Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Lullaby

I've been learning to play the violin for four months now and I'm loving it. It's a very difficult instrument to learn but there's nothing like the resonant music you get from a stringed instrument, especially one that you play so close to your ear. I think the violin is the instrument that sounds most like the voice; I seem to remember hearing a radio programme about concert parties in the First World War which said that it was the violin that most soldiers wanted to hear. Violin music can sound like singing and it can sound like crying - that's got to make it pretty special.

Needless to say, my violin playing might make you cry but not because it's beautiful. Learning to play in tune is one of the hardest things to do (that and the bowing, using muscles you didn't know you had, relaxing your hands while still keeping control ...). I put off learning for years because I didn't think my musical ear would be good enough. It turns out that learning actually trains your ear so I needn't have worried.

I am now able to attempt simple tunes which is very exciting. I may not be able to play them properly but they do sound lovely when my teacher plays them so that gives me something to aim for. The first piece that I really worked on and loved was the  Brahms Lullaby.

Now you may be wondering why there's a doll in the picture. Meet Tiny Tears, my much loved doll. I saw the television adverts for her when she first came out in the 1960s and really wanted her. On Christmas morning I opened a big box to find, not only Tiny Tears, but also lots of clothes for her and even a carrycot - all made by my Mum.

I don't remember many specific presents from when I was little and this is the only one I can still remember unwrapping so that tells you how special this doll was. Anyway, back to the music ... Tiny Tears was advertised with a special song to the tune of the Brahms Lullaby.
                                                        'Tiny Tears, Tiny Tears, 
                                                         You're my very own baby,
                                                         Mummy's here, Tiny Tears, 
                                                         Singing you a lullaby'.

So, before I even learnt to read music, let alone play it, this was my first introduction to classical music. Now my doll sits patiently listening as I try to play her lullaby.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Cats

Remember when I told you how well my two rescue cats were getting on? Here they are, cuddled up together a few weeks ago ...

Well, now Linnet has gone back to hissing at the kitten and not letting him come near her. Tolly went to the vets yesterday to be neutered (I took advantage of the Cats Protection League February offer of £5 neutering). Anyway, he was very pleased to come home in the afternoon but Linnet is now treating him as though he's a new cat.

Either he still smells of a strange and scary place or she's not as bright as I thought she was and actually doesn't recognise him! Any ideas?


Well, Linnet still isn't very keen on the kitten but she isn't hissing now so that's something. I suspect him coming home, smelling of the vets reminded her of bad times last summer when she was first rescued.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A Winter Walk

A few days ago my son and I went for a walk from Stonesfield, a Cotswold village about half an hour's drive from here. It takes its name from the slate mining which took place there up until the First World War. Apparently the church bell would be rung in the middle of the night if there was a hard frost to remind people to get up and uncover the slate so that the frost could split it into layers.

Our walk began with this very old (and muddy) sunken path. There's something magical about a path that has been trodden for so long that it has sunk below the banks on either side. All those feet over all those  years ...

Much of the walk was along the bank of the River Evenlode (more mud) but it was a fine, bright day, just right for walking. There was singing and there were marmite crisps when we stopped for a rest.

Some of the first snowdrops I've seen this year

After our walk we drove to Hook Norton, home of Hooky Beer, in search of a pub for lunch. We came upon the Pear Tree Inn which is just down the road from the brewery. It's an old pub with a single, low beamed bar and good, simple food. While we were eating, the beer delivery arrived ...

Aren't those Shire horses beautiful? 

I do like a proper pub and you can't get much more traditional than a horse drawn dray, can you? 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Odds and Ends

Some of my patterns take months or even years to finish. This one for example ...

While others go from "I wonder if I can knit that" to publication in a few days. Last week I wrote two patterns like that, both of which definitely fall into the 'odds and ends' category.

The first one was a knitted version of those leather plaited bracelets where, although both ends are joined, the strands can be plaited and unplaited.

Then I started working out a way to knit a garter stitch heart in one piece and, as Valentine's Day was only a few days away, I thought I'd better get on with it. So, after several days of knitting and re-knitting, I had a formula to knit the hearts in lots of sizes. Normally I don't enjoy taking the photos for a pattern but these were fun to do.

