The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Friday, 29 April 2011

After the Wedding - mostly about headgear and a cake!

Well it's over!  After all the hype about who made the dress and what it would be like, I was surprised how seemingly modest it was.

A beautiful gown designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen (as rumoured) in a simple, elegant style which belied all the intricate and expensive work that had gone into it's making.  Who would have thought of lace?  Certainly not me.  All I got right was that it had a V neck.  No pearls or crystals, not a bit of bling anywhere.

I was wrong again with the choice of tiara, though I was not alone in this, as this one was not even in the running with the bookies.  However, as armchair critics, Dorothy and I weren't entirely happy with the choice and we thought that more height was needed. The veil seemed rather flat and looked too like the curtain from the dressing up box! 

Moving on to guests' headgear, lots of lovely stuff but some awful ones too, the Queen's being one of them.  This was one of the worst, worn by Princess Beatrice, who is certainly her mother's daughter in that she is prone to fashion howlers -

But here are three girls who got it right -

Of course it helps if you are blond and beautiful and Lady Amelia, Lady Eliza and Lady Kitty Spencer, Prince William's cousins who would have been Diana's nieces.  Aren't they stunners?

Let's finish with one of the cakes -

This is for all of you who love McVities Dark Chocolate Digestive Biscuits.  Prince William's favourite apparently and made especially for him!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Royal Wedding update

I know many of you reading this are interested in the Royal Wedding because I still have lots of page views on the posts I have written. I said a while back that there wasn't a great deal of enthusiasm to celebrate among my friends and neighbours, but with only three days to go, things are warming up and there is definitely more interest.

Some of my friends are on holiday abroad, some specifically to avoid it, though I don't think that will be easy given the media coverage.  There is to be a street party where I live and I may look in on it, but I am joining my friend Dorothy, with whom I viewed Charles and Di's wedding and we are going to watch the whole thing on TV.  Her husband has been warned not to spoil our enjoyment with any jocular remarks - why do men do this?

The Middleton family now has a Coat of Arms -

and if you would like know more, here is a link that will tell you all about it -

Rumours of who is the designer of the wedding address abound, but it is still a secret. Daniella Helayel, Sarah Burton, Sophie Cranston and Bruce Oldfield have all been named but I think we shall have to wait until the press release just before the wedding.

I am going to predict that the dress will be simple, slim fitting and elegant with a V neckline, embroidered with pearls and crystals with a long train and veil. The bride will be wearing a tiara, probably one that the Queen gave to Diana, as they do recycle their jewels. Maybe this one -

which the Queen gave Diana as a wedding present, which she didn't actually wear at the wedding as she wore the Specer tiara, but maybe Kate will in her memory.

All this is fairly obvious if you study Kate's style and I am pretty certain it won't be strapless or a puffball.  This will be a very good thing as it is sure to set a new trend and it will nice to see real elegance again.  It's time strapless was abandoned, especially in our climate!

I am sad to report that the Royal Wedding Quilt has not been finished, in fact I haven't done any needlework since I returned from New York.  Probably down to building works and travelling around enjoying myself, but I'm a bit worried as I can't remember such a fallow time stitching wise.   

Friday, 22 April 2011

Beautiful Spring in Wales

I am an urban person and live in the suburbs and I regret to say that I don't often venture into the countryside.  However, last weekend visiting Lampeter and teaching at the Quilt Centre, I did drive through Wales and as always was struck by how sensationally beautiful the countryside is.  Of course the glorious Spring weather helps enormously, but my goodness we are so lucky to have all this beauty around us.

This was the view from my bedroom window at the farmhouse -

As I was driving I couldn't take pictures but I have taken some of part of my front garden to share with you - the first is the view from my workroom window (Bella has managed to get into the picture again). I couldn't believe how it had changed in just a few days absence -

I can't pretend my garden is as beautiful as nature but we are having the loveliest Spring and everything is burgeoning.  Of course as gardeners we want rain but in the meantime I glory in this warm sunny weather and hope to take advantage of it this weekend.

Hope you all have a very happy Easter break.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Teaching Little Welsh Quilts in Lampeter

I have just returned from teaching at The Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter and enjoyed it all immensely.

