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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Misc; wool

The montage is to give me some idea of colour ways to dye the wool I have been spinning recently, the patchwork blanket was made up from balls of wool that had been  chemically dyed, with an emphasis on purple (Lillies fault), so now to make some soft colourways......
Kaffe Fassett montage

Dyed today
1) Copper sulphate
2) Copper sulphate + weld
3) Alum + henna 
4) Alum + sappanwood

patchwork knitting

Friday, July 26, 2013

Roald Dahl and the Mildenhall treasure

LS read about this story a few days ago, the silver Roman Mildenhall in Suffolk treasure was found in 1942 by a ploughman and was eventually acquired by the British Museum but not before laying dormant for four years in a farmer's house.  This to do with greed on the part of the farmer but in so doing he robbed the ploughman of a sizable reward for the finding of silver.  Roald Dahl was angered by this injustice and wrote a book about the treasure with Ralph Steadman drawing the illustrations.
The book was ordered from a bookseller in Haye-on-Wye, arrived in pristine condition and has some lovely drawings, found it fascinating........

The Mildenhall Treasure by Roald Dahl

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A walk at Paper Mill Lock

Have not been here for ages, it was a treat for me, get tired of pubs and want a cup of tea in a proper tea place, and the tea shop by the river fulfils this wish. People gather here and either eat the delicious cakes or have a ploughman's lunch, whilst looking out over the many barges clustered here.
The swallows build their nests under the road bridge, and swoop back and forth over the river, plenty this year as there were of everything else.  The farmer was gathering in the hay from the large field next to the river, piling those great rounded bales onto a truck, as we have had rain over night I expect he must have worked late into the evening to get it safely under cover.  The fields are a beautiful golden colour, the wheat seems ripe and ready for harvest, and the hay has almost been gathered in, rape is turning to seed, and the fresh green of the sugar beet can be seen elsewhere.  When they gather the beets late in Autumn, enormous hills of the beet stand by the roadside, waiting for heavy lorries to take them to the factory.

Hemp agrimony, always loved this tall plant, loved by bees and butterflies; Grigson does not think much of this flower, though it is called raspberries and cream locally in Dorset.

Burdock (Articum Lappa) of course, favourite 'pop' of children in my day, sticky flower buds, and great leaves

Meadowsweet  (filipendula ulmaria) or 'Queen of the meadow'.  Sweet smelling but Grigson reckons the word meadow has more to with mead  and using the flower to flavour the drink.

not sure

Demoiselles, not a very good photo but there dozens of them alongside the blue damselflies and dragonflies flying everywhere up and down the river, with the occasional splash of a fish coming to the surface. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Old polaroid photos

Karen, David, Kim and Silas

Me, Sue, dogs and Karen

Reminiscing is something we do now and then, and the towns of Essex brought back memories of old friends.  My daughter was born in Epping, and so is a true 'Essex' girl, but her father was killed in a road accident when she was three, so there we were, a single parent family, so these photos are for her, a quick look back into the past.
Above is the old mill house that belonged to my friend Sue and her husband Michael, who also restored pictures. Polaroid dissolves so quickly, so that perhaps capturing this in the medium of the computer is the only way to record the moment.  Memories fade fast, when Sue lived in London, we would go up for a couple of days and stay at her flat and sleep next to large paintings in need of restoration, a somewhat frightening experience.
Then she married Michael and they rented this folly mill which belonged to Rousham House in Oxford. A Xmas visit brings back memories of the enormous tree in the tower part of the mill, the salmon covered in cucumber scales in its kettle, and the boxes of avocados and tangerines.  Her brother John would come down as well and fish for the native crayfish in the river Cherwell at the bottom of the garden.
I can see Karen standing like a little Victorian child in the doorway, three dogs scamper around, my old labrador Kim, David's Silas and Sue's dog.
I had met the Hammerbeck's as they were then in Dunmow, their mother Lois had a small antique shop in the town, and a cottage in a village outside Chipping Ongar.  We were to live for a time in this village in an old freezing cold cottage, me still working for my grandfather in Dunmow, driving home at lunchtime, not for lunch but to walk Kim and stoke the rayburn which was very temperamental, and often gave me ashma as it belched out foul fumes.
The photos look like Victorian ones, but must be about 37 years old, and you can see why polaroid never took on, apparently they tried to reduce the chemicals, remember the time when we took our kodak film to the chemist for printing out.

It looks better nowadays, a Cotswold cottage pretending to be a folly.

Coggeshall two

More photos, which speak for themselves.  Reading about the medieval timbered houses, the question must always come up why the jetty overhang?  Sense tells us it kept the rain off the plaster but there are other reasons. One being that it increased the size of the room, another that it 'balanced' the floor above on the floor beams, also by splitting the house in two you used shorter lengths of timber.

