Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Bits and Pieces

So, I've been busy this past month, since my last post. Doing what, you ask? Well, according to my photographs, my WI craft group was making quilted place mats and coasters. Most of us didn't get past making the items on to doing the actual quilting, but we're having a catch up session in July which should help folks complete their projects. 




The ladies in my other craft group worked on Fair Isle knitting projects. I've not got very far with mine as it requires a clear mind and quiet time. The top photo doesn't show it but the other three projects incorporate the Selbu rose I told you about earlier.












I bought Bill (and myself - he wouldn't like to go alone) season tickets for the 2019 Newcastle City Walks programme for Christmas. We've been on several where I've tried to form a mnemonic sentence to remember the main points to tell about them here. It's a real mental work out, never mind the walking! I've yet to produce any of those posts, you may have noticed. 

As we headed back to the car after one of these walks we passed down a narrow street and I spotted two cafes side by side: The Dog and Scone and the Mog on the Tyne. They charge admission fees to allow you to pet their animals. It's one of the odd things about Europe, animals being allowed in eating establishments. I've never really quite got used to it. I doubt I would order food in either of these locations, but going in to get a doggie-fix rather appeals. 




The names are plays on words: Dog and Scone refers to the Cockney phrase 'dog and bone' (which means phone). Mog is a British term for cat and it rhymes with Fog on the Tyne, which was a popular song by an English rock group, Lindisfarne (the name of a castle on Holy Island, not far from here). All clever stuff. Shame I rarely get in to town. Or to Holy Island, for that matter. Must do better.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Sorting Buttons

I've never got into the popular 'adult colouring books' that came out of nowhere a few years ago. For one, it seems a waste of time - not that I'm against that in principle, I just prefer to have something to show for my wasted time. For two I never could quite get past the 'adult' part. How sad that I think that has undesirable connotations.



Anyhow, instead of filling in a colouring book, I prefer to sort buttons. Doing the colours is the most fun part. After that I might put shanks vs flat buttons together and then two holes vs four holes. By then if I have any matches I can thread them together. But I rarely get that serious, just sorting by colour is usually good enough for me. Very relaxing hobby this!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Daddy's Birthday

I just realised I don't think about my Dad so much as I once did, which makes me sad. It also seems rather odd since I work at finding his birth father every day for at least a couple of hours. I sometimes get sick of it and feel it is a waste of time but most of the time I'm pretty determined to crack it. I wonder what makes me so obsessed about this. I think it is because I'm trying to replace what someone 'stole' from me. A decade or so ago I had a whole family tree, for at least several generations. Then the woman who snapped an illicit photo at the Minnesota Historical Society came along and 'chopped' my Dad's side away. I'm fighting to get that whole tree back. I think once that's cracked I might go back to having a more normal life, but don't hold you're breath. I only ever manage a faint facsimile of that concept.

I know quite a bit about my Dad's Norwegian mother and she has sparked my interest in Norwegian culture. As it happens, we are learning Fair Isle knitting at one of my craft groups. I subscribe to a newsletter called Craftsmanship and this month one of the articles is about a Norwegian woman, Annemor Sundbo (except that o should have a forward slash on top of it), dubbed 'the sweater detective'. It tells that she approached a man who had a wool mill because she wanted to study the weaving techniques but instead he sold her the mill and along with it came tons (actual tons!) of old knitted items. She studies the patterns in those as well as in old paintings, noting the variation of patterns. She is trying to get the special sheep that were bred for Norwegian wool, said to be especially hard wearing, to be raised again in quantity. 

Three things struck me from this article. First, her passion for all things wool and where that has led her is the stuff of fantasies for many interested in wool / craft / textiles / history. She's written award winning books and I expect I may try to obtain one at some point. Secondly, the discussion about the variation in knitting patterns from village to village sounded much like the knitted ganseys from this part of the world: wives knitted heavy woolen sweaters for their fishermen using the distinctive pattern developed for her village. Should the man be washed overboard and the body recovered, this pattern would aid in having the body returned to the right village. Grim, isn't it? But it makes perfect sense. It also rather reinforces the idea that Sundbo puts forward that there is a 'spiritual bond' between the maker and the wearer. Norwegian patterns have historical, mythic meanings. Which brings me to the third point. The article mentions Selbu, referring to the popular eight pointed flower called the Selbu rose pattern. Selbu is the village from which my Dad's birth mother's family originated. The pattern is now considered typically Norwegian, but Sundbo says it predates the mid-1800s when it debuted in Selbu and actually dates back to medieval times in Europe and even before in the middle east. The octagonal star has been around for a very long time.


