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...
ODES TO DOMESTICITY
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!