A day trip to Green Knowe and the patchworks of Lucy Boston…….

green knowe house

 

Back in October me and my friend Anne had a little road trip to Hemingford Grey, to see the home of Lucy Boston.  Unfortunately,  the day we had planned to go, the weather was terrible, bucketing it down with rain.  As viewing the house is by appointment only, rather than cancel, we still set off and got there in one piece.

In case you don’t know, Lucy Boston was an author who wrote a series of children’s books set in a house called Green Knowe.  She also was a most prolific and incredibly talented patchworker and her quilts* are on display there.  To actually see the quilts in the house where they were made is a real treat.

Sadly Lucy died some years ago, however, The Manor (her home) is lived in and managed by her daughter-in-law Diana.

If you live in the Uk and have even a passing interest in quilts and patchwork then visiting this house is a real must (I’ve wanted to go there for the past 15 years so was very excited when Anne said “do you want to go then ” after I’d told her about it)

The quilts themselves are all hand pieced over papers in the English style, however unlike the more traditional hexagon, grandmothers garden style patchworks, Lucy’s quilts are a series of incredible, often quite complicated patterns,that repeat over the quilt.  She purchased a lot of her fabric solely for the purpose of making patchwork.  Then each piece was carefully cut ( today it’s called “fussy cutting”) so that each fabric could have 4,5,6 different variations of pattern and colour. Diana told us that Lucy also bought fabric in several colour ways, so you get the same patterns  but in a different colour which made you think “hmm that looks familiar”, they combine perfectly and keep the eye really interested as it travels over the surface of the quilt.

The quilts are all kept upstairs where they are laid flat (it’s a bit like the Princess and the Pea where she has to sleep on a 100 quilts and mattresses) and Diana (wearing cotton gloves) carefully turns each one over.

Probably the most famous of Lucy’s quilts is called “Patchwork of the Crosses” but I think my favourite is a small hexagon quilt she made for a grand-daughter. Equally stunning was a grey and cream, brown and charcoal coloured quilt, it’s made up of squares and octagans and looks incredibly modern and reminded me of some quilts I’ve seen in a Japanese quilting book.

 

green known garden

 

After viewing the quilts we then went up some tiny stairs…………growing up I was a huge fan of The Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe, I read it over and over, I totally loved it.  Well the next bit was a bit like going to the house where the professor lived and being shown a room with a huge wooden carved wardrobe in it……we went in to a small children’s bedroom and it was just like stepping into the pages of a book.  I hadn’t read the Green Knowe books growing up (though I’ve now read the first one and it’s so lovely) but there was such a sense of familiarity and magic about the room.  Diana pointed out all the toys from the books, the huge rocking horse, Linnets doll, the sword and flute…..the little bird cage where the chaffinch flies in through the window to sleep when it gets cold and it’s hiding from owls.

(if you haven’t read the books, and you are thinking to visit the house, then do read at least one, Lucy’s writing is beautifully descriptive and I think you’ll enjoy them….especially when you see the bedroom, it will make you gasp and feel so happy)

Eventually it stopped raining so after a couple of purchases in the shop (there are several books available to buy about Lucy and her quilts) we had a look around the garden, this is probably best done in dryer and sunnier weather, however it still looked stunning even after all the rain.

 

magazine with Lucy Boston article

 

I’ve not really done Lucy justice here, she was an incredibly fascinating woman. You can buy books from Diana directly (all the profits go to keep the house running, so I think it’s important to support Diana, the quilt collection at The Manor really is one of a kind and the fact it’s not been split up and sold around the world is just marvellous….you can also buy the templates and instructions if you want to create your own “Patchwork of the Crosses”.

And on the day we went, a local magazine was running a story about The Manor (issue twelve of Cambridge magazine)….it’s a nice long piece with plenty of pictures.

 

Other things to note which I should have wrote in earlier but didn’t….in the late thirties/early forties, Lucy bought a pair of hexagon flower quilts from Muriel Rose’s art gallery in Sloane Square (if you don’t know about Muriel Rose then you are in for a treat), initially they were put on beds and then Lucy decided to use them as curtains.  Over time they became worn and she began to patch them and from here she began her interest in patchwork.  She was then in her fifties (I think that is what Diana said) so basically you are never too old to learn to do patchwork or quilting.

