Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 10 book study...

A World at Our Fingertips

Moving on in the chapter about Texture we read Jane Brocket’s thoughts on the value of our hands.

“I like the way they knead dough, create stitches, hold yarn, thread needles, sort beads and buttons, and deal with fiddly machine parts.” (page 78)

This section really caused me to stop and consider my own hands, the importance they play in my everyday life and how I too often neglect their care.

“Hands are so vital to creativity that I can’t understand why we value the more useless parts of our anatomy more highly.” (page 78)

Jane describes two large Tessa Traeger black and white photographs which are hung in her home and how they are daily reminders of the beauty and design of the human hand. The photos were not in her book but I did find them online.

I really loved this one with the round bread loaf sitting on the aproned knee of its baker. 

Hands that knead dough, hands that create food to nourish tummies and feed young souls...these are the hands that I can relate to from my childhood watching Nana mix and chop and knead and roll and stir;  and now those hands are mine as I follow the same rhythms of making and baking in my later years.

The second Tessa Traeger photo celebrates the gnarled and dirty hands of the soil, the fruit of the gardener's toil. 

 “Our hands play a huge role in active domesticity. We employ them to carry out harsh activities…scrubbing, scouring, washing…yet these same hands are also our entrĂ©e into the kinder world of the gentle arts.” (page 78)

“The gentle arts exploit the often overlooked, underused cleverness and dexterity of our hands.” (page 78)

Exploit in this sense is a positive expression because Jane is referring to the skill our hands employ when attending to the detailed work of hand crafts, skills which are not commonly noticed when hands are predominantly busy at everyday chores.

“Softness, gentleness, warmth, coolness, strength and fragility are all at our fingertips when we knit and stitch and quilt and bake.” (page 78)

The Art of the Stitch

Just as in our previous chapters Jane takes us once again to the artist’s canvas to study paintings, this time a particular artist, Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) who had a keen eye for texture of the knitted kind.

(Portrait of Eric Williams 1954)

Though famous for his religious, ship building and pot-boiler landscapes it is Spencer’s domestic scenes which capture Jane’s eye with their detail of the woven and knitted kind.

“I know of no other artist who exploits the textures and colours of clothing and textiles the way Spencer does.” (page 80)

(Gardening 1945)

“Just look at the surface textures of the knitted garments in Hilda Welcomed (below) – the swirls, the bobbles, the entrelac, the Fair Isle, the ribbing, the rows. It’s like an illustration for a book of knitting techniques…” (page 80)

(Hilda Welcomed 1953)

“Virtually no other artist paints knitting and knitted stitches with the clarity and complexity that characterises Spencer’s approach.” (page 81)

The next photo is one of my own favourites. Mrs Baggett’s pearls immediately catch my eye, and the very precise way she holds the knitting needles – something I’ve seen other women do but never achieved myself as I tend to look somewhat clumsy in my knitting style. Also to my eye Spencer has captured the sheer size and weight of the garment being knitted – is it perhaps the back of a sweater for Mr Baggett, or maybe not a garment art all but an afghan?

(Portrait of Mr and Mrs Baggett 1956-7)

And then there is the graveyard through the window. Spencer painted this just a couple of years before he died – was he thinking about his ultimate end, the way an ordinary life one day fades away?
Mr Baggett talking on the red phone also captures my attention. The couple are pictured right beside each other, yet they are far apart in unrelated endeavours…and then there’s that graveyard in the background that once again stirs my imagination. Perhaps he was a vicar and Mrs Baggett is knitting for the poor?
The more I study each painting the more questions I ask, and the wider my perceived story flows. 

Are you enjoying the wonderful offerings Jane shares with us of domestic life through art as much as I am?

Let’s let our imaginations come alive this week.

Choose one of the Stanley Spencer paintings featured above and share your thoughts in the comments below or on your blog for this week's link up...

* What first caught your eye when you saw the painting?

* Did you imagine a story behind it? What was the story?

Next week we will be reading the final pages of this chapter, 82-87.

Every week in the Tuesday book study post I'm encouraging readers and lovers of the gentle domestic life who have a current blog and have blogged about Living the Gentle Domestic Life this year to link their relevant weekly book study post for others to come by, visit their blogs and be inspired. 

