Apr 30, 2012

Domestic Archeology and other Homely Arts.

Hobbit hole drying.
Another glimpse of my hobbit hole, here it is drying, stuffed full with towels and bags of wool, to shape it. Didn't the colours blend beautifully?!
 But it looks a bit like a cushion at this stage.
I will keep you updated!
Swallows paper-cutting
 Another idea for a paper snowflake, this time Summery with swallows flying over a little town-scape. The swallows in the middle are sitting on a wire, like they do. Their tails form a star.
Vintage linen signatures.
 Last time we came back from Wellington, we stopped at an antique/ collectables shop in the wildly exciting ( hahaha) town of Shannon. I found rolled up with a rubber band a bundle of fabric, labelled "drop sheet $3". Meaning that it could be used as a cloth on the floor to catch paint splatters for when you are painting a wall.
I touched it, and knew immediately that this was pure linen, of the same kind of close weave I had at home in the form of several bed sheets.
Those sheets are absolute heaven to sleep under in hot summer weather. They wick away moisture and still feel soft and comfortable to the touch.
 The ones I have, have a name written in old-fashioned ink in the corner.

So did this sheet. Several as a matter of fact.
"P.Brown", and "G.Brown 72", and in the oldest style of writing I think I can make out "I.Thompson R:2 1827" or "1927"
This would have been information (I guess) for the washing woman, many households used to use the services of a local laundry woman.
Obviously this sheet passed into 3 different hands, family probably. From daughter to daughter perhaps.

The numbers however puzzle me;  "72" might have been an account number , or a house number.
 The "R:2", was that a regiment perhaps? Was I.Thompson a soldier?
And the number 1827 or 1927 was that his army number?
 Surely not the year, why would sheets have a year date on it.
 I don't think that a well-used sheet would have survived for 90, let alone 190 years....

Not really a hole.
"Yeah", said the lady shop keeper. "It is a nice cotton, but it's got rips and holes in it and a few stains."
 I think she needs glasses. 
Sure there are a few little stains in it, looks like rust, I can't shift it. But she pointed straight at the signatures.
And the rips are actually right in the middle of the (single) sheet. This sheet consists of 2 halves, each a narrow self-edged strip of woven linen. It would have been woven on quite a narrow loom, not wide enough for a single sheet, and someone has carefully sewn the edges together by hand with the tiniest of stitches, in such a way that there is only a slight ridge on 1 side in the middle of the sheet.
 And some of these stitches have come undone.
You can see what a close weave linen it is on the photo, that's my thumb.
 It is quite heavy too.
 I love this kind of fabric history.
Perfect apple-strudel...
 A small moment of Domestic Goddess-ness . A new recipe that worked, apple-strudel, using organic apples. Cox-orange and Monty's Surprise apples as a matter of fact.
The recipe asked for 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, but that sounded very bland, so I added Chinese 5-spice, ginger and a good pinch of ground cloves.
Still warm with ice-cream!
Oh it was superb!!
And the second time I baked it, too.
And the third time...

Apr 23, 2012

Where I Felt you a Hobbit-home.

Great place to work!
In my old house I had my own studio. Here I have a storage room and an upstairs work room. And as you can see when the weather is good and not too windy, I also have an outdoor studio, with a forest sound and view. A week  ago I stood here and laid out the wool layers of my new project. I will now show you parts of what happened next.
Not a tutorial, but just an idea of what is involved in wet-felting.

Sogging wet wool.
Here are the final layers of wool, 4 layers on the bottom , then a plastic resist, then 4 more layers, all wrapped around the edges. The whole "sandwich" has been wet with soapy water, wrapped in net curtains, and moved onto a bamboo roller blind. It has had its' first gentle pressing and rubbing , to squeeze air bubbles out and start the felting process.
Wet wool detail.
 You can see the shiny green angora curls, the wool yarns, and a pre-felted spike, all dripping wet and starting to sink into the layers.
Now follows lots of rolling the wool sandwich within the net curtains, in the bamboo blinds like a sushi-roll. I will have to do 100 rolls in 1 direction, turn the whole thing around several times, and keep counting the rolls.

