Monday, 30 April 2012

…drought? What drought?

made from antique quilting, part of a UK map, a 1940s recipe for Empire Nut bread, victorian scrap, hand embroidery, feed sack
This is what I've been working on recently. It's just the right size for a UK Oyster card (which allows cashless travel - you top it up with money at the underground station). Or you could use it for an ID card. I made it from part of an old map from the 30s, a recipe I found tucked into a WW11 book (for Empire Nut Bread), a couple of Victorian scraps, some ancient feedsack from a vintage quilt, a lot of pretty hand embroidery and I lined it with part of a Victorian quilt. When Number One Child saw it, she said, 'That's lovely, can I have one?' So now I have to make myself another one. It was fun to make, and it's lovely that she liked it, so I'm happy!

The cough has come back. On Sunday there was no tra-la laaing up and down the stairs, and no running anywhere, and not too much laughing, and then virtually no sleeping Sunday night, and yesterday couldn't face an hour today in the playground shouting and getting wet, and was worried my chest infection had returned, so I took my cough to the docs. Surprisingly the doctor said, no, she couldn't hear the death-rattle this time. So I feel stoopid now, and I'll have to have a 'back to work' interview with my line manager today, which'll be embarrassing - but I'll wave my prescription for antibiotics at him and hope he doesn't sense my humiliation. At least the rain has let up…

…oops, spoke too soon!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Ahem, Ahem

Bit of a cough today. The rain continues to pour, the telly continues to be quite dreadful, and I continue to watch old films on YouTube (Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner today, in The Great Sinner, 1949), and to sew on my wonderful machine. These are what I made today. They are in my Etsy shop now.

Today I built an ark

I didn't really build an ark. But I probably should have. It's been raining all day. Pelting down on the loft window, which slants with the roof and makes a loud splish splash. Lovely.

Instead of woodwork I have been indulging my sweet little cold by watching telly on my computer. First I watched Dirk Bogard in A Tale of Two Cities - what a very handsome and charismatic man. I wonder if he was likeable, his life was a bit complicated. Then I watched Spencer Tracy, as I said in my last post. Now I'm watching a chick flick, not something that often happens in our house - Jennifer Anniston is caught in a kind of 1930s scenario where she and a man have to pretend to be engaged etc etc. J.A. is not beautiful to me. But she has real charisma and nice legs. Also the Hair, of course.

And as I have watched I've sewn. A bit of darning to the lovely quilt I bought. And some new brooches. One of them is above. I love this little guy, with his cute stockings, his hat, his waistcoat and his jaunty hip. He's in my Etsy shop now.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Venerable Miss F

Yesterday I saw the lovely T, one of our former pupils. She has a statement for autism. She's quite high on the spectrum, but despite some students being wary of her rather peculiar behaviour, she was popular at school for her cheery nature, her charm and her very sweet friendliness. She has gone on to study at a local college but she still comes back to see us by arrangement, as she misses her old school and many of her teachers.

She arrived during the pouring rain, and I took her upstairs to the SEN department and draped her sodden coat and bag on a chair next to the heater to dry out. As we chatted, she was able to remember my birthday, the birthday, name and age of my daughter, who she has never met, and the names and birthdays of many staff, some of whom have been gone for a couple of years. She could also relate verbatim parts of a science class she had attended three years ago, describing text-book style what a hypothesis is, and the experiments her class had done to illustrate this.

T was also telling me about Miss F, her favourite science teacher. She described her hair style, her lessons, how Miss F had told T about burning the ironing (this is one of T's favourite stories and she loves to retell it) and some other sweet and funny incidents told to T by Miss F. I realised how very fond of her science teacher T was.

Later I described T's visit to one of our long-standing teaching assistants, and said I was sorry not to have met Miss F. 'She doesn't exist,' I was told. 'But all those details…the ironing incident, the rainy day when Miss F was expecting her first child, the discussion on hypotheses…?' 'No, all made up!' T has constructed Miss F, her funny and charming stories, her son, her birthday and even her lessons all from real experiences and has brought them together in the perfect teacher. Who says she's not real? She is to T.

