Saturday, 28 April 2012

Guest Bloggers: Polly and (Esther) Wadding

Hello Blog Readers! Esther and I are simply delighted to have been invited to write for Lynne's little blog,  what ever a blog might be - and it is truly amazing to be able to watch ourselves on the computer. By the time you read this, we will be taking a dry sherry at Ye Olde Nooke, Antiques and Bric-a-brac with our friends, Timmy and Claude, in order to view their machine.

I must first of all tell you that my sister Esther and I bear absolutely no resemblance to that little picture at the top there, this is just one of Lynne's naughty jokes. No, to describe us, you would have to imagine me as quite tall and, and Esther as, well, a little on the thin and wispy side. We are very different in both looks and character. It takes all sorts.

Now don't run away with the idea that WE have put this on the computer! Good grief, no; I typed this on the WI typewriter at  the village hall, here at Quiltenham Staithe.

I just managed to get in quick before the awful Hermione Cripps arrived to monopolise it as usual. Then off I sent it by post, and here we all are - reading it "on-line"! I am so vividly reminded of the days when I would type up my "copy" for the  Norfolk Quilters' magazine "Quilters' Quarter" and "Kaleidoscope", the regional magazine of the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles, and dear Mr Pols would cycle across Norfolk to take it away for printing! Ah, happy, happy times! In fact, if any of you are struggling to remember, we began as correspondents in May 1994 - a lifetime away, it seems.

My sister and I reside at The Old Rectory, left to us by our dear Papa, Rector of this village for many years.

Such a shame really as it is a very large house, and much better suited to the current incumbent at St Ethelburga-in-the-Fields who has to make do with the New Rectory.

My sister and I belong to the village quilting group, Dumpling Quilters, and we meet once a month in the upper room at the Plough and Treadle. We like to think we have a sobering influence, but I fear that is often not the case. We are  very tradtional group, none of these 'art quilts' - a misnomer if ever I heard one.  "yes, "I  remember saying to a proponent, when first viewing such an exhibit. "It might be Art, but is it a Quilt??"  We are currently working on a series of quilted hassocks for Quiltenham Abbey, and a small quilt for baby Cosimo, son of Luciano and Arabella Quiltenham-Millefiore of Quiltenham Manor.

Also in the pipe-line are the individual quilts we are preparing for our annual exhibition held with most gracious permission of Sir Eustace Withering-Glance at his stately pile Witheringly-Chilly Hall.

Chilly by name and chilly by nature, but there, beggars can't be choosers, can they? Now then, dears, I fear I must stop now, and hope that the brevity of this article will suit, and that we may, perhaps, be invited to contribute again at some time. I would love to update you on our quilting endeavours, and to introduce to you more friends and other inhabitants of our little village; thrill you with our ongoing cat-and-mouse battle with the ladies of the Womens' Institute, and regale you with tales and pictures of the impending exhibition by our stitching friends The Greensleeves over at Much-Quilting-In-The-Ditch.

Until then, au revoir, dear Readers,

Polly and (Esther) Wadding.

EDITED NOTE FROM LYNNE: If you click on the word BLOWZABELLA in the previous post, the link will take you to some info about the band and a sound bite. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Silver Linings

                                                      There are tulips at the bottom of our garden......

Well, dear Reader, abject apologies for the non-appearance of my Guest Bloggers. A frantic phone call from them to say that the weather has been so bad they haven't yet been able to take any decent photographs, and they want so badly to show you the village. So you will have to make do with me.

It's such a dismal day, rain coming down in torrents - and I expect it is where you are, too, that I thought we need to search beyond the clouds for that silver lining they tell us is lurking there. So, we need some COLOUR !!

                                                                Mint, Muscari and Lovage

One garden element which does NOT constitute a Silver Lining, is the Rook Colony in the oak beyond our garage. Pestilential creatures! They make a dreadful, raucous racket, they drop sticks all over the garden, and they drop other stuff too, which covers the car and prevents me from hanging the washing out!! This is just one treeful - there are so many of them in the village, they have been taking over, the past few years.

                                                            The Garage Oak Rook Colony

Let's have some more colour, hey? These first few shots are of unfinished items for the craft fair.

                                                  spotty floral cushion - must trim those wisps!

                                                                                         close-up of broderie perse

                                                              Small cot quilt - more quilting to be done yet.

And the next few silver linings are finished items, some of which I hadn't originally intended to put on the stall, but I've had a re-think, and decided that I will after all.

                                             Hmmm, not my best shot. Top of a small quilted sampler.

