Friday 31 March 2023


Having abandoned snowdrop stitching in favour of Oxburgh last month, I was determined to do something floral for March in our CCC. We invited a friend for a meal whilst his wife was away - and he bought me a lovely bowl of violas. Violas have been growing in the wild here in the UK for centuries - and from them we have the cultivars which we can buy in the garden centre and they are also the forerunners of the larger pansies. 
He advised that I should keep the bowl inside till the frosts had passed, so there they were, on the coffee table, bringing much joy.The blooms were so delicate and tiny, some barely one centimetre across. I looked into their story.Throughout history the viola has had many names, including heartsease, love-lies-bleeding, Johnny-jump-up, and pansy.
An old Herbal I read says It was formerly in much repute as a remedy for epilepsy, asthma and numerous other complaints, and the flowers were considered cordial and good in diseases of the heart, from which may have arisen its popular name of Heartsease as much as from belief in it as a love potion.
The name love lies bleeding is said to refer to the inseparability of the pain of living and the love of Christ. The poet Christina Rosetti speaks of this in her poem Balm in Gilead - she is struggling with growing older, with the awareness of the stuff that is wrong in her life, and realises that divine love, and the Good Friday/Easter story brings her heartsease, and peace of mind, 
Heartsease I found
where love-lies-bleeding
empurpled all the ground
I ignored my computer stitch programme, and just drew out a picture of one bloom and did everything 'the old way' with pencil and paper. I enlarged it to fit one of the sections of the fabric. And I restricted myself to a handful of five colours.
Kirsten and I have marked out our sections with running stitch borders. I counted wrongly, as I thought the horizontal green line was the top of the section. 
I'd completed three petals when I realised my mistake! The green lines were edges and the centre line. I shortened the stem of the bloom, and added four rows of stitching above and below to 'balance out' the flower in the centre of the section. I used running stitch, chain, feather stitch and herringbone.
These rows remind me of the sampler in my school needlework book. I must try and find that, I am sure it is here somewhere! 
Shakespeare was fond of violas- in Midsummer night's dream, they are used in Puck's love potion, and Ophelia in Hamlet refers to Pansies for thoughts [a pun on the French pensees]
Waiting with great anticipation for Kirsten's parcel...

Thursday 30 March 2023

What I've Been Doing On Tuesdays...

Since February I have been volunteering at a nearby library. I was in the main library in Norwich back in November when I saw a poster asking for volunteers. Aylsham Library [15 miles away] wanted someone to run a Craft and Chat Group. I contacted them for details and put in my application. It took weeks to be processed [and the form for my referees was rather long and complicated] but I got the job. I think I was the only applicant!
Attendance has not been brilliant-just two women. There was a craft group pre-covid but the leader has moved on, and former members not returned. 
We've made Kusudama Flowers. And cards
We are not meeting in the Easter Holidays, and someone has suggested we do cards again when we resume on April 17th. 
The Library Staff are really encouraging, and say that numbers will improve. I do hope so

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Of Poo And Porn

Warning; ranting to follow

Why is it that on the day when you unwittingly step in dog mess outside and then enter your home
1- you are wearing shoes with most ridges in the soles
2- your sense of smell is haywire so you don't notice
3- your beloved is far behind you, and you get all the way to the bedroom and pack before you see the awful footprints?
Why can't some people clear up the mess their dogs leave on the pavement? [thank you Steph for the Top Tip of scrubbing soles with lemon juice and bicarb to remove the stink]
Steph and I saw this statue in Florence, many years ago, when she was studying art at A level. We found it amazing, and beautiful, and marveled that Michelangelo could create such a thing out of a piece of marble, with chisels and a hammer. 
But apparently a parent in Florida complained to the school board that her 12 year old child had been shown pornographic pictures when the class were studying art.[David, and also Botticelli's 'Birth Of Venus'] 
The principal of the college has had to resign [well, she was given the choice, "resign or we terminate your contract"]
Now I know the media do not always present all the facts...but I found this interview with the chair of the school board quite disturbing. 
Given the choice, I would much rather spend time with my family in an art gallery looking at classical paintings and sculpture than seeing the hideous, ghoulish Hallowe'en costumes parading through the streets each October. 
Steph had that beautiful Botticelli print in her bedroom throughout her teens - Liz worked at Tate Britain when she first graduated - and Rosie adores art galleries. I think our family have a pretty good relationship with art...
The dictionary defines pornography as "printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate sexual excitement". This is not that
I am strongly opposed to pornography, and the stuff which demeans women [or men], normalises violent or aggressive sexual activity, or besmirches loving relationships. This is not that.
I am honestly glad right now that I have retired from school teaching [don't even get me started on what I think of Ofsted]

