Monday, April 15, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 13 and free cross stitch...

I truly appreciate how Jane Brocket's book is causing us to look beyond the kitchen, through the washing basket and over the garden gate at the various and interesting ways others express their domestic creativity.

In our reading this week, taken from the chapter on Patterns, we'll look at three mini-topics and the first of those is...


Many years ago, before motherhood, Jane was recuperating from major surgery to improve her chances of having a baby and decided to tackle a cross-stitch pattern. The design she chose will be of no surprise to those of you who've been reading The Gentle Art of Domesticity or following these book study posts - it was a vegetable garden sampler. 

I was quite ready to read Jane's glowing admonishment on the joys and rhythms of the fine art of cross stitch but she stopped me in my tracks.

"I have never been so infuriated by squares and holes in my life. I would look at the pattern one second, transfer my eyes to the fabric the next, and hey presto, the placement would vanish and I could not for the life of me remember where the next stitch went." (page 96)

She struggled on through cabbages, peas and radishes but as soon as she was well enough to get up and about the project was stored away never to be looked upon again, though she did encourage daughter Phoebe years later to stitch simple patterns on cross stitch fabric. Phoebe chose a few bright threads and created a pattern of running stitches...


Just as Jane delights in paintings, book and movies which depict an ordinary domestic life, so she also seeks out poetry on the same subject. 

"The more I look over my store of poems, the more I see that it is the poetry of the ordinary and the domestic that stays in my mind." (page 98)

"Domesticity, ordinary life and simple pleasures are perfectly at home in poetry and I think all domestic artists should have a little pocket in their aprons where they can keep their favourite poems. The poems that cheer you up and make you laugh, the poems that make you cry while you're laughing, the ones that help you see beauty in the ephemeral..." (page 98) 

My taste in poetry isn't quite the same as hers, but that's part of being joyfully unique in how each of us approach all the domestic arts.

A modern day poet, Pablo Neruda's 'Ode to Things' is Jane's particular favourite and she suggests you look it up if you only want to read one poem. Another which appears to run a close second is Wendy Cope's 'The Orange'.

"Poems on domestic themes reflect and enhance patterns of ordinary life and should be seen as valuable currency." (page 98)

….or to be more accurate, Fair Isle Knitting.

"I have a thing about Fair Isle knitting. For me it's the ultimate, the apex, the apogee of colour knitting. It is the reason I learned to knit; I longed to use heaps of colours to create clever patterns..." (page 100)

Jane loved knitting Fair Isle jumpers (sweaters) and cardigans for her young children, then years later she had a go at the more contemporary variations but found herself drawn back to the 'old fashioned' patterns again.

"The thing about Fair Isle is that traditional is best. You simply cannot improve on the stunning patterns set out by the many generations of early knitters." (page 100)

Preferring the OXO based pattern (see above) where it looks like a X is knitted either side of an oval shape, she tells us that there is only one golden rule to follow - no more than two colours can be used in a single row. 

"Amazingly these restrictions give rise to the most incredible range of creative and clever interpretations." (page 100)

I was taught cross stitch as a child and until I was 46 it was the only form of embroidery I knew.
Most of my children (including both boys) were also taught to cross stitch in their younger years as I felt it was a skill they'd one day thank me for - along with being able to sew on a button. 

The last cross stitch project I worked on was back in early 2005, just months before I discovered quilts, patchwork, applique and the surface hand embroidery which quite literally stole my heart.

The design is called The Queenslander by Olga Gostin who has created a series of beautiful Australian homes in cross stitch. 

For the longest time it was my 'dream home', this high set Queenslander with billowing flows of bougainvillea cascading from the verandah…

In fact, these were the first French knots I ever stitched.

Funny thing though, we moved to Queensland just four years after I completed this design and a year later moved into a very similar house. I should explain to those outside of Australia that this style of home is called a Queenslander because we live in a hot, humid and often wet state (when not in drought) and the downstairs was keep open for the breeze to flow through at night and cool everything down, as well as allowing flood waters (we have cyclones and monsoons) to pass through.

I have bougainvillea growing in the garden of our own home now, and though it's spiky stems put some people off, we simply love their effervescent abundance of blooms and colour.

You can see more of Olga Gostin's 'home' patterns here

I can understand why Jane Brocket features cross stitch in her chapter about patterns because those rows and rows of tiny crosses are rather magnificent to see, stacked one above the other, line upon line, coming together and making up a beautiful picture.

Recently I received a beautiful cross stitch gift in the mail for my 60th birthday from the very generous and talented Jan Skinner. Isn't it beautiful!?

