Monday, 31 August 2015

Made by Nature :: Hand-Carved Crochet Hooks

Making things from found, or waste materials, is an important aspect of my sustainability aims.

Recently I have tried my hand at wood whittling and I find it a totally absorbing process.  I have been obsessively making crochet hooks from fallen twigs.  These are selected during woodland walks, or on foraging trips to local parks. Looking for an interesting stick is quite Zen, (like looking for interesting pebbles or shells on a beach), and is a fundamental part of the making process. When I find the right twig it seems magical, like a wand in my hand, and I get excited before I have even started to work on it!

I always use fallen twigs (Natures discards), and I choose the ones with most interesting shapes, colours and textures. I think when I fashion a twig or stick into a crochet hook, it is crucial that I maintain the integrity of the originals' shape. Conveniently, many of the natural curves and twists in a found twig, will provide a natural handle for the hook. I think I do not so much change the twig into a hook, as gradually reveal the hook that was already there!

Each hook is totally unique and individual, exactly like the people that will use them.  It is important to me that the hooks also fulfil their function and 'crochet', and I enjoy test driving each of them before I offer them for sale. I am an expert at crochet and I fully understand the anatomy of a hook.

A believer in natural simplicity, my intervention in the shape, size and gauge is minimal, and I like to fashion the hook, then apply simple beeswax and coconut oil to preserve the condition of the wood and make it silky to the touch. The natural oils from your own busy hands will continue this process of preserving the tool, so it is important that you use your crochet hook to make lots of beautiful things!

If you would like to purchase one of my crochet hooks click on one of the images, that will take you to our Folksy shop , on the on the right hand side of this post.  Little Bird SOS positively engages with people to provide life enrichment, education, socialisation, creative distraction and personal growth. Most of our, eco friendly, items are made by participants who access our health and wellbeing activities. As a non-profit making organisation, all of the proceeds from our sales go towards supporting the social aims of our organisation which are of particular benefit to people experiencing stress, anxiety and depression. supporting our social aims of supporting mental health and wellbeing. - Happy Crocheteing!- Lisa

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Crafting for Health and Wellbeing :: A Celebration

Last Friday was a delightful day at the studio.  We celebrated the end of a fantastic year long project, Crafting for Health and Wellbeing, funded by the Big Lottery - Awards for All

The aim of our project was to engage with individuals with wellbeing needs in activities that have boosted their self esteem, self confidence and social engagement through craft activities.  The rationale and project delivery was based around the Five Ways to Wellbeing (NEF - 2008), which we had used successfully with other groups.
During this project, we were approached by Lucy Peel of Mutual Shoots who made an informational film about the work we are doing and the impact that it had on the participants wellbeing as well as our eco friendly approach to arts and crafts.

Participants who joined the volunteer aided group engaged in agreed craft activities which had a positive and tangible outcome e.g. gifting to charities, volunteering in group support, craft fairs, community art etc.  Initially, participants may have felt socially challenged but were gently encouraged to develop their self esteem by developing their art and craft skills in a supportive environment.

Providing a supportive environment, in which people with significant social disengagement and low self confidence can support each other and be encouraged to take on wider supportive community roles, was critical to this project.  

'Helping, sharing, giving and team-orientated behaviours are likely to be associated with an increase sense of self-worth and positive feelings' (NEF p10)  

We have seen that building 'mental capital' in this way, has helped participants to be more active and this will improve their life chances and strengthen the local community's capacity to help itself.

I think the film tells the rest of the story:

Thank you so much to everyone who took part and supported this venture.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Japanese Quilting

Last week, at our crafting for health and wellbeing session we had a go at making Japanese patchwork squares
One of our lovely volunteers, Claire, shared this technique with us.  The process was photographed and she is happy for me to share it with you too.  With this technique, each individual square is quilted as you go along, as opposed to traditional quilting methods where you quilt after you have fixed your shapes together.  The results are stunning. It looks complicated but, actually, it is a very simple process. 
First of all you need to cut some templates.  A 16.5cm (6.5 inch) diameter circle, a 15cm (6 inch) diameter circle:
And a 10cm x 10cm (4 inch) square.  We prefer to be frugal with our templates and use old cereal boxes, thick wallpaper remnants (good for the smaller cirle) etc:
Choose the fabric, cotton woven fabrics work best, for the outer edge of your square.  If you look at the first picture, in this post, it is the light blue edging of the patchwork square.  Mark and cut your chosen fabric using the larger circle template:
 Stitch around the outer edge of this fabric using a running stitch:
When you have stitched all the way round, do not fasten off instead put the smaller circular template inside your work:
Then pull the running stitch up.  As if by magic, the work will neatly fold over the small circular template creating a neatly finished hemmed edge.  Fasten off and secure this with a knot:
Now, iron your work:
Then remove the template.  It will be easier to remove if you have made the tempate on thicker paper, like wallpaper, rather than card:
 Flip your work over and iron on the reverse side:
Next, cut a piece of wadding and fabric, using the 10cm x 10cm square template as a guide.  If you look at the first picture, in this post, it is the patterned inside of the patchwork square:
Lay the patterned square on top of the wadding (we used old thick curtain lining fleece for our wadding but you can use and old fleece coat or a thick old woollen blanket to be frugal:
Now lay these pieces on top of your hemmed circular fabric, you made earlier, with the hemmed side facing you.  The corners of the square should be just shy of the edge of the circular fabric as shown in this picture:
Fold up the curved edges and pin as follows:

