Tuesday, 26 March 2013

How to weave a wreath

One of the first things I learned to weave was a simple wreath. These cost a lot of money in posh garden centres, but they're really straightforward to make if you have access to a tree which is sprouting suckers, before they burst into leaf. I use the lovely flexible rods from the base of the hazel tree in our garden, and  I have just collected (with permission!) similar cuttings from base of the lime tree in our village church. And if you really can't find any material and you're in the UK, I have a few made from willow for sale in my Etsy shop, or drop me an email and we can sort something out.

Warning - this is long and photo heavy but assumes you have never worked with wood or willow before. It also assumes you are right handed; I think for left handed weavers you could just reverse all the directions.

First cut your rods. They need to be not much thicker than a cm, or they're too hard to work with. The bottom left hand rod is too thick. The bottom right hand rod is fine - but you can always cut the ends off thick rods.

At this stage the rods are quite resistant and you need to soften them - hold a rod in one or both hands and apply a gentle flexing force with your thumbs, all along the length of the rod. Not too hard - they can be broken! You'll need to do this with any rod that seems just a bit reluctant to take shape. I will assume from this point on that you've softened the rods you're about to use.

Take a long rod and form it into a ring, effectively tying it in a knot. If it pings out of shape, you can temporarily tie it in place. The length of this first rod will determine the size of your finished wreath.

Insert a second rod, ideally opposite the knot, through the ring from left to right so that the left end is on top of the ring and the right end is underneath. Hold it firmly in place with your left hand, and begin to wrap the second rod around the ring, letting it more or less follow its natural curve. At this point, don't worry about the ends that are sticking out.

Insert a third rod, starting in a different point on the ring, and wrap it in the same way but this time allow its path to follow the first rod you wrapped - this way you get a neater finish and to my eye a more attractive flow. If you like a more haphazard, higgledy piggledy look then wrap at will!

Continue to add and wrap rods, always staggering the starts, until you have the size you want, or you run out of rods. It may look a little bit shaggy at this point! Keep an eye on the shape - if it goes wonky, you can apply pressure with your hands to fix it but it's always easiest to adjust this as you add each rod rather than trying to fix it at the end.

Now to trim the thick ends. I think they look best cut off flush to the curve of the ring, using secateurs, and before I cut I try to get all the ends to the back face of the wreath where they will be hidden. I leave the wispy thin ends for the moment.

Now I tuck any wavy ends into the wreath, or trim them off if I really can't get them to behave, and remove any string I used at the beginning. Check the shape, add a ribbon or string for hanging and there you go.

I added some crocheted daffodils using Lucy's pattern, and inserted wires into the leaves to stiffen them up. There are very few real daffs out here yet and my springy wreath cheers me up every day.

And there you have it! Once you've mastered this technique there's a very simple follow on project to make a bird feeder that I'll try to write up very soon.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Blog reading shenanigans

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

As many of you already know, Google Reader is going away. Which leaves lots of us with a bit of a dilemma. I am in the middle of looking at Bloglovin and may look at Feedly too, but I am swinging in favour of Bloglovin at the minute simply because they didn't require direct access to my google account before I could log in. Probably I'm just being paranoid, but it felt a bit like being asked to give the keys to my house to a stranger I'd just met on the street. But then I don't use Facebook apps that can access my information, or even download to my phone anything that wants to modify my SD card - no games for me!

Anyway, as part if this endeavour I am "claiming" my blog on Bloglovin and as a result have to put this bit of code on a post. Not the most exciting I've ever written, but there it is. I've got a weaving tutorial nearly ready to go - come back in a day or two!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

I can sing a rainbow

Yesterday Tall Small and I had an enforced morning at home waiting to go to an appointment. She was missing science at school, as was I - it's one of the mornings I usually go into school to help. There was no homework to be done, music practice was up to date so we decided to think about what the children might be studying at school and do our own version. With experiments, obviously.

