Saturday 31 August 2013

A herringbone cushion for Cornhill Terrace

I have always wanted to be a great seamstress but feel my careless attitude to measuring has always resulted in inexact sewing. This often doesn't live up to my expectations for a usable product and the whole un-malleableness  of fabric in comparison to paper or wool makes it hard for me to find my haphazard trial and error approach ok. However I did make our curtains and bed spreads nearly 2 decades ago and am approaching the task of replacing them as they are both faded and chewed or torn by all our animals ! These are big projects and I'm struggling to find the fabrics I want that suit our dark small roomed cottage but yet are bright and bold.

I'm not very good at completing these big craft tasks ( so watch this space) but I have completed a cushion for L's birthday, and have squashed it into my hand luggage and squeazy-jetted it up to Edinburgh. I started it at Millie Moons in Wells last year with my friend Kate, but had just never found the time to finish it off, but here it is complete! The sewing is a bit squint, as ever, but the cushion itself is great and I really like the choice of pink spots to complement the blue and greens of the patches. The patchwork pieces were from a 'jelly roll' of precut pieces and the herringbone pattern was really very quick to do. 

The booker long list ...

J and I have been involved in a book club in our village since 2008.  E has also occasionally joined us when home or from a distance. Initially we invited people we knew read and were interested in literature. This has expanded and we have had the real joy of meeting and getting to know an extended circle of neighbours and colleagues. We meet once monthly in each others homes and, not knowing how other book clubs organise their choIces, we decided that each month in turn someone would suggest a book we read, they then 'present' why they chose it and what was good/provocative/informative about it to the group and we then discuss it in detail. Each meeting someone also chooses and brings along a poem to read to the group, often reflecting some of the themes presented by the book being explored or championed that evening. Tea and wine are integral to the discussions!

I am always impressed and touched how courteous and sensitive everyone is to each others choice, yet able to be truthful and positive in criticism of the books we read. We rarely have the same opinion about the books and I don't feel I can, even now, predict who will like each choice. We have also read many different genres - including  historical, western, crime, science fiction, magical realism, nature/observation, classics, autobiography - and I feel I have read books I would never have picked up if they had not been prompted by the group. As I sometimes have reading 'deserts' when I just can't seem to concentrate enough to read a book it's also been something that has really forced me not to give up and find a way thorough these times at least once a month.

This year and last year we have also had an extra ploy. We are each reading a book on the Booker long list - 13 novels published this year and chosen by the Booker judges - and will meet to each very briefly present the books individually, (without giving the plot away) and propose, from each others judgement,  which will make the short list of 6. There is then a gap of a month before the winner is announced and we each then all read as many of the six as we can to then be more informed and involved when the winner is announced in mid October. It makes such a difference to have read the  books to then listen to and be involved in the discussion of the most important literary prize of the year.

This year I have recruited our village library into the whole event and the meeting to discuss the announcement is going to be open to any one and in a special open evening at the library ! Lets hope my organisation and publicity is going to be up to it with the help of a lovely community librarian, Dave from North Somerset. 

Saturday 24 August 2013

The Tale of the Amazing Blanket

Once upon a time, E had an idea. For J's 50th Birthday (2012), she contacted friends and family to all knit bunting! Sounds like a mad idea - but it worked really well. They had a weekend long party and it finished with a magnificent caleigh where the bunting was hung:

(here it is laid out on the floor being put together)

This had been such a fun project to do that in the summer E wanted to do another joint craft project. But what to do... The idea came at once! E had always wanted to knit a blanket herself, but had never quite been able to commit to the sheer volume of knitting. But if you have 10 or 20 knitters all doing squares...? Well, that's quite a different matter.

E cast the request far and wide, and the squares came in thick and fast...

The squares could be any colour and any stitch, the only requirement was they be 5x5 inches. It was amazing to see the variety of wools and colours and patterns - what creativity all these people had! Before too long though, E had too many squares and she had to tell people to stop! Now, with two large bags full of squares, the blanket was ready to be formed.

One Saturday back in the autumn, A and E discussed blanket designs. They thought for a long while and then started experimenting with colour combinations and patterns. Here was their idea in the end:

Sadly, there were too many squares to use all of them - this is already a double bed size blanket we're talking about! But the other squares will be put to good use in time, don't worry. (E and A have ideas about joining them together to make cat blankets, but that may be a different story.)

Originally, E was going to learn to crotchet. But, plans changed and she asked the magnificent K to do the honours of fitting the blanket together. K worked industriously over the Winter and early Spring months and, pretty quickly, the blanket was finished. Some of the squares weren't quite 5x5 inches, so there was a lot of stretching and ingenious manipulating to be done. But she worked wonders. And what a sight to behold.

