Monday, 27 April 2009

Fear of felt pebbles

This is a job I've been too frightened to tackle. Sewing all the pebbles together. The pebbles took a fair amount of time to make, but I did finish them a while ago and put them in a glass bowl somewhere I pass all the time, so that I could get comfortable with them and take some of the worry away. The truth is that I was anxious the finished article would fall short of what I hoped to achieve and that it wouldn't be 'special' enough. But yesterday I decided I just had to take the plunge - after all, this was meant to be part of a wedding present for my godson and his wife. They were married at Christmas .... The anxiety had been heightened because I had tried to make them a felt table-runner and was disappointed with it, fiddled about with it and made matters worse. In the end I chopped it up and made a cushion cover out of it and it looks quite nice. It was just never meant to be a table runner!
I'm sure my lack of confidence is exacerbated because I'm largely self-taught and work in isolation. I have a wonderful friend nearby (Anne) who is herself an extremely talented needlewoman, who can always be relied on to boost my ego. But I have begun to think she completely lacks discrimination and that her word is not to be relied upon, because she professes to love everything I do. Oh, everyone needs a friend like Anne!

So yesterday, with the sun filling the sky, the third lot of washing billowing on the line, I gritted my teeth, gathered everything I needed for the job, plugged my ears into Radio 4 and just bloomin'-well got on with it. I was nervous, but arranging the pebbles calmed me down a bit and once I started stringing them together I began to enjoy myself. The (nearly) finished article I'm quite pleased with. Just got to tie off and trim the ends of the threads and I'm done. I have my usual internal battle with symmetry and neatness - I'm sure the slight waviness half way down adds to the charm. Makes it look more like the bed of a stream, doesn't it?

Well, of course, the main thing is that Will and Carla like it, and can forgive me for taking so long to come up with a present!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I'm in love with a lad(der)

I had my breakfast in the garden today. What joy to be able to say that. I sat and daydreamed and listened to the birds staking out their territories and hoping that the robins will want to nest in the special box we installed, rather than the old enamel teapot they chose last time.

As my bleary eyes wandered, they came to rest on the place where there used to be an 18 foot cliff-face of laurel bush. This monster was about 8 feet deep and you could easily disappear inside it and make a den. But it cast an enormous shadow over the lawn and next door's garden. It had to go. And eventually most of it did, with the aid of a lot of hired-in mechanical equipment. But before it did, I put a lot of time into trying to tame it with secateurs.

I'm a practical gal. I had a long career in a job where Health & Safety was uppermost in my mind at all times. I am quite neurotic about people taking unnecessary risks. But put me in my garden and I come over all fotherington-thomas, 'the one who sa "Hello Clouds, Hello Sky" and skip about like a girly'. Eyes turn all misty, the veg patch becomes 'the potager', the scabby apple trees at the bottom of the garden are referred to as 'the orchard'. And an old wooden stepladder held together with rotten rope becomes a safe means of climbing 10 feet into a laurel bush. Now, as you can see from the picture, this ladder has such a romantic appeal. It's faded to a shade that Farrow & Ball wish they'd invented and it's got a sweet little thumb-hole for carrying. So cute! So hazardous!

The rope holding the two sides of the ladder in an 'A' shape strained their last, just as I found my balance on the top step, secateurs in hand, ready to cut the laurel monster down to size. The first inkling I had that something was amiss was when I experienced an unusual dangly, airy sensation under my feet. Just as I was taking in what this meant, I jolted downwards a few inches and a sharp twiggy branch stabbed through my sweater and under my bra strap. So, suspended several feet in the air by a flimsy piece of Marks & Spencer elastic, I turned my mind to wondering whether that or the twig would give way first. Would I need to cut myself free with the secateurs? The matter was resolved without me, the twig snapped and I descended another foot into the hedge. The thing about a laurel hedge, I discovered, is that it eases you down through its branches, doing its best to support you on your way to spraining your ankle on a horizontal stepladder as you reach the ground with a thud.

So the stepladder has been demoted to perform a purely decorative function, but I am so madly in love with it that I lug it from place to place all over the garden so it can pose in discreet splendour to surprise and delight me. It's an accident waiting to happen, I tell you!

from The Compleet Molesworth by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Jardin des Paradis

essential elements - the inspiration from the Jardin des Paradis, Cordes sur Ciel, SW France - a favourite garden to visit on holiday





running water

sunshine & shade

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

12th Century beauty

The church of St. Margaret of Antioch. It's in a tiny hamlet, sadly has fallen into disrepair and is no longer a place of active worship. The church is thought to have been built before the 12th century and may be harbouring medieval wall paintings.

It is due to be studied by conservation experts, who consider the church to be remarkable and of an importance way beyond its humble appearance. It has a bit of a skeleton in the cupboard, too, in 1637 the Rev. Arthur Alvery was unfrocked and deprived of his living for allowing cock fighting in the church chancel!

The church was of course locked when we visited, but I look lots of photographs through the cobwebby windows. It was a sad and neglected-looking sight. Let's hope that the conservationists can work some magic.

It will be my job this summer to encourage people to raise sponsorship money in a Bike 'n Hike tour around the historic churches in our deanery so that funds will be available to help preserve these wonderful buildings. I can't think of any greater motivation than to take in the story told in these photographs.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Virtual Chocolate Bunnies!