It was a two day course piecing a little Welsh quilt and planning its quilting design and it seemed to go very well with everyone making their version of my Cariad III design.  I was really cheered that, though some were complete beginners, they made a quilt that was very much their own and that every one's quilt was different.

The picture above shows the workroom with some of my little quilts lining the walls.  They will be there for a few weeks, so if anyone is visiting Jen's latest exhibition I hope they pop in the room for a look.

I, together with some on the course, stayed in Jen and Roger's guest accommodation in the most lovely farmhouse set in the beautiful countryside of Ceridgion.

The above picture shows the house and one of its surrounding barns and the contraption that looks like a high diving board is where Roger photographs quilts.  He stand aloft and shoots down at the quilt which is laid out on the tilted platform below.

I have stayed in many lovely holiday cottages all over the UK but I must say that this old Welsh farmhouse would be extremely hard to beat.  Its atmosphere is welcoming and relaxing, as well as being extremely comfortable with delightful things to look at, indeed it was difficult to leave.  Altogether an out-of-this-stressful -world experience! 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Visiting "Greenway"

I am just as keen on houses as I am textiles (and china and cats) and have a ongoing house selection game with one of my friends, where we choose which of the many beautiful houses in public ownership we would like to own. Usually we go for the smaller, more intimate ones, those that we could imagine living in if we had the wherewithal.  Well it's harmless enough?   I'm sure you have a "dream" house?

Our favourites do change and very often we favour the same one!  However, for me at least, Greenway House in South Devon is a contender!  I have fond memories of that part of Devon as I used to live in Totnes, but I didn't know then that Agatha lived nearby!

I used to read Agatha Christie novels avidly in my teens and when her country home opened to the public I was very keen to visit it.  It had always been pointed out on the river trips from Totnes to Dartmouth and had looked remote and inaccessible, so a chance to have a good nose around was too good to miss!

As you can see from the first picture, I visited it on a beautiful day (last October) which of course helped tremendously, but it a must have been wonderful living there whatever the weather.  Its setting is superb, looking down on the river Dart surrounded by an historic garden and grounds laid out (it is said) by Spanish prisoners of war in Elizabethan times.

Mrs. Christie obviously loved the house as it has an atmosphere of comfort and calm.  All the family  collections are there, cupboards full of china, wardrobes filled with clothes (which the housekeeper will bring out for you to admire) and the hall filled with antique boxes, which I particularly liked because I house my much smaller box collection in my hall.

My favourite room was the library, lined, of course, with bookcases filled with all the editions of her books in many languages. It was furnished as an informal sitting room with comfortable sofas where one could dream of lounging - perhaps reading the morning papers?  Between the picture rail and cornice was a mural painted by an American artist who had been billeted there during the War when it had been requisitioned for the US Navy.  After the war, Mrs.Christie didn't want it painted over - she said it was part of the history of the house.

The National Trust who now own it have carried out the wishes of the family and have kept it just as it was when they lived there.  If you think you have clutter, this house will put your mind at ease, because boy did they collect stuff!

Here's a link that will take you to some videos that will give you a flavour - but put it on your visiting list!


Tuesday, 12 April 2011

April Garden

Isn't this a lovely picture -

I saw it in "Country Life" magazine.  It's called "The Old Farm Garden" and is a recent donation to the Courtauld Insititute in London and is the work of a Victorian water colourist, Frederick Walker.

I love these Victorian garden pictures and used them as a reference when I was teaching embroidery.  I love the little black cat in the picture, just like my late cat Frank who is buried in my garden in a pride of place in the middle of the lawn.  Even when the garden was being made over, Frank's grave was sacrosanct.

My garden isn't looking so wonderful at the moment because of building works but the apple blossom and the scented clematis are out, so I  took a few pictures away from the disturbance.  You will notice that Bella has managed to get into the picture, just like the little cat in the painting!

It's all rather a symphony in green but in a few weeks my wonderful pink poppies will be out and I promise you another picture!

Now we have dealt with reality let's go back to a dream - this is a garden I did for a day school I taught at an Embroiderer's Guild Branch.  It is worked on 18 to the inch canvas which gives you scope to use lots of different thread types.  It is of course an idealised cottage garden though I tried hard to depict flowers and shrubs that are out at the same time in Spring -

Sorry about the picture being slightly skew-whiff, I'm not very good with the camera.  Oh and that's Frank.  I tried to put him in all my house and garden embroideries as he was such a good focus point!


