Needle felt tinies and new workshops

Tiny Polar Bear (sold)

I  recently updated my website and for the first time (ever) catalogued all my designs by year and month. Nine years of almost non-stop needle felting.  It took many days of hunting on various camera cards and through this blog and Flickr, but eventually I got there.

Looking through it was a bit of a wake up call and I was able to look at my work and realise not only that I've done a phenomenal amount of work, but also that I've not really moved on, stylistically. Although, to be fair, the last few years haven't exactly been the time for creative navel gazing.

I think it has a lot to do with the last few years of creating commercial patterns, which have to be easy to make, and doing so many workshops, ditto. So I've not really stretched myself. 
I think making myriad cute toys has almost run it's course for me, after all, I've been doing them for nine years. So I've been finishing off several bits and pieces, including this set of tiny animals and bird dolls, which despite being small, take around six hours plus to make

As usual, I've bunged them on dear old Etsy. I'll be starting a shiny new website soon, for my new work. 

I started a new and very 'grown up' line of work this summer, but it is under wraps until I have several pieces. Suffice to say, I am stretching myself at last. 

While I'm cheerfully shoving things for sale under your noses, I may as well add that I've got some fabulous new workshops in the UK, for later in the year. I have two winter workshops in Hampstead, London at the Village Haberdashery - my first time in London! It's going to be the red eye train at crack of dawn for those two.

I am also going to be in Witney, Oxfordshire at the Witney Sewing and Knitting Centre. And in Birmingham, at the lovely shop of Lauren Guthrie, who was a British Sewing Been finalist in 2013, at Guthrie and Ghani

All of these courses, with links to the relevant booking pages, can be found on my website, on the Needle felt workshops page.

In other news, I've finally started painting properly again. But I'll spare you that for the time being.


Andy's tree

Yesterday we made a pilgrimage to see Andy's tree. Brian-next-door kindly drove us over, as it is some distance away in the heart of the Shropshire hills. Set in ancient woodland, the South Shropshire Remembrance Park is the most peaceful and tranquil place - beautiful even in the rain.

It's been just over three years since Andy's ashes were laid to rest under a silver birch tree sapling. It has grown considerably since them, which considering how tall Andy was, is appropriate. The little glade where his tree is situated is up on a wooded hill. Joe and I made our way there while Brian waited in the car park, to give us some privacy.


I'd brought some things to tidy up with and the first thing I did was to give his stone a good scrubbing, and remove the moss which grows so quickly. On my hands and knees, in the muddy grass, in the rain. Because it is the only and last thing I can do for him. And it still doesn't feel like enough. I don't think it ever will.

We'd brought a bottle of his favourite beer.

Which I poured on his tree roots, with a little salutation to 'the big man'. 

It was Joe's first visit and although it was sad, we both found it less painful than anticipated. And will be coming back again, soon.

Then the heavens really opened up to a deluge. We headed back as quickly as possible, to the car, soaked to the skin.

Brian took us home via the 'scenic route'.  Little twisty Shropshire lanes, which, as we found, were flash flooded. This is why a 4x4 is useful in the countryside. 

With Brian's careful driving, we negotiated the small rivers that covered the lanes for long stretches.

Some readers may wonder how I could take photographs during such a difficult and personal time, and share it so publicly. Well, Andy was always part of this blog. Taking photos, writing about it, and recording it helps me to sort things out in my head and makes it all seem a little less weird and messed up. Just a little.


The Flying Scotsman in Shropshire

It was only by happenstance that I discovered that the Flying Scotsman was travelling this afternoon through Shropshire. If Brian-next-door hadn't popped round to tell me he was going over to Craven Arms to search for lawnmower parts, I wouldn't have scrounged a lift to the village Post Office and heard the news. Because due to too many enthusiasts causing disruption in the past, the precise times of it's passing had been kept as hush hush as possible. But the nice people at the post office knew. And I told Brian. So this afternoon, Jean and Brian and I hopped over to a very small country bridge in a nearby village. There is Jean in her sun bonnet and Brian nearby in blue, fiddling with his big camera and trying to remember how to turn the flash off. And a local bobby. Just in case.


There were a few of us there, but no serious 'train spotters'. The policeman said they were all crowded up on the other country bridge further up. The sun was very hot. We wilted in the heat and listened for the train, patiently and with good humour. A small boy was hoisted onto his father's shoulders for a better view and the policeman told us that the Flying Scotsman had just left Shrewsbury and was passing Sainsbury's supermarket; it should be arriving soon. Five minutes later, we heard rumblings and squeakings.

Here it comes, around the corner...

