A Year of William Morris

It is finally feeling like Autumn, and we all breathe a collective sigh of relief here at Ravensridge. The body language of this koala says it all. We had actually never seen one sleep like this before, and I could empathise after the summer we had.   
It’s a magical time of year, beautiful, cool, sunshiney mornings and plenty of wildlife. Lots of koala spotting, wallabies and goannas hanging around my train while I’m working, and some black cockatoos. 

   
    
    
   
    

  
Atticus enjoying the sun.

  
Dougal enjoying unconsciousness.

  
Even the cacti garden flowered this year.

  
And dragonfruit threatens to take over the entire garden.

  
The wasps are also going crazy artistic in this weather. Most of the ones round here are stingless, including the mud dauber that built this on the laundry wall. I can watch them for hours sculpting with their little blobs of mud. (We don’t normally remove them, this one was just in an unfortunate spot and had to go).

  

I have of course been knitting and crocheting madly, which I will document next time. I am currently obsessed with Tunisian crochet. Crochet that looks like knitting! It makes me very happy. 🙂

  
I have also been enjoying more sewing and needlework. And in that line, my mum came up with an idea for herself that I am totally stealing. “A Year of William Morris”: a year of projects related to the art of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts period. Instead of always looking through the books saying ‘oh I’d love to do one of these one day…’, I decided I’m going to actually do some. 
When I gathered up my relevant books from all over the house and the train for inspiration, it became obvious this had been on the cards for a while.

  
Of course, this won’t be ALL I do for the next year, but it will be a consistent background theme. I have plans for cushions, a rug, a fire screen, a painting, cross stitch pieces and at least one quilt. After the summer hiatus, I’ve also resumed designing and am feeling very motivated! If anyone would like to join the journey, please do! 🙂 There can surely never be enough William Morris projects in the world. 
For Ravensridge, this one is of course on the list, ‘Raven’, from Beth Russell’s William Morris Needlepoint. It makes me swoon. I’d like to design a quilt to match, too. And maybe a jacket. 🙂

  
It had been a while since I did any proper needlepoint, so I practised with these projects. I finished my hazelnut cushion and a small rose tapestry, which I also made into a cushion to match the sofa. Both zippered, although I drew the line at piping. I think I was just procrastinating, really.

    

  
Finished a ‘cottage and manor’ cross stitch duo. These were from a vintage kit I got on ebay. They are suuuuper tiny, and were very hard on the poor old eyes. :/

  
And then, feeling warmed up, I started this, Project Number One: Peony Cushion. A needlepoint cushion, an interpretation of William Morris’ peony design from the book ‘Country House Needlepoint’ by Frances Kennett and Belinda Scarlett. My Year of William Morris is underway! 🙂 

  
B

A Paper Christmas Village (Yes I know it’s March)

FALALALALAAAAAA LA LA LA LA
As a lover of all things Christmas (and quite a penchant for glitter too), this was one of those projects where it was difficult to finish. You could go on forever really, a touch more glitter, a few more beads, another light…but I forced myself to stop. It’s only paper, but this was the most fun I have had crafting in ages. 🙂
  

   
I began my village with this kit.

  
This turned out to be great in some ways, and shite in others. For example, the glitter containers included were awesome. They made little ‘puffs’ of glitter that you could control. But the glue that came with it never dried. However that might just be a Queensland humidity thing.
There was also no way it was going to turn out like the picture on the box, which is heavily photoshopped. The upstairs dormer windows and some of the entrances were solid all the way through, unlike the picture, so amongst a few other problems, I had to work out a way to get light to them. Also there are no street lights in the kit.
Before I punched out the houses, I photocopied them all. There are extra templates to copy in the instruction book, but they are to a different scale. Instead, I photocopied all the large ones onto cardboard so that I had extras. I ended up using two of the extras.

  
I also used two buildings downloaded from christmas-village-displays.com, a town hall and a thatched cottage. These had more detail printed on them, but didn’t fit together perfectly and weren’t as three dimensional as the others.

  
I used vellum and a Sharpie for the window panes, and did some stained glass effects using ordinary textas. 

  
Once all the buildings were glued together, I decorated them with glitter from the kit plus my own assorted beads and dried moss. I used PVA wood glue for everything. The pipe cleaner for the wreaths came with the kit. I made one of the pine trees into a Christmas tree.

   
 I used small pieces of wadding for the smoke in the chimneys. I was inordinately happy with how that looked. Note wind blowing same direction. N.B. This is the kind of thing that happens when you don’t have TV. 🙂 I have issues.

  
The book recommended ‘flocking powder’ for a snow effect. I duly bought some on eBay without having the faintest idea what it is. Having used it, I am still none the wiser. It was a bit like asbestos. I threw it out after one try, preferring the glitter. It lives on though, in the form of our favourite new swear word. Eg For flock’s sake, this flocking glue won’t set!

Initially I had intended these houses to be lined up on a mantelpiece with flickering battery-operated tea lights inside them to look like fireplaces. Aaaah, pretty. What I didn’t factor in was that most of the houses are two storey, and an orange, flickering light inside makes them look like they are actually burning down. So rather than a very un-Christmassy replica of the the Great Fire of London, it was back to the drawing board.

