Cake topping!

Back in Spring I was contacted by a lovely lady called Tara who I was friends with through WI. Tara makes and decorates cakes and had been asked to make a cake for a lovely couple’s wedding. Their day was quite rustic and decorated with clean lines and prettiness. The cake they wanted from Tara was a naked cake, that is that it has no icing or fondant on it and they chose to have crystallised rose petals cascading down the side of it. Through talking with Tara they also decided that they wanted a topper but something a bit different and Tara did a little research and came up with an idea which she thought I could do for her.

The plan was 2 needle felted birds. Initially they were thinking maybe realistic birds which isn’t really my forte but I was thrilled to discover that they decided in the end for something cute and pink!

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I decided to use, as my core, the mini needle felting fleece batt I was sent by Blooming Felt which I mentioned in last month’s blog post. WOW! It sure does needle felt up quickly! It is a very coarse fleece and so ideal for speedy felting although it does mean that the finished texture would not be fine so it is ideal for core work and also if you were felting something that needed that rough texture on the outside, but for this project I wanted a lovely smooth finish so once the core work was done I was able to start covering the birds with the coloured merino.

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I was thrilled with the finished birds but oh my! How scary is a commission? Especially for a wedding! The day came to take the little lovebirds to Tara and she was very pleased with them and was certain that the brides would love them. I was very nervous!

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Well, 2 weeks later Leanne and Tracey’s wedding day arrived and a couple of days later I received the photo’s of the cake and the toppers and heard from Tara that they were thrilled with them! Such a relief!

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A few weeks later I got to meet Leanne and she gave me a lovely thank you card and told me that the lovebirds are now nested happily on their mantelpiece.

I really enjoyed doing these and hope to do something like it again in the future. Being just a little part in someone’s special day is such a lovely feeling.

lovebird

Jx

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Blooming Felt.

Hello lovely friends.

I decided after writing my last post that I would get on with catching you all up with the little bit of creativity I have been indulging in whilst I have been unwell. Yes, I have managed a little!

I made friends with a lovely lady, Sarah Tremelling, on social media and through some chats discovered that she owns the company Blooming Felt. I had previously heard of them but was yet to visit the website and investigate further. Following my chat with Sarah I decided to have a look. Wow! What a delightful company!

Blooming Felt is a Chelmsford based family company that sells wool felt supplies. The website is bright and colourful and very enticing. Not only do they sell handmade felt ‘blanks’, like purses, stars, balls, hearts etc but also felt sheets and felting supplies like wool tops, felting needles and wet felting starter kits. Obviously I started at the felt supplies and decided to place myself a lovely little order…well, when I say little!!

I have had an idea to make a little something recently and was debating the most cost and time effective way to do so when Blooming Felt presented me with the solution! Pre made felt shapes. I eagerly placed bags of felt hearts, stars and balls in my virtual basket! As I did so my mind began to race with the possibilities and so I placed hair slide and ring blanks in there too! (Watch this space!)

felt balls

Obviously, my addiction to coloured wool tops could not be ignored and so I ordered the most beautiful Merino wool top blends which I could not resist. The colourways they sell are just so scrummy! I was also very pleased to know that not only is the Merino they supply ethically sourced from non mulesed* sheep but they are a fair-trade company too. The website has lots of information on the company they deal with as well as the fleeces they sell, what each fleece is best suited too, tips on wet and needle felting and lots of ideas.

blended wool top

Obviously my little creative mind was on a roll so off I went to explore the button page and the ribbon page…oooh, they have the most adorable bias binding that will look lovely on the dress I just made!

Well, I decided that whilst I am on here I may as well look at the books page too, you know, you can never have too many craft books and I did earmark a couple for future purchases! All in all I found many things on the website that I would like but was ever so good and didn’t get too carried away! What I was most impressed with was the facility to make a wish list on the page! I often visit websites and find things I would like to order but not necessarily straight away and the chance to be able to keep a wish list is so useful.

wish list

So finally I placed my order. The process was very efficient and straightforward and I didn’t encounter any hiccups while checking out.

The day after placing my order I received a private message from Sarah thanking me for the order and asking if I would like to test some products for her and write a review. Of course, I was more than happy to! Sarah said she’d pop a couple of things in the parcel for me to try.  A couple of days later my parcel arrived. How exciting!

blooming felt parcel

In my next blog I will be reviewing the first item that Sarah sent me to review, the mini needle felting wool batts. Meanwhile I can highly recommend Blooming Felt as a company overall and their website. I also noted, by the way, that you can visit their premises on certain dates and it is definitely something I am planning to do!

