Experiments in needlefelting – Louisa’s Midnight Garden

After trying my hand at wet felting over the last few months, I was intrigued by the idea of needlefelting – less guesswork and easier to make 3D items so got myself a starter kit a few weeks ago.

So far I’ve made a few basic (flattish) shapes using paper templates and a few 3D things, but this was my first picture – misc flowers on a mixed blue backdrop:


I liked the extra control I had over positioning of, for example, the stems, and shaping in general — and I especially liked being able to work on the sofa rather than stood up, getting soggy in the kitchen. But aside from that, I think I’ll stick to wet-felting for this sort of thing.

Blogtoberfest 2012 – Corkboard string art, now with added string!

In an effort to get back into the habit of blogging regularly, I’m taking part in Blogtoberfest 2012 – at least one post a day on at least one of my blogs (full list of the posts).

I finally added string to my corkboard string art/house number project the other day.


I just used some cheap black cotton embroidery thread – it was a little splitty on a couple of occasions but other than that, it worked well and I like the weight/thickness of it. All one colour – I wanted it stark.

The stringing was a combination of enjoyably repetitive and frustrating at times – if the string got snagged on the wrong pin or if I couldn’t work out how to string it efficiently/neatly without duplicating or missing out bits. It’s not perfect but because I didn’t plan the number of pins or their spacing I would have been absolutely shocked if it had been. (I’m reasonably happy with it being imperfect but there is a contrast between the sharpness/neatness of the font: imperfect would look just … perfect with a less formal font, such as the one Dina used.)


The pins flipped out of the corkboard very easily during the threading but I decided to push them all right in to give them more support – which has pinned the string against the board so I don’t get the nice shadow effect thing any more. I still like it though – it feels like a real life version of the Scribble font I used on my photo “captions” ;)


All in all, it was a quick, easy and cheap thing to try and I think I’ll give it another go sometime soon. I’d like to make a colourful spirograph-esque circle perhaps or some other nod to retro string art designs. Something a bit more precise to excite my perfectionist glands ;)

Class Home < Sweet End cross-stitch

Posting about the Team Peach piece reminded me that I haven’t posted about this other quickee either.

I actually started this in the summer of 2009 – while we were waiting the interminable wait to move into our new home. When we finally got the keys (two years ago last weekend), we were so busy getting it sorted before moving in at the end of the month, that this got put to one side and forgotten about. I found it again a few weeks ago and noticed it only needed about two dozen stitches to finish it.


It is the equivalent of “Home Sweet Home” in Ruby, John’s preferred programming language (or at least one way of expressing it in Ruby: we had a long chat back in 2009 about the best way to do it). The border is supposed to represent rails, as in Ruby on Rails, influenced by the RoR logo, but I think it might make more sense if the “rail” was thicker or if there were two rails — I might modify it in the future.


It’s currently living on a bookshelf in our dining room but will take up it’s rightful place in the porch when the porch has a roof again.

(John found the feather on a walk earlier in the year. It has no programming significance.)

Team Peach cross-stitch

I made this little piece as a break between two halves of a longer, more complicated sewing project.


Team Peach is what John & I call our household – a portmanteau of our surnames. It started as a joke but has become a less jokey, handy shortcut for referring to our collective.

I picked an off-white for the lettering as a thought a white-white would be too garish – behind glass in a frame though, I think it could have done with being a little brighter. The frame is only temporary as I’m not sure the fake flock works with the pseudo-sporty design ;)

We do not yet have t-shirts but that’s where the design idea came from. We do though have a theme song.

11 Goals for 2011: progress update

At the start of the year, I set myself 11 (+ another 5 subgoals) goals for the year. We’ve third of the way through the year now so I thought it was time for an update.

1. Increase the food output from our garden and make a meal only using stuff I’ve grown/foraged/caught/killed which can be cooked off-grid

I’m writing this during a tea break from working in the garden. We haven’t eaten anything we’ve grown this year yet but I’ve been busy busy busy out there. Our salad has been a bit slow off the mark this year but we should have our first lettuces this month, as well as maybe our first potatoes near the end of the month. We planted a lot of fruit trees and bushes at the start of the year too – six apple, two pear, a cherry tree, four blackcurrant bushes, two redcurrant bushes, two raspberry bushes, twelve strawberry runners, three honeyberry bushes, a cranberry bush and a loganberry bush. We also planted about six jostaberry canes but only one of them seems to have taken — all the other bushes & trees are growing well though.

