Tuesday 27 September 2011

Latest felts - finished!

 As the title of this blog post may suggest, here are the finished pieces with the addition of hand embroidered french knots to give a little more texture.  The photo above shows the first piece I did, which worked well, although I decided the second piece would need to have more depth of colour. When I laid the design out, the sea line (or horizon line, depending how it looks to you) was straight, but as always, the wool decided to exert its influence and gave me a wavy line instead.

The second piece has worked well too, and I feel the added depth of colour is very effective.  This piece is now winging its way to my Peace Felt receiver in Ohio, USA and I really hope she likes it.  The purple colour represents the sea lavender which was all across the marshes, interspersed with grasses.  The shiny areas at the front are made using silk thread and silk fibres.
I now need to create another piece, using the stronger colours, as an example piece so that I can remember how I made it, just in case anyone wants to commission one!

Monday 26 September 2011

Marvellous clouds

 We were on the way home from visiting Mum and Dad yesterday evening and I couldn't help but notice this amazing cloud formation.  To me, it looked a bit like a tornado, but luckily it was only cloud.
 I am sure that a meterologist could tell you why it was formed and how, but to me it was yet another amazing spectacle provided by Mother Nature.

As the sun began to set, it started to disperse and change shape.


Eventually, it turned pink and flattened out over the countryside. It was a wonderful thing to watch.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Which Jane Austen Heroine are you?

I came across this quiz whilst browsing through favourite blogs/sites on other blogs.  Intrigued, I gave the quiz a go and found out I am most like Elinor Dashwood. I am quite pleased with this as Elinor is sensible, practical, caring, intelligent, loyal and I would like to imagine we share some of these characteristics.  However, I am not sure I could hide my feelings as well as she does, nor keep a secret that undoes all her happiness from those around her.  A colleague at work tried the quiz and found out she is most like Marianne Dashwood, so hopefully we should continue to work together well.

I tried some of the other myriad of quizzes on the same subject and the results of a couple of them were very disheartening.  I was more than a little dismayed to find that I was most like Fanny Price (Mansfield Park).  Fanny Price!!  She is a snob, a wimp and allows other people to treat her badly and  is a wallflower who can be easily ignored.  She does have some good qualities, but I would much rather be like Elinor Dashwood than Fanny Price.  Yes, she gets her man in the end, but it is more through luck than anything else.  I was not impressed!  Mansfield Park is my least favourite Jane Austen novel, so that was another reason not to be like Fanny Price. (Re-reading that, it does sound like a bit of a rant, but I hope that I don't share many qualities with her.)

If you'd like to try the quiz, the link is below:

above picture from:

Tuesday 20 September 2011

A new felt piece (at long last!)

Having not made a new piece of felt since (gulp) April/May, I finally got on with it!  It is based on a view out to sea at Saltfleetby, on the Lincolnshire coast, looking over the mud which was covered with purple sea lavender.  I added some silk thread at the front to emphasise the clumps of plants.  This photo shows the piece in all its soft fluffiness, before being felted.

After felting, it loses the fluffiness but becomes more defined.  I think it has a bit of an Impressionist feel to it.  The horizon went a bit more wobbly than I would have liked, but that's the joy of felt making - the wool decides what it is going to do, despite the maker's best efforts to coax it into position. I think it needs a bit of embroidery although I haven't decided quite what yet.  I shall make another one and then choose the one to go to America as part of the Peace Felt project. 
Having started making felt again, I need to continue as I have missed it over the last few months.

Sunday 18 September 2011

The last hoorah of summer

 The garden is beginning its slow and elegant descent into autumn but still has a few highlights for these last days of late summer.  Above is my latest buy - a Hibiscus 'Red Heart' - which is patiently waiting for me to decide where to plant it.
 There have been a few insect visitors recently, particularly Red Admiral butterflies, though not in any great numbers.  This one is enjoying the white Aster novae-angliae (not sure which variety).
 The ivy on the wall between us and our neighbours is literally buzzing with insect activity; wasps, hoverflies, bees and butterflies. Although ivy can be a menace, it does redeem itself by providing food for so many species.

 Two beautiful yellow roses from Rose 'Molineux' (David Austin).  A lovely buttery colour and a fragrant perfume.

 A bee happily enjoying the pollen and nectar to be found in Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', a perennial sunflower.  It is a reliable, tough plant which is always cheering.

 My huge Hydrangea Avant Garde, which is stunning and which has two more flower heads developing.  It has been a very good buy, although the coming winter will no doubt prove how hardy it is.
Hardy Geranium 'Crystal Lake' with beautiful veining on the petals.  Yet another plant waiting to find a permanent home.

