buttons galore

Like any respectable crafter/sewist, I have a button box.  Well I actually have several because I inherited my MIL’s button box, which also contained buttons from her mother’s sewing days . . . so I have several generations of buttons in several boxes. 

For example

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A few black glass buttons, and quite a few clear glass buttons in different shapes.

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There are also toggles, pretty plastic buttons, some in mother-of-pearl . . . some metal buttons from FIL’s merchant navy uniform, a plastic button with a squirrel, a swan, and even  small metal button with a wild boar’s head.

Anyway . . . I had a fun time sorting through some of these more special buttons a while back, and that spurred me on to buy myself a book.

“Old Buttons” by Sylvia Llewelyn.

button book

It’s a very small format, but  packed full of lots of lovely, life-sized photos of vintage/antique buttons.

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Also contains lots of interesting snippets of information regarding the history of buttons and the button industry.

After flicking through that, I then went on the internet, admiring vintage/original buttons and ended up buying a few (okay, a lot!) . . . since I already seem to have something of a collection going on.

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This last set will remain on their original card, but I’m seriously considering mounting some of my very special buttons onto card, and framing, to hang in my sewing room. 

I wonder will this inspire you to have a rummage through your button box, and play with some of the treasures you find?

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curling up with a good book #2

books 02

I think it was Cathy who mentioned a Sarah Waters’ novel a few months ago in one of her Yarn A-long posts.  I had never heard of Sarah Waters, so decided to give her writing a try.

The titles that grabbed my interest were the above.  And the one I read first was:

“THE PAYING GUESTS” – Sarah Waters (2014)

(summary from back cover)

It is 1922, and in a hushed south London villa life is about to be transformed, as genteel widow Mrs Wray and her discontented daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.  Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class”, bring with them gramophone music, colour, fun – and dangerous desires.  The most ordinary of lives, it seems, can explode into passion and drama . . . A love story that is also a crime story, this is vintage Sarah Waters.

Now, I really didn’t know what to expect when I turned the first page.   I was therefore  probably expecting something rather prim & proper, what with the story being set in the 1920s and one of the main characters appearing, at a first glance, to be a rather dried up spinster.  All I can say is: first impressions are deceiving lol.  Sarah Waters paints a vivid picture of London, barely recovered from WWI, still grieving the deaths of sons and fathers . . . the “what will the neighbours think?” society where appearances matter . . . subtly introducing a passionate love affair, violent death, and the most rivetting criminal investigation.  I just couldn’t put this book down.  Without giving anything away . . . I was rooting for Frances all the way, biting my finger nails with worry, grateful that police forensics in the 1920s weren’t what they are today and all the while convinced that it could only end in tears.

Definitely a 5 star read.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“THE NIGHT WATCH” – Sarah Waters (2006)

summary from back cover)

Tender and tragic, set against the turbulent backdrop of wartime Britain, “The Night Watch” is the extraordinary story of four Londoners: Kay, who wanders the streets in mannish clothes, restless and searching . . . Helen, who harbours a troubling secret . . . Viv, glamour girl, recklessly loyal to her soldier lover . . . and Duncan, an apparent innocent, struggling with demons of his own.  Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked-out streets, illicit liaisons and sexual adventure, to end with the beginning in 1941, this is an astonishing novel.

I picked up this Sarah Waters novel because I rather liked the idea of the novel working in reverse chronological order, and the fact it was set during wartime London.  However, I don’t think the idea to begin in 1947 and move back in time to 1941 really worked.   I found it quite a good read.  Could tell that Sarah Waters had done lots of research to get things historically correct, and she again makes use of the historical setting to draw our attention to certain things (eg abortion, suicide and homosexuality) which were illegal at the time.  Characters were all likeable but  not enough to really grab me  Only 3 stars for this.  It was a good bed-time read, but  really wasn’t the same standard as “The Paying Guests”.

curling up with a good book

I am avoiding making any “to do” lists for 2019 in the crafting area.  I’ll just be stitching, crocheting, sewing, knitting etc as the fancy takes me.  However I have decided to share some book titles with you on a more regular basis this year (hoping to make it the 1st Friday of each month).  Quite a few of the blogs I follow include book reviews and I always find it helpful, to discover a new author (not necessarily “new” but unknown to me) or title, and those reviews do encourage me to keep my eyes open at the library or, sometimes to go on-line and treat myself to a new novel.  I used to be an avid reader, but these days reading time is strictly reserved for bed-time reading (or hospital waiting rooms).  Anyway . . .  I want to share two recent reads with you for January.  These two, picked up for 1€ apiece at a local car boot sale.  I read French translations (which explains book titles in photo) but I’ve given the original titles below.

books 01

“I LET YOU GO” – Clare Mackintosh (2014)

(summary from back cover)

In a split-second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare.  Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows, to start afresh.  Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.  Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future.  But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

This book had mixed reviews but I found it totally gripping.  I don’t want to give too much away, but we follow Jenna in her escape from a past life and her attempts to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.   The author doesn’t give away much in the first part, and leaves the reader guessing what happened in Jenna’s past life, trying to piece the puzzle together with what information Jenna shares.  The first part of the novel is written in the first person narrative, from Jenna’s viewpoint.  Where the novel really has you hooked, is in the second part when the author – still in first person narrative – switches to a different character and we find ourselves in the head of the man Jenna ran away from.  Lots of twists and turns.  A very satisfying end . . . and I’ll admit to having gone back and read the first few chapter again (on finishing) because I really didn’t see it coming.

If I’m going to start giving books stars, I’ll give this one 5 stars (out of 5).  It had all the ingredients I look for in an excellent read.  Characters I could become involved with; a police investigation running all the way through; well written narrative & dialogues and beautifully described scenery . . . plus lots of suspense.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The second novel:

“CHAOS” – Patricia Cornwell (2016)

Now, I’m not even going to bother giving you a summary of this one.  All I can say is: don’t bother!

Such a disappointment!  I read all of Patricia Cornwell’s first Kay Scarpetta novels, and they were excellent.  I picked this one up (24th in the Scarpetta series)  expecting it to be another great crime novel, full of forensic science and autopsies . . . and quite frankly, it was a waste of 1€.  No idea what Patricia Cornwell was playing at with this novel.  Nothing happens.  For over 500 pages.   I did read it from start to finish although I’m darned if I know why I wasted my time.  So bad, I won’t even give it a star.

“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!

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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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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!