin printed paper image, which I then successfully glued to the inside of Barnie’s beak. All this time and trouble….I can already hear your cries, echoing mine earlier…. for just a……..BEAK!

It was then onto stitching the very distinctive barn owl feather ‘spots’ (open chain & seed) before auditioning supplies for the snow.

I finally settled on two very different materials, crystal organza and viscose staple fibres which I needle-felted into the linen edge. The organza was too shiny and the colour just wasn’t right. I much preferred the subtle sheen of the viscose which also allowed me to make full use of the interesting ‘matted’ bits. Some might argue that if I wanted to be more authentic my white colours should be swapped – the snow to be more blue and the owl more off white! I’ll just content myself by saying that it is a trick of the lighting.

You can just see the subtle sheen

Finally – mounting time….

After ironing/steaming out the circles left by the embroidery hoop which was an ‘oh boy!’ nightmare….any advice is welcome here!….I did not lace the picture as would be traditional but adopted a newer stretching technique I have learned.

The linen picture was laid, in its exact position for the mount aperture, onto some thin cotton wadding suitably cut to my 37x37cm (14.5×14.5in) frame size. I wanted the finished picture to feel softer rather than tautly stretched, hence the wadding.

Together this was laid onto thin cardboard (again cut to frame size), through which I had machine stitched (largest stitch length, no thread) a square. The sandwich of cardboard, wadding and linen were then hand stitched together. I even pencilled a line on the linen warp & weft to ensure accuracy….ooops perfectionism struck again!

I hope you have enjoyed Barnie’s journey into being. He is now quietly bemused watching my activities, and he won’t be leaving my side any time soon!

Have you had small niggly details that just needed to be right? Or are you more ‘Laissez faire’?















Barnie – part 1

Barnie – part 1

In May, our textile group held a workshop to create a bird portrait using either machine or hand embroidery. Our tutor was the talented artist, Helen Walsh who creates bird pictures using applique and free motion stitching.

These days, I like to be prepared or might that be….‘forewarned!’ So, having researched her website I set about choosing a suitable bird….but, I love Barn owls….therefore, no decision required on that front! The only choosing needed was simply one of finding the right pose, particularly as I only wanted a part of the bird (I’d already realised that for me to complete the entire bird would be extremely time consuming)….Pinterest, Google & Flickr to the rescue.


I loved the curious owl on the right with his tilted head


The background snowy grass scene caught my attention

I created many photomontages of owls at rest, paying particular attention to the details of feathers and face. Two images stood out. One that I felt I could crop but still give me some simple background interest, the second was the angle of head. Some computer fiddling and….Taadaa

Cropped image is on the left

The cropped image now has a tilted head!















Once at the workshop, Helen showed us many samples taking us through the process and gave us many hints, tips & tricks to bring our birds to life.

Our first task was to create a tracing of our bird so that we could cut out suitable fabric pieces and commence our applique/stitching work.

I was so absorbed throughout the day that I totally forgot to take any production photos!


You will notice that the original photo owl’s face was a bit sad looking and his beak somewhat indeterminate. However, luck was totally on my side….literally. My friend, village neighbour and sewing buddy, sitting right next to me, had brought last year’s calendar of wild birds with her – October offered the most beautiful barn owl face. Just perfect.

By the time I remembered to take photos I was well underway having machine stitched all my Bondaweb-backed fabric in place onto a subtle fawn/grey linen, using sheers for the distant pieces of grass, overlapped with more substantive fabric for the foreground. I had already started hand stitching (fly) on top of the FME feather details (with rows of blanket stitch around the head) and was attempting to apply Barnie’s face….Yes, he had now been named!



The end of a busy workshop, but I wasn’t happy with Barnie’s face.  It was all too symmetrical with his wing feathers and just didn’t have the correct all-important inquisitive tilt I wanted, so I had to pull off his beak and one of his eyes….ouch!

At home I was able to reassess the whole face and consider how I could make it more alive. Conclusion – sorry, but Barnie lost his other eye too….ouch, again! This did however allow me to add more feathery details (fly stitch) unhindered.