 Please do not link to the same post on your blog each week.  Your posts should be new and relevant to the current week's study.

NOTE: If your link is advertising or not a true reflection of the heart for living a gentle domestic life it will be deleted. 

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts this week!

MISSED any of the book study posts?
Links to the previous nine weeks are listed in the Link Up below.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Old things and old ways...


A couple of years ago I shared a tutorial for making a vintage doily into a lovely needle-book and pin-keep. Yesterday I started on a second version with another vintage doily in the very palest of green and adorned with pretty cross stitch roses....

The doily covers the outside of the needle-book and inside I use scraps of cotton quilt wadding and other embellishments.

This is the original version I made in 2017...

...and inside I embroidered little daisies and added vintage buttons.

My intention was to replicate exactly the same needle-book this time, though using a different doily and fabrics.
But it's funny how one thing can make you look at a project with fresh eyes.

In my tutorial the circle of soft cotton wadding in the middle has pinked edges, so yesterday when I'd cut the wadding a little larger than I needed I went off to get the pinking shears. Just seconds after searching the drawer where my scissors are kept my memory jogged and I remembered giving them to Blossom ages ago.

So I could wait until I saw her again or I could come up with plan B.

Plan B won out. 

Firstly I decided to keep the circle open inside the needle-book and add a half circle across the bottom. Then I thought "what about a hexie flower instead of embroidered daisies?"

Not content with raw edges on the cotton wadding, and after sewing cotton lace across the top of the half-circle, I chose to blanket stitch the raw edges...

Much nicer.
But what if I crocheted the edge of the half-circle??

Now remember, I'm a newbie at decorative crochet, but after successfully making the sweet pea blanket for Rafaella's first birthday my confidence to give something new a try was rather high.

Armed with a very tiny crochet hook (which I bought in a bundle at the op shop) and some Perle 8 cream cotton I simply did two dc in one blanket stitch, and two trebles in the next blanket stitch and kept going with that sequence.

As I crocheted with the fine cream thread I remembered the calm and contentment that crocheting Rafaella's blanket had brought to my days and decided crochet really is my 'time out' hobby to pursue. 

It looked just right for this project when completed, as though it was meant to be all along. 
And perhaps it was.

I still have to embroider leaves around the hexie flower and decide whether to attach the large circle of cotton wadding to the inside of the needle-book with basic blanket stitch or jump right in and add crochet there too.

It might be another few days before this is finished and maybe I'll add some more little tweaks before then, but I'll be sure to show you.

In the meantime if you would like to follow the original tutorial its here. 


Recently I found a copy of "Treasures from My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers at the op shop.
I ponder one page a week because in that one page is so much wisdom and personal evaluation that I cannot move on until I've made my peace with God and taken deep within my soul the lessons He is using from this book to draw my heart away from the world and back to Him.

The world today is rushing forward very quickly and at a rate where it's becoming too easy to forget the gentle pace of life from my youth and early mothering years. Today there is a constant sense of 'urgency to reply now' when hearing the beep of a mobile phone text, a messenger request or opening a list of emails - things my generation did not know of twenty years ago.

I don't remember my Nana rushing through anything. Her daily rhythm was slow and thorough, one task then another, all done with love for Pop and I, all done with diligence and hard work followed by a sigh of personal satisfaction because she worked to the beat of her own drum. 

Nana couldn't see inside anyone else's home so she couldn't compare her housekeeping to theirs. She didn't watch what others were cooking up and serving to their families so following her simple week by week menu was fine and stress free. Walking to the shop on the corner in her well loved apron to buy a loaf of bread was not frowned upon - her neighbours did the same. 

A life lived without 'looking over' at what others were doing, wearing, watching, cooking, making - that was Nana's life and it was a life well lived.

Today we're able to watch others 24/7 through social media, the internet, YouTube and reality television among other things and comparison is difficult to avoid. I think there's almost always a perception inside of us today that we need to try harder, look better, be accomplished at all we do, think more profoundly, have better relationships, climb the ladder, show we're smart, be more religious, be less religious - you name it, the list can go on - but mostly it stems from looking at someone else and feeling dissatisfied with who we are.

The past few days I've been pondering this verse and Oswald Chamber's thoughts on it...

