Back in May I spent a weekend visiting a part of England which I’d always wanted to see: Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands. It was amazing! I saw puffins (my favourite), visited Bamburgh Fair, and chanced upon an entire beach of basking seals, to name a few things. Northumberland is so beautiful, I can’t believe I’d never been before!
My friend Alex originally hails from that part of the world, so she suggested we stay at her Dad’s house over the weekend. Alex’s Father, Johnson, and his wife, Val, were really welcoming and great company. Their home was beautiful, and I really felt like I’d escaped the hustle and bustle of daily life. It was so refreshing to wake to the sound of birdsong, rather than traffic. I had a lovely time!
By day, Alex, her Dad and I visited the Farne Islands by boat, and spent lots of time in the Great Outdoors, on long walks in the gorgeous countryside. In the evening, Val showed us one of her hobbies – rag rug making.
Some of Val’s finished artworks were displayed in their home. I completely fell in love with them, especially the gorgeous interpretation of the hare, in the pic above. All of Val’s designs were inspired by nature, and focussed on animals. I felt they had a wonderfully whimsical quality to them, which was only emphasised in the hare piece by it hanging from a walking stick! Val explained that she draws her image freehand onto some hessian, and then simply hooks strips of old clothes or discarded materials through the hessian, to build the picture. It sounded too easy…
Val was currently working on an image of a pheasant in the countryside. I was terrified we might damage her work if we had a go, but she assured us it would be OK. Val showed us how to pull the hooks of material through to a uniform height, by using a special tool. The material was cut into strips around 20cm long, so you would work a single strip through to make perhaps 5 or 6 loops in the design, before selecting another strip.
It was important to work as closely as possible to the previous loops, so that the tension was right. Some fabrics were often thicker or thinner than others, so Val explained that some loops were more spread out than others, to compensate for this. Alex got the hang of it straight away, and managed to loop a whole strip of material pretty quickly.
I, unsurprisingly, was not quite as quick on the uptake! I found the looping quite difficult to make uniform. However, I persevered, and managed to finally complete a whole strip of fabric (i.e. 5 loops). That was enough for me. I was so scared of stretching the gaps in the hessian, worried that I would ruin all of Val’s lovely work. I’d like to give the craft another shot though, so perhaps I will try to experiment with some hessian and some old materials in the coming months. I don’t expect I would be able to match anything like Val’s lovely work, which is so neat and well executed, but I’d be interested in maybe starting on a smaller project.
As for a follow-up trip to Northumberland, I cannot wait! The whole area seemed so peaceful and picturesque, and I think a few days surrounded by nature did me some good. I’ll definitely be planning another trip up North soon!