Aren’t heat-reactive pens wonderful – his face now mostly clean!

From the October owl I traced the face then manipulated it size-wise to fit, finally drawing it onto OHP acetate to ensure the ‘perfect’ placement of Barnie’s new wide eyes.

I hope I have left you sufficiently intrigued as to how he acquires his remaining features….

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Conjuring up a tale from the past

Thinking I would share with you something from my past – I went to search for various elements that I knew I had not thrown away and had just seen in the last few months. Suddenly, I was thrown into the midst of a magic trick….pooooof….they had completely vanished!

Much searching and wand waving resulted, some days later, with the completion of the magic trick….the big reveal….of that which was lost.

In deciding to share this ‘something’ from my past, I gave myself a shock….it was from 1997! Although off-piste re wool fibre, I think it might still hold some interest, so please ignore the date and 24 year gap.

To briefly explain the background – I had enjoyed upholstery and soft furnishing as a hobby for many years, then an opportunity presented itself for me to teach these skills. To demonstrate competence, I was ‘very-encouraged’ to get some ‘official’ qualifications, so set about studying upholstery. I managed to complete the two-year course in one year and won a significant award. Following this a few interesting opportunities came my way including an invite to be part of a calendar production, I agreed, and was then commissioned to make an upholstered item.

I was to be ‘April’….you can wipe away all images you might have conjured up of flower bouquets, artists’ palettes, extra-large buns or samples of fabric strategically placed. This was not to be a repeat of the Calendar Girls!



A few ideas floated around, but fairly quickly I had the….Tadaa moment….an upholstered screen!

I then pontificated (this word really does describe the process I went through) over how to represent the month of April in the screen. The big dilemma here, was that I normally used purchased commercial fabrics, so I was in a quandary as to how I could manipulate them.

Much of my early thinking revolved around the months, year and particularly the seasons and the continuum or seasonal cycle. There are four seasons so the screen could have four parts. Colours could blend from spring through summer and autumn to typical wintery colours. This also implied an organic quality. Another factor I had to bear in mind was that once finished with, the screen would be mine to keep, so I also needed to create something that would ‘fit’ into my life.

I then started to think more specifically about April and the first thing that came to mind was the phrase built into our British psyche – ‘April showers’ (in the UK April was always a month dominated by showers although global warming seems to be changing things a bit since). Then came the idea of which flowers bloomed in April – Forget-me-not, viola, wallflower, honesty, iris, primula, grape hyacinth etc. From this list I distilled the colours – yellow, purple, rose and blue. Then of course April is the fourth month….decision made – the screen must definitely have four parts!

So far so good.

Research & idea gathering

More research (there was no Google or Pinterest back in the day!) and thinking (my thinking, even to this day, involves doodles on scraps of paper, lots of them) followed, particularly in terms of how I could translate water/rain into an upholstered work. The only way I was going to achieve any of my ideas was to create my own fabric. So then started another direction of thinking and decision making. Fortunately, I had dabbled previously with painting on silk, so this seemed the natural path forward.

By this time I had also honed my thoughts as to the construction, made complicated by the fact that a screen can be viewed from two sides which meant attaching the fabric would be fiddly. With most of my main thoughts galvanised I produced a detailed drawing (the easiest task as an architect) that I sent off for approval from the relevant calendar committee.

I couldn’t quite get the organic element I wanted then I struck lucky and saw an image in a National Geographic magazine that set the ball rolling for the final layout. Sadly, I cannot find that image today, but from memory it was one showing the broken circular rim of a volcano protruding through an ocean.

I often trace lines from magazine images, but these just didn’t cut the mustard.

A carpenter made 3 sets of frames – the main screen frame which I then dyed to the right colour and finished, the inner mounting frames for the fabrics and the frames for me to stretch and paint the silk.

I had the ironsmith create the post finials (normally found on iron railings) which I kept deliberately removable from the posts so that I would be able to transport the screen without injury either to person or vehicle!