I decided to fix them permanently to a cardboard base instead. That way I could run battery operated fairy lights through them. At this stage I thought maybe – just maybe – it was getting a little out of hand for a basic paper village. And it turned out I was right, the base was the most time consuming job overall. 🙂

I had three pieces of old box cardboard the same size. I painted the first board, and added a slightly raised platform for the church out of an old canvas.

  
 
I loosely laid out the village and marked the lights placement, then ran them under and through holes punched with a knitting needle (what else?). I made a couple of mistakes, but I patched them with paper. I set it up so there were some lights backlighting the trees and snowman, and a couple front lit, like the Christmas tree.
To hide the wire and make a flat base I did the following – much easier to photograph than to explain.

  
Then I glued the final solid piece onto the base, weighed it down with assorted pots and waited for the glue to try.

  

After affixing the buildings and the trees, I covered the base with ‘drifts’ of polyester quilt wadding. And just a bit more glitter with a border to neaten the edges.

   
    
    
   

The Details:
The kit cost $24AUD from bookdepository.com : ‘Build a Christmas Village’ by Leonard Hospidor

It came with:

3 prepunched houses, 1 church and a wildly disproportionate dog kennel which I didn’t use

1 x premade, preglittered tree

6 x prepunched pine tree

2 x prepunched large trees

1x snowman

Prepunched picket fencing

Glitter x 4

Glue x 1

Pipe cleaner x 1

Sheet of vellum

Instruction book

The town hall and thatched cottage were free downloads from: christmas-village-displays.com

10 sheets 280gsm white cardboard for photocopying/printing extra houses- $6.75AUD on eBay 

Flocking powder (unused): $2.30AUD on eBay 

Things I used that I already had:
PVA wood glue

Cardboard

White paint

Stanley knife, metal ruler, bone folder and cutting mat

Sharpie and coloured textas

Beads

Polyester wadding

String of battery operated fairy lights

Small art canvas

Dried moss

Colour printer/photocopier 

For anyone else contemplating this, I say go for it! It was so much fun! 🙂 I worked on this for a few minutes up to an hour most days over a period of two weeks. My main tip would be to fully complete each stage before you go on to the next (eg build all the houses before you start decorating any of them). Also have a dedicated work space set up just for this project so you can leave things to dry (and where you don’t mind there being a lot of glitter). It would be far too hard to pack it up each day.
In the end, I am very happy with it. It will probably be a gift for someone sans cats. I am already planning another, but a more permanent and realistic model village, such as those used in model train scenery. And I can’t WAIT for Christmas!! 🙂

   
    
    
 

Crocheting Socks

Ever wanted to try crocheting a sock? Yeah, me neither. But sometimes you just need to live life on the edge, man.
I like knitting socks. I’ve knit upwards of forty pairs (having put that in writing, I’m thinking I perhaps need to get out more). And I’ve pushed plenty of people, such as the delightful Mary Tang, into trying it too, for better or for worse. 🙂

  
But I was interested in trying a different effect and texture. So I just did an online course in how to crochet a sock. I also thought that it might be a quicker option than knitting them and might give a nice thick sock for boots for the next trip to Finland. 

I pretty much expected to skip easily through the pattern. Yeah, nope, that didn’t happen. The ‘basic sock’ pattern which accompanied the course – which is an e-patternscentral course by Rohn Strong – involves using foundation double crochet, front and back post stitches for the ribbing and extended single crochet. Wtf. It isn’t that hard, but none of these I would consider basic. The foundation double crochet in particular needed heaps of practice to get smooth. There was a LOT of frogging and swearing going on at Ravensridge over the weekend.
One of my first attempts, using Lana Grossa Meilenweit India.
  
The first few tries came out way too big following the pattern and suggested hook size, so I eventually gave in and decided to swatch. I finally got gauge with a tiny 2.5mm hook instead of a 3.75mm as suggested. Weird.
A further attempt with a different yarn just felt awful and dense and scratchy. This is Drops Fabel Long Print.

  
So I went back to a tried and true Australian yarn, Bendigo Woollen Mills sock yarn. The colours are not me, but it worked. 🙂 Right size, nice fabric feel, and I’ve got the hang of the stitches now.

  
Another benefit to the crochet version is being able to easily try it on as you go.

   
   
The finished sock fits well and stays up. It’s hard to take photos of socks on your own feet. 

   
   
I really like Rohn Strong’s designs, and the course presentation was fine, although there’s a couple of numerical errors in the accompanying printed pattern.
Will I crochet more socks? Well, at least one more, to go with the one I’ve finished. It uses more yarn to crochet them, as you would expect, but makes a nice dense fabric, and now I’ve got the hang of it I think it will actually be much faster than knitting. So I would say…yes. Yes I will. Next up I’ll probably try some for M as he only wears boot socks. And knitting a size 14 on 2.5mm needles? Ain’t nobody got time for dat. Not even me. 
B 🙂