Monday, November 19, 2012

Wovember news

Wovember is continuing apace, the Knitsonik badges are out and all is well with the sheep. I've been really enjoying reading the posts on the Wovember site - get on over there if you love sheep (in a healthy and respectable way that is...) and I've been proudly wearing my 100% WOOL badges by the amazing Felix, made from Estonian and British wool fabrics. (Can you tell which is which in the above picture?)
There is a Wovember photo competition running too with great prizes, including a sheep kit by yours truly. So get on down there!

(Obligatory sheep photo...)

Friday, November 9, 2012

New arrivals!

It's taken quite some time, much longer than we thought, to finally get some animals here, but yesterday our lovely friends from Harmony Farm (who run amazing courses - two very inspiring and generous people with a real love of what they do and a talent for sharing knowledge - if you want to learn about smallholding skills they really are the people to go to) arrived with four very lovely lambs - three ewes (for breeding) and a wether (castrated ram) which we will keep for wool, and a goat kid.
They are all settling in nicely. The ewes are Shetland/Jacob crosses and the wether - Jake - is Shetland crossed with Texel. (His father was a runaway Texel ram who managed to break into a field of Shetland ewes, impregnating Jake's mother. After Jake was born, the dominant ewe stole him briefly until her own lambs were born, at which point she rejected him. By this time, his own mother was rejecting him too, so he had to be bottle-reared. Ah, the soap opera life of sheep.)
But isn't he just lovely? They are all lovely.
 How great are sheep's bums? They just make me laugh.
The main problem with photographing the sheep is that you can't get far enough away from them, as they are so friendly they eat from your hand.
 Csibike, the goat, is even more friendly. If that is possible.
And what better time to get sheep than Wovember? A month-long celebration of woolliness.
Yay sheep!!!

I found it interesting how much it has changed how I think about wool in 24 short hours. I have used fleece from the mothers of these sheep before, and visited them, checking out their wool, so I was surprised at how different it feels being the people responsible for them - I have a different relationship to their fleeces already - a closer one I guess. I will be looking at their fleeces and feeling them every day, watching how their wool responds to the seasons, to their diet and health, patiently waiting for shearing time, thinking about spinning yarn and knitting jumpers...but first I want to buy a couple of sheep coats, so we can get the best wool we can from them, while being the laughing stock of Roscommon for keeping out sheep in coats. Ah well. That is the cost of better fleeces.

 For now we can sit at home reading the Breed Profiles Handbook - extreme nerdy reading about selecting grazing animals to suit your grassland. (Fascinating stuff, if you are that way inclined, which I know most people are not...) And we can think about extending the flock!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ed Walshe Ceramics Exhibition in Longford

Everyone's favourite ceramicist, Ed Walshe*, has an exhibition in the Backstage Theatre in Longford, the opening of which we attended last night.
 The pieces are gorgeous, all painstakingly hand burnished with a spoon before being fired in a bin of sawdust and straw, which leaves a smoky unpredictable finish on them and lets you know of the pyromaniacal nature of their maker. Then they are shined up with a beeswax polish.
 I love the process, and have helped out with it on occasion. When you use a kiln with ceramics you really don't have the same elemental feeling as setting bins of flammable material alight and waiting to see what the results will look like this time.
 No two pots are the same, and the smoke leaves delicate and strange patterns on them.
Anyway, get down and see them all for yourself! And purchase one! Very reasonable with most pots being 25 Euro.

* AKA, Dad.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hunter's Moon 2012

Well, it's been another great year on the Art Trail at Hunter's Moon, with lots of great work from talented artists and loads of positive feedback from festival-goers and locals alike.

Here is a taste of what we had over the weekend...

 Bold and striking paper cut-outs from Ellie Downey.

 Sandra Lulei's delicate and beautiful installation of handmade paper keys.

 (This looked particularly good at night.)

 Paul Terry's mesmerising projection of shoal movements. Lots of kids kept trying to catch this one as it flitted about the wall.

 The Drone Dome from Willie Stewart proved a popular spot for hanging out and listening to drone music.

 The Mr. E's installation of bizaare and elegantly macabre hats and taxidermy created a dark atmosphere in the Green Gallery.

 Powerful and engaging large-scale portraits from Davy Gascoigne.

Gavin Porter's delicate etchings had a dream-like quality.

 A collection of evocative otherworldly paintings from Jane O'Sullivan.

 Turf Boon's detailed and meticulous drawings drew the viewer's eye in. (More images to come.)

Colourful and surreal paintings from Su Fitzpatrick.

 Ricky Adam's dark photographs gave a sense of desolation and destruction.


Playful and sweet drawings of childhood monsters from Natalia Beylis.


Aoife Barry had a selection of striking and remarkable photos and collage work which worked particularly well in the book shop.

Abstract and moody paintings from Carol Wood.

