Fresh air therapy

It was a strange day on Sunday, November 8th with low hanging cloud and continuous drizzle. We went to Avebury to see the largest Neolithic stone circle in Europe and the grey sky provided an eerie background for the stones. Then we hiked up a very large hill to get a glimpse of the Landsdowne Monument and the Cherhill Downs chalk horse – both were visible only close up and we missed out on what should have been a spectacular view from the top.  Yes, we’re in our second lockdown but getting out into the outdoors like this, no matter how wet you are, makes it palatable.

My home town

I am one of those people who doesn’t, because of frequent moves, feel a deep connection to any particular place. However, if I had to name a home town Stamford, Lincolnshire would have to be it. I was born there as my Dad was in the RAF working at nearby RAF Base Wittering.

Just before our second UK lockdown, due to Covid-19, my husband and I got to spend a couple of days in Stamford with our daughter Claire and her husband Nathan. It was Claire’s 30th birthday and we got to have a wee party (thanks for the cake Laura) and actually went shopping in some wonderful shops. We also walked around the grounds of Burghley House which is a magnificent building. A brief respite but one that was much enjoyed!

Glorious Devon

On the long holiday weekend my family and I spent four lovely days in Devon.  We stayed at a lovely barn conversion that had a hot tub which was necessary after the active holiday we had.  We hiked the Teign gorge near Castle Drogo, cycled the full distance of the Exmouth Esturary cycle route (about 31 km) and walked around Haytor’s Rocks in Dartmoor.  We also had a lazy day at Killerton, a National Trust property, where the bees and butterflies were active in the gardens.  It was our first visit away from home since March!

Beside the water

We had two fabulous trips out this week both due to our house sale. Researching houses in Northamptonshire we booked and visited the National Trust property at Stowe. The sky was amazing and I love the reflection of the building in the pond.

Recently, the buyer wanted to come and measure some things in the house (he’s keen) so we took a drive to Mill Meadows in Henley-on-Thames and I walked from there to Temple Island. Walking along the river is so lovely especially watching all the people “messing about in boats”.

National Trust Stowe
Temple Island, Henley-on-Thames

The long climb to RSN

The long climb to the Royal School of Needlework. It was the first day back after lockdown on July 9th after missing the whole of the last term. Due to social distancing there are no elevators running at Hampton Court Palace. Our embroidery classes are held on the top floor of the palace so I had to carry my slate frame and sewing supplies up five flights of stairs last week. Was it worth it? Of course!

Trish Burr Level 1

As you may be aware, I am currently working on my Royal School of Needlework Diploma in Hand Embroidery. One of the units I have coming up is Advanced Silk Shading and I have to work on an animal or a bird. To practice for this unit I decided to enrol in the Trish Burr online Level 1 course for silk shading. Trish teaches a slightly different method of “painting with thread” than the RSN does, but I thought the practice would be good.

Trish Burr’s Level 1 does not feature a bird or an animal but it was a great exercise for blending colours and filling in various shapes. The result is shown below. When I get a chance I will sign up for Level 2 (a dragonfly) and Level 3 (a bird and flower).

Trish Burr Level 1 – a bit wobbly in places but a good exercise in thread painting.

On the way home from Niagara Falls

Memories of Niagara Falls, Canada and a beach in Bournemouth, UK are roused by the cherries in this quilt!

When I first moved to Toronto, Canada way back in 1969 the first place we had to visit was Niagara Falls. Back then it wasn’t a glitzy trap for tourists and you could approach the guard post that separated the USA and Canada. The first highlight of the day was when my Dad let me, with an encouraging smile from the border guard, straddle my feet across the line between the two countries. Wow, we’d just moved to Canada and I’d even visited the United States all in one week!

What does this have to do with this quilt you ask? The second highlight of the day was when we stopped at a roadside fruit stand on the way home and my Mum bought a giant basket of cherries that we devoured on the spot. I have NEVER had such a delicious fruit treat in my life – the simplicity of the wooden basket and the deep red of the ripe, sweet cherries was sublime.

Another memory of cherries happened two and a half decades later. My family had just moved back to England and, while my husband was away, I decided to take my two young daughters for a weekend to the beach in Bournemouth. After spending the morning on the beach we walked around a bit to find some lunch and then bought some cherries at a fruit stand. We took the fruit back to the beach and sitting in our bathing suits, on a scratchy plaid picnic blanket, we “hoovered” (no better word) down the cherries – they were so good!

