Thursday, 12 October 2017

Autumn's really here now - and Yule presents!

Here in Glastonbury we can really see autumn sweeping in - there are brown crisp leaves to kick along on the pavements, apples ripening and falling in the many orchards round about and colourful winter clothes and boots appearing. Apple juice is being pressed, and we've picked blackberries for cake-making; we ate that before I thought to take a photograph though - so sorry.
The gardens at the Chalice Well are an inspiration - there seems to be always something flowering there, and we hope to have that same effect in our garden at home, always nectar for insects and colour to make people glad. Here is the Well gardens in September 2017

It is still mild for mid-October though and I have more flowers in the garden than I would have expected, so we're still being visited by butterflies and dragonflies, although the bees are nearly all gone. Oh and woodlice - I have so many woodlice!

I met up with a friend for drinks at "House of Tea and Chi" in Glastonbury - great cakes! - and we looked at Halloween decks together, that was fun. 

My oracle deck sorting has been going well, several have gone on to new homes and I've enjoyed using decks I hadn't had out for a while. Next week will be the wonderful "Green Man Tree Oracle" by John Matthews and Will Worthington.

Also it's the time of year when I like to be making things for Yule gifts. It takes lots of time, but I enjoy it and I hope my friends like the finished things. Last year I made wonderful paper journals using a template by Eva Deverrell, this year I'm sewing. I can't say too much about it yet - in case the intended recipients  see this, but I've entered the world of Patchwork & Quilting, and I'm told it's a labyrinth I may never escape now I'm hooked! I already have a whole crate filled with wonderful sections of printed cottons - some of which are also used to make my tarot bags (see the tab at the top of page for examples and instructions for ordering) and now there is cotton wadding and see-through rulers and cutting mats - oh it's very exciting.
It's also the perfect excuse to exercise several of my vintage sewing machines - so far I've used a Husqvarna 5220, a Bernina 730 a Singer 201K and a Singer 221K (Featherweight). I have cleaned and refurbished all of the machines myself, and it's great to see them sewing so nicely.

Singer 201K
Husqvarna 5220

That's all for now, apart from a mention for the lovely folks at Midsomer Quilting for being so helpful to a beginner, and for tea and cake too - and all my friends on the forum 'The Sewing Place' for their encouragement.

enjoy the season

Monday, 18 September 2017

Shout out for a lovely garden in Somerset

Been a fairly quiet week here, but the highlight was visiting East Lambrook Manor Gardens in Somerset. 

Here is how they describe themselves on the website:

"East Lambrook Manor Gardens is the iconic and quintessentially English cottage garden created by the celebrated 20th-century plantswoman and gardening writer Margery Fish. It was here that she developed her own style of gardening, combining old-fashioned and contemporary plants in a relaxed and informal manner to create a garden of immense beauty and charm."

And it truly is a super place, even in autumn when a lot of the flowering plants are over. There is much texture and colour still to be seen, and a plethora of lovely fruit trees. Best of all the nursery, although not large is well stocked and labelled, and very reasonable in prices! Very reasonable. . . 

So we've been planting in our own garden since then, and wondering how much will survive having very wet muddy roots all winter. For the first time I've been trying to keep a list of what I've planted so that if things don't survive I can try different types which will do better. I've planted some seeds too - just ordinary things like Poppy and Sweet Cicely, but trying to see if I can increase my stock of plants. Today is warm for the time of year, with a light wind, so I'm off back outside in just a few minutes to enjoy.

The "oracle of the week" didn't go so well this week. On the list was a lovely deck, that I wanted to enjoy for several reasons - circular, transparent, nature orientated - but which sadly just isn't for me. The Transparent Oracle by Emily Carding is a nice deck, the cards layer up with each other (because they're see-through, obviously) and the subjects are nature and seasonal based. But it has 70 cards, and I'd have to work at learning the meanings and nuances of all of them to get the most out of it. It's not a easy read for me, it doesn't inspire or speak to me straight from the box and I don't think I'd give it the time is deserves if I kept it. So into the "OFF YOU GO!" box with it. Someone will love it.

