Sunday 31 May 2015

A Positive Young Woman

Hayley Young is 28 years old - and pastor of Hayling Island Baptist Church. Recently she lost all her hair as a side effect of medication. People started asking what was wrong. She put her testimony on YouTube. May God bless her, and her ministry

Saturday 30 May 2015

Sock It To Me, Baby!

The humble sock - it features in so many of our phrases
  • I'm 4'11½" in my socks
  • the teacher told me to pull my socks up and finish my homework
  • his singing was dreadful, and his sister said he should put a sock in it
  • the academic girl was a real blue stocking
  • these peppermints could blow your socks off!
  • sock it to me, baby!
The Romans wore sock type foot-coverings, and up at Vindolanda, a fort on Hadrian's Wall, writings  were discovered about udonum, socks of woven woollen cloth.
The Latin word was soccus, the Anglo Saxons referred to brocs, and later, stoccs.
By Tudor times, people spoke of hose, chausses [French] Jersey Hose, and longpikes [these were stockings with soles attached] Shakespear refers to socks as buskins
Handknitting ones' socks was a popular craft throughout Europe - in Denmark they held bindestues [knitting bees] in Wales once Autumn arrived, that meant noswaith weu [knitting nights] The Lithuanians dyed their wool yellow with the amber resin, and the Norwegians made flammegarn - an amazing striped yarn, produced by tie dyeing hanks of wool. The women of Yorkshire wound the wool round a thropple - an amazing gadget produced from the dried windpipe of a goose, formed into a circle with pebbles inside. If they dropped it in the dim light, they could hear where the ball had rolled! 
Back to socks again - Latvians believed that if you wore your socks inside out at seed sowing time, it would confuse the Devil and result in good crops. Also, that if you got lost, and put your socks on inside out, you would be able to find your way home again!

I learned all this from Nancy Bushes amazing book about folk socks. It is full of great historical facts, information on techniques [heel and toe shaping etc] and 17 traditional patterns from Europe [and one Egyptian design]
I got this from the library but I am seriously considering investing in my own copy.
WHY did I get this book out? Blame Liz, the latest knitting enthusiast in the family. She gave me two balls of sock yarn at Easter - having purchased them herself, she decided she didn't want to use them after all. So I thought I should have a go.

But I confess that when it came to it, I chickened out rather. I do have some double pointed needles [inherited from my wonderful Mother in law] but in the end I went back to the twin needle sock pattern which I purchased from Web of Wool in Leamington Spa many, many years ago.

It is very quick, and the seam is up the inside of the foot and calf, so does not rub your soles. The toe is joined with Kitchener stitch.

The yarn came from Tiger, that chain of Danish homeware shops, and was relatively inexpensive. It will be interesting to see how well it washes and wears.

I think I should persevere with the 4-needle method though - this 15th Century painting from Germany clearly shows the child Jesus reading, while his mother labours away on her dpns, knitting 'in the round'. If the BVM can do it, then I ought to try harder at this craft.

Friday 29 May 2015

Was Mary Poppins Nanny McPhee's Aunt?

At Christmas 1964, my Grandmother took me to the cinema to see Mary Poppins. I loved it! Julie Andrews singing, Dick Van Dyke’s crazy dancing [ignore his appalling accent] and the lovely views of London [we were living in cold County Durham then, which felt like the far north to me. I missed the Metropolis]I scoured the library for more P L Travers.

When I won my Sunday School Prizes that year, they came in the form of book tokens [My Dad had suggested that it was better to give children a choice, rather than foist unwanted books on them] I spent mine on Mary Poppins in the Park

There were 8 Poppins books – five written between 1934-52, one which came out just before the film, and 2 in the 1980s [I don’t think I read them] At the end of my book, it simply says “Chelsea, London, March 1952 G. I. E. D.” Dad explained that was Gloria in Excelsis Deo  - Glory to God in The Highest. Which seemed a little odd to me at the time.

