Did you know the Italian translation for “twit twoo” is “I love you”?
There are many things that define country life – a graceful flying owl is certainly one of them – and it is always a joy to experience him in action or sitting upon a fence post or tree stump, waiting patiently for his next meal.
When the children were growing up, one home education activity that they’d get to grips with was dissecting owl pellets to reassemble the tiny bones of a mouse or shrew that had been previously digested and regurgitated. It may sound a bit gruesome, but it was always so fascinating!
As Westerners we often think of the owl as a wise bird, with Greek and Roman mythology associating him with education, as well as magic. Think of the illustrations that depict the owl in a studious theme, wearing specs and a mortar board, and also the use of owls in the well known magical Harry Potter books. In fact, the brain of an owl is small in comparison to the size of its body and apparently harder to train than other birds like hawks or parrots, but it seems they are thinkers and planners when it comes to hunting their prey, so to me, they are shrewd and intelligent.
As the current pandemic continues to change the way we go about our lives, I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll need to write off this entire year when it comes to participating in indoor craft fairs and markets. I’ve already been told one of the markets I sell at over the Christmas period won’t be going ahead for 2020, so there’s a good chance the vast majority will follow suit.
On the up-side, there has been a rise in online (virtual) markets – the ones I’ve seen have been on Instagram and Facebook. Having taken part in one last month with Bluebirds Handmade Market, I’ve got the bug and signed up for another for next weekend with Handmade and Creative and have realised that they require as much pre-planning and on the day dedication as a live market. One thing is for sure, I’m now beginning to get to grips with “stories” and all that goes with it on Instagram … Facebook, sadly, is still a head scratching puzzle for me!
So, the Handmade and Creative fair, which can be accessed by using the hasthtag #handmadeindoors on Instagram, will take place on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th June between 7 and 10pm – perfect for when you’ve settled on the sofa after a busy day with a cuppa or glass of something chilled and you’re ready to go virtual browsing and buying from a fantastic selection of UK sellers.
I’ve been busy at the sewing table building up stock levels with a few cute mini brooches and small mixed media artworks added to the list. Commissions will be open before, during and after the market if you’d like something special made. Hope you can join us.
What a lot has changed in our lives since my last blog post. I hope you are all staying safe and keeping well and continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I’m thrown between feelings of worry for what lies ahead to feelings of joy that I have some time to just “be”. I am also in awe of those that continue to work so hard to keep the country going.
Having grown used to the 2 metre rule, the necessity to stay at home as much as possible and the queueing to do the weekly shop, I have to admit I’m settling in to the slower pace of life. I’m fortunate enough to have a few weeks off from my keyworker job and have countryside, big skies (that are so blue at the moment) and nature around me to enjoy. I’m going to endeavour to cling on to these things when life begins to return to normal.
With the weather being pretty amazing (what a blessing that is), I have spent a lot of my home time tidying the garden. There have been many unwanted freebies left at the side of the road so I now own a strawberry pot and pretty hellebore that would otherwise have gone to waste. Locals have also been selling young plants, so my garden has benefitted from sweet peas, lupin, delphinium, sweet william, strawberry plants, a couple of alpines and a dicentra spectabilis with its pretty pink heart shaped flowers.
The sewing is most definitely still happening – Ellie’s Treasures remains open and I’m happy to accept orders and commissions. All individual items (except larger canvas artworks) are letterbox friendly and sent 1st class, so no need for a signature upon delivery or a parcel being left on the doorstep or at the sorting office. If you are buying as a gift for someone special, I’m happy to tissue wrap and add a handwritten note, posting directly to your chosen recipient if you wish. Please bear in mind that purchases may take a bit longer to arrive as it’s a bit like a Christmas rush for the posties at the moment.
Hedgehog lovers – do pop over to Gloucestershire based Wild Hogs Rescue Centre’s online auction on Facebook to help raise necessary funds. The centre does an amazing job of researching, rescuing and rehabilitating hedgehogs in their local area so I’m hoping this event is a great success fr them. Bidding opens on 3rd May until the 10th and there’s already a fabulous selection of items to choose from.
Finally, I have been listed in a new small business directory with Pretty and Petit. If you are a looking for something special to treat yourself or send to a loved one then do browse the directory, it is full of amazing small businesses that are continuing to work hard and remain open during this difficult time.