Meanwhile I concentrated on getting the silk panels painted for which I trialled some coloured pencil alternatives. Missing ‘something’ I stamped a golden design over the top to create more texture using carved/scored pizza bases.

The photocopied enlarged design. The outline was traced with a clear gutta resist before applying heat-set silk paints

The silk was laid onto a strong supporting cotton fabric and bits of masking tape were used to plot where the raindrops should be. After some practice, these were then machine stitched using lustrous shiny threads. This was quite a nerve-wracking point as you can imagine. Realising that from a distance, the raindrops would need more impact against the colour, out came a variety of beads from yet another of my stashes!

Developing the raindrops idea.

My then seven-year-old son giving me a helping hand.

The silk panels were combined with the commercial fabric and the screen completed in sufficient time for the photo shoot.

Designed to fit into my ‘then’ house (floor to top of iron finial the screen measures 1.65m (5ft 5in)and taller than me!) which had 3m high ceilings. In my ‘now’ house I have just 28cm (11in) clearance above the screen!!!
24 years later!

The flip side

Continuing another side to the story….I’ll make it short!

The venue was set and to take place at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Museum in West Yorkshire. All the equipment was set up and my screen placed in position – complete with a free standing shower head!….April shower anyone? – Someone had some fun-thinking in the planning….all of which took hours as you can imagine.

Organised chaos and smoke screens!

Finally, after they had tested and rehearsed everything including a smoke bomb to represent the steam train, ‘the’ photo was captured.

The final museum photo with a museum railway guard doing the honors – I love how the colours echoed each other.

The published 1998 Calendar photo

Throughout the morning the crew and I had been laughing and joking….then came an unexpected question….would I be prepared to be tied up, and lie on the tracks in front of the train?….WHAT?!?!

Thus far the whole experience had been quite magical, and as I have a reasonably adventurous spirit….I agreed.

I won’t show you the photo where I was asked to ‘pretend’ to scream as if I was about to be run over by the train….I totally and utterly failed….it came out as a very real, loud, blood chilling, scream (definitely not a good photo)!

Waiting for them setting the camera up – thinking….“Did I really agree to this, it is soooo uncomfortable!”

What I haven’t mentioned is that all this took place on a Saturday and this popular museum was fully open to the general public….you might now be ahead of me….yes, we had built up quite an audience with our general activity behind the barriers….the ‘scream’ was the finale!

I will simply finish by saying – there was so much laughter all around, with folk bent over, much stomach holding and tears just rolling down.

Caught on camera, ages later, wiping away yet another round of laughter tears!

A long distant memory that continues to make me smile as I recount the tale 😊

Gaudi – part 2 – Definitely a challenge

Gaudi – part 2 – Definitely a challenge

So, I finished my last post having admitted to a rooky mistake (I had laid and worked the cord at 90 deg to the vertical! Opening out the wet structure gave me a distorted shape with 2 sides longer….oops I should have placed the cord on a curve. With my former career I have no excuses for (and nowhere to hide from) this mistake.) – the implication of that mistake went further….right to the base.

In perfect 20-20 hindsight, I should have stuck with my very original idea of a book resist, but in reality it was just so enormous….far beyond my comfort zone!

Putting that to one side, as the upper part of my structure (not the base) was the most important I decided to concentrate on getting that right.

After three days rest, while my brain was quietly whirring away in the background, ‘Gaudi’ was brought back into the action….

As I wasn’t happy with the previously stitched-in ‘cord’ that had created a fold on the inside, I cut it out – from the outside, as it would be covered later – it took a bit of tugging. The cut was then stitched closed and fibre stitches placed over to heal the long slit.

Still pondering the correct radius line – the arch was now measured and then finally, the appropriate curve drawn….this should all have been so simple for me!!!

After which I re-made and re-laid the cord.

Then it was onto the previously pre-felted ‘skirt’ – I cut triangles out to shape the ‘skirt’ onto the base, stitching the edges together (with thread & fibre) before felting the entire piece.