                                                Two, naive wall quilts I designed some years ago - yes, tacking to remove!

                                                         I'm thinking this is unlikely to be finished!!!But it is cheerful.

                                                              Embroidered applique detail - Birds and Baskets Quilt

                                              A bigger shot of the quilt. This is made with flannel, and is a real cuddler!

Well, there you have it, I hope these photos have brightened up your day a little. The rain doesn't appear to have abated one jot since breakfast-time, and I have to go out in it later driving myself to Norwich or thereabouts. However, this is actually the biggest Silver Lining of them all, as tonight I am going with a friend to Norwich Arts Centre to see BLOWZABELLA!!!!!!!!!!  Fantasic band which includes my favourite melodeon player of all time -ANDY CUTTING. So it can rain all it likes - but perhaps not while we are running from the car-park! There is bound to be some dancing, and I know we'll be meeting other friends, so a real treat in store.

I do hope you are managing to find your own Silver Linings. Catch you next time.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Judging a Book by its Cover

                                    Kitchen Books I: Pickles, Preserves, Spices and Terrines

The old adage tells us not to judge a book by its cover. Now, we know this was meant as a metaphor for not being deceived by appearances, but I wonder how many of us are literally, and frequently, taken in by the cover of a book or glossy magazine. Only to be disappointed to varying degrees when we finally sit down and open it up for a good read.

                                         Kitchen Books II: Baking and Breadmaking

                                                               Kitchen Books III: General Cookery Books

                                Kitchen  Books III - t'other side of door. (which I should have shut, aesthetically speaking!)

Buying on Amazon is a two-edged sword, as you have to balance the cheaper price with being unable to thoroughly scan the contents before purchase, as you would in the bookshop. (And I'm not even getting into the argument about the decline of the local booksop.) I'm pretty careful with books, I have to say, but have still been caught out on occasion by a promising cover and description which doesn't deliver the goods.  Magazines, though are a regular disappointment - perhaps I should lower my expectations! These days publishers are very hip to the value of a bit of 'eye candy' on the front cover, and I am frequently seduced by the colour, style and design of a magazine - generally a textile/craft or home decor title. I buy fewer than I used to, as, like you, I'm watching where my pennies are going; but I find time after time that there is a disparity between style and content.

                         Living Room Books. Yes, there's another shelf underneath, which you can't see.

                                        Part of my Textile Book Collection in the Sewing Room. Erm....still to face de-cluttering...

Having said that, when you've pared your outgoings down to essentials AGAIN, and denied yourself yet another treat for the taste-buds on account of health/beauty (!), the cost of a magazine, for those of us lucky enough to be able to afford it, seems a small price to pay.  I should curb my expectations a little, and enjoy my little visual, guilt-free treat. Do you have the same experience? Or are you more judicious in your buying habits?

                           The very tiny (and very tidy, now!) Porch. I had to stand outside to take this one!

 J's collection of fishing books in the inglenook

The photographs in this post relate  to the various book piles in our cottage. I think the only bookless rooms are the bathroom and the downstairs loo, I've even squeezed shelves onto the landing and in the tiny porch. Actually I'm quite proud of the porch, as when we re-painted it earlier this year  I culled so many books, we got rid of  two shelves entirely. It was very difficult, as I make friends with my books, and some of them had been around a long time. But go they did, from porch, sewing room, living room, kitchen, bedrooms - J took FOUR boxes, each the size of a small chest of drawers, to the recycling centre. 

books in the spare bedroom...............

.........books on the landing..........

....books on the beam in our bedroom........

I felt quite light-headed when they'd gone, and actually I haven't missed one of them. All part of the grand, on-going de-clutter which has been happening here for the last 4 months. And judging by some other bloggers - notably Lucy over at attic24 - we are all at it, clearing away our 
shelves of doom and other shameful household blackspots .

                                                ........and finally, books above our bed.

 I did take a photo of the small collection in the tiniest bedroom - now the computer/dressing room (because it has a wardrobe in it!)  but there was too much husband in the way and I was in a hurry!
So you see, this small pile is all that remains of the vast library which threatened to overtake our small home! These are the Ones That Got Away, for one reason or another.  Neither J nor I are daft enough to have imposed a moratorium on further purchases, however, so I'm sure at some point we are going to have to re-cull. Just not yet!

Now then, if all goes well, the next post will be a little different, as I may be having a Guest Blogger. Yes! Get me! In fact, there may be two of them, two very old friends of mine from up on the North Norfolk coast. They live in an Old Rectory in a small village, and, if you have been quilting about in Norfolk for a few years, you very well may remember them..............

