Saturday, 31 December 2016

Inspiration from walks

We have had reasonable weather over the Christmas week.  The one disadvantage is that there are an awful lot of people who come down for the holiday.  This can lead to parking problems at popular places and I am now very limited as to where I can walk.  A couple of days ago we went back to Sennen Beach.  Whereas we only saw one person walking along the pavement on our visit the week before Christmas, this time I had to be very careful to avoid the crowds and their dogs.  However, I was able to walk a little bit further than the first time.  We went late morning again and it is noticeable how the shore is in deep shadow while the wider bay is in full sun.  I decided to look for photos that had the potential for art and design work.  Not that I have done any with them yet!

This is the view across the bay.  The foreground is in heavy shadow while the distant part is very sunny.  The waves breaking are very typical of this area and I have in the past got some excellent shots.  Not so many this time as I now only use a small Canon Powershot camera and even then it is 'point and shoot' as I also have to hold on to my stick.  This one shows one of the waves in more detail.

It is also possible to find good potentially good photos with people in them:

I also looked for detailed shots that might give me abstract ideas, both for stitching when I can do it again, and for art work as I tell myself I need to more of that.  This one is really quite abstract.

I know that what I now need to do is much more work in Elements in order to get really arty work!  I had Elements 14 for Christmas 2015 but do not have a printed book on it as they do not seem to have published one for it in the series I had for Elements 7.  I can see that there is plenty of work to do in 2017.

Writing this has also made me realise it is time I updated the look of this blog.  It needs a new picture and possibly a new layout but I am not sure I can remember what to do!  Of such things are New Year's resolutions made.  In the meantime, New Year greetings to you all if you have managed to find this post and the blog.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Christmas greetings and update

Well here it is, December 20 already and I see I have not posted on this blog since April.  There are reasons for that which I will go into but first I want to offer Christmas greetings to all readers.  I expect most of you gave up on me months ago but hopefully your feed mechanism might alert you to this new post.  As it is almost Christmas here is a photo I took last week which you can regard as a Christmas card.  It is of Sennen Beach near Lands End.  Being mid-week and mid-winter it was almost empty which suited us fine.

The second half of 2016  has been a terrible six months for us and that is why I do not have any work to present.  I was making new baby quilts but had to abandon this project when in mid-July I fell off the sit-kneel chair at my computer and broke all three bones in my right ankle.  I also had one of these chairs for the sewing machine which was out in the studio and I am just glad that I was in the house when the accident happened.  Both chairs have now gone to the charity shop!

The break was due to osteoporosis.  I will not go into details but after the best part of a month in hospital followed by six dire weeks in an old people's home I was allowed home.  I could not be at home until the plaster came off.  You can see why from this photo.

I was sent home wearing a think Velcro boot.  After only ten days I tripped off it and broke my left hip so it was back to hospital.  While I was there, Pania, one of our two Siamese cats, died.  She was only seven but had suffered from feline asthma for a couple of years and I think she just faded away.  Here is a photo of her taken in August 2015 after she returned from a lengthy stay in the vet's hospital.

Fortunately I was allowed home after ten days but my recovery is extremely slow because of my underlying Inclusion Body Myositis which effects the left leg badly and I do not expect to make a full recovery.  I have now graduated from a walking frame to a stick and am waiting for a walker with brakes so that I can attempt to get down the road outside.  My aim is to have a mobility scooter but there are other issues related to traffic, narrow pavements and hills which, together with the winter weather mean that I am leaving decisions about this for a couple of months.

I have not been able to do any sewing or art work since all this happened.  Initially I could not get out to the studio because the surface of the yard was uneven but it has now been resurfaced.  However, I do not think I should be working out there (there is no internal access) and am still considering if I can work in the house as because of the IBM there are issues about mobility including the height of chairs, getting up off them and where I would have the iron.  I now realise that to sew using a machine you need two good hands and a good right foot!  Unfortunately my right hand (I am left-handed) is beginning to be effected by the IBM and I know I will have to stop sewing sooner rather than later.  So I am thinking about these things.  Art work is ostensibly easier but I do not consider myself an artist and my skills are not that good.  All things to consider in the New Year.