Friday, 8 April 2011

Potty about Pew Groups

One of the most inspiring places in New York for me was the Metropolitan Museum of Art and it definitely goes on my list of favourite museums.

When I wander a museum I like to choose an object that I would be willing to give house room too!  I found two at the Met., one was a portrait by Matisse which I would love to hang in my bedroom, the other was this little beauty - a Pew Group -

You will have gathered by now that I am a china buff and I love my Staffordshire pottery and though I had heard of pew groups I have never actually seen one.

Thank goodness Pauline managed to take this picture, because as usual, as is the way with museum shops everywhere, there is never a postcard of the item you like best!  The Met. does allow pictures and though I have deep reservations about that policy, I was grateful for it in this case, as now I can share it with you!

Pew groups were made in Staffordshire around 1740 and it is thought that they were made to order rather than as part of the normal pottery output and consequently are extremely rare.  They are made of white salt-glazed stoneware and measure approximately 7 x 8 inches.  They are usually of two or  three figures sitting on a settle, sometimes the men hold a musical instrument of some kind and maybe including a little dog.

In many ways they remind me of 17th century stumpwork as the figures are dressed in the costume of the time but of course these are almost a century later.  I think they are delightful and would love to own one but there is very little chance of that as the last one sold at Christies, New York in 2006 for -  wait for it  -

$168,000 - very expensive folk art indeed?

Oh and this is the Matisse - goodness knows what it is worth?

I don't think she is sitting in front of a patchwork quilt, but doesn't it look like it?

Monday, 4 April 2011

Returning home

Visiting New York for the first time was exciting.  As our taxi entered central Manhattan I felt I had been there before - it reminded me of Glasgow!  My travelling companions agreed, so it wasn't just me being fanciful, because I tend to compare every city to Glasgow as it's a city I am extremely fond of and familiar with, as I lived there in my teens and twenties. 

Now when I check on Google, I find that this similarity is well known and that Glasgow has been a stand in for New York in quite a few TV programmes and films.  They share a grid system of wide streets and very large stone buildings, a combination which you don't see in other cities.

Of course we did a lot of touristy things, visiting Rockefeller Plaza, people watching in Central Park and viewing the city from the Top of the Rock.  All very exciting but as the song says - "it's very nice to go travelling but it's oh so nice to come home" and home here in the UK is looking very good just at the moment -  Spring has definitely sprung!

Flying the Atlantic to view an exhibition in New York was an expensive indulgence which I thoroughly enjoyed but which I will probably never repeat - but oh, it's certainly an experience to savour.


Friday, 1 April 2011

Later thoughts on Red and White

Well the great adventure is over and I am collecting my thoughts on my visit to New York and the Red and White Quilt exhibit. It was amazing and really did look like the computer generated picture which first attracted my attention and inspired the trip.

The scale of it was awesome and it was interesting to hear the talk by the exhibition designers describing the process from the first idea to the actual installation,  which only took 48 hours.  That in itself is almost unbelievable but we were shown a 300 percent speeded up film of it which seemed flawless.  Of course an enormous amount of preparation had been done prior to the installation, such as matching quilt sizes, because every quilt was back to back with another.

Mrs Rose, the owner of the quilts, was present at the talk and when asked about her reasons for collecting quilts said that she did not consider herself a collector, but an accumulator of quilts and she didn't know anything about the individual quilts.

An accumulator?  Why would one want to be just that?  I really can't figure that one out?  Nevertheless one has to be grateful that this unique event came about because she was an accumulator and wanted to see all her quilts displayed in one place and allowed us to see them too, for free!  What a way to celebrate being 80.  I shall have to start refining my accumulation pronto!

This was a quilt spectacular not a quilt show and must be a first of its kind?  Maybe it will start a trend, but perhaps not, because it was a birthday present to Mrs.Rose from her family and must have been an enormously expensive one.  No-one dared question the designer on that point, but I would love to know!

Thank you Pauline for taking these pictures and for allowing me to use them.  I didn't bring my camera because I assumed that taking pictures wouldn't be allowed!  Actually I hate taking pictures at quilt shows and only do it if something really interests me.  I prefer just to wander and absorb and boy could you absorb at this show!