Monday 27 August 2012

Jolly Dolly needle cases

Three weeks ago I showed you pieces of my Liberty Tana Lawn and said I hoped to put some of it to good use. After an enforced break due to the cold that laid me low for a while, I can at last show you what I've been making.

With so many pretty florals it was difficult to make definite choices but eventually I decided to do some little patchwork needle cases. I needed some smiling dollies to give me inspiration so started by creating three tiny 'jolly dollies' using machine embroidery. Of course each one wears her own Liberty Lawn dress.

As always, mixing and matching pretty fabrics is great fun but can be time consuming. Each little needle case required eighteen 5cm (2ins) patches so the selection and cutting process took quite a while as I wanted to use as many different patterns as possible. Finally I stitched the squares together making sure each 'jolly dolly' sat centre stage. 
I cut a larger piece of Liberty Lawn for the inside and stitched it to the patchwork cover (not forgetting to include some interfacing for added bulk, softness and stability). Finally I added four leaves of cotton flannelette to hold the needles and trimmed each needle case with a tiny bow. 

The famous Liberty shop opened in London in 1875. A large Mock Tudor extension was added in the 1920s and at the same time Liberty Tana Lawn was introduced. The tiny floral prints became an instant success and several of the original designs are still in production today.

I discovered that the word 'Tana' in the name owes it's origin to the soft raw cotton that was found growing beside Lake Tana in Ethiopia, Africa. . . . . I love those sorts of facts don't you!

Monday 20 August 2012

Lakeland sunshine

Mid August in the English Lake District and this year rain clouds have never been far away. But today we had sunny blue skies which gave us the chance to enjoy the great outdoors.

This is Ullswater, one of our quieter lakes. Birdsong and water lapping against the shingle shoreline were the only sounds I could hear.

Our mountains are clothed in purple heather just now and it clings to every available rock and crevice.

Close to the lake, and nestled below towering mountains, is the Church of St. Patrick in the village of Patterdale.

In summer the grass in the old churchyard becomes a wild flower meadow. 

A perfect illustration of 'God's Acre'.

The church doors are often left open during the day allowing visitors to enter for a few moments of quiet prayer and reflection.

Leaving the sunshine behind I stepped into the porch, turned the heavy iron ring on the old oak door and entered the cool interior.

The sun streamed in through the stained glass windows.

Stories from the Bible illuminated in jewel-coloured glass .

The church houses some lovely tapestries created in the 1930s by artist and craftswoman Ann Macbeth who lived nearby.

Here is her depiction of The Nativity which she set in a Lakeland landscape with familiar wild flowers in the foreground.

Looking at the local cottages I wondered if Ann Macbeth had lived in any of them.

In fact she commissioned a house and studio to be built in the 1930s well away from habitation. Her small white cottage is just visible in the centre of this picture.

She probably felt quite isolated during the winter months when thick snow lay on the ground but on a sunny summer's day like today, what an idyllic place it would have been to live and work.

Friday 17 August 2012

Snuffles and comfort

Merrily Ann (our Raggedy Ann style dolly) has been unwell this week. She and several others (myself included) have succumbed to a nasty cold virus that is proving very difficult to shake off. Luckily 'snufflers' have had cosy beds in which to suffer in comfort with plenty of fruit juice and tissues close-by.


Playroom patients have had plenty of help on hand and games of 'pass-the-tissue' have proved extremely popular. This is the dolls' version of an Olympic relay race, minus the baton of course.

Needless to say, tissues have been in constant demand
and so have been much more useful than a baton.

Last week you saw Merrily Ann's large wooden bed being used to ferry everyone back from the garden to the playroom (many thanks for your comments by the way). It's a very sturdy little bed that has been in the playroom since my kids were young and the dolls never miss a chance to climb into it at the first available opportunity. This week it has been the turn of the hard worked 'tissue relay team' who have loved snuggling down under the quilt to keep Merrily Ann company.

Annoyingly our snuffles have coincided with some of the best weather we've had all summer but the enthusiasm to go outside and have fun has been absent.
I've spent much of my time looking through books and came across this picture of Edwardian families enjoying a holiday beside the sea. 100 years ago people wore smart clothes for a day on the beach and a hat for protection from the sun (a sun tan was considered very undesirable). If you wanted to take a dip in the sea you would have hired a 'bathing machine' (a little wooden caravan on wheels). Inside you would have put on your 'cover all parts' bathing costume then the machine would have been pushed into the water and you would have descended the steps to take your 'dip' with etiquette and modesty. How times have changed!

