Book Review

I’ve read two books over the last few weeks, one I’ve had for many years, the second was bought in the last couple of years. As they are on the same subject, a biography and an autobiography, I thought it would be good to read them one after the other.

Beryl Markham was a fascinating woman, she was born in 1902 in England but when she was four her parents moved to British East Africa (Kenya) to farm and breed racehorses. Her mother and brother returned after only 2 years. Beryl spent her days playing with the local tribe, the Nandi Murani, learning to track and hunt with their chief. In 1919 a disastrous drought lead to the loss of the farm and the family fortune, her father left for Peru but Beryl stayed and became the first woman in Africa to be granted a race horse trainers license at the age of eighteen. In her late twenties Beryl learnt to fly and again became the first woman in Africa to hold a pilot’s license, she piloted mail across Africa and scouted for game for safaris. In 1936 she hit the headlines by becoming the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west, taking off in England and crash landing in Nova Scotia 21 hours later.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0002-1.jpg

West with the Night is Beryl’s autobiography. Her descriptions of Africa are beautiful, she clearly loved the country and had a huge respect for the indigenous population, she spoke Swahilli, Nandi and Masai. Her friendship with Kibii, a boy from the Nandi Murani, lasted a lifetime. In her book she writes about her childhood escapades, her time as a racehorse trainer and then learning to fly, concluding with the record breaking flight across the Atlantic. She rarely mentions her social life at all which is where the next book comes in…

Circling the Sun is by Paula McLain, she says;

” …Neglected daughter, scourge of governesses, serial absconder from boarding school, by the age of 16 Beryl had been catapulted into a disastrous marriage, emerging from the wreckage vowing to take charge of her own destiny. Circling the Sun takes the reader from the spectacular beauty of the Rift Valley to the immaculate lawns of Nairobi’s Muthaiga Club, from the brittle glamour of the gin fueled Happy Valley set to the loneliness of life as a scandalous divorcee. “

You have to remember when reading these books that they are set in a very different time, when big game hunting in particular was acceptable. I loved both these books, West with the Night is beautifully written. Beryl achieved so much before she was even 30, I found her descriptions of Africa in the 1920’s fascinating. The book concentrates on what she did, rather than including the social side of her life. Circling the Sun fills in all the gaps, it is written sympathetically not salaciously, describing her relationship with her ‘step-mother’, her circle of friends which included Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) and Blor Blixen. She was married three or four times and had a son in London. She was a feisty, brave woman who worked hard to achieve what she wanted, refusing to be beaten by the gossip and tittle tattle and the inequalities that thrived in white African society.

I’m tempted to read Karen Blixen’s book now, I never even saw the film Out of Africa, there’s also another book about Beryl called Straight on Til Morning which look interesting.

Posted in Serendipity | Leave a comment

Monday’s Meander Round the Garden

There is an old saying here in the UK that if March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb, or visa versa. It’s definitely come in like a lion, so hopefully it will calm down a bit soon. We can have all weathers on one day at this time of year, on Sunday we had wind, hail, rain, snow and sunshine! My OH wanted a short walk as he’s counting his steps at the moment, I reassured him that any showers are blowing over quickly. Ten minutes after he left I looked out from the comfort of my sewing room to see huge snowflakes blowing sideways, a white-out! Five minutes later, blue skies and sunshine!

Such weather is not very conducive to gardening, especially to a fair-weather gardener like me! There’s been a lot of localised flooding and the clay soil is sodden, so I’m trying to avoid walking on it. I have managed to finally prune most of our roses, I’ve not quite managed to clear all the prunings up yet though…

Spring tidy up

I even managed to tie in the climbing rose on my obelisk…

Spring tidy up

…and climbed a ladder to prune the rose over the arbour. As you can see there were a couple of branches I couldn’t quite reach, so I’ll have to wait for my taller OH to have a go.

Spring tidy up

The camelia next to the arbour is flowering nicely, it’s blooms have survived the weather better than I thought they might, though I think it’s frost that does the worst damage to these flowers.

