A heart-felt calling…

Needle felting as a craft is growing hugely in popularity at the moment. When we met to work on the latest chapter of our new book, Julia mentioned that there was a felting studio near where she lives and she volunteered to go and check it out for the blog. Here’s what she found…

Bellacouche – which means ‘beautiful resting place’ – is the studio of Yuli Somme, a hugely talented half-Norwegian lady who makes wonderful things out of felt. The range of things she makes is startling – from quirky fun tea cosies to burial shrouds – no, seriously!

Yuli says: “Wool is my raw material, which is made into felt, and from this is crafted a unique range of lovingly hand-made products including bags, tuffets (seat pads), tea cosies, woollen insoles, hot water bottle covers, hats, little decorations, wall hangings, felting kits and Leafcocoons – a unique soft wool eco coffin, designed for natural burial.”

The pieces are all hand made, motifs are either sewn or needle felted in and dyes are always natural resulting in gorgeous subtle shades.

“Dartmoor is where I live and work – a beautiful and wild landscape – and this is a great source of inspiration. I am deeply mindful of our environment and the preciousness of nature, so everything I do or make bears this in mind and I keep my impact on the planet as small as possible.”

The needle tool she uses on the felt (pictured) is very sharp and each needle has small barbs on it so, as you plunge the tool in and out of the felt (taking care not to stab yourself in the process!), it tangles the felt fibres and enables you to join, or graft on, other colours and shapes. It’s incredibly simple and is a way of creating clothes, shoes and decorative items that go back thousands of years.

Yuli’s studio is housed in an old chapel that is somehow the perfect backdrop for the beautiful things she makes. Her tea cosies and hats are sold widely and are wonderfully warm and tactile, as well as beautiful. It was really inspiring to look around the Aladdin’s cave that is her studio, with beautiful things hanging up, draped over sofas and in the process of being made. Her small shop area is crammed full of lovely things, her chicken tea cosies being a firm favourite of mine. She even has a felt chest of draws – yes, seriously!

Yuli also creates and sells felt kits so if you feel inspired, visit her website and perhaps have a go at making something? I haven’t ‘felt’ so enthused by anything for years and will definitely be having a go…

 

 

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It’s all in the detail…

It’s all in the detail…Jayne Netley Mayhew is a wonderfully talented artist who first wielded a paintbrush at the tender age of two! All her siblings are artists too and Jayne has gone on to establish a reputation as a first-class wildlife artist and embroidery designer. She has produced a wide range of designs for Joanna Sheen Ltd over the years and her work is always immensely popular. We had a chat with Jayne to find out a bit more about the lady behind the paintbrush…

I think most people would say ‘Exquisite detail’ when they think of Jayne’s work. When she paints animals – big cats being her absolute favourite subject – she paints them hair by hair. “I just love detail!” she says. “If I have to paint a landscape, there has to be something detailed in the foreground or I just couldn’t take it on.”

She paints from real life as much as she can and when this isn’t possible, from photographs that her husband, Ian, takes for her. Jayne at work in her studio in Widecombe-in-the-Moor.

A great animal lover, Jayne has two huge pet dogs – Henry, a Newfoundland, and Dennis a Bernese Mountain Dog collie cross – that share Jayne and Ian’s home in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, in the heart of Dartmoor. She also keeps hens that she finds endlessly fascinating to watch and paint as they roam free-range in her garden. 

“Again, it’s all about the detail,” she says. Look at one of her chicken paintings and you can see every feather individually painted.

Jayne is unusual in that she works across a wide range of different media and is equally skilled in all of them. She was originally trained in oils by a local artist who gave Jayne, and her older brother an excellent grounding in painting. Next, she took up freehand embroidery and thrived on the incredibly detailed stitch work. Publishers David & Charles snapped Jayne up and suggested she’d like to look at developing cross stitch patterns for them. Sid the cockerel immortalised in watercolour.“I found these very easy to design, but drawing all the crosses by hand was really hard work but then, luckily, in came computers and it became a breeze!”

Today, Jayne works in acrylic, watercolour, pencil, pen and ink and pastels using whatever best suits her subject matter be it flora or fauna, big cat or new born chick. “Watercolour was a tricky technique to master as it is so unforgiving. With oil and acrylic you can over paint, but with watercolour it has to be perfect from the outset. I adore the subtlety and, of course, the detail that I can achieve with it,” said Jayne.

Always looking for something new to try, she has recently acquired a felting machine and is busily creating pictures with fibre and wool. “It’s a technique I am really enjoying experimenting with and I’ve been working on some miniatures, it’s really exciting.”

Look closely – very closely – at any Jayne Netley Mayhew painting and you will eventually find a ladybird hidden somewhere within the design. Jayne laughs: “It’s quite funny watching people look at my work as they usually This stunning tiger is created using felt, fibre and wool.peer at it very close up, and then say ‘Aha!’ and I know they’ve found the ladybird. Only then do they stand back and appreciate the painting properly.”

