Sunday, 19 February 2012

What Do Charles Perrault, Miss Clara And Embroidery Have In Common? A Giveaway!

Dear readers,
On February 15th we celebrated Tristan's birthday for which I baked the grand sum of 45 cakes (some large some small) all inspired by the colours of this work from our artist in residence.  
I simply love the fact my one and only son was born the night after Valentine's Day and because at the grand age of eight he is already a romantic I am gifting him this treasure entitled The Birds' Wedding Day created by Celia Hart of Purple Podded Peas.  (He also got a shiny, new bicycle.) I have also decided to take heed of Monty Don who claims February 15th - his wife Sarah's birthday - to be the first day of Spring whatever the weather.  (For his beautifully penned words on this date please refer to The Ivington Diaries.)
I have drawn inspiration from this book (I was certain I would).
The yarn is Koigu KPPPM
and have drawn lessons from my children on the fabulous art of delaying tactics while I should have been embracing the challenge of casting on My Rosebud Cinnamon Girl instead.
The yarn is Madelinetosh DK in Sugar Plum
I have gently told myself that part of my delaying devices were pardonable as they were working towards my Very Exciting Project which will be unveiled on the first day of Spring and which you will all be awaiting with bated breath, right? 

All these Spring colours have made me hungry for more and so I turn to eighteenth-century Versailles fashion.  I have succumbed finally to acquiring this book which relates the life and work of Rose Bertin, Marie Antoinette's dressmaker. I wonder if somone knows of English publications on this fascinating lady?
I have also been concocting a giveaway for you.

There are so many treasures I would like to gift you but I think it is time to celebrate my French origins. Merci Maman

As a child I was raised on the seventeenth-century writer Charles Perrault's fairy tales and decades later had the immense joy of weaving some of his texts into my thesis writing.  (What a privilege to be able to touch and scour through his original manuscripts!)  Some of you may remember my post last year on the artist Miss Clara's version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen.  Many of you expressed your enthusiasm for her work and for this reason I have decided to offer you Perrault's disconcerting story Peau d'âne - Donkey Skin - illustrated by Miss Clara herself. (Click on the link and you will find a fascinating short clip of the artist in her atelier.  It's in French!)
Her illustrations are exquisite.
Of course not all of you may feel the urge to read this tale in French so I am also offering this recent translation of Charles Perrault's Fairy Tales which I find rather good.
My third gift moves into the realm of embroidery but also remains French in essence.  Are you familiar with the shop Les Brodeuses parisiennes?  It specialises in embroidery and cross stitch designs capturing the beauty of gardens, Paris and the aesthetic pleasures of French patisserie.  I have chosen for you a vintage style linen tea towel with a joyful parade of cakes and 1950's Parisian ladies to cross stitch (please note that the DMC embroidery thread references are provided but not the threads themselves).
So if you would like to win these gifts simply leave a comment choosing either the two Perrault books or the embroidery.  What a delicious dilemma!  Do not feel obliged to become a follower of Millefeuilles unless you want to.  Should you kindly add a beautiful and splendid link to this giveaway on your blog you will get two chances to win.  Just leave me another comment to let me know you have done so.  The Giveaway will close on March 3rd.

Bonne chance à tous!

ps Great news!  Mademoiselle Toadstool arrived in one piece at her destination!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Topiary And Mademoiselle Toadstool

A warm hello to you all!
Thank you so much for greeting Gaspard our new puppy with so much enthusiasm.  He is rather delicious, isn't he?  We are all in adoration of him - very proper for a puppy named after one of the Magi - but we are learning to handle him with a gentle but firm hand.  I cannot help feeling I am now a mother of four.  Is that normal?
Le Bal des Ifs, Charles Nicolas Cochin (1715-1790)
Isn't this painting beautiful? What do you make of those strange green shapes?

Box and yew topiary served as ornamentation in the gardens of Versailles and inspired the costumes worn for royal festivities for many years.   On February 25th 1745 during a particulary icy spell the wedding of the dauphin was celebrated by a masked ball named Le Bal des Ifs (The Yew Tree Ball).  The bridegroom was metamorphosed into a gardener, his wife into a flower seller.  Eight yews (as seen in the painting above and below), clipped to enhance the natural beauty of the trees and tailored to grace the human form, appeared from the frosty gardens, one of which was no less than Louis XV.  This sumptuous ball, which started at 11.30pm, also marked the beginning of a long, passionate affair between Louis XV and the future Marquise de Pompadour.

