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I do very much love being an empty nester (not that I don’t love my kids dearly and look forward to their visits) but one of the great joys of having my own space is that I have a craft room.

That along with the need not to spend weekends shopping, cooking, cleaning and washing means I have physical,temporal and mental space to create which is wonderful!

However there are some downsides particularly when you are trying to put together IKEA flat pack furniture on your own. The storage units I bought did come with a warning!

Old craft room 3

I managed in the end but they are not actually screwed together at the bottom as I couldn’t get the last side to fit.

One is missing one screw the other two but gravity seems to be keeping them stable and when Jake is home as Easter I will get him to apply a bit of brute force to see if I can sort it.

I did sort out the craft room when I first moved in using storage I already had.

Old craft-room 4

But unfortunately the CD racks that I had been using as fabric storage fell over (once on my head which was a bit painful!) and the shelving units were very old and unstable and always looked cluttered.

I also got rid of the wooden chest I had there leaving me nowhere to store the small (ahem) amount of fabric for medieval kit that I have.

And I have been buying a bit more fabric since I moved in so was running out of space and rather than being the calm wonderful creative space I wanted it was a mess.

However there has been a transformation.

This was yesterday morning.

Old craft room

Old craft room 2

And this is the finished result.

New craft room 3

New craft room 2

The shelves with baskets and the lovely heart pinboard were bargains from local charity shops. It does still need painting and more pictures putting up but that will be a job for the holidays.

I still have one tall storage unit on the other side with all the small boxes but now all of the fabric is together so that I can see what I have got. I found fabric for a new blue peasant dress yesterday that I vaguely remembered buying but thought had wandered off :-)

More importantly I have got a cutting table which is much better than crawling about on the floor!

So this afternoon I will be enjoying the fruits of my labour finishing off a little project for a birthday.

Oh and you see that pile of quilts next to the cutting area? No I haven’t been mega productive recently, they are made by my very talented friend Helen here in the village.

New craft room

She has been stash busting recently and has very kindly made these to donate to a children’s orphanage that my Mum supports in Spain. Will share pics of those later.

Do have a lovely week ahead and thanks for visiting!

Hello there

Am still having great fun with the bunny knitting-I have knitted another dress for the first gift bunny and have also ordered some new buttons to use for the shoes and dress decorations.

These are my lovely new buttons, I will use the red hearts for my Xmas ornies this year and the tiny buttons for bunny shoes as in the picture below. The pretty mixed bag are for fastening the bunny dresses.

Buttons

Buttons 1

Buttons 2

Buttons 3

These buttons are all mail order from Gregory Knopp, a fantastic site with so many wonderful buttons and free delivery! Go and have a look.

Here is my latest bunny dress, this is my first attempt at one of the more complex Fair Isle patterns, bit messy on the back but I am very pleased with it.

Bunny dress 3

I have also acquired some vintage crochet – this will be added to my stash to be used creatively at some point!

Crochet

Crochet 2

Crochet 3

Have another event this coming weekend and then a quiet week ahead so am looking forward to more crafting – some bunny knitting and making some medieval kit.

Thanks for visiting.

Hello everyone, apologies in advance as this is a very picture heavy post but I have some fab 17th century embroidery to show you!

We visited mainly smaller Tudor properties this week, not by design just those that were local to us (and open on the right days!). We still have many more on our wish list to do :-)

The first was one I have had on my list for a while Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire, a very lovely Tudor house which as you can see from the pictures has suffered through the years and has needed extensive structural work to keep it from falling down!

Little Moreton Hall

Moreton 2

Moreton 3

Moreton 4

Moreton 5

The second was East Riddlesden Hall in Keighley, not only a beautiful little house but also home to some gorgeous embroidery.

East Riddlesden Hall

ERH 2

Look at all these beautiful pictures.

ERH 6

East Riddlesden Hall

ERH 8

ERH 9

Sadly their sampler display was not available due to a ceiling collapse in that room so I will return to see that sometime.

There was also some lovely embroidery that had been done for the displays by local women, this blackwork beadspread and crewel work hangings date from the 1920s.

ERH 11

ERH 10
And some fantastic plaster ceilings.

ERH 3

ERH 4

ERH 5

The last one we visited was Gawthorpe Hall near Burnley, this is a mini Hardwick Hall in design and is home to the Rachel Kay Shuttleworth needlework collection. A small part of her 28,000 pieces were on display.Rachel lived in the house in the 1950s and was a passionate needlewoman.

There were no photos allowed in the house but there is an excellent blog with online gallery and details of the textile courses they run.

Gawthorpe Hall

Gawthorpe 2

A very textilicious holiday with lots of inspiration for me!

