Not much historical value in this article. It’s mostly for fun. About Christmas time, chatting with my friends, I said I thought it’d be a great idea to have a craft day, where we all got together to teach each other lots of new crafty skills. This weekend it happened. We were at my friends house in Sussex and it was an amazing weekend. Very relaxing and we all came away I think feeling like we’d learnt some of the basics of a new skill.
The first thing that we tried having a go at was needle felting. I’d seen this done before by Kirsty Allsop and thought, “Well that looks kinda fun”. At Christmas, I’d bought a book and kit for my friend, who also fancied trying it. It starts with bits of coloured fleece that you form by felting it with a needle into the shape of various animals. We all had basic starter kits and no experience of doing it before so my hopes weren’t especially high but we did all produce animal like creatures! With the rabbit, you make a ball for the head and a longer shape for the body. It’s simply stabbing the special needle in and out of the wool multiple times until it felts. You join the pieces together by leaving the ends looser un felted, then where you want them to join stabbing the needle through the looser pieces to join them together. It’s quite nice in that if you think it needs a bit more shape here or there, you can just felt a bit more on to it. We didn’t have glass eyes to use but we did have some beads. We did think the people visiting the church opposite must have been wondering what on earth we were doing, vigorously stabbing our needles into these tiny animals! I only drew blood once as I accidentally stabbed my finder instead of my animal!
The next stage for me and one of my friends is to go on a needle felting course in April with a professional needle felter. We’ll probably find out that we have been doing it all wrong but we had a lovely day anyway.
This was how we spent most of Saturday, felting animals, drinking tea, eating lots of cake and putting the world to rights.
On Saturday night, I started showing my friends some of the basics of illumination with gold leaf. I’d decided it might be fun to make our names. We traced some letters and then rubbed red bole on the back (a type of clay). We then traced over the letters again, which gave us an outline of the letters. We could have used pencil to do this but red bole is more traditional and I thought it’d be nice to try something different. We then all filled the inside of the first letter with gum ammoniac. Gum ammoniac is a kind of tree resin and it acts like a glue for the gold to stick to. We left our letters overnight and then this morning we gilded, painted and embellished the letters. We were using transfer gold, which is gold leaf stuck to a kind of paper. You revive GA by breathing on it, this makes it tacky enough for the gold to stick to. You quickly lay the gold over it and rub the back gently, The gold will peel away from the sheet and if you’ve applied enough GA, hopefully it will stick to the paper. You then use a really soft squirrel hair brush to remove any excess gold. Squirrel hair is used as it doesn’t scratch the gold. We then used gouache paint to colour the other letters and put some tracery embellishments around the letters. Finally we used some shell gold, which is powdered gold mixed with GA to add some highlights. Considering especially that it was everyones first ever attempt, I think we achieved some brilliant results and everyone seemed very pleased with their creations.
Thanks so much to my friend for hosting the day and I’m sure that more crafting days will follow in the future. I’m sure that there will also be plenty more tea and cake too!