Adventures, book review, hand stitched, home sewing, sewing

How was your weekend? …. Monday 3 August.

Stitch meditation

My weekend began on Friday, listening to the marvellous Cathy Hay on Youtube they had lots of videos – CoCoVid, an on-line, interactive event put on by the members of CosTube during the weekend that would have been Costume College there was a fantastic video about having the confidence to dress differently, which you can watch until next weekend. It reminded me of how much I loved to dress up – so I donned my lovely lemon dress beautiful straw hat and went shopping in the local town. It made me feel great.

I am trying to save more this month – however I forgot the Library was opening later and so whiled away the half an hour wait in a charity shop. It is always amazing that when you aren’t looking for things you seem to find some lovely items so that by the end of my twenty minutes I had some well needed new clothes.

The reason this is in the charity shop is that the front section has distorted out of shape leaving the front gaping. So the buttons not only added another element, it fixed the gape!

I also picked up this gorgeous silk monsoon dress which is too big for me – with a few minor adjustments (a bit of hand stitching left to be done) I had managed to alter it to fit .. will show you when it is finished.

I just returned in time to catch Jenny Raymont’s on line class for machine embroidery – it would have been the festival of Quilts this weekend too, so there were quite a few on line courses to choose from. I really enjoyed doing this through zoom, it worked really well and I was still in the comfort of my own home – an introverts delight! I didn’t do the landscape but instead practised some leaves… I have another revamp in mind and wanted to get some practise in.

I have been practising making bricks… bread this one came out really well – there is an real art to getting the bread to rise properly – this is a joy that it came out bread shaped, but it is still heavier than a shop bought loaf.

I picked up these lovelies on the way home from the shops, they fell on my head! There is a plum tree overhanging a garden fence and they are all over the pathway. In no time I had a small bag full and I went home smiling, last week I purchased some exactly the same from a local farm shop.

Despite making over 50 masks, friends and family! – E did not have one and I was wearing a early prototype that didn’t quite work. It was time to make a couple of masks for us – I think the fabric is quite appropriate don’t you think?

Sunday was set aside to make a dress and having seen this book on lovely and grateful’s Blog, I chose to listen to it as I stitched away. It is thought provoking, I had never realised white privilege existed and if nothing else I shall take that away from listening to this, but it is fascinating to see life from another perspective. Listening to this book rather than reading it is like having the author in the room with you, but I found I needed time to absorb the story. I am still going through it slowly, but while it is profound and disturbing, it is hard to find a safe place to explore these discussions. . What this is is a window into the experience of Eddo Lodge and the community around her and how the system has stacked the odds against ethnic people. Yes it includes the story of the slave trade, but recent events race protests that happened in my lifetime, including the Brixton riots, the death of PC Blakelock and the appalling injustice that protected the killers of Steven Lawrence: these things happened in my lifetime and it knocks my faith in the system. It is interesting to hear about someone else’s life experience of living in England, one that varies from my own and one that I can recommend reading.

I live in an area that is 90% white, my own experience of equality and diversity is through workplace training – one course I had to attend in the early 1990s began with a statement -if we were to say anything that was deemed offensive we would be disciplined for it or maybe even lose our jobs. I wish Eddo Lodge had been there instead. There is so much to say about this book, but one of the key things is that finds me in wholehearted agreement with the author is that we are all afraid of discussing this openly, honestly and in public. While fear remains, we are never going to find a way forward.

So what can I do? I can steer a path away from the ethnic bias that is my YouTube channel list, I can move aside to explore other voices and other stories separate from my own. I can strive – not to judge others, be that the person walking towards me on the street or the mother in the supermarket with the screaming toddler.

Here is the finished dress – it is always wonderful to stitch and have something to show at the end of the day. Its the same Kate Dress pattern I have used a lot – the style suits me so well – this time I chose to make a long ankle length version in a drapey stretch cotton.

