Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 14 - a patchwork allotment...

Have you flown over fields of patchwork?

It's one of the things I love about flying low over the countryside as the plane is descending in preparation to land; that blend of natural greens and browns across the landscape which has been cordoned off into man-made squares, triangles and odd shapes to separate fields and paddocks for crops and livestock.


In our reading this week Jane Brocket discusses how the allotments found in numerous areas of England give an appearance of patchwork, and how most of the allotments are overseen by men, men who unwittingly create patchwork patterns in their gardens, just as we women create patchwork quilts of fabric for  hearth and home.

"I go to look at the local allotments in the spring and summer, but find they are at their most glorious in late August and September when there are wonderful shows of beans and sunflowers, tomatoes and dahlias, all beautifully laid out to form a magnificent quilt of fruit, vegetables and flowers." (page 102)

She draws our attention to the painting below, "Allotments" (1987) by David Inshaw.

"These sometimes gruff, sometimes taciturn, sometimes burly men create the most wonderful living patchwork full of colour and texture..." (page 102)


Remembering her visit to a garden in Villandry, France, Jane was inspired to create her own patchwork garden as a quilt which she naturally titled "Villandry" using a variety of the Kaffe Fassett fabrics which she favours.

Jane pieced both back and front of her quilt and it certainly did justice to the late summer allotments she admires!


Rounds: the daily revolutions which circle to become a completed week, the peeling of apples for pie or tarte tartin, the winding of yarn into a ball, the view inside a cup of tea, and the knitting of socks on five double pointed needles in-the-round.

As was mentioned in a previous chapter Jane is an avid sock knitter who enjoys the spiralling, round and round repetitiveness of bringing the yarn into foot shaped submission for herself and her children.

Comparing the knitting of socks to her daughter's accomplishment at ballet she asked Phoebe to model for her...

"Just as I cast on, knit, turn a heel, knit, shape and cast off, so she goes through the necessary motions with ballet. She imbues her patterns with movement and energy and exuberance. It always makes me think I should do the same with the socks I knit for her. So...I always choose bright, vibrant yarns...that dance on my needles and dance on her feet." (page 107)

Next week we shall be reading pages 108-113 to finish the chapter on Patterns.

* Does the abundance of nature around you inspire creativity? In what way?

* Have you visited somewhere in the world or even within your own city, that birthed a creative idea (such a Jane's Villandry quilt) which you followed through on? What was it?

As we've been reading through The Gentle Art of Domesticity it's clearly obvious that Jane Brocket shows great thoughtfulness in the things she makes for her family, whether that be socks, cake, cookies or a quilt, and I find that personally inspiring. 

In this day and age of convenience gifts, where it's so easy to grab a box of chocolates or a pretty coffee mug, I believe more and more people have allowed the thoughtfulness of gift giving to slip right on by.

Many years ago I bought my friend Fiona a beautiful tea cup and saucer decorated with hand painted geraniums. She was so gracious when she received it in the mail even though the saucer had cracked during transit. A year or two after that I sent her a tea cosy. Again, very gracious.
But one day, maybe another twelve months later, we were having a conversation on the phone (we live in different states) and as she was quite weary that afternoon I suggested she brew a cup of tea and take a rest. 
"I'll make a coffee", she said," because I don't drink tea. I don't like it."

Now, I had sent her the tea cup and saucer because "I" liked it, and I had sent her the tea cosy because I'd made it and kept it aside in my gift box for presents that year and Fiona just happened to be the recipient, but in both instances I'd not really thought about whether these gifts would suit her. Yet, she was beautifully gracious both times.

There was a big lesson in this for me at the time and ever since it's been my aim to find out more about my friends, their likes and dislikes, before preparing gifts to give. 

Even more so, I need to keep in mind the likes and dislikes of my own family members and this means having conversations regularly about their interests as people do change, especially young people - although I myself have a slightly different style today than I did four or five years ago. 

I'm also reminded of a friend who was a regular participant in sewing swaps a few years back. She told me that before a swap the various crafters involved would write a list of their likes and dislikes with regards to colours, styles, fabrics etc and give it to the swap co-ordinator who would in turn give it to the person who'd be making and sending your gift. This way everyone was sure to receive something that suited their home, or in the case of fabrics, fat quarters which they'd happily use in projects.
My friend took careful note of the information given about her swap partner and chose the gifts she'd make with care to fulfil the description of her anonymous partner's personal preference - but more often than not, the swap gifts my friend received in return were nothing at all like she'd requested or described. Being someone who loved pretty pastels she too often received swap gifts or fabrics in gaudy bright prints, civil war browns or children's novelty prints - nothing like what she'd written when describing her personal taste, so she simply had to step away from swaps. 

Another way we can consider others when giving gifts is to ask ourselves "is this too much?"
Not everyone likes to fill every nook and cranny of their home with nik-naks so instead of many little gifts perhaps it's wise all round to send just one special present which you know will be loved, used and appreciated. 

Now for the budget minded within most of us.

Is it really necessary to send so many gifts these days? I ask this because when I was a child my Nana would send a card in the mail to cheer a friend, or make a meal and deliver it in person. It never entered her mind to be posting away parcels of gifts to people in other towns, states, countries. Even for close family who lived far away she would simply send a card with a hanky inside for birthdays but at Christmas just a card. 

Gifts had greater meaning when I was young, they were sparse and therefore greatly treasured and appreciated. Our consumer society has certainly turned that on its head. In fact it's not easy to buy for others theses days because most people have already bought, or own, what they want. Nana wouldn't believe this if I could tell her now.