*Actually although they are referred to as quilts, what Lucy made was patchwork tops.  They aren’t quilted.  They are sewn to backings but there are no stitches to properly join the layers.  This makes the “quilts” incredibly fragile and Diana said they were starting to wear.  It was quite odd looking at them, they are all stunning, each piece has been so carefully cut,been laid at exactly the right place on the fabric, but I didn’t want to touch a single one…..normally I want to run my hands all over a quilt (like a passionate lover who has to touch everywhere all at once) but there wasn’t that feeling with these.  But perhaps if these had been quilted, then the constant touching and hand rubbing over the ridges and bumps and contours of the quilting would have worn and distressed the fabric even more.

There is a film adapted from one of the Green Knowe books…it’s called From Time to Time and was directed by Julian Fellowes (he created Downton Abbey)…it stars Maggie Smith and one of my favourite actors….Timothy Spall…oh Timothy, your beautiful East Anglian accent was so utterly perfect (he’s someone I would love to meet just so I could hug him)……in the film Dame Maggie is working on some patchwork, and Diana had it in one of rooms downstairs, along with the Muriel Rose hexagon quilts (which are still being used as curtains)…… so my new claim to fame is that I’ve touched a piece of patchwork that was held by Maggie Smith!

Lucy Boston also wrote ghost stories for adults and The Manor has ghost nights where Robert Lloyd Parry reads stories by M R James (it’s a very atmospheric and creaky noised house so if you like getting the willies with goosebumps running up your back then contact Diana for more details)

Crocheting a scarf whilest on a day trip to Holt…..

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A couple of weeks ago I bought this huge pile of tapestry yarns from a local charity shop (it was such a bargain, £6 the lot and when I got them all home and counted them, there was just over 120 different skeins, most of which looked unused) …. since then I’ve been thinking about what to use them for and because I’d been looking at some pictures of the lovely blankets and quilts in the film Nanny McPhee (which has possibly the nicest blankets in a film ever)… I decided to make a scarf inspired by those colourful blankets.

As I had a rather long bus journey on Friday (a day trip to Holt to see my friend Ruth who has just opened a shop there), I thought this would be the perfect time to begin yet another new project….because obviously I need another one of those… I’ve already got another crochet scarf part made (maybe a quarter of the way through), I’m still sewing the never ending tails of the granny’s paperweight blanket, piecing  the dresden plate quilt,  drafting the mini block quilt and I still need to baste and quilt the little square patchwork…… but, none of those can be made on the bus, and I don’t really like reading on bus journeys as it makes me feel a bit queasy (I’ve  found crocheting and knitting on the bus really good for calming travel sickness) so felt that some colourful crocheting was the perfect solution.

 

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I had a good idea of how I wanted the scarf to be, pretty much the same granny square pattern as my green and blue scarf, but this time I wanted it to be a riot of colour, clashing combinations….. a real head turner.  And, although I don’t mind joining squares together too much, I thought using the join-as-you-go method would help me add some semblance of order to where the colours are placed.

I’d used this technique when I was joining the pieces of the grannys paperweight blanket… it’s a bit weird and fiddly at first but it’s fantastic for joining hexagons.  And I think as long as you have a cup of tea, and have some biscuits or a Werthers Original at hand… then a few deep breathes and anything is possible.

I started off making squares of only two rounds, using a 4mm hook, and joining them together in the second round.  I was really happy with the colours but after just four squares I knew this was not looking to be the scarf of my dreams…..

So down tools… open a sweetie…. another rumpage in the wool stash and use a smaller hook…..

 

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I decided to make the finished square a little bigger, so crocheted them into rounds of three, and three being the magic number, used a 3 mm crochet hook…..  much better.

The squares that weren’t right can easily be unravelled and crocheted up again into larger squares.  I’m not really sure how many squares I’m going to need (I really do like a long scarf… not quite as long as Dr Who but enough to wrap round a few times and tie in a jaunty Romeo Gigli-esque knot).