To me it says that as long as we're looking at ourselves with discontent, focused on our inabilities or human frailties and failings, we'll never believe that God can use us.

But here's the truth Chambers is offering - it's not about us and what we can or can't do.
It's about God and what HE can do if we offer ourselves, our lives, up for His service. It's about walking with Him where we are, in all our broken humanity, and really taking time - slow time - to know Him, to study His Word, and to believe He Who made us has a purpose only we can fulfill, a very real purpose He will equip us for in order that it be accomplished.

I intend pulling back from social media over coming weeks.
I am choosing to slow my days, temper my thoughts with gentle rhythms and routines and swim against the tide of today's rush-rush urgent-urgent mindset. My heart is preparing to listen for God's plan for my future rather than pursuing the plans I made for myself - the ones influenced by the world I have found myself watching. And I am going to be 'all there' for my family and loved ones because they deserve the best of me and not some rung-out weary woman who finds herself  'tossed by the waves' because her mind is in two places at once. (James 1:6)

I'm praying for wisdom, clarity, understanding, grace, opportunity...and courage to pursue more intently the values and integrity of the Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 women.

I guess I want to be more like 1960's Nana in the 21st century, to live inspired by her beautiful character and faithful trust in God, but also able to use the things of 2019 with thoughtfulness and mindful integrity.

I am who I am, God made.
You are who you are, God made.

May His blessings abound in your life always,

Friday, March 15, 2019

Why the fabric comes first and a new baby...


A Case Study:

Erin loves to embroider beautiful designs for her home, family and friends. The first thing she looks for in a project that features a stitchery block is whether it has a story to tell, tugs at her emotions, or simply makes her smile. She gets a real kick out of wearing her heart on her sleeve through the projects she makes, and right now she is keen to make a birthday gift for her next door neighbour, who also happens to be her best friend!

After browsing through the stack of craft magazines she borrowed from the library yesterday Erin decides to sew a country style cushion. With her pattern choice made she carefully combs through the small tub of special fabrics she likes to use for her embroidery.
 “What will best suit this project?” she wonders. Linen? Pale lemon gingham? Solid white homespun? Or maybe some tea dyed muslin?

She decides on the lemon gingham with its sweet hint of hearth and home because she is going to stitch a farmyard scene that features pretty russet chickens and a black and white cow very similar to her Aunt Mabel’s favourite milker, Daisy Mae. Erin’s best friend is a farmer’s daughter you see, and her home is filled with country crafts so Erin knows this gift will be perfect!

She sorts through her deep drawer of threads and places the colours she thinks will work well with her project onto the small table that sits beside her old and well-worn dark grey recliner. She has a regular routine of stitching in front of the television for a few hours each night after the dinner dishes are cleaned and put away, her husband comfortably settled nearby with the remote control and a favourite sci-fi series to watch.

A few days later her pretty farmyard scene has come to life and Erin cannot wipe the satisfied smile off her face!  She can’t wait until Saturday when she has arranged to have the whole afternoon to herself in the sewing room. Her bright and cheery stitchery block will soon become the centre of a large cushion, and before she meets her friend for a birthday morning tea on Tuesday she can wrap it lovingly in the huge sheet of yellow daisy paper she bought months ago for such a gift as this.

Saturday afternoon arrives and after waving her husband off to enjoy his fishing she opens the door to her sewing haven.
Following the directions in the pattern from the magazine she trims the block to 8½” x 10½”. Turning to the large set of shelves which house her generous stash of quilting fabrics, Erin begins to study them closely.

Fat quarter after fat quarter are taken from the shelves, held against the stitchery, and then returned to the shelf. A slow half hour passes, and the joy of this project’s completion has begun to wane. Oh, why did she choose that deep turquoise thread? And the dirty-red-brown of the four chickens really stands out so much that all of her bright Christmas red fabrics clash dreadfully with it! The blue isn’t right, and the gold thread she used for the apples on the tree is nothing like the canary yellow she favours in her fabric purchases.

Glancing at her watch she decides to grab the block, her purse, the car keys and head to the quilting shop before it closes…

 I used to be like Erin, and I know many of my friends were too.

It took me years to figure out what I was doing wrong but one day I had an epiphany – choose the fabric first, then the material to embroider on, and last of all the threads.