Enjoy your days

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Tarot and the ORACLE OF THE WEEK

As folks who follow me here know, I have quite a collection of different tarot decks. Tarot has a long and complex history, dating back to at least the 15th Century in Italy, with many different styles and patterns existing. A tarot deck would generally have a certain structure though, of picture cards often known as "major arcana" and the four suits known as "minor arcana", although the numbers in each section sometimes vary. Nowadays there are also innumerable "oracle" decks - these generally have one overarching theme and any numbers of cards which use illustrations and symbols from that theme to illuminate various key ideas. Oracles tend to have their own internal logic, but may need to be studied before you can easily use them. 

Although tarots are my primary love, I am often tempted by oracles because of the nature and quality of their artwork, or their subject matter. But now I am trying to reduce the number or oracles in my collection. Right down from it's current level of more than 52, to only the decks which I will use. I culled out the first half dozen or so quite easily - decks that I had purchased because of their shape of vintage content, but which I hadn't used since and were obviously ready to move on. Now I'm down to 52, I can review them 1-a-week for a whole year, giving each deck a 'yes' or 'no' as I go  :)

Honestly I started last week, but quickly decided that the deck in question didn't speak to me at all. It's been respectfully put into the "SALE" box. But this weeks deck is more fun, although perhaps doesn't really qualify as a fortune telling deck, and more as a personal tool.

Relax Teens Attitude Cards is a super set of 52 cards each with a single 'attitude' word on one side, and a helpful way to use or  connect to that  energy on the other side. Originally bought as a gift for my "teen" they are now back with me as the teen doesn't think they need them any more! I, however, still think they are  a great and positive addition to any day, and as a finishing card in any tarot reading, so these are definitely in the 'keeping box'.
The cards were published by 'Relax Kids' in 2004, but I'd grab a copy if you see them anywhere and give them a try - we are never too old to stop working on being better people, right? 

 So that's it from me today - there's the usual gardening, knitting and tarot reading going on here, the flowers are ending, leaves are falling as we walk the hills, and my winter layers are coming on for wear. We have had kind weather here, but my thoughts have been with friends around the world facing harsher times - my love to you all.

Blessings today

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Garden is beautiful as Autumn comes stepping by!

At last, a picture of the garden as it is now - complete with pond, grass and lots of plants

Everything that we bought with us is planted, and there are a few new plants as well, but now it will stay like this until next spring. It's like a little slice of heaven to me, I am very grateful to my beloved for all his hard work!

Now at last we feel we can begin to do things that have been sidelined during our busyness.  I began my yoga practice, using the wonderful online resources from Adriene I would really recommend them. The exercise bike is in position so I can watch bike race videos while I pedal, that works for me. I gave a fun short tarot history session at the Library of Avalon in Glastonbury last Friday evening. I was standing in for the usual lady, but the chance to see and read with lots of historical pattern decks seemed to go down well.

There are various jams and apple pies being prepared in the kitchen - not by me - and the house smells lovely!

And autumn is creeping in - the sun sets earlier, there is dew on the grass every morning and mist swirls around the Tor. Fruit in the hedgerows, and the leaves just beginning to turn and fall. I foresee lots of woodland walks and trips to the coast now that the holiday crowds are leaving. There are knitting projects large and small, new tarot bag designs to sew, and I'm still posting about the Arthurian Tarot HallowQuest course, although on a different forum since Aeclectic Tarot forum is now a closed, read only site.

No blog post here is really complete without chocolate! So I can confirm that there is a Lindt shop in the nearby Clarks shopping village. I have been in - but was so overwhelmed by all the different flavours to choose from that I left - but my Yule 'bowl of sweeties' is going to be awesome  :)

Blessings to all as the Wheel turns here


Monday, 17 July 2017

How maps are like tarot

Carrying on busily here; the last Leylandii came out today - you can see it in this shot - where you can also see how my Beloved has built the retaining wall, and shifted most of the pots over to be able to dig over and improve the soil prior to 'proper' gardening.

