“The Sewing Machine” – Natalie Fergie

I don’t often do book reviews so when I do, it’s because I enjoyed a book so much and worry that other people may be missing out on a wonderful read.

“The Sewing Machine” by Natalie Fergie is absolutely outstanding!

sewing machine back

Published in 2017 through a new website: Unbound, it came into print because of a network of patrons who pledged cash in order for this book to see the light of day.  On the front cover, the storyline is summed up with the following “clue”:  One sewing machine.  Two families.  Three secrets.  Four generations.  Millions of stitches.

Here’s the review from the back cover:

There’s going to be a strike!

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory.  For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents.  His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.”

* * * * * * * *

Natalie Fergie has truly created a masterpiece with this, her first novel!  The story goes back and forth between the main protagonists, beginning in 1911, 1954 and 2016 so be patient during the first 3 chapters as we meet Jean, Connie and Fred . . . then read on as Natalie weaves her magic.

Just to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book . . . I bought three copies!  Yes, three.  One for myself and two to gift to sewing friends.  AND, no sooner had I turned the last page with a happy tear in my eye (sentimental me!) than I opened the book at page one and started reading it again!   That’s how outstanding a book it is!

Advertisements

more birthday goodies – yippee!

I’ve really been spoiled rotten for my birthday, you know!  Husband invited our neighbours round for dinner that evening.  Neighbours being Cléo (the little girl who loves sewing lessons), baby sister Mona (who is 4 months old and parents R & P.

The husband invited them because he had decided to cook up one of my favourite dishes (rabbit, in a rich red wine sauce, with lots of yummy veggies) . . . and when you take the time to marinade and slow cook a rabbit, there’s way too much for just 2 people.  Hence, the dinner guests.   He should have kept quiet about my birthday, but he didn’t . . . which means guests came bearing gifts, when it wasn’t at all necessary.  But I’m not going to complain, because they were lovely gifts!

First . . .

from Cléo

A very colourful drawing by Cléo (which is now hanging in my sewing room).  I am, apparently, Cléo’s “favourite sewer” lol.  I’m probably the only sewer she knows, but that’s beside the point!  And this drawing shows the two of us at work in my sewing room, with Cléo sitting in front of Juki.  Now, please note the attention to detail here.  The very bright object under Cléo’s feet is . . . the small suitcase I put under the table with the foot pedal on top, so it’s the correct height for Cléo to work the pedal while sitting down.  It’s actually red, not pink, but we’ll allow for artistic licence and pink being the artist’s favourite colour!    And those bright colours on the left . . . well that’s my stack of plastic drawers where I store all my fabrics! 

Next there was a bag full of goodies.

from Cléo 01

A sock bunny made entirely by Cléo, with no help at all from her Mum!  (I made sure we didn’t mention what the meat was at dinner time, as I’m not sure she would have eaten it if she’d known).  A retractable tape measure, in the shape of a PINK snail, a very interesting black object which looks like a stick of lipstick, but isn’t.

from Cleo 02

It’s a very nifty needle holder!!!  Lid pulls off, the bottom twists round and hey presto . . . there’s a tiny pincushion inside complete with half a dozen needles!  And . . . a gift voucher to go shopping on amazon!

Well, I can tell you . . . it didn’t take me long to have a shopping spree lol.  There were a few books I had been looking at, so “click, click” and here’s what I bought.

books 

“Daughters of the Dragon” by William Andrews because Lynn had done a really good write-up of that, and it sounded like something I would enjoy (I’ll let you know).  And “Love to Sew – Teddy Bears” by Monika Schleich.

This second one because, yes, I’m very tempted to head off in another sewing direction, and try my hand at making a few teddy bears.  This book contains 16 different models, with full sized patterns for all, and very details instructions with lots of photos to explain step-by-step.  Here are a couple of the designs in the book.

books 01

books 02

books 03

Sooooooo cute!  Not sure when I’ll actually attempt teddy bear making, but hopefully I’ll manage to squeeze one into my busy schedule this year.

butterfly happy dancing

butterfly

I’m having a little happy dance, with the last backstitch on a lovely blue butterfly.  This is a design by Dimensions.  Stitched exactly as the model suggests, with “Welcome” in the corner.  I’ve already pulled out some (possible) fabric for the proper finish.  Planning on making this into a small wall-hanging for my sister’s Christmas pressie.  So that will be added to my Christmas sewing pile but I will give myself a few days to think about how to do it.

The other day, I was all excited because the postman brought a parcel, containing a book I’d had on pre-order.