No frustration, no waste of fabric or money, no more ‘not quite right’ finished projects that fail to truly satisfy the eye. Just a satisfying process which co-ordinates beautifully from start to finish. 

And isn't that what we're all after?

In my designs below you can see this process in action, how the threads and fabric look as though they were made for each other. That's the joy of picking your fabric first and using it as your guide for choosing 'just the right' threads - everything works together in harmony...

You know, it’s very easy to take a fat quarter or even a small square of fabric with you to the thread or quilt shop to choose the right skeins for your project, but it's much more difficult to take the completed stitchery to the quilt shop and try to find a fabric you like that will blend perfectly.

 I hope this has little story has helped some of you?

It's amazing how many people I've shared it with who have told me they'd never thought to choose the fabric first.  And now they do.

The stitchery patterns above are inside the April issue of the Rewind Stitchery Club. If you'd like to make them yourself just pop over here to my Rewind page.

A new baby in the family!

In the early hours of this morning my daughter Anita and her husband were blessed with a second daughter, Khadija, another precious little one to love and cherish.
Mother and baby doing fine after a very long labour and eventual c-section.
Daddy overwhelmed with love for Mother and all she went through to bear this new daughter. 
Big sister Aminah over the moon.
Nana over the moon and round the sun.

It's been a happy day at Elefantz, yet there has been sorrow in Christchurch.

I ask that God bless you. I pray that the small things in life bring you unexpected joy today and in the days to come. Sometimes we have to look for them, and sometimes they seem to be all around...but there is good to be found everywhere, despite the darkness and the sad and the evil that wants to rear its head and fill us with fear.
Hold fast to what is good and holy and kind and compassionate.
Hold tight to Jesus.
Hug one another and say "I love you".
Call that friend you're missing.
Forgive and make amends.

Be a light.
Shine God's light.
Let peace guide you always.

big hugs,

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 9 book study...


This new chapter will explore the pleasures and delights of the various textures of domesticity.

For my part, I love mixing my salads by hand. I enjoy the fact that when making scones you need to get your fingers in the flour and break up the butter until the mixture feels like soft breadcrumbs. I love running my hands over linen fabric to feel the uneven bobbles and the slightly open weave. I’ll always hold a Queensland Blue pumpkin slightly longer than is necessary just to run my hands over the wonderfully smooth curve of the grey-blue skin. And there’s something incredibly lovely about diving below the turquoise blue water and swimming with the tide. 

I've always been rather tactile and easily distracted with the need to touch, and it seems our Jane's a bit that way too. In TEXTURES she'll really make us stop and consider the everyday things we interact with but perhaps don't take time to 'feel'.

 Texture is everywhere for those who take time to notice and indulge, but as Jane Brocket writes…

“We live in the digital era and increasingly spend our days in a cocoon of space, dealing with the virtual…it is quite possible to pass whole days without making contact with any natural surfaces or textures.” (page 70)

Jane goes on to observe the current perception that many domestic activities are unpleasant.  For example - swapping a good scrubbing brush for soft scented cleaning wipes; buying all machine washable clothes and no longer hand washing  delicates or wool; using a tumble dryer instead of hanging clothes in the sun, wind and rain;  buying many prepared meals and not making use of our sharp knives and chopping boards.
Obviously she’s not totally against any of those things, but she does emphasise how by conforming to those lifestyle choices we lose a sense of touch in our life.

“If we stop feeling our way through life, stop handling materials, we become passive and dependent on the ready made and textureless….If we can no longer bake a loaf of bread, test a cake for done-ness, plant a bulb, knit a simple garment, sew a quilt, we are quite helpless.” (page 70)


Jane loves yarn and the next four pages expand on this.

 “I’m a great believer in knitting with the best you can afford….Cheap yarn may seem a good idea at the point of purchase but when it splits…has a downright unpleasant texture, you will regret the decision.” (page 72)

Jane lists her favourite yarns and what she likes about them (with regards to texture)…

Cashmere:  So when I do splurge on a few skeins of cashmere I use them to knit items that allow me to appreciate the texture of this fabulously baby-bottom-soft yarn all the time I’m wearing them.”

Angora:  Its exaggerated manic fluffiness makes me smile every time I touch it. The very best yarns are 100% angora and not the cheaper skeins with a nylon mix.