I got soaked in the playground five days in a row this week. So now I have yet another cold, and instead of vising my friend, watching his latest show and taking photos for his new publicity flyer, I am sitting comfy-cosy at my desk, sniffing, snuffling and sewing while I watch 'The Old Man and the Sea' with Spencer Tracy on YouTube. Even those rain-clouds have a silver lining if you look for it.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Sulks

What do you do when an ASD student gets the teenage sulks? How do you know they are sulking? Depending on patterns of behaviour you might imagine they are sulking at you when actually they are sulking about something that happened at home last weekend. Or sulking about something that happened at school three years ago. Which is not to say all ASD students sulk. But one of mine does, and this behaviour is very difficult to penetrate. Yesterday was a sulky day. It was the third day in a row he grunted at me, instead of using words. I knew we were in trouble. How to 'break the spell'? I asked questions - how's everything at home? how have your lessons been today?, is there a problem?, all resulting in a growl. Finally, I reminded him that 'You are the Captain, I am the…?'. 'Cabin boy?' he answered, in his normal voice. It's something I used to say to him 2 years ago when we started working together. I was touched that he had remembered the response. He was fine after that - I think it perhaps gave him back a sense of being in control of his life - so much of what he has to do at school is irksome to him, and annoying, and ASD students often find it very difficult to accept circumstances they are not comfortable with.

I hand-washed my beautiful quilt last night, and it's hanging on the pulley above the bath to dry. It'll need a bit of darning and maybe a replacement here and there. Meanwhile, this is a picture of a beautiful cotton shirt I bought from eBay. It's French, and from the 40s. The collar, cuffs and pocket trims are a lovely duck-egg blue, and it has been extremely well-made with neat little darts at the waist to shape it, and beautiful button-holes (but no buttons). I had bought it intending to wear it as a light summer jacket over a dress, but when it came I found it was just tiny - child-sized. I considered cutting it up for my sewing projects, but it's so lovely, I think I'll hang on to it and use it to display my brooches. What do you think? Should I be ruthless?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

All the way from the Ewe Ess Aaai

I saw a lovely quilt on Ebay. She was an American seller, and she had some lovely quilts for sale. I ummed and aah'ed - it wasn't expensive, but the shipping to UK… well, in the end I was actually at work when the auction closed, and it didn't sell. So I contacted her to ask about it, and she said that yes, in fact it had sold. Never mind. Then she got back in touch to say that there was another quilt very similar made by the same quilter, and was I interested? Yes! She would post it BIN on Ebay when I was sure to be around and would hope I won it. I waited. She posted. I bid…and won! It arrived yesterday at school - I knew I would be out if it was posted to my house. I was so excited, and luckily I had a lesson free yesterday so I took the box downstairs to our brailling room to open it. Inside, there was a lovely note from the seller, and a really wonderful quilt. It has a lot of feed-sack panels, very faded, soft colours, and a soft green backing, with a scalloped edge. A few of the quilt pieces have worn through to the batting, which makes it fragile and beautiful. I love it, and even though I bought it to cut up and use to make things, I hesitated. Thankfully, when Number One Child saw it, she asked me to Please Not cut it up, so it has had a reprieve, while I think about whether I can afford to invest in another cutter for sewing purposes only!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

C'mon, boys, we'll head 'em off at the pass!

So I did it, and it's clean…(ish). Everywhere except Number One Child's bedroom, which is stereotypical in its messiness, and which has a suspiciously sweet sticky scent on opening the door, (which I do twice a day - once to wake her up for school, and again to Wake Her UP FOR SCHOOL ten minutes later). And here - the window sill in the lavatory. I don't like to disturb the boys. The Mohicans (Blackfeet? Sioux?) look sagely on as the cowboys fight it out over some cattle. They are very small cows - in fact, the (sheep)dog is as big as they are. I have pointed out to the lads that perhaps they aren't worth it, and maybe we should all go and have a nice cup of tea, especially as a couple of them no longer have pistols, or, in fact, hands. But two in particular seem insistent - the leaning cowboy at the back, on the left is from the 70s and may even be Charles Coburn (Champion the Wonder Horse is his mate), and the crawling cowboy centre stage is 30s (I think) and a bit of a drama queen. I left them to it - I have a potato salad to put together, which is as complicated as my cooking really ever gets. The cows don't seem very concerned.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

To Do

This is my today's to do list.

