Stuff we made

What do you reckon? An abstract masterpiece?
Or – does it go this way up?

We felted by hand and then, because it was basically in shape but not “solid” if you know what I mean, it went through the washing machine and tumble dryer to see if that would finish it – which made no difference at all! Ho hum.

I think the problem may be that we were using alpaca wool and maybe some of it was – not kinky enough? The hairy bits sticking up are all straight hairs. We have a bunch of sheep fleeces to do next and they are definitely kinky enough! 😯 – the coloured merino wool felted beautifully, it was just the alpaca that was troublesome.

Possibly the verdict should be – not bad for the first attempt?

I have made haggis – although not the offal kind 😉

First up, a vegetarian haggis. I followed this Vegetarian Society recipe almost to the letter. Almost-ish. I was not especially exact with the quantities* and anyway I didn’t have everything so there were a few substitutions.**

[* Who weights out 4oz of onion, 2oz of carrot or 1.5oz of mushrooms? Surely anybody normal would just use 1 onion, 1 carrot and a few mushrooms?!]

[** I didn’t have any ground peanuts or hazelnuts so instead I used a good dollop each of peanut butter and hazelnut butter; nor did I exactly have “fine oatmeal”, I just used porridge oats… Ho hum.]

Considering that there was no offal in there at all, I was quite impressed as I was cooking it at how realistic it seemed. At the pre-oatmeal stage it looked and smelled revolting. At the post-oatmeal stage it began to take on a dubious aura of edibility. By the time it was on the plate I wanted seconds… Yes it turned out delicious 🙂

(Even though we didn’t have bashed neeps, or mashed swede to the uninitiated. Although we did have seriously bashed neeps yesterday, which is to say that we had neep soup. Today, however, Ariel was totally not going to eat that haggis thing not nohow I just want baked beans please mummy. So we had it with baked beans. She ate it all up. Although in fairness I had to bribe her with an offer of cake for pudding, at which point she made a counter offer to the effect that if I spoonfed her she would eat it and then have a big piece of cake with lots of icing fanks mummy… Ho hum.)

(I can report that it tastes nice cold as well.)

(These parenthetical wanderings are beginning to be reminiscent of Virginia Woolf.)

Oh, there was another haggis too. This one!

It is a bagpipe haggis, sporting the smallest operational bagpipes in the world. When I say operational, of course, I don’t mean that they actually work. But there is a squeaker inside so if you squish the bag you do get a sound that is at least as pleasant as the sound of piping outside your window first thing in the morning…

In case anyone was wondering, this haggis-o-mania has been brought about by the fact that I’ve been invited to a Burns night party later this month. I will certainly be taking the bagpipe haggis with me, and possibly also Mark 2 of the edible one. 🙂

As you can see, this is not an exact replica of the real thing, but it’s not bad 🙂

While doing it I had a few ideas about how I could do it better next time e.g. to make the rim a bit wider and more stepped. However, rather than spend another week working on improving my first attempt, I’m just going to give it to you as it is.

Yes I did actually write down the pattern, and here it is…


I am so amazed at my own cleverness it’s just silly now….

Take: a big piece of green foam (Hobbycraft sell it by the roll) – ours was about 60 or 80cm wide by 1m tall; some sticks; superglue; eyescrews; ribbon and coloured string; shiny cardboard; PVA glue; glitter, wooden beads. Oh, and a star 🙂

Step 1. First work out how to draw cut out a Christmas tree shape. This was the first hard part. In the end I came up with something like this:

[For people who need words: I started by marking and cutting along a line (the dotted line in Fig1) on each side to show the outline shape of the tree. I then marked a dotted line parallel with and a few inches away from each edge (shown in Fig2) and added dots along those lines, in the same places on each side, more or less equidistant. Then, as shown in Fig2, I cut in straight horizontal lines from the edge to each dot. Finally, Fig3 shows that if you cut from the edge end of each of these cuts up to the dot on the inside of the next cut up, you get a Christmas tree shape. Plus some triangles…Turn the whole thing upside down to that you can’t see any of the markings you made and it should look like the right sort of thing.]