Tuesday 28 March 2023

It's In Her Genes...

 Jess never met her great-great-aunt, but she appears to have inherited Peggy's secretarial skills...

Jess enjoys being in the office!

Thank you everyone for your kind words in recent days. The thanksgiving service went well. People were very appreciative of my 'Family Memories' and Bob's tribute. It was so good to see all the cousins together. And the church friends laid on a lovely spread afterwards. 

Monday 27 March 2023

For Peggy

This is one of my favourite photos of Auntie Peggy, it was taken at a firend's wedding [by Uncle Ron, I think] She was so happy and full of joy. That is how I shall remember her. The service today will include music and hymns she loved. Ralph McTell's "Streets of London" - because she loved going up to the City. For years she worked there, and she enjoyed going to the markets and shops with Gill - but she was also sad by the poverty she saw. In her later, housebound years, she asked her daily carers to put this track on her CD player. How could she claim to be lonely, she said - she had daily carers, a loving family, and God was always with her - think of those who are much worse off, out there on the streets, she'd say.
We'll sing "How Great Thou Art" [as we did for her beloved Ron in 2005, and then for Gill] and "I will sing the wondrous story, of the Christ who died for me" - and "The Old Rugged Cross". This last one, a special favourite, will be sung using a track which Bob has taken from a vinyl LP. It is "The 7th Festival of Evangelical Choirs" recorded at the Albert Hall in 1979, and Peggy is there, along with others from the Cranbrook Baptist Choir. There cannot be many people who get to sing at their own funeral!

Sunday 26 March 2023

He Who Steals My Purse...

Today it's my turn to teach the children's group at church. We're looking at the ten commandments, and we are at "Do not steal". I have been struggling for inspiration - these are all lovely youngsters from caring families. All the lesson plans I've found seem to be about eschewing bank robbery, burglary and shoplifting - none of which would be a temptation for this bunch! So I decided we will look at different ways in which we could steal
  • You can steal someone's stuff [their purse, their car etc] 
  • Or their time [wasting it, or causing them to have to fix your problem] 
  • Or their good name [damaging a person's reputation] 
  • You can steal their work [copying or cheating, or claiming it as your own] 
  • And you can steal their confidence [`gaslighting' or bullying] 
I won't mention the Iago quote about stealing my purse vs. filching my good name, or using the term "gaslighting" - but I do want to get across the idea that stealing is so much more than just robbing a bank.We will make dice, and play a game. Whichever face comes up, we can talk about examples and situations which relate to that type of stealing. And why and when we might be tempted to steal. 
For "confidence" I found an image of the Superman pose [hands on hips, shoulders back] Apparently scientists have now shown that maintaining this stance for 2 minutes will boost your confidence in  a stressful situation! 
I have prepared the 'nets' ready to be coloured and stuck. I already had the outline template on the computer, I've just added words and pictures. One of these days maybe I should put all these ideas into a book! 
But I'm happy to share them freely here. So no need to steal my lesson plan, I'm giving it away. 

Saturday 25 March 2023

Dinner Is On Me - Literally!

