Baby hare and flying swans

In-between other things, I have been working on new designs for next year's workshops and the first is this baby hare. 

I am also holding my first local workshop, in Shrewsbury, at a fabulous venue, the Victorian home of Sarah, who runs Fern Dell bed and breakfast near Shrewsbury Abbey. We were hooked up by BBC radio Shropshire on the Jim Hawkins show, after he interviewed me one morning and I mentioned that I was looking for a suitable workshop place.  Seconds later, Sarah had contacted me on Twitter and within 24 hours we had things pretty much sorted.

 So baby hare will be tried for the first time next year on March 2nd, a Thursday. It's an all day workshop and Sarah will be providing a home cooked lunch and refreshments, all of which is included in the price. However, it has booked up pretty quickly and there are only three places left.  If you'd like to see more details, you can find them on my workshop page - booking is directly through myself.  And if you'd like to see the beautiful Fern Dell, the website is here and more lovely photos here in Sarah's Instagram feed

For this weekend only I am having a mini Black Friday sale on these three large, hanging  winter swans, reduced to £40 each plus postage. Each one took two days to needle felt and hangs on silver wire with suspended glass tear drop beads and a twist of silver gauze ribbon.  They are the top featured items in my Etsy shop, or direct links are underneath each picture.


Morning sticks

I finally managed to scrape the money together to get the winter logs in. The log man only lives half a mile down the road and delivers by tractor. 


Although it's a tight and tricky reverse into the drive, he has done it many times before and manages to get everything in with expert ease.

This year I ordered a full load of wood - it's not cheap, but it is our main source of heating so plenty are needed.

Brian-next-door heard the noise and came by to help - even climbing into the trailer to pull the last logs down. I did gently mention something about health and safety, but he said he'd done it many times before. So there he was, perched like a pixie on top of the wood pile.

I think he wanted to help us stack them, but we insisted on being self sufficient and sent him home with thanks and a bag of pears from the garden. As they are his favourite.

So Joe had a crash course in stacking |(from me) and we began to store our log horde.In the 'new' log shed. I took it upon myself to chop my first batch of kindling, having done some research and found it remarkably easy, so long as I used the right kind of log. Then, just like a man, Joe got axe envy and took over. I was relegated to stacking logs.

However I did eventually get another go and made my own batch. For the last three years, while I've been here on my own, Brian has supplied me with a big bag of 'morning sticks' (as they are known here in Shropshire) but I feel much better having taken the plunge and learned to do it myself.

Hopefully this lot will last until late spring.


Guthrie and Ghani workshop

Another early start for last Sunday's workshop at Guthrie and Ghani, in Birmingham. Thankfully fairly 'local' and only a train ride away. The Christmas tree workshop is one that I always pack copious amounts of wool for, as  you never know what colours people are going to choose, though it is often green and red.

I also bring a large amount of  'treasure', as trees are usually decorated.

The workshop space at Guthrie and Ghani is simply gorgeous; lots of room, oodles of light and plenty of tables. Oh, and copious bunting with a beautiful chandelier.

I had the pleasure not only of meeting new people and a fabulous returning work-shopper, but also of finally hooking up with lovely Heather Ellis, who is an illustrator  I have known since the late 1990s, when we were both members of an illustration forum. Before the days of Facebook, IG and all the other social sites. After all these years, we got to say hello face to face and hug and it was one of the highlights of the day for me.

It was another great session, and the 'treasure' was eagerly rummaged through.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day I had to rush off for a scheduled train, so I didn't have time to take my usual photos of the end results, which were lovely and varied. Many thanks to the kind 'elves' who packed my wool bag, with all the colours neatly sorted - a huge help and very much appreciated. And big thanks to my friend Heather, who picked me up when I almost fell down the stairs in a rush, paid my bus fare to town (as the bus only took exact change) and then walked with me to point me in the right direction of the train station. A guardian angel indeed, as I was so tired by then I could barely walk straight.

My final workshop of the year is back at the Village Haberdashery in West Kensington, London, making Christmas trees again. You can expect a lot of wool and beads. Booking can be done via their website here. This is a much smaller workshop, with limited places but I hope it will be as much fun as this one. I also have a venue and rough date for a local Shrewsbury workshop, at the start of March 2017. if you'd like a little more information about this before I make it more public, do drop me an email.


Spotted Staffordshire Pig

This is my latest Staffordshire inspired creature. I could only find one image of a pig to work from; pigs don't seem to have been as popular as spaniels or greyhounds. About forty hours later I am finally satisfied with it.

