Friday, May 24, 2013

First Fruits


This week we ate the first of the lettuces grown on from seedlings.  Odd how lettuce seems to be frost-resistant.  I had thought this might have the bitter taste red lettuces sometimes have, but in fact it was tender and sweet.

Yesterday I made the first batch of jam this year: rhubarb and ginger.  I remember eating this at my grandmother's house, but I have never made it before.  One kilo of rhubarb with a kilo of jam sugar and some preserved ginger.  It was very easy to make and tastes absolutely delicious.

This is the Spectra scarf by Stephen West.  I used Noro Silk Garden Lite in an odd colourway where the second skein suddenly included a bright orange - I left it out.  Now the puzzle is to work out how to wear this, as, of course, it twirls around.  Looks spectacular though, and would be an ideal way to use up two skeins  of lovely yarn bought on impulse.

My new project is just up and running, speaking of lovely skeins.  I bought this at The Woolclip at Caldbeck at Easter. It has a large element of silk in the mix so that the colours really glow.   Something with leaves, I thought, and downloaded the pattern for the Star Leaves shawl by Jennifer Johnson Johnen.

This is Estonian lace, and even the explanations for the abbreviations had me foxed.  But the wonders of the Internet are boundless.  On the Ravelry KAL for the shawl, some kind soul has uploaded a little video tutorial on the unfamiliar stitches - taking the picture herself by holding the camera under her chin while filming.  Truly amazing and very helpful. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Box of Delights

And who might this grim-looking crew be?  In fact, this is a picture taken to mark the Golden Wedding of my great-grandfather in 1926, pictured seated with his wife and surrounded by his seven children.  The mood certainly looks like a celebration, doesn't it?  The photo appeared in the local newspaper.

Family legend has it that the old man refused to change out of his clogs for the event, or the photo.  What his wife felt is not recorded, though doubtless after fifty years she was used to him. 

My great-grandfather was a farmer in Cumbria, but he was also a self-educated man, well-versed in the law.  In the attic of the farm where I was born remained part of his extensive library of second-hand books, history and non-fiction in the main, but with some collections of poetry.  I remember reading "Hiawatha" from a miniature Selected Longfellow.

 The story goes that as a youth he severed the ligaments in his ankle in an accident with a scythe.  They were on a remote farm, so his mother sewed him up with a sewing needle and in later life he walked with two sticks.    This did not stop him walking distances we would find unbelievable now, not as a sport but in order to visit the various cattle auctions.

The chap on the far right is my paternal grandfather, who was about thirty-nine at the time of the picture.  He looked very much like this when I knew him in his seventies.  On his feet he has a pair of stout boots, although he woould have worn clogs for every day, like his father.

I had never expected to see a photograph of my great-grandparents, but this one surfaced quite recently.  Perhaps someone also has an image of my maternal grandfather, a man I never met.

I thought I would share with you some images of the box I described in my last post.  This is a sycamore box, about a foot in each dimension.  Inset on each side are panels of silk, painted and embroidered, showing different natural scenes, possibly the four seasons.  This first one is definitely spring-like.

Or perhaps this increasingly green panel is Spring and the blue one Summer?

Here, the mood has changed to stormy.  The painting of the heron in flight is particularly dramatic.


And now all the colours are bleached and the bird has become a kestrel hovering.

I think these panels were embroidered by Meg Falconer, but I am not absolutely certain of that.

Inside the box are other containers, nestling one inside the other, like Russian dolls.  I won all this as a prize in 1983, and unpacking it was a revelation.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Double Damask

Some knitting to start with.  This is Austermann Step, in quite a lively colourway, ideal for country socks.  I bought the yarn in a little wool shop of the old school, tucked in behind the main street in Cockermouth.  As the very nice lady said, it would have been good to have a window, but she had wanted to get started again after the floods and this was better than nothing.  Sock yarn always comes in handy.

This week we have tackled the redecorating of the dining-room, another room which has been waiting for some time.  We have several massive items of furniture in there, and far too much junk, so the clearing of the decks was problematic.  In the end we tackled it in two halves, so that we could move items from one end to the other.

In our other recent projects we have chosen light refelective papers of a modern design, but here we wanted something more classic.   The papered walls have to sit against those fifteenth century beams on the fourth wall, after all.  What would the merchant have done all those centuries ago?  Perhaps some lime-wash?  Not rich enough for tapestry wall-hangings...  In the end we chose this ivory paper, in a pattern which reminds me of white linen damask tablecloths.  It certainly brightens up the room, though it is not very medieval.


A number of searches recently have picked up my images of our new wardrobe doors in Elephant's Breath and Dove Tail.  On the Farrow and Ball shade card, I would have read these as beige tones.  The tester pots gave a very purplish tinge on the old cream doors.  Now in place, one pair of doors reflects light from the window while the other is in shade. One looks like two tones of mushroomy grey, while the other has a more beigey look.  The point is, though, that the finish, using a roller to apply the top layers, is lovely and the effect subtle and understated.  My husband knocked them up out of MDF, but you would never guess.

Last Wednesday I gave a talk to the Art Group which meets regularly in my village.  I had given the same talk to my Weavers, Spinners and Dyers group last year, and this prompted a member of both groups to invite me to repeat it for them.  So what was it about?  In 1983, the Guild of Lakeland Craftsmen in Cumbria moved their annual exhibition from a venue in Windermere to a venue in Keswick.  To advertise this move they organised a competition, with the prize being created by their members.  I was lucky enough to win the prize, and I was presented with it by their President, Tobias Harrison.

 The prize is itself a kind of puzzle, as, from the outside, it looks like a wooden box with inset embroidered panels, about a foot square.  Inside is a series of nesting boxes, each made by a different member of the guild, in textiles, pottery, leather...  It is exciting to unpack for a new audience as the standard of workmanship of each item is so high.  It has given me lots of pleasure to own it over the years and it was good to show it off to an appreciative group.  Perhaps I will feature some of these pieces here in coming weeks.