My Ramblings

Welcome to my ramblings, my version of a blog. I intend to update it just to tell you what is happening craftwise in my life.

Refresh My Soul - Part 4

30-07-2022

Final part on refreshing my Creative soul.

Ahh, three Rambles back, when I started my Rambles about our holiday, I said that going to Derbyshire and especially the Dark Peak area really refreshed my creative soul, it sounds rather dramatic, but it really does.

I saw so many things that I want to create or copy in other ways….

Being creative or inspired isn’t just linked to being away from home, I can find inspiration from things closer to home, wrought iron railings in London, the barrows filled with plants in Covent Garden, the overgrown graves in the local churchyard, the grasses growing in the local park, even weeds along the road!

But being away….that is a different level of creativity and inspiration, more immersive, I don’t have to look, it just is, being surrounded by nature or beautiful places, it sinks into my soul. But this isn’t just about creativity of stitching, this is also other areas of creativity.

Creativity comes in so many forms, from stitching of quilts and Quilted Postcards and embroideries, to the planting in the gardens we visit, to the cakes that we had with our afternoon tea and I want to try to cook!!!

We will often have a cup of tea, while we are out, and Tony does like something sweet to go with it. At National Trust places if they have a nice plain scone then he will have a cream tea, otherwise he tends to have a nice piece of cake – his favourite is a Victoria sponge – filled with lots of jam and butter icing!!! I don’t very often have a sweet treat, just occasionally, more often I will have a tiny corner of his scone or a fork full or two of his cake but once in a while I will have something to myself, if Laura is with us, we usually share as often the cake slices are too big for me on my own!!! When we went to Chatsworth I had a lovely piece of cake, cranberry and orange. It wasn’t like the sponges that I make at home – the cake was more like a madeira cake in texture, firm and holding its shape, with cranberries through and a layer of orange favoured butter icing in the middle, very scummy. I have looked for a recipe but haven’t found one the same, so I’m going to put my baking hat on and try to create something similar. It’s been a while since I really had a cake making mission. So, a different side of my creativity will be used!!!

The other side of my creativity that was given a booster was the gardening side, I’m absolutely sure Tony would prefer it if I didn’t get any garden ideas!!! I often get pipe dream ideas for our garden….rebar tree or the woven moongate in front of the garage door but I also get practical ones and both Chatsworth and Lyme used a lot of Hardy Geraniums. I already have two in the front garden, one, a small pale pink, we have had for years, and I have taken cuttings of it and have them in the back garden at the moment. The other purple hardy geranium I got last year with a couple of heucheras, which I also keep taking cuttings off and making more plants. But both Chatsworth and Lyme had them in lots of different colours from white, through pale pink to strong pink, to lilac and purple. And so, I am thinking and looking out for a few more hardy geraniums in other colours – possibly two or maybe three more plants for the front garden!

And finally the biggest creative area – Quilted Postcards. One of the questions I was asked by the Art Quilting Magazine was ‘What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?

Just go and look at the thousands of photos that we have taken over the years!!! and our holiday in the Dark Peaks certainly added to them!!!

Tony has always loved photography, holidays are about taking the photos, finding that interesting shot, sometimes he gets in odd places to get the shot he wants – one that sticks in both mine and Laura’s mind was him with his back plastered to a traffic light in the middle of the Champs Elysees in Paris with mad French drivers whizzing past – there was no traffic island just the traffic light!!! Tony is a brilliant photographer, he just sees things.

I have always carried, on holidays, a camera but for me it used to be about shoots of things that interested me – there is a file titled Sarah’s Weird stuff!!! But over the last five/six years that has changed its about inspiration and photography for that good photo. Photography has become another side to my creativity. I still carry a small camera and of course I have my phone but I now also carry a big Canon EOS, not all the time but at certain times, places that I know will catch my imagination. The phone is for different photos – they are the ones that I will put on social media or just a quick shoot that I want to remind me – they aren’t the ones for ‘proper’ photos!!! The interesting thing is that both Tony and I will see different things from the same view or place!!! I really try to get photos without people in!!!

When we get home, all the photos from all the cameras and the phones will go on the computer and are sorted – we don’t ever photoshop but all those that are out of focus, light isn’t right or aren’t the shot we wanted – go! Then we sit and go through, deciding what we really want to keep, often there is a number of the same thing – different angle or just slightly different and unless we really like them all, we will chose the best one.

So, from our week away in the Dark Peaks we ended up with 1,388 photos for me to find inspiration from!!!
There are the dry stone walls with foxgloves growing against, with weathered wooden farm gates. Or the old barn with a wonky wooden door. Then there are all the photos of the rock garden at Chatsworth or the Bandstand in the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton. Or the beautifully wind sculptured lone trees dotted around the peaks……

The list goes on…..

I know it sounds odd to say I feel rooted to the Peaks and Derbyshire and in many ways, I would love to spend more time or live in that environment, but I possibly wouldn’t get much done as I would spend all my time just looking, not creating or would it be that living there you stop seeing the beauty?

Refresh My Soul - Part 3

23-07-2022

The Ramble about our holiday has rambled away, a bit like the walks on our holiday!!! I didn’t realise when I started just how much I could write about it!!!

So, part three …. After we left the Dams and reservoirs on Friday afternoon, the road twists to the bottom of Snake Pass, Tony decided he wanted to drive it.

I don’t know how I know about Snake Pass but its one of those millions of weird, often useless bits of information/things I know about!!! It’s a road that winds over the Pennines, it was engineered by Thomas Telford and opened in 1821!!!

Tony knows about it from a Human League song!!!!

So, he decided to drive it, the day before it had been closed but they had reopened it only to cars!!! And as we drove it, we soon realised why. This is a twisty turny road that climbs up onto the moors at the top of the Pennines, as you turned round the bends then there were bits that had been newly resurfaced and white lined but there were two sections with traffic lights and one way traffic because on the first section the road had slipped over the edge and down the slope!!!!

On the second section there was a big crack and it looked like it was about to slip over the edge!!!

I’m very glad that only cars were allowed I really wouldn’t want to meet big vehicles on a lot of the bends!!! Its not a very wide road and because of the twistiness you can’t see too far ahead!!! I’m also glad it was a nice dry bright day!!!!

We drove all the way over to Glossup and then turned round and headed back, stopping in the lay-bys and some that were just little pull-in bits for Tony to grab the camera from my lap, jump out and take photos!!!

On Saturday it was time to leave Hope, we decided to head for Lyme Park first before heading down to stay with family.

Lyme Park is a National Trust House and Estate set on the edge of the Peaks, you drive through towns, past streets with houses and then get to it. On one side is Stockton and Manchester. It feels like an oasis for the urban population, and it was busy when we got there, with early dog walkers and runners. And then a bit later with families with children, getting them to run about.

Over the years we have walked round so many Houses of the National Trust, looked at libraries, read the titles on the shelves, and seen dressed dining tables, peered into bedrooms and bathrooms, starred at pictures of grand ladies and men with enormous wigs – I often try to imagine Tony is one of the enormous curly wigs but I fail completely!!! Just can’t imagine it!!!

Lyme stuck me with the friendliness of the volunteers, all of them were really friendly, saying hello and talking to us, but not in the way that volunteers often do – they often talk down to you, or drone on about something even when it’s very obvious (with needlework) that I know far more than them, but they have been told this information and so they are going to tell me!!! or they often sit there and just look at you as though you shouldn’t be there or are totally bored!!!!

Another place that stuck in my mind was Standen in Sussex, not because the volunteers where friendly, they weren’t unfriendly either but they all looked ‘at home’, they were sitting on chairs and armchairs in the downstairs reception rooms knitting and crocheting, well the women were, they looked like they belonged. I know that when Laura was volunteering at Rainham Hall she would sit and crochet!!!

Also, with Lyme the other thing I noticed was that they had younger volunteers, usually they are older retired people. But Lyme had a number of younger ones, early to mid-20’s. One really friendly one in the library, I was reading the titles and she realised and pointed out a few that had caught her eye – she certainly didn’t look like your usual National Trust volunteer – she had a close-cropped hair, tattoos up both arms and big Doc Martin boots, certainly a case of don’t judge the book by its cover!!!!

The Trust needs the younger people, with different views and ideas. It can be a bit stuffy for all of its want to change and be inclusive especially in the houses, often as Laura calls them it’s the preserve of Middle Englanders!!!

I have lost count of the times that as we enter a house a volunteer has barked at us, no photography! – what they actually should say is that we do allow photography but no flash please. Or no rucksacks…

Lyme has a lovely formal garden, with an Italian area, long herbaceous borders, a rose garden – with a place to sit that the roof has sedums growing on the tiles!!! A quiet and cool ravine with a steam tickling though and an Orangery, where Tony spent a while sitting cross legged on the floor trying to get a photo of water dripping off moss on central water feature!!!

We did go for a walk on the Estate trying to find Darcy’s pond – this is where Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, did his swim and wander around in his damp shirt!!! The signpost pointed down a path but all we could find was a rather muddy over grown puddle – it may have been the pond it was filmed at, it was a long time ago!!! 1995!!!

