Before Pinterest...


 ...there were scrapbooks. I started collecting cuttings when I was 16, for art references and articles of interest and I kept it up for about 20 years. So this is my pile of 38 scrapbooks, filled with newspaper and magazine clippings, postcards, flyers and all manner of ephemera wot-nots.

In the same way that I now have specific Pinterest boards, I tended to keep different albums for different subjects. Textiles was a favourite even back then.

Landscapes and atmosphere -


I often found poems in old newspapers and put appropriate ones on themed pages. The spread below, of various tapestry and decorative textiles, includes this lovely writing by Vita Sackville-West, 
'Full Moon'

She was wearing the coral taffeta trousers
Someone had brought her from Ispahan,
And the little gold coat with pomegranate blossoms,
And the coral-hafted feather fan;
But she ran down a Kentish lane in the moonlight,
And skipped in the pool of the moon as she ran.

She cared not a rap for all the big planets,
For Betelgeuse or Aldebaran,
And all the big planets cared nothing for her,
That small impertinent charlatan;
But she climbed on a Kentish stile in the moonlight,
And laughed at the sky through the sticks of her fan.

Other books are just full of slightly odd, curious, often ugly and sometimes downright macabre images.

There are several life style 'aspiration' books, put together by a dirt poor teenager with nothing but dreams, some old magazines, scissors and glue.

And hundreds of references for colour, style, ideas and potential reference for the glowing art career I was (naturally) going to have.

I'm going to keep them out now that I've discovered them again. There is something satisfying about these old and battered albums; it's like looking into my own head from a few decades ago, when I dreamed big and didn't worry every day about the future. Some pages are like messages in bottles, from the me-then to the me-now. As if I somehow sensed something.

 Don't Ask

Tell me love, what are you thinking of?

I was thinking how there are certain times of the night
when the dead wipe the frost from their souls and weep.

Of nothing simpler?

Of a courtyard I once visited and of a woman 
standing beside a statue covered in snow.

Of no-one? No-one else?

She was so beautiful.
Had she been made of nettles I'd have wanted her.

Why think of her now, at this moment?

Because I am still missing the ashes of the dead and of dead obsessions

Why answer me like this?

Because I am bankrupt of small comforts, of small deceits.
Because we two are new, and without history, 
And treasonous memory sleeps in so many beds.



Baby hare and flying swans

In-between other things, I have been working on new designs for next year's workshops and the first is this baby hare. 

I am also holding my first local workshop, in Shrewsbury, at a fabulous venue, the Victorian home of Sarah, who runs Fern Dell bed and breakfast near Shrewsbury Abbey. We were hooked up by BBC radio Shropshire on the Jim Hawkins show, after he interviewed me one morning and I mentioned that I was looking for a suitable workshop place.  Seconds later, Sarah had contacted me on Twitter and within 24 hours we had things pretty much sorted.

 So baby hare will be tried for the first time next year on March 2nd, a Thursday. It's an all day workshop and Sarah will be providing a home cooked lunch and refreshments, all of which is included in the price. However, it has booked up pretty quickly and there are only three places left.  If you'd like to see more details, you can find them on my workshop page - booking is directly through myself.  And if you'd like to see the beautiful Fern Dell, the website is here and more lovely photos here in Sarah's Instagram feed

For this weekend only I am having a mini Black Friday sale on these three large, hanging  winter swans, reduced to £40 each plus postage. Each one took two days to needle felt and hangs on silver wire with suspended glass tear drop beads and a twist of silver gauze ribbon.  They are the top featured items in my Etsy shop, or direct links are underneath each picture.


Morning sticks

I finally managed to scrape the money together to get the winter logs in. The log man only lives half a mile down the road and delivers by tractor. 


Although it's a tight and tricky reverse into the drive, he has done it many times before and manages to get everything in with expert ease.

This year I ordered a full load of wood - it's not cheap, but it is our main source of heating so plenty are needed.