Wool:  For me, wool is the touchstone yarn. It’s traditional, it’s natural, it’s classic but it’s also whatever you want it to be. Wool is what knitting is about.

Linen: Knitting with linen yarn is like knitting with smooth string. The results are stunning, giving a cool, lightly open stitch and a fabulous surface texture that wears wonderfully and softens and improves with washing. (for those who have the book you can see a photo of Jane’s knitted linen apron on page 121)

Silk: 100% silk yarns are hard to find and come in tiny, little lustrous jewel-like skeins. Just unravelling them and winding the silk into a ball is an exotic, tactile experience.

Mohair: Knitting with mohair is like handling a very supple, furry caterpillar. It almost tickles your fingers and makes you laugh.

“I choose yarns that not only meet the pattern specifications and express my colour ideas, but are also a real pleasure to knit with. I am going to spend a good deal of time handling a yarn, so it has to repay that investment.” (page 73)

Chewy Flapjacks

“Since they are not expected to be the beauties of the baking parade, their texture, like their inner goodness, counts for much more than their looks.” (page 76)

Like Jane our family love golden syrup and pretty much anything made using it. The recipe she shares for Flapjacks must be made using that delicious ingredient and not substituting with things like honey, maple syrup or molasses because it just won’t taste right.
It’s golden syrup, ladies, or it’s nothing.

I decided to make this recipe today and will be totally honest and tell you I chose to make Mary Berry's version because it has more golden syrup and less sugar.

I can sincerely attest to its yumminess and also the wonderful texture. 

To me, when it came out of the oven it looked like a rocky track along the mountainside and I just had to touch it as it cooled.

It’s also perfect for finger licking before and after being baked.

Mary's recipe is here and I'll share Jane's below...

175g (6oz) butter
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
1 rounded tablespoon of golden syrup (one metric tablespoon = 4 teaspoons so use about 5 teaspoons)
250g (9oz) porridge/whole oats

Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan, and then mix in the oats.
Spread in an 8" square cake tin and cook at 150c (300f) for about 40 minutes.

Jane's other books...

You may or may not know that Jane Brocket wrote a series of 'The gentle art of..." books and one of them was on knitting.

I have had my copy for years and at one stage decided to follow her pattern and knit some colourful socks (something rarely needed in the tropics where I live, but you know...?).

Sadly, this was something which just didn't work for me. Knitting in the round with four needles and a bodgy finger to boot, it was a frustrating five days before I just gave up. Mr E did all he could to contain his laughter at my gasps, sighs, not nice words and ridiculous facial expressions on each of those five evenings, eventually requesting I never play with four pointed knitting needles again.

I have obeyed.


The giveaway winner this month is Judy1522!
Congratulations, Judy, I've sent you an email and can't wait to find out what book you've chosen to receive.

Rather than a list of questions this week I thought we could spend the next seven days honing our awareness of the textures around us.

This could be the food we handle, the fabric we sew with, the hair we brush, the carpet we walk on, the yarn we knit with or the different leaves in our garden and surrounds. Texture is everywhere so lets take time each day over the coming week to touch and notice.

Next week we'll read through pages 78-83

This morning I did a month's worth of exercise weeding the garden so after baking the Flapjacks I collapsed on the couch for a while and began stitching a new design. Gosh, it was not easy to get up from the couch and write this blog post and if it wasn't for fresh brewed coffee it may have been delayed a day or two, and I hate putting things off. 
Very grateful for coffee right now. 
Not very grateful for weeds. 

I'm off to the optometrist tomorrow for an eye exam and will meet up with Blossom and the little ones for coffee afterwards. I have some gorgeous photos of the dress Bloss and I made for Rafaella's 1st birthday but will share them in a day or two. 
There's even a pattern once I write it.

Every week in the Tuesday book study post I'm encouraging readers and lovers of the gentle domestic life who have a current blog and have blogged about Living the Gentle Domestic Life this year to link their relevant weekly book study post for others to come by, visit their blogs and be inspired. 

 Please do not link to the same post on your blog each week.  Your posts should be new and relevant to the current week's study.

NOTE: If your link is advertising or not a true reflection of the heart for living a gentle domestic life it will be deleted. 

Bless you heaps, I hope you have a wonderful day. 
And remember, we're all going texture-y this week...