From Lyme we headed off towards my Step Mum home near Nottingham. But we got stuck behind a white fiesta doing 20 miles an hour in a 40 area and then when they came to any bends and, bare in mind this is Derbyshire, roads don’t tend to be straight they braked!!!! Google was showing an alternative route and Tony shoot off up the small country lane on it.

Now sometimes Google alternative routes can be interesting in the countryside, often they are down narrow country lanes!!! And this route started off like that, it twisted around going up, away from the houses and continued up to Curbar Gap. Wow this was definitely a brilliant alternative route, as we reached the top we pulled over and enjoyed the views, and Tony took loads more photos.

We hadn’t heard of Curbar Edge and Gap before, we only knew where we were by Google Maps and the NT sign!!! This is a place I think we really should go to again, when we got home I discovered it was part of the Longshaw Estate which we have been to, but we had walked the other side of by Padley gorge. We really need to go back there, camera in hand.

Our holiday was coming to an end, we stayed a few days with my Step Mum, and walked the canal – the Erewash Canal. We have known it is there for years, when sitting at the traffic lights, the canal sits next to the road occasionally there is a long boat tied up on it, with the big brick warehouse as a backdrop. I never thought much about it, but we wanted a walk and so Tony looked it up.

We parked on the edge of a village and began our walk there, with fields next to the canal and the railway line, that changed to the backs of modern warehouses and then houses and blocks of apartments before you come to the Victorian warehouses and houses. The scenery changes constantly but the side with the path was bordered by bushes and plants, creating shade. The path wasn’t very busy but there were families out of bikes and dog walkers. There were things to constantly see, and so much history and progression of life along its length. From the canal, to the railway that superseded it, from the Victorian warehouses that are now residential to the modern warehouses to the new builds, a hidden world and history of the area. If we had carried on walking this one canal meets up with River Trent and the nature reserves along its edge.

Many canals have disappeared, with my sister we often walk along a path that once had a canal along the side of it, the only clue now is the pub that is called the Navigation Inn!!! And an information board!!!

Our holiday was over and we headed home…..

Refresh My Soul - Part 2

16-07-2022

The Dark Peaks

We went to Chatsworth, somehow to us, this is the heart of Derbyshire, like Buckingham Palace is the heart of London. Chatsworth is the home of the Cavendish Family, the Dukes of Devonshire for centuries, this is living history started by Bess of Hardwicke, the landscape sculptured by Capability Brown, it inspired Jane Austen in writing about Darcy’s Home in Pride and Prejudice, Paxton had a hand in the gardens, but it isn’t a place that stands still, each generation have placed their mark, the present Duke and Duchess with their modern sculptures dotted around the garden and parkland. I love the dog ones that are by the private gardens.

We didn’t go to the House but to the garden – we had been there last year taking my Step Mum, it had been years since we had been previously, and so much had changed in the years – they had added the Arcadia garden and were working on the wild flower meadow.

This time we walked the whole garden, finding places we hadn’t seen or found before. We started at the kitchen & cutting garden, full of beautiful flowers and a group of ladies, obviously doing a workshop being let loose to cut and fill their trugs with the beautiful flowers and foliage they wanted to.

On to the Arcadia Garden, last time it was filled with Spring planting, this time it was hardy geraniums that caught my attention, lots of them, in different shades of pink, purple and lilac with other plants planted between, then onwards to the wild flower meadow and its array of flowers.

We wandered through the pinetum, recognising the big Redwood trees by their distinctive bark and red colour (and confirming we were right with the tree labels attached to them!!) and onto the ravine filled with colourful candelabra primula. Through the Paxton’s Rock Garden, oh, this is a lovely place, piles of local stone placed on top of each other, but made to look haphazard, plants clinging to them softening the edges, we both went slightly overboard taking photos!!! so, much inspiration!! Onto the Coal Hole and tunnel and into the area round the maze. We wandered all over and then walked part of the estate looking at the modern sculpture dotted all around, I think I prefer natures sculptures – the tree trunks that have been left both in the garden and estate, just large stumps, weathered, twisted, hollow and holed.

On another day we went to Buxton, wandered the Pavilion Gardens and visited the Gallery in the Gardens to look at the work of the High Peaks Artist group, much of the art was inspired by the Peak district – there was a lot to tempt us, but we have no space for more artwork.

nstead, I bought a number of greetings cards and I have decided that I will buy more from individual makers and creators rather than buying from the main high street retailers, you can buy some beautiful and different greetings cards without spending a fortune.

Buxton is interesting but not for us, shops really don’t interest me and once we had been round the Pavilion Gardens, looked at the Pump room and Crescent, a fast walk through the shopping area and the Burlington Arcade – yes there is a Burlington Arcade in London and we have wandered through that too – both were built by the Cavendish Family!!! We then headed back to the hills.

Or rather the reservoirs!!! We headed for Ladybower dam, this is the lowest of the three dams that fill the Derwent valley and the largest. We walked the lower edge and then the following day we headed for the middle Dam the Derwent and walked from there, up to the Howden Dam, these dams and reservoirs were used by the Dam busters, Squadron 617 to practice for the bombing raids on the Ruhr valley dams in 1943.

After Howden dams we then headed up to the Slippery stones – this is where the River Derwent comes into the valley and is the start of the reservoirs. We crossed the Derwent by the pretty stone bridge, when we were there the Derwent was just a stream, as were the other rivers that empty into the reservoirs. The reservoirs themselves were very low, the top one, Howdens, looked like a muddy puddle – not helped by the fact that the waters of the Derwent are brown where they start in the peat bogs on the moors above. From the Slippery stones we carried on winding our way round the edge of the reservoirs back to the car, a rather long walk but it was round a good footpath….

Realised this part is getting rather long….so, I think I had better finish and write the next bit in part three…..

Refresh My Soul - Part 1

10-07-2022

Yes, that sounds dramatic but going away to Derbyshire on holiday, has refreshed my soul, especially my creative one!!!

My step Mum, sister and her family live in Derbyshire but in the south between Nottingham and Derby, we haven’t been up to the top, the Dark Peaks for about 25 years, before Laura was born, except for quick short forays once in a while, mostly to Chatsworth to wander the estate.

My best friend and her husband spent a week last year in Derbyshire, visiting places that we haven’t been to for years, it made me so want to go and ‘do’ them. So, I suggested that we go to the Dark Peaks, spend a week up there and then come down, spending a couple of days with the family and then head home. And that is what we did.

Tony booked us a place on the outskirts of Hope, the lower apartment in what a long time ago had been a water mill – not that you could tell, the only clues were the river running nearby and the gulley that the water wheel was in. Or rather what was left of the water wheel - just a very rusted rim.

What fascinates me about Derbyshire, which has one of the National Parks of England in, is that this was the birthplace of the industrial revolution – the early mills of Arkwright were built in this area. There are mills, mines and an industrialisation often forgotten and hidden away, changed into other uses or nature has taken the area back, this was the home of my Dad’s family for hundreds of years!!!

The Dark Peaks is not a soft area, this is rocky, windblown, dramatic and beautiful area, shaped by man and our use of the land and it continues to be shaped by us. There are still some industries, cement works and mining but its also an area of sheep farming and tourism.

The location of where we stayed was brilliant for us, on the outskirts of the village but near enough to walk into, for the pubs, restaurants and the shops. It has good road links to all the places on our wish to visit list and also we could walk, soo many footpaths right from the front door.

This area is a walking one, lots and lots of proper footpaths, clearly signposted and maintained, Tony paid for the OS subscription to use on his phone, and this is so useful, brilliant for finding the footpaths and where you are going, so much better than trying to figure out on a proper paper map that flaps in the wind and won’t refold properly!!!

This is an area where its proper walking, walking trousers and gear, walking boots, rucksacks & walking poles. I probably look out of place with my ¾ length leggings, cotton tunic shirts, Joules body warmer and pretty scarf – I do have the walking shoes and rucksack!!!!
There are lots of people holidaying with their dogs and also a lot of grumpy teens doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award – they had all the gear, huge packs and stopped every five minutes!!!! We kept overtaking them!!!

This is an area that dogs and muddy boots are accepted and welcomed in the old pubs. The pub, the Cheshire Cheese Inn, we went to a couple of times for meals – a brilliant roast beef Sunday lunch and one evening for a lovely steak and ale pie was old, small and low ceiling’d – Tony had to mind his head, it was built into the hill behind, had a proper fireplace and scrubbed tables. There were locals and tourists, muddy boots and dogs.

The first evening we got to the apartment, after our Tesco delivery, we headed out on a short circular walk, along the footpath behind the place, through the fields full of sheep, watching the sun sink behind the peaks, it was peaceful.

This was a time away from our usual lives, lay-ins and slow starts to the day. On the couple of days it was raining when we woke up, we stayed in, each on one of the two huge sofas, Tony reading, me reading or doing something creative – hand embroidery, knitting or crochet. And then in the afternoon when it brightened up, we would go out and walk and walk!!!

After a day out we would come back and relax with a bottle of beer, there was no rushing about, no phone calls, meetings and constant frustration of Tony’s work. It was about recharging our batteries.

