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Chocolate advent calendars seem to be today's "in-thing", don't they? But what about pocket advent calendars?

You don't hear about them very often now do you? Are they still popular in primary schools or am I totally out of date? I remember getting a tingly "Christmas is coming" feeling in school assemblies around about advent time. The headteacher would ask for a volunteer to come up and "open the next door" of our school's enormous advent calendar (undoubtedly machine-felted!) Delving into a pocket to reveal a machine-felted velcro decoration (a bauble/present /stocking...) was incredibly exciting - made the school holidays feel closer!

ANYWAY, last year I decided to make my very own pocket calendar - a HAND FELTED - one of considerably smaller proportions. And I was really pleased with the result, pleased enough to bring them into Cygnet this year...

Reasons for enjoying making and using your hand-felted pocket advent calendar: 1) the pockets use up leftover felt off cuts, 2) I could have fun with free machining (I'm a true doodler at heart), 3) calendars are reuseable, 4) they can be personalised according to taste e.g filled with chocolates, stickers, messages, riddles, christmas present clues, jokes - just something small and inexpensive. When 26th December dawns there's no need to throw it away and start saving for the 2018 edition, just roll it up and store it with the rest of the christmas decorations. Alternatively you could use it as a storage system for bits and pieces storage - buttons, safety pins, pennies, beads...

You can make some wonderful poppies out of felt.

I used to wet felt the different colours separately (petals/leaves/stalk, etc), cut out shapes, then stitch and needlefelt everything together....which looked lovely...but, for a small brooch, was a wee bit complicated and time consuming.

I wet felted this poppy using a new technique (do keep watching Youtube/ googling techniques for ideas and inspiration!) Using two small squares of bubble wrap (one with a 2p size hole in the middle) I was able to wet felt the entire poppy all in on go . The "hole-y" bubble wrap separates the petal layers from the stem which I fed through the hole and rolled between my hands to felt. The felting needle, my faithful friend, was used to fine tune the smaller details. Pulling and shaping those petals whilst the wool is damp creates even more of a 3D effect. Add those brooch pins and hey presto!!


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"Carding" may not be the most glamorous of tasks, in fact it's easy to think of it yet another thankless non-felty background chore which no one sees, takes up a lot of time and is actually quite hard work, both mentally and physically a) you can get really bored (especially if it's the same shade you're mixing and there's lots of it!), and b) you get really tired (all that to-ing and fro-ing with the arms, tugging and scraping of fibres!) And yet, power is in the hands of the carder - consider this: at no other point in the felting process are you as in control of your felt as you are when you are carding.

I LOVE EXPERIMENTING WITH COLOUR AND HAVE A MRS CROPLEY ("VICAR OF DIBLEY") APPROACH TO CARDING...with a few fibrous sprinkles and a handful of wool, you can create a unique piece of felt full of zingy tones and shades. For example, what happens when you card a tuft of red, pink, orange, and yellow merino with a dash of aquamarine, and chartreuse green? OK, mix those colours on a paint palette and you'd probably end up with a hideous shade of brown. When carding wool however, the good news is that fibres can be blended to create a new colour, and still maintain their own identity. Card those same colours for anything from 30secs to two minutes and you'll have yourself a gorgeous, golden, fiery blend of reddish hues with delicious streaks of cool aqua and sea green.

PERHAPS THE FIRST THING YOU NEED TO DECIDE IS THE OVERALL EFFECT THAT YOU'D LIKE TO ACHIEVE. I have on occasion got too carried away and added about 10 different colours to my carders, the result being colour overload (dirty brown!) Think about the warmth and coolness of certain shades, the decision of adding more of certain shades and less of others. If, for example, you'd like to create an unusual shade of blue then the bulk of your fibrous mix should consist of cooler blue-ish shades (Mediterranean blue, some Tanzanite, some Cornflower.) That would be your blue-ish base mix. Then you can be a bit more creative and add perhaps a tuft of Damson, a wisp of Spearmint and a sprinkling of Jonquil yellow.

For a garden green effect, hmm, maybe some Grass, some Chartreuse, some Pine for a greeny base mix, followed by a tuft of Olive, Sunset, Amber and microscopic sprinkling of Ruby. The best wisps and sprinkles in your carded mix will usually consist of complimentary colours (colours at opposite ends of the colour wheel) e.g yellow and purple, blue and orange, red and green, etc.

FOR FURTHER INSPIRATION TRY PLAYING WITH EFFECT FIBRES - "Throwster's waste", tussah silk, bamboo fibres, wool nepp. All of these will add something special whether it be texture or surface shine. I've tried shredding up decorative fabrics, dismantling ribbons, unwinding sparkly knitting yarn....whatever works for you...HAVE FUN!!

*Tip for all those felt artists out there - silk and bamboo fibres are great for adding shimmer effects to seas and skies!!

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