Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Embroidered London Landmarks

Lured into the thrift shop again ....

.... and found these rather eye-catching embroideries of two famous London landmarks.
They were framed, about 13" x 11" and cost £1 each.   That's about $1.50.   So you can see I would be in two minds about investing!   Doesn't it seem a shame that they were discarded by someone?

The embroideries were covered in what I think are known as 'thunder flies'.  Those teeny black specks of wildlife, who, every summer, round up a couple of hundred chums, set up camp under the glass of your pictures and then die there.   So I took the frames apart and gave the fabric a gentle dusting off and had a good close look at the embroidery.

The stitching really does convey the impression that the edifices were sketched in pastels or charcoal.   Though the linen is really a light grey colour, my photos taken on a dull dull day don't do the work justice.
Now I'm thinking:  do I clean up the glazing and frames and pop them back in to protect them, or shall I perhaps make a couple of cushions, with the embroideries as an appliqued panel, and maybe risk getting the stitches snagged?   We haven't got any clawed and furry friends in the house, so they wouldn't be exposed to any rough-and-tumble.  

So, blogfriends, what's your advice?   Any shy lurkers like to offer an opinion?  Ooooh, go on! 

Sunday, 28 March 2010

wild violets (yum-yum)

Lots of these growing like weeds in my garden + a beautiful photo in the weekend newspaper meant I just had to make the cake.  

The delightful directions for making the crystallised flowers states that all you need is "a quiet hour and a bit of patience".   I remember years ago Shirley Conran ('Superwoman')announced that life was too short to stuff a mushroom.   So I did wonder if devoting one's time to painting the tiny petals of a wild violet with beaten egg white was a sensible use of a real person's time.  

Particularly one who was actually meant to be painting the bathroom walls.

Yeah ...... of course it is!

And, do you know, crystallised violets taste of, well, violets.

Hope you're having a great weekend,
whatever you're doing!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Rush Matters

The wonderful woman in this photograph is Felicity Irons who owns RushMatters based in a village not far from where I live.   The picture jumped out of the latest Country Living magazine and then I saw it too in the Telegraph supplement a couple of weeks ago.    It's from a new book, a collaboration between County Living photographer Andrew Montgomery and designer Jasper Conran, which depicts "the countryside of today in all its fascinating diversity".  ('Country', published by Conran Octopus £50, or £40 to CL readers.)

Every summer, Felicity spends long days out in her punt harvesting rushes along the River Ouse in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire and the Nene in neighbouring Northamptonshire.   The rushes are brought  back to the drying fields to let the sun and wind remove the moisture and a wonderful range of shades is produced naturally as a result.   When they are dry, the rushes are gathered into bolts and stored in her 13th century timber barn.

Which is where I saw them when I went to buy some for an autumn display in our village.   There was something magical and enchanting about the barn, surrounded by fields and ponds and wild flowers.  Felicity's workshop next door is full of rushes in various stages of production - matting, hats, chair seats, log baskets and, hanging from the ceiling, rope upon rope of rush plaits.   And the aroma!   Love at first sniff, for me.

So I was overjoyed when I discovered that Felicity offered workshops and got myself (and Richard) signed up pronto.    I had done a bit of table-mat and waste-paper-basket making with rushes years ago at a local evening class, so I thought I had a fair idea of what I was letting myself in for.    I have to say that although we had a weekend of fun and laughter, fantastic lunches and mountains of home-made cake, Felicity stands for no nonsense.  I was actually made to go and work on my own in a corner by Sunday afternoon because I was offering Richard some much-needed guidance about the construction of his basket.  In a "look, that's not how you do it, give it here" kind of way.  

Felicity's instruction was patient and painstaking and everyone was guided kindly through their chosen projects.   One of the most abiding memories is Felicity's adherence to the highest of standards - nothing leaves her workshop to be sold unless she is completely and utterly satisfied that it could not be done any better.   She has such an understanding that things must be good value, whatever their price. 

I ought to make it clear that the photos are of the things I made during the workshop - not Felicity's own work!

See you again soon!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Bye-bye bunnies!