And for me recharging/ refreshing my creative soul. From walking from Hope to Castleton – home of the Blue John and other caverns, past derelict farm buildings, through fields of sheep, past streams and rivers and also the cement works.

Oddly enough the cement works was actually really weirdly interesting, it was hidden mostly by trees and being tucked into a side valley, but the huge chimney could be seen for miles and at times part of the main building, it had almost a skeletal look, I could see it being used for the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic film. It had a weird beauty of industrial amongst nature and oddly enough makes me want to create it.

We climbed Mam Tor, Back Tor and Lose Hill, stood and looked down into the Hope Valley and Edale, saw miles and miles of dry-stone walls (where did all the stone come from for all those walls?) and fields dotted with sheep, houses and farms nestled into trees and watched the land change look with the clouds and sun creating patterns on it and took hundreds of photos!!!

This is a landscape where the structures are of the land, the stone for the walls comes from the land, as does all the stone for the buildings, it blends and fits. I think there is some rule that says new buildings have to be built of the local stone to fit into the character of the place. Which is slightly amusing on the outskirts of the towns and villages where the centre is old and in stone, the stone is weathered and worn with a grey air, but the outskirts is mostly rather horrible 1950 & 1960’s houses, that don’t fit into the landscape at all, then the new houses being built are in the local stone, bright and clean!

This is also a friendly place, people say hello as you walk past, they talk to you in shops – all of which is rather alien for us, people don’t say hello to you here in outer London, unless they know you!!!

Well, I think I had better finish here, otherwise Tony will say I have written too long a Ramble!!!!

Part two will be along soon…..

History Bounding

18-06-2022

History bounding, it’s something I have learnt about from Laura. She follows a lot of historical costume/fashion youtubers, many make full replicas of dresses from all different eras and others ‘history bound’. Now I could give you the full explanation of this term but its easier to say – its people who take elements of historic costume, adapt them and wear them as part of their normal everyday life.

Laura is a history bounder – she wears a replica Edwardian walking skirt all the time!!! So far, I have made her four of them in cotton, a green/grey one, navy blue, black and a pale lightweight denim one, they are not floor length as the original skirt would have been or in tweeds, they are just above her ankle. We had talked about me making her a skirt for ages and yes, I have the Patterns of Fashion books with original patterns from the dresses shown in them, but I don’t have the skills to draw these up, full size and then fit them to Laura’s size and shape. I have more books on designing and drawing up your own patterns – all bought years ago (about 32!!!) when I first started dressmaking, but its all very mathematical and technical and completely confuses me!!!

I can take an existing pattern and alter it, lengthen, shorten, change bits but I need that full size paper pattern to start with. So, when Laura asked for an Edwardian walking skirt, I needed a pattern to start.

Luckily a lot of the pattern houses do have replica historic costumes, along with fancy dress and cosplay ones. We went with a Butterick pattern and then I did a little bit of changing around – an essential was pockets, nice deep pockets she can put her phone in and multiple other things! and instead of a button fastening I have changed it to a zip one and altered the waistband accordingly. But otherwise, Laura swishes around in a replica Edwardian walking skirt and I mean swishes – when going downstairs make sure you stay at least two steps behind her, or you will stand on it!!! She likes to say she dusts the stairs as she walks down them.

Now, we go to the theatre regularly – we love musicals and over the Jubilee Bank Holiday we went to see Mary Poppins – Laura loved Mrs Banks’ skirt – basically an Edwardian walking skirt but a proper full length one, with a bustle pad and No Laura, I am not going to make you a bustle pad to wear under your skirt to really make the back and the multiple pleats flair out!!!!

Laura also wants Mary Poppins boots – this I can totally understand, I love Victorian and Edwardian boots. When I was Laura’s age I had a pair of black boots, a modern version styled on Victorian boots, I loved them and wore them till they fell apart. I even had a pair in ivory satin for our wedding (we are talking about 1992!!!), just after Tony asked me to marry him, we were walked past a shop that had these boots in the window and even though I had no clue what sort of dress I was going to have, well make, I had to have the boots!!!!

Going off on a slightly different path, the saying ‘something old, something new…. finishes with and a silver sixpence in her shoe’. My Mum tried to get one for the year I was born but couldn’t – but she did manage to get one for the year Tony was born and so that was sewn into the lining of my boot!!!

The thing about going to a lot of musical theatre for Laura and I, other than the show itself is the costumes – they is so much detail in the costume and we have sat right at the front for Les Misérables, on one occasion (we have seen it a number of times!!!) and both of us just spent the time looking at the costumes and the details and styling – it says so much!

Laura would like the greatcoat that Javert is wearing, this is a military greatcoat not the greatcoat with the cape shoulder that you see in regency dramas or Highwayman wearing, these are Driving greatcoats – I can totally agree, oddly enough when I was her age I wanted one and there was coats like them around, but when I went and tried them on I looked terrible in them, this was the 1980’s – big shoulder pads and I looked, to para-phase someone ‘like an American footballer’ in it!!! hence I didn’t buy one. But Laura would like one and apparently Mamma (me) can make her one in a few years’ time!!!

Next on the list is a waistcoat and then also a pair of proper Stays – yes Stays, not a corset but a pair of Stays – different things and I am not going to explain the difference or the history of Stays and Corsets. This is getting serious, Stays are complicated and will require a lot of adjustments to get them to fit properly, but then most things do, especially for Laura as she is tall and paper patterns are designed for average height but that’s the thing about dressmaking, one of the reasons that I have returned to dressmaking in the last few years, not just for Laura but for myself, I can take a pattern and alter it to fit. I can create clothes that we want, in Laura’s case ones inspired by the past and I am happy to do this.

I would have loved, at Laura’s age to have had the ability to make – hence having the Patterns of Fashion books - and the confidence to wear historically inspired clothing, from the Victorian blouses in the tv series Flame Trees of Thika to the Edwardian skirts of Flambards…….

Sussex & Kent

20-05-2022

Warning this has turned into a long Ramble!!! (so long added some pictures half way!)

We had a few days break away in Sussex, just two nights away, but three days going round National Trust places at the end of May. Just a break away from normal life.

We headed out on Thursday morning and headed to Standen House and Garden – this is an Arts and Crafts house, designed by Philip Webb and furnished with Morris & Co items. This is one of those houses that actually felt liveable in!!! The thing I have noticed about Arts & Craft houses is that they have nooks and crannies – corners built beside fireplaces to sit, in the billiard room they had such a place, with two comfortable looking armchairs and a bookcase!!

And they have window seat nooks. Ohh to have a window seat to sit and read or knit or if you’re Laura crochet, on a cold winter’s day!!! and I would need the time to just sit!!!

The other thing that these types of houses or rather gardens have is little buildings – open sided structures, often wreathed in a climbing plant – wisteria or roses, with views. Standen had two and Chartwell, Winston Churchills home, has a lovely one at the end of the terrace looking out over the countryside.

These are places for sitting and just enjoying the moment, but they would also make great places to sit and read or create. Outside but not out in the sun or rain!!! I rarely make the time to sit outside, it’s not something I do, I potter in our garden. But these little buildings make me want to sit, I guess its also the peace of the place.

From Standen we headed to Sheffield Park – this is a designed landscape with trees, walks and lakes – Capability Brown and Repton both shaped it. The rhododendrons were in flower, creating splashes of colour, some were fading and others still in full flower. At Sheffield Park we found another little building to sit and have our tea, the view of the lake was framed by the rhododendrons, and we could listen to the breeze rustling the leaves of the silver birch. Three ducks came in to see if we had anything to eat but as soon as they realised that we only had tea they wandered off to find other visitors with food.

Driving the roads of Sussex there was constant glimpses of purple flowered rhododendrons in the woodlands and gardens – it is very pretty but I understand that its very invasive and something of a problem!

On Friday we started out at Wakehurst Place, owned by the National Trust but leased to Kew gardens, the Millennium Seedbank is in the grounds. There are the formal gardens and then the woodlands. The formal areas are lovely but it’s the woodland I liked most. Hardly anyone seemed to have made their way to the woodland, it was peaceful and quiet, with big old trees – I can really understand Forest Bathing when in a proper old, mixed species wood. There is something calming and peaceful about being there, amid the trees and at this time of the year they still have that soft green of Spring, with the bracken just beginning to unfurl into a sea of green.

If I haven’t been to a wood for a while then its like a recharge of my soul and I go and hug a tree – Tony and Laura just look at me as though I have lost the plot!!!! But I don’t care.

Walking through the pinetum you come across a Japanese cedar has been carved in the traditional Japanese way with a sika deer, the wood has silvered and the tree is slowly growing across the carving, slowly making it disappear.

Another part of the woodland is full of big rocks, solid natural rocks, these aren’t put there to make a pretty landscape these are part of the land, they are weathered and at some point the soil would have covered them from which trees have grown but time and erosion has exposed the rocks and the roots of the trees to create these amazing natures art. They twist and hug the rocks the roots, creating a feeling of alienness.

Part 2!!