Then Morgan, thoughtful as ever, read my post where I mentioned the new film and offered to lend me her DVD. We watched it over the Bank Holiday weekend. It was charming. It tells two stories – how Walt Disney promised his daughters he would make a film of their favourite book, and the difficulties he had persuading the author to let him – and alongside that, the story of P L Travers childhood, and her relationship with her father.The film was clever, witty, and happy – and alongside that, was thought-provoking and poignant. The Sherman brothers [played by  B J Novak and Jason Schwartzman] were utterly brilliant, as they sat at the piano and created the songs for the film [alarmingly, it appears that Bob and I seem to know all the words!] and Annie Rose Buckley plays a wonderful Ginty [Ginty was PL Travers childhood nickname – she was born Helen Lyndon Goff, and her parents were Travers and Margaret] But my favourite characters were Walt Disney himself and Pamela Travers. WD was Tom Hanks [is it me, or do other people think he is becoming the 21st century’s equivalent of James Stewart?] and PLT was Emma Thompson. That woman is so gifted!


But having enjoyed Morgan’s DVD, I took my 50 year-old Poppins down from the shelf to read it again. And i struck me that Nanny McPhee owes an awful lot to Ms Travers, and Miss Poppins. PLT would not let Walt make any more films, but some of the ideas in later MP books do seem to have crept into the Nanny McPhee stuff. These nannies only hang about whilst they are needed, and they fly off when the wind changes!

Thank you Morgan for lending me the DVD, definitely a *****

Spit spot! Let’s go fly a kite, or feed the birds!

Thursday 28 May 2015

Roll Up! Roll Up!

P1010427I keep my knitting needles in this bag. It originally belonged to my mother-in-law, so it has lots of good memories.P1010428 She taught me some useful tips. Liz has just become an enthusiastic knitter and asked for a ‘knitting needle roll’ for her birthday. So I made her one, to hold needles of all shapes and sizes. Here’s howP1010429

You need 5 pieces

A outer piece 45 x 65cm, B [contrast] lining 45 x 30cm, C pocket 45 x 25 cm, D tiny pocket 10 x 22cm and E piece of Aida or felt 7cm squareP1010430

First, turn under 1cm on the short edges of A,C, and D. Press and stitch down [I used a pretty contrast stitch. Then fold piece D in half longways and sew across the other end.P1010431 Turn right side out and press. This gives you the flap for the tiny pocket. Fold up the hemmed edge and sew side seams. Turn inside out to make pocket.Add a button on the flap and make a button loop. Zigzag the pocket in place onto the bottom of piece A. NOTE the top of the pocket should be towards the hemmed edge, 4cm in from side, 4cm down from hem.



P1010433Place the square of Aida in the centre at the bottom of piece A and zigzag in place. Pin piece C on top of B, 25cm from the top, with hemmed edge on the overlap.

Your two parts should look like the picture above. Now concentrate carefully! Turn over your pinned pieces B & C and pin them to the top of piece A [so right sides are together] There will be a piece of A showing at the bottom, with tiny pocket and Aida square. Seam round the three sides [left, top, right] of the B&C piece, clip corners, and turn to right side. Press [including pressing in seam allowance on the flap of A.



Now mark your channels – I used pins at top and pen on the inside of the flap – ten at 3cm wide, five at 2cm wide. Begin by stitching a guideline just above the top of the pocket.[below left]

P1010439Now you need to stitch the channels. Start at the top, stitch down to the mark, then turn and stitch back up over the line just stitched. Then stitch along your horizontal guideline, to the next mark. Go down & up again to the P1010442end.Now fold up your bottom flap to make the lower pocket. Zigzag down the sides to hold it in place. You are going to sew some channels on this pocket too – over the top of previous lines.


BUT you cannot sew along the top this time, or you will close of the other pockets. So this time sew your guideline close to the bottom edge.Using the first lot of channels as a guide, stitch a 3cm channel between the little pocket and the Aida, and six or seven 2cm channels on the right hand side. You will find that the stitching from the first lot of channels will give you a guide.


Take two 50cm lengths of tape or ribbon. Fold each in half, and stitch the centre of each on the outside of the roll at the edge of the two pockets.


Now load up with your stuff –

  • regular needles go in the long pockets,
  • circular needles in the large short pockets [left and centre]
  • short needles, cable needles, dpns, scissors,stitch holders, crochet hook in the narrow short pockets
  • row counter, tape measure etc in the tiny pocket
  • pins and needles fix into the Aida[make sure they are vertical NOT horizontal, with points downwards]


Fold down the top flap, to stop needles slipping out in transit, roll up, tie up, and you are ready to go!


