Saturday, 24 May 2014

Nui Maidment 2001 - 2014

We were very sorry last Monday to have to say Good-bye to our older Siamese cat, Nui, the day before what would have been his thirteenth birthday.  Nui was rather special because of all our seven Siamese he was the only one who was not a sealpoint.  This was simply because he was the only boy in the litter and we wanted a brother and sister.  He was a lilac tabby and a particularly beautiful and large cat for a Siamese.

If you are wondering about his name, it is Maori for large. His sister was called Iti which is Maori for small.  We have always had Maori names for them after we named the first cat Tiki. We chose these two names before we got the cats and we did not realise how true they would be.  Nui was very large for a Siamese while Iti was tiny.  She was possibly the smallest in the litter as sealpoints tend to be girls and are often the runt of the litter.

Cats often feature large in quilters' lives and this was certainly true of Nui.  He and Iti got into textiles at an early age.  Here they are helping to construct a sampler piece.  It looks as though butter would not melt in their mouths but this was not always the case.

Here is Nui celebrating his first Christmas by attacking the Christmas decorations.

We lived in Northamptonshire in those days and the cats had to travel to Cornwall several times a year.  They were very happy to have these holidays although we had to be careful about letting them outside so they were on leads.  You read about people bringing their cats down and the cats then running off.

When we moved to Cornwall at the beginning of 2006 we decided that as we had a walled garden, it would be safe to let them out without leads.  Needless to say, Nui soon discovered how to climb up the wall so in the end he and his sisters came to only be allowed out when we were in the garden with them.

Nui was passionate about heat - what cat isn't?  In Northamptonshire he was often to be found in the drier

but here it lives in the studio.  He quickly discovered the airing cupboard and down the years clawed the hot water cylinder so badly that on one occasion the man who was servicing the central heating told me he thought we had rats!

In 2009 Iti suddenly died of kidney failure at the age of seven.  We have always known that this is a problem with Siamese as our first cat had it at eight but survived.  Just as well because in those days you did not insure pets and we were permanently short of money.  Tiki had a week on a drip but he outlasted all our other cats and we finally lost him at the age of fourteen.

Nui was devestated when he no longer had a sister so we decided to get him another one.  This proved to be quite difficult because people had stopped breeding them because of the recession.  We finally found a breeder near St Ives.  When the kittens were born there were six rather than the expected five and we had twenty-four hours to decide if we would take one or two.  After speaking to a few people who advised us that two kittens could play together and leave the older cat in peace, we opted to take both and so we got Hinemoa and Pania.  We were finding it more difficult to think of Maori names by this time so I turned to an on-line dictionary of baby names.

This was our first experience of introducing an older cat to young ones.  It took only a week for Nui to decide that sisters were a good idea and he spent most of his later years curled up with one or both of them.

When the cold weather comes, they move from the conservatory to their igloos next to the radiator in my bedroom.

The interest in quilts continued although he became better at not helping himself to pieces of fabric, ribbons and wadding. When I got a new quilt last autumn Nui decided he preferred the old one.  I realised the other day that I made the first one the year we got him so he had always had it and I think he must have liked the colours..

But any quilt will do.  Here he is with Hinemoa on a sofa with quilt,

In the end kidney failure got Nui too.  We had known he carried the gene since Itil died so for five years I had to give him a 'high blood pressure pill' every evening.  Pedigree cats do not live as long as moggies and over the last few months we had seen him begin to show signs of ageing.  Fortunately his final illness was short.

I will leave you with a photo of him in his prime in the garden.

Saturday, 10 May 2014


All quilters have UFOs (unfinished works) and I am no exception.  Mine go back over a number of years and I am getting tired of finding them lurking in various boxes and plastic bags.  So I have decided it is time to finish some of them.  Of course others should probably just be binned and accepted as having taught me something, e.g. a new technique.

I thought I would start with a recent piece.

This one only dates from the beginning of this year as I planned to do the Contemporary Quilts group's journal quilt project this year.  This was my January square and I also have a second unfinished one but I then realised I could not cope with working to deadlines these days so  I pulled out.

We had terrible storms at the beginning of this year and this piece was inspired by them.  It is made from pieces of fabric that I had lying around.  The background is indigo-dyed linen which I made on a workshop with  Janice Gunner several years ago.  The contrasting squares are space-dyed linen which I made nearly ten years ago.  The colours reminded me of the way the sea is churned up in a storm.  The Journal Quilt Challenge this year said you had to include a line across the whole piece so I used a fancy white thread and couched lines of it between the shibori markings.  I then hand quilted between the white lines using a Kanta technique and quite large stitches.  The squares were then hand-stitched in variegated thread in an irregular pattern.  I chose colours to reflect the colours in the linen.  Then I added some French knots to give a bit of texture to the piece.  The binding is plain blue dupion silk.

