My Soul is fed with needle and thread
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The oldest Patchwork Quilt in England

August 28, 2013   
clematis

clematis

We all as tourists may travel many miles and even cross continents to see the wonders of the world, but are less willing to be impressed by what we can find at home. This summer my Dearest and I, being unable to afford a foreign holiday, or indeed the fuel to take us very far, decided to explore what we had at home, or nearest to it. The plan was to improve our knowledge of what is on our very doorstep which can be enjoyed for free or near as, any time we like.

One day we went to Levens Hall just south of Kendal and probably only 15 miles from our front door. The house is mainly Tudor but dates back to 13th Century in parts, and was extended in the 16th Century. Inside the house is the OLDEST Patchwork Quilt in England dated to 1708. There is no date on the quilt or the bed hangings but the family claim it was made by the lady of the house and her step daughters in that year, the quilt is made of fabrics contemporary with that time. They are imported Indian cottons hand printed with exotic designs of birds and flowers in reds and greens which would have been incredibly expensive at the time.

Fabric like this

Fabric like this

I like to think of those wealthy but thrifty ladies making a Patchwork quilt to make best use of the scraps and left over fabric from the elaborate gowns made for them or by themselves in the fashion of the day. The fabrics are cut and pieced simply to show off the pattern, set in plain sashing and quilted quite closely with a simple grid of squares set on point in red thread. Each row of blocks alternates between a snowball block and a simple cross shape, a smaller lozenge shape fits between each cross , working diagonally across the quilt in both directions and each shape is set into a plain background fabric.

The fashion of the day

The fashion of the day

It was not possible to take my own picture of the quilt or the matching bed hangings which are displayed in a bedroom in low light, so I bought a post card, which gives a fairly detailed view, sadly although I could scan the post card I cannot publish an image of the quilt without permission of the owners.

The quilt is not Levens’ only claim to fame; it also has the most sublime Gardens designed for the house in 1694. The topiary gardens are the oldest surviving and the best in the world. I only wish we had arrived earlier and had time to give the garden its fair share of attention. We have agreed we need to go back another time, but when? Spring perhaps, or in June when the roses are at their best.

Topiary Gardens

Topiary Gardens

The café is open to the public, without having to pay to go into the house and gardens, the shop also is open to the general public so perhaps another day when we are passing, we can stop for a coffee and a browse, some Christmas shopping or whatever.

View from the Cafe terrace

View from the Cafe terrace

secret doorway to the gardens

secret doorway to the gardens

Another unusual feature is a smokehouse in the farthest corner of the garden, not for the smoking of food, but a place of banishment for those members of the early 17th Century household who had taken up the filthy habit of tobacco!

recently renovated 17th Century smoker's retreat

recently renovated 17th Century smoker’s retreat

There is a walk I’d like to do from the house, into the Park on the other side of the A6, up the old avenue of trees which would have been the original approach to the house, I believe there is a waterfall and a picturesque bridge to be seen. It sounds like a perfect walk for an autumn day, and if we go on a day when the café is open we can plan tea and stickies as a reward at the end of the walk. That sounds like a plan.

Another Grand Day Out

August 23, 2013   

22.08.2013
What a lovely day I had today, with nothing planned and a promise of mixed weather, we set off to Morecambe to collect my winnings, not a lump sum, sadly but a novel written by a local author, and offered as a competition prize in my local newspaper. Having collected it and noting that the clouds had rolled back, the sun was shining and the tide was high, we drove north along the promenade looking for a suitable place for lunch. We turned off the coastal road and headed for the shore at Red Bank Farm.

date stone, Red Bank Farm

date stone, Red Bank Farm

Red Bank Farm has a very enviable setting being sited at the very point where the sea meets the land, any further west and it would be in the sea. A High bank protects the land from being encroached upon, I guess when the Farm house was built perhaps the sea was not so close, but then the date stone over the door says 1680, so Red Bank farm has weathered many a storm since it was built.

So close to the Sea

So close to the Sea

My Dearest had a Bacon Buttie, no change there then, and I had a baked potato, butter and salad, being on the Hay diet limits my choices as I don’t eat protein at lunchtime, still I could have just had a bowl of chips, I restrained myself. They did look good though, thick cut and crisp cooked with the skin on.

ancient steps on a right of way

ancient steps on a right of way

 

 

A footpath passes behind the farm house, right on the edge of the beach, ancient steps form a style between the building and the wall which borders the property.

dappled sunshine on a country road

dappled sunshine on a country road

 

 

We drove on to Silverdale, a place of outstanding Natural Beauty, visited a little gallery we know and then on to Jack Scout for a walk, the sun was very hot and the day humid, so we did not walk far before my Dearest wanted to turn back. I snatched a couple of pictures near the cliff edge looking up the Kent Estuary towards Arnside.