I was lucky enough to snap up a Dachshund printed fabric off-cut from a Sophie Allport shop last year and was itching to use it in a new artwork design. Finished and mounted before Christmas, I have only just found time to photograph and list in my online shops. I did however remember to take a few in progress shots and thought I’d share these with you to give you an insight into how the picture came together.
Having chosen the light turquoise blue/green felt as the background, initial colour scheme ideas came from the dark red of the Dachshund’s collar so I started by sourcing buttons in complementary colours.
My next stage was to play with fabrics and trims, building a balanced piece with interest from different patterns and textures.
Tiny embellishments are added last to give additional interest and prettiness to the artwork before being mounted on a white canvas and finished with my logo on the reverse.
As with most of my products, I try to use as many donated and recycled fabrics and decorations as possible to save materials ending up in landfill. For this particular picture, many of the additional fabrics, dark grey paper, buttons and sequins were all repurposed.
To finish, here’s a few interesting facts about these adorable hounds:
* with their German origins, the correct pronounciation of the word “Dachshund” is “Daks-hoont”, with the word “dachs” meaning “badger” and “hund” meaning “hound” or “dog”;
* they have quite a few nicknames, the most endearing to me are “sausage dog” and “doxie”;
* in 1972 Waldie the Dachshund was the colourful mascot for the Munich Olympic Games.
As felt is one of the textiles that I use to produce my items I thought I’d let you know a bit about this amazingly versatile fabric. I chose felt as my main medium because of its vast colour range and the fact it is a forgiving, easy to use fabric. I can gently pull it into shape should I need to (although it isn’t elastic, so over pulling means it can completely mis-shape), it’s easy to cut and needs no hemming making it the perfect base for layering fabrics and embellishments.
Felt is a man-made fabric which has been created from natural materials and is thought to be one of the oldest textiles around. Said to have been created in Asia, the Nomadic people are still using traditional methods to product felt for practical uses including tents and clothing. There are tales of St. Christopher and St. Clement, when fleeing from persecution, stuffing their sandals with wool to ease their feet and finding the wool had turned into felt socks due to the mix of continuous movement and sweat.
The traditional process of making felt is a combination of matting, condensing and pressing the fibres together. When I was home educating my two children, we went along to a workshop where we turned wool roving into felt using hot soapy water and rubbing the fibres in a circular motion with our fingers to eventually end up with a small pieces of felt (you can read my blog post about it here). It was a time consuming but worthwhile exercise with an end result of colourful artwork having combined felt and roving to make patterned pieces. An easier way is to pop an unwanted pure wool sweater or similar in the washing machine on a hot cycle – the heat and water will shrink and combine the fibres to produce felt.
Being a popular medium, felt is now manufactured to use in many areas of life, including the automotive industry, musical instruments, home construction and fashion, to name just a few, and there are different types of felt for different types of use.
100% synthetic is a man-made felt using mainly acrylic, polyester and viscose (rayon). As it is widely available and produced in an array of fabulous colours, including glittery and self-adhesive, it is ideal for general crafting. This felt is stiffer to the touch, strong and easier at keeping its shape.
A blended felt is a mix of pure wool and viscose making it softer than synthetic felt. Again, you can source a good selection of colours including “heathered”, an effect produced from wool fibres being interwoven. The majority of my items are sewn using this type of felt as it has the softness of wool felt combined with some strength of synthetic.
Eco-friendly 100% wool comes in a choice of thickness and has a lovely soft feel. The different thicknesses mean this natural textile can be used for different mediums with thicker felt being good for sturdier creations like wall coverings or art.
100% roving is wool that has been combed and twisted to hold the fibres together ready to be used for needle felting, a process where fibres are combined using a continuous stabbing with a very sharp needle to produce delightful ornaments, decorations and dolls.
I mainly use a blended felt (usually 30% wool, 70% vicose) with a good weight to create my items, occasionally using synthetic should I fall in love with the colour or need to make something sturdier. I will be adding 100% wool felt items in the near future and, if I am happy with how these work for me and able to find a good selection of colours, aim to move over to this eco-friendly felt in the long run.