Simple pleasures…

As we get older, I think we become more aware of ‘simple’ pleasures’, well I know I do! The smell of coffee brewing, freshly cut grass or hearing an owl hoot – all simple things that give immense pleasure.

I read the other day that Vita Sackville-West (she of Sissinghurst Garden fame, amongst other things…) used the term ‘through leaves’ to describe simple pleasures enjoyed by her family. She coined the phrase after “the small but intense pleasure of kicking through leaves while out walking”, which I thought was rather lovely.

Another classic, that I expect almost all of us know, are the lyrics to the song ‘My favourite things’ from the Sound of Music, including whiskers on kittens, warm woollen mittens and brown paper packages tied up with string.

It’s so easy to think that pleasures have to be big and expensive, like holidays, or fancy clothes… but I think we start to appreciate the simple things the more we experience life. You often hear people who have survived cancer, or cheated death in an accident or natural disaster, say how they appreciate every day, every moment, and are more aware of what’s around them.

I had a think about my ‘through leaves’ moments, and came up with the following list:

  • The smell of baking bread (thanks to Richard and his bread maker!)
  • Little Grace running towards me with her arms open
  • A beautiful sunset (or dawn, but that’s rare!)
  • Hearing my daughters say a casual I love you
  • Finishing a card and sitting back and thinking – that’s a keeper!

My co-author Julia was here (we were busy having a book signing session!) and I asked her, for her ‘Through leaves’ moments and she said:

  • Standing in the middle of her runner bean arch(!)
  • Being greeted by her dog, Moss, in the morning
  • Watching beech leaves unfurl in spring
  • Walks on frosty mornings
  • Birdsong

So what are your ‘through leaves’ moments? Do let me know… smiles, Joanna

 

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Patchwork Fish!

This is a fun shaker card that has bubbles or snow inside the fishbowl! Shaker cards are simple to make once you have made your first one (I always found them really intimidating) and the swish of the ‘bubbles’ adds another dimension to the card.

The background patchwork paper is from the Joanna Sheen Paper Collections Pad (Volume 3) – there’s a blue version of this pink patchwork too – so pretty. The size of the card is 8” x 8”  – yes I use this card size a lot and love our own brand cards that size as they really are 8” x 8”, whereas most manufactured cards measure the envelope or have slight tolerances with size etc..

The shaker part is created like this:

  1. Take a piece of white card about 4” square and put to one side for now. Cut a piece slightly larger say 4 ¼” square. Stamp or die cut a fish bowl (Sue Wilson does one on the website CED21001) on the larger piece and attach to the centre of the card. Now cut away the centre of the fish bowl. Cover the back of the fish bowl with some acetate.
  2. Die cut some tropical fish (Signature dies Tropical Fish) in white card and colour as you please. Glue these onto the smaller piece of card, checking that you are happy with their placement by hovering the fishbowl over the top.
  3. Place a strip of foam tape all the way around the smaller piece of card – and I mean all the way around. Cracks between the corners can spell disaster. One way to combat this is to place a strip all round and then cover that strip with yet another but staggering where the cracks are.
  4. Now you need to cover the fish and sticky layers with your fishbowl square – do this carefully and leave a small gap once you have most of it covered – pour in your glitter or snow effect crystals or seed beads, whatever you want to use. Don’t add too much or you will just obscure the fish. Now seal down the last bit of tape.
  5. This can then be added to the card and should shake very satisfactorily!
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Good night bunny

I made this card some time ago and didn’t end up giving it away at all – do you get cards like that? I just loved it so much, I have it standing on my craft room window sill. I adore the Holly Pond Hill artwork, love cards with lace, love rabbits… OK you get the drift, I loved all the ingredients in this one!

So the main image comes from the Holly Pond Hill CD. There are so many beautiful ideas on there that can suit all ages. This rabbit saying its prayers is just delightful I think.

The first thing I wanted to solve when I made this card (before the days when I had die cut lace borders to call on!) was how to get some pretty lace behind the main image. This I have achieved by using a lace handkerchief. Take a panel of cream/white,whatever you choose, card measuring 5 1/2” x 7 1/2” now take a standard lace hanky and gather the middle together – in the end I chopped out a bit of the middle to give a less bumpy effect – and arrange it so that it goes neatly around the panel. I used lots of double sided tape, glue gel and anything else that came to hand kicking it into neat submission!

The main image is mounted onto some lilac card to give it a bit of strength and then I added that using Pinflair as the lumps and bumps are easily coped with when you use a 3D type glue!

The backing paper comes on the CD and I cut a few bunnies from the leftover strip to decoupage those – ta–da… card finished!

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A heart-felt experience…

Today, I am handing over the blog to my partner in crime writing, Julia. She has been on a course to find out about the wonders of needle felting…

“Felt wasn’t a fabric I had really thought much about since I last made dolls’ clothes out of it as a child – it didn’t need hemming, so a great advantage. Having recently read about Sue Lewis’s lovely wet felt pictures and visited the Bellacouche studio near where I live in Moretonhampstead, I’d started to think about felt in a new light…

I booked myself on a needle felting course at the lovely sounding Cowslip Workshops on the other side of Dartmoor. Run by mixed media artist, Kate Toms, the course was entitled ‘Make a Dog in a day’, so how could I resist? As some of you may know, I am the owner of Moss the Dartmoor Dog Blogger and, like Joanna, am a confirmed dog fan. Kate creates 3D characters as well as being a published author and illustrator of books for the very young. Needle felting is currently her favourite technique.

