A Barn Covered in Fleece

While we were on holiday last week we noticed yellow signs around for the C Art Open Studios happening in September so we paid a visit to an installation near Ashness Bridge to look at the work of a couple of young artists – one who had covered a stone barn in fleece and one who had filled it with animal skulls and feathers… well what’s not to like about that!!

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece

Barn Covered in Sheep Fleece with wool balls – Annabel Lewis



We hummed and aahed about buying one of Natalie Williamson’s skull sculptures but in the end I settled for a pendant made from old copper jewellery and mouse skulls!

There were also a number of woolly balls scattered around the area and we clambered around the hills looking at them…This is me sitting on Ashness Bridge with one of them…DSCF8168

No wonder I look so happy with such a beautiful view to look at…and in the sunshine too!


The Open Studios are on until 28th September 2014.

Felting in Portugal

I’m here on a felting holiday with Nicola Brown. My technique is improving in leaps and bounds. One of the things we are learning is Eco printing which is different to dyeing as Nicola keeps emphasising.

Here is our first experiment being laid out to see what result we get from the eucalyptus and oak we have picked.


Peacocks and a leap out of my comfort zone

In an attempt to master the dreaded sewing machine I am making my latest project in my embroidery class at least partially machined….so I am constructing my own ‘fabric’ using disolveable material and machine threads.  It is to be a peacock like this (although with different colouring – not sure where this came from in my drawing..)

Peacock Design full

So there I was last night teeth gritted, trying to remember to breathe, and hoping that I could get through what I needed to do quickly and without tangling myself up too many times. 

‘You’re going too fast!’ said Isobel, which apparently explained the strange loopy quality on the back on the stitching.  Although it doesn’t really matter for what I want.  The embroidery will be constructed in several layers – as below:

Peacock layers

Peacock layers

I started on the yellow piece yesterday – the amount of machine stitching I will end up with is debatable and may depend whether I stop wanting to throw the machine out of the window!!  Roll on hand sewing…. !

I keep telling myself it is a useful tool if I can master it so for the moment I persevere….


The Scotsman was out doing a spot of ushering at our new local theatre on Friday when he bumped into an acquaintance of ours. “Where’s Tess?” she asked.

“Learning to make felt slippers at an alpaca farm on the Isle of Wight

“That sounds like Tess!” she replied.

Actually I nearly didn’t go as on Wednesday last week I fell over my own feet on High Holborn, and my right arm took the brunt of the fall.  Very luckily I am left handed.  Even more luckily the injuries turned out to be comparatively minor – sore, but not long lasting and after a few painkillers and a couple of days in a sling my arm was back to a reasonably useable state.  Probably not really in a state to make felt with but as I had booked a train/ferry and a B&B as well as the course I was pretty determined to go.  (I know it doesn’t take that long to get to the Isle of Wight but by public transport it wasn’t possible to get where I needed to be by 10am)

Alpacas in the Isle of Wight

Alpacas in the Isle of Wight

As it turned out the B & B was a delight, the Isle of Wight lovely once it stopped raining and the alpaca’s adorable (see above).  Although as I discovered on Saturday some alpacas are prettier than others…There were also some delightfully feathery chickens running around loose.

As for the slippers – well I can’t show you them yet as we ran out of time to finish them…..maybe we spent too long eating lunch as it was a lovely sunny day!  And I did have to do a certain amount of rolling and rubbing one handed as the day progressed.  But as I expected I picked up some useful tips from Gillian who was teaching the class – it’s always the advantage of learning from a person rather than from a book or UTube.  And I bought a load of alpaca tops (ie carded and prepared fleece) – and two alpaca shaped shortbread biscuits for the Scotsman…

I also had my first go at making felt using net (which was what always used to be used) rather than the thin plastic sheeting I am used to.  I can see its advantages as you can actually add warm soapy water through the net rather than having to lift up the plastic and risk disturbing the fibres. 

Now I just have to get rolling so I can at least get both slippers fully felted and at the same stage.  Then if I don’t think my arm will take it I can at least let them dry out, and wait till my arm is fully better before I stick them on my feet in a bowl of warm soapy water and work on shaping and fulling (shrinking) them.

Let’s Hear it for Natural Dyes

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Having spent last week learning how to pick dye plants and make natural dye colours I am now a fan. 

The colours have a natural subtlety which meant I was more concerned with putting them side by side to show off the contrasts, and less with working with the carders to blend them together so they didn’t look too ‘flat’. 

We used a combination of plants from the surrounding area eg. bracken, tree lichen (of which there was lots as the air was so clear) and broom, bought in natural dyes such as Madder (my favourite), Logwood and Indigo and everyday household ingredients – who knew that onion skins could turn white silk threads into something that looked more like gold…

There is something wonderfully primeval about washing fleeces in the open air, mordanting wood (to help the dye take) over a log fire and then dying it with something you have picked yourself.  By doing a first, second and sometimes even third dye plus adding part of some colours to the indigo pot we ended up with over thirty shades and colours.

So thanks again to Rosie and the team at Wild Rose Escapes.  I shall be back….