Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Carronbridge and Thornhill Trip

Rob, Brock and I went for a walk at Carronbridge yesterday. The walk can be found on pages 12 and 13 of the free booklet, "Walking in and around Thornhill".

The walk is very easy, about 2 miles long, passing along a track past farmland, and along by the River Nith before looping back to the main road through the village of Carronbridge. There are distant views of the impressive Drumlanrig Castle before you reach the river, but I didn't get a photo.

[Click on any photo to see the larger version.]

After the walk we went to Thornhill where we had hoped to have lunch at Thomas Tosh. Unfortunately, they did not allow dogs, and it was too hot to leave Brock in the car, so we settled for a cup of coffee sitting outside The Happy Potter Ceramic Cafe. It was a very nice coffee and came with a homemade biscuit. Rob also had a traybake, which he enjoyed. Sadly, there were no gluten free options for me :(

Rob's Sister, Mum and Niece enjoyed decorating plates and mugs in the cafe on a couple of holidays that they had in the area.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Portinscale and Keswick Trip

Rob, Brock and I had a walk from Portinscale, via Ullock, along Newlands Beck, past the Swinside Inn and Hawse End and back towards Portinscale past Lingholm and Nichol End. The walk is about 4.5 miles long, over fairly flat and even ground. You can find the same walk in the Footprint guide: Walks Around Keswick, Number 13.

Before we set out, we had coffee and a cake at The Chalet Tearoom and Restaurant in Portinscale. We both enjoyed what we had and might go back for a lunch or dinner another time.

[Click on any photo to see a larger version. You can just make out people on the mountain ridge shown in the third photo!]

We drove into Keswick afterwards for lunch at The Lakeland Peddlar, only to find that it had gone (three weeks ago, the waitress told us), and a new restaurant, Maxwells, was in its place. Since they allowed dogs, we decided to give it a go.

I had the mezze platter £8.45 (including, hummus, feta pate, tsatskiki, olives etc with gluten free bread option)
Rob had the Ploughman's £8.50.

As you can see there was plenty to eat. I found the dips and felafels on mine a little bland - more garlic, lemon juice, herbs or spice required, I think, but it was great to be able to have gluten free bread, and the coleslaw and curried potatoes were nice. Rob's Ploughman's came with loads of cheese, salad, onion relish (again a little bland), and balsamic vinegar pickled onions, which were tasty.

Other menu items included soup, sandwiches, tapas and seafood options.

I prefer The Abrahams Tea Room in George Fisher, however, this has the advantage of allowing dogs, which is useful during the warmer weather.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Brock's New Fur Cut: Before and After Shots

Brock had his first fur cut today (apart from the trim Rob gave him with the scissors last Summer). He looks like a new dog. And we can finally see his little stumpy tail.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rug Making Tools

I read an interesting thread in the forum recently asking about what people's favourite art and craft tools were.

For me (at the moment) it is my rug making tools.

This shows the assortment that I have accumulated over the years.

The yellow crochet hook is for making crochet and fabric tapestry rugs. I got this one from the Rug Maker's Homestead on Etsy.

The large, two-piece wooden shuttle hook is for making hooked rugs, working from the reverse of the base fabric. The pictured one comes from Debbie Siniska's Rag Rug Shop. My first rag rug (shown below) was made using this hook and four wool blankets from charity shops, which I dyed for the purpose.

The metal hook is a hand operated punch needle, made by Rumpelstiltskin in the US. I am not sure that anyone still sells these in the UK.

The little metal one with the black stem is a Craftsman's punch needle and I am currently using that on the piece you can see under the tools. You work from the back of the fabric and can use the tool to form loops of yarn, or fine strips of fabric on the front of the work. They are available from The Ruggery in the US. I bought this one from a UK seller, but I don't think they stock them any more. However if you search for 'Punch Needle', there are all sorts available.

The two spring loaded hooks are called bodgers and the modern one is available from Debbie Siniska. The other one was found on Ebay. You use this tool to pull shortish fabric strips through a pinch of backing fabric (working from the front) to form a plush, shaggy rag rug. There is also a latch hook tool shown, which I haven't yet used. You use it to pull short lengths of rug wool through rug canvas and knot them in place.

There are three simple rug hooking hooks that look like a crochet hook mounted in a wooden handle. These are used to pull loops up through a backing fabric, working from the front of the piece. You can use yarn, fabric strips, wool roving or whatever takes your fancy! Ribbons, strips of plastic, and even wire have all been used. They are widely available: The Rag Artist Studios do a nice assortment. The primitive rag rug below is made using a simple hand hook, and various woollen fabrics, including a tea-dyed blanket, a jumper, assorted tweedy skirt lengths and another bit of blanket that I dyed orange. As you can see, it attracts small creatures.

And this is my absolute favourite! The brass tool with the darker wood handle is a prodder, used for making rugs with a shaggy finish; you prod lengths of fabric through a base material, working from the back. This particular tool is beautifully turned and smooth to hold. Similar tools are sold by Rag Art Studios. The wall hanging below is made using this tool. The second photo shows the reverse.

Another tool, which missed the original photo shoot, is the toothbrush needle (so called because these were originally fashioned from the handle of an old toothbrush). It is like a big flat needle with a large hole that you thread thick strips of fabric through, then working like a blanket stitch you build up rows or circles of stitches to form your rug. This one came second hand from Etsy, but Aunt Philly's in the US sell them. They also show a demo video of the process and sell instruction booklets.

Here is a rug I made, from some second hand batik fabrics that my Mum gave me, using the toothbrush needle.

What is your favourite art or craft tool, and why?

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Work in Progress: Stripy Scrap Quilt

I started on this lap quilt a few months back, and had to stop for a while to complete a couple of commissions, but I have finally finished piecing the top.

This is how it started out: a pile of little scraps, including fabrics dating back to the 1970s (summer dresses, shirts, off cuts from other projects etc):-

These were sorted into dark, medium and pale tones, then cut into strips, pieced into squares of about 5 3/4". Then trimmed to 5 1/2" squares. Because of the scraps I was working with, there was just about every colour and tone possible, so I tried to make each square work with the contrasts and colours within itself.

Here is a collage of some of the squares I came up with (randomly arranged).

When I had 144 squares, I started to work out a pattern with the random blocks. I decided to go for bands of colour in the columns, going from light to dark in the rows.

Here is the finished top, being basted to the wadding and backing (with help from Brock!):-

Just the quilting and binding to do!


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