From ThorNews, which I am now following!

I've not got very far on my Fair Isle, it being a rather complex pattern in spite of only using two colours on any given row. I've decided to use the Selbu Rose somewhere in this small bag I'm making. Should I live long enough to finish it, I'll be sure to show it to you. It makes perfect sense to use this pattern in my Fair Isle project given that the place, Fair Isle is pretty much square in between Norway and Scotland. And once I have the Selbu rose mastered, I can move on to the Norwegian 'lice' pattern (or not).

In addition to thinking of my Dad (as opposed to his genetic material) I'm also remembering his brother / half-brother, Albert, born one day and three years earlier than my Dad. Albert drowned in the Mississippi River at the age of 24. I have to wait until 2022 to access his adoption records and learn more about his story.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Action Shot

Walking to my WI meeting on a Monday night I noticed a lovely tuxedo cat sitting on a stone wall amongst some budding trees. I thought to whip out my camera and snap him along with the daffodils but, no. He decided I might pet him and flew off the wall to follow me down the street. How frustrating. Still he was a lovely sight.




Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Vivien's Birthday

No, it's not Vivien's birthday now or any time in the next six months; her birthday is long past so "don't worry about it" (to quote her). I just found some photos I'd taken at the time I was preparing her presents and thought I would share them because it was fun at the time. I always wrap her gifts at the same time as I do her and Steve's Christmas gifts (there's hint for you). It makes a nice change to do a birthday theme instead of the umpteenth red / green / gold / silver thing.

I don't remember what all I got her this time, only that I enjoyed putting it together. I had no birthday wrapping paper that suited, so she got fabric wraps decorated with buttons and ribbons. 




I remember having to tell her to take the plant out of the bag, as I feared it wouldn't do well without light. 




I got the bulbs, the ivy at the garden guy at Tynemouth flea market. And the vase from a new housewares shop that lasted about a month, sadly. It was a newly renovated building tucked away between two others and I was looking forward to exploring it further, as the top floor had a lantern roof, like a conservatory. It's now a boring office place. I'm quite disappointed about this but perhaps her prices really were too good to be true.

Gosh, did I put a baby spider plant in there, too?


I remember the day also because we got an early-ish phone call from one of Bill's children about an impromptu visit that very day. I was rather grumpy about the short notice and then decided I simply wouldn't change my plans. There wasn't enough time to get ready for Vivien's birthday before our next meet up and I still didn't know what I might get her other that what small thing I already had on hand. As it happened the timing was perfect: they were at the door just as I was going out. They had kindly brought us a poinsettia and a very large bag of bacon flavoured crisps. I didn't feel I had the skills to revive this sad poinsettia and so it later went into the compost bin. I donated the crisps (not that they wouldn't have been incredible, I just didn't need the calories) to a nearby food bank. They were gone by the time I'd circled Tynemouth village several times, running into an old friend from work as well. (Must get in touch with Hilary.) 

Was all that terrible of me? Perhaps. I have to say it felt like setting boundaries and taking care of myself. And Bill got to enjoy their visit all the same.

I'm thinking this must have been on sale...or free...


Anyhow, when I got home I had fun wrapping the presents and putting together the plant. It amused me to use sea glass in the bottom for drainage, then potting compost. I inserted the bulbs and surrounded them with the ivy plants. I remembered a magazine article from long ago that described the components for a good potted arrangement: you need a thriller (something that sticks up), a spiller (something that hangs down) and a filler (to fill the gaps). I hoped that the ivy would serve as both spiller and filler (I'm a real fan of draping plants like ferns, ivy, willow trees, etc. I think they are terribly romantic; how soppy is that?).