After rushing to get this one finished, what could I call it but Hearts in a Hurry. And now I'm going back to the normal designing; I've still got the mini quilt for next month to do.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Building Bridges

As I walked round Hazelborough Wood in the mud today, I was singing 'Building Bridges'. It's a song I learnt from an inspiring group of Woodcraft Folk last weekend and I can't get it out of my head. Here are the words:

Building bridges between our divisions,
I reach out to you as you reach out for me.
With all of our voices and all of our visions
We can make such a sweet harmony.

And here is a short film of a Midlands Woodcraft Folk group singing it as a round. At the end of the film they also sing 'Link Your Hands Together' which is sung at the end of each Woodcraft meeting.

'Ish ash osh' is how Woodies count in to their songs - I think the words are from a Native American language but I'm not sure. Perhaps someone out there knows? 'Building Bridges' made me think of Jo Cox and the work that she did to bring people together but, really, it's a song for all of us, at all times.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Happy Birthday

A very Happy Birthday to this one ...

And, for all the knitters reading this, here's one of baby plus blanket.

As you can see, that blanket had pictures on the front and the alphabet on the back. Over the years, the dreaded moths got to it so it's sadly in need of some repair and re-knitting. I must get round to that one day.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Lucy Boston

Kaleidoscope Patchwork

When I wrote about the Green Knowe books I mentioned that the author, Lucy Boston, was also a quilter. She created more than twenty beautiful quilts over the years, each of which is a work of art. Lucy sewed all her quilts by hand, using traditional English Paper Piecing where each piece of fabric is sewn over a paper template and then stitched together with small stitches before removing the papers. 

She started making quilts in her forties and continued into her nineties, by which time her sight was so poor that children from the village would come to thread her needles for her. Despite this, she still pieced her quilts with the tiniest of stitches and chose intricate designs. This is her last quilt, sewn in her nineties while her sight was failing.

Islamic Tiles  Patchwork

Each of those tiles is made up of either five or nine pieces (I think that's right anyway), carefully chosen so that the patterns on the fabric create further symmetrical designs. This was a feature of Lucy's work; you can see it in this section from her Patchwork of the Crosses quilt.

This is perhaps the best known of Lucy's quilts today. Many quilters around the world have made it, some using English Paper Piecing as she did and others using the Inklingo method of printing the shapes on to fabric devised by Linda Franz. Issue 18 of Today's Quilter magazine had an interesting article about Lucy and her quilts.

Reading this, I see that Sew and Quilt are running a Block of the Month club this year, making Lucy's Patchwork of the Crosses quilt using English Paper Piecing and Liberty Tana Lawn fabrics. There's still time to sign up for it; I think the quilts will look beautiful in those fabrics.

Many of Lucy's quilts can be seen at her home, The Manor, Hemingford Grey, where you will be shown round by her daughter-in-law, Diana Boston. I really want to do that one day; to see the world of Green Knowe and an amazing collection of quilts in one day - what more could you want? Oh, and, by the way, Lucy also created a beautiful garden, full of old roses ...

In the meantime, I turn to this ...

This is a beautiful book, written by Diana, with illustrations by Peter Boston and photographs by Julia Hedgecoe. Nearly all the pictures in this post are from her photos. The book doesn't tell you how to make the quilts but it's full of inspiring details, extracts from Lucy's letters and much much more.

The Patchworks of Lucy Boston

You can order this book from the Green Knowe Shop. Lucy Boston was a truly inspirational woman in so many ways. Do look at the quilts, admire what she created in her house and garden but, most of all, read her children's books.

I hesitate to mention this after talking about such exquisite work but I did play around to see if it was possible to knit the Patchwork of the Crosses.

It sort of works but I don't think it's quite right. Maybe I'll go back to it one day and try again.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Another Mini Quilt

The second in my monthly series of Mini Quilts for 2017 is now available. February Quilt has hearts and flowers, plus some little buttons (I do love adding buttons to stuff).

As with the January Quilt the pattern could also be used to make a block for a blanket, or you could add the hearts and flowers to other things. Here's the little fabric quilt I made for my daughter (two down, ten to go - will she get all twelve?) 

This series of patterns has turned out to be quite popular; I'm looking forward to seeing lots of finished little quilts, as well as the other projects knitters are using them for. Do come and join in the fun on the Mini Quilts thread on Ravelry.

Now I just have to come up with something to put on the next quilt. Any ideas?