Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Yvonne the Spider
This is Yvonne, especially designed and created for Hallowe'en along with the pumpkins.  I also managed to crochet Yvonne a web which is now in place at Beulah's, but quite difficult to photograph.  

Last week was one of those weeks when I had a sudden burst of creativity and saw how to make things.  Silly things admittedly, but very pleasing.  I now have loads more ideas.

Forgot to photograph them with their stalks 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Lulworth Cove

The Tortured and Folded Purbeck Stone
Once a year, if I'm lucky I am taken to 'see the sea'.  This time it was a grey gloomy day in late October and I was taken to Lulworth Cove.  The last time I came here, I must have been about eleven.  I'm still awestruck by the way the rock has been folded and turned on its side along this Jurassic coastline, then worked by the sea into tunnels and blow holes and pretty little coves.  There are fast flowing freshwater springs running down through the village to the sea, under and around the houses.  One has been dammed to make a peaceful little pond where mallard and moorhens feed and doze.

Highlight of the day was watching an excited labrador leap into the sea, heave out a big chunk of driftwood and drag it up the shore to drop expectantly at his master's feet.

The Cove

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle
On a grey drizzling Friday we drove down to see Corfe Castle, high on its hill in Dorset.  It's a vast complex, much larger than I expected and must have been quite something in its day.  Ravens live in the castle now. Soay and Herdwick  sheep graze the steep hillsides.
Herdwicks grazing under the walls
First, long ago there was a Saxon hall and Edward the Martyr, King Edward the first of England died there in 978, murdered it is said by his stepmother Aelfthryth.  They say that on the anniversary of his death a cold north wind blows through the castle.

The typical herringbone pattern of a Saxon stone wall
William the Conqueror acquired Corfe in 1086 and built the first substantial castle there.  The very steep hill is a natural feature carved out from the landscape by two rivers and extremely defensible.

In the 12th century King Henry I  built a great stone keep.  This took nine years and as more kings took ownership over the centuries a small village grew up at the base of the hill to house the workforce.

Henry's tower
King John and King Henry III went on to add to the castle so that it became a very sophisticated royal residence.  Henry III ordered that the keep be whitewashed and it would have been seen for miles.  Over the years many royal and aristocratic unfortunates were imprisoned there as rebellion and royal struggles raged across the land.
Where the Ravens live
Queen Elizabeth I sold Corfe to Sir Christopher Hatton in 1572 and in 1635 it was bought by the Royalist supporter of King Charles I - Sir John Bankes.  During the Civil War Lady Mary Bankes defended it valiantly for six weeks.  
Watching Out for the Enemy
Finally the castle was betrayed when a force of Parliamentarians disguised as Royalist reinforcements were admitted.  The castle was attacked from inside and outside and defeated.  Lady Bankes was given safe passage to leave because of her gallant defense.  The story goes that she threw her jewelry down the well inside the castle, but it has never been found and it's now believed she smuggled it out in her underwear.

In 1643 the Parliamentarians voted that the castle be 'slighted', demolished so that it could not be made defensible again.  Huge chunks of masonry have been thrown and tilted, they were very good at 'slighting'.  Sad that there is someone in every generation who excels at tearing things down. 
Craftsmanship - the fancy stonework at the top is probably
conservation work to prevent further deterioration

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


The 1960s Girl About Town
This picture comes from 'Dolls' Dressmaking' by Winifred Butler - 1962

I think I got this in a second hand bookshop a few years ago.  It shows little girls all the things they need to know to make clothes for their dollies.  It ranges from the very simplest techniques to the more complex and structured.

I can't help feeling that I would have been one of the little girls who quickly gave up on it, but just looking at it makes you feel happy to be alive.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Why do we do these things?

Why, oh Why, oh Why?
In the middle of everything else and the general knitting against the clock for Christmas, etc. I have suddenly taken it into my head to knit pumpkins.  Why do we do these things?  Now I'm planning a knitted bat.

Getting the 'carved' features right on the pumpkins is giving me a lot of trouble.  It was all going swimmingly up to that point.  I battled with them at the Upstairs Stitchers at Beulah's Vintage Attic on Thursday night while Jan gloated over her finished pair of socks, (first socks she has ever made) and the lovely Tina and Sarah made their small fabric goodies - flowery tea cosies, danglies for the Christmas tree and clip on flowers.

This is not my work
Lots of Loveliness - Part of Tina and Sarah's stand at Beulah's
Colours in this picture slightly washed out as it was late and lighting was tricky.
The stand is much brighter than this.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Whilst it may appear I am not knitting...

Whilst it may appear that I am not knitting, judging by my blog posts, I am doing quite a lot.  It just doesn't warrant a photograph at the moment.  The other thing I did this week was make a little workbag out of furnishing fabric samples.  It worked surprisingly well.  I must have had these samples for over twenty years, knowing there was some kind of use for them.