IMGP4054

It’s packed full of the most colourful monsters, all more friendly than scarey but I’m going to have to be very strict with myself!  No new crochet projects until I’ve finished the current WIPs (which have been waiting for months!).  But that didn’t stop me from nipping into our local discount store for a few (more like 12) colourful balls of yarn.

IMGP4055

Hihi, I actually bought 3 x 50g of each colour because several of the monsters in the book look quite big.  I already have white & black in the same brand, so as soon as I finish my current crochet projects, I’ll be dithering about what monster to make first, and in what colour.

90 years on . . .

Please bear with me a few minutes, while I give some background explanation about this post, before actually getting to the point.

Last month, as regular readers will know, we added two new laying hens to the coop

hens new 25 10 01

and I was searching for names for the gals, preferably beginning with the letter M or names that could become a Miss (something).  I was looking for “old” names since I think hens look like quaint little old ladies with frilly petticoats.  As you also know, these two gals were named Mauricette and Miss Plumpton but that was after coming up with a long list of possible names.  The white Sussex became Miss Plumpton because (after googling) I learned there is a small village in East Sussex called Plumpton . . . so that seemed so appropriate for a lovely plump Sussex hen.  Mauricette however was almost named Millicent (after the flapper girl Millie Dillmount from the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie”).  Husband preferred Mauricette though which has more of a French ring to it – and therefore more appropriate for a French Blue.

Anyway . . . while discussing possible hen names with Avis (yep poor Avis got dragged into the naming process) . . . Avis suggested Milly Molly Mandy lol.  And one thing leading to another . . . I was soon on amazon (more out of curiosity than anything else) to see if the MMM books were still in print.  And what was my surprise to see that they are!  90 years after the publication of the first Milly Molly Mandy adventures (in 1928) by Joyce Lankester Brisley, Milly Molly Mandy is still alive and well, and in Puffin paperbacks!

You know what’s coming next, don’t you?

IMGP4056

Of course!  How could I resist?  I bought myself a copy of The Adventures of Milly Molly Mandy which is a reprint of FOUR of the MMM collections.  Including: Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories, More of Milly-Molly-Mandy, Further Doings of Milly-Molly-Mandy and Milly-Molly-Mandy Again.  A total of 45 different stories.

This has been my bed-time reading for the last week.  Snuggled up under my quilt, with a mug of hot chocolate and a cat, I’ve been re-living the adventures of MMM and thoroughly enjoying myself.  Stories will probably annoy some people as they have lost nothing of their innocence and events so obviously take place in an era when children were allowed to play outside unsupervised, go exploring, use their imagination, show initiative and just enjoy being children.   It was in a day & age before any of the technologies that young children take for granted today. In a day and age where Father grew vegetables: Mother cooked and washed; Grandpa sold the vegetables at market; Grandma knitted; Uncle kept cows and chickens; and Aunty sewed and did the sweeping and dusting.  A situation which would shock many people today, with the sexist stereotypes, but that’s just how things were 90 years ago with all family members pitching in and doing what they knew how.

Possibly, on the surface, much too out-dated for today’s youngsters to be able to relate to the goings on in the stories, but for me (a 1964 baby) the stories brought back so many memories since these books were amongst those I grew up on.  MMM isn’t just a little girl in a pink & white striped frock who does girly things.  She is always out and about with Little-friend Susan or Billy Blunt, climbing trees, fishing, learning to ride a bike, camping out,  discovering the joys of letter-writing, gardening, rescuing baby hedgehogs.

What’s also so lovely (in my opinion) is that Puffin haven’t tried to modernise the stories in any way.  They have kept the original black & white artwork (which I think is also by Joyce Lankester Brisley) . . . a few examples here

IMGP4057

IMGP4058

IMGP4059

My very favourite story in this collection is: “Milly-Molly-Mandy Spends a Penny”.  If there’s one story that sums up the values my parents passed on to me, and I hope I passed on to my children, it’s this one!

In a nutshell: MMM find a penny (which in 1928 must have been worth quite a bit).  She asks all family members (Father, Mother,  Grandpa, Grandma, Uncle, Aunty) for suggestions as to what to do with her new fortune.  Grandpa says: put it in the bank.  Grandma says: buy a skein of wool and learn to knit.  Father says:  buy some seeds and grow mustard & cress.  Mother says: buy a patty-pan and make a cake.  Uncle says: save until you have 3 pennies and buy a baby duckling.  Aunty says: get some sweets.

Milly-Molly-Mandy thinks long and hard . . . and by spending her penny very wisely, she is, in fact, able to make that one penny go a very very long way, enabling her to grow mustard & cress; learn to knit; bake a cake; buy some sweets; save a penny, and finally buy a baby duckling! 

lead us not into temptation (yeah, right!)

