Sunday, 18 March 2018

Daffodils and A Plot for The Plots

This time of year as the Daffodils sway and bend their golden heads with the wind always reminds me of the visit I made a few years ago to The Farm, where Hoppity and Skippity frolicked in the bright sunshine oblivious to the cold wind blowing.

Unfortunately, the brief glimpse of the arrival of Spring a few days ago has been put on hold as the weather pummels us again with wind and heavy rain. 

The garden and the allotment are flooded, but pale yellow Primrose flowers lighten up the grey blustery day.

Too wet for gardening, it is an excuse to turn my attention to stitching. 

Nicki’s Spring Stitchery design has arrived. Bunches of daffodils, tulips, and a birdbath. 

The daffodils make me think of a recent meeting between the Council and Allotment holders. 

Not all of the plot-holders welcomed the surprise news that the Council propose to upgrade our Allotment site. Vocal expostulations from The Civil Servant with his tenderly nurtured plot and The Daffodil Man who has £10 000 worth of bulbs planted in his plot - both of which the Council propose to turn into car-parking spaces expressed their outraged feelings on the issue.

I empathised with them, as one of the Councils intentions is to replace all the boundary fences to the plots with a standard uniform fence – potentially green wire mesh. 

As I have only just repaired my Chestnut paling fence that was damaged in the winter storms, this does not amuse me; not only because of wasted expense but also the thought of the plots losing their individuality and character. Next thing, we will be instructed that all our sheds must be of the same size and be painted the same colour and that we must only grow a certain type of potato!

It is true that the Allotment site looks rather shabby, but I think this is part of its charm. 

Yes, the lane into the site is full of potholes, 

but the hawthorn hedges and wild flower/weed strewn verges provide cover and food for the birds that sing sweetly as I make my way towards my Plot. 

As for the rabbits hopping about…. well - who could dislike little Peter Rabbit

 or Benjamin Bunny?

The natural, half-wild abandoned ambience of the allotments creates a feeling of being in the country, far away from the city.  A place where time forgot and where Nature can thrive.  

I shudder at the prospect of Sweet Pea Lane being levelled 

and the grass replaced with wheel-chair suitable aggregate surfaces. 

(This is not meant as any disrespect to wheel-chair users.)

In fact, until he died a few years ago, The Captain - a long-time plot holder put other allotmenteers to shame as he tended his entire beautiful and productive plot on his hands and knees, due to his disability of not being able to stand because of two bad hips.)
The introduction of Community Gardens will attract attention – possibly unwelcome, to the site, unlike the current ramshackle state, which offers a sort of cloak of invisibility.
The proposed toilet block would be a convenience – although personally I think a bucket suffices should the need arise. However, these days people expect home comforts at all times and gasp in horror at the old ways of making do. Gone are the days at my late Grandfathers allotment in Dulwich when the tomatoes thrived with their daily sprinkling of wee; but any true gardener knows that male pee on the compost heap is known as Liquid Gold as it activates the composting process. (In today's modern society differentiating between male and female pee is probably not socially acceptable, but the facts are that female wee is more acidic!!)

I have a dread that the last vestige of back to basics and down to earth living will be replaced by an area influenced by all things Corporate – with streetlights and CCTVs, electric wheelbarrow charging points; health & safety signs and shopping trolleys to wheel the produce from our plots to the designated car parking spaces (and where once daffodils grew in abundance.)

So whilst I do appreciate their taking an interest in the site, I am not overly enthused by the proposals, so my suggestion to the Council is to simply
  • fill in the pot-holes;
  • enforce the re-allocation of neglected plots;
  • strim the grass a few times a year;
  • plant some more hawthorn hedges for security around the boundary of the site;
  • enjoy the sight of a multitude of daffodils and then….
leave us alone to be free to commune with Nature as we want. (That includes the Naked Plot-holder whose bare bottom was spotted very early one morning amongst the broad beans! Of course, maybe he had just been watering his tomatoes!)


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Birds; A Book and Bullion Knots

Wakening early, I was greeted by a cacophony of bird song in the air of the dark cold morning.

The weather has been hard on the little song birds - 

freezing temperatures, a bitter wind and a blanket of snow covering the ground.

As temperatures rose and daylight arrived I was delighted to see Goldfinches amongst the visitors to the garden; feeding on last years seed-heads of the Verbena Bonariensis and Teasels that I have not yet cut down.

On a recent trip to Brighton, I found the most charming little book in a second-hand bookshop.

Rather battered, the book was obviously well used, so I embroidered a cover (inspired by Caroline Zoob) to protect it from further damage.

Beautifully written and presented, the author of the little book - Miss Benson describes the bird as the most warm-blooded and vitally and joyously alive of all the creatures.

Of the Goldfinch - she tells how it became a protected bird due to the cruel fashion for capturing and caging it - the majority of them dying in the process. 

She describes it as one of the most handsome finches and "very dainty in its ways".

"The nest is sometimes deliberately decorated. I have seen one draped with fresh forget-me-nots."

The Goldfinches song is "fairy-like, with notes high and tinkling, reminiscent of Japanese wind-bells."

On the opposite page to The Goldfinch is The Linnet.

Miss Benson tells about the mother Linnet who would not leave her chicks in a gorse fire, and covered them until she was burnt to death.

She writes that "this is one of our most loveable little song-birds. It brings with it a breath of gorse-clad hillsides and summer days. The song is sweet; often almost dreamy, at other times rising to an exuberant trilling twitter."

Like Miss Benson, I have always loved birds and on many occasions rescued them from accidentally being caught in the netting and greenhouses down at the allotment.