Jack Scout, Kent estuary

Jack Scout, Kent estuary

Not wanting to set off home just yet we turned the car northwards up the A6, a route we had taken several times already this week, but stopped at Beetham, it’s one of those villages which is by-passed by the road and so is rarely seen or investigated by passing traffic but I knew there was a Pub the Wheatsheaf, which had been recommended to me for good food, so we stopped to check out the menu.

stocks, now where are those rotten tomatoes?

stocks, now where are those rotten tomatoes?

What a charming little village, with fine old houses, a set of stocks on the green, a good pub, a beautiful church (The Church of St Michael and All Angels, parts of which date from the 12th century) , it still boasts a Post Office and general store, but more than that it has its own theatre! ( The Heron Theatre, a 80 seat theatre housed in the listed 18th century grammar school ) I believe the village has its own amateur theatre group, who put on productions, and it is otherwise used as cinema, “Quartet” is showing this weekend.

St Michael and all Angels

St Michael and all Angels

There is apparently The Heron Corn Mill, a working watermill, which we did not investigate. We went home via Morecambe again to walk on the promenade, and enjoy the cool sea breeze. Whilst promenading we saw a BBC news team about to record a piece live for that evening’s news, we didn’t stay to find out what it was to be; given the lateness of the hour, and having left the 13 year old alone all day, we decided it was time to go home and feed him.
The day had been unexpectedly sunny, almost cloudless and very warm, we even got to sit in the garden till it went dark, and then the rain which had been promised but which we thought we had escaped, came down suddenly in great big drops and soaked us as we ran across the garden from the terrace to the back door, if only it would always rain through the night, and allow us clear skies during the day.

Not to blow my own trumpet…

August 17, 2013   
beautiful

beautiful

Look at these lovely and unusual roses, given to me at work for a job well done, it’s nice to be appreciated.

I'm so lucky

I’m so lucky

A new use for something old and tatty

August 17, 2013   
Bedroom stool which had seen better days

Bedroom stool which had seen better days

This began as a project when I was studying paint effects; I took two pairs of beech legs which had originally been bought to make a foot stool, and transformed them into “mahogany” ones using paint and glaze. The finished article needed to be completed for my end of term assessment, and I didn’t have the necessary materials to complete the footstool. However I had just redecorated my bedroom and had some fabric spare which matched the Toile De Jouy wallpaper and in Dad’s Garage stood unused and unwanted this Lloyd loom bedroom stool in that awful Germoline pink which had been popular in the 1930’s ( I suspect it may have belonged to my Grandmother) The fabric covering the stool was torn and rotten, the padding had disintegrated but the box itself was in good order, Dad sawed the original legs off close to the body so that the new legs could be screwed on in their place. I painted it cream inside and out, even though I knew little of it would be seen, I didn’t want any Germoline pink showing through.

I never did stitch it properly

I never did stitch it properly

The body of the box was covered in a thin polyester wadding, to give it a padded effect, this was glued in place. I then cut a piece of fabric so that the main pattern image was centred on the front of the box, and pieced the back to make it fit round the box. I stapled the join in place as a temporary fix till I could find a curved needle to stitch up the join, ( I’ve just discovered recently that I never did stitch the back properly, tut, tut.)

linen to interline the cushion pad.

linen to interline the cushion pad.

The top needed a new padding, one and a half inch upholstery foam cut to fit, ( I made a template by upending the box on a sheet of newspaper and drawing round it to make a pattern). This was glued onto the box lid, and because it is blue and would show through the ivory fabric, I covered it first in a piece of old linen sheet. A staple gun was needed for this bit. I had then covered the lid with another piece of fabric bearing the main pattern image and staple gunned it in place, the plan was to buy some upholstery trimming to finish it, it would be glued in place using a glue gun.

just staple down the lining and cover,

just staple down the lining and cover,

The snag was that we don’t have a local supplier of said trimming, and the box was made long before I was in the habit of shopping on line so it languished incomplete for years. During that time it was rather ill used, and the top became grubby and the raw edges ragged, so by the time I found the trimming I wanted the top needed a wash. On a positive note I realised it needed a tassel of some kind to raise the lid without touching the fabric, so now that I have deconstructed the top to wash the fabric I can incorporate a tassel in the finished article. Realising the tassel will probably get grubby too, I can attach it on the inside of the lid rather than the outside so I can make it detachable.