It was at this point inspiration hit (read that as drastic thoughts). As the mediaeval crowds might roar ‘Off with his head’….I simply shouted ‘off with it’s bottom’! In fact it proved the silver lining as it gave me the opportunity to get inside (without trying to do it through the resist removal hole) to felt the fibres and also to turn it inside out.

Ooooooh boy – my hands were just continually covered in stray fibres….the result of using-up un-named supplies!

Wet damp, but not dripping, it weighed 1.2 Kg and was a monster to work.

After drying it was off to the groomers with the hairy monster! There was so much surplus.

I don’t know how many razors (or lighters) I used

Several weeks have elapsed, and I’m feeling sufficiently energised to tackle it again….mentally & physically! I think we can all get to the point of being disillusioned and I had reached it. Although I didn’t go as far as a friend who, when she reaches this point, throws her work on the fire!

I have since wet felted a bottom using the various pieces of the leftover (from creating the ‘skirt’) pre-felted quilter’s wadding which I stitched together.

I love the surface texture of the piece and how the edge sits and will use it elsewhere. I’m wondering if it will take dye well?  

I’ve started applying decorative stitching, how much to do is an unknown. So too, I am undecided whether to apply its bottom (which I would attach with more decorative stitches) and create its ‘turret stopper’ or simply leave it all as it is….the little grey cells – they need to start working!

In the meantime, I have participated in 2 online felting courses – Paper & Felt with Fiona Duthie (I’ve yet to finish this in my own time) and the Milkweed seed with Judit Pócs which I successfully completed and have explored further adding a 3D resist into the mix. If you want to add to your repertoire of felting techniques, I can definitely recommend these courses.

Jan’s last post was about needle felting a tulip, a stunning framed piece for which a lovely tulip in her garden was the inspiration. I too adore tulips although our current beastly weather (frequent hail showers – some with 1cm stones!) has taken its toll. However, in amongst them there have been some surprises.….

….and some unusual seed pods have emerged too!

Just thought I’d share them with you.

Quite a first quarter challenge – Gaudi – part 1

Quite a first quarter challenge – Gaudi – part 1

Having decided to take part in the first challenge for 2021, which asked for us to take inspiration from the years 1900-1909, I immediately thought of Louis Comfort Tiffany with his beautiful glass and Antoni Gaudi the Barcelona architect. As I have been fans of their work forever, it wasn’t a problem to take the relevant books from my shelves and start researching. Thereafter I was still undecided.

I mentioned my dilemma on a Zoom meeting with felting fellows….Gaudi won.

I knew I wanted to challenge myself even further with different techniques in a 3D structure. Just how much of a challenge….I am still finding out!

Using my book and pictures from the internet I set about sketching and drawing various interesting elements from Gaudi’s vast repertoire of buildings, just to get a feel for shapes and get my brain into gear, thinking about the structure.

I haven’t done any serious sketching for years so the ‘pen and thinking’ took several weeks. Finally, decided on Güell Park 1900-1914, and set to.

I also decided on a few other things too – to go big (or bigger than recent artefacts) and to start using up ‘stuff’ in a bid to reduce my stash. This included using some pure wool quilt wadding, which I have posted on before ‘A yarn and preparation experiments’ and have now used a few times. The reverse side, where the ‘Vilene’ type fabric is still attached, had the perfect cracked tile effect for an homage to Gaudi. 

Those decisions made it was on to creating the shape and template. Having made a quick sample I knew that the shrinkage co-efficient was around 1.3….yep, you have read this right….I did make a small sample! It was then onto creating a typical Gaudi arch to the approximate size (the first arch was too thin, bearing in mind it would be opened up) – plate and bottle put to good use.

Also put to good use were vintage tools of my former trade!

Cutting out the resist and designing the remainder of the template/resist elements, another very very quick decision was made….measuring 62 x 39 cm (24 x 15 in)….this was NOT going to be a book template as I had originally sketched!

Note to self – permanent marker pen is permanent on fingers but not on a resist!