The other day I showed you a photo of my growing collection of crochet books.  More specifically, my growing collection of amigurumi pattern books. With promises of a peek inside and eventual drooling.

I’ve already shown you several of the patterns from book number one.

Zoomi 01

Book which I bought before I could even crochet, and which I have already followed several times, making up

amigurumi roary 01

“Roary the tiger” in May.

ami lapin01

“Wasabi the rabbit”.  And book which I am currently using for 2 more projects (no progress made recently) of “Johnny the monkey” and “Leila the pony”.

IMGP3298

IMGP3299

Once I finish them, there’s still another pattern in this book which sorely tempts me.  And that’s “Sartù the lemur”, but I’m a bit apprehensive about crocheting his hands and feet.  He has fingers and toes!!!!

IMGP3406

In book 2

IMGP3390

IMGP3391

The patterns I am most likely to want to make are “Otto the turtle”, from the cover and “Vladimir the fox”.  Don’t you just love those feet?

IMGP3396

In book 3, the patterns which call to me the loudest are

IMGP3392

IMGP3393

“Rusty the red panda”

IMGP3398

and “Nanook the husky”.

IMGP3399

And, finally,  in book 6.  Another red panda “Rudy the red panda”.

IMGP3394

IMGP3395

“Oswald the owl”.

IMGP3402

“Bo the panda”.

IMGP3403

And last, but by no means least, “Kimi the kitten”.

IMGP3400

a dog can never have too many toys!

You will remember the success of this

it floats 02

The floatable toy I made for Gibbs, using an empty dairy cream bottle and crocheting in the round with some rather gawdy-coloured yarn.  You’ve already seen photos of the incredible floating toy in action, thus

it floats 03

Well I decided it would be a good idea to make a few more, in case of loss or damage.  For the moment it’s holding up very well.  Okay, it’s now a bit flattened, but Gibbs’ teeth haven’t made holes in the plastic yet, nor has he ripped the crochet cover to pieces.  He’s a good boy – he knows it’s a “fetch” toy, not to be confused with a “chew” toy. 

Still, I crocheted up two more, just so we have a couple of back-up toys in the future.  And here they are, alongside the flattened first toy (on the right).  I’ve kept the idea of long chains which serve two purposes: 1) to knot together and therefore close the cover, which can be removed if the bottle is ever pierced.  2) when holding the toy by the chains, it’s easier to fling it quite far out into the lake. 

jouets flottants x 3

These were made to fit around 340ml drinkable yoghurt bottles, which have something of a waist-line.  They might be a better shape for Gibbs.  The new ones look very bright compared to the first one.  This isn’t because yarn colour has faded, but rather because the colour of the second ball had less yellow than the first one (despite being the same dye number).  Gibbs won’t care.  He sat beside me while I was making them, knowing full well I was making something for him. 

And, still on the subject of crochet . . . a photo to show my growing collection of crochet books.

IMGP3389

There are a total of six in the series.  I started out buying the first (with the monkey) and pre-ordered number 6 which came out in May this year.    Then in June and July, I treated myself to numbers 2 and 3.  Buying one book a month is fairly reasonable, and by this autumn I will have the complete set to drool over. 

I’ll do another post in a few days time to show you a couple of the inside pages, perhaps to make you drool too. 

“Trust your eyes”–Linwood Barclay

trust your eyes

Quick resumé

Thomas Kilbride, agoraphobic and schizophrenic, hasn’t left his house in 15 years.  Yet, he travels the world, on his computer ,using the software Whirl360, memorising the details in every street in every city as he goes. 

One day, while on a virtual visit in Manhatten, Thomas sees what looks to be a woman’s face in a window . . . being smothered to death with a plastic bag.  Is there still time to save her?  Should he contact the police?  Who will believe him?

Only one person can help him.  His brother, Ray, who had chosen, in the past, to put some distance between himself and Thomas’ insanity.  However, this time, Ray is inclined to believe his brother.   What if Thomas really did witness a murder, and there’s a killer on the loose?

* * * * *

This is the first Linwood Barclay novel I’ve read, and I can tell you, there will be more on my reading list in future!  This suspense novel starts out, a little like the Hitchcock film “Rear Window”, with Thomas convinced he has witnessed a crime.  The problem being, that the crime (if that’s what it was) took place miles away, and probably even weeks or months before.

Linwood Barclay knows how to tell a good story and keep up the suspense.  I thoroughly enjoyed this  and had quite a few surprises along the way.  Right up until the last page, if fact!