"In an interview that she gave to the magazine Needlecraft in December 1906, Lady Carew professed to spending several hours each day at her embroidery frame. She strongly recommended needlework to women of all classes of society as a panacea for 'the bustle and fatigue' of everyday life. Plying her needle was for Lady Carew a cathartic experience which soothed the mind, dulled mental anxieties, absorbed the worries of the day and brought a good healthy rest at night."
Look here for more information on Lady Carew and her sister Lady Cory, "famed throughout society for their needlework skills and for the scale of the embroideries they produced for their Irish and London homes," and click here for the article from which I've quoted above - I love the bit about Lady Carew's aptitude with a needle having come from her mother who had cross-stitched her own stair carpet [don't we all?] , "a task her daughter believed every young bride should undertake".
Another pair of Skedaddle socks, pattern by Lena Gjerald. You may have seen these ones in grey, but this time I've gone for something more spring-like with Hedgehog Fibres Sock Yarn in 'Teacup'. That colourway is very hard to get hold of at the moment as it is so popular, but I found mine at A Yarn Story, and as I write they do have it in stock. Here it is in close-up:
When Beatrix was working on the book "she frequently visited the South Kensington Museum [now the V&A] refining the illustrations. She made the happy discovery that she could ask the curator to display some of the eighteenth-century costumes in the collection in any empty office where the light was better. 'I have been looking at them for a long time in an inconvenient dark corner of the goldsmith's court, but had no idea they could be taken out of the case.' Her status as the author of Peter Rabbit* was such that an assistant was subtly assigned to see that Miss Potter had whatever she needed from the collection [my italics]. The first things she asked for were the beautifully embroidered dresses, coats and waistcoats that were later to become the hallmark of The Tailor of Gloucester."
*The Tailor was published in 1903, a year after Peter Rabbit became - even in its first few months in print - a runaway bestseller. Miss Potter's reputation was made.
Miranda's post about her mornings is an inspiring read - as someone who always gets up early I can attest to the benefits of that kind of start to the day. As to the evenings, Miranda mentions that she's "a difficult sleeper", and so for anyone like her I thought I'd offer a few suggestions from my evening routine which I find aid restful sleep.
I do the following more often than not:
I switch off the computer around 9.00 or 9.30 (I watch almost no television, so podcasts, blogs, websites of interest usually supply my entertainment).
Next, a bath. A shower is fine, but a bath is better for relaxation. I use Olverum which is wonderful stuff.
After that, around 15 minutes of yoga. Again, this is very relaxing; it also helps to keep my dodgy back in reasonable shape.
I'm posting a lot on Instagram at the moment. I signed up a couple of months ago and am enjoying its immediacy - and everyone's lovely photographs - very much indeed. If you're there, do come and say hello: I'm 'Cornflowerbooks'.
This is Just Knit It by Susan Ashcroft, a wide but shallow (62" x 11") triangular scarf/shawl that requires you to cast on three stitches and then knit into the front and back of the first and last stitch of every row. That's all there is to it! The pattern gives instructions for an optional edging, but I made mine without, and of course you could knit it in any weight of yarn and to any size, so it's versatile as well as mindless.
"Having invited Helen and me to approach the table, and placed before each of us a cup of tea with one delicious but thin morsel of toast, she got up, unlocked a drawer, and taking from it a parcel wrapped in paper, disclosed presently to our eyes a good-sized seed-cake."
Thank heavens for Miss Temple and a small moment of cheer at Lowood - one of very few in Jane's existence there.
With food conspicuous by its absence most of the time in Jane Eyre, seed-cake it is for our virtual afternoon tea, and it's making its third appearance in 'Books and Cakes': we had it with Tom's Midnight Garden, and a long way back with The Mysteries of Glass, but though somewhat 'old-fashioned', it's a good cake and I'd recommend it. This time I used Delia's recipe sans almond topping as such frippery seemed out of keeping with the privations of Lowood, but I've run to a large pot of Lapsang to go with it, so please pull up a chair! We're talking about the book over here.
These are Skedaddle by Lena Gjerald - of the A Wee Bit Knitty* podcast and blog - made in Osiris Sock 'It was a dark and stormy night' from Great Woolly Owl, with a little Madelinetosh Tosh Sock 'Ink' as the contrast. They were a very straightforward knit with a twisted rib cuff and an easy braid/cable pattern running down the back, and I've already cast on another pair.
*Look out for Gustav, Lena's lovely flat-coated retriever.
Here in Edinburgh the other day I heard Joanna Trollope at the National Gallery of Scotland talk on a novelist's view of portraiture. "Our faces are our shop window to the world," she says, and a portrait is "the ultimate tribute, the final monument ... having a majesty a photograph can seldom achieve." As a judge of the BP Portrait Award last year she has studied and appraised more 'likenesses' than most of us, and as a contributor to the Imagined Lives exhibition at the NPG in 2011/12 she created fictional biographical material for the unknown sitters of 16th- and 17th-century portraits.
As a novelist, she has always looked at faces very intently - people are her stock-in-trade - and she works with a strong (mental) visual image of her characters, although she has never created a character based on a portrait, as Tracy Chevalier has so successfully done. In her lecture she looked at four famous portraits*, discussed the faces their sitters are presenting to the world, the eloquence of their expression as captured by the artist, and the messages - implicit or overt - they convey.
I was in Oxford for a few days last week* and I popped into Oxford Yarn Store for a look, coming away with a wonderfully soft skein of handspun Jacob from a local flock. Mr. C. has already nabbed this and asked for a neckwarmer or short scarf, and his wish is my command.
From the artisanal to the mass-produced, and a ball of West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester DK 'Owl' which I found at Maple Tree Yarns. I've seen so many people making socks out of the WYS Country Birds range lately, and very nice they are, and as I've never used self-patterning yarn before I thought I'd start with this one. Incidentally, Maple Tree Yarns gave me extremely speedy service and their postage charge was very reasonable.
"Writing held little interest for me before I began this memoir; I always found its melody too linear. In music, the composer can make several voices speak at once. Beneath the upper register that sets the tone, there may be a concurrence of other melodies, signifying sadness or reflection, gaiety or religious devotion, like those dazzling In Nomine pieces by Bull or Sweelinck: in these, the solemn plainsong, played in the lowest register with the left hand, may be heard beneath the variations, fantasies, trills and flights of fancy expressed by the right hand. With writing, it is difficult to make several voices heard at the same time; perfect chords in literature are the work of rare geniuses, and even they cannot be relied upon: Master Shakespeare achieved it in Hamlet or Lear, Messire de Montaigne on a few of his pages, Francesco Petrarca, Torquato Tasso and Thomas Wyatt in some of their poems. But one rarely finds such complex melodies on the written page.
Now that I have myself begun to write, I understand much better how hard it is."
Socks for Mr. C. He has big feet, so I took the speedy option and used a heavier weight yarn, the very cushy Cash DK from Mellifera. The colour is Terra and looks olive green in some lights and a rich loamy brown in others, and the pattern is Cabin Socks from The Knitter's Book of Wool by Clara Parkes, shown in earlier iterations here and here.