And finally, a burst of lilac/pink from Brachycome which has been one of the most reliable plants in my rather disastrous hanging baskets this year, and still flowering away.

My garden has been giving me a few headaches just recently as I am fighting against a rampant fungi in the soil which is sucking out all the moisture in the raised beds and gradually turning the soil to grey, ashy stuff which no moisture can get through.  Unfortunately, it seems to go around plant roots too, which kills the plants.  When I come across it, I am digging it out and replacing it with top soil and adding water retaining granules.  I am valiantly fighting to keep my plants in good health and am contemplating sinking drainage tubes into the soil to aid moisture retention.  Despite this situation, my plants are doing their best to continue flowering just a little bit longer, for which I am really grateful.

Wednesday 14 September 2011


 More from Mum's hoard of goodies, now we move onto some accessories.  If you wished to buy a parasol, where better to go than Swan and Edgar's Parasol Department (Piccadilly and Regent Street).  How wonderful to have a whole department devoted to parasols!

 Here is the parasol which came in the box - a lovely lace cover over black and white material inside.

 Of course, a lady should never go anywhere without her white gloves.  (I tried these on and could only get my hand to the base of the glove - nowhere near the fingers.)  The owner of the gloves must have had very small and elegant hands.

Something for the discerning gentleman now - how about some stripy socks, probably silk?

Or a dress stocking?  We thought this may have been for a woman until we saw the size of the foot.  Perhaps it was worn to attend an assembly or ball?
It is fascinating to be able to look at these items and wonder about their owners.  If they could talk, I expect these accessories would tell some very interesting tales.

Sunday 11 September 2011

The Regency Dress

Here is the piece de resistance of Mum's costume hoard - a Regency dress dating from around 1803ish. Strictly speaking, this is before the true Regency period which was 1811-1820, but for me,  1795 - 1820 is the time scale I think of to be the 'Regency'. The dress is made from a nude/beige coloured silk and has long sleeves with a gathered bodice piece over the bust.  Unfortunately, the photo of it hung on the door doesn't do justice to its lovely shape and it is difficult to imagine how it would look on a woman.  Twenty years ago, I actually managed to fit in it, but I tried again last time I visited Mum and I have expanded way too much! The moment of defeat came when the under bodice pieces that tie up over the bust ended up somewhere under my chin! Oh well, at least I fitted in it once.

Here is a close up of the front of the dress, showing the lovely bodice detail.  I wonder whether it was made for a special occasion, or a local assembly dance, or who actually wore it?  Unfortunately, these questions will probably never be answered.
This is the back of the dress, showing the high waist and a very pretty ribbon sash.

 A close up of the gathers at the back and the ribbon sash.

A close up of the front of the bodice, showing the gathers.  This bodice piece hooks up at each side and goes over the two tied under bodice pieces.  Once on, the ribbon is pulled which tightens the front of the bodice.
The back of the sleeve, showing the beautiful hand stitching and the interesting way the sleeves have been set in.
 Inside the bodice, again you can see the careful hand stitching of the cotton lining.

This shows a part of the under bodice with the main front folded down.  you can just see a ribbon tie on the right of the photo.
I am really privileged to be able to look at the dress in such detail and I think Mum is going to give it to a museum as it needs conserving for the future.  Perhaps it will be able to provide textile experts with the opportunity to look at the construction of a dress from this time and hopefully, it will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Saturday 10 September 2011

Embroidered silk

Another piece of material from Mum's amazing hoard and I think this could possibly be Spitalfields-type silk with machine embroidery.  The top picture shows that this was once a dress as there are pieces cut to form a curve - probably a bodice with a curved front and sleeve. The silk is decorated with flowers and fruit.
 A close up of the pink embroidered flower.

 Another of the blue.

 The back of the embroidery is as interesting as the front.

 Peaches, apricots, plums, cherries?  I'm not sure, but it is still beautiful!

A close up of the curved piece shows the cuts to allow the material to curve smoothly.  You can also see the needle holes where it was once sewn together.

The back of the peaches/plums/ apricots/cherries.  What is really amazing is how well the embroidery has kept its colour - it could have been made yesterday.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

More textiles

This richly decorated and coloured material has an intriguing label (written in a beautiful script) pinned to it.  The label reads "Miss Vipan's wedding gown married to Mr Jennings of St Ives about 1750".  Although Mum has several family trees written down, we haven't yet identified the Miss Vipan married in 1750, so that is a mystery that remains to be solved.  We also don't know who wrote the label. (This photo reminds me of the 'Tailor of Gloucester' by Beatrix Potter, with her illustration of 'No more twist.'See below.)
(picture from VAM.co.uk)

This is the longest length of the material and shows the pattern going down what we think is the skirt panel.  The style would have been similar to the dresses worn by Marie Antoinette with full, wide skirts that meant you had to go through the door sideways.  The dress must have looked spectacular as the pattern is certainly eye-catching.