From Wakehurst Place we headed to Nyman’s gardens – ahh this is beautiful and so full of inspiration – its not a huge garden and yet as we pulled into the place there was a big car park and then the entrance way was bigger than we expected which lead into a big tea shop area, for the size of the garden it was a big operation, but once we had wandered around we could see that why this garden would be very popular, especially at weekends and in the holidays.

At the heart of Nyman’s is the burnt-out ruins of the house, it looks very old, weathered stone and gothic arches but it was only built in the Victorian era, there are still parts that are whole and are used. The house is the backdrop to the gardens, with roses climbing over the walls. There are stone walls enclosing courtyards with weathered gates, big green solid hedges, clipped bushes and a long long wisteria walk – the purple wisteria was over but the white one was still flowering, creating beautiful drops of stunning flowers. This was a garden that was hugely inspiring – not in the way that I want to try to plant something similar in my small patch but inspirational in the sense that I want to create in Quilted Postcards or may be even Journal quilt size, from the wooden weathered gates and the wrought iron ones, to the walls covered in roses to the white wisteria, I just itch to stitch them…..

If we lived in that area I would definitely make the time to visit Sheffield Park, Wakehurst and Nyman’s across the seasons.

Saturday, we went back to Sheffield, so Tony could photograph the lakes, with the reflections of the tress, in the sun – when we had visited on the Thursday, it had been cloudy and the sun so changes the look of the place, we sat again in the little wooden hut and had our cups of tea before heading off, on our round about route home.

Our route lead us to Smallhythe Place, the home of the Victorian actress Ellen Terry. Some of her costumes are on display, which interested Laura and I and we had a chat about ‘history bounding’, as Laura pointed out, this is from the person that lives in Edwardian style walking skirts – Ellen Terry’s costumes were a form of history bounding, they were gowns with the silhouette of their time 1890’s, with the sleeve shape, form fitted waist and the bustle but then the whole thing is also inspired by the historical period of the play that she was performing in. In other words this was Victorian cos play!!!!

The garden though small was a typical country garden, with lupins, foxgloves, alliums and roses and the most beautiful peony, all again old weathered bricks. The old, weathered barn was covered in a rambling rose – more inspiration.

Our final visit was Dungeness and its total weirdness, an old nuclear power station on a shingle spit, with old houses dotted here and there that appear to have just been built from anything, then rusted train tracks and other pieces of machinery with sea kale and other plants clinging to the stones and softening the hardness. Another place that makes my fingers itch to sew – not that I think I could do justice to the place or its beautiful weirdness.

And so to home and the 600+ photos to edit….. and inspire…..

Just A Ramble

20-05-2022

I read in the Gardeners World magazine in an article by Monty Don, about an architect, that he had met in the 1990’s, that had a large city roof top garden, filled with plants but no irrigation system, to him watering the garden with a watering can meant he got close to his garden, his wind down time, looking at the plants, checking for weeds, dead heading, stopping and seeing what was happening. It really stuck a cord with me, I do similar, my 15 – 20 minutes in the morning and sometimes late afternoon, when after I have gotten the washing in and am just about to take the washing line down, I wander round looking at the plants, seeing what’s happening, what’s been eaten by the snails!!! And watering where it is needed with the watering can.

He is right, watering with the watering can is a slower process but I know how much water each plant is getting and also I get to stop and check over the plants. It’s a quiet, breathing time. Maybe not quiet in the sense of noise, we don’t get the quiet of the countryside, not here in suburbia. Yes, we get bird noise, and a lot of pigeon cooing!!! But there is the noise of children yelling and screaming in the school field behind the garage – the bell ringing marking the school day. Then there is the noise from further away, people talking, dogs barking, cars, emergency vehicles and then also the building site, trains on the Underground and C2C and in the Witching hour the yowling of the foxes, it’s never quiet! But within our garden I can find quiet, peace and breathing space, it’s my bubble of nature, time to slow and be in the bubble of I guess you could say mindfulness.

In many ways the half an hour first thing in the morning I have started to have to read, is similar to my garden time – it’s me and a book! I wrote at the end of my last Ramble about needing more time and the idea of getting up half an hour earlier to read through the big pile of fact books. I said to Tony about it, and he said if I wanted to and was awake – well getting up at 6 isn’t hard for me, I am usually awake and only dozing from 4.30/5 o’clock onwards. So, this week I have been getting up at 6, coming down emptying the dishwasher and then sitting in my armchair for half an hour reading time.

Now, I am not a quick reader, especially when I am reading fact books (forms are terrifying – I have to re-read numerous times to make sure I really understand them!!). Fiction is fine, I only read frothy novels – nothing in depth or complicated – not like the heavy historical fiction I used to read when I was Laura’s age. Oddly enough Laura is reading authors and books I read at her age!!! I only read in very short time frames, while eating my breakfast, possibly while making lunches and eating it, while the mugs of teas are brewing and while cooking dinner and then for about 20 minutes before bed. I read fiction on my Kindle with a bigger font (it amuses Laura the size font I have!!!). It’s easy to read and I enjoy the short bursts of reading I fit in around the day.

But with fact books I need to concentrate on them, so the half hour in the morning, is just me and the book. I find that I need that silence and ‘mindfulness’ to understand, I mark each line I am reading with the bookmark, so I know where I am on the page, and I can focus on the words without the rest of lines and words interfering. I am a slow reader, I know that, but Laura is a massively fast one!

It is astonishing how fast Laura reads, and once something is read, its squirrelled away in her brain. It’s one of her strengths – superpower!! It has been really noticeable with the reading that she does for studying, others complain about the time it takes, Laura whizzes through the reading and research. And as for how quickly she gets through a fiction book….

But me I am slow, but I get there and it’s been nice this week having that half hour to read myself. Although it’s been a little bit hijacked for the last few days as I am reading the first draft of Laura’s dissertation!!!

Tony had for work a Resilience and Stress Workshop, this week – I am not going into the amount of stress that his work is causing him – it’s all hugely frustrating. The workshop did go into mindfulness and just taking time to sit and breathe. Tony did find a thing to put on at bedtime for breathing and mindfulness but personally I found that one very annoying, a little tinkly bell was used to align your breathing too!!! Hoping that he can find a more soothing one…..

That reminds me…when I was pregnant with Laura we had classes in the old grotty Health centre (since been knocked down and rebuilt!!) as part of the class was learning to relax and breathe – the Midwife that ran it would get use to all sit (on very hard chairs!!!) and starting at our toes, slowly relax each piece of our body and then imagine being on a sunny beach – at which point I completely tensed – I am not a beach person!!! Ahh sand and water!!! I love sitting on cliffs watching the waves crash on the rocks, like at Baggy point but beaches aren’t a relaxing image for me – a nice walk through a forest, trees….. cool and damp with mosses, dry stone walls…..that I can imagine and relax with!!! Even with the hard chairs I could easily relax with that idea.

The gardening, reading and very much my creative stuff, especially the hand stitching, be that the embroidery or quilting is very much about being centred, in that time and moment, breathing and calming and as I have got older I have found that I need those calm moments more – life seems to be more depressing and chaotic….

We all need to be kind to ourselves and learn to have time each day to just breathe, even if only ten minutes. Our world isn’t an easy place to live…..

Thinking!!

14-05-2022

I have two main thinking times, when I am doing the housework and also when I am sewing things, like today – leaves – that doesn’t really need me to think too much. I am working with one part of my mind and the other is …. well away with the fairies!!!! Falling down rabbit holes and wandering off all over the place!!!!

A lot of the thinking is on fabric creativity – so quilt ideas, Quilted Postcards designs, or designs for teaching, some will be made, others will end up just being shelved away, sometimes they get shelved after I have done a rough sketch in my ideas books.

My mind wanders in lots of different directions!!!! But one thing it keeps coming back to is sketching at the moment. I would love to spend time sketching – working on drawings, finding my style. This is something that I have come back to time and time again, talked to Laura about it.

Now, I do sketch, I sketch ‘rough’ design ideas. Then I draw out all the designs I create, from the postcards to quilts and embroideries. So, yes, I do draw. But I would like to draw/sketch better, for fun!!!

I have fallen down rabbit holes, got lost wandering around looking at different ideas, artists, prompts, styles! The thing that stands out on all the things that I have read is you need to practice……

And practice every day for a minimum of half an hour but an hour is better!!!

Oh dear, time……

Time is something that slips away, I never really seem to have enough.

In December 2018 – I did say I had been thinking about drawing/sketching for a while, I tried to spend half an hour doing a quick drawing – looking at my book I used, I never even managed to do the whole month!!! I tried again in 2019, but not with any better results – I grant you 2019 was a bit of a mare of a year. But I was hopeless at keeping to the half an hour a day and once I had missed a few days, I sort lost the momentum and gave up!!! You can see why I don’t do New Year’s resolutions!!!!

Being me, I had a good look at all the books available on 365 days of art, drawing, sketching, practice sketching and books like that, I even got Laura to look at them. And we looked at online stuff but we both agreed that the prompts really didn’t interest us enough to actually do them, which would mean we would loss interest and give up!!!

We did think of coming up with our own prompts, may be weekly or monthly but…..back to the original problem – time.