1. Tidy up house
2. pack all car boots sale items so I can clean dining room
3. Clean house
4. Do boring internet  shopping
5. Decide what food to serve to family tomorrow and buy it
6. Mow lawn and tackle jungle-out-there
7. 1 hour's braille practise

So here I am at the computer on the internet catching up on all my favourite blogs. I'm wondering how to avoid doing all the above in order to do what soothes me and gives me joy - making something lovely. The thing is, it was Number One Child's birthday last week and she did what a fourteen year old girl would want to do - hang out with her friends. So it's family celebrations tomorrow, and there's quite a few of them. They are pretty wonderful people, and I can't wait to see them, but I have a Saturday morning hangover, and my sewing machine and I haven't seen each other since I went back to work after Easter. Plus I am a terrible hostess…I hate cooking with a passion, my house is never very clean, I get tipsy too quickly and I'm quite long-sighted so I make mistakes (famously served the brandy butter instead of the pate for Christmas starters). My Good Self is saying, 'Come on Mrs, get yerself up and on, let's get this party sorted!' My Bad Self, on the other hand, is saying, 'Plenty of time for all that housework Later! Let's not turn into a drudge! We've worked hard all week, c'mon! Let's sit around for a while and make something!'
So I'll keep you posted…

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mad scientists

It's true - the science department are full of crazy people. Yesterday on our way upstairs my v.i. student O, and I, met one of the science teachers who was coming down. On seeing O, he stretched both arms the width of the stairwell, and moved from side to side jokingly blocking her way. O sometimes has some vision when the conditions are right, and she could see a shape in front of her but she of course didn't know who he was because her vision impairment is severe. Then he put his face right up to hers, and loudly said 'Boo!' He thought it was funny but it wasn't, and I said so. Just before O started at our school, the staff had some training on visual impairment, including being led around school wearing a blindfold, and doing a bit of role play. Yesterday's scenario might have been included under the heading 'What Not To Do'. Clearly some of us need something more in the way of training.

On a positive note, I have finally had confirmation that my braille course has been signed off by the powers that be, just 2 days before the deadline for application. (as purse strings are drawn ever-tighter formal training for teaching assistants is becoming rare). So I will be getting formal tutoring and guidance, rather than just teaching myself (which is what I have had to do - possible, but very difficult). An hour a day for three months, with a test to follow, during which only three mistakes are allowed. I'm scared but excited.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


My vision-impaired pupil has a birthday today.

She is very 'zipped up'. Her face shows no emotion most of the time, and it's hard to get her to 'let go'. This is partly a result of her impairment, as she hasn't had the visual clues a young child needs to learn how to express herself physically. And partly as a result of a difficult family background. It can make working with her quite challenging (is she engaged, interested, comfortable, 'present'?). The trick is to get her to laugh - tell her a joke, take the mickey out of a school situation, say something she's not expecting to hear. Then she opens up like a flower.

I've made her a lavender bird from an antique damask table napkin. The other side is lovely soft vintage feed-sack quilting. He has a red wing and some hand-embroidery. My student will be able to feel the shape, and to enjoy the scent of lavender. The embroidery will add texture, and it will be interesting to find out whether the feed-sack side feels different to her from the damask side.

In science today a student (year 7) asked a question about sleep. Is the reason we sleep at night because the sun has gone and so we don't get any energy from it to keep us awake. "No,' said the teacher. 'When it's dark it's time for you to rest, and time for the sun to rest too!' What? From a science teacher? He did go on to explain about the solar system … but I'm afraid the damage was done by then. Teachers must be  be so careful what they say!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

seven deadly sins

Overheard in the park, two middle aged men walking their dogs…
Man 1: Lust is the one I worry about least…at least if two people with lust meet up they can do something about it.
Man 2 (nodding agreement): Mmmm. (Looks into the middle distance…)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

My Little Pony

I realise that if I list my products on Etsy, I can't wear 'em! So I'm not listing this one. I love this little pony, and I'll make another to list in my Etsy shop.

Fourteen Years

The Bad Stuff
Terrible pain
Shouting at Himself
Vomiting all over myself
A bit of seepage from the wound
The nurse telling Himself he had to go
The Good Stuff
The other nurse telling Himself where he could hide, so he could stay
The morphine (lovely)
Himself not minding I shouted at him
The moment when my perfect baby was handed to me and I could see she had all her fingers and toes (and in all the right places)
What was to come…
The last fourteen years have been the absolute best - Happy Birthday Number One Child!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Big Knitter

In my younger days when I was a knitter (much to the irritation of Himself, who didn't like the clack lack of my needles when he was watching Murder One) I knitted a sweater from Rowan wool so thick that it stood up on its own. It was colossally heavy to wear, as it was not only very thick but also over-sized, I wish I had a photo of it. My mum thought it was very funny as she thought I had miscalculated. In fact it was my fashion statement. These days sweaters are either teeny-tiny doll-sized things or over-sized like your dad's. I was ahead of my time!

