Monday 30 July 2012

Project complete

Amazingly, I have managed to finally complete a project.  I bought this vintage flowery material a few weeks ago, washed it and that is as far as it got.  I decided I wanted to make a pillowcase, so today, was determined to finally get on with it.  Here it is.  It is backed with calico and is too big for my pillow, but I used an existing pillowcase as the pattern.  The stitching and execution would not bear close inspection but I am pleased with it and it gives the material a new use.  However, having completed the project, there are a few things I have learnt for next time.
Notes to self:
1. Remember that when you wash fabric, any fabric, but especially vintage fabric, it may change in texture.  When I bought it, it was a stiff-ish cotton fabric which I thought would be great for soft furnishings.  After washing it, it became very slippery and was extremely difficult to sew, even when I pinned and tacked it. 
2. Try to think about the pattern and get the pieces the right way round, which will save time and temper.  I sewed it all up then realised I had sewed the flap of the pillowcase the wrong way round. Grrr!  Elementary mistake, but I really should have avoided that.
3. Tidy up as you go along.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am messy.  This morning, there were threads everywhere, sewing paraphernalia everywhere and a general pickle which now needs to be tidied up before I have lunch.  Tidying as I go will perhaps never be a target I meet, but I can try harder.
4.  Choose a suitable material for your project (even if you love the fabric you have just bought and are determined to use it, no matter what).  The vintage material was a nightmare to sew.  If I had used a nice simple cotton material, things would have been much easier.

Do you think I'll remember any of these very sensible notes next time I embark on a project?  No, nor do I.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Blueberry cakes

So, with the weekend here, I got on with my baking.  I used a normal cake recipe, enough for 12 little cakes and added the blueberries as the final ingredient. 
They looked lovely in their raw state...
 ...and even lovelier once cooked.
 The blueberries are much juicier after cooking and have just a touch of tartness, which contrasts well with the sweet cake.
Of course, I needed to test one, just to make sure they were up to standard before offering them to Chris.  The verdict?  Yum, yum, yum!  Thank you to my little blueberry bush.

Thursday 26 July 2012

My first fruit harvest this year

I am very excited.  My first fruit harvest of the year from my single blueberry bush (Goldtraube).  OK, so there isn't all that much fruit, probably about a small handful, but enough to add to some little cakes, I think.  Baking at the weekend is definitely on the list of things to do.
Last week, there were only green berries but now, after some much needed sunshine, here they are in all their blue/black/purple glory.  There are more on the bush to come though, probably about the same amount again.  As this is one of the only edible things I grow (the others being mint and chives), it required some form of celebration.
Hoorah for the blueberry!

Monday 23 July 2012

Tatton Park Flower Show (part two)

 There was an amazing stand of agapanthus - a plant I admire but have never managed to grow. 
 Another beautiful display of lilies.  I used to love growing lilies but the pollen affected the cats, so I had to stop growing them. I still love the flowers and the heavy scent.  I had 'Stargazer' in my wedding bouquet (19 years ago) and one of the strongest memories of the day was the scent that hit me when I went into the church.  That fragrance takes me straight back.  

 I liked this little brick path leading to a willow arch and was surprised to see yellow and white tulips, blooming away merrily in July.  (Ah, the wonders of cold storage).
 Another restrained and tranquil garden with limited planting - grasses and agapanthus.  We all decided that it would be a calm and meditative place in which to sit.
 There were some beautifully bright displays of vegetables - despite the rotten growing year so far.
 We saw the Gardeners' World Team (Joe Swift, Monty Don and Carol Klein) doing their end piece to the camera for the Friday night programme.  Carol's wellies had diamante buckles, to add some glamour!

 If money was no object and I had a large garden, I would definitely have one (or two) of these tree fountains.  The one above reminds me of 'The Singing Ringing Tree' - a rather strange foreign children's TV programme that I remember from my childhood.  It was a fairy tale about a beautiful princess who needed to learn a lesson about helping people and not being vain and proud.  There was also a large fish, a wicked dwarf and a prince who had been turned into a bear.  One of the strange programmes that stayed with me.
 These water sculpture trees also reminded me of the willow fountain (or 'squirty tree' as I like to call it) in the gardens at Chatsworth.
Talking about children's programmes, there were gardens made by local schools and they were bright, colourful and clever.  My favourite programme, Bagpuss, was represented by the beautiful garden above, with all the characters - Madeleine, Gabriel, Professor Yaffle, the mice and Bagpuss himself.  The pink and white themed planting worked really well and this garden was 2nd (I can't remember which came 1st, but this one was definitely my favourite). There was also a garden based on The Herbs, but I forgot to take a photo of that one (oops).
Finally, the Magic Roundabout garden, full of colour, happiness and fun.  I really enjoyed my first visit to Tatton Park, despite the grey skies, it was a lovely day.  On a sunny day, I think it would have been even better, but then more people would have been there, so that may have been a disadvantage.  Perhaps another visit next year?