So, I have thought about drawing each day and then recently I have fallen down the rabbit hole of looking at stitch journals – ohh I know they have been around for a while, and they have been on the edge of my wanderings around.

Sensible, level headed, mathematical brained Laura just looked at me and went you struggle to find half an hour each day to do the cross stitch carousel horses, where are you going to find another half hour a day to do drawing or stitch journal?

And she has a very big point. I have a list of things that must be done, both housework and garden and then teaching work and Quilted Postcards and of course the cross stitch, all to be done in a certain amount of time.

Then there is the list of things I would like to do, like actually sit down and read some of the books on the To Be read pile – the books on embroidery, art and Elizabethan fashion.

mmm….maybe I could get up a half hour earlier in the morning to have time to do that??? I don’t think that would be a problem in the summer but not sure I would be able to make myself get out of bed in the winter? I’m not so good in winter for motivation. But if I got into the routine now?
And I’m not sure Tony would be happy me getting up even earlier – I already get up over half an hour earlier than him to get in my exercises!!!! But if I had more time…….

May?

11-05-2022

Ahh…its almost the middle of May already!! And I haven’t written a Ramble for ages!!! I don’t know where the days have disappeared!

I have gotten to the stage that I have a long list of things that need doing and within a short span of time! I have managed to, over the last couple of years, not let things build up and all need doing at once, but it has happened just because of a number of things all coming together at the same time.

One of the things that contributed to the build up is the fact that Tony needed to use up a lot of holidays or he would lose the days, so he has been having Fridays or Mondays off and with Easter and also the Bank Holidays, he hasn’t worked a full five day week for something like two months!!! We have gone out for days, pottered around, spent time together but it means that each week I have lost a day, at least!

When Tony isn’t at work, days are slower, quieter and more pottering around or going out. When he is at work, and for the last few years, work has been at his desk in the corner of the workroom – although he is starting to go out to customers and partners. When Tony is at work, he starts by 8.30 at the latest and is at his desk, other than a walk at lunchtime till I call him down for dinner sometime around 6.30.

I have my routine of housework, garden and working on all my creative projects, I like the routine, I know where I am, what needs doing. I also like our quieter, pottering around days together, when Tony isn’t working, but when Tony is working, I get soo much more done!!!

The other reason I have a huge pile of stuff to do, is where we are in the term, & in the teaching year. We are in the summer term, working towards finishing the projects before the end of the school year!!!

From September I have been slowly showing how to make the quilt ‘Flowers Make Me Happy’ – from the title you can guess the theme is flowers!!! There hasn’t been a big rush, I worked it to cover the whole thirty weeks of the year. Mixed in with showing the quilt has been smaller projects. But the quilt has got to the final stages – the centre is together, borders need to be shown and then stitched on – well two can be to start with because I then need to teach the corners and at that point I can put the whole thing together and bind it – in all the next few weeks!!! The thing is, I have pieces at different stages – take the borders. I have the pieced background, the flowers appliqued on and then the final borders layered and quilted – the borders are in three stages, to show each stage in class but in the next couple of weeks I will need all four borders finished to put on the quilt – a lot to do in a short time!

That’s just one project! I am also teaching an arty project, so I have a small wall hanging, used as a demonstration piece waiting to be finished. This small wall hanging was the first step in creating a bigger piece of arty silhouette work. I actually need to finish the bigger wall hanging – almost there, but still a few hours work to do. Then I have to write the instructions up and prepare all the demonstration pieces – I’m not going to work another bigger wall hanging but use small pieces that I can make into Quilted Postcards. Quicker to finish!!!

That’s the teaching work and it all needs to be finished for the end of June and the end of term, which is only six weeks away!!!
I am also playing with ideas for teaching when we come back in September, ideas for gifts and Christmas, playing with embroidery, patchwork and quilting.

And I must finish the final, fourth cross stitch carousel horse for our anniversary by mid August, so that I can wash and frame all four for September.

Plus I have two of Laura’s stitcheries to wash and frame…

And I have fallen down a couple of rabbit holes …..mindful daily stitching, stitch journals, daily sketching, monthly embroidery ideas, Worshipful company of Mercers and their history – thank you Laura (the last because of a conversation about her dissertation!!!). Then there was the rabbit hole of a mini mannequin to create quarter size historic clothing!!!! We both would like to do that, now but really feel that we have a lot of other things to do …….Laura writing her dissertation, my teaching work and the fourth Quilted Postcard book, oh and the usual household chores and the garden…….. the tulips have finished flowering and I will need to move those pots to the back, bring the summer ones out of the garage and just move everything around…….

Must stop procrastinating and get on with everything…..

Pots & Plants

04-04-2022

So, rambling on from the last one about the garden, well the back garden actually and since its not gardening weather, well not for me…..too cold and wet! But its good weather for staying indoors and writing a ramble about the garden!!!

I garden in pots mostly, this is my style of gardening and its not big planters filled with different plants to make the displays. I garden in small to middle size pots with one plant or one plant variety in.

I love clay pots and I have these for the hostas and some of the plants I have for my displays but mostly its plastic pots, lightweight and not too expensive or steel buckets, both are easy to move around and also if they get knocked over, they don’t break.

I have to take into consideration being knocked over, if the big tortoise wants to go somewhere she will go!!! She just pushes till whatever is in her way moves. And I also find the odd pot knocked over by either foxes or cats, especially when they spring over the fences. There is nothing I can do about either of these creatures coming in the garden, so I just have to accept and work with it, hence pots and containers that don’t break.

I have always had a lot of pots but in the last few years I have gotten even more!!! I realised that I like pots, I can move plants round, change displays, highlight different plants, maybe I get bored with static!

When I started to look for more inspiration I turned to books and over a few months I got three that are possibly the core of inspiration – Pots for all Seasons by Tom Harris, A Year Full of Flowers by Sarah Raven and The Flower Yard by Arthur Parkinson.

Each one brings their own ideas, from Tom Harris and Arthur Parkinson, gardening in containers, creating displays and seasonal interest in small space to Sarah Raven big garden with all year planting.

On Sarah Raven, when her catalogue drops through the letter box its like this brochure full of wonderful jewels of ideas and possibilities. I spend ages looking through having mad and wonderful flights of fancies – that Tony listens to and just shrugs and says no to!!!
He hasn’t liked my idea of digging up all the grass to fill with plants – we recently got the special edition David Austen rose catalogue through and both Laura’s and my first thought was ‘where can we grow more roses!!!’

Nor has he liked the idea of a rebar tree or a woven moon gate, he did however buy me six apple crates, so I can create even more displays!!! To go with the displays on the garden bench, we don’t really want to sit on it! To the wooden table which I create a display that I can see from the kitchen window.

I am looking for interest through the year, and I am learning all the time. This winter I had hellebores – I really like them but they need to be up higher as the beauty of the flowers is missed, they tend to hang down and really its too cold and wet to lay on the ground looking up at them!!! Cyclamen, winter heather and some heucheras that I had grown on from cuttings I took last summer. Then I had the narcissus tete a tete and a bowl of hyacinths, plus Spring Iris – none of these I had grown before, but they did so well and I have made a note to get more for next year.

As they are all going over I have Grape hyacinths (Muscari) coming out – I have a few pots of the common old garden ones – pulled out of the front garden and just stuck in pots, to see if they would do anything – to white ones I specially bought, although the expensive white ones are lovely, I think I actually prefer the common old garden ones and since I am going to have to thin them out in the front garden – I think I will save a few for pots in the back garden!!

And just beginning to flower are the pots and pots of tulips!!! I so love tulips – I am sure if you may have realised this by now, with the quilts, Quilted Postcards, cushions and wall hangings with tulip theme to the photos in the tulip season that I post!!!
And as they are just starting to flower …….

Ps. I will ramble more on the garden through the seasons.

Gardening

02-04-2022

In the last two years there has been a lot in the media about the wellbeing that gardening brings and the need for green spaces. This is nothing new, look back to the roots of the National Trust, 125 years ago and the ethos of the three founders, especially Octavia Hill, believed in green spaces for the wellbeing of people.

With the lockdowns of 2020, this need for green spaces really hit the headlines, there has been so much in the media about gardens, growing for health, growing food and the whole wellbeing that gardens bring – it has become a big discovery and trend.

It may seem that I have jumped on this trend, but I have gardened for thirty years, ever since we bought this house. The garden has evolved and changed, from a new garden – after we had gutted the house, we completely gutted the garden, after all it was a wheelchair ramp, paved area to falling down garage with attached wooden greenhouse, then about 8-foot wilderness to the school chain link fence!!! The only flower bed was raised and full of wild garlic and huge tangled contoneasters that held the fence up!!!

From new garden to dog area, to child friendly and filled with climbing frame and slide, then to trampoline and then it just slowly just existed, I gardened and tried different plants in the limited time I had. Then we got to 2020, with the lockdowns, I had time to assess, adjust, rebalance my life and needs. Much of the rebalance was with my creative life and the garden comes into that area!!! Gardening is creative…

We didn’t use our Tesco vouchers, usually they are used for meal vouchers to Pizza Express (I could write a whole Ramble on Pizza Express and their service!!!) and also day out vouchers to places like Colchester zoo, but through 2020/21 they never got used, so Tony got me magazine subscriptions, to Knitting, House Beautiful, Gardeners World, Modern Garden, Ideal Home and Country Living – you can see where my interests lie…..Laura has History magazine. The only one I am keeping on subscription for a second year is Country Living – I used to have a look through them, when I went up to my sisters in Derbyshire and always liked it.