Bye for now - Lynne.

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Dinner of Herbs

Actually, we didn't dine on herbs alone, to be honest, but I'd just picked this little collection to go in the casserole and I rather liked the picture they made on the old tin plate! That happens quite frequently these days; I see photo-opportunities all over the place now that I'm uploading to the blog. I wouldn't say I've become a better photographer, but I am starting to look at composition rather than just snapping away!

When J and I went up to Walsingham last week we popped into the Farm Shop and bought some of their beautiful meat. (Veggie friends look away NOW!) I was looking for some brisket or skirt to slow cook, partly because the slow-cooking cuts are so much tastier than the posher steaks, and also because they are very much cheaper. I noticed a new-to-me cut of beef - short ribs, cheapest cut on the slab! and bought some. Slow cooked with leeks, onions, garlic and mushroom, peppers and celery, some nuggets of frozen spinach, stock and a generous few glugs of red wine, and of course my freshly picked herbs.  It was a beautiful, aromatic, flavoursome concoction. If I do say it myself!

        (My kitchen walls are not blue - that's a'hygeinic' chopping board you can see behind the knife block!)

I've never seen that cut before, and I've been cooking dinners for 40 years now, and never heard my mum mention it either. The young butcher said he'd always known about it but then he's only been butchering for 7 years. Do let me know if you've heard of or cooked short rib and also where you are from - it certainly wasn't on the menu growing up in Liverpool! But doesn't it look great?

Stitch and Bitch met last Wednesday. It was a chatty, relaxed group, who stitched, laughed, encouraged and consumed much tea, coffee, cake and biscuits. And lunch. It was a strictly female group, not counting J who popped in for coffee once or twice, and the noble exception of Arfa. Who really is an Honorary Member.

Arfa is a Galgo, or Spanish Greyhound (correct me if I'm wrong)  rescued from a terrible life in Spain, by Yvonne. He has one eye, which actually has a cataract, and is deaf in one ear - hence his name, Arfa, as he is only 'arfa a dog. He is exceptionally well behaved, and is well used to accompanying Yvonne to her various stitching destinations!

                      "No, Arfa, you are NOT going into the kitchen!" says his mum, firmly.

Yvonne is working on a rag rug for Big Blue Sky, a shop which sells lovely 'Made in Norfolk' hand-made items. She also teaches rugging workshops and makes fabulous jewellery using silver, and semi-precious stones.

      It's actually a proddy rug, but I've photgraphed it from the back so you can see the pattern better. Ooops, you can also see the ring-marks on my old pine table too! It gets sanded down, periodically.

Also photographed from the back is Pam's version of a Laurel Burch pattern of two horses. As she is working in reverse applique you can't really see too much from the front as yet.

              Pam is the Queen of this technique. She won't admit it, but we know different.

Victoria is well on the way to completing her first quilt. Machine pieced, hand quilted, it started life as two pairs of pyjamas in beautiful Liberty prints. S&B today included a communal teach-in on double-fold binding.

Lynne K is stitching her way through a rag-book, based on that classic "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", which we have all given or read to our children and grandchildren over the years. Lynne is the neatest hand stitcher I know. I love to hand applique, but will never match her beautiful stitching.

                                              Aren't those fabric choices inspired?

And I was just finishing off a small cot quilt for the craft fair. It'll look nicer when it's been through a machine-wash cycle, and looks a little 'aged'.

So there you have it, a swift whizz around the table to show you what we were up to. Next time we meet will be after the craft fair - I hope we are in celebratory mood! But if not, I know I'll be cheered up and sustained by this group of lovely ladies. And Arfa!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Textile Tarts

                                                      Self Portrait. AKA Lily the Pink!

Are you a Textile Tart? Could you be true to only one genre, or do you like to play the field? Perhaps you are a serial monogamist, or yet again, you may be blissfully happy, wedded to a single calling.

I have to confess to being something of a style philanderer. There is so much out there to dabble in, I just could not restrain myself to one creative outlet. And there-in probably lies my expertise downfall. I've tried them all, cross-stitch, first on printed cloth, then counted stitch work, becoming more proficient until I was designing my own samplers; cloth doll making - from the prosaic Raggedy-Anne to the more contempory, handpainted, much embellished Art Doll; (looking a tad muscular, it must be said!)

Wild and wonderful wacky waistcoat making - this even led to a series of workshops given across the county, some years ago; and  for a while I became known for my naive folk art quilts, and again, taught classes on the subject.

Then I was off - experimentation was the name of the game, and I became - briefly - a Textile Artist!