This was not an easy project. I had to keep stopping and checking things were the right way up, and that I was not stitching across channels by mistake. Many of the online tutorials only have one tie – but I found that two made the roll neater, and that long ties enabled me to double wrap before tying the bows, for extra security. I have to tell you that those are all my needles in the finished picture. I’m afraid that I removed most of them before posting the case off to Liz. She knows I have plenty of spares, and will always let her have a particular size if she needs them.

The pretty blue needlecord came from the Great Stash – back in 1988 when my parents had their Ruby Wedding Anniversary Celebration Party,  I got a large piece of this fabric for a song from the Laura Ashley Sale at the shop in Bromley, and made 3 matching pinafore dresses- for Liz, Steph, and myself. We must have looked like the Von Trapp Family [sorry, girls!] This is the remaining piece. It is good to be able to use it for another family project. Liz only started knitting again in January – in 5 months she has really progressed, joined Ravelry, and already produced lots of small bits and pieces for friends and family [baby stuff etc] Happy Knitting, Liz!

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Happy Birthday, Liz!

Daughter, sister, girlfriend, cyclist, baker, horse rider,dog-walker,  animal lover…and so much more[editor, knitter, feminist, booklover…]

birthday collage-001

…thank you for all the joy you have brought into our lives over the past 33 years. God bless you always

Tuesday 26 May 2015

An Afternoon With Maud And Gladys

I regard Bank Holidays as a boon and a blessing. We began by going to Southampton IKEA for more wedding-reception-related bits [less than 4 weeks to go!] then took a circuitous route back via Mottisfont Abbey. Our National Trust Membership is being well used! This building began as a mediaeval monastery, built over a font [spring] of fresh water, then became a large house, added to over the years. Its final owners were Gilbert and Maud Russell. On the 1930’s, she was a great society hostess, and many of the rich and famous came to enjoy her hospitality. She particularly encouraged up-and-coming artists, the ‘bright young things’ as well as famous authors.  Nowadays, NT visitors cross the river by a pretty little bridge and walk through the stunning gardens to the house.

mottisfont 05 15

“Fun bunting” I said “Hmmm. Single sided, and not hemmed” replied my beloved bunting connoisseur!! The house was full of artwork. We were not over keen on the 1930’s stuff [and wished there had been more information about the older portraits] We were amazed by the trompe l’oeil room painted by Rex Whistler. The ‘ermine curtains’ and Greek urns looked so three dimensional. Maud’s shoes, tippet and gloves were strewn on the sofa as if she had only just left. And the tray of champagne glasses were cleverly filled with quotes from Mottisfont guests.

mottisfont 05 15-003

Whistler noted in his diary that the day he painted the ermine curtains was the day WW2 broke out – less than 5 years later, he was dead, killed by a mortar bomb in Normandy, aged just 39.

mottisfont 05 15-001

In the dining room, each napkin bears a quote about Mottisfont from one of the guests.[Violet Bonham Carter, Lady Asquith, was grandmother of actress Helena and cousin of Florence Nightingale] Ian Fleming is believed to have strolled round Mottisfont, dreaming up the character of James Bond, as he smoked many cigarettes [kept in the gold case which Maud gave him]

mottisfont 05 15-002

In a clever crowd-control-system, we were given a key with a tag, allowing is to go upstairs and see the maids’ rooms. In the area where mending and darning was done, I realised I had all those pieces of kit at home – including the paper bag of haberdashery from Leicester!

mottisfont 05 15-005

Under the house is the original mediaeval crypt, which Maud kept as unchanged as possible. It was wonderfully atmospheric. The adjacent tearoom served particularly fine scones. Bob pointed out that the high visitor numbers that day meant that there would be a fast turnover, so the scones were bound to be fresh. Maud had a mosaic installed based on the original dedication of the monastery, to the Holy Trinity.


