Friday, 14 July 2017

What I read in May

Gosh, how am I behind on this series already?! I can't believe it is July! If you didn't catch the first post about my reading habits you can find the post for April here.

I have only read 3 or 4 Agatha Christie novels and decided I really needed to read some more seeing as she is one of the most famous and prolific crime writers. When this lovely copy turned up at my book group I knew I would read it. The story is interesting, all the action is based around a famous precious ruby called the Heart of Fire and it's new owner. Most of the story occurs on the Blue Train which is travelling from London to Nice and many of the passengers become involved in the drama. This is a Poirot story so we get to see him unravelling all the mysteries. I enjoyed the story and there were some interesting characters.

However, when reading old books there can be some uncomfortable/upsetting moments when your values/beliefs clash with those in the book and you come across what Mim at Crinoline Robot calls 'Attitudes of their Time' and she discusses this very well, probably better than I can. In this case this book published in 1928 displays some antisemitism with regards to some minor characters.

Next I switched to non fiction and picked this social history book. It is a collection of entries from a Mass Observation diary that a Yorkshire woman kept during World War Two. Her sister and brother in law were shop keepers in Dewsbury (which is relatively local to me) and Kathleen worked in the grocery shop with them. I have read quite a few Mass Observation diaries and always enjoy learning about ordinary people on the Home Front and their wartime experience. This one was interesting as I have read a lot about rationing and shopping from the shopper's point of view but nothing about it from the other side. Kathleen writes about the difficulties of keeping up with the changing rationing system, the trials of getting their share of supplies, the filling in of endless forms and the worries of letting down their regular customers. You find out how oranges can cause major disruption and how unpopular tea rationing was. Unlike some diaries there is very little of a personal nature so you don't get to know Kathleen very well but you do find out lots about shop and town life during the war.

One reason that I didn't read many books in May is right here. I have been trying to read this book, all about the fashion industry and in theory it is right up my street and I should be enjoying it. However, I am only on chapter 4 and that has been a struggle. It is interesting but I think the anti capitalist viewpoint is rammed home so strongly and constantly that I just found it a bit wearing. So I have decided it might be one to dip in and out of, reading a chapter here and there, rather than reading it straight through. I don't want to give up on it yet as what I have read has been of interest.

The final book I read in May was 'The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets" by Eva Rice. I was so efficient at passing it on to the charity shop when I had finished it that I didn't even take a photo of the front cover. In a way that is good though as the cover is one of those off putting pink sickly chick lit things which might make you stay away from a really enjoyable book.

It is set in the 1950's and reflects the recovery from wartime that is occurring and also the split between those who had a life before the war and those who were born during it so they are now just starting to have some fun. It follows the unlikely friendship of two quite different young women, Penelope and Charlotte and the lives that they are trying to build for themselves. There are financial worries about an ancestral pile, rock n roll, debutante type parties, memoirs, love affairs and guinea pigs. It was very readable and I really enjoyed it. It would be a great holiday book.

What have you been reading?

Monday, 26 June 2017

The Moonwalk London 2017

I wanted to write this a while ago but I haven't had the words until now.

These bras are a big part of the story but I had better start at the start!

I turn 40 in a couple of weeks time and my super great friend Caroline turned 40 a few months ago (though she might not like me announcing that here. Sorry!). We had been talking of various things to do to mark the occasions and we fell to discussing The Moonwalk. This is a challenge organised by the Walk the Walk charity which raises money for various breast cancer charities. 

The Moonwalk - a 26.2 mile walk at night, had been on our to do lists for a while and we decided that this year it was time to go for it. We both have family and friends who have been/are affected by this disease so it is a charity close to our hearts and we knew that we wanted to help raise some money for them.

We both walk regularly but not at the speed or the distance that this challenge requires so we got our training plan sorted out and got going!

We don't live in the same area so it was fabulous to meet at a weekend for training walks and having each other as motivation. I should also mention my lovely husband and dog who came on our longer distance walks as company/pace makers/ encouragement.