It wasn't until I began embroidery and patchwork in my mid forties that my own habit of posting gifts began...and in hindsight it was due to a mix of delight in making for others, and a need to 'do' something with all the things I made. Stitching and patchwork quickly became an addiction and every day after homeschool lessons and housework, plus at night in front of the telly, I'd be making something! That's when I also joined swaps as a way of relieving myself of the abundance of handmade projects but I soon realised my supply of completed projects did not decrease because I'd receive more items in return. Honestly, I laugh about that now because the common sense attached to my dilemma didn't occur to me until after the first five swaps. 

Anyhow, just thought I'd share my thoughts about being mindful and caring with regards to gift making/giving as this aspect of today's book study really stood out to me. 

I wonder what Jane would make me?
I wonder what she'd make you??

Goodness, what would I make her? 
Aaaah, something garden themed. She's shown a great fondness for that so far in her book...

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!


PennyP said...

Hi Jenny
A couple of years ago we visited Monet's house and garden in France. It was inspirational! We all know about the beautiful waterlilies on the lake that he painted many times but the house itself and the rest of the gardens zing with colour. When we came home I redid one of our garden flower beds to be a Monet bed - it is still developing but we love the pops of colour and the David Austin standard roses give structure and beauty. That visit has influenced us hugely.

Shortbread and Ginger said...

Lots to think about in this post - especially in the giving of gifts. Many people around here have allotments and I had never really thought about them as patchwork, but they are! Thanks for another lovely post.

Winifred said...

Loved the allotment & patchwork analogy, it brought back happy memories. My granddad had an allotment & I used to love spending time with him there picking the peapods & eating the strawberries & gooseberries. I can still smell those gorgeous tomatoes he grew in his greenhouse & I still love the woody smell of the beautiful chrysanthemums. My Mam hated them she said they reminded her of death!!! It is lovely flying low over the countryside & seeing the patchwork of fields and in Florida I remember seeing patches of water too.
Allotments are getting really popular now with the emphasis on homegrown organic foods.
I wouldn't worry too much about giving tea related gifts. Like your friend Fiona I hate tea but I love tea related gifts like pretty tea cups & tea bag holders. I also have a lovely Wedgewood tea pot & some miniature china ones.
You are right about presents and how it's hard to decide what to buy as we have all we need. I've been trying to persuade family to stop buying for us as I often put presents into the charity bags & feel guilty about it but better to donate it than leave things in cupboards.
Have to say I hate knitting in the round especially socks. Although I have really cold feet I never knit socks, they are my nightmare!

Tammy said...

Very interesting take Jane has. on patterns and gardens.I can see that they would be beautiful just never considered it as art. But she is right in her thinking. And our divine master imparted this ability of us to create art in many forms. How blessed we are...I have always tried to gift family with items I know they like or need or could use. As these are the things I like to receive...needful and wanted and not just more clutter. I am not a what not collectable type person that puts things on shelves to collect dust all year. Although I do display some santas and nut crackers for the Christmas holiday only. And back they go into storage afterwards . I am a crafter and home maker. And meaningful useful things and home decor makes me happy

Debby in Kansas USA said...

I love the picture of those gardens from above. I've never seen one in small blocks like that. The first time I flew into Kansas, over the prairie, the giant "quilt" I saw below completely mesmerized me. I had never seen anything like it and it was so beautiful in all its greens and yellows. Another pattern I enjoyed was the polka dots of light blue whenever I flew back home to Los Angeles. Swimming pools. Lots of them! They always made me smile.

The closest thing I've created from seeing something was a simple one. Our market has a floral dept. Every spring, they carry bouquets of brightly colored daisies- in wild colors like purple, yellow, white, spring green, turquoise, orange, etc. All mixed together. Something about that bouquet catches my eye every year because it's so cheerful. So, I took all my scraps of bright felt, cut them into small daisy shapes (about 2") & sewed a bright button to the center. I sewed them all together in a long chain that is a garland across my fireplace. I love it.

I don't know that nature inspired my creativity as much as it relaxes me into a state where I become creative, if that makes sense. I love having a window near my creative spaces to just stop and occasionally gaze out. At the robins, hopping along the grass, or a bunny nibbling on something, or a bird splashing in the bath.

I love making gifts for my friends, but I try not to decorate their houses for them! I always try to give something useable or something they can pass on. My friends love my embroidered flour sack towels and are always requesting more. I've given handmade mixes for dips and soups. And shoe bags for travel. And with my closest friends, I always try to keep a paper pad nearby in case they mention something they like that I might get them. Like a cologne scent that I can buy a small spray for their purse and such. I've been keeping my eyes open for an old copy of a certain Nancy Drew book for a friend that mentioned it was her favorite as a young teen. I love the look on their faces when they say, "I can't believe you remembered that!"

Susan said...

This is a great reflection, Jenny. When we were younger, I would listen to my children and husband and parents all year, and make careful note of the things they talked about liking or wishing they had, and marking off any they bought or received somehow. It was always so much fun to give them something at Christmas which I knew they'd like. I still try to do that with the older one, though the younger one usually gets money ... because he usually needs it, and isn't somewhere I can mail things with assurance he will receive them. I also don't wait for Christmas now. Who knows if I'll be around then? When I want to give, I give for no reason or occasion. It is lovely to receive a well-thought-out gift, and good to know our friends care enough to find out about us. =) Lots of things to ponder this week. Bathroom floor tiles - that's what I most often draw out as a quilt pattern. LOL

Kay said...

I love making presents for people and do try to make sure they are suitable and in their favourite colours. Making presents is something that gives me joy and I know that some friends in particular wold much rather have a hand made gift than something bought. Even when buying I always do it with the recipient in mind. I used to take part in a lot of swaps at one point too and was always surprised if something arrived absolutely contrary to the colours and styles that I had listed as liked. We are all different and I suppose for some of us it is more important than for others to get it right. x

Debby in Kansas said...

You're so right about the floor tiles!! Some of them have such great patterns!