(beautiful blanket on the beach at Lyme)

This story is not quite finished yet. The blanket is being raffled to raise money for Studio Upstairs - a brilliant charity that provides a space for people with mental and emotional health difficulties to come together as a working community and express themselves and their talents. There are two studios - the original one in Bristol, and now one in London as well. They allow people access to materials and exhibition space as well, offering the potential for real careers in the arts world.

So... the blanket will be finding a new home soon. E secretly wishes she could keep it, but she hopes that whoever it goes to will love it as much as she does and everyone does who has contributed. It may not be a work of art, but it does represent a community - a community of people brought together through knitting. May the spirit of the blanket live on!


Every week I visit Ellie I bring flowers....  It's now heading  towards September but I still to find her a little bunch each time. I have an almost perpetual supply of coloured raffia to bind them. We have also got transporting them down to a fine art with a large plastic clear pot full of life preserving water sitting in the cup holder of the car all the way to London.

Each week 
I bring you flowers from the garden
From home.

Snowdrops and posied primroses,
Shy cyclamen from underneath the rose tree
Sweet narcissi
Paper plum blossom
The blue brilliance of forget-me-nots
Faces of acquilegia
Your wig wammed sweet peas and
Clouds of 
Mother goethes white stars.

Sprays of white tree roses
The scented gold from outside your window
Stout ever forgiving valerian and orange day lilies
Silvered sage 
And playful catnip and lavender.

And the summer plantings of 
Cosmos, antirrhinum, zinnias ,dahlias
And giant daisies and lemon balm.

Tall Japanese and omens
Rattling statice
Fennel heads from the triangled patch
Seed pods and haws and 
The ivy that cements our stones

I bring myself each week.
Home always come to you
With love.

Sunday 11 August 2013

And the kittens are still growing

Moo and kosh continue to grow! The most amazing development is that Kirry is now having her face washed by Moo, and Kosh is continuing with her whole body rubs and wraps to greet Kirry and plays a batting game with her which doesn't end with Kirry rushing off in disgust! It's better than I ever could have expected as adult cats often really struggle to get on with new cats sharing their territory. Kirry has tolerated other cats in the past but LC was a struggle for her as she was jumped on unexpectedly and erratically bullied as she went in and out the cat flap. Despite being introduced to the smell of the kittens for 4 weeks before they arrived, and then their smell and sound for a week,  she was horrified when she actually saw them. So they are a beautiful trio and I feel hopeful for them living contentedly with each other.

The kittens are 12 weeks old tomorrow and have their final vaccination so we can think about them going outside in a fortnight or so. They are incredibly settled in the house - favourite places for sleeping are the warm spot on the wellies in the conservatory, the blue basket wherever it is, and on the bed between us... The cat activity centre I made them with a cardboard box isn't enticing but a red snake gifted to them from a friend at work, marbles and cotton reels and the bowls of shells and stones around the house keep them busy.

Kosh is still bigger than her brother and still has her wonderful 'chirrup.' She rushes around the house musically and purrs every time you talk to her. She spontaneously jumps on your knee and settles down these days.

Moo most enjoys batting and his favourite toy is still a tiny pretend mouse that now doesn't have a tail but still has its rattle. He also likes poking at some huge blue and silver marbles when you put them inside a box but they often end up stuck under the piano.

Ten pm is kitten banana-time and they go ballistic for an hour, and will run from one end of the house to the other, then roll about in play fighting until exhausted. I wonder how people manage to entertain a single kitten? These two certainly seem very happy with each others' company. 
They then actually sleep soundly on our bed or with Kirry under the window of our bedroom until 5.15 am. It's almost completely reliable that they start to play fight and bite our toes some time between 10 and 20 past 5 and at this point we have to shut them out of the bedroom to get a final hour or so' s sleep! 

And T had a birthday...

Birthdays have always been really special in our family and a chance to celebrate the person in good style! I have never completely understood the relaxed unpersonal approach to birthdays other families have. So we have had so many wonderful adventures and occasions over the years and this year, despite E not being able to join us in person we met up for a luxury picnic in a beautiful perfectly proportioned basket found in a second hand shop in bristol. it was filled with home made and bought goodies and we sat in the sun on the grounds of Wadham College Oxford, were entertained by the Merrry wives of Windsor then returned to T and Hs for a home cooked Indian and vast chocolate cake. The play was fun despite some misgivings about the modern hooded rap like interpretation of a couple of the characters, and the day good despite awful news for H on our return.

Pictures to follow!