On-line needle felt workshop launch

I have finally finished my first online needle felt project and what a 'journey' that has been! It's in my nature to take a long time to do things and this time it seemed to take forever as I agonised over whether to do a 'talking head' video to help pitch it. Breaking news - I became so stressed over it, that in the end I decided not to. Until I'm a little more confident. However, I did get Joe to take an up-to-date profile picture, since my last publicity photo was taken ten years ago.

My first project is a sleepy squirrel brooch, designed for simplicity and ease of making. It contains fifty (yes, fifty) step photos, written instructions and four mini supplementary demo videos.

The normal price will be £15 (roughly $19.60 US at the time of writing) but as an introductory offer it is £10 (roughly $14 US) until Friday 26th November 2018. 

To take advantage of this, or just to have a peek, please click on the link below for the course site.This will take you to the landing page which has a full description, materials list and option to sign up.



Cakes and calves

A couple of days ago, Joe went to town with Jean-and-Brian-next-door, to get his hair cut. He returned with a 'present for both of us' and produced a pretty box from Patisserie Valerie. It's been so long since we could afford a little luxury such as this that  - and was such a lovely surprise - that I found myself getting a little teary eyed.

We decided to save them for later and I went into the garden, to plod on with my weeding. Glancing over at the adjoining field, I spotted a large, dark lump being nuzzled by a couple of cows. My first thought that it might be something dead, perhaps a fox, but realised it was possibly a calf. Then I saw an ear twitch. I called Joe  to come and see and rushed to grab my camera.

They were on the far side of the field, so my zoom was stretched to its limit,  but you can just see it lying behind the hind-quarters of the cow in the foreground. I think it had probably been born within the last half hour.

I've never seen this in the six years I've lived here. Knowing that the farmer usually likes to handle such events under cover, we walked up to the farm to let them know what had happened. As it turned out, 'young farmer' was in bed, sick, so we told the older farmer's wife who was holding the household reins.

We returned to see what would happen. The calf must have wobbled to its feet, as it was now in the close shelter of the hedgerow, surrounded by other members of the herd who were obviously shielding it from potential harm. 

A farmhand came down to check things out (maybe to make sure we weren't seeing things that weren't there). He was soon surrounded by most of the small herd.

Later, he returned with 'old farmer' and a wheelbarrow. The new born was placed carefully onto a nest of straw and so began a long procession up the field, towards the farm; the calf in the wheelbarrow, a line of cows trotting alongside and 'old farmer' bringing up the rear. We could just see the head of the calf peeking up as it was wheeled up the field.

After some commotion at the farmyard gate, the calf was transported away with its mother following, where they will have been settled in a shed together. What drama!


I spent a quiet few hours with my laborious weeding, having hit a patch of clay which is the very devil to dig and clear. Next door, the herd continued quietly grazing in the mellow October sun.

Later, we enjoyed our tea and cake, still glowing from being the first to lay eyes on the newest addition to the farm next door.


Hidden in the woods

The other week, when the weather was still lingering in late summer sunshine, Brian-next-door drove Joe to work and I went out with them, just to get out of the cottage for a while. On the way home,  Brian turned off the road to reveal a local secret. Parking up in a narrow lane, we walked down a winding path, flanked with a gloomy, swampy pond...

..passing a large Georgian 'pile', where I had a jolt of recognition...

...because for a second, I felt as if I'd stepped into one of  my own little paintings. 

There were restored outbuildings and a tempting archway. Not to be explored, as this is private land with a public footpath that we were carefully following.

 Following Brian past a fairy tale cottage...

...and through a door in the wall, which lead us into woodland.

 Gradually, a small church emerged from behind the trees.

 Solidly made from red Shropshire stone.

And locked. Because this too, is a private place. However, there is a key, which can be collected. So one day, Joe and I will make a return journey, to explore inside. Brian had taken me, as, to quote his own words  'it's hard to find if you don't know where it is'.


Tiny little dachshund

Max was almost finished a few weeks ago, but he was missing the perfect pull chain. I knew in my head what it should be and so I was pleased beyond anything when a kind blog friend - Vee of 'The Bearister Bookcase' - offered to send me some treasures (knowing that they would probably be pulled apart and used in various ways). In the packet that arrived was a lovely thin black chain, which was perfect and had a tiny clasp onto which I could fix the red vintage button I'd put to one side. So thank you very much to Vee, for all the little things which will be put to good use.