I've been busy in other ways - doing things in the house, working on a sewing machine and making new tarot contacts. So I made a dozen new business cards today. I don't need hundreds at a time, and I like creating things myself, so they are simple but fun, and I can vary what I write on them - here they are part done

Making them also set me thinking about maps - which I use quite a lot in my textile work as well as my paper-based projects - and why I think they are so important. This is what I wrote ;

" Maps ground us, give us a sense of place and belonging. They are comfort, they incite adventure. They hold the past, show us the present and help us imagine the future. They can guide us on a journey or free us to travel to new places. They are hugely symbolic as well as completely practical; they show us places of safety when we are lost, they literally save lives! Maps broaden our horizons in every way, daring us to 'dream bigger', to prepare, to take the next step on the journey  of our lives"

Then I realised that I think that Tarot - and a good constructive tarot reading - can do exactly the same for you! Tarot really does all those same things for me. It is both map and signpost, comfort and adventure, a link to where we came from and a stepping stone to where we can go. Wow! So, if you'd like a map tarot reading, encompassing where you've come from and the roads you could take to move forwards, please take a look at my readings page on the header tabs, and contact me.

Enjoy your journey

Monday, 26 June 2017

Into the summer - and the garden!

So in the couple of months since I last posted there's been lots happening here. Nearly all of the decorating is done, only a couple of ceilings left, and the decision about what to do to make the kitchen more "ours". It's mostly fitted, including walls and floor as well as cupboards, so there's not a lot that can be changed, but we could make it more themed and less impersonal. But my beloved is the chef in the house, so he gets to choose what to do...

But all the house is now unpacked and put in place, pictures have been squeezed together on the walls we have so that they all fit in. Some furniture and other items were given away, and all the books fitted in!

 Now at last we get to work on the back garden space. This is the biggest challenge, and worse than we thought now that we have started. Although it's not a very big space - about a third of what we had before - it needs a lot of work. When we bought it, there were about a dozen Leylandii, and a couple of strange wooden garden structures (painted pink!). Lots and lots of breeze blocks and paving slabs laid roughly straight onto the ground, and then painted, mostly shades of green/blue. No other plants, and the heavy clay soil in bad condition. Here's a shot of one of the buildings, and the slabs, with a lot of our plants in pots dotted in as well.

What we hadn't realised was how over-engineered the buildings were, which meant a huge amount of material to disassemble and remove, and how much broken hardcore type material was hidden under the top layers of slabs and blocks. In addition a large amount of rubbish, organic and inorganic is hidden under the soil. Large off-cuts of wood, branches of the trees which have been pruned, household rubbish broken and burnt, glass, plastic and metal. We've taken bags and bags of stuff to the recycling centre, but unfortunately you can't take rubble there without a license so we are going to have to have a skip. Right now there's hardcore piled in the drive which I can't even give away! Every time you turn a shovelful of soil there is more rubbish to be picked out of it. We have bitten off more than we knew, but we're working on it slowly.
The garden slopes down right to left and we are going to turn that into two levels. The soil in the lower level is in bad condition, a lot of concrete foundations we can't dig out and very heavy clay, so it will be leveled and covered with slabs and gravel. Then certain things which enjoy shade will grow in pots there. The upper portion will have the flower  beds, a small pond, a circle of grass, a bench, that sort of thing.
Rather than waste material, we are using the breeze blocks to build the retaining wall, the slabs to cover the lower portion of the garden where the shed will stand, and some of the wood to create fence posts, rose arches and raised bed edges. This is how it's coming along.

We have had a spell of very hot weather, when it was really too hot and sunny to work in the garden; house jobs or just siestas were the order of the days then. Today it's a pleasant 19 degrees so more work on the steps down and the line of the retaining wall.

In addition to all the house work we are slowly getting to know people here, volunteering at a couple of places in town, and I have added a few decks to the collection, including  Wild Unknown Tarot and Wild Green Chagallian Tarot. I've also be given a wonderful little oracle deck which I'll write about next time - thank you to my new friend  :)

I've walked more of the lanes around Glastonbury and am discovering quiet, out-of-the-way spots to sit and dream. Friends have visited, I'm knitting a waistcoat for my beloved and finished toe-less socks for my lovely girl, I repaired a sewing machine or two as well, just to keep me out of trouble. I look forward to the garden being done so that I don't feel guilty about spending whole days in the workroom on a project. 