Many people would have travelled to the coast by train but wealthy families might have owned one of the early motor cars and journeyed in a new and exciting way. This picture makes you realise how fraught with danger early car rides would have been. Travel times were slow and after the first few miles children must have been restless and bored. Just look at that rascal in the front next to the driver. He seems to be holding a whip which I expect he is using to make the car go faster! I wonder how many travelling dolls and teddy bears fell out during these lengthy journeys?

How different our 21st century car travel is.  Children are secured safely in the back and their toys can join them and be confident that they will return home safely with their young owners.
An advertisement for the Seat Altea car (shown on Britsh TV a couple of years ago) is one my all time favourite ads. I wonder if it was shown in other countries around the world. It reminds me of my kids when they were young as they always insisted on taking dozens of toys on any trip. The advert starts with a teddy bear packing his loose arm into a suitcase then everyone leaves the playroom and heads for the car. To view the advert click on the link below. I hope it makes you smile . . . .

Sunday 12 August 2012

Flowers and fun

Thankfully the sun has been shining on the London Olympics but here in the mountainous north west of England the clouds and rain remained until just a few days ago.

So what to do when you can't enjoy your summer garden? Buy a new mug of course! When I first saw this it immediately reminded me of my blog banner which was the perfect excuse to give it a good home!

The mug is from Liberty, one of my favourite London stores, and the floral pattern is based on one of their 1950s fabric designs. I've loved Liberty fabrics since I was very small and used to visit the store with my mum who could never return home without at least one length of floral cotton lawn.

I've decided that perhaps now is the time to put some of my Liberty printed fabrics to good use. I have a few ideas buzzing around in my head but nothing definite as yet.

In my last post I promised to let you know about my tiny knitted dolls. Well I'm afraid this is as far as I've got and they are still a work in progress. I'm hoping there will be a pattern available soon but working with the Liberty lawn is proving very difficult to resist and knitting is currently taking second place!

Meanwhile I can tell you that as soon as the sun started shining last week the playroom door burst open and an avalanche of dolls and rabbits headed for the garden.

Belinda Jane (one of the more sensible dollies) did a spot of gardening and helped to remove some of the dead rain-battered flower heads.

Olympic cycling events have been featured on TV quite a lot in recent weeks and when Lucy Lavender spotted the old red bicycle leaning against the ivy clad wall she decided she'd chance here luck at a bit of speed cycling. Fortunately the ivy had wrapped itself tightly around the wheels preventing Lucy from disaster!

Several rascals climbed into the wheelbarrow hoping for a free ride but were foolish enough not to realise that the barrow was on a steep slope. Thankfully I spotted it just in time and a major dolly spillage was narrowly avoided.

Would-be sprinters and marathon runners amongst the young bunnies had to be watched closely as they would have certainly disappeared into the nearby wood where predators roam. Poor Mother Bunny did here best to keep the youngsters in the basket but with little success. This little rascal dashed off at high speed and was lost for quite a while.

Everyone searched the garden in vain. After quite some time he was spotted with his head protruding from this watering can. The scamp had climbed inside and become well and truly stuck.

Luckily Kate was on hand to pull him out otherwise goodness knows how long he'd have been in there.

Even though dolls and rabbits were scattered around the garden it didn't take long for them all to spot the picnic hamper when Posy laid it on the check tablecloth. Alice and Lucy were the first to arrive and watched in mouth-watering expectation as the basket was opened.

Gathering everyone together at the end of the day might have been a problem if it hadn't been for Merrily Ann's bright idea. She suggested using the tablecloth to transform her wooden bed into a boat so that everyone could 'sail' back to the playroom. This was an excellent plan and 100% successful. It was just possible to squeeze everyone in, right down to the last tiny bunny who, as you can see, very nearly missed the boat.

I hope you have enjoyed watching the London Olympics on TV, or perhaps been a spectator at one of the events. A knitter in London, living close to the Olympic Park, has displayed a number of little knitted athletes in her garden and they've proved very popular with passers-by. If you'd like to take a look please click on the link below. There is a description written under each picture.