Have a good week

Adventures

Travels with Jenny Colgan… book reviews

Escape to an Island in the North

Life in general has been pretty stressful – I was one of the people still working during lockdown in need of a holiday, if not in body then definitely in spirit. This book came along with a pile of others – I tried one or two before picking up this novel and it was just what I needed.

Flora is definitely, absolutely sure that escaping from the quiet Scottish island where she grew up to the noise and hustle of the big city was the right choice. What was there for her on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, and no one will let her forget the past. In the city, she can be anonymous, ambitious and indulge herself in her hopeless crush on her gorgeous boss, Joel. 

When a new client demands Flora’s presence back on Mure, she’s suddenly swept back into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. As Flora indulges her new-found love of cooking and breathes life into the dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour, she’s also going to have to come to terms with past mistakes – and work out exactly where her future lies…

The Island of Mure in summer was a wonderful place to escape to, Flora was a likeable character – we followed her journey from dismal heat baked London to her home back in this beautiful island in the North Sea… so far north it was closer to Greenland than mainland Scotland.

The island characters are a mixed bunch of scary and friendly, but Flora goes back to face her family after she left under a bit of cloud. The more I read about the endless daylight, the empty sandy beaches the more I found myself with yearning to visit Scotland.

It’s a romance but there is more depth to the characters than the usual chic lit, the characters are struggling to overcome the past, even Flora who eventually comes to understand her family better and make peace. There are three books in this series all based around the fictional Island of Mure… I am saving the other two for winter… I had to stop as I was yearning to pack my bags and move to Scotland…

I read this book shortly after finishing the beach shop bakery – I needed another little holiday from real life and I was falling in love with Scotland. I live in the South, where the houses seem to be cramming together, and there are people everywhere – it is so good to escape.

Jenny deals with very real issues in her books, both feature mental health problems, depression and how it can affect those around the victim, how the shadow falls into the next generation too. I also love the ethnic mix in this book, the characters aren’t all white.

Zoe is a single mother, sinking beneath the waves trying to cope by herself in London. Hari, her gorgeous little boy is perfect in every way – except for the fact that he just doesn’t speak, at all. When her landlord raises the rent on her flat, Zoe doesn’t know where to turn. 

Then Hari’s aunt suggests Zoe could move to Scotland to help run a bookshop. Going from the lonely city to a small village in the Highlands could be the change Zoe and Hari desperately need. 

Faced with an unwelcoming boss, a moody, distant bookseller named Ramsay Urquart, and a band of unruly children, Zoe wonders if she’s made the right decision. But Hari has found his very first real friend, and no one could resist the beauty of the loch glinting in the summer sun. If only Ramsay would just be a little more approachable…

Dreams start here . . . 

It is a lovely break for a good few hours with people who have troubles, but come together and find love and that rarest of things…. a sense of belonging.

If you are in need of escape from the worlds woes …. these books are ones to enjoy.

You can find out more about Jenny’s books on her website

Adventures

Stitched Selfie

I am not a big fan of the selfie – I can’t shake off my inner critic that sings ‘your so vain’ in the same way I still can’t have a conversation on my mobile phone in public without excruciating embarrassment, but I over came my reluctance recently. The Solent branch Embroidery Guild I belong to set up a workshop with gifted textile artist Nicky Barfoot entitled the Selfie Workshop. I have missed the regular meetings and workshops so the opportunity to connect – all be it virtually- was firmly grasped. Not to mention work place stress that had me desperate for the soothing nature of hand stitching, I gave myself the whole weekend to enjoy a spot of well earned play.

Nicky is wonderful instructor, confident in her own creativity to allow students to go off in their own direction, with her encouragement. The course itself was self guided with access to private tutorials demonstrating every stage, together with a private Facebook group that connected me with fellow students, instruction and encouragement from Nicky, which was a lovely socially distanced way of connecting with people I hadn’t seen for months. It was great seeing other people’s work, I am always amazed at how diverse we all respond to the same direction and instructions! I be inspired by others too, as you will see in the end of this post.