Soft ridge on the edges.
 I keep checking to see how the felt is feeling, and when it is holding together, but still very soft, I focus on the edges.
Adding extra soap flakes, I "work" the edges that are starting to felt into ridges. Because I don't want ridges! I have to rub all around them, until they have smoothed out, and you can't see where the front and the back of the felting project melt together.
No more rolling.
 At last the felt is holding together and I can manipulate it without too much fear of causing holes or displacement of fibres and yarns.
 Ofcourse the felt is still sopping wet and soapy, but it has gone cold. So I heat the whole thing up in the microwave for a minute or 2. This only works if it is very wet, because if you scorch it, you will have ruined the whole thing.
When the wool fibres are warm, the microscopic scales on each individual fibre will open up and become entwined by the neighbouring fibres during friction. This causes the shrinking, and it is irreversible.
As I am sure you might have experienced, after you ( the reader) have taken your favourite jersey out of the washing machine, and found it was now 2 sizes too small....
Removing the resist.
Time for the scissors, to cut a slit in the sandwich. Now I can take the plastic resist out, and turn the whole project inside-out.
 The inside layers are not as well felted as the out-side, because they got less rubbing.
 Now I will gently chuck them onto the bamboo blind, this shocks the fibres and really shrinks it.
I want lots of shrinkage, to make the felt very dense and sturdy.
I keep re-heating and throwing harder.
 Very therapeutic...
Cutting the windows.
I now cut out the shapes for the little windows of my Hobbit-Home.
Still a little felting to soften and smooth those cut edges, and then I will throw the whole thing in the washing machine for a quick rinse and spin.
 This actual felting process, (not the laying out of the wool) took a good 3 hours.
And I will show you some more in a following post. Till then!

Apr 21, 2012

Bunting and Bountifulness.

 Yesterday I finished a string of bunting to brighten up our entrance way. Earlier this week I had tidied and cleaned the area, washed the windows and shoo-ed out the spiders. Sometimes you just feel the need...
An old plastic tablecloth had been lying around there for ages, and was still in good condition.

 So I cut it up, (easy with a little wheel blade) and sewed all the triangles together in pairs, attached them to some bias binding.
And, hey presto! a cheerful bunting to make me smile when I come home!

It's nice having a covered entrance way, people usually take their shoes off before they come inside, and the bench is helpful to put your boots on as well. It's a nice dry place for the cats at night, often they sleep in a box there.

Acorn Gnomes in hat-heaven.

I also went for a walk in the nearby park to find acorn caps for a friend. I found hundreds, nice deep ones, and since it had been dry for a few days, in great clean condition.

 While fossicking around in the fallen leaves off the paths, and getting funny looks from passerby's, I suddenly came across many fat shiny edible chestnuts. I must try cooking with these.
 They used to be known as the poor man's staple, long ago before the introduction of the potato in Europe. High in carbohydrates, fibre and several vitamins and minerals, people even ground them to flour for baking with. Apparantly there were whole forests of edible chestnuts in Europe.
 Beware of the poisonous horse chestnuts though, which are also known as conkers.

I spotted Toadstool Girl helping herself!

And Possum Kids know what they like too...

Ragged fairy wings.
I do always enjoy the autumn, it smells good. My man is hauling and cutting wood like a man possessed. The freshly cut piles add to the woody scent outside. My kitchen smells of feijoas, delicious!
Soon we will be going on an overseas holiday together, with 2 of our friends. We have picked up the tickets and have already changed some money. 
Where? Bali....!!
We are so looking forward to it, we haven't been out of the country since 2005. 
Summer here we come!!

Apr 18, 2012

Autumn Finds and Awesome Felts.

Treasure Hunt Showcase...
Vintage costume jewellery.
Show-and-tell time!
Here some lovely pictures of recent thrifting treasures.
I love the cherry brooch, and I might sew it on to a patch of contrasting vintage fabric, and wear it like that. Because the brooch flops forward: the pin is behind the cherries and is unbalanced.
 I might do the same with the ( plastic) cameo; it is too prim by itself and needs some playfulness.
 I totally adore the cross stitch embroidered tablecloth in the background! Only a few dollars and the stains came out completely...
Old buttons and a bakelite buckle.
A nice old buckle to use for a fabric brooch.
 4 Linen covered buttons which were often used on bedding fabrics.
And a handful of tiny, vintage mother-of-pearl buttons with carved decoration on them.
So small and so pretty.
Soft pastels and fragile leaves.
New and old spring-coloured zips, a pretty embroidered doily to make a zip-pouch from.
3 Old books for playing with; Shakespear, numbers and statistics, and a fairytale book with delicate drawings.
Also a packet of skeleton leaves for mixed media collage.
Red, white and blue themed finds.
A tiny vinyl patterned handbag in royal blue. Bias binding( always handy) and 1970's embroidered ribbon. I think my Mum used the same ribbon on some of my dolls' clothes!
And a funky dutch boy all embroidered, ready for use on a bag.
Sweet old textiles.
A length of greys and deep pink florals, and a shiny satin in old rose with tiny sprigs of flowers.
Two matching wool blankets in aqua colours, to upholster 2 old wooden chairs.
And a near new Waldorf doll. These are tricky to make and take a long time, and this is usually reflected in the price. I might have to sell it on.