Spring tidy up

I have a miniature flowering cherry in amongst my large group of pots, it’s just come into flower, it always looks so dainty.

Spring tidy up

As you can see from the photos, I still have a fair bit of tidying and pruning to do, there’s old growth on perennials such as sedums and peonies that still needs cutting back and the roses on the back fence still need pruning. It’s great to see everything starting to grow, there’s green shoots popping up all over the place and you can just see the beginnings of leaf buds on the trees. I’m on annual leave this week so, weather permitting, I’m hoping to get a fair bit of gardening (and sewing!) done.

Spring tidy up
Posted in Garden | Leave a comment

The Finery of Nature

It’s three weeks since I last showed you my Finery of Nature cross-stitch. This is a Dimensions cross-stitch kit I bought at an Embroiderers Guild meeting. I’ve changed the fabric from black aida to a soft duck egg blue even-weave. I’ve made reasonable progress over the last couple of weeks, this is where I was three weeks ago…

The Finery of Nature

Since then I’ve stitched some french knots on the lily of the valley and I’ve started stitching a few of the metallic high lights. The pattern supplied gold thread, however I felt with my change of background I’d be better with silver. I have to say I’m still not convinced, I’m debating whether or not to undo the silver and replace with a suitable floss. It’s also couched down with the silver thread which is fiddly. I’m tempted at the moment to just do back-stitch with coloured floss. I might decide after I’ve stitched more flowers so I can try both ideas out.

The finery of Nature

I’ve also started the border, I’ve almost stitched three swirls and there are thirty-two altogether! This is why I’m trying to stitch them as I go along, rather than leaving them all to the end!!

This stitch-a-long is organised by Avis from Stitching by the Sea, we post our progress on a project every three weeks, it’s a great incentive and motivator. If you would like to join us please contact Avis. In the meantime please follow the links to see what everyone else is sharing.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, LucyAnn, Jess, Sue, Constanze, Debbierose, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Helen, Steph, Linda, Heidi, Jackie, Sunny, Hayley, Megan, Catherine, Deborah, Connie, Clare, Mary Margaret, Renee, Jenny, Carmela, Jocelyn, Sharon

I’ll also be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link to see lots more hand-stitching.

Posted in embroidery, Stitch-a-long | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Spring Smalls

A couple of weeks ago on facebook a cute cross-stitch design popped up, well it was an instant impulse buy! The design is by the French designer Dany Chevallier, it’s called Ambience Printaniere, which I think would translate as Spring Air. I thought it was pretty and cute without being twee! Just right for a spring project. It’s a pair of designs, the second one being a rabbit with a daffodil.

It’s not taken long to stitch at all as it’s a pretty simple design, I think the simplicity is half of the appeal, the daisy and the iris are particularly effective. The only thing I changed was the colour of the rabbit, it was actually meant to be slightly darker, I had doubled up on this lighter skein of DMC in my stash so I decided to have a chocolate brown rabbit and I also gave him a white scud instead of a brown one, a rabbit has to have a white fluffy tail! He’s still fairly chocolaty, in fact he reminds me of some dark brown rabbits we used to have living in the fields behind us. There used to be lots of rabbits, the path would be littered with them if we walked the dogs on an evening, I think myxomatosis has reared it’s ugly head again as we rarely see a rabbit now.

Ambiance Printaniere

I used my favourite bee fabric to back it. It crossed my mind today that I’ve used this fabric for lots of cross-stitch smalls, but I find it difficult to place in a quilt, I think it’s hovering between blue and green, so it doesn’t actually go with either. It’s perfect for my smalls though! Here’s a photo of the fabric matched with another cross-stitch small.

