I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Made me smile


Normal life will return at some point, I’m sure, but quite how October’s diary became quite so full, I have no idea.  It’s probably because the things I’ve been invited to do are so lovely, I can’t say no! 

I mean, how could I refuse the chance to have a privileged look at exquisite things like this?




Just one corner of a whole bobbin lace tablecloth, it makes that bit of machine embroidery I did look a bit pathetic, doesn’t it?




As one parcel after another was opened, the treasures just kept coming.  Who knew what would be the next beauty we’d get to see?




As always, the judge’s task isn’t an easy one but with my two colleagues Jane and Linda, we considered each entry carefully before making a decision.  My recent experience with my new sewing machine gave me an insight into the skills which had gone into stitching this cloth and I was impressed.  Very impressed.




But small surprises like this little face were a delight, too.




And a tiny motif in the corner of another entry was the kind of feature I think of as a judge’s reward… so easily overlooked but a real joy to spot when looking very closely, as we do.

No, I’m not going to tell you who won and why…for that, you’ll have to wait Winking smile




I had more reasons to smile at home yesterday, when a pile of cards was waiting for me when I came downstairs.  They were especially cute this year, I thought!




Lucky girl that I am, there was a pile of presents too – new slippers, a pile of books, bath oil, chocolates and sewing machine accessories from sweet family and friends.




There was also that lovely treat of someone arriving at the door with an Interflora box – a huge bunch of lilies from Tra.  Each time I went to look at my computer, there were more “pings”; ecards from friends and Facebook greetings.  What nicer way to spend the day than being reminded of what sweet friends I have?




All of which was almost as effective a cure for my birthday cold as the Benylin and box of tissues. 

Thank you all – I am a very lucky girl indeed.


Whilst I’ve been gone


You might be forgiven for thinking I’d gone to sleep. 

I did.  A few times, in fact.  But in between I’ve simply been doing so many things, there was no time to blog.

Can you believe it?




The Cheltenham Literature Festival was fun as ever, especially when shared with friends.  It’s surprising how long after each hour-long talk we continued to discuss, evaluate, explain, compare what we’d listened to (you’d not think I worked in education, would you? Winking smile

Kind friends who invited us all to share their table for a late lunch kept the conversation going even longer, too.  Brave things.



But then, we all spent the evening at the opera, watching Macbeth live from the Met in Cheltenham with Anna Netrebko playing the leading lady.  Some of us were quite pleased about that – about half the party, I’d say Winking smile




Having said goodbye to weekend friends, I buzzed off for a few days to spend time with a few more.  Yes, it’s that time of the year again and I had another group of craft judges to play with.




My knitting gets such close inspection it’s a wonder I ever feel like doing any more.  I reassure them all that we don’t try to slip anything past them and all of those mistakes in the pattern result from sheer incompetence.  Mine.




But of course, there are always lovely things to share and to inspire and that set us all off googling again.  I wonder how many of us intend to start (or have already started!) a Hitchhiker scarf having seen Marion’s lovely example?

(there are 42 points on it, in case you are wondering)




Though the days are long, they fly by and in no time at all, it was time to have the group photograph taken and say ‘bye to the class of 2014.  As always, it’s a real delight to get to know these clever women better and hopefully, we’ll meet up at some show sooner rather than later.




I could always enter my pig. 




On Thursday, a dozen of us from Avening WI spent the day with Norah Kennedy, local willow worker and wonderful teacher.  The chatter flowed as the willow was woven and worked into hens and piglets and by the end of the day, a fine assembly was on parade in the car park.




My pig is the plump one on the end and is definitely not of the racing variety!




So when have I had time to sew?  Not at all, really.  Those are not my hands in control, but Marianne’s!  Spending time with the Gadebergs was exactly the best way to round off a busy, craft-filled week and opened up the next challenge in the sewing machine project.  The BSR.  Having not even got it out of the box, I am now fired up and ready to put it through its paces and get myself sewing again.

Not this week though.  I have three days of judging to look forward to when over a hundred and fifty treasures await the attention of myself and two colleagues as we try to find a winner amongst them.   At the end of the week, we’re off to Carmarthen, where I have work to do and the rest of the family will be rediscovering old haunts in Pembrokeshire, where my Hero spent some of his formative years.

But on Thursday, I might take the day off Winking smile


All in the detail


I’m involved in a couple of things right now which, on the face of it seem fairly straightforward but closer consideration reveals rather more than was immediately apparent.  In some cases, that means more work.

Oh well.