In the meantime, here is the last known photo of both cats taken on Christmas Day 2015.

I am glad to say that Hinemoa (on the left) has adjusted well to being an 'only' and appears to be healthy.  Siamese are susceptible to various illnesses and some have short lives but we hope she will go on because there will be no more cats after her. And do watch this space because I will post.  If you are on Facebook you will find more there and I even have a page called Reensstitcher.  Meanwhile Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Wall hangings for new babies

There seems to be rash of new babies in my sister's family: three in three months, so quite a challenge for the quilters in the family.  As there seem to be a lot of us, I decided that wall hangings was a better idea than cot quilts.  Leave those to the grannies!

The first baby was born at the beginning of April and received his present today so now I can reveal it.  I am afraid this photo is not up to my usual standards but we will pass over that.

The subject matter is Baa baa black sheep.  I now try very hard to make everything from fabric I already have in my stash.  This includes two New Zealand fabrics to reflect the baby's NZ heritage.  The strip at the bottom is of pukekos.  These are often found among sheep in New Zealand and I well remember many years ago paying a winter visit to a friend who lived on a farm.  There were the pukekos among the sheep along with pieces of pumpkin that had been put out as feed.

The border is also NZ fabric: a batik of traditional Maori designs.

Here are the sheep in close-up.  They are bonded applique.  The templates were ones I had for another great-nephew's quilt eight years ago and were originally designed by Claire Higgott of The Bramble Patch  Never throw anything away, lots of quilters say.

The quilt is all machine made.  It has made me realise how we all develop skills over many years.  Free cutting made the hills and field and it was machine quilted.  Unfortunately the bags of wool do not have a tie around them but I had no ribbon or cord in the right colour!

In addition to wall hangings I am hoping to give each baby a stuffed dog from the ones I made earlier in the year.

These are a really good way of using up scraps and would make good items for 'sales of work'.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Tiki's great adventure

I am writing this post because the writer of a blog I follow, dovegreyreader scribbles posted about her missing cat and asked for comments.  I decided that my story of how we lost our first cat was too long to post as a comment on her blog and that I should write a post of my own about it.  The story happened way back at the end of the 1970s but I have never written it down, so now is as good at time as any.  We have virtually no photos of Tiki, who was our first cat, because we lost most of them in our house fire in 1999 but here is one I found and have managed to scan.

Tiki went on his great adventure from our house in Tooting, London.  It was a two-up, two down in a tiny street that ran off the main shopping street.  When we went to work we used to leave the back downstairs window open for him as the houses had virtually no gardens and we figured he could not go far.  But we reckoned without this feisty Siamese whom we had acquired at the age of six weeks (far too young for him to leave his birth mother).  He was about eight when it happened on a wet Friday in November.  The street was full of parked cars because everyone came shopping on Fridays.  Tiki was an extremely fussy eater so we were really worried and his first night away was Guy Fawkes.  Later we realised that he had got out the back window, climbed over two fences and come to a house where builders were working and had left both the back and front doors open.  This enabled him to get through the house and climb into the engine of a car.  He had done it once before in the hot summer of 1976 but he did not go on a journey that time.

What do you do when you lose a cat in London?  My in-laws thought you told the local radio but that would not have worked so we just put a card in our front window.  After all, you do not expect to see stray Siamese.  We also spent hours looking under cars and knocking on doors but to no avail.  After five weeks we realised we would not get him back and prepared to go to the cat show at Olympia the following weekend and choose a successor.  Then an elderly woman who lived a few doors down approached my husband as he walked home from work and asked if we had ever found our cat because there was a stray Siamese where her daughter lived about two miles away.  The daughter lived just round the corner from a main road and a parade of shops.  So began our attempt to get him back.