Jettied house
Tall chimneys and a roof top 'tea room'. Sometimes you can see these on farms as well, tea with one's friends and a view over the surrounding countryside

Centre of Coggeshall

Pargetting, the problem with the method is that the more you apply paint or limewash, it takes the pattern off, so that what you see is not the original but the 'spirit' repaired time and time again.

These lovely carved horizontal timber inserts were to be found on many houses, fish, dragons, and plants, this is dated 1565 I think.

Just so hate nationalistic flags, but this house has pargetting as well.

Clean lines

Friday, July 19, 2013

Payecocke House - Coggeshall

Detroit City has declared itself bankrupt this morning,  Coggeshall town though was a rich town in the medieval period, all to do of course with wool.  Payecocke House built for a cloth merchant in the early 16th century.  It is probably one of the prettiest houses in England, lovingly detailed in brick and wood, carvings both inside and out.  Through the large gateway the waggons would have rolled, today just pretty glimpses of the garden, which we did not visit but will do when we return soon to walk down to the abbey. We walked all around the town in the hot sun and got exhausted in the end, though we could have done with the coffee served there, as the pub next door had closed down.

History is always preserved so lovingly by people, and the church St.Peter ad Vincula, was also splendiferous in the wealth that had been used to build it. There was a lady in the church vacuuming the droppings of the bats on the floor (protected are bats of course), her spaniel tied to a table and she filled us in on the damage in the war to the church.  The tower had been bombed in the war, and so a tiny squat lead dome sits where once it had been? not sure about that.   Interesting story, just opposite the church is a timbered pub,  plenty of charm but the blue plaque told a somewhat funny story, drunken vicar, surely not, see below.

the church

picniced here just behind the church

the pub opposite the church

A drinking vicar no less, drummed out of the service, love to know the story.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Catching up with Whitby

A rough sea in March
Whitby is another part of my life, family lives there for the moment, though now are going through the rigours of house sales and surveyors, and I can see my poor daughter on the edge of her nerves. The children will  be breaking up today, and they all go to Todmorden to see the schools they may attend.  There is a birthday reminder for Ben in my email, and my son's birthday has just gone as well, everyone spread out on this tiny island of ours, and I miss the birthday parties, chocolate cakes are the ones mostly on the menu, the girls love baking.

5 years ago, they are all growing so quickly
Yesterday the cottage once more came into focus, it will be let non stop for a few weeks starting this weekend, though we have booked it for September.  Panicking I phoned the lady who cleans the cottage, was it clean and tidy, she assured me it was and if she could remember would put a pint of milk in the fridge.  Her life will also be busy over the school holidays, as she and her husband clean cottages as the great summer squash of tourists descend on Whitby.  One of the funny things I had to do when signing the contract  for letting was state whether I wanted Goths in the cottage, now to me that seemed like discrimination and not the sort of question that should be asked, needless to say I said yes, Goths are very sensible people don't you know...
My bank balance will look a little stronger anyway, and that means my new camera is being focused on.  It was suggested that I tried a bridge camera, the one recommended (Nikon 510) has GPS, always wanted that, but not so keen on the videoing facility, but the macro side for taking pictures of flowers and insects seems alright.

Today my love says do you want to go anywhere?, and I am stuck though Coggeshall Abbey did fleetingly go through my mind, is that not a pretty vision of a house with the wistaria draped across the front, it is part of the abbey  When we were travelling through Essex the other day, I wanted to stop and take photos of all the fascinating pargetted houses we pass along the way, of course we did not.  But it brought to mind a book I once owned 'The Pattern of English Building' and sure enough it is still round in the secondhand bookshops on Amazon for a very reasonable price, so it should be arriving in the post any day.
Essex has many beautiful houses, they belong to the rich of course, but their integrity of character is always kept to,  and I cannot fault anyone who looks after old houses with love and care, even though I am a dyed in the wool socialist.
Did some dyeing yesterday, lilac, navy and emerald green, the hanks of wool dried quickly in the hot sun, cannot spin quickly enough though for more dyeing, wish I could get back to plant dyeing.

The secret of course is to go for a walk early before this cobbled street becomes full of people

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Three Hills Tumuli

left hand path takes you to the barrows

A hot day to visit this unique place, starting at the church with its wall paintings, through the churchyard, along a long path, turn the corner and there are the great  romano-british burial mounds, 1st/2nd century AD.
Covered in long grass they present a shaggy exterior, the largest is 45 feet high, built of soil and chalk the wild flowers reflect the nature of this soil.  What did I see, sweet woodruff, ladies bedstraw, angelica maybe, St.John's Wort maybe, oxeye daisy, thyme, mullien and several almost impossible to identify.  Entering the glade where the three tumuli lie surrounded by trees and you enter into another ecosystem.  The sharp blue of tiny damselflies, great dragon flies, bees buzz incessantly up the steep banks and on top of the mounds.   Dark brown butterflies flutter up from the grass as you walk, for once there is a surfeit of butterflies, a rare sight nowadays.

