This rainy weather has forced me to get a wriggle on with various outstanding projects, although as you will see from the above photo I have a fair way to go with this canvas embroidery which I will use to upholster a Victorian stool. I’ve signed up for a day’s upholstery course in mid-October at my local Adult Education Institute and this will be my project. I have to confess here and say that previously my mother did all my blocking and stretching and cushion making and upholstery. At least I have done the maths which has reassured me that the five skeins of Appleton 2-ply crewel wool I bought in Burford in January for a song (yet another needlework shop bites the dust) will be enough to finish the background. This project is being done on a shoestring as I’m using up leftover Appleton wool from previous projects for the cornflower and barley twist design which is from an Elizabeth Bradley chart. I’m not using a frame as the size of the canvas makes it too unwieldy and it will be interesting to see how much blocking and stretching it needs at the end.
This finished piece of canvas work is currently being blocked by me at home! I bought a 4×2 piece of MDF from B&Q and hammered in the nails with an extraordinarily heavy hammer. I’ve lined the board with a piece of muslin to protect my work and after a week of stretching and adjusting it is almost ready to be made into a cushion with a green velvet back.
I am very lucky to have an end of bolt fabric shop in my nearest town and last week there were three green velvet fabrics to choose from. I bought a metre (150cm wide) of 100% cotton velvet for £10.00, enough for six 16 inch square cushion backs.
I also had a good rummage in the remnant bin and found over two metres of Osborne & Little linen and over a metre of very pretty pink and white linen which I may use to upholster (when I’ve been on the course) a pair of old dining chairs which used to belong to my grandparents. I dithered about painting the chairs but I thought some of the detailing would be lost so on the advice of the furniture restorer who repaired the drop-in seats I rubbed them down with wire wool and white spirit and simply waxed them and now they look fabulous. I have though painted and waxed a 1950s wooden standard lamp in Farrow & Ball’s Charleston Gray, an interesting pinky mushroom grey which I think will go nicely with the dining chair upholstery.
And here is my finished, but as yet unblocked, summer Elise shawl. I crocheted it using about 75g of lace weight silk and merino yarn from Fyberspates in the colour eau-de-nil. The pattern was a free download and very easy to follow for someone new to crochet.
In amongst the sewing and painting and hammering we’ve had two lovely days out visiting our two student children. The week before last we were up in Oxford to see our son and as the town is so unbearably busy in August with tourists, not to mention all the roadworks which I secretly approve of as Oxford seeks to ban the motor car, we escaped to the village of Fyfield, about seven miles west going towards the White Horse, and had the best lunch for a long time in the White Hart pub.
This isn’t the pub but I thought it was such a pretty thatched cottage with its hollyhocks and climbing apricot rose and typical of the village that I took its photograph.
The pub has its own large kitchen garden and having sated my appetite with pea soup followed by tempura battered courgette complete with flower I was able to pause and admire my beetroot panna cotta with elderflower ice cream before tucking in.
On Saturday we were in Kent taking our daughter out to lunch in Faversham followed by a walk around our favourite Oare Marshes on the north Kent coast. Temperatures were hitting 30 degrees but there was a refreshing sea breeze to cool us down. This vessel is a Thames Barge, in use until the 1930s to carry goods up the Thames estuary and into London. It was magnificent to watch the barge sail upstream, perform a 180 degree turn while taking down the ox-blood-coloured sail and collapsing the mast before sailing into Faversham on the incoming tide. If you are interested in Thames Barges (and I am partly because when I was very young and used to sail in the tide way race between Twickenham and Putney every summer holiday my dad always used to say to give the moored barges a wide berth otherwise you might get sucked under! Childhood was like that in my day, a mixture of extreme sport and total fear) you can visit Dapdune Wharf on the river Wey just outside Guildford and climb aboard Reliance, a beautifully preserved Thames barge kitted out as she would have been in her 19th century heyday.
The beautiful silky flowering tufts of the Reed Mace were blowing like flags in the breeze.
Nowadays I tend to keep my feet on terra firma. This is Sunday afternoon looking across to Box Hill. You can see the storm clouds brewing. I am hoping that the weather blows itself out this week as on Friday we’re off to Cornwall where we will be staying in a little cottage just above Lantic Bay, arguably the best beach in Cornwall for swimming, snorkelling, surfing, rock-pooling, rock-climbing and diving off the rocks, but not all at once, obviously. I will be packing my sewing as well as my wetsuit and complete wet weather walking kit!
Enjoy the last few precious days of the school holidays and I hope the sun shines wherever you are.