Such excitement! Brian had worked out how to turn off his flash and turn on his burst shooting and I just managed to snap it as it thundered through our quiet countryside.

Then it was off and away towards the blue hills of Shropshire, where it would stop briefly at Craven Arms and then head off again to the county of Herefordshire, next door. 


As we waved it goodbye, a more modern and dowdier cousin passed it. And then all was peaceful again. The policeman returned to his car, the cyclists headed off and there were friendly waves and nods, as we all shared the happiness of seeing something very special indeed, if only briefly.


Cinderella cupboard

It's funny what lurks in sheds. Brian-next-door was showing me a pair of old oil lamps and I spotted this. I squealed. I really did squeal. He was a little confused at my delight as it was 'just some old shelves' which he uses to store oil and paint cans. The back has rotted and was replaced with paste board, which is also rotting. 

Although my lovely neighbours have become accustomed to my love of what they consider to be junk, I think this one had Brian stumped. But bless him, he removed the cans, levered it from the dirt floor, chased away a colossal fat, black spider and together we dragged it out into the sun. 

It must be about seven feet long and quite low. I think it was probably once the base to a huge farm dresser. The cupboard space is deep, however the doors are long gone. I can't remember the exact story Brian related, but it seems to have lived in a few local places, including an uncle,  before being entombed in the damp old privy.

Look, I know, it's a bit shafted. Apparently it's been used as a workbench in previous lives. Hence the paint blobs, the oil spills and the gouges.

But imagine if it were cleaned up and restored. It's a good, honest chunk of country pine, crying out for some attention and a good dollop of beeswax.

Brian did his best to dissuade my enthusiasm, seeing nothing but a knackered old unit which would otherwise serve it's purpose and eventually fall apart. And the surface damage  bothered him. I said repeatedly that I liked that and would probably leave some remains of it, if I sanded it down, to show the history. I think I lost him there; he would replace it with a new bit of wood. 

He was convinced that the top might be an add-on, as it appeared to be screwed down and maybe underneath there would be a better, original slab of wood. So he got his screwdriver out. I held my breath and tried not to wince. 

But no, it was part of the piece. So, having convinced Brian that I really did love it, warts and all, it is now mine. But it has gone back into the shed, for the time being. The cottage is still in a state of partial renovation, and walls need plastering before anything else goes in. It is going to look amazing though. 


Weedy pots and little toad

So the garden continues to be gradually tidied. By the end of the summer, this plot should be cleared for a herb and pot garden. Once we've managed to dig out the remains of a hideous washing line pole, which the previous owner had cemented into the earth with a huge dollop of concrete. 

What remains of the potted plants and herbs I brought to Shropshire four years ago are pruned and potted up and as they've survived the neglect, they are now thriving in their new homes.  

There is a courgette in the coal bucket and basil on the windowsill. And a sweet pepper plant, gifted to me by a gardening neighbour.

I now have a cuttings area and two tomato plants, the first I've had for a few years. These may sound like very small things, which most people do all the time, but for me, they are big steps in the right direction. The garden is finally beginning to feel like home.

We also have a resident toad - so small and delightful.


It was released into a denser part of the garden, but first it had it's portrait taken with some old fungi.

Since uprooting from the Cotswolds in 2012 and with everything that has ensued, my life has felt a little like these potted auriculas; choked with weeds and  pot bound. They have somehow endured and so have I.

Now my life is getting tidier and I feel more like a freshly potted plant. With regular care and a bit of sunshine, our roots should grow back and we may even flower again.


Six Spring bunnies

This month's workshop was held at the 'Make It' shop in Chorlton. 

I had a lovely group, including three people I either know or who read this blog. One of whom I have 'known' for nearly a decade, via the early days of this blog and I recognised her as soon as she arrived. And another blog reader who had brought 'my' book to be signed. As it was the end of the day by then, my mind was in several places and I stupidly signed it to the wrong person and had to write it again. But then, as she observed, it was the only one like that! (Apologies again to 'L') 

I have also known Louise Peers for several years and have often seen her amazing little teddy bears on-line. what I hadn't realised was just how eye wateringly small they are; I had estimated them to be quite a few inches. In fact, they are just several centimetres. Roughly the size of a cotton reel, in the case of the little white fairy bear. Mouse sized. And all hand stitched, beautifully. No wonder they sell so fast!

And yet again, everyone produced a lovely creation - despite most of them being complete beginners. I always hope that afterwards they carry on enjoying needle felting as I know some of them will. 

Next workshop in Oxfordshire is almost sold out, and it looks as if I may be holding one in London this year. All the details can be found in my April/May newsletter, which you can read (without subscribing) here