Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quilts, among other things

Well, I had meant to be around again rather sooner than this, spring weather notwithstanding, but that plan was put at naught by a bout of food poisoning over the weekend which laid us both waste; more violent and total-systems but somewhat shorter-lived in my case, somewhat more limited in its effects but of longer duration in Tom's. Good old-fashioned norovirus I think (you aren't obliged to follow the link, though the transmission electron micrograph photos are actually rather pretty, like a detail from a Chagall painting or something). 

This was doubly galling, since it was brought about by a batch of Cancale oysters, the first I had dared to buy, open, dress and serve from scratch, We don't indulge very often really, but it has been a treat we have discovered since we've lived here, sometimes a sociable one, and friends procured for us the special silicone glove for the job, showed us how to wield the knife, and we had promised to save ourselves restaurant prices and return the favour of all the oyster lunches they'd treated us to, so this was the practice run for that. Now, however, they'll be off the menu anywhere for the foreseeable I fear. It's as much as I can do to mention them really. The worst is over but weakness and discomfort and some symptoms linger: I've not been able to apply myself to looking at a screen, or doing anything much, for long at a time, and to be prone and incapacitated does seem a chronic waste of springtime. Tant pis, nothing to be done but wait it out and replace lost fluids, sip ginger tea and nibble cream crackers, this too shall pass, horrid though it has been, and not eating oysters again, if that's what happens, is hardly a serious deprivation in a human lifetime.

Anyway, moving on, here are a batch of photos of my sister's quilts, which happily I prepared earlier. Despite trimming and fiddling with contrast and white balances etc, it really is difficult to do justice to the rich liveliness of colour and pattern and texture in them, but perhaps just a stream of images might convey something of the kaleidoscopic show they make as she unfolded and shook them out one after another.

The one immediately above, an African inspired design, in fact one of her least favourite ones, contains no patterned fabric, the patterning is made exclusively by intricate piecing together of plain materials. She used to make rather more figurative designs, turning the geometric shapes into forms of birds and animals and plants, like this one I posted about some years ago, but these later ones are more in the way of traditional quilts, using squares and rectangles and triangles, sometimes in pinwheels or other configurations, but more abstract. She has slightly more sophisticated machinery now, a quilting frame and special sewing machine feet, but the squiggly quilting patterns across the overall design are done freehand, not using any template or other pre-programmed thing, and though she may buy new material sometimes,  never those purpose-made, itsy-bitsy, dainty 'patchwork' fabrics ones sees in craft shops, and she mainly uses a large amount of second-hand, thrifted, salvaged stuff. 

The backs are nearly as beautiful as the fronts,

and the pompoms and other trims are also all hand made. 

In addition, there are bags and cushions and tea cosies (the latter sometimes in the shape of chickens)

and cotton bags, which also have patchwork motifs on, them for putting the quilts in

when someone buys them, which I hope lots of people do.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

We went to England...

... flying over London,

to Essex, to Stansted Mountfitchet, which has a castle, but we didn't go into it, indeed we never have, because although it is a real Norman castle, or the remains of one, it has been developed into something resembling a large adventure playground:

There are tame deer there (you can just see them in the right of the picture) but they have warts, my sister says, and one of the peahens has escaped and wreaks havoc in my niece's garden, where it also laid a rather disgusting looking egg. All of which does not constitute good taste. My sister's house, however does, especially her piles of handmade patchwork quilts,

which are quite breathtaking when thrown out on display in a manner like that of Persian carpets, (I took many photos of them and hope to post them here, though it will be hard to do them full justice).

We ate rather a lot of cake, more or less every day. Oops.

 We visited Waltham Abbey,

and Norwich, which we now call Nowwitch, rather than Norritch,

and met some local residents:

We watched the world swing by from my sister's living room:

and we hung out with Ziggy the cat (you are best covering yourself with a large dust sheet and to wear light-coloured clothing when you do this, since he drops his own weight in clingy white fur every day, which Tom in his better-disposed moments says is stardust)

and friends - that's my niece, who's also called Tom, on the other side of Zig; she is all loveliness,

and we met up with Natalie (the first time for me), who is all loveliness too, and whose home is surely one of the richest, most colourful, stimulating and beautiful environments I've ever been in:

And then we flew home.


I was rather erratic in my photo taking, with hundreds of some subjects and none of others, though Tom took more, some of which I might pinch. However, in the manner of springtime holidays, we returned to a garden resembling the Lost Kingdom, but also with the refreshed will and motivation to get to work on it, and to weather which has, in a week, resolved to make the transition from bleak chill to smiling sunshine. I am also carrying an excess of weight from winter lassitude and all the cake which must needs be addressed and removed, and no small number of this-and-that projects to start and to finish, so heightened activity outside and elsewhere is called for. I'll be back on the blog scene as and when.