May the turning of the year bring you all joy, whether you have summer or winter.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Rose Chidgey and the pink sewing tin

It caught my eye as I was leaving the shop. A place full of old forgotten treasures, worthless now they are stripped of their context and sentiments. Holiday presents have turned into cheap foreign bric-a-brac. Lovely china given to mark some special occasion is now out of style and out of place.  No shelf space any more except this grubby corner. Unwanted toys, odd clothes, broken garden tools discarded in favour of something shiny and electric. Then, almost missed,  the old mending tins and baskets from a time when people sewed and repaired, and kept their clothes for longer than a single season.
I picked down the tin, it’s battered but I like tins. They remind me of childhood, of toys kept in  them in the big cupboard,  of the wooden jigsaws that had long since lost their cardboard boxes, of the special biscuits that might be a Christmas treat for the family.
On the top is a dirty canvas sewing bag and underneath a jumble of bits – probably worthless my collectors eye tells me – but there are name tags. Woven ribbons with a little girl’s name, lost in time and place now but once sewn with care into all her things. So “Rose Chidgey” came home with me, in a pink tin with a puppy picture on it, and mixed knot of the past. All for the exchange of a crisp new five pound note.

At home the musty smell of it all hits me, apparent now I’m out of the cramped shop. What have I done? But I’m pulled by the past and the tangled clues, by what I can learn and recover of a woman most likely, who spent evenings stitching by some lost fireplace with it’s ornaments and mirror. I wonder if anything else from her rooms was in the shop? A useless query really, impossible to answer. Was she local I wonder? Probably, as this item doesn’t have enough value to have traveled very far between dealers. With the battered and grubby pink-surrounded puppy watching me I begin an inventory of the tin. I start with the cotton reels.

There are nine reels; first thing I notice is that none of them has their end papers pierced through for being put on the spindle of a sewing machine. So no machine in the house then? A lady who hand-sewed what she had to but didn’t do dressmaking? One reel is old, a wooden reel with a green kind of thread. J&P Coats colour 145 – khaki. Once there was 200 yards of it. What story does that have I wonder?. The other reels, a less interesting mixture. Cottons and synthetics, some fairly modern, white, grey and red, mauve and burgundy, dark green, dark orange and dark brown. Not a very varied palette left at the end of this journey.

Then two cards of black darning wool. One is partly used and there is a darning needle still threaded with the stuff. Oh dear, a sock unraveled somewhere, along with a family.  Next there’s white elastic, 3/16” wide, the kind I would have called ‘knicker elastic’ when I was a child. Some of it has already been cut to different lengths but a lot of the lengths don’t look used. There is one quite short piece, showing signs of having been stitched and then unpicked. Maybe a sock garter; I used to wear them to keep my school socks up. This missing sock with it’s hole, and the undone garter will haunt the background of this tale. I can see one piece so stretched it’s lost it’s stretch completely at one end. Why unpick that I wonder, surely you wouldn’t use it again when you’ve brand new stuff in the tin? Maybe it has been lying there for a long time, saved when materials were in short supply and then forgotten? There’s a piece of white cotton cord with frayed ends – “What were you for?” I ask it. Two thick black shoe laces knotted together. 32” long – “Where did you work?”

The tape measure – I just used it to measure the shoe laces. Yellow on one side and white on the other. Plastic coated fabric. “Dean. Made in England. Home Sewing Aid Only.” Coiled up tight – whatever it knows of the story it won’t be letting it slip out. Now there are two lots of embroidery floss, but not their paper wrappers. Only in bright yellow and sky blue, so not the remains of some floral project I don’t think. Perhaps the initials on a sports bag for school? Or marking the laundry maybe, although that suggests a different kind of lifestyle that this tin offers.
So many questions without answers; time unravels so much, so silently. We barely notice the damage as it creeps along, loosening the stitches until it’s too late to repair.

The smell is sticking to my fingers now as I sort and categorises. But every last thing seems like a dropped stitch, a little treasure, and I don’t want to loose anything.  As I take each thing off the large tray I tipped it all on to, more is revealed. So now two beautiful vintage needle packets that surely go with the wooden cotton reel. Pale blue-green paper wraps with dark interiors; the brand name of “Flora Macdonald” but made by Abell Morrals of Redditch. There are ¼ Darners and 5/9 Sharps, both still containing bright shiny examples of their kind. But no needle case that I can see and no pin cushion or box. I can’t find any scissors either come to that, which is a shame.