The chickens are doing well – I spent a lot of time defrosting their water at the start of the year but not had to do too much of that lately ;) Two out of the three second batch of girls started laying in January and Buff, the fancy pure bred one, started eventually in March so (present broodiness aside) they’re all productive now. In March, when Buff started laying, they cranked out a massive 200 eggs between them. April has been a little slow – at only 180 eggs in total – because Ginger is broody. Only 180 eggs….! We’ve had on average of 5.43 eggs a day since the start of the year, rising to 6.45 eggs a day in March. We have give a lot away ;)

Foraging has been a little slower than I would have thought – we’ve eaten plenty of wild garlic but little else. I am getting better at identifying early Spring stuff – just not picking it and eating it ;)

2. Learn how to successfully take and propagate cuttings from every applicable type of perennial plant/shrub in the house/garden

Nothing has really been ready for this year – but I will start experimenting with some of the bigger herb bushes soon.

3. Create my own font – possibly of my handwriting

Not done anything on this yet.

4. Make a piece of furniture for the house (woodworking)

I have not done this yet but I have made a lot of things for the garden from wood – which is movement in the right direction. As I said at the end of last year, my goals were/are supposed to be putting me on a journey – this goal was supposed to get me making things, anything from wood, with the hope that my skills will improve gradually to the point where I’m confident to build something for the house out of nice, purpose bought (or nicer-than-normal salvaged) wood. I’m certainly making progress along that path so yay!

5. Make an entire outfit (to include conquering sewing patterns)

Spent January frantically crocheting a blanket but have done very little sewing/yarn crafty stuff for the last couple of months. Need to get back to it!

6. Go fishing in the North Sea

Not organised this yet. Am crap.

7. Learn how to screenprint

Yays! I’ve done this one! It was a lot of fun and we’ve been back for our Factory4 induction & a second screenprinting session since. Hopefully we’ll go back again in a few weeks.

8. Buy no more than 12 items of clothing across the year

This a Really Good Life challenge – and it’s going really well. I haven’t bought a single item of clothing or any accessories from either my exceptions list or from my quota in 2012. It’s actually been a lot easier than I thought – I do have “am bored of my clothes!” sulks but they pass surprisingly quickly.

I’ve also encouraged some other people to do the same challenge – which is great :)

9. Finish a developed piece of fiction writing

Not *really* done anything for this, aside from a short scene I developed with the kids from class as part of a performance at a youth theatre festival in February.

10. Specific food makery and/or eatery:

a) Bake at least once a week
I haven’t been as regular at baking as I’d like but if I include stuff like pizza dough as well as breads & biscuits, it probably is nearly once a week on average. We struggle with bread in the winter as we keep the house cooler than yeast-exciting temperature so hopefully we’ll bake more regularly over the spring/summer/autumn period.

b) Grow a sourdough starter and make bread from it
We’ve kinda done this – we got sourdough starters when we went on a bread making course with the Handmade Bakery in March — we’ve kept them alive and baked from them since. We didn’t actually grow them from scratch (they were started in Russia in the 1970s and River Cottage in 2005) but we’re cultivating them and using them. So yeah!

c) Make a hard cheese
Not done anything cheesy so far this year. Well, not cheese-making cheesy. Those in earshot of many of my jokes would contest the “done anything cheesy” assertion.

d) Try ten vegetables (or veggie wild foods) that I’ve not tried before
As I said above, I’ve not done much foraging this year but I did try wild sorrel earlier in the year and I’m growing three things I’ve not tasted before (rapini/broccoli raab, marigolds-for-salad-leaves and achocha!) so that’ll hopefully up my total. Oh, and I had pea shoots (which aren’t too exciting but were new to me) as part of my starter when we went to Salvo’s a few weeks ago.

e) Build a cold smoking cabinet, try cold smoking more stuff & try hot smoking too
I’m really keen to build another smoking cabinet and have been on the look out for furniture to adapt or wood to build a cabinet from scratch. Not spotted anything suitable yet but I’m hoping to get hold of some old kitchen cupboard doors soon, which should work. Can’t wait to make more smoked cheese!