After trawling through the vast collection of photos I found a couple of suitable photos, taken a while ago – I used a software programme to convert the photograph into a line drawing and followed the instructions to transfer outline onto fabric. Nicky has a great method for transferring the image easily, all you needed was the good old fashioned tracing skills that I hadn’t used in 30odd years!

outline stitched and transferred to fabric

I treated myself – stitching this outline in my cosy nook, tea close at hand, pincushion within reach, watching Outlander in the afternoon. It not only brought back happy childhood memories of Saturday matinees with my Nan, while we stitched away, but also the embroidery stitches were simple, soon the challenges, stresses and conflicts of work were soothed away, I had finished the outline in no time.

At first I made it all black, but then I used a light gold chain stitch for the necklace, using a bead for the pendant. I really love this aqua it sat just right and was the right scale. I then I added the Suffolk puff (yoyo) – to cover up a little mistake I made with the hair at the top of the ear! You can’t do that with a painting!

I then unpicked the black lip outline and used blanket stitch in red for my lips. I think the blanket stitch here gives depth to the outline I also used a couple of French knots. The eyes are slightly different as I began one with one thread of floss, the second one was with my favourite Cotton Perle, thicker thread. (I also had to dash to my local Boutique Haberdashery in the morning to get black Perle) What an indulgent day I was having! I also changed the nose outline a little. While I could not remove all the black, I was happy to leave it as it was, as it showed progress.

I had ended the afternoon using blanket stitch to form the fringe edge – she was becoming more vintage pin up as the project unfolded and less of a ‘selfie’ but I was enjoying seeing how the process evolved. I am learning to allow a project have a life of its own, rather than sticking rigidly to an idea.

Evening came, after the usual domestic activities of cake making and cooking, it was time for more cosiness in front of the box with hubby safely beyond the reach of my arm swing with needle! (its why I have my own cosy chair!) I decided to continue the vintage theme by adding ‘polka dots’ to the dress – an idea that came to me while baking a cake. Its as if the project is a journey, with each step revealed as I go.

I have a large collection of plastic drawing stencils that come in handy for embroidery, the circles come in various sizes so I picked a random one and marked it out with a air erasable pen. I am going through a bit of a blanket stitch phase at the moment, so chose to use it for the polka dots. I then used it again alongside the right hand edge of the neckline. I am stopping it there – until the next stage unfolds. I might stitch some texture in the background.. who knows.

The great thing about Nicky’s workshop is that you get to see other students work, there were a few who used sewing machines to do the outlines so I decided to experiment with my sewing machine.

Here is a portrait of hubby, this time by sewing machine which is faster, but not as relaxing. I really love the simplicity of the lines in this portrait, it makes a bold statement.

I have really enjoyed participating in this course, this new way of working is opening up all kinds of opportunities, not only in terms of time scale – not being limited to a day or a couple of hours, as well as being able to see what other people are doing is richer.

If you would like to join Nicky Barfoot’s selfie class – you can contact her via her website.

Adventures

Catching up … March 2020

It is surprising how many foods contain milk! – sometimes I really miss eating foods I used to enjoy, so when I found a recipe for vanilla cream biscuits I thought I would give them a try on Monday. Not quite the same as custard creams but a wonderful treat all the same – they lasted until Friday!

What I am reading

from Good Reads website
Gripping thriller – which lives up to its name.

As the library is closed I downloaded the e’reader / audio app from the local library which has been incredibly successful. I think because you aren’t paying out for a book I feel more able to take risks – and this one paid off.