GRRRRR!! problem….now I have washed the top its a different colour to the bottom, now what? Do I take off and wash the bottom, or find some different fabric for the top? all suggestions gratefully received.

Pink sheep

August 15, 2013   

We drove over Kirkstone Pass, the route known as The Struggle into the Ullswater Valley, I can easily understand why it was called The Struggle, so steep and for miles; at times a gradient of 1 in 4, a fully laden pack horse, or person for that matter would really struggle to take that route, and it’s no wonder there is an Inn at the top, you’d need to stop and rest. The Kirkstone Pass Inn stands close to the summit of the pass. Formerly an important coaching inn, It is the third highest public house in England.

The BMW took it in her stride, although my Dearest, being a nervous passenger did not, I get the feeling it was a bit of a white knuckle ride for him, particularly when I was driving close to the edge of sheer drops. We drove through Patterdale while my Dearest recounted his usual tales of mis-spent youth, toga parties in the snow, on New Year’s camping trips, swimming in the lake so early in the morning that the mist had yet to lift from the Lake. It may sound romantic to the young; I can’t help but to shiver. A hotel room for me please, hot shower, all the necessary facilities.

Rose Bay Willow Herb

Rose Bay Willow Herb

Spring must have come very late to Ullswater, I found a Rose Bay Willow Herb in its first flush and picture perfect, elsewhere in the world it is already setting seed and looking ragged, it was more May than the last days of July. We walked by the Lake in the sunshine, considered whether we could run a bed and breakfast here in Glenridding, and decided we could not, it might be a very precarious business, no matter how beautiful it is when the sun shines or the snow falls, it also rains…a lot.

Glenridding has a special place in my heart, it was the place my Dearest and I went to on our second date, to Aire Force, a famous waterfall just north of Glenridding, then to the St Patrick’s boat landing for a celebrated bacon sandwich, as we left the sun was low and the trees were bare, it was a snowy January. My favourite piece of Beethoven (Piano Concerto no.5 in E-flat major Op73, Adagio Un Poco Mosso) was playing on the CD player, bliss.

 a flock of Pink Sheep

a flock of Pink Sheep

This time, no Beethoven but Pink Sheep! Yes I thought my eyes deceived me too, I insisted my Dearest pulled over, I had to get a photograph of this, no-one was going to  believe it without.

A whole flock of pink sheep. As  we pulled in another couple of walkers were stopping to photograph them on iphone, I carry a  Canon 350 DSLR when out walking. I do sometimes wonder if I’d find it easier just to have an iphone, but I digress, Pink Sheep! Have you ever seen anything as sweet as these pink sheep?

Pink Sheep

Pink Sheep

Burn him off Steve!

August 15, 2013   

Whilst on holiday this month a trip to the Lakeland Motor Museum caused my Dearest to relive an unfortunate event in his misspent youth.

1-IMG_5105

This is a Norton Commando 850cc, used by Lancashire Police in the 1970’s. My Dearest told me a tale in which he “rescued” a 50cc Honda moped from a stream near his home. He and his friend neither more than 14 at the time got it working, it had no kick start so they had to push it along the road, running till the engine fired,and they managed to fit a working head light taken from an old car.   One night they set off on an adventure, riding through the streets of Preston on this death trap motorcycle, My Dearest in control, his friend riding pillion.

Inevitably they were spotted by a Motorcycle Cop and flagged down, but in a panic to escape their fate the friend shouted “Burn him off Steve, burn him off!” and My Beloved, being a stupid 14 year old boy, attempted to outrun a Norton Commando 850cc, on a Placcy 50cc. Needless to say they were stopped and arrested; the Cop must have been bursting to laugh.

Norton Commando 850CC

He was left to cool his heels in clink all night; his Mum thought the experience would teach him a lesson, his first time in a Police cell. But the greater lesson was that the bike was confiscated and there ended his passport to the freedom of the open road, for the time being at least. It was about this time that he was teaching himself to drive in his father’s Allegro 1750 Supersport, not that his father was aware of it at the time, but that’s another story.

Kendal Mint Cake

August 5, 2013   

Whilst we were on Holiday in The Lake District the 17 year old, who did not come along, asked us to buy her a gift of Kendal Mint Cake.