Now back to the real world of work with just a few bits of stitching a week to keep me sane :-)

Thanks as always for visiting, I will be off to Ashby de La Zouche Castle next weekend for a show with Swords of Mercia so if you are in the area come along and say hello!

Hello again

I spend a lot of time travelling to all sorts of beautiful parts of the globe so it was lovely to have week in my gorgeous country appreciating (along with many tourists from all over the world) what England has to offer.

Our first day was spent in the Cotswolds where I grew up and the visit to Bourton-on-the-Water brought back many happy memories of paddling in this stream, seeing the pretty cottages and visiting the model village (which Kerry loved just as much as I did when I first saw it).

Bourton

Bourton 2

Bourton 3

We then went to Snowshill Manor, a National Trust property in the Cotswolds, quintessentially an English manor house with beautiful gardens but home to a very eclectic collection by the last owner Charles Paget Wade.

Snowshill

Snowshill 3

Snowshill 4

Snowshill 5

There was everything from samurai warrior suits to old bikes, including many beautiful Oriental chests from his travels. One room had a lovely collection of textiles including what looks like a piece from a Layton jacket!

Snowshill textiles

Snowshill textiles 2

Snowshill textiles 3

I particularly liked this sampler book showing miniature garments, no information on its maker but I think it would be a for a similar purpose to the one that inspired the Blackbird Designs book, ‘A Stitcher’s Journey’, which I posted about previously, to show prospective employers your needlework skills.

Snowshill textiles 4

Snowshill textiles 5

Snowshill textiles 6

A lovely day out – and all in the best of English summer sunshine!

Thanks for visiting, more historic loveliness soon!

Hello everyone and I hope you in the UK have been enjoying all this beautiful sunshine we have been having!

It has been wonderful here and we have been really enjoying ourselves. This also bodes very well for our favourite event of the re-enactment year as this coming weekend it is the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival and I am beyond excited :-)

You may remember that last year the event nearly got called off do to the site flooding and it was a mud fest to say the least but this year we are looking forward to lovely sunshine just like the old days.

Do come and visit if you can – it is the 30th anniversary of the event this year and is a brilliant day out, free entry as well though please donate as much as you can to our bucket collectors as it costs a lot to put the event on and we want it to continue! The town and Abbey are also fantastic to wander round and if it is hot there is the river to paddle in.

I have been making lots of kit for friends and have been busy finishing it off in time which is why I have been practising making holes. If you want more info on medieval men’s kit then go to my page which details what everything is called.

I am not very good at this part of the kit making process (my lovely friend Kerry is a dab hand at it and her dresses have beautiful lacing holes down the back). I have usually cheated with using ribbon loops on my dresses but wanted to make a shirt with a laced neck and hose with holes to tie them to the brais.

Shirt neck detail

Hose  holes detail

Hose outside holes detail

They are not too bad but could be neater.

I will take some photos of the garments on their recipients and post later – Jake has been very kindly trying things on for me as I go along but as he is lots skinnier than my friends they have looked a bit big on him!

So far I have made a shirt, lined hose and slightly different style of brais so it has been good for me to learn new skills.

Brais

I have also been practising neatening my seams by stab stitching as I always zigzag raw edges before sewing together to prevent fraying and this makes them a bit neater and means the sleeves can be rolled up if needed.

Shirt sleeve detail

I am thinking of adding a new page to the making costume bit with more details of these garments as I know I get lots of hits for that so it is on my to do list now that summer is here and work is quieter.

It was my birthday recently and I got some lovely presents, my sister-in-law Amanda who is a very keen cross stitcher made me this beautiful Celtic design scissor keep which came in very handy as the scissors had really fine points for cutting the holes.

Birthday scissor keep front

Birthday scissor keep

She also stitched this birthday card for me – very appropriate!

Cross stitch birthday card

And from my lovely kids I got this gorgeous book which was a total surprise as it was not from my wish list. Ellie saw it when one of the staff at Hardwick brought it in and thought I would like it and it is brilliant, just my sort of book with lots and lots of detail about techniques and sources.

Sweet bags book

Sweet bags book 2

Sweet bags book 3

It is called Sweet Bags by Jacqui Carey.

And look another version of the Layton Jacket that I have posted about previously, this one is a portrait of Lady Dorothy Carey dated 1615 and I had not seen this pic before.

My lovely Mum gave me some money for garden furniture so I have bought a BBQ and last Friday we had our first Marsden barbie – here is Jake enjoying the sun (and a little cider!)

BBQ in Marsden

Still got to get a new table and chairs (that is our camping stuff) once I have decided what I want, tempted by a lovely mosaic bistro set but think the table is a bit small.

Well I shall be posting again in a couple of weeks as after Tewkesbury Kerry and I are off on a National Trust fest making the most of our memberships to go and visit some lovely properties, hope the weather holds for that.

