Monday, December 22, 2014

A Christmas Wreath

Last year my quite old wreath suffered rather in an overnight storm (actually most of it disintegrated and ended up spread along the road) so this year I decided to have a go and make my own.  I've never made one before but having bought a willow ring I gathered greenery, seed heads and hips from the garden and this is the result.

I'm rather pleased with it, and an added bonus is that it smells really nice due to the elaeagnus leaves!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and thanks for reading my ramblings over the last year :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finally Finished!

This has been the longest knitting project ever.  I started this jumper at the beginning of May, had little break in July whilst I knitted a baby cardigan and by the beginning of August had completed the body (knitted in the round bottom up) up to the division for the sleeves......then I decided it was too small and unravelled the entire thing!

Never mind, I started again and it was all going swimmingly until I tore the tendon in my elbow and was unable to knit at all for several weeks and then only a couple of rows a night for what seemed like forever.

It's a Brooklyn Tweed pattern - Merle, knitted in their Loft yarn - which is very light and airy, and breaks easily if you pull it too hard.  The only adjustment I made to the pattern was that I made the sleeves longer as the pattern was for 3/4 length ones and I decided that in winter I like longer ones.

And today I have finally sewn the last sleeve it - something that had to be done in daylight, one yesterday and one today.

I'm very relieved to have finally finished it - just in time for the cold weather :-)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Late November Walk

After what seems like weeks (but probably isn't) of grey days (grey in many meanings) and being stuck inside,  I needed to get out into some fresh air and sunshine so I took myself off on a long walk hoping for some blue skies and late autumn colour.

I went to Marks Hall which is about a 30 min drive from here through beautiful north Essex lanes.

Marks Hall (and yes I've checked and double checked that there shouldn't be an apostrophe there!) is 200 acres of gardens and arboretum.

The reflections in the lake were wonderful.

Along one side of the lake is the Millennium Walk which was planted specifically for autumn, winter and spring interest - there was certainly lots of contrasting colour!

On the opposite side of the lake are the walled gardens, which were sadly shut, but the view through the (locked) gate in the wall revealed that they're still full of structure and interest.

I walked further, through some of the mixed woodland

and came across some pigs munching their way through the undergrowth!

 I passed another gate to the walled gardens, also locked, with tantalising views of the lake though it,

and back to the lake, with more reflections (and water birds).

I got my fresh air and sunshine

and I got my autumn colour.

I walked for much further than this but my camera battery ran out and the photos I took on my phone aren't as good.

Here's hoping for a brighter week, in every sense of the meaning :-)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Golly - What a Week!

It's been one of 'those' weeks. I won't bore you with the details but if I say 14 hour days and having to cancel social events yesterday just to catch up with everything you'll get the gist.  But yesterday, in the midst of trying to claw my way back to being on top of things again, I did light the fire in the dining room for the first time.

Not only was this the first time of lighting since I'd lived here after renovating it this summer, according to my neighbour it was probably the first time it had been lit in over 20 years.  It was so lovely to have a real fire again.

Over 1/2 term, as well as visiting London,  I did some sewing too, using some of the fabric I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show.  I used the stripey grey linen and viscose fabric to make a tunic top from this pattern by Sew Liberated.

I altered it slightly as I couldn't cope with the fact that the stripes in the fabric didn't line up between the bodice and the skirt (not my fault, it's to do with the pleats), so I added a bias strip over the seam to break the line of vision up.

I also made a denim dress from the Kate dress pattern by Sew Me Something (the same pattern company that I made my reversible skirt from).

I ended up taking the pattern in quite a lot and made it less flared at the bottom.  That's not a fault of the pattern more to do with my pretty much straight up and down shape!

I used grey top stitching thread to give a contrast and eventually got it neat on the pockets by hand stitching the last few stitches as the machine didn't like that many layer of denim.

I'm pleased with it and I'm sure I'll wear it loads.  I will definitely make this pattern again.

I'm hoping for a quieter and less busy week this week!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Day in London - Knitting, Poppies and Who Are You?

When you work in education the fastest weeks are the holiday weeks and this 1/2 term has been no exception, it's flown past.  I've walked, sewed (more of that to come) and on Wednesday I spent the day in London with Celia.