In the difficult days while my aunt was in hospital, and afterwards, my lovely daughters were eager to help however they could. "Please keep sending me pictures of the children to cheer me up!" I said. And bless them, they did! The cheeriest baby in Manchester is weaning now. For sometime he has been very interested in his brother's food. 

But he is really enjoying his own menus, and certainly makes mealtimes a whole-body experience!

Friday 24 March 2023

Not TikTok, But Chesstok


At the beginning of the month I posted about trousers. Steph had passed on a pair of jeans, described online as 'ripped Mom jeans'. The dictionary tells me that "ripped" can mean torn, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or possessing good muscle tone. I am not a 'ripped mom' [Steph has good muscle tone though...] How was I going to repair the eight rips on the thighs and right shin?

Visible, creative mending is very 'on trend' at the moment. I considered Japanese techniques [sashiko and boro] and the Indian kantha, [more patching and embroidery, using rags] And then my search ended up just 3 miles from Steph's front door, with the discovery of A & E Chesstok's "Speed-weve, Lancashire's smallest loom" How did I not know about this little miracle before?

In 1963, when I joined the Brownies, we had to learn to darn - we even had the original WW2 leaflets which showed us how to do it. Stitch round the hole, make a series of vertical 'warp' threads, then weave your 'weft' across to cover the hole. Well, it turns out that the Chesstok brothers had developed a gadget to make this process much easier - creating very even darns. These were made in Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, in their factory in The Trocadero Buildings [which sadly burned down in the 1970s]

Here's the instruction leaflet. I learned how a darning loom has two parts: a wooden disc onto which you place your fabric, and a metal loom. The wooden disc has a groove around the side so you can attach the loom to the disc and fabric using 

an elastic band. Run your fingers across the chain of hooks at the top to make the metal hooks flip one way and the other. This alternates the height of the warp/vertical threads so you can quickly and accurately weave over and under

I discovered dozens of YouTube clips about the Speedweve, ways to darn on different fabrics, methods of varying the colours, and threading the wefts to produce stripes, and houndstooth checks and more. 
I sent off for one. And from the moment I got it out of the packet, I was literally 'hooked'. I found a scrap of woollen fabric and tried out different yarns, thick and thin.
The packet contained a wooden disc, elastic bands, a varied selection of needles, some plastic clips, an instruction sheet - and the little metal loom itself.
First attempt - rather over ambitious. I used about 20 different colours and the weaving in on the back was far too messy. But it had a certain quirky charm
I tried fine crochet yarn - the holes were too big. Then soft cotton-a-broder, with blue warp and brown weft. That was a lot neater. I realised that drawing out a rectangle with my marking pen made it much easier to keep to a neat shape.  I looked at the eight rips in the jeans - none was more than 2" long, and not too wide.
I decided on 6 strands of embroidery floss, and chose a selection of the variegated threads from my stash. I darned in the ends neatly and backed each darn with a patch of lightweight iron on interfacing for added security.
I now have some pretty summer jeans, which will remind me of my Manchester family whenever I wear them...[thanks again Steph]  

This site is a good place to start, although I bought a less expensive loom online which is working fine. And here's an American video showing the method,

Thursday 23 March 2023

Three Years On...

Is it really three years today since we began the first lockdown? Time has played tricks with my brain, I find it hard to remember what happened and when. We didn't have covid tests back then, but I was displaying symptoms so this sign was already up in our front porch
We came through it OK, though Bob was pretty ill soon after. Sadly a number of our friends caught covid and did not recover. Others struggled with separation from loved ones - particularly those living in care homes. Isolation brought distress and confusion to elderly folk, and others with health issues.
Covid has not gone away - it is still claiming lives [including Auntie Peggy] I was sad to hear people on the bus mocking folk who were still wearing masks. That was unnecessary and unkind, and they were words spoken in ignorance.
But this graphic from March 2020 still holds true. Peggy knew this truth, and it gives me comfort too. 

