Monday, June 27, 2011

Upset by lunch, wailing by the afternoon

A beautiful farmhouse, taken over as a military hospital and battery during WW2, abandoned until 1990, slowly being renovated by a carpenter and a basketweaver.


A hand-built Granary in the grounds, holding the first (of what I’m sure will be many) weekend course in the ancient art of weaving, taught by Katherine, who grows the reeds herself on the farm, and her sister-in-law, Dominique, both of whom have been weaving for over a decade, and make it look INCREDIBLY easy, and beautiful.

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The first morning was spent creating the base circle, including splitting the centre of the first reeds with a sharp implement, to then cross-secure the other reeds through the middle to create the base. Once the base was complete, the reeds were inserted into the spokes to create the sides, and then set, vertically, against their grain, to get a firm sharp edge and begin the shaping of the piece. They were to be ‘upset’. And we were ‘upset’ by lunch. And on track to be waling by the afternoon.

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Lunch was a ‘light’ affair (if that’s light, I daren’t wonder what feast is served up on high-days and holidays) of homemade soup, homemade bread, salads from the garden, local cheeses, fresh fruit and apple streusel.


The waling (or wailing, as I preferred to think about it) formed the base and the bottom of the sides and then, once the corner was turned and a pleasing number of waling rounds completed, the English randing began. As long as I kept in the rhythm of the weave and didn’t speak to anyone, this beautifully elegant effect was pleasing to the eye and the hands as it formed the sides. The next morning, the randing continued followed by the not untimely waling again, to set the height of the finished piece, form a durable upper edge and then work on the handle.


It is worth mentioning here that the Little One had seen fit to remind us of her presence between the hours of 2 and 5am that night, which, as this was the Saturday night following the balloon ride and the 4am Friday morning start, was not entirely welcome. So, by this point in the weekend, the tea and cake were sadly insufficient to keep my sleep-deprived brain on the task at hand. The trials and tribulations involved in BENDING BAMBOO HANDLES against their will and NOT KINKING IT or SNAPPING IT proved too much and it’s fair to say that by lunch on Day 2, I was close to ACTUALLY WAILING.

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The patience of Dominique and Katherine is not to be understated here. They dragged me, kicking and screaming, to the final stages of the basket, including the wrapping of the FOURTH ATTEMPT AT BENT BAMBOO handle with willow, more weaving, tidying, trimming, bending, knotting and snipping to put the final finishing touches on it.

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I went in with the only experience over 20 years ago on a school trip, and an almightily wonky result still languishing in my oh-so-sentimental Mum’s cupboard… If I managed to create an un-wonky basket, I would be satisfied.

Ah well.

It is a thing of beauty, and I’m claiming the shape, form, undulations and irregularities as ‘organic’ and intentional. A satisfying weekend of wrestling reeds, dunking water-baths, warm tea, homemade cake and continental coffee.


Bliss. Triumphant, wonky bliss.

Katherine and Dominique are just starting to set up a schedule of these weekend basketry courses. There isn’t a website as yet, but if you are interested, get in touch, and I can forward the details to you. Bargainous, scrumptious and productive, all in one weekend!? Excellent.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fruity Summer Frocks

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Black Oranges & Lemons Dress £35 down from £45 from Wallis

Cherry Print Teadress £55 from Oasis

Apple Print Prom Dress £39.99 from River Island

Actual Bread


I did it!!


I used a Focaccia recipe from the tome of sensible cooking.

I used the Kitchen Aid to knead it to perfection.

I used the warmth of a sunny day to leave it to rise.

P1070725I used rosemary from the garden to garnish the loaves.

I used many and friendly people to help snarfle up the scrumptiousness.

I had it for breakfast as toast with mother-in-laws’s jam.

I am a domestic goddess.

And I am now in fear of the expansion of the waistline…


That’s another one ticked off. Excellent.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One pair of old trousers+one tablecloth =

A new frock for Tilly.

Goodness me this child is ridiculously spoilt.

