Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Colour Collaborate: April: Seedling

If you've been reading this blog for a while now then you may be familiar with the monthly "Colour Collaborative" posts. A group of us - and we have changed a little over the years as people have left and joined - post on an agreed date and theme around the subject of colour. My first post was in June 2013 at the very start of the project, and I wrote about Home, always a subject I'm happy to talk about.

But this will be my last Colour Collaborative post and now, at the end of my third year, feels like a natural time to step down. I spent a while looking back through these posts and one of the things that leapt out at me was how often I've ended up writing about nature. This isn't, and never will be, a nature blog. The natural world features here from time to time as part of the fabric of life, but you'll never find me correctly identifying a bird or flower, or offering gardening tips. Others do that so much better. And yet I wrote about nature a lot, about it's rich and varying colour, how it can be pale or bright, quiet or loud, and how endlessly inspiring it is. From the delicate silver and pink of dried hydrangea heads 

Fading - November 2013

to the palest and deepest pinks all tucked up inside the first bloom on a camellia bush
Bud - March 2014

to the pewters, grey and silvers of wet winter's day.

Storm - February 2014  
Colour and contrast and drama everywhere you look.

But the avenue I've really enjoyed exploring is the colour combinations that so often emerge within the natural world. I'll look at the colours really closely on, say, a bird or shell, and start thinking how utterly fantastic they look together, how perfectly matched and balanced they are, how harmonious. 

Some favourites include:

A plate of heirloom squashes in the autumn.
Halloween - October 2014

These beautiful ranunculus stems on a carefully laid table.

Tradition - April 2014

This splendid seagull, his colours reflecting the landscape behind him.

Bird - March 2015

The ear-like interior of a shell.

Found - June 2015

Maybe it's just me, but I can imagine so many scarves, blankets and throws, so many yarn or fabric based creations in the palates above, and I guess that's when it gets really fun for me. When I'm so taken with an idea that I go on to make something based on a colour combination I saw in nature, like the cushion below.

Inspired by the brown trees against winter sunsets and sunrises, the colours in this project chose themselves.

Wooly - January 2014 

And these four hoops - such a delight to make from start to finish - inspired by the colour changes in the seasons, which I wrote about in September 2014.

Which brings me all the way to today's prompt: seedling. I was struggling with this to be honest, as I'm sure you've realised by now, but it occurred to me that something which keeps me going, both in blogging and in real life, is the pure joy I find in making something with my hands, from the thinking and the choosing and the starting to the long process which brings an idea to fruition. And it my seedling of an idea comes from nature, then all the better. It does have the best colours after all. 

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on these posts. I hope you've enjoyed them.


Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

Jennifer at Thistlebear
Claire at Above The River
Sarah at Mitenska 
Annie at Annie Cholewa will return next month.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Bluebells and Paint Charts

A pretty dull weekend, full of chores and dust and cold winds, was completely redeemed by a walk in the woods this afternoon. I wanted to see the bluebells, and oh my goodness, did we see some bluebells.They were magnificent, even better than last year. It did actually take my breath away a little bit when we turned off the path and came upon them in the woods, and all the niggles and stresses of life lifted a little. 

But even on such a flat grey day, with no sunlight filtering through the trees, they were luminous and vivid and completely magical in the still, silent woodland. 

Bluebells aside, normal life continues. I've discovered that I like having all these houseplants on the living room windowsill. I can hide behind them when I'm eating breakfast in my dressing gown. The neighbours all look into our living room as they walk by (I'm not judging, I would totally do the same) and I feel like they give me a bit of protection. 

We've been trying to choose the perfect shade of grey. We've narrowed it down to three. 

This print, a Christmas present from my dear friend Abigail, didn't quite fit the IKEA frame I had so I ordered a mount online. I chose black which was a bit of a risk but I think it looks fantastic, and it might even get hung in the new kitchen. John and I honeymooned in San Francisco and it's a city we love and dream of returning to one day.

It's still daylight when the kids go to bed now and I enjoy looking out of their windows while they read. Bella has the best view in the house and the trees have burst into leaf over the last week. Suddenly everything is tinged with green and it glows in the evening light. 

