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 Making things in wool which were originally made in clay.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.



In search of Langley Chapel

It's been a long time since we went for a bike ride what with one thing and another. So this week we went off in search of Langley Chapel, less than four miles away. I had done my Google map research and was convinced it would be fairly easy to find, despite being in the middle of a Shropshire field. We cycled up to the small but pretty village of Acton Burnell.

Once through the village however, it all became very uphill-y and with our cycling legs being a bit rusty, there was a lot of pushing. Alright, pretty much all pushing.

As we climbed higher, the views were spectacular. This is looking across to our main town of Shrewsbury. Somewhere in there towards the right, I think.

I found a lovely roly-poly field formation for painting inspiration. There aren't that many dry stone walls in Shropshire and this picture reminds me of the dear Cotswold countryside, which is lined with them.

Joe found me a tiny cottage in a field, sadly ruined with no roof, but very sweet seen through the hedgerow. 

Anyway, we got higher and higher, in search of Langley Chapel - or even a handy signpost - until we got to a point where I knew that it became EVEN MORE hilly. And unfit as we were, we decided to turn back. Happily, it was downhill all the way to Acton Burnell. 

Now, we had seen a footpath sign in the village and wondered if we had managed to miss the chapel. So Joe went ahead and explored, and waved me to follow. He had found something.  We followed the field footpath and discovered a promising looking portico. 

However it did look familiar and as we neared, we realised it was the beautiful Catholic graveyard for the old 'big house' which we had investigated last year. Slightly daunted but determined to have one last shot, we tried another part of the footpath. Which was very pretty but showed no sign of a chapel. 

We found a few wild damsons though and jolly nice they were too, after all that exercise.

So well exercised but feeling a bit defeated, we hastened home, with rain clouds looming overhead.

Back home, we looked at a map and were chagrined to find that had we ventured a little further (towards the EVEN MORE HILLY bit), we would have found Langley chapel. It was about five minutes away from our turn-back point. So that's a trip for another day. Nonetheless, it was lovely to get out and explore. We may not have found Langley chapel. But we did get some exercise.


Late summer visitors

Last week we had a very rare happening - visitors! A very nice Welsh Springer Spaniel and his humans came to stay for a couple of days. We didn't do much as it was nice just to take some time off and relax. We did manage a short walk nearby.

It's a funny thing, but even though we are in a very rural part of Shropshire, there are few footpaths and barely any  quiet places to walk. And with this being the busiest bit of the farming year, the little lane we were in had it's fair share of large agricultural vehicles managing (somehow) to make their way through.

So the next day was mostly spent in the garden, with lunch (mostly cheese) and beer.

Knitting was done - my knitting - though not by me. This is something I started and almost finished but couldn't. So my knitting expert friend managed to sort it out for me.

In return, I let my friend have free reign in my studio and she had a couple of impromptu painting lessons.


But play has to end eventually and when they were headed home, I finished off a couple of my own paintings, which are up for sale in my Etsy shop.  I seem to be heading for autumn a little prematurely, but then we are having an upsy downsy summer.

In my big studio tidy up, I also found a box of the last lino prints I made in my previous life, including the popular 'Little Hare. It feels a bit strange and very sad looking at old blog posts like with pictures of of the other cottage, such as 'Printing Little Hare' and 'Monsieur le Roitelet'. So to raise a few pennies, I've put the remainder back up for sale, at single figure prices in my shop print section.

I'm hoping to sell enough to be able to buy some WD40, to get my trusty old printer back on the road, so that I can print again. Sadly it's been in a damp shed for too long and needs some de-rusting before I can use it.

Back when I printed the lino cuts in November 2011, I was trying to juggle needle felting with printing and painting.  Then Andy and I began the big move to Shropshire and just over a year later, Andy was dead. Now my life is back on track, with a different love and I am still needle felting, starting to paint again and hopefully printing soon. In those days I was lucky enough to do it as a part time job. Now it's a life necessity. But I try not to analyse it too much; it's all a bit odd really. Such is life.


Little pond

This is how the so-called 'herb patch' looked a couple of weeks ago, still with the plug-ugly plastic coated washing line post firmly cemented into the earth. So as the weather had picked up, I did my scorched earth weeding and Joe got to work with Brian-next-door's sledge hammer.

After a long tussle and removing lots of rock debris, we tugged and pulled and shoved and eventually we dragged the monster out. We could just about manage it between us. 

Unfortunately, someone DID like the overgrown mess and we found this lovely toad nestling in a pile of bricks. We left her undisturbed, but she vanished overnight. We are hoping that she has found a nearby home.

By the end of the day we had almost cleared everything.

The garden originally came with two little old troughs which were destined to be made into miniature ponds. This is a fairly ordinary cement one, which had been upside down since I moved in over three years ago. I had assumed it was a block of stone until Joe turned it  over and discovered the secret.

The previous owner told me that this bigger one was an antique 'pony trough' which came from a nearby town, but then he told so many fibs about the property that I am inclined to take that with a pinch of salt. It is a nice old thing, anyway and had been languishing uselessly in the drive.

The fun part was putting the stones and pebbles in and filling it.


By now it was early evening and the cows had made their way up the field. They seemed curious, but I don't think they cared about our lovely little pond.

The ponds have provided a source of constant amusement. Despite having to empty them and paint them with concrete sealant. Because we didn't realise that the stone could leak. But since then the garden birds have been enjoying the novelty too. Joe has taken quite a few photos. At first the blue tit was the sole bather. 

But then a tribe of sparrows moved in and claimed both ponds for their own. 

Anyway, to cut this long pond-y story short (forgive the length, neither of us have ever had ponds before), this part of the garden is finally starting to be ours and looking like a proper place. Not a wilderness of weeds. 

Today however we have had rain and I went back to proper work, heralding autumn with this little painting, 'Acorn Cottage' which (naturally) is for sale in my other Etsy shop, 'Lost Arcadia'. *NOW SOLD*