We went to the Fashion and Textile Museum to see the Knitwear, Chanel to Westwood exhibition.

Sadly there was no photography allowed but it was very interesting - I especially liked the hand knits from war time, and also the knits from the 80s which were very similar to garments both of us had either knitted or worn! It really is worth a visit, and the 1pm talk (on Wednesdays and Fridays) is very interesting.

On route to the museum we walked past the Tower Poppies.  I'd seen them in August when they first started installing them but they now almost fill the moat and are a very very moving sight with each poppy representing one of the 888, 246 British casualties of the 1st World War.  

Our final stop for the day involved a walk down Whitehall in the rain to the National Portrait Gallery to see the Grayson Perry 'Who Are You' exhibition.  There are 14 new portraits by Grayson, some individual, some group, focusing on identity.  

The portraits range from ceramic 'statues'

to silk hijabs

to ceramic pots

and tapestries.

They are all thought provoking and several conversations were had with random strangers as we stood looking at them.

The memory jar, focusing on a couple where the man was suffering from Alzheimer's was the most thought provoking for me.  We stood and looked at it for ages, the shards of photos representing the shards of memories, snippets sometimes remembered and sometimes dissected from the main memory.

These, and all the others, have all been/are about to be features in the channel 4 programme of the same name.  I loved how they were placed in different rooms within the gallery, next to traditional portraits of famous people. 

Grayson's self portrait, the Map of Days, is so detailed and intricate I could have looked at it for hours - you can download the PDF of it from here and watch a video of the man himself talking about it as well.

It was a lovely day, we hardly noticed the rain we were having such a good time!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Walking in the Steps of Ancestors

Today was a glorious day, the kind of day that calls out for a long walk.  So that's exactly what I did, a wonderful circular walk along the Suffolk Essex border.  I walked from home down to the river Stour and along towards Sudbury,

across Friar's Meadow in Sudbury,

and onto the old railway line.

Nowadays the train line terminates at Sudbury, just running up and down to connect with the main line services to London at Marks Tey, but in the past this line would have taken people up to Long Melford and then on to either Bury St Edmunds or Haverhill and Cambridge.

After a short walk I left the railway line and was on the Sudbury water meadows where I came across this rather magnificent grey heron.

I walked past the old bathing pool

and across the water meadows towards Brundon Mill.

I was amazed that on this glorious day in 1/2 term that there was hardly anyone about, but it was nice to have it to myself!

At the mill the swans came to greet me.

My route then rejoined the old railway line and as I walked under some wonderful old bridges I couldn't help but think about my great great uncle David Ward, who lived in Long Melford until 1940.  He part owned the foundry there, Ward and Silver, and would have travelled by train along this very line many many times, passing under the same bridges.

I was coming back towards Sudbury now, glimpses of buildings visible from the edges of the railway line, scenes that haven't really changed since he would have travelled the same route.

Soon I was back at Friar's Meadow where the trees are just starting to turn autumn colours,

past the willow damaged in last winter's gales, bent over but not snapped, 

and back along the river to home.

If any of you are interested in walking some of this same route, the middle section was the Meadow Walk, part of the Gainsborough Trail - details of which can be found here.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Despite the fact that I still can't really do any gardening and haven't done any for what seems like years but is actually only about 6 weeks, the garden is still hanging on to many blooms.  It seems reluctant to acknowledge that it's autumn and rapidly heading towards November, preferring to keep its late summer blooms.

The arbutilon still has buds on but will need moving into the greenhouse soon,

I don't remember sweet peas still flowering this late before

and the bedding fuchsias are still going strong,

as are some clematis.

Soon it will be time to protect the dahlias (I don't lift them and they seem to survive fine).

This salvia (Cambridge Blue) is still flowering well,

as is the hardy fuchsia.

But there are signs of autumn - this rose (Wollerton Old Hall) nestles amongst the decaying seed heads of the poppies,

Sedum (Red Cauli),

and this Japanese Anemone,

are surrounded by autumn leaves.

But I am still harvesting courgettes, generally only 3 or 4 a week now though,

and there are flower buds on the hollyhocks!

This little robin was singing his heart out,

he's clearly enjoying the mild weather.