Yes! It's true! I was a member of a bone fide Quilt Art group, Anglia Textile Works, which is an excellent body and goes on from strength to strength. With ATW I exhibited in Churches, Arts Centres and Galleries, - and even sold one or two pieces. But I always felt somewhat bogus, to be honest, and I left the group, quite amicably , several years ago.

 For a while I stopped stitching. My sewing room became a depository for anything which didn't have a home and made me feel even less like going in there. Then I discovered PAPER and zoomed off down a blind alley to pursue  journalling, book making, paper making, stamping, and a myriad other things to do with mixed media.

Then a friend told me firmly I had played around long enough, time to get back to stitch, and took me to a delightful Janet Bolton workshop. Picking up cloth, needle and thread once again was like coming home. And working on a small scale such as Janet has perfected was somehow so satisfying. Janet is, of course, an artist, and is so well known her workshops and books have spawned a plethora of pale imitations of her work - my own included.  I love making these small stitcheries, they are just so .....complete in themselves, is the only way I can describe my feeling for them.

Once back into my sewing room I began making quilts and other stitched items, samplers, hangings, and so on. Oh, and while I'm in confessional mode, I have to mention a prediliction for beading and other embellishment, and admit to ongoing but superficial flings with rag-rugging and crochet.

Oh dear, it's all looking a bit sleazey, isn't it? And we haven't even been near machine versus hand quilting, applique versus pieced quilts, tradtional versus contemporary, indigo dyeing and shibori, bag making, hats, scarves and cushions. I know, I know, you faithful types are probably pursing your lips in disgust at my profligacy. I can say only one thing in my defence: no experience is ever wasted, and I have learned a lot along the way. Oh, ok, that's two things.

So, yes, I guess I am an unrepentant Textile Tart, and my life has been all the more colourful because of it. How about you? Leave me a comment and let us all know!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Feed Sacks and a few Glimpses


How weird is this weather? Heatwave last week, two days ago they were ankle deep in snow not that many miles north of us, and then this morning - here comes the sun again! At least we had a good 36 hours of rain, we need it here in dry old East Anglia. My poor pots are going to take a hammering as we've just been hit by a hose-pipe ban due to last the rest of the year!

Ok, I said I'd talk about Feed Sacks. These fabrics were literally used to package animal feed. During the Depression Era in the USA, people were hard up. In rural communities, women were hard pressed to afford material to make new clothes for their families. Feed sacks were taken apart and re-used to back rugs, and make utilitarian household items, and sometimes even clothes. Canny feed merchants realised that if they printed their sacks with patterns mimicking cotton prints, women would persuade their farmer husbands to buy that particular brand of feed. The trend caught on, extending to flour, sugar, salt and meal bags also. The sacks would be re-cycled to make clothes, and when these wore out, they would in turn be re-recycled to make quilts. Many of these exist today, and they have become collectors' items.

These examples are taken from a book called "Sugar Sack Quilts'" and it's by Glenna Hailey.

In the 1980's, in response to the modern quilting boom, reproduction versions of the old feed sack fabrics appeared, and a new generation of quilters discovered their appeal. I doubt if many of those users of the original fabrics would approve of this new trend, as they would represent a time of poverty, and possibly shame. We younger women hold them in regard for precisely their humble and practical origins. You will find heaps of other books on the subject, and if you search on google, you could probably write a doctorate with the deluge of information you'll find.

Now, a little about the craft fair which I'm working towards. It's to be held at Drove Orchards Farm on May 7th, the Bank Holiday Monday. If you're within driving distance of North Norfolk, the venue lies between the villages of Holme-Next-The-Sea and Thornham, on the coast road. They held a successful Christmas Market last year, and propose five more events in 2012. I'm delighted to be having a stall, my very first! Below are some glimpses of a few of the items I hope to be selling.

Phew, got a bit carried away there! Having only recently started to feel reasonably confident at uploading photos I'm finding it a bit addictive! Mind you, having said that, I know I enjoy blogs with a bit of colour and eye candy as well as the textual content. So I hope you enjoyed this small selection; there will also be quilts, bags and jewellery on the stall.

We are at this moment having an extended Good Friday breakfast. J is tackling the Independent's crossword, I'm blogging, and the sun is streaming through the dining room windows - though it is 'crisp' outdoors. A lovely easy day ahead of us before the busy week-end; my mum's 90th birthday, with meals out, family celebration at ours - and the cooking and preparation that entails...all good fun! I hope your Easter is equally busy and happy in which ever way you spend it. See you next time!