What are we all about?

The focus of this blog is simple - and that's the goal too. A more simple way of life. A life in tune with the rhythms of nature and of human nature. Where everything has its time and place and purpose, including us.

We have left the rat race behind and taken on new challenges. We aim to tread as lightly as we can upon the planet, to reconnect with nature, to eat good food, drink excellent wine, enjoy the best of company.... even if that is sometimes just our own! Please feel free to eavesdrop from time to time on our lives and see how we are doing and if you are ever in Extremadura... drop us an email and we'll give you directions.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Felted Bag Experiments No. 3

Now in case you are a regular reader of my blog and are wondering what happened to bags nos. 1 and 2, do not worry, I didn't really post about them and you haven't missed much. Here is a photo of bag no. 2.

And the inside...

This is a perfectly usable bag and since I am definitely still experimenting it was a very useful learning project. Now Bag no. 3 is also a learning project. But the making of it was less aimless and by chance than bag no. 2.

The Brief: I want to use as much of the local fleece as possible in my bag. I also want the bag to reflect the local area or my life here in some way. I want the bag to be classy/sophisticated. I want the quality of the sewing to be super high, making it very 'couture'. Finally, I want it to be obviously a work of art more than simply 'craft'. Not to downgrade craft work in any way - I've been a craft worker for many years, but now I want to stretch myself a bit. It's a journey so please bear with me.

The fleece is 100% local merino cross (the cross is something ancient, Spanish and unknown to my shepherd though he did make a guess - only I couldn't pronounce it never mind spell it!) It's dyed with an acid dye using vinegar as a mordant. The embroidery is both cotton and silk, the silk threads bought from a flea market here in Spain.

The fleece was first washed and combed, then spun using a vintage Ashford Traveller wheel. The bag was knitted up HUGE then washed at 90C in the washing machine along with a towel to help the felting process. After drying I set about deciding how to decorate it.

I gathered a few flowers from the finca and took photographs. There are so many flowers at this time of year I could go crazy and it would certainly make a fun bright bag if I tried to include them all but I wanted sophisticated so I decided less is more.

There is a local tradition of embellishing peasant style blouses and felted skirts with bright flower embroidery which I might emulate at some point in the future but it isn't sophisticated so it isn't for this bag.

Nowadays most of the costumes are machine embroidered. Fewer and fewer people know how to do the embroidery and even fewer have the time. Even though the modern versions are made by machine they cost hundreds of euros. Just a little snippet of information for you - there are not so many surviving examples of the traditional costume as folk used to be buried in them. There are still a few that have thankfully found their way into museums and which are a wonderful resource for people like me. And the skirts are felted.. local fleece? This I don't know.. yet!

I was pretty chuffed with it at this point but then I did the lining.

I chose linen. And i used interfacing to give it a bit more body. It made it very bulky and tricky to sew onto the bag. I ended up wrestling with it for an entire day, three rows of tiny pin point hand sewn stitches to secure it to the bag, and then discovered that I had distorted the bag and now the handles don't line up. It is not correctable. It is annoying but then this is a learning project and in that respect it has fulfilled the brief! I learned a ton of stuff.

Where it has fallen short I know I can fix next time.  It is usable.. just. The misaligned handles are not comfortable to hold - it feels wrong. But I shall test drive it for a month or two to see how well it wears. I suspect the wool will pill with frequent use, this is probably unavoidable to a certain extent, though there are spinning techniques that are supposed to minimise that.. something to think about as I am washing the next load of fleece, which is due very very soon. So many ideas for bags.. so few hours in the day!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

It's a Gift

Firstly I would like to say a HUGE thank-you to everyone who commented,emailed and passed on their condolences to me. These are verbal gifts, so thoughtful, and treasured in their kindness. Especially Venomater who left such a nice comment that Blogger decided not to publish, even though I ticked the correct box. Apologies for Bloggers incompetence and sincere thanks for your sentiments.

It's been a time of gifts. Before I dashed back to Scotland, a cousin, on reading about my sewing aspirations, sent me a huge amount of quality fabric. Enough for a suit or a coat and then some! This is a gift that I could only dream about... now made reality. I am almost paralysed into indecision by the enormous generosity. Can I do this fabric justice? Will I actually be able to bring myself to cut the fabric? For the moment it is waiting both in my treasure chest of materials as well as percolating in my mind's eye, simmering beneath the surface of my every day tasks until the moment is right to begin.

I gifted myself some wool while in Scotland and started knitting socks while on duty at the hospital. I unravelled those socks three times. My knitting definitely suffered from lack of concentration but that's ok. The knitting served an important purpose which was filled simply by keeping a part of my mind busy. Since returning home the socks are once more materialising, only better this time. When finished they will be gifted to a very special person.

When I left the finca the almond trees were in blossom. On returning we have almonds. This is heartening. But also sad, I feel like I missed something. A dear neighbour passed me a couple of bushes of some flowering shrub that she could not use herself. This has prompted me to tackle the flower beds in the garden where the weeds have grown to waist height and as always, with everything, I feel like I am playing catch up. I never, ever manage to get ahead of the game! At least not with the garden. Perhaps the lesson here is to simply accept that this is how things are and I can never change that.

I used the last of my gifted local fleece to make a felted bag. I am very happy with this one.

It's a good usable size and the felting worked pretty well. The plan is to find a small range of usable modern bag styles and then perhaps take some commissions. Each bag being a work of art - hand spun, dyed and knitted, perhaps embroidered or embellished to be a unique and individual item that reflects the local area or perhaps my life here in Spain. It's a work in progress. A reminder that my joy in the creation of these things is a gift too.

My brother brought me a large bag of spices from Dubai. With an enormous jar of saffron, more expensive than gold! I plan a paella. A gift for the senses. I love gifts like this.

 My world seems to be full of gifts at the moment. I can't help but feel lucky.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

I Am Home

But things are not normal. There is a huge space inside me, just empty. I know that the finca will help to heal me, I can feel it working it's magic already.

I made bread using the outdoor oven. I'm out of practice. It burned a bit. This always happens when I leave the embers in the oven. But I don't like taking them out, they are super hot and I don't have alot of manouvering space around the oven. It's our design flaw. Too late now.

Once the burnt bit is cut off it will be fine. Bread making was actually really quite comforting. There are a number of things that I can do to help me through my period of mourning.

I have come back with a heavy cold. This is what happens when you mix with people and hug strangers. There was a lot of that. Today I feel quite grotty. Head aching, nose blocked and throat sore, not to mention the strange empty space inside - time is the only cure for all of my symptoms.

I have a list. It reads like this:

Felted bags - experiments with local wool/dying with plants.
Canned meats - bolognaise sauce, meatballs and other ready meals.
Veggie plot - continued weeding and improving the soil.
Socks - three pairs of socks waiting to be knitted.
Shawl - a lace shawl waiting to be knitted.
Jumper - a half finished project on the needles to be finished.
Jams and pickles - we have none!
Sewing - projects waiting include: shirt for Steve, dress for me, jacket for me, suit for me, skirt to be finished and trousers to hem.

If I get even half of this lot done in the next three months I will consider it a success story. It's good to have a list.