Our temporary lack of kitchen is bothering me much more than I thought I would. Not just the irritations of reduced space to prepare food, the dust, the fact that the garage is freezing cold (the butter is always rock solid), eating rubbish food and having to boil the kettle to wash up. No, it's more than that. It's such an overused cliche, but the kitchen really is the heart of my home. It's the room I gravitate towards and spend as much time in as I can. Even if I'm not cooking it's where I want to be with a cup of tea and doors open onto the garden. Our evenings and weekends are different without this space. I'll be the first to admit that the kitchen is where I retreat to when I just want a little space on my own with just the radio for company, but John and I miss chatting in the kitchen while we cook together. And I have realised just how important cooking and eating - and in particular talking about cooking and eating - is to us as a couple, how it's something we share. On Saturday mornings we drink coffee and browse through cookery books, we plan meals for the weekend ahead, write a list and go shopping, and a large part of our conversation revolves around this. I think we're both surprised by how much we miss it. I am not moaning (ok, I am a bit) and I realise that this is a first world problem, it could be so much worse, etc etc, but gosh I miss cooking. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Kitchen Update 2

Are you ready for lots of photos of bricks and plastered walls? Oh good!

Outside, the old kitchen window and door was removed, bricked up (goodbye upvc!) and the new window fitted. It really bothers the builders that they couldn't get an exact match for the bricks, as they don't make them anymore. I don't really mind, it's the back of the house and I'll just put a trellis there and plant something. 

Inside, it's all going on. Below is the view from the dining room looking into the kitchen, with the beam in place and the supports up...

...the with the supports removed and the steel beam plastered in. 

The two photos below show the freshly plastered kitchen, drying out ready to be painted.

And below we have the opposite view, from the kitchen looking into the dining room.

That massive channel in the middle of the floor is for the radiator pipes.

The dining room radiator was originally positioned on the internal wall and so it had to be moved. We tried to connect it to the one in the living room, but it's not working properly so it needs to be connected to the original pipes which are under the floor. Or something. I don't really understand, I just want a radiator that gets hot not lukewarm at the bottom. Honestly, I can see why people choose underfloor heating.

I feel baffled by the pipe work in our house; this one for hot water, that for gas, and we seem to be uncovering all sorts of odd or old plumbing and wiring that needs to be addressed straight away. Hmm, these must be the unforeseen costs they talk about...

I'm sorry these photos are so dark and grainy - they are snaps, really, taken when I get home from work, and with some of them the kitchen window was still boarded up.

But this is my favourite thing so far: a window sill. 

Before, the kitchen sink went right up to the window (where it was splashed with soapy, limescaly water on an hourly basis) and the cupboard beneath backed right up the the upvc panel below the window. 

Now, the width of the brick wall gives us a lovely deep window sill which I can't wait to faff around with. Pots of herbs. Jugs of flowers. This window sill, in an empty room filled with building stuff and plaster dust, is my glimpse of our new kitchen.


I nearly forgot: THANK YOU for such wonderful comments on my blanket! You are so kind. And thanks for the yarn recommendations too - I know that Rowan isn't the cheapest, and I have used Drops before on my poncho and thought it was fantastic. I'd definitely use it again. Thank you. 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Finally Finished

It's been a long and draining week. No dramas - work on the kitchen is going well -  it's just pretty hard to relax when there is so much happening, plus work has been busy, and I am very tired. So it's really nice to have something pretty so show you. Something that isn't covered in plaster dust.

I am delighted to announce that my very large, very heavy (2 kilograms!) granny squares blanket is finally finished. Again. You may remember I declared it finished early last year, here, but there was just no avoiding it, the blanket was too small for our king sized bed and I didn't love it.

This is what it looked like then:

And now.

All I have done (all! ha!) is add another fourteen rounds to the border.  Yes, a mere fourteen rounds, another eight or ten balls of cream yarn and a couple of black. I dread to think what this blanket has cost me altogether, I really do.*

But it did provide lots of mindless crochet to keep my hands busy while I watched TV and kept me warm on those long, cold winter evenings. Although the evenings never feel that long, thinking about it. Chance would be a fine thing. By the time I finally sit down after everything is done it's usually 9pm and then by 10pm I'm trying really hard to stay awake. I'd love a long winter evening, that sounds brilliant!