A little bit of sage still flowring in the garden

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

One of the earlier novels, Jane Austen is poking gentle fun at contemporary novelists and their overblown plots and narrative.  She matches her plot and the reactions of her characters against those of other authors.   This would be dangerous and almost formulaic if it were not for some of the brilliant characterisations encountered along the way.  John Thorpe, for instance, made me so angry.  He is insensitive, acquisitive, possessive and careless of the way he damages the chance of happiness for others.  On the other hand Henry Tilney, the romantic hero is a little disappointing.  Can't quite understand what he's about and there is a rush at the end of the book to wrap it all up happily.  While not my favourite Austen novel, it's still wonderful stuff.

The Burning Wire by Jeffery Deaver

Crime thriller in the usual Deaver mould.  I've read several now and usually find them a good page turner, but this one dragged a bit.  I think I just wasn't in the mood.

A Gambling Man by Jenny Uglow

About the return of Charles II to his kingdom and how he lived the balancing act between all the various factions, some of whom had  been instrumental in the execution of his father and his own exile.  I didn't know very much about the Restoration, I'd read a few of the plays of the time and some of the poetry, but for me there was a big gap between the English Civil War and the Industrial Revolution.  This book joined up so many things for me - the background to the plays and poetry, the way the gentry reclaimed their lands after they had been confiscated by Cromwell and allowed to fall into ruin, how they set about 'improvement' and sowed the seeds of the agrarian revolution experimenting with new methods of cultivation, and new crops like turnips and potatoes.  How they were keen to re-establish the unity of High Anglican church and state as they had understood it, how they acted harshly against non-conformists - Puritans, Quakers and Baptists included.  And how their violent backlash caused many of those groups to emigrate to America, eventually contributing to the shape of our modern world.  This is a book that makes you think.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Right now in the Garden

Clematis Tangutica growing through Acer
The garden has been neglected this year due to building works and weather, but if you look closely there are still some gems out there.

Dwarf Michaelmas Daisies
Sedum Spectabile - Autumn Joy
On a warm day insects flock to this late flowering beauty

Friday, 12 October 2012

Right now in the Greenhouse

The Scarborough Lily - Vallota
Flowering Right Now in the Greenhouse
This wonderful plant given me by a close colleague years ago produces lots of babies each year and rewards me late on in the greenhouse with these amazing flowers. It took me some years to get it to flower and I must confess the secret is a bit of neglect and some liquid feed in the early summer. It doesn't like very much water in winter and if too moist the leaves turn yellow, limp and a bit nasty.

When I first got it I scoured my books to find out about the Scarborough Lily and the best information was in an old gardening book of 1933 - The Wright Encyclopaedia of Gardening by Walter P. Wright, a wonderfully informative book with good practical tips and sketches. 
The cover - a coloured woodcut by Robert Gibbings
The rather grubby and tatty cover fell off long before I owned it and has been carefully slipped inside.  This is what I love about old books.  The best ones show how much they have been appreciated.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

That Time of Year

We have cut the hedge!  Every year we wait for the young birdies to fly the nest, then we wait for a dry weekend, then we sigh and decide we can't put it off any longer - and we get out there and cut the hedge.
I actually like the lane to look a bit wild, but there's wild and there's derelict-looking.
Much Tamer
Next job is to cut back the ivy from my sewing room window.  This involves moving lots of kit and kneeling on the desk to get at the window.  Each year this gets harder due to increasing amounts of clutter and increasingly dodgy knee joints.
Slightly impaired view from my sewing room

Sunday, 7 October 2012


Knitted Flower
It's getting very autumnal round here, but flowers are still my thing.  This is a knitted flower in chenille, dark green and rust colours with a green and gold bead.  If I can find the time to source some brooch pins I might make a few of these.  So many ideas, the fingers don't move fast enough to deliver them all.  I just flit from one to another - it seems my attention span is diminishing.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Found at a Car Boot Sale

So Pretty
Found at a Car Boot Sale a very pretty cushion cover in an all-over chain stitch embroidery.  Obviously machine made, but very, very pretty.
Close-up of stitching

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Knit for Victory!

From Needlewoman and Needlecraft Issue No. 13
To coincide with Wool Week and National Knitting Week (Monday 15th to Sunday 21st October), Beaker Button will spend the week immersed in the 1940s, dressing in 1940s clothing, listening to music and eating food from the time.   For details see... 

There will be Make Do and Mend demonstrations and that put me in mind of my collection of wartime craft magazines.  This article is headed by a commendation from the Board of Trade

'THE BOARD OF TRADE are most grateful to Needlewoman and Needlecraft Magazine for offering a whole page especially for the use of 'Make Do and Mend' ideas.  This will be a very valuable contribution to the Board of Trade campaign to assist the public with their clothes problems'.

The article then goes on to describe the socks.  

'These two piece socks are a really economical idea, for several new foot portions can be knitted from oddments of wool (colour does not matter) and all that has to be done when the original foot is beyond repair is just to unpick the ankle seam and sew in a new foot in place of the old one.  This can be quite easily done by any man and will be a boon to the lads serving away from home'.