A bready miracle

Well, here's a first! I've made bread on and off (more off than on) for most of my adult life. I do make acceptable small rolls, but free form loaves, the kind I've yearned to master, have been a little flat. No matter how much I tucked them in, they always spread and while they were nice enough (if a little dense) I have never achieved that fluffy inner one desires. So last night I had another attempt. This time I kneaded the dough for nearly half an hour. After two rises, and with a slight sigh, I made a traditional cob loaf. Imagine my surprise when it stayed in one shape, apart from rising beautifully. With trepidation I gently put it in the oven. Even then it didn't flop. Instead I got a lovely, bosomy, thin crusted loaf with a soft and holey interior. It actually felt and tasted like real bread. It may never happen again, but it did happen once.


Not very moveable type

It's been nine years since I blogged about rescuing a quantity of letterpress type and Adana printers from being skipped. Back then it was all crammed into the tiny cottage and I never had the space and time to go through it or use it. When Andy and I made the big move in 2012, it was stored in someone's shed and in 2015 I had it moved here. And it all went into another shed. 

There it has remained. Not the best place for it; as you can see, there are quite a few gaps in the shed walls, the roof leaks and next door's ivy continuously invades any crack it can find. So recently, to prevent it all deteriorating any further, I moved it into the cottage. 

I did it bit by bit. The cabinets, being full of metal type, are a little bit heavy. After a couple of hours, I had nearly all of it inside. For the moment it is in our main 'den' until I can sort it out properly. 

It's not exactly convenient, but I need to sell a fair bit of what I have, and it has to be in a dry place. The printers and other sundries are now jamming up the little front room we recently sorted out.

So I'm gradually sorting through the bits and bobs, deciding what can go to help with the mortgage. It feels like selling off the family silver, but I have far more than I need and at this point in my life, I still don't have the time to play with it. I have enjoyed cleaning things up though, such as this old lead cutter. Transformed from this...

 ...to this. 

It went off to a new home yesterday.


'The Needlewoman'

One of my favourite periods for colour is the 1930s. Generally muted and with sophisticated combinations.

These are editions of 'The Needlewoman'; in its way, the 'Mollie Makes' of it's time. Each magazine came with a free embroidery transfer. This batch of six magazines I have still contains four of the original transfers.

The covers are simply gorgeous, being mostly illustrated; I wonder if in eighty years time our era of brightly photographed craft magazines will be as admired?

Beautiful as they are, and much as I love them, I've put them up for sale. I've enjoyed having them, but I'm not an embroiderer, so they've become part of the big clear out.


Now this set of embroidery booklets I will be truly sorry to sell, if anyone buys them. I half hope they don't. This is a complete set of 'Pearsalls Embroidery', sold periodically from 1908 to 1909.

They are letter pressed onto thick cream sugar paper, so that you can see the indentation of the type when you hold the page to the light. There are only a few colour plates, but in their time they would have been a quality publication.

Although I don't embroider, I just love the design, graphics and illustrations, so typically Edwardian, with a flavour of the Arts and Crafts movement.

A lot more was demanded of the average person's crafting skill in those days - no catering to the bottom line, but sophisticated designs which required actual knowledge or the ability to apply oneself to learning. 

It's quite a thought that they are nearly 120 years old, which makes them proper antiques. And that the six editions have stayed together for all that time.

The small adverts are quite wonderful, with 'Miss Strawson' advertising her designs 'Ye Signe of Ye Spindle' and 'Mrs Evershed' plying her 'church and decorative needlework'. They sound almost Dickensian, especially 'F.W Catt' selling 'specialité waistcoats for working in silk, wool, and chenille'. 

Just in case there are any collectors of old embroidery publications reading this, they are on sale at my eBay shop for a few more days. Much as I'd like to keep them, I'd like to sell them more, to someone who appreciates them as much as I do.