So, I have a garden that I want to change and grow, I have more time to spend in the garden and I need to work out what I am going to do. The magazines all say, work out what you use the garden space for – eating, entertaining, growing food. It is at this point that I sort off loose the plot, my brain wanders off from their articles. We don’t eat out in the garden, none of us are keen on the insects that always come around when you eat out!!! Yes, Tony BBQ’s a lot in the summer in the evenings, so that has to be taken into consideration. We may have a quick lunch in our working day out in the garden and the odd cup of coffee or tea – actually its lovely if and when we get a proper hot summers day, to start the day, drink the first coffee sitting on the door step or my little wooden chair, in the cool early morning, before the heat of the day, when its peaceful – before the world really wakes up and the noise of the children in the school field, cars and airplanes start.

We don’t entertain, not in the garden, actually not at all!!! or party.

I tried growing food in the garden, when we first moved in, but they never did well, the garden has too much shade and although I would love raspberry canes and maybe strawberries – which I have tried a few times, they just don’t work. So, no, my garden isn’t for crops. My garden is for gardening, growing plants, pottering in, watching things grow, a place for the tortoises in the summer and somewhere to dry the washing! Its for inspiration and peace.

The next thing that is constantly being written, is small space go with large architectural plants and one colour planting schemes! Most of the large architectural plants would not grow in my garden – I do have a fatsia – that’s a large architectural plant!!! And I have a big, variegated Laurel, that was one of the first plants in the garden but that’s it. I used to have lots of structure with box, but they are all gone due to the box moth. In a few years’ time, when they have grown the laurels and holly that I have bought as very small plants will give more all-year structure to the garden, but that’s for the future. But I guess the style of gardens I love are huge herbaceous borders and cottage garden, I like lots of different plants and I don’t want my garden to be one colour. I want displays and interest throughout the year and colour.

I want to potter around finding different jewels of plants, creating displays to look at, both from indoors and out. It’s to have places to stop, breathe and look at nature’s beauty, from the tiny viola flowers to the roses and the curls of the ferns……

I will just do what I want and like and ignore the whole trends and ideas that are in all the magazines – this is my garden!

So, the only advise I have so far taken any notice of, and it was from Monty Don on Gardeners World is go with plants that are happy, in your garden!!! As these are the plants that do well.

With that in mind on the permanent plant front its laurels, ferns, hostas (and I will continue to battle the snails!!!) campanulas, violas and hydrangeas on the left side of the garden and then on the right of the garden roses, clematis, twisted hazel and the maple!

Sunset & Silhouette

14-03-2022

Sometimes, one small piece of work can morph and snowball into something so much more, more pieces, bigger pieces and can become a whole body of work.

That has happened with my sunset silhouette postcards…..

Let me start at the beginning, I love cloud and sky watching, I have no idea what all the different types of clouds are, I just like to look at all the shapes and effects of the clouds and the colours of the sky, it constantly changes. I don’t lay on the ground, well, only occasionally in the summer, I have done the cross stitch ‘Cloud Watching’ by Anita Jerum – the illustrator of Nut Brown Hare – Guess how much I love you book, from Bothy Threads, and it sits on my bedside cabinet. But I do stand and stop and look, especially when I am in our kitchen, usually cooking.

From our kitchen window, I look out over the garden, at the end is our garage with the school chain link fence behind. We have the school field at the back, it’s a bit of an odd shape as the infants and junior school – which Laura and Tony and his Mum went to!!! - has been built in the middle of three roads, so is an odd triangle shape. From the downstairs we just see our garage and the fence and the odd tree that is growing along the edge of the field, I borrowed the trees into my view!!!

From the workroom (the back bedroom!) with its wide window, we see across the top of the garage, through the fence and across the field to the houses, including Tony’s parents on the other road.

The way our house is angled, the sunrise is on the front more, but we can’t see it for the houses on the other side on the road. But the sunsets we can see from the back, if you look out from the windows at the back, the sun sinks on the left. It drops down making a silhouette of one of the trees in the school field.

I love trees, and they are beautiful in full leaf, but there is just something about bare trees, with no leaves, where you can see all the branches and twigs, especially against a sky and even more against the setting sun. Watching this tree in the school field inspired me to create two Quilted Postcards of sunsets, coloured in using Crayons with an embroidered bare winter tree on them.

That got me thinking about other silhouettes, for the last few years I have been given numerous cards from friends with hares on it, I know that two of my friends really love hares and so I started thinking about designs….

I had been thinking about the design for a few days and one Tuesday morning I had worked out what I wanted to do, a moon gazing silhouette of a hare. I probably could stitch a hare to look like one in daylight with all the colours and textures but working on the postcard size would be small and possibly not do it justice, but a hare in silhouette, I just need the right shape!!!

Then the same Tuesday, in class, Susan, who loves hares, asked me about creating a hare picture/wall hanging……

I went home and created the silhouette of the moon grazing hare, but it was end of term and by the time we returned to class it had all been forgotten.

Fast forward to February and after a class, Susan, asked me again about a hare or whippet picture, but with a coloured background as she had got a Christmas card with a whippet and tree in silhouette, the conversation also turned to felt applique as one of the others in the class was doing this.

The following Tuesday, I bought in my silhouette postcards and opened the conversation to the whole class…… the long and short is during the summer term I will be teaching how to create a wall hanging with a sunset background and silhouettes appliqued/embroidered and then a felt applique border of leaves, some possibly 3D.

But this has led me of on a whole journey of ideas, the hares have been appliqued onto sunset skies with embroidered flowers round them, the outline of the hare has been appliqued onto a white fabric and I have embroidered, one with a scroll pattern and another with flowers. Then I have embroidered sunset postcards with meadow plants – cow parsley and grasses and even created a few with urban/industrial silhouettes.
I have played with colouring the background with crayons, Derwent Inktense blocks and even watercolour pencils – after reading in a book that watercolours can be used to paint on fabric, I don’t have watercolour blocks, but I do have pencils so tried them. Ever one has a different effect. I have also played with other colours to see the effect.

This has all lead me to playing with ideas on paper, painting with both my watercolours and Inktense, colouring with pencils, pens and crayons….

The whole body of work is growing and growing and I haven’t even started to work on the wall hanging for teaching in the class!!!

Words

25-02-2022

Words – they can be good, bad, make a lasting impression, make you laugh, and some words just remind you of the past. Words are something that we use all the time, from spoken to written.

Laura loves words, and how our languages are connected or not and the root origins of our words and placenames – some are Viking/Saxon and others are Norman French – very much showing how our language has evolved, it fascinates us and shows so much of our history, much forgotten. Do you know there are a lot of words and phrases we use that have their origins in our wool or leather manufacturing – like tenterhooks?

Something that I have heard numerous times through the years, from a lot of people with dyslexia or dyscalculia – and just going down a slightly different path, why are words for certain things so difficult to say and spell, if you have dyslexia then you just can’t spell it and if you are Laura and have ankyloglossia (tongue-tied) then there is no way you can say it as the worst letters to pronounce if you have ankyloglossia are K – L – G and S’s, the other hard ones are R and TH, which was a problem for Laura with her name when younger!!!

Right let me wander back to the bit about dyslexia and dyscalculia, what I have heard so many times and came up in a recent programme I was watching on Jay Blades and his dyslexia, was being labelled as ‘thick’. I and a small group in my year at junior school were sent to the Remedial Reading hut, we were labelled as the ‘thick’ kids – but looking back how many of us had dyslexia? It wasn’t something that was known/talked about. We were just labelled by the other kids and probably teachers as ‘thick’!!! I was also labelled as disruptive and a troublemaker!!!

Even though I caught up and by 13 was considered as a ‘brighter more able child’ I struggled in a lot of things, but majorly in mathematics, I just didn’t get it, it didn’t make sense and I had numerous (no pun intended!) words from and with the teacher. In a class of very able students, he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t do the maths, and he didn’t have the patience or understanding to teach me!!! Which I will admit I did point out to him!!!! Possibly not something I should have done but…… In the end it was a friend that taught me maths, so that I could get the grade to go on to college. Thank you, Judi.

Another word I hate, and I know that hate is a strong word to use, but I do hate the word lazy. I was called this as a teenager, if I was sitting reading, I was called lazy. If I wasn’t studying, which I really was useless at I was called lazy. Looking back, I don’t think I was any lazier than most other teenagers, yes, I watched tv but I read a lot – I learnt to hide when I was reading and even to this day I feel guilty to sit and read a book when there are other things I could be doing!!! That’s probably why there is always a big pile of books and magazines to read, as I just don’t sit down for an hour and read!!! I read in small bites, while eating breakfast and lunch, cooking dinner and if I don’t fall asleep in the armchair for about 20 minutes in the evening!!! I cleaned all my bedroom and other parts of the house and from sixteen, did all my own washing and ironing and I also did a lot of baking – but even so I was often called lazy. And it has stuck with me……I think it’s the reason I have to always be doing stuff!!!

