Sewing felt witchy mice

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I first made the large mouse you see in the picture a few months ago, I wanted to put together a simple catnip toy for my cat, Pendle, but for some reason got the measurements wrong and ended up with something pretty substantial. My imagination took over and I began creating for the mouse a pointy hat and cape, and even added a little potion bottle in it’s paw!

Now it’s October, and I’ve finally got my own paws on some green felt. I thought it would be sweet to make a little apprentice mouse for the big witch and decided I would take some pictures as I went so I could share the process. It’s very simple 🙂

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It’s best to start with drawing a circle on paper, this way you can already tell what sort of size you want the mouse as this is the base. The one I used was probably around an inch  across. Next draw the (sort of) triangle body, the bottom width of the triangle should be half the circumference of the circle you made. The straight length of the triangle should be as long as you wish your mouse to be as tall, in my case this was 3 inches. Then draw a slightly curved line to complete the shape. Cut out the two paper shapes. Pin the triangle to a folded piece of felt, this will create double as you see above. Then cut out the circle, you only need one of these.

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Fold the triangle together and begin to stitch along the mouses back. Once you are over 3/4 down, add the stuffing. I used balls of cotton wool. Poke the stuffing into the mouses nose using a cocktail stick. After this, stitch the circle to the bottom. You may wish to include something heavy at the bottom to weight the mouse down. I used a small decorative pebble. Before you finish remember the tail! I used plaited ribbon. Tah dah, the body is complete!

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For the brim of the witches hat you can use the same circle you used for the base of the mouse, then all you need is a cone type shape. Cut one piece of each. Stitch the point of the hat the same as with the mouse’s body. Stuff again with cotton wool and stitch on the brim. Sew this onto the mouse, along with two little oval shaped ears. All that’s left is the two little beady eyes and a nose. I made mine using thread, though you could use beads or sequins etc.

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And there you have it, the cutest little mice you ever did see! From there you could add all sorts of little accessories, have fun with it! Remember though if you are going to fill it with catnip and give it to your cat, to not use beads or small parts or anything that could hurt your feline chum. Happy sewing 🙂

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Viking Shoot in Little Switzerland

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Yesterday my partner and I took a trip to East Yorkshire, to the Humber Bridge Country Park. It was the perfect time to catch autumn in full swing, walking along winding paths through steep slopes of golden ash trees, and looking up at exposed chalk cliffs that seem almost like hidden castle walls. Each slight breeze brought down a shower of dying leaves that pattered to the woodland floor like raindrops. The cliff terraces of the reserve, once said to resemble miniature snow covered Alps, give the area it’s local name of Little Switzerland.

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We came to get some shots of the Viking dress I had made, which we certainly did, but I couldn’t resist taking pictures of our beautiful surroundings also.

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Fairy Inkcaps

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The shift is made from cotton, the apron dress from linen, I also added a black and gold Celtic trim and gold lace up back for a more striking and unique look. You can read about the brooches and beads in an earlier blog post. I don’t use a pattern when making dresses, just good old measuring tape and adjustments along the way.

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Looking down from the slope where we stood, I could see the icy blue of a lake, which made me think of fjords…oh to be in Norway!

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Revisiting the Cottingley Fairies after 100 years

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A brief history of the Cottingley fairies, and the tale of my own journey into Cottingley and meeting the Fairies for myself.
In 1917 Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took two photographs that would capture the world’s hearts and imaginations. Elsie’s father must have been amazed when he developed their photographs to see they had captured a troupe of dancing fairies on one, and a gnome on the other! For a few years nothing came of them, until Elsie’s mother took the photographs to a lecture on spiritualism by the theosophical society and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took wind of them. He was obviously enchanted by the photographs and subsequently published an article in Strand magazine about the photos, and how they were proof of the reality of psychic phenomena. Many people were captivated by the photographs, others thought it was absolute hogwash.
The Girls were urged to take more photographs, and in 1920 they produced three more. It is these five photographs and the girls lives in Cottingley that inspired me, 100 years later, to follow in their footsteps.

As a child growing up in a small village, just moments away from woodlands and meadows to explore, I was utterly charmed by fairies. My sister and I would make little boats using ivy leaves and thin twigs for them to sail across our pond. Then one day I saw a documentary (I think about hoaxes) and I saw the photographs of the Cottingley fairies for the first time. The magic and romanticism captured in those pictures has enthralled me ever since.