So Happy Easter one and all and thank you for your visits to my blog and for your comments - sending virtual chocolate bunnies to everyone!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Knitting & laughing

I am often, apparently, to be found laughing out loud at recipe and gardening books. Today it's a knitting pattern book I found in the thrift shop yesterday. Elizabeth Zimmermann is (or maybe was) an English lady, brought up by a governess, who took up residence in America with her German husband in 1937. In 1974 she published a book of her knitting patterns in the form of an almanac. It is littered with conversational interludes and 'governessy' guidance in a very no-nonsense English fashion.

This passage really struck a chord -

" ... this is one of the few, but intense, drawbacks to old age; one forgets. In many cases forgetting seems to be a protective mechanism. The brain has slowed down and no longer has the capacity to retain irrelevant detail. Was it Thursday or Friday of the week before last that the Old Man saw those three otters in the river? Who cares what day of the week it was.

Where did I put the little blue egg-boiling pot? The brain refuses to co-operate. Never mind; use something else; the pot will turn up. Sure enough, it did. Adhering to the belief that boiled-egg water is good for houseplants, I had taken the pot to the bedroom windowsill where I am encouraging last winter's cyclamen. I found it next time I watered. Smart brain; it knew I'd find the pot eventually, and saved its waning but still valuable powers for composing a letter to a desperate knitter who had miscalculated his neck-stitches."

I have tried to use a variation of this theory for explaining why I never retain details given to me by Dear Husband. If he has the information already, and I can access it any time by asking him, why waste my own brain's diminishing capacity by remembering it all myself? Needless to say, I never get away with it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Simnel Cake

Can I get away with claiming this as my own work ..... probably not! Dear Husband's step-mother is a wonderful cook and delivered this to us this morning. I don't know how I'm going to resist that marzipan!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Lay a Little Egg for Me

I'm chicken-sitting this week for the neighbours, who are off on a skiing holiday. Fortunately, I have been left in charge of just two very friendly hens, who come running when you rustle a packet of Tesco raisins! They are called Pepper and Mincey (the hens, not the raisins) and are a cross between Marans and Rhode Island Reds. They are very lucky hens, because they live in a beautifully-designed ergonomic Eglu. None of your old-wooden-pallet-knocked-together for Pepper and Mincey! They are, therefore, very contented hens and make the most seductive little happy-noises as they follow at your heels around the garden.
I think I'm in love ......

Sunday, 5 April 2009


These fantastic rubber stamps from BladeRubber are facsimiles of original postal marks and I love them! BladeRubber is just beside the British Museum, so usually gets a visit when I'm down that way, but, handily, Dear Husband works just round the corner, so he was sent to get these to save me the shipping charge! They're really lovely people in the shop and have a wonderful online catalogue and a great blog full of ideas.

To have a play with them, I found a couple of big luggage labels and glued on some old stamps that I got from the charity shop. One stamp looks like the mail train and the other is a Christmas stamp with Hark the Herald Angels Sing in swirly calligraphy. I think they look quite neat! And they're going to have to count as my MakeSomethingCoolEveryday #2 for April!

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Make Something Cool Every Day

"When you're already too busy, take on something else", could be my motto! I heard it referred to as 'helium arm' syndrome too. You can't help it, your arm just shoots up when a volunteer is needed. (Oh, I need to be needed!)

The latest example of my weakness in this direction is a slight diversion from the norm - I've commited myself to taking part in Dabbled's Make Something Cool Everyday challenge for April. She's been very understanding and it can be MSCNearlyeveryday if you're a bit pushed for time. There are lots of hints and helps on her blog today, and it made me realise that I don't have to produce 30 masterpieces (whew!). I did do that, '30 days hath September, April, June and November' thing, just to make sure how many. 31 might have pushed me over the edge! And I cheated, too, and joined on day 2, shame on me. This little zakka bag was yesterday's effort.

If you would like to join in, or know more about it, click on the box top right (courtesy of Heather of Dollar Store Crafts).

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Zakka pouch bag

I do have one Japanese crafting book, which I have made a couple of bags from, even though I did struggle a bit with the instructions, not being able to read them at all! This little zakka bag isn't from my book, though I saw something like it in an ad. for another Japanese book.

First of all I knitted a bottom section in stocking stitch and sewed up the sides to make a shallow pouch shape. The green and white (Ikea) fabric was sewn to the yellow wool fabric at the top to make a tube. Some more Ikea fabric, in red, was used to make a lining and the casing for the tie cord. I pulled a bit of the lining out at the bottom of the tube to make another red layer and then sewed that to the knitted pouch. I left the cord casing edge as the selvedge, to save making it too bulky, as the red fabric is quite heavy-weight. I hope I've made that sound reasonably quick and straightforward - in reality I had to keep stopping and interrogating myself, "now is it right-sides-together", and "if I sew that to that will it be upside down", that kind of thing. I seem to have trouble thinking three-dimensionally these days!

I love the patterned Ikea material, and it was cheap, so I didn't mind using it to experiment with. The bag is 6.5" wide and 10" tall, and the amount of knitting required is about as much as I have the patience to do. And it's just the right size for a bottle of water and an emergency bar of chocolate (or three)!

Small Tortoiseshell

Good morning, good morning, good morning! I mysteriously lost my internet connection for most of yesterday. Tried everything, not a squeak. Dear Husband came home, flicked a switch on the modem, abracadabra, all fixed. Don't you just hate that?!

But it was a good thing really not to have access to the internet (although that wasn't what I was saying at the time), it was a lovely day and I should have been outside anyway. The garden neeeded some attention - it got three hours' worth - and like the butterfly grazing on the nectar, I luxuriated in the spring sunshine with the blossom from the cherry tree floating down in the breeze like pink snow.