And finally, a knitted murder scene from myself with text from Istrim Gusset.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Barn Owl Kit on Etsy

The autumn equinox was this weekend and the evenings are getting darker and darker. (Well, at least until the clock goes back next weekend.) It seems an apt time to put up this new kit on Etsy to make a barn owl in needle felt. 
Barn owls are elusive creatures - I've not seen many in my time, and most of those were in the UK. But I did hear one in the trees in front of our house once. It's nice to know they are there anyway even if we don't see them!
This is a needle felting kit, with full instructions and all you need to make an owl.

 And for this week only, there is a 10% discount off it, hooray!
Just enter the code OWL10 at the checkout.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade maternity

I thought I'd put together a list of some of the maternity stuff I made that was really useful. Some are easy to make without a pattern, and where you need a pattern I have linked to the ones I used. It's unbelievable how much baby stuff costs, and so much of it is easy to make yourself...

This is my top, I mean, top fifteen...

1. Nursing pillow. (Pattern I used here.) Cost: about 10 euro, as opposed to 40-60 euro in the shop. 
Brilliant. If you have back problems, completely essential. I even made a matching one for the little fella's head to stop him rolling about in the pram/car seat - very handy if the roads are appalling where you live...

 2. Christine's Stay-on Booties. (Pattern I adapted from here) Cost: scraps of yarn I had anyway. They do indeed stay on, which is a rare skill for a pair of baby booties. I've made many booties for people in the past, these are the only ones I'd bother making again. Warm, cosy, and they stay on!

 3. Rae's Baby pants. (Pattern here) Cost: scraps of fabric, or repurposed clothes. Great pants, easy to make and somehow they put a smile on your face...

 4. Ribbed Baby Jumper (Ravelry link to pattern) It's nice and warm and keeps his neck warm in bed (the only part sticking out of enswaddlement). It is a little on the short side, so next time I would knit it longer. A good allround baby knit and very easy to get a baby into, with only one button to close. I will definitely make bigger ones as he grows.

 5. Changing mats. Oil-cloth on one side, fabric on the other, wadding in between. Simple as that and handy to have a few to throw in the washing machine or put one in a changing bag. I added some buttons and elastic to roll it up too. Cost: Pretty cheap. I got Ikea oil-cloth, which is pretty cheap and Ikea's cheapest fabric too. As you can see I used the same fabrics for everything, which means you can make a lot from 1 yd of each fabric...
 Changing mat rolled up.

 6. Wet bag for holding used cloth nappies. (Pattern here) Handy. And waaaay cheaper than buying one...

 7. Puerperium cardigan (Ravelry link) I like this cardigan, although it has a lot of buttons to do up. Also because of the bad weather this summer, short sleeved stuff hasn't been that good. It's also not so warm around the neck.

 8. Various wool blankets. The top one is a selection of hand-spun rare-breed yarns knit up in this pattern. (Ravelry link) I accidentally felted it in the machine, but that made it even softer and it's SO warm! It was cheap to make as I spun the wool myself.
The bottom one is a larger granny-style crochet blanket in Drops Superwash Merino, which is not as superwash as it would make itself out to be (gets a little wrinkly after washing.) Also, it's bloody expensive in the amount you need for a blanket. Still, its a lovely blanket to have, even if his fingers occasionally get stuck in the holes. (I think he also likes sticking his fingers through the holes to play.) 
Knitting baby blankets out of soft wool is expensive. I haven't really found an affordable way to do it, beyond spinning the wool yourself.

 9. Breast pads. (Pattern for contoured ones here.) I didn't find them that handy, but having a few is nice (in the way that having handmade things about you cheers you up) and they take about 5 minutes to make with scraps of material. 

 10. Knitted hats and mittens. A must-have. Patterns abound everywhere.

 11. Cloth hats. I used some of his hats as templates and made these from old t-shirts. Handy to have a few as they are always getting puked on and I find the shop-bought ones seem to just fall off. Also, baby stuff comes in such crap colours that it's nice to have a few better-coloured ones.

 12. Oslo Hoody. Love this pattern, but if I was making it again I would make the sleeves much larger in circumference. They look tiny to get little arms down. I haven't tried it yet as he needs to grow into it, but included it because it's lovely!

13. Ring Sling. Easy tutorial here. Get inexpensive rings here. I used a bedsheet and two rings. Pretty cheap. It's a reasonable carrier - not great on the back as it only goes over one shoulder but easy to put him in and out quickly (after some practice). I wouldn't bother buying one but it's a very easy one to make.
(Sorry for the bad quality bathroom mirror photo!)

14. Mei Tai. (Excellent pattern here.) I like this carrier better, but it is fiddly to put on. Good back support though. It takes a fair bit of fabric - I was lucky to have some lying around, but it could cost a fair bit in fabric otherwise. 

15. Even thought these shoes are impractical and fall off, they are just so cute I couldn't help making some. How can you not love polka-dot shoes? Pattern here.

And why not include this lovely blanket here, made by my knitting group! Aww, thanks folks!