/13 – Could do better. See me!
Yes! The above represents my number of completed projects during this year of Lockdown and restrictions; and yes, it is the right way round. I did not set out to complete 6 pieces and went on overdrive to produce 13.
So what went so wrong? Did this happen to anyone else? It can’t just be me – surely?
I suspect it was Lockdown itself. It got in the way, if that makes sense.
After the initial slight concern, worry, panic, catastrophising and utter disbelief at some of the horrors unfolding in the early days of the pandemic, I don’t know about you, but I went into that thing where you think you’d better take charge. By that, I mean of your own little world. Having seriously asked myself if I were up to making scrubs in any meaningful quantities, really knowing the answer in advance, ( do you have to be able to do buttonholes?), I had a chat with my nephew. He works for the Red Cross. Surely, I could help out! Not unkindly, he suggested that the most helpful thing would be to stay home, protect the NHS and save lives. Where’ve I heard that before?
Things can only get better!
During those early days of Lockdown, as we were treated to some glorious, almost summer- balmy days, I made a dress. Yay!! (No buttons or zips but pretty gorgeous anyway, in my humble opinion.) ‘The Dress’ was followed by nice cropped cardi and a Japanese tote bag for my sister. One of my dearest ex-colleagues, Laura, was expecting a baby and she got a knitted lion. Living over near Scunthorpe, meant a wait for a loosening of restrictions, before we could venture over, leaving Lion, a sorry little figure with a big roar, half way up Laura’s path. Those days of reverently placing cartons of milk and other necessities on the doorsteps of friends, neighbours nd family and then stepping backwards as if just having had an audience with the queen! How I’ve worried about how the Amazon man has to treat me with this sudden level of respect!
There’s no place like home – well, up to a point.
As March moved into April and we were slowly starting to believe we’d become entangled in a Famous Five story, where the hols go on forever and there are lashings of ginger beer and I was wearing ‘The Dress’ because it was so ruddy hot, many of us seemed to step up on our cleaning regimes. Even my own house started to fleetingly ressemble something out of Homes and Gardens. Talking of gardens; for the first time ever, I willingly joined in the unseemly rush to Southwood Garden Centre and stocked up on all manner of gardeny ‘stuff’ and not gardeny stuff, including bags of organic flour at eyewatering prices. It was the excitement!
Joking aside, as the spring wore on, I think some of us percieved a bit of a shift. Heartbreaking and overwhelming news of loss, sacrifice and loneliness has to make you reflect.
Does this kind of unprecedented event make one think back to earlier times? Walking to and fro from our allotment, the streets, empty of so much traffic, felt swaddled and muffled. I remember feeling, with a bit of a, not unpleasant and almost viseral, jolt, that this was what it sounded and felt like in the long, sunny afternoons of my childhood. If we were tending our allotment on Sundays, multiple ‘youngish’ people were WASHING THEIR CARS! They weren’t queuing up for a Big Mac or shopping at Next!
You will have noticed, girls, that I have made no mention of lifting up a piece of crafting! I started two summer jumpers – vital to the capsule summer wardrobe of a girl who might always need a jumper in the middle of an August heatwave. ( They’re now for my summer 2021 Collction!)
The shift, as I saw it in my own world, continued throughout the summer, even as restrictions began to be lifted and we ate out to help out and pretended to joyfully take up our childcare duties again as some people started to go back to work. Actually, I’m sure you’ll agree, it was absolutely brilliant to be able to get together with our little ones again. It’s what it’s all about!!
When we were allowed to see each other in gardens and outdoors!! my sister held an afternoon teaparty in her garden for myself and my two nieces. I won’t pretend; I felt like like a six year old off to a birthday party. We wore our best clothes – fuschia tea dress and silver slingbacks – I kid you not! It felt fabulous even if one of us, (not me surprisingly) was wearing an item which had become a bit snug owing to panic- joining Laithwate’s wine plan at the start of lockdown.
What I’m trying to say, is that, despite everything, perhaps we learned to appreciate the little, and, definitely, finer things in life.