Wednesday 22 March 2023

The Dementia Darnings - Stitched With Love

The exhibition I went to on Monday with Nicky was called "The Dementia Darnings". We both found it incredibly moving. Jennifer Dutton, an artist, spent a number of years caring for her mother, who had dementia. To cope with her mum's decline, she started turning photographs into pieces of textile art. Her mum died in 2015. The exhibition has been touring internationally since!
We were both quite blown away by these images. From a personal point of view, it was really poignant. From a technical point of view, I was amazed by the skill and execution of the portraits. 
Jenni said she'd never really worked with stitches before. Here's herself portrait. 

In the way that an artist might use strokes of a crayon to build up colour on the page, she used thousands of strands of fine wool to form a picture on a net backing. 

From a distance, these really looked like photos - but close up the stitching was visible. I found an online interview with Jenni [from the People's Friend magazine, here] which explains all this. I also found a YouTube clip from an earlier exhibition somewhere else. [See below] Here are some of the pictures I took with Nicky.
Child, bride and mother

Picture and detail of stitching


Thank you Nicky for suggesting we went together. Do look out for this exhibition - definitely worth a visit. 

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Nicky Came To Norwich

 Three things I greatly enjoy

  1. Sharing the things I love about Norwich with a visitor
  2. Going to some sort of art exhibition, and a companion to enjoy it with me
  3. Meeting a blogfriend in person and feeling as if you've known them for ever
I managed all three things yesterday. Nicky has been a follower of Tracing Rainbows for a decade or more, and we've become real blogfriends through 'off-blog' correspondence via email and WhatsApp. She and I have watched our children grow up, and we've both moved house [she went south and I went east] but we never met 'in the flesh' till now.
Then she said she was coming to Norwich with her husband for a mini break. So we met up [in the splendid Cathedral Coffee Shop] Full details of our lovely afternoon will come later - but here we are outside the Cathedral [this is the selfie Nicky took, much better than my attempts]

Monday 20 March 2023

Christopher Robin Went Down With Alice

When I was [very] young, in the days before CBeebies, Octonauts, Hey Duggie and Paw Patrol in glorious technicolour on TV every day - we had Children's Favourites with Uncle Mac on the Radio. And there was one song I remember being sung by Max Bygraves. My Mum would often remind me she'd been at school with the woman he married [Blossom Murray] and they'd played in the same netball team.
I thought of that song again in Norwich on Saturday. Margaret Seaman, the knitter from Yarmouth, has recreated Buckingham Palace in beige DK yarn! I posted about her model of Sandringham two years ago [here
She has said this is her last model [she is 94] Here she is sitting beside the Palace...

This model is noticeably less complex, fewer details, more sections in simple stocking stitch. A friend makes the little people for her. But it is all very impressive nonetheless.
What I realised when finding the song is that Max sings about "The Queen" but AA Milne wrote or"The King" back in the 1920s. Perhaps somebody should re-release it for the Coronation with the original lyrics!
PS I should have added that like Margaret's other creations, this one will go on to tour the county raising funds for charity. Having raised over £100,000 with he previous pieces, Margaret received the British Empire Medal. 

Sunday 19 March 2023

A Bittersweet Sunday

Last year I was so very conscious that Auntie Peggy would not receive a card from Gillian [she'd kept dozens of such cards down the years,with Gill's special handwritten messages of love inside] Of course, Julian sent his Nana a card, and did what he could to make the day special. I telephoned her. 
But now Gill's gone, and Peggy's gone too, and I miss them both. I thank God for them, and for the way they both 'mothered' so many - not just in our family, but through work with children in Sunday School, Playgroup, Beavers etc. 
Yesterday I was blown away to receive a gift from Julian, with "Happy AuntieMum Day" on the tag. How incredibly thoughtful of him

Saturday 18 March 2023

Seventy Two Lives

 This is the week of the Norfolk Makers Festival. As part of this, the  church of St Peter Mancroft is displaying the "Grenfell Quilt". This enormous community project was started by 'artivist' Tuesday Greenidge, whose daughter escaped the tower fire in 2017, and it is a work in progress. The ambition is to create a textile installation large enough to cover the whole of Grenfell Tower, and to complete this by 2027, the tenth anniversary of the disaster. 
Thus far there are a number of panels 12feet square which have been completed. These have been suspended between the columns of the church, on both sides of the Nave.