Kendal Mint Cake

Kendal Mint Cake

For the uninitiated Kendal Mint Cake isn’t a cake so much as a block of sugar with added peppermint oil, a lot of peppermint oil. The 17 year old tells me it is “sick”, this apparently is a good thing, indicating that she very much enjoys it.
Kendal Mint Cake comes in White, made with refined sugar, brown, made with unrefined sugar, and chocolate coated for the real hedonists amongst us. The 17 year old, who doesn’t do the “healthy” version of anything, wanted chocolate coated. Not that any of it could be seen as anything but a recipe for tooth rot.
Its real purpose is as a preservable food ration for climbers and explorers on extreme expeditions being a large sugar hit in a pocket sized block. 32 calories a gram, which is why she, skinny Minnie, eats it, and I don’t.

Bargain hunting in the Lake District

August 5, 2013   

We have lately enjoyed a little Holiday in The Lake District; myself, my Dearest and the 13 year old took a self catering break at Fallbarrow on the bank of Lake Windermere at Bowness.
After the recent heat wave I was trepidatious, the last 4 summers we have holidayed in the Lake District in August and the last 4 summers it has rained… and rained… and rained. Naturally I had very low expectations of this Holiday, so when the forecast was for rain, was I surprised? Not at all! Thankfully, it rained mostly through the night, we enjoyed our holiday in sunshine and warmth. Except for Wednesday; that day it rained … and rained… We made the mistake of walking into Bowness during a short  lull in the weather, by the time we returned we were soaked to the undergarments, rain ran through my hair off my head and down my neck, my new showerproof jacket proved showerproof does not cut it. In the Lakes you need serious wet weather gear, even in August.
One thing I did manage to do was a little retail therapy, you wouldn’t expect bargains in the Lake District, it can be a very expensive tourist trap if you don’t know where to shop, thankfully I do.wine glass
You do get a better class of Charity shop in the Lakes, clothing is often a good buy, many good labels not seen in your average charity shop, but being rather chubby at the moment, well a lot chubby actually, I’m trying to avoid admitting what size I am by not buying clothes. The new jacket was a “girl can’t help it “ moment. You should see the lining! A watermelon pink jacket with royal blue and watermelon satin lining, I just had to. (and it was in the sale)
So Thanks to the British Heart Foundation in Bowness I bought two lovely wine glasses, not very old, not crystal but only £2.50 for a pair, bargain. I like to have nice things, but I have a problem with Glassware, My Dearest is the dishwasher in our household, and is pathologically incapable of being careful with glassware, consequently glasses don’t last long in our house. I don’t think I have any without chips in the rims. I could just buy cheap and cheerful and not worry about it, but life’s too short to put up with cheap and ugly when you don’t have to. I’m always on the lookout for nice glasses and don’t mind buying odd ones, after all a set of 6 can very easily become a solitary one with my Beloved at the sink.

fine needlework for pennies

fine needlework for pennies

In Keswick the following Day Oxfam rendered two unused, hand embroidered pillowcases, with raised Stumpwork, too good to be used for sleeping on; I think I may cut them up to make something else out of, not sure what yet, but they are fine quality cotton, £2 each, you can’t buy polycotton supermarket basics for that price. I also bought two lovely handkerchiefs, yuk you may be thinking, but these are not for blowing one’s nose on, these are for ladies to delicately dab moist eyes with, one is of fine cotton with hand made Tatting applied to the edge, it is fairly basic tatted lace edging but pretty and cost me a £1. The other is even finer Victorian linen, with Whitework embroidery. It wasn’t priced, I happily paid 49p.

Simple things please Simple folks

Simple things please Simple folks

Next I bought two fat quarters of blue quilting fabric with snowflakes and sparkly bits for a £1 each, two cotton reels for 50p each and a beautiful Victorian doily with the most exquisite fine crochet lace for £2, It needs starch and a good press but it is really pretty. All were found at a Vintage fair we stumbled upon in Coniston, and then round the corner in the Post Office I found a bag of cotton reels being sold at 40p each; mostly Orange. As we have already established I don’t DO orange I bought the only green, and one orange still in it’s wrapper, and then regretted not buying them all, I’d run out of cash and the ATM was out too.

Venerable old lady

Venerable old lady

And finally from Age UK in Windermere, a plate, I’m not sure what kind of plate it is, probably from a mid Victorian fruit set; it is about 9” wide and hand painted, the little sprigs of flowers are transfer printed, but then hand coloured, the cobalt blue and the gilding is hand painted, there’s no maker’s mark. She’s rather rubbed and past her prime but I think she’s lovely in a faded kind of way and well worth £3 for such a venerable old lady. She will look lovely on the table piled with summer fruits.