Joyful World by Snowflower Diaries

I decided with the simplicity of the design I didn’t want anything too fussy to trim it, I made some cord using a variegated DMC thread in soft shades of green, blue/grey and beige, it blends in nicely.I started and finished the cord at a corner, so I decided to make it into a tassel and add some dangly bits, namely some beads and charms. I found a rabbit in my stash and also one saying ‘wish’. I thought this was quite apt for spring and the hope of new beginnings.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0003-1.jpg

My second finish today was the great tits card I made for my OH, it’s our wedding anniversary tomorrow, so I thought I’d better finish it!. I glued some batting onto card and then glued the cross-stitch round the back. I did the same with some quilting fabric on a larger piece of card and then glued the two together. I left it under a weight to dry overnight. I was a little disappointed this morning to see it wasn’t very straight across the top of the cross-stitch. This is the disadvantage of gluing, but when I’ve laced such pieces it’s ended up too bulky, I could almost do with doing a mixture of the two methods! Anyway I decided a bit of judicious trimming would hide the wiggly bit, I made some cord to go around the cross-stitch and added a navy blue ribbon bow. It looked much better.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0006-3.jpg

I had placed a long length of ribbon between the cross-stitch and the backing and I used this to sellotape the cross-stitch to a card, I can then just tie it in a bow at the back afterwards.

I think he will like it! If I get a good response I might stitch a blue footed booby bird next year!

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, please follow the link to see lots of inspiring hand-stitching.

Posted in embroidery | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Coming Home Quilt

I’ve just finished the second block of my Coming Home quilt. This is a block of the month by Sarah Fielke (the same designer as my Down the Rabbit Hole quilt). On the last day of each month she releases the next pattern instructions and videos showing us how to do it. Sarah’s quilts always have a fair amount of needle turn applique so she demonstrates how to stitch different shapes. Last month it was circles, this month it was stars!

Last time I showed you this quilt I’d just finished the centre square with its eight houses…

Coming Home quilt

This month we had to make four side sections, extending the central star. It took me ages to work out fabrics and colours, that bit of quilting doesn’t seem to get any easier! I’ve now got a spare applique star in grey and teal and several spare triangles! I don’t think it helps that after stitching blocks for the Splendid Sampler and also to a degree my Spring Wreath quilt, these triangles and squares seem huge, they’re like 4-5″, so any fabric makes a big impact. My design wall is so useful for this kind of predicament as I can try the colours out and stand back to look at the effect. This was my wall whilst I was still trying to decide!

Coming Home quilt

The points on the stars were the hardest bit to get neat, trying to stuff the seam under such a tiny area. I’ve also decided I really don’t like cutting out triangles! My template seemed to find any excuse to move! I think I’m going to try a bit of tape underneath next time, see if that helps.

Coming Home quilt

We could stitch two sides on, the top and bottom sections will be added next month when we stitch the four corner blocks, they’ve got appliqued flowers on. So my quilt is progressing nicely, it measures nearly 33″ across. I’ve just got to patiently wait another fortnight for the next installment!

Coming Home quilt
Posted in Coming Home Quilt, Quilting | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

A Fluffle and a Gaggle.

I’ve got five new smalls to show you, one new one and four recycled ones, a fluffle of rabbits and a gaggle of geese, oh and a sheep too…

I started this cross-stitch about three weeks ago, I’d grabbed the pattern and flosses when I was just about to go out, not realising until it was too late that to get the finished size I wanted I would have to stitch it over one thread, not my favourite cross-stitch!!! Luckily I had it with me when the train I was on was stranded for five hours…you can really get a fair bit done in five hours!! It gave me the push to keep going with it and a couple of days ago I finally finished it. This is where I was when I last showed you…

It’s a lovely design by a French designer called Il Est Cinq Heures, it’s a freebie and I thought it was very cute. Cute without being twee! Of course with such tiny stitches I made a few mistakes, the main one being the little red cart, it’s meant to be about four stitches wider, so my flowers are a bit squashed together! I love the sheep with his swirls on his fleece, the little rabbit is very sweet and the allium flowers at each end just finish it off. It was meant to have clouds in between the words as well, but I’d had enough of tiny cross-stitches by then so I moved the butterfly along and made the birds fly a little higher!

