Back in Time

W and I have just come back from a few days away, the majority of that time spent in an 18th Century stocking weaver’s home in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. The property is owned by the Landmark Trust and if you are not familiar with the work of the Trust, do check out their website.  We’ve had some great times in these historic buildings, one of the best was at Saddell House on the Mull of Kintyre where we spent a few days before Christmas with one of my school friends, her teenage boys (plus friends) and her partner.  She and I played at being Mrs Bridges and Ruby (from the original version of Upstairs Downstairs), rustling up vast quantities of food in the huge kitchen with no access to any shops once we’d arrived.  I like to think I was better qualified to be Mrs Bridges with my O Level in Food & Nutrition!  When they weren’t eating (or sleeping) the boys spent a good deal of their time running a table tennis tournament in the basement.  They were surprised to find that W was an expert who was determined to win (and did).

Back to the 18th Century stocking weavers.  Having read up on the history of the house they certainly didn’t enjoy an easy life, although those living in the houses in this row would have had a better time of things as they were part of a co-operative rather than working in a factory.  The house is on four floors with vertiginous stairways between each floor – to be treated with caution after a glass of wine or two in the evening!  If your preference is for modern luxury then the Landmark may not be the right choice but the opportunity to spend time surrounded by history is pretty special.

The weaving looms look pretty complicated – and large.  I think they must have either been assembled in situ or perhaps brought in through the large window on the first floor?

The houses are filled with furniture, books and pictures relevant to the area and period and these two embroideries were on one of the landings.  I wonder at what point Harriot Webb realised she wasn’t going to be able to fit the whole of the second line of verse in on the right hand sampler?

I stuck with the yarn theme while I was in the house by carrying on with my crocheted blanket which has been stuck at a lap blanket size for some time.  I think there are now enough new squares for a couple more rows to be added.

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Highlights of the week :

  • A visit to Ledbury and some shopping in Tinsmiths and Hus & Hem (described as a Smörgåsbord of Scandinavian design).  I was able to make a start on my Christmas shopping pledge to stick with buying from independent shops.  I did buy some fabric, more on that another time.
  • A trip on the GWR steam railway (W’s choice)
  • A visit to the Gordon Russell Design Museum in Broadway.  For anyone with an interest in furniture design this is a must and as it was a quiet morning I had a personal tour from one of the volunteers.  Broadway itself has to be one of the most immaculate villages in the country.  Even the fruit and veg display at the deli was perfect!
  • More shopping in Ludlow including a lovely shop called Black Bough and a great lunch at The Green Café.
  • Ludlow Castle in glorious September sunshine.
  • The Ludlow Period House Shop.  The complete opposite of Broadway – this was the most chaotic shop I have ever seen full of all manner of items for anyone restoring a period house.  It was absolutely fascinating.  We were very tempted by the Irish made grandfather and night shirts.

One thing I did reflect on while I was away was my dependence on my mobile phone and internet access.  There is no WiFi in Landmark properties – they don’t even have televisions – and 3/4G was intermittent.  I was concerned to realise just how grumpy I felt at not being able to access IG, Twitter, iPlayer Radio etc. when I wanted to.  There was one advantage – I had decided to limit my viewing of work emails while I was away and in the end I had no choice a lot of the time.

I’m not sure what the answer is because phones and tablets are now so omnipresent it is hard to remember or imagine life without them.  Hila at Saturday Night Stitch is currently without a mobile and this is her very interesting blog post on the subject.  I’m sure lots of you have a view on this subject!

Birthday Treats

I’ve just had one of the best birthday weekends ever! W and I went to London and he and his lovely girls had planned everything. We ….

Stayed at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green where they have retained many of the features of the original building.  Our room had decorative windows and a tiled fireplace with a photograph on the wall showing how the room had looked before the renovation. I should point out this was our second room.  I never unpack straightaway because on the fairly rare occasions we stay in a hotel W always finds a reason for us to have to move and this time he was right because we ended up with an enormous bath in our bedroom which was lovely.  There was also a kitchen and a washing machine but I went nowhere near either of them!

Went to supper with J at the Japanese Canteen in Bethnal Green on Friday night. J and I had the hot stone bibimbap with tofu. It was really good but possibly not the best choice on the most humid evening of the year so far. The hot stone dish, in which the cooking is finished at the table, was almost incandescent and hadn’t even cooled down enough to touch by the end of the meal!

All met up in Covent Garden for coffee and then brunch at The Delaunay in The Strand on Saturday morning. Beautiful place, scrumptious pancakes with blueberries and crème fraîche.

imageWent to see High Society at The Old Vic on Saturday afternoon. A complete surprise arranged by the girls (goodness knows how W managed to keep it a secret for weeks!). Fabulous.

Had drinks and supper at the Young Vic.

Made a quick visit to the Museum of Childhood on Sunday for breakfast and a look at the dolls house exhibition.  It was a two minute walk from our hotel  There was also The Alice Look display with its beautiful dress by Josie Smith using fabric printed with the book’s text. The website link includes a paper doll to print out.

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Lunched at Rabbit on the Kings Road on Sunday. Really delicious, beautifully presented food and definitely worth a visit. This is not supposed to be a restaurant review blog so I won’t go into too much detail but there are some photographs below. The three brothers who own Rabbit, as well as The Shed in Notting Hill, have a farm at Nutbourne which is very near us so perhaps one day they will open in Chichester.

Shopped for fabric (well I did, W sat on a sofa).  This involved the haberdashery department at Peter Jones as so many fabric shops in London are closed on a Sunday. I’m hoping the espadrille soles will arrive from Guthrie & Ghani today so here’s the fabric I chose to make them from, floral for the outside and spotty inside. Or possibly the other way round.  Just 20cms of each so if the espadrilles are successful they will certainly work out cheaper than shop-bought.

I have always loved Lucienne Day’s fabric designs and several of them have been reprinted for John Lewis as dressmaking fabrics. At £22 a metre they were quite pricey but – hurrah – they are now reduced to £5.50. I bought two metres each of these.  There were other choices and I’m now wishing I’d bought more.

The predominantly pink one is called Symphony and the other is Sequence. They were both originally designed in 1954 for Cavendish Textiles. I think to do them justice they will need to be made into quite full skirts, although not too flouncy as I am a bit short for anything really big. Perhaps Tilly’s Clémence skirt from Love at First Stitch?  Or a proper vintage-style frock.

Back to reality today sadly but it was a weekend to remember.