Bluebell and Flora are a bit dizzy today.   First they were whizzed off to my Etsy shop and before they knew it they were in a big aeroplane on their way to a lovely new home in Massacheusetts.   No time to pack their bags or say goodbye to Brunhilde and Grayson, who are still dozing in their hamper.   Perhaps I've got time to make them some new friends before their sleepyheads are properly awake.

Can't stop using that little birdie stamp!!

Hope your week's going well?

Monday, 15 March 2010

Bunny Boiler

boiled sweaters make lovely bunnies!

old cutter tablecloth
shrunken cashmere

daisy eyes
lovely lambswool
all bunnies together!

Happy Monday!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Save water, bath with a friend

"Madge, old girl, this isn't really working for me, you're leaning on my head!"
"OK, I'll get up and move around a bit and you get your head sorted out"

"Well, Hilda, I'm afraid that didn't really work - now my head's buried and my tail's sticking out"

"Anyone need any help here?"

Peace at last!

Hope you all have a peaceful weekend, whatever you're doing!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

"The Steamie" - a Glasgow childhood in the 1920's

Some of you read and enjoyed the excerpts I printed from my father's story of his early years growing up in the Scottish countryside.   At about the same time, my mother was being raised in the bustling and overcrowded city of Glasgow.  11 years ago my journalist brother-in-law interviewed her and recorded her memories of those childhood years.   This is an edited extract:

"I was born in 1921 and brought up in Maryhill in Glasgow and our
first house was a tall red sandstone tenement, with three storeys above the ground floor. Each floor housed three families, each in very basic two-roomed apartments. We had one room for cooking and living and one bedroom. There was also a little lobby inside the front door where we had a coal bunker – this made everywhere very dusty. The kitchen/living room had two set-in beds in the wall. My mother and father slept in one and my brothers in the other. My sister and I slept in a set-in bed in the only other room. The kitchen had an open range for heating and cooking and there was a sink with a cold water tap by the window. Any hot water had to be heated on the range. If we wanted a bath we had to fill the tin bath in front of the fire, but you had to be quick because there wasn’t much hot water and you would get told off by the rest of the family for hogging the fire. The toilet was on the half-landing of each floor, shared by three families. This didn’t worry us much – if someone was using the toilet we just stood on the landing and looked at the world out of the window.

Once a month we went to the bath-house for a ‘real do’ where we could take our time and have plenty of hot water. That was quite fun. The baths were in a big building with the wash-house and the swimming pool and each bath was in a little cubicle.
Maryhill bathhouse

We had a wash-house for clothes washing at the back of the tenement, shared by all the families in the building, and we took it in turns to use it. Each family would be allocated a different day and time of the week and you had to get up really early in the morning to light the fire under the boiler to heat up your water. You had to supply your own wringer and then hang your washing out in the back court, which was a huge area, about the size of half a football pitch. If it rained, you took your washing indoors and hung it on pulleys in the apartment.

If we had tuppence to spare, we went to the public wash-house, known as the ‘steamie’, which was in the next street. You were allocated a stall of your own, with two big steel tubs and plenty of hot water. Some women with lots of washing would try and use the next-door stall as well as their own, without paying the tuppence, but there were lots of supervisors keeping an eye on you. You still did the washing by hand, on a washboard, rinsing everything out several times and putting it through the huge wringer. We didn’t use a mangle, because it didn’t get the clothes dry enough. Then the clothes were hung over rails which seemed to pull out of the wall, or some heated contraption about 7’ high. While the clothes were drying you had to clean up your stall and leave everything spotless and dry for the next person. By the time you’d done this, your washing would be dry and you would pack it in your basket. If you were really lucky you would have an old pram to put your basket on and push it home. We didn’t have a pram, but my sister and I would carry a handle each and we only lived around the corner, so it wasn’t far to go home.  This would all take about two hours, or longer if you spent time chatting and catching up on all the gossip.   My mother was lucky because she had me and my sister to help her.

Shortly after my youngest brother died, we moved to a brand new tenement building that had two bedrooms and a kitchen/living room. We had a gas cooker in the kitchen, a wash boiler and proper beds. The best thing was we had hot water from the taps. That was great. That was really living!"