A Colour Infusion

I try so hard this time of the year to convince myself I like autumn.  I look at all the beautiful photographs in Country Living of autumn leaves, and snuggly coats and interesting things to do with sweet chestnuts.  I read articles about the joys of crisp mornings and hot chocolate by a roaring fire and, while I like all these things, nothing can make up for the shortening of the days, and the prospect of the colour gradually leeching out of the surroundings as winter approaches.

Today has been glorious and I took the camera out to capture the last few flashes of colour in the garden

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So while it’s sunny outside I make the most of the colour left in the year, and when the weather turns, I, and my studio assistants, Henry…

…and Higgins…

…(Oh dear, you can’t get the staff!)… get stuck into the dye bath and making our own colourful landscape.  Using the microwave has been a revelation as far as dyeing is concerned.  I’ve never really used it it much in the kitchen apart from defrosting things, heating up my wheat bag and exploding custard (don’t ask).

dyes

Using the Easifix dyes I’ve been able to work out a foolproof method of mixing the dyes, getting reliable results and not ending up with multicoloured hands and splashes all over the walls. I had the most wonderful time experimenting with mixing the powders and the amounts and have been really excited by the variety of hues possible just using the four shades, Turquoise, Golden Yellow, Ultramarine and Magenta. I have been so organised! colour swatches

…and now I have a whole gardenful of beautiful yarn to play with…

If I never made anything with all these gorgeous colours I would happily sit and look at them, but I do have a project in mind…

A little visitor…

I love the idea of having a hedgehog in the garden helping out with the slug problem, but not now as the clocks are about to go back.  I was very surprised to look up from the computer screen and see a small brown shape making it’s way across the front lawn.  I rushed out with my camera and it seemed happy to pose amongst the fallen cherry leaves while I snapped away, realising as I did so it was far to small to survive the winter.

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Happily I remembered a hedgehog-themed conversation with a neighbour along the lane who rescues them, so having upended a plastic bucket over it I rushed in to telephone her.  Ten minutes later, it was calmly sitting in her hands prior to going off for a meal of cat food.  Having established, with delight, it was a female – apparently 80% of rescued hedgehogs are male – she was duly named Cherry, what else?

To my delight, I find that it is not considered ridiculous to knit things for hedgehogs ( I have had a few rather sarcastic questions about what sort of sweater I will be knitting for Higgins) as poorly or undernourished hedgehogs need little blankets to snuggle up in. So, another  project to put on the list, a woolly blanket for Cherry.  I wonder if she likes pink?

A little domestic interlude…

A sudden need struck today for comforting baking smells to fill the house.  A batch of biscotti first, for the batch of puppy worshipping relatives descending in the afternoon.  They’ll need something to munch while Higgins puts on a show.  Then a Damp Orange Cake, which is satisfying on several levels.  You have to boil the oranges for two hours first, which smells heavenly.  In fact I would recommend boiling oranges even if you never make the cake…

In Search of Rose Pink

You’d never know, would you that my favourite colour is blue?  I’m not quite sure how the whole pink thing came to loom so large in my life.  I suppose it’s a statement, a sock in the eye, in a way that blue can’t be, unless you count the chroma blue used in film making and that’s far too scary.  It’s got better associations too, no-one wants to feel blue, but its nice to be ‘in the pink’.

I’m definitely ‘in the pink’ at the moment.  Sunday’s introspection has been wafted away by a new project.  Among the colourful blogs I gaze at with longing are ‘Attic 24’ and ‘Do you mind if I knit’.  Both are filled with the most lovely, colourful, woolly objects and I want to do something colourful and woolly NOW.  Unfortunately I seem to have accumulated a wool stash from other peoples leftovers consisting of brown, dull green, beige, maroon..why can’t I ever say no? 

The rainbow of woolly loveliness I envisage would require a small mortgage if  bought all at once from Rowan or Debbie Bliss…but I have DYE!  And now, thanks to Ebay, I have wool.  500 grams of soft sheeny 4ply Bluefaced Leicester wool yarn.

I’ve decided to break the habit of a lifetime and be methodical about this!  If I am, there’s a slim chance that if I produce something wonderful I can replicate it. (This never happens when I’m cooking)  Thanks to Ewa’s tuition, I’m all set up for microwave dyeing. You really aren’t supposed to use the same microwave  that you scramble your eggs in, so I have a cheap and cheerful one in the utility room, and an assortment of dyes left over from Art School.  The easiest to use though are the Easifix All-in-one acid dyes from Colourcraft, so I’m working my way through Golden Yellow, Ultramarine, Turquoise and Magenta.

Magenta.  That’s really, really pink.  That’s what I used to dye the wool for my felt hat.  It’s not subtle. 

Having carefully read the instructions and done some sums (Sums!) I decided to wind off 25g hanks of the natural wool, and to dye a hank at a time, recording the results.  (Mother-in-law would be proud, she was an industrial chemist)  I started with the Ultramarine and after 15 minutes in the microwave had a gorgeous blue, and still some colour left in the pot.  In went the next hank, a sky blue this time but althought there was still a tinge to the water I couldn’t believe it would have any effect on the wool.  I did the same with the Golden Yellow and was surprised at the depth of colour in the second batch. 