Finally it was onto fibre and materials, cutting the quilt wadding (my drift wood bricks from a bay in west Scotland are very useful) and repurposing a waistband from a deconstructed jumper.

Gaudi admired the writings of John Ruskin particularly ‘Ornament is the origin of architecture’ (Ruskin 1853) and he adhered to the thinking that an architect had to be both painter and sculptor. This is perfectly demonstrated in Güell Park where he let his imagination run fantastical in terms of shapes, structures and with everything decorated with colourful mosaics of ceramic tile fragments (ceramics being very popular internationally at that time).

Auditioning the fabrics to evoke the decorative mosaics, I found it interesting that Eusebi Güell, Gaudi’s greatest sponsor, lifelong friend and associate, was a businessman mainly in – textiles.

I started on the ‘collar’ by creating small patches of nuno pre-felt using scraps of fabric – I wasn’t worried that some didn’t overlap as it would add to the effect. Then cut these into the sketched shapes and pre-felted them to some wool wadding.

As I mentioned I was using up supplies, wool I had bought oh so many years ago….mmmm….I should have tried a sample first!  Suffice to say, I will be single handedly keeping the razor manufacturers in production!

Then it was onto the main event laying down a fine herringbone layer of wool, wadding, resist, wadding and wool, taking care to enclose the edges well, the whole was pre-felted. Following which the ‘cord was laid in place and the second layer of wadding added to each side – stitched at the edges for added insurance! The whole was worked to an early pre-felt stage.

Adding the viscose – the viscose I have is in circular bundles which needs to be cut, thereafter I need to peel a quantity off. If I don’t want a knotted mass, this last is achieved by wrapping it around my legs as a counterweight and gently pulling….thankfully you can’t see me demonstrating this technique.

Recently I came across a Russian felter, who immerses her similar viscose in fabric softener, then dries it ready for use. I am still experimenting with this trick – thus far it does seem to stop the viscose ‘snagging’ (just like silk) on my reasonably smooth hands.

I then cut it into smaller lengths (as it won’t draft off like wool fibre) and going for the ‘cloud’ effect I place it horizontally on my carders. Vertical placement, as for wool fibres, doesn’t work….it just slides off the carder, especially the softener treated viscose!

The screen is a good resting post for the viscose! The peach coloured hank has been treated with fabric softener.

Viscose applied in mixed colour ‘cloud’ layers up to the cord.

An off-centre cut made in the base it was time to remove the resist. If by this point you are scratching your head wondering why….my thinking is….holes have a habit of growing larger, so simply slicing off the top would create too big an opening in the top. If I felt the structure almost fully then cut off the top it might be better. I can easily stitch up and conceal the base slit….time will tell if my thinking was on solid foundations!

With the resist out I could concentrate on the stitched seams.

It was now time to try the ‘collar’ which fitted as planned….pheu….but it was at this point I realised I had made a fundamental rooky mistake….I had laid and worked the cord at 90 deg to the vertical! Opening out the wet structure gave me a distorted shape with 2 sides longer….oops I should have placed the cord on a curve. With my former career I have no excuses for (and nowhere to hide from) this mistake 🙁

My solution….thus far….has been (with enough felt in the base) to pull, push and stitch the cord inside to achieve the curve. The downside of this action is that I now have a fold on the inside….mmmm!

The base has been tucked inside to check the curve, the ‘collar’ will hide the ‘dropped’ viscose. No, the section diagram is not a diagram of a demented mole….although….

I have come to a temporary halt whilst I re-think my next move. I don’t feel too bad thus far….unintentionally – I’m simply emulating Gaudi who being a pragmatist did not spend his life at the drawing board preferring to be on site, thinking things over, experimenting with and rejecting ideas to get to a solution.

I’ll get there……..

Challenge, Corona, and Christmas

Challenge, Corona, and Christmas

All the ‘Cs’….

Challenge and Corona have been best bed buddies since the end of February, but I will ignore that pairing and concentrate on Challenge and Christmas.