The Memory by Lucy Dawson

I look down at her, lying fast asleep – always my little girl, and so beautiful. She gives a low moan as her head turns restlessly on the pillow. It reminds me of the soft growl of a cornered animal. Where is my poor child? What is she dreaming?People always notice my daughter, Isobel. How could they not? Incredibly beautiful… until she speaks.
An unsettling, little-girl voice, exactly like a child’s, but from the mouth of a full-grown woman.Izzie might look grown-up, but inside she’s trapped. Caught in the day it happened – the day that broke her from within.
I know why my daughter is the way she is. There’s nothing I could have done to save her… is there?An unputdownable psychological thriller about families and secrets,

(from Good Reads)

I have to admit I did find it a little odd to begin with but the story does slowly build to a conclusion I have to admit I did not see coming. There is an air of mystery and strangeness about the house – things happen that give the impression of it being haunted, but it also seems very down to earth with the main character giving reasonable explanations for the so called ‘psychic’ goings on. This book kept me interested right to the very end. What was absolutely satisfying is how neatly all the loose ends came together.

I revamped my cane chairs in the studio – trying to use up my stash of fabrics – it was easier second time round but I am very pleased with the results. Can you believe I bought these two at the tip for £3 each over 10 years ago! they are delightfully comfortable! I might give the cane some Danish oil but they are holding up well.

Barney and his new toy

My lovely Staffie, Barney had a new monkey which lasted 20 minutes (quite a record some only last a few minutes!)

Embroidered Hexies

I stitched this piece while we were away on holiday a couple of weeks back – it was simply a sampler to stitch in the quiet moments – little did we realise the second day we arrived everything would close down! I was so glad I had taken some stitching with me! I have spent this week stitching a design around the hexies in the blank spaces. I really love the way this has developed, I used a marker pen to outline the shapes and then stitched the centres with what ever took my fancy. It was so relaxing – just what we need right now.

A fresh paint for our boot storage box

We found this on Facebook market place – it is a bench made from old pews of a church, the ends actually hold umbrellas! It was quite a yellow pine colour so E painted it this lovely colour called seagrass. I know the trend for painted furniture is past, but I have always loved this style and won’t abandon it to the metal and rustic current trend, I want comfort and fabric. I thought I might add a little vintage French art as small accents as the arch is crying out for something!

Holiday Reading

There was a small bookshelf in the holiday Cottage – I could not resist reaching for this little novel about quilting! It was an easy lighthearted read – (don’t we need that right now?) but I found the story fascinating. A young woman goes to help out an older lady with housework and learns to quilt. Their friendship develops over the needle and thread – you learn more about the old lady’s life. It was lovely learning about the various blocks – what they were called and what the tradition was around them. The writer is a quilter and you can actually look up the quilt described in the book.

Holiday in Hereford

Our little holiday cottage was a cosy place to stay in during the unfolding health crisis, thankfully we got home before the shut down was announced. We spent peaceful happy days by the log burner, either stitching or reading. I am so glad we managed to have a holiday as work has been busier than ever since we came home, that rest has seen me in good stead!

keep safe and well x

recipes

Oat Milk recipe

Here in the UK we have been asked not to go shopping more than once a week, which is understandable given the incredible circumstances that we face regarding the corona virus. People like to be prepared, I understand that but the hoarding has meant that some items with a long shelf life are in short supply, this includes Oat milk.

Shops limit the purchase of Oat Milk to only two 1 ltr cartons, which for someone like me with a milk allergy, (yes an allergy not a health choice) unfairly discriminated against. There is no limit on Milk, you can buy 6 pint cartons as many as you like, but oat milk is limited and this has been restricted on the tills.

Hence the decision to make my own – it is pretty easy to make! I like mine creamy, so I add ground almonds but you can leave that out. Simply take one cup of oats with 1/4 cup of ground almonds and leave to soak in water overnight.

In the morning, drain the oat mixture and then add approximately 1 pint, (500ml) of water. Our tap water is drinkable – safe from bugs and disease in this country. You can use mineral water if you wish.

Whizz or blend the oats and the water together and then allow to drain through a nut bag. I decant it into a bottle (passata bottles are great!) which keeps it cold.