  But I Spy ... thimbles and loose needles. Thimbles first...

There are three of them, two large and one small. The first I pick up is green, some kind of early plastic I think but now split and faded with age. No more work for this one, laid aside as the stitcher  finished. The others are both metal – one says “Stratnoid England” Funny that, I have vintage knitting needles of that brand, but I didn’t know they made thimbles. The other tells me it’s “Solid Nickel Silver” but not who made it.
Now that I’m searching among tangles that are left I see all sorts – rusty pins, safety pins, needles, small metal buckles. There is more than one needle threader, little plastic parts from children’s games, a nest of thread ends, oh even brass curtain hooks! I begin with picking out the needles carefully. Rusty punctures in your fingertips are not recommended.  First out is a card-backed packet of “Repair Needles – Assorted”. It contains some serious bits of metal; straight and curved, some very thick, broad ends for leatherwork, all sorts. One very thick needle is threaded with that khaki thread, yet the thread is old and this needle packet is much more modern. I’ve read the story clues wrong somehow. A few more stray needles, rusty. A handful of assorted safety pins. A pile of old rusty pins, and just two neat ones with pearl heads. Another almost empty card of darning wool hidden in the jumble, and three small bun pins, black. So once upon a time someone pinned up their black hair neatly in a bun? The mother? The daughter?
I found a metal suspender off a girdle, painted pink, for the mother I think. More small metal buckles, some in pairs. What did they come off? Children’s shoes? Raincoat sleeves? They are rather a sad little collection now. There were half a dozen curtain hooks all told; they could explain a lot if only I could string them together right, but just one brass ring.

And all the time I’m shuffling aside Rose Chidgey; singly and in pairs, purple embroidered on woven ribbon. The lost child in this story, fascinating particularly because I know her name but nothing else about her. It’s funny how you think you should be able to pin someone down once you know their name. But you can’t really. It’s a label that came adrift in a crowd that has passed by now – and I don’t think I can re-attach it to her even with the most careful of stitches.

Now I untangle a large hook from a ‘hook and eye’ type fastener. This one is large and bound around, the kind that reminds me of long velvet skirt fastenings.  That also makes me realise there are no zips in this tin, no cards of poppers, no hooks and eyes. Definitely not a home dressmaker!

It feels like it’s time to let Rose Chidgey out of the tangles of time and covering of buttons. Most of the name tapes are in pairs – ten in all – and then one single. So 21 left, I wonder how many there were to start with? Before Rose grew up and didn’t need to have her name sewn on everything any more? These names are in purple – did you like that colour Rose, was it your favourite? Or the school summer dress colour maybe?

A strange sad find – the tiny foil backing from a sheet of tablets – Zyprexa 10mg. Used for schizophrenia or psychosis. Did you forget who Rose was I wonder; did those labels puzzle you if you found these abandoned things?

Now there’s not a lot left; the oh-so-pink tin with it’s paw prints round the side and the puppy on the lid, and the flotsam of thread ends and buttons and miscellaneous bits. There aren’t any colours of thread in this tangle except those I’ve seen on the reels. But there are a lot of buttons. Oh I think you can tell a lot about someone from their buttons! First things first, there are only two inside the little plastic grip top bags that come attached to clothes labels. One’s dark purple and the other grey. This person either didn’t go out of their way to keep the spare buttons for garments, or they didn’t buy the kind of new clothes that come with spares? Or maybe they usually took them out of the bags and dropped them loose in with all the rest? I guess I’ll never know.
I picked out all the odd nameless things that weren’t actual buttons. A tiddly-wink and other small coloured plastic parts from games and toys. A metal numeral ‘3’ with holes so it could be stitched to something. Parts of what had been a plastic flower I think. A grey leather belt loop. A metal washer and other odd bits and pieces I couldn’t identify. Then half a small ‘hook and eye’ and a couple of parts of poppers. A white glass bead. Best of all, something which must surely have belonged to Rose herself, a small metal “Palitoy” key which was used to lengthen and shorten the hair of a special kind of doll. Did you like playing with her I wonder? A birthday or Christmas present?