This quilt top is another project finished during the coronavirus lockdown period but I had finished all the elements of the squares beforehand. The cherry blocks were hand embroidered, the baskets were hand pieced and the nine patch blocks had been machined pieced. I trimmed everything to 61/2 inches and laid out the blocks in two stages as the quilt top was pieced in a diagonal set. It took quite a while, but where else was I going with lockdown restrictions in place? I love the result and once it is quilted I’ll call it “On the way home from Niagara Falls”.

Lockdown Productivity

As many of you know the UK is under strict lockdown rules right now and has been for four weeks.  I would have liked to have volunteered more to help during the crisis but the various avenues I tried didn’t pan out.  I did make some facemasks for various people so that makes me feel like I have contributed a little…only a very little though.

My sewing room, however, has never seen so much activity.  I have managed to finish four quilt tops that have been languishing in various places while I pursued a more active normal  lifestyle.  Now with time to spare and with hubby out working at the local supermarket (on crowd control and the hygiene station) I have started at the top and have been working my way through my quilting projects list.

The first top I finished is made with fabrics I purchased during my two trips to Australia.  It’s very colourful and a bit busy for some people but I love the memories the quilt evokes and there’s a story to tell from every square.  I had to be creative and piece my border – had just enough to create a canopy of Eucalyptus leaves at the top of the quilt with earth toned fabric at the bottom.

Australian Quilt top

A Drunkards’ Path quilt top came next.  I bought the pattern in Australia but I chose to use general fabrics from my stash to make the quilt.  It could have all gone terribly wrong, what with all the colour and pattern choices, but I think it blends well.  I love the offset borders that extend the pattern beyond a square.

Drunkards’ Path Quilt top

This quilt is a monster in size and weight as it is made from flannel and has a lot of applique leaves.  I started the applique in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when I visited my husband who was working there in 2011.  I used to tour the city in the 30-35 degree heat then come home for a swim and further cool off in the air-conditioned hotel room watching reruns of the old Hawaii 5-0 TV shows while appliquing lots of lime green!  Over the years I have taken the quilt out to finish the piecing but I never seemed to get to the end – then last week I did!

Memories of Malaysia

A few days ago, I finished piecing the final red and blue stars for this smaller quilt – I added the scrappy red and blue borders yesterday and I have a lovely red backing for this beauty which will make a lovely lap quilt for next winter. Hopefully when lockdown is over!!!! Keep safe everyone!

A heck of a lot of stars both pieced and appliqued!

Missing Pepper

I had a good long walk at Bushy Park yesterday having a wee cry about Pepper (again) remembering all the times we did that walk together come rain or shine. Near the end I met a man sitting on a bench with his gorgeous long-haired Jack Russell Terrier puppy snuffling in the nearby grass. She was fourteen weeks old and an absolute charmer. The man and I chatted about dogs for a few minutes and then he asked me if I had any. “We lost our Norwich Terrier in November,” I said, “he was nearly fifteen!”

“That’s really hard,” he said, “but here’s my advice. Give yourself a year [to grieve], travel abroad somewhere (not hard for me) then come back and get another dog.” Simple wisdom.

Pepper Wilson, 2004-2019

Christmas at Blenheim Palace

In one of the grandest settings in England, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire plays host to three Christmas events not to be missed. One is a lovely Christmas market situated in wooden huts with a mix of food and craft stalls. Despite one guy who tried to sell us a subscription service for flowers and who wouldn’t take no for an answer I did manage to buy a Christmas pudding all the way from Australia (!) and a pair of Wristees which were great for using my camera in the cold.

The second event is Alice in the Palace where some of the interior rooms are decorated for the season on the theme of Alice in Wonderland. Not being a big fan of the book Alice in Wonderland my family and I decided to give it a miss in favour of the third offering – the outdoor light trail. A mile long, which took an hour and half to walk, the trail featured string art, a colourful waterfall, two light tubes to walk through, a penguin house and a light show on a palace wall. It was all very well organised with loads of double decker buses ferrying people from an offsite parking lot to the main entrance right to the front door of the palace. A little snow might have added to the seasonal ambience but one can’t have everything.