We put a 'small ad.' in the newsagent's window with our telephone number on it.  Nothing.  I was commuting to near Heathrow and one day I had a phone call at work saying the cat had been seen behind the parade of shops.  Hopeless.  It would have taken me an hour to drive back.  At the end of the week we had a phone call from someone who said he lived over the DIY shop and that our cat was living behind the shop.  He had moved across the side street where our neighbour's daughter lived, after spending several weeks trying to make friends with them.  That was when we knew he had definitely got into the engine of their car on their regular visit to her mother.  The man who phoned said he worked in a butcher's shop and was bringing Tiki home choice cuts of rabbit etc. so at least we knew he wasn't starving.  The man said he could shut him into the back of the shop and would then phone us to come and get him.  Saturday evening came and we did not get the expected call.  After watching a movie on TV my husband drove out in heavy fog to find him.  When he got there he locked himself out of the car and had to walk two miles home in the fog at midnight to get the spare key.

Next morning (Sunday) I was woken by the phone to say Tiki was 'caught'.  But even that was not simple.  Apparently our phone was not working properly and directory enquiries initally refused to help.  But the man refused to give in so the cat was found!  When we got to him he had the biggest fleas I have ever seen but he did recognize us and purred madly.  We had been told that he was likely to go feral after so long away so we were very lucky.

This was not his only adventure.  The summer 1976 episode revealed him when he fell out of the car engine in our street covered in oil.  We had to rub him with butter and then put him in the bath and shower him.  Not popular.

The year after his big adventure we moved to a larger house.  He was only allowed out when we were home but that did not stop his adventures.  One November Sunday afternoon he came in from the back garden, shot straight up the stairs and out the bow window at the front of the house.  I think he had learnt his lesson and he spent the afternoon cowering behind the dustbins of the house opposite until I heard him and we rescued him.

I am afraid we did finally lose him but by then he was fourteen so he may have gone away to die.  We were in the process of leaving London and I was working in Oxford and only home at weekends.  My husband would let him out into the back garden (we were still in a terraced house) and then put the carving steel against the carving knife to call him in before he left for work!  It was summer this time.  One day he did not return.  We spent hours knocking on all the doors and got our young nephews to post 'lost' notices through the doors of all the houses in our street and the next one behind the gardens. The house immediately behind us was on the market so I got the estate agent to come out and go through all the rooms.  But we never found him and concluded that he had either wandered off to die or hitched a lift in yet another car.  It is for that reason that all our other cats have been more or less 'house cats' who have only ever gone out under supervision.

This is the only other photo I can find apart from two negatives which I must get prints from.  You can see from this photo that he as a boz-eyed Siamese.  They were very common in those days, much less so now.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Patchwork dogs

On Christmas Day I posted about the quilt top I made with dogs on it.  I am afraid it is still just a top because I do not seem to have any pieces of fabric large enough for the back and need to decide whether to buy something or to attempt to piece the back.  The same article in Todays Quilter had a pattern for soft toy dogs so I have been making these out of various scraps.  They are obviously ideal as items for charity stalls but I have not yet decided what is happening to them.

Here is one made from batiks.

And here is one made from primary colours.  As you can see, it is difficult to get the long strip that joins the two sides to meet at the right point for the corners.  The second dog has a distinctly peculiar angle to its ear but I am afraid it will have to stay like that.  Now I plan to make some that are more 'grown up' in proper dog-like colours.  It does not take long to make the sides.  It is just the joining strip that causes the problem.  I have given them felt eyes as then they are suitable for babies.

Lesser known books about Katherine Mansfield

I grew up in an atmosphere full of Katherine Mansfield.  We lived in a street in Karori, Wellington named after her father who had originally owned the land on which the street was built.  As children one of the 'dares' was to go into Chesney Wold, a derelict house on the edge of Karori Park which had been the home of the Beauchamp family and which is the setting for a couple of the stories.   Katherine attended the school I went to and other places that feature in her New Zealand stories were situated in parts of Wellington that I knew well.  As Wellington was a small colonial town at the beginning of the twentieth century, my maternal grandmother's family had known her family although interestingly my mother was not a fan of her work.  Maybe it was too radical for NZ tastes in the 1930s!

