Sunday, 28 August 2011

Strawberries and Cream and My First Giveaway!

Word is out; autumn is on its way. Here in Touraine a chill in the morning air foretells the shift between seasons as summer yields gracefully to autumn.  The angle of the sun is lower now too, making the light less intense and enhancing pure reds and their complementary greens.  When ambling through the vineyards this weekend we observed rich clusters of glossy berries in the hedgerows like rows of jars of jam shining like jewels on kitchen shelves.

Today is wash day.

And while the leaves of our cherry tree undress as the green pigment chlorophyll very slowly  breaks down I find myself embracing the promise of hedgerow crimson fruits and lazily ripening green grapes while feeling nostalgic for summer strawberries.  It's normal; we are on the cusp of two seasons cheering on the hedonistic pleasures of autumn and mourning those long, idle summer days of our childhood innocence.

This week I turned to my childhood memories and drew inspiration from Kate Greenaway.  In a letter she wrote to her dear friend John Ruskin in May 27 1897 her love of gardens shines through:

"I often think [...] that a little door leads out of the garden wall into a real old flowering garden, full of deep shades and deep colours.  Did you always plan out delightful places just close and unexpected, when you were very young?  I did.  My bedroom window used to look out over red roofs and chimney-pots, and I made steps up to a lovely garden up there with nasturtiums growing and brilliant flowers so near to the sky.  There were some old houses joined to ours at the side, and I made a secret door into long lines of old rooms, all so delightful, leading into an old garden.  I imagined it so often that I knew its look so well; it got to be very real.  And now I'd like somehow to express all this in painting, especially my love of old gardens with that richness of colour and depth of shade."

Extract from M. H. Spielman and G. S. Layard, The Life and Work of Kate Greenaway (Bracken Books, 1986).

My Strawberries and Cream are a dress and pantalettes the pattern for which I found in dear Valerie Janitch's The Kate Greenaway Doll Book.  I think most of you will heartily agree the garish strawberry fabric, which appeared in the lining of my Potager Bag does not exactly recall the delicate Regency style garments Greenaway used to paint and draw but it celebrates how I feel about this time of year.  For a touch of authenticiy a very dear friend of mine, who collects nineteenth-century fabrics, gave me an antique piece of bed linen for the pantalettes.  The material is so thick that I almost broke two needles whilst sewing it last night!

If you would like to discover more about the connection between Jane Austen and Kate Greenaway I discovered this informative post on Jane Austen's World.

Let us talk about my GIVEAWAY!

A few days ago I was reading this post written by dear Annie in which she writes about a read along of Jane Austen's novels she has signed up for here .  I suddenly jumped up, rushed to my book shelves and found a spanking new book:

Why is this book in the cherry tree?

This book is fabulous!

Have you seen it before?  It was first printed in 2009 and offers a stroll through the gardens that Austen would have known and visited, from Bath and London to the houses of friends and family in Hampshire, Warwickshire, and Kent, yes KENT - did you hear me, Pomona ? ;-)

It is full of lush photographs and period drawings, social history and biographical details together with delicious excerpts from Austen's novels.  The bibliography is rich with information for Austen fans.

As Fanny Price, the heroine of Mansfield Park, observes, 'To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.'

I am offering this book - and I love the recipes for Mrs Norris's Dried Roses - as part of my giveaway.

But that is not all!

To raise a cheery glass to the onset of not-too-distant AUTUMN I am offering a knitting pattern of your choice from the wonderful Alana Dakos's Never Not Knitting Autumn Collection.

To Enter My Giveaway:

1.   You need to be a follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post.  Feel free to start following me now :-)

2.  If you blog about this giveaway on your own blog please let me know and I will enter you twice for the giveaway.

3.  This is, of course, an INTERNATIONAL giveaway!

4.  You will need to visit the Never Not Knitting pattern store and chose which Autumnal pattern you would like to win.  Come back here and tell me in your comment which one you would fancy.

5. This giveaway will finish on Sunday September 11th at 11pm.

Good luck and have a magical week.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A Gift in the Potager and Rumours of a Giveaway!

Thank you so very much for your kindhearted comments on my last post. Some of you had me chortling.