Topiary shapes in the gardens of Versailles during Louix XIV's reign
I love the art of trimming evergreens into geometric or fantastical shapes. Topiary is stunning with a powdering of frost as seen in the picture below or on a moonlit night when its silhouettes cast beautiful shadows over lawn and paths.
To my mind there is a similarity between the slow trimming and clipping of topiary with shears and knitting.  Both art forms produce three-dimensional structures which require patience and time to create.  A little clip of the shaggy box is synonymous with a small knit stitch.  Many stitches and clips later one may stand back and admire one's handiwork. 

The big freeze and blue skies have continued all week long.  The dazzling sun has cast curious shadows on our snow-blanketed garden.
Here is the shadow's owner.
 Mademoiselle Toadstool.
This little rabbit is evidently also fond of topiary balls.
She owns two skirts and sports an embroidered toadstool on her ankle.
Miss Toadstool is winging her way as I write to the Czech Republic to the magical home of the adorable little Eliska, the daughter of Tracy who is undoubtedly a wonderful woman.  How I wish she lived close-by!  In exchange for this rabbit Tracy is creating one of her amazing dolls for Angélique.  I cannot wait to show her to you all when I receive her!

I am very slightly pleased with this creature as she has been put together after a lot of mulling over with my very own pattern.  I hope she finds favour with Tracy and Eliska who I am certain will look after her splendidly.

Bon voyage Mademoiselle Toadstool.  I wish I could creep into your suitcase and travel with you!


ps  I think it is only fair to let you know that the next post will involve my second giveaway!  

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sweet Juxtaposition

 "What excitement we feel on looking out on to the garden in the snow.  It is one of the only sensations of our childhood that is not blunted by maturity.  Still we want to leave our mark on any smooth expanse of snow, to ruffle it, to jump about on it.  However sedate we may grow, we never emerge from the childish longing to write our names on the whitened lawn."  
Clare Leighton, Four Hedges

My wish has come true this week after a beautifully peaceful birthday weekend for Angélique made all the more special thanks to your wonderfully kind messages. Following a powdering of snow, icy temperatures and brilliant blue skies this week the absolute silence without this morning heralded the bliss of a whitened world. 

Like the vast majority of people we have problems which reside uncomfortably side by side with us day in day out.  Some moments, when spooning tea leaves into the pot for instance, I feel their weight.  Most days however I am determined to stop and smell the roses.  Life is amazing and this week I revel in the juxtaposition of present reality and dreams of spring vegetation.

Pastel colours against winter snow.

What do you think these tiny knits portend?
 They are the beginning of a sweet and exiting project which has generously been sent my way.  More on that at a later date.
 The uneven stitches on these doll-sized jackets bring me joy for they eloquently relate my everyday existence.  Knitting needles are picked up and rows grow in snatched moments between the organised chaos in our collective lives.  They are a reminder that despite it ALL projects are conjured up and completed.  What a comforting message that is.
 The white on black of gnarled vine stumps blanketed today with snow will burst forth fronds and unfurling bright green leaves in March.
Smelling the roses in the snow?  Almost everything is possible!

My week has been filled with administering dozens of homeopathic granules, wiping noses, keeping it together, letting it out.  Yes indeed; our little Angélique, an angel in name and mostly in reality, metamorphoses into a demon when very poorly.  I am thankful she is not ill too often!
 Great comfort has been found in books.  This one has found favour with Angélique and myself. Mother Earth And Her Children: A Quilted Fairy Tale is a remarkable interpretation of Sibylle Von Olfers orignal tale published in 1906: the whole story has been sewn into an enormous quilt by Sieglinde Schoen Smith. Every stitch speaks of the love for her son who tragically passed away in 2002.
 By keeping her hands and mind busy this artist has created great beauty.
And the greatest joy of our week?  The arrival of our very own magus.
This is Gaspard (silent 'd' en français).  Our wise man, our sweet puppy, our Cavalier King Charles.  Black on white: the most beautiful juxtaposition of our week.  Please note dear dog lovers Gaspard is only allowed out for a minute or two every hour in the snow.  We are very protective of him.

I hope you find plenty of pockets of joy this week.

With warmest wishes,


ps I'm just wondering whether anyone has read Beverly Nichols Down The Garden Path
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