This pandemic is worrying, but it has made me appreciate how amazing it is to live in a country where food is plentiful, our homes are warm. It also allows us to think more creatively about meeting our needs.

keep safe and well.

x

Nut bags can be purchased on Amazon

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Stitch Meditation Practise

Respect your body

I don’t know about you, but I find traditional meditation and mindfulness nigh on impossible, so it was a wonderful revelation to discover stitch meditations.

What I am enjoying most about this is it allows for experimentation – what is important is the process of creation – the stitching itself. It really does calm the mind and because the concept is that you are only creating a small embroidery really just as a meditative practice there is no sense of having to make something out of it. Instead, Liz suggests that you simply allow the stitching to flow in whatever direction feels good.

Embroidery in progress

I have always enjoyed quotations so I decided to include these in my meditations – this is one I took away with me on Holiday recently, as you can see I began with a very rough outline of a couple of pink chalk circles on the left hand side. The picture above was the result after one evening’s stitching – experimenting in this way, I was combining practising my French Knots (a very new skill) and the different effect that you could find by using varying thicknesses of thread. Those simple ovals – lifted up from the background because of the thick cotton Perle – in the centre, but I worked a thinner flat floss around the edges to create anchor the flower onto the canvass. The stems were created using lovely chain stitch, and fern stitch worked well to create feather like leaves.

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The second evening I decided to fill in the circles – but what I intended to do did not quite work so I ended up doing a long and short stitch in two colours – topped off with yet more lovely French knots. This process is amazing, because when I looked at what had evolved it was so much nicer than my original idea!

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The quotation was really apt for me, I really needed to rest and when you work from home it is hard to relax so spending time away was perfect. We were staying in a National Trust cottage in Devon – rather than going to various locations – we decided to spend our days, enjoying walks in the beautiful gardens and surrounding woodland and rolling hills of the Tamar Valley. The rest of the time we enjoyed quiet afternoons with the log burner crackling away, while E read and I stitched away merrily. One afternoon I discovered a TV channel called Talking Pictures that was showing a 1940s version of Rebecca! complete bliss!

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By the end of the week, the stitch meditation was complete –  I felt completely restored by the rest and we said goodbye to the cottage taking fond memories of a wonderfully relaxing time.

Let life flow

I am still doing these stitch meditations at home and I am finding it has really helped to ease work related stress.

If you would like to know more about this practise there is a wonderful group on Facebook, just look up the words ‘stitch meditations’ and it will take you there.  You can see all the other wonderful pieces of work done by ladies from all over the world, USA, Canada, Australia and Europe.

Stitch Meditation is a process developed by Liz Kettle to help develop a creative mindfulness practice that is simple and easy to implement.

It is for those who choose to explore how to meditate with stitch, to share your practice with others, to inspire others and as accountability for yourself.

See Liz Kettle’s video explaining it all here

Adventures

Book Review – House at the End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wonderful… I adore the lovely magical world Menna creates. Warm characters, one to lift the spirits, as good as visiting the house itself! How I wish I could find one and have 99 days break from the modern world.

I finished the House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag, which was a lovely read – sometimes it is nice to dip into a world of magic, love where the broken find healing and comfort. 

After Alba Ashby suffers the Worst Events of Her Life, she finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street, Cambridge. There, a beautiful older woman named Peggy invites Alba to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she’ll have 99 nights, and no more, to turn her life around. Once inside, Alba sees that 11 Hope Street is no ordinary place. Past residents include Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, and Agatha Christie, who all stayed there when they, too, had lost hope. With the house’s help, Alba decides to risk everything – and embarks on a journey that may even save her life. 

The idea of a house that could offer you what you needed was lovely, Stella the ghost was a good muse for Alba. It was a delightful place to spend time in before going to sleep and often in the waking hours between 1 and 4 which has been happening more often these days. 

