Monday, 28 February 2011

Blackbirds and blankets and things beginning with 's'

Blackbirds - instantly recognisable as BBD's Their Song. This was a really enjoyable, but slow ( and I'll explain why just now) stitch.
It is stitched on a cream 28 count linen, over one with a whole mixture of threads. I rarely have every thread a design calls for, unless its DMC (I have all of those) so I spend ages with a colour chart and a variety of 'maybe' threads until I find a set to complete the project. This has WDW, Gentle Arts, Gloriana, HDF and DMC.
I artistically placed a pair of scissors on the work to show the scale, but then cropped them off!!

This is the reason why Their Song was so slow.
I rediscovered crochet! Yay!
I found a lovely blog which showed lots of crochet blankets including this ripple design. I knew I had once been able to crochet so I found some wool and had a go. I crocheted the recommended practice 17 chains and did a few rows, pulled it out, cast on 3 million chains and started the blanket. My colour palette was someone limited to what I could find around the house and any half finished knitted sweaters I could pull out, but then I bought a few extra balls and carried on til it was done.

It looks a bit pale here, because I needed to use the flash, but in real life it is quite vibrant.
It goes with absolutely nothing in my house, but I am going to make another one - just because I can.

OK - I bet some of you recognise this? Well, maybe not recognise it, it is Victorian, but I bet you know what it's for?
You are right - it's to hang your office stamps on, showing the date, or maybe your company logo, or maybe 'PAID' or even 'FINAL REQUEST'

I used to work in a company library, many many years ago, and I had to date and file articles, so every morning I had to twizzle the little rubber numbers and letters around on the wooden stamp to show the new date. I didn't have a fancy holder like this, but it was the most boring job a restless teenager could do. No wonder I decided to teach!

The firm has long since gone - but I'm still here. Zippity do dah!!

This is why I bought it. I can keep my scissors on it. Nice eh?

If you twiddle the brass knob on the top, it swings around to make scissor selection less hassle.

Hassle when choosing my scissors is one thing I can live without.

So...blackbirds, blankets, stripes, stamps and scissors.

Thank you so much for your kind comments on my last post. Val was a special person.

Irene xxx
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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A Quaker needle case.

Sometimes it is just a quirk of fate that brings you a new friend. Sometimes at the very moment you need them.

So it was with my friend Margaret. We actually had a mutual friend, Val who became, accidentally, the connecting thread. Those are all our initials on the back of the needle case.

Val lived originally in England, where in 1963, we became friends, then in Canada where she became friends with Margaret. She eventually moved to North Carolina when her husband's job demanded it and then they retired to Florida. Through all of this, and even when I lived for a while in South Africa, we stayed friends and communicated often.

Then one fateful day I got an e-mail headed ' a drama, but maybe not a crisis'.

Val had discovered a lump in her breast, but at that time the prognosis was excellent. So still only a drama. Then it became clear that this was actually a secondary cancer. Val had major surgery, was even then on the mend when she caught a hospital infection, which meant the remaining cancer was able to spread untreated and she died aged only 62 years. So in June 2007, the drama finally became a crisis.

I can't begin to tell you how much I miss her.

At some point during all this, an e-mail was forwarded to me by mistake and it was from Margaret in Canada. It was full of the anxiety and concern and worried questions that I was expressing myself, so I wrote to her. We sustained each other through the following weeks and have stayed in contact. If you would like to hear a little more of Val's story and meet Margaret, a very special friend, visit her blog

So as a tribute to Val, I made the needle case again for Margaret. It is stitched over one with Kaalund thread, is backed with silk, edged with tiny beads and tied with a matching silk ribbon.

I wish I could have made one for Val too.

Man - she would be so cross to think we were wallowing in this gloom! Sorry Val.

Love Irene xxx

PS Sorry the photos did not load in my last post. Apparently my server did not know where to look for them. I mean - what else has it got to do all day???

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Sunday, 6 February 2011

A happy happenstance

Most Saturdays my family (sister and Mum and me) go out for the day.
We meet up, choose whose car we will use, pile in and speed off for our weekly adventure.
We might go to an antique fair or to a local small town or village and have a mooch around, eat lunch, examine and ooh aah over our purchases and set off for home again.

So this Saturday was much the same and we chose to go to Helmsley, a small market town in North Yorkshire, only about an hour away, that has some interesting shops and good places to eat.
The journey there involves a drive through beautiful countryside, all hills and dales and exceedingly pretty.
And it was here that our happy little happenstance began.

Because... I found a dog. Well I didn't actually find it, but it was running loose along the side of the lane, and was heading for a motoring catastrophe at any second. We saw it and drove past before realising what it was. So...obviously I made my sister who was driving, stop, do a perilous turn on the bendy road and go back for it. It was friendly and tail-waggy, and although it looked like a Labrador puppy from the car, it was actually a Labrador/ terrier cross of, maybe, a year old and it was covered in mud and a little smelly. Happily, I don't mind wet doggy smells, or mud really, so we tied a scarf through his collar and took him back to the car where he sat happily on my knee looking out of the window. We were in the middle of the countryside and although we tried to call the number on Smudge's collar (she was called Smudge - aw!)we had no signal. We drove on until we came to a farm track, and turned in hoping the dog might live there.

My sister went up to the farmhouse ( we always send my sister, just in case there is danger) and the farmer's wife made a land line call to the number and we waited for the owner to turn up. Mum and I and Smudge in the car, my sister braving possible perils outside the car. Then her and an older man wandered past and into the large stone building on our right. They were missing for ages and Mum and I speculated on how he might be murdering her whilst we sat idly by speculating on the manner of her death.
Mum felt safe because she was in the back of the 2-door car and we have to shoe horn her in and out anyway, so she thought she would just wedge herself further in if danger threatened. My sister, looking remarkably relaxed, and the strange man came out and walked past us again to the back of the building.
We felt a little relieved, and continued to speculate on what was going in. As we did so, the owner of Smudge turned up in a new sparkling white Mercedes car and claimed the little dog back. I sort of felt that she didn't deserve such a characterful dog if she was letting it roam around with impunity, but that may have been a little jealousy, as both the car and the dog were very nice.
Away she went, leaving me only with the muddy footprint remains of my encounter and an all pervading smell of dog in the car.

My sister gestured to us to get out of the car and we discovered what she and mystery man had been looking at. Inside the stone building was an 12 century water mill and it was glorious. Lots of wooden wheels and cogs with wooden teeth and enormous oak beams carrying the actual wheel.
The mill steam was thundering through underneath. The man who looked 60 (honestly) but was actually 81, was so enthusiastic and talked so knowledgeably but simply about how it all worked that it was a pleasure to listen to him. We walked to the back of the building to see the wheel and paddles and he opened a sluice gate so that we could more fully experience the force of the water emptying back into the stream that fed the mill race. He said that they had documentary proof of the mill working in the 14th century - just imagine that - but believed that it was operated by monks in the 1100's. They had had carbon dating done on some of the wood, but evidentially that only proved that the wood was there in the 12 century, not that the mill was.

So finding the little dog led to us seeing that water mill inside a building that we have driven past a million times without ever knowing it's secret. Good eh? A happy happenstance.

The pictures are of Helmsley, our destination on Saturday. We visit here often and forget just how pretty and very English it is. Hope you enjoy them. Sadly none of us had a camera with us on Saturday so no photos of the mill, but perhaps another time.

Thank you for visiting, a rare post without stitching this time, but things are progressing.

Irene xxx