Step 2. Find some sticks about the right length (from your growing store of sticks that your toddler has randomly decided to bring home). The idea is that you will superglue them onto the foam horizontally, to give it some structure and make it a bit less flimsy, and with a bit of luck stop the pointy bits from getting too dog-eared. Glue another stick vertically at the top to stop that from going all floppy (and to give you something to put your star on).

Here we are so far:

Step 3. To be able to hang this up, you will need to put THREE eye screws through the back of the foam and into the top two sticks. One screw goes on each side at the back of the topmost horizontal stick and one goes in at the back of the vertical stick, just below where it sticks out at the top. Then thread ribbon or string through the eye screws, knot it tightly and you will be able to hang it from the wall, using any reasonably sturdy picture hook.

Step 4. Make some flat baubles! These are easy and fun. Just cut some circles out of shiny card (we used red and gold) and then stick glitter on the back!

Step 5. How on earth are you going to attach the baubles to the tree? This one exercised me for a while. My original intention when I started this project was to make a disposable tree that we could just glue and glitter and paint and staple and anything we felt like, but by this stage I had got so fond of my tree that I wanted to be able to use it again – so “ruining” it by gluing on this year’s home made baubles was not an option.

I eventually came up with what I don’t mind saying was a stroke of sheer genius. I just screwed eye screws into a bunch of wooden beads and then superglued them to the tree. Simple. Perfect. I could then just use a very large yarn needle to thread the baubles onto coloured string so that I would be able to attach them to the tree.

Like this:

Step 5 – Assemble, hang, put a star on top, and admire:

And the next picture shows the reversible baubles the other way around (I nearly had to wait until Ariel had gone to bed to take this one, because she was very reluctant to make the baubles go “backwards” to hide the glitter!):

It’s amazing what pleasure you can get just from sticks and twigs that you find on the ground… plus a little help from your store of craft supplies 🙂

For this project, Ariel and I went out to gather some fresh fallen twigs and sticks, because we needed some that were going to be green and flexible – we also used some ribbon, coloured string, and a few decorations I bought from Oxfam last year.

First, my “sun display”. Ariel and I put this together while talking about seasons, and in particular about how Christmas time is when the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer again, because the sun is starting to wake up ready for springtime.

I am particularly proud of the “sun” at the top, which I made out of the green, flexible twigs – woven together and tied with red string (the other suns are the Oxfam decorations). Here is a close-up – get your admiring gasps ready!

And to hang in our hallway we made a star, again just sticks, string and ribbon:

We made this while talking about the story of Jesus, who was born in a country stable. The stars knew he was going to be a very important person so they shone above his stable to celebrate his birthday.

Another of our decorations (one from previous years) is a little toyshop tealight lantern thingy, so in addition to talking about how we light candles to help the sun to wake up and shine, we managed to get through yet another story about Christmas – the story of a man called Nicholas who liked to give presents to children in poor families, and of how we give presents at Christmas time to remember him and to remember how important it is to care about other people.

Isn’t Christmas great with toddlers?

Coming soon: the amazing home-made Christmas tree…

Collect some pine cones from a dripping forest.
Bake for about 1 hour on 200C. This opens the scales so that any seeds will drop out, and also helps to dry out the sap. It smells good too 🙂
Put eye screws in the ends. This is a bit fiddly, especially with the cones that have gone a bit “crispy” in the oven, but be patient!

Thread coloured string through each eye screw and tie it on but don’t tie the ends (i.e. so the string won’t come off while you are decorating the cone, but leaving the ends loose so that you can tie the cone onto things later on). Next, paint, glitter, stick things on, and generally decorate as desired. Use the coloured string to tie the cones onto e.g. the arm of a chair so that they can dry hanging up.
Wash hands! Now wait for the paint, glue and so on to dry…
Hang up a stick* horizontally on the wall. I used two picture hooks and some festive ribbon. [* This was one we gathered earlier in the year (from a non-dripping forest). If you are going to do this then I suggest you look for hazel – as shown! Hazel is good because you get good long straight poles. Oh, and please gather fallen wood, don’t hack it from the trees!]
Tie on some of the cones once they are thoroughly dried and ready to go.
What the heck – tie on some more. You only live once… Ta-da!

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