On dark days, days when I am down and unsure other words thrown at me like selfish, mental ill and evil, all come back, and I know they were said to hurt me and make me doubt myself and that they were said a lifetime ago, but they still hurt and leave the seeds of doubt. In the book The Boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackery, he writes “When the dark clouds come….keep going” and that is true. The book with its simple drawings and story line has some really lovely words, positive words, it’s a book that you can dip in to and find something to understand. Its like a wordy hug!!!

Another bit says ‘This storm will pass’ and you can take that to mean the emotional storm or as we have been having the last week or so, one physical rain and wind storm after another – hopefully the weather will be more settled for the next few weeks.

Then there are the words that make me smile – procrastination. Laura and I use this word a lot, we are very good at procrastination, especially when we really don’t want to do something – in Laura’s case it tends to be writing an essay and with me, it can be writing anything or doing the ironing!!! Laura and I have talked about creating an artwork with the word procrastination on it, but we’ve been procrastinating doing it.

Inspiration or to inspire are really positive words. For me inspiration is both written and visual. Visual is probably the most inspirational, its often the small things around me, it’s about stopping and looking at world that inspire me most. But the written word can inspire, catch something in my mind and set me off, inspire me to try something. Whereas I am very visual person, Laura is a very written one from reading all the time to learn to crochet from written instructions!!! And I hope through my teaching and books that I inspire others to try things and explore their creativity – And that is a word I like creativity…..

Ramble

11-02-2022

Hello, I have been trying to write a Ramble for a couple of weeks and I have started two, but a few days later when I have read them I have thought…..delete…

So, I have just decided to write a Ramble, and I am going to ramble and see where it takes me, which paths and ways I feel like talking about. I hope that you enjoy it!!!

I had been going to answer the question that was asked me a few weeks ago, which was ‘how many hours do I spend creating every week’. At the time I had no idea, I don’t really think about the time I spend creating, it is just something I do!!! I don’t just concentrate on one thing, in one day I may start with finishing a quilted postcard, jump to designing a quilt square and starting that, work on the instructions for another quilt square, do social media, then do my minimum of half an hour cross stitch before moving onto, in the evening, doing hand embroidery on another quilted postcard or a box and then doing a bit of crochet or knitting. Some of what I will be working on will be for class, others are for the next book, and some are personal projects.

To answer the question – on the train home, Laura and I had a quick add up and we worked it out that I do about 36 hours a week of creative based work – but it isn’t really work!!! And that brings me onto my second question that I have been asked a couple of times in the last few weeks – ‘what is your occupation? Mmmm, that is always rather an odd one to answer – quilter, embroiderer, Patchwork tutor, author, textile artist, needleworker, stitcher…. I tend to put down housewife!!! Partly as this is the only thing that comes up on the drop-down boxes on pre-programmed job titles and also because it’s really not terribly acceptable – we are all meant to be superwoman and have careers, or at least jobs, being a housewife is meant to be not something you do!!! Putting down housewife – which I am, but I am so much more…. is easier than trying to explain what I do!!!

On ‘doing’, I have made all nine squares for the quilt I have been showing in class – ‘Flowers make me happy’, so yes it has a flower theme!!! I laid them out on our bed – which is where I do all my ‘looking’ at quilts or quilt squares. It’s a big space and has good light, I can stand back and view them as they will be used – mostly on a bed. Well, back to the quilt squares, the fabric I am using is all from one range from Andover by Laundry Basket Quilts, I have had it in a box for ages – years actually. It’s in shades of blues, latte and soft ivory. I had been intending to use lots of the fabrics for the joining strips but when I laid it out, I realised that it would be very, for me, over busy, that it needed just one colour. Now I am trying to not buy any fabric, I have a lot of fabric in drawers and boxes, and I feel that I need to use some of it. I will, however, buy blenders and Essential, white on white type fabrics that I use for backgrounds and linking colours together. But I am trying not to buy much, and so with this in mind, I have been through my stash and luckily, I have got a couple of pieces in latte and soft ivory that will work beautifully with the other fabrics.

Flowers are a constant theme in my work, last week I designed a flower for Laura to stitch in blackwork embroidery, our best selling pattern on Etsy is the Colour Wheel hoop art and I have had it in mind for a while to do a flower version and since Laura has finished stitching the second in her historic costume series, she is charting it up at the moment, I thought I would jump in with this flower before she starts on the third one!!!

Each month I change my mantel shelf display and I have been wondering what to do for March, April will be Spring, and Easter and May will be tulips (and I have a lot of tulip themed things in our home!!!) but March I just couldn’t work out what I wanted to do. Last year it had a vintage sewing theme, but it doesn’t appeal for this year. After I had pulled Laura out in the garden, yet again, to look at my bulbs coming up, the dwarf iris flowering, and the bright splashes of polyanthus, she has decided it needs to be early Spring flowers!!! So, I need to get my designing hat on and come up with some ideas to make – embroidered felt heart, narcissus quilted postcard – the little white ones or tete a tete – got that growing in a couple of my pots, it isn’t flowering yet!

I love watching the late winter and early Spring flowers, really lifts my spirits in the winter months, through which I struggle, especially when the light levels are low. It is lovely to look out onto my table display and see the hellebores – I have four plants in pots, two are on the table and the other two just on the patio, they have so many buds and flowers and keep going for so long. I am hugely happy with my polyanthus, just bought one box from B&Q and did a pot for the back garden and another for next to the front door, they make me smile every time I walk past with their bright colours. And my bargain/sale cyclamen just keep going. I have never grown dwarf iris before, they were part of a bundle of bulbs that Tony bought me – but I have fallen in love with them and plan to buy a lot more of them to fill more little clay pots with colour.

Another plant that has done really well is the violas that I bought about this time last year, they or their seedlings have been flowering ever since. I know they are tiny little flowers, but they are so dainty. I am going to ask for Valentines for a couple of packets of viola seeds!!! The back garden isn’t the easiest for finding plants that are happy in it, as in winter it gets no sun and in summer it only gets semi sun, a lot is still very shady.

Looking forward there are lots of pots of bulbs to come, from tete a tete, to lots and lots of tulips and then alliums. Lots and lots of inspiration. I need to remember, already written a note in my planner, to lift and split the snowdrops and also sort out/remove a lot of the grape hyacinths in the front garden – they have rather taken over!!! Watch this space for both my gardening exploits and all the creative ideas that are going to spring from Spring!!!

Well, I am going to wander off for a coffee break!!! Hope you have enjoyed my ramble….

It's Started!!!

20-01-2022

The thing that has started….. is Laura is seriously getting down to research on her dissertation for her MA, this is due in at the beginning of September. And it needs to be about 15,000 words!!!

Now, let me give you some background to this. For her BA Laura chose to go to Queen Mary University of London as it had a really good Medieval history department, and covered the areas that Laura was very interested in, but unfortunately by the time that Laura got to the start of her third year, most of the Medieval lecturers had gone on sabbaticals and the university had taken the decision to not employ other lecturers to cover this area, although they had employed more for the modern history department. The long and short of it was that the area that Laura wanted to do her dissertation on, she couldn’t and after a lot of compromise on her part and having to change her dissertation subject twice more before it was agreed by the supervising lecturer. Then just as she was doing the final third of her research Lockdown hit and she couldn’t complete the research. The whole thing was a total mess and very stressful.

So, moving forward to her MA, Laura wanted to have a decision early, so in September she began to look at areas that interested her, bouncing things backwards and forwards between us. Was this idea or that possible, could she find the sources and a lecturer at the university that would supervise this area (she is doing her distance learning course at Birmingham University).

Her first thought was comparing the Wardrobe accounts of three Medieval Queens. In historic terms Wardrobe accounts aren’t just about clothing, but all personal spending, from yes - clothes and jewellery, to spices, and bed hangings to gifts. Laura ordered up the vellum rolls for the Queens from the National Archives – off Laura toddled to Kew, where the archives are. Now, these are original vellum rolls from the medieval times – very very old!!! Laura was partly terrified handling them, they are valuable old rolls and partly hugely excited – these are medieval vellum rolls!!! Unfortunately, Laura soon discovered that they were in a combination of old French & medieval English Latin, they were very faded and some were damaged. A rather disheartened Laura came home, if she had 15 years and learnt old French then maybe she could write a dissertation on them.
So, back to the drawing board, as they say. More ideas were batted between us, as you might have realised I am Laura’s sounding board for ideas and information!!! Could she do anything on tapestries, like the Chatsworth ones held by the V&A? A trip up to the British Library – no!!! Not enough information.

Then, while wandering round the V&A (my favourite museum!!!) and finding the basement, beyond the men’s toilets that we hadn’t come across before, not the men’s toilets but the basement…..could she write her dissertation on Opus Anglicanum (medieval English embroidery)?