Now stitch around all the curved edges.  You can use the same colour as your fabric or use a contrasting colour as I have done:
A finished Japanese patchwork square:
You can use a patterned fabric for the outside edge and a plain fabric for the inside as one of our workshop participants did:
This technique is easy for the most unsteady of hands too:
 The results are stunning.  This is a section of Claire's beautifully finished quilt.  She joined her squares together with machine embroidery:
The reverse side:
The front in detail:
The reverse side.  You can see Claire's machine embroidery in more detail here.  If you don't have a machine that does fancy stitches, I think hand embroidery will be just as stunning too:
We will be doing this project for a few more weeks.  If you use this tutorial I would love to see your Japanese quilted squares too.  Please share, pictures them, on one of our social media sites - Facebook or Twitter 


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Volunteer Days

Today was our first volunteers day.  We opened our doors, inviting people in to help generate income for our small organisation so we can continue to help others.  We run sessions that support health and wellbeing and our work particularly benefits people who experience mental health difficulties.
In this first session we cut cereal boxes into 13 x 13cm squares and collaged little bits of interesting paper patterns that we have been saving that included the insides of envelopes and bits of handmade paper.  We added a variety of shapes, some monoprinted, some block printed and some drawn by hand images. 
Look at these wonderful results:
We're also making the envelopes from old magazines and will be selling these, with the cards online soon.  We will also be making copies of some of the cards and getting prints for a more affordable range of cards.
We plan to meet on a weekly basis, changing the craftmaking every couple of weeks
All of the proceeds will go towards supporting our aims ensuring that we can continue our activities long into the future.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Cross Corners Secret Garden

Not only do we have a beautiful place to inspire people to be creative, we also have access to a magical secret garden through the back door of Cross Corners.  Today it was exceptionally magical.  I have been in these gardens many times over the past few years but have never seen it in a blanket of snow.  Believe it or not, all of the following pictures are colour but, somehow, they look black and white, infact, it seemed like a mystical black and white world out there for a while today...
 This is a mulberry tree but not a single fruit in sight today...
 The Cross Corners garden pond was iced over, for a while, today...
 Bridge over the pond...
 Cross Corners peeking out from amongst the snowy foliage...
This view, just outside the back door of Cross Corners, reminds me of the book 'Tom's Midnight Garden' by Philippa Pearce.  I image that this view is similar to what Tom would have seen when he opened the back door...
If you wander further around these gardens, you will eventually find Belgrave Hall...
It looks good in black and white too...
Lovely isn't it?

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Last Term in the Studio

Last term seemed to go by in a blink.  There was lots's of wonderful creativity, some with a festive theme.
One of our participants became facilitator and showed us how to fold old, destined for landfill, books into hedgehogs, perfect for holding your letters and cards...
And this led on to book folded christmas trees finished off with tiny pompoms made with forks...
In December we had a visiting artist, Bridget McVey, a talented ceramicist and teacher.  Bridget guided us through the process of working with clay.
Choosing shapes and cutting clay from the block with a cheese wire...

Ornaments and gifts for christmas in the making...
This is bigger than it looks...
Snowflake coasters and ceramic bunting pennants...
Making giant buttons...
We also took part in the Craftist Wellmaking Garden project...
Made christmas tree hangings from recycled textiles...
And crochet bowls from t-shirt fabric that had been chucked out by a local factory...
We like to put cotton into ours...
We made these wreaths from ivy foraged from the beautiful Belgrave Hall gardens.  The head gardener was rather pleased we were helping him to keep the ivy in check...

On the last session of the year, we got on with unfinished projects whilst munching on lovely food we all bought in to share.  We were bathed in beautiful sunrays...

We made lots of beautiful things and, at our Open Studio event, sold some of the items we had made.  It was really great to have the support of our 'Crafting for Health and Wellbeing' participants at the Open Studio who were involved in helping out with setting up, helping with a drop-in workshop and helping out in the gallery space.  Hopefully there will be lots more opportunities for volunteers in 2015.