We did break the dog though.

After 17 miles.
We used the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire for a couple of our longer walks. This runs from Bakewell along the route of a disused railway line through beautiful countryside. You also walk through the tunnels that were built at the time which were lovely and cool on a hot day.

Back to the bras.

Did I mention that as well as walking 26.2 miles, at night, around central London, we would be doing it in bras? Highly decorated bras. The theme this year was the roaring twenties as it was the 20th London Moonwalk. This one is mine. It was once a Triumph Doreen.

This one is Carolines. It was once a sports bra. We had a very fun evening before the event surrounded by piles of sparkly tasselled haberdashery deciding on how to decorate our bras. We decided fringing was key and had metres and metres of it. Those bras were pretty weighty by the end of it!

On Saturday 13th May we caught the train to London, watching many other pink bra t shirted women (and some men) join the train at every station. We changed into our bras in Kings Cross station toilets, along with many others, and made our way to Clapham Common which was the start point of the event.

We packed our bum bags with carefully chosen snacks (including fabulous power flapjacks made for us by Caroline's brother), water, a foil blanket and a rain cape and made our way into Moonwalk city.

What a sight! It was very powerful sight, all these people, in carefully decorated bras, some with balloons, some with headdresses, with temporary tattoos, with messages to/about loved ones written on them. Jumping ahead a second, at about 23 miles I was struggling when a woman walked past me and on her back, between her bra straps, in pen, was written "I miss you Aunt Sally".  That made me well up, it still does, and ignore the pain in my legs and made me determined to finish and raise all the money I could to help fight this horrid disease.

We joined in with all the aerobics warm ups (led by a man in a gold bra on a stage) that occurred just before each start set off. Previous Zumba experience definitely helps here! Obviously there needs to be staggered starts when over 15,000 people are walking. We were in start four and we crossed the start line at 11.30pm and were off.

It was immensely exciting, there was a super atmosphere, everyone was keen to get going and there were various bands and entertainers to amuse us as we got underway. People were cheering us on out of the windows of their flats, from their front door steps and we got encouraging toots from, cars, taxis, buses and ambulances.

The route took us past many of the sights of London: the Peace Pagoda, Big Ben, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, St Pauls, The Globe, Westminster Abbey, Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye to name a few. London is my home city, I was born and bought up there and it still counts as home in my head even though I haven't lived there for 18 years. It was an important link to me to be taking part in this challenge in this city in a significant birthday year.

I'm not going to lie. Parts of this walk were extremely tough going. Up To 18 miles was great and fun, up to 21 was hard and the rest was the most difficult physical thing I have ever done. I have to thank Caroline for being a huge support to me and a fantastic motivator. She noticed at Hyde Park that I was starting to have an asthma attack, before I had realised myself, and was still at the wondering why I am coughing a lot stage. She sorted me out there with my inhaler and when I'd got cold and really needed to put my hoodie on, even though I was determined to do it all in my bra, she made me see sense. She gave me her space blanket when I was too tired to fish mine out of my bum bag, she got me to gatecrash a posh hotel to use the toilets when I wouldn't have dared to even though I really needed a wee, she shared her jelly babies, she didn't laugh when I nearly cried when the McDonald's toilets were up a steep flight of stairs and she knew what to do when she saw the glint in my eye at mile 24 when I found a bus stop and seriously contemplated using it. She knew when to talk, when to persuade, when to go quiet, when to link arms and when to ask random questions to take my mind off the pain in my hips. She also didn't laugh her head off when I shared the fact that I had had to Vaseline places I had never even thought of to prevent chaffing. She is totally the best friend ever and I couldn't have done it without her. Thank you.

In return, I taught her some new combinations of swear words. Turns out I'm really classy like that.

