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.


Big workshop, little workshop

Somehow I inadvertently managed to book myself for two workshops in the space of a week, which has been a bit of a whirlwind. My first port of call was to Stourbridge, where I had a lovely large crafting group working in a converted canal-side warehouse. As usual there was a lot of wool...

...and plenty of homemade cake. 


It was a really lovely day, very chatty and very friendly. Nearly everyone was new to needle felting, but being a talented bunch of crafters, they soon got the hang of things and were busy creating their own delightful creatures.

Including a thread jointed teddy bear, not a mean feat in one afternoon.

What I liked best was how people quickly found their own style - I don't lay down ground rules in my workshops (apart from trying not to stab yourself with the needle) and the variety of styles was fabulous.

Then just six days later I was up at 5am, to catch an early train down to London, to visit the Village Haberdashery. 

 I rather enjoy the London Underground and snapped a few arty shots. 

There were only three people for the workshop, but it made for a nice, intimate day and so nice to meet people who already 'knew' me, one way or another.  Foxes were made. And I finally got home at 9.30pm, a long old day.

I have also made my first sale from my own new website, Lost Arcadia, and sent this little rabbit to her new home. It's starting to feel like a proper website at last.

Finally, we were so happy to be visited by 'Granny Sue' and her lovely husband Larry, all the way from America. They popped in for lunch and we had such a fabulous time that three hours zipped by without us noticing. Brian-next-door lent us their drive for parking as ours is a bit steep. Susannah has written lovely accounts of their trip to England and Wales, and a sweet account of their visit to us, on her blog here.

Such an occasion demanded a photographic souvenir, so here is a snap of Susannah and myself...I am thinking i need to start doing some sit-ups! Or suck my tummy in. Or eat less cake.


Staffordshire animals in needlefelt

I mentioned some time ago that I was changing my direction with my work, and doing something somewhat different to the toys that I have been making for around eight years. Typically I chose a challenge. It kind of began with this Staffordshire cat, which I sold a couple of years ago. I meant to make some more but never did. 

Anyway, I started in earnest earlier this spring and made a copy of another traditional Staffordshire design, this time a rabbit.

A greyhound was next. I work from one photo, to get the first angle and work out how the rest of it should look.

Which isn't always easy.

Each design has it's own quirks and foibles, and with Staffordshire, they are very 'folksy' and quirky. Trying to replicate a design which isn't my own (and which, by the way, I believe is out of its copyright period)  has been something I've found really interesting, although the hours put in on each one are a bit excessive.

The poodle almost finished me off. The shape wasn't too hard to replicate, but this poodle design in it's various forms has stippled, 'salt glaze' on parts of the body, which I tried to emulate by sewing on a silly amount of tiny beads. Eighteen hours of sewing on beads. Yes, I did time myself.

Despite the amount of time they take - 35/40 hours each -  I've had fantastic feedback on my Facebook page and Instagram account, and it is nice to take a break from toys.
Although both cats are sold, the dogs and rabbit are now listed on my new site, in the Staffordshire Animals section. Making things in wool which were originally made in clay.


Witney and the Magic Roundabout

Last weekend saw me back in Oxfordshire again, at the Witney Sewing and Knitting Centre. Witney is a bit of a 'home town' for me; I've known it most of my life, since I first moved to the area when I was 19. I haven't been back there since Andy and I upped sticks and moved to Shropshire, so I was ambivalent about seeing it again. However, I did the stiff upper lip thing and didn't have a meltdown, but concentrated on my workshop instead.

It is a  lovely space to work in with great all round lighting and people quickly started doing the pattern of the day, which was my old 'Doglets' pattern from 'Mollie Makes' (issue 13 2012). Another odd thing as I was moving away from the area when it was published and so much has happened in the ensuing four years.

However, lovely doglets were made, and amended in some cases. I'm not a stickler for people sticking to my patterns and if people want to go off piste, I actively encourage it.  My next workshop is down in Hampstead, London on Saturday October the 1st at the Village Haberdashery. It's limited to six spaces and there are a a couple of places left, so if anyone fancies it, the booking link is here.

I was away for a  couple of days and stayed with friends. There was decent beer.

 And fish. 

And a vintage 'Magic Roundabout' playground which was dragged out of the attic and played with. And photographed.

Back in Shropshire, I have been spending most of my time working on my new independent website, 'Lost Arcadia' where I am now selling my paintings and needle felt work. My latest small painting 'Country Church' is a nod to my old home of the Cotswolds and the myriad small, sweet churches buried within it's rolling landscape.