She's been looking at light this half term - a bit about how vision and how we perceive colour, but mostly the properties of light. Reflection and so on. We did a couple of simple activities to investigate Snell's law- remember "the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection"? Mirrors and torches and fizzy water and still water. We found a brilliant website crammed with activities, including instructions to construct a water prism and split white light into its components. This is a real winner.

You need: a glass bowl full of water, a small mirror, a piece of white card or a white wall, and some sunshine. I realise that may be the hardest part.

Set up the bowl by a sunny window and prop the card up in front of it. Partially submerge the mirror in it. Angle it so the sunlight reflects off the mirror and onto the card.

 You will see the light on the card and occasional hints that something interesting could be about to happen ...

Then suddenly, a shimmering, wavering rainbow appears on the card and you shout and squeak and count the colours - until the sun goes behind a cloud.

We talked about eye structure. We talk about how visible light forms just a part of the electromagnetic spectrum. About wavelengths. About colour blindness, which developed into a conversation about inheritance and genetics. And I marvelled about how quickly my girl is growing up and how she seems to have a real feeling for science. She worked out the answer to every question I asked, and asked lots of her own.

Science in school with SmallSmall's class this afternoon. Let's see what they find out!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

World Book Day 2013

Today is World Book Day, a day both loved and dreaded - loved for the sheer joy of celebrating books, especially with children; and dreaded because of the need to provide costumes for school.

My girls read voraciously. We can't keep them supplied with enough books and the bookshelves in every room in the house are stacked two deep; that's lovely but I do sometimes feel as if the shelves are closing in on me! They always know who they want to be for the day, and this year we have a clear Harry Potter theme.

I give you:

Luna Lovegood

SmallSmall's long blonde wavy hair is perfect for Luna, and she decided to go as Luna heading off to Hogsmeade ie not school uniform. She already had the cloak (my old Uni gown) and the wand, and she made herself a Quibbler (to be held upside down at school) and some Spectrespecs.

I was left to make a cork necklace to ward off Nargles - which is the best excuse to buy a bottle of red I have ever had - and a pair of dirigible plum earrings. 

These nearly ended me. The leaves fell off the first pair, so I remade them at 7.30 this morning and the second pair have deathcracks. Plus her ears are unpierced so they are threatening to fall off their elastic loops. I'll be stunned if they make it home intact!

Fleur Delacour

My beautiful tall ten year old was enchanted by the elegant Beauxbatons students both in book and the film of the Goblet of Fire, and pleaded for a long sleeved blue dress and a little cape. This is her last year at primary school, and possibly the last dressing up day she'll be doing; how could I say no? The costume was not too hard in principle, but I put the first sleeve in upside down, and then put the popper for the cape on the wrong side. Argh.

I am going in to school to work later. I shall be dressing as Professor Sprout. I may take a plant with me.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Arrows and braids

I've finished a couple of new baskets this week; both have now gone on to new homes where I hope they'll fit in and be useful. Both have taught me new skills, which is always a good thing, I think. Neither ended up entirely as planned but I think that's why I enjoy weaving; there is a certain element of letting the basket evolve - with guidance, obviously - I didn't set out to weave an elephant and end up with a bucket!

The first is just a simple little basket, plain but for the braided accent on the side which I do love, but which left a few unhideable ends inside and meant that I needed to add a liner - no great hardship with this lovely linen. I'm thinking the size means it would be useful for embroidery threads or  small cotton reels or maybe seed packets. Certainly not grocery shopping.

The second one is larger and was originally going to have a handle but at the end I decided not to add one. It is tightly woven with very narrow reed so there was an element of awkwardness in the shaping and it did take longer than anticipated to make.

I added a band of three rod arrow for interest - both in the appearance if the basket and because I really like weaving it. I think next time I'd move the band slightly higher up the side to balance the shape but still, I am pleased with the way it turned out. It's a good size for storing balls of crochet cotton, which can only be a good thing in my book!

I did a bit of travelling weaving this weekend: a revelation as I've never thought of it as a very portable hobby. Turns out it can be, but it required a level of organisation I am not usually known for! More on that another time.

As ever, I can see as much that I did wrong as right with these two; do you do that? And how on earth do you get past it, if you ever do?