So it seems it’s all in the detail for Jayne’s fans, just as much as it is for her…

To find out more about Jayne and her work on her website.

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Living the good life…

Many of you will know Sandra Goodman as our bright and bubbly Customer Service Manager… but there’s another side to Sandra that you probably don’t know about! To find out about her ‘other life’, read on… 

Sandra met her husband, Charlie, in 2011 and they set out to fulfil a lifelong dream – running their own smallholding. With property prices sky high in Devon they headed west to Cornwall. In the wonderfully named village of Polyphant they found their dream home – an old barn once used as a potato store and now converted, in a rather rustic way according to Sandra, into a two-bedroom house.

Sandra says: “We knew instantly that this old barn, set in a picturesque valley with a couple of fields, was where we wanted to settle.”

Charlie, having been raised on a farm, has in-depth knowledge of not only livestock but wildlife and the countryside in general. Sandra’s background is in craft, interior design and floristry and she has a love of flora and fauna and all things country. 

Their aim is to be self-sufficient – yes, totally! To date, they have 20 chickens, soon to be 40, and are about to take delivery of a pregnant Oxford Sandy and Black sow, followed by two ‘Lowline’ cattle. These gorgeous ‘mini’ cows are bred to be about a metre high at the shoulder, they are easy to handle and docile and ideal for the ‘small acreage’ farmer, which Charlie and Sandra definitely are with their four acres having to produce a lot of food to sustain the two of them!

As well as livestock, they have also put up an impressive poly tunnel (in Polyphant – sorry!) and, when I asked Sandra what they were growing, I couldn’t write it all down quickly enough, but the list included: Carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes, beans, peas, tomatoes, kale, cauliflower, butternut squash, aubergines, cucumbers, melons and lots more that I missed!

So far, Sandra says everything is germinating and growing really well in the poly tunnel, so she’s optimistic for good crops this year. Their next project is to prepare the outside veg beds and get even more produce underway.

Charlie and Sandra are keen to be as eco-friendly as possible and are looking at ways to generate their own power through a small wind turbine and solar panels. The River Inny runs through their land and they are permitted to take water from it to irrigate their crops as keeping overheads to a minimum is really important.

Sandra stays up in Devon three nights a week and then travels back to Cornwall where Charlie is based full-time. It’s a tough regime, but her enthusiasm when she talks about her Cornish life is so infectious, you just can’t help believing they will make a great go of it!

 

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Keeping the children amused during the Easter Holidays!

There are several ideas here for you to use with your children or grandchildren if they are visiting at Easter. Crafting can never start too early I reckon! It’s best to get everything prepared so that you can get straight into the ‘interesting’ bits with them rather than boring old getting things ready!

Easter Basket

There are dozens of free basket/small box templates on the internet if you do a Google search. Just choose a pretty basic one, you could try this one.

You’ll need coloured card, a butterfly punch or similar and some pretty ribbon. Use the punch all round your basket once it is made up and keep the butterfly pieces for decoration.

We used PVA glue to stick it together and while it’s drying, hold together with a large paper clip or a clothes peg to stop it slipping. We then cut a length of card and glued on a handle then added more butterfly decorations.

Decorated Eggs

These polystyrene eggs are a lovely way to craft with children and use up all sorts of odds and ends that you have in your craft room.

You can paint the eggs, decorate them with scraps of ribbon or self adhesive gems and pearls (as the blue one at the front of the picture).

Try wrapping them in tissue paper, decorating with punched out butterflies and snowflakes or maybe just draw a funny face on them!

Pipe Cleaner Pets

These easy projects need pipe cleaners, pompoms, googly eyes and some coloured card.

Twist the pipe cleaner around your finger (or two children’s fingers as they are so much smaller) and then take another pipe cleaner to make wings for chicks or ears for the rabbits. Attach them to the back of the first spiral by twisting them on. Glue on the pompoms and googly eyes using PVA glue. Then cut small pieces of card for the mouth and the feet.

What a lot of wobbly fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicks and mice and all things nice!

House-Mouse cards are fun at any time of year but there are lots of suitable Easter designs and so they always seem to come out at this time of year. Everyone in the family enjoys the drawings anyway so I know my cards are going to be well received!

Whether rubber stamped, decoupaged or just printed from a CD, there’s something for everyone in this range and we thought they went rather well with these funny little chicks!

PomPom Chicks

To make the chicks you just need yellow pompoms in various sizes, orange card and pipe cleaners and some googly eyes and perhaps some feathers.

Cut some feet and beak shapes from the orange card then glue the pompoms to the feet and add the eyes and beak and finally feathers for wings.

We’ve got some more Easter crafts for kids for you in next week’s blog!

 

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