This now hangs above our bed where the words of life stitched so wonderfully within offer wisdom to my thoughts at the start of each new day.

I thought it might be nice to share a few sites where you can download some lovely free cross stitch patterns which celebrate the seasons we are now in across the globe.

The Snowflower Diaries has long been a favourite and I'm sad she no longer blogs, but kindly she's left all her free patterns there.
The Autumn pattern for we in the southern hemisphere can be found here

And for those in the northern hemisphere embracing spring this sweet bunny from Sew French Cross Stitch can be found here

If you like Samplers this exquisite stocking from Plum Street Samplers may become your next project.

I think many of us yearn to try something new but there's always the possibility our new craft won't be a 'fit' after all.

With that in mind there's no questions this week but I'd love to hear your stories of the various handcrafts you began but never followed through with. Was it cross stitch like Jane, or patchwork, knitting??

Also, are you a reader of poetry? Is there a poem about domestic life you'd like to share.

Next week we're reading pages 102-107

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. 
God bless you all so very much!


Su said...

Like Jane, I adore Fair Isle knitting, I didn't think I would and only tried it to push myself a bit. I love it's simple, meditative quality, the sheer pleasure of creating something so beautiful and how it forces me to concentrate, emptying my mind of extraneous thoughts. I like to choose projects that will take me some time to complete, so that my enjoyment is maximised. Having said all of that, I have recently rediscovered stitchery ( I honestly can't call what I do embroidery) and have plans to do much more of that as I am enjoying it so much. I CANNOT crochet, I just can't do it, I wish I could as I love the look of it, but I have tried numerous times and failed repeatedly.

Wendy Duwe said...

I've knitted on and off and crocheted as well. However, I feel so drawn to the colours of the yarns. So I am taking up knitting and crochet again. This time I will put no pressure on myself to succeed, but use it to think things over and to pray while I work. I normally do this with hand embroidery. I think we tag anything domestic as beneath ourselves instead of looking at how we can serve our Father, husband, ourselves and children well. We forget it is an act of love.

Marie said...

I've been knitting for over 40 years and it's the one thing I keep coming back to over and over. Although when I need to make a blanket, crochet wins because it's so much faster. I love fair isle knitting but haven't done any for a long time. I think little children look absolutely adorable in fair isle sweaters. Your embroidery has inspired me to start doing that again too. I love to do it, but never seem to have enough time. My problem is that I enjoy doing too many different crafts! I'm not really much of a poetry lover and I confess, I like it best when it rhymes and I don't have to figure out what it means. The poems of Edgar Guest often feature home and all the comforts of it (and they rhyme! :-)

Beth said...

I dabble in a lot of crafts. I learned to sew very early (5 or 6 years old - or perhaps earlier) and that has stayed with me; and proved very useful during my university days when I had very little money and needed to mend my clothes - I even successfully darned my socks. Tapestry and Cross Stitch I learned as a 10 year old. I've kept on with Cross Stitch, but Tapestry has fallen by the wayside. I was also taught to knit, but it hasn't really caught on more than just basics. Crochet I taught myself a few years ago using a DVD and a few Youtube videos, although I'm only on my 2nd project at present and that I've been working on for 3 years. Paper crafts have really stuck with me from the days when I would crawl over and rip up my Dad's newspaper before he even got to read it (He quickly learned not to leave it on the floor with a baby crawling around). I'm surrounded by scrapbooking papers, embellishments, stickers and bits and pieces - in fact, that is what I need the 2nd most storage space for - 2nd only to books!
Poetry was not really something I delved into while studying English at school (I also missed out on Shakespeare), however as I read older books and devotional books there are often pieces of poetry that work their way into my heart, and I love reading the Psalms.

Farm Quilter said...

I have sewn clothing for myself from 13-17, for my oldest daughter until she was 6 (and saved for both of my other girls), I have done stitchery, macrame, oil painting, tole painting, woodworking and now quilting. I have also dabbled with crochet and knitting.

Kay said...

I love cross stitch, and after reading and baking it is my favourite pastime. I still always have a couple on the go. Part of it is that I can pick it up and start whenever I am free, any sewing I do take much longer as I have to allow about 20 minutes to clear space on the dining table and move everything there from my bedroom storage before I can even begin, and also allow for the putting away time afterwards. We live in a tiny home and there is nowhere mohave a dedicated sewing area, I keep the sewing machine in the hallway, my fabric under beds etc. If it were all set up in one area I know I would absolutely sew much more. I keep my cross stitch in pretty handmade bags next to my bed so I can jus pick one up whenever I am able to. Whatever we do it is lovely to find peace and joy in it. x

Anonymous said...