I'm finding I have to work a little differently to emulate the Staffordshire look.. I have never needle felted eyes before, however the eyes on the original were painted on with one brush stroke, so I used just a few fibres of black to reproduce this effect. And the hooves were a bit tricky. but it's a challenge which I enjoyed and another learning curve.


From dog Kennel to log shed

This is one of the old dog kennels and runs, left behind by the previous cottage owners. It has been a dilapidated eyesore and even if we had a dog, I certainly wouldn't house it here. However, we did want a log shed. 

So Joe and Brian-next-door began dismantling the innards, including lots of rancid paste boarding inside, rags and dirty wadding and finding, along the way, an old rat skeleton underneath the flooring. 

 It didn't take long to dismantle the unwanted bits.


 Which were too far gone for re-using, so later on, Brian had a large bonfire.

And we had a basic log shed.

The hole at the side was patched up neatly.

And the gap at the front was closed, to prevent easy access for rats. Though there is a small hole at the back for the toads, should they need winter shelter. Now all it needs is logs.


Rainy Day Sale

My mum used to tuck things away for 'a rainy day'. This was usually a pile of old comics or a book that she had picked up at a jumble sale, for when I was sick or if it was literally a rainy day. I've been saving my book toys for a rainy day, and that time has come. So everything I have left from my book 'Little Needle-Felt Animals' is up for grabs. I've tried to keep prices as low as possible, and there are small things -

 And larger things - 

I am often asked how I can bear to part with my work, and my usual answer is that I can't pay the bills or mortgage with a needle felt cat. I am pretty torn about selling these little friends, as creating them for my book got me through my darkest hours when I lost Andy. But they've decorated my studio for long enough, so I'm hoping at least some of them will find new homes. They're all available in a special sale section in my Etsy shop here. All come with signed name tags and a little certificate tag.


Mouldy wine making

A few weeks ago, Jean-next-door came round with a bucket of over-ripe damsons. She is a very waste-not-want-not person. I didn't like to refuse, so they came inside and sat in the bucket for a few days, softening, while I tried to find time to deal with them. They went a bit mouldy. At last I got round to soaking them in boiling water, in a wine bucket, snapped the lid on and left it for some time.

This is not the orthodox way of making wine; it is the old 'country' way. Brian-next-door can remember that people used to do it this way and I have found a few recipes online which follow this method. Anyway, it gave me an excuse not to have to sort them out for a  while. And so the mould grew.

I don't actually think I left it for long enough, as the cap of mould is supposed to be so thick that you can lift it off in one go. However, I tackled it bravely, just to get the job out of the way. Admittedly, it was very pretty. If somewhat brain-like.

It was a long-winded, ramshackle affair, straining off two gallons of soaked damson with the aid of three saucepans, a colander, a jug and a jelly-bag. The damsons had (unsurprisingly) started fermenting on their own. And it all smelled a bit...odd. I strained it all twice and returned it to the cleaned bucket, with added sugar and wine yeast.       

As of now, it continues to have a life of its own. The mould has grown back and it is still fizzing. I dipped my finger in, to test it, with some trepidation and was surprised to find it has a sweet, fruity taste. It will need straining again and decanting into demi-johns. Who knows, it could be the best wine ever - or I may die of botulism. 


Country auction

The other day we decided to declutter some of the 'stuff' that has failed to sell on eBay and isn't good enough for a proper auction house. So we gathered our boxes. Brian-next-door added two old cabinets (one with a drawer missing) and the little blue car was loaded up.

There was just enough room for it all and the three of us. We set off to the next village.

To the village hall.

Where we booked our things in. 

There was quite a lot of miscellaneous 'stuff'' there already. Some of it even made our humble offerings look tempting.

The next night we set forth again, to see if anything would sell. To be honest, the only thing I held any hope for was the old top box from Andy's motor bike.  Brian was tempted by a few things, but I did have to remind him of what Jean would say if he came home with another drill, even if the battery on his other one is flat. 

So there we were with our bits and bobs. A box of old cameras and film things, probably not working...

Noddy and the Flintstones...

...a box of Happy Meal toys, collected from charity shops over the years...

...and the bedside cabinets, the motorbike top box and a bound set of old National Geographic magazines from the 1940s. People began shuffling to the main hall for the auction. I think a lot of the room was filled with locals having an night out. Which was pretty much what it was for us too.

I think we were there for nearly three hours as the various bits of bric-a-brac were sold. Or not sold. The Happy Meals toys came home with us, as did the two bedside cabinets. The top-box nearly sold but was just under the £10 reserve. So it has gone back into the next auction. 

In the end we made (after fees) the princely sum of £7. But looking on the bright side, that pays for a couple of loaves of bread and some milk. And we've got more space.