At last I’m down to the buttons proper and I start by sorting out the colours. Yellow first for no particular reason except perhaps because it’s a sunny spring day outside whilst I’m sorting and I can see daffodils. So there’s about thirty yellow buttons of various types and all are plastic. There was no yellow sewing thread so I’m guessing yellow isn’t a colour that’s been worn much lately. Perhaps it suited the little girl but not the adult. Some of the buttons are odds, then a few flower shaped one, some small baby-cardigan sized ones. All of them might have come off children’s clothes by theri size. Cardigans, summer dresses, that kind of thing. They make me smile – the yellow flower-shaped ones bright on my wooden tray background. I looked at other “little girl” colours, but there’s hardly any pink at all, a little bit of pale green, a few orange. I guess these weren’t colours that either Rose or her mother looked good in?  There are a few more in the mauve category, those simple shiny two-hole buttons that might have come of cardigans. There’s a bigger selection of reds, including three lovely red glass buttons with sculpted dogs heads on them, the collars picked out in silver paint. They so ‘went’ with the puppy on the lid, it was partly them that made me buy the lot. There is one bright red and black ladybird button, a few of the plain cardigan type, one very old early plastic type cracked with age.
Considering there was no reel of blue thread I was surprised to see some bright blue and turquoise buttons, so I pick them out next. There must be more than forty assorted blue buttons; once upon a time then the owner of this tin wore a lot of blue. There are blue and white summer dress and coat type buttons, there are tiny pale blue pearlised. Four of those, come perhaps from a bed jacket or a pair of long gloves? Textured buttons, pale blue, navy, bright sky blue. Some still have snippets of thread attached, some came from cardigans and have wool through them. There’s a whole rail of blue clothes in my imagination after sorting these out.

There were plenty of metal buttons which at first glance I thought were all from civilian clothes. But there is just one which has the inscription “Legion Etrangere”.
Good grief! The French Foreign Legion!
What mystery lies behind that one small button? I wish I could create a story in my head, write something wonderful about this family. That really surprised me.

After that the rest seems quite ordinary. There’s a few wooden toggles off a duffle coat, and some of those buttons made of plastic that are meant to look like leather. Several odd buttons, each over an inch wide, possibly off 1960’s summer coats like the kind I remember my mother had for special outings. There’s a pile of brown, and a pile of grey and black. But they are all quite light and small buttons, nothing that honestly suggests men’s clothes. Quite a feminine collection it seems to me, although perhaps I’m reading too much into it, and buttons didn’t really express gender even 40 years ago?
Glass buttons, well there are few, including a set of six patterned ones. The same with mother-of-pearl, a few, some textured.
Then there is left about fifty white buttons. A few of them small enough to be shirt buttons I suppose – Rose’s father emerges briefly in this mostly female story – but plenty of the white buttons patterned or pearlised for dresses or cardigans. Nothing very striking, just a lot of small white circles on a disused path.

Last of all I came to the little canvas pouch. *
It strikes me from it’s colour as being army or land girl or something similar. Sturdy cotton canvas outside – although now very dirty and smelling musty. A strip of khaki inside under the flap, with a rusty needle threaded through it. There’s also some brown wool – for darning or repair? – a small wound ball of blue/grey, and a cardboard reel wrapped with dark green thread stamped “Cotone Mercerizzato”. In a charity shop they’d probably throw this out but I’m going to try and find out what it is.

*This thing turns out to be an Army ‘Housewife’ sewing kit – date around or just after WWII. Searching among the buttons I find some which possibly belong to it, along with one of the thimbles. It would perhaps have had white cotton thread in there too, I might have something of the right vintage in my own collection. I’m reluctant to wash it, and destroy it’s vintage character, but it is really grubby and smelly. Perhaps a good airing and stiff brush is the best I can do. But I shall surely keep it, even though they  must have been common items at the time.

So there laid bare is all that’s left of the story of Rose and the pink sewing  tin. I could look her name up online, try and find out more about the real people perhaps, but that would be a step too far I think.  At some point, some member of the extended family chose to let go of this tin and I must respect their decision to part with it and the history it contains. I have been fascinated with all it’s possible story threads, and wish I could write something that really explored and honoured them, but this is all there is.
The rest has unravelled . . . 

~ Yes, I know I should be decorating, but everyone benefitsd from a day off every now and again!
Spring Blessings from Glastobury