We did it! This is us at 9.30 the next morning with 26.2 miles under our belts. We are very proud of ourselves! We have raised over £700 thanks to the kindness of those who sponsored us. Should you wish to contribute this is the link. If you have ever contemplated doing such a challenge but think that you can't, so did we. And we did it. So you can too.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

What I read in April

I have not really spoken much about my reading habits here except for in this bookworm post where I also answered a reading questionnaire. It has been seeming daft to me to not have been talking about books here as I love reading and if I'm relaxing I'm either reading or knitting. But not both, I haven't mastered that yet....

I think part of it has been thinking that I should write some 'proper' book reviews and every time I started that I just couldn't get going with it. So instead, I'm hoping to do a monthly round up about what I have read in that month and I'm just going to chat on like I would at my book group or at a cafe or at knitting group or at the pub.

I really wish that I had managed to decide this in January as it would have been pleasing to me to start this series at the start of the year but I've had a little chat with myself and May is perfectly acceptable instead!

I began this book in March and it was finished in April. I borrowed this from my book group, we swap books and chat about them rather than all reading the same one each month. I enjoy social history books and I am a WI member so I was eager to read this and find out more. Each chapter covers a certain period in the WI's existence and I was particularly interested in the ones covering the World Wars and the 1930's. It was great to read about what a bunch of very determined women can do. What I enjoyed most was realising just what a force for change and what a powerful campaigning organisation the WI has been since it's inception. I knew some of this but it was fascinating to know more. If you have an interest in social history, WI member or not, you will enjoy this.

I am currently addicted to modern crime/detective stories set in the 1930's due to my recent discovery of this author and the one that I will mention next. This is the second book in Nicola Upson's Josephine Tey series but is the third one I have read. In a very uncharacteristic (and frankly rather stressful once I realised) move I read the most recent one first. Part way through I realised it was part of a series but by then I couldn't stop and start at the beginning. So the first thing to say is that if you can cope with reading a series out of order then you can with these as each holds its own as a separate book although it is clear that the characters have a back story.

The character Josephine Tey is a writer who has written a successful crime novel and several well respected plays. In this book she goes to Cornwall to stay on the estate of a friend and write her second crime book. The friend, Inspector Archie Penrose, ends up investigating the goings on at the estate and Josephine gets drawn in. It is a super book, strong characters, interesting storyline, good period detail. I really couldn't put it down and I recommend it highly.

The Maisie Dobbs mystery books are my other current 1930's crime obsession. I am enjoying them so much, I'm torn between reading them one after another but then running out or rationing them so I have some to look forward to for a long time. This is book two of the series and I read book three straight afterwards as I couldn't wait! Also, loving the cover art. I don't choose books by their front covers but these definitely attract me and are reflective of the nature of the book.

Maisie Dobbs is a private investigator with an interesting background as the daughter of a London tradesman who went on to university and then became a nurse in France in World War One. The scars of the war are still to be felt both in Maisie and the other characters and there is a great sense of period and place in these books. In this novel Maisie is tasked with finding the runaway daughter of one of the country's wealthiest men and in doing so finds links to recent murder cases and to the war. It is both well written and gripping and I enjoyed it enormously.

This is Maisie Dobbs number three. It is set in London in 1930 and Maisie is asked to prove that an aviator shot down in France in 1917 is really dead, as was reported at the time. This means that Maisie has to return to France to lay some personal and professional ghosts to rest. This novel explores the sadness of that time wonderfully and doesn't flinch from looking at the aftermath of so much death and destruction. It was a really super read and Maisie is a fabulously drawn character.

Hmm. I still don't know whether I enjoyed reading this book or not. It is set in a small rural town in Australia and Tilly, who left under a cloud aged 10, has returned to look after her unstable mother. She returns as a couture dressmaker and makes clothes for the locals who are still both suspicious and hostile and relations are tricky to say the least. I found it very difficult to like any of the characters, including the main one so I found it harder to care about the story. But, the descriptions of the clothes that Tilly makes are just fabulous and you can really envision these designs and outfits coming to life from her machine. So if you like clothes a lot it is worth a read. I haven't seen the film yet, I wanted to read the book first so I'm going to watch that next and see what I think.