Bearing this in mind, what finer things than famiy, friends, and amazing people who put their lives on the line for us. My latest projects are complete and delivered. Hurray! My grandson, Noah, is a Clangers fan – remember The Clangers? Squeaky voices, making no sense at all? I knitted him Tiny Clanger, Major Clanger and The Soup Dragon. The woman’s barking I hear you say. You’re right!
Noah loved them though and I had my wits about me to capture the moment that makes everything seem better with the world.
Stay safe ladies and see you soon.
REVIEW OF HILARY MANTEL TRILOGY
What has Hilary Mantel’s trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell to do with embroidery? you may ask.
They are award winning books, worth reading and re-reading but they are historical novels.
Among the characters it is the interior voice and conversation of Thomas Cromwell which is strongest. The other men talk, discuss, joke and take action. The women are often silent. But one of the underlying themes of these books is that the women, both grand ladies and not so grand, embroider.
In the first volume Wolf Hall the background is that the wealth of England is based on cloth. Thomas Cromwell has a background dealing in cloth. He can price the clothes on the backs of his contemporaries. He knows about cloth and dyes. His wife trades in her own right. Another underlying theme is embroidery. Ladies create luxury items. They label items with heraldic badges, then unpick those motifs and replace them with another badge when a precious item is given to another.
In the second volume, Bring Up the Bodies, these themes become stronger with courtiers being executed and queens replaced. Motifs of hearts and love knots are sewn onto Queen Jane’s gown in haste. The ‘A’ motifs on the clothes of Queen Anne are unpicked by the ladies in waiting so the clothes can be used again. Queen Jane herself works a border of honeysuckle and acorns. The designs of the bedhangings at Hackney, depicting the heraldry of the unfortunate Earl of Northumberland, are unpicked and the hangings are reused as the property falls into the hands of the king and then is given to Thomas Cromwell. The court looks opulent but nothing is wasted.
Then in the third volume The Mirror and the Light, Thomas Cromwell reflects on past years and actions and realises that these largely silent women, living parallel lives, had been embroidering political messages into these handkerchiefs and soft furnishings. He had recognized some signs, that the Imperial ambassador wore a badge with a marigold and that Meg Douglas had a handkerchief with Howard family motifs, but he had missed many of these secret signs, the non-verbal messages of the ladies of the court, stitched into cushions, hangings, clothes and handkerchiefs.
I was reminded of a piece of Tudor embroidery, known as the Hereford cushion and have been trying to find its present day location. It is worked showing a Tudor rose in one corner, King Henry VIII, and a pomegranate in the next corner, Queen Katherine, with a marigold between, the Lady Mary. In another corner are the oak leaves and acorns.
These are books which give some insight into how embroidery was used in the sixteenth century, and it was not all for decorative purposes.
Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show 2020 Cancelled. BUT…….
Sign up for their news letter at http://theknittingandstitchingshow.com find out some exciting alternatives and competitions.
Val W Reviews three books she has enjoyed this year.
Mandy’s Magical Christmas
A few weeks ago I saw Mandy Shaw had a new book out. Mandy’s Magical Christmas
It is a charming book with 10 projects, good photography, easy to follow instructions and full size templates.
I have always enjoyed working on Mandy’s projects. These are all quick and easy, a good addition to her other books.
The Sewing Machine Natalie Fergie
One sewing machine. Two families. A story that is told across four generations.
This was a fun story! For the most part, we follow three characters: Fred in 2016, Jean beginning in 1911, and Connie in the 1950s. (A fourth character appears in the last third of the book and really brings everything together.) For each person, we see them at their lowest and how sewing affected their lives.
It brought back memories of my Mum’s Singer sewing machine, which I now wish had been kept.
The Forgotten Seamstress Liz Trenow
It is 1910 and Maria, a talented young girl is employed as a seamstress at Buckingham Palace. An attractive girl she catches the eye of the Prince of Wales.
Can a beautiful quilt discovered many years later reveal the truth about what happened to Maria ?
Do you remember Lynn Edwards, quilter, talking to us? She helped Liz in the writing by sharing her quilting knowledge. Lynn also made a replica of the quilt in this story. See below.
Liz Trenow has written many more books and the all revolve around textiles. They are all superb reads.