I am sure I ironed this before wrapping the gift; why didn't I iron it before taking the photo??






The bulbs turned out to be even more "thrilling" than I expected, they shot up well before her birthday. She kindly sent me a photo and said they were using it as their Christmas centrepiece. 





Saturday, 30 March 2019

Rudolph's Cousin

I was going to tell you about a wire bird I made but then when trying explain why on earth I would bother I realised I never told you about Rupert (apologies to Vivien's brother). The WI Federation offered a class in making a willow reindeer back in November and for some reason I bit. I think because of willow being a natural material I didn't feel so bad about using it to craft something useless. Obviously such noble reasoning went out the window concerning the bird, but that's another post.

I took a series of pictures thinking I would remember how to do all this and maybe make some more. That's not going to happen and I'll tell you why later. 

First you have a heavy board with holes at the corners to pack in a bunch of willow sticks. We had to really pack these in so they wouldn't have room to spring back out. The 'ankles' were then secured with plastic cable ties (so much for natural materials).





We were given the technical names for parts of said sticks (but it wasn't called a stick). I remember the thick end is the 'butt' and the skinny end is the 'tip' and there is a name for the bendy bit in the middle, but it's escaped me. That's what comes of writing four months late. It has a natural bend that you have to work with, I remember that much. Also that it has to be kept damp so that it remains flexible.




Then you pull some strands across to form the beginnings of a body. And then make some circles or rings, wrapping the tip around the circle to secure it. Those circles go inside the frame of the body.














Then you make some smaller circles that are put together in such a way as to make a sphere. That forms the basis of the face.





Then you deal with the back end and the chest, just generally filling them in.

I think it was about here that the woman in front of me declared that her hands were swelling and she was having an allergic reaction to the willow. She'd told me earlier she was a bit concerned whether this might happen, as she is allergic to Christmas trees. I was thinking about all the work during the holidays she was able to avoid, unless of course the family agreed to a fake tree; but then one could simply develop an allergy to that. And on this day the instructor kindly came over and finished her reindeer for her. I was rather tired by then and quite envious of this woman's allergy. I was thinking I must remember to get one of those myself. Now, I'm not saying I don't believe people have allergies to things, only that she didn't seem to display any of the usual symptoms and my hands were equally as red as hers.



I can't tell you which end this is - they look remarkably similar so I've not shared the other photo.


Make some triangular shapes for the ears and tail. The left over bits not used for the face or chest become antlers (of a sort - I think you have to use your imagination there).





The most perverse part, I thought, was that you get all this work done and then you have to clip away the front bit of the face (talk about nervous!) in order to stick in a red pine cone for the nose. And of course add the red bow.

The most interesting part of the class, other than the revelation of the construction techniques, was when the instructor was chatting and telling that they had a farm where they grew their own willow - and sheep. It sounded rather idyllic until the reality of all that work dawned on me.




So, Rupert took about four hours to make. He'll not be getting any siblings because this is terrifically hard on the hands, not to mention you can't do this sitting in a comfortable chair. I felt as though the skin had been stripped off, though I had no real injuries to speak of. I did give myself a few stinging slaps in the face with the tips of willow and that wasn't very pleasant either.

He went on display in the front garden as part of the Christmas decorations. We tried to place him so that he was seen by occupants of the house but not necessarily by every passer-by. I expect I was flattering myself about the risk of theft. I wouldn't so much have grieved the loss of Rupert, poor guy, so much as the hard work (and £60) that went into making him. I must remember to 'paint' him with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine before he goes outside again. 

So, Rupert will have to be an only child. After all, it hasn't done me any harm.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

March Means Daffodils

I've long meant to photograph the long swathes of daffs that appear everywhere in March. I admire them as I drive by, consider whether I have my camera and, if so, whether to pull over...and then I drive on.

Several days this month I managed to go for a walk AND remember my camera, apparently a difficult combination for some reason. 

And so, I give you daffodils:




and my personal favourite, around the corner from us:



You're welcome.