In others it opens up new challenges, new opportunities and a whole lot more fun!




I was hoping to create a bit of quick “bobbin lace” on my Bernina the other day.  When we were out judging a few months ago, one of my colleagues came across a beautiful lace bookmark which we all admired.  It was so perfect, each thread carefully managed to a well balanced tension and not a single join in sight.  Certainly made by an excellent lacemaker – or?  Only on the way home did the thought strike us that it possibly wasn’t bobbin lace at all, but some well managed machine embroidery worked on soluble fabric. 




With the 2014 Craft Judges training in my diary next week, I thought I’d create a sample to take along, to raise awareness of such things and to give them an idea of what’s possible.  Of course, I wouldn’t dream of trying to fool them into thinking it was real bobbin lace Winking smile

(If I was, I wouldn’t have blogged about it, would I?!)




Actually, this would fool no-one, because having pinned it out and sprayed with water to dissolve the “fabric”, the threads don’t resemble bobbin lace in any way.  I need to learn how to discriminate when buying off-the-peg commercial machine embroidery designs to find one which looks a bit more authentic when stitched out.

It’s all in the detail.




I suspect the participants in the new WI/Kingston University collaboration will agree with that as they begin quite an exciting project.  I was there at the briefing day on Monday to learn more and to identify how I can play a useful role – how lucky is that?  The project is intended to promote the sharing of traditional and contemporary craft skills and is most certainly something which “floats my boat” (spoken in the best Hull accent, of course!)  The idea is that each fashion student will work with two WI members to create an outfit which celebrates the rich history the WI in its centenary year.  The students bring a wealth of creative talent, innovation and modern craft techniques and the WI members were selected for their outstanding technical skills in a wide variety of traditional handcrafts. 




Put all of that creative energy and enthusiasm into one room and you can imagine how wonderful it was to stand back and watch!  Students and members had brought along pieces of their work and having been assigned partners, spent the day getting to know one another and exploring the potential of collaborative working.




There was a lot of “ooh” and a fair bit of “aaah” as the heirlooms got another airing and portfolios were opened up.




Hopefully, over the next few months there will be progress to report, but for now, it was enough to sit and observe as people who had arrived as strangers discovered they had rather a lot in common.




There were some rather nifty details in the clothes many of them were wearing too.




Not quite the same elegant touches to observe in Cheltenham last evening, sadly, when (we estimated 1500) festival goers and Radio 4 fans found their seats in a huge marquee for the event entitled “Just a Minute”.  We thought we were going to a recording of the show, or at least a genuine game but we were mistaken.  Instead, Nicholas Parsons introduced three women (the first all-female panel, we were told) Pam Ayres, Shappi Khorsandi and Jenny Eclair rather than the usual combination of four regular participants (we were hoping for Paul Merton)  After a short and rather more polite game there followed a discussion and book promotion which shouldn’t really have come as a surprise but which was not quite what we were expecting.


Fullscreen capture 08102014 130655


Of course, had we but looked at the detail in the programme, we’d have known what to expect.






We always admire the woodstacks when we travel in Switzerland and Germany.  I’d go as far as to say, my Hero has serious woodstore envy when we see neatly arranged supplies like this one, seen from a train last year.




As of yesterday, however, we have our own woodstore and though it’s not quite in the same league as those Swiss wonders, I think he’s stacked it pretty neatly, don’t you?




It fits in beautifully and we are very pleased with our choice – locally made, delivered and constructed in situ. 




That, of course, is the wood for the winter after next – there’s at least one year’s supply stored dry in the garage, because as our friend Jürgen always says, wood warms you several times over – in our case, stacking it outside, moving it and stacking it once again in the garage, bringing it upstairs in the large basket and then finally, burning on the woodburner.


Fullscreen capture 03102014 165715


So, as you can see, we are ready for the weekend, when we are advised, temperatures will plummet.  Maybe it will be stove-lighting time?


New favourite place


The fun continues here with a day meeting up for coffee and lunch and of course, a gossip!




We decided to meet at somewhere new; a place which came highly recommended.




Quite a good place too, because we could pick up one or two good things to bring home whilst we were there.




A good place to remember when we’re looking for small gifts of all kinds too.




Was it a swanky new coffee shop? 

No, it was the new(ish) motorway services near Gloucester!!  A brilliant cafe and farm shop which just happens to be on the northbound M5.

Oh, and whilst there, we took a photo for our contribution to the #iamWI  project – google that tag and see if you can find us.  There are only a few thousand other pics there Winking smile