Cottingley is a small village in Yorkshire, about 80 miles from where I live, so I knew I wanted to make the most of my visit when I got there. My first priority was to create the paper fairies, using the same method as Elsie Wright all those years ago. She was inspired by the illustrations she saw in Princess Mary’s Gift Book, so I bought myself a copy.

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The book that inspired Elsie, with autumn birch leaves collected from Cottingley Beck

You can certainly see the resemblance of the dancing girls to the fairies in the original photographs, so using this illustration and looking closely at the photographs, I drew my own as similar as I could and painted them with watercolours. I also made the gnome using the same method. With cutouts and camera in hand, my partner and I headed off to Yorkshire.

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We drove through bustling towns and round winding roads, until we arrived at the quaint village of Cottingley, lined with Yorkshire brick terraced houses. We stopped at a pub closest to Cottingley Beck, The Sun Inn.

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I ordered my pint of Guinness while my partner told the barman why we were there “To find Cottingley Beck and look for fairies” The barman replied “I know just who to ask” and ventured off to a table of old gentlemen. What absolute luck and fortune, when one of the kind men took us on a small tour, to the house where they had lived and the beck that flowed behind where they used to play, and took the famous photographs.

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The terraced house where the girls lived, played and plotted!

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Me leaning on a wall that stands by the flowing beck, in sepia tone, of course!

We wanted to take our own photos in a more secluded part of the beck and trekked back along it. We came to a bridge and very precariously headed down the bank, It felt like this place hadn’t been touched for years. I could hear the delightful rush of water and saw a waterfall crashing onto the rocks (could it be the very one in the original photograph?) the banks of the stream were lined with trees and the grass was filled with the delightful deep pink blooms of Indian Balsam, or Jumping Jacks.

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Indian Balsam or Jumping Jack

And then, just like Frances and Elsie, we proceeded to take some magical photos of our own.

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It was simply an enchanting day, looking upon where they had played and down the fairy haunted beck filled me with a sense of awe, and childish happiness, which was completed when driving past Cottingley Butchers, I saw for sale Cottingley fairy mugs commemorating 100 years. Of course I just had to have one.

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Viking bling, on a budget!

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Since a very young age, I have been fascinated beyond all measure with ancient Scandinavia, Viking culture and Norse mythology. In fact, the first thing I bought when I earned money of my own was a Viking replica broadsword (practical, I know), and although these things are extremely awesome, they’re also extremely expensive!

So now my obsession has progressed, it’s only right that I should want complete Viking garb, another kick in the money bags! What do you do if you want to totally rock the shield maiden look when you earn the dosh of a Viking farmer (that doesn’t come back from a raid with hoards of treasure)?

The one thing I will say about the dress itself is of course, if you want to save money, you simply must make it yourself. Trust me, it’s not that daunting, there are loads of tutorials online and it’s incredibly rewarding showing off something beautiful that you made yourself. Anyway, this post is about the accessories, so if you’re not a hardcore re-enactor and just want to release your Viking spirit – read on.

1) BEADS

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Viking women’s apron dresses were held up at the straps using brooches, and between these they would hang strings of beautiful brightly coloured beads that came from all over the world. These were made from glass, wood, horn, bone, metal and semi-precious stones. The good news is, nowadays you don’t have to travel to fancy Viking Age markets and pay a silver dirham for each bead. The answer really is obvious – charity shops, car boot sales and thrifting of any kind! The Vikings would have a fit if they could see the plethora of bead choice we have today. My own Viking boob bling consists entirely of beads I have taken from old bracelets and necklaces. Just use that sixth (fashion) sense of yours and pick the ones that feel right. I’ve bought a whole necklace once just to get one very Nordic style bead from it. Get yourself a reel of tiger tail, and start threading!

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Charity shops and thrifting is also the answer for other items, leather belts and beautiful furs are all things you can find for little money as well. You can also use a fur collar or lining taken from a coat, they are sometimes removable.

2) HANGING THE BEADS.

The Viking way was to use a chain distribution plate or bead divider. You can find these on Etsy and Viking replica websites, they are intricate and stunning, and cost a whole lot of money! The alternative is a bit dull, but it will hold up until you save enough money for something more dazzling – quite simply a multi strand slide, which you can find on Ebay. You can see one in the image above where I am attaching the first string. But really, you can use your imagination with this one, you could use safety pins, hair grips, brooch pins…carboard with holes in! (painted metallic though obviously ;).