Take care and thank you as always for visiting, liking, following and subscribing :-)

Well the trip to Florence with my lovely mother was fantastic!

I think this has to be my favourite city so far – the churches and palaces full of frescos and medieval art, the Uffizi Gallery with even more medieval art, the beautiful buildings and views over the Tuscan hills and the gorgeous food.

View from the Ponte Vecchio looking at the Arno River.

View from bridge

Some of the 80 ice cream flavours to choose from in the shop near our hotel.

Ice cream

I loved the display at this shop in one of the side streets, We came back with pasta, herbs and oils, yum, yum!

Fruit and veg

And there are also lovely shops if you are into that, personally I am not going to pay 10 times the price I can here for a pair of designer sandals but we did a little window shopping and marvelled at what some of the so-called fashions were priced at.

We stayed at the Albergo Firenze, another one of my fantastic finds from Expedia. Although it was rated only 2 star it was a gorgeous room, really good value for money and the location is excellent – 5 mins walk either way from the Palazzo Vecchio and the cathedral so exactly where you want to be.

Hotel

I have put a tiny selection of pics here and included many more in the slideshow below if you are interested.

Angel mosaics in the Baptistry.

Baptistry 8

Detail from one of the Madonnas in the Palazzo Vecchio.

Palazzo Madonna 2

Detail from one of the Annunciation frescos in the Santa Maria Novella church.

SMN angel detail

One of the chapel paintings from the same church.

SMN chapel with polyptych

We also saw some beautiful silver and goldwork, this was an altar piece frontal in the museum of the Santa Lorenzo church dating from the late 1700s.

Goldwork at St Lorenzo

Goldwork 2

Goldwork 3

Goldwork 4

Goldwork 5

I also loved this ceiling painting from the Plazzo Vecchio with its depiction of women spinning, weaving and sewing.

Palazzo ceiling crafts

Palazzo ceiling crafts 2

I had seen some of the fresco paintings from the churches before as many are in medieval costume books – look at these two beautiful gowns from frescos in the Santa Croche church.

SC Fresco - gown detail

SC Fresco - gown detail 2

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I have come back with loads of prints and a new icon with one of my favourite Madonnas by Filippo Lippi so have put up some new art in my bedroom to remind me of the trip!

Thanks for visiting and see you soon.

My lovely daughter Ellie has just sent me some further photos from Hardwick which I wanted to share with you.

The first two are of a painting of Arabella (or Arbella), Bess of Hardwick’s granddaughter, which hangs in the long gallery. This is a beautiful portrait and the detail on the sleeve is amazing.

Hardwick - Arabella 1

Hardwick - Arabella 2

This one is a ‘slip’ a tent stitched piece which has been appliqued onto a velvet background. This comes from the ‘Mary Queen of Scots bed’ although Mary never stayed at Hardwick but she may have slept in this bed as Bess’s fourth husband George Talbot the Earl of Shrewsbury was Mary’s jailor for a long time and Bess and Mary did spend time together sewing.

Hardwick MQoS Bed

The last three are of the volunteers at Hardwick on one of their recent costume days. Aren’t they wonderful. Ellie and I would love to do Tudor re-enactment, the costumes are so fantastic and it would mean I could wear some of my blackwork! We shall see what I have have time to do next year.

Hardwick - Costumes

Hardwick - Costume 2

Hardwick - Costume 3

Hope you have enjoyed these, thanks for visiting.

We have had a very, very lovely day today – not only going to Hardwick Hall for the day but because my lovely daughter Ellie works there had a brilliant ‘behind the scenes’ experience which was amazing.

Here is the Hall in the lovely sunlight – as a contemporary of Bess’s wrote when it was built – ‘more glass than wall’.

Hardwick - hall front

Hardwick - garden

Here are some pictures of what the public gets to see.

The beautiful velvet heraldic embroidery created by Bess of Hardwick herself,  the blue silk bed hangings, the Great Hall with its bed canopy.

Hardwick - Bess velvet 1

Hardwick - Bess velvet 2

Hardwick - Blue silk bed

Hardwick - great hall

But we also got to go up on the roof! This is the top of the hall and the view from one of the small banqueting rooms that are in the towers.

Hardwick - Roof

Hardwick - Roof view

The best bit for me was going into the textile store rooms in the attic.Here are all the boxes with little pictures of the contents.

Hardwick - Textile store boxes

And here is Ellie opening one of the boxes for us.This contained a beautiful velvet hanging of flowers.

Hardwick - Ellie box

Hardwick - Flower velvet 1

Hardwick - Flower velvet 2

Another box had some more of the most wonderful of Bess’s heraldic pieces, here I am close up to this piece – no glass at all, heaven!!