  The very good news is that there is hope for Kent dwellers as there now seems to be a new spin on this underrated county.  It would appear that my photographs of The Large Blue Door and the Large Stone Wall contributed to depicting a fairytale side of Kent.  However I feel it is only right and proper to set you right for - shock horror - these pictures were unintentionally deceptive!  They were, in actual fact, taken in my village here in France on my return from England.  The splendid door is adjacent to our friendly butcher and the stone wall constitutes part of the local parish church.

I am so glad I have cleared that misunderstanding up.

Let us move on.

This hot and humid morning my husband and I took Little Miss A down the steep hill, past the church, which is locked and peaceful in August as our very pleasing-on-the-eye priest is on leave, and for a walk through the allotments.

Children have such good eyes and sometimes spot details we adults would sadly walk past unwittingly. 

Angélique was, for instance, drawn to the raindrops on these splendid greens. We might not have seen those had she not pointed them out.  Thank you my dear.
This, however, we all spotted in the neighbouring cabbages!
There is nothing wrong with our eyesight, then ;-)
The strangest thing about this bag is that wherever we wandered it just kept popping up.

Amongst the roses
Infront of the tomatoes.
Even behind the strawberries.

Like it or not it is certainly a most suitable bag for a potager, don't you think?

And as we peered down and looked at the childlike scene depicted on it...
Angélique squealed excitedly and indicated the little girl in the top righthand corner who seemed to be moving and gesticulating towards the aforementioned greens.
'Have you seen these?', she seemed to be saying.

Oh, my goodness...

And, oh, WOW!

The Madelinetosh fairy had delivered.

DK in
 Celadon (my favourite of all colours)
Mansfield Garden Party

And because I feel blessed beyond words by these gifts I shall be organising a giveaway this week.

Please pop back soon. 

For those who do not believe in fairy tales I should point out that the cross stitch design is by Perrette Samouïloff and the bag is my own pattern. I hope it will be useful for carrying around my next knitting/embroidery project.

Have a fabulous week.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Shades of blue

It is good to be back.

My mother's garden in Kent is a beautiful place to be.  It is overflowing with flowers both vibrant in colour and splendid in form.  When walking alongside the raised flowerbeds you can almost hear the blooms jostling for attention; 'come look at me', they each chime!

In amongst this undiluted fun of colour and shape I was seeking out during my stay a flower to match this shade of Duck Egg Blue:

It was not an easy task to find the right blue.  I thought I had struck gold when I found a discreet forget-me-not nestled beside a mass of lady's mantle under my parent's old pear tree. I travelled further afield in the same county to my godmother's garden where I found blue hydrangeas heavy as cannonballs.

Neither was quite the right hue.

However it does not really matter, I chide myself, for until I reach perfection in my knitting (although I would be happy enough with almost perfect) I will not require the perfect shade of blue.

And because practice makes perfect I have used the same Rose Cardigan pattern as for Cardigan Angelica.

Here is:



or perhaps

A simple knit with an overly fancy name

You choose ;-) 

While knitting this cardigan during my holidays my thoughts often turned to Anita; another lover of blue. Castles Crowns and Cottages is visual poetry coupled with thought provoking messages. Dear Anita because your work is a symphony of blues - and other colours too - I dedicate my humble knit to you.

Speaking of other colours...

I fell in love this week.  Smack, bang, wallop. 

I was blissfully sauntering through the different colours offered by Madelinetosh yarns - rather like some would take a trip along the Venetian canals - as I NEEDED a dk yarn for a future project which will remain secret for the time being.
As my eye roamed from Boxwood to Celadon past Hollyhock and Golden Hickory I saw

Mansfield Garden Party
How fabulous!  I rushed to my battered copy of The Collected Stories of Katheirne Mansfield and read The Garden Party.  To get an idea of the colours of the Mansfield Garden Party yarn here is the introductory paragraph to the story:

And after all the weather was ideal.  They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it.  Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud.  Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer.  The gardener had been up since dawn, moving the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine.  As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden-parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing.  Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.

If you are not familiar with this wonderful short story you will find it in this edition.  For those who wish to see if their mind's eye has conjured up a good picture of the yarn in question you may either wait until mine wings its way over from The States or take a peek at this photo.

While I mostly agree with Jane Brocket's opinion on similar yarns here I find Mansfield Garden Party yarn totally seductive.  What can I say?  I am a fool for literary names and greedy for colour.
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