11. Participate more in the real world – engage more with our local community and meet some internet people in real life
I so nearly met an internet person but then got sick. *shakes fist at culinary establishment that caused food poisoning* Boo.

Have mostly hidden inside/in our private garden for the last few months so not really done anything locally.

Not particularly local community related but at least away from my computer – I’ve been still doing dramatic things at Bingley Little Theatre – I made my debut as a stage-manager on the kids’ production of “The Would-Be Gentleman” in April. (I shadowed as a ASM & SM on a production earlier in the year too – didn’t really do much but learnt a lot.) We also went to the aforementioned youth theatre festival in York – two days of dramatic funness.


One goal (and one sub-goal) done, six (and two) in progress, and four (and two) still to do. On track!

10 goals for 2010 – end of year round-up

So at the start of 2010, I set myself 10 goals:

  • 1. To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself.
  • 2. To travel to a place on my “top ten places to go before I die” list.
  • 3. Finish writing my second novel.
  • 4. Learn how to make sausages – wet English style ones and cured ones too.
  • 5. Spend at least a day fishing out on the North Sea.
  • 6. Finally finish learning how to drive.
  • 7. Make a full outfit’s worth of clothing for myself – including spinning any wool used.
  • 8. Learn how to program and make a mini-game/application using Ruby.
  • 9. Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill.
  • 10. Participate more in the real world – plan/run a real life green event or scheme.

I achieved just two of them. TWO!

I am, understandably, a bit disappointed with that but as I mentioned throughout the year, the goals were supposed to put me on a journey rather than being the destination.

The two goals I did achieve (“To make a meal using only ingredients I’ve grown, raised, caught or killed myself” and “Learn how to make sausages”) were part of my overall desire to adopt a more simple, DIY life and I think that’s going wonderfully in the right direction. The making an outfit goal was part of that – and while I didn’t meet that goal, I did learn to spin wool, I experimented with dyeing yarn too and I also made some attempts at sewing clothes. The fishing goal was a failure due to procrastination and disorganisation – it’s on the list for next year and by-huff-or-by-puff, it’s going to happen.

The last two (“Climb a mountain or at least a jolly big hill” and “Participate more in the real world”) were in an effort to get me out from behind my computer and/or off the sofa. With Lily’s arrival in March, we started walking in “our” woods every day and most weekends (one or both days) see us heading further afield for strolls. That’s a good thing. I didn’t realise what a small-talk-instigator dogs are either – I think we know considerably more people (and their dogs) than if we’d gone out wandering in the woods on our own. Another good thing. Also, while it’s not green-related, I get out and meet people regularly through my work & play at Bingley Little Theatre – this year I’ve helped with two productions and summer showcase, as well as helping teach two classes a week. A frickin’ ace thing.

I have less-than-almost-ever interest in learning to drive. I’m not scared or anything, there just doesn’t seem a lot of point to it. Occasionally I think it would be useful if I could drive somewhere instead of having to enlist John but I don’t have enough sustained motivation to start learning again – and finding the time/money is another issue. I’ve also rethought my position on my travel goal – as I wrote in my November goal update, the way we’d have to do it feels too much like consumerism, to much to have and not to be. So I’m not bothered that I haven’t achieved that either.

The novel thing and the Ruby thing are probably my biggest disappointments – nothing other than procrastination/excitement about other things stopping me there really. A revised version of the novel one will be on my goal list for 2011. The Ruby one probably won’t be – but that’s not to say I don’t want to learn — I think I will love programming when I get into it – I just need to find a new book/teaching method first.

So that’s it for 2010. The goal achievements were worth the disappointments. The rest of my life was similar – had some awesome wins, had some dark spots, some new starts and left some things behind.

Team Peach expanded (Lily-dog and the chicken tribe) but sadly contracted too (we lost Carbon). I’ve eaten a helluva lot of good food, read many many good books (highlights: lots of stuff from the first half of the 20th Century including ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson, ‘Good Evening Mrs Craven and other stories’ by Mollie Panter Downes and ‘The Death of Grass’ by John Christopher), learned a lot of new stuff and laughed loads.

As That Tommy Hall would say, 2010, you’ve been a year.