When February's Stitchery eventually arrived, I was thrilled to find Nicki had included a lovely piece of old fabric printed with a pink bird.

The delayed arrival meant that I was rather under pressure to complete the embroidery before the March project arrived.

The woven stitch used for the ranunculus was not as complicated than it looked, so all was progressing well until I started on the Bullion Knots!

Oh my word - what a fiasco!

Despite Nicki's You-tube tutorial, I managed to get the thread in a real tangle for my first attempt. (Should've practised on a scrap of fabric first - but I was in too much of a hurry!).

The second attempt was even worse and I nearly tore the linen. 

Taking a deep breath, I considered that perhaps I was overthinking the stitch. Overthinking is something I have a tendency to do and can be a terrible obstacle to getting things done.

I tried a different approach. Using my intuition and subconscious mind, I let my fingers and the needle work together and realised that the stitch I have used numerous times as a variation to a French Knot was actually a compact form of Bullion Knot.


February's heart design is complete; The birds are singing, Spring is in the air; lots of inspiration for more embroidered pictures and March's stitchery kit will soon be here.

Things are looking good!!


Tuesday, 27 February 2018

February's Stitchery and The Cloak of Invisibility!

When I was younger, I used to surround myself with the “Cloak of Invisibility” in situations where I really did not want to be recognised. (Parents can be so embarrassing at times!)

Sometimes it worked, but occasionally if I was particularly anxious about not being seen then it usually failed and I would be spectacularly noticeable to the very people I wanted to avoid. (Oh, the angst….especially the time when Dad cut my hair!!!!)

Now that I am "middle-aged", I find that the Cloak of Invisibility attaches itself to me in many ways! There are times of course that it is useful to remain inconspicuous and quietly go about my business without attracting attention.

I have found however, that increasingly people appear not to see me or hear what I say, turning their attention instead to ones younger, glamorous and more conforming to modern society. But when suddenly my e-mails (and blog comments) have not been able to find me and apparently gone astray in cyber space and then most annoyingly, my post does not arrive – I began to surmise that I must now actually be permanently invisible.

The most recent example of this has been February’s Stitchery project – due to arrive on Valentine’s Day. I watched as one by one the photos posted by other subscribers showed first the unveiling of the design and accompanying fripperies,

swiftly followed by further photos of the already completed design and then embroidered variations of the design. I waited patiently for my own package to arrive, but as each day passed, I had an ominous sense of foreboding that it was not going to materialise. (A letter of complaint is currently en-route to Royal Mail; but whether they pay any attention to me or not is debatable!) A very pleasant conversation with Nicki ensued and she kindly dispatched another package.

The delay in starting Nicki’s heart design was actually not a bad thing after all, as it gave me an opportunity to complete another embroidery vaguely inspired by the photos I took last year of Wildflower Meadows in the nearby Rose Gardens close to where I live.

This flamboyant lone Poppy floating audaciously high in the air simply cried out to be embroidered.

At first the picture was centred around the poppy, but I ended up including variations of the other photos I took that day into the scene, such as a scaled down tree and ox-eyed daisies.

By the weekend, the Stitchery project had still not arrived and I was close to screaming in frustration. The sweet little elderly gentleman who delivers my post was startled when I pounced upon him, fiercely demanding to know where my embroidery package was.

Stitching postponed again, I spent a day down at the allotment, (more on that later). There is nothing like being surrounded by Nature to make one feel alive and grounded.

Viewing the other instagrammers embroidery projects and those pinned onto Pinterest makes me realise I definitely have a long way to go before I can be confident about my own embroidery creations, so the tuition and guidance Nicki offers in The Stitchery is much needed.

However, everyone’s style is individual, so I must be content that my embroidery work portrays an informal and impressionistic image of nature. At least my little stitched pictures are tangible evidence that sometimes I am here and not always shrouded by my cloak of invisibility.

The heart embroidery kit has still not arrived and I am getting a little stressed about the second non-delivery now. March is nearly here and another design will soon be released. Despite the current cold weather, this Cloak is not always welcome!

(After some late night detective work, it was discovered that a technological gremlin was responsible for the kit going astray. Thanks to Nicki for all her patience - hopefully all is resolved now and I will soon be practicing the new Bullion knot stitches).


Monday, 22 January 2018

"The Stitchery"

I first started blogging as a means to update family who I do not see very often and friends who had moved to sunnier climes. A diary / newsletter of progress of the renovation work and life in general at La Petite Maison along with my soap creations. 

That chapter of the renovations was at long last thankfully completed some time ago

and my soaping enterprise that I struggled to devote sufficient time to fully developing has diversified and has now begun to encompass my stitching creations.

Summer Meadow


This month I commenced an exciting new project called, 

“The Stitchery,”

where on a month by month basis I will work on improving my stitching ability with the help of the very talented Nicki - (the creativity behind "The Stitchery.")

This months embroidery pattern was a wreath containing dried hydrangeas, pepper berries, snowberries and foliage, to be stitched onto the vintage linen with a combination of French Knots, Fly Stitch, Stem Stitch and Lazy Daisy Stitch.

The design was different from any of the embroidery that I have done before, but I enjoyed the intricacy of the stitches. 

I personalised the design slightly by stitching into the centre of the wreath

 a dried Larkspur flower and some Marjoram.

Next months eagerly awaited design is still under wraps, but before it arrives, I have several other pictures waiting to be transferred into stitch. I must confess that this is a very addictive past-time and it is all too easy to become so engrossed that several hours have slipped by unnoticed. 

It is just as well the renovating is finished - I would never be able to fit it in between all this embroidery!