At one side is a table, where people can write a message on a heart. These will be embroidered, then appliqu├ęd onto the "Norwich Panel"
There was so much work in the panels there. I found it deeply moving. There is the opportunity for anyone to make a segment for inclusion. 
I am thinking of doing this later on in the year. [a 2x3 piece, not a full 12foot square!] It will be good to share in this collaborative piece. 
Seventy two lives were lost on that dreadful night. This was a post which I shared at the time of the Grenfell fire. It was a time of real sadness in our nation. Let us not forget those who continue to grieve. 

Friday 17 March 2023

Holey Moley!

 I've taken the kind words to heart, and have been doing relaxing tasks in front of the TV with a cuppa. It's less than three weeks to Holiday Club, and I do need to finish preparing crafts. Like making holes in 100 bottle tops. Top Tip of the day - use a hand-held hole punch, it's quick and easy
We're making pipecleaner people. In 2012 in Kirby, we made Olympic Athletes, with pompoms and lolly sticks for balls and sports gear. This year I'm going for a simpler approach, just make people, and dress them if you want. Here are two Olympians from eleven years ago, and below, my two practice models for this year
I won't make the play dough to anchor their feet till the day before! CDs make great bases*
This year I have lots of cotton reels for bodies. I found some party lei garlands in a charity shop. Top Tip #2 - dismantled, the petals make great skirts. 
*Huge thanks to Krista, from RSPCA charity shop, who passed on a carrier bag full of unsaleable CDs. They have to sort all the donations - because many people drop off scratched CDs, double sets where one disc is missing, and worst of all imho, empty cases! K was happy these CDs would be put to good use. 

Thursday 16 March 2023

Wednesday 15 March 2023

Thank You

I am so grateful to all of you for your kind words on yesterday's post. Things are very busy round here right now - all the family issues to be sorted out, and continuing preparation for the Holiday Club in Easter Week, plus a service to prepare for this coming Mothering Sunday at a local chapel. And the housework is piling up, and the garden needs tending, and, and ... I'll get back to proper blogging shortly!

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Difficult Days

The last ten days or so have been hard for the family. Sixteen months ago, we lost my cousin Gill, so suddenly. She was more like a sister than a cousin. 
In the time since, her Mum, my beloved Auntie Peggy, has struggled on bravely. Peggy's grandson, Julian, gave up his flat and moved in to be her carer. She was 94 in November. But two weeks ago she developed a chest infection, went into hospital and seemed to be recovering well. Then she caught covid. I went down to Essex by train, and stayed with Julian all weekend. Peggy died in her sleep on Monday morning. 
She was my Mum's sister, and very special. I believe she's at peace now - with her beloved Ron, and darling Gill. But we shall miss her. 


Monday 13 March 2023

If You Want To Get Ahead...

Yes, I can make a paper hat - give me a large sheet and 5 minutes, and I could be Margot Leadbetter's Milliner. But Ukrainian Asya Kozina has taken the craft of paper-hat-making to new heights [literally] 
Just look at these... 

In her thirties, this gifted young woman is building a reputation across the world for her stunning creations, re-interpreting baroque and rococo ideas in carefully sculpted paper.  She is also using her international connections to enable her to set up programmes to help children and young people of Ukraine who have been displaced by the war. The hats may be crazy, but the woman behind them has her head screwed on and her heart in the right place