I now knit with bamboo needles, when I have them as they are much quieter and don't interrupt Himself's programmes.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Easter treats

my Easter treat
The fabric I used to make this little brooch had another life before it came to me - but probably not as exciting as the one it looks forward to now! It was a piece of ancient quilt block, and I love the faded stripes against the old watch. The little plastic chicken charm is vintage too!

Saturday, 7 April 2012


made from an antique traycloth and a vintage lace doily
Now in my Etsy shop

antique calico, linen, feedsack and Victorian quilt cotton

The scent starts halfway up the stairs and as the door is opened the overpowering and glorious smell of lavender fills the air. I have been making more lavender bags, and I'll be listing some in my Etsy shop soon. I'd love to hear what you think of these! Thanks for visiting!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pearly Buttons

This is the Pearly King of Upminster. The pearly royal family are very devout and hold an annual thanksgiving service at harvest festival time.
My Lewes Pearlies

In Lewes, East Sussex, yesterday to see my Mum and Dad and treat them to birthday lunch. Afterwards we went on a bargain hunt round the antique markets. I found a stall specialising in buttons and bought a bag of beautiful vintage pearly buttons… enough to make a Pearly costume, but only for a doll! The other bargains we came home with were a lovely umbrella and a vintage nurses hat. I've researched the hat and come up with nothing but little white numbers. This one is black felt, with a little brim and a badge on the front. Inside the maker is 'by appointment to His Majesty, King George', so we know it's quite a find. I love these buttons, and will use them for all sorts of sewing projects. And next time in Lewes I'll be sure to take a little more spending money so I can stock up!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Delicious parcels

It's my mum's birthday next week and I am going to Lewes, taking my family with me, to treat her to lunch. What do you give to the girl who has everything she wants already? She loves reading so I often get her books - her wonderful house is full of books. This time I found her a rather beautiful scarf, and made this little lavender bag out of my absolutely favourite fabric of all time - an ancient 30s quilt block. It came from America, and is really soft and slightly fragile. I unpicked some seams, and you can see the stronger original colours contrasting against the faded fabric which was exposed. I've added two sweet little vintage buttons which were taken from a 1940s theatrical costume. The white fabric is part of a dressing table cloth which came with the huge lot of linen I wrote about the other day. And the lavender was from a lady who imports it from France. The opening of that parcel was so delicious, the scent was so strong, and I hope my mum's experience will be similar when she receives this present. Next time I visit her house I'll see where she decided to hang it.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A truly lucky discovery!

I bought on Ebay a 'boxful of antique linen'. The listing picture was not very clear, so perhaps others weren't keen to take a chance. It was offered as collection only, because the contents were very heavy, and the seller offered collection from a London address, so I put in a bid - the only bid - and won!

She suggested collection by car, but as I don't drive I went by tube and took a big suitcase on wheels. By the time we met, in Pimlico, it was getting dark. I met the seller by her car outside a huge and exclusive block of purpose built flats. She was very nice and as she emptied the contents of her llarge cardboard box into my case, she gave me advice on washing the contents, as she had not yet managed to do this. It was the last part of her parents' estate, she said, having divided the rest among her surviving family.

I travelled home, itching to open the case and see what I had bought. I had expected some wastage, and was mainly interested in the table linens I knew to be a part of the lot, for sewing projects I have in mind. When I got home I wheeled my booty into the dining room and opened up the case. A powerful smell of musty damp immediately filled the room. Horrible! But it didn't put me off, and I waded through the heavy contents, discovering some wonderful items - antique linen, damask, vintage cotton, lots of tablecloths and napkins, a couple of beautiful antique sheets - which I shall be sharing here as I wash and iron them, taking stock of my purchases. No real wastage, though I am having to soak some items and wash them twice to remove storage stains.

Here, then, is the first discovered treasure - a delicate and beautiful Victorian baby's nightgown, one of three wrapped in tissue paper. Wonderfully clean it features some lovely embroidery, pin-tucks and lace. I don't have a baby, and I couldn't cut it up …so what to do with it? All suggestions welcome!

Some lovely broderie anglaise and lace on the bodice

Lovely detailing on the little cuff
Pretty hem