My bee fabric matched perfectly, bringing out the blue too. The design was also meant to have a zig-zag of cross-stitch along the bottom, so I added a length of ric-rac instead! The blue cord made from two shades of DMC floss just finish it off.

A few weeks ago we had a big clear out ‘under the eaves’, our general dumping area, I think every home has one! I still have boxes of my children’s clothes etc so I had a bit of a sort out. I’ve kept all the ones I made and a couple of special ones and given lots to charity. In amongst the clothes I found some bibs I embroidered and a nappy pin cushion. Yes I used terry nappies, way back then I was very uncomfortable with disposable nappies that would still be on a rubbish tip when their grandchildren were born. Roll on 20 years and despite all the discussion about plastic waste there is very little mention about disposable nappies, most of which will be wrapped in a single use plastic nappy bag!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0002.jpg

Anyway, I’ve climbed down from my soap box…I decided that as these bibs would realistically never be used again as they were looking decidedly past it, I would make the cross-stitch into smalls. The bibs were terry with a strip of aida across the bottom, so I trimmed them down and found a fat quarter in my stash that matched perfectly.

I made the bouncy rabbits one first, I was planning a few buttons under the length of vintage broderie anglais, especially as I found a Peter Rabbit button which was used first on my kids clothes. However I couldn’t get it to look right so I made the cushion a bit smaller and it looked much better.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0006-2.jpg

The biggest one is the geese and teddy. For this one I did manage to use an old baby button of a duck together with some pretty simple ones.

The pincushion was looking pretty shabby so I took it apart, the little duck was on the back. It’s pretty small so I added three rows of embroidery at the side and stitched on the blue fabric. A length of blue check ric-rac just finishes it nicely. At the moment the mother goose has just been made into a simple pad with a fresh blue back, I haven’t decided yet how to trim it. I feel it needs a little something, either blue cord, ricrac or mini pompoms.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0007.jpg

I’m pleased with my new smalls, just in time for an Easter display!

I’ll be linking up with Kathy’s Quilts for Slow Stitching Sunday, a celebration of all things hand stitched, why not follow the link and see what everyone else has been making.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0009.jpg
Posted in Crafts, embroidery | Tagged | 22 Comments

Nineteen for 19

We’re over a week into March, where does time go! I thought I’d better do an update for my Nineteen for 19 challenge…