3  Kererus eating leaves.
A few feathered visitors around our home were snapped by my trusty camera. Kereru or NZ native Woodpidgeon are quite big, like a small chicken. These were having a feed of fresh leaves. The branches were all bending over and swinging about with the fat birds hopping on them.
And a tui singing.
There is constant singing and chatting of birds outside. It's like living inside a large birdcage.
About 5 tuis are hanging around, and I have spotted 4 bellbirds all chasing each other.
They burst into short streams of song, very loudly. Just to impress each other.
At times they zoom right past you for a shortcut across the deck.
Then there are sparrows and wax-eyes chattering and peeping.
I have also been hearing a grey warbler in this little gulley, but I haven't seen it. I guess it's grey...
And last week my Dad spotted a kingfisher in the oak-tree. Very impressive, considering he is colourblind!
Laying out the top layer of felt.
Right, so here some photos of the hobbit-hole in the felting process. At this point there are 3 layers of wool, then a plastic bubble-wrap resist, then 3 more layers of wool. Now for the fun layer, this is the 4th with most of the decoration.

Lots of details.

You can see all the colours blended, and pre-made spikes, threads and cut-out pre-felts. I'll wet this with soapy water, cover and press down with a plastic rubbish bag, and flip the whole thing over like one humongous woolly pancake.

Laying out the bottom of the hobbit hole.

And this is the other side, the earthy bottom of the hobbit-hill. Part of the sides will be molded upwards for the sides of the hill. Again I will wet it and cover, and then my actual hard work will start with the felting itself. 

Close-up of the colour blending.

Apr 16, 2012

Changes and new beginnings.

Going opshopping with a friend or one of my daughters is very enjoyable. Ooh-ing over treasures and laughing over silly clothes, and afterwards comparing what we'd bought.
 Cheap thrills!!

My Mums' favourite opshop has a retro section.

And my favourite section is the linens and sewing section.

And sometimes opshops have sales too! Crazy...

Summery felt appliqued citrus from the fifties.

2nd-hand bookshop, where they've ran out of space.

Amongst the books a basket full of embroidered linens; yummy!
 Well, I'll show-and-tell my purchases another time, because at the moment I am very excited to tell you I have had a new idea, luckily just in time for the Easter school holidays. So I have been playing and working hard at the same time (ouch my arms and back) on my new felting project. Here is my sketch in my visual diary, in which most of my doodles and inspiration gets documented.
Often I have an idea, and if I don't write it down or draw it, a week later it will have fled my mind.

My sketchbook.
It's a Hobbit Hole, for kids to play with, like a dolls house.
It is not completely finished, but I am super happy with it. It is starting to look very organic, as if I had grown it in my garden!
Just a glimpse....
  Obviously you will see more later, haha!...

"She's leaving home, bye-bye...."
In the meantime both my daughters have now moved out !
First the eldest, she was home for the summer, working hard in her supermarket job to earn extra for university life. She moved out in late February, and was home last week for 6 days to stock up on red meat, peace and quiet.
The Youngest moved out on the day the Eldest came home for a holiday, easing the transition for me by coincidence. Our Youngest is nearly 18, is in full-time employment, although not permanent, and she wanted to try it out. Some of her friends needed another flatmate, so there she goes!
Probably in the future when she goes back to study at college, she'll come back home.
That's fine, our door is always open!
Although we have always said that when you are over 23 and you have no where else to go, you'll have to pay proper commercial rent etc.
But how nice that our girls are flying out without having to have fights!!

Ns' lovely owls!
And to close this entry, I have a lovely picture of my friend N.s' owls.
 It's great to have arty and crafty friends, because you can inspire each other and bounce ideas of each other at the same time. Woohoo to you!