 

I think I got on one of those super slow buses (the sort that stop at every little village on the route) because the journey was very long …. however arrived in Holt and it was pouring down with rain so not a lot of standing around enjoying the sites or shops… (Holt is a very pretty market town in North Norfolk with lots of lovely antiquey shops…. I had  a field day when I visited a couple of years ago with my friend Anne “queen of knitting” ), just had time to stick my head into the door of a couple of charity shops and then found my friend Ruth’s new shop…..to be honest Holt is a bit of a rabbit warren, lots of tiny lanes with independent shops, and courtyards with even more shops…..so I managed to get rather lost.  However, I finally found Glory Days.

 

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Glory Days can be found at number 5 Franklins Yard, tucked in just off Bull Street.

Walking through the door you kind of have to step back as your eyes don’t know where to look first.  Everywhere it’s colour colour colour.  Items are displayed on brightly coloured vintage dressers……parrot lamps, bunny night lights, busty ladies displaying papers for cupcakes, pretty lunch boxes, paper lampshades, stacking bowls, bright red battery radios, dachshund dog money boxes, deck chairs, kitchen wall clocks, retro inspired alarm clocks hammocks, bright pink bunny watering cans, huge parasols, lovely hooks for coats or bags, tiny little sets of crayons and colouring pencils…(phew… I feel like I’ve just played The Generation Game).. I think every pocket size is catered for.

Ruth is also stocking a small range of toys made by Sasha, so if you can’t find her at a craft fair then this is a great opportunity to find her amazing creatures (each one is hand made and really one of a kind so it’s going to be a case of buy them when you see them).

Ruth used to have a shop in Norwich (which was also called Glory Days) and I often used to pop in on a Wednesday for cups of tea and a good gossip.  I’d bring in my sewing and sit and do that while Ruth served her customers.  I even ran a couple of patchwork classes from the back of her little shop… Glory Days has been much missed in Norwich but I’m sure it will be a welcome addition to Holt.

I bought the set of bowls with the the lovely floral lids as I thought they would be perfect for any leftovers that need popping in the fridge.

 

Holt 006

 

Along with the new items and some hand crafted things, Ruth has a few cheerful antiquey items dotted around her shop, carefully selected teacups and saucers, the odd teapot, Staffordshire statue (she had a gorgeous figurine vase when I was there).

She’d wrapped up this gorgeous boy for me as a gift as I collect Staffordshire dogs…. I hope I’ve sneaked him in so “no-one”will notice there is yet another dog on the window sill.

(everything gets beautifully wrapped in lots of coloured tissue paper so no chance of anything getting broken)

Glory Days doesn’t have a website yet but I think that is just a matter of time.

 

 

 

 

The Time and Tide Museum

Yesterday me and a friend had a day trip out to Great Yarmouth to visit the Time and Tide Museum.   At the moment they are hosting an exhibition called Frayed which is on until March 2nd 2014.   The Museum is situated in what was a Victorian Fish Curing Works, and has a most definite fishy lingering aroma.

There are some really amazing displays inside the museum, including a row of old shop frontages which you can go inside, and have a little look about.  One of these was decorated like a small front parlour which I must confess I would have happily sat in to sew my patchwork.  There was a display in the parlour room of some vintage sewing notions and it made me smile to see items there that I use myself at home, my threads,needles and other small pieces being equally aged.  Another room had a carefully hand pieced baby quilt made up of tiny diamond shapes formed into hexagons.

Other areas featured a section on whale fishing (at the moment I’m reading Moby Dick and so I found the  pieces in there really interesting, and gave me more of an idea of what is being used and described in the book) and a Cabinet of Curiosities.  Ever since I was little I have loved these sort of cabinets, filled with amazing and wonderful finds from the four corners of the earth.  This one had a huge turtle, a display of beautiful exotic birds, a shimmering iridescent quiver for arrows embellished with thousands of tiny pieces of what I think was paua shell, fossils and an armadillo among other things.