  • 1 Scrap Quilt I’ve not started yet but I have decided I need to organise my overflowing scrap boxes a bit, maybe into colours.
  • 2 Tutorials; nothing as yet, but thinking things over!
  • 3 sessions in the garden; I did pretty well in February, starting to weed and generally tidy up, I had a good clearing session on the rose bed by the lawn. This beautiful hellebore was definately flower of the month and it’s still looking great well into March!
  • 4 workshops; I’ve got three booked at Fabbadashery in Halifax, I had to cancel one for May as I realised I’d double booked myself, however I’ve now booked for July and September with the same tutor. She gave us a talk at Embroiderers Guild about Bethlehem Embroidery and I was so inspired I booked two workshops!
  • 5 presents; this remains at one, my niece loved the baby quilt and baby Logan is gorgeous, I’ve had a few cuddles!
  • 6 quilts; Just one finished the one above at the moment, but I’ve got three on the go and I need to make one for a charity auction, I’ve a week off work soon so I’m hoping to make a start then. I’ve half made a quilt for the Care Leavers Christmas Dinners, but it is still waiting to be quilted.
  • 7 new patterns; none as yet, although I’ve added another two to my stash!!
  • 8 kits; I finished my mandala this month, I love it, it looks so pretty. So my tally is two kits stitched.
  • 9 mini embroideries; we started our Travelling Sketchbook project at my Embroiderers Guild, so I stitched a chickadee to start my book off. I’ve got to stitch something about maps this month, I’ve a few ideas floating round!
Chickadee embroidery
  • 10 things; I’ve started making some fabric boxes for my sewing room to put patterns in, I’ve only made one out of four so far so I haven’t shared them yet. However I did make a cushion from an embroidery I did years ago. With the block book I made last month my tally is now two.
  • 11 cross-stitch smalls; In February I managed to stitch two cross-stitch smalls, one was for an wedding anniversary card for my OH, the other was a quick little heart to stitch for Valentines Day. So my total for the year is five already…they’re quite addictive!
Great tit cross-stitch
  • 12 pages in my book; I haven’t started this project yet, though I think I have worked out in my mind how I’m going to do it.
  • 13 clothes made; I’ve been buried under curtain fabric for the last few weeks, so no chance to sew clothes for me… I made a deal with my son a couple of years ago, he fit a bathroom for us (he’s a plumber) and I would make curtains for his new house. Fair deal!! He finally got organised to buy some fabric last month! Two pairs of curtains, seven drops, 14 metres of woolen fabric…it’s the sheer weight of fabric that makes curtains hard work, one curtain had a total of 12m of fabric, including the lining! I’ve made all my curtains for various homes since I was in the nurses home aged 18, but I still find them hard work!
  • 14 drawers organised; I had a bit of a sort out in my fat quarter stash this month, I donated some to the care leavers quilt day and reorganised the rest, spreading them out from two drawers to three, so I can have a batik drawers, plains and novelty drawer and the rest colour sorted. So I’ve sorted two drawers so far this year.
  • 15 minutes tidy-up at the end of a sewing session; I’m getting better at this and it does make a difference!
  • 16 books; I finished West with the Night last month, I’m going to write a joint review with Circling the Sun which I finished last night, as they are both about Beryl Markham, a biography and an autobiography. My tally for January and February is two.
  • 17 blogs a month; I just made this, with exactly seventeen posts…but it was a shorter month 🙂
  • 18 walks; My tally remains at three as I’ve not managed any this month! We had one planned last week but several things were against us so we went to the seaside instead! I’m off to the chiropodist on Tuesday so hopefully things will improve and I can get back to walking.
  • 19 Splendid Sampler blocks; I stitched five this month so my total is nine so far, a pretty good start as I’m nearly half way on this challenge after only two months!

Another busy month sewing wise, though I was busy with sewing that didn’t count towards a challenge, like curtains! It was quite amusing on facebook as James was clearly very keen for me to concentrate on his curtains – everytime I posted a photo of something I’d made, such as my mandala or the baby quilt he would post two words… “Curtains Mother!”

There’s still quite a few challenges that I’ve not even made a start on so I think I need to concentrate my mind a bit.

Posted in Nineteen for 19 | Tagged | 15 Comments

Visiting Flowers

Over the last few years an increasing number of gardens have opened in January and February for people to see the snowdrops. I rather like the idea of going to visit a certain flower, it’s a bit like the Japanese going to see the cherry blossom (though no where near as spectacular!). This year my Women’s Institute arranged a visit to Goldsborough Hall to see the snowdrops.

Goldsborough Hall

Goldsborough Hall is a stately home which is now open to guests, it was originally built in the early 1600’s, it was passed down through the generations until 1756 when it was bought by Daniel Lascelles and became part of the Harewood Estate. It’s most famous resident was Princess Mary, daughter of King George V, she married Viscount Lascelles and lived there for their early married life. During the war it became a school and later a nursing home. After closing it laid empty for a couple of years before being sold in 2005, it’s been restored by it’s current owners to a family home, but they do weddings and guest accommodation etc.

The 12 acre gardens are mainly woodland and parkland, under the trees is just a mass of snowdrops.

Snowdrops at Goldsborough Hall

I have to confess, I’m not a great connoisseur of snowdrops, I can appreciate there are different heights, size of flowers and very slight colour variations, but they are all just very pretty to me!

Snowdrops at Goldsborough Hall

There were lots of named varieties…

Snowdrops at Goldsborough Hall

…but I mainly enjoyed just seeing them en masse.