One of the inside seams of the panel, showing the very neat hand stitching.

This is also on the inside of the panel and shows the strengthening material around the slit for a pocket.  This would probably have been one of a pair of detachable bags, attached by strings around the waist, used for keeping valuables or precious items.  It is these pockets that are mentioned in the nursery rhyme, "Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it.  There was not a penny in it, but a ribbon round it". 
More interesting discoveries to come.

Monday 5 September 2011

Textiles from ages past

I am feeling very guilty just at the moment, as I haven't been devoting much blog space to textiles (whether my felt pieces or other textile-based interests).  We went to visit Mum and Dad yesterday and Mum has a wonderful collection of pieces of old material as well as a Regency dress and various other pieces of clothing and accessories such as socks, gloves, parasols and bonnets from various times, probably mainly Victorian.  So, we had a very happy afternoon rummaging through these wonderful things and I foresee a few blog posts about them. 
Above is a really pretty silk (I think it is silk, but it could be a silk/taffeta) with machine embroidery on it.  I'm not at all sure on date, but my gut feeling is 1800 onwards.

 The back of the material is nearly as pretty as the front!

A close up of the flowers shows the delicate shading of pink and yellow/orange. The materials have all been shut away in an ottoman chest, so have retained their beautiful colours.
This is a great advertisement for hoarding - if Mum (and previous members of her family) hadn't been such hoarders, we wouldn't have these lovely things to look at and enjoy now.
(I have a feeling that my friend Charlotte, who has recently moved to Holland, will particularly like the Regency dress post..coming soon!)

Friday 2 September 2011

"The Time Traveller's Wife" - 1 star from me

Usually, when I read a book that I like, I write a few words on here to say why, picking out interesting characters and giving my view of it.  I was encouraged to read this one from the masses of excellent reviews on amazon.  I got the book from my local library (fantastic things, libraries, so why are they being closed in such huge numbers?  They provide a wonderful service and a chance for some people to socialise, which is so important.  Keep our Libraries Open!)  After that slight rant, back to this book.
So, I collected it and settled down for a nice read - a love story with the unusual twist that the hero keeps jumping about in time so sometimes he jumps into his wife's life at a point where she is a lot younger than him.  Hmm, interesting premise, I thought.  As I read on, I decided that I didn't much care for either of the main characters (never a good sign).
Having finished the book, there were several things I didn't like.  There was a fair bit of swearing and bad language.  I know that contemporary novels have to reflect life and it would be ridiculous to have everyone saying "Oh, Gosh!" or some other archaic phrase.  However, I hear language like that most times I go into the city centre, so I don't want it throughout a supposedly escapist novel.  The other main problem was that I just didn't care about any of the characters at all.  There was nothing for me to empathise with and so I was left feeling very indifferent.  (Another minor and rather pedantic issue was the title spelt with one l not two when being sold over here).
So, would I recommend it?  Well, I know that many people love it and that is great.  However, I didn't like it and actually wish I hadn't read it at all, because having read it has not enhanced my life at all. I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from reading it, because that is one of the great joys of reading - to be able to make up your own mind about what you have read.  I would give it one star if I had to rate it, and that is quite generous.  So, I shall now read other books, which hopefully I shall enjoy a lot more.  In fact, Miss Buncle's Book isn't due back until 17th September, so I shall start with re-reading that one.

Thursday 1 September 2011

August Bank Holiday - garden visiting part 2

The second garden we visited was one of my favourite local gardens, Hall Farm, which has appeared on my blog several times.  The gardens are less carefully manicured than at The Garden House, but were filled with exuberant planting as above.

 There were also plenty of interesting views to various parts of the garden.  The centrepiece of the large pot was a pink hydrangea, in a smaller pot.

Looking back at the house through a purple sea of verbena bonariensis.  This reminded me that I need to grow lots of verbena next year.

A view from a shaded pergola through to the hydrangea pot again.  I really like the contrast of light and shade.  Hall Farm has a plant nursery attached, but the nursery is closing at the end of this year.  The gardens will stay open and the nursery area is going to be developed into a new garden.  Exciting as this is, it is also sad because the nursery had a fantastic range of perennials, most grown by the owners, and their knowledge of their plants was encyclopaedic.  I shall just have to grow more perennials myself!