Sunday 22 July 2012

Tatton Park Flower Show (part one)

This was my first visit to Tatton park, which is situated just near Knutsford in Cheshire.  (I think Knutsford was the original inspiration for Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, although we didn't actually see much of Knutsford itself).  We had a very scenic drive across the Peak District and really enjoyed the landscape, although the journey took us 2 and a half hours - if we had used the motorways, it would have been quicker, but we wouldn't have seen the landscape.  I went with two friends (Katy and Alison) who I used to work with and my sister-in-law (Kathryn), all keen gardeners.   Above is the Mornflake garden which had lovely dry stone walls and lots of movement from the grasses.  I think it won best in show for its category, which was not surprising.
 I think that Tatton has a more 'country fair' feel than Gardeners' World Live in Birmingham.  It was much more open and much less frenetic.  There was a huge amount to see and even though we thought we'd managed to see everything, when I watched the TV coverage, there were gardens they focused on that we missed. 
The garden above had a great shot of colour and I was particularly taken by the sculpture/wildlife home wall at the end.
I couldn't resist a close up of it.
 This garden in the 'Orchestra' section was right up my street. I can't escape the inevitable - the traditional English Cottage garden is the style that appeals to me most.  Roses, clematis, cottage garden perennials, box hedging and somewhere to sit, which this garden 'Air on a Green String' gave an impression of, albeit a slightly grander one - more like a country house garden.
 Another of the 'Orchestra' gardens and a complete contrast.  Called 'Strings', it was clever and sophisticated, with restrained planting that worked very well to convey the movement of the string vibration.
 Here it is from the side, showing the undulating pattern made by the grass.
 The Suffragettes' garden was also clever,  with references to chaining to the railings, setting post boxes on fire and broken windows, but with some lovely pastel planting in the left corner.  The motto of the Suffragettes was on the wall - Dignity, Purity, Hope.
 This garden aimed to give a vision of the Peak District through the year, incorporating the changing colours and with a lovely bit of dry stone walling at the back.  It also won an award.
 This shade garden was beautifully planted and had a lovely granite block which echoed the box bushes and a simple but elegant bench.
I liked the blocks of strong colour provided by the cube seats in this garden, and the areas of different colours of planting - pale purples and blues, whites, greens and yellows with reds and deep purples at the back.
More in my next post...

Sunday 15 July 2012

Historical Costume - the final dress

 As we visited Mum and Dad yesterday (to support their village fete - more of that another time), I had the opportunity to photograph the last costume from Mum's hoard.  Above is the bodice front with lots of lace at the neckline and around the sleeves.  It is made from a rather gorgeous brocade with flowers on it and really must have looked quite spectacular. We are really lucky that it has been kept out of the light as the colours are still bright and beautiful.
The photos don't give any idea of how small the person who wore it was - it would only fit a small child these days.  Probably a size 6 or 8 at the most.  Of course, women were smaller in the past, and there would have been a corset under the dress to cinch the waist in even more, and a bustle.
The back of the bodice with red ribbons at the shoulders.
 A close up of the lace edging and material.
 Another view of the bodice, closed at the front showing the square neckline.
 The little bustle top which went round the waist and sat on the bustle.
 The back of the skirt which would have had another skirt underneath as it is cut away.  We don't have the original underskirt.
 The front of the skirt, which has a line of red bows down the centre and is short at the front, going down at the sides. Some stiffener has been used on the edge of the skirt.
 Chris held the skirt up to show the front.
 The maker's label.  As luck would have it, we did some research using trade directories of the day and census information and managed to find some information about 'Bevern'. 
1881 Census - Isabella Bevern
Born: 1836
Place of Birth: Farrington, Lancashire
Age: 45
Occupation: Dressmaker employing about 10 hands
Marital Status: Unmarried
Address: 33 Sackville Street

Also at above address on census day:
Charles Bevern
Age: 51

Business Directory of London 1884
Bevern, Isabella
Court Milliner
33 Sackville Street

However, she was not in the Post Offfice Directory of 1895 as either milliner or dressmaker and in the same directory, 33 Sackville Street has other occupants.  In 1895, 32 Sackville Street was described as "Milliners and Dressmakers Provident and Benevolent Institution".  I wonder what happened to her and where she went. She may have retired and moved back to Lancashire, or moved somewhere else in London.