The V&A had an exhibition on Opus Anglicanum a while ago and we went. On the information they said that average time spent in the exhibition was between 1.5 - 1.75 hours. We were in there almost three hours and only hurried the last bit, as we really needed a tea and comfort stop!!!! It was brilliant and fascinating. And of course, I bought the book!

Laura pulled the book out and had a look through, spent ages looking at the pages and pages of Bibliography, and then went to the British Library to see. Yes, it looked interesting, lots of sources and information and there are lots of strands to follow. The next stage was to see if there was a lecturer at Birmingham, who would be prepared to supervise her dissertation, emails backwards and forwards and finally a Zoom meeting with a lecturer in early December, who would possibly supervise, not quite his area but very interested in it and has many links with his area of expertise – ecclesiastical stuff!!! So, yes, he would supervise her.

Hurray!!!!! Deep breathe, one hurdle over.

So, it was full steam ahead to doing lots of research. But first things first, start to create a reading list, it has started with the Bibliography in the back of the V&A book, just the articles and books in English, not those in Icelandic or any of the other languages, although maybe she will come back to the Italian ones!!! Each piece of information has been written on a post-it note and this has been stuck onto the front of a huge framed Harry Potter poster on her bedroom wall next to her desk, this poster will come down after her dissertation and the Bayeux tapestry panels she has cross stitched will go up. On each note is a key to the type of work they are – article, journal or book, then whether they are available online and from where or whether she needs to go to the British Library and how long they take to get. And as she reads them, they get ticked.

As Laura learns the next bit information – so do I!!! Velvet, gold work, stitches, ells, costs, wages, embroiderers, mercers, Dick Whittington (yes, that one)……

And Laura is thinking of, just for fun, trying to recreate a small piece of Opus Anglicanum, medieval embroidery!!! I will keep you posted!!!

Visualisation

14-01-2022

I can visualise quilts and other things I am creating, I know what they are going to look like before I make them – well, not necessarily hundred percent, as things do change but they are more or less designed in my mind’s eye before I start.

I thought everybody could do this, it’s something I have always done, worked through ideas, jobs, point by point, colour by colour. I can daydream, create stories, design, solve problems - all in my mind and I have done all my life.
Then over a few years I realised that not everyone can do this….

Other than designing quilts and stitchery things in my mind, the other thing I do a lot is designing houses!!!! This is usually because I have half watched a house show, like Grand Designs or one of the makeover ones or seen something in a magazine.

We, Laura and I tend to watch home make over shows, or Gardener’s World – I am usually at least three weeks behind!!!! - when Tony isn’t around, so not very often!!! We do like to with home shows, air our views and one of our things is to say what we would like in our dream homes!!!

My dream home, this is the house I would have if I didn’t have to worry about money, could spend what I like, so totally a dream, not going to happen and that’s ok, I like to dream and imagine.

So, firstly I want a big boot room, either off the hall or as part of the hall. A specially designed space with compartments for all the walking shoes and boots – and we do have a lot of them between us! I have four pairs, and I refuse to count how many Tony has, Laura only has one pair!!! It would also have space for wellies. Hanging space for coats and again we have loads and loads of coats and jackets. Baskets for woolie hats and gloves, a shelf for straw hats and flat caps – Tony has a fair collection of these!!! A place to put folded up umbrellas and walking sticks, and somewhere to hang my scarves, and there are just a few of them!!! And finally, a bench seat to sit on to put on and take off our footwear.

Another thing I dream about is a big utility room, organised space to have the hoover, steamer and other cleaning bits, somewhere for all the drills, electric screwdrivers and other bits that have filled up my understairs cupboard – I know you asking ‘why aren’t they in the garage?’ Apparently, it is too cold and damp and doesn’t do them any good, so as Tony has replaced bits, they have found their way into the understairs cupboard!!! Although if this a dream ideal house, I guess I could have a workshop for all that sort of thing!!! A lovely sink to do ‘dirty’ jobs in, space for the washing machine and tumble drier, which at the moment is in the cold garage at the end of the garden, so dislike going down there when it’s raining!!! And somewhere for my heated drying airer – not in the hall, like it is!!! Plus space for the ironing board and iron.

Another must is a big pantry, I love having a pantry, it’s not huge the one we have, and the washing machine is in there, with shelves above that hold all my dry foods, tins and the like. Everything has a place, and I can stand and see all I have got – including five different sugars – yes five – caster, golden caster, granulated, light muscovado and dark muscovado and three flours!!!! Plain, self-raising and strong!!! I dream of having a bigger pantry with more shelves and counter space to hold all my baking stuff. And space for a spare freezer!

I haven’t really designed the kitchen in my mind, I do know it is a kitchen/dinning area, with a drinks station – somewhere where the coffee machines, mugs, chocolate stuff and all the tea stuff are together and organised!!! And also, a proper space for wine, beer and tonics!!

My dream home has a study/man cave, somewhere for Tony to work, space for his computer station and also space for his Lego, that’s space to store the kits, both those in boxes that have been built and broken back down and also those waiting to be built. Display shelves for all the Lego that is everywhere, well almost everywhere in our house – kitchen, Star Wars models including Yoda!! Sitting room – a huge 1m across Millennium Falcon from Star Wars and lots of vehicles, landing - ok they are my little cacti, workroom - a row of storm trooper and other heads!!!

And for me, a workroom, a space with good light, preferably looking out onto the garden and next to the kitchen. I want a wall of cupboards to hold all the boxes of stuff I have – drawers for all the fabric, cross stitch kits, yarn, dressmaking patterns and fabric and all the embroidery stuff. I want lots of bookshelves to hold all my books and teaching notes and files, and bits I want to display. Places for all my threads, buttons and beads and other little notions. An L shaped sewing desk for my sewing machine and another desk for my laptop and art stuff. Also, a table for photography, with the lights permanently in place and big enough to do flat shoots of quilt squares but also having wall space for vertical displays. A big counter to stand at, with storage space under, to cut fabric at, that is in the centre of the room, so I can work all the way round. I want a wing back chair to sit in when hand embroidering or quilting and places to have piles of quilts and throws. A place for everything and everything in its place, organised and easy to find – bliss!!!

Another thing I would love in this dream house is a wall with narrow picture shelves all over it, to display all our artwork, both Laura’s and my stitcheries and also Tony’s photos. I think shelves would be best as I want to be able to move and change round the display.

The other thing I would like is an ensuite shower room, I don’t want a bath, but I guess Tony would probably like a big bath he can properly lay down in!! I want a big walk-in shower, with a rain head but also a normal shower head, with space so that I don’t feel shut in. And a definite must is a heated towel rail!!!

As for the rest of the house, that changes with how I am feeling or dreaming, but I would like a slightly bigger garden, with a potting shed, so I can grow lots more plants!!!! Possibly a cutting garden and an orchard/wildflower meadow…… and a woodland…….

As for Laura she wants a library/embroidery studio…….. And that’s about it.

New Year

01-01-2022

Best wishes for this New Year!!!

So, firstly, where has 2021 gone? Actually, where have the last few years gone?

I don’t know whether it is my age or just the way life is, but days, weeks and months and years seem to just disappear at high speed. And we are already at the start of 2022.

I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, I never think January is the best month to start diets or new fitness regimes, or anything else!! After all, it feels flat, cold, miserable and just wintery!!! I am in hibernation, curl up mode! If I am going to make any resolutions then after the Spring Solstice (20th March) would be when I do it. As it feels a more positive time, the seasons are turning, and we are heading into Spring, and this is more the start of things.

So, I am not making new resolutions, just carrying on and re-enforcing the ones that I have put in place over the last couple of years, things that are good for my physical and mental wellbeing, give me a balance/mindfulness I need in my life, they do change and revolve, nothing stands still.

I have learnt to appreciate what I have around me, Tony, Laura, other family members, my best friend – we have been friends over thirty years!!!! to my home, garden and surrounding area. To the days out and holidays, where I ‘breathe’ in the countryside or coast.

I have learnt to say no!!! Not just to other people but to myself as well. This has been really hard to learn to do.
The lockdowns of 2020 allowed me to step back, look at my creativity and rebalance – not only my teaching but also all my creativity, that way I can enjoy what I do and create, appreciate it, rather than feel pressured and stifled by parts, I actually think this has made me more creative!!!

I have learnt to say to myself, it’s a brilliant idea but I really haven’t got the time with what I am already creating to do it, so No I am not starting that!!!! It is usually ideas for gifts!!! Take Christmas just gone, I had an idea to create some woven scarves as gifts, but I just knew that trying to fit making them around everything already on my list, would just be too much and then I would get anxious that I wasn’t getting everything done. So, they have gone on my possible gift list for Christmas 2022.

So, no New Year Resolutions for me, just quietly carry on with my life, working through my lists and working on lots and lots of creativity, from patchwork, quilting, lots and lots of Quilted Postcard ideas and Book No.4, stitcheries – including the fourth and final cross stitch carousel horse by Teresa Wentzler, I started the first one over thirty years ago and have promised Tony he would have them, soo many times I have forgotten, but they will all be stitched, washed, stretched and framed for your 30th wedding anniversary in September!!! to finding my style of drawing and painting to gardening.
And writing rambling, falling down rabbit hole Rambles!!!