The viewing of the Frayed exhibit, which is why we actually went there, made me feel really quite sad.  The exhibition explores individual self expression and mental health issues through stitch.  Some of the pieces were old and there was also some modern pieces by contemporary artists who use textiles in their work.  There was one sampler in particular which was sewn by a lady called Elizabeth Parker which was incredibly sad and moving to read.  It had been sewn in a fine red thread with the neatest tiny cross stitches on a piece of plain linen.

If you have an interest in sewing or embroidery then I would recommend going to visit the exhibition as it is certainly very thought provoking.  But I’d also recommend visiting the Time and Tide Museum anyway as it has lots of interactive things for younger visitors and has plenty of interest for older people too.

I was really inspired by so much that I saw at the Time and Tide Museum that I am now planning to visit more local museums in and around Norfolk this year.  The wealth of local history in these museums is always amazing, and they always seem to be filled to the brim with interesting things to look at and to be inspired by.

A day trip to Bungay

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On Monday I had a little day trip to Bungay to see a couple of very dear friends and also to purchase a few haberdashery items I’d become low on.

First up was a pop into Wightmans which is a lovely shop, it’s what is called a traditional store and by that I mean the staff are nice and friendly and they seem to stock a little bit of everything.  They have a nice selection of velvet ribbon and pom-pom trimmings which I was running short on (I use them for my  Christmas Stockings)…and I also picked up some green darning wool to mend my socks (not just any socks but hand knitted ones by Anne the queen of knitting….I’ve worn them half to death and the bottoms are becoming somewhat threadbare).

 

Photo

( picture is copyright Ruby Tuesday)

 

One of my favourite vintage stalls from Norwich Market, the lovely Ruby Tuesday has now moved to Bungay to a proper shop.   So had a little browse in there and it was vintage heaven.  Full of very swishy frocks,  vintage knitted woolies, (including a smashing selection of knitted tank tops which are always my favourite) and some lovely tweed jackets.  Along with the clothes there were some other vintage pieces on sale (there was a beautiful little red flask and some really nice pieces of china).  There was lots that I could very easily have bought, however, this close to holiday shopping and numerous family birthdays I had to be very good….however after Christmas….it may well be another story!  They also sell vouchers which is particularly handy if any of my family is stuck what to buy me as a present this year!

 

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After sewing the quilt for Miss Olive I needed to top up the fabric collection, and so bought some 1930’s inspired fabrics from Sew and So’s.  I really like the fabric with the little houses,  and then couldn’t decide whether I preferred the blue or purple flowers….so went for both.  I only really ever buy fat quarters (which for ages I thought were called fat quilters) so I wasn’t really going too crazy.

 

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The fabric in the middle is one of my all time favourites and have bought it before in green , in purple, and in this salmon pink.  However I only had a teeny bit left in the salmon so while they had it I bought it.  The yellow gingham is also a favourite and have been buying a variation of this fabric for over a decade.  It never fails to raise a smile with it’s cheery colour.  If a fabric could sing then this one would whistle as well.  Finally, I then saw the red floral fabric and couldn’t resist.   The colour is brilliant, a proper orangey red which reminds me of a Yardley lipstick my Nanny used to wear.  The print is a little larger than I normally like to use but I loved the colour so much.

I bought the lovely yellow roses from one of Bungay’s numerous charity shops…I think there are now 5 or 6 charity shops all within a few minutes walk (some are almost next door to each other).  These were sitting looking rather dejected and I almost passed them by but then I remembered the nice vase I’d bought which although pretty couldn’t be used for real flowers (tried it….and flooded the table as vase has a massive crack along the bottom so not waterproof!) and thought they’d look perfect together…

The rest of the time was spent in drinking lots of tea and eating lots of biscuits) including pink wafers which are my favourites….I don’t buy them very often because I can wolf down a whole packet without realising what I have done) and spending some time with two of my favourite ladies.

I also had my crochet bag, which was full of my Jamieson’s wool purchase and spent the bus journey crocheting little leaves ready to sew up in to flower posy brooches.  My Christmas craft fairs are less than two weeks away so any spare time is spent sewing and crocheting.