Hope to see you soon Sarah!

Jx

 

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Reasons to be cheerful, part 3…

I have been humming the Ian Dury and the Blockheads song for a week or so now, the reason being is that I have recently taken a turn for the worse. Sadly this was due to outside factors in my life and lots of crap all happened at once and my mind simply couldn’t cope with it all and decided to shut down. When this happens to me my thoughts turn to not wanting to be alive any more. I don’t have to think of reasons why I shouldn’t be as those are always with me, even when I am relatively well. The true constant I have in my life is a list of reasons why both I and those in my life would be better off if I were not here any more. So instead, when I begin to seriously start contemplating taking my own life and get to even planning the best way to do it and the best time to do it I have to try and come up with a list of reasons not to.My list is entitled “Reasons to be alive, part 1…again.” Hence the humming!

And so, a few nights ago in the midst of another night of no sleep I sat and wrote my list. The list included things like:

  • Gavin has booked and paid for me and him to have an amazing holiday in December in South America. If I die now I will ruin his holiday and his 50th birthday and the money will be lost for good. He won’t like that.
  • My youngest daughter is in love for the first time and I am scared she is going to get hurt and she’ll need me there for her when she does.
  • My eldest daughter is going through a tough time at the moment and I don’t want to be responsible for adding to that.
  • I have paid to go on a sewing course in November and it will be a waste of money if I don’t do it…again, not sure Gavin will be too chuffed!
  • I’ll feel the need to write to people to explain why I have gone, and there are quite a few people and I don’t know what to say without sounding selfish and making them cross.

As I wrote my list I realised that so many of my reasons are about not upsetting other people and just this knowledge alone made me see that I am obviously still a way off ending my life as I still am concerned with other’s feelings.

Just being able to think about writing this list and understanding what I have written is a reminder to me that I am still not at the lowest point yet. This ‘control’ I have of my illness is through having lived with it all my life and learning about it as much as I can. I believe that knowing my illness helps me manage it. Which brings to mind this quote:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Living with bipolar is a battle: a hundred battles; as a sufferer I have to choose to either fight the war or surrender to the enemy. I am still fighting…for now…but each time a new battle starts I do wonder how much longer I will be able to.

So, the very next day I decided that I would learn as much as I could about my illness and I started reading a book called “Bipolar Disorder. The Ultimate Guide”.

I figured that I had just enough fight left in me to try to battle on a little longer and this is my last shot. I am so glad I did. This is an amazing book and I can only ask that anyone who has bipolar or has someone in their life with bipolar please read this book. I really hope that people who know me choose to. Reading this book introduced me to people who feel the same way I do, there are people out there who know, really know, what it is like to have bipolar. Bipolar is not the same as depression, it has many similar elements but it is so much more. I now no longer feel alone.

Unfortunately what it the book has highlighted is the fact that my local health authority is seriously lacking in its care of people with mental illness but now I know what should be happening I can approach my GP with questions and demand the answers. So, although I still feel like I am drowning in my depression I have a grabbed hold of a small buoy and will bob along a little longer with my head above the water and hopefully be rescued before a bigger wave hits.

One thing I do know for sure is that sharing my thoughts and journey with my illness really does help me. It releases things that I have no one to talk to about and helps me organise my mind. I also hope that it might help someone else who maybe is experiencing the same, or similar problems. I debated writing anything about my illness here on this blog as I wondered if I should keep my ‘work’ and my personal life separate. Part of me feels that this blog is not just a textile blog, it is me. My work and my personal life are not exclusive of each other and they both collaborate together to make me who I am, but then of course I could be alienating readers who just want to know about the fluffiness and woolliness of my life. I’m not sure really. Let me know what you think dear readers. Do you want me to keep my personal life in a separate blog?

J.x

 

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Life just keeps on throwing curveballs.

Just when you think that it is all settled and sorted, along comes that curveball and knocks you off your feet. Those of you who know me personally and those that have known me virtually for some time know that I am bi-polar. Generally the medication keeps me fairly well day to day with just minor hiccups now and again. Sadly, this year has not been good. I have become increasingly ill as the months have passed and am now referred back to the mental health support team and have been put onto some extremely strong medication. So, whilst I am once again battling with my illness , sadly this means that so much else in my life has to take a backseat. So I’m giving up my business, before it really ever got started! I will no longer be running regular workshops as the pressure and expectation is too much for me right now. I will still be doing the Autumnal wreath one in October and will still be available to hire for groups. Of course I will be working on producing my own art as that is the best therapy I know. But primarily I just need to concentrate on staying alive right now, for the sake of my children.