Hardwick - Box velvet 1

Hardwick - Box velvet 2jpg

Hardwick - Box velvet 3

I feel very, very priviliged to have been able to do this – thank you Ellie!

And we were able to see the Gideon tapestries that have been away for conservation that she has been helping rehang – go and visit her blog for more details of this. The pictures below show the before and after effects of the cleaning.

Hardwick - Gideon 2

Hardwick - Gideon 1

A brilliant day – I loved it!

Take care all of you and thanks for visiting.

I am off to Florence on Sunday with my Mum so there may be some pictures of medieval art and churches when I get back – you never know!

Hello everyone

Well the snow has almost gone here in Yorkshire apart from bits on the hills, we have Spring flowers appearing and have had a couple of warm days recently so we are all feeling very happy!

One of my favourite parts of the China Nationalities Museum that I visited while in Beijing was the exhibition of needlework, this sign outside perfectly captures how I, (and it would seem the museum organisers), feel about stitching!

China Nationalities Museum Sign

There were themed displays of footwear (including the very sad lotus feet shoes for bound feet), bags, headwear and gifts – these little embroidered tokens of love and affection are called henbao.

China Nationalities Museum Henbao

China Nationalities Museum Boots

China Nationalities Museum Lotus feet shoes

I was interested to see cross stitch and patchwork in the bags as well as the more traditional Chinese silk embroidery.

China Nationalities Museum Cross Stitch bag

China Nationalities Museum Cross Stitch bag 2

China Nationalities Museum Cross Stitch bag 3

China Nationalities Museum Patchwork bag

There was also a section devoted to needlework tools – anyone remember these pincushions at the top of the photo?

My Nana had one when I was little (as well as the tomato one with the strawberry emery attached).

China Nationalities Museum Pincushion

In another part of the museum there were some displays of traditional Miao people costume, with beautiful silver headdresses and embroidered robes.

Each strand of the skirt is a separate piece joined with silver beads.

China Nationalities Museum Miao

China Nationalities Museum Miao 2

China Nationalities Museum Miao 3

China Nationalities Museum Miao 4

I have had a busy week craft wise, have finished and posted my Spring ornament for the Seasonal Exchange, part made two bags out of recycled denim and pillowcases and been to two knitting groups (though more drinking coffee and wine was done than actual knitting – as usual!)

And next week the season starts again! They joy of seeing all my re-enactment friends and camping and campfires and BBQs – I shall be so happy :-)

I must get around to putting up the events page for this year but next weekend we are at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire - on Sat and Sun celebrating the victory of St George over the evil Dragon Knight! Please come and join us if you can.

Take care and thank you for visiting.

Hello everyone, I am very glad to be home from China, not that I didn’t have a lovely time, as always I was very well looked after and enjoyed myself, both doing the work bit and the few days I had after the teaching to visit some of Beijing’s famous places.

But I did miss my lovely hills and was really looking forward to coming home so I could go walking this weekend.

However it was snowing when I left China and I brought it back with me as we have had the most enormous snowfall over the last two days – it is up to my knees in my garden and we have been making the most of it.

Ellie and Jake have been here all weekend (Jake is home for Easter) and today Kerry , my brother Ben and his partner Amanda came over and we went sledging. We had great fun then came back for warm drinks and birthday cake (Ellie will be 22 next weekend so we celebrated early).

I went to see some lovely things while in Beijing, the Forbidden Palace and the Summer Palace and a temple as well as Tianamen Square and the National Museum.

One of my favourite visits was to the China Museum of Nationalities which is very similar to other open air museums we have visited in the past, such as St Fagan’s near Cardiff that we went to at Christmas.

The museum is a collection of buildings that have been brought from all parts of China to represent all the 56 different ethnic groups that make up the Chinese population along with exhibitions of costume, crafts etc and costumed interpreters who perform dances, music etc from all the different groups.

There was loads of lovely embroidery and I just want to show you a little bit of this. These were in the Tibetan area and they are all part of the decorations that are used on hair braid embellishments that the women wear.

You can see the way they wear them in the first pic and below are just some of the beautiful work along with an amazing embroidered hanging.Really wish I had more luggage space as I could have brought some much more home with me!

China Nationalities Museum Braids

China Nationalities Museum Braids 2

China Nationalities Museum Braids 3

China Nationalities Museum Braids 4

China Nationalities Museum Embroidery

The museum is very near the Olympic park and other business areas and this picture shows the contrast between China old and new.The pagoda is part of the museum and the unusually shaped modern tower is the IBM tower.

China Nationalities Museum Old and New

I am off to Spain tomorrow to spend a lovely long time with my Mum – it is currently 21 degrees there so will be a little bit of change from the Arctic conditions here!

Take care and will be back with more China pics on my return. Thanks for visiting.

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