3) BROOCHES

This may not be such a problem in other countries but in the U.K it’s virtually impossible to find large tortoise brooches for less than £60-£100. The ingenious solution is belt buckles. That’s right! And you can find beautiful large oval ones almost anywhere for £5-£10. There are so many designs to choose from that you can really create your own unique look. I chose two with an intricate Celtic knotwork pattern, and I think they’re perfect! Once you get them you have to decide how to make them into brooches. I originally decided to stick brooch pins on the back of mine with hot glue…but they soon fell off. In the end, I cut the straps off the front of my dress, and slid the buckles on like the straps were a belt, I then made small holes under the trim of my dress to stick the buckle into, they held like a dream.

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4) FINDS

The coolest things to add to your bling are things that you have found, things that have a story. You can bet the Vikings really made their bling personal, and so should you! Use crystals, runes, feathers, coins and animal parts. I have hanging down on each side of my brooches a crow’s leg and a ptarmigan’s foot. I knew that crow, and it’s wonderful to be able to take a part of him and add it to something beautiful.

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Tadah! The finished look, not bad eh? And the whole lot probably cost me around £20. I hope you now decide to get crafting and make your own, it’s a lot of fun. There’ll be a photoshoot of my entire outfit coming soon, so stay tuned!

 

 

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Merlin the Mandrake

The Mandrake comes from the family Solanacea, as does the deadly nightshade, and our good friend tobacco. The mandrake was renowned and revered for hundreds of years as one of the most magically potent plants, surrounded by legends and folklore, the plant contains powerful and poisonous tropine alkaloids. It was one of the ingredients for witches flying ointment. In the Middle Ages the Doctrine of Signatures stated that whatever a plant resembled on the human body, it would help heal whatever ailment hindered said body part. Because the mandrake looked like a complete man, it was believed to exercise control over the whole body, therefore the root was highly sort after in medieval times.

I’ve had a mandrake plant for four years now growing in the biggest pot I could find, His name is Merlin, he is an Autumn mandrake, and this year he was a little late growing back in the Autumn which was unusual. I wondered whether the plant had died (in truth I had no patience and wanted to dig him up and see what he looked like)!

I emptied out the plant pot and began searching through the soil (to avoid the dreadful scream you hear if you pull it out) and also to make sure I didn’t break the root, I was praying to the Gods that it might look at least a little human like the legends say, and I was pleasantly surprised!150429719840014

Merlin has legs, arms, a pointy hat and a little button nose. I felt the love a mother must feel when holding her new born child! So I proceeded to take photos of him in all sorts of poses and settings as you’d expect a mother would. The roots at the top of the photograph are also Merlin’s, and they filled the entire pot, I shall be using them in potions and ointments!

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A side view of Merlin

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Here he is leaning against a bottle filled with his own leaves that I have collected over the years. The problem was though, now he was out, how to preserve him? I always thought I’d get a jar of isopropyl alcohol mixed with water and preserve the root in there, but now it just seems so impersonal. I shall just have to accept that he will shrink and shrivel, but at least this way I can carry him with me. Also on the plus, according to Raven Grimassi in Old World Witchcraft, “possession of the mandrake is a sign of mastery of the magical arts of witchcraft, the spirits of the plant world take serious note of its presence in the hands of a witch.” Well, check me out!

I shall definitely attempt to grow more next year (and keep them in the ground a bit longer too!)

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Moths and Moonlight

Art inspired by nightly visitors

Moths have always been fascinating and infinitely mesmerising to me; they’re one of the reasons I look forward to summer, for I know I will see them often. I always leave my window open in the evenings to see which peppered beauty will flutter in next. The days when you spot one of the larger species like a hawk moth are extra special; it’s like glimpsing something rare and ethereal, a faerie.

The past few nights I’ve been jumping around my room trying to take photos of them, while Pendle the cat has been jumping around trying to eat them.

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Here’s one browsing the magical books…

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And here’s another swinging from the chandelier!

I’d been musing over the idea of trying to make my own lino prints. In the end I bought all the supplies and jumped right in! I knew I wanted the piece to include a moth, and a moon. Here is the result…canva-photo-editor-1

Cutting lino is no easy task, and I didn’t come through unscathed, but it was so much fun, and a fine way to pay homage to my favourite creatures.

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