Thanks for your support and understanding and hopefully you all stick around to see me when I pop out to say Hi 😊

Jenny.x

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Visiting workshops.

As well as organising and running my own workshops I also happily do them for other people. I love visiting other premises and meeting new groups of people to teach them. In the past I have taught at a WI meeting, a ladies group, in a yarn shop and still have a fairly regular slot in Halfpenny Home, the haberdashers and craft shop where I used to work. I have already booked in this years workshops, and they are quite varied!
I will be updating my workshop page with the information about my visiting workshops as soon as my laptop decides to do it’s job properly…you know, just function!
Meanwhile you can find out about them on Halfpenny Home’s blog.

Last week I ran another birdy class. How adorable are these?

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First workshop of the year!

I held my first independent workshop on Saturday. As it is a week before Valentines Day I decided we would needle felt some lovely red hearts which can be made into all sorts of items.

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I had 7 lovely ladies join me and fuelled by tea and cake I soon had them stabbing away at the beautiful merino fleece.

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The ladies were such lovely company and we were soon singing along together!
They produced such a pretty pile of hearts including brooches and shoe decorations as well as garlands and wreaths.

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Rachel was so inspired she went home and made lots more!

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Aren’t they beautiful? I love the pearly buttons sewn on!

X

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Not quite the Christmas and New Year I was expecting…

As you must all be aware by now, this Christmas saw the most horrendous flooding in the north of England and the borders of Scotland. It was so distressing to see it all happening on the television but what none of us can comprehend when watching from the comfort of our homes is just how devastating it really is and I do hope that most of you never have to find out.

I did see for myself first hand just how devastating it was and still is. You are all aware I am sure, that Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire is a town that I hold dear to my heart and my father lives and works there and I have many friends there too. At 3am on Boxing Day morning the flood sirens were activated and a red warning was served. For those that don’t know a red flood warning is the highest level meaning that the water levels can be a threat to life. It was all hands on deck as the whole town fled to the shops and homes and started to raise their belongings and stock onto higher levels. Hebden Bridge suffered severe flooding in the summer of 2012 and many had put flood gates on their properties and already taken some precaution. But this was to no avail. The floods of Boxing Day were far worse than anyone could have imagined. The water levels rose many feet above the previous level. The river broke its banks and the canal flooded for the first time in history! Just let that sink in a bit. The canal has never flooded before, ever. Boxing Day 2015 it did.

And so it continued, the rain didn’t stop and the water levels rose and rose. By the end of Boxing Day I was seeing pictures on social media of the streets of Hebden being lakes. The water level was mere inches from the top of the shop doorways in some places. Where there ware once bridges there now was a torrent of river. Where there was once a park, a tow path and canal, a marina and a road there was now the largest lake you could imagine. No one could get to their businesses in the town, there were no roads or paths.

I contacted my dad on the Sunday and was relieved to hear that the water hadn’t got out to the road where he lived so his home was safe but he was unable to get to his business premises to check there. Due to the situation of the mill where he has his unit he escaped the floods of 2012 as the river rose to the top step of the cellar only, but the mill is situated on a slope down from the canal so there was a doubt as to whether it had escaped this time!

Finally by the Monday the water levels had dropped. Great you might think but what you cannot begin to imagine is the horror left behind! The Victorian sewerage system means that as the water level dropped not only did it leave behind the silt from the river and canal bed but also effluent from the sewers. The whole town, all the shops and businesses and many people’s homes were now left with a thick layer of silt, mud and faeces. And so the work begins. Everybody in and around the Calder Valley set to work helping each other. First with shovels and bin bags, then as the filth begins to retreat with clean water, soap, bleach, rubber gloves, face masks, brooms, scrubbing brushes and elbow grease. It was then that my dad finally got to get round to the mill to discover that the canal flooding meant that the mill and his unit was waist high in water!

What we can’t imagine and often don’t think about when we see things like this on the t.v. is just how far reaching the effects of this type of disaster brings. Obviously those whose homes had been flooded have lost furniture, possessions, maybe priceless things, expensive things but also sentimental things, a whole lifetime in a box of photo albums. They have no electricity, phone, gas, heating, light. That means not much food, nowhere to cook food if that have some, no means of outside contact. But also even those who aren’t flooded are affected. It may seem trivial compared to those who are flooded but my dad doesn’t have a washing machine, he uses the launderette. The launderette was flooded, dad was running out of socks! He very much lives day to day with being on his own so was planning on going to get food on the Tuesday…the shops were all flooded. He only had some cereal! But this is where having friends there and social media contact with many Bridgers brings me so much comfort. The lovely Steve and Christine from Angeldale Guest House told me to tell dad to go to theirs Tuesday morning and they would cook him breakfast and then the equally lovely Kirsty (president of the HB WI, see, being a WIer really does help) and her husband Cat kindly offered to do his washing for him.