NeedleFelt1

Left to right: Kate starting to create the dog’s body using a large needle felting mat; Rovings!; These strange looking items went on to form Moss’s legs!

I, and nine other enthusiastic students, gathered at 10am for the workshop that would take us through the process of making a small felted dog. Needle felting is a wonderfully simple technique where barbed felting needles are used to interlock wool fibres forming a solid mass.

Kate is an excellent tutor, extremely knowledgeable and with a great sense of humour. She patiently took us will through the various stages to ensure we all managed to take our own little dog home with us at the end of the day.

We were faced with huge balls of wool (actually called ‘rovings’) in a mix of lovely natural colours. We made our selections and dutifully copied Kate’s demonstrations as we built up our little canine figures. And then the fun began! Stabbing yourself with a felting tool is painful… when you somehow manage to keep doing it, it is extremely painful! The air was peppered with little squeaks and cries as we all managed to stab ourselves every few minutes. (Note to self: buy a finger guard!) But never mind the pain, it was so exciting to see these amazing structures emerge out of wispy scraps of wool, that none of us showed any signs of flagging.

NeedleFelt2

Left to right, adding the legs to the body; Kate patiently demonstrating; A fellow crafter having a go!

It is a fascinating technique and, once you know the basics, easy to create 3D figures. I assumed needle felting was an ancient technique, like wet felting, but apparently not. It was ‘invented’ in the 1990s. You can use a variety of tools, from a very fine single needle to create detail, to a long vicious-looking sturdy three-pronged affair that Kate calls a ‘claw’, to the smaller and very effective five-needle tool that allows you to stab away and create shapes really quickly. To minimise pain and blood loss, you work onto a foam block or a thing that looks like an enormous nail brush, the latter being a great way of carding the wool as you work.

After lunch (there’s a lovely café selling loads of delicious home-made dishes!) things got a bit more mellow as we all wallowed in a post-lunch slump. Kate, who had run the workshop the previous day, realised we were getting behind schedule and chivvied us on, saying she was happy to stay until we had all finished. We were scheduled to finish at 4pm… I finally left – ­tired, battle scared and not a little emotional – proudly clutching my little dog at 7pm!

The studios were as delightful as I’d imagined and Kate was an inspirational teacher and I can’t recommend them highly enough. A regular supply of tea, coffee, biscuits and even cake, throughout the day, ensured we didn’t run out of energy. I had a wonderful time and, as promised, everyone on the course produced a dear little dog at the end of it. They were all very different, reflecting their creator’s own personality. I, rather predictably, was trying to make a dog that looked like Moss… you can judge for yourselves whether I succeeded or not!

NeedleFelt3

Left to right: Kate’s own gorgeous dogs! Everyone’s efforts – what a motley crew… and my version of Moss. She was not impressed!

If you fancy having a go at needle felting, you can find everything available online. It is a relatively cheap hobby to take up, so if it appeals to you, why not have a go? I intend to make more figures… after I’ve bought a finger guard and some sticking plasters!

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing up fast…

My partner in crime writing, Julia, got a new puppy back in March last year and we introduced you to her the following month – Moss, a Wirehaired German Pointer. Well, Moss is now one year old and has grown up into quite a character! She has her own Facebook page and also ‘writes’ reviews for a local business ‘Dartmoor Accommodation’ about dog-friendly places to visit. We thought we’d let her bring you up to date with her life so far…

Hello! I am Moss, the Dartmoor Dog Blogger. I have grown up a lot since you last saw me and I no longer look like a Spaniel. My lovely wirehaired coat has grown, and I am generally regarded as rather gorgeous with a fine moustache and beard. I also have pale greeny gold eyes which, I am told, are one of my best features.

I am lucky (so she keeps telling me) as I live on a farm on Dartmoor so I get lots of nice walks by the river, on the moor or just around the fields on the farm. I am especially fond of puddles, and I like to lie in them, but I am not a very good swimmer yet, I am still learning. I enjoy being in the waves in the sea when we go on holiday and I did swim a bit in Cornwall last summer.

A few of my favourite things! Top to bottom: The watering can incident, puddle bathing, mulching, erm… cushion chewing, relaxing on the sofa.I am, apparently, quite naughty and not very obedient (whatever that is!) and I do like a good chew. I have chewed all sorts of things – from my bed, to the aerial cable and part of a watering can, to name but a few. Different things have different textures and I like to try them out.

I have also tried different types of food such as raw spaghetti and garlic (euw!). Every day, as well as my proper food, I have natural yogurt, raw carrots and some pumpkin seeds – which are very yummy and I would like to eat them all the time. I am a very healthy dog! I also like to recycle things, like paper and cardboard and chew them up ready for the bin men. I am also good at mulching in the garden, chewing everything up and then spreading it around and sometimes bringing it into the house… which she doesn’t appreciate.

Sometimes, we go and visit nice places like hotels or pubs where they welcome dogs, some have water bowls and dog biscuits and special towels for me to wipe my feet on. I have to sit and watch her chomp her way through free meals and afternoon tea and I get given titbits. She then writes about it and I get even more famous! I think she probably get a better deal out of it than I do, but I do get to meet lots of new people, who are always very nice to me.

All in all, it’s not a bad life. I get to sleep a lot and relax on the sofa, it is quite tiring being famous and it is hard work training her to do what I want, but I am getting there… I reckon she’ll be well-trained by the end of this year.

Licks, Moss.

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