Thursday, April 28, 2011

Walk in the park

My new knitting project: a throw based on Mitred Crosses for Japan by Mason-Dixon Knitting.  This is in sock yarn on a cream Wendy Shetland base.  I do not have the pattern so have made up what I think must be the numbers needed.

It is ideal travel knitting - interesting enough but not too fussy.

We were blessed with glorious weather on our trip to Cumbria.  Our favourite valley walk is a circuit around Low Lorton and Boonbeck.  We prefer to be away from the crowds.  This walk offers  little streams and shady bridges

It passes interesting houses - here, one is for sale.  What can be the purpose of the steps?

We saw mamy sheep with lambs at foot, and drystone walls.

Spring flowers - primroses and wood violets - were just everwhere.

And all along the way, the accompaniment of birdsong.  My husband saw a redpoll, a pied flycatcher, a reed bunting...and many others.

Finally, my commemorative sampler for the birth of the Princess Royal.  The atttribution of the verse to Patience Strong suggests the source of the design.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Macclesfield Silks

En route for Cumbria, we spend two days visiting Macclesfield, known by locals as "Macc".  Macclesfield began as a centre for the production of silk covered buttons and from there developed "Throwing" mills for silk - "throwing" meaning plying to make thread.  With French silk no longer available, the early 1800s were boom years for Macclesfield.

  From the Town centre, the hills leading up to the Cat and Fiddle Inn and Wildboarclough are constantly in view.  Wonderful Venetian windows remain on buildings in the town centre. 

Once there were 120 silk mills in Macclesfield; now there is only one, although the mill buildings are everywhere, being used as offices and kitchen showrooms and apartments.  We visited the Heritage Centre, once a Sunday School for 2000 children, and built on exactly the same lines as a mill.

We had a guided tour of Paradise Mill, with Jaquard weaving looms for woven silk.  We were shown how the silk fibre is produced and the various processes preparing it for weaving.  Children as young as three would wind the little spools, or perns, which fit into the shuttles, using this wheel. I had only ever seen that word in Yeats' poetry, and I had no idea what it meant.

Winding a pern

Once the pern was in the shuttle, the thread was sucked though an aperture, hence the name "kissing shuttle".  Later, we would learn how this process spread tuberculosis and meant that cotton weavers inhaled the fibres. 

We were shown the design sheets, coloured in blocks of eight so that the holes could be punched on the Jacquard machine.  All that ingenuity to produce motifs on woven silk.  We also saw the Design school where students learnt their trade.  What we did not see were the four two up, two down cottages which were found to be housing 140 people - perhaps on a shift system - with only "the remains of a privy" between them.  That would be in the mid-nineteenth century.  We did hear a lot about how weavers rented their looms from the factory owner often paying over most of their earnings, and how five was the starting age but a tall three year old might be set on to work. 

All in all, it was a fascinating place to visit.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Forget me nots

After my father's death, sixteen years ago, I was helping my mother to tidy the garden.  I dug up a clump of forget me nots and brought them south to my own garden.  Never was a flower better named.  For several springs after that, they engulfed the whole garden.  Now, I have them tamed to specific areas, where they drown out all rivals.

This is certainly an amazing season for blossom.  Here, the two espaliered pears facing each other in our walled garden.  At the base of this one a clematis, Madame Grange, is making another bid for life.  The harsh winter seems to have kick-started everything rather than killing it off.

A viburnum in full flower, threaded through with a clematis Montana.  the second picture shows some of the many insects attracted by its heady scent.

Finally, an image of our allotment plate. As a child, I lived in a farmhouse which had been in my father's family for more than one generation.  My great-grandfather, who was described in his obituary as a "dalesman of the old school," was  bookish, perhaps because he had crippled himself as a yourng man. The story was that he was scything the grass in the orchard when he cut his own Achilles' tendon.  There being no doctor to hand, his mother sewed him up with a sewing needle and thread.  Thereafter he walked with two sticks.   The attic at our farm was full of books which he had collected, and which amazed us as children. 

Also up there were two plates made by embedding fragments of broken china into cement on a tin plate base.  When we kept finding pieces on our allotment, it occurred to me that I could make such a plate myself - this is the result.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Stately Home

Last weekend to the Cotswolds to visit my father-in-law's widow.  We try to stay over in Stratford as it's a long day's driving otherwise.  This, the revamped Shakespeare Memorial theatre, with the curious tower, somewhat like a medieval Italian city state.  In the foreground, a glorious magnolia, dripping with blooms.

A further sample of my husband's craft,  this tea caddy was made for his mother's sixtieth birthday, more than twenty years ago.  He was very pleased to be able to shade the marquetry using hot sand heated in a metal tray to singe the individual  pieces.

On our way, we called at Upton house, home of the Samuels family, of Shell Oil.  The ambience is that of a house party in the thirties, although the collection of pictures is quite impressive, and worth millions.  We were able to view the paintings without the inevitable press of people in the National Galleries.

In the billiard room, we were surprised to see an item of "kit" that we recognised: we have one in our dining-room.  I asked if we could see the interior and we were very entertained to see the room steward don a pair of white gloves before opening it up for us.  We will have to get a pair to use with ours!

This is a "Star" record cabinet - ours.  Note the Art Deco shaping to the lower edge.  My husband inherited it and set about converting it to hold a tuner and a turntable on which he plays his 78s.  The lid lifts up on a hinge to allow this.   Who knew it was the choice of millionaires?

Pansies and pear blossom in the garden.  Such cheerful flowers, pansies, with their curious markings, and in such brilliant combinations of colours.  We encouraged the buying and planting of trays of these in the Cotswold garden too.