I arrived in Hebden on the Tuesday. I debated driving up as the roads were damaged, cracks were appearing in the surface, roads were cut off and closed, bridges were collapsing from the sheer force of the water but after researching the journey and speaking to my dad and friends I felt I had to be there for, if nothing else, moral support. My dad is 75, diabetic, partially sighted and lives alone. As he said to me on the phone, don’t come if you don’t think it’s a good idea but I would like a hug. Decision made. So I arrived with a car full of food and plenty of hugs.

On Wednesday I was out in the town. I don’t know how to describe to you what it was like. I felt like I was walking on the set of a disaster movie. It somehow just didn’t seem real. The air was heavy with the smell of sludge, although this was strongly being permeated by the smell of bleach! It was all so very wet and cold. Even though it continued to rain this was a different dampness which I struggle to find words to describe to you but it was so heavily damp as if you could feel that the very bricks and mortar were saturated, the air was saturated, the cobbles and the tarmac, the people even felt saturated. the atmosphere was oppressive but then as I walked through town towards the mill I saw the people, the helpers, the builders, the council men, the residents, the business owners, the children, the teens, the elderly and every age in between. I saw locals and not so locals all working together, all helping each other, smiling at each other, hugging each other, laughing together and working together. I spoke to people who had travelled from all over this country to help those in need in a little town in West Yorkshire. I could have cried with the love and humanity that I witnessed. I don’t want to point out the lack of support from the local MP or the government, the PM’s cavalcade sweeping through town to get to the more important photo call in York, or the terrible coverage from the media. What I want to focus on is the kindness of strangers.

As soon as the floods happened and the town woke up to the disaster the Town Hall Committee, which is community run, not council, set the Hall up as the epicentre of help. They worked tirelessly  coordinating everything that needs to be coordinated at times like this. They went straight onto social media and asked for help and help arrived! Kirsty, who I mention above, was telling me how funny and very English it was, especially for her as a Scot, that the first thing that arrived was tea and tea is what kept on being donated! It is so fab that in times of disaster the first thing us English think is “My God…there’ll need tea and plenty of it!” But for me I was most touched by the Muslim and Sikh community groups that travelled to Hebden to help. These included Khalsa Aid from Slough, a relief organisation whose motto is “Recognise The Whole Human Race As One”  Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association from London, Muslim Hands and The Human Relief Foundation from Bradford. There were even Syrian refugees helping. These people have fed from a  war torn country and have offered their help to this community. These communities all rallied together. They brought hot food with them, supplies, skilled workers and most of all friendship. It was truly touching.

But if you search online you will find many blogs and web pages telling you about this amazing work written by people who have a better way with words.

So, back to my dad. His workshop is now all cleaned out, what was ruined has gone and what has been saved is being sorted through slowly. There isn’t much that can be done now as the electrics blew up on the day after boxing day and the first electrician that came to look at them said he wouldn’t be able to put them back on as they needed a lot of work and that comes down to money! Meanwhile therefore, he has no job to go to and no means to earn and so my job for now is to stop him topping himself through boredom! I bought him a new DVD player for Christmas as his other one had given up so hopefully he has plenty of movies to watch!

But the problem is the same for so many of my friends. You see, the minute somewhere has a natural disaster then the insurance companies little eyes light up and whoosh! the premiums rocket. Many of the businesses couldn’t afford insurance after the last lot of floods and so are having to rely on people’s generosity and community based fund raising to get back on  their feet. Some businesses have been lucky enough to run pop up shops on other premises, some have been able to get back on their feet relatively quickly but there are more that cannot do that and are looking at potentially 6 months of no trade yet still with staff wages to pay and overheads to cover. And so, when all the helpers have done what they can and left, when the media have grown bored and left and when the people in charge have returned to their ivory towers and moved on to the next spin story, there is left a town, a beautiful town that is home to so many wonderful people trying to make their way in the world as part of a wonderful community that is still scarred and torn, still struggling to rise again, still being bloody well rained on and that is when they need the love and support from others to go visit them, shop in the shops that are open, drink and eat in the pubs and cafes and restaurants that are open and keep returning as they get back on their feet once more and once again become the jewel of the Pennines.

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