Now that it is finished it has migrated from the shelf in the studio to a folder with other journal quilts.  I have no idea what I will do with it but I think it is successful as an exercise.  I rather like the use of small squares mounted on something and frequently admire them in other people's work although I have not used them that extensively myself.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Hedgerow wild flowers Part 2

On my second walk up the valley towards the moors I noticed plants I had not paid attention to the first time.  Identifying some of them has proved difficult even with the aid of the Web.  The umbellifer family is huge and includes many common garden plants and herbs.  It is quite early in the season for them as the majority flower in June and July but I noticed two distinct types of plant.  The first has yellow/green flowers and interesting patterns of umbels.

The second is white and I think this is cow parsley.  It is certainly very prolific and grows throughout the hedge at all heights.

The other white flower which is out at the moment is onion weed.

This is a plant from my childhood as it grew wild on our walk to school.  It also smelt very strongly of onions so was generally known as 'stinky weed'.

 Here it is often found growing alongside bluebells as in the piece of woodland this road passes through.

The other things I noticed on this walk (apart from a solitary wild strawberry flower) were buttercups, dock and gorse.

 We have two varieties of gorse in Cornwall: one flowers at Easter and the other in August. This is the spring flowering one and grows as bushes at the tops of the Cornish walls.  The August flowering one is generally more prolific.  When I checked my father's book, I found he had seen the early flowering one (U'lex europaeus) at Reifenberg in Germany in May and Welsh Gorse, the late summer flowering one, in Reifenberg in June, so perhaps the flowering periods are not so clear cut after all!

Finally, dandelions.  Embroiderers love dandelions and I always associate them with Danish cross-stitch kits.  We are plagued with them in our lawn and when I see them growing wild so near to us I can see why.

On this occasion, I found a near perfect dandelion 'clock'.  Amazingly no passing cars or horses and caused the thistledown to blow away.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Wild flowers in the hedgerow

From time to time I realise that there is still a great variety of wild flowers in Cornwall.  We all know about the dangers of crop sprays and of how the number of wild flower has decreased hugely since the Second World War but when I went for a walk up the valley that leads from here to the moors a couple of days ago I was surprised how many different flowers I found.  I was also able to compare the flowers with the ones my father had seen in 1945.  He was serving in the RAF, having been seconded from the New Zealand air force, and he bought  this little book which he annotated with dates and places as he saw things.

So here are some of what I saw this week together with information about where my father saw them.

The primroses are coming to an end.  In this valley they grow on the sides of the Cornish hedges (which are built of granite boulders infilled with earth) so they often seem pale compared with the ones in gardens.  My father has noted primroses, cowslips and oxlips in Stoke Holy Cross near Norwich in April 1945. I do not think I have ever seen an oxlip and I see that the book says they are confined to Suffolk, Essex, Cambridge and Herts. The book dates from 1935 so I would not be surprised if oxlips no longer exist.

I always associate bluebells with May but they often appear here in April. Maybe I am wrong because my father saw them in Cardington which I see is in Bedfordshire in April.   I can remember when it was difficult to find them and we used to make special trips to places with bluebell woods but they have spread everywhere now and these were just in the hedgerow.  We even have them self-seeded in our front yard.

This is greater stitchwort.  It has a long flowering season these days and is described in the book as common in hedgerows throughout Britain.  My father saw that in Swyell in March.  I think Swyell is in Northamptonshire which makes sense as I know my father was stationed in Northamptonshire over the winter of 1944-45. 

Red campion is another flower with a long flowering season and I notice I have some photos of it taken with foxgloves in July.  My father saw it in Norfolk in April and again at Refenberg in the Taurus mountains near Frankfurt am Main in June.

I think the forget-me-not has spread from someone's garden although Skene describes it as a wild flower and my father saw it at Stoke in April.  I am not sure about this next one.  It may be is a gentian or a member of the forget-me-not family but I find it difficult to identify and it could even be a bugloss although to me that is a hairy plant which flowers later.

I will do a second post about flowers from this walk as some of my photos were not in focus and I need to retake them.
On this occasion, the thing that I really noticed was the sycamores coming into leaf.  They self-seed everywhere here and I am constantly having to pull them out of the garden.  I don't particularly like fully grown sycamore trees but the new leaves on the tiny plants emerging from the hedgerow have some lovely colours and good shapes and have potential for design work.