A load of old clocks

At the local auction a couple of weeks ago I took a chance on a box of old clocks. I managed to get them for not very much at all and although there are a couple that I cannot do anything with, this nice mid-century Equity clock just needed a little encouragement to get it ticking nicely. It has been cleaned up for sale and I'm hoping somebody will fall in love with it - after all, the pink disc in the middle spins round and creates a bit of a psychedelic pattern. What more could you want from a clock?

The other surprising treasure was this poor thing. With a cracked face and tarnished case, it is a bit of a wreck. But some research (and taking the back off to see the workings) proved it to be a 1930s ladies 'Bijou' carriage clock made by a very good French company, Bayard. It's of no use to me, as I haven't the skills to fix it. But quality always tells and it's already sold, for spares or repair. I hope the purchaser repairs it, if they can. Had it been in good working condition, its value would have been in three figures. But I'm happy to get what I can for it.

So selling the sad little carriage clock has almost paid for what I actually really wanted in the box of old clocks - this pretty mantle clock, which was still ticking when I had a sneaky listen in the viewing.

It too has seen better days, however unlike the Bayard clock, it has no great pedigree. Rather annoyingly, it has since stopped working, so I am going to have to get my tiny screw driver and clock oil, to see if I can work some DIY magic. But for now it looks quite nice with the other treasures on top of the piano that nobody plays. Near another old clock that doesn't work.


Old room, new room

Since the day Andy and I moved into the cottage over four years ago, the front room has been a dumping ground for removal boxes. The boxes have shifted about a bit, more added and some of them even unpacked, though not until much later. Boxes, especially when sealed for some time, can be memory sinks and I avoided them for the first couple of years.

When Joe moved in last year,  we tidied it up a bit, so that he had space for his computer and model collection. But last month we tackled it properly. First we went through the attic and sorted that out. We had a jolly good clear out.


Eight boxes of books and many boxes of odds and ends went to charity shops. My record collection, which I've had since I was sixteen, is sacrosanct and not going anywhere.


Although just to get it out of the way, it now lives under the stairs. All of the boxes were sorted through, and many things went in the attic to be dealt with another time.

Then the other week at the local auction, we picked up this battered old bureau for almost nothing. Nobody wanted it and I paid the ridiculous price of £11 for it. We had no idea where it would go, but we did save it from the skip.

Brian-next-door helped me get it home the next day, in his trailer.

And then it found its way into the newly tidy front room. You can actually see the nice little fireplace now and I have a work bench almost ready for action. (I have several old sewing machines and some old filing drawers to tidy up, but that's another story).

Like the rest of the cottage, the walls are still in the parlous state they were when Andy died, after we'd stripped them down ready for renovation. There's no money to do anything with them at the moment,and the electrics need doing anyway. So they have to stay 'interesting' and 'rustic'. But we don't mind. It's home.

If I'm not around much, it's not necessarily because there is anything wrong. I'm still in the process of rebuilding my life and healing from the carnage of the last few years; working out what happens next, especially with my career. Whether Joe and I are able to stay here is still very much moot point, but at least we finally have an almost respectable front room - even if it is a little scruffy and eccentric by ordinary standards.


Winter needle felt workshop

It's been a quiet January and I've been having some private 'hermit' time. Sometimes its good to take a step back from online life and 'get on' with things. However I was winkled out of my cave last weekend to do a local, private workshop in Shropshire.  Rather nice not have to catch a train somewhere, and to be able to return home on the same day.

It was a very nice group to work with and after four hours, I was very pleased with the results.

As you may have noticed, fan tails were a common theme. I've amended my basic chicken pattern and it seemed to give scope for more 'off-piste' creativity. all the more impressive when only one person out of the group of nine had any experience of needle felting at all, so for the majority, this was their first creation.

It's always a bit of a flurry at the end of a workshop; people are a bit tired after so much concentration and naturally, there is a clamour for photos. But I managed to get a line up of all the lovely chickens in a row.

I only have two workshops lined up for this year, so far. They are both 'baby hare' courses and run all day. The first is on March 2nd, in Shrewsbury, so another local one for me. The second is somewhat further away on the other side of the country, in Norfolk on March 25th. At the moment there are three spaces left on each one. Details and booking links can be found on my workshops page here