This is one of the books in the Persephone Books series. They publish neglected works of fiction and non fiction by mostly female writers of the mid twentieth century. The authors range from well known like Noel Streatfeild, E.M. Delafield and Winnifred Holtby to the less well known. There are 122 books in the series, covering a breadth of topics, this is the eighth that I have read and I have enjoyed them all. The books are beautifully bound with endpapers that are copies of fabric designs. Each book comes with a bookmark in it's endpaper design which is a wonderful touch. This design is Farm Scene, a 1930's dress fabric.

Dorothy Whipple (1893-1966) wrote eight books, two of which were made into films. This is the first of hers that I have read and I enjoyed it greatly so would look out for another by her. High Wages was  first published in 1930 and is set in 1912. The main character is Jane, a young woman with no family behind her who starts a new job in a better class of haberdashery as a shop girl. The story follows Jane's progress in the shop and in the world within the constraints and class structure of the time. Jane is both intelligent and motivated with an eye for fashion and plenty of ideas and it was interesting to see what became of her.

As well as the story the novel is a commentary on both the lives of shop girls and the shopping habits of the times. I learnt a lot from a social history point of view. There are also lovely descriptions of fabric and clothes and accessories which bought the shop and the customers to life. It is a lovely read.

What have you been reading recently? Anything I should add to my reading list?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Free Pattern - 1930's cruising coat

I recently bought a few 1930's copies of The Needlewoman magazine. I really like finding this magazine as it covers a wide range of needlework projects but usually contains at least one knitting pattern. It also has some lovely illustrations for fashion and styling inspiration.

This 'jaunty little cruising coat' is from the July 1933 edition. I think it is a lovely little jacket, perfect for in-between weather or a walk along the sea front. I particularly like how the scarf is integrated as part of the jacket, I haven't seen that in any other knitting patterns that I have from this period. I thought I would share the pattern here so enjoy it if you make it.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Tweed, tartan and tapestry

A few Saturdays ago I went on a little outing to a neighbouring town with a friend who gets as much joy from all the crafty things as I do. We get a bit squeaky with excitement. We were most excited to be going along to the Beyond Measure Open Day. If you haven't come across Beyond Measure yet and you like beautiful things to help you in your making and doing then you really are in for a treat. Grace, the owner, was opening her studio for the day and the opportunity to handle some of the lovely goodies, plus the chance to spend our leftover spending money from Edinburgh Yarn Festival, could not be missed!

Beyond Measure is housed in a fabulous old mill type building with lots of industrial architectural details and interiors to look at.

Lovely old staircase
I love a bit of peeling paint
Light switch
We had a really good look at everything in the studio, a really good look and a little fondle and a stroke here and there. There was a lovely atmosphere and it was good to chat with fellow craft fans and make new friends. There was a cafe set up in one corner and we took full advantage of that (who said we had two of the oh so delicious cakes?!), whilst pondering what our purchases were to be.

Pretty Tulip needles
Fantastic storage jars
Trimmings and bindings
Pretty tins of haberdashery
Love these little chaps by Eleanor Bostrom. My friend may have taken one home!
All the colours in the embroidery threads.
Gorgeous tweed just waiting to be made into lovely things.
More tweedy goodness.
One of these fab knitting bags came home with me.
You can probably see that it was time for tough decisions. I got a very cute thimble necklace and a wooden sewing needle holder to keep my yarn needles safe in my knitting bag. I just realised I don't have a photo of them as yet.

If you are wondering where the tapestry and tartan of the title are - they formed the main part of my outfit.

One of my Welsh tapestry handbags. This one has lots of mustard and teal in it which meant I really couldn't resist it.

My tartan skirt is from good old M&S and is a) orange, b) wool, c) lined and d)warm. It has had a lot of wear since I bought it in the sale in January. My local charity shops have had a dearth of old lady tartan skirts so this filled a gap in my wardrobe.