There are two other characters, Greer and Carmen in the house at the same time – and their story was followed through more briefly, both were loving the same unattainable man. 

I love the worlds Menna creates, it is the third book I’ve read of hers, the magic is lovely, she has the same lightness of touch as Joanne Harris.




Adventures

Fishbourne Roman Palace -West Sussex

E and I share January Birthdays – which, if I am honest is not the best time to celebrate Birthdays as it feels like feast and famine! However the way to bring the celebrations forward into a whole year was to present E with a huge pile of leaflets and a challenge to discover more about our local area – we began with Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex. It is an interesting place to visit especially on a clear bright sunny January day!

Fishbourne Palace’s discovery is thanks to a workman cutting into a field as part of a new building project – he noticed ancient looking building rubble. Thankfully, a wealthy history enthusiast bought the land and developed the site to create the museum we see today. What a tremendous legacy and gift.

Roman Underfloor heating sytem Fishbourne Chichester

What amazes me is the sheer advancement in technology and house building at a time when the local population were living in huts. It took two thousand years for us to get back to central heating, hot running water and good drainage! It astounds me that with all the wonderful technology why would the locals simply turn their backs and go back to living in wooden huts with open fires?

There is little surviving evidence of who actually lived at the Palace but it must have been someone of importance because the Palace was huge! covering an area of 5.6 acres. Historians suggest it may be Tiberius Claudius Togidubnuts who was influential in the area in the first century AD. As you enter the museum there is a wonderful model replica of what the palace may have looked like.

Section of tile flooring at Fishbourne Roman Palace

The Palace was thought to have as many as 100 rooms all of which had beautiful mosaic tiled floors. The exhibits are wonderful to see, with the patterns and designs.

Flower motif in mosiac floor

While the colours are beautiful I can’t help but wonder how bright they would have been 2000 years ago!

Black and white mosaic playful perspective

We looked round the beautiful Roman Gardens in the glorious sunshine, it was so interesting to see how the Romans made good use of herbs for cooking, health and beauty.

Fishbourne Roman Palace Gardens
Roman deign box hedging
Old vines part of the gardens of Fishbourne Palace
Gardens Fishbourne Roman Palace

We enjoyed a lovely cuppa and some delightful lemon poppy seed cake in the cafe afterwards. Although the sun was out, it was still a chilly January Day. Fishbourne is a wonderful place to visit – I am hoping to return in May for their Roman Dyeing course. You can find information about the museum herehttps://sussexpast.co.uk/event/colours-of-the-romans 

On the way to the cafe we passed the most beautiful shrub – which looked as if it had been festooned with tassels! Next to it was a little teasle plant – which looked interesting – I took one of the seedbeds home.

little teasle plant at Fishbourne

It wasn’t until later when I was editing the photos that I noticed a coloured orb among the bush. It did not appear on any of the other photos, but maybe it was a strange trick of the light… perhaps you might know what it is?

Adventures

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Decorated for Christmas

We had neighbours over this week, so I was happy to put all the decorations in place for Christmas. It is so wonderful to have a good old fashioned fire place!

Decorated Christmas Tree

I use the tree in the alcove all year round – decorating it seasonally, so there were Easter eggs in Spring and flowers in the summer. Now it has been decorated with lovely silver leaves giving it a wintery look.

Dresser Christmas Decorations

My favourite colour is this delicate ‘vintage’ blue – the dresser makes a great place to store my collection of china and the lovely beads and baubles seem to compliment it well.

Nordic red and while christmas

I had this fabric in my stash for a while – it is such a bright Chrissmassy colour I decided to make a fitted cover for my little coffee tables and I am rather pleased with the corner pleating.

Barney the staffie Christmas Photo Competition

Here is Barney’s entry for the Local vets photo competition, I must say he was a very good model not bothered at all by the bow and the hat!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and lets hope for a peaceful, Happy New Year.