Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spun yarn

A second royal sampler, this time simpler in its sentiments, but dense with symbolism.  Note the orb and sceptre, along with the symbols for the various nations, and the abbey itself - quite an ambitious design.  Given how old this already is, the lightness and brightness of the colours is quite surprising.  Does it capture the optimistic mood of the 1950s?  Well, certainly there was a less cynical view of the monarchy just then than there is now. A case of too much information, perhaps.

This may not look like much, but it is the first yarn I have ever spun, using a drop spindle and knitted as singles.  I was quite surprised by how even the finished piece looked, given the unevenness of the yarn.  The lighter colour is part of the Suffolk fleece I bought some years ago, while the dark is a Shetland sample. 

And here, two skirts, made from the Linton tweed fabric bought from the factory shop in Carlisle in February.  I have already worn the black and white one which is light and airy.  I still think it looks like tower blocks as seen from a ring road.  The speckled section is a raffia type yarn, with lots of protruding ends forming a pile.  Consequently some of the bands were less stable than others in the sewing, although it made up easily enough.  I imagine wearing this with black tights and a solid colour jacket. 

The red has been made up for my elder sister, at her request.  It is a mix of black and red threads to give a rich deep red, but it is  loosely woven.  I could envisage it snagging quite easily in wear.  Did Chanel worry about issue like these, I wonder?

Today, to the allotment, to plant leeks and parsnips, our onions already in.  Such a bright sunny day that we were able to  eat lunch on the patio, as we were on Friday.  In between, Saturday was raw and cold again.  Watching Mike Leigh's "Another Year" last night gave a whole new layer of meaning to the allotment visit. 

Friday, March 18, 2011


Yesterday, to the funeral of my husband's father; a bitingly cold day with a grey mist.  A small gathering of family and representatives of the public life he once led: a dignified end,  a quality which serious illness often erodes.

In our garden, though, flowers of different kinds are in full bloom.  The lovely, clear mid-blue of grape hyacinths.

Daffodils, against a background of budding pear branches.  If Wordsworth were to visit Essex he would be overwhelmed by the jocund company: thousands of daffodils in every public space and road verge.

And the pure white of a hellebore, gifted to us by our neighbour.

The approaching Royal Wedding is bringing with it the usual odd range of souvenirs.  I have a small collection of samplers from different periods.  Imagine the feelings of the embroidress in this case.  The design must have been from a magazine,  intended for the coronation of Edward V111.  Notice the stamp appliqued to the fabric, and the row of flags of the Empire.  Then the shock of the Abdication - what to do?  So she ( one can only imagine it was a she) added her own text to the border. A nation's disappointment, indeed.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Ever thought how nice it would be to have a little stream running at the bottom of your garden?  The gurgling noises, the constant movement, moisture feeding your plants without you lifting a hand?

This little spring  popped up about a month ago just at the corner of our allotment - that is our seedbed in the picture, or it would be were it not waterlogged.

Quite a little stream is running along the channel cut for it.  Apparently the drainage ditch must be blocked, the water table has risen to within a spade's depth of the surface and the spring has made itself visible for the first time in many years.  All the upper half of our plot is soggy, which is probably doing our blackcurrant bushes no good at all.

New growth on our rhubarb, grown from seed three years ago, one of a block of eight.  We are still eating rhubarb frozen from the crops last year.  We also have two of a different variety which cooks to red rather than green, which we bought from a charity stall in Ludlow some years ago.

Brilliant blue skies and the fresh green of a weeping tree over the river.  Is this a willow?  I'm not sure.  On the other side of the bridge there certainly are willow plantations, planted by Surridges, for making cricket bats.  The uncle of a friend of mine spent his working life at the company based in Witham.

An interesting comparison.  On the left, Regia sock yarn designed by Kaffe Fassett.  Lovely clear blues in shimmering patterns, set off by a curious khaki splodge. Cost:over eight pounds for a pair.    On the left, sock yarn by King Cole: same sort of turquoise and a purply colour, distributed more mechanically across the piece.  Cost: about half what the Regia costs.  It will be interesting to see how they wear, but also, given that I generally wear socks with black trousers and clogs, whether I continue to be aware of the difference in daily use.

This week's words, following alphabetically  from "Clarty" - dirty or sticky.  "Clatting" meant telling tales or grassing someone up, as Essex would have it.  "Clab" could be either a noun or a verb, meaning something plastered on, as in butter on bread, or at least, I think that is what it meant.  I haven't heard some of these words in forty years.  My parents were not really dialect speakers themselves and they certainly did not think speaking broad would bring with it any advantages for their children, so it was discouraged.  Now, I find these words have all the charm of the endangered or newly extinct specimen  in nature.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Signs of Spring

For those of you still under several feet or inches of snow, some green shoots, the first a delphinium which may live - or die - to regret this spurt of new growth.

 More promising are these buds on the espaliered pear, although the blossom needs to wait a while.  This, in a week when the temperature has fallen again, so that it is actually painful to be outdoors without mittens.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I enjoy a bargain almost above anything.  Clothes for which I have paid the full price almost never become my favourites, while something picked up at Oxfam will be never off my back.

Here a little treasure trove of items acquired over the years in Essex, some three hundred and fifty miles from Cumbria.  First, the woven mohair scarf, in such wonderful deep-dyed colours.  Someone obviously found it too tickly to wear next to the skin.  It was brand-new when I found it in a charity shop.

Then, this little dish made in Borrowdale by Lakeland Rural Industries.  Once there was a thriving art metalwork industry based at Keaswick.  Even in the early Seventies, items made in stainless steel were on sale.  This is descibed as Hand-beaten and bears the characteristic markings of that process.

Finally, the larger bowl by John Harrison, a craftsman in metal based at Penrith.  Again, this was in a charity shop in Essex.  It has a mirror finish, so shiny that you can see our stained glass windows reflected in the surface.

This week's words: My younger sister gave us a Voucher for Christmas.  It's a voucher for meat from Heritage Meats at Yew Tree Farm, Coniston.  The web-site offers cuts of pork, beef and Herdwick lamb and mutton, using the word "Hogget".  My father kept a flock of sheep on our small fell-farm, but he chose Cheviots, on the grounds that they are  larger animals with light coloured wool.   No one ever suggested processing the wool at home; fleeces went into a large wool-sack and off to the Wool Board.  Even the daggets were bought by the travelling scrap metal merchants.
So there is a repertoire of words for sheep: hogg, gimmer, wether, twinter, yow, tip.  "Smit" was the red marking pigment, used to identify the sheep as ours: two pops on one side.  "Ratch" is a verb, meaning to go in search of forage.  In our house it was also used for looking in drawers or cupboards which were not one's own!