My preciousss
My fabulous sewing machine brooch was a gift from my in laws and it and others like it are stocked by Beyond Measure. I should say here that this is not a sponsored post, I just love lovely stuff.

Thanks for taking my outfit pictures Karen.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Five go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival

It started just after visiting Yarndale last September. Five of us got together and hatched a plan to go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival the following March. We had heard great things about it and felt that we should find out for ourselves. Savings tins were started, a group chat was set up on social media, accommodation was found and agreed upon and as soon as they became available train tickets and show tickets were booked. Excitement levels were building, growing as the list of exhibitors was released. It was time for five to go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

So, a couple of weekends ago, very early on a cold Friday morning, we met at the train station and set off on our much anticipated jaunt. The train journey passed by quickly as we were occupied by our knitting and crochet projects and by a discussion of our tactics for the next day. Some had a plan of attack and a hit list not to be deviated from, some wanted just to wander and ponder.

1950's Bohus jumper
The big day dawned and we were up bright and early, wearing our carefully chosen woolly garments and our comfiest shoes. Our bags were packed with food, drink, project lists and knitting and we set off. Handily the stop for the bus out to the Corn Exchange was opposite our apartment. Twenty minutes later we were off the bus and following all the other excited faces and fabulous knitwear to the festival.

The marketplace was a joy to behold, a feast of colour, texture and pattern just waiting to be explored. The exhibitors are all hand picked and it shows, every stall was full of the highest quality items. The stall holders were a mixture of designers, dyers, yarn suppliers, small shops and makers. As you might expect there were many Scottish brands exhibiting, such as Iona Wool, Ardalanish and Uist Wool, all with fascinating products and stories. 

1950's Bohus hat and gloves
The Knitting and Crochet Guild had an attention grabbing stand with several examples of Bohus style knitwear, including a stunning cardigan and jumper which I though were amazing pieces of work. Bohus style originated in Sweden in the 1930's in the Bohuslan area. The area was badly affected by the Depression and women there requested help setting up a home industry which they could make a living from. Knitting was the answer and the Bohus style was at the height of it's production in the 1950's, which is when the Guild's garments are from. The patterns and colour work are just beautiful, it was lovely to see them close up.

1950's Bohus scarf
There was much to take in and savour as well as much yarn stroking and squishing to do. Our eyes were drawn not only to the stalls but also to everyone else’s beautiful knitwear. Stephen West patterns were definitely having a bit of a moment. Everyone was very friendly, united in their excitement over all the woolly goodness, chatting about their projects and their purchases. We met people from all over the country and from much further afield with plenty of knitters from Europe and Scandinavia.

1950's Bohus cardigan
The Festival runs from Friday to Sunday with taught classes on all three days and with the marketplace open on the Friday and Saturday. Buying advanced tickets for the day you wish to visit the marketplace lessens the time spent queueing in the Edinburgh drizzle. The taught classes sounded fascinating but sold out almost immediately so booking the minute the class tickets go on sale is key. Half an hour later was literally too late for some classes.

One of the KCG display boards showing Ingrid Bergman wearing a Bohus jumper

Some highlights of the festival for me were meeting and chatting to The Icelandic Knitter, the walls of colour at John Arbon Textiles and Jamieson's of Shetland, the sample garments from the Inspired by Islay book on Kate Davies stand, the Tin Can Knits, the beetle and penguin buttons and beautiful leather goods at Beyond Measure and all the sweater spotting. I really wish I had taken more photographs. Very bad blogger! I actually bought very little, despite my long accumulated savings, but only because I was determined not to add to my stash unless I had a definite project in mind.

It was also exciting to see the Shetland Wool Week stall as the Patron for 2017, Gurdrun Johnston had just been announced and her free pattern for wool week, the Bousta Beanie was available to pick up. Visiting Shetland is on our wish list so watch this space for the sequel to these adventures, Five Go to Shetland Wool Week.

Just one of our group's hauls