Once upon a time, not so long ago . . .

Sometimes I wonder why I favour old and worn over new and shiny when I was raised by a mother whose sole purpose in life seemed to be updating and replacing anything and everything from her shoes to the kitchen sink. She was the sort of person who would throw out a perfectly good handbag simply because she’d had it a couple of years. In contrast I still have and use the first bag I bought myself as an independent adult. I have nothing of my childhood because my mother had a habit of throwing out our things as soon as we had out grown them. I do however have an old child size shopping basket and a copy of Alice in Wonderland that belonged to my mother before they were passed on to me. The basket served as a peg basket when my first husband and I started out penniless and then later on it resumed it’s role as child’s play thing when the children came along. It lived on a shelf beside a shabby old wooden shape sorter I found in the Red Cross shop for 50p, a beautiful patchwork ball made of different tiny floral prints, also from a charity shop and a crudely made cloth doll I made on my trusty old 1920s Singer out of an old skirt I’d made in my teens. Those four items stirred something within me, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on until one evening, whilst doing our weekly supermarket shop with a toddler and a baby both sleeping soundly in the trolley, I stumbled across a Bagpuss VHS in the non foods aisle.

As the magic of Postgate and Firmin came flooding back from my childhood I suddenly understood why that little collection of things on the shelf made me feel the way they did. I adored Bagpuss as a child, but the memories of watching it had themselves become saggy and a bit loose at the seams, not enough to have faded completely, but enough to leave little ghost memories. It was these faint barely there memories that were being brought to the surface by the collection of shabby old toys on the shelf and from that moment on Bagpuss was very much back in my life. Had I called my eldest daughter Emily because of one of those faded out childhood memories? I can never be sure but one has to wonder and little did I know that seventeen years later my love of Bagpuss would bring me and my second husband together, and that I would end up meeting Sandra Kerr who did the music and was the voice of Madeleine the rag doll and most of the mice.

My daughter with Sandra Kerr and the original cushion from the Owl of Athens episode.

But I can’t let dear old Baggy take all the credit for my love of all things old, faded and handmade. Some of the other childhood programmes I watched had also left little ghosts of memory working away in the background. The Flumps and Fingerbobs both helped nurture a sense of resourcefulness, while things like Ivor the Engine and Camberwick Green simply helped me form a love of old worldness, a fondness of simpler times gone by. I always had a sense that the world moved too fast as a child, and even now I often reach for Bagpuss as an antidote to 21st century living. Nothing beats singing along to the Bony King of Nowhere or getting lost in a story about a Hamish or dear old Uncle Feedle in his cloth world ‘all sewn up with a needle’. Oh to live in a patchwork cloth world!

I hesitate to mention Pipkins. It seems to divide people in conversation when reminiscing in our social circle. Usually it divides me from everyone else because I loved the scruffy old hare and his friends but everyone else just remembers Hartley as mangey and slightly sinister. What can I say, maybe my weirdness radar doesn’t work as well as everyone elses?

I am convinced the programmes we watch as small children shape our lives in ways we aren’t always aware of. I’m just glad I was lucky enough to experience what I consider to be the golden era of children’s television and grateful that enough of it was later released on VHS and DVD so I could enjoy the magic all over again with my own children.

From play thing to peg basket to play thing to sewing basket!

It’s been a strange week here. My husband having worked from home for the last three months is suddenly having to go into his place of work on a daily basis and I find myself in quite an anxious state as a result. As a household we have been doing everything in our power to shield two of our grown up kids which means we’ve been getting literally everything we have needed, delivered to the house for three months and have barely left the confines of our house and tiny back yard. I hadn’t anticipated the level of anxiety there would be as things begin their new normal but thankfully there have been some positive side affects. The ‘back to work’ mindset seems to have rubbed off on myself and there being one less person in the house during the day to make tea and sandwiches for, means I have a little more head space to actually focus on my work. Not that I have to make tea and sandwiches for anyone, I just like to make sure everyone is looked after. Yesterday I woke up with the intention of creating one draft listing on Etsy. I had told myself, baby steps and if I drafted one listing a day for the next few weeks I would have enough to cut the ribbon and declare the shop open in a couple of weeks time. However, once I got going I found I was quite focused so I carried on photographing and listing and voila, shop open! Anyone reading this who knows why I’ve had to start over with my online identity and a new Etsy shop will understand what I mean when I say a weight has lifted and that I am experiencing a sense of freedom.