I've been crafting in one form or another most of my life. I think I've tried almost all there is to try, but I find as I get older I enjoy going back to the crafting I started with as a young girl. I learned to crochet around 12 to 13 yrs. old. I tried knitting classes in recent years but I get frustrated when I can't seem to get the hang of those huge long needles --- they just keep getting in my way :) --- and thus I keep going back to crocheting with my small hook --- I love doing it. I learned to sew my own clothes around 14 or 15 yrs. old, so I've done LOTS of various sewing over the years. I've done & sold lots of painting on wood --- way too much of it, so that now it is hard to even pick up a brush and start painting. I've done a bit of embroidery in my earlier years. And now through your blog, Jenny, and your wonderful patterns and works of art, you have renewed my interest in it again! :) I've completed your vintage kitchen hanger pattern with all the red-work in it and just love how it turned out. So I see myself doing more embroidery in the future. :) I love your patterns and wish I had the time to do so many of them!
I think if I had to narrow it down to my favorite craft, it would be paper-crafting. Scrap-booking, card making etc. I've been teaching it for over 18 years and find it the most relaxing, stress-reducing crafting I've ever done.
Thanks Jenny for all your inspiration on your blog --- I find it so peaceful to visit you here. :)
Have a great week!
~Sue M.

Tammy said...

I've never learned to knit and have never known anyone that did knit. But I have been sewing since I was a small child before I started elementary school. I have done many other crafts, hand embroidery, machine embroidery, applique, smocking, painting, quilting & scrap booking, paper crafting ,crochet,felt crafts, cross stitch. I dropped cross stitch many years ago...Just isn't my thing. Neither is paper crafting. I Haven't crocheted in many years since my daughter was in elementary school. I prefer sewing and hand embroidery these days and small amounts of basic quilting. My brain cannot handle anything complex anymore. I am not a lover of poetry. Never have been. Give nice big fat books to read but not poetry. Have a good week my friend. Hugs and prayers

Quiltingwiththefarmerswife said...

Quilting, gardening, and reading have always been my interests. The past few years I've developed so many allergies I've had to slow down on the gardening. Recently I decided to finish some cross stitch projects started years ago. Surprisingly I became hooked on the cross stitching. Also, I've been a lover of poetry since I was a child. Long ago I memorized The Daffodils, America For Me, Oh Captain My Captain, and many other classics. When reading scripture, I love, love, love Proverbs 31. I know it isn't poetry but it speaks to my heart like poetry.
Jenny, I want to repeat what 'anonymous' said...I so look forward to your posts. It is such a comforting feeling to come here and read of someone that is like minded about living and loving the life of domesticity. You are a HUGE blessing in this crazy, fast paced, self absorbed, me me me world. Truly, thank you for posting from your heart. Patty McDonald

Anonymous said...

I've always been a maker and it used to drive my mother to distraction. Started sewing in junior high and still love it making all our draperies & pillows, clothes for the babies, children and many for myself. I dropped macrame', weaving, braided rugs and needlepoint after short seasons. But longer seasons, years actually, of ceramics and tole painting and paper crafts. I started cross stitch when we had babies because I could pick it up and put it down easily but eventually developed carpel tunnel. Finally after many years & surgery I returned to stitching, hooray, and love it. I also garden a great deal. Our Florida climate grows the same thing as yours and we have lots of bouganvillas. I look forward to every post you do. It is a balm to my spirit, you have no idea how much I appreciate you. And your stitching and patterns are exquisite. Pamela

Deb said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this post, love and admire those french knots, mine take on the look of mini cauliflower if I am not careful. I am a slow knitter and not brave enough to even make a color change as I would with crochet but I still have time to learn for now though yarns that have multiple colors work for me. My cross stitch has been limited to stamped kits but one day I will venture to actual counted cross stitch so I can work the few patterns and kits I have waiting for me to be brave. In the meantime my passion is with surface embroidery and I feed that need nearly every day.

Sara en Marie said...

I have given up on crochet, because of tendonitis, and knitting only keeps me interested for a short while, so I knit only small projects (and one Kaffe Fassett cardi which I will probably have to ask my mum to finish...). I love sewing garments, quilting, gardening and playing the clarinet. I'm a mum to four young children and work as a GP, so I don't have heaps of time to indulge in crafts, but enough to keep me happy :-). I also enjoy drawing and writing the occasional haiku. Haiku's are always about the little things. The first poem I ever wrote without having to (like for a school assignment) was a haiku about the white laundry drying on the line in the spring sunshine (it's in Dutch, so I can't share it). This year I wrote one about yellow buttercups hiding from the rain under a green nettle.