Brian-next-door heard the noise and came by to help - even climbing into the trailer to pull the last logs down. I did gently mention something about health and safety, but he said he'd done it many times before. So there he was, perched like a pixie on top of the wood pile.

I think he wanted to help us stack them, but we insisted on being self sufficient and sent him home with thanks and a bag of pears from the garden. As they are his favourite.

So Joe had a crash course in stacking |(from me) and we began to store our log horde.In the 'new' log shed. I took it upon myself to chop my first batch of kindling, having done some research and found it remarkably easy, so long as I used the right kind of log. Then, just like a man, Joe got axe envy and took over. I was relegated to stacking logs.

However I did eventually get another go and made my own batch. For the last three years, while I've been here on my own, Brian has supplied me with a big bag of 'morning sticks' (as they are known here in Shropshire) but I feel much better having taken the plunge and learned to do it myself.

Hopefully this lot will last until late spring.


Guthrie and Ghani workshop

Another early start for last Sunday's workshop at Guthrie and Ghani, in Birmingham. Thankfully fairly 'local' and only a train ride away. The Christmas tree workshop is one that I always pack copious amounts of wool for, as  you never know what colours people are going to choose, though it is often green and red.

I also bring a large amount of  'treasure', as trees are usually decorated.

The workshop space at Guthrie and Ghani is simply gorgeous; lots of room, oodles of light and plenty of tables. Oh, and copious bunting with a beautiful chandelier.

I had the pleasure not only of meeting new people and a fabulous returning work-shopper, but also of finally hooking up with lovely Heather Ellis, who is an illustrator  I have known since the late 1990s, when we were both members of an illustration forum. Before the days of Facebook, IG and all the other social sites. After all these years, we got to say hello face to face and hug and it was one of the highlights of the day for me.

It was another great session, and the 'treasure' was eagerly rummaged through.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day I had to rush off for a scheduled train, so I didn't have time to take my usual photos of the end results, which were lovely and varied. Many thanks to the kind 'elves' who packed my wool bag, with all the colours neatly sorted - a huge help and very much appreciated. And big thanks to my friend Heather, who picked me up when I almost fell down the stairs in a rush, paid my bus fare to town (as the bus only took exact change) and then walked with me to point me in the right direction of the train station. A guardian angel indeed, as I was so tired by then I could barely walk straight.

My final workshop of the year is back at the Village Haberdashery in West Kensington, London, making Christmas trees again. You can expect a lot of wool and beads. Booking can be done via their website here. This is a much smaller workshop, with limited places but I hope it will be as much fun as this one. I also have a venue and rough date for a local Shrewsbury workshop, at the start of March 2017. if you'd like a little more information about this before I make it more public, do drop me an email.


Spotted Staffordshire Pig

This is my latest Staffordshire inspired creature. I could only find one image of a pig to work from; pigs don't seem to have been as popular as spaniels or greyhounds. About forty hours later I am finally satisfied with it.

I'm finding I have to work a little differently to emulate the Staffordshire look.. I have never needle felted eyes before, however the eyes on the original were painted on with one brush stroke, so I used just a few fibres of black to reproduce this effect. And the hooves were a bit tricky. but it's a challenge which I enjoyed and another learning curve.


From dog Kennel to log shed

This is one of the old dog kennels and runs, left behind by the previous cottage owners. It has been a dilapidated eyesore and even if we had a dog, I certainly wouldn't house it here. However, we did want a log shed. 

So Joe and Brian-next-door began dismantling the innards, including lots of rancid paste boarding inside, rags and dirty wadding and finding, along the way, an old rat skeleton underneath the flooring. 

 It didn't take long to dismantle the unwanted bits.


 Which were too far gone for re-using, so later on, Brian had a large bonfire.

And we had a basic log shed.

The hole at the side was patched up neatly.

And the gap at the front was closed, to prevent easy access for rats. Though there is a small hole at the back for the toads, should they need winter shelter. Now all it needs is logs.