We also 'did' the short story as a literary form when I was in the sixth form.  As a result I have always read short stories but it was only as an adult that I learnt more about Katherine Mansfield, her links with the Bloomsbury group and modernism and, later, more about her life in NZ.   In the 1980s I read a library book about the trip she made in the central part of the North Island in 1907.  I had always wanted to read this again.  My father came from Hawkes Bay and we lived there before moving to Wellington when I was eight.   My paternal grandmother took me to Taupo for the first time when I was six and she pointed out the places where they broke the journey at the beginning of the twentieth century and told me all about  the country as we went.  It was extremely rugged terrain and steps had to be taken to prevent children being car-sick!  These stories have stayed with me so I was very pleased when I managed to track down what appeared to be the book I had read back in the 1980s: The Urewera Notebook   

Actually I am not sure it is the same book as this recent book by Anna Plumridge is not simply the diary of the trip but an analysis of the different editions of it.   I have learnt a lot about book editing from it.  Then I got out my copy of Katherine Mansfield's New Zealand which is a book of photographs compiled by Vincent O'Sullivan, a well known Katherine Mansfield scholar who taught us at university.  I think it is now out of print but when I opened it I found several pages of photographs of the area of her trip.  They add to my memories of my grandmother's stories.

Finally, I have also recently read 'My Katherine Mansfield Project' by Kirsty Gunn.   My Katherine Mansfield Project  Like The Urewera Notebook, this book considers Katherine Mansfield in context, in this case definitions of 'home' and identity with particular reference to Wellington.  The author spent a winter in Wellington and her descriptions of the weather (the famous Wellington wind) and the light are very vivid to those of us who grew up there.  The question of whether you can have two homes is also one that applies to all migrants so I have been recommending this book to friends.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

British Council films of Cornwall

Last week I discovered the British Council Film Collection.  British Council film collection  There are apparently 120 short films in the collection, mostly made during the Second World War and digitised in 2012-2013.  They describe aspects of everyday life in Britain and I have to say that the commentaries come over as propoganda films which is hardly surprising.  One could obviously spend a long time viewing them as they are quite fascinating as 'period pieces'.  The commentaries capture English Received Pronunciation as it was in the 1940s although the actors do not speak so I have not yet found any regional accents or dialects.

I have discovered that no fewer than three of these films feature West Cornwall.  Coastal Village is the story of everyday life in Mousehole, a fishing village two miles west of Penzance   The wikipedia entry is good so I will not give a potted history here.  Having watched the film I remembered that a whole school of Jewish children were evacuated there from the East End of London and that there is a book about this by Susan Soyinka. The book is called: From East End to Land's End.  I have now bought it and am finding it very interesting but you would not know these children had been there from the film.  The film focuses on the daily routine of the village but the book has much more detail.  As someone whose forbears made Cornish ranges in New Zealand, I had not realised that communal bakehouses were still common here as late as the mid-twentieth century.  They often appear in paintings from the Newlyn School but I now know they were huge and took large quantities of fuel so people only ran them in winter.  Mostly people took their baking to the local bakehouse.

Having watched the first film, I looked to see what else there was of this area.  I have found two:  Sailors without Uniform, which is about coastal fishing.  It has plenty of 'PZ' boats and finishes with shots of Salubrious Terrace in St Ives, and S.O.S which is about the Penlee lifeboat.  This lifeboat, which is now based in Newlyn, became famous after a terrible storm in 1981 when the whole crew were lost trying to save a steamer.

Films were also set in other parts of Cornwall so if you have Cornish connections I would recommend using the 'search' facility on the introductory page.  The films are short (mostly ten to fifteen minutes) so good for a 'coffee break'.

My only complaint about these films is that one of the 'posh' narrators pronounces Mousehole as Mouse hole the whole way through when anyone who knows anything about the place knows that the pronunciation is 'Mowzel'.