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One pair of trousers given to me by my sister-in-law. I’m sadly too curvy to make use of them for me, but I rather liked the linen fabric and thought it would be a shame to simply give them away…

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Used a lovely technique I learned on a McCalls pattern when I was about 15 for facing or lining simple bodices with a back seam, so that you have finished the neckline and armscye edges in one move. It’s one of those straightforward ones if you know it, and very handy if you don’t…I’m intending to put together a little tutorial on it: watch this space, and it may appear … soon...


Pockets were the damaged remains of a square embroidered tablecloth/wallhanging that I found at an auction. These two pieces had been patched just above the embroidery, so I used that bulk to turn over and create the upper edge and then just hemmed the edges over and stitched.

P1070563I quick blitz on the iron, grabbed a piece of vintage millinery ribbon I was lucky enough to be given by an elderly neighbour a few years ago, and you have a dress fit for a church hall party full of chocolate and 3year olds.

All the finest frocks for all the finest events.

Lucky lady.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Up Up and Away

A phone call is made at 11pm

The weather forecast is looking positive (despite all appearances to the contrary, looking out the window of our front room)

The alarms are set for 4.30am

Alarm reads: 5 hours and 9 minutes until alarm goes off.

I cry a little tear and try to fall asleep


The little one has other ideas throughout the night…


In far too short a time, cold flannels are applied to face in the vain attempt to awaken any interest or enthusiasm for this much-anticipated event.

Bleary-eyed people wait in a car park, looking towards a field, where a man stands by a Land Rover, taking measurements and making decisions.


And the go-ahead is given.


And the cold air is applied


And the heat is applied


And the basket is righted


And the force of gravity is overcome


And the ground pulls away


And the whole of Hertfordshire lies before us, with the mist and the dawn slowly clearing

And I am flying in a hot air balloon with my eyes closed, feeling the warmth of the flames and the breeze of the air


And last year did not happen

Or else it happened, and I survived and I am flying in a hot air balloon with the father of my little girl


And it was all worth living for

And it is all worth staying alive for

And it, too, passed.


Saturday, June 04, 2011

Stoneware in the Sunshine

A recent glorious sunny day spent in the scrumptious garden of Charlotte Storrs to join her on her open studio weekend.


The doorway into the garden was bedecked and bestrewn with vase and hanging tealights…

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Raised beds housed future vegetables and salads…

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Beautiful displays of stoneware for sale … some of it may or may not have ended up in my kitchen…


Even little Tilster got to have some fun with clay! We’re waiting to see what fabulousness comes out of the kiln…

What a gorgeous day.

Stay in touch for future events via her website here

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

We Love Lucy

A lovely little group on Ravelry has sworn its undying love to a lovely little blog. We are up to swop number Four and I have thoroughly enjoyed this one, as much as the last few. A few messages, pleas, hooky times and shopping trips later and I’ve received this rather fabulous parcel all the way from Georgia, in the beautiful Deep South of America…


The only defining factors of the swap were

  • At least one handmade item of your choice. This can be any craft and is not limited to crochet. This item should be personal and tailored to your swap partner.
  • Yarn. Ideally at least enough for a small project or to form part of a bigger project. Quantity/price/fiber/brand are entirely up to you and your partner. You can discuss this between you via pm if you wish.
  • A handwritten card or note for your partner from you.
  • Other goodies! These can be absolutely anything! This is where it is particularly fun to ‘stalk’ your swap partner and find out as much as you can about what they would really like to receive in a package! Do they have a blog? What other groups are they a member of? What does their profile say about them? Do they have children or pets? Remember to think about their questionnaire answers as well when choosing items.


The lovely Sarah (who is not online, I’m sad to say, but can be found on Ravelry under Sayrah1124) sent over gorgeous yarns (Debbie Stoller Stitch Nation and Lily Sugar n’ Cream) that I asked for, along with pretty cards, personalised tissues, patterns, notelets, six crocheted coasters, a tote bag and THE MOST IMPORTANT THING – chocolate covered pretzels. Truly my Kryptonite, but also the most fabulous means to encourage me to get to the end of projects… They are being used as bait to get me through my unfinished-objects-bag at the moment…

Gorgeous, lucky lucky lady that I am… I can only hope that Sarah enjoys the little bits and bobs that I sent over to her… Fingers crossed it arrives soon.

Don’t look now, but I may have just ticked off another part of one of my Thirty Before Thirty… One more swap down, another two to go…