Then on to the Magenta.  This was scary at six o’clock in the morning (I have a puppy you know). Even the second batch was shocking.  I peered into the dye bath, so pale I couldn’t believe it had anything left to give, chickened out and put a teeny, tiny bit more powder in.. big mistake, more big pink.   So, final hank, I put it in the barely tinged dye bath, back in the microwave  and lo and behold…Rose pink! A beautiful delicate pink, and the dye bath water was faintly yellow.  Now I know just how far I can take the dyes my multicolour creation is getting more ecomical by the minute.

Of course, I have ordered the Scarlet dye, the Leaf Green, Deep Violet…oh, and another 500gms of Blue Leicester 4ply…

Um…Tim isn’t reading this, is he?

Sunday Morning Existentialism

I’ve been feeling a little bogged down over the past few days.  Lots to do, but no brain or motivation. Actually flitting about in Blogland makes it worse. Everybody elses little world seem full flowers and colour, homes straight out of ‘Country Living’.  Happy children in homemade clothes eat vegetable soup straight from the kitchen garden, while mum produces patchwork quilts and hand knitted socks and fairy cakes,  photographs it all AND writes about it.

Now I know that it’s the nature of beast.  No one is going to photograph those days when the washing mashine overflows, the teenager throws a tantrum, the house is filled with the smell of burning toast and the puppy has done a poo behind the sofa…(that last a  regular occurance in our house!) We create a fantasy version of our own lives for the consumpion of our readers,  just in the way any magazine editor portrays a ‘look’ for publication.  An acquaintance who’s ‘lovely country home’ was featured in a well know publication a few months ago said ‘It’s wonderful! They come in, and rearrange all your stuff, yes, but they CLEAN! Our house has never been so clean! And they do amazing things with the lighting!’  So even the house owners don’t live in houses like the ones in magazines!

So we make our own reality, and sometimes, when the north wind( heavily laced with farmyard manure) is howling across the vast field at the back of our house and darkness falls earlier and earlier, and your head is stuffed up with the first cold of the season and, Oh NO! there’s ANOTHER poo behind the sofa, it gets a bit hard.  Hard to remember that you ‘live  in the heart of the lovely Norfolk countryside, a stones throw from the Broads, a short drive from the beautiful windswept Norfolk coastline’.  That your little cottage in it’s pretty garden  is filled with books and crafts and colourful china which suitable displayed and lit, would portray a parallel existence.

I’m blaming the cold for all this…what I need is a rocket up my bum, back to Planet Penny!

Just coasting…

I had fully intended to write a post about the Norfolk coast. It’s wild beauty…

The majestic skies…

..the loneliness…

But instead it just seems to be…

About cute puppies…

Sorry…

A Feeling for Felt

 

Spending the weekend with Ewa and the rest of the Felt Hat Gang has made me think afresh about my whole love affair with woolliness and how it evolved.  You can see that living on Planet Penny with a Pink Sheep has made me pretty woollyminded!

When I started at Norwich School of Art and Design (as it was called then) back in 2001 I had had a long history of dabbling in textiles under one guise or another.  I went on to the Visual Studies Degree Course determined to find out what else there was out there. Visual Studies is a unique course in that it gives you the opportunity to explore every medium to find out exactly how you want to express your ideas.  In the first year we had workshops in photography, welding, Photoshop and web design, textiles, etching, silkscreen printing, woodwork, blacksmithing, casting, machine embroidery, creative writing…At the end of that, if you realised that your raison d’etre was to create a wonderful three dimentional steel, patchwork edifice on a wrought iron base etched with embroidered poetry you knew it would be possible. 

To begin with I struggled with the fact that despite trying all of that with varying degrees of success, in the end my heart was still firmly textile bound.  I struggled because it felt like laziness.  But I realised after a while that  I now had a whole new perspective on making, and materials and what they could do.

I also rebelled against the expectation that to be Art it must be uncomfortable, even unpleasant.  Ever since Duchamp shocked society with his urinal ‘Fountain’, it seems to be obligatory to be outrageous, to the point of tedium.  It doesn’t matter if the message is lost, create your piece with pigs blood and elephant poo and it must be good.  I was even told that I would ‘get over’ my desire to make things which would make people happy!!

So my little corner of the communal studio became a little oasis of comfiness.  Because of the M.E. I had to have a comfortable chair to retreat to, and there I sat, and I knitted.  I knitted tiny tiny things, a huge sock you could use as a sleeping bag, a cocoon into which you could retreat while you worked on becoming a butterfly.  I wound a huge ball of wool using all the oddments of wool that Norwich’s charity shops could supply which prompted endless debates around ‘what would happen if ‘ scenarios..  Once I started deconstructing wool, discovering the sacks of Merino rovings in the college supplies shop, the rainbow of dyes in the textile workshop…

I’m not going to write a dissertation of how amazing wool is, or the history of felt or any of the things I found out about it, and myself on the ‘journey’ (popular buzzword) that was my degree.  However, my theme for the degree show, which had hovered scarily in the the background all through the preceeding years, became obvious to me as I explored the protective qualities of felt.

Hence my attempts to stem the coastal erosion at Happisburgh with a cosy wrapping of red felt…

 and needle felted cocoons for the safe transportation of glass. 

A late discovery of needle felting led to the arrival of Tallulah, a slightly raddled old stripper who has seen better days,

… and to continue the cosiness, a nice pot of tea.