I am still tussling with my online course - with a grand total fifty photos, it just needs a few additional demo videos, which is a whole new territory for me. I made the mistake of looking at other online needle felt projects, most of which seemed to have all manner of perfectly groomed (and younger) presenters, bells, whistles and even music, which completely shook my confidence as my demo videos are very simple.  Just my hands, needle felting. Added to which my recorded voice sounds - odd. I can't work out if it sounds a bit posh, a bit West Country or a bit growly. Or a strange mixture of all three. However, I'm sure that's completely normal, and I will have to get over myself.

I don't think balancing a laptop on a precarious pile of DVDs is the standard way of shooting mini movies, but it seems to work, so long as there isn't a tractor rumbling by while I'm narrating.



From grey clouds to blue skies

I have been steadily working for some time, working on my first online needle felting project, which means a lot of time spent with my camera and computer. So last week I decided to get out and about, even if it was only for an hour or so. My poor bike, Marjorie, had flat tyres from languishing in the porch for months, but once they were pumped up, she was ready to go. 

The lane outside the cottage looks peaceful and idyllic here, but after taking this photo, a busy red car came up behind me, and a high sided lorry came up the road soon after, which is normal. So I was anxious to get onto a quieter side pathway, a mile further on.

The skies were a flood of brisk grey clouds, blowing over from the West. On the far horizon, the Shropshire hills were just visible, blue and brooding.

It was a gentle, pottering cycle ride, with many stops to take snapshots and take in the views. And rest my legs.

Autumn is the time of hedgerow treasure and I found shaggy parasols mushrooms. I have eaten these in the past, but they were so pretty I left them alone.

Brambles and hops draped themselves artistically along the road, still green as autumn has not yet changed the pallet of the countryside.

This is my favourite lane. It gently winds into the distance and slopes away uphill; I know exactly where it goes, and still it maintains a delicious mystery.

It is past harvest time and hay stacks are everywhere - some are so large that I wonder how they stand upright.

The odd thing about this lane is that I always anticipate a left hand turn to take me back to the nearby village. Yet it actually curves round so gently that before I realise I'm there, I am already in front of the imposing gates of what used to be 'the big house' of the village. It's still technically 'the big house' but is now a commercial venture. And this is where my return journey begins.

A few months ago, a large old oak tree blew down in a gale and already nature is taking over. I have a feeling this imposing fungus may be 'Chicken of the Woods', but I know it to be typically a yellowish colour, whereas this was mostly white. It was the size of a large cat. 

As I neared home, the fickle wind blew the cloud cover away to reveal a piercing blue sky.


Ahead and in the far distance was the blue hump of the Wrekin, which is the main view from my studio window. As the road twists and turns, it seems to be situated first to the left, then to the right, then to the left again; I like to think it is quietly shuffling around like a great, shy prehistoric creature, trying to hide unsuccessfully.

I am one of those  for whom home is never so beautiful as when I am leaving or returning to it and there, in the distance, to the right of the farm, is the dear cream wall of the cottage. A short journey, but with so much to see.


My first book

Tucked away on this shelf, which holds some of my old and antiquarian collection, is a humble (and not at all valuable) book. Despite that, it is one of my most precious.

This, as far as I know, was my very first book. It is made of cotton fabric which is now  frayed, stained and with faded colours. It would have been published around the time I was born, in the late 1960s.

It's not just the fact that it was my first book, in what would become a lifetime of collecting them; it holds a very dear, early memory.

I can remember being very small - a toddler - and sitting with my mum while she read every page out loud to me, in one of the two cheap rooms that my parents rented at the time. And that one particular memory is that every time we we got to this page...

...she would read it in a certain way - 'isn't he a clever dog', emphasizing the 'clever'. I have very few photographs of my mum, but I can still just about hear the echo of her voice, from those long ago days, reading that one, simple line in such a  way that I would never forget it.

Although my parents were poor, they knew the value of reading and I was encouraged to read and look at pictures almost as soon as I could walk. And even though I was to lose my mother and father when I was still a child, I will always be grateful for the gift of reading, of being read to, and for that very special memory.