Christmas has always been my best time of year. As a child I was surrounded by the twinkle of white lights, the smell of pine trees everywhere, the wondrous spectacle of the original Christmas markets and the delicious variety of Christmas baking, particularly my favourites – Stollen and Lebkuchen (gingerbread), ohh and not to forget – Printen. I’m so pleased Albert married Victoria and brought many of the traditions with him.

Over the years I too have continued the traditions….Christmas lights must be warm white, presents are kept secret until Christmas eve and then opened in sparkling candlelight, with each person having a special Weihnacht’s teller – a ‘Christmas plate’ filled with nuts, fruit, special biscuits and fine/fun chocolates.  So you see the Christmas magic has never left me….although some might say that now has something to do with the glühwein! 😇 😊

It used to be when the children were younger and at home that every November, we created cards, ornaments, and goodies such as sweets, biscuits, jam or chutney, as giveaways to our friends and neighbours. I miss those special hours and look forward to a time when the world shrinks a little more so that I’m close enough to my grandchildren to repeat similar fun creative activities.

Made by my daughter 20 years ago, aged 12, and still a treasured ornament.

Left to my own devices over recent years, each November I set to ‘making’, being creative in a variety of mediums and I present a few of them below. Although this Christmas has been more difficult I have managed to meet two set challenges….our village Advent calendar window and the Fourth Quarter challenge which you will have read about already. Getting this post written has been another – albeit skidding in at the last moment!

Currently awaiting the opening.

The Frӧbel stars (left) are made with 45cm long paper ribbons and I used these as my theme for one November village craft group meeting. Fingers and thumbs somehow didn’t co-ordinate with the brain for some of our group – resulting in so much hilarity we had to contend with a pile of wet tissues too. Too be fair they are fiddly!

Wire beaded snowflakes and angels. The skirt of the angels is created using quilting pins and are great fun to make.

Fabric fir cones – another craft group activity and one which I’ve also taught at a conference workshop – uses pieces of fabric, or lengths of ribbon, folded and pinned (using short 12mm pins) to polystyrene eggs. They don’t have to be seasonal and can be made with fun colourful, or muted sophisticated, fabrics/ribbons on other polystyrene shapes such as balls.

The 3 tiny ones (finished 2.5 x 1.5cm) were extremely fiddly!

Each point of the paper stars was made using a sheet of square tracing paper and then interlocked into the next point – the translucence of the paper is very effective hung in a window.

Just simple folding of square paper and a few cuts are needed to make these trees. A few years ago I made a forest of different sizes which combined with lights made a lovely table decoration. I love the design looking down onto them.

Yesterday evening I actually managed to run a workshop on these trees as part of a Zoom meeting with a non-craft group….heads were bowed, comments were continuously made (some = ***!!!***), laughter was shared, all I could do was listen and repeat my stage demos. I couldn’t see what anyone’s fingers were doing to help, although I did see some wine glasses being raised! Taadaa, despite several misplaced misgivings everyone produced a duplicate of the original.

(An aside….I still prefer in-person workshops both for learning and teaching.)

Last year I was super productive making many sock snowmen, gnomes and Ferrero Rocher ‘hats’. I only have 2 figures remaining in my possession (the 3rd is borrowed from my mum), the others I managed to sell at a craft fair.

In addition to these I also experimented with tinsel and felt.

Tinsel was de-constructed and ironed before being incorporated into coloured or white felt.

Once dry, I used a variety of decorative machine stitches to finish the felt. I enjoyed creating these cards and at some point hope to make more.

As I sent one of these for the Holiday card exchange this year, I’m feeling extremely guilty – I have forgotten to let my exchange partner know that I received her beautiful card with her warm greeting inside….so Ann in Canada here it is, for all to see! Thank you.

This November I decided to make tiny elf boot ornaments, with my grandchildren in mind, to meet the Fourth Quarter challenge….a challenge it certainly was!

They are tiny (as you can see against the coin) so getting my fingers in and around the point was oh so very fiddly! (Karen – now you know why I made my comment and have sympathy!). Each pair took quite a while to make including the embroidery. One poor elf was in need of a new pair of boots, but I did darn the holes in his old pair (centre) 😂

Over the decades there have been many cards made in our family, and this post has given me the opportunity to dig out a few and reminisce.