So after all this, it is probably time to show you what the dress might have looked like around the 1870s, which is when we think it was made - just looking at it without a body inside requires a good deal of imagination!

 Teresa Thompson made this doll as well, and scanned in the material which she then printed onto the cotton that she used to make up the costume.  You can see the front of the skirt much more clearly, and how it showed the underskirt.
 In the side view, you can see the bustle top.
The bustle top can be seen here too and the red bows on the shoulders, so that the back of the dress was as impressive as the front.
I wonder what occasion the dress was made for and why Isabella Bevern's establishment was chosen for the commission?  It would be fascinating to know.

Thursday 12 July 2012

More cheerful things

 Sun at last! Blue sky and fluffy clouds, which is so uplifting after all the rainy days.
 A sugar almond pink hydrangea (Endless Summer Pink), flowering away despite being attacked by vine weevil (for which I have purchased some evil chemicals - I don't like using chemicals at all, but against this pest, it is war, as they have already killed off several of my plants in pots).  Still, there is the lovely pink to cheer me up.
 A lovely combination of roses (New Dawn and Cottage Rose), Clematis Perle D'Azur, and peeping out behind the roses at the top, Jasmine 'Clotted Cream' (mm... clotted cream, scones and raspberry jam...).
 My latest purchase of material - vintage in this case.  The shop assistant told me that the owner has bought some bolts of material from a draper's shop which closed down in the 1960s.  These bolts then sat at the owner's house, wrapped in the original paper until recently, when she decided to have a look at them.  There were some fabulous chintzy flower patterns and some cowboy prints too, but it was this one that caught my eye.  It would have been lovely to have had enough money to buy enough to make a huge 1950s skirt with loads of petticoats, but sadly my budget could only stretch to one metre.  However, having been inspired by a blog I follow, mrs thomasina tittlemouse , who has been making the most lovely rosy pillowcases, I decided I could use my material to do the same.  As my pillow is one that you don't turn over as it is specially shaped for my neck (I have had a few problems in the past and this Putnam pillow has really helped), I thought I'd use the material for the top and  calico for the bottom.  So far, I have washed the material and it is drying on the line.  I'll keep you posted on my (probably a bit slow) progress.
Finally, a rather blurry bee visiting the Jasmine 'Clotted Cream'.  I expect she/he is happy to be able to get out and about after all the rain.  She/He certainly seemed to be making the most of it - and so am I!

Monday 9 July 2012

Reasons to be cheerful

 Yes, it is still raining and most people seem to be thoroughly fed up with it.  However, so that I don't start moaning, I decided to celebrate some good things that are happening or will be happening shortly.  My newest rose 'Ferdinand Pichard' is flowering and has the most lovely stripy petals, a bit like Rosa Mundi, but with a paler background.  It has a delicate scent and the fact that I only planted it a month or so ago and it is now flowering makes me very happy.
The first flower on Clematis 'Piilu' which is a reliable and very floriferous plant.  However, I thought that this last winter had finished it off, but it has proved me wrong and is in danger of escaping over the six foot wall as it loves all the rain and has grown amazingly well. 
Other things to be cheerful about: a banana and apple loaf which is yummy, more gemstones on their way so that I can make some more jewellery, the fact that I have finally started the hand embroidery (lots and lots of french knots) on two felt pieces and (the one I am most excited about) I am going to Tatton Park Flower Show a week on Thursday, which should be fantastic.  I have never been there before, so it will be a new gardening-y experience.  Lots of good things to be cheerful about.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Lilac necklace

 I decided to cheer myself up (as the constant rain is becoming a little depressing) and make a new lilac necklace.  I used lilac mother of pearl, amethyst, fluorite, amethyst chips, labradorite chips, blue chalcedony and some Venetian glass beads.
I have worn it already and am very pleased with the way it looks.  As I have used the blue chalcedony in my design, I can wear it with both lilac and pale blue.  Making and wearing it did cheer me up too.