St.John's Wort (hyperium) I think

But what is the yellow 'cow parsley' angelica?

White campion

Me at the top of the largest barrow
Thaxted typical Essex town
Three Hills pub/hotel, originally three cottages when the railway was built in this out of the way village.
Beeching put a stop to that!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Evening time

Chief today lording it over the Cheesewring; photo courtsey

Not been writing much lately as busy with spinning, a kilo of black shetland wool and a kilo of merino arrived in the post a couple of days ago., and as we have no visitors at the moment I have been spinning. Today I had to renew the drive band (string that makes the wheel go round) which took sometime, but in the end it was beautifully spliced and running smoothly..  At some stage I shall put my knitting projects online, but the whole business of transferring from one computer to another takes time.  The black shetland fleece is much coarser than the bluefaced leicester which I had been spinning, but it is expensive, though knocks spots off the merino because the wool has a sheen that the dull merino does not have.
Above a photo arriving this evening from someone else, Chief at the Cheesewring, look at that glorious view behind him and yes I am envious.  There is a tale to tell of Jan, I think one of his numerous offsprings.  If you remember I posted a video of this young four month old pup, rounding up the sheep all on her own   with no training whatsoever.   In actual fact she will not start training till about 8 months old.  But the other day, the door was left open because she is still not properly house trained.  'Wow' she must have thought, dashed up to the sheep paddock, rounded them up and brought them down to the yard all by herself.  Unfortunately all the other dogs began to bark and there was chaos and confusion as the sheep rushed around and the back door got broken as well. 
Engraving of the seven mounds!
Saturday we are taking a trip to Bartlow Mounds,  Romano-British burial mounds, very tall and interesting history to boot.  Being so near to the coastline Essex (though it is in Cambridgeshire now due to boundary change) lots of exchange with the continent and the Belgic Gauls accounts for this strangely original cemetery.

One of the three mounds remaining, hemmed in by woods they rise like puddings.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

In answer to BB

The Ringlemere cup was only found in 2001 Jennie, and the following two photos show what it looks like, not  very good photos.  Considering work on any artefact may take a long time they are probably going to leave it crumpled alongside the Rillaton Cup as it is very similar.  Fascinating Wiki tale here of the story about Ringlemere being found by a metal detectorist when out looking for a Saxon burial, and the machinations that followed after with the archaeologists.  The cup had been recently destroyed by deep ploughing, does not look mendable.

Link to British Museum PDF

Saturday, July 6, 2013


We visited Room 50 and saw the marvellous Rillaton Cup next to another similar crumpled cup that had been found in 2001.  Twenty minutes is all the time we had so my photos seem to be at all angles.  Seeing the cup found in the unlikely location of the desolate Bodmin Moor, reminded us that landscape has a fundamental role in the lives of these people.  Spirits, ancestors or maybe gods, the Hurler stone circles to one side of the Rillaton Barrow and the weirdly shaped Cheesewring on the other.  Also, one of my favourite images little 'celtic' ducks marching along a 'flesh hook', (something to cook the meat on), you occasionally see these ducks on cauldrons or drinking cups, begging the question are they a favourite food?
Upstairs to the restaurant, where we had to sit through about 20 minutes of a very loud fire alarm, assured by the staff that it was only practice.  But weirdly four fireman and  two policemen spent ten minutes in the kitchen behind us, everyone clapped in the restaurant when the fire alarm finished it was such a relief.
Then off to the Japanese Conservation studio, through long basement corridors till we emerged outside and into an old bank building.  Tall and airy with windows streaming light all around the walls, it was an ideal studio. Tatimi mats on the floor and usual custom of taking one's shoes off of course, the studio had all the stuff that LS has but much more of everything of course, the beautiful wooden rules in all lengths, the 'rosary' beads used for polishing the back of the fibres of the paper on the scrolls  and great rolling drying boards.  On these boards was the latest work in hand, suffice it to say it was one of the old 'pillow' books, Japanese erotica, but passing the subject matter of the pictures, the patterns of the kimonos were very pretty for a patchwork enthusiast ;).
As LS had started the studio years back bringing back to England much of the stuff  is still there (like the great work benches for instance), there is a certain reverence when he makes an appearance (well that is what he says), and the nature of conservation in this field is so limited, that you can count experts on one hand. 
The museum itself was, as always, very crowded with many parties of schoolchildren there as well, and as always we were glad to escape London in the late afternoon and back on the train home, our friends are now staying in London till they come to visit us again next week. It was good to meet Keisuke again, who took us around and now is the main conservator in the studio.  Though how long he will stay in this country with two young children under three years of age and his wife,  they all live in a one bedroom flat in London not the most happy arrangements for any family.

The Battersea Shield

A great cauldron

The flesh hook

Gold  ornaments