On Sunday I made gingerbread. I’ve become rather fond of this River Cottage version of Grasmere gingerbread. It’s recipes like this that remind me why my signature look is a huge floppy pinafore. I can easily gobble up a whole batch in a day! The recipe can be found in River Cottage Handbook No’8 or if you’re looking for it online it can be found here: https://gatherandgraze.com/2015/04/29/recipe-river-cottage-grasmere-gingerbread/ I use medium oatmeal and fresh root ginger and have never tried it with fine oatmeal or chopped stem ginger so I would love to hear from anyone who has tried different combinations in the comments! I have substituted the lime for lemon before though which does work and if you find the tang of lime a little overpowering you could try it with lemon instead.

Over in the arty crafty corner, I’ve had a few Ebay pretties arrive this week. On wednesday this little bundle of hexies arrived. They caught my eye because of the interesting snippets printed on some of the papers, one thing being the date 1974 so they have been hanging around for some time either unfinished or leftover. They are bigger than my hexies and I need to decide if I should start another quilt and have two on the go at once or put them to one side for the future. Given that my current quilt is my first ever attempt at English Paper Piecing it’s probably wise to put them to one side for now., but I do love the worn out faded feel they have!

The other pretty was this lovely tray cloth which according to the seller was stitched in 1961. My guess is, it has never been used as it is in pristine condition so it’s likely been stitched and put straight into storage which is understandable because who wants to put all that work into something just to cover it with tea stains!

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet so it can join the others in my little collection for now until I am struck with inspiration. So that was my week. How was yours?

I’ve no idea how many weeks of lockdown we are on now but it is definitely months and not days or weeks. But I didn’t set up this space because of lockdown or to moan about it, I only mention it because it has taken me all that time for me to feel at all creative, be it in the literal making something sense or in the thinking and writing sense. I put it down largely to the fact that I currently share my space with three other people trying to work and study from home and being ‘mum’ means I have been the glue holding everything together, providing the meals and clean laundry. If I’m honest this is pretty much our normal anyway but everyone suddenly being home full time created a lot more work, especially in the kitchen! As things started to settle I began to find a new rhythm and started to get out the sewing machine again. Rather appropriately, one of the first things I made was a cover for my sewing machine to replace the flimsy vinyl one that came with the machine when I got it eleven years ago. The fabric is one of my absolute favourite vintage Laura Ashley prints called Wild Clematis and was originally a duvet cover I found on Ebay. I did consider using it as a duvet cover but the fabric is perhaps a little too fragile now to stand up to regular washing so I added it to my fabric store instead.

I always look for used items when I need something and this week my virtual rummaging for thrifty second hand things brought me this beautifully embroidered cardigan and a leather satchel. The cardigan is so pretty but I am really excited about the leather satchel becacuse It’s something I have been looking for for quite some time. Most are too big for my needs but this one is perfect and I know I will be using it forever or until it drops to bits!

You can’t beat a bit of second hand retail therapy to lift the spirits but this morning it was definitely these lovely big courgette flowers doing the job as I sipped my coffee in the garden at 7 am.

These are nearly all the early male flowers but I did spot one little tiny fruit starting to form so there maybe a tiny courgette to show you next week. My tomato is flowering too but it’s the first time I have grown one a, outdoors and b, in this particular garden so I’m not confident they will get enough heat and light to set fruit properly but the fun is in the growing so it won’t be a complete waste of time if they don’t fruit.

So these are my days. Sewing and growing during the day and watching the television with my husband in the evenings. We’re working our way through Upstairs Downstairs (1970s) at the moment and I’m loving all the Edwardian costumes and decor in addition to the gripping story lines! I’ve become more interested in the period since we bought our 1910 house. Unfortunately a lot of the original character was long gone before we moved in, but I hope to bring a little tradition back over time by choosing appropriate decor and furniture. I often wonder who might have lived here during past decades. How did the first and second world wars affect them? Did children live here? What did my living room look like when it was built or in the 1930s or even the 80s? What was the kitchen like before it was extended? I guess I’ll never know for sure but I’m starting to get a better idea the more I research. Perhaps it’s something I can explore more as this blog evolves.