They have become more sophisticated over time and no longer use the red corrugated paper that wrapped around biscuits, complete with lick and stick stars – ooh so many memories. For close family and friends, EPH too continues his cartoon renditions of our 4 year old Raffles.

As I write this post the 13th has not yet arrived, but here is a sneak peek of the window display (complete with a ‘spot the difference puzzle for you!’). It will look more distinctive as day turns to night.

As this year comes to a close, I wish everyone – a creative, adventurous, and importantly, a healthy 2021 to come.


Cute distractions and stashes

Cute distractions and stashes

I am writing and scheduling this post ahead of the imminent new regulations to be announced in two days time by BJ….so typing with fingers crossed, is a little like patting one’s head and rubbing one’s tummy!

The reason for my contortions is that we are expecting to meet our newest member of the family, now 8 weeks old. The visit was not originally on our calendar as they live out of the country, but circumstances have intervened – our daughter has fractured the head of her femur and if it shears off, she will need a joint replacement. C-19 totally prevented me from getting to them (Arrrrgh 😤😭) so with doctor’s certificates they are coming with wheelchair and baby et al for some much-needed help and TLC.

The imminent visit is having an effect here in the house….a grand clear-up! Whilst my garden archaeology (finding what once was 4 years ago) is on hold, I have been tackling large sewing projects put to one side ‘for when I have time’ – the ones that have piled up for way, way, too long.

In addition to this activity, I wanted to create a personal little welcome for our Grandson. Thinking of a friend’s story with her grandchildren whereby on their visits she always has a little something tucked into their pillows I decided to make a ‘pocket’. It is a work in progress….


Drawing out the letters and reversing them ready to draw onto Bondaweb. If I’m making one it makes sense to make one for our next youngest grandchild too (sadly, also an out of country resident!)

Fabric for little boys….denim of course! I took an already de-constructed and very worn pair of jeans from my stash.

I fiddled with the fabric to work out the construction….as many of you will have read previously – I often work things out as I go along, my thought process being like filtered coffee. Thankfully and necessarily, the filtered result came quickly!

I much preferred the back of the fabric (rather than the old, worn, almost see through, bleached front) so joined the pieces of leg fabric to allow for my construction.

Left overs bits….some for my stash box, threads from painstakingly pulling out threads to find the grain edges (for possible use in felt pieces etc) and some ‘fiddled with’ pieces for future sewing activities!

Then it was into my stash box to find appropriately colourful bits of fabric. It is here that I have to admit to having several stashes, all ironed and tidy – for large, medium and small pieces of fabric and another box for tiny bits….a ‘neat-nic’….guilty as charged!

Sadly, no photos, but I cut out the fabric letters and ironed them onto the base to start my appliqué stitching. Deciding to use Perlé thread, it was a dive into yet another stash to find the right colours.

In the meantime, my vast stash of ribbons, edgings and bias tape let me down – I just couldn’t find what I needed.

You will have now realised that I have many ‘stashes’ (hence the title of this post) and like so many of you I’m sure – all my stashes have been collected over many years (read that as decades!). Where would we be without them? But I digress….

I can count on one hand how many trips I’ve made into the high street since March, but this was totally an ‘essential’ trip! Strangely I can’t remember shopping for decorative haberdashery items for sooooo long that the prices took me totally by surprise – ‘how much for a metre?’ In the second shop I finally found my ‘ah-ha, that’s the one’.

Stitching then commenced. The back shows the faded jeans and my attempts to keep the stitching neat.

Tadaa….thus far!

Once all the hand stitching is complete, I’ll add interfacing and lining then tape the edges – I’ll post the finished ‘pocket’ next time.

I hope, by the time you read this, that I will be a less frustrated mum finally able to care for her offspring (with no more crossed fingers) and also a proudly doting Grandmother too….definitely a cute distraction!

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