Isn't it lovely? I've spent so long working on this blanket that I've often grown weary of it, but now it's finished and on our bed I love it again.. We've packed away our winter duvet so I do appreciate the warmth of the blanket when the nights are cooler.

I pinched the title for this post from Ashley of Lazy Daisy Jones' crochet link up on Instagram. I usually find these things hard to keep up with but it started in the Easter holidays when I had some spare time, and it has been an absolute joy to take part in. I use the daily prompts to think about and share things I've made and I find so much inspiration from other people who also love to crochet. If you're on Instagram, it's #ldjcrochethookup. It's running for the rest of April so there is plenty of time to take part and it's a lot of fun. 

*Actually, I worked out the cost. A blanket that weighs 2 kilograms uses 40 x 50g balls of yarn, and that's assuming I used every last scrap of each ball. The yarn, Rowan Pure Wool DK, is around £5 a ball so that's £200, at least. I didn't buy this all in one go, and half the cost was paid for with birthday money, but I don't regret a penny of it, it's so warm and feels so good. I guess we'll call this an heirloom blanket. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Old Houses, Spring Flowers and Sheep

It feels good to sit here and think back to the Easter holidays and realise that we did actually do something and go somewhere, it wasn't all building work and spring cleaning. This time last week we visited the wonderful Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in West Sussex with my parents, sister and nieces on a sunny day that was just warm enough to eat a picnic lunch outside, so long as you wore a coat. It's a collection of buildings set in the most beautiful rolling South Downs, a few miles north of Chichester. In the picture below you can just see the impressive buildings of West Dean College on the left and West Dean Gardens on the right, which I visited last year.

Some of these buildings are many hundreds of years old and over the years they have been dismantled and moved, brick by numbered brick, from other locations around the country to their new home where they now sit, Tudor farmhouse next to thatched cottage, water mill next to Victorian schoolhouse, to be preserved and enjoyed. 

By far the best thing about this place though is how approachable and interactive it all is; doors are to be opened, staircases climbed, windows to be leaned out of, chairs sat on, objects handled.

Fires burn in grates and the smell of woodsmoke fills the air. Dogs are allowed everywhere and no-one cares if your boots are muddy. 

My favourite building was Whittaker's Cottages, a pair of Victorian homes for agricultural labourers. Unprepossessing from the outside, the interior was rich in detail and life. The volunteer showed the children how to beat carpets to clean them, and outside were buckets of water, collected from the standpipe at the front of the house. This was an eye opener for us - how much water we use on average a day (literally hundreds of litres in modern households) compared to what would be collected, carried and used "in the olden days". 

The warmth of the small kitchen was very welcome. I was getting quite chilled with walking around and going from one cool, damp house to another and it was a good lesson in how cold  - and how poorly insulated  - houses must have been then.

Upstairs, the clothes air in the sun over the end of the bed, and the hot water bottle takes the chill off the bedding. The children were fasincated by the old fashioned moses basket and cot, by the children's beds and most particularly the lack of toys and books. And of course there was no bathroom. 

And then there are the volunteers, those interesting and knowledgeable people who are passionate about history and don't mind dressing up in Medieval costume or as a Victorian blacksmith, or patiently showing a six year old boy how an arched bridge is built. Always friendly and happy to chat and show you what they are doing or making, they make the place what it is.

It makes it all the more real for a child (and adult!) if you can actually taste the bread and pottage soup made in the Tudor kitchen, or grind the wheat into flour in the mill. It was a good day out for all the kids there - largely because they can run everywhere in the fresh air and there is so much open space - but Angus especially was fascinated by the history. How the houses were built, who lived there, what they did, what they ate, where they slept - so many questions and all answered, and they don't even realise they learnt something because they are having so much fun. 

But I think my favourite part of the day was watching the sheep and lambs, particularly this pair below.

Nice memories to take with me into the new school term.