Snowdrops at Goldsborough Hall

Last week my walking buddy and I changed our plans for the day and instead of walking up Pen-y-ghent we went to the seaside (via plant nursery and fabric shop!!) and came home via Kirby Lonsdale as we had been told the crocuses in the churchyard were worth a visit.

crocuses at Kirby Lonsdale

We were not disappointed! The churchyard is just covered with crocuses and daffodils, it looked beautiful. We spent a very peaceful few minutes just wandering round looking at the blooms.

crocuses at Kirby Lonsdale

Some of the houses and buildings in Kirby Lonsdale looked really interesting, we will have to return when we have a little more time and maybe slightly warmer weather!.

crocuses at Kirby Lonsdale
Posted in Women's Institute | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Spring Wreath Quilt

I’ve just finished another block for my Spring Wreath quilt BOM, this is a gorgeous design by Andrea Walpole of Raggedy Ruff Designs. It’s been a very steep learning curve as I’ve not tried free machine embroidery before but Andrea’s instructions are great and her best bit of advice is ‘Just take a deep breath and go for it!’

Just to remind you, the first block was the family of rabbits, this sits in the centre of the quilt…

Spring Wreath BOM

The second block was a deer, very cute, I think this one sits bottom left on the quilt…

Spring Wreath

This month it was a pair of foxes, it was actually easier that the two previous blocks as their eyes are closed!! Once the block was pieced and the applique cut out using freezer paper, the embroidery bit doesn’t actually take that long, an evening or so. I’m not nearly as terrified by the embroidery bit as I was on the first one, I almost enjoy that part!

Spring Wreath BOM

As you can see the quilt depicts British wildlife, Andrea’s love of the countryside and it’s wildlife shines through her designs, the animals are beautifully drawn. I’ve decided it’s the detail that makes these quilts so wonderful, both with the shapes of the fabric cut and the embroidered detail. For example, the dandelion seeds that are floating away haven’t just got a white fluffy bit, they have the brown seed dangling down too, the butterfly wings have veins and coloured spots.

I’ve got squirrels to do next and then an owl. After that it’s ‘just’ the floral border swags that bring it all together.

Posted in embroidery, Quilting | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

March Windows

It’s the first Tuesday in the month so it’s Windows time, the photographic challenge organised by Wild Daffodil. I was a bit more organised over the last month and actually looked for some windows to photograph!

Last week my walking buddy and I purportedly set out to do a practice walk up Pen-y-ghent, however for various reasons we abandoned that plan (whilst en route!!) and went to the seaside instead! We managed to include a garden centre and a fabric shop, so my OH was somewhat perplexed when I came back from a ‘walk’ with two plants and two lengths of fabric!!

Anyway, I digress! On the way back we called in at Kirby Lonsdale, a lovely old village on the border of the Yorkshire Dales and the Lakes. We had a good mooch round, discovering lots of fascinating old ginnels and back lanes.

There was a market on in the village square, but along the back lanes into the older part of Kirby Lonsdale we found it’s second market square, complete with market cross. It’s very unusual for villages to have two. This one was a livestock market, the streets next to it are still called Horsemarket and Swinemarket. The original weigh house is still there, you can just make out the outline of cobbles in front marking the edges of the weigh platform.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0005.jpg

There was an interesting building on the square which if I read the information board right was the old police station.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0004.jpg

We followed the ginnels round to the churchyard. The church is a fascinating mix of architectural styles. Parts of it date back to the twelfth century but various bits have been added on and changed in most centuries since, so there is an eclectic mix of styles.

This mix of styles was particularly noticeable with the shapes of windows and arches…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0035.jpg

There is some beautiful stained glass in the church, it always amazes me to see the detail in stained glass windows, it’s one of the times that the more you look, the more you see, I love the vibrant colours of this window and the tiny flowers and mushrooms on the ground…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0030.jpg

These are the bottom panels of larger windows, just look at the detail of those flowers…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dsc_0033.jpg

This photo challenge is organised by Wild Daffodil, she has some lovely photos of Forde Abbey, please follow the link to see lots more photos of windows.

Posted in Photo Challenge | Tagged , , | 9 Comments