Russian artist Boris Anrep was particularly gifted at mosaics, and Maud was first his patron – and then his mistress. He created a mosaic on the outside wall of the house, in a hidden corner. It is of an angel – but looks remarkably like Mrs Russell herself.

mottisfont 05 15-006

We decided we would like to go back again on a day when Mottisfont is not quite so busy, and wander round the gardens. There was a lot to see and altogether too much to take in one one visit. One bathroom door was locked, with peepholes drilled in it. Visitors squinted through and squealed or laughed. I had a look


One guest sent the Russells a present – a crocodile, purchased from Harrods pet department. It was allegedly kept in a bathroom [poor thing] till it could be re-homed.

mottisfont 05 15-007Finally two pieces of modern sculpture from our day out – pigs [or are they tapirs?] from a shopping centre, and some fish by the river at Mottisfont. Maud was certainly an interesting lady. You are wondering about Gladys? She was parked next to us when we returned to the car.


You can just about see her name, painted on the back to the left of the door. She looks as if her owners cherish her, just as Maud cherished the Abbey. We drove home happily, having had a truly Grand Day Out - no more Bank Holidays for 3 months.

Monday 25 May 2015

Pictures At Pentecost

24 05 151

I took my camera to church yesterday to get some photos of the progress of the building work. First I took some shots of the flowers- beautiful red/orange/gold blooms, reflecting the Pentecostal flames. Then I took some of the building – the roof is coming along well, and the original foundation stones await to be re-purposed.

24 05 15

All very exciting!

Getting In The Swim

ftm logoNow here’s an exhibition I quite fancy visiting, at the London Fashion and Textile Museum [they even have a discount for the over 60s!]


Riviera Style looks at ‘resort and swimwear since 1900’ – and an awful lot of the exhibits have come down from the Leicester Museums. Leicester was for so long the centre of the British garment industry, and Symingtons [of Market Harborough] were renowned for their corsets and custards. Quite bizarre that this family company had two branches – pudding mixes, and ladies ‘intimate’ garments, nevertheless they were leaders in production of swimsuits for women. Look at these…

1890sAt the turn of the century, women bathers were well covered, in their ‘bathing dresses’ – but things got a little more relaxed after WW1. By the 1930’s men and women wore these

mens suit 1930sall in one suits. The belt helped stop the knitted fabric from sagging too much! Turbans or swimcaps were worn.east coast lner

1930’s Railway posters encouraged people to travel to the East Coast and enjoy the ‘drier side of Britain’ [that’s Norfolk, of course!]

Then just before the war, Symingtons took out a patent on ‘telescopic’ fabric, where elastic was stitched into horizontal and vertical grid telescopic 1930s

This ruching meant that the costume would stretch to fit every body. When nylon came along the fabric dried quicker too. I had one of these costumes when I was 5 in the early 60s. I hated it! all those little stretchy pockets filled up with scratchy sand. Plus mine was a hand-me-down from a cousin, and for unknown reasons, some of the rows of elastic had given up the ghost years before, and sagged alarmingly. I suppose it was better than my friend’s knitted suit.

symington 1969By the 70s synthetic fabrics and psychedelic patterns were everywhere. And I had a plain black school costume! Then when I was 18 I decided to rebel, and bought a pattern like this [I’ve lost the original, sadly]

I went to Gordon Thoday’s Fabrics in Norwich and bought the fabric.

simplicity pattern

I began with the halter neck top [View C] and the briefs [View B] which I made in a green and yellow floral crimplene, lined with nylon[with foam cups in the top] I actually [bravely] wore this for swimming. I wince to remember it now. Then I was given some blue floral cotton fabric by a friend, and daringly made view A.

I decided this style was more of a sunbathing outfit – not quite brave enough to risk in the pool! Then somebody on holiday with me pointed out that the blue fabric was actually the summer dress fabric of her Girls’ Grammar School in Essex. I was too embarrassed to wear it after that! I was a very slim size 8/10 back then.

team gb

On the left is the swimsuit designed by Stella McCartney for team GB 2012 made from recycled nylon and lycra. The Speedosuit on the right is teflon-coated lycra, designed to streamline the body reducing water-resistance. This fabric was eventually banned from competition costumes!

Nowadays I am back into a sensible one piece